The Last Thing I Expected

Last evening after I’d taken care of the bunnies for the night, I just happened to glance up at the blossoms on the apple tree. I was shocked to find a writhing mass of tent caterpillars. I haven’t seen these parasites since I was a little girl and I remember losing two apple trees and the juiciest, sweetest pear tree to these awful things. I remember my father also managing to save the tree they are currently in. We cut off many branches and burned them. I can still remember the acrid smell as my dad doused them with gasoline. He was taking no chances. I can feel the intensity of the fire as the heat sprang out at me even from my safe position 20 feet away.

Fortunately the tree was not that bad off yet. I gathered together my son and my mother and the three of us began removing the nest from the ancient apple tree. We had to cut down 5 nests from that tree. The husband gets home tonight and he’ll have to climb a ladder and look at the upper branches tomorrow to make sure we got it all. We also found one infestation on the young apple tree. This tree just started bearing fruit last year and it has several varieties so it would be a shame to lose it.

We have a burn ban on right now, but fortunately it was garbage day today so they went into the can last night and we made sure it was tightly lidded. All we can do now is cross our fingers and hope we didn’t miss a mass of the things. They can literally strip a tree of its leaves in a few days time. And while the ancient apple tree has really, really sour apples that can’t be eaten out of hand, it touches on one of the blueberry bushes and we really don’t want to lose that. It’s going to be loaded this year. It also has a climbing red rose growing through it that would be awful to lose as well.

The son went in for his first day of MSP testing, the yearly hoop that all school age children must jump through in our state, even those who are home-schooled. He had reading comprehension today and felt he did well. Tomorrow is Math. Thursday and Friday are writing. One day will be writing a persuasive essay and one day will be writing a compare and contrast essay. So I think he’ll be rather reluctant on the last two days. He did make friends there. There were only other children who do the same virtual home-school program as us. He was happy because he was worried there would be no one to eat lunch with. But there ended up being a girl and three boys and they all got on really well. His last school and the rampant bullying culture there screwed him over so badly that he had quit trusting his classmates. It was nice to see that maybe he is moving past that now.

Today was much cooler and the rabbits were much happier with the temperature. They were a lot more active today. I do have the frozen bottles ready and waiting now in case they need to be laid in cages. Since rabbits can only cool themselves off through their ears, if you put a frozen water bottle in their cage for them to lay against it helps them to not be so uncomfortable. So the next time the weather approaches 80 I’ll take them out. We usually get a couple of days like that in May and then again in July and August we get several days. Right now I only have enough for seven. I’ll need to add to it as I can. Even though we’ll be butchering soon, by the time the hot days roll around in July we’ll have kits old enough to need some, too.

I stopped into a farm store in Laurel while my son was testing today. I found a rabbit cage that would be perfect for transporting the bunnies from Arlington to home. It wasn’t super expensive, either. Plus the box was covered with a thick layer of dust so clearly they don’t get much in the need for it. I picked up a couple of the clamp on feeders. I have an extra water bottle so I should be fine on supplying them now.

We need to take the one large hutch out of the shed and I need to do a bleach disinfect on it. I’m going to set it up in the shade so that the new kits have a place to be quarantined for a couple of weeks before I move them in with my older rabbits. Since Piper will deliver sometime in the next week, I’m being extra cautious. The three new rabbits can all stay in the outdoor hutch until I’m sure they are free of illness. Then they will be ten weeks old and I will separate the buck. The two does can stay together in that cage while they grow up. Hopefully until a few weeks before breeding age.

Also while at the farm store I asked them if they have game starter feed like for quail and they do. The one they carry is 28% protein. I listened to a podcast last night on raising quail and he said that you if you feed the lower amounts, egg production falls off and they don’t grow as fast, either. So it looks like closer to 30% is better than the 20% I saw elsewhere. It was good listening to someone talk about it who had been doing it for several years. Quail lay eggs almost every day, so out of ten females you can expect to get nine eggs a day. That sounds like a lot, but remember it takes 5 quail eggs to be the equivalent of 1 chicken egg.

And he talked about incubation. Out of 120 quail eggs, a good incubation would be 70 to 80 hatched. I’ve been looking at incubators online and reading the reviews, but they all seem to have really bad thermometers or they have temperature spikes on the last day that kill the chicks. The only ones that didn’t have bad reviews were by Brinsea, which are very expensive, but all the parts work and also last a long time. I’ve heard about the Brinsea brooder light before and have followed one blogger who was very happy with it. So I will probably start saving up for that now. I’ve got time since I’m not looking to jump into quail raising this year.

Of course I was not planning on jumping into rabbit raising this year either and look how that turned out. But when the animals just practically fall into your lap like that, it is definitely worth the move to it. We felt like we were led to it. I’m not feeling that same thing about quail yet, other than I am sure we want to do it when the right time comes.

Oh, as an aside, I hit 50 followers today on my little blog. Not bad for one week shy of 3 months. Thank you for reading and for following. It’s fun to see where all my readers are from, too. At last count I had people popping in from 12 different countries. Really cool.

2 thoughts on “The Last Thing I Expected

  1. That photo has both completely amazed me and grossed me out at the same time! – Victoria

  2. LuckyRobin says:

    They totally creeped me out, too. I was hoping the entire time we were dealing with them that they wouldn’t actually get on me. Normally I like caterpillars, or at least the fat and fuzzy type, but these ones always give me the shivers.

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