Saturday, August 12, 2017

"To Micaela"

To Micaela
Evan Hackett

Nancy keeps asking
If I want
A picture of you
On your deathbed,
Dressed in your pink
Sweat suit.

I prefer my memory
Of you
In your Lazyboy
Watching the Lakers:
With Chick announcing,
The “jello is jigglin’."
If I try, I can still
Hear a faint
“Go Lakers” dangling
In the air.

I moved your swing
To the patio
By the pool.
Sometimes, at night,
I go and sit and swing
And hope for memories
To remind me of you.

We chat like
We used to, and
I try to catch you up
On the grand kids:
Christina is an
Architect in the city;
Jed is in college
On the East Coast.
We seldom talk.
I do not
Know why.

Melanie, who
Bears your name,
Is a fighter like you,
But instead of R.A.,
She battles A.L.L.

She would like
Rocking with you
In the Lazyboy
Swinging with you
On the porch.

A magical  smile
And touch
Between generations.

What is this space
Between you and me?
I still swing in hopes
Of feeling you
Sitting next to me,
But am distracted by the bats,
Who skim the pool
In hopes of
A few mosquitoes.

After swimming laps,
I head in
To my recliner
And cheer on
The Dodgers, but Vin’s voice
Is too but a memory.

I wonder if
My youngest, Micaela,
Will understand
What it means
To be
The keeper
Of family memories.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Heat and Sneezes

Image result for liquamycin

It is now only a couple weeks before I return to the classroom and summer is officially over. I will miss swimming in the pool and being free to do as I wish all day long. I will not miss the heat and trying to keep our rabbits cool.

Despite having vaccinated my adults with BunnyVac, many from last spring’s breeding season have developed a sneeze. Immediately, I feared Pasteurella virus and was surprised I could no longer purchase Terramycin powder to mix in the rabbit’s water bottles. In the past, if a rabbit had a sneeze, a week of Terramycin and all was well. This summer, I used the injectable Liquamycin and that did not seem to affect any positive change. I did not know if they were sneezing from dust in the garage or feed, or if  they were  sneezing from the air-conditioner. I finally culled the rabbits who were sneezing  and as a result, wiped out most of my fall show animals.

Disheartened, I questioned if I really wanted to keep breeding and showing rabbits. Was the rabbit hobby worth the effort? My helper, my daughter Micaela, is starting high school and now her time seems to be spent on volleyball practice or talking about volleyball on the phone. Rabbits only get her attention when I ask her for help. I hope the cooler fall and this next set of four litters will brighten the picture and fill the show cages.

I have been planning to downsize our farm and move to Running Y in Klamath, Oregon. With plenty of time to waste, I emailed a realtor to see if rabbits were allowed according to the development’s CC&R’s. The answer was “no.” Then I thought what would I do all day without any animals to occupy my time. Klamath is now just a dream from the past and the reality is I live where it is hot and probably always will live where it is hot. Springville is and will always be home. I will work to improve the air conditioning in the garage and make sure all spring babies are vaccinated before the summer heat.

I look forward to showing a bunch of young juniors at Hanford in the fall, that is if there are no volleyball games scheduled.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Summer Blahs

Here it is July 2, and we have not updated our blog in two months. I guess I could blame the summer blahs: When the temperature soars above 100 degrees, my get-up-and-go seems to dissipate.

It is not that I am lazy. To the contrary, I try to wake before 5:00 A.M. and take my dog Anna for a walk along Globe Drive and try to return home before the sun peeks it head above Black Mountain.

Next up, I shuttle my daughter to summer school at Granite Hills. After dropping her off, I head to the gym for about an hour. I usually make it back home by noon. With the sun in full force, I retreat to the lazy comforts of air conditioning. I do not poke my head out again until the sun recedes in the west.

Cool evenings bring urges to barbecue hot dogs and corn on the cob. While the barbecue cooks our dinner, I swim laps in the pool until dinner is ready. As I swim, I enjoy watching the sun set and turn the sky orange. Slowly, the bats come out and hunt bugs flying above the pool.

The evening finishes with dinner and a Dodger game or a movie. My wife has become an expert at finding the Dodger game online and connecting her phone to the TV. Who needs that stupid “Game is not available in your area” cable channel?

So where do the rabbits and farming fit into this lazy schedule? Well, after the morning walk, the rabbits get fed and watered, nails cut, ice bottles replaced, any sore hocks medicated, babies checked. Then the air conditioner is turned on and we do not return until late in the evening when we open the garage door and clean cages.

That completes a typical day during the summer blahs. Each day is a search  to find things to do that will  justify waking up in the morning. I often wonder, after I retire, should we move north to Oregon and enjoy the cool summers. But I guess, upon reflection,  like Mack and the boys on Cannery Row, I enjoy opening the rabbit’s garage door during the hour of the pearl and taking Anna for her daily walk to the green barn; I like lifting weights at the air-conditioned gym; I like buying fresh corn at Gislers corn stand on the corner of Olive and Newcomb, 13 ears for $6.50 “thank you very much”; I like barbecuing in the evening while I swim with the bats; I guess, in a strange way, I actually enjoy the summer blahs. Who knows, maybe tomorrow I will get energetic and attack the weeds.

