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City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Archive for August, 2011

Butchering Rabbits (graphic descriptions)

After being counted, cared for, played with, hand-fed if necessary, given treats, and such, for somewhere around 12 weeks, it’s finally time for the rabbits we raise to be butchered.

This is not an easy task, nor is it a fun one.  And it shouldn’t be.

The fact is, we need meat because of sin.  When Adam sinned, we all gained a sin nature.  That may sound strange, but Shay demonstrated it well one time.  I had a metal measuring cup, and he used it for a lesson.  He took the cup, scooped some damp sand with it, packed it, flipped it over, and it delivered a perfectly round, perfectly perfect mound of sand.  Then he took a hammer, and dented the bottom.  I didn’t know he was going to do this, and this dismayed me quite badly, because the cup was special to me for sentimental reasons.  I’m sure Shay did not know that, though.  Anyway, he scooped more sand with it, packed it, flipped it, and it produced a dented mound.  There was no way for the cup to produce an unflawed mound.  It was such a simple, elegant example, I forgave him for denting my cup.

All you have to do is look at the faults of those around you, and take an honest look at yourself, to see it.  Even small children, who on the surface seem so innocent, are not.  I know I didn’t teach my children to lie, steal, or do what they were told not to.  And yet, before they were three, they were doing these things.

When God destroyed almost all of mankind with a flood, the climate of the earth changed dramatically.  The elements became much more harsh.  Life spans plummeted.  And God told Noah for the first time that animals were to be eaten.  It doesn’t take much figuring to realize that with the even, mellow climate the earth had before, a vegetarian diet was sufficient.  In the post-flood world, it was not.

Some people do manage to get by as vegetarians or vegans, but, unless there is a medical reason (a girl my mom knew was allergic to animal protein), it is not generally the healthiest way to feed your body.  Most of us need meat.

So we have chosen to raise some of our own meat by raising rabbits.  But if you read this blog regularly, you already know that.  I thought I’d go into what we use and how.

A day or two before butchering, I stop giving the rabbits  pelleted feed, and feed them only hay and water.  This reduces the amount of food that will be in the stomach, and also keeps it from stinking almost unbearably if you accidentally puncture the stomach.

The first thing we do is gather everything we use, including a hose for washing and rags for wiping.  Then I take the green milk crate that we use, and load the bottom of it with fresh grass, pony’s foot, dollarweed, and other weeds bunnies love.

(The first several pictures would not load the captions, so I have put the captions separately below the pictures.)


The milk crate works really well, because it’s just the right size for one rabbit, and if the rabbit bleeds in the crate, it and the greens in it can be rinsed easily with the hose. These things can be gotten most anywhere, and they don’t have to be the super-sturdy ones. Just the cheapies at Wal-Mart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Sterilite-File-Crate-Cactus/17126908

Milk crate in place, it’s time to load the pellet gun.


We use a Remington Air Master .177, Bunny-Wan Kenobi’s pellet rifle. We usually pump it five or six times, rather than ten, since we are shooting at point-blank range. We bought it for Bunny-Wan Kenobi at Wal-Mart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Remington-Air-Master-.177-Air-Rifle/5913355

While Bunny-Wan Kenobi uses BBs in his air rifle, we use pointed pellets in it for rabbits.  These aren’t the exact same ones, but they’re close. http://www.walmart.com/ip/Crosman-Premier-Super-Point-.177-Caliber-Pellets-7.9-Grain-500-Count/14234824

Once the rifle is loaded and pumped, one of us goes and gets a rabbit.  Shay wants to get some gloves for handling them, since they are not used to him, and he can get scratched up pretty badly.  If the bun is cooperative, it gets held and petted and talked to for a minute.  Then the bun gets put into the milk crate.  He starts sniffing around and munching on the yummy greens.  A few get more curious and stand, looking outside the crate.  But when they’re down and sniffing around, one of us lines up a shot.  At the back of the head, between and a little behind the ears, is the base of the skull.  We aim just below the base of the skull, toward the jaw.  When the rabbit shifts into the right position, we fire.

The rabbit’s muscles immediately seize up, since they are no longer receiving impulses from the brain.  It is at this point that we try to remove the rabbit from the crate, before it really begins to bleed.  If we remove the rabbit quickly, we can place it on the ground before the legs start kicking.  Kicking legs do not mean the rabbit is alive.  This is an autonomic nervous system response, and involves the back legs only.  The front legs and the head do not move on their own once the rabbit has been shot, if it was a clean shot.  Just think of the saying, “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”.  There’s a reason we have this saying.  A chicken with its neck broken or its head cut off will run around helter-skelter, its body trying to connect with its brain.  Moving the rabbit must be done quickly, or not at all, since once the back legs start kicking, you can get quite hurt by them.

