Monday, September 5, 2011

Who are we?

Most of these posts will probably be from me, Samantha, but I expect my husband will contribute occasionally too. When he does, I'll ask him to identify himself at the beginning, otherwise, you can assume the "I" is me. ;)

A quick background on my husband and myself:

My husband comes from a family that has hunted for generations, and grew up hunting. Past generations include ranchers and miners of the old west. Even today, his parents still harvest and process their own meat from deer and elk. My husband and I started doing the same about 10 years ago, and stopped having to buy beef. We've been living off of deer until last year, when he harvested his first elk.

My dad's family hunted and fished to have any meat- they couldn't afford to buy it. Growing up, Dad would go hunting and fishing on weekends to stock the family up, even having to hunt squirrels when the pickings were slim. When he married, things started to change some. My mom wasn't a huge fan of hunting, and sided more strongly with the animals. Dad's hunting tapered off to just water fowl, but as a kid, we did raise quail for meat as well as to release into the wild. I grew up fishing, but beyond that, couldn't stomach killing things- Mom's strong empathy won out.

Both my husband and I were raised to respect the animals we ate. Never waste their gift, appreciate the sacrifice, and if harvesting it, make it quick so they don't suffer. Treat the harvested animal with respect and use as much of the remains as possible. My husband saves the raw hide, leather, tendons, and bones for personal projects.

I tried to go vegetarian at one point, because I object to how industry animals are treated. I stopped fishing because I couldn't stomach killing the fish. I failed at my efforts to avoid meat- I just seem to need it- but still wouldn't fish any more. Then it occurred to me that buying the packages at the store was worse- I was pretending I wasn't really killing animals, but I was paying for their torment and slaughterhouse experience. If I was going to eat meat, it had to be completely my responsibility. So I embraced my husband's hunting.

Let's jump to 3 years ago. My husband wanted to raise meat rabbits, and I was horrified. No way. Helping butcher the deer was radical enough for me. We also have a big vegetable garden and make our own sauces, pesto, and jams. Wasn't I being pioneering enough? Heck, we even bake bread! I thought I was doing plenty. But then one year ago, I read a book that changed my outlook on many things. Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes helped me take even more responsibility for my food intake, the markets I support, and the consumerist culture we're raised in that keeps us so far away from our sources for food, community and inspiration. I decided unilaterally that we were going to raise rabbits, and immediately!

That was about a year ago. Now we have 3 does (breeding females) and one buck (the stud) and 6 bouncing babies and one doe giving birth as I type. We designed and built it all in under 6 months. During that time I researched the heck out of best feeding practices, breeding techniques, climate needs, harvesting methods, hide-curing and leather-working, and we're going for it.

Now I hope to share everything we have learned and are actively learning with you.

1 comment:

  1. I'm the husband in question! I'll try to contribute where I can. To start off with, although I know Samantha said she wouldn't talk much about our chickens, I want to take a moment for a chicken-related aside.

    Our chickens are *awesome* if for no other reason than they're fantastically efficient at converting any and all household food waste into fertilizer. We've had a compost barrel for years, but composting has nothing on these guys. They'll eat just about anything; we jokingly call them "the dinosaurs" around the house because of how voracious they are. It's a little creepy how excited they get when you throw the bones from a roast chicken carcass into their pen, but we have very fat and happy birds who will hopefully start laying very soon. I have to credit Samantha with wanting to raise the chickens; I've been wanting to do rabbits for several years, but the chickens are her idea, and they're awesome. Also, she's somewhat modest about our coop, but we really have a good setup, with the caveat that we really need to enlarge the run a little and add a chicken/bunny tractor so that we can use the livestock to help clean up the weeds in our yard.

    As an aside, that's another great way to feed the animals - all of the weeds that grow in our yard (common mallow, dandelions, clover and purslane) make great feed for both the rabbits and chickens; if I pull a bunch of weeds and throw them in to the chicken run they're always gone within an hour or two, and dandelions and clover are absolute favorites of the rabbits.