Monday, May 8, 2017

So Much Depends Upon a Red Rabbit

A Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. Should we go home via Interstate 80 and Truckee or take the long way home via California 395 and Bishop? Interstate 80 would save time, but California 395 goes through Bishop with stops at Mahogany Meats and Schat’s Bakkery. The choice: extra time at home after a long rabbit show weekend or peppered bison and elk jerky and Sheepherder's bread and chocolate-covered macaroons?

I enjoy going to rabbit shows, and the West Coast Classic is my favorite. I am amazed at how the cavernous Reno Convention Center can be transformed into a bustling mini-city filled with rabbit fanatics of all shapes and sizes. I would like to thank the volunteers and show management for their time and effort.  This rabbit show is a microcosm of democracy and capitalism at its best.

One thing I missed this year was the lady who operated a photography booth. Last year, she took pictures of patrons’ rabbits against a green screen, then digitally inserted the West Coast Classic backdrop. I still enjoy the picture we purchased from her; it just seemed to say, “We did it! We did something right.”

And we did something right again on Saturday. Wow!  First, second, third in junior bucks. Unfortunately, on Sunday, the judge dispatched our rabbits quickly from the judge’s table. Well, at least MH51 hung around for a second place in junior bucks. My star, 2703, placed next to last. Back a few months ago, I thought MH51 was a candidate for the stew pot. So much for my picking winning rabbits. Second year in a row where I have kept a stew pot candidate around long enough for it to fulfill its God given talent. My lesson learned is not to judge young rabbits too harshly; they often just need more time to develop.

We did not win best of variety this weekend, which is our usual goal. That award is our validation that we are doing something right in our breeding plan for reds. It may sound odd to some, but we enjoy winning best of variety more than best of breed. Why? Because we get to leave early and explore other activities on the road trip home. We had fun at the Reno show, but now as a family, we could load up before noon and explore the big wide world beyond our small town of 1,000. First stop, In-N-Out Burger. “A Number 2 without tomatoes please. Can I substitute a strawberry shake for the drink?” I ordered with a small tear in my eye. It made me realize the picture was incomplete; my son was not here. Through three years of monthly three hour drives to UCLA for chemo, my son’s favorite stop was always In-N-Out Burger in Santa Clarita. Now he is 3,000 miles away at college. Next stop, Bishop.

Bishop has been my Emerald City ever since my  big brother Bob used to take me backpacking at Lake Sabrina. Every trip to Ansel Adam's "Range of Light" would begin by stocking up on Mahogany Meat's jerky and end with a trip to Schat’s for macaroons and some sheepherder’s bread to take home to Mom.

The rabbits provide the impetus to get into the car and go for a family adventure. I’m lucky. My wife, two daughter’s, and my oldest daughter’s boyfriend made this weekend a family adventure; Oscar even won $90 playing poker at 3 in the morning.

The poet William Carlos Williams writes that “so much depends/upon/a red wheel/barrow.” I guess in the case of the Hacketts, “so much depends/ upon/a red rabbit.”

Next road trip: the Central Valley Rabbit Breeders Association’s October show in Hanford. Homemade ice cream at Superior Dairy anyone?

The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New Additions to

Today I have posted some updates to our rabbitry’s website that should help prospective customers learn more about our rabbits and make more informed decisions about which rabbits to purchase.

In addition to the pictures on the “For Sale” and “Breeding Barn” pages, we now post our show results on the “Calendar” page. Why would we do this? Now customers can visually analyze the parents of available litters and then check out the kits’ parents on the “Breeding Barn” page. If prospective customers like the parents, they can then check their show record by going to the “Calendar” page. For example, if someone were interested in a kit from Bradford (MH21) and Emily (MH10), they could click on show results from the ARBA National and see that Bradford placed third in red senior bucks and Emily placed second in broken senior does. Knowing  how rabbits have been judged in actual ARBA show can help prospective customers make more informed choices.

Also new this month is also our “Rabbit Line Breeding Chart.” I have tried to find line breeding charts to track the different generations, but I have never really found what I was looking for. I finally decided that I could make a chart using a Microsoft Word table and draw tools. The result is a pdf visitors can download and then write in names and ear numbers as they track a given line’s different generations. The “Rabbit Line Breeding Chart” can be found on our “Links” page.

Another new feature this month will be our magnetic feeder business cards. I recently moved rabbits around into different cages in an attempt to create some new logical system to rabbit placement. Upon entering the rabbitry on another day, I realized I had forgotten the new logic behind our new system.  The rabbits were all red; they all looked alike; and worst of all, the parents’ identity  of those few that I had not yet tattooed seemed to have escaped my recent memory. I remembered those magnetic info cards that I saw on sale at last year’s West Coast Classic, and decided I would ask my architect daughter to design magnetic feeder info cards that I could pass out as promotions when we return to Reno. The templates are posted on our “Links” page: we have one template for does and a different version for bucks.

