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Tag Archives: parenting

How To Tell Your Kids What’s For Dinner

Meat processing may not be the oldest activity in creation, but it's close!

Meat processing may not be the oldest activity in creation, but it’s close!

When we began raising rabbits it was to provide an organic meat source for our family. We did a lot of research and discovered rabbit meat is one of the healthiest meats around, rabbits are easy to raise and relatively inexpensive, and they are quiet, making them an ideal choice for our vaguely-urban neighborhood.

 

Even though it was a logical choice for us, the reality of having children is that what makes sense to an adult is not always sensible to a young one! Many people have asked us how our children react to knowing we’re having rabbit for dinner so this seems like a good place to address their questions.

 

Our major philosophy with butchering (and life!) is to be honest with our kids, answer any questions they have, invite them to participate as much as they would like (but never force them!), and to share our reasoning and the struggles we have with the process.

 

Make no mistake, taking life in any form is significant to us and not something we do lightly. I’m been known to apologize to an apple tree for picking an apple! (Yep, I know this is strange but it’s how I roll!) Knowing we have a reasoning and thought process behind it makes a huge difference for us.

 

I’ve found this article (Kids and Farming: How To Tell Your Children Which Animal Is For Dinner) has some great tips on preparing your children for livestock processing. They do a good job of giving pointers on how to work with your children through what some might consider a disturbing event.

 

Our children have had lots of question but in general are really unconcerned about eating animals we’ve raised. When I announce we’re having rabbit enchurittos for dinner, rejoicing is heard throughout the land! Ha!

 

Every child is different and each family needs to find their own comfort level, but here are a few things that have worked for our children as we discuss raising rabbits as livestock rather than pets:

 

1. Every rabbit has a purpose. We watched a movie called Hugo a while ago and I fell in love with the main premise behind the film: that everything is created to fulfill a purpose and bringing that purpose to fruition is a thing of beauty! On a basic, biological level, rabbits were created as food for others. This is why they reproduce so quickly, have such short gestation periods, and are relatively unintelligent, small, and nutritious. Though they can fulfill multiple purposes, perhaps as a breeding animal for stunning show stock or as a companion for a human, at their basic level they are prey. Allowing them to complete their function is a thing of beauty in the same way humans can fill different roles, perhaps as a mother, or lawyer, doctor, or garbage collector. Every thing has a role to play!

 

2. Rabbits are an object lesson. We encourage our children to a part of the harvesting process much as they would like. While processing we use our rabbits as hands-on learning; we take care to identify the different elements of anatomy, recognize what healthy animals look like or what we might see if an animal were sick; we talk with our kids about the food we feed the rabbits and why protein content in a pellet matters, about how access to hay enhances a rabbit’s life, and what methods of taking life are honorable, fast, and painless. There are so very many subjects that come up from an educational standpoint if you talk honestly with your kids about your motives and how every piece of this life puzzle fits together, plus this provides a fall back plan for them in the event of a major lifestyle change. Has anyone seen Hunger Games?!

 

3. Our meat shouldn’t come on a styrofoam container. While grocery stores are convenient and I visit one (or two!) on a weekly basis, we want our children to understand that milk doesn’t come in plastic jugs and meat isn’t naturally served up on a styrofoam container. Most people in the U.S. are one-to-two generations removed from a food-producing farm and we’ve forgotten that we are dependent upon nature and hard work to provide the food we need to survive. As parents, we talk with our children about farming and our commitment to providing for our own needs in as wholesome and healthy way as we have available.

 

4. We adopt an attitude of gratitude. We have willingly entered into a symbiotic relationship with our livestock. It is our responsibility to care for the rabbits in the best way we know how and we take our stewardship very seriously. We always talk with our children about how thankful we are that these rabbits are able to meet one of our foundational needs — to eat — and do not take the responsibility we have to the animals lightly.

 

5. Practical Anonymity. When it’s all said and done, no matter how much you talk to someone about the big picture and philosophy behind raising your own food, no one wants to know it’s Mr. Binkles on the dinner plate! From a practical standpoint, we won’t name rabbits unless we intend to keep them for a good while and we typically process and freeze the meat under the generic “rabbit” term for long enough that we can’t remember who was whom!

 

While this is a far from exhaustive list, I hope it provides a spring board for your own discussions with kiddos about livestock and food and our roles as consumers in this world.

 

 

 

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Why our babies rehome at six weeks or later

Bushy, broken blue mini rex buck.

This is the story of a guinea pig, Christmas, and how a six-year-old’s life lesson has to do with rabbits.

Earlier this week we had someone ask us if our Holland Lop babies would be ready to go home in time for Christmas morning.Unfortunately the answer is no. It will be right after New Year’s instead (and we’ll do our breeding in better time next year!)

I almost buckled and told them we would make an exception because it was Christmas… and then I had a flashback to the Christmas I was six-years-old.

Christmas was a big deal growing up; our financial situation was always modest so any presents we received were a Really Big Deal.

