End of March Round Up

It won’t be long now, less than a week and we should have rabbit kits again. We need to butcher the grow outs, but we’ve been so busy lately running to doctor appointments and getting the garden ready and building another pantry cabinet with so much sanding my arms will never be the same. And that’s with an electric sander.

Today I did a ton of work in the garden. The husband fixed the two beds that were coming apart at one corner and reinforced a couple other corners for good measure. We put netting over the onion bed because of the squirrels digging up everything problem we have each spring. Not to mention the escape artist chickens that always manage to end up in the one garden bed you don’t want them in. I got all of the beds weeded and took the plastic off the herb bed to see what had made it, then transplanted everything that had into a different garden bed. I want to have herbs and medicinal flowers all in one big bed this year.

We topped off one of the narrow beds to bring the soil level back up and I will be transplanting the strawberries into it. We will need to bring the soil level up in the other two narrow beds and one more of the big beds. One pickup load of soil ought to do it.

I picked up an amazing amount of garbage out of the garden. Mostly broken pots, plant labels, and empty soil bags. I obviously got lazy last summer at some point. Oh, wait, when I pulled a muscle in my back, that’s right. So I didn’t get around to proper clean up. It was all I could do to water and harvest and the husband worked 5 weeks straight with no days off and wasn’t home at all to help me.

We still have to roll up the plastic that was over the hoops we used this winter and put it away. I’m not sure exactly where we will store it. Maybe behind the garage. I’m not sure I will bother with covering more than the herb bed next year and just use the little umbrella greenhouse to have lettuce and kale for as long as possible. Once the snow hit, it caved most of them in and smothered the plants anyway. We’ll need better hoops before we consider covering so many beds again.

The husband is going to build a stand for me to set a large sprinkler on so it will be above the level of the raised beds and we will water the garden that way this year. Since I won’t be growing tomatoes or peppers in the back yard garden, I don’t have to worry about water getting on the leaves and getting blight. It’ll make things so much easier to just turn one sprinkler on for 20 minutes a couple times a week during the heat of the summer and be done with it. He’s also going to put legs on a screened box we have and that will be our veggie cleaning station where I can spray the dirt off before bringing it into the house.

I am propagating basil off the stuff growing in the Aerogarden. I want to have lots of healthy, good-sized basil plants to put out in May when the time comes. I have both sweet basil and Genovese basil. I will also want to plant Thai basil and purple basil, but those I will have to buy. I will buy one plant of each and do cuttings from those as well to make new plants, but they won’t have those out until late May, probably.

I am ready for real spring to be here. Not this I’m still really winter in sheep’s clothing nonsense we’ve been seeing. Although it has gotten much better this week, I won’t plant more than cold season crops because I still don’t trust it.

The Kits are Thriving

I am so happy with how the kits are doing. They are growing very well. Admittedly I haven’t been able to check on them as much as I normally would. My husband and son have had to do the majority of the rabbit chores since I still have bronchitis and a lot of swelling in my sprained ankle. I can’t go out at night, because I can’t see where I’m putting my feet and I can’t risk rolling my ankle again and the doctor doesn’t want me outside at night until this cough goes away.

We got the hoops in the garden covered with greenhouse plastic today. We are due for our first hard freeze and possible snow on Monday night and possibly more snow later in the week, but tomorrow night will get down to 35. I want to jolly my lettuce, kale, and chard along through the winter if I can and protect my herbs.

I am really struggling with the nightshade allergy. They put paprika in everything. I even found it in my uncured, nitrate free, nitrite free, high fructose free hot dogs. And I realized that my shelf full of homemade canned garlic dill pickles are not something I can eat now because of the red pepper flakes. And no one else in the family likes dill pickles. So now I can’t eat pickles until I can make more come summer when there are pickling cucumbers again, without the red pepper flakes. It’s a little discouraging.

I’ve started loom knitting again. I quit sometime around April last year. I finished the sock that was on the loom, but I don’t think I have enough yarn to make a matching sock. I will take a piece to the store and see if they still even have that yarn. If not I will just knit another sock in a different yarn I don’t have enough of to do two socks and just wear that pair in my boots where no one can see them.

Tomorrow we are going to fetch a 55 gallon barrel of produce. It is $15 for the produce and $15 deposit on the barrel. We’re getting it to feed to the ducks, turkeys, and chickens. They need the fresh stuff at this time of year when the garden is only making enough for us to eat and only a little to share with them. I have been giving them squash guts and seeds, but I like being able to give them some green leafy stuff, too, as well as some more substantial veggies. It’s all stuff that was simply pulled off the produce shelf the day before. A lot of it is still good for human consumption since they pull it the day before the sell by date and that is not even the use by date. I don’t know if I would consider eating any of it. I’d have to see it. It might be worth canning if it is root vegetables that are in decent shape. He said he had a lot of organic stuff. We’ll see.

