Sunday, June 12, 2011

Feeding by Margaret Ullrich

Last week I wrote about how Pop had kept us fed after Lily Tulip moved to New Jersey.
We were well-fed from his garden.
Especially from the green beans he grew.

A few friends e mailed me and asked if we were vegetarians.
Uh, are you kidding?

To paraphrase a rather famous quote, "Man does not live by green beans alone."

Like I said last week, Pop was a farmboy.
He was a MALTESE farmboy.
He'd never met a rabbit he didn't like.
Especially stewed, Maltese-style, with lots of garlic.

Along with the garden, Pop made good use of his garage.
It was a very old garage, at the top of a mildly steep, long driveway.
When Pop first bought the house the driveway was made of cobblestones.
Yes, it was that old.
The second year we lived there, Pop and Uncle Charlie replaced the cobblestones with concrete.
I was four-years-old and helped by carrying my sandpail - filled with wet concrete - to Pop, who poured and smoothed.
Ma was working the day shift at Lily Tulip.
This was before long before day care.
And Sesame Street.

The garage was an old wooden building, large enough for two cars.
In 1962, when Lily Tulip left College Point, Pop didn't have a car.
No need to, since he didn't have a driver's licence.
Plus, he had moved to College Point so he could walk to work.

What could he do with that garage, you ask?
Why turn it into a rabbit hutch, of course.

All along the south wall, Pop set up small rabbit cages.
Each cage had a small enclosed room.
Mother rabbits liked their privacy when they had babies.
Pop liked rabbit stew.

Get the connection.

The only thing that produces better than green beans is rabbits.

Rabbit farming is a bit like being Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.
Rabbits must be well fed, secure and comfortable.
Cages must be cleaned regularly.

The rabbits liked a bit of petting.
The baby bunnies were so cute, that wasn't hard to do.
I had to wait until they were old enough that their mom wasn't bothered by them picking up a human scent.
Nature and instincts must be respected.

Then it was time to make dinner.
Mopsie had to be skinned and cut into portions.
After being killed as quickly and painlessly as possible.
We didn't go hungry.

While the rabbits were alive, we cared for them as best we could.
But, they were there for a reason.
And it wasn't for their pleasure.

During the 50s, most American kids heard family tales of their parents growing up during the Depression.
My folks had stories about Malta being blockaded during World War ll.
No food for three months.
Not good.

Food is a bit important to Maltese who remember such times.
Before we left New York, Pop said, "Never cheat your stomach."

Paul and I now live in an area that, until recently, was a farm.
We still get visited by the occasional ruffled grouse or bush bunny.
Sometimes the bunnies wander into our yard and munch on the grass.

Wonder what Pop would do if he saw them?

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