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Harry The Hat

My husband thinks I am a tad bit overly empathetic, sometimes to the point of personifying things that are a far cry from having to be personified. I have been known to give way to tears at the beauty of trees swaying in the wind, thinking of them as wanting to be freed from their roots, yearning for exploration of the land. I watched a leaf blow in the cold wind last fall and waxed poetic of the tragedy of being alone and cold and wanting to be back at home base. I, to this day, will pick worms off the sidewalk and fling them into yards and ditches after a downpour, knowing that they really don’t want to be stuck to the sidewalk as dried worm jerky when the sun comes back out. But I really don’t know that. I just project empathy on things and stuff and it’s the way I have always been. I am a softy.

So, last Christmas, when Brad bought be a beautiful, rabbit fur, Elmer Fudd style hat for Christmas, he really didn’t think that I would somehow twist things around in my arty head to personify it in some way (or perhaps he did). But that is exactly what I did. Now right from the get go, I have to remove the thought of my hat actually being made out of bunnies, because if I think about it for too long, I probably won’t wear it at all.

Photo of a snowshoe hare compliments of Wikipedia.

After all, I was vegan for a good year or two because of those kinds of thoughts. (Thank you, Jonathan Safron Foer and your incredible book, “Eating Animals” for opening my eyes to the premise of ethical eating. BTW, if you want to read my book review of “Eating Animals” along with other blogs I wrote many, many moons ago, you’re welcome to check them out here. ) And since we have had the chance to be out at the farm more frequently now, I am finding that I am getting even more connected to the animals we are surrounded by.

This is just a sampling of the wildlife we see on the regular at the farm.

This spring when I accidentally wiped out almost half of a fresh litter of newborn baby bunnies with a whipper snipper, I felt like the most horrible person in the world. That awful incident is forever engrained in my mind. Of course when I screamed bloody murder, my husband came running thinking I had chopped my legs off Stihl style. I even went to many of my Homesteading groups on Facebook begging and pleading for ways that I could prevent that from ever happening again. The response was as I expected, especially by people that are much more seasoned homesteaders than I, and incredibly strong willed. They said that there’s nothing I can do. They said that I need to leave the bunnies that are still there alone and that it is normal for mama bunny to only visit them once a day to feed them. They said that there are so many bunnies that incidents like this are inevitable.

These were the little gaffers that survived. They were nesting right in the middle of Willow’s pen. It is actually a smart place to be because we were not there very often in the spring and it was fenced in from most predators….or at least I thought until I did more research. We called the vet thinking we needed to take care of them, but were told to just put them back in their nest and mama will take care of them. So we did. And I cried.

Oh man. I seriously thought I would never be able to whipper snip again. I spent the summer anxiously swishing my legs through the tall grass, looking for signs of nests before taking a plastic rotating blade to it. But throughout the course of the spring and summer, every once in a while, I saw a little bunny that got bigger and bigger every time we went to the farm, so I like to tell myself that at least one of the bunnies made it, (although I am incredible aware that there are probably 50 bunny nests around the acreage). I just tell myself these things so I don’t feel like a monster. The guilt is real. I have to grow thicker skin to be a true homesteader. I try to tell myself that they can be gross too, eating their own poop just to turn around and poop again. I try telling myself they are just as cruel as the rest of us, and even worse! At times they resort to cannibalism to get their protein levels up. I tell myself that their low survival rate has to do with not being the smartest animal on the block, and that natural selection is taking its course. I put a lot of justifications in my mind to try to wipe out the fact that I wiped out innocent beings.

This little cutie pants was hiding under some leaves when we were doing some major clearing of one area of bush. We safely moved him to a different sheltered spot.

