Hello friend... I've been distant, I'll admit. This season of life on the farm hasn't been the easiest and I've found myself tucking away in the home, enjoying the warmth of the stove, the sound of good music and the company of my packets of seeds for next year's garden. We've had our ups and downs, not just with farm life but with work, marriage and health. I'm learning a lot in this season of life.. learning to take each day with gratitude, to relinquish control over my plans and surrender them to my Heavenly Father, to appreciate those around me who have invested so much into my life.
Just nine days ago, I came out to the barn to find that one of our breeder rabbits, Rose, was the proud new mama of six kits (baby rabbits). I was thrilled. FINALLY, ANOTHER LITTER! For those of you who don't know, we raise chicken, chevre (goat) and rabbits for meat here on our little two acre homestead. We believe that if we are going to choose to eat meat, we want to take the responsibility of raising, caring for, and humanely harvesting each animal. There is so much more appreciation for food when you know where it comes from. We desperately want to be connected to the food we eat. So when I found that Rose had had six kits, that meant six more meals for our family this winter.
*And before you shame me for calling a baby rabbit a meal, please know that I do not take the responsibility of raising meat lightly. I also dread harvesting day from the moment those little babies are born. But if I'm going to eat meat, I want the full confidence that the meat I eat had the best life possible.
The morning after Rose's birth date, I went out for my usual barn chores... feeding animals, checking waters, collecting eggs, etc. As I came upon Rose's hutch, I noticed that one of her babies was exposed to the cold elements. Sadly, it wasn't moving. I called my friend who sold me these rabbits and asked for advice. Upon her instruction, I scooped up the baby and put it in the big pocket of my coat. You see, kits will go into a hibernation state if they get too cold, in order to preserve their body heat and stay alive. It's pure instinct. I checked the rest of the kits.. all of them were ice cold and also, not moving. I removed the nesting box (Rose at this point was munching away on her breakfast) and brought all of the babies inside. I spent the next four hours trying to get their body temperatures back up. I slept with them all bundled in a fleece blanket on the couch. By the afternoon, their body temperatures were back down.. they had all passed. There wasn't much we could do, honestly. Other than placing a heat lamp over the hutch, the best thing to do would have been to forego a winter breeding. So we wait.. we wait until the cold winter temperatures pass. We will wait to breed either females until closer to February in order to avoid such disappointments as this.
Despite the loss of these rabbits, we were able to harvest two dozen meat chickens this past week. We had a much better success rate with this batch than the batch in the Spring. We only lost one, early on, and they all remained in great health until harvest day. I'm thankful for these chickens, I really am, and I am thankful they only knew a happy life of fresh grass, clean air and the safety of our farm. They only had one bad day.
Another success this winter has been the surplus of eggs from our laying flock. If you remember back in the summer time, we were getting hardly any eggs. It was such a thorn in my side. I felt like a failure of a chicken farmer. This fall, a family member of mine suggested adding a heat lamp to the coop and then it hit me... BIGGER COOP MEANS LESS HEAT RETENTION. So, I added a heat and what do you know! MORE EGGS! We are up to about a dozen eggs a day.
This land has brought us so much. My prayer for this farm is that it brings people together.. whether it be through food, education, animals, or the comfort of a warm place to lay your head. Despite the great losses we've had on the farm this year, I'm learning that life does in fact go on. And oh, what a grand adventure it is.