Memphis Backyard Farmer

More Bunnies
August 28, 2012, 6:31 am
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: , , , , ,

Ruby Junior, KitFor those of you who don’t follow on Twitter, you may not know that we had another litter of kits three weeks ago. It was pretty hard to work out the whole rabbit-breeding thing the first time around. The second time? Not so much. In fact, this litter was a complete accident.

At the time the first litter of rabbits started coming of age, I split the males and females into separate cages. It’s been a crazy busy summer and I had planned on butchering this litter in mid-July, but didn’t have time before the Mexico trip (and haven’t had time since). I had noticed them being a little frisky, so I knew I better get ’em apart.

Well, Thursday a few weeks ago, my 15 year old walks into the house and says, “Dad, we have  a problem.”. Son number 2 is my rabbit man. He feeds and waters the rabbits first thing each morning. “What’s the problem?” I asked. He unfurls his shirt and reveals a tiny, baby bunny. “Oh crap.” was about all I could muster at first. But then I tried to find out how many we had. Turns out, only one.

I rushed out to check on the mamma, but couldn’t figure out which female (of four) was the mother. Usually a doe will pull fur from her underbelly just before giving birth, to prepare a nest and make it easy for kits to nurse (if you’ve never a doe kindling, check it out here). Sure enough, there was lots of hair in the cage. But when I picked up each doe to check them, I could find no sign that she had given birth, or pulled hair. On closer examination, you could see that the hair that was present was from the BACK of one of the does (obviously not the momma!)

In the middle of this, one of our (three) dogs started barking at a clump of grass about 15 feet away from the cage. I rushed over to find…another kit. We spent the next twenty minutes or so having a summer Easter egg hunt looking for kits. We found four, for a total of five kits. These dudes were TOUGH!

We quickly put them in a box, and went back to the dilemma of picking a momma from our four does. I finally decided that the one with the worst attitude must be the one. That sounds funny, but seriously, when we had our last litter, our doe was down right persnickety. She would really snip at you when you reached in the cage. So I pulled her out and shut her in the box and waited, unsure of whether I had the right one or not. We took the litter inside to wait.

After an hour or so, we checked in. We had stocked the box with lots of straw and leaf litter, along with food and water. When we peeked in, she was busily going through all the nesting behaviors she had missed out on in her bare, outside cage. She had a mouthful of hay, moving it back and forth across the cage, and had already shed lots of hair. This was either the momma that had given birth, or she was another mother ABOUT to give birth.

I’m very happy to say that three weeks later these kits look AWESOME. They are so incredibly healthy. On their three week birthday last Thursday we gave them a long romp outside in the grass. They had a blast and ate lots of little seedheads off my weedy lawn. They’ve been happily munching on timothy hay and now feed pellets for close to a week now (though they are still nursing whenever they can).

Twelve rabbits in the Scott rabbitry. Full freezer by winter.


Farming in Mexico
August 1, 2012, 6:54 am
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: , , ,

It’s been a busy summer. Beyond managing my two gardens here in Memphis, I got a chance to help out with a small farm in Mexico last week. Our family joined a mission team visiting Casa de la Esperanza, an orphanage in Anahuac, Chihuahua, Mexico.

It was a fantastic experience, all around. The scenery was stunning – I’ve never seen such beautiful sunrises or sunsets. The kids were all heartbreakers. Given the poverty and hurt from which they had emerged, it was amazing to see how happy they were. And the facility and grounds were immaculate. Casa is a fully working farm, with pigs, chickens, goats, sheep, cows, horses, bean and grain fields, an orchard, and two broken-down greenhouses.

Call me weird, but there’s something strangely wonderful about getting up on a cool morning, coffee in hand, watching the sun coming up over the fields, with the smell of manure in the air. Heaven on earth.

We had two stated reasons for going to Casa: playing with kids and working on the facility. We DID play with the kids (and play, and play), but we also poured concrete, painted dorms, installed insulation, cut down trees, and…repaired at least one greenhouse.

I’d never put up a real greenhouse before (though I have my own little hoop house on my raised beds at home). Let me just say that it’s a lot of work. Definitely an “all hands on deck” project, as you can see in the images below. It was rewarding once finished, and once the beds inside had been planted. But before jumping into a greenhouse like this, let me encourage you to think twice, invite lots of friends, and don’t tell them what you’re going to do. If they’ve done it before, I can assure you they’ll be busy that day!