Posts Tagged With: rabbits

Adventures of Pruning an Old Grape Vine.

Over the last 25 years trying to live close to the land in West Virginia, I have had several adventures with grape vines. I love the vines for their wildness. I sometimes wonder if the wild muscadine vines here are kin to roaches or coyotes because of their staying power. I think one day they will take over the world after some crazy annihilation of the human race. They are truly the winding, twirling, fast growing vines of folktales and do real destruction if left on their own.

Twisted grape vine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia

Twisted grapevine hanging in tree. Webster County, West Virginia.

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grape vine, Lewis County West Virginia

Tom in front of broken tree covered in grapevine. Lewis County, West Virginia

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park 2013

Grapevine taking over ball catch at Jane Lew Park,West Virginia  2013.

They also produce an easy to grow fruit that almost everyone likes, grapes. Grapes make so many wonderful tasting things that is almost impossible for me to picture my country life with out them. So when we bought the “new to us house” last year, one of the things I wanted to grow was concord grapes. We had been able to take care of the family farm for several years and Tom’s dad had several concord grape vines established when we moved in. I quickly learned how to make grape jelly and concord grape juice from the old vines. So, some kind of grape vines were on my wish list when we were looking for a new home. The exciting part for me is that this house had a grapevine… what kind of grapes no one knew. The vine was over grown and not well staked. So I had part of my wish answered but a lot of work to get it into shape.

A Single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon

A single tangled grapevine at the house in Buckhannon,West Virginia.

I started my pruning at the recommended time ( late fall to late winter) after the vine had gone dormant. The temperature outside was around 50 degrees when I started working on getting the single vine back in shape. The vine had been let go so long that I found several vine tendrils had re-rooted on their own over the years.These sprouts needed to stay attached to the ground if I wanted over half the vine to remain alive. This complicates things, none of the gardening guides or books said anything about this problem.It often happens and is natures way to reproduce another grapevine. I did the best I could with the off shoot and attempted what the guides offered for advice(not much on old vines by the way). I followed the main vine and marked off with tape three main branches from the original root-stock and tried to keep them and remove the rest. One of the re-rooted shoots was from the main three branches so I really needed to keep it. That shoot was going to make trellising the vine almost impossible.

The vine had grown so long that it was actually attacking a small ornamental tree in the yard. When we moved in I had cut all of the vine from the little tree in the early spring to stop it from covering it and knew I would need to do more work this winter. In the course of 6 months the tree was under attack again. Tendrils had reached to top of the 10 foot tree and covered half of the trees branches.In a matter of 3 years the tree would die from lack of light reaching the leaves and the choking action of the vine. Even domestic grapevines can be destructive if not maintained.

Knowing grapevines only fruit on year old stems, I had to keep some the young shoots if I wanted any fruit at all next year. I literally pulled, tugged and untwisted most of the vine on to the ground to find were each branch went. Most of the vine had no outside support so this made pruning easy. I started to cut back everything that was old, dead or just to long. I removed about 3/4 of the old growth off the vine. The photo below shows the freed end of the arbor, ready for new growth.

Pruned concord grapevine

Pruned concord grapevine.

I will likely only get five or six bunches of grapes this year because I removed so much of the vine this winter. Then the following year ( year 2) I should have 20 bunches of grapes if the weather allows.  After the third year I will be back to prune the vine again. My local extension office suggests pruning  almost every year on wine grapes or grapes that have been well-tended. I think in my case every two or three years should keep the vine healthy and looking full.

I plan to add another vine to the other end of the arbor this summer. A grape that could be used for fresh eating and wine making. Concord grapes are hardy in the cold but grow small and sour fruit. Just try eating the beautiful purple fruit raw…ooo… it takes a heck of a person to chew the tart skin and chew up the large seeds. I am hoping that adding a pink or red grape will add to what I can do with them.