I’ll leave you with some kit photos. They are now three weeks old.

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Lots of Meat Processed and in Two Weeks I’ll Have to Do it Again

I have been so busy this week. On Sunday we butchered 5 rabbits, two of which were 8 pounders and the rest were not that much smaller. On Tuesday we cut them up portioned out enough for 2 dinners, then deboned the rest and ground it.

On Wednesday I mixed up just under half the ground meat to make sausage with my home grown herbs and spices that I’ve been drying all summer. I ended up with 36 3 oz patties.

On Thursday I mixed up the other half of the ground meat with my homemade onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper, Lawry’s seasoned salt, and a small amount of tomato sauce, and made 27 4 oz burger patties.

All patties were individually frozen on cookie sheets before being bagged up so they wouldn’t stick together. It stuffed 4 gallon size Ziplocs between them.

I also made rabbit jerky with the abdominal flaps and the result of that was to fill a quart size baggy.

Meanwhile I have been making bone broth with the bones and will be canning that today. I am not sure how much I will get, but it’s a 12 quart stockpot and it’s pretty full. I’ve already strained it last night and I’m just heating it up now.

I still have to pick all the meat off the bones and that will be packaged up to use in rice dishes or casseroles or enchiladas or whatever else I might need shredded meat in.

After that I can dry the bones thoroughly, grind them, and use that in the garden as bone meal, a fertilizer that is expensive to purchase if you want to get it organic. It also helps activate a compost pile you want to heat up.

Organic meats are a protein treat for the turkeys and chickens (who are not, despite what some egg cartons in the stores lead you to believe, vegetarians and should not be fed an all vegetarian diet). They love them and gobble them up like the little velociraptors they resemble.

So we are almost there at using every part but the guts now. Further things we could do is to dehydrate feet and ears for dog chews, but since we don’t have a dog, that doesn’t happen. Sardis, when it will answer the phone, gets the heads and any dead kits for the raptors in its recovery program.

Also this week we canned 13 pints of hamburger, though we had a catastrophic lid failure with all but five. I am unimpressed with the Ball canning lids melting onto the jars and gluing the rings on. No I did not boil the lids. I used the new instructions. I am glad I have my new 200 Tattler EZ lids. This has convinced me to go all the way over to Tattlers now. I can’t afford to lose that much grass fed organic beef. It’s too expensive. And I may yet have to sacrifice the jars if I can’t get the rubber off the ones I did get the rings off of. I don’t know why they ever had to change the Ball lids in the first place. Clearly they have never heard of “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

I’ve picked about 3 gallons of blueberries this week, 2 quarts of strawberries, a couple of massive cabbages (one over 8 pounds) and many zucchinis, carrots, and herbs. It’s an ongoing process. It’s almost time to pull my onions and then I’ll get my turnips and more carrots in. Lots of weeding got accomplished, too. I feel like it’s been go, go, go. Probably because it has.

We’ve Got New Breeders

Aside from Zander, who I showed you previously, I have picked out a new buck and a new doe from our grow outs. Jasper is a New Zealand white buck with all of the large hindquarters of his grandfather Leo, the personality of his father Starbuck, and the fur quality of his grandmother Serenity, his mother Serena, and his father. He’s also got the larger, unbent ears I’ve been trying for. He is the culmination of what I’ve been breeding for for the past 3 years and is just a love.

Ella is a black doe kit out of Ruby and Starbuck. She has her mother’s personality and long body type and her father’s fur quality and she also has nice hind quarters, though that is more of a fluke. She also has the unbent, larger ears. Honestly her black fur is the number one reason we chose her, though if she had a bad personality, like the gorgeously colored buck kit we had planned on keeping until he got bitey, we wouldn’t have kept her. We want to breed her with our broken buck Zander to try for more brokens.

The younger kits are all growing up nicely. There are 12 between the two litters. I think we’ll have two different butcher batches because the one litter is smaller than the other and will probably take another week or two to hit weight.

The garden is doing really well. I am so thrilled with how much produce we are getting off of it already.

It is really nice to have cut our produce bill down so low already and to know it will continue through the season. I haven’t bought greens in 3 weeks and we actually got some broccoli already.

Gina, the turkey, is no longer limping and her feathers are coming back in nicely on her back now, after months of being half naked, poor thing. Wade’s limp is getting better enough that he is mating with the ducks again. It was bad enough, whatever he did, that he stopped mating them for 3 weeks.

Not too much else going on right now.

