Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nature Dance

Sometimes we like to believe we can elude the wild and random torrents of Nature. Indeed, some of us have virtually forgotten her presence and, some are hell-bent on defeating her. Farming pretty much cures all these futile efforts, and occassionally slaps ya extra hard for trying such nonsense. I'm feeling the burn. I felt real clever in June when our baby bunnies were born. Mother doesn't care for them? No problem! We'll substitute for her. I should have known better but, you know, even though I did, I still wouldn't have chosen another route. We bottle fed, we held the she-devil down so the babies could nurse and receive that valuable mother's milk, we bathed, we manicured, we even stimulated their bowels with cotton balls because their mother was an idiot. But, then we came to love them in a very superficial way that is not conducive to farming. We thought we SAVED their lives.
We thought we won - tricked Mother Nature on her own turf. Mooned her, even, as we jeered in Monty Python style "your mother was a lizard and your father smelled of elderberries. aha aha ahaha ha!"

Three of the six bunnies have died this week, for the simple reason that Nature has challenged them in the one area they have not expertise, extreme survival. Heat is super hard on bunnies and heat stroke is surely a danger, so we bathed them and kept their hutches in the shade. Still, one bunny died. We took it very hard. So, we started putting some ice in a bowl in their hutch so they could cool off since it was 90+ degrees with very high humidity. Another bunny died. We researched more,cried much, and posted sentries to observe. The results were troubling (insert more guilt here). See, all the other rabbits go into a sort of 'hibernation' on hot days. They stretch out (sometimes we get scared they've died the way they sprawl out and go limpy)to stay cool and remain pretty still, only getting up every so often to have a drink and splash water on their faces. Our mother-raised litter learned to do this very thing and they all continue to thrive. Course, they're also three times the size of the orphans and are much more rabbit-like (meaning they are scratchy when held the wrong way, they love fresh garden stuffs, and they stay still in the heat). The orphans run all over the pens in the heat, jumping, playing, virtually ignoring the dangers before them. They also don't drink much during the day. At night, they drink alot, but they don't stop playing to drink in the heat of the day. They don't understand how to wet their faces and rub their paws around to cool off. They don't know how to act like bunnies.

Pet people will hate me for saying this, farmers will scoff at my inability to handle the brutal truths of raising animals, and the rest are maybe totally dis-interested in my plight. I should have known better, but what is better? Letting them die at birth? Killing them? Maybe here is where my backbone fails me because I can't - even knowing the chances are slim that they will make it. I once had a sow who delivered 9 healthy piglets and immediately starting trying to smash them all. I pulled them out and frantically called a vet. "oh," he said "that sometimes happens when the sow has become a pet" We built a small indoor pen (it was winter) and I bottle fed them in my kitchen for a few weeks. Then, we tucked them down in a warm pen in the barn. They all died within two weeks. Another frantic call to the vet. Why is this happening? His firm but kind tone answered, "dear, they just don't understand how to be pigs anymore." So who's to say what is more humane? I don't even try. I fall back firmly on some very valuable advice that a doctor gave me years ago when I was struggling to make the important decisions of motherhood (vaccinations, schools, etc). He said - your job as a mother is to learn all you can about the situations at hand, then make your best and most instinctual choice, and don't torture yourself about it whatever the outcome because life in itself is random. That wisdom was an invaluable gift.