Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bunny Run

Papa Bugsy (left) visits Miss Flossy and the four wee buns.
Success, one project at a time! I finished this entire bunny run yesterday sans the door, which I put together this morning. By lunchtime, the bunnies were enjoying the fresh air outside.

If you've been reading here long enough, you may well remember the makeshift chicken tractor I threw together out of an old box spring mattress frame last year. Well, that old box spring mattress frame has been upcycled yet again. This reincarnation is a bunny run for my quad of fast-growing baby Jersey Woolies who are getting so big that they no longer have room to run in the indoor hutch where they live with their mama. Now they get to play all day outside with mama, then come in at night and sleep in the house.

The "tarp" material on the top that I used for a sunshade is actually recycled plastic dog food sacks. I've been saving the plastic feed sacks for about a year- cutting them down the seams and then rolling them up for storage. They have come in handy for a lot of things. The plastic is easy to sew together to make larger pieces or a tarp. It's very durable and doesn't degrade too quickly, as we have left some outside for almost a year with little else but sun bleaching of the colored side. We have used it to cover up and kill weeds on the ground. I've even sewn shopping bags out of it. This summer the kids want to build a teepee, so we'll probably use this to cover it. A lot of animal feeds are coming packaged this way. Our cat food, rabbit pellets, chicken scratch and chicken mash all come in this type of bag now. Rather than throw it out, use it up!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Bunny Therapy

The new babies at play this morning.
You can never truly replace a special pet, but you can heal with new pets when the time is right. Losing our Beep Beep still makes us a little sad when we think about her, which is daily, but we do have her four little brothers and sisters to keep us company now. While none of them are completely like her in personality because they were raised by their mama (we raised Beep Beep), we have found that each of the four does exhibit their own unique personality, and each one has a trait that reminds us of Beep Beep. We thought that having Beep Beep running around and acting silly was fun every evening, but multiply that by four and you have almost non-stop laughter. They really have been good therapy for us, for which I am grateful.
Three weeks ago when Beep Beep (right) met her younger siblings.
We have named them, even though it's a challenge telling them apart. We've marked them with colored pen dots on their ears for when we can't easily guess, but we are learning who they are from their personalities. The runt is the easiest to spot, as she is obviously smaller and has dwarf sized ears compared to the others. We were reminded of a hamster and named her Zu Zu. The two largest babies are Neeps (because she likes to nip at my t-shirts) and Black Dot (which is just a generic name until Lee thinks of something better.) Finally there is Tribble, who was the shiest baby at first and used to sink in the corner in a little ball. Now he's just as daring as the others and is always the one trying to jump off the sofa to go out and explore further. I find myself calling them all "Beep Beep" at certain times, just because they all look like her. "My Little Beep Beeps" has sort of become a general term to describe all of my bunnies now.

Today I will be taking apart our old makeshift chicken tractor and remodeling it into a bunny run for the babies to play in outside until they get big enough to have access to the whole yard like the big bunnies.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Farewell, Sweet Beep Beep

Beep Beep, when she was just a few days old.
My heart has been broken into a thousand pieces, as this afternoon I just buried the sweetest little baby bunny that ever came into my life. Lee and I both loved her so much you would think we were nuts. I hand-raised her, and as an infant bunny she would sleep curled up under my chin on my pillow every morning in bed after her feeding. She was a true people-bunny. Our evenings just weren't complete without her hopping around on the sofa with us while we watched our after-dinner film. She made us smile and laugh without fail every evening, so much so that we always hated to finally have to say goodnight and put her to bed in her cage.

The last photo I snapped of Beep Beep, 2 weeks ago.

We have no idea what happened, as she appeared to be her normal, hippity-hoppity self last night when we put her to bed after our movie. We've been racking our brains trying to figure out what we did wrong, but really it boils down to there being about a couple hundred possibilities. Bottom line is, we will never know because this happened so suddenly with no noticeable symptoms before this morning.

At about 7:30 am when I checked in on her, I noticed that her head was tilted. I closely observed her for the following hour and noticed she hadn't really eaten or drank her usual amounts from the previous evening. I offered her favorites treats, tiny bits of carrot, apple, and even threw in a tiny piece of banana to try and entice her. She refused everything. I forced her to drink with an eyedropper, and she swallowed a small amount, but not as much as she needed, around noon she stopped swallowing water.

She soon became extremely dehydrated and listless, so around 1:30 pm I decided to call a vet. The first vet in the nearest town said that she could not be seen today because the rabbit vet wasn't in until Wednesday. The second vet said she couldn't be seen until 3:45 pm, and if I were to come in as a walk-in, I would have to still wait for the patients who had appointments to be seen first. Seriously.

Beep Beep passed away in my hands, as my tears fell on her, before I could even prepare a box to transport her in. Lee and I are both a little lost without our sweet little companion, but we hope that her beautiful, vibrant energy will be passed on to some new little bunnies somewhere in the world. We won't ever forget her.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

There's An Orchid For Your Mommy...

Yeah, according to those lyrics, I am one holiday behind. No wonder, since I don't pay much attention to holidays, but every time I see an orchid, for some odd reason that song pops into my head.

Anyway, normally we don't fall prey to the commercial holidays like Easter and Mother's Day, but we do love stopping in at the Orchid Barn to get a glimpse of hundreds upon thousands of Orchids in their green houses. Not to mention the great deals they have in their little roadside shop!

Yesterday, we scored 4 Orchids for 20 smackers. Enough to go around for all the moms, and even one left over for us. The have every size, shape, color, and price range you can imagine. From very small, simple, single plants, to ginormous arrangements of several plants.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you moms (even those who are moms to non-human species.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pallet Gardening

Today I discovered Fern Richardson's blog Life on the Balcony which had some great ideas for reusing pallets. Even though I have a lot more room than just a balcony, I think these would still be great to incorporate into our garden. It also spurred an idea to create a living fence for the chicken yard and garden areas, rather than the plain ol' wire fence that we were originally planning to install. It will also coordinate well with the pallet dining table we plan to build this summer for our future patio area, and we also plan to finish the exterior of our big chicken house with pallet shingles.

I've been having so much fun looking up things to make with recycled pallets, check out this video. It looks like an interesting film to support, I'd be interested in viewing it.

It's a good thing I have source for unlimited free pallets!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Kittens Too!

It's a very good thing we decided to call off our plans for a wedding and just elope. With all the craziness lately and baby animals everywhere, I am not sure I would have survived the ordeal of organizing a total DIY wedding.

By the way, I am not responsible for these kittens. Our three cats are spayed. This poor homeless mama cat was abandoned near the ranch. The mama cat has become friendly now since my mom was feeding her, but she had two previous litters in hard to reach spots at the ranch, making it difficult to socialize the kittens. By the time we knew she had kittens, they were already old enough to run from us. They grew up to be totally feral and many of them ended up getting hit on the road or disappearing (coyotes?)

This time though, I thought I would intervene and stop the cycle since the mama had this litter right next to the shop at the ranch, in a rack that holds wood scraps where it was easy to reach them. Well, somewhat, after a lot of crawling and moving wood scraps.

I decided I would tame the kittens, find them loving homes, and get the mama spayed. So I gathered them all up on my last visit and brought them home. They have been living in the garden shed, as our own three witchy cats would not tolerate them near the house. The mama is doing fine and has settled into her temporary home quite well. The babies come running to me every morning when I open the shed door, so that's great that these kittens will have a chance to go to new homes.

Unfortunately one of the babies doesn't have control over her hind legs and drags them. It may be a condition called swimmer kitten syndrome. I will be taking them all in to the vet soon for a checkup. I've read on other sites that vets will often say that there isn't much that can be done and to have the kitten put down. Lee said he would rather get her some wheels than resort to that. Looks like we may end up with an extra kitty?

Free Bees

Who doesn't like something for free? Especially when you are talking almost one hundred smackers for a new package of bees!

We lost our first hive of bees just recently. It didn't even make it to the one year mark. The hive seemed to grow quieter and quieter until suddenly it was completely empty.

I broke it down and removed the top super, but left the bottom minus two frames that I pulled out to examine. Well, I never got a chance to put them back in, as just a few weeks later we suddenly had bees coming in and out of the hive again. At first I just thought they were bees from other hives robbing the remaining honey, but then I began to see bees coming in with full pollen bags and none of them leaving with full pollen bags. After that, I had a pretty good feeling that we had a feral swarm move into our hive. What great timing too, as we were so bummed to have lost the first colony only after it was too late to order a new package of bees this year.

I'm pretty thrilled that we will have bees to pollinate the garden again this year, and we have the added bonus of them being very docile, even more docile than the Italians we bought last year... which made me begin to wonder if we really had received an Italian queen.

I read that if a Russian queen is mixed with Italians, they can get fiesty. Well, our so-called Italians were kind of mean and very territorial after a while. At first they were really calm. It may be that we had an Italian queen, but later on a feral queen may have invaded our hive? I also read that Russians can kill themselves off by overloading the brood chambers with honey for insulation during Winter. Well, we didn't have many brood chambers, but there sure was a lot of honey. We may very well have had a Russian colony? It will remain a mystery as to what happened to our first hive. I am just very, very grateful to have been given the gift of new bees.