Kindling, Gardening, and Hurt Birds

Kalia kindled yesterday. She had just one kit again, but she’s getting old. Luna Blue was due on the 8th and nothing, so I think she missed. I was hoping she’d have a big enough litter I could give Kalia another kit to raise so hers wouldn’t be alone, but it looks like a no-go. I’m not sure why Luna missed. The only other time she missed was with Alex when it turned out he was sick. She had a litter of 6 last time. I think it might be Starbuck, but the four week old kits were all fathered by him. That was before the abscess on his shoulder showed up, though. So maybe his immune system is not doing well. I’ve read that can lead to low sperm count in rabbits.

It will be a while before Zander is old enough to sire kits. Leo is still out of commission due to illness and may never recover. We may very well be putting him down the next time my husband comes homes. We do have a four month old buck that could father kits in 2 more months if we kept him, which I wasn’t planning on. He’s very sweet tempered though and does have all of the qualifications for a good meat buck.

I need to make the decision soon on Persephone and Serenity. Persephone is still young, she just doesn’t seem to be shaking this. Serenity is getting old, but I really like her personality and she seems like she is actually recovering. But I have two doe kits right now that are coming up beautifully and maybe it is just time to stop trying to nurse them through this (it has been months) and replace them. One of the doe kits is Serenity’s granddaughter, but there is no off spring from Persephone, which would mean Phoebe’s line would end. Still, there is Piper’s line and Serenity’s line. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet.

If Serenity and Persephone go, that leaves Luna Blue, Serena, and Kalia as white does and Ruby, Firefly, Bonfire, and Cinnabun as red does. Kalia is pretty much too old to give good litter sizes anymore, so that leaves just six production does. I have thought of getting a red buck or a broken red buck. We’ll see. I don’t like just having one working buck, but Zander will be big enough soon enough.

On the garden front everything is growing well. Almost everything is planted, I am just waiting on cantaloupe for hotter days. We are having a very warm, very good start to the gardening season and I am already harvesting kale, chard, chives, oregano, sorrel, blood-veined sorrel, pak choi, and three types of lettuce. I should not have to buy any greens until October and November at this rate unless the lettuce bolts. The tomato plants are really taking off. Two of the ones in the house are ready for me to start hardening them off for transplant. I will have one Opalka and one Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom for sure. The basil I cloned is doing well, also. This is the first time I have ever cloned basil, so I am happy it worked.

Gina still has not fully recovered from her injuries. She spends a lot of time resting in the nesting box. She hasn’t laid eggs since she got hurt. Turkey eggs are my favorite, but what are you going to do? Her feathers are finally coming back in along her back. It looks terrible, but not as bad as raw skin looked. At least the hawk has moved on. I think George hurt him pretty bad when he tried to protect Gina.

Wade has a hurt leg, too. We caged him for 3 days to force him to rest, but let him into the coop with the rest of the ducks at night. He is walking better, but still limping and still holding one leg up when he stands. No signs of bumblefoot and it seems more like a leg injury than a foot injury. If it starts getting worse again, I will cage him for a full week. But it is hard on him, being a flock animal. He wants to follow the rest of the ducks around. They do stay with his cage part of the day, but it makes him sad when they go away to other parts of the yard and he can’t follow.

A New Arrival

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I purchased a buck kit yesterday for the rabbitry.  He is a purebred broken black New Zealand.  His mother is a broken red and his father is a ruby-eyed white.  My son chose to name him Zander.  He is going to be our second breeding buck.  Leo will probably never be a breeder again.  In fact we may have to put him down still.  But meanwhile, when this little boy grows up in about 3 months, we’ll have someone besides Starbuck to breed our does with.

Since he carries the broken gene, if we breed him to a white doe, we can get broken black, white, black, or agouti.  If we breed him to a red doe we can get broken red, broken black, solid red, agouti, or solid white.  And with both we could get mixtures that wouldn’t quite be considered anything, but would likely be pretty.

He’s a little stained on his feet and underside.  Not dirty, but stained.  I think it was because he was in a cage with a dozen grow out bucks, which makes it hard for them to stay clean if they don’t have a ton of space.  He should go to work cleaning himself up and be able to stay that way now that he has cage space and no brothers and cousins spraying on him.

He cost me $30.  Today I sold an old hutch, one of the first ones I brought home, for $30, so I consider it a wash.  I do have two more up for sale.  One person was supposed to come by today, but has no-showed.  I even gave them a 3 hour window, but they didn’t show up and they didn’t message me to say they weren’t showing up.  And I know they’ve seen my message to ask them what is going on, because it tells me when the message was read, but they haven’t responded to it.  I don’t like having my time wasted.

