I took that video of the bunnies six weeks ago. This is what they look like now:

bunnies

Advertisements

I’m beginning to think Pepito, our “working horse”, is a bit of a hippy. He has the long, flowing blond hair, he gets through an unbelievable amount of grass – and he keeps breaking out of his field to set our rabbits free.

A few weeks ago (or was it months – we’ve been busy), he broke out, kicked the mobile rabbit runs around and allowed the boy rabbits to mingle freely with the girl rabbits, the result of which was… more rabbits.

This much you may know.

More recently, he broke out and re-released the rabbits, one of which (the mother of the unplanned bunnies) came back only at the end of the day looking tired and out of breath.

Then, yesterday (was it only yesterday – we really have been busy), he broke out again, re-re-released the rabbits, and allowed the mummy bunny to go all born free and return to the wild, from which she has not returned. I know what you’re thinking – “been eaten by a fox, more like” – and up until recently, I’d have been with you all the way.

But some years ago, after our first break-out (it’s only just occurred to me that it may have been Pepito, who broke back into his field before breakfast) and two female bunnies ran off into the night. We assumed they’d been eaten, until – a couple of weeks ago – Her Outdoors spotted a large, white bunny rabbit just down the road. Almost certainly one of ours, or a blood relative. (Most of the wild rabbits are smallish and brownish.)

It’s a good job we don’t keep lions.

Here’s some video of our latest arrivals from yesterday evening. (No wabbits were harmed in the making of this clip.)

Sometimes 140 characters (including spaces) just doesn’t cut it – and this is one of those times.

We have our first guests of the year, and I promised a few weeks ago that our first wild orchids would be out while they were here. So I am very relieved to say that, this morning, I saw an Early Purple orchid just about to flower outside the poly tunnel. Dangerous things, promises.

In other news, Her Outdoors tells me that a sparrowhawk has just moved into the area. Unfortunately for me, one of our older hens has just started sitting on 11 eggs. Put the two bits of news together and you discover that I must build a hawk-proof enclosure for the new chicks in the next 27 days. (Because I really needed something else on the to-do list, what with the second guest kitchen to finish, platform to make, structure to build for the fridge-freezer I promised – ! – to this year’s guests, pallet fort to create and road to complete, how will I ever fill my time? And I promised to help Her Outdoors in the veggie patch this year…)

Four of our chickens have been in the habit of escaping the 2-metre fencing around the orchard recently. A pile of black feathers this morning tells me one of them didn’t make it through the night and there’s a very happy fox sleeping off a successful hunt. Yes, we can clip wings, but that didn’t stop the first escapee and time is rather short at the moment.

I may have mentioned the horse breaking out several weeks ago. While he was out, he scratched the backs of his legs on the mobile rabbit runs, which rearranged them enough for the boy bunnies to get in with the girl bunnies. A few days ago, eight new bunnies arrived in the night.

And finally (you can see what I mean about 140 characters not being enough for today), I came up with a new plan to sell more copies of my book. I put a new blog together here that explains the plan – and allows you to download the book absolutely free, then decide how much (or how little) you want to pay for it later. If you could let other people know about this blog, I would really appreciate it. To save you the trouble of hunting back through this paragraph for the link to the free ebook blog, here it is again.

(And here if you missed it.)

I couldn’t find a picture or design of a mobile, fox-proof rabbit run online. So I drew one on the back of an envelope, bought some wood and made this:



Here it is from the other side:



Welded mesh is apparently essential for rabbits, and we’ve certainly found chicken wire can be eaten through or snagged on roots, leading to time lost chasing rabbits round the orchard. But seeing as these runs will be in the field, any escape would lead to a wild population in close proximity to our veggie patch. (Which is forbidden.)

I say ‘these runs’, because the boys and the girls need separate accommodation. Here’s the girls’ one, finished this morning:



And from the other side:



Rabbit run enthusiasts will immediately spot the rope handle, which makes moving the run considerably easier. We found some onduline, too, which makes a very professional looking roof for the hutch. Other bits of learning applied to Run II are:

o Wider bits of tongue and groove make for fewer nails and faster construction.

o Topping the run with expensive (in France anyway) mesh is a complete waste of money. I tried cutting some corrugated iron in half but it made a ridiculous noise, so I used some old chicken wire instead. The corrugated iron sheet now sits on this, creating much-needed shade in this summer heat.

Here are the measurements if you decide you like the run so much you want to make your own:



And now, back to the weather.

We’ve had some new arrivals this week. Nine babies in the bunny ward:


Eight chicks (with more on the way) on the other side of the orchard:


And these little pigs born off-site and safely delivered to the woods:


Note the high security fencing here, outside of which three strands of electric fence, outside of which will be stock fencing. We don’t have time to run through the woods chasing piglets this year. I would tell you more, but I don’t even have time to do that.

This morning I said to Her Outdoors that we had pate for lunch, but were short of a main meal for the day. (I was thinking chicken, but the butchers are pricey and the supermarket’s closed – it being a Sunday and this being a country that still plays by the Old Rules.)

She said: ‘Rabbit?’

Remember when I stood in the woods a couple of years ago wondering where I was going to find all the wood for the yurt platforms? It’s a bit like that – down in the Orchard/Chicken Run we have (other than chickens) ten rabbits approaching the right size for the table – one male definitely heavier than the rest – and the boys have recently started fighting, despite spending all day in a run with fresh grass under their feet.

Armed with a small, sharp (boning) knife, I went down to the not-supermarket, wondering if my headache was related to what I did yesterday evening with friends, or what I was about to do with the rabbit. (I’m still in the early stages of killing, and rabbits are especially fluffy. The last two were despatched by my friend Paul.)

I talked to the rabbits, asked them if they were still fighting, nearly backed out of the whole thing, then picked out the one who had selected himself by virtue of his size. I had a little difficulty holding him by the back legs, during which time I dropped him on the ground. Immediately, in my mind, he became a threat to our veggie patch and a potential pest that had to be dealt with (all without moving a muscle), which is what happened next. I then skinned and gutted him (this I’ve only done one and a half times before, although I’ve seen it done two and a half times – I didn’t do a bad job, but will research videos on youtube for technique and will post any excellent ones I find), and brought him back for dinner.

Which is what’s going to happen next. (Nothing too flash – you can use any chicken recipe for rabbit – I’m going to do a casserole – it could be the last one this winter… The weather’s just about to turn very, very warm.)