Monday, September 6, 2010

The Great Boo Boo of 2010

Any one who has ever met me will have noticed that I'm not the most...graceful...person in the world. If it can be stumbled over, cut upon, or dropped, I'm the girl to find it. I've fallen off of things I should never have gotten on, and been kicked, stepped on, scratched, bit, smacked and butted by nearly every species of domestic animal, and never had a serious injury.

On August 13th, Friday the 13th, in fact, my luck ran out.

While moving a certain cranky cow, in a situation that had happened dozens of times in the past, I took a kick to the lower leg, resulting in multiple fractures. Yep, multiple.

Fortunately, thanks to modern medicine, titanium rods and screws, and a hotshot young lady surgeon who enjoys repairing "difficult" fractures, I should make a complete recovery. But for the time being, I have been reduced to a talking, typing houseplant. I'm not allowed to put any weight on the leg for some time yet, and am hobbling from chair to bed with a walker. The little things have taken on a whole new meaning, like a trip to the bathroom gets planned out with a few other tasks so the trip can be efficient as possible.

I've discovered a sudden urge to jog. Not because I want to, but because now all of a sudden they say I can't!

Eric has been a sport about having to pretty much do everything for me, although I'm sure it wasn't on his to do list either. We've managed to figure out systems for stuff, like I can still tattoo rabbits if they are brought to me, and our rabbit records are so up to date, it's frightening.

But I'm going into horse and cow withdrawal for sure. I can't remember ever going without horse hair on me for this long. I may have to have Eric bring me in a grooming brush for some aromatherapy!

So, in the meantime this blog may actually have some current material posted, and I promise not to whine. Much. I promised everyone that I would be good and do what I'm supposed to to heal, because believe me, we are only doing this once. Period.

Everyone has been so supportive and helpful, and I feel truly blessed by having such awesome friends and family. You are all rock stars and as soon as I can I'm chasing you all down for a big hug!


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hudson Gardens 2010

We were invited to participate in Hudson Garden's "Taste of Butler County" dinner again this year.

Hudson Gardens is a local greenhouse that has heirloom veggies available, both from the nursery as plants and later in the season, for home delivery for the table!

For the last 6 years they have produced the "Taste of Butler County" dinner. Last year we brought our "Hare Balls", and this year, to change it up a bit, we brought something different. And since Eric was totally on his own this year (more about that later) it needed to be something that didn't involve a lot of prep work.

Introducing "Chips O'Hare"!

The tongue in cheek name refers to what is basically a mini taco salad. First we took Tostito's Scoop chips, filled them with our fabulous rabbit sausage, added some cheese, topped it with homemade salsa, and voila! (It was supposed to also have Mango Salsa to accompany it, but due to extenuating circumstances...more about that later)

Needless to say, they were a big hit.

(And a special shoutout to our friends, Ann and Cary Knutson, who helped Eric with the event, making sure everything was prepped and in a row, and helping out with the customer service. Anna-banana is one of my dear friends from the zoo, and it was awesome of her and Cary to help out. )

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Rare Hare Air Lift 2010

Our latest adventure involved sending some American Chinchilla rabbits to a fellow breeder in Canada.

Yep, Canada. We are now an “international incident”!

The logistics itself were an adventure, and I won’t go into too much detail about the headaches I got while working with the company we used to book the flight. I did decide that I can give myself headaches better than anyone else, so the next time, I’m taking it on myself. If I’m going to be driven to drinking or swearing, I want to be able to blame myself.

Here are some photos of the process.

The crate looked like we were shipping rabid squirrels before we were done with it. 17 zip ties, three square feet of hardware cloth, a handful of washers and bolts, and these dangerous animals were ready to go.

The Gang of Three

The rabbits are eagerly anticipating their new adventure. I think.

And here they are arrived in their new home. The doe does look a bit jet lagged, doesn’t she?

Robert reports that they seem to be settling in nicely, none the worse for wear for an extra night on the road. We are super excited about exchanging these does for some of his stock later this spring. Our rabbits couldn't be in better hands.

One interesting wrinkle that occured, when Robert picked his rabbits up at the airport, the customs agent was flummoxed by the notion that we had just given these rabbits to Robert. He didn't even seem to get the notion that it was intended as a reciprocal trade.

As any of you that work with rare breeds knows, finding new blood isn’t an easy task. These little pockets of diversity aren’t around the corner, down the street, or often even in the neighboring states. Heck, even in the same country!

It involves a lot of planning, travel, and yes, money. It isn’t a task for the faint hearted, or the easily discouraged. It’s a commitment, in every sense of the word, because some days, you will wonder if you should be committed.

But, when you build relationships with other breeders, with like minded folks who get it, get the importance of genetic conservation, why it's important, and why we have to do it, and are willing to go the extra mile with you, it makes everything worthwhile.

Here's to another "international incident!"

Thursday, March 4, 2010


“Are American Chinchilla rabbits really on the endangered species list?”

Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: Sort of.
We are used to the concept of endangered species. We’ve all heard stories of the decline of the Bald Eagle, the Siberian Tiger, Black Rhino, Grey Wolf, Spotted Owl, etc. The list is unfortunately far too long, and not getting any shorter. These animals are classified as endangered by their species.

