Learning Rabbit Care on the Hop

If we thought rabbit care would become routine pet care, think again. I have been on a steep learning curve, learning on the hop so to speak, moment by moment.

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Oreo’s hutch is predator proof. Leo hunts wild rabbits and would attack the pet rabbits.

Leo, the family cat, frequently and successfully hunts wild rabbits. Though the hutch and run are predator proofed, it has not stopped him scoping the possibility of getting easy prey. It means we must spend time daily with Paws so he can have a run and forage in the orchard. For now, Oreo does not leave her cage and is never far from her kits.   

After the birth of the kits, it was the behaviour of our normally amiable free-ranging hens that astounded me. I was giving Oreo fresh water and feed. Two of the hens tried to push by me into the cage run.  I pushed them away. They flew back and pecked me as they tried again to get into the run. They stayed near the cage for some time glaring at the enclosure that had been their chicken coop one year ago.

The local pet-shop owner suggested I remove the placenta stained fur to clear the hutch of smell that would attract predators and might be agitating the hens. Later that afternoon while doing as I was advised, I sadly counted four kits. The fifth was nowhere to be found. Oreo for reasons of her own had eaten this newborn. I had been told to expect this could happen.     

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Paws the pet rabbit and Grandson have quality bonding time.

Grandson, 9-years old, was an interested onlooker at this time. He wanted to know about about birth and the placenta and asked lots of questions. Sitting quietly in the orchard with this boy while we watched his pet rabbit, it was a special moment to be part of a learning conversation about Oreo’s experience and be able to relate it to facts of human life. Wow! Oreo is more than a pet. Oreo the mother. Oreo the teacher.    

Oreo the mini-lop rabbit gives birth

Tuesday, 24th October is a date when I would like to have been proven wrong about the saying, breeding like rabbits.

Oreo Mini-lop Rabbit
Oreo feeding on dandelions and fresh grass

In my previous blog about Paws, mentioned how excited Grandson at the arrival of an unexpected second pet rabbit and how his Mum said she had got Oreo ‘not long ago’ from the S.P.C.A. and that because she was so young,‘things should be alright’.

Paws and Oreo are parents
Kits cocooned in Mum’s downy fur

Oreo, a mini-lop rabbit, gave birth to her first litter of five kits about midday. She showed strong basic instincts in her preparation for the birth and mothering.

She had tried digging a burrow from the cage. She had plucked fur from her lower abdomen to make a soft downy cocoon for her babies in the straw nest created some days earlier. In this way, Oreo exposed her nipples ready to suckle her kits.

There was a time lag of about three hours between the birth and when we were able to separate the new mother and her kits from Paws, the father. Too late, I think. Oreo is probably pregnant again. 

Mother and babies are doing well.

Lemons Three ‘olden’ ways

Was it really fifty years or more since I attended cooking class at school? I felt quite ancient when 11-year old grandson talked about his first food technology class and his first recipe for a Fruit Smoothie, a printout pasted into his exercise book. The blender was put to work and the smoothie made an excellent after-school drink. But, he was not really that interested in Nana’s old school handwritten cooking exercise book, or the recipes. It must have looked like lots of hard work.

In 1958, I used non-electronic kitchen equipment and we measured in pounds and ounces.  Girls at my age  were used to cooking at home with our mothers. The boys did carpentry and metalwork instead. For fun, I revisited two recipes, one from my old schoolbook and the other from a recipe given to me when I was first married. The third way with lemons is about hand care, something my mother routinely did in the kitchen.

Lemon Honey, or Lemon Curd as some call it, is delicious. Living on a farm, we kept hens, lemon trees grew well and butter was cheap. Lemon Honey was commonly made. This recipe makes about one and a half cups. I store it in the fridge. It never lasts long in this family. It can be rippled through creamy icecream, swirled through yoghurt, made into lemon tarts or as I did today, added to the centre of lemon muffins.

Lemon Cordial is another oldie. My mother-in-law made it when Himself was a child. My sister-in-law and I continue to make this drink. It becomes a  refreshing summertime drink when made up with finely julienned fresh ginger straws, crushed mint, ice and chilled soda.

Lemons are nature’s cleanser. I can see Mum now, at the kitchen bench, rubbing a cut lemon over her skin and around her nails before dipping her hands into oatmeal and rubbing this all over her skin. Oatmeal leaves a soft feel to the skin.

 

Watermelon eater

Grandson has been watching these grow for ages, now he gets to try them !! Perfect juicy, summery, yummy dessert.

He is becoming quite the gardener and has had a hand in planting and growing most of the veggies in the colander.

Big excitement also was younger brother’s Brown Shaver chicken, Strawberry, is now a big girl and is laying eggs. Nice for breakfast.

Grandson ~ creates a chilli salsa

 

9-year old grandson is so proud of his garden-to-the-table moment. A freshly picked Hungarian Yellow Wax chili pepper grown by him, was the hero of a salsa served with sweet corn tonight. Tapered in shape, this chili is well-flavoured, has a medium heat and is easy to grow.

