Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rabbits~ Oppsy Daisy

Today is my birthday! Happy birthday to me. I got a birthday surprise from my favorite blue eyed broken rabbit, "Buddy." Buddy is a Lionhead/Californian/French Angora  mix. She and her brother "Bugs" were my first rabbits. Her ears have never really stood up but flopped around her face. A whopping seven pounds and trained to perfection. Bugs went to live with my #4 daughter in AL before I moved.

Sexing rabbits when young can be a hit or miss proposition. Last October, I bought a blue eyed, white Jersey Wooly from Mel. Actually, she was a cross breed between two of her Jersey Woolies  / Lionheads. We was dubbed "Snowball" because she was a puff of white fur. I took her home at my #2 daughter's insistence, because "she s is stinking cute!" and she was. I sexed her and honestly thought she was a girl for all these months.

I put Buddy and Snowball in the same cage for their trip up to Mel's during my move. Yes, they did the usual mounting each other to try and establish a pecking order.  They eventually settled down for the trip. Once here, they were separated into their separate cages again.

Snowball for weeks has been spraying Mel with urine for the past couple weeks, and she had her doubts about her being female, but the bunny has never sprayed me. I chocked it up to Snowball not liking Mel. Snowball is only about two pounds in weight. A tiny little thing.

We drove home from my previous homestead yesterday. Both of us were bone tired. We had the neighbor's grandson care for the animals while we were gone, so we knew everyone was well taken care of. We didn't check on all the bunnies after arriving home.

Imagine our surprise when Mel went out to feed and water them this morning to find six babies born on the wire in Buddy's cage. Three broken and three solid white. All unfortunately dead. We both cried. If only we had known. I had held her before we had left. She hadn't felt any heavier and I sure didn't feel babies in her belly. The babies would have been the beginning of the blue-eyed white part of our rabbitry. That was my dream to breed a BEW strain of angoras.

Well, now that we know we have a blue eyed, white buck and a blue eyed, white doe, we can try again later and selectively breed the other traits besides angora out of the babies. Both carry the Vienna trait. Right now, we are too heart-sick to try again. My poor, Buddy has been lavished with attention today. She looks sad and depressed.

As close as we can tell, she had them last night or early this morning.  She honestly tried to give me the best birthday present ever and it wasn't her fault that the babies died but mine. With no nest box or straw in her cage, she had little choice but to have the babies on the wire. She pulled a whole lot of fur, but it just wasn't enough to keep the babies warm. Such is life on the homestead. You win some and lose some. It's the cycle of life. Oh, and now Snowball is called Snowballs because he has two of them.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

American Chinchillas ~ Meat Rabbit Escape

Before moving to the foothills of Georgia, I bought two American Chinchilla rabbits. One doe and one buck.Although they were only four months old when I got them, they would be the backbone of the meat side of our rabbitry.

Kieran 2
 They were, at four months old, already as big as my other rabbits who were full grown. American Chinchillas weigh between 9-12 pounds fully grown and these two were already nine pounds a piece when I got them. Chinchillas are often grown for meat and their pelt. I named them Kieran 2 and Colleen. Still holding to the mostly Irish names of my rabbits.

After getting acquainted with them, I understood why their pelts are so prized. Their fur is so thick and soft, I would consider it an ultimate luxury to have a pair of mitten lining made out of them. My hands would never be cold.

Over the next month, the duo gained almost two pounds. I pack them up into separate cat carriers for their trip to the mountains. They were so heavy that I walked like Igor, of Frankstien fame, when I carried the cases to the van. In my rabbitry, they were well fed. Treats were fed to them by hand so they were used to me and the cats who traversed to house often giving them a cursory sniff in their cages.

What a different world I took them to. The rabbit hutches were outside in all types of weather. Mostly cold because at this higher elevation they were still in near freezing temperatures at night. There were chickens who had free range of their hutch area with strange cats, and dogs also running to and fro. The hutches were built out of scrap lumber, mostly deconstructed pallets, and 1/2" hardware cloth. They were meant for 3-4 pound English angora rabbits and Jersey Woolies. Needless to say, it was pretty easy for them pushing their weight against the hutch doors for them to strain the latches.

Kieran 2's hutch is four feet above the ground so while he could push the door open, he couldn't escape far. Colleen had the lower cage..a mere foot off the ground. Mel had fed and watered them that morning. She then went to work. I went out in the early afternoon to check on them. It was a big upheaval for these rabbits who'd only had my indoor rabbitry.

"Babies! How's my babies today?" My usual high pitched greeting when I entered my rabbitry. All my rabbits sat up on their haunches, ears up, and waited for their personal attention. For Buddy, it meant a Momma ear rub and a cuddle. After which, at the old house, her door would be left open and she'd have free run of the house. She was litter trained and rarely had accidents. She could hop in and out of her cage at will. This rabbit would also get into her "pen" on command. She would also visit all the other rabbits. Age and longevity with me had its privileges. I've had her for 2 1/2 years. Plus we'd play tag and hide and go seek while she was out. But now, she doesn't have that freedom.

I made my way down the two rows of cages treating all the rabbits to attention making my way down the to my meat rabbits. They were breeding age now. The plan was to move the angora to a purchased shed building so we could maintain a cooler and warmer temperature for them, and for us. I just haven't bought the outbuilding yet because we need to chop down two small oak trees first. The meat rabbits would fill the outdoor hutches.

I got to the meat rabbit cages and Kieran greeted with a snuffle that demanded, "Where's my treat?" I ignored it and gave him an ear rub instead. Bending to access Colleen's cage, I noticed the door was slightly ajar. I peered in looking for her to no avail. She had escaped. My heart sank to the pit of my stomach. I frantically called and searched for her. I didn't find her. I asked Mel, when she returned home from work, whether or not she'd seen Collen that morning. She had, so I knew she hadn't escaped during the night. She had never lived in the great outdoors before.

