Sunday, March 29, 2015

Litter Update 3/29/15

I haven't been bringing the nest boxes in and handling all the babies every day for the simple, lame reason that I don't want to get out in the cold more than I have to.

Which is kind of funny, considering temperatures like this felt warm a few weeks ago.

Both Ian and I are battling a head cold, like everyone else on the planet seems to be right now. These up and down temperatures really do a number on the immune system.

I've at least been peeking at them every day to make sure everyone is getting fed.

Today I finally brought everybody in to replace the nest box bedding and get some pictures...


Acer's bunch:

I'm guessing ole' "funk eye" didn't survive, since I only counted 12 alive. Today when I cleaned out the nest box I found one desiccated kit, which I'm assuming was him. It's just as well. The remaining 12 are fat and sassy!

In the end, Babette's litter was just too unthrifty to survive. I thought they looked a little scrawny from the get-go, with bluish colored extremities. She spent a lot of time lounging in the nest box, but they never looked fed or seemed to grow any. I tried swapping them around the other doe's nest boxes, but they just couldn't seem to catch up.

I decided to go ahead and re-breed her, rather than wait 3 weeks and breed everyone at once. I realize it's a bit risky if she ends up botching another litter, but the hot season is fast approaching and I really need a second Creme doe for my breeding project. She really wanted to be bred anyhow, since she would flatten and lift every time I touched her. So hopefully the second time she'll get it all right. She really didn't even screw up as much as Cardamom did her first time, and she turned out to be a fantastic mother.

I cleaned out the grow-out pen the other day...

I removed all of the straw down to the soil and carted it away.

There's some really great soil under there, chock full of earthworms.

Ian was playing with the worms
So now I'll just disinfect all of the feeders and boxes, and spray everything else down with a bleach solution.

We'll try to get a couple of more cages up and I'll only put a few of the grow-outs in the pen this time, just in case.

By the way, we are borrowing an old laptop from my parents, so we at least have a way to get online at home. We're going to see about getting mine fixed, which will hopefully be soon since I need it to teach a class on herps in a couple of weeks.

Despite colder temperatures, spring is still in full swing!

Sweet Betsies are blooming everywhere
Pretty soon the leaves will cover up our lake view

Shared on The HomeAcre Hop

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


What is this, you might ask? A piece of modernist art, perhaps? Or maybe one of those trendy 80's splatter designs?

Nope. This is my laptop. 

And if any of you noticed that this Wednesday's Wildlfower was posted a little late, this would be the reason.

How did my screen turn into such a colorful array of cracks and random designs?

Well, this.............

...... this right here, would be the cause. 

He thought it would be fun to push it onto the floor while my back was turned.

So it looks like it will be making a trip to the computer doctor. Until then, I'll be bumming internet at my parents' house. It's a good thing I have several wildflower posts already written and ready to go.



Other than that, things are pretty good.

Babette lost one other kit (squished, from the best I could tell).

Interestingly, when I looked over Acer's litter of 13 today I could not find the kit with the funky eye. I picked up every single one at least twice and examined them closely, so somehow the lid managed to seal over the eye.

There are two broken reds in Cardamom's litter that have a lovely speckled pattern that reminds me of a red roan horse:

Cute, huh?

Well, just wanted to give you all a quick update. Not sure how soon I'll be back on here, but just know that all is well. 

Except for the busted laptop, of course.

Wednesday's Wildflower: Sweet Betsy Trillium

There are at least 17 species of Trillium that occur in Tennessee; ranging from the rare and endangered Trailing Trillium (Trillium decumbens) to the magnificent Large-flowered Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum).

But for me, the star of the show is Sweet Betsy (Trilliam cuneatum). Not because it is the showiest, but because of its out-of-this-world fragrance.

If you have never smelled a Sweet Betsy Trillium (and you happen to live in the Southeast), you best find yourself one and breathe in deep - the aroma will knock your socks off.

It is a deliciously fruity smell, with hints of strawberry, citrus, banana and spice.

Its flower is usually maroon in color, but can also be bronze, yellow or green.

Sweet Betsy grows from 6-15 inches tall, with three mottled leaves that can grow 7 inches long.

Encircled by the three erect sessile petals are the blunt, two-toned stamens which enclose the flower's powerful perfume.

It also goes by the name Purple Toadshade, either in reference to the amphibian-like pattern on the leaves, or perhaps because they would provide the perfect shade umbrella for a toad.

