Thursday, November 25, 2010

Rabbit Update

Lots of news in Rabbit World lately.

To start with, Zeela mysteriously passed away last summer. She suddenly stopped eating and hopping around, and would just hide in her box. Took her to the vet, but she checked out just fine. But she only hung on for a few more days. I figured she got injured in some way, although the vet did check for broken bones, etc. Very strange – we only had her for a couple months, at the most.

Zeela pretty much ignored all foods that most rabbits consider irresistible treats; bananas, fig bits, apple cores, weeds. But she could pack away the plain old rabbit pellets. So we buried her with a cup of pellets.

Poor old Skippy had to spend the summer in bachelor mode. But we knew we should eventually get him a roommate. Once the weather was a bit cooler, and work schedules allowed, Betsy and I headed back over to the Mecklenburg Animal Control to look for a suitable mate. They had quite a few rabbits last week, 10 or so. One stood out as being quite alert and cautiously curious, a potential high-energy companion to wild and crazy Skippy. We didn’t think a quiet, timid, sit-there-like-a-lump bunny would be a good match for him! So we took her home. This one happened to look just like Zeela – that mixed brown/black/white marking typical of wild rabbits. So much so that we’re calling her Zeela the Second, or Z2 for short.

Z2, with Skippy up on his box, both behaving peacefully for the moment.

Zeela the Second, or Z2 for short.


Now, there are four things that can happen when two rabbits first meet:

  1. Love at first sight. Despite the reputation for romance and reproduction, this is actually rare.
  2. They ignore each other. This is good – they are checking each other out, trying to figure out if they can trust each other. Kind of like a first date.
  3. They chase each other around. This is also good. At least one of them has established some trust, and they’ve gone straight into trying to establish the pecking order. Who is going to be the alpha rabbit?
  4. They try to kill each other.

Unfortunately, what happened with Z2 and Skippy was Number Four. It took two seconds for them to get into an all out, no-holds-barred bunny brawl. Rabbits doing somersaults on the deck. Fur literally flying everywhere. Betsy swooped in and nabbed a random rabbit. Jeez. Getting these two bonded is going to take some serious work!

I put a wire fence down the middle of the hutch, so they could see and smell each other, but couldn’t physically get at each other. This was only partially successful, at best. They would occasionally battle through the fence. And Skippy, who NEVER poops or urinates outside a litter box, started making a mess all over the place. And both of them eventually found a way to defeat the fence (they kind they sell as “rabbit fence” at the hardware store). One night, arriving home from work, they were found on OPPOSITE sides of the fence, acting innocent and calm, like nothing unusual had happened.

That was it. The rabbit gauntlet was thrown down. It was time to escalate this game. And since I was out of town for the week, it was up to Betsy.

We had read that one way to kick off a serious rabbit bonding project is to put the pair of rabbits through a stressful situation together . That way they get to experience some time panicking together – NOT fighting together. A car ride is said to work. Betsy took Z2 and plonked her onto the top of the clothes washer. This is a nervous place for a bun to start with – a smooth, slippery surface kind of high in the air. Then she went and got Skippy, put him up there, and started a load of clothes. Rumble, rumble, vibrate, vibrate. A car ride simulator! Now, do these two look like they’re brawling? NO!
Terrorized, but NOT fighting, rabbits on the clothes dryer.


After the wash cycle, she took them up to the bonus room, which was emptied out because we were painting at the time. True neutral territory. They hopped around exploring, did some friendly chasing (Z2 is indeed quick, and easily eluded Skippy), and eventually laid down for a rest in opposite corners of the room. Success! The process was repeated the following night, only on the dryer. Eventually I took down the barrier in the hutch, and they have been buddies ever since. Sounds like the title of a bad self-help book, “Go From Mortal Enemies to Soulmates in One Week”.

Skippy has been inspiring Z2 to learn the local rabbitly customs: jumping up on chairs, burning laps around the deck, snarfing up banana bits, exploring every last square centimeter of available space, probing for security leaks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Been a while...

Jeez, it's been ages since the last BlichBlog installment. A lot has been happening. Watch this space in the next week or so for:

- Rabbit news

- Yard and garden reports

- Employment updates

- Home improvement projects that were met with various degrees of success.