In the future I hope to write a post about my home-made concord grape jelly made from the fruit of this very vine. I will be working hard to remove all the weeds and briers that moved in under the vines.I will be using our bunnies for fertilizer to help them grow stronger.I just hope the summer proves my pruning was a successful, that the vine is now healthy and providing my family with fresh fruit and juices.

Categories: Country life, DIY, Grapevines, Homestead, Jelly, pruning, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Bumble Footed Bunny

Sore hocks or Bumblefoot , is a condition that meat rabbits face.  I am in the middle of trying to treat it with Christopher’s’ large male sable rabbit.The condition is more likely to show up in large rabbits who get pressure sores on their feet. The main to problems come from being over weight and from rough surfaces like wire cage floors.The condition is hard to treat but we are making head way.

sore hocks and feet on sable rabbit

sore hocks and feet on sable rabbit

I first noticed that my male rabbit was dancing around his large cage and with in days he was always humped up while sitting or would not come out of the wood portion of his cage. I never thought in 30 days we could go from

new rabbit hutch

new rabbit hutch

totally healthy to this. The male on the left is about 3 pounds heavier than the male on the right. He is also a pure bred rabbit and has a finer coat and larger ears. I think the finer coat also contributed to the condition as the finer hair is easier to rub off.

Once the condition got noticed, I realized that we  had to get the boys up off the wire floor of the cage as much as possible. The first thing I tried was to use the store-bought plastic resting boards. For some unknown reason Diesel still would not sit on it. I then tried a portion of an old asparagus crate. Both rabbits liked the wood better even though the texture was not as smooth.

Diesel sitting on a wooden crate portion

Diesel sitting on a wooden crate portion

I then started treating the wounds. I washed his feet carefully with a anti bacteria soap and made sure that the feet did not have any oozing or open sores. If I had found any sign of an infection I would have taken the buck to the veterinarian. In this case I only saw scabs and missing fur. I then used a triple antibiotic salve on all 4 feet. I washed and applied the salve every other day for a week. The improvement was visible at about 10 days.

10 days improvement to sore hocks, bumble foot

10 days improvement to soar hocks, bumble foot

Both front feet have good hair growth and no scabs and are looking better. The large scab on the left hind foot had shed and was only a small spot. The foot on the right actually looks like it also lost its scab but a new small spot appeared.  I will continue to wash and treat all the feet for the remainder of the winter off and on. I will also try to thin Diesel down some. I am just hoping that I can spend more time with him on his leash but with winter weather it maybe hard to find days like this one.

Walking Diesel in leash in the fall.

Walking Diesel in leash in the fall.

If in the next month these basic treatments do not make the sores smaller the next step is to remove him from this cage altogether. I will return him into the portable cage and take him back indoors for a while.Moving him indoors maybe the only way that he will get enough time out of his cage to heal. He would be in a much smaller cage but one that actually sits in the pine shavings instead of above them. I also would be able to soak the feet with an antiseptic every day for few minutes by using a pet carrier as a foot soak.

The carrier floor needs washed and rinsed and then a small towel soaked in a anti septic covers the floor of the carrier. The rabbit rests in the carrier for up to an hour to soak the feet with out soaking the upper hair of the foot. The recommendation is twice a day for about a month. I am sure that in my case it will be once a day for a month. This clears any infections and jump starts the healing. It also stops me from having to return a wet footed rabbit into a cold outdoor cage where frost bite on the toes could be a real problem.

This will stop us from showing him at local shows for the time being. We were hoping to take him the State Fair and some local shows this summer but for now he is just a wonderful friend for Christopher. I guess sore feet just run in the family.

Categories: animal health, Bunny, rabbit health, rabbits, sore hocks | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bunnies at the 4-H Jamboree 2014

Our first time out to the 4-H show with Christopher’s bunnies was full of highs and lows, riding the wave of the learning something new. He learned allot from other competitors who shared grooming tips and from the judges who explained technical terms to him. We had a great week of seeing friends and watching many of our friends win prizes and get more confident with their animals and projects. This is one of our families favorite weeks of every year and helping Christopher learn about showing animals was a blast.

