Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Bunny Chauffeur

Poppa in his new foster home
Poppa arriving at his new foster home, Blue Skies Forever

I just chauffeured 2 rabbits about 80 miles today.  This is pretty common in rescue; the town where animals end up in trouble is not always the town where a rescuer has space for them until they can be adopted into their forever home.

The other thing that is sadly common is rabbits suffering because of human ignorance and neglect.  It’s an age old story.  Someone went to a pet store and bought a rabbit.  She didn’t do any research before hand on how to take care of rabbits, and she didn’t do any after the purchase either.  She bought the crappy inadequate “rabbit” stuff the pet store told her to, and went home.  Later, she decided to buy a second rabbit to keep the first company.  This would have been a great idea, if she had bought the first rabbit a spay or neuter first.

Of course, you’ve guessed what happened next.  Here are some interesting facts about rabbit reproduction.  Female rabbits don’t have a fertility cycle like most mammals.  Instead of ovulating once a month, or once a week, they ovulate in response to being mounted.  In other words, they are designed to get pregnant every time they have sex.    The gestation period for a rabbit is about a month.  They can get pregnant again only 24 hours after giving birth.  They have litters, just like cats and dogs.  One rabbit had a litter of 9 just after we rescued her.  Rabbits have developed 2 main defenses against predators, run away, and make as many bunnies as possible so that one of them will survive long enough to reproduce.

So when a human being messes up with rabbits, it only takes a few months for them to be in over their heads.  We see this far too often in rescue.   Before I began volunteering at a local shelter, I didn’t realize how many rabbits are in shelters across the country.  My shelter has a waiting list, as most do.  I am lucky to volunteer at a shelter that does not euthanize any healthy or treatable animals, and to be a member of The House Rabbit Society and our local chapter, THE Rabbit Resource, both of which are no-kill rescues.  Sadly, many, many rabbits are euthanized every day at shelters who take in more than they can adopt out.
I was expecting to drive 4 rabbits today.  They are the only 4 survivors of a larger family, but even though they are survivors, 2 of them continue to have health problems due to their original owner’s neglect.  So 2 are staying with the rescuer/wildlife rehabilitator who is nursing them back to health, and 2 got to ride in the car with me.  As I mentioned, their family started as two un-altered rabbits kept together.  When they had a litter, the owner didn’t separate them, so they kept having litters.  Because she didn’t inform herself about their care, caring for babies, or rabbit behavior, there were casualties.  We don’t know how many, but we do know that only one baby from the most recent litter survived.  This is heartbreaking to me, not just because of the loss of life, but because it was completely preventable.  If she had done some research, she might have decided that she wasn’t ready for the amount of care and attention even a single rabbit needs--as much as a dog.  If she was ready for a rabbit, she would have discovered that they are happiest and healthiest when spayed or neutered, that her local shelter is full to overflowing, and that adopting an already spayed rabbit is much, much cheaper than buying that $20 rabbit at the pet store, only to discover that it will cost $400.00 to get her spayed.

I sometimes feel like I’m fighting a losing battle with rescue.  Pet stores will sell an animal to anyone, whether they are equipped to care for an animal or not.  My stepson worked for a couple of pet stores and was infuriated that he wasn’t allowed to tell someone that they were not capable of taking proper care of an animal.  Add to that the fact that few pet stores seem to train their employees on even the most basic rabbit care, or carry sufficiently large cages, and most pet store bunnies will end up in awful situations.

The numbers work against me.  As my father likes to point out, half of all people are below average.  So a large number of humans buy rabbits without educating themselves.  Every time one of them keeps a male and female together they have a litter.  Figuring an average litter of 4 rabbits, the female could have 48 babies within a year.  But wait, there’s more!  Those babies don’t stay babies for a year, by 3 months old, they can start reproducing too, so assuming half the babies are female, after 3 months the original pair has had 12 babies.  In month four, the original pair has 4 more, and the two females in generation 1 have 8 between them, so month 4 adds 12 babies.  By month 5 we have 5 potential mothers for 20 more babies (44 total) and by month 6 we have 7 mothers and 28 more babies (72 total) and by month 8 generation 1's babies are old enough to have babies and, well, I’m already tired.  Plus, they’re all completely inbred, bless their hearts.

This is why I’m dedicated to “getting the word out” about rabbits.  Not just that they are great pets, which they are, but also that the shelters are full of really wonderful rabbits who are only there because people let them down.  The harder word to get out is that rabbits aren’t for everyone.  They are absolutely the worst pet for a small child, because they are prey animals, and small children are the most terrifying of predators.  They are not a “starter pet” or an “easy pet” for someone who “isn’t ready for a dog yet.”  They aren’t for someone unwilling to do some research and learn their habits and their language (a body language very unlike what we may already know from cats and dogs).  That “easy pet,” no-research-needed mentality is how my passengers ended up with me today. 