Let's start with the kiwi report. Here's our entire kiwi harvest for the year. Keep in mind that these plants are maybe 25 feet long by 15 feet high. Not a very impressive yield, if you ask me. But hey - it was essentially another drought year down here...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Various updates


Skippy and Zeela are officially bonded. It took four days of the rabbits living in separate cages. I’d let them out on the back deck to hop around together in “neutral territory”. Skippy was his usual hyper-friendly self, and wanted to do no more than chase Zeela around. She, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with this, and would tear off, stomping her feet. Of course, tearing off would just turn on crazy Skippy, and escalate the chase. The good thing was that each bunny would mellow out and lay down if you stopped to pet it. It was just a matter of coercing the rabbits into getting petted at the same time, which turned out to be pretty easy.


Once a remote degree of calmness was induced by these, umm, rabbit-human-rabbit interactions, it was more of a contest of who gets to be the alpha rabbit. They would do this by approaching each other, lowering their chins, attempting to get the other rabbit to initiate grooming. In the bizarre world of lagomorph pecking order, the bigwig rabbit gets groomed first. “Hey you, lick my head!” Skippy made the first concession, and calmly groomed Zeela. But she held out for a few days, refusing to return the favor. He didn’t think much of this one-way behavior, so he kept up the chasing. On day four, Zeela finally gave in. She walked up to a resting Skippy, and started grooming his ears. From that minute on, they‘ve behaved like they’ve been best buddies all their lives. It’s not at all clear who won the alpha rabbit contest, but now they are both living together in the big hutch, and are getting along famously.

Fortunately, they were able to have lots of deck time. I had a project that I could work on out on the back deck while the rabbits tore around underfoot, sorting all their personal stuff. It was easy for me to stop a squabble, or enforce some quiet petting time.


I am “The Rabbit Whisperer”…

The rabbits, doing what rabbits do on a hot day: hanging out by blocks of ice.
"What do you mean, 'Behave!'? We've been friends for years!"

Yard stuff


After a cold, late spring, we finally started to get some warmer temps and even some rain. Lots of stuff growing.

Figs. The first batch will be ready to pick soon, and you can see the second batch set on.


Ice Plant

Ice Plant, up close.


The big, overgrown plant by the front door is some kind of picker bush. Its existence is justified only by the fact that new growth has somewhat interesting red foliage. Once summer hits, the leaves turn green, and I trim it back fairly aggressively – hey, now it’s just an annoying picker bush! The worst part is that it totally hides the only surviving azalea left in our yard. This azalea is actually pretty showy. But it’s only visible from inside the dining room, and completely invisible from the street. The picker bush may not be long for this world.

The kiwi vines were pruned way back this year, as they will take over the world if you let them. They are kind of like kudzu in that way. As you can see, they are growing like crazy. Looks like we will actually have kiwis this year! Yeah!!!

Baby kiwis on the vine.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Zeela the Rabbit

Mr. Skippy has been doing well since the departure of his friend Petey. He continues to be a wild, enthusiastic, curious, happy kind of rabbit. You'd swear he was part puppy dog. Once we found him up on top of the back deck table, tearing into a banana that had been left there by mistake. As Elmer Fudd would say, "Cwazy wabbit".
Nevertheless, we thought it would be good for him to have a roommate, rabbits being social creatures and all. So last Friday Paul and I went back to the Mecklenberg Animal Shelter to see if we could find a suitable match for him. There was a friendly brown bunny labeled "Ralph", but a little asking around revealed it was actually a spayed, 2-year old female going by the pound name of Rolfina. Sounded like a match to us, so we brought her home.
The name Rolfina wasn't going to cut it, but Betsy came up with "Zeela", which sounded about right. So Zeela it is. She has a definite wild rabbit coloring scheme going on, with the dark-ish brown, and several different color bands on each hair shaft. She likes to explore, but in a calm, cautious, a-little-bit-at-a-time manner. She's also very affectionate. At least toward people. She's slowly getting used to Skippy and his wild ways. You see, Skippy likes to chase - it's his idea of fun. He'll tear around the deck in circles all by himself, just PRETENDING to chase something! This is all a bit alarming to cool, calm, quiet Zeela. They are not fully bonded yet, but have been making good progress in the last few days. Skippy is quite fired up about her arrival, and she's not quite used to all the attention. I'm thinking all this drama should even out in a few more days...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Daffodils II

We are having a compressed spring here in the Carolinas, with a cold February and everything coming up at once. The daffodils are essentially going nuts. Betsy took these pictures.