Mel's dog, Nnyus, is the guard dog of the property. She regularly kills opossum, racoon, (even rabbits), chases deer, and fights coyotes within her territory. She went into deep mourning when a coyote killed Mel's rooster, Lunch, a few years back. She redoubled her guarding efforts after that. So later that night when Nnyus went crazy with barking and growling we expected to find Colleen dead. A totally logical assumption, right?

The next morning, I got up early and ventured towards the rabbit hutches. But instead of seeing bits of fur torn asunder and a bloody carcass, I was greeted by two gray ears twitching under a bush between two rabbit hutches. My heart lept with pure joy. I called out my usual greeting. Her ears turned towards me as her feet brought her closer to me from behind the bush. A moment later Mel's very large, New Hampshire Red rooster came bursting from under the closest hutch. Colleen scampered through the under skirting underneath the trailer. At least I knew she was alive.

Everyday Mel and I tried to capture Colleen and put her back in her cage. Everyday we failed for almost two weeks. That continued until last night. After dinner, I sat on the bench by the hutches playing with Patches, the cat. The sun was going down and getting chilly. We hadn't seen Colleen in a couple of days. Even her goodies, lettuce and carrots had been left untouched. We'd left the cage door open hoping to catch her in it. I figure after two weeks she had reverted back into her wild counterpart.

As I was rubbing Patches, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. There she was hopping across the front yard towards the hutches. I called out my usual greeting and talk to her in a calm voice, even though inside I was hopping up and down. She eventually got closer and started what I assume was her nightly ritual of visiting all the rabbits from my rabbitry... especially Kieran.

I grabbed the carrot from her cage. It was wimpy from being in her cage for forty-eight hours, but it was the best I could do. She came for the carrot to eat it out of my hand as usual. If I'd had two working hands I could have grabbed her, but I didn't.

So when she hopped back to Buddy's cage, I hobbled to the back porch and tapped on the window. Mel just about jumped out of her skin. The next second she was running to the back door. I yelled at her to get some fresh lettuce and that I'd found Colleen. In a flash, she was beside me at the hutches. "Where's she at?" I pointed. She circled one way and I the other each holding a small handful of lettuce.

We ended up by a broken cage in one of the hutches. There she sat just as calmly as could be as we closed in. I told Mel that she could react in two ways when she grabbed her: 1) fight, bite, and scratch; or 2) calm, snuggle close, and thank you for rescuing me. Forewarned, Mel was ready. She reached and grabbed her. Luckily, Colleen reacted in a snuggling fashion. With a sigh of relief we put her in her cage. I held it closed while Mel affixed another latch on the door. We returned inside ecstatic that we'd captured our wayward meat rabbit.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Coming Home

The early rays of sunlight tickle me into wakefulness as it filters through trees outside. I throw off the heavy quilts that snuggled me with such warmth against the chill of the night. My clock at my bedside pegs the inside temperature at 52 degrees. A bit nippier than I'm used to in April, but this is the mountains not the coast. I don my flannel shirt over my pajamas and walk out of my bedroom.

Whitie, the rooster, crows as I enter the living room. He's standing in front of the picture window looking in. "Good morning to you too!" He cocks his head to one side and blinks as if concentrating on every word I say. He's called Whitie because of three white feathers at the top of his tail.

First things first. A fire needed to be made in our wood stove heater to chase the chill out of the house. I lay the intricate pattern of paper, and small kindling twigs into the old coal burning stove. Then weave larger and larger pieces until I have a goodly stack of kindling for the initial bed of hot coals before putting the first split log in. There's a definite art form in building a fire. Too little of this or that, and you end up having to do it all over again because the hard wood just won't catch. In this old coal burner, it can be very tricky and finicky, but it works. It does tend to burn wood faster.

I do dislike having to re-lay the fire so I pour on the kindling. The fire catches with just one match. Wohoo! Success! A roaring blaze. My cheeks feel rosy with the warmth. I will have to walk the property for more kindling, or maybe Mel will when she goes out with the dogs, Nnyus and Herbie, later on down to the creek. Of course, the cats (Dervish, Devon Angel, and Logan) and chickens will follow her for a farm yard procession. She'll talk to each and every one along the way. There is no shortage of dead fall on our land. It has stayed abandoned that nature started to claim it back.

Now, the warmth of the fire fills the room as I type. I put a kettle of water on top of the heater for our morning tea. No sense in wasting the propane for heating the water. The water kettle starts to whistle as one of the hens cackle her announcement that she's laid an egg. I named her Henny Penny, of nursery story fame. She will always lay her egg behind the storm door on the front porch and absolutely refuse to use her nest box. No bother for me. It's closer than the coop. Every morning she'll wait for me to open the front door for extra wood. There is a wee bench that she perches on.

I hear the fire dying down in the stove. Soon the Spring sun will warm our side of the mountain. The light is already bathing and it's life sustaining warmth filters to earth through the trees. With a mug of English Breakfast tea, the morning routine begins. There's breakfast to prepare, bread to bake, and the evening meal to plan. I think I'll roast chicken breasts with new potatoes. I planted the transplant vegetable in the seed trays last week. I can almost taste those succulent veggies. But I'll have to wait for mother nature to do her thing first.

As I walk to my bedroom to change into my work clothes, I realize I'm overwhelmed by a sense of peace in my life. It's hard to believe I've only been here a couple of weeks. This simple lifestyle is what I've been craving for over half a century of living around the world and in the urban life. This choice is not for everyone, but it suits me. It's some mighty hard work even without disabilities. I've finally come home.