Wanna hear a crazy secret? I actually worshiped homesteading. Not outright bowing down to it physically (’cause that’s impossible), but every spare second I was reading Morningchores.com online. Or I was reading through stacks of homesteading books, trying to accomplish EVERYTHING everyone else was doing. I was pouring hours and dollars, over and over again, into making more of everything I could- stopping just short of goats in my suburban backyard. More hens, more meat rabbits, more seeds, more eggs, more chicks, more, more more. Spiraling out of control wasn’t hard, but it was a slippery, quiet process.
See, I was super proud that I had the not-so-common skills of being able to raise my own protein source and butcher it. None of my friends could do this, and I wanted to be noticed for my rare achievement (for Baltimore). But everyone just thought it was gross.
So I thought if I could not only provide for my family, but make money selling food to a restaurant, that would prove my skills were important indeed, and not just gross. So I did it. I got a verbal contract from a local chef I was friends with and he agreed to buy 20 of my rabbits at a time, 3-4 times a year. I was THRILLED! Now I was legit. It wasn’t just a gross hobby anymore if someone else wanted to serve my hard work to the public. Now I was a real farmer! An entrepreneur. A business woman.
But it was all I could do to keep up with my housekeeping, child raising, meal cooking, nursing job, wife-ing, and farmer obligations. My hubby didn’t want to to lose all home my time to this “hobby”, and had legit concerns about everything growing so big on a backyard plot. I had concerns about how to go on 2 long trips this summer, leaving my work load to be managed by someone else in my absence. I had completely lost all my spare time, and was stealing time in other areas of my life, like spiritual growth. I wanted to spend time with God everyday, but most days that didn’t happen. I was too busy. I had live creatures that depended on me, both 2 footed and 4 footed, and all of them had time sensitive needs!
I asked God to help me get back my daily time talking to Him and reading my Bible. I wanted my life to have a spiritual focus first, not homesteading first. But I wasn’t willing to cut anything out. I had gotten myself stuck, and wasn’t giving anything up. So, God took over.
Remember all the meat babies I got last month? I paid $140 to an Amish kid 1.5 hours away after none of my does would get pregnant, and I was behind on growing time for my restaurant demand. Yeah, all but one of those died due to a feeding error on my part. Thirteen baby rabbits (the last one we sold as a pet to a family). But not until I had sunk 2 vet bills into their care. What a mistake.
At the same time, I had a mama bunny deliver 6 kits, then mysteriously die 2 weeks later. I hauled her body and the 6 kits to the vet, and found out her uterus prolapsed. I was given tiny syringes to feed the babies (baby rabbits will not suck a nipple bottle, and are terrible at hand feeding) and I keep kitten milk replacer on hand. I wrapped the babies up in a big bowl for warmth, feed them twice a day, and set my heavy laptop on the bowl to keep the cat out, leaving only let a small hole for air. They were in the wiggly, eyes closed stage still, and had to be kept in a nest for warmth.
The next morning, several tiny babies had died, and the two strongest kits were missing. MISSING. IN MY HOUSE! This was out of control. I found one kit on the living room floor, soggy with dog spit, laying on it’s back and kicking the air. It was cold, but not hurt. He died the next day anyway, despite my best efforts to warm him. As did the rest of his siblings. But where was the second one? I could NOT find it anywhere. The whole family looked, including my exasperated husband who was flat out of patience. Nada. That bunny was gone. Guess Grover or the cat got him. Darn it!
So I traded my last non-pregnant doe ( the one who wasn’t bitten by a fox, nor suffered a uterine prolapse, that girl) for another big doe from a friend. Wouldn’t you know it? My doe delivered 6 babies at her house 2 hours after she brought her home!!! I can’t make this stuff up!!!! I was failing miserably in this rabbit project! I was beyond irritated that night, and agreed to buy my own babies back from my friend. Ugh! Seriously? Then 2 days later they all died. My guess is that being on the ground in my yard gave mama bunny coccidia (something we thought we got rid of last year, but honestly it’s everywhere). So we traded back does. I didn’t want mine infecting her herd.
That was the last straw. I bought kits, they died. I bred kits, they died. I wasn’t even positive how I was going to dispatch 20 rabbits at 1/2 an hour a rabbit, and deliver them fresh-not-frozen to a restaurant. My fridge isn’t big enough to hold 10 rabbits overnight. But it didn’t matter anyway ’cause I was throwing in the towel. What had started out as a fun hobby, then a respectable income to prove myself, had turned into throwing time and money down the drain at the expense of my husband’s happiness. I was calling it, we were done raising meat rabbits!
Rather than feeling sad, I felt relief! Finally, I had the time I desired to have daily dates with Jesus. My foyer, which housed 20 rabbits one week-end, was now clean and empty. My feed bills were down, and my chore time took minutes each morning. I had peace. I felt spiritually joyful, and the silent relief in my husband was priceless. I let the restaurant know I couldn’t provide, and felt no shame. It was a good thing. I was unable to give my livestock a humane, healthy, safe life, so I would quit trying to keep them. The adult stock I had turned into pets, and the kids understood why we weren’t breeding baby buns anymore. I no longer judge the breeders who keep their rabbits in hanging mesh cages. That is literally the only way to keep them parasite-free and safe.
But just in case I needed affirmation that quitting my farming-in-the-suburbs obsession was the right way to go, I got the grand finale. A week later I was vacuuming the foyer to get any stray wood shavings, and rolled our sliding door closed so I could clean the wooden track. Out fell the worlds flattest, deadest, baby bunny. I had found the missing kit. I could not believe what I was looking at! What if I had skipped vacuuming that week?! Eeeeeew!
So yes, I had lost control of my priorities, and yes, my rabbit business never really got off the ground. My skill set will never be as cool and in demand as my sound engineer husband. But I have by spiritual life back. And I have my marriage on track. And right now, if you get real quiet, you can hear the tiny sound of rabbits everywhere breathing a sigh of relief! Whew.