There are many things that we do now that I would never imagine myself doing a few years ago. Rabbits are definitely one of those things. We decided on rabbits almost entirely out of exhaustion. My oldest daughter had begged and begged for bunnies until I didn't want to hear another word about them. I had never had positive experiences with rabbits and really didn't see a purpose for them on the homestead. That all changed when we were in the Czech Republic two summers ago. My in-laws there have one the coolest farms I have ever been to and on that farm they had rabbits.
My husband told me of his experience eating rabbit. I had never been so adventurous. He also told me of using the furs to line his clothing. This was sounding better and better.
As fate would have it, Amanda Hall at Rockin' H Farm was looking to sell some breeding pairs of silver fox rabbits. These are large meat rabbits known for gorgeous furs. We were gifted with two rabbit hutches from two different friends and I knew this must be a sign. Off we go to pick up a breeding pair. To my surprise, a breeding pair is two females and a male. Amanda graciously walked us through basic rabbitry skills including holding, feeding, and sexing rabbits. We didn't have them two hours when I was scratched to the point of bleeding and was ready to get rid of them all together. Luckily, my very persistent daughter was not so easily deterred. She went out daily and took them out to play with them and cuddle. In a few months, they were tame enough for me to handle.
We began successfully breeding them and eventually got an American Blue pair, too. There can be as many as 40 rabbits at my house any given day. We have sold several really tame rabbits as pets. We have also learned to process them ourselves and I have been working on recipes that really showcase the gorgeous flavor of rabbit meat. Vasek has just tried tanning his first set of hides. I think they are really beautiful. I hope you'll consider rabbit the next time you're at our farm.
When we are asked how we got to this point in our farming, it's not a simple answer. We have been blessed to have several farming friends mentor us along our way. Cyndi Ball taught Vasek beekeeping. Crystal Beacham has taught me animal husbandry and walked us through some of the most difficult experiences as a farmer. Sonrise Farm has stood beside us, sometimes on ladders, as we built our hoophouse last fall. And Jenny Buley has spoken words of encouragement and shared knowledge of seed starting for years. This homestead community has shaped who we have become and we would not be this far along without their love and support.
I used to think that winters on the farm meant sitting by a fire knitting scarves and drinking hot tea. Little did I realize that winter is really when all the hard work begins. It's in those long winter nights that farmers start dreaming of seed sprouts and crops. They begin preparing emergency kits for kidding seasons. They are organizing their seeds from last year.
This planning leads to ordering. Trees, seeds, and chicks were all on our things-to-do list. Once the orders are placed, we go into full action mode. Holes have to be dug, raised beds have to be readied, and brood boxes have to be prepped. January brought us eight new fruit trees, six strawberry beds, and fifty baby chicks. Holy moly, was January a busy month!
We have no plans to slow down. We have to continue building raised beds in the hoop house. We are putting up a pole barn for additional storage and an outhouse for obvious use. We are working on watering solutions for the property. And we are preparing for baby rabbits and goats.
I love the planning part of homesteading. I think it's my optimistic nature and love of design. I want our farm to be welcoming and fruitful. I want people to come for a visit and want to take a part of our vision home with them. We have some upcoming events that will allow you to experience our homestead for yourself. Be on the lookout for more information coming soon!
Vasek and Brooke
We are thrilled to share our homesteading successes and struggles with you. There's a steep learning curve here and we are ready for the challenges.