Once the rabbit has stopped moving, we hang it up by the back legs, using cable clamps attached to a sawhorse.


The cuffs we use were bought for just under $1 each, at a home improvement store.

Here is one of two sets of cuffs screwed to a board, which is clamped into the sawhorse. You do have to be careful screwing them on, as they can crack or break. Once attached, though, they can hold many a rabbit.

We then skin the rabbit.  We used freshly-sharpened Chuppa or Rada knives at first, but my husband wanted something even sharper.  So he had me buy two fish & bone knives.  They do work better, to be sure!


These knives have worked out wonderfully for skinning and cleaning rabbits. I bought these at Bass Pro Shop.

Starting right above the ankles, right below where the rabbit is hung, we begin cutting through the skin.  There is a tendon at the back of the ankle that you’re supposed to be very careful of not cutting, so you don’t have problems when you are skinning, with the rabbit’s feet breaking off at that point.  Unfortunately, I’m very bad at not cutting that tendon, so I stopped worrying about it.  I haven’t had a rabbit foot pull apart on me yet!

Once we’ve cut the skin around the ankles, we make a cut down the inside of each leg, carefully meeting the two cuts in the middle on the belly.  Then, we cut and tug the skin off of the legs, and cut the skin across the back right above the tail (or below, since the rabbit is upside-down).  We then use a pair of garden shears to clip off the front paws.  That done, we begin to pull the skin down like a shirt, being careful to watch the belly at first — there is a bit of tissue connecting the skin to the belly near the back legs, and it can pull the belly open if it does not detach from the skin.

We continue pulling the pelt until the front legs are about half showing.  Then we puncture the clear membrane connecting the skin to the leg at the “elbow”, and then pull the leg out of the pelt like an arm out of a sleeve.  This can take some strong tugging.

We then pull the pelt down some more, revealing the neck.  Using a pair of lopping shears (much larger and more powerful than the garden shears), we cut the head off and discard the pelt with the head.  (Unless, of course, it’s a pelt one of the kids wants to tan.)  Then we pull the skin around the tail and vent area (anus, urine, and reproductive area) away and together, and then cut it off.

Then it is time to get the garden shears again to clip off the back feet, and the skinned rabbit goes into the pan to go inside and be cleaned.

Gutting involves making a careful incision up the belly of the rabbit, taking care not to puncture the bladder.  All of the innards get removed.  We save the kidneys, liver, and heart, unless there is some problem with them.  The kidneys can be easily missed, as they are attached to the inside of the back of the rabbit, and may be surrounded with fat.  The heart and lungs can also be missed, because they are in the upper chest area, and are separated from the rest of the innards by the diaphragm.  We cut the center of the ribs open to allow for easy cleaning.  We wash off the entire carcass thoroughly, and package it into a gallon freezer bag and put it into the refrigerator.

After all the rabbits are done, I clean the giblets.  The liver has the gallbladder attached, and this can be hard to see.  If the gallbladder is punctured, the liver will be ruined.  I carefully slide the point of the blade under the bile duct that leads from the gallbladder, and separate it from the liver for about an inch.  Then I pinch the bile duct, and use it to pull the gallbladder from the liver.  The heart needs only the top cut off.  For the kidneys, I just pull the fat and whatever else up until I have one white string of tissue attached to the kidney.  I cut that off at the opening of the kidney.

If the liver has white spots or squiggles on it, it must be discarded, as this is indicative of a sickness known as coccidiosis.  The remainder of the rabbit is still perfectly safe to eat.

After a few days in the refrigerator (6-7 in my refrigerator, since it is very cold, but 3-4 is usually sufficient), it is time to move the rabbits from the fridge to the freezer.  This time in the refrigerator is essential, because if the rabbit is in rigor when it is cooked, it is very tough.  A few days in the fridge first allow the rabbit to come back out of rigor, at which point it can be cooked or frozen.  You can also cook it immediately after butchering it, as long as you cook it before it goes into rigor.

Rabbits that were over 12 weeks old at butchering get an “R” on their packaging.  This stands for “Roaster”, as opposed to “Fryer”.  Roasters need to be cooked low and slow, just like a roasting chicken, to get it to be tender.

I hope this is helpful to those just starting out with butchering rabbits, as others’ descriptions were helpful to me!

