Returning to Sales

I have decided to begin offering my rabbits for sale once again.  My rabbitry has appeared to be healthy for at least six months, but it has grown quite a bit.  In fact, I have so many tortes that I have considered changing my name to Blue Torte Rabbitry!  I have also added Harlequin rabbits to my rabbitry.  In addition, I will soon be selling my wool and yarn at the local farmers markets and online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snuffle-gulp-alous

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Well, well, well…my herd is not.  Unfortunately, an outbreak of snuffles is passing through my herd at the moment.  While it is possibly caused by several hostile bioforms (nod to Margaret Atwood), most would blame pastuerella multicoda.  Regardless of what is causing the sneezes in my rabbit shed, it is a major drag.  Honestly, it is heartbreaking.  A one week old baby rabbit is right now struggling to breath in its nestbox, and will surely have died by morning.  It’s mother is also suffering the worst of the adults, and I am wondering if leaving the babies in their nest box was a mistake on my part.

For the past two weeks, when I first noticed a sick young doe in my shed, I have been spending hours each day caring for ill rabbits.  The first doe to have nasal discharge has recieved medical care and is on enrofloxacin.  Unfortunately, I cannot afford or do I want to medicate all of the rabbits showing symptoms.  Several are simply sneezing.  Some have shrugged this off within 3 days, being a bit weepy eyed or sneezy, but then returning quickly to health. The babies have all seemed to be effected.  One litter is fairing well, though I do hear some wheezing from them.  The other litter of 4 may all die.  Nonetheless, I spend an hour a day wiping their little baby noses, one by one…thank god there are only four of them.  It is very interesting to see that some of the rabbits are able to carry on about this outbreak with almost no change in their health, while to others it is decimating.  One rabbit, Erma, has always been susceptible to snuffles.

I have struggled to keep Erma healthy since she had an accidental pregnancy at the age of 6 months.  She was not completely grown at that age, and, I believe, she was not physically ready to carry a litter of kits.  The pregnancy wreaked havoc on her system, and since then, she has had outbursts of weepy eye and runny nose when stressed.  This latest pregnancy was another accident (I seem to be prone to them, and they are a thorn in my heel), yet seemed to be going well.  Two days after kindling, however, when I checked Erma for symptoms of the plague circulating from rabbit to rabbit, she for the first time was exhibiting some white snot.  After a period of intense denial and anger, I pulled her from the barn and began to provide her with the best holistic medicine has to offer—fresh greens of every type possible, vitamins, nose wiping, diaper wearing, in my bedroom living accommodations.  I put her on fresh grass daily to disperse the germs, allow her to forage for her choice of greens, and keep the bedroom from smelling awful.  She has improved.  I have also been using colloidal silver in her eyes (one drop per eye twice a day, in each nostril, and half a dropper full in her mouth.  The pampering has helped greatly.  When I first brought Erma into the house, she was heaving and wheezing heavily, as well as coughing and sneezing all night.  Now her sneezes continue, but most of the snot is gone from her nose, and the coughing and heaving has ceased.  I am still wondering what I will do with her when and if her kits are ready to be weaned.  Will I cull her?  I’m not sure yet.

The conventional way to deal with outbreaks like this is to cull all of the sick animals.  That means to kill them.  Though I am wanting to use the rabbits for meat, my husband has said he won’t eat sick rabbits no matter what anyone says about cooking it well making it fine to eat.  And so how will I eliminate these from the herd?  I believe I should cull all of the sneezers from the herd, and in fact still use them for meat.  The larger litter I will select one healthy wooled kit from to keep, and then process the remaining healthy animals for meat when they become large enough, hopefully by 12 weeks (10 is preferable, but I know mine won’t be very big at 10 weeks).

How do I move forward from this event?  Will I turn to vaccination to prevent this in the future?  These questions weigh heavily on my heart.  These past two weeks have been some of the hardest since I have started to raise rabbits, and the sorrow perforates my soul at work and home, night and day.

