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Rabbit Project

Just a few pics from the 4-H Project Show.  It is good family fun, and a great learning experience.  We are considering a new breed for our Bunny Barn….Holland Lops.  We have never raised a small breed rabbit, but we are excited to try.  We are hoping that a smaller breed will be easier for Elinor and Sophia to manage.  Our Satins are a large breed meat rabbit…weighing about 10 pounds.  

We have also been discussing breeding our rabbits for meat.  So far we have only showed our stock, but hopefully this fall we can begin to breed for food!  A friend told me that there are excellent YouTube instructional videos for butchering rabbits.  My dad also knows how to do this.  We tried once, but I backed out.  It’s hard to butcher a rabbit that has a name…different strategy next time. 
When choosing a breed it is good to know what you desire from the rabbit project.  Do you want a pet, a meat rabbit, a show rabbit, or you may want to become a breeder and sell your stock.  Gourmet restaurants buy rabbit from reputable breeders. And small breed rabbits sell well during the Easter and Christmas season.  Also it is good to research how to house your animal.  We have hanging cages.  Rabbits are not heat tolerant animals, and that makes keeping them alive in the summer months a difficult job.  We have fans installed in the barn, and a sprinkler on the barn roof that comes on during the hottest part of the day.   
Rabbit droppings are an excellent fertilizer for your garden as well.  It is not hot, therefore you can just spread it on the garden without drying it or letting it sit.  It is impossible to burn up your garden with rabbit droppings.  
These are just a few things to consider when deciding if rabbits are right for you. 

family · homeschooling · · learning · rabbits

A Shout Out for 4-H!

4-H has been a tremendous blessing in our family.  If you are looking for an extra curricular activity that is family friendly and values focused 4-H is a great choice.  September is 4-H enrollment month, and I wanted to highlight the top ten reasons we love 4-H with the goal of sharing this great resource in time for you and your family to consider joining this wonderful organization.  And for those of you who think 4-H is just for families who live in the country or for folks who show livestock…well let me tell you…4-H is for city folk too.  There are countless projects in 4-H that are suitable for any family or individual.

Top 10 Reasons We Love 4-H!

#10  It is economical.  Each member pays $20 for a yearly membership.  An ENTIRE year!

#9  The whole gang (babies and toddlers included) can attend club meetings and project meetings.  4-H does not divide up into grades or age groups.  When competing in certain projects divisions are made for junior, intermediate, and senior individuals and teams.  However, ALL of my daughters attend the same Rabbit project meeting and the same Food and Nutrition meetings.  No running around taking different aged kids to different meetings.  It’s a one stop shop, and I love that!

#8  The 4-H Motto, Pledge, and Prayer says it all.
To Make the Best Better
I pledge:
My Head to clearer thinking,
My Heart to greater loyalty,
My Hands to larger service, and
My Health to better living,
For my club, my community, my country, and my world.
“Help me, Oh Lord, to live so that the world may be a little better, because thou hast made me.”

#7 We love healthy competition and the opportunity to learn sportsmanship.  The 4-H sportsmanship motto is this “Keep your head when you win, and your heart when you loose.”  This is the essence of good sportsmanship.

#6  It is focused on teaching life skills.  Agriculture, home economics, public speaking, animal science, science, consumer judging, leadership, fine arts, arts and crafts, and shooting sports are just a few of the self directed projects 4-H offers.  I find that these skills are becoming a lost art in our society.  4-H encourages a hands on education, sort of like a blue collar education.

#5 It is non-religious.  As Orthodox Christians, we sometimes find it difficult to find activities of this sort where we do not feel a little out of sink because of a religious focus or exclusive group mentality.
4-H is inclusive and accepting of all people no matter their religious affiliations.

#4  My husband loves 4-H because it is all about teaching practical skills.  This makes 4-H a true family effort and activity.

#3  It offers a great opportunity for scholarships.  Because of its leadership and community service focus
4-H is a great portfolio builder.  My kids are given leadership and volunteering opportunities through 4-H that I could never provide on my own.

#2  It has given my kids, husband, and I a reason and opportunity to learn and work together.  4-H does not separate our family.  It’s domestic and agricultural focus fits perfectly into a homeschooling family lifestyle.

#1  It is so much fun!  My kids love 4-H, and because of this it is not a struggle to get them to work on projects, practice, or try new things.  My husband and I enjoy watching our kids learn these life skills that encourage the right kind of independence.  The fun we have in 4-H is wholesome and good!

learning · rabbits

Bunnies! 6-2-2012

Monday, July 2, 2012.

    Babies of any kind are wonderful.  There is just something about babies that makes everything seem right in the world.  Today, Sally, our Broken Satin doe rabbit had eight baby bunnies, all healthy, all adorable.  We were not for sure if she was even pregnant.  Breeding rabbits is crazy, blink and its over.  So, when we put Sally in Louie’s cage the whole process took only about three minutes!  It’s hard to trust that it took, if you know what I mean, when the breeding is so simple.  The girls have been watching Sally to try to determine if in fact she was bred.  They would come in from the barn and say things like, “She sure is fat, mom.” or “She sure is calm, mom.”
(Rabbit does settle down when they are bred.)

    About a week ago we put a nesting box in the cage with her.  Everyday the girls would look for signs that she was about to give birth.  When a pregnant rabbit is due they build a nest in a nesting box by pulling out their own hair and forming a nest from the hair and hay.  We provided the nest box and hay, and Sally would do the rest.  For several days Sally did nothing in the nesting box, and the girls were almost convinced that we were wrong, Sally was not pregnant.  Then all of a sudden, 24 hours before she gave birth, Sally built the most magnificent nest.  The hair and straw hay in her box looked like a bird’s nest, a soft bed of warmth and safety, and we were amazed at the site of it.  Excitement began to build!  We did it, Sally did it, her nest meant that we were going to have baby bunnies at any time!
    Caroline went to the barn the morning of July 2nd, and she came out with the biggest smile on her face.  I was on the back porch drinking coffee, and I could see her smile from where I was sitting.  She immediately went and woke Adalay and Sophia.  Sally had given birth to seven baby bunnies early that morning, although they looked more like wet rats.  The excitement and joy was tangible.  When daddy called to check the status, everyone was so excited to tell him.  He was feeling the joy of new life, too.  It was a great day.  Now if we can keep the rabbits alive in this intense Texas heat.  Slade put a sprinkler on the roof of the barn to come on automatically during the hottest part of the day.  We have other rabbits also, and it is important to keep them from getting too hot as well.  

     Rabbits are a wonderful learning experience, and a significant part of our homeschool life.  One unique benefit is that the girls have the opportunity to learn about the natural process of procreation in a safe environment.  With animals, it is what it is, and there is little room for embarrassment or awkwardness.  The facts of birth can be observed without any moral judgments or complicated explanations.  Rabbits also provide an opportunity for the girls to observe the frailty of life, but also how amazingly resilient and strong the life force is.  Caring for Sally in her time came naturally for us all, it is amazing how we as humans know innately that we must protect life.  We are caretakers by nature, and raising animals, even caring for pets, helps develop that instinct in my kiddos.  They are learning to be stewards of life through observing nature and the life cycle.  Hopefully, they too will build nests as magnificent as Sally did when it is their turn to have babies and care for them.  I know I am speaking metaphorically, however all the lessons learned in the Bunny Barn are real, and I am thankful for them.