Oh, not there isn’t stuff for me to do, but if I have to stay where I can hear the doorbell it does limit my activities.  I would never dream of not contacting someone if my plans fell through and I couldn’t make it.  It’s common courtesy, but that’s gone by the wayside it seems.

I really want to get these hutches gone, because I want to build some compost bins in their place.  I’d like to do a 3 or 4 bin set-up with free pallets and some wire we have from previous projects. We have so much soiled hay, manure, and bedding material (mostly straw or pine shavings), plus some grass clippings and weeds, that we could easily be making our own soil, we just haven’t had much of a way to contain it, and usually end up hauling it off and dumping it at places where people are building new gardens or want to start a good compost heap.

I do have the small bins, but they only produce so much.  Larger ones could eventually supply all of our soil needs.  At least I’ve got the hutches moved out of the spot I want to build the bins in, but I still need to do something with the rabbit tractors.  The wire is always reusable and we might be able to make an irrigation system with the PVC pipes for the garden as we have time.  Most of them are only 6 feet long though, so we might have to get some couplers and then cut a couple pipes into shorter pieces to extend it to 8 feet long (or maybe 7 feet as we want the pipes in the beds, not on the edges.  We have plenty of the elbows.  I’ll see what the husband thinks when he has time to figure it out.

 

Yesterday was a Lot of Hard Work in the Garden

My most recent garden videos followed by a written update of what I did after those vids were made:

Yesterday was a busy day for me. I moved 2 more cubic yards of soil and filled in the top 10 inches or so of 2 4′ x 8′ garden beds. Then I planted cilantro, broccoli, kohlrabi, copra yellow keeping onions, bunching onions (green onions), shallots, echinacea, blood veined sorrel, and a purple and white sennetia flower to bring in the bees.

I left space on either side of it for calendula which are orange and yellow, so will contrast nicely. On the far side of where one calendula goes is the echinacea which will be purple/pink, and then on the far side of that is my yellow yarrow, so the colors will complement each other nicely.

I dug out the yarrow and common sorrel before filling the one bed, then replanted the yarrow and divided the sorrel. I put back about 3 of the sorrel into the place they had been once the bed was filled, but it is not up higher.

Mom took the excess sorrel divisions and heeled them into one of her beds to be placed later. After getting everything in place I gave all the beds that have plantings in them a good dose of water with my new 50 foot heavy duty, no kink garden hose.

It has a nozzle that is somewhere between a regular sprayer nozzle and a wand. It is not as unwieldy as a want, but still makes it easier to aim the flow of water where you want it. The hose is great as it reaches the entire garden easily and watering doesn’t take that long. I had planned on putting in a new irrigation system before the pay cut, one made with PVC pipe, but I couldn’t justify the expense.

It’ll mean a bit more work through the season, but I spent a total of $20 for the hose and the sprayer nozzle as opposed to what would likely come out to be around $75 to $100 to buy all the parts for making the system. The pipe itself is pretty cheap. It’s the couplings, timers, and switchers that get you.

It’ll probably take 20 to 30 minutes a day twice a week once things get going well, depending on heat. The method I’m using for growing maintains moisture pretty well, but if we get a lot of days in the 80’s then we have to water more frequently, especially tomatoes or peppers.

I’ve got a line on a broken black NZ buck rabbit. And the same people said that they have a litter of broken red NZ’s due to be born Saturday so they would be ready to go mid-June. Since the brokens can throw both red and broken when paired with a red or both black and broken when paired with a white, I thought it would be a good way to get the solids as well as the broken kits I want. I will go out to see him this afternoon and hopefully he will be what I want. He’s 12 weeks old and supposedly quite friendly.

They also have some 7 week old ones, so if I would rather do that I can pick one out and come back for him at 8 weeks old. I hope the older one is all that I want, though. I don’t like taking only 1 kit when they are just 8 weeks old. I feel like they still need to have another rabbit or two in with them until they are 12 weeks old. They thrive better. If I get one, I’ll put up a photo or video of him tomorrow.

The kits are doing well. Cinnabun’s are fat and already 2 of them are showing auburn streaks through the black fur. Bonfire’s are all still looking solid black. I did one extra nursing session for Bonfire’s kits two days running and then just did an extra session for the smallest in her litter. I think one more extra meal for it today and then it should be out of danger and able to fight better for its share of the milk.

I have to go clean out a cage for the new kit. It is mostly clean, but has been sitting outside so needs to have any wind blown debris wiped out and it never hurts to do another quick scrub down because a chicken may have pooped on it or something. I also need to go locate my transport cage. I think it is in the garage on my husband’s work bench, but it might be behind the rabbit shed. All right, enough lollygagging on the computer for me. Time to get to work.