Animals, Homesteading

Meet the Animals – Odds and Ends

Cockatiels aren’t your typical homestead bird but Smoky Bones has been the ambassador here since he first came home with me in 2006…before this was even remotely a homestead. He had belonged to my friend, Jo-Ann’s Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike, Smoky and a small dog had all been living with relatives on their farm in Voluntown, CT. Ironically, it was a goat farm. But they were selling out and moving to a new state. And Uncle Mike was being sent to an assisted living complex (or maybe even a nursing home; it’s been awhile). I remember the dog’s place with the family was assured but the wife found Smoky to be a challenge so he needed a home. It broke Uncle Mike’s heart. He was only willing to relinquish his pet after constant reassurances from Jo-Ann that he would be well-loved and cared for. It breaks my heart to think of it even now; I could write a whole other blog post about our society’s treatment of their elders but, for now, I’ll stay on subject.

I’m still stymied on what the challenge was…

Smoky had roommates when he first came here, a trio of budgerigars named Nigel, Jamaica and Skye. I set his cage next to theirs for company and, while I wasn’t confident enough to put them together in an aviary setting, that was a future plan. Until I underestimated the effects of having fluttering, chirping birds in a house full of felines. My Megan Magee was still with me then; birds were her absolute delight. I came home one afternoon from work to find both cages on the floor. Smoky was fine. A bit shaken but otherwise hale and hearty. The parakeets were flying pell-mell around the house…except for Jamaica, who greeted me on the living room floor, surrounded by felines, left wing bleeding. He was my first concern, for obvious reasons. I grabbed a nearby clothes’ basket and threw it over him then shooed the cats out of the living room until I could get him to calm down enough to let me handle him. Good luck! I remember, despite the bloody wing, he flew back into the rabbit room (where their cages were also housed) and, eventually, into his cage. I managed to clean his wing with saline; it proved to be only a flesh wound. Nigel and Skye seemed unscathed, physically, but the following morning Skye let out a squawk and tumbled to the floor of her cage; the next morning, Nigel, did the same. (Or maybe it was the other way around…again, it’s been awhile.) Though they would never become actual roommates, Jamaica and Smoky were good company for each other for many years’ after. Sadly, I lost Jamaica in 2012.

Far from being a “challenge,” Smoky has proven to be quite the character. Shortly after I brought him home, I was sitting at the table, reading a book, while Smoky whistled away in his cage. Eventually, his whistling drew my attention. I realized I recognized the tune. That was the opening to the old “Andy Griffith Show” and, later, was that “The Odd Couple” theme? I went to work the next day and asked Jo-Ann if Uncle Mike watched a lot of TV Land. She admitted that, yes, he did. Well, Smoky had picked up the theme songs to many of his favorite shows. Uncle Mike also had a police scanner. Out of the blue, Smoky will suddenly squawk, “Rescue! Rescue!” complete with a bit of re-created static as the scanner pops “on” and “off”. And you’ll never doubt his name. His invariable greeting is, “Hello, Smoky!”

Dogs are a usual part of any homestead. I hope to one day raise border collies for herding future sheep, and also agility. Mom brought Max with her from Missouri in September 2014. He’s a blue heeler. Traditionally, this is a herding breed but Max has never been sheep or goat “broke” so putting him out with Felicity and Co. would be a disaster (if a dog has not been raised with sheep, instead of herding, he’ll run them down and potentially kill them; they have to be “broke”. This does not mean anything brutal or unkind to the dog but a gentle training to teach them how to appropriately interact with them.). He knows he’s supposed to do something with these goats but he doesn’t know what that something is. And, for Felicity’s part, she doesn’t seem to be dog “broke” either (again, simply being raised around dogs and being taught to understand that the dog does not mean her harm but is there for her protection; because she’s never been taught otherwise, she sees Max as a threat…and he is because he’s also never been taught). When Max first came here, Mom and I took he and Bear (who was still with me then) out on leashes. I wanted them to at least get acquainted with each other so there wouldn’t be some mad charge at the back door someday. Amazingly, Felicity didn’t seem to have any problem with Bear. Maybe his size was a deterrent (St. Bernard) but Max lunged and then Felicity charged. That ended that exercise. We are very careful to keep Max and Felicity separate. However, Max is an intelligent boy. And, while it may be a little late in his life to get him into herding–especially with a recalcitrant lead doe fighting him every step of the way–now that warmer weather is coming in, I would like to start some basic training with him and then, maybe, get him into agility. Herding breeds have a lot of energy so it would be good for him to have a means to use some of it up each day. He learns fast. Over the wintertime, we started chorus classes…I taught Max to howl. And he sounds for all the world like the wolf he’s often mistaken for in public.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Gratitude, Homesteading

