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Snippets, Volume 4

When I lived in town, I would go running and sometimes find nickles or dimes or pennies on the sidewalk and I would pick them up and take them home.

Now I live out in the country.  I went running this morning and found a big bag of butternut squash on the side of the road.  So I picked it up and brought it home.

Bear’s Happy Day

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A little over a month ago, Bear (our one male rabbit) had a happy day.

We’d been trying to breed our females one by one, but none of them were getting pregnant. We weren’t sure if it was that the females were not fertile, or if Bear was the problem.

Finally, Stephan decided just to let Bear have the run of the colony. One evening, he let Bear out to play amongst the females. He left the buck there until the next day.

And we waited a month.

We have baby bunnies! Nine were born, and two died. Another two aren’t looking so good, especially one little blond one whose ribs are far too obvious. We expect to be down to eight or seven in the next couple of days.

We know that Bear is still able to produce. But we aren’t sure who the mama is. Do we have two litters or one? They are all in the same nest box, even though we had two boxes available, so that might lead one to believe that it’s just one litter. However, rabbits pull their fur when they are ready to kindle, and there is both light fur and dark fur in the nest box, which might lead one to believe that there are two litters – one from a dark rabbit and one from a light rabbit.

I suspect Solo and maybe Snickers are the mothers, because when I have been in the barn, they seem the most interested in the babies. But I haven’t seen either of them actually in the nest box with the kits.

Now that we know our buck is still okay, we are discussing the possibilities for breeding if we keep our females in a colony set-up. One idea is to breed a different rabbit every two weeks. Based on due dates, it would be obvious who kindled and who didn’t. Another idea is to keep them in the colony when they haven’t been bred, but separate each doe shortly after breeding her. Not only are we having the issue of knowing parentage, but also we have found that the does are eating So. Much. Food. For the nursing mother(s), that’s okay. But I’m afraid the others are just taking advantage of the situation and just getting fat, while we foot the bill for grain.

One more problem with keeping the does in a colony is that they are not very easy to tell apart. We have two blond rabbits and two black rabbits. Solo is still a little smaller than Tiny, and Snickers is still a little smaller than Licorice, but they are looking more and more alike the more they eat and the fatter they grow. We have discussed tattooing their ears, but we have not yet invested in that equipment.

Once these babies are grown, I think I’d like to keep one male. We don’t have any idea how old Bear and Licorice are, so we don’t know how much longer they will be successful breeders. I’m satisfied with four females, but I do want to determine which ones are breeding well and which ones aren’t.

I also wonder about keeping better records. All the books you might read on rabbitry stress that proper record-keeping is critical. Since we aren’t breeding for show and we don’t have a large operation, it doesn’t seem quite so important. However, now that records are so much trickier with the colony, I think I may need to do a better job. Part of that may include keeping some of the females separate some of the time.

In the mean time, we’ll keep an eye on the kits and hope they all survive.

First Day of Fall Break

Fall Break began Friday afternoon, and I have a week away from my students’ faces. Today, though, I spend a couple of hours grading papers, planning lessons, entering grades, responding to students’ emails, and editing and uploading articles for the middle school newspaper.

Stephan is incredibly busy trying to get his business moved from the small warehouse he has been renting for six years to the pole barn on our property. It has taken more time and money than he anticipated. I’ve been wanting to help, but there is so much I don’t know how to do. I try to remind myself that I can help by making sure his laundry is done, by cooking dinner and cleaning up, by taking care of the dogs. I can help by making sure that he doesn’t have to worry about those things.

He always wants me to relax, though. “It’s your fall break,” he said. “You should take it easy.”

It’s hard for me to take it easy when he’s working so hard and feeling stressed out.

So I volunteer to make Monday Night Dinner. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is something.

I finish my schoolwork for the day, and I plan to go out on the porch to write. And then I remember that months ago, I planned to mend something that belongs in Stephan’s shop. I put down my notebook and my pen and I go to put an iron-on patch on the item.

And then I find out that the item is not safe for ironing, and I melt a big hole in the fabric.

Plan B quickly forms, and I patch the item by sewing a piece of cloth on the holes. Then I have to clean blue goo from my iron, then iron the rest of the clothes that have been waiting for a month to be ironed. Next, I assemble the item that I had repaired (for a few moments, I am sure the cover has shrunk in the wash, but I finally get it on the frame.)

I return to the house, realize that I might not have enough beans soaking for the bean soup, and so add more. Will mung beans taste okay in navy bean soup? I don’t think more navy beans would have time to soak enough to be soft for dinner, so mung beans it is. I really should have planned this out better. Just like I really should have tested the iron on a small part of that fabric instead of just plopping the whole hot metal appliance on top of the melty fabric.

