Craisin Time!

Here the DH is dolling out craisins to the Flemmies. Normally, they’re kind of afraid of him, but not when he comes bearing treats!

I tell him that he needs to spend time on the floor with them, so they won’t be afraid, but his bad knees keep him from it. Part of their fear is the dog, who follows my husband everywhere and insists on craisins, too. Silly dog!

He tried shaking the treat can when we wanted to trim their nails a few weeks ago, but they’re too smart to fall for that trick. So we had to force them into the carrier and bring them into the petstore for a nail trim. Boomer and Cricket ride together – that’s about 40 lbs. of bunny in one carrier – thank goodness for the big, strong DH.

The worm farm in my basement

Ever heard of vermicomposting?

I keep a few hundred (thousand?) red worms in my basement to compost my kitchen waste.

I started out with a dixie-cup sized portion of worms and compost from a fellow Master Gardener about three years ago. I used a simple rubbermaid bin to house the worms, but then switched to a tray- type bin last year.

Once a week or so I *feed* the worms with the leftover greens and fruit from the bunnies, some coffee grounds, occasional egg shells, and shredded junk mail for bedding material.

After a few weeks or months, the worms turn what you see in the above photo into beautiful, dark and fluffy compost (the photo at right is over-exposed). My houseplants thrive on this stuff!

It just amazes me. No work on my part – other than a desire to *waste* less – no smell, no pests, no trouble at all – and free organic fertilizer for my garden!

Dora with a mouthful

Dora leaps and dances when I come with her salad in the evening. I think she’s leaping more for the little bits of carrot and apple the salad is laced with, rather than the greens. Like most of the bunnies here, she goes for the sweet stuff first. She hates dill for some reason and leaves it behind to wilt at the bottom of the bowl. She’s not a big fan of cilantro either and will only eat it after it sits in the bowl for a few hours and there’s nothing left but the dill!

I used to feed the bunnies huge mountains of salad twice a day, but in the last two years or so have greatly reduced the amount of greens I feed. They still get them twice a day, but in much smaller quantities. I had one bunny who loved greens, but always was gassy from them, so now I’m afraid to feed too much.

Hay is the most important thing for a house rabbit to eat, but like anything that is *good for you*, it often is a challenge to get the bunnies to eat it. Every bunny has their particular likes and dislikes (which change from day to day, it seems) and they’d much rather eat pellets than hay, but too many pellets lead to fat bunnies and other problems.

I buy 50 pounds of 2nd cut timmy hay by mail order every three months and use this as *treat* hay, because it is expensive and 2nd cut is soft and green and lovely – and fattening. I also buy small bags of 1st cut timmy from the petstore each week. In addition, I order a less expensive mix of timmy and oat hay from a small farm in Massachusetts that I use to fill their litterboxes each day. As a result, my basement looks like a hay barn most of the time, but this way I always have something on hand that the bunnies will eat, regardless of how their tastes change from week to week.

Dora, so far, is not a good hay eater and this worries me. She loves to shred and eat willow and newspaper, but only nibbles at the hay in her litterbox and the baskets I keep scattered around my office. I’ve tried every type of hay I have in the basement, but she’s not nuts for any of them. I may have to try a bale from a local horse farm to see if maybe she prefers a more stemmy, brown hay.

Missed opportunities and sleep

My plan for today was to get out and bird with Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. A nice winter trip is to visit the local ponds, inlets, and beaches that make up the *North Shore* of coastal NJ looking for ducks. Unfortunately, I slept till nearly noon and missed the trip. One major thing that I have trouble with as a birder is getting up early enough. In the winter it’s easier because it gets light so late, but the spring kills me.

I get up before dawn only once a year for the NJ Audubon World Series. I *compete* with SHBO’s Century Run team to raise money for their nature center where I volunteer. Last year we did okay with a total of 127 species for the day. I actually made myself useful to the team this year by alerting them to this Eurasian-Collared Dove which had been seen throughout the previous week, but had’nt been found yet that day. The story of our day is available here. We also saw a Wilson”s Plover that day. The WSB is always fun, except for my first year participating when it poured rain the whole day! Every year brings it’s own surprises. One year there was a bagpiper practising on the seawall at dawn.