Adding a modesty panel to a swimsuit

In my post “Family Visit”, I talked about my brother and his kids coming, and all of us going to a waterpark.  I had to get a swimsuit quickly, and had to compromise on one that fit somewhat, didn’t have high-cut legs, but had a plunging neckline.  I figured I could sew some fabric in to make it more modest.

I was in such a hurry, I forgot to take “before” shots of the swimsuit, so I went looking for it online.  It’s made by Gabar, and is black with white polka dots.  It has ruffles that face into the V-neckline,  and a bow of narrow, white ribbon at the base of the V.  I found two pictures to substitute for the missing “before” picture:

This swimsuit is a two-piece, while mine is one, but it is the same design. The top is black with white polka dots (or maybe it's black and white check?), features ruffles facing into the neckline, and has the little ribbon bow at the bottom of the neckline.

This swimsuit is identical to mine, except in color. The lady who bought this said she removed the little bow, because it didn't look like it belonged. I agreed, and had already removed the bow from mine.

I headed over to the fabric store, to look at their remnants.  I found some lilac swimsuit fabric.  I also bought some ball-pointed needles, since they don’t catch and pull the fabric.

Not having a clue what I was doing, I put on the swimsuit and stood in front of the bathroom mirror.  I measured up from the seam that goes across beneath the cups, to where I wanted the panel to reach.  That ended up being 9″.  I marked there with pins on both sides inside, and I marked it at 6″ as well.

I laid out my fabric and started marking measurements on it with a pencil.  I marked off 12″, to be gathered to 9″, and an inch above and below for sewing it into the seam.  I added another couple of inches in order to have plenty to gather.  I pinned the bias tape to it, folding the top inch over the bias tape that went across the top of the modesty panel.  Then, I put in running stitches down both sides, and pulled the fabric along it to gather it, until the gathered part was 9″ high. That finished, I pinned the panel inside the swimsuit and tried it on (carefully!!!).

It looked great!  So then it was time to sew it in.  I sewed in a zig-zag pattern, so the fabric would be secured, yet still able to stretch.  I went over the bias tape ends several times.  I also stitched the folded-over top of the panel to the bias tape that went across there.

As I stitched, I was careful not to go through the front of the seam, since I didn't want purple stitches showing there. You can see the top bias tape peeking out of the top corner of the fabric.

The purpose of the bias tape is to support the panel.  It stretches a little, but it actually is what is taking the stress (I pulled the two sides together a little, for better support).  When I have the swimsuit on, the lilac material is taut enough to be nicely shirred and not droop, but it is taking very little of the stress.

The panel completely sewn in. I was up into the wee hours to finish this thing!

From the front.

The gathering or shirring is not only decorative, it also hides any imperfections I may have made.

Completed suit, already tested at the water park!

Back of the suit.

The panel survived the water park like it had been a part of the suit from the beginning!

I hope to eventually finish the inside seams.

As with most Americans, once we start talking about billions and trillions, things start falling out of my brain.

I deal with tens, hundreds, and sometimes thousands, on a regular basis.  I remember the numbers that our budget is made up of.  I know how much Shay earns.  I know how much the family cell plan is, how much my dental payment plan is, how much our HSLDA membership is, how much I spend on food and clothing, and all the other expenses we have.

I never deal with millions, but I have a concept of them.  I have a cousin-in-law who deals with multi-millions on a daily basis, and I cannot conceive of that.

Once we reach billions and trillions, though, my ability to conceptualize and retain the numbers fails me.

It isn’t that I can’t do the math.  I love math.  I was very good at it in school, and took every math course I could.  I was bored in the lower grades, because they didn’t go fast enough for me.  Then I entered the Gifted and Talented program, and had a ball.  I took Trigonometry and AP Calculus in high school.  I confess, I hated statistics, but I could do them just fine.  It did bother me that there was math out there that I didn’t like.  I was in our math club, and competed in a regional math competition (I took 4th place in Trig).

I learned BASIC and UCSD Pascal (which remained my favorite computer language because it was easy to understand as written (unlike Fortran or Assembler), yet brief (unlike COBOL).

When I hit college, I took another Calculus course, and Discreet Math.  I hated Discreet Math, as it didn’t follow the rules of the math I knew and loved.  But I did alright in it anyway.  I took Fortran, Assembler, and COBOL.  And I was there only a year (then I ended up in Bible college, but that’s another story).

Okay, now that I’ve established that I don’t have a problem with math…

We hear all these huge numbers being thrown around in Washington; they speak of cutting millions… no, BILLIONS!  The deficit, the debt, the size of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, Defense.

