Today I wore my long johns and leg warmers. Now it's snowing. I don't know if it's a product of growing older or what, but I find myself dreading winter more and more each year. And to be that chilly in the second last week of October frightens me…what's it going to be like in January?
Nevertheless, we carry-on. Safe in the knowing that we have lots of wool clothing and blankets to keep us warm. And if all else fails we have each other!
Its a week after our Mama rabbit gave us our first litter. How excited I was to see that first litter arrive, I felt like I had given birth to those little kits! My heart swelled with excitement at the newborn life, and the miracle of it all. (And the expediency...rabbits are only pregnant for about 31 days!) And TEN babies! Oh how my chest ached just at the thought of it, of nursing ten babies until they were ready to wean (which, again with the expediency, is a mere 6 weeks later.)
But our Mama rabbit never nursed those babies. Her mothering instinct never kicked in. We've learned that this is very common for first time mother rabbits. But that doesn't make it any easier.
We were down to two little fighting babies for a while there. Oh how I tried to keep those two little fighters alive. Went so far as to snuggle them down my shirt (kangaroo care...for bunnies) and feed them kitten formula.
One week those little guys fought to hang on. And I fought with them, for them. On Tuesday night, I went out to find our lone bunny Vincent (his brother died earlier that day) out of his nest box, and cold on the wire. I brought him inside, cold and limp, with blood on his paws and back from where he got stuck on the wire. I brought him in to cry over his little body, shaken in my defeat, feeling like I and not the Mama rabbit had failed at her job. But then slowly, as I held him in my hands, he started to occasionally twitch. And then a little more. I dropped everything I had planned for that night and sat in my rocking chair, with a heating pad and a syringe full of kitten milk replacement, with a baby rabbit down my shirt, doing everything that I could to keep him alive and give him a shot at a decent life.
Of course, as some pointed out, it's ironic to work so hard to save something that I am eventually going to kill. But the point is, that in the mean time, this little bunny - a living creature - deserved the best life that he can possibly have. We are all going to die in the end; me, you, our kids, our pets, the deer in the bushes, the cows in the field. We all have a right to the best possible life we can live in that time frame between our first breath and our last. As humans, it is us that have the choice of how we achieve that best possible life. As for these animals, we've taken on the responsibility for them. We actually give a shit about their quality of life, despite the fact that some day, they will be food.
A friend wrote this to me, it made me feel really, really good about our efforts. She said "I'm
so sad. Lovely to see your caring and effort - challenging the myth
that people don't care about the animals they eat. Obviously you cared."
And I did. Likely even too much. It sure would have been hard if that bunny had lived, to some day put him on the table after all that effort. So, lesson learned. Nature is in charge here, not me.
What a lovely lesson to take away from all this - that nature and the universe is in charge. That we need to have trust. That we need to let go of fear. And I love that feeling that we get when we drop everything that we were going to do, because something more important came along - it always amazes me how our priorities can shift in the face of trouble or crisis. How the seemingly huge things that you were sweating over hours ago seem suddenly meaningless and insignificant. It also proves to me what great things we can accomplish if we (ok, I) focus and make something a priority (even those this time around the end result wasn't in my favour. I sure did learn though, so much.) Yes, they were just a litter of 10 tiny bunnies, that lived only a short time. But for me they were so much more than that. They were a humbling lesson in the power of the universe, the importance of focus and dedication, and the enormous responsibility we've taken on to give a small heard of creatures a decent life.
It's been a disappointing few days in the Rabbit Raising department here in the Valley. On Thursday afternoon, I suspected the babies weren't being fed, but I really had no idea if that was true or not. The kits were still pretty active, peeping like only kits can do (baby bunnies make cute little squeaky noises) and since they only usually get fed once a day, it was quite likely that I was being a paranoid first time rabbit mom.
But by Friday morning, when I found one of them barely alive, and the rest pretty chilly, we knew that things weren't going so well.
First time Mama rabbits are pretty famous for screwing things up. Never expect anything from a first litter, is what I've been told. They don't have the babies in the nest (in which case they die from cold) or they don't feed them. Or they just plain eat them.
Makes me feel not so bad for all the silly things that I did my first time around!
Yesterday afternoon, me and our new roomie Jess went about getting the kits to feed. Feed from their Mama, who we picked up, snuggled on her back, and let the kits roam around her belly. We did the first go-round outside, and didn't have much luck getting any of them to do anything. They were cold and listless and not interested in much. I decided to leave the heating pad under their next box, so they could concentrate on just living, instead of having to stay warm too.
Later in the evening, we moved the whole operation inside, and gave a real college try to get the kits to feed.
Three of them were too far gone, so we sadly gave up on them.
Four of them gave a go at eating, some a little harder than the others.
This morning we were down to two, which honestly, is two more than I thought there would be.
Oh, who would have thought that this would all be so very difficult!
It was late this evening (in the dark) when we got around to feeding them again. We were thrilled to find two warm and active kits in the nest box! Mama wasn't too interested in being caught for her daily ritual, but relaxed right into it when we got down to business. The two kits scurried and rooted, and found their Mama's milk, and got down to filling their bellies, which they were quite successful at in the end! We put two satiated kits back in their nest and will cross our fingers till morning.
One of the reasons we decided to raise rabbits was that it was purported to be SO easy. SO easy, that is, when everything goes right. But when things go wrong, it's not terribly easy at all. Nor do I think it will be terribly easy when the time comes to send these little ones off to the freezer, after working so hard to save their lives.
However, its that working hard that makes me feel good about all this. What sort of treatment do you think these kits and this mother may have had in a high-output operation? Likely not what happened in the past 48 hours! We're doing our best to give these animals the greatest shot we can at a decent life. Knowing that we gave them that make me ok with it all. Makes me root for these little fighters just that little bit harder.
Today, and hopefully for Tuesdays to come, I'm linking up with Rachel at Clean to share a bit of gratitude. 7 things that make me grateful. Because like Rachel says,
"Taking just a moment to appreciate what we have can change everything."
This week I am grateful for:
-My husband, who works so hard for this family, on his days at work, and on his days off too.
-This beautful autumn weather, the sun makes me smile.
-My daily walks with my dear friend Kelly. We just started them again, and they do me (and her!) so much good!
-I am grateful that we live in a community surrounded by amazing people, amazing women especially. They inspire.
-That we have the opportunity to raise our own meat in our own backyard.
-The bounty that our garden keeps giving us.
-And of course, my new Greenhouse!