Now we are curious to see what would happen if we get a second hive and set up some lures inside. We've always advocated adopting the homeless as opposed to purchasing from a breeder when it comes to our pets, hah!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vegans, Freegans, & Free Meals

Last night, Lee and I made Southwestern-Style Vegetable Casserole from Supermarket Vegan: 225 Meat-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Recipes for Real People in the Real World and it was quite delish! One of the more simple vegan dishes I've made lately, it contains sweet potatoes, black beans, red onions, green peppers, corn, tomatoes, green chili, cumin, cayenne, and smokey barbecue sauce. It's topped with crushed tortilla chips and baked. The recipe called for canned sweet potatoes, but I used fresh. I just sauteed them up for a few minutes before adding the other ingredients. I think I went a little overboard with the cayenne though, so next time I will use that with caution, as my hot spice tolerance is pretty low. Lee, on the other hand, absolutely loved it. It will definitely be added to our frequently-used-recipes box. 

This year, Lee and I made a resolution to eat more vegan meals for our health, for the environment, and of course for the animals, and so far we've done really well! We cook almost entirely vegan at home, with the exception of the purchase of a small pouch of cheese once every 2-4 weeks for Lee's half of our homemade pizzas. I eat my half sans the cheese, loading it with veggies. I really don't miss the cheese at all. Especially the ill after-effects like coughing phlegm, and constipation.  
Southwestern-Style Vegetable Casserole

I am guessing that when you eat dairy regularly you build up an immunity, because after months of not eating it for long stretches of time and then having a dish with some cheese in it, immediately afterward we are coughing up a storm. In the days following, our internal processing doesn't run as smoothly as it did previous to the cheesy meal. I don't know about you, but on top of the fact that dairy is meant for infant calves and not adult humans, this tells me we shouldn't be consuming it and I am glad to be weaning myself from it. Other more positive side effects we've noticed in ourselves would include: increased energy, better sleep, and weight loss, not to mention the load it takes off our conscience to no longer be contributing to the poor conditions and abuse that farmed animals endure, as well as the waste of land and resources used to produce store-bought animal products, and of course all of the pollution produced from all of that animal excrement. I urge you to at least try Meatless Mondays if you aren't ready to incorporate more vegan meals into your diet, you will be doing a world of good.

Speaking of our unethical system of food production, today I learned about the Freegans and their movement thanks to a Care2 article. While I've heard about people doing all of the things that they do (and even I have reclaimed things from dumpsters, just not food), I had no idea there was an organized movement. I found it all very interesting to read about. Especially how the term Freegan was derived from vegan, yet they have embraced eating roadkill? Hey, but if you are going to eat a carcass then I think roadkill is probably the most responsible way to do it these days. The Freegan's philosphy is sort of reminiscent of Dolly Freed's Possum Living, which was published back in the seventies.  A lot of people might think that this is sort of a desperate way of living, but I don't know about that. I think that it's a choice, a choice that can allow you to work less for the man and more for yourself. It becomes an adventure to forage... which is what humans did long ago before we all got lazy. If you are a avid thrift store shopper, you may understand somewhat, because it's not always just about getting something cheap... we actually like to dig and forage to find what we are looking for. It's instinctual. It makes us active. We were designed to be active. Not sit at a desk and order in a pizza!

However, when it comes to roadkill, unless running over a can of beans counts, I won't be joining this movement. I am all for a free meal, but since gutting and skinning isn't my thing, I'd rather do dishes at a place like SAME to score a free salad. How wonderful to have a type of business that allows people to pay what they can for a meal, and volunteer time if they can't! We need more businesses like this in the world today. We need more people to get out of the mindset that earning profits= success. In the end it's not about the big house you fill with junk you don't need, the fancy car, the smart phone, or the hip clothes. It's about the quality of the relationships you have with people that truly matters. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sneak Peak

The best shot I could get of the new babies.
Miss Flossy will not let me put my hand into the cage without ferociously lunging at it, so I've left the little ones alone at her request. She probably thinks that I am going to steal these babies too, so I can't blame her much for being overly protective this time around. I can't even lure her out of the cage with carrot treats! The only way I've been able to check on the wee ones is if I give her a small piece of carrot inside the cage to distract her, while I move a long stick through the top of the cage to push the her blanket of rabbit fur off of them in order to see them.

Oh, and guess what?  We have four white babies. They are five days old and their fur has come in thick enough to make them solid white now, no more pink skin showing except on their ears and sweet little paws. I have to admit, Lee and I were both a little disappointed  that we ended up with a monochromatic litter because we had hoped to see some other colors/patterns, but we are ecstatic that they are healthy and that mama bunny is taking very good care of her little ones. They have fat little bellies, and I hear them scratching around the bottom of the nest box quite often. Only challenge we have ahead of us is telling them all apart! That makes six white bunnies including mama and Beep Beep.  Oh dear.