Do YOU keep it all in your head?  Can you really conceive of these numbers, and remember their relationships to one another?  I doubt it.

When they speak of spending billions, cutting billions, etc., it sounds like a lot.  But when you look at the relationships of the numbers to one another, you realize that when they say “significant cuts”, “Draconian cuts”, or whatever, they are referring to a nearly meaningless amount.  They are counting on the fact that you can’t hold all of the numbers in your head all the time, to enable them to snow you.

That’s why I like 10,000 Pennies so much.  The guy who puts these videos together gives you representations (barrels of water, stacks of pennies, shots of whiskey) of the numbers which make them and their relationships to each other understandable.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of videos, and his most recent ones are 6 months old.  Before that, his most recent ones are 1 and 2 years old.  However, some of them are still relevant.  Really, they are all still relevant, because even the ones that talk about older bills and such still show you how deceptive and devious the government is.  They will blow your mind.

Here he is: http://www.youtube.com/user/10000Pennies

Listen fast — he talks fast.

You get wrapped up until you can't move, while I line up the necessary materials to give you a BATH!!!

This not-quite-two-week-old baby bunny is a TROUBLEMAKER!  You pick him up, and he squalls like he is dying!  You hold him, and he jumps, and leads you on a merry chase!  This time, he jumped, and landed in the pee and poo gutter in the rabbitry.  Blech!

So guess who got a bath?

Wet Wabbit!!! Scrub-a-dub-dub! I used baby shampoo on a wet rag to thoroughly scrub him, and then a plain wet rag to rinse.

What do you think he’s thinking of his little adventure now?

Towelled, towelled, towelled dry. Or, at least, damp. By this time, he's given up. He doesn't even care that he's being held anymore.

Time for a blow-dry! I don't think he had this in mind when he hopped out of ILoveBunnies' hands...

Bunny-Wan Kenobi and ILoveBunnies took him back out to his mama, who backed up and started sniffing at him.  We think he smells nice now… like baby shampoo.  Pearl probably thought otherwise.  Once he was in with his brothers and sisters, he snuggled in.  Hopefully, it won’t take long for him to start smelling like part of the family again.

So, just to restate the warning… BEHAVE!  Or you get a BATH!

Family Visit

One reason I haven’t been posting the last couple of weeks is that we’re trying to get ready for my brother and his three kids.  My brother is a Marine… uh… he was a Gunnery Sergeant, but he just got promoted.  I think he’s a Master Sergeant now.  I wish I could get all that straight, with my husband, father, grandfather, and brother all having been in the military, you’d think I’d know the ranks.

Anyway, there’s so much going on!  We’re trying to get our stored food put away, since we’ve been storing a lot of it in the dining room.  We’ve been shopping for food we’re going to eat while they’re here, stuff my brother doesn’t get to eat unless he’s here. :)  And we’ve been shopping for swimsuits.

My brother wants to take everybody to a water park nearby.  Turns out ILoveBunnies is the only one here with a suit still.  Bunny-Wan Kenobi grew out of his, Shay, my uncle, and I didn’t have swimsuits, for various reasons.  My mom can’t go, because she just can’t be out in the heat that long anymore.

Since we no longer have constant access to a pool, and since I was already spending a pretty good bit of money on other preparations, I didn’t want to spend a lot on swimsuits.  So we went to the local Burlington Coat Factory and Kohl’s, which have lots of closeout clothes, to look for swimsuits.  So now we all have swimsuits, for about what I would have paid for one pair of swim trunks at regular retail.

Now I just have to modify mine.  I’m a modest person, but it is difficult to find a modest swimsuit that will fit me.  I’m petite, but I never lost the extra weight that came with having children.  But I’d have to order a petite, plus-size swimsuit, and that wouldn’t be cheap.  How often am I going to wear this thing?  It’ll probably dry rot!  I just need to make it through one day.

So I got a swimsuit for $25 that has low-cut legs, but a plunging neckline.  And then I visited the remnants table at our fabric store, and bought a quarter-yard of discontinued swimsuit fabric, and some ball-point needles (which I can return, since I found some!).

I’ve got some bias tape, that, at my mom’s recommendation (she’s the one that’s actually made clothes before — I do well for not knowing much, but I go to her for help), I will use several strips of to pull the two sides of the “V” together a little and support the inset.  So I’m making a panel to fit there, to bring that neckline up to a comfortable level.

Okay… time to get busy…