Meet the Animals – The Goats!

A little over two years’ ago, I brought home a trio of Nigerian Dwarf goats. They were “free to good home” but, before any fellow goat farmers cringe, Felicity, at least, is a registered doe…and I have the papers to prove it. Domino and Chester are both quite large for the breed and, because of this, they were both wethered so that they do not pass along too-big babies to future generations. They are here simply as pets and companions to Felicity. She has been bred at least once. Her previous owners did not keep the single male. But I do have plans to breed her again. Fresh goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt and even soap would be a nice addition to this homestead.

For now though, I am simply enjoying them, learning all of the myriad ins and outs of their care and getting to know their unique personalities.

I am remembering when I first brought all of them home, I was ecstatic! Anyone who has known me for longer than five minutes knows how much I love goats and how long I waited to get them. However, at the dealership, this love and longing wasn’t as widely known yet; I hadn’t been there that long. But, I had to share this elation with somebody…besides Mom, of course. So I chose Sean, our then-service manager. Sean and his wife frequently rescue and adopt older dogs from the local shelter. And I commend and applaud them for their kindness, their generosity, their beautiful hearts because of it. Sean’s an animal lover; he’ll get this. So, with a huge smile on my face I announced that today one of my biggest dreams just came true. Somehow, though, I don’t think Sean was expecting my acquisition of three goats to be the answer to his question about what that dream-come-true was. His blank stare that so clearly read: “how do I respond to this?” was priceless. But my goats are a dream-come-true.

So, without further ado, meet Chester…

He obviously likes his kibble…and his carrots. He was that round when I got him. Though he wasn’t quite as camera-happy as Tank the Silkie Rooster, he really is a sweet boy and every morning after feeding we have to cuddle for a few minutes. He will saunter over to me and start rubbing the stubs where his horns should be against my skirt. I’m guessing it’s an itchy spot so I oblige by giving him a good scratch. Eventually he will raise his head and blow goatie “kisses” at me.

Felicity is the true boss of the barnyard. I know I said last week that Sargent Feathers was…and, in many ways, he is. But even he defers to Felicity. She is very protective of “her” flock. Last summer we had a skunk find it’s way under a low spot by the back gate and there was no holding her back. She charged. And, yes, it sprayed. But, amazingly, she managed to avoid most of it…even if the barnyard smelled pretty rank for awhile afterwards.

Felicity is also the most empathetic–if one can attach such an emotion to a goat…and I do. When I lost my Bear two years’ ago, the following morning I trudged out to the goat barn as usual but she must’ve sensed that I was “down” and a bit out of it. She has what I call the upside-down Madonna grin. Madonna has always had that bit of a gap between her two front teeth. Felicity has it, too, but in the lower jaw and there’s just a slight hint of an overbite. Nothing too detrimental to keep her from eating but, when she’s curious, she juts that jaw forward a bit, turning her head from side to side and sniffing intently. That morning, I got the full upside-down Madonna grin. As I sat down on the bench for a moment, Felicity came forward and then, as sweet as can be, gave me the gentlest little head-butt and rested her forehead against mine. I remember blubbering over the sweetness of it, though I’m guessing that wasn’t Felicity’s intent.

Domino took a little longer to warm up to us. He’s lovable, too, but a bit shier than the other two. His coat is like spun silk though. Where Felicity and Chester are a bit wiry to the touch, I could run my fingers through Domino’s coat all day and never get tired of it. He’s a bit of a dandy about it. He loves being brushed. And I don’t mind obliging him.

And, yes, that’s a lot of hay on the floor of the goat barn. They scatter it everywhere. And, because New England winters are so brutal, I leave it there until spring. Many farmers do this as it provides protection against cold floors and the slow decomposition of hay, wood shavings and, of course, their waste, actually helps warm the barn. There is no odor. The top layer is dry. And come spring, I clean it all out and toss it into the compost bin where it will dress the garden in the fall. Then we start all over again.

…although next winter will see them in different quarters as this old shed-turned-barn is being semi-retired; the attached garage and former workshop will become the new barn. Our current barn has wooden floors. It’s not so bad on the goat side. But, in the separate “room” that houses the chickens and ducks, the ducks’ perpetual play in the waterers is rotting it out. I put my foot partially through it recently so it’s time to relocate them and, as time and funds permit, cut out the wooden floor and replace it with cement.

There’s always a new project with this journey called a homestead.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Homesteading

Meet the Quackers!

We’re talking about ducks, of course.

When I first decided to just make a go of homesteading exactly where I am, chickens and ducks were one of my first investments. I wanted fresh eggs. I wanted an eco-friendly way of reducing bugs and slugs and such in the garden. Ducks are supposedly great for eating slugs and also those great, horned, tomato worms. I’m not sure how accurate this is. My ducks are more interested in kamakazi waddles down the driveway and, if I didn’t turn into a human border collie in a hurry and herd them back into the garden, they’d waddle right out into Interstate 6. So the ducks now reside solely in the backyard. And, while they could probably fly straight over the chain link fence, fresh food, a warm barn to sleep in each night, and a giant kiddie pool to swim in are reasons enough to stay grounded.

Of course, I sometimes think I should’ve followed some friendly advice when I first got them and returned the two drakes to Agway once their sex was confirmed. But my heart got in the way. Being put in someone’s stew pot simply because they’re male just didn’t seem fair. I love Duncan and Dweezil but, since Dweezil’s mate, Delilah, suffered a coronary three years’ ago from nearly being devoured by a fox, and despite having Dixie still with them, they won’t leave my chickens alone. And they are quite brutal about it. They seem to single out one or two hens at a time and what horny little beasts they are! I’ve had conflicting information about the whole duck/chicken thing. I had one person tell me that ducks (forgive the delicate discussion here…) are better “endowed” than roosters and can actually do harm to the hens. However, their vet says they cannot truly “mate” unless they are in water and none of my hens are bathing beauties. But we could give them both an “A” for effort…and call their parents in for a conference for being such bullies about it (chuckle). Right now, my Prudence is one of their main interests. However, as one of the oldest gals, she’s pretty sharp. And her buddy, Chester, has no objections whatsoever if she decides to flutter up onto his back to escape their attentions (Chester is a goat…). There are plans this year to build a separate enclosure for the ducks that won’t separate them entirely from the chickens, as they’ve all been one big flock for the past 7 years, but keep the ducks from harassing the hens. I’m thinking perhaps something along the lines of one of those chicken tractors you see at many feed stores but modified to accommodate the ducks.

And, before anyone asks, I tried to introduce more ducks a couple of summers ago. A friend of mine had a male and a female that she was trying to place and asked if I would be willing to take them. I said, ‘Sure’ and she brought them over. While we both expected some pecking order activities, Duncan and Dweezil soon had her two Quackers so cowed they wouldn’t leave the back corner of the henhouse–and hers were twice the size of mine. They also wouldn’t eat. So I had to call my friend and ask her to come get them. Maybe if I set up a brooder with ducklings and slowly introduced them, they might adjust better. But, I’m afraid to chance it in case I have a bigger problem on my hands. So, for now, it is just the three of them. Though they can be a pain you-know-where with this inability to stick with their own kind (haha), their synchronized quacking as they waddle single file across the barnyard from one pursuit to another is the sweetest music. And, I have to admit, I haven’t seen a single slug in my barnyard since they arrived.

