Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Since It Was Mentioned...

Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.
~Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington (1787)

You might be wondering why we began raising rabbits and you might not like our purpose, but my husband and I have always wanted a more self-sufficient lifestyle. We do not have the land for milk and meat goats as we would like, so after much prayer and consideration we decided raising rabbits was within our means.

I grew up in small towns and rural areas. I went to school with children of farmers, some raised crops, some livestock, and some both. Even the businesses in those small towns relied on the farmers, one of which was my uncle's hardware business and another a furniture store owner, our next door neighbor when I lived with my aunt. My high school boyfriend was the boy next door, who delivered furniture for his family's business and worked on farms. His grandfather and uncle were crop farmers and he also worked regularly on the farm of one of his best friends, a hog farmer, but he would get work around any farm he could. I remember one year that his car always smelled like hog manure which was not that appealing when you are dressed up to go to a dance, but that just was the way it was.

At some point, as I grew up, I must have come to the realization that the meat bought in stores was once an animal raised on a farm for the purpose of providing meat to be stores and that every "Happy Meal" at McDonald's had some beef in it. Even if my mind would have liked to fog the details of how the cattle ended up in cellophane wrapped packages, it really could not. I must have, at some time, come to the realization that how that happened because my father loved fishing and we all observed the cleaning and filleting process of a lake bass. I do not know when these realizations happened but I found to my surprise that I was not one to shy away at dissecting frogs in biology either.

That is not to say that I am heartless or take great pleasure in carving things up, I am just rather practical about fishing, hunting, and livestock. We were concerned, though, in how the Princess would handle the situation. She has always been more curious than grossed out by anything a cat would drag up to deposit at our door. Her father had hunted deer in the fall, although they eluded him, and we all watched videos on how to field dress and process a deer, which she watched with more curiosity that disgust. Still we knew that hunting a fairly cute animal unknown to you is one thing, raising the cute furry things yourself is quite another. It would be an adjustment for all of us, and I was concerned about the Princess.

This was how we explained it to our daughter because she has been up close to Jersey cows on the farm where we get our milk and has looked into those soft cow eyes: Every hamburger you eat came from beef, which is the flesh of cattle. Most of the cattle you see grazing in fields are being bred and raised for our food. Someone somewhere had to process or butcher the animal to sell it as meat. You may not have seen it, but you are a part of that because you have chosen to eat the hamburger.

She said she understood that part, but she just did not think we would be the kind of family that would "kill things." You see, we have lived in an area that used to be farms but because of the fast growth, the farmers have been pushed out and it is mostly patches of subdivisions and woodlands. The Princess has not had the same experiences I had growing up. Most people, who live padded in populated communities away from farms, do not really want to think about from where the meat in the stores comes. Some that do, choose to be vegetarians and I appreciate their convictions; I have friends and family members who are vegetarians of varying degrees. (Honestly, most people think I am a vegetarian because I just do not eat much meat or that is what they expect because I am an health advocate.) Some meat eaters understand and accept the process as the natural course of things. However, some chose to still eat meat while shunning or even condemning those who do all the dirty work to provide it. That is one hypocrisy that I do not easily tolerate and one that obviously had been brewing in my own child.

It is not an easy thing to take a life so its flesh will be used to sustain another life, but it happens in nature every day. I don't know why the Lord chose to require animal sacrifices, except perhaps to remind people of how grievous and costly our sins are because taking the life of an innocent is a very hard thing to do. I think in Western society, we have become too far removed from all of it, but it is still there. My husband and I have taught our daughter that some Native Americans thanked "the spirits of their brothers" for giving up their lives that they should have food to sustain their own and they were not wasteful, not taking more than what was necessary for them. We have taught her life is to be revered, but also that life is taken to sustain life.

I have not told her a fallacy that I was told that all things in nature only kill what they need survive, because there are stark exceptions: the domestic cat is a prime example, as it is an animal that kills for the fun of it without need, which introduces a certain irony to the forefront of my mind when I see a vegetarian owning a cat. Actually, most things in nature thrive because they take every advantage available to do so. That is why some baby animals are pushed aside while the stronger have their fill nursing. No matter how cute they are packaged, animals are generally selfish beings.

