Eating from the Pantry Week Four and the Garden

I have completed the challenge and you can see the results in the video above. I did pretty well with it, though not perfectly and saved $750 by not doing any real grocery shopping or going out to eat at all during this time period. I just need to save another $150 to pay for the set of four new tires the van needs

George is hurt, but he is starting to improve. We lost a chicken. We think it was to a hawk and that George fought off the hawk and that is how he got hurt.

The garden is doing fantastic.

We have kits due on the 3rd or 4th. They got their nest boxes last night and all three rabbits promplty got to work nest building. Persephone and Luna even started pulling fur.

The foster kits and Phoebe’s one kit are doing really great being raised by Phoebe. They are starting to catch up to the size they should have been if all had gone well from the start. They are 4 weeks old now and the sweetest, friendliest little loves.

We weaned the previous 3 litters this week. I need to let the lady who is going to buy Serena know that her kits have been weaned. It will be hard to see Serena go, but I know she is going to a good rabbit person who knows what she is doing, so that makes it easier.

It has been so hot here the last week or so that I feel like I am living in California and not NW WA. We have 7 fans going in the rabbit shed and between that and the pavilion they seem to be staying fairly comfortable. We check on them and their water bottles several times per day. So far no one seems to be having any issues, thank goodness.


Getting Ready for Kindling

I spent a few hours today with my son cleaning rabbit cages. We had to rotate 9 rabbits around. The 3 pregnant does are now in the top Mama cages, the 3 does with kits are now in the bottom Mama cages, and the does whose kits have been weaned for a couple weeks now are now on the wall with most of the bucks and the majority of the grow out cages. Tomorrow I will give the pregnant does their nesting boxes. They are due on Saturday or Sunday.

Ruby is the only first time mother this time around. Serenity and Phoebe are old pros at it. We will be having one red litter and two white litters, no mixed litters this time. Which is okay. I wanted to see what color of red Ruby throws before deciding if I want to mix her with one of the white bucks. The only red doe I for sure want to breed with Wildfire consistently is Firefly since they are not related, but if Ruby throws dark red I will likely continue to breed her to her father.

It’ll be a little nerve-wracking having newborns again. It always is with a first time mother, but I’ve been pretty lucky so far this year. Firefly and Luna Blue both proved to be excellent mothers. I am sure Ruby, with her sweet temperament, will be as well.

I can tell already this garden is going to be challenging to keep up with when it comes to harvesting. But that is a happy problem to have! It’s just so prolific already and that’s just the kale and lettuce!

The birds are enjoying the sunshine.

A bit of a look at the irrigation system.

I tried the chicken I canned the other day. It was great. I am very glad to have it. I am hoping to get some rabbit canned the next time we butcher, too. And maybe some hamburger. I like having hamburger canned. It makes cooking so much more convenient.

The Growth is Explosive

I have never had a garden year like this and it is only just beginning. In the past 2 days since I made the above video all of the beans that I planted have started coming up. Everything is growing with a vengeance, it seems.

Well, except the corn, but that finally started today. But on Sunday when I did the below video I had only seen one corn seed that had sprouted.

I am now harvesting lettuce and kale daily and one of the kohlrabi is almost ready to be picked. Definitely in another couple of days.

I am going to fill up the old duck swimming pool, the one that cracked last winter, with manure and compost and soil and grow cucumbers in it. Cucumbers were something I couldn’t fit into any of the other planting spots and I want to grow some for fresh eating. I don’t need to pickle any this year as I made lots of dill pickles last year, so if it doesn’t do great, it isn’t a big deal. If it does, than I’ll make some sweet pickles for the husband. He doesn’t eat them often, but likes them as an occasional treat. I’m a dill pickle girl all the way myself, but as no one else eats them, the 12 jars or so I have will last me a long time.