May God bless you & keep you!

These are the two drakes. Duncan’s back is to the camera. Unfortunately, the Quackers, as they are collectively called, were even more concerned about the cellphone coming out than the chickens. Dweezil is the one to the right and more in the foreground.

I had a tough time getting Dixie’s picture. This dark-capped boy is Duncan. And he was being very protective of his mate as she had built herself a little nest in back of an old rabbit hutch in the goat barn. You can just make her out to the left and a little below Duncan’s chest. As for the nest, it has long since been abandoned. Duncan, Dweezil and Dixie are Khaki Campbells and they have a reputation for being rather neglectful mothers. Dixie will lay a few eggs, set them for about a week and then abandon them. I’ve had a few hens take over but it usually doesn’t last…

Animals, Homesteading

Meet the Animals – The Girls

Though this post comes a few days’ later than planned, no homestead would be complete without the constant chatter and song of a flock of chickens. I apologize ahead of time; some of them did not want to cooperate by posing or even giving me a “heads-up” (literally) but, hopefully, in time, they will grow more accustomed to their celebrity status and start giving a few cameos. Without further ado, meet my cackling flock of ladies:

This is Flame. Though she refused to turn around and only presented her back to the camera, she truly is a lovely lady. Flame is an Americauna chicken. Americaunas’ eggs have either blue or green-colored shells. They are often referred to as Easter Egg chickens. I don’t know if the blue/green coloring is natural or something that came from genetic modification to produce these colors (I mean, how labor-intensive is it to dye Easter eggs???). Flame is one of the older ladies on the farm. She is 6 years old this year and, while her egg production is not as prolific as some of the younger girls, she still manages to provide a few spots of color in each carton of eggs.

Sylvie, another Americauna was equally uncooperative about the camera. Sylvie is one of the younger gals. She is 2 years’ old.

Rae, another 2 year old Americauna, was even more uncooperative and, the only shot of her I was able to get was this one (below) of her running away. Ho-hum…

Group shots work well! The Americauna in the center of the picture is Sunset. She is another 6 year old and, like Flame, retiring from her job of egg production, giving only the occasional spot of color here and there. It’s all good. Culling is only done on this farm if there’s a threat from one animal towards the others. The lovely red lady in the bottom right corner is Connie, short for North Conway. Connie is a New Hampshire Red and the only one left in my flock that is a NH Red. The others, Manny (Manchester) and Winnie (Winnipisaukee (sp?)) were lost last year; all three were named for towns in the State of New Hampshire.

These two ladies are Kiel and Basa, my two Polish hens. They are nearly identical. When they are right next to each other, Kiel is a slightly lighter gray color with a few black polka dots on her back.

Goldie is featured in both of these…as the one that got away and, with one of the Plymouth Barred Rocks, with her tail up to the camera…sorry! Goldie did the chicken run thing every time I drew near; I will keep trying. Goldie is a 2 year-old Buff Orpington.

Prudence, a 6 year-old Plymouth Barred Rock

Faith, a 2 year-old Plymouth Barred Rock

A group shot of Hope, another 2 year-old Plymouth Barred Rock; Crow (left) and Raven, two Black Australorps.

Phantom, another Black Australorp–all three Australorps are 2 years’ of age.

And last, but not least–and it must be a Silkie thing because Miss Taffy had absolutely no qualms about being photographed at all.

Next up? Ducks!

