My brain has turned to rabbit mush. It has been 22 days since they were born. Newborns in any household bring on that ‘brain mush’ effect. My senses are tuned to responding to the demands and needs of these small creatures.
It is now routine at 6 a.m. for me to forage under the totara trees along the stream bank for fresh dewy puha, dandelions and thistles. By 7.30 a.m. the rabbit hutch has been cleaned, the kits have a frolic while Oreo, their mother, has her breakfast. Rabbit housekeeping is repeated for Paws’, the father rabbit, cage. He is let out for a thirty-minute run in the orchard before he too is fed back in his cage.
There was the initial burst of enthusiasm for the novelty of rabbit care before school Agricultural Day in October. Paws showed off his moves and earned Grandson an Agricultural Day Certificate. Grandson considers job done. And apparently, 6 a.m. is not a civilised hour to be up and getting wet by the morning dew on the long grass in the paddock. The boys are not impressed that Nana at their age had to herd the cows, no quad bike, from their night paddock to the shed and help her Dad with milking and feed the calves. So last century. Grandsons of the household are getting ready for school – so they say with a device in one hand. But they are out the door at 8 a.m.
Hen care is next, the Brown Shavers indignant they have been usurped and made to wait because of these furry intruders. Squawking loudly, they stand and poo in their water dish, peck at and clamber over each other and crowd the opening of the chicken cage run. I remember to smell the Sweet Peas that scramble over the bean frame in the vegetable garden. The flowers are just glorious at this time of the year. I do a few household chores and get myself ready to rush out the door.
One morning a week, I attend formal lessons for beginning players at the Bridge Club , a fifteen-minute drive into town. It is more like a mad dash through the door just after the lesson has started. We were learning about Responder’s Rebids and having a choice of bidding No Trumps if my hand had no fit with my partner’s suit. So what do I do? Bid like it was a game of 500. I called 6 No Trumps. As the complexity of these lessons increases, I am convinced I will never get the hang of Bridge. Two other players are in a similar situation grandparenting two young dogs and empathise with the challenge to get a fit between small young animal care and learning bridge. Breathe, we tell ourselves. We laugh. Our Bridge instructor is wonderfully patient.
Each day has a new happening in the rabbit hutch. Day 21 and two little bunnies hopped towards the cage door, reared on their hind paws, reached and sniffed the fresh grass and leaf matter in my hand I was about to feed to their mother. This evening, the kits took baby nibbles of their first vegetable, the silverbeet leaf and stalk, organically grown in my garden, was intended for their mother. Meanwhile. Mama Oreo was absorbed eating freshly picked puha and young thistles. Nothing but the best freshly picked home grown produce for these small creatures.
It is Day 14 since the birth and we have seen rapid change. From hairless newborns enveloped by a thick quilt of soft rabbit fur, the white-furred kits have emerged from their downy cocoon, moving in tiny hops as they explore the boundaries of their nest before joining Mum on the floor of the hutch. One tiny hop for a rabbit. One giant hop for baby bunnies.
For the first time, we saw Oreo cleaning her babies as they lay on their backs while they suckled. They are beguiling, such cute characters. After school this afternoon, it was with absolute wonder as they cuddled the kits that grandsons learned the baby rabbits had newly opened their eyes.
I stood back and looked on gobsmacked. Were these the same boys who absolutely must be in front of a gaming device in their spare time? Rabbits = 1, devices = 0.
Day 12: kits moving more within the the nest. They huddle together.
13-days old and moving more. Kits emerging and more visible from the downy cocoon of rabbit fur.
Kits seen suckling while lying on their backs. Oreo licked and cleaned each kit
Holding 13-day old kits while the bedding straw in the nesting tray is changed.
Oreo is calm about me cleaning the nest, handling the kits and watching her with the kits. I have been careful to build trust and a routine with her. I like to talk to her with a quiet voice and let her come up and sniff my hand. It helps to offer Oreo a piece of apple. Everything stops for that treat.
Twenty months have slipped by since I penned my last post. I had good intentions to write weekly. Life got in the way. Himself had a cardiac event that triggered a string of interventions. Life takes on a new perspective. It is a great blessing to have a good neighbour. Neighbour’s very old farm dog tried to get into the ambulance with Himself after he collapsed in the paddock. A few wise woofs to the ambo crew from an old dog who’d seen it all before when Neighbour suffered a similar situation a year previously.
In our absent-mindedness, Neighbour grazed his animals in our paddocks. Green dollars exchange is to be commended. He repaired flood-damaged fences and applied worm fertiliser to the pastures. And so the rural routines carried on at our place. And nature ignored the human situation. Tress grew. Rain fell. Garden weeds thrived. The moon waxed and waned. The sun rose and shone. Himself and I have been lucky. We did as prescribed for post-cardiac surgery. I say ‘we’ – it’s a team effort. Life continues. We’re getting back into our routines and are about to tackle some big jobs. I’ll write about these over time.