I wish that we could have saved all of them, these 4 and the babies and siblings who died before we knew about them because of one person’s ignorant neglect.

But we did save four.

Holding Trucker 
Me holding young "trucker" at his new foster home, Blue Skies Forever

Friday, January 25, 2013


My big Tupperware order arrived.  Yes, one has hit middle age when one blogs about new Tupperware and how it has improved one's cupboards, but so be it.

The cupboard before Tupperware:

 Cupboard before Tupperware 

The same cupboard after modular Tupperware. Check out that big open space in the middle!

Cupboard after Tupperware, phase 1

And the final version where the created space can now be used for several items that were hanging around our kitchen in boxes because there was no place to fit them:

 Cupboard after Tupperware, phase 2 

As an added bonus, this has improved our diet (at least for the moment) now that I've realized how much beans and rice we own! 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Stuff That Lasts

No, I’m not writing about love, faith, friendship, or any of that great stuff.  I really do mean STUFF that lasts.  Yes, it’s shallow and soul killing to be materialistic, but there’s lots of stuff that’s necessary to life and not materialistic at all, like tools, warm clothing, food, and shelter.  That kind of stuff.

It all started with a new pair of shoes.  Truthfully, it started before that, with a worn out pair of shoes.  I despise malls (a post for another day, I’m sure) so I began looking for a new pair where I always do, online.  The shoes I wear the most, especially for work, are Doc Martens.  I stand for most of my 8-12 hour day, and Docs have been the very best shoe for me to do that in.  Add to that the practicality of being long lasting (5-12 years for most of mine) and the fact that the boots make me look cooler than I am, and it’s a win.  While searching, I read some of the comments. (I know, never read the comments.)  Several said something like, “they’re OK, but not as good as my old Docs that were made in England.”  It could be the rosy glow of nostalgia, could be imagined after seeing that they were made in the third world, or could be true, either because they’re made in the third world, or because the whole product line is being made differently than it once was, regardless of where the factory is.

I decided to investigate.  I went to the Dr Martens site and found some interesting information.  Most of their shoes are made in Thailand.  They have a great statement explaining their take on social responsibility and how they work with their Thai factories.  More interestingly, they carry a line of Made in England footwear.  Each item is a little more expensive, but that would be worth it if the commenters are right about the better quality.  Then I found a glorious thing, a section of the website titled For Life Isn’t this what I really want?  I mean, I’ve known for years that Dr. Marten and I have made a lifetime commitment, but up until now it was only common law.  Here was the chance to make it official.  Yes, you can buy a pair of Docs that are guaranteed for life, and will be repaired or replaced for free (plus a handling fee to mail them to England).  But here’s the thing, they’re not made in England, they’re made in Thailand.

So begins the soul searching.  Why do I think I prefer products made in the first world to those made in the third?  I certainly made this choice when I bought a car.  I try to do it other times too.  This isn’t about American labor, which I’m part of, since the options are England or Thailand.  There’s nothing inherently wrong about employing Thais.  I’m sure they’re good people.  They have to be to make, eat, and appreciate such good food.  They need jobs just like the rest of us.  For me it boils down to 3 things.  First world countries generally have the highest safety standards for their workers, I abhor supporting companies that move their manufacturing to the third world in order to save money by no longer complying with those safety standards, and I tend to believe that the quality is better from a first world factory.  But let’s examine that last one.  Here’s a company that has gone out on a limb to guarantee a product for life, including free repair or replacement if/when it fails.  That’s a big promise, and one that could cost them money.  It’s to their advantage to make these their very best made shoes.  In fact, they go into some length about what they’ve done to make these a top quality shoe.

Assuming that Dr. Martens is following their own policy about factory conditions, there’s no inherent virtue in employing the English over employing the Thai, and in the long run, I’m most interested in getting a shoe that will last for more than 10 years before it needs to be replaced.  My first replacement pair will put me ahead of the game financially (i.e. For Life costs more than a standard shoe, but less than twice as much) and more importantly, the longer my shoes last, the fewer of them I’ll have to send to the landfill over the course of my life.  For me this is the best part of a lifetime guarantee.