To most people in the South, however, they are known as "Sweet Bubbies."

As the story goes, folks back in the day didn't bathe but once a week (usually on Saturdays so they could be fresh for Church). Southern ladies would rely on the powerful, sweet fragrance of these trilliums to mask any distasteful odors by sticking them right between their "bubbies."

Hence the name.

*Side note: There is another plant in Tennessee that is referred to as "Sweet Bubby," and that is Sweet Shrub (Calycanthus floridus). It was used in the same manner as Sweet Betsy Trillium.*

Trilliums are members of the lily family, and always have whorls of three leaves, 3 sepals and 3 petals.

Because of this symmetry, they are nicknamed the "Trinity Plant."

Sweet Betsies can be found blooming in moist woods from March to May. They are especially fond of limestone soils.

Their emergence from the forest floor is always dramatic. They rise slowly through the leaf litter, tightly clasped in a twisted bundle, unfurling over the course of several days.

Most trilliums are edible. The leaves and immature blooms can be harvested and sauteed as a green vegetable. Once the flowers open, the plant takes on a bitter flavor.

However, they are very slow to mature from seed, taking as long as 7 years. So be sure to harvest responsibly, if you choose to do so (and of course, only on land where you have permission).

Native Americans brewed tea from the rhizomes (roots) that was used to induce childbirth.

In later years, doctors would use the same tea to treat coughs, bowel issues, hemorrhage and lung problems.

The purpose of their heavy perfume isn't really to please our nostrils, but is meant to attract pollinators.

Not all trilliums smell so sweet, however. Some species mimic the odor of rotting carrion to attract flies and other insects drawn to the smell of death. Others are reminiscent of wet dog or dirty sneakers.

So it may serve you well to correctly identify your trillium before crouching on all fours to take a whiff.

Much like Bloodroot, trillium seeds have a pheromone-emitting aril attached to them, to fool ants into carrying them away to new destinations.

Deer also like to browse on trilliums. In regions that are over-populated by deer, there is a noticeable absence of trilliums.

Their long bloom period gives you plenty of opportunities to get out and find some.

When you do, be sure to kneel down and press your nose as close to the flower's center as possible.

Breathe deep, for there is no fragrance like it to be found in our southeastern forests.

Be sure to join us next Wednesday for our weekly wildflower!

Click here to read about last week's wildflower: Bloodroot

Medicinal information herein is shared strictly for anecdotal purposes. Do not attempt to self-medicate with wild herbs. Please consult a doctor first.

Next flower->


All About Tennessee Wildflowers - Jan W. Midgley

Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians - Dennis Horn & Tavia Cathcart

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Babette's Litter

So Bab's litter finally arrived last night.

She was hellbent on building her nest in the far corner of her cage, despite repeated attempts to remove it, put it in the nest box and place the box in that spot. She would just push the box out of the way, pull more fur and build another one. I swear, she must have pulled a pound of fur.

I was pretty certain she would have them on the wire.

Indeed, this morning I found 5 kits scattered across the floor - 4 moving, one not. They were pretty chilled, so I brought them in and warmed them up.

I knew the metal nest box just wasn't doing it for her, so I decided to try the wire sani nest.

I moved her nest into it, dropped the door down, and secured it with a zip tie so she couldn't push it away. I did see her venture into it and nuzzle around, so hopefully she's gotten the idea.

I didn't hang around much longer because Ian locked himself in the chicken coop and got covered in chicken sh- er, excrement.

I'll check on her babies this evening and see how they look.

The other litters are doing great!

Cardamom's 7:

Acer's 13:

I looked them over well today, and every single one had a nice, fat belly. How she's managing to keep them all fed, I'm not exactly sure. But I'll be watching them closely to see if I need to split them up again.

We processed all the grow-outs yesterday, but sadly it was more of a mercy killing.

They never did get over whatever intestinal ailment they were afflicted with. We really should have culled them sooner.

I didn't bother weighing them, because even at 9 weeks their little carcasses were hardly bigger than a squirrel's. I examined their organs and couldn't find any evidence of cocci - just extreme bloat and malnutrition. We disposed of the organs and reserved the carcasses for the dogs.

I wish I knew the exact cause of their tummy troubles, but it makes me really hesitant to use the grow-out pen again. Which kind of sucks, considering I am going to have 24 bunnies to find space for. I guess I'll just have to hang a second row of cages, as I doubt we will have a chance to build anything.