Meanwhile, chickens. It’s Ag Day at the end of this month at our grandson’s school. Chickens rule the roost . Master 7 year-old chose the day-old chicken raising project. Brown Shavers. So cute. Because the nights are a bit cool yet and they are only three weeks old, they’re still overnighting in a cage inside our house. Last two or three days have been warm so the chicks have enjoyed time outside in the coop. It is well netted to the cat’s chagrin. The adult hens and rooster are most curious. Chickens without a mother hen.
Gardening and nature is therapy and gives strength. To my special delight, bees are working the borage and other spring blossoms in my garden.
Today, my map is back!!!! How did this happen? Resilience is one of my personal traits – ‘I can do it!’ is my mantra (well, that’s what I’m telling you). In a New Year post, I recounted Mike Sneddon’s blog – 7 Tips to Building Your Blog’s Readershiphttp://www.worldwidefreelance.com/writing.htm At the time, his words made sense, so I idly thought it a simple matter to add a Platial map to highlight my New Zealand references. Progress was slow and painful as I didn’t have a clue how to go about things. What did I learn? Not sure. Six months later in June, and I’ve never worked out why or what I did, but my flash new Platial NZ map widget had disappeared from my blog. I lamented the joys of learning how to manage a blog.
Today, I went back to Platial and did some searching homework. Well, long story short, I’m setting up a new blog. I need to include a map. In 2009, Himself and I will leave NZ to work and to travel (more about that at a later time). My Garden blog will go on the back-burner for a couple of years though I probably won’t be able to resist dropping in from time to time – likely from a ‘homesickness’ for my plants and trees – and the pukeko, the cat, the animal life. Anyway, that’s in the tomorrow and tomorrow’s time.
However, first things first, my newly re-discovered world of mapping in blogland is grabbing my attention.
Happy New Year folks. Himself and I shut the gate and left the garden (and the cat and cattle) in the capable care of our friend Trish. So many things would happen in our absence. I knew the possums would ravage the ripening peaches, that the climber beans would grow like triffids, that the courgettes would mature into marrows. We left rapidly growing grass that would be knee-high when returned and need mowing. C’est la vie! I’d just have to get over it.
We drove south to the Waikato to join Mum and my family who live near Matamata (Peter Jackson constructed the Hobbiton movie set on a local farm when he produced Lord of the Rings). Tourists still visit the site. We had a big gathering on my younger brother’s farm (where I grew up) on Christmas Day. Lots of talk and laughs. Different people gathered 02 January to celebrate my other brother’s significant birthday at his newly built home. It was nice for Mum to have her four ‘baby-boomer’ children in one place for a change. For each occasion, both sisters-in-law excelled themselves. Baked hot ham, new potatoes (my steamed heritage potatoes went down well and were subject of interest and conversation), salads, new beans, fresh strawberries, traditional Christmas pudding and custard, pavlova and trifle. The weather was so warm, we sat outside in the shade – cold drinks in hand. In this rural community, the talk inevitably turns to dairy farming.
Wearing off the Christmas excess is easier in the saying and harder in the doing. Himself and I did some day trips and walked at local tourist spots. If you ever come to New Zealand, Rotorua is a neat place to visit. We used to spend a lot of time there as kids and then later for weekend escapes. When we lived in the Waikato, himself and I used to do quite a bit a trout fishing in this region. Always we soaked in the mineral pools. The sulphur smells from the boiling mud pools and springs is always there. Below are a few photos snapped during our latest getaway.
This historic building is a museum.
Lakeside walkway – stay on the path. Great views across the lake of course, boiling sulphur springs and muddy pools. The foliage is Manuka or Tea-tree as it’s sometimes called.
My favourite place. The spa baths both public and private – different temperatures and minerals. We booked a private lakeside rocky pool (see last three photos) and soaked up the minerals and the view across Rotorua lake and watched the adult birds feed their chicks. It’s a noisy colony. A cold shower, drink lots of water and back in. Bliss. Who wants to garden?
Something really nice when we returned home hot and tired after six hours driving. Someone had mowed all our lawns! I just love my neighbour. What a nice thing to do. It more than made up for the loss of the peaches to the possums.
Hi! My special season’s greetings to you and the people who are special to you and best wishes to you all for a happy and peaceful New Year.
I’m celebrating that the Pohutukawa trees I planted earlier this year are in bloom in time for Christmas. The drifts of white in the collage are the carrot weed flowers (wild carrot) which proliferate in the paddocks at this time of the year. The cattle love the flower heads and the pukeko gouge and gorge on the roots.
The grandkids and their school-mates sang a neat New Zealand Christmas carol at their end-of-year playcentre and school prize-giving ceremonies – APukeko in a Ponga Tree http://folksong.org.nz/nzchristmas/pukeko.html which issung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Enjoy our Kiwi down-under spirit.