I hope some of the new additions to our website  are of use to someone out there in Internet land. We are always trying to come up with some new “system” to help us improve our rabbit breeding efforts.

Send us comments below and share some of your rabbit breeding ideas.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mr. Rooster and His New Flock of "Hens"

For twenty years we have raised chickens so that we could have “farm fresh” eggs for breakfast. A few months back my wife received a text from Veronica asking if my wife would like a Faverolles rooster. This rooster had been hand raised and was “very friendly.” He needed a new home where he could crow and not wake up the neighbors. We did not want fertilized eggs, so we let him live with the sheep, who lived next to the hens.

Unfortunately, somehow raccoons, skunks, or coyotes figured out how to get into the chicken coop and only one hen and Mr. Rooster survived. One night my daughter came home late and did not put the chickens away. The next morning on my way out the driveway, I saw a pile of feathers. I thought that was it: Mr. Rooster had joined his hens in the great coop above. But upon returning home that night, Mr. Rooster greeted my pickup at the top of the driveway and patiently waited for me to open my door.

Without his beloved hens, I was his new best buddy. I never knew roosters could be so smart, although I was once defeated by a chicken in tic-tac-toe. Now he waits at the top of the driveway for my truck to come home. He then follows me to the front door of the house and waits for me to come back out and feed him some scratch. Since his hens were gone, he had no reason to go back down the hill and roost with the sheep. Instead, he found some new four-legged chickens with long ears, who liked to hop around in their cages. Mr. Rooster seemed to enjoy these new hybrid rabbit-chickens and even adopted their garage as his new home. So now has a new mascot: Mr. Rooster. He has adopted our herd of New Zealands as his new family. He proudly flies to the top of their stacking cages to survey his dominion, and to my surprise, the rabbits do not seem to mind: no going crazy running in circles, no piggy squeals, no thumping of cage floors.

I have to admit, I don’t enjoy his nightly deposits on the garage floor, but how can I break his heart?

Yesterday, Mr. Rooster once again almost joined his beloved hens in the sky. Squawking and all sorts of strange sounds broke out on our front porch and my daughter started screaming for me to come and help. Anna, our Anatolian Pyrenees, had Mr. Rooster in her mouth. Upon being scolded, Anna  released Mr. Rooster, who now lay wet and motionless in my daughter’s arms.

Mr. Rooster recovered; flapped his wings; walked into the garage; flew to his roost; and crowed. He was content and he had a new story to share with his long-eared hens. I closed the garage door and turned out the light. Mr. Rooster was on duty and watching over his new flock; he would have something new to crow about in the morning.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Road Trip!

Old School Oorang Airedales (from Internet)

I sold some rabbits today, a breeding pair to be specific: a nice little nine-week-old broken buck with a heavy red pattern and a nice twelve-week-old red doe. The gentleman had called before to make an appointment.  I erroneously thought this was the man and son who asked for my business card at the January KRBA show. Instead, a man and his wife drove up the driveway to buy some New Zealand reds and talk rabbits for a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

It is people like this couple that remind me why I breed rabbits. Yes, I enjoy producing home grown meat; I even enjoy sitting back and watching my rabbits kick up their heels in the exercise pen. But the rabbits also serve as a way to meet new people and share ideas about a hobby that we enjoy.

Ramon was full of knowledge about breeding rabbits and I learned much from him. He had also purchased his foundation stock from Manuel Hidalgo. I listened as he told me about his adventures in breeding Manuel’s whites with a broken red and getting babies with all sorts of colors. One topic led to another rabbit related topic: from stacking cages to gardening with rabbit pellet compost. Like Manuel, he suggested I breed year around through the Valley heat and utilize a forty-one day breed back calendar. But the story I enjoyed most was about how he uses the red worms from his garden to go fishing. The joy in his voice was evident when he talked about taking his worms to Texas, so he could go fishing with his grandchildren.

People often ask me if I ship my rabbits via airlines. Yes, I do. But to me, the joy in purchasing a new rabbit is the road trip itself. I want to hit the road; try new restaurants; see new country; meet new people. Ramon agreed. It is not a chore, but fun to hop into the car and drive to Northern California or Oregon and visit with some breeders and have a chance to share ideas about our hobby. I used to make it a family adventure to take my Mammoth Donkey to Las Vegas so she could visit her boyfriend. After we dropped her off at the West Farm Mule Ranch, the Vegas buffets and shopping awaited. I guess I owe this love of animal road trips to my dad, who once drove the family in a Dodge Chinook Plus from California to Sparta, Tennessee so we could bring home an eight week old Oorang Airedale puppy from the legendary Mooreland Kennels .  That puppy grew into the king of the neighborhood: the bear like dog who battled the brown UPS truck on a daily basis.

At work, I often hide in my classroom so I do not have to debate the virtues of the latest reinvention in education. On TV, the nation is at war: Trump vs. anti-Trump. But when I talk rabbits with people, we are just people who share the enjoyment of breeding these funny, long eared  critters. I anxiously await the next Hackett family road trip to Reno for the West Coast Classic. My students always ask, what do I do at these rabbit shows. I say it is simple: I talk rabbits.