Grand prize winning Sable buck open class 2014 4-H jamboree

Grand Prize winning Sable buck open class 2014 4-H Jamboree.

Our family originally bought our rabbits as dual purpose animals. First and foremost they are pets for my son. The other purpose for having these little guys around is to have off spring, which we will use for food, sale and to show.  This has been a year-long project as we started off writing about the rabbits as babies and we now have two mature bucks that are ready to breed in the spring if we can find a nice female to start our herd off with. So over the past year Christopher has shown both rabbits a couple of times. He  finished the year with his 4-H clubs end of the year  show ” The Jamboree”. This is where all the kids who are part of the county 4- H bring all their animals and projects for judging and prepared to go on to the State wide fair competition. At this years local show around 45 rabbits got displayed.  Christopher being the youngest competitor at age 5. Because of his young age he was in the “Open Class” this class is open to any one who wants to show an animal. The class  includes children, teens and adults it is open to any competitor. Some years we have had several disabled adults show in this class and lots of under age children compete for prizes and ribbons. It is a great place to train a young person about how  judging works, how to care for you animal and how to win and lose with Grace. The week starts with setting up animal pens and cages and getting the animal inspected for sickness and sex. Then listing the breed, age and class the child plans to show in. After check in the animals stay in cages on the show grounds and will be in the barn for the next week.  Above is a photo of Diesel in his cage at the fair grounds.The fallowing evening we got to help Christopher show his Rabbits. With help he got his rabbits groomed and clean for the show. We then helped him carry  the two 10 pound rabbits into the show ring with Christopher leading the way.

Christopher leading the group to the judges table

Christopher leading the group to the judges table

The judge inspects the animal and gives the competitor information about the animal and scores its condition, coat, conformation.

judge talking with Christopher about his rabbits

judge talking with Christopher about his rabbits

In this case Christopher was the only competitor so the judging went fairly fast with him winning 1st and 2nd in breed and Grand Champion and Reserve for the class of Open Rabbits.  It was a joy to see him get a chance to show off his rabbits and get his picture taken with the ” Queen of the Fair” and receive a large collection of prizes for his first attempt at showing off his rabbits

Christopher getting his picture taken with the fair Queen and the judge

Christopher getting his picture taken with the Fair Queen and the Judge

 

Christopher with ribbons and prizes from the 2014 4-H jamboree

Christopher with ribbons and prizes from the 2014 4-H jamboree

The one thing I have learned about Christopher these last few days is when he is unsure of himself  he tells me that he can’t do something.The night of the show he told everyone that he could not walk his bunnies alone across the area. Even though he had done so several other times over the course of the summer at different events. So this time he needed a little help holding the bunnies because they had gotten so large and heavy he was afraid he would drop one of them or they would struggle and scratch him. It was an easy fix for me and a friend to help carry the heavy guys to the judging table and back to their cages. I just hope that the support this time will make it easier for him in the future. It is all about learning and growing with 4-H and I was lucky to learn something too. Hopefully some time in September he will receive his trophy photo plaque and we will have a wonderful time at his awards banquet. At that time I will get a photo of him winning his first show and it will remind me of how small he was when we started teaching him lessons about sportsman ship, compassion, responsibility, team work, and love for animals. I am a happy and proud 4-H supporter. I know that  4-H  has changed the lives of both my boys for the better and I will be part of my 4-H family for a very long time.

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, education, family fun, rabbits | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Our Bunnies and a Easter wish to you

As you already know one of the many things we have decided to do in an effort  to become more self-reliant  is to raise rabbits. I have been a  rabbit lover since my folks let me have them as a kid and have been known to have up to 18 at a time. With our recent move a couple of years ago the only thing I wanted from our farm of animals was my rabbits. I had visions of raising, selling, showing and eating my farm raised rabbits. Well over the first year here at the OLD house on the edge of town two things happened that I could have never foreseen. First was the sickness and later death of my large brood Doe… after about 8 years she caught a cold after our move and died before the antibiotics took effect. Second was the loss of my little Doe that was Christopher’s show bunny. She escaped her cage and we spent days trying to recapture her in our large yard. This was a major set back for me as I had planned to raise a litter of Kits for sale at Easter and/or to show this year at the 4-H shows and State Fair.