It's a bummer, but it's hard to be too depressed with overflowing nest boxes!

Not to mention the glorious signs of spring everywhere!

The Spring Azures are out
Here come the Trout Lilies!!

Shared on Front Porch Friday

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Return of the Salad Days

Not sure whether you get the "salad days" reference or not. It doesn't really matter, because it doesn't fit that definition in this particular case anyhow.

I mean salad days quite literally, in fact...

There are finally enough edible greens that I can make my morning foraging run for the rabbits. This makes them oh-so-happy.

Acer is understandably ravenous with 13 mouths to feed!
munch, munch
Babette couldn't decide whether to haystache or eat her greens.
It makes me happier too, since I get to save a little money on pellets. Their daily helping of wild salad usually has them back to a 1/4 - 1/2 cup per day, rather than their usual 1-1 1/2 cups.

Today's selection includes grasses, sour dock, yellow dock, dandelions, clover, violet leaves, cleavers, chickweed, wild geranium, blackberry leaves and Multiflora rose leaves.

My best foraging area happens to be in a small field next the the road, not too far from the house.

It's great because I go out there in my morning hair and pajama pants, toting a huge basket, bending over in full view of the park passers-by.  I suppose it's one of the things early morning fishermen and hikers don't expect to see as they make their drive into a state park - other than chickens, of course.

So, still no babies from Babs, yet. Although she has been haystaching like crazy, since yesterday morning.

That wild look in her eye says it all
This morning she had pulled fur everywhere and made a nice little nest in the corner of her cage, and was sitting there in it like "Okay.... so now what do I do?"

I picked her nest up, stuffed it in the box and put the box in her spot, hoping she will get the idea. I did actually see her hop into it for the first time, so we'll see.

Oh, here is what "the salad days" is from. I couldn't find the actual scene, but this is close enough.

One of my favorite movies of all time, and Nicolas Cage at his absolute best.

I'll keep you posted on Babette's litter.

Enjoy this fine Spring day, my friends!

Shared on Front Porch Friday

Sunday, March 22, 2015

March Litter Update

So here's where we stand:

Yesterday afternoon, Acer finally kindled. I swear, these rabbits have got to hear me talking about them. She HAD to have heard me say I was going to replace her with one of Cardamom's babies if she had another small litter.

Well, she showed me:


What's so funny is I checked on her so often yesterday, since I was outside with Ian so much. When she managed to pop out 13 kits without me seeing her do it is a bit of a mystery.

So when I did spot her wiggling mound of fur, they had to have been no more than an hour old.

About half of the litter had already been fed, and there were 4 or 5 that looked a tad runty. But then I noticed this anomaly:

Freaky, huh? Obviously something went wrong, here. Other than being small, he seems alright. I'll keep an eye on him (ew, pun not intended). I can't imagine he will survive without a massive eye infection, so I may end up putting him down. We'll see.

In the meantime, I decided to split the litter. As of this morning, 9 out of the 13 had fat bellies, so Acer is really doing pretty well. But I went ahead and separated them to give the tinier guys a chance to catch up.

The 9 fatties
The 4 runts
So, WAY TO GO, ACER! You've successfully proven your point. :)

Yesterday evening I noticed a fair amount of blood under Cardamom's cage. She didn't seem distressed, so I left her to her own devices. I began to wonder if she was having some labor trouble.

This morning I saw her mound of fluff, and all looked well.

She had 9 live and two dead - one of which was really stretched out, so it looks like she did indeed have one stuck.

There are 2 broken chestnuts and 7 broken reds. (The two dead were also broken chestnuts.)

This litter was sired by Ichigo, the broken red New Zealand. Since they are pure NZ, I'll be curious to see how their growth rates compare to the other litters.

Babette hasn't really shown any signs of nesting, yet. She's been scooting her nest box all over the cage and I haven't seen her enter it once, so I'm pretty sure she will end up having them on the floor. I went ahead and spread straw everywhere just in case. We'll see how she does!

So our current tally is TWENTY-TWO BABIES!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Haystache

So last night I caught Acer doing this...

For some reason she is insistent on building her nest on the FLOOR this time around. Oh well, at least the temperatures are mild.

She had pulled a little fur this morning, but no babies yet. 

The other two are still just sitting around munching their straw.

Lastly, a video of the much-celebrated haystacheing...

Fingers crossed!