Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In case you wondered what an angora rabbit looks like and were afraid to ask

This, my friends, is an angora rabbit. We all have days when we feel like this, no? They are raised for their fine angora coats and to give other rabbits a fit of the giggles.

The lady who hosted those spinning lessons I told you about kept these rabbits in her garage, right beside the stone grinder she used to grind her own wheat into flour which she used in her bread that (oh yes, I do not lie) she Baked Every Day.

Back to the rabbits...

Despite their cute and fluffy appearance, her wascally wabbits were wild and wooly in the truest sense. They struggled and bit her like rabid vampires when she brushed them. In all fairness to the bunny, wouldn't you if you looked like this and someone tried to brush you? But she seemed to think it was worth the effort and I had to sort of agree after I fondled one of her lacy scarves made of an angora/silk mix. What was that? Silk, I hear you say. Why, wherever did she get raw silk to spin?

Yes, the same woman who raised the hairy bunnies and ground her own wheat berries also raised silk worms in her basement.

Here is a silk worm. Not nearly as cuddly as the bunny, but these don't bite and scratch.

You do, however, have to get past the ick factor. I don't mind. I'll take worms over rabbits any day. We had a rabbit as a pet when the kids were young which we dubbed The Killer Bunny. If you're familiar with Monty Python skits, you'll know what I'm talking about. We were assured by the pet store guy that it was a male and very cuddly but it turned out to be high strung and totally irrational and unpredictable in its behavior. I wouldn't have thought there could be so much energy in such a tiny, furry little body, but this rabbit scared the bejeezus out of me.

There was no way anyone could even stroke it, let alone hold it. (An aside: I just asked Eldest in the other room, "What was the name of our bunny?" and she said, "You mean Killer Bunny? The Monty Python Bunny? Did it even have a name?")

In order to change its cage, I had to lock myself with the rabbit in a closed room. I dressed in a long, thick winter coat, and my husband's leather work gloves as Bunny had a tendency to leap from the ground, bite a leg and retreat. Did you read that? It could, and did, Leap From The Ground and bite our legs.

The last straw for me (like biting my leg wasn't enough) was when I gently picked it up to put it back in its cage, and it screamed in a pitch so high and unearthly that all the hairs on my body stood on end. It was like receiving an electric shock. I didn't think rabbits could even made that sound. The kids' science teacher offered to take it, and shortly thereafter, the "boy" bunny gave birth to a bunch of baby bunnies, which explained the crazy behavior according to the eejit clerk at the pet store. Anyway, the Mommy Bunny, post-natal, calmed right down and lived happily ever after, and I said goodbye to rabbits forever, unless they come in the form of hassenpfeffer.

So back to the silkworms. These are the cocoons from which the silk is unraveled and spun.

Cool silkworm factoids:

Fact: The only thing silk worms eat is mulberry leaves. Fact: My next door neighbour has two mulberry bushes in her front yard. Food for thought. And for silk worms.

Fact: Unlike spiders, the silk comes out of the silkworm's mouth, and the silk is actually hardened saliva. Fact: That fashionable silk blouse is made of worm spit.

Fact: The silkworm moves its head in a figure 8 patterns as it produces the silk. Fact: Not 7, and never 9 or 2.

Fact: Each silk worm cocoon, about 2 inches long, produces one unbroken strand of silk about a mile long. Fact: This is about how long my weekly grocery bags would be if you lined them up, end to end.

Fact: It takes 1,000 cocoons to produce about 4 ounces of raw silk. Fact: This is enough for one shirt. No seriously. It's enough for one shirt. And it takes 2,000 for one dress.

Right now I can drive to the wool shop down the road and just pick up some silk worms someone else raised. But I'm thinking there might be room in my house for a few.

How hard could it be? It's got to be easier than goats or llamas or little bunny rabbits.


nightsmusic said...

I have to admit, I'll stick with the rabbits. :) Worms? EWW!