I became environmentally aware? conscious? nut job? somewhere in the range of 10-12 years old.  It was the mid-eighties and the biggest environmental issues were energy use, land use, and landfill space.  I was really engaged by the last two.  Our planet is only so big, and frankly has too many humans using and disposing of too much stuff.  Land use issues are the main motivation for my vegetarianism, recycling, composting, and a part of why I have chosen not to breed.  It’s also why I’ve replaced many of the disposable items in my life (paper towels, tissues, cotton balls, “feminine products”) with washable, re-usable items.  At the age of 12 I would have happily informed you that disposable diapers take up the most landfill space, with “feminine products” in second place.  Now everyone is on about carbon footprints, but that’s only part of the issue.  Someone did a study claiming that disposable diapers and cloth diapers had the same carbon foot print, so it was ok to use disposable.  I’m sorry; did we suddenly double the size of the planet?  Where do they think we have room for another big pile of disposable diapers?

As you can see, I’m passionate about making as little garbage as I can, so I went with the lifetime guarantee.  And I can tell you, I’m not sorry.  In addition to being made of long lasting materials, and built to be repaired (many cheap shoes are not) they come with Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam and an extra set of laces.  Both pairs of laces have metal aglets!  I’ve never seen shoe laces with metal aglets before!  Talk about built to last.
After reading the little booklet about taking care of my new purchase, I got excited and cleaned and polished all of my Docs. 

 All my Docs clean, wonder balsamed, and polished

Aren’t they pretty?

The Wonder Balsam is aptly named.  I can’t believe the difference it made for my shoes.  They all look like new again, even the sandals and the short black boots, which are both about 10 years old now.

All my Docs clean, wonder balsamed, and polished

As much as possible, I try to choose the longest lasting option when buying stuff.  I’m willing to pay more if it means I’m buying the thing once instead of once every few years.  So I own a Rainbow vacuum cleaner that I expect to outlive me, and a Mini Cooper I hope to drive for 20 years…you get the picture.  And I’ve been taking care of the stuff I already own—making it last, just like the shoes.  I’ve been fixing stuff around the house that got mysteriously chewed.  I “re-soled” my felted slippers.  I’ve made arrangements to have my vintage mechanical watch fixed.  Oh, and speaking of lifetime repair or replacement guarantees, I may have just bought rather a lot of Tupperware.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Not that I would ever be as crass as to post about presents after Christmas, but I would like to share just one thing.  This is somehow my own fault, as my list could be interpreted as to include this item, although only a genii would interpret it that way.  It’s also my fault for having a little brother.

 Garden gnome riding a rabbit
Yes, it’s a garden gnome riding on a rabbit.  And yes, I immediately installed it in the garden, even though I’ve been taking gnomes out of my summer shade garden as quickly as Jacqui can put them in.  I do think this wonderful ridiculous item looks quite fetching in the snow.  Apparently it’s part of a whole series of gnomes riding different creatures. 

 Garden gnome riding a rabbit
My brother has been living overseas for the past few years, so we tend to exchange (and wrap) our gifts through Amazon.  So far this has been small rectangular items like cds and dvds, which Amazon wraps in dark blue paper with a grey grosgrain ribbon wrapped around it.  The gnome came in a rather large box.  Instead of being wrapped, the whole box was in a big blue sack with green grosgrain drawstrings.  Not one to turn my nose up at useful stuff, I put it right to work as a fantastic wool bag.

  Grey wool drum carded 

I had bought two different natural grey wool rovings this summer with the intention of making a Central Park Hoodie.   

 (Romney?) Roving from Dutchayr Fibers

 Shetland roving from Shadeyside Fibers

Happily, I had some project time over my Christmas break, so I spent some of it blending the two wools together with my drum carder.  The drum carder is still very new to me and I’ve had trouble finding much information or advice on using one.  I have The Ashford Book of Carding, which doesn’t say a whole lot about drum carding before wandering off to color blending.  I went through my spinning books, from Lee Raven’s introductory Hands on Spinning to Alden Amos’ Big Book of Handspinning.  They have almost nothing specific to the drum carder.  So far drum carding has been largely a matter of trial and error.  Each time I use it, I make a new discovery.  Last time it was that most of what ends up on the small drum is short and undesirable fiber.  I was really excited about that one.  This time it was that carding oil, besides making carding easier and preventing fiber breakage, actually allowed me to make larger batts than without the oil—not hugely larger, but I did get noticeably more nicely carded wool onto the drum with oil than without.  My other realization was that I’m a dummy for trying to push how big a batt I can make before doffing it.  If I get greedy, the outer layer of the big batt isn’t very well carded.  If I doff the batts when they’re still a little thinner, they’re much nicer and more thoroughly carded.  I shouldn’t be so surprised; I discovered exactly the same thing with hand cards years ago.  So far, I’ve only blended on the drum carder.  I have a longer term project in mind which will involve dying and carding the fleece I bought 2 falls ago, and then blending it with some other nice things, all using the drum carder, but I’m still waiting for my dye stove to get hooked up in the basement.  Maybe by next Christmas break.