(When I was seven years old my greatest desire was a Trapper Keeper with kittens on it from Revco, the local drug store. When I woke up that Christmas morning and saw that Trapper Keeper… oh! I just couldn’t get over how lucky I was! Perhaps I was exceptionally excited about the Trapper Keeper because I could remember my gift from the previous year.)

As a little six-year-old, still believing in Santa Claus but realizing that Mommy and Daddy were the financial backing of most gifts, I woke up to a stocking filled with navel oranges, life savers, bubble gum, and a medium-sized cardboard box.

When I unwrapped that cardboard box, there was something amazing inside!A guinea pig!

It was white and brown and very snuggly! It was mine, all mine!  Oh, the joy!

I held that guinea pig on our cream-colored velour sofa and gave my heart to it completely. I loved that guinea pig, knowing we were meant to be fast friends.

The guinea pig was so willing to sit calmly on my lap! It was lovely with its pink nose and beaded eyes.

I couldn’t have been happier with my guinea pig!

Right up until the moment I realized it wasn’t breathing anymore.

Yes, folks, my parents gave me a guinea pig on Christmas morning and by lunchtime on Christmas day… it was dead.

Now that I’m a parent, I can only imagine what my own parents were thinking as I came to them, crying, with a dead guinea pig in my arms. The kicker, though, was that I looked at my mom, accusingly, and asked, “Did you get it on sale?!”

My mom assured me they did not get it on sale and we travelled an hour away on Christmas day to another city to pick up a new, very live guinea pig from the breeder.

I remember being depressed about the new guinea pig. I had really loved the first one so the replacement was just… a replacement.

It turns out the guinea pig was separated from its mother too soon in order to send it home for a Christmas-morning reveal.

Nothing puts a damper on the Christmas spirit quite like a dead animal.

I had forgotten this story until today (proof the scars we receive as children really do heal). I told the gentleman asking us about rabbits that we’d provide a professional quality photo to wrap for the gift and visitation rights instead.

We will let our babies go to their homes when they are weaned, not before six weeks. If they are aged six-to-eight weeks, they need to go in pairs, as rabbits who are together just do better. If it’s just a single rabbit, they need to be eight weeks old before they head to their new digs.

And that, my friends, is the end of that.

10 Bunny Facts

Brownie knows he’s cute.

The rabbit watch is still on. Duchess has not had her babies yet.

That doe is going to give me a heart attack.

In honor of learning about the rabbit, here are 10 random facts (and my own commentary!) about bunnies:

1. It’s not just a hot dog. Until the 18th century rabbits were called coneys, based on the French cunil, shortened from the Latin cuniculus. “Rabbit” first referred to the young of coneys until eventually the word took over in popularity. Incidentally, this is also the origin of the name Coney Island or Rabbit Island, the beachside amusement park in New York. It is one of the only references to coney that is still used in North America.

2. Stephen King isn’t the only Fang. Rabbits teeth never stop growing. If their jaws are misaligned, the non-matched teeth won’t grind down and can cause major injury, even death.

3. They have blurry indigestion. Rabbits are nearsighted and they cannot vomit. Those are two completely unrelated facts that might save you when you’re on Jeopardy. You’re welcome.

4. Shipwrecked. Hundreds of years ago Phoenician sailors discovered rabbits in Spain. In fact, “Spain” could mean “land of the rabbits.” The Phoenicians loved the little breeders, loaded them on their ships, then stopped at various deserted islands and let them loose in hopes of giving shipwrecked sailors a reliable food source.

5. They’re athletic. The current world record for a rabbit long jump is 3 meters; the current world record for the rabbit high jump is 1 meter… and you know you want to petition ESPN to show that on the 72″ big screen!

6. They’re the original Native Americans. Rabbits and hares commonly found in the United States of America include the cottontail, jackrabbit, snowshoe rabbit and the domestic rabbit. There is a difference between a hare and a rabbit, although they can be crossbred.

7. The Brits like them. In England rabbits have become the third most popular pet (after dogs and cats). This makes sense, because they can be litter box trained and they don’t expect you to be subservient to them à la the feline. However, keep the water bowl filled, a 4-lbs. rabbit will drink the same amount of water as a 20-lbs. dog.

8. They’re cinematic. I watched the movie Harvey once. Harvey, the six-foot-four invisible rabbit companion “pooka” to eccentric man Elwood P. Dowd (played by James Stewart) displayed some thought-provoking behaviors. I still don’t get the movie, however.

9. Big Ears. Rabbits cool themselves using their ears as a ventilation system. Because of this, rabbits born in the summer may have “summer ears” – non-genetic growth that produces big ears.

10. You’re so vain. Rabbits are compulsive groomers and spent the majority of their day in various stages of grooming. They also lose their hair several times a year in a process called “molting.” Mama rabbits develop a huge, goiter-looking lump of fur called a dewlap, which they pull out to line their nest when they have babies.

Now, don’t you feel smarter about the lagomorph? Do you have any rabbit facts to share?

 

 

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