I admit I did believe that this would not happen to me.  I thought I would never be in the position of having to choose to cull my entire herd.  I am not a large scale breeder, I don’t neglect my animals, I try to be clean…but now it has happened.  The same is true of matting in my wool.  I thought I would never allow a matt to form on an angora.  Well, being a working mommy trying to save sick rabbits doesn’t leave time for grooming.  I am behind on grooming.  This knowledge, and the need to seriously consider culling sick animals, is leaving wanting for a smaller herd.  Regardless of how these events unfold, I am weary of them, and ready to move on.

The Life of an Urban Farmer

Am I a farmer?

We have 5 laying hens, 12 rabbits, 6 chicks, and a garden.  We start seeds and eat the end result.  We rotate our vegetables, and use our compost and manure as fertilizer.   We look for bugs and rust and try to eradicate them.  Our chickens help to weed between rows of vegetables, as they eat bugs and grow us our daily breakfast.

Lately I feel that I am running in circles.  I had a dilemma with a few young egg-eating leghorns, and had to revamp my flock, rehoming them to someone who owns roll away nest boxes.  But I also have been mothering my 4 year old child, as well as working a trade at her preschool, and attempting to perform housework, sometimes even cooking.  The laundry has been behind, the dishes haven’t been done, and sometimes I can’t even find my toothbrush.  But the cabbage are growing, the rutabegas are started, the beans are putting up cotyledans, and six zucchinis have spread their wings;  soon they will take off, providing me with fruits to bomb the neighbors.  

I see myself parallel to the Appalachian farmers of Barbara Kingsolver lore, struggling to maintain my dreams while working a job elsewhere.  Like them, I can’t pay my bills (for now), but I keep going, because I love the moments of space that open up in the garden.  This little plot bursts open and I can see marvels of infinity growing becoming pulsing into the now.  Anything seems possible, and all is calm in those moments.  A white pea blossom kisses my heart as I pass quickly by, and I tuck away the secret, “I have done it.  I have made this happen.  There will be peas.  And I can do it again.”

We all can.

laying hens

Well, for the last three days I have been getting up as close to sunrise as possible.  I have been suspecting that egg eating has been spreading through my small and new flock.  About three weeks ago I acquired 3 white leghorn layers free.  I was very excited that as soon as I brought them home, they started to lay nice white eggs for me.  Although I had been told they were eating their eggs, I continued to find 2-3 eggs for the next week or so.  Then, suddenly, the eggs disappeared.  About the same time, I added two Easter Eggers to the flock. 

 
It only took a couple of days for me to get frustrated with my egg loss.  I cannot afford to feed hens that won’t give me eggs;  right now I am actually receiving food stamps.  N addition, I was worried that this behavior might pass to the new hens.  I removed the most aggressive hen from the flock into a rabbit cage for a day, but still, I only found one blue egg.  The next day I trimmed the leghorns’ beaks with toenail clippers, hoping this would deter the behavior.  But, after spending several hours sitting in the coop making observations, I 
decided to pull all 3 leghorns out and give them away by evening or kill them.  
 
Just at sunset, a woman came to retrieve the leghorns. After telling me that she has roll away nest boxes that prevent the hens from eating their eggs, she checked their vents and told me they were indeed still laying.  I never saw a shell.
 
Well, I was still worried about behavior drift, so this morning I again let the hens out about 6 am.  I   knew they weren’t scheduled to lay until noon or so, since they laid at 10:30 yesterday, but I sat down to observe again.  The easter Eggers were surprisingly hostile to the 3 layers I added to the coop (this time two delawarean and a jersey giant) during the night, so I caught them and trimmed their beaks.  I was still suspicious of the lighter Easter Eggers, Sandy.  She often sits on the nest but doesn’t lay, so I wondered if she, too, was eating her own eggs.  After watching her rearrange the plastic eggs with her beak, it seems she is merely somewhat broody, and, indeed she is missing a good portion of her breast feathers.
 
I am sitting in the coop now typing.  A newcomer is sitting in the makeshift nesting box, apparently awaiting her egg.  I feel that things may be resolved as far as egg eating goes.  I am still looking for anew marbleqq or stone eggs for the boxes, and I will keep beaks short if hens are suspected.  They have free oyster shells, layer pellets, scratch, and later, browse.  I won’t have every day to spend managing layers, so I do hope these provisions keep the hens happy.

