Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter

Today is Easter. We will celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the rebirth of life itself. I should be happy and grateful, but today three empty chairs at the dinner table will haunt me. My wife will make a wonderful meal of baked ham and green beans and potato salad. Our foothills dance in greens, yellows, and oranges, while the Sierras sleep, still blanketed in snow. Baby rabbits explore their nest boxes and junior rabbits wait for their first sojourn in Reno.

Easter vacation has been productive: fences mended, house cleaned, saddles readied for spring riding. At dinnertime, we will give thanks. I will enjoy the company of my wife and youngest daughter, but I will see those three empty chairs. I have been told life continually changes, and that I do not adjust well. Where is my oldest daughter? I know my son is away at college on the East Coast, and I miss him greatly. I know my mom is in Heaven. I know; I know; I know, but I really don't. Life is confusing; I try to establish routines to hem in life and keep it simple and understandable. I know this is impossible and should cherish life as it appears anew each day.

Yesterday, I read my neighbor’s blog. Judy wrote about another neighbor, Darlene, who found out she had ALS. Darlene worked at my school; she was in charge of making sure parents sent their kids to school each and every day. Darlene reminded me of my mother; both were determined to deal with debilitating diseases on their own terms. One day, I watched from atop the steps as Darlene tried her best to walk from the office to the cafeteria. She fell, and I went to help her up. With her pride slightly wounded, but determined as always, she continued on to the cafeteria. I did not know how to put my admiration into words, so I made her a bouquet from my mother's irises. I think Darlene appreciated the thought behind those flowers; she talked about them often.

Judy wrote about how, after the the ALS progressed,  Darlene wanted to give her orchids to those who would cherish and nurture them. Judy's blog reminded me of my mother and her love of irises. With El Nino, the irises are blooming profusely and with each blossom, I’m reminded of my mom. I miss those conversations about life. I was the college graduate, but she was the one with wisdom. She seemed to take life on its own terms and rarely questioned it; she just found the beauty in what was in front of her. Unlike my mom, I question life too much.

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Whitman writes about the relationship between objects and memories over the expanse of time. When the Tulare County Master Gardeners Club tend to their new orchids, they will remember Darlene; when the irises bloom each spring, I will think of Mom; and when I see those empty chairs, I will be reminded that I still have much to learn. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Reno here we come!

A junior broken buck heading to Reno

The West Coast Classic in Reno will be our first rabbit show beyond our San Joaquin Valley home. We are excited, even though we only have two litters old enough to show. We sold off all the adults from 2015, except those we added to our breeding barn. Unfortunately, I didn't look ahead and keep back a few older rabbits to show in the senior categories. Oh well, live and learn. I am sure we will have fun showing our juniors.

We started off only breeding New Zealand reds, but after listening to judges make comments about reds being "long" or "low in the shoulders," we decided to try and use the white genetics from brokens to help improve our rabbits' shoulders. We purchased a very nice broken buck from Manuel Hidalgo. He was willing to sell it under the condition I realized its pattern included too much red. But since our goal for purchasing a broken was for improving reds' shoulders, I think the purchase will prove a wise decision. "Luke" has a very large red blanket and very nice shoulders and hindquarters. Both his  red and broken babies are improvements for our Mission Hill Rabbitry.

For the West Coast Classic, we will only bring six juniors since we only have two traveling show cages with three holes each. We currently have two litters that will be between three and four months old  at the beginning of April. One litter is from the heavily blanketed "Luke" and other litter is from Luke's father, who Manuel also kindly agreed to sell. We have named Luke's father "LoverBoy" and he has been a busy buck. His babies have his beautiful color and short, compact body. Needless to say we have been  busy breeding these two excellent bucks to our red does and, although not our original goal, we are excited about starting a new broken line.

With the addition of a broken line and increased interest in Mission Hill Farm reds, we have decided to increase from three to nine does. Three does for our "Mark" line, three does for our original "Max" line, and three for our LoverBoy broken line. This will mean more cage pans to clean, but I am having fun with the rabbits. I have even thought about cutting back with the mammoth donkeys and Katahdin sheep. I am not exactly sure why, but I really enjoy the rabbits. Something about those beautiful and comical creatures helps bring my blood pressure down. The brokens are even pretty and remind me of when we used to breed Mini Lops back in our college days.

We just hope snow doesn't close Interstate 80 on Friday, April 8.