But let me get one thing straight. This does not mean that I am against the killing of animals. I certainly don’t think that going out there and hacking animals with a whipper snipper is ever a good idea, but I don’t label people “monsters” for hunting or trapping, for example. Not at all. ( I will be totally straight up in saying that I am not cool with any kind of living creature being killed simply for sport, though.) This is not a blog about the hunting of animals and I am telling you, I am a fan of eating meat. I grew up on wild game and fish and harvested berries and mushrooms and believe in the importance of respectfully and deliciously living off the land.

fresh blueberries in porridge

We made tuna cakes with these shredded lobster mushrooms

perfectly sweetened nagoonberries

A fresh feed of pickerel for the win

Just some of the delicious food that Mother Nature provides us. It is bountiful if you look for it and aren’t afraid of some hard wor

I think of the importance of trapping, and how it is done humanely and ethically and is an incredibly heritage entrenched practice for many, and I respect the hard, hard work that goes into that. Although I personally could not do it, I have nothing against the people that do. I have my hunting license and gun license. I am ready to rock and roll in the hunting department once we are living at the farm full time and have an empty freezer to fill up. I am slowly starting to build up the courage to do that and I am thinking if I start with “chickens” aka grouse, I should be ok. I probably won’t be able to hunt bunnies, but you never know. Perhaps I will be able to make my own hat one day…maybe it will be a chicken hat. hahaha

This hat is made with rabbits, not chickens.

My rabbit hat was made in the Ukraine; my family’s homeland, so I have a strong sense of pride in wearing a hat like this. It makes me feel like I am a Ukrainian survivalist, roughing it in the Carpathian Mountains, as I walk with Willow in minus 40 weather along the back roads of Red Lake or through the paths and fields at the farm. So it should be no surprise that I have decided to call my hat “Harry”. Interestingly, with this hat on, I have difficulty hearing people that speak to me as I’m walking by. Their voices get muffled in the fur that is deeply buried in my ear canals. I said to Brad, so this is what it is like to have “hare” in my ears. It was a funny play on words that stuck. So if you see me walking around, feel free to say hi to Willow, Harry and I, but I can’t promise you that Harry will say hi back. (I would actually be very concerned if my hat did say hi back!) And unfortunately, I may not say hi back either because I won’t be able to hear you because, well, I have hare in my ears. This story seems to be going in circles, so I digress.

If you want to learn more fun facts about snowshoe hares, the fuzzy little buggers that are all over our land, go to my password protected resource library and do the crossword puzzle that I made for you so that you can learn more about them as well!

So yes, I have a hat named Harry, but this ain’t my first rodeo! This is not the first time I have given a piece of clothing a name. I used to have a fantastic coat that I bought at Value Village years ago. It was made out of llama wool. Since seeing Napolean Dynamite in 2004, I have had a heightened interest in llamas. Not as much as unicorns, but pretty close. In the movie, Napolean was living with his aunt, and she had a pet llama, which Napolean was sometimes directed to go and feed. He begrudgingly walks out to the llama, ham casserole in hand, and starts slopping the food onto the ground. With disgust and disdain, he says, “Tina, eat the ham!” So guess what I named my llama coat? Yep. Tina. Tina the llama coat was a great friend that kept me incredibly warm for several winters; almost too warm, actually, and I ended up passing Tina on to someone that was colder than I was.

I have taken portraits of coats that I have laid to rest, after a good long thankful haul with them. Why not? In university, I wore one coat through the best and worst of times; it was my bed, my blanket, my protection from the elements, my security blanket. When it was beyond repair, I had one choice left, to let it go with dignity and a portrait to remember it by. Funnily, I didn’t give that coat a name; I just called it my “old man coat” because I bought it in the men’s department of Value Village.

A portrait I took in university of my favourite coat.

This is an idiosyncrasy of mine that has been with me for some time. We all have our quirks and peculiarities. It’s a fun question to ask people at dinner parties and gatherings, and it’s always interesting to hear how people’s minds work. Feel free to use this story as an example, if you’d like. Maybe you’ll learn that I’m not the only one that has named her rabbit hat Harry or had a coat named Tina. If you happen to meet that person, pass their name on to me, because I’m sure we’d be fast friends.

Now get on over to that resource library and try the crossword puzzle! It is in pdf format so that it’s easy for you to print out and enjoy. Have fun learning all about the prolific and elusive snowshoe hares!

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