Category Archives: Rabbits

Midwinter Merriment: Feed Your Soil

Here it is – a countdown til spring. From now until the first day of spring, I will post ways to make the dreary days of midwinter a little more merry.

Day 10: Feed your soil.

17_CompostBefore I go any further, I’ll admit that today’s post, which to me makes midwinter more merry, is the ultimate proof of my garden nerdiness. Only a true garden nerd gets this excited about compost. And this isn’t the first time I’ve gotten all excited about soil – it’s getting to be a thing.

17_Bunny_compostIt’s just that when it is too early to plant anything, I know that I can at least get outside and get my soil ready for go time. Most of my raised beds have been slowly preparing all winter, breaking down spent legumes and soaking in chicken manure compost. But now, with the help of June, the beds that will be planted with spring greens are getting a big dose of bunny poop, a nitrogen powerhouse! I can’t wait to see how abundant my harvests are this year!

Check out this article, which also sings the praises of using rabbit poop in the garden.

Day 11: Chicken gawking.
Day 12: Plant identification with kids.
Day 13: Plant your backyard berry patch.
Day 14: #dirtonmyiPhone
Day 15: Start seeds indoors.
Day 16: Sew a sassy garden tool belt.
Day 17: A class that keeps on giving!
Day 18: Buy yourself some flowers.
Day 19: Go to the park and play!
Day 20: Plant peas (and sign up for my free newsletter!)
Day 21: Take a gardening class.
Day 22:Plant bare root.
Day 23: Sign up for Seattle Seedling’s Spring Fling!
Day 24: Plant primroses.
Day 25: Get yourself a doughnut and make it “for here.”
Day 26: Frequent the Farmers’ Market
Day 27: Eat Root Vegetables Disguised as Cake!
Day 28: Be a Garden Show Goer.
Day 29: Drink more hot chocolate.
Day 30: Create a springtime “advent” calendar.

Crying for Ward: The Downside of Urban Farming

IMG_1053No amount of mascara could camouflage my swollen eyes. One moment I was going outside to clean the coop and the next moment I was culling my rabbit, declaring through my sobs that I would eat meat no longer. Ward made his transition this weekend and at my hands. I had to end his suffering and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

After a day of procrastination, I finally bundled up and resolved to go outside and get my chores done. Beans trotted out in front of me on our way outside when I heard crashing against the cage and Ward screaming. Ward had clearly been startled. In telling people that I was going to raise meat rabbits, several people, unaware of how swift and quiet the actual slaughtering process is, have spooked me about never wanting to hear a rabbit scream. I understand why. Within seconds, I was crouched down in front of his cage to see him lying on his back, screaming and scared at his inability to roll himself over. Instead of stubbornly tucking himself into the corner to avoid my affectionate petting like he usually does, he lie on his back like a helpless beetle. My hands were shaking and my heart was racing as fast as his as I gently rolled him over. That’s when I realized that he had broken his back, something rabbits have the capacity to do when startled. I had read about it, something I had hoped to avoid. They can kick out their back legs hard enough to break their own backs and Ward did just that. I gently pushed in the side of the wire cage that he had pushed out with the explosive force of his surprise. His hind legs were completely limp and sprawled out behind him.

IMG_1056I called a friend who also raises rabbits for her counsel, but knew what I had to do. Yes, this is the downside of urban farming. I didn’t break his back, but I was responsible for his welfare and comfort and it took all the strength I had to give it to him. I cried like a little girl as I dug a hole for his grave. I placed a tuft of straw and hay at the bottom of the hole for my own piece of mind.

That is the moment I realized I have a choice and I’m turning around and going the other way. I will no longer be raising my own meat and may not be eating meat anymore in general. I slaughtered a rabbit this summer to make sure I had what it takes, but I don’t think I’m strong enough to slaughter my own. I know my urban farm friends will remind me that no, I never intended to slaughter Ward. He was for breeding and I let myself get painfully attached to him. The others would be different. But I don’t think they would. I vowed when I first brought chickens into my yard that I would eat them…eventually. And that if I couldn’t, I would be a vegetarian. My sister reminded me though that I don’t have to make such rigid rules for myself, that I don’t have to put myself into a box, into a label, and stay there. Maybe I can make peace with the hypocrisy. Maybe I can take from this experience instead greater strength in my convictions, to buy meat, if I’m going to eat it, from a source that I can trust. To spend the money it takes to buy meat from someone who respected the animal and treated it with care, for I now understand that price better than I ever did.