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

Sable rabbit Ratchet as a baby

So we started the long process of starting over. I wanted a rabbit that was a multi-purpose breed, that could be sold for pets,shown or used as food if I ended up with more than my fair share of off spring. So I found that perfect combination of traits in the Sable Rabbit. We were off and running when a local woman offered to give Christopher a Sable that was not pure bred as a gift. I thought that this would set us up with a nice pet and get my then 4-year-old interested in animals and their care.  So we were up and running with this little guy.

Well this  wonderful and clam rabbit has won our hearts and has been traveling with us as we take him to local pet shows and 4- H gatherings. By Fall Christopher and Ratchet became a team and we discovered that we had gotten a great starter show bunny for him even if he was not pure bred.

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

Ratchet and Christopher with trophy at pet show 8 2013

I then started a conversion with some of the local kids and competitors at our local 4-H and many of them suggested that I think seriously about Christopher’s future with rabbits as show animals and how hard some kids work at breeding and showing them. At last count one of our high school girls showed and won multiple  trophies with about 28 rabbits last year at state fair. She sold most of them before leaving and come home with enough money to put around 2500.00 dollars in her college fund.

So this sent me on the hunt for a pure bred version of a Sable rabbit. Taking my family on a car trip to southern Pennsylvania .On Christopher’s birthday we purchased another Buck and attended our first rabbit show. I had a wonderful time and could hardly contain my happiness about seeing so many wonderful animals. We were able to pick up our new bunny who was huge at the same age as Ratchet. We named him Diesel.

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher with new bunny Diesel

Christopher has really enjoyed  playing with, feeding and holding his first real pets. It has been a good investment of time and money to teach him about the love of animals.

walking rabbits on leashes

walking rabbits on leashes

One of the ways we get to spend time with the rabbits and get them some exercise is to walk them around our yard on nice days. It is hard to believe that only 9 months ago the rabbit in the blue harness fit in the palm of my hand. Ratchet  is now about 6 pounds and Diesel in the red harness is about 8 pounds. Both are of breeding age and ready to move into the show ring and start paying their way in the homesteading world. We are now in the process of finding a nice Doe to add to our growing rabbitry. This may take another trip to Pennsylvania because we have found no breeders in our local area.  The next project on our property is to add a large out-door shelter that will house all of our adult rabbits and an areas for three sets of kits. This will be an addition to a shed that we already have and will be semi enclosed. I hope to get started on it within a month. In the mean time we entertain our neighbors and friends with our walks and we enjoy bringing the boys inside for fun and family time.

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Christopher playing with Ratchet

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash

Sable rabbit Diesel on leash.

There is a far amount or work keeping and raising any animal. Rabbits do have individual personalities and not every one is great for a young person like Christopher who is now 5. Ratchet is the type that loves attention and being held. He will fallow any one around the house from room to room wanting noting more than a rub or pat. He is also more active and loves to run and jump. Where as, his buddy who is a pure bred Sable is shy and lazy. Making him harder to handle but he would rather sit quietly when put down making a real nice confirmation  animal.I believe that Christopher will be more confident with Ratchet this year but in time will enjoy both.

We have our first ” Stock Man” class in a couple of weeks where the rules or care and showing animals at the fairs is gone over. It is an important step for both parents and children, sportsman ship is held to a higher standard than the quality of the animal at every 4-h event. This class covers cheating, animal abuse, animal neglect, feeding and health care and general sportsman ship. It is the basis for a wonderful future in 4-H. I am so lucky that Christopher will be learning these lessons so early and in such a supportive way. We can all agree that teaching a child about the needs of others, including animals, how to play fair and the importance of being a good loser are lessons that build a well-rounded child and a better adult.