A species is defined as a group of animals, a subdivision of the taxonomic classification of genus that are closely related, physically similar, and can interbreed with one another but not with members of another species.

A breed, on the other hand, is a further subdivision of the species classification. All domestic rabbits in the United States are members of the same genus and species, Oryctolagus cuniculus. (Don’t ask me how to pronounce it.)

So, while all domestic rabbits are the same species, no one would ever confuse a Netherland Dwarf with a Flemish Giant. The differences between the Netherland Dwarf and the Flemish Giant are obvious, and evidence of the further subdivision contained within breeds.

New breeds can be created. New species are discovered.

Breeds are unique to domestic animals, a legacy of the 10,000 year old relationship between man and domestic animals. (The closest thing that compares in wild animals is the subspecies classification, but let’s not muddy the water with that right now.)

There are no endangered species of domestic animal. Cattle, horses, sheep, pigs and rabbits, as classified by species, number in the tens of millions of individuals.

What is endangered are certain breeds of domestic animal.

It’s easy, especially in a relatively rural environment; to be so used to the presence of domestic species they seem to escape our notice and concern. But each breed contains a treasure chest of genetic diversity. Diversity honed by the environment, geography, by man’s selection and countless other factors, making each breed unique and valuable.

Unfortunately, recent trends in agriculture have placed many breeds of livestock, rabbits included, in the same waters as endangered species. Numbers so reduced, that only careful management can prevent their loss.

That’s where conservation breeders and organizations such as the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy come in. The ALBC annually publishes a Conservation Priority List, grouping the animals by species, and then further breaking the species down by breed, and then ranking them according to priority. You can see more information here.

The list is a working document, and is reviewed annually. If necessary changes can be made in categories, moving breeds from Rare to Threatened, or worse, from Threatened to Critical as data comes in on registrations, births, deaths, etc. A breed in the Critical category can be thought of as being in similar jeopardy as a endangered species, numbers so few that serious action needs to be taken to prevent their loss.

It isn’t a perfect document, or an exact science. It isn’t supposed to be. It’s simply a tool to be used in making decisions where to expend resources, and give breeders and idea where to focus their energy. And while no species of domestic animal is likely to wind up on the endangered species list, hopefully we can help to keep certain unique and valuable breeds from sliding further into the category of critically rare breeds.

Awareness is the first step.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lamb Chops

This is a photo of some lamb chops from one of our Navajo-Churro lambs we had processed last year. If you are unfamiliar with the Navajo-Churro, info can be found at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's website

The Navajo-Churro is an interesting breed with a poignant history. Nearly wiped out not once, but twice by governmental 'good intentions' , these sheep are hardy, easy keepers and remarkably easy to get along with. The majority of the rams I've worked with have been easy to handle (for male breeding animals! They always deserve your respect!) and the ewes are hardy and productive well into their teens.

But, one of the most interesting aspects of this breed is the outstanding flavor of the meat. (For more info on why you should practice conservation by consumption look at the blog post here by the same title. I haven't figured out how to post an internal link yet.) Navajo-Churro sheep tend to accumulate fat around their organs first, which I would imagine to be a handy survival strategy in a marginal environment. Since there is little fat in the meat itself, even male animals a year and a half old, as this lamb was, don't get a muttony flavor.

We cooked these chops by searing them for about three minutes on each side, one set we seasoned with salt and pepper, the other got nothing at all.

The flavor was incredible. I didn't believe Eric when he said he hadn't done anything else to them, the taste was herbal, almost perfectly seasoned on it's own. Of course, a lot of that could have to do with the fact that he (the lamb, not Eric) was finished entirely on grass, but whatever it was, the combination was perfect.

The only issue was finding a good wine to pair with it...more experiments necessary in this category!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Update From the Range

It should be painfully obvious that I have violated the first commandment of blogging: Thou shalt update regularly. My excuse is that I was afraid of violating the second commandment of blogging: Thou shalt have something interesting to say.

Five months between posts should probably count as starting over! And of course, now that I've figured out the blog thing, the kids at work tell me I should be on Facebook. Sigh. One technological hurdle at a time, thank you very much.

It has been a busy summer and fall for The Rare Hare Barn. We added a new anex for all the bucks, added some sheep to the to-do list, traveled from Kansas to New York and North Carolina for different rabbit events, gave a workshop on rabbit production at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's annual meeting in November. The rabbits continue to do well, although there have been a few challenges along the way.

And right now, it is cold, snowy and spring seems very far away. The bright spot is that the mailbox was full of seed catalogs today, as sure a sign of spring on the horizon as the first robin. It is really hard not to salivate at the sight of all those greens, tomatos, potatos, berries. I'm pretty much jonesing for a fresh salad right now, or beans picked fresh off the vine and eaten right there in the garden.

How about you? What is your favorite sign of spring, or the thing you look most forward to from the garden?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hare Ball Photos

Here are some photos from the wine tasting at Beyond Napa last week. They paired the Hare Balls with Way Kuhl Dry Reisling. The Hare Balls go with about anything, but that Dry Reisling is one of my faves.

Check out the welcome sign!

Thought that was the cutest thing ever.

Here are a couple of folks enjoying their "Hare Balls"
There, photos. Happy, Danielle? ;o)