IMG_1015On the bright and sunny Sunday that followed one of the darkest afternoons, I poured my love into caring for June. She would now be my pet. I moved her into one of the larger grow-out cages and made her a comfortable home. And with swollen eyes and a tender heart, I cried for Ward.

Rest in peace, little one.

A rabbit-napping and a little reflection

IMG_1086I found myself muttering aloud while listening to Act Two of this episode of This American Life, a story, that with my recent decision to start raising meat rabbits, hit really close to home. It was an essay by Camas Davis, the founder of the Portland Meat Collective, which she read aloud on the episode. The comments she mentioned she got on her blog were comments that I was worried I’d start getting here if I was public about my intentions to raise rabbits. I made the decision to be open and honest about the whole endeavor regardless. I decided I’d keep things transparent. But something about this essay gave me the creeps. It’s one thing to turn the other cheek to a comment from someone with an opposing view. It’s another thing to imagine that someone would feel so strongly about their convictions that they would steal my rabbits from right under my nose.

IMG_1071It was the same naiveté I possessed when I showed up to my first rabbit class. “Thank you all for coming,” they had said, “after all that drama on the Facebook page today.” Apparently, the Seattle Tilth Facebook page was barraged with angry comments from rabbit activists, opposed to them sponsoring a class that would teach “brutal” urban farmers to raise them for meat, which for the record, was never the sole objective of the class.

IMG_1058I’m not going to start worrying about what happens in Camas’s story. There are a lot of things that could happen in life that I could worry about, but that’s just a waste of energy. I do hope though, as I continue along this path, that I may be able to make the choice that’s best for me in the safety and comfort of my yard. Because like Camas says in her essay of the rabbit-napping activists and those raising them for meat, “All of us tried to find meaning and make a stand within our very different acts. All of us thought we were doing the right thing.”

I highly recommend this essay, The Messy Middle, listened to or read. It is definitely worth your time.

*Photos by Gabe Ochoa

The Rabbit Whisperer I am Not

Ward totally hates me. Remember when I said he was a little friendlier than June? Yeah, not so much. A rabbit book I have says something like feeding time is check up time, so I want them to get comfortable with me handling them. I tried to give them some time to adjust to me and their new digs by just petting them daily rather than grabbing them out of the cage. During the fleeting moments when I haven’t had to wear a head lamp to see them, I’ve picked them up and just held them for a bit. But I haven’t been able to do that much.

Every time I go to pick up Ward it’s a battle. I’ve learned you have to be confident and deliberate when reaching in a cage for a rabbit and it’s good to wear long sleeves. I’ve also learned that I can contort my shoulders in such a way that I can fit both arms in the small cage opening, which allows me to pick him up in a way that won’t hurt him, with both hands – one hand under and in front of him, to support his two front paws, and the other hand to scoop him up under his rump.

When I finally got the little bugger out of the cage on Saturday, I did a little once over and found a small cut on his back near his neck. Naturally, it was Ward that was injured, the ornery one. I cleaned it with a cotton ball soaked with hydrogen peroxide and gently dabbed on some antibiotic ointment. Of course on Sunday, I had to repeat the process, which Ward detested. Holding him close to my body so he’d feel more secure, I felt like I could see the fear in his eyes like I was the predator and he was my prey. It was awful. Honestly, at this point, the thought of clipping their toe nails probably gives me as much anxiety as it would Ward, but that’s just one reason why we need to get this dialed in.

The only thing that made the whole experience better was the fact that when I reached in for June, she didn’t make a mad dash to get away from me. She certainly didn’t come hopping into my arms, but she was calm and still when I picked her up. That has not always been the case. To anthropomorphize like I love to do, it was almost as if she did it on purpose to encourage me to keep trying. Like she was saying, “Don’t worry about him. He’ll come around.” If this weekend proved anything it was that the rabbit whisperer I am not.