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Faith, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Healing, Homesteading, Prayer, Religion, Self-improvement, Spirituality

I’m a Martha

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked.
“But Martha was the jittery type, and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing.
“She came to Jesus and said, ‘Sir, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me’.
“But the Lord said to her, ‘Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it–and I won’t take it away from her!”
(Luke 10:38-42)

It has been a crazy week here at the Herbal Hare Homestead with goats needing de-worming and, of course, it was Holy Week last week and I’ve spent the better part of the last few days at church, giving the readings for Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

It was a blessing to be able to serve in such a way. The Holy Saturday vigil was done by candlelight and it was a truly beautiful ceremony. As I gave some of the readings, listened to others’, to Father Elson’s homily, and celebrated a young soldier being baptized, receiving First Communion and Confirmation, for the first time in a very long time, I felt my soul filling with His word, His love. For the first time in a very long time, I surrendered my will to Him and placed at least a tentative trust in Him, that He will not lead me astray, but allowed the knowledge that He truly wants the very best for me–for all of us–to fill me.

And yet, I kept glancing at the clock.

Good Friday’s Liturgy was at 3 p.m. Though the service lasted two hours, even walking, I was home by 5:30 p.m. with plenty of time to feed animals and focus on the day-to-day stuff. The walk home was a perfect time to reflect and absorb the beauty of that service. We observed the Stations of the Cross and, while my bad knees screamed some abuse at me after kneeling twice for each station (14 stations in all), all-in-all, peace settled over me and I walked home feeling contented…and looking forward to the following evening’s ceremony.

I have rarely attended a Holy Saturday vigil. Though I am usually home from work early enough to attend, I confess to placing some worldly concerns before it. But, when the request for volunteers to help with the readings came out, I quickly volunteered…and looked forward to it. Again, it was a beautiful service and my heart was moved throughout. But, like the previous evening’s ceremony, it was rather lengthier than a typical Mass and I found myself looking over my shoulder at that clock.

My farm is on a slightly later schedule than most. As I work evenings and do not get home until around 8 o’clock, feeding time is between 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. and p.m. each day. Saturday there is a slight variation on this because my work schedule is earlier; feeding time gets bumped up to around 7:30. As the hands of that clock drew closer and closer to 7:30, I began to get antsy. Goats and rabbits are both prone to bloat and must be kept on a regular schedule. My poor babies must be getting hungry. I wonder if I can slip out as soon as Communion is served without being noticed…(this from the very first pew!). These thoughts, and more, threatened to derail the peace of this Holy Saturday vigil and I found myself thinking about one of the readings given for Palm Sunday last week. It was the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, and how Martha complained to Jesus because her sister did not help with the chores but sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. Suddenly, I felt Him knock and I realized that, while I tell myself that, no, I would be more like Mary, listening to His every word and choosing the better part, the truth is, I’m more like Martha. I worry. I stress. I drive myself to distraction over the “little things”…and miss out on the more important things in life. I have my “routines”; heaven help anything that alters those routines. I snap and squabble and mutter under my breath at these alterations.

In short, I have issues.

And it was never more apparent than during that last half hour of the Holy Saturday vigil. My initial reaction to this realization was to pray for His forgiveness for allowing myself to be so distracted by worldly concerns and then asking Him to still my heart that I might let those concerns go, to place them in His much more capable hands. And then I looked at the clock again. It took several attempts to finally draw my attention back to the vigil and truly focus in again on the blessings being given. The enemy of my soul was doing his best to draw my attention away; Jesus kept reminding me, no, look here. I am the Way.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Homesteading

Meet the Animals – Cock-A-Doodle-Doo

Yesterday saw temps in the low-80’s–positively beautiful weather for homesteading endeavors, so I hung up the laptop for one afternoon and focused on some much needed work around the farm. However, mindful of this week’s “Meet the Animal” series, I did take along my cellphone so I could continue today.

