Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pea Fence

Those wascally wabbits made mincemeat of my garden this past summer, so I asked my SO to build me a pea fence. I sketched out the general idea - a 4'x 8' trellis in the middle of a 1' tall pen - and he implemented my idea so that it disassembles and folds up for storage.

(The 8'x 1' sides slide out of dadoes in the verticals of the 1'x 1' sides. The 1'x 1' sides fold in on hinges.)

I planted fall snap peas and the pea fence performed as designed, but I was late getting the seed into the ground (mid-August) and the peas did not bloom. Even if they had bloomed, there were no more pollinators flying about to help out. Next spring I will try again, and maybe follow the peas with cukes, and follow the cukes with more peas.

Monday, November 20, 2006

More Rabbit Tricks

I stopped at Petco to see if they had a hay manger. Their in-store selection was the worst, for rabbits at least. So back to Pet Supplies Plus.

Now that I am becoming more familiar with rabbit supplies, Pet Supplies Plus and PetSmart are on a par with each other. The hay manger was not as successful as I had hoped, as the bars of the cage don't line up with the tabs on the manger, so hay leaks out the bottom. But it takes up no cage space. I will try modifying it to minimize the leakage.

And since I was in the pet store, I checked out what else was there and ended up buying a shelf to give Hip Hop a little loft, which she has totally ignored, plus some fruitwood Bark Bites to add to the kabob, which she has also ignored, plus another grass mat, for the bed (Hip Hop approved). And I think that's it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Rabbit Redux

I'm still tweaking the bunny litter situation. I bought some rabbit cage liners, not understanding exactly what I was buying. I thought they would include absorbant and deodorizing material, as the box said to change out the liner weekly. I did not see the part about adding your favorite litter. (I have no favorite litter.) So I shredded more newspaper for the bulk of the cage bottom, but pinned an absorbant underpad to the side of the cage and draped it under the cage floor where Hip Hop likes to pee. (We won't go into the reason I even have any of these pads in the house - it's more information than you want to know.) And I think this solution is going to be a winner, as now I can just change out the pad daily and clean out the whole undercage pan weekly.

While buying the cage liners, I dropped about $20 on (more) rabbit supplies at PetSmart. (Their in-store selection is better than Pet Supplies Plus.) A grassy mat replaced the square of cardboard for Hip Hop to rest on, and she highly approves of this modification. She also likes her new water dish; it attaches to the side bars, so I like it, too. The Bunny Shake 'n' Chew toy generated mild interest, but the "kabob" for treats did not, but maybe it would if I put something other than Bark Bites on it.

Hip Hop likes bedding in her bed (go figure), so I gave up on the towel and gave her shredded newspaper. I think I will get a hay manger, as the current contraption takes up too much space, leaks hay, and I still can't get the door to stay shut.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Good (Shelter) Pet Karma

Hip Hop had her vet check yesterday. Her teeth are straight, her ears are clean, and now her nails are trimmed. Dr. M tried to sex her, to make sure she really was a "her", but she is too fuzzy. There was also no way to tell if she had been spayed. I gave the humane society a $50 deposit, which was to be refunded once she was spayed or a vet could verify she was spayed, but I'm not about to have her undergo possibly unnecessary surgery. So I guess my deposit became a donation.

I was surprised at how well Hip Hop handled being handled. She struggled some, but did not try to bite, did not totally freak out. Somebody took good care of her, but apparently could not keep her, to my good fortune.

This is the third pet I have adopted from shelters, and I have lucked out every time. Charlie was a great family dog for the ten years he was with us, Betsy is my empty nest beagle, and now Hip Hop has joined us.

I highly recommend adopting adult animals from shelters. These critters face euthanasia without our help. A woman in the pet store told me that there is a place in Heaven for those who adopt shelter animals. I don't know about you, but I need all the help I can get.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hip Hop Hooray!

Here is Hip Hop the Angora Lop, the first head of livestock for Woodchuck Acres! I brought her home from the Elkhart Humane Society on Saturday afternoon. I felt like a nut, driving 105 minutes each way, to pick up 5 pounds of fur, but I'm glad I did. She really needed a home.

I have had hamsters and rats, dogs and cats, chickens and goats, goldfish and lizards, but this is a first for rabbits. We are still getting used to each other, and I'm still figuring out how best to have this creature in my home. Right now, it's all experimental and experiential.

Originally, I planned to keep Hip Hop in the Florida room, but Princess Fern has been having litterbox issues lately, so I started locking her out there while I'm gone, and she likes it. Not wanting to upset her, I decided to start Hip Hop under the breakfast bar in the kitchen. That did not last long, as Hip Hop freaked when she saw the dog and cat, and when Hip Hop thumped, her cage rattled so hard, the dog and cat freaked. So the cage is now on top of the breakfast bar. Everyone is happy with that arrangement. For now.

Then there is the issue of the rabbit litterbox. Hip Hop is treating it like a nesting box, pooping and peeing at the other end of the cage. Or, more accurately, peeing out the other end of the cage (and into the dog's water bowl - no wonder Betsy was not drinking). I've tried the paper-based litter from the petstore and shredded newspaper from my home office, but both cling to Hip Hop's butt fur - not very attractive. So right now I am using sheets of newspaper in the pan under the cage floor, with a newspaper guard keeping the pee local to the cage, until I figure something else out. Meanwhile, I put an old towel in the litter/nesting box, which Hip Hop doesn't seem to like.

