Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy NewYear!

I'll be heading off to work shortly but wanted to wish all you a very Happy New Year! May 2011 be full of nothing but wonderful things!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rabbit Hopping!

The above video features "Charlie" a just about 6 month old Rhinelander charlie showing off his rabbit hopping skills, this video is of his very first training session FYI.

Rabbit hopping is similar to dog agility, some of the differences include most courses are in a straight line and the rabbits are usually on harnesses/leashes.

I've always been fascinated by the rabbit hopping phenomenom. In Europe rabbit hopping is very popular and there are some really incredibly skilled bunnies and handlers.

Stateside rabbit hopping hasn't picked up in quite the same manner but at ARBA Convention this year there were a bunch of youth doing a demonstration with their talented bunnies. I've been meddling with training a few of my Rhinelanders for a while. Rhinelanders are naturally suited for the sport, they are a running breed so training them to run down the course isn't needed, its genetic. Getting them to hop over the jumps is a breeze, most will do it with little encouragement and they are very athletic so they can go over long/high jumps with ease.

The 4H kids make jumps out of oatmeal boxes, a wonderful rabbitry came up with the design and has instructions here:

Rabbit hopping is fun for adults and kids, its a great way to bond with your bunnies, give your bunnies exercise and for me its another way to just enjoy having rabbits.

If you're wondering how to get started the best advice I can share is to buy/make a harness and let your rabbit walk around in it with a leash attached. Once your rabbit is comfortable in his or her harness then start by having your rabbit hop over dowels on the ground and slowly raise the height of the jumps. Bunnies are smart and catch on quickly.

Obviously I think Rhineladers make great hopping choices but any breed can learn although I do think watching an English Lop attempt a jump might be a sight to be seen.. Your bunny should be confident and free from any joint issues. Serious training shouldn't take place til the bunny is full grown to prevent injuries, so Charlie in my video above will only be doing small jumps til he's a bit bigger. I'll be posting his progress along with the other bunnies I'm working with. Due to the fine boned nature of my Belgian Hares I don't think this is an activity I will be partaking in with them, I have a horrible vision of broken limbs in my mind..

Friday, December 17, 2010

Farm Goals for 2011

With college just about over for the year (one more final on Monday!) its time to reflect on all that has happened this past year and consider the rapidly approaching new year.
I hope 2011 will be a great year for everyone. I am already mulling my plans for the farm over in my mind. February will mark 2 years since I purchased the property and early June will be my 2 year anniversary of living the country life. Its hard to believe how fast time has flown by! It seems like yesterday the house was being gutted (it was a foreclosure - and a mess) fencing was being installed, the outbuildings were being rennovated, Reuben was only a 3 month old puppy ambling around the forest and Fiddle, Tambourine and Banjo were just itty bitty goat kids terrified of people. (you'd never know that now!)
I take alot of pride in what I've accomplished. I must thank my family and friends for their support and respect. I know that my family doesn't always understand my desire to keep livestock and live such an isolated lifestyle, but they are tolerant and I'd like to think when they visit they enjoy meeting the critters and experiencing the peace and quiet of country life. The way I live is not for everyone but I hope that visitors to my blog can see the joys I get to experience every day through my photos and stories.
Living and working a farm on your own is not easy. I work a full time job and attended class at a University 4 days a week an hour and a half from my home this past semester. Farm chores and keeping up with classwork can be stressful and overwhelming but the rewards far outweigh the challenges of the responsibilities I have. I look forward to the new year and starting on new projects around the farm. 2011 will be a year of pushing more for sustainability of my land, its time to really start growing crops and using the livestock for the purposes they've been bred for.
My goals for 2011 are many, I'll share some here:
  • Big changes are in store for the rabbitry. First and foremost I plan to re-do the whole living arrangement. All rabbits will be converted to hanging cages and an automatic watering system, this will save me considerable time with everyday maintenance. I hope to start this project once the coldest part of winter is over.
  • I will make a final decision regarding keeping or selling the Belgian Hares that I have held over. I really want to shift my rabbit focus on production for meat. I get a good number of culls from my Rhinelanders but they don't have the best dress out ratio. I'm seriously researching breeds and have settled on American Sables or Creme d'Argents, both are rare breeds with excellent commercial type. I'm also considering adding a pair of Satin Angoras for fiber and meat. I'm not sure what to do with the hares I have left, a few are absolutely pets and will never leave but I don't know if I can part with the last of my breeding stock. I'm sure I'll be blogging more about this in the future!
  • I will be buying a herd buck for my Nigerian Dwarf does. I've been doing my research and am starting to plan a good site for a buck barn/paddock. This means that if all goes as planned kiddings will resume in the fall of 2o11!
  • I'm going to seriously start clearing out some of my 18 acres of woods for more pasture/garden space. I will be doing this by running the goat wethers through small electric fenced pens, moving the pens as they clear out the space. I will then send Pumba the pig through to root/till the soil. Mature trees will be harvested on as needed basis. I may need to get a seond pig to make this project move faster.. anyone interested in some pasture raised bacon? (I'm thinking farm pig...)
  • Plant a real garden/more pots on the deck! I also need to overhaul the backyard and the flower/garden beds. Pumba really did a number on the yard before his permanent pig pen was built so I'm going to need to seed the lawn and edge the beds.

Those are just a few of the many projects I have in mind. I'm going to be very busy and fitting these projects in will be a challenge. I have not officially decided if I'm taking next semester off from college or not. I'm going to be working alot for the begining of the year so I don't know if its worth stressing out about class, work and the farm.. luckily tuition is not due til the 24th of January (thank you GMU) so I have lots of time to make that decision.

I hope everyone is having a nice Holiday season and I'd love to hear your plans for 2011. I know that all my goals for 2010 certainly weren't accomplished but I don't feel like I failed in anyway, life is a journey after all - its really not the destination.. :)


8 week old Pumba with Pepper
6 month old Pumba with Pepper, 52 lbs and growing.
And yes, pigs should sleep in the house just like pit bulls. ;)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter is here

As I headed off bright and early this morning to take my first final it was snowing heavily. We ended up with about an inch, some of it is melting but most will probably stick around since its supposed to be bitterly cold these next few days.
I'm so thankful for insultation in the bunny barn and heated buckets for the larger livestock at times like these!
I have another final on Wednesday and Thursday and have my last one on Monday. I'm looking forward to a long break from college after that!
Here are some recent photos from around the farm:

I had 2 new "bunk beds" installed in the goat barn. The barn was originally used for birds before I purchased the property and has alot of height. This is advantageous to goats who are excellent climbers and love to sleep up high. Wind Chime and Dixie show off the higher levels here.

Here's a view from the front door to the barn, there's two bunks on the left side and one bunk on the right and a full lower platform across the back. Most of the goats try to sleep on the top bunk on the left!

Imagination's Duke wanted to say hello, he's got a lovely new coat coming in.

This is Cherub, she is a pretty gal, reminds me alot of her aunt Maeve.

This is the jr. hare buck I currently have for sale to a pet home. He likes head rubs, he's 4 months old.

Duke again, such a handsome face!

Lady and Pepper enjoying the first snow of the year.

The goats would much rather chow down then play in the snow.

Lady is learning to have better manners with the livestock every day.

Pepper comes running in to lick the camera.. lol

Lady likes her picture taken too!

Pit Bull wrestle mania

An angry dominique hen.. she dislikes cold and hates snow!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

And the last show of the year

This past Saturday I made it to my 3rd and final show of the year. The Richmond Rabbit Breeders show is the closest show to me at only 45 minutes away. I went after I got off work to meet a pet buyer so she could pick out a Belgian Hare jr. buck.
I hadn't planned to stay long nor show anything but I hadn't seen many of my bunny friends in a very long time so I decided to stick around to catch up and chat even though work was looming at midnight.
I really enjoyed seeing everyone, talking rabbits and watching the show progress. The new venue they hosted the show at was absolutely perfect, it was spacious, open and warm!
Its hard to believe I only made it to 3 shows this year, the NC Convention, ARBA Convention and this one. Its even more difficult to accept the fact that this will be a running trend for at least the next year while I continue working at the Emergency clinic and attend class at the University. Bunnies are such a wonderful escape from the pressures of reality, I only wish I could make it to more rabbit events but unfortunately my schedule just won't allow it.
As I look back on my rabbit goals for 2010 now that the year is nearly over, I've been considering my accomplishments and failures. I didn't get everything I wanted to do in rabbits completed but I am happy with what I have done. I also began making my goals for 2011 and I see alot of changes in the horizon and will have some difficult decisions to make in the new year.
With brooding thoughts swimming in my head here are some photos from the show this weekend:
Archie an English Lop belonging to Holly of Tristar Rabbitry and Jive a jr. hare of mine.
We had alot of fun with our rabbits...
Sephora an absolutely adorable Dwarf Hotot Danielle took home.

8 Week old Opal French Lop buck belonging to Lynn of Spanish Oak Rabbitry. I could never raise French Lops because I would never sell a single one, I am so in love with this breed I would want to keep them all...
A pile of rabbits, the opal Frenchie, Archie the English, Sephora the Hotot and Jive the hare.

3 of Lynn's beautiful French Lop babies, oh the will power it takes to not bring them all home...

More bunny pile madness

Another of Lynn's cute baby Frenchies posing with Sephora.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Imagination's Valentine takes DOUBLE Best in Show!!!

A huge congratulations to Susan Wistrand in Louisiana for her double best in show win with BOS Convention winner 2010 Imagination's Valentine!!!

I knew from the start being the only buck in a litter of 7 that he was destined for big things. He was an adorable baby and has matured into a handsome, correct representative of the Belgian Hare breed.

I am thrilled that he has taken top honor and look on from a distance with extreme pride.

Way to go Susan and Valentine! :)