Let me tell you…chickens are NOT easy to photograph. Neither are ducks. Though my cellphone is slim and flat, and does not in any way, shape or form resemble a weapon of mass destruction (at least none that I or my poultry children might be familiar with), they shied, cowered, ran, squawked and flapped their wings whenever I got close enough to take a fairly decent shot. But we persevered. Some of these shots may not be perfect but, hopefully, as they grow more accustomed to their new modeling careers, they will oblige by giving me a few cameos.

The one exception is Tank.

He is the youngest of the three roosters I am introducing here and he proved to be quite the ham yesterday, actually coming closer, striking a pose, and looking up at me as if to say, “Yes, I am a pretty boy, aren’t I?” Tank is a Silkie. These are native to the Far East (sources vary; some say China; others, Japan, etc.) and are considered by many as show birds. Silkies are different than most chickens in that their plumage retains it’s downy-chick texture rather than the individual feathers typical of other breeds. And that downy-feathery plumage continues down to his feet. In fact, his feet are so lush and full with this down, it is part of the reason he earned the name “Tank” because he somewhat resembles a tank as he waddles across the barnyard. Silkies also have some other distinctive characteristics, including black skin and bones; blue earlobes and sporting 5 toes rather than the usual 4 of other breeds of chickens. Silkies are known as the lap kitties of the chicken world. They actually enjoy being handled and are quite sociable.

Next is Corporal Denim.

Corporal Denim’s earliest claim-to-fame was as the “perpetually frustrated rooster”. Being a Cochin, he was considerably smaller than most of the hens I purchased when I got him. The one Cochin female of the flock had no interest in him and, instead, bonded with my big Polish rooster, Sargent Feathers, who was quite protective of Little Peep. That left Corporal Denim with the task of trying to mount hens bigger than he. I used to entertain family and friends with stories about how he almost got “lucky” today but Patience, Autumn, Ruby, etc. threw him off at the last moment and, he was so excited by his almost-triumph, he would “hump” the nearest clump of grass. When I re-stocked two springs’ ago, I had mercy on the poor boy and made sure to get a few smaller hens; he is now quite content.

He was not, however, camera-friendly. Corporal Denim is actually quite shy. As a young cockerel, he gave me some doubtful moments–moments when I strongly considered reneging on my vow that none of these birds would ever see a stew pot. His aggression lasted until Squire came along. Squire was so bad, I carried a shovel, a broom–anything–to block Squire’s attack when I went out to the barnyard. I had hoped that, like The Corporal, Squire would eventually calm down once the hormones and the pecking order were better established amongst my flock. But, with Corporal Denim, his aggression seemed to be sparked if my coat flapped in the wind or my Wellington’s squeaked in the mud, something he didn’t understand. With Squire, it didn’t matter. I still carry a scar on my ankle from his piercing it with a spur. Squire wasn’t just aggressive; he was downright mean. Where I could at least approach Corporal Denim, pick him up and stroke his feathers (chicken whisperer advice at defusing aggression in roosters), Squire was completely different. He was savage with the hens; I had plucked chickens running around the yard at all times. And he bullied Corporal Denim, who, despite his auspicious beginnings, is now a beloved pet. That was enough to make me recant that vow–at least in this one exception. Squire’s meeting with the stew pot was already considered a fait accompli–as soon as I could find a way to capture him without being pecked to death–when Squire was stupid enough to challenge the boss of the barnyard, Sargent Feathers.

This boy has proved to be the best rooster on the planet. He is a Polish rooster and I just love that flashy pompadour of his. Squire was almost his twin as far as plumage is concerned and I had hoped that he would prove to be as good with the flock but, alas, as stated earlier, he was the exact opposite. Squire and Sargent got along well until Squire was stupid enough to challenge this boss of the barnyard. Though there was no sign of blood shed, shortly after Squire challenged Sargent Feathers, I found his body behind the goat barn. And I don’t believe in coincidence. (Chuckle) Sargent Feathers guards his hens fiercely, keeping a watchful eye for predators, especially hawks. He has a very distinctive warning cry–quite rasping and loud enough to wake the dead, and definitely carrying a note of alarm. The moment they hear it, all of my chickens, roosters and ducks take the nearest cover. He has another distinctive sort of clucking, sort of cooing call when he finds a particularly delectable something to eat, calling his feathery friends to join him.