Our first kindle of nine all died and my daughter observed the mother rabbit closely. After a while, she said with a disappointed tone, "They really do not have feelings like we do." I hated losing all the kits, but that was an important lesson for my daughter. We all tend to humanize animals, especially in children's storybooks. Do not get me wrong, I have pets that I dearly love, appreciate, enjoy, and weep over, but also I believe they are more creatures of familiarity, habit, and opportunity than emotion and higher understanding.

I have written this for the benefit of those you who are curious. I feel no need to defend what we have chosen to do because we feel it has been blessed by our Lord so it needs not to be defended. We are doing with what we have as I felt God has been telling us to do and I feel like I am working towards that homesteading woman that I have always wanted to be, even with our little plot of land. So, now you all know that we have just started our small rabbitry as part of our plan toward greater self-sufficiency with plenty of ready-to-use rabbit manure for fertilizing our gardens.

~ My Lord, thank you for blessing us with our bit of land and our home. Help us to be even more responsible in using the land and resources You have provided for us. ~

4 comments:

  1. For all the points you mention, lol, I have just about cut all meat out of my diet ~ & run round after my cats rescuing the things they catch. Not logical at all ~ & yep, I leave the room when National Geographic or some such starts getting gory. I didn't take biology at school because I was never going to dissect anything; just wasn't going to happen. {Star wouldn't do it either so no biology for her either] I admire that you can do this ~ but I could not. I prefer to do without meat. My cats, on the other hand, are firmly on your side of the fence!

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  2. I hope I always respect all forms of life.But the lord put these things at our disposal for food.I am a meat eater,but like you I don't want to see it wasted. I hope your rabbit venture goes well. Blessings jane

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  3. A few years ago we raised chickens for meat... we took part in the "processing" of them and everything. Of course "processing" is just a polite 21st century word for slaughter. Thankfully the folks we entered into this whole thing with were very experienced and were Christians as well. The husband actually had a little side business slaughtering animals in such a way that they would be fit for kosher (I know there's a specific term for this, but I can't catch hold of it at the moment.) We prayed together at the start of the process and again at the end. I'm sure one does get hardened to such things over time, but I found it very sobering to actually take part in the taking of another creature's life solely for the purpose of sustaining my own. We only did this the one year and in many ways it was a very positive experience... the slaughtering part was wretched obviously, but the overall experience was good. We had wonderful organic meat at an excellent price. I actually would have continued doing chickens but as we don't have the space ourselves, we had to raise our chickens along with another family who had a farm. I wasn't comfortable with some of the choices they made regarding the treatment of the animals (they were kept inside a coop and not let out, the coop wasn't kept clean, etc) I gently broached the subject of bettering the treatment of the chickens, but the other family didn't really see change as a priority... so rather than have conflict or unpleasantness, we just declined to buy chickens when the opportunity next came up. If I could be certain our chickens were humanely treated, I'd raise meat chickens again in a heartbeat.

    I'll be interested in hearing how your rabbit raising venture goes, and how the princess handles the whole thing. For what it's worth, I didn't require the children to participate in the processing (they did have to take part in the day to day care and feeding and the coop cleaning etc. afterwards tho!) The girls opted out entirely and Noah came along for the experience, but didn't actually participate. Interestingly enough, he seemed to do fine, until one of the last birds turn came. It was a small female (all of ours were supposed to be male, but we had this one hen) and he just got really emotional at the idea of us killing a girl. He could handle killing the males without any real problem, but he felt very protective towards little "Rosie"... and I suppose that is a good thing, all things considered☺

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  4. Ganieda: Do you think if I am on their side of the fence that it might win me points towards my "sleeping with tigers" dream?

    Jane: Thank you very much. We are planning to use as much as we can, even for our cat and dog, and I have been reading about tanning, although it is more difficult with younger hides I have read.

    Diane: Differing ideas tends to be a problem when you are in a joint venture with livestock and I like your ideas much more for chickens.

    My husband has spent several hours reading, planning, and building sheltered cages, even with large vinyl sheets on two sides of the shelter that we can roll up or down according to weather conditions and easy-to-clean system to catch those all important berries for fertilizing my gardens.

    ...And Noah is so sweet, but you know that already.

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.