Guess what? I am now officially a Maryland Department of Agriculture volunteer flock tester. Yep, that means I am qualified to swab poultry throats like a bad strep test, and draw blood under their feathered wings like nurse Nurse Ratched. All for the sake of the National Poultry Improvement Plan, annnnnd so that my kids get to take their hens to the fair next time I forget to arrange a tester within the qualified time period (and none are to be found).
This also means that I have a new friend who speaks my language, the Field Tester (let’s call her FT) who taught our classroom course, then came to my home to walk me through the wet lab. This woman is my idol. I want to be her when I grow up. FT shoots deer on her own 30 acres of private heaven, using a black powder rifle no less, butchers them herself, and does the same with bulls from her own HERD OF LONGHORNS. What?!?!?! She’s drives a sweet pick-up truck, raises her own meat rabbits, and is my first draft pick when the Zombie Apocalypse hits. I call dibs on having her on my team! I might have told her that.
That being said, when FT looked around my backyard barnyard, she was surprised to see that our bunnies are merely lawn ornaments and 4-H accessories. They could be more, she hints to me, you could raise your own dinner. Now she’s hitting at my weakness. I have always wanted to raise something I can eat here in the suburbs, and eggs don’t count. I want something that reproduces and replenishes itself on its own. Once that hen has spun out all her eggs, you have to get a new one. It’s not the same thing. And don’t even suggest the garden again, it’s taken us 4 years to learn that sadly, nothing will EVER grow in this shady, tree root filled yard of ours. Plus, the bugs and squirrels are hired by the local CSA’s to keep them in business. Plants are a dead end. But bunnies, I am intrigued at the thought of raising meat rabbits, especially since she told me they can be used in anything you would put chicken in. Interesting…
Now 2 weeks ago, someone had put 6 Serama chickens on Craigslist for free. They are the tiniest breed of chickens, never weighing over a pound or growing bigger than a football. The woman who gave them to me was raising 17 of them indoors because she wasn’t zoned for chickens where she lived. I had to chuckle. Anyway, I was curious about how much fun tiny birds could be, so I set up a cage for them in the mini-barn, and convinced Captain Schenanigans it was just a phase I was going through. Like tight rolled jeans or motherhood.
Due to space constraints, I took 4 of the 6 birds over to a friend of mine, who has a business taking unwanted birds. I told her they were free, but she insisted on paying me $15 anyway. So now I have made $15 off 4 free birds, and I still have 2 at home to play with.
About a week later, these birds with “big personalities” have failed to impress me, and I don’t have time to bond in the 5 minute increments they allow me between pooping on my shirt. I’d had it. I called my friend who runs an animal education program and has all the mobile animals you can think of, and asked if she’d like to add 2 miniature chickens to her dog and pony show. She would. They would be perfect for taking in to classrooms and nursing homes. On a whim, I ask her if she has any rabbits she doesn’t want (she breeds sometimes), and she does. She has a doe and a buck to swap me for my 2 tiny hens. Now I have 2 rabbits, and $15, from my 6 free birds. Kinda feels like I should have started with a paper clip.
Since we already have 2 intact (non-neutered) bucks here already, the plan was to cook the free boy, and if the whole family agrees that they like the taste of rabbit, we’d keep the girl and breed her when she’s old enough. The family was on board, especially Girlchild, who happened to love rabbit stew.
Saturday the kids are off to a birthday party with my hubby and I have 30 minutes to skin a rabbit, handle the meat ,and clean up the pelt to be frozen (Captain Schenanigan is looking forward to tanning the pelt and making mittens), and I’ve never dispatched anything with fur. Turns out, it was not that much different than chickens, and smelled much better. I rocked it. Captain later watched me via the security camera on our house. Kinda morbid if you ask me, but I’m sure I looked hot wielding a BB gun rifle.
Girlchild encouraged the whole family to heartily enjoy the rabbit stew on Sunday, she was already gunning to keep that sweet little doe Manchild had since named Lila. It was a go. Even Captain Schenanigans agreed that we should begin raising meat rabbits for our freezer. My farmer’s heart rejoiced. I finally had a way to provide for my family using our animals and my skills.
But now we needed an extra hutch. Captain offered to build one this week-end out of pallets from work. Sounded good to me, until I got the e-mail from a 4-H mom offering a free rabbit hutch they no longer needed. We snatched that sucker up like the last chocolate chip at a Keeblers Elf convention. Now we have a hutch, a doe, a plan for supplementing the 1/2 a pig and 1/4 side of beef in our freezer, and $15 extra in my pocket. All from 6 free Seramas on Craigslist. I am one happy lassie.
Meet Lila the new doe.
For those of you who are used to silly stories of my kids and humor from our life, here is a recent tidbit.
This Saturday morning Girlchild came into the kitchen in hysterics. “Manchild put my Barbie hat up his hiney!” she sobbed. Surely this could not be true. Even he is not that gross. Captain Schenanigans followed her in, confirming it was true, sorta. Turns out that when I ordered Manchild to pick-up his room, he opted to use his ever resourceful butt cheeks to do the job, to the point that his father had to turn away from him to keep from laughing. This would all have been much funnier, had the Barbie hat in question not been crocheted by my dead grandmother. It was not to be thrown out, as Captain Schenanigans had instructed, and was kinda special. Just like Manchild. Long story short, I had to wash the literal “booty hat”, and let the drier do it’s e-coli killing mission. My grandmother surely never had suspected the places this hat would go, and I had never anticipated the usefulness of the back-end of my 5yr old son. Drama.