Sandy Hook is a great place to bird if you get the chance. It can even be reached easily by the ferry from NYC. Warblers in spring together with a good hawk migration, great sparrows in fall, and ducks, gulls, and seabirds in winter. The summer brings lots of traffic for the beaches and the birding is slow, but the evenings are nice with wading birds, plenty of terns, and osprey. Cape May gets all the attention in NJ, but Sandy Hook rivals it (IMHO) in many ways; least of which is that it’s only ten minutes from home.

Here’s a link to what’s being seen this week statewide and a great site for local recent sightings.

Cricket disapproves…

This post on the Birdchick Blog today got me thinking about the many ways I invade the bunnies’ privacy by trying to get cute pictures of them. It seems that Birdchick’s bunny Cinnamon disapproves of my posting a photo of Boomer’s butt.

Cricket will not make any comment about how large Cinnamon’s butt appears in this photo, but she certainly disapproves of Cinnamon being so near to a Golden Eagle. I, however, find the Golden to be very cool. Sharon has a great blog and the coolest job (and a very cute rabbit)!

My bunnies are not easy to photograph, so I tend to sneak up on them with the camera when they are otherwise occupied. For example, this photo of Missy playing in her cardboard castle on the patio. The cardboard castle was probably her favorite toy, but the Flemmies destroyed it. Bunny toy manufacturers listen up – there ought to be toys designed for big bunnies! The flemmies were too heavy for the cardboard castle and can’t fit into the cheese house.

I snuck up on Boomer and Cricket to take this picture of them snuggling together in their hidey-box. They sleep their day away there while I’m at work. They really seem to like the fleece bed to sleep on, but it accumulates huge amounts of their shed fur. If I try to brush away the fuzz with my fingers (or heaven forbid the vacuum!) Cricket nudges me away with her nose and tries to nip me. She is very protective of her hidey-box, but only when she is in it! Today I brought the two of them into the petstore for a nail trim, which was quite an ordeal. They both disapprove of nail trims.

Lastly, I have this photo of Freckles peeking out at me from her cheese house. Why she loves this thing so much I can’t guess, but she sure looks cute in it. She’ll scramble around in it for a bit and then flop on her side for a nap. She is a pro at the *dead-bunny-flop* that gives me a small heart attack on a daily basis. She also loves to throw stuff to make noise, like she’s doing right now because her dinner and treats are very late!

I don’t have any embarassing or indiscreet photos of Dora yet, but she’s only been here a few months and is too wary still for me to sneak up on her.

Fish worries

This weather has me worrying about my pond fish. We’ve been so disorganized this year that we still haven’t gotten the bubbler rigged up to keep the pond from freezing over. So the warm temps are a good thing in that regard, but I worry that the warmish temps are stressing them.

I hardly feed my fish during the warm months, but stop altogether from around Halloween until April Fool’s Day. With colder temps the fish don’t eat and can’t properly metabolize the food anyway, so feeding is dangerous. During a *normal* winter they just hang out down at the bottom of the pond and live-in-limbo under the ice until the world warms again. This year, however, they are pretty active and are even begging when they see me at pondside on warmish days. The warming days of spring seem to be when I’m most likely to loose a fish to disease. They are weak after the winter and are prone to bacterial attack at this time. So I’m hoping for colder weather and ice, and a bubbler.

Hoot owls!

The great-horned owls were calling tonight so I ventured outside in the cold with my binoculars to see if I might find them….

In the dark, all I got was a silhouette (picture a big dark blob with ear tufts) about 3/4 of the way up the tallest locust tree in the yard. I could hear the female with her deeper voice nearby, but couldn’t spot her. I listened to their duet for ten minutes or so and then decided I’d had enough of the cold and was ready to go inside when the male owl flew from its perch. I followed him with my bins as he flew higher in the tree and attempted to mount the female who was perched on an outside branch of the same locust. As he mounted her, one of them screamed and he flew off to a closer locust tree which offered me a better view of him. Still a dark blob, but I was able to make out the suggestion of his creamy bib feathers. Very cool!

These owls have been calling for years in the neighborhood and it always thrills me to hear them. I guess they nest closeby, but can’t be sure as I’ve never found their nest. I don’t have much luck in finding nests anyway, other than the red-tails when they nested one year in a pine tree at Sickles Park just 50ft. or so from the road. I enjoyed watching them, but sadly that nest was destroyed in a late fall storm that same year.