I am not impressed with the rabbit equipment I've purchased so far. The hay wheel does keep the timothy off the floor, but the little access door won't stay closed. The design of the holder for the flat-sided water bottle is not very secure, and Hip Hop managed to jiggle the bottle loose, causing it to crash to the floor, breaking the cap. It took me two days to get the food dish attached properly to the cage bars, and I was able to do that only after I discarded some of the "double-locking" pieces. And the litterbox can be attached to the side of the cage, but there is no quick-release on the mechanism, so to remove the box for cleaning requires more work than I think should be necessary.

Our primary activity so far has been grooming, as Hip Hop's fur is rather matted. I leave her in the cage and reach through the side door to tease out the snarls. She is surprisingly patient, and I treat her with a leafy green every couple of minutes. Most of the bigger snarls have been combed out, so now I am working on the less visible ones that make her feel lumpy. I also have a little baggie of bunny fuzz to play with.

Hip Hop is still rather jumpy, which makes me jumpy. When I carry her to the big bathroom, where she can run around and stretch her legs without fear, she shivers. If I move too suddenly, she jumps. I read that rabbits sometimes bite or fly out of your arms or fling themselves about their cages until they injure themselves, so I treat her vewy, vewy carefully. But I can tell she is feeling more relaxed, as instead of huddling in her litterbox, she lays stretched out on the cage floor, mistress of all she surveys.

I considered changing her name, but if I get some more rabbits, I can name them Do Wop and Bebop.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mini Orchard - Year One

When the alarm chimed yesterday at 5:30 AM, I wished it were raining so I wouldn't have to walk the dog or water the fruit trees. Imagine my surprise when I opened the back door to let the dog out and discovered that it was raining. My wish came true!

The fruit trees that need(ed) water are my Stark© Scarlet, Crimson, Emerald, and Ultra Spire© Colonade© apple trees, and Stark© HoneyGloTM miniature nectarine tree and Stark© SensationTM miniature peach tree (all from Stark Bros, natch). These trees are an experiment, one of many I started this year. I planted them in big plastic pots using a sandy top soil mixed with homemade compost and positioned them around the yard in mostly sunny locations. I guess they did okay, as they are still alive.

I chose these fruit trees for a couple of reasons, one being that I don't need all that much fruit, so I'm thinking mini trees will provide enough but not too much. Also, my landscape is in constant flux, and I can move the mini trees with the changes. And if I relocate, I can take them with me!

One problem I have noticed already is the soil in the pots has settled quite a bit, but one cannot simply add more soil because of the root stock grafts. Also, it is easy to forget to keep them watered.

I planted thyme in the pots of two of the apple trees, as I read that it will attract more pollinating bees. We'll see. I expect more top growth next summer, then maybe harvest the first fruit the year after that.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Perhaps fall is not the best time to start a backyard habitat blog, as the busy season is over. And yet there is lots to do: rabbit-proof the shrubs, clean up the flower beds, service the tiller, etc.

The primary focus this past weekend was leaf raking. Last year I purchased two rakes from Lee Valley. One is a "power rake" and is good for moving large piles of leaves across the yard. The other one (which I don't think they sell anymore) has a telescoping handle and adjustable tine spread. Both are useful in their own ways.

But after wrestling with the leaves amongst the cotoneasters (which, incidently, are berryless, thanks to the rabbits), I'm ready to buy a leaf blower. A neighbor has an electric one that is not so noisy. We'll see.

I also planted some white hyacinth in front of the barberry, but impatiently did not get them very deep. Hopefully, they are deep enough.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Topsy Turvy Planter Review

Last Christmas I gifted Topsy Turvy planters to several gardening family members, including myself. Due to relocations, no one else was able to make use of their planters this past summer, so this review is based on my experience alone.

My configuration consisted of the Gro-Pole plant hanger, two Topsy Turvy planters, and two Plug n Gro bags in which I planted an assortment of herbs and marigolds. (Re herbs: the basil and parsley did the best, the borage the worst.) I placed the Gro-Pole in my strawberry pyramid for additional space-saving: strawberries grew in the two outer rings of the pyramid, rhubarb in the inner ring, and the Topsy Turvy stood above them all. I did not anchor the pole legs, though, and later in the season, a big wind blew over the whole thing, so I relocated it to lawn.

In general, I liked the Topsy Turvy. It does save space, and since the plants were off the ground, I did not have a problem with wilt or rot. But my plants did not get bushy or produce very well. For a growing medium, I used sandy topsoil with homemade compost; next year I will try something lighter and richer, and fertilize more frequently. I planted an Early Girl and a Big Boy, but next year may try different varieties.

By the end of the growing season, I was tired of the daily watering regimen. The planters come with baffles to help keep the water from running through too quickly. I'd rather implement some kind of automatic or drip watering method. Something upon which to meditate this winter.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

No Bunny Like Show Bunny

Well, the rabbit I hopped hoped to get from the IHRS was not available, but they suggested that I check out a bunny they have been monitoring via Hip Hop the angora lop is at the Humane Society of Elkhart County and looks like she could use some TLC. The process is in progress.

Meanwhile, I have been raking leaves and piling them in the vegetable garden. The chicken wire fence I erected this past summer to block the local rabbit population from my peas and beans is serendipitously keeping the leaves in situ. Sometimes ya just get lucky.