Monday, November 26, 2012

In the Service of Rabbits

I spent the day Saturday and Sunday in the service of rabbits.  Yes, when you have this many rabbits (currently 59 lagomorph residents at Dandelion Meadows - many of those are transitory).  And really, when you choose to have animals in your life for whatever reason, whether it is pets for companionship, dogs to guard you or farm animals for their products (eggs, meat, fibre, skins and milk) you are choosing to serve them.  Of course, they serve you, too but sometimes I would be hard pressed to say who serves who more!  Sometimes I feel the sacredness of our arrangements.  Yesterday as Dean and Rhiannon were gone to Penticton and Kelowna with the Youth Symphony Orchestra performances, it was very quiet as I worked by myself cleaning and doing small repairs and moving cages.  I did so with great love for my rabbits and contemplated my service to them.

I had to come to terms to with the fact that my father is no longer really able to help me, despite what he says and my son has moved to a different city.  My husband is not 'handy' so that leaves me.  Last spring there was great talk of all that was going to get built for rabbits.  Consequently I tripled my meat rabbit breeding herd.  However, the promised hutches never materialized and temporary cages were used for far too long.  In the end, I just had to do what had to be done.  My two largest hutches, built for growing out meat rabbits were in dire need of repairs and I had been unable to use them for several months.  I fixed one by myself which took me more than 6 hours just to replace the wire bottom.  The other one Dean helped and it was done in much shorter order.  Although either way it did mean some time lying on my back in what might or might not have been rabbit pee....

In the summer I acquired about 20 wire cages along with feeders and water bottles.  However they need a frame or shed to be mounted on and also to provide shelter from the elements.  These frames have yet to be built...  Yesterday I had a brainwave of how to set up some of them on top of saw horses and an old piece of plywood.  I used trays along the back to protect them from the North wind and another piece of plywood on top and some paper feedbags to fill in the gaps and protect from the weather.  So my 8 unsold young Satin Angora bucks moved into their new high rise.  They had been living in sibling groups for far too long and their wool is matted and gross.  I will clean them up and attempt to sell them one last time before they meet their fate... er meat their fate.... whichever.  I cleaned out the cages they had been inhabiting and re-installed the rabbits who they were intended for.

In the winter, we move the rabbits closer to the house to make the trip with frozen water bottles a little shorter.  They are almost all moved.  One more set of cages to go.  It is a great feeling of satisfaction to have served my rabbits so well!

Here is 2 sides of 'Rabbit Square' or 'Winter Quarters'.  See the rabbit high rise there?
Here is the other side you can't see
If you had an angora for a cagemate, wouldn't you snuggle up to her?

Thursday, November 01, 2012


For many years I have comfortably occupied the position of teacher.  I am a teacher as a mom; I was a teacher at NOEES for 5 years; I have taught many workshops at the Inner World School and I have settled into being a dance teacher. 

It has been awhile since I have experienced the genuine vulnerability of learning from someone else.  Sure I have learned lots through reading and discussion and its one thing to learn a new knit stitch its another to put yourself in a completely foreign environment.

At the IPE, I watched the stock dog trials as I like to do, having a love of Border Collies since my childhood dog, Buck.  Afterward, I went to talk to the handlers as the audience was invited to do and met Lee Lumb.  Lee trains and competes with stock dogs and she teaches people how to work stock with their dogs.  Through a series of e-mails I came to be on her farm with Hugo and Jasmine a few weeks ago.  It was determined that Jasmine was the one worth working with so almost every week since then as found her and I on our way to Lavington. 

My initial understanding was that stock dog training was kind of like obedience training just more complicated.  She would learn some complicated set of instructions and I would learn how to administer them....  Wow, was I wrong.  Basically, Jasmine through the innate senses of her breed already knows exactly what to do.  Its me that has to do all the learning - learning how she responds to the pressure of my body.  Learning how this pressure makes her do different things.  In the 3 lessons we've had, I've learned how to get Jasmine to go out and around the sheep and change directions.  When Lee goes in there, she can get Jasmine to do a whole lot more.

That feeling, the first time I tried to do it and failed spectacularly, was a very vulnerable experience.  Lee is very matter-of-fact and she has a good sense of humour but to realize just how completely clueless I was was something.  It was something compared to how badly I wanted to learn it.  I was reminded just how vulnerable you feel when you are learning something completely new.  And how as an adult, it has been a long time since I was really in that position.  I really, really want to learn this skill.  The idea of having a dog to help me move my sheep appeals to me, especially as my children wander off into the world and my helpers dwindle.  It reminded me of the courage and determination that it takes to learn in a situation like that.  It renews my respect for my students and reminds me of the great trust I hold.

And really, its a very refreshing thing to do.  When was the last time you put yourself in that position?