All of the animals are doing well. Gina did not end up going broody, but she sure was acting like it for a day or two. Now she’s acting like she couldn’t care less about it. The ducks are needing their water refreshed throughout the day because of the heat. The chickens are under the house eaves in deep wallows of dirt. Even George is making a big wallow in the shade for himself. For the rabbits we put up the pavilion again to shade out some of the direct sunlight and a screen to keep out the flies and other biting bugs.

There is a lot more work to be done these days, but I love it. I love being able to be out working in the garden and see my happy animals.

I Can’t Believe How Well the Garden is Doing

Long View of the Garden

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The Peas are Sure Climbing

I don’t think I’ve ever been so far ahead on the garden before. Between the mild winter and the beautifully warm spring we were able to do so much early. Even though today is not gorgeous, it is still 63 degrees and the plants are very happy with it.

We are putting the supports in for the tomatoes. I’m not sure when they’ll be big enough to need them, but that’s one of those things that if you blink one day they’ll be overgrown and then it’ll be hard to get them installed. I think I will end up planting 5 more tomato plants and then call that good.

That will give me 16 plants and if they all do well I’ll be over my head in tomatoes. I want to make enough spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and ordinary tomato sauce to get through the year. And make some ketchup, though I don’t know if I’ll have enough to do that. It really depends on how well they produce. If what I’ve gotten so far growing this way is any indication, it will be a bumper year, though.

I want to plant as many peppers as possible. Although I may have too many seedlings, my priority is to have enough paprika peppers to dry and grind my paprika supply for the year. Then secondly to strip and dice and freeze enough sweet peppers for the year. If after that I can then also do a good supply of the dried or frozen jalapenos, that will be icing on the cake.

We go through a lot of peppers and onions during the year in stir-fries or chili. I have 3 gallon size bags of them left in the freezer, so I did pretty well with freezing my supply last year. While I won’t make it until these ones are ready, I made it a lot closer than I thought I would get. It was nice not to have to shell out so much money for organic (when I can find them) peppers throughout the year.

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George Hanging with the Chicken.

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Sunbathing ducks.

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Willow the Barnevelder Mid-molt

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Gina in the Duck Coop Nesting Box Where She Lays Her Eggs

Life is Going to the Birds

Well, I think George and Gina are finally getting used to being outside during the day. Gina laid her egg over by the corner of Fort Knox (where we lock up the chicken feed at night) instead of from the perch so we actually got a whole undamaged turkey egg today.

The garden has started producing enough lettuce that we can share some with the birds. Not the rabbits though. They will have to wait on the kale to get bigger and the chard to grow up since lettuce is hard on rabbit digestion.

I am thinking about getting a solar dryer to dry some of the chard and kale over the growing season to feed to the animals come winter. I can use old feed bags to store them once they are dried. I’ve also been considering getting the cubit press for making dried forage cubes. The press can also be used to make cubes of rabbit manure for planting pots. It comes out in a square and you can plant a seedling in it. So the press would have two purposes.

But the press may have to wait another year as I really want to get an incubator first.

I potted my tomatoes up again today, the ones that have been hardening off into 8 inch pots. The rest of the tomatoes are much smaller and still under the lights. Lillian’s yellow heirloom tomato is a very slow grower. It was last to germinate, fewer seeds germinated, and they don’t look vigorous at all. If I don’t see a big improvement in the last next weeks, I don’t think I’ll bother trying to plant them. Maybe one. But they were more of a novelty purchase. I knew that the Opalka, the Constoluto Genevese, and the Abraham Lincolns were going to be my work horses. I just thought it would be fun to have some yellow ones, too.

My lettuce seedlings did a turn for the better. They are tiny but I potted them up into bigger pots anyway and they seem like that was the boost they needed.

Still debating raising quail. Still debating raising turkey poults. I keep telling myself no and then I keep coming back to it. I think if I can get a couple of good eggs from Gina I will try to incubate. I can get a fairly decent incubator for $150. It isn’t the one I want long-term, but as a starter incubator it is solid. And I can get it at one of the local farm stores instead of ordering off line and waiting forever for it to come.

I really hate the idea of not raising my own meat birds at all this year. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.

