Making New Canning Shelves

One of the problems with my old canning shelves is that they are really just bookcases. I can’t do much to adjust the height of each shelf and I either have to stack my jars on top of each other, which is not advisable for a lot of reasons, or waste a lot of space. It has been frustrating, because in order to store the number of filled jars I have, I do end up having to stack them. This can lead to tumbles off the shelf as well as making the jar that is stacked on unseal itself. Now I’ve only actually had the jars unseal twice. It is something I am religious about checking before using any food. And we’ve had jars fall off the shelves before more than a few times, but so far nothing has ever broken.

It was well past time that we did something about it, but we couldn’t spend a lot of money on it. Well, the cost to us of building a canning cabinet that is 6 feet high with shelves spaced one inch higher than my tallest canning jar apart all the way up, is shaking out at $18.20. $10. 08 for 4 2 x 4’s, and $6.67 for a third of a 2 lb box of screws, and the remainder $1.46 in sales tax. Our county is ridiculously high with the sales tax at 8.7%. Still, under $20 for a 6 foot by 3 foot by 2 foot, solid wood cabinet is nothing to sneeze at.

How did we manage to do that, you may be asking yourself? We made a huge score of very nice, free, wooden pallets last fall, with the wood spaced in such a way that a vast majority of it was salvageable. