2011 was a busy year for The Rare Hare Barn. We started out by finishing up the rehab and therapy on my leg, which I decided to break in 2010, just for kicks. Who knew the doctor wasn’t kidding when she said it would take five months to get back to work? And that she was serious when she said a year to a full recovery? I guess that KU med school actually works, huh? Go figure.
So the spring was off to a slow start, but we more than made up for it in the closing months of 2011.
We had some record heat. And I mean not just a little. We had the hottest summer, and the most consecutive 100+ degree days since that little event called the dust bowl. Combined with the heavens shutting off the faucet that provided rain in about June, the summer of 2011 sucked, to put it mildly.
We did lose several rabbits in the heat, but not as many as might be expected considering the extreme weather. That, if nothing else is a testament to the hardiness of the heritage breeds of rabbit. And once the initial “selection criteria” had been applied, the rest of the rabbits did pretty darn well.
In October, we visited our friends at Tilly Foster Farm in New York. Tilly Foster is a wonderful historical farm featuring rare breeds of livestock, and a great conservation partner. They have some of our American Blues, so it’s always a treat to visit them and see how the “kids” are doing.
Right before that, though, we had an adventure that wasn’t rabbit related at all. As you may know, we also raise Pineywoods cattle, and as of this post, we had the only living bull representing the extremely valuable and critically endangered Palmer-Dunn strain. Oops. This could be a problem. Fortunately, there are three Pineywoods breeders who are very dedicated to the conservation of this particular strain, and a cooperative effort was made to collect our bull and cryopreserve his semen.
Yep, it’s exactly how it sounds.
And those of you who have met “Arnold”, our bull, know what a gentleman he is, and that we pretty much think the sun rises and sets on him. So one of the big concerns we had was that he come out of the process as much of a gentleman as he went in, but the folks from Reproduction Enterprises Inc. in Oklahoma handled Arnold, and the whole process quite professionally, and the result was an impressive collection of Arnold’s semen that will help the Palmer-Dunn strain continue into the future.
Very soon after arriving back from NY in October, we made arrangements to pick up some rabbits from a fellow breeder in Canada. The story is here. The rabbits settled in quite nicely, but still have their accents.
The second weekend in November we hosted the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy’s Annual Conference and Member’s Meeting at the Sedgwick County Zoo. These events are always a great deal of fun, and the only regret is that we don’t get more of an opportunity to talk in depth with some of the most interesting people working with rare breeds of livestock.
A personal highlight for Eric and me was being awarded the Bixby-Sponenberg Breed Conservation Award for our efforts in working with the heritage breeds of rabbit, as well as the Pineywoods cattle, and our Navajo-Churro, Karakul, and Jacob sheep. When the award was presented, and our names were called, I think it’s one of the few times in my life I’ve been caught with nothing to say.
This award literally represents the who’s who in breed conservation, and while I can say I always wanted to be worthy of the award, I figured we had many more years of work before we deserved it. So, now our challenge is to take our conservation efforts to the next level!
The July issue of National Geographic issue featured an article on rare breeds and genetic preservation, and the rabbit featured on the contents page is a Silver Fox courtesy of The Rare Hare Barn. The cattle featured in the article are courtesy of the Sedgwick County Zoo, which as you know we have a strong connection with. We had a blast hosting Nat Geo photographer Jim Richardson and his assistant Jim Turner, and a blast drinking a few adult beverages and eating some rabbit burgers afterwards.
Continuing in the photography vein, Storey Publications is coming out with a new book about rabbit housing in 2012, and pictures of our barns are planned to be included. Good thing Eric got a new paint sprayer for his birthday and the barns got a fresh coat of paint!
My dream of being a published writer came true this year also, with an article in the fabulous magazine Grit. My first job was carrying the Grit magazine when I was a little whippersnapper and the magazine was printed in newspaper format, so it was a nice little full circle that Grit published my first paid article.
Mother Earth News, a sister publication of Grit, published an article about raising rabbits, and Eric was interviewed for that article, and a couple of photographs of him and his favorite buns were included.
As the year wound down, we took our first Pineywoods calves to the locker, and we are currently in the process of heartily enjoying some of the freshest, leanest, most flavorful beef we have enjoyed in years. It’s amazing what a little wholesome fresh air, sunshine, and good forage will do for the end product.
We had a total of *** litters of rabbits born for the year. Eric started out with our goal being to have 300, and darned if he isn’t an overachiever. Our goal for 2012 is to have 400, and if he overachieves again we may have to hire that intern we’ve been talking about.
So, that’s our 2011 in a nutshell. How was the year for you all, and what do you have planned for 2012? Hopefully the weather will be a bit more cooperative, and all our endeavors will do well.
Wishing you all the best in 2012!
Eric and Callene and All the Critters