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.