In the best of Masterchef tradition, he selected his ingredients, he created his recipe as he chopped, stirred, tasted, adjusted and presented.  His salsa was brushed over freshly cooked sweet corn.  A great taste summer side dish.

Grandson’s homemade  salsa recipe: combine chopped yellow chili, freshly picked chopped parsley and basil leaves with melted butter, cold-pressed virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. On impulse, he added some diced Lebanese cucumber because that is his favourite vegetable. The quantities were decided as he prepared the chili salsa.

During the cook, he used sharp steel knives, deseeded a chili, melted butter in the microwave, worked cleanly. I showed my sons and now my grandchildren from pre-school age, safe use of equipment, creative cooking, food hygiene and kitchen management skills.

Learning happens in the kitchen. Together, we read recipes, do the maths of costs and amounts and learn about food culture. I believe all children need to learn how to plan a meal and to learn about people’s food likes and health needs.  This boy knows his grandfather is a diabetic, why I use lots of fresh ingredients and why I may cook a second dish for the same mealtime.

Usually when he cooks, I work alongside my grandson. We have chatted about my childhood years and the meals my family ate. My late mother’s chocolate cake recipe is now a firm favourite with her great-grandsons. Licking the mixing bowl clean is still an important Cooking 101 task. Tonight, as I wrapped monkfish in prosciutto, we talked about this pork meat and how it adds flavour to fish. My salsa verde had to be taste-tested and we compared the two salsas. Why I was using locally grown and pressed avocado oil and parmesan cheese? Why, indeed. I decided that monkfish is delicate it does not need to be overpowered with stronger flavours.

This 9-year old lad, my grandson, is well on his way to managing a kitchen and feeding the troops. It is not only a skill for healthy living but is also a great life interest.

 

 

Grandsons ~ cucumber, chillies and watermelon

Tonight’s meal will be extra special. 9-year old grandson harvested his very first cucumber off the plant grown from seed he sowed. He loves snacking on the small short green cucumbers.  The first vegetable he picked did not make it to the kitchen, it was too full of sunshine and rain, juicy and crunchy, crisp and refreshing on a summer day. A second cucumber had to be picked. Tonight, he will slice some to add to his Kiwi lamb hamburger. He wants to grate the remainder to mix with yoghurt to make a dip, he has seen me do this. My cooking is strongly influenced by Arabic dishes and flavours I enjoyed when I lived in the Middle East.

After lunch today, we ceremoniously picked the first of the firm, shiny, yellow chillies he also grew from seed. He was adamant he wanted to eat a fresh chilli. I insisted I taste test first to check its level of heat. Back in the kitchen, I showed him how to scrape the seeds and how to handle the chilli to avoid mouth tingling or burning sensation. He and 7-year old brother declared they now love chillies.  Grandson wants to add chopped yellow chilli to the cucumber yoghurt mixture. This has the makings of a tasty dip. My thinking is that I should make a flat bread with chickpea flour and cumin seeds as it will go well with the dip and with a vegetarian stew I am slow cooking.

Spicy eggplant stew.jpgEggplant and chickpeas and are staple pantry items. Mindful of the dietary needs of an adult diabetic in the household, I am make a second main dish using a recipe  Spiced Eggplant Stew with Roasted Pepper And Sundried Tomato Coulis posted by cookingforthetimechallenged in her blog. I added strips of char-grilled yellow and red peppers and a chopped courgette picked from the plant this morning. Leftover stew is great for lunch the next day.

Imagine their excitement as both grandsons made their greatest discovery. Sprawling over the garden bed, hidden under the foliage, are glossy green watermelons, round like footballs, heavy with juice.

Nothing, not even chocolate self-saucing pudding will beat this fruity dessert

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Strawberry the chicken ~ wins an Ag Day ribbon

3 Choosing new chicks5 Outdoors 1st run in chicken cage

27th September, six fluffy, yellow day-old Brown Shaver chicks came to live at our place. The chick rearing school project proved a source of endless fascination.

Strawberry wins Ag Day ribbonDaniel in chook cage Nov 2015

In October, grandson, 7-year old Daniel was still mothering his chicken children. Strawberry did Daniel proud to win a ribbon at his school’s Agricultural Day.

By November, I was thinking thyme for chicken casserole. Strawberries and ThymeMy dire warning about heads on the nearby chopping block was ignored. They cheeped away and continued to forage among the strawberries and herbs.

However, the chicks were terrified of the two adult hens who command the henhouse. Gertrude and Speckles only had so much tolerance for child-minding. They took to their nesting boxes.Gertrude & Speckles I guess it’s natural a pecking order be established.

Come December, the chickens are quite the cheeky teenagers and speak in chook not cheeps. One managed a defiant peck of my blueberries as they were shooed out of the garden. At night now, they roost in the hen-house with the older hens. Fewer feathers are flying.

Is it too much to expect some egg-laying in January?

Meanwhile, Frog froghas taken residence in the flax bush I’d left soaking in a bucket until I get round to replanting it.

Animals 1 – garden 0.