Cooper’s Hawk Training

DSC01064Last week I was lucky enough to get the chance to man a young female Cooper’s hawk for the first time.

This little lady was just a fluffy black and white baby in a screened-in tent when I first came to the centre to do my apprenticeship back in August. I was intrigued by them then, they looked so curious, picking at bits of meat, bobbing up and down in their water basin and hiding out in their little dog kennel.


Young Harris hawk on the left, two young Coopers on the right


Now this bird is a lightning-fast, reptilian killing machine. She’s basically a cobra with feathers. Ironically she sounds more like a squeaky dog toy…

DSC01050For at least twenty minutes after I took her out of her aviary she was very tense, holding out her wings as you see in the above photo, screeching, bating and panting. Sticking a camera in her face didn’t exactly help, but it’s good to get her used to things like this while she’s on the glove. I kept my movements slow and gentle to minimize her stress.

Eventually she calmed down and I was able to jump her to a nice piece of raw quail she could  focus her attention on. She plucked her quail extensively, showering my lap with tiny feathers. Eating quickly and efficiently on the glove, that’s good.

She’s very light, and she has very good coordination. She’s not sloppy with her feet like some birds can be. Looking into her cool blue eyes, it’s hard to imagine that as an adult they will turn to blood red.

I’m really lucky to be able to follow these fractious and intense little accipiters along their training as they mature. I wouldn’t want to be a small woodland creature staring up at this face:


Meet Caraway!

DSC_0090Caraway is the first bunny born at Abernathy’s to reach 5 lbs at ten weeks old. Her mother was Esther, my Creme d’Argent, and her sire was Timmy, my Standard Rex buck who is now retired.

She had an identical sister who also reached 5 lbs at ten weeks and was sold to another breeder. Caraway was a bit heavier than her sibling and actually weighed something like 5.1 lbs on the day BEFORE she turned ten weeks old so she was the one who got to stay. Both sisters have gorgeous personalities.

She’s the first hybrid bunny that I’ve kept, and that was based on her grow out rate. Most bunnies born here take at least 12 to 14 weeks to reach 5 lbs, and that’s not ideal for meat production. She’s nine pounds now but she may get a bit bigger yet.

DSC_0088Caraway is a gorgeous agouti color with a few white hairs sprinkled in for good measure, and is a nice big girl who is very sweet and calm, like all my Creme hybrids.

She is now just about 6 months old and was bred for the first time today to Scorch, my Californian buck. In one month we shall see if she passes down her good genetics to her descendants. If she kindles on time, the kits will share my birthday.


Golden Marten?

DSC_0076Speaking of Silver Martens (in my previous post), how about this bunny? I have about four Rex/Californian hybrids that came out looking like this. It’s actually a very lovely coloration and reminds me of a Silver Marten with gold ticking instead of white. These bunnies have a white underbelly as well that seems to resemble the pattern of a black otter Rex, which is what their mother was. They also sort of remind me of Tans.

DSC_0079These bunnies have a darker and more lustrous black coat than their white-ticked siblings. Since these are the bunnies who lost their mom and got juggled around, I don’t know if their dam is Tuna or Bluefin. It’s possible that one group came from one mom and the other group from the other.

DSC_0080Maybe the Golden Marten is the new breed of rabbit that I’ve created? Otter Marten? If only I had more cages and could really embark on such an experiment…


Rex + Californian = Silver Marten?

DSC_0072The hybrid babies are ten weeks old now and their color patterns have turned out to be quite interesting. I have about five or six bunnies that look like this. Doesn’t it look a whole lot like a Silver Marten rabbit to you?

DSC_0068The bunny pictured above is a cross between a black otter Standard Rex dam and a pure Californian sire. She has the white eyeliner, belly, tail, nose-shading, neck triangle, inner ears, chin and white ticking, just like a Silver Marten.

If I saw this rabbit at a show, I would think it was a Silver Marten with below average ticking, as it’s supposed to come up over the entire hindquarters. It’s hard to see in the photo but her black fur is also a little bit grayish and not as dark and lustrous as Silver Marten fur should be.

For comparison, here’s a young Silver Marten kit from a couple of years ago before I stopped breeding them:

DSC_0046He’s quite young here, but you can see the basic coloration he has. Some SMs are born with lots of ticking and some with less. I have had kits who only had it go up a few inches, much like the hybrid doe in the first shot.

DSC_0071Back view of her white ticking. It doesn’t go up very far, but it’s there.

It’s interesting to me to think about the origins of rabbit breeds and how they were initially developed. We seem to accept that no new breeds are being created, although I know there are people working on new colors within existing parameters. It’s mostly about ‘perfecting’ the breed you already have.

I wonder what would happen if I took one of these hybrids to a rabbit show and entered it as a Silver Marten. Could I breed my own version of the Silver Marten using totally disparate breeds? It’s an interesting thing to think about.


