Saturday, June 30, 2012

Protecting Your Animals and Human Error

Try as we might, we can't always protect our animals.  Weather and predators play a huge role, but at some point, human error comes into play as well.  Human error is the hardest to accept.

We are in the middle of a heat wave.  Yesterday at 5:00 p.m. my car thermometer registered 110.  At 9:00 p.m. the temperature was still 100, and the low last night I think was around 80.  Right now, at 1:35 p.m. it's 101, and the high is expected to be 105.  Tomorrow is expected to hit 103. 

At times like this, I am so thankful for the technology we have to predict the weather.  In anticipation of this week, I plucked Olivia and Blue Moon, my angora rabbits, and trimmed them down to the skin.  All of the rabbits got frozen 2 liter water bottles in their cages yesterday while I was at work.  The rabbit shed is in deep shade, so I know that helps.  They all made it through yesterday.  Today I am repeating the frozen water bottles, and I've brought Olivia and Blue Moon inside. 

The chickens seem to be holding their own against the weather; however, we lost our Pearl this week.  We are so sad because she was one of our original two chicks when we first started keeping chickens over 3 years ago.  She was the end of our beginning, and I love to say she was one tough bird.  She was our special needs chicken who hobbled around the animal yard on her deformed talon.  She got special preference from us.  She survived two night attacks when we were new to chicken keeping and a hawk attack.  We saved her about two weeks ago from drowning when the coop flooded.  She seemed to have as many lives as a cat.  So, to lose her because of our mistake is especially brutal to take.  We forgot to close the coop door last Sunday night and a night predator got her.  Only once before have we forgotten to lock them up at night, and that was at the beginning of our chicken keeping experience.  We could chalk that up to a beginner's mistake, but after three years, we have no excuse.  We just plain forgot.  And, because of her disability she would not have been able to run from it.  

RIP Pearl. We're sorry, and we love you.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

Well, I Did It

Our little farm has raised its first meat.  Or rather, I should say I've raised our first meat.  No one thought I had it in me, including myself.  Nate said he didn't want to have anything to do with it.  And he didn't.  I reminded him that he spent hours fishing while growing up and that he cleaned and ate the fish he caught, but to him that isn't the same because he didn't know those fish.  True, but he still took life.  He didn't know the rabbits either.  He wasn't the one who fed, watered and petted them daily.  I don't blame him or think any less of him.  I certainly can't sit in judgement of him, because up until the moment, I didn't know if I could do it. 

Slaughtering an animal for food, especially one that you've raised, takes not only physical preparedness, but also mental preparedness.  The physical preparedness was no problem.  I knew I could assemble everything I needed to do the job.  The mental preparedness was a little more difficult to wrap my mind around.  To prepare myself, I watched videos online, I read the Rabbit chapter of Novella Carpenter's "Farm City," and I went and sat with the rabbits and thought long and hard about the task at hand.  I thought of my beekeeping too.  Some days when it's hot and sticky outside, like today, I really don't want to put on all of my equipment and go check the beehive.  I know I'm going to sweat and the potential is there for getting stung.  I hate getting stung.  But, I know I have to check the hive for several reasons, mainly the health and maintenance of the hive.  So, I do it.  I go outside, and I get the job done.  So, if I sometimes hate checking the hive, why keep bees?  For the pleasure and reward I get when I extract honey.  Several of my friends told me before I slaughtered the rabbits that they would only do something like that if they were starving and they had no other choice.  If it boils down to choice, I feel like I have no other choice.  I have grave concerns about the meat industry and how it treats its animals, and while I've been a vegetarian in the past, I enjoy eating meat.  So, the answer to my dilemma was to raise my own.

On the day at hand, Nate's friend, Aaron, came over with his two kids to help.  He has experience with rabbits, so I felt like he would be the best person for the job of helping me.  What amazed me was the reaction of his two kids, a son and daughter.  They were fascinated with the process.  I mentioned to Aaron my awe, and he said he had been talking to them all week about it.  I like to think they embraced it in their childhood innocence because they haven't been stigmatized yet by the void the meat industry and society have created with regard to how an animal is raised for the table.  We are so separated from this experience that all most of us knows is the packaged meat at the grocery store that looks nothing like the animal itself.  I'm honored and humbled to have had this experience, and just like when I eat a vegetable I've grown myself or an egg one of my chickens has laid, I felt equally so when we ate the first rabbit because I know what it took to raise it in a clean healthy environment, to show reverence for a life, and to dispatch it humanely and with thanks.

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Truck Rally Anyone?

We've been getting some good rain lately, and for that I've been very thankful.  It has taken the pressure off of me to keep everything watered and the garden is looking lush and green.  Until Sunday, the rain has been just enough but not too much.  The animal yard sits in the low part of our yard and a few days of rain makes it wet and somewhat muddy, but nothing too bad.  Well, Sunday was a nightmare.  It had already been raining throughout the week, but the bottom fell out on Sunday.  I'm talking serious flash flood rain.  I was putting everyone up for the evening when it really let go, and I mentioned to Nate that I saw some standing water in the coop, which I had never seen before.  At the point where our front ditch started flooding, I asked Nate to go out and check on everyone.  He was gone for longer than I expected, so I went outside to make sure he was okay.  He had been digging a drainage hole in the coop because it had filled with water.  The worst part is he found Pearl, our handicapped chicken, up to her neck in the water.  She can't get up high on the roost like the rest of the birds, so she stays on the bottom rung.  I guess the water overwhelmed her and she couldn't even get on the bottom rung.  She was close to drowning.  We brought her inside and put her in the bathtub  with a heat lamp over her.  She was soaking wet and shivering.  I thought if she makes it through the night, she's going to have some respiratory issues, so I went ahead and put some VetRx in some water for her.  The next morning I awoke to her clucking in the bathroom.  She is one tough bird!  So far she seems to be fine; however, the animal yard isn't.  It rained again most of Monday, and yesterday was clear, but it rained again last night.  Enough already!  The animal yard is a serious mud bog right now.  We could hold a major league truck rally.  Bigfoot?  You out there?  You want to have some fun, boy?  Since the yard is pretty shady, it's going to take several days to dry out.  Until then, I'll have to sink in the mud. 

Oh, and today is the day the meat rabbits will be harvested.  Stay tuned!

Happy homesteading,