The Quiet of the Old Year.

It is New Years Eve, and the house is quiet. I have just finished reading Thomas the Tank Engine’s Journey Beyond Sodor to 5 year old Manchild, and tucked him gently into bed.  I poked my head into Girlchild’s room, she was reading. With a low grade fever and flushed cheeks, she still sucked her thumb for comfort. I kissed her forehead and prayed  with her, leaving her to continue to read a book about Christmas, and sing along pitifully with the printed songs. That’s my girl.

I am neither attending nor hosting anything tonight, and it feels delicious. It is eight o’clock, and I am reclining by the fire in a brown leather chair while my husband is off to celebrate the New Year with friends at Game Night. It’s a perfect New Years Eve, and all is well with my soul.

Except for the fact that Girlchild and I have both had colds all week. My daughter has perfected getting legit sick the day before school vacations begin, and initiates her own mini vacation the day before the rest of the school system. The kicker is that Girlchild and I both have our first ever allergist appointments in two days, and we plan to get the prick test to see what we’re allergic to. As anyone who has done this before knows, you can not have any anti-histamines for 5 days prior to your appointment. As every pharmacist knows, anti-histamines are one of the main ingredients in cold medication.  This was poor planning on everyone’s part. Even my teeth feel congested.

But I promise you one thing, this will not be one of those “End of Year in Review” pieces. I hate reading those things. I don’t really care much about what has happened this year. I know it already. I was there. I took pictures and ordered albums of the memories I want to keep,  and have already dismissed the one’s I don’t. It’s what’s coming next that I am always looking forward to.

In Schenanigansland, what comes next is Bunnypalooza! No joke. I have my first batch of 11 day old meat bunnies resting comfortably in their nest, while Betsy, my second doe is growing closer to breeding age all the time. I’m aiming for a total of 8 liters between the 2 does this year, and about 120lbs of meat in the freezer. We run out of sockets for electric water bottles if we have any extra rabbits over the winter. Betsy took the last spot.

We love Betsy! She sat in the basement with us yesterday and watched the 3rd Star Wars movie in the trilogy. Don’t ask me what it’s called, I was asleep. But our bunnies are beloved pets, and it’s just their off spring that are considered livestock to us (and therefore never named). This first batch will spend the last 2 months off our property, in pairs, at the homes of 6 different families with kids who want to pretend to own a bunny. Works great for me. You feed it, I’ll eat it, and repeat. Sounds harsh, but they are a fat-free, locally grown, earth friendly source of white meat that I can provide for my children’s dinner. Sometimes being responsible is a bit harsh.

But that’s not what I’m excited about. I’m excited about my new rabbit grow out pen DIY project I just ordered off Amazon. You see, I realized the other day while scrubbing my kitchen floor, that I care more about how I set up my next rabbit pen, than when or if I ever repaint my kitchen. Let alone what color. After much scouring of the internet, I eagerly found the perfect way to combine the free standing wooden bunny house I’m not using, and the green mental shed we barely need. It just called for a few office supplies.

I’d seen these hand made pens around at 4-H events, but never quite mustered up the nerve to ask if Staples provided their rabbit cage. It just felt awkward. But take a look at these photos below. At $16 for a four shelf kit, I’m completely sold! I ordered 3 kits.

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OK, granted, that last one was for an embarrassed cat, but you get the picture. I’m super excited to see what designs I can fit into my almost empty shed to give the most bunny space and predator protection for $45. It’s like Duplos for adults.

Anything to save time and money is always welcome on this Rabbit Ranch. See, last month I bought a red hen. I plopped her in my yard, separating her from the other girls by a small collapsible fence to prevent fights, and went to dinner. All chickens go to sleep the minute it gets dark, so my plan was to plop her on the roost in the coop upon returning home, and all the chickens would wake up happy together in the morning. Except, when I got home, that girl was GONE. Not one red hen on my property.

We searched high and low. Our yard, our neighbors yards, the shrubs, nothing. I have never, ever,  had a chicken vaporize that that one did. There’s $15 I’ll never get back. So, feeling sheepish,  I found another woman selling hens, and bought two from her (she won’t sell them in singles to avoid have one new hen get pecked to death when placed with a flock). They were $20 each, which is the average rate for a hen who is just about to start laying eggs, especially if they are a pretty bird. The lavender one was beautiful (she laid blue eggs), and the red one just promised to lay a bunch. I don’t care what color they were, I just wanted quantity.

Two nights ago when I was making my evening rounds in the yard, I found the red one  outside the coop at the base of the ramp, trying to sleep. That’s not okay. I scooped her up and realized something was wrong. She was floppy. She kept gyrating her head and trying to lay the top of her head on her back in a sideways motion. Kinda like she was stargazing.

It’s called wry neck, and it’s a symptom of multiple diseases I couldn’t cure, and possibly a vitamin deficiency I could cure. So I went with that diagnosis, and started dosing her with liquid vitamins. Prying her upside down beak open and eye dropping a stinky, very stain-able, vitamin solution in to a sad chicken is nobody’s idea of fun. Especially not for the chicken. But dosing her with the Trader Joe’s horse sized magnesium pills was even worse. Even snapping it in half left a rather large, pea sized tablet I had to be sure to insert on top of the tongue, not under, as I learned that hard way while Lil Red fought me, and I might have had to shake her a tiny bit to let gravity do it’s thing. This is why chickens do not have a gag reflex.

Lil Red either felt much better come morning as she scratched along the yard with the others, or she’d spent the whole night downloading acting lessons. That hen looked nearly perfect to me. I praised God, and carried on.

Next day, Lil Red was absent during role call, and I had to fish her out of one of the nest boxes. That was unusual. Once again, she couldn’t walk, didn’t have much head control, and wasn’t eating or drinking. I had a bit more time to spend with her (I get push back for spending family time fussing over chickens, since sadly, I am not an actual farmer), so I took Lil Red into the house with me, set her up a tiny apartment in the corner of the foyer with an old towel, feed pellets, corn, water, and her own applesauce cup. I kept the lights dim to keep her calm, dosed her with more vitamins, and left her to rest.

Lil Red wasn’t eating much. She didn’t try to walk or drink. This was not good. However, by mid-day, one of the children had breezed through and left the lights on in the foyer. That gave Lil Red the signal that a new day had started once again. Suddenly she was interested in eating, drinking, and hitting the sauce pretty hard. Turns out, I’d made a rookie mistake. Chickens roost when it’s dark. So there was no way I was going to convince a sick chicken to eat in the dark. Once I turned on the “daylight”, we were back in business. Rookie mistake. *forehead palm*

Now my fire has died down, my children are asleep, and Lila the Mama bunny has hidden all 6 of her children under her food bowl to keep grabby hands at bay. I love the stillness, and hope the midnight fireworks (and possible happy gun shots?) don’t wake my babies. I don’t want to enter 2018 sleep deprived. I’d rather enter it snug in my bed, with a fleece loving cat pinning down my knee caps, and a good book tossed sleepily on to the floor. If you need a recommendation for one, may I suggest Blue Cottage Life, by Beth Schmidt? I hear she’s a new up and coming young author! 🙂

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           HAPPY NEW YEARS, FRIENDS!

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