After killing, skinning, gutting, washing and weighing the rabbits on Sunday, we placed them into a cooler of ice water. I added ice a couple of times over the last two days. We left the rabbits in there for about 42 hours until the meat relaxed enough to be pliable again and then this afternoon I cut them up into pieces and bagged them up. Each rabbit was cut into 8 pieces except for one. I am not sure what I did wrong on the fourth rabbit, but it ended up in nine pieces. I think I may have cut the hindquarters off at too sharp an angle.
I could tell the rabbit that didn’t die right. There was clotted blood at the neck. I cut it out. The others were all free of that, so I think that’s what it had to be. I had watched a couple of vids on how to cut a rabbit into pieces, but I found it to be very intuitive. Not quite like cutting up a chicken, but close enough. The backbone is a lot harder to cut through, though, than a chicken. It took me about 45 minutes to cut it all up. I put one rabbit per gallon bag, but I think next time, I may divide it up according to pieces. Or only put six pieces per bag.
The husband promises me he will email me the parts list and instructions for the rabbit tractor sometime tonight, so hopefully I can get that put together in a post tomorrow. Hopefully he won’t forget like he keeps doing with the hutch frame. The tractor is pretty intuitive, really. I can already see one thing I would do differently because of the length of them, and that would be to put more than one opening to get them in and out so they don’t all bunch up at the far corner.
We haven’t used the tractors yet, because it rained all night and it took a long time for the grass to dry out. Hopefully it will stay dry tonight and we will finally get some use out of them tomorrow. I think I will throw the tarp over at least half of it though to give them more shade on one end. I’ve got 3 extra waterers now, so the 1/2 gallon one will go in one of the tractors and the 2 one quart ones will go into the other one. I think I will put a couple of feed cups into the one I put the kits in, but those will always be brought in at night so that they don’t attract other animals to the tractors.
On payday (Friday) I am going to pick up a couple rabbit tunnels from the feed store to put in the tractors. I think the kits would have a lot of fun with those assuming they don’t knock them over. They are so playful already. I love watching them. Having them around makes it easier to deal with having just processed the last litter. Since I will be breeding Piper again when these guys are seven weeks old, but not processing this litter until they are 14 weeks old, there will be another set of kits just coming out of the nesting box when we do. I think if there are always some kits around to snuggle that it will always help with the harder parts of raising our own meat animals.
I need to get the extra water bottles soaking tonight with a vinegar and water solution and also wash the feeders in hot, soapy water and then spritz with vinegar to disinfect them. I keep putting it off because it makes me a little sad knowing that the rabbits that used them are gone now. I know they will nourish us and I am grateful for their little lives and I am sure I will get over this sadness eventually. But right now I think it is okay to feel this way. I understand now, in a way I never have before, what it means to eat meat. The process from breeding to kindling to growing out to providing a happy, healthy home where they are loved, to processing and at last bringing that food to the table. I think I will be even more conscious than usual that this food is not to be wasted, that every bit of it should be used and not one bite thrown away. Doing this will honor these animals and the sacrifice of their lives for us.
This is our biggest step yet into sustainable living and to homesteading and I feel every bit of it. That is a good thing in my book. Doing this with no love for the animals is not worth doing it at all. I wanted to look my protein in the eye. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth every step of the journey. I know it was the right choice for us. It has already brought so much into our lives, something of so much value, something that is really worth knowing.