Some Firsts Today

The fur is in on Cinnabun’s kits. They were first, but then they were born first. There are definitely 2 solid blacks, 1 possible black, and 2 chocolates. The fur is about half in on Kalia’s and I can tell there are 2 that will be agouti, one that will be a steel, and one that is almost black, but not quite as it has a touch of grey and brown. Serena’s pinkies look frosted with white.

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I had my first salad from the garden. It consisted of red loose leaf lettuce, Lacinato kale, blood-veined sorrel, common sorrel, and some thyme. The sorrels taste a lot like spinach, but are prettier. I was picking the kale on the side where the peas are, as they are trying to climb the kale instead of the trellis.

We let the turkeys out of their pen today for the first time. Gina was so happy. She hung with the ducks. She would always stare at them as they’d file past the pen and I swear it was with longing. George seemed confused, mostly, but then George isn’t the brightest bird. Beautiful and loyal and bonded to Gina, but not too smart. Neither one of them really wanted to go back in at night, though. Gina led me a merry chase. George just let me pick him up and put him back in the pen. I will let them out again tomorrow.

I was feeling sorry for them as they just have the coop and the 8 x 8 area. George is too heavy to fly much and Gina doesn’t want to leave George, so I think it is going to be okay. I will let them out on days that it is nice as long as I’m going to be around. So they will be part-time free range or yard range or whatever you want to call it from now on.

I will be saving duck eggs for the next two mornings for a lady who wants to fill her incubator and has about ten spots open. She will be giving me a dozen calendula starts in exchange. I am happy with that bargain as I didn’t want to try to start any more things from seeds. It is very full under my grow lights. The girls are being pretty prolific at the moment so I hope they don’t slack off on the job.

She also raises quail so when I am ready, I can get some from her, either chicks or eggs to incubate. They are the jumbo Coturnix which are the ones I want to raise when we do it, too. These quail take 8 weeks to mature to butcher size. I am thinking about raising some start to finish in the brooder box. I could do 20 in that space or 40 if I used both brooder boxes. They are 4′ x 4′. I’m not too interested in having more egg layers, just the meat, right now. But we will have to see. I am just not sure if I want to raise meat birds this year.

Peppers are Sprouting

I am so excited. I planted my pepper seeds last weekend and by yesterday I had sprouts in each cup. Not every single seed is up yet, but most of them are. Peppers can take up to 14 days to germinate, so I am thrilled to have them in a week. I have just been using my heating pad, though for next year I will buy an actual heat mat for seeds, since it means I’ve had to go without my heating pad myself.

I have moved 4 pepper cups under the light since they had germinated all 3 seeds in each cup and will move a few more tomorrow. The Traveler’s Strain of Jalapenos had every seed sprout. The other fully sprouted cup is Golden Treasure sweet peppers. The other varieties I planted were Ruby King Bell peppers and Feher Ozon Paprika. If everything germinates I will end up with nine plants of each variety.

So far I have had very little germination failure. One whole tomato cup and a couple other tomato seeds did not come up, but since I planted double what I wanted to plant I am happy with that. All of my lettuce and kale is coming up. I have one cup of chard that is coming up, but none of the others are. Those were only planted 3 or 4 days ago, though, so I think they’ll be along shortly.

I have planted one garden bed almost fully. I put in six red leaf lettuce, 6 kale, two rows of yellow Cobra keeping onions, and 4 feet of snow peas. I plan to plant 4 feet of Cascadia snap pea seeds tomorrow. I also have planted some leeks in window boxes. They probably won’t stay in there permanently, I’ll see how they do, but I wanted to get them separated and out of their starting pots. I planted green bunching onions in one full length of guttering on the turkey coop.

I’ve planted two kinds of parsley and cilantro in one big pot and hyssop, lavender, and chamomile for tea in another big pot. I put marjoram in one window box and sorrel in another. All of the herbs can be brought in the house if we get a last minute frost and I can throw a sheet or blanket over the one garden bed that is planted.