Note the freshly painted storage shed in the background, courtesy of Bob and Roy.

On a vaguely related note, this mushroomy thing popped up beneath the rabbit hutch. It was so weird I had to take an early morning picture.

2009/10: Not a good winter for elderly rabbits


Petey The Rabbit had been acting a bit “off her feed” for a few days, hiding out inside her various boxes instead of keeping a vigilant watch from on top. Friday morning I had her out on the back deck. She seemed to be breathing heavily, and offered no resistance to being scooped up – her usual attitude toward being captured is, ”Ha! Catch me if you can, buddy.” Plus, she started to hold her chin up in a funny way. So I took her in to the vet.


Well, that didn’t go so good. She had been to the vet before, and was very passive and well-behaved, in a somewhat nervous way. You expect that when you bring a rabbit into a building that smelled of dogs and cats – predators! But this time it wasn’t long before Pete started to stress out, and then to panic. Then she went into cardiac arrest, and that was that. The vet, the nurse, and I couldn’t do much more than watch her die.


The vet said she was very anemic, which would explain the heavy breathing and the strange, holding-the-chin-up-breathing posture. She was doing all she could to keep her body oxygenated. Her chest was also very tight, which could possibly indicate a tumor. These small prey animals have evolved to be very good at hiding any signs of weakness or illness. By the time you notice anything is wrong, it’s often too late.

Petey the Rabbit

Petey was eight years old, as far as we could tell, which is fairly old for a rabbit. She definitely had some grey hair! We got her from a friend whose school/sports/life schedule had just gotten too busy when she started high school. She lived with us for four years, and got along famously with our old rabbit Bruno. Bruno was definitely the alpha rabbit, being the male and over twice her size, but Pete was the brains behind the operation.

Pete and Bruno, relaxing

When Bruno passed away last December, Pete seemed to need a friend, so we got Mr. Skippy from the pound. Skippy and Petey bonded quickly, and turned out to be a great pair, in spite of the May/December aspect of the relationship (we think Skippy is around 2 years old). Pete was very happy to finally take on the roles of both alpha rabbit and hutch queen. That way she finally got the lion’s share of any mutual grooming.


Petey was a quick, energetic, yet cautious and affectionate bunny that had a couple interesting personality traits/quirks:


- She liked being in her hutch. She liked hopping around the deck. She liked being held. But she DIDN’T like transitioning between any of these! She could be very evasive when it was time to be picked up. I think it hearkens back to the days of the wild rabbits, when their greatest fear was “death from above” – hawks, owls, etc. The first rabbit we ever had, Zeb, had a definite fear of airplanes.

- On rare occasions Pete would escape from the deck. Instead of tearing off across the yard, she would make a U-turn and go under the deck. As in way under the deck. As in, into the dark, dank, narrow, forgotten, nearly unreachable recesses WAY back in there. It was there that she would start to dig her Hole To China. And being fast, extremely determined, and essentially pure black, she was very tough to corral. Especially by a six foot tall human, skooching around the decaying leaves on his belly, armed only with a broom, and harboring a healthy fear both of cranial bruises and protruding deck nails.

- The best thing to ever happen to Petey was Bruno. In fact, in her earlier life she was assumed to be a male. But when she moved in with Bruno, her behavior made it obvious that she was definitely a Petey, and not a Peter! Bruno had been fixed, so Pete was disappointed by the lack of litters. But she would build nests a couple times a year, just in case. When the nest building instinct hit, she would get totally fixated, tirelessly building the nest day and night out of what ever she could find – shredded paper salvaged from the litter box, torn up phone books, grass, hair pulled from her belly, and so on. And when she was on a nest building binge, you’d better not get in her way!


Petey, getting ready for another nesting frenzy



I think rabbits, although small and passive compared you your typical dog or cat, make really great pets. Sure, they're cute. But what makes them endearing is their distinct personalities and individual character. Petey sure had plenty of both.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Mini Garden 2010

I built this cold frame many, many years ago as a birthday present. It has essentially gone unused since then, the transparent top gathering dust and mold in the then-yucky crawlspace.

Last year, to kick off my Big Crawlspace Renovation Project, I pulled the top out of there, cleaned it up, dug up the existing dirt, added some compost, and planted various types of lettuce. What did I have to lose other than $1.89 in seeds? It was easy, and provided lots of leafy greens for both humans and rabbits.