Back to the barn to see if Stephan needs more help. I have only an hour to spare before I need to start cooking, but he gives me one small job to accomplish. I am on the verge of another, but then the ice delivery arrives, so I am dismissed back to the house. (I likely would be in the way of the four or five guys unloading three-hundred-pound blocks of ice.)

Toss the rest of the bag of mung beans into the bowl of soaking beans, and now I have no idea how much is actually in there and whether I will need to add more of everything else. Chop up the carrots and onions, and since I don’t have celery, dig in the cupboard for celery seed (will it taste the same? Who cares? With the mung beans added, it won’t be the same anyway), add the garlic. Unload the dishwasher.

I sit down for a few minutes and try to write. It’s not the best writing, for sure. I’m feeling nervous about the bean soup, even though I know our guests won’t complain even if it’s a weird soup. I’m noticing the temperature fall as the clouds cover the sky and my wind chime continually sings in the constant breeze. I’m wondering if the noise of it bothers my neighbors. I’m realizing I should probably take a shower before I get dinner started.

I turn and glance out the window to see the bright golden maple tree in the back yard, the leaves fluttering to the ground in the wind.

I think that perhaps I should have mowed today.

People come for dinner, and the soup is fine.  We talk, we clean up, and they leave.  I sit in the living room, listening to the sound of hammering and the whine of the circular saw from the barn.  The breeze blows through the house, ruffling the papers on the bulletin board and fluttering the leaves of the houseplants.

The first day of fall break is nearly over.

Snippets, Volume 3

SONY DSCA beautiful autumn sunrise.

Snippets, Volume 2

I wonder if we could train the multitude of busy moles in our yard to focus on the area where we want our garden to be.

Planning for the future

We have lots of plans for this place.

The most immediate is next year’s garden.  We’ve already got some cardboard out in the yard in an attempt to kill some of the grass so we can garden there.

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In the foreground there is a circle of cardboard (weighted down with lumber) over a tree stump.  We are going to try to build a spiral garden there for strawberries.  In the background, there is a line of cardboard where we’d like to put the vegetable garden.

I’ve also been researching what types of fruit trees grow in our area.  I plan to place the trees along the side of the front yard, near the fence belonging to our northern neighbor (but not too close; I don’t want them to have to deal with dropped fruit in their yard).  I’m leaning toward Montmorency cherries, Burbank plums, and Madison peaches.  The apple choices are so varied, and I’ll probably end up choosing them based on harvest date so that I don’t have all my fruit ripening at once.  Apparently Fujis grow well in this region, so that’s a possibility if I want a late harvest.  Of course, there are also Enterprise apples for a late harvest.  But if I want to pick apples early, then I may go with Pristine, Redfree, Paulared, or Prima.  Mid-season choices include Priscilla, Jonafree, Cortland, and Empire.  Many choices!

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Another thing we are planning is building a small cabin back toward the wooded area of the property.  (Maybe nestled back among these trees?  Or inside what was probably once a goat enclosure?)  The first plan for this cabin is that we will live in it while we build our permanent home on the site of our existing house.  Then, we may offer it for mini-vacations for friends who want to get away, or for missionaries who are visiting the area.  In the future, if our parents can no longer take care of their own places, one set could live in the cabin.  We’re looking at something small — 200 – 400 square feet.  We’re intrigued with the Tiny House movement and have found some really cute ideas online.  We think that what we might do is to build what is essentially a shed, but to insulate and arrange it like a house.

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I spent the afternoon perusing photos and plans in these two books.

As we think and plan, I begin to realize how many decisions there are to be made.  We are also thinking about our own house, and the options are dizzying.  We’re focusing at the moment on the design and floor plan and the heat source.  We’re thinking of a masonry heater, which would need to be located centrally in the home, which makes a big impact on the layout.

Meanwhile, the husband is quite busy getting his ice carving studio moved from his rented place to the pole barn on our property, so while he likes thinking of all these things, he’s pretty preoccupied.

And we can’t do much until spring anyway.  And then, we can just start with a garden.  No need to do everything at once.  We have the winter to spend pondering.

This is the last place we ever plan to live, after all.

Snippets, Volume 1

A poorly insulated house

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A furnace that runs on propane which we want to conserve since we are unfamiliar with usage amounts

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A wood stove not hooked up yet

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A chilly fall and predictions of a frigid winter

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The down comforter on the bed in early October.

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