But in the end their really is nothing quite as wonderful as an Easter bunny.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful holiday !

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Happy Easter from Diesel the Sable Bunny

Categories: 4-H, bredding rabbits, Easter, rabbits, State Fair | Tags: , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Rabbits our new 4-H project

   I have been a rabbit lover forever.We had them as kids and my  family raised some for meat and fur at one time. Over my adult life I have personally owned with or with out my kids about 26 and we have lost a few, sold a few and some have passed away from old age but this little guy is different.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

   By different I mean this is the friendliest, calmest and coolest tempered bunny I have ever encountered. He is a total joy and will be excellent for Christopher to show and use for his 4-h project. “Ratchet” as Christopher named him is a 7 week old Sable Chinchilla.The buck was a gray Chinchilla crossed with a black New Zealand doe…. the sable gene is from the Chinchilla side and Ratchet has all the signs of a Chinchilla with two toned fur and light guard hairs but also inherited the sable markings of dark ears, nose and toes from his dad as he had points of darker gray also. GE DIGITAL CAMERA

    As a 4-H mom you are always looking for ways to keep you kids involved and learning. Raising rabbits is an easy way to teach them all about animals, responsibility, breeding and in some cases about meat production and even the harder life lesson like death. Rabbits are a wonderful introduction to the world of showing animals and competition with-in the world of 4-H. At our last year-end show called, 4-H jamboree, I think their were about 20 rabbits on display and at least 6 were part of the market auction. The market auction rabbits are Pens of three that the member raises for a meat project. The child member bred, raises, and is judged on the weight, size and quality of the animals. Then the child member sells the Pen at an auction at the end of the week. Here the Pen of three usually sells for a price of about 200 dollars . Not a bad price for one litter of bunnies. The money goes directly to the child who raises the animals and is usually used to buy more project items or feed. The buyer has the option of keeping the pen or donating the pen back to the child so that it can either be sold later, eaten or bred again for the following year.

  With Ratchet being so clam and quite ( the best quality for a young child just starting out) I will be able to help train him. He must be comfortable with lots of handling and grooming. Ratchet will have to handle having his toes examined, flipped on to his back to check for missing hair, sex and age. He will need to have his ears checked for cleanliness, carried without jumping over board and sitting quietly when sitting on a display table. All things a child of 5 willbe able to do with help from judges and parents.

   There is no requirement for papers or purebred animals for children this age. the object is to start with the basics and  show what works for you. Only the market rabbits have breed requirements, they need of the meat type and in the correct weight range. older members show purebred and line bred animals for breed classes and thier are 47 listed breeds on the American Rabbit breeders Ass. website at www.arba.net/breeds.htm. Eventually I will pursue another New Zealand for the meat classes and a purebred “REAL” sable for breed classes. Then breed Ratchet to the New Zealand rabbit for the meat bred category.

   Thankfully, Christopher has fallen in love with Ratchet. This is really the first time I have seen him attach to an animal although we had others. He really likes spending time with him. I hope the bond continues and they spend this winter getting to know each other. At this point we have Ratchet in an indoor cage because he is so tiny. His move outside is still up for debate. At some point he should reach a weight of about 10 lbs so he will be too big to stay in a small cage.

Christopher with Ratchet

Christopher with Ratchet

    I am so happy to add another little fur ball to our family and our “living off the land” life style. Ratchet and his babies will further lower my families dependance on the world’s food supply and will offer us another organic meat to eat. I personally love rabbit meat so starting to raise my own for food, fur,fun and profit is a natural way for us to progress. I just hope that as Christopher gets older he will enjoy these animals enough to want to raise a few babies for later projects and is able to sell a few along the way.

 Welcome, to the family Ratchet may you live a long healthy life full of love!

Categories: 4-H, animal health, bredding rabbits, rabbits | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

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