I think we began an annual tradition today–Rabbit ‘Fest 2011.   READER BEWARE!  There are very graphic images below!

We have had a number of people very interested in witnessing, or even assisting with, our rabbit harvest.  S finally came up with a plan, sent out an invite to those most interested, and we planned a big “family day.”  The plan was to have the men harvest the rabbits, the kids would get a biology and anatomy lesson as well as a lesson in farm life, and we would all have a potluck lunch and family farm day. 

As it turned out, only 1 family wound up coming.  Nonetheless, we had a great time.  Except for the fact the hens decided not to lay this morning so the visiting children could collect the eggs, we spent the first couple of hours just fellowshipping and eating lunch.  All the kids had a great time showing off the animals, and playing with the goat kids and the baby chicks.  Finally, it was time for the dirty work (sorry, Uncle D, you were too late!).  The men headed out back and set up their harvesting area, while the kids let the rabbits have some play time.

Happy Lala running around the pen, completely oblivious to the fate that awaits her litter.

Once everything was ready to go, M said her goodbyes.

A well-loved bunny, having no idea he is being carried for the last time.

Our visitor, T, wanted to learn how to harvest rabbits, so S was to give him lessons–based on his own limited experience, of course.  To help prepare for the day, S actually harvested one rabbit last night so his technique was fresh in his mind.  Then, the plan was to harvest 2 rabbits at a time, with each man doing one simultaneously, until all 6 were finished. 

The time finally came, 2 bunnies were randomly selected, and we made all the kids go to the front of the house for the actual kill part.  S has used all 3 methods (2 ways of breaking neck and clubbing), and has decided his preferred method is the club.  Done correctly, the rabbit never knew what hit him, there is absolutely no suffering, and that is the way we prefer it.  Once the rabbits were dead, hung, and bled, we allowed the kids to return to watch. 

These kiddos are looking more fascinated than traumatized.

The first step was skinning the rabbits:

Rabbit skin peels off like a glove (at least that's how S describes it--I wouldn't know).S wants to learn how to tan rabbit hides, so he bundled the hides, put them in a ziploc bag, and put it all in the freezer. Next, the guys had to eviscerate, or gut, the rabbit. In our homeschool days, both of our families have been discussing anatomy, so this part had the children totally enthralled. Intestines being loosened.

Once the intestines were removed and the guys reached a stopping point, T, a former pre-med student, offered an in-depth biology lesson, while S continued to clean up the rabbits. 

S pointing out the major organs.Our friend, T, disecting the heart and showing the kids the chambers and valves.

This is where farm life makes homeschooling so awesome!  We turned what could be considered a morbid part of farm life into a hugely educational opportunity for the kids.  The guys pointed out all the organs and discussed their functions, opened the stomach, and discussed the contents and inner workings of the muscles, opened the heart and described blood flow, pointed out how the kidneys and bladder worked together (as the kid got to watch the bladder empty on the ground), showed how everything was connected, and so on.  After the rabbits were cleaned and put in ice water, the guys went even farther, both for function and an anatomy lesson.  In order to tan the hides the old-fashioned way, S had to collect all the brains.  So, upon child request, they dissected a skull, removed the brain and showed the components, removed the eyes and showed how they connect to the brain, then dissected the eye to show how the inner eye functions, and any thing else they could come up with. 

Will--surrounded by rabbits, raw meat, and offal--acting totally oblivious and chewing a stick.

 The children didn’t seem too traumatized, and after the anatomy lesson, they left the guys to harvest the rest of the rabbits, and ran off to play.  Once in a while, a child would meander back and ask a few questions about the process, but, surprisingly, even the most sensitive of the children seemed to enjoy the educational aspect of it all. 

Playtime

After the rabbits had some time to chill, S had to finish the job, re-cleaning and cutting the meat into cookable pieces. 

Then, I took the rabbit from last night, which had already been cut up, and fried it up for everyone to sample. 

Fried Rabbit nuggets

We had a wonderful day, I think our visitors had a great time, and we are really considering doing this again.  It was such a great opportunity for “city-folks” and homeschooled children to get hands-on with animals, and to learn so much.  In addition to the rabbit, we taught them how to milk the goat, let them sample fresh goat’s milk (which they loved, by the way), and answered a day’s worth of their questions.  After the time we have spent dreaming of this life, we truly enjoy being able to share these blessings with others.

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