Though I know a lot of farmers would say I have two too many roosters, three is proving to be just right. Sargent Feathers, Corporal Denim and Tank get along quite well and they each have their favorites amongst the hens–and there are enough to go around. Though Sargent Feathers’ little love, Peep, was lost a few years’ ago after a fox jumped over the 6 foot fence and killed her, Penny and Delilah Duck, he seems well content with the ladies who currently share his world–I’ll save those for tomorrow.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Homesteading

Meet the Animals – The Bunnies

I talk about the animals that share this homestead with me a lot but rare have I downloaded photographs of any of them. So this week I am dedicating my blog to doing just that–sharing my beloved babies with everyone. They are my world. They share their love and affection; give me that many more reasons to rise and shine each day; in some cases, they provide me sustenance through the eggs they lay; plenty of free fertilizer; lots of laughter and, yes, eventually a few tears.

So, without further ado, as this is The Herbal Hare Homestead, let’s start with the bunnies. Many moons ago, my pen pal from Curacao christened me “Beach Bunny”; a few years’ later, my then-husband re-christened me “Cuddle Bunny”. They both must’ve had some sort of premonition because rabbits have been a daily part of my life since 1998 when my then-sister-in-law bought a pair of rabbits for her children. At first they were the stars of the home but, as often happens, once the novelty of these new pets wore off, they began to be neglected. My sister-in-law and I frequently got together to workout. I’d find the pair of them in cages on the lawn, no shade cover, no water, very little food. And the cages were absolutely gross. It was heartbreaking. It took a lot of gentle persuasion but, eventually, my sister-in-law asked if I would be willing to take them. I hadn’t planned on rabbits but I couldn’t say “no”. My only thought was to rescue them from these sad conditions. Mr. V and Rainy came home and there’s been a total of 21 rabbits to share this home–not all at once, but over the last 19 years. These 6 are the current residents of The Herbal Hare Homestead:

This little guy is Rhys. He and his sister, Alys (directly below) came to me, along with Alys’ 6 children, back in the spring of 2012. Rhys and Alys were about 10 months old at the time. And, yes, Rhys is the father of their offspring; first owners didn’t notice he was gnawing through the wood between their hutches and, well, Rhys and Alys did what rabbits are most notorious for. They were then given to a friend of mine who, in the short time they were with her, really wasn’t too sure about raising rabbits. When the babies started coming in rapid succession, I received a frantic phone call asking if I would be willing to take them. At the time I still had two geriatrics, Jillian and Violet, and another orphan named Choo-Choo, but why the heck not? Rhys, Alys, Tumbleweed, Blizzard, Stormie, Sweet Pea, Lemony Snicket and Orion moved right in and they have been a blessing in my life ever since. Sadly, I lost Orion and Lemony Snicket in 2014 to an intestinal parasite.


Sweet Pea




Out of the offspring, originally, there were three each. Stormie, Blizzard and Tumbleweed are all does; Sweet Pea, Orion and Lemony Snicket are/were bucks. They each have large dog cages instead of hutches as these give them plenty of room to hop and move about. They are also fairly easy to clean; though, as you can see by the state of the rabbit room floor, they do not keep hay and shavings from being scattered about. I should start advertising as a professional sweeper. (chuckle) Each day, I set aside a couple of hours and give them bunny playtime (one at a time; no “accidental” breedings here) where they may come out of their cages and hop around the bunny room, stretch their legs and “visit” through the bars. I never spayed/neutered any of them because, while they are all Lionheads, my hope is to acquire a couple of Angoras and cross-breed. Lionheads have Angora in their genetic DNA, as we can see by that long mane and “skirt” they all sport. As I get more proficient on the spinning wheel, I hope to raise my own fiber (And before any fellow animal rights’ fanatics come out of the woodwork, there is no harm done to the rabbits. They simply get a haircut, much like we do at a salon, and three months’ later, the same rabbits have another 2-3 inches of wool grown out again (wish my hair grew so fast!). Sadly, people often equate the raising of Angoras and the spinning of their wool with the rabbit fur coats of the 1970’s when mini-rex’s were bred in massive quantities to supply the demand. Those poor creatures lost their lives; mine will not until the good Lord calls them home via natural means).