The vent on the lid is supposed to have a temperature sensitive hinge, opening the vent when it reaches a certain temp. This actually operated as designed at some point in the past. I don’t think this works anymore, but I’m not too worried about it.

I did this year’s planting just the other day. I just used last year’s seeds, hoping that's not being overly frugal. One row of green lettuce, one row of random mixed salad greens, one row of kohlrabi. I can’t wait to see what, if anything, happens with the kohlrabi. I've never grown kohlrabi before, and it looks like a truly bizarre veggie:

Next step - figuring what to do about those overgrown kiwi vines. Still thinking a pergola is in order. Now, THAT should be a fun project. As opposed to a crawlspace (entry through the three foot high white door in the background), you can actually SEE a pergola.

Here's how the Spring 2009 crop turned out.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Since we’re on a Caveman Carpentry kick...

Bass Stand

Anything that starts life as a piece of framing lumber qualifies as Caveman Carpentry. Here’s a double bass stand that I made. I got the idea from Jake de Villiers, who runs The Bass Spa in Vancouver, BC. He had an example posted on one of the TalkBass forums.


Since it has to live in my great room, I wanted it to look at least half decent. I used a less-than-shabby pine 2"x10"x8' for the stock. Cut it up, screw it together. Countersink and plug the screw holes. Sand, stain, seal with danish oil. Glue cork on to the contact surfaces. Caveman carpentry at it's finest!

Errors / things that needed tweaking:

1 - The board I picked out had good grain and was nice and straight, but turned out to have a slight cup That made the build-up more challenging and the end product look slightly more, umm, "rustic". Live and learn.


2 - I'm 6'0" tall, and play with about 7" of endpin out. If I had made the whole thing just 1" taller, I could just drop it right into the stand without having to stop and adjust the end pin first. Sometimes it's that extra 30 seconds of putzing around that stops me from just picking up the bass and playing for a few minutes on a whim.

Remedy: install those little elevator blocks on the bottom. Inelegant, but still not shabby.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Caveman Carpentry. Or...

... Recycling 201.

I love caveman carpentry - making something rough but useful out of leftover lumber. Nothing high-tech, or involving fine woodworking in any way. Probably started with building go-carts out of scrounged wood bits when I was a kid.

It DOES occasionally get cold here in the winter, especially this year. We always worry about the rabbits when the temperature dips down into the 20's and teens, although we typically find them hanging out in the most exposed part of their hutch, their fur coats all fluffed out, totally ignoring any of the provided shelter boxes, with big smiles on their faces. Years ago we got a little plate heater that is designed for inside a pet box. You plug it in and it keeps a steady 85 degrees, or something close to that. (No hassenpheffer jokes...) Our rabbits have always actively ignored whatever shelter box we stuck it in.

So this year I chopped up a cardboard box, making a slot to slide their litter box in through, plus two "doors". Figured they are going to use the litter box anyway, and they seem to prefer boxes with two doors. Maybe it's some instinct about having an escape route... Anyway, it was a hit. Although much more time was spent on TOP of the box than inside it. At least they had a warm place to bail out into if they needed it.

But cardboard only lasts so long outside in an rabbit-intensive environment. If not actually edible, it is great fun to shred. So it was a good excuse for a session or two of Caveman Carpentry!

Old version. Litter box installed. Note the caving in top...

Petey, not at all worried about falling in.

The new box, dubbed The Heated Rabbit Lodge.

The Lodge was constructed out of particle board and hardwood flooring scraps leftover from the Great Room Project. Note the upside-down hardwood flooring on the roof. I thought the varnished side would be too slippery, as Skippy often has some significant momentum behind him when he jumps up there. Plus, it looks great from the inside! A good opportunity to not only recycle/reuse, but to get more use out of the various manly power tools.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Signs of Spring

Betsy got the camera out and took some early spring photos on Saturday. Because of an unseasonably cold winter, we are a good 3-4 weeks behind the usual schedule down here in North Carolina. The plants are pretty confused. They did respond to a couple of dry, windy, sunny, upper 40 degrees days.

Here’s what’s up in the garden.

The Veronica reopens:

Hellebore. (Great name for a plant...)


Crocus of various flavors:



Rosemary. It turns into a good-sized woody shrub around here. This one has been blooming all winter.

Coming soon: lots o' daffodils! But it's snowing outside right now...

Spiny gum balls. Ever-present. A new batch rains down every February.