End of October Garden

DSC_0100Just wanted to share a few photos I took in the garden today.

Unbelievably, I actually have purple cauliflower! I wasn’t expecting these guys to survive the slugs but somehow they powered through and have formed a few small heads. The variety is called “graffiti”. I planted orange cauliflower at the same time, “cheddar”, but somehow they decided to do this:

DSC_0102Oh well. The ducks and chickens sure enjoy them!

DSC_0004These are arugula seedlings that were planted last week in a few big containers recently vacated by tomatoes and cukes. They seem to enjoy the cooler weather and if I can keep them growing for another month or so I’ll be super happy because I love using it in salads and sandwiches.

DSC_0001My neighbors have a giant English laurel hedge that borders on my property. Since I’ve read that it roots well as cuttings, I decided to take a few so I can plant a hedge next year that will eventually grow to hide a chain link fence and a view of the train tracks.

DSC_0002And here is the first little flower to appear on the yacon plant. I wasn’t sure we’d get any flowers this year as it was in a container, but it seems determined to bloom before it’s killed off by frost. I love the symmetrical leaves on this Peruvian tuber.

DSC_0003And last of course is adorable Tiny Chicken, who is my faithful gardening companion. She is always full of advice on any topic and makes sure to dispatch any worms I might dislodge.


Second Broken Rex Litter

DSC_0032Bluefin broke a record with her first broken litter and had them at 33 days. So far that’s the longest gestation period we’ve ever seen here.

But I don’t mind as long as everyone is healthy. She had eight beautiful little bunnies that are a combination of what look like mostly blues, broken blues, black otter and one broken castor. The blues might turn out to be opals too, we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see what develops.

The one broken castor is very cute and has a lovely intricate pattern with a stripe down his back.

DSC_0036Bluefin barely pulled any fur at all this time around, so it’s a good thing the days and nights are still pretty warm. In any case, they have lots of cozy bedding and each other to keep them comfortable.


Storm Before the Calm – The Garden


A string of habaneros

We had such a dry summer this year that my garden did not do as well as it should have. Since I don’t have any irrigation set up yet and half my crops were in containers this year, even daily watering just wasn’t enough to get the kind of production I was expecting. I still did very well compared to my first two summers when there were zero gardens here and everything needed to be done from scratch, so I’m not complaining.


Kale seedlings in the lawn

Now that it’s cooler and the rains have finally decided to fall on us again, a lot of my garden is exploding with new growth. My cilantro looks like the grocery store variety for the first time ever, I have about a billion Red Russian kale seedlings popping up all over the place, the arugula is back in full force after seeding itself, and the celery and artichoke plants are growing as fast as they can. The optimistic tomatillo plants have more flowers than leaves, the nasturtiums are twining everywhere, the Lacinato kale is huge and the leeks are putting on girth.


Spicy nasturtium blooms

My lone habanero plant did well, and I have been collecting little orange peppers and hanging them to dry. I got a handful of poblanos and a bunch of jalapenos as well, and I’m going to bring my plants inside before it gets frosty and try to keep them alive over the winter. I foresee a fungus gnat infestation in my future… Hope I’m wrong!

DSC_0013A few plants have departed, the tomatoes are long gone and their skeletons have been picked clean by chickens and ducks. The okra is brown mush after a pitiful harvest of of about six pods, and the cucumbers are toast. The Mammoth Russian sunflowers in the ground did pretty well and were cut down. I’ve saved a few heads for growing more. DSC_0001

I discovered this year that rabbits LOVE eating sunflower plants, so I’ll be planting a large crop of them next year, along with the black oil type. Even the dead brown sunflower leaves seem to be considered a treat and they store well along with being cheap, easy to grow and drought tolerant. It’s also neat to see their heads turning to look at the sun all day long.

A Gift

DSC_0004I came home last week to a small gift left for me outside my back door. It was obviously left by Parsley the cat, who is the resident small game hunter around here.

DSC_0003I’m not overjoyed that this Stellar’s Jay had to die, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to see one up close as I like them a lot. I don’t remember ever seeing one back east when I was growing up so they are a little bit special to me. I heard somewhere recently that no birds have blue pigmented feathers, they just have tiny random structures on them that scatter light and appear blue to our eyes. Well this guy sure appears to be pretty darn blue.

DSC_0006I’ve decided that I’m going to try to preserve this little bird with taxidermy. It will be my first try at this interesting art, and I hope I do him justice. He’s in pretty good shape since Parsley usually tries to keep gift birds alive for me, but I guess I came home a little too late for this dude. I’m sure he put up a good fight. He will be relaxing at the ever-popular Freezer Camp until I’m ready to process him.

I think knowing how to taxidermy will be a fun and rewarding skill. I’m planning to teach myself via Youtube, like I learn how to do most things. Wish me luck!