Sadly, this is the only photo I have of Lemony Snicket. It’s not a very clear one and he is the one in the cage, bottom right corner. I believe that is Rhys outside of the cages.


There will be more to follow in the days that come.

May God bless you & keep you!

Homesteading, Writing

Accepting the Challenge

Yesterday I did some catching up on the emails in my Inbox. It doesn’t take them long to build up, especially when I tend to ignore them for days on end due to the other demands on my time. In my perusal of them, I came across a post from a fellow blogger whose blog I have been following. Another writer like me, he has decided to challenge himself to further excellence by asking himself to write, I believe it was, 90,000 words of his book by the end of April. He asked if other bloggers and/or writers would also take up the challenge.

I have long been searching for an accountability partner, or at least someone–or something–to keep me focused that I don’t lose heart with my book. I tend to procrastinate, even as I long to finally finish at least the first draft of it. And I’ve decided this is the accountability, this month-long challenge that says by the end of it all, I will have written 150 pages of my story.

I am still short a few pages as of the writing of this blog post. This is my second day at it as I did not see the post at the very beginning of the month when it was originally written. I have just a little over 5 pages of type and a word count of 2782 words, which I just divided by 5 (# of current pages) and I came up with 556 words per page. Using that as an average and multiplying by 150 pages, I will have 83,400 words written if I stick with this. So maybe I’m taking up more of the challenge than I even realized.

As for my blog, I will still be here, keeping my readers posted about my progress on the book and, of course, the myriad homestead happenings. It’s time to feel like a true writer again.

May God bless you & keep you!



I waited patiently for God to help me: then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God.” Psalms 40: 1-3

Squeelllish–auk! Shwisquel–thok!

Oops! That’s my feeble attempt to recreate the sound of my Wellington-clad feet stepping and sucking back out of the muddy quagmire the barnyard has become as torrential downpours assault the Northeast. It is not a pretty picture. Neither is Sargent Feathers’ striking pompadour when it’s weighted down with rainwater but, like my beloved rooster, I hold my head up high and carry on.

Or at least make it look as though I am.

The bog and the mire, as it says in the Psalm I quoted above. That describes both the barnyard and, some days–many days–my heart, as I continue to search for full-time work off the farm and battle what I am beginning to suspect is a form of discrimination at the current job. Because my position is tough to fill, having found someone (moi) who is reliable and does the job well, the powers-that-be seem intent on keeping me in this part-time evening/weekend slot. I keep getting told I am under-qualified for every full-time position that opens up even as I was told when I got this current position that I was a little over-qualified for it (??!!?). Most days I don’t really mind much. With a farm to run, classes to “attend” (online), and still pushing forward to start a business that utilizes goats as an environmentally-friendly mode of clearing land of unwanted vegetation, I have a pretty full plate. But, as those little hiccoughs occur–you know the ones, those unexpected expenses that crop up from time to time–sometimes it’s tough not to get overwhelmed. And, yes, just a little depressed. It’s worse when I see someone fresh out of high school with no qualifications whatsoever sliding into these same positions.


However, I believe He has a plan in place, even if I cannot see what it is yet. And, while my trust is always hard-won, I am placing that trust in Him…even as I listen to the “squeelllish-auk” of my Wellington-clad feet meandering the muddy quagmire of life.

May God bless you & keep you!