We've had three buns as pets and they've all been wonderful little things. They were DD2's pets and didn't bite, cuddled by her chin at night while she slept (yes, they were all 'free range' buns) used their cages for a litter box, never the carpet, would weave through her ankles when she'd pour their food into the dish (there was that one time she tripped over Berkley and ran into the wall sending the food...but I digress) and were fun to have. So, in all fairness to buns everywhere, they're not all schizoid ;-)

Granted, none of them were angoras, which after looking at that picture, would make me think they're nasty because they hate the way they look compared to all the sleek, manly buns.

But what do I know?


Laura Bradbury said...

Dear Pam,

Where is that poor rabbit's face? Can you imagine the dilema of trying to eat without getting your fur in your food?

And sometimes we think we have problems...

Laura xo

A Novel Woman said...

Well, we thought we'd have a bunny experience like yours, but we were bamboozled. And traumatized. I'll take dogs and cats from now on, thanks.

Laura, I don't have to imagine. We have an angora type cat and her hair gets into everything...And when she tries to clean herself, she gags on her own self. What a stupid design...

Diane T. said...

This, this is why I'm addicted to your blog. I laugh out loud and I learn something. And I'm weirded out. And you give me stuff to talk about with my Teenager.

Pam, you're way cool.

Anonymous said...

The first and only time I ever held a rabbit it scratched my stomach as well as my arms and I still have the scars to this day, more than 40 years later. I've never tasted wabbit but believe me, I've wanted to...I think they are about as cuddly as chickens.
Kathy down the street xo

Yutha said...

That rabbit looks like Olivia now (check out my blog)....she weighs about 20 pounds at the moment...

nightsmusic said...

Yutha! FAT cat! But she looks intense. :)

And I would really like that set of Jadite you have a pic of on your blog.

Yutha said...

Nightsmusic - yes, she looked intense because she wanted to drink the water from the tree but we wouldn't let her. She's not the sharpest tool in the shed but she's a sweetie pie. Isn't that jadite nice? I like it too but I never keep it, just sell it.

A Novel Woman said...

Thanks Diane! My kids just think I'm nuts.

Kathy Down The Street!! Let's do lunch!

Yutha, Olivia looks like a Yule Log.

Yutha said...

Olivia is about as SMART as a Yule log, God love her.....

nightsmusic said...

Obviously, her cute factor makes up for her pretense as a yule log :)

And Yutha, do you sell the jadite just from the store? Do you ever maybe list on eBay?

Deniz Bevan said...

Who is this woman and where does she live?! As a city girl, I'm woefully ignorant of many things; I'd love to visit her to see silk worms in action and watch a bunny being sheared/shorn. My grandmother always tells the story of how she found some silkworms once, while at university in Turkey, and kept them in her closet as pets :-)
That bunny is super cute. The first thing I thought of on seeing that photo was - I bet my younger cat wishes he had fur like that to hide behind. The second thing was - how do angora bunnies survive in the wild? I'm picturing burrs and sticks and moss stuck in all that lovely fuzz... Then I read all the stories about angora bunny - The Killer Bunny.
Run away! Run away!

A Novel Woman said...

Theo, my sister Yutha sells from her booth in an antique market and on eBay.

And Deniz, this was years ago and the woman is long retired. She got Parkinson's and is unable to work anymore. Quite sad as she did museum pieces for displays and a lot of custom work. She is a genius with yarns.

Yutha said...

Hi Theo - are you looking for something in particular?

Stephanie said...

well angora rabbit really nice but not quickly breed.

alaina said...

Found your blog while looking for some angora bunny info...LOVE it! I'm intrigued by the silkworms...I wonder how much of a market there is for the raw silk? I'm a fabric artist and I dye a lot of silk, so making the raw materials sounds interesting (but I don't think I want to process it myself!) We actually have angora bunnies...ours are NOT scary. :) If they're handled early on they are actually just like a sweet little lap cat, without the cat attitude. Ours don't look quite like that one...they are less silky and more floofy. We have five...we actually just picked up a little half-grown black one yesterday and she is sweet as can be. (We also have 20 nigerian dwarf dairy goats and two "nigora" goats which are a cross between an angora goat and a nigerian dwarf goat...that way you get the fiber but have a smaller size goat. Angora goats don't produce angora fiber...their fiber is called mohair. Which I think is weird. Both angora rabbits and angora goats are from Turkey, though.) Anyway, looking forward to checking out the rest of your blog!