Springtime on the Shore

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A bowl full of Florence’s wool from her last shearing.

Spring has been delightful here on the North Coast of California.  Cloudy Shore Angoras has recieved a lovely but small litter of babies from Stella and Charlie.  Stella is nursing  4 kits, a blue, a red-eyed white, a blue torte, and a black.  This is a self rew, which will be retained here to start our own lines.  All of these babies will be showing at the Humboldt County Fair in August, given that they remain healthy.

The amount of angora wool building up around here isn’t as overwhelming as the amount of coats I have to keep up with now.  It seems that there is always something more important to do than to blow out coats and clip toenails, until, poof, there’s a matt!  Well, I try to keep up on it, but it is indeed a never-ending job.

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Spinning pure angora wool for the first time.

The upside of having all of this wool around, and wonderful silky wool at that, is spinning it!  I have been dreaming of a shawl made of Florence’s blue smokey wool for some time, and now that I am more experienced with my wool, I can actually start to follow through.  Of course, finishing is the real trick!

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Florence’s wool on the bobbin

Unfortunately, my bobbin has stayed looking like this for about a week now.  I am going to have to step up my game.  For some time now, I have been considering scheduling a daily spinning appointment with myself.  Perhaps it is time to follow through.

Or maybe it’s just time for bed.  

Easter Bunnies!

I’ve taken on the role of president of the local chapter of the ARBA, and we are trying to raise funds to throw an annual rabbit show.  Our first fundraiser is happening on two days this month, and should be lots of fun.  We are offering Easter rabbit portraits at two local feed stores for $10/sitting.  I think we need a couple thousand dollars to put on a show–a lot of that will be to pay for a judge to come.  Here’s a link to page on the fundraiser http://www.hcrcba.org/march-easter-bunny-event.html.  

I’m also planning to start Aleda in 4-H this year showing one of our French Angoras, Starsong.  Starsong came to us as a rescue, and is going on 5 months of age.  Her breeding is only half known, but she is a very beautiful rabbit, and Aleda likes her.  Although Aleda actually really wants to ride horses, I hope that this will help to involve her more in the rabbitry.

Accidents Happen

Well, that’s what they say.  And others say nothing’s an accident.  

Yesterday, I put Stella out in the playpen while Charlie was having his turn as free-range buck.  Well, I got involved with my human child indoors, and when I returned to the backyard, Stella had escaped, and Charlie was looking triumphant.  I had truly believed they would stayed separated, but I should have known that was foolish and hopeful thinking.  The good news is, if they produce young, I have my first litter of purebreds on they way, with a pedigree on one side.  Time to buy that tattoo clamp!

Cloudy Shore Angoras has joined the ARBA

Well, exciting news!  I have finally decided to register the rabbitry with the ARBA, the American Rabbit Breeders Association.  This means that in the near future, I should be able to register my babies and create pedigrees that will be searchable by the ARBA.  I will also need to be purchasing a stamp tattoo machine for my babies, so that their identity follows them throughout their life.  I’m pretty jazzed about the whole thing, but I still have no planned breedings at this time.  I have 8 fluffy and lovely angora coats to upkeep, as well as three other bucks, for a total of 11 rabbits here to keep healthy and happy…I’m in no hurry to breed.  If I do find parties that are interested in babies contacting me, I will reconsider.

So, let’s have a hand of applause for Cloudy Shore Angoras!

Cleaning a Sheep or other large Fleece!

In 2012 I experienced washing my first sheep’s fleece.  It was a large garbage bag full of dirty dorset wool I bought off of craigslist for $20.  It took me days to wash it in the washer, skirt it and dry it.  Since then, I have made 3/4 of a sweater out of that wool, mixed with German Angora wool, and dyed pink with Kool-Aid.

This book looks good, but I got all of my information off of the internet:

http://www.interweavestore.com/Spinning/DVDs-Videos/Three-Bags-Full-DVD.html?SessionThemeID=23&a=ml130101

I don’t know exactly what 2013 will bring.  I just graduated college and am looking for work, so I have lots of time for crafting.  I am hoping to blog more often, and produce much more.  Breeding will happen when I find work.

Best wishes to all for 2013!