I still haven’t got to the radish seeds yet or the carrots. I hope to do that tomorrow. I think my hesitance has just been that I really hate fussing with itty bitty seeds that can’t be transplanted. But it needs to get done. Once I get the radishes in, I’ll have to break everyone of putting eggs in the gutter while they do other things.

The plum trees are in full bloom and the apples are about halfway there. They are beautiful and the yard smells wonderful. I really hope there is not a frost, because if the blossoms are any indication the trees will be loaded with fruit this year. A frost now would kill any fruit set.

The raspberries have been thinned and some of the thinnings transplanted away from the ducks, who are really harsh on them as they eat as much as they can reach of both foliage and berries. They have some lovely leaves on them. The blackberries are also leafing out nicely. My strawberries are coming along and leafing out. It’ll probably be a few more weeks before they really start to grow, but at least now I am pretty sure most of them at least survived the shipping process. The blueberries are gorgeous right now with all the red and green. It looks to be an incredible year for all of the fruit if nothing bad happens.

The animals are all doing really well. I will try to get some current photos of them to post tomorrow. The rabbit kits are adorable and Ruby has finally tamed down to the point where she is begging for petting. Ruby is Sienna’s daughter, the one who we kept after Sienna died, but weren’t sure would be a keeper after she had her first set of kits, because she was so wild. We didn’t work with that litter as much as we would have if we’d known we were going to keep one. But I’ve been working with her every day and now she is definitely going to be a keeper.

She is actually more friendly now than Firefly is or Sienna was. Probably more friendly than Cinnabun, too, because while Cinna is nice most of the time, she can still be a grump and charge you, though she stops short of making contact.

I need to get my new cages ordered or I won’t have more than one grow out cage when I need them in 3 to 4 weeks. And I want to time them so they arrive while the husband is home to put them together. I will be getting 4 cages, 3 for grow outs and one to replace a really rusted out cage. I need to remember to buy feeders, too, when I go to the farm store next. And I need to round up and wash my extra water bottles.

The turkeys are doing well, but after the first 3 eggs I haven’t gotten any more from Gina. Maybe it was a false start? I don’t know. I wish I could let them out into the yard to wander around, but I am just so afraid they would fly away, and I am not capable of climbing a tree to go after them.

The ducks are a merry band of goofballs. You would never know they were originally three separate groups. They seem so happy. Ducks often seem to be smiling. They are really a joy to have around.

Kyri, Mom’s oldest chicken, finally died. She’s been dragging around for about 6 months, not able to go up on the perch so sleeping in one of the nest boxes instead, walking slow, hunching a lot. So we knew it was coming. So that puts us down to 9 laying hens, my four Barnevelders, and then Mom’s, which are one silver laced wing wyandotte, one white leghorn, 2 Auracanas, and one black Australorp.

We have talked about maybe getting 4 pullet chicks, but I think we are going to pass on it this year. With nine hens, 6 female ducks, and one female turkey, we will have plenty of eggs. I am not sure about raising meat birds, either.

I’ve got access to non-GMO, organic chicken parts at the food co-op, so I can buy reasonably priced thighs, legs, and wings and not be stuck with white meat that no one really likes and I always end up having to eat when we roast a whole chicken. It is good to know how to raise them and butcher them, but we do, so last year’s experience was good for that. When we move to our own farm and have more space and can have a rooster (with an anti-crow collar) and have our hens raise chicks, then it’ll be something to do. Until then, the rabbits are just easier.

I would still really like to raise more turkeys for the freezer, but I don’t think that will likely happen this year. If Mom was going to raise some pullets than I would, but I don’t want to raise poults without chicks. They are too stupid without chicks or a Mama turkey to show them how to eat and drink constantly for the first couple weeks. So I will likely get them from a local farmer instead. The same guy I will get some Pekins from. He grows them on pasture. He also does lamb, so we might get a lamb as well this year. I’d also like to get half a beef. Ah, we’ll see. What I want, and what will actually happen, doesn’t always match up.