Our Rabbits

One of the things I was excited about when buying our new house was the fact that we would have land to keep animals on. We had already been keeping chickens in our small garden in our old village, but now we would have the space for so much more. I accompanied Jacob's nursery class on their farm visit a couple of years ago and an idea I loved that I've adopted is the idea of keeping animals for a purpose, not just to look cute and keep you company. Any animals here at Wild Oak Wood have to earn their keep and so far we have cats (who catch small rodents) and our fish are now in the pond (who will eat all the mosquitoes...hopefully!)

One day whilst browsing the Bon Coin (the French version of Ebay) I came across a local farmer selling rabbits. After persuading Andrew that they would be a good idea we went along with the boys to choose our new additions and came away with one male and two females, who I am officially naming Willow, Clover and Bailey. You know the saying about rabbits, they were at it as soon as we put them in a box together and the day we left for the UK for Christmas we were blessed with a little brood of baby rabbits. Not that we saw them properly however till we got back as they were hidden away under a bundle of rabbit fur.

We kept all our rabbits inside over winter but they are now in their permanent home outside, shaded under trees and happy with their palaces that Andrew built with old wood found in the barn and unused roof tiles from the garage. However, as mentioned at the start, these animals are for a purpose, we're keeping them for meat. Although rabbit may not be a frequent site in some supermarkets, here lots of people keep them for this purpose and you can buy them from the local butcher or find them in the supermarkets. Rabbits are easy to breed, produce lots in one go, and they don't need a huge amount of space. Many are kept in cages though we didn't like the idea of this. (We may regret this decision however when it comes to catching them...they are fast!) These rabbits are more wild than tame. They're curious at times when you enter their pen but generally they don't like to be handled and run away when you try and stroke them. These aren't small rabbits either, they're a big breed, about the size of large cats.

We're on a road to self sufficiency, and along with the chickens and veg patch we're making a start. This is year one and we're experimenting, seeing what works for us as a family and what our land throws up at us throught the year. The kids are totally on board, we haven't held anything back from them, they understand the purpose of the animals we keep and what we're trying to achieve here. We're not a vegetarian family so what better way to know what's on our plate than to grow and rear as much as we can ourselves?

What's next? Definietly bees at some point and next year we have pigs on the agenda. It would be great to have an animal that could keep the grass in the big fields down for us. I have a romantic idea of keeping goats but I know how cheeky they can be! Do you keep animals? We'd love to hear your experiences and any tips that you may have.

Homemade Playdough - Eco Living

Wednesday afternoons the kids have no school. They've just had two weeks off school and there are endless bank holidays in May meaning disrupted weeks and late nights as we just can't seem to get back into the school rhythm. Our boys are pretty good at keeping themselves entertained but every so often they fail to find things to amuse themselves so it's good to have a couple of things up our sleeves like this....homemade playdough.

I haven't bought playdough for years once I discovered how easy it was to make. This is my favourite recipe, though I make it without the jelly. I usually use any old food colouring but I had a box of this natural stuff from our local Biocoop which works perfectly. The pink is beetroot, green is nettle powder, and the yellow smells so strongly of turmuric. The boys use it with their electric dough kit and light up their creations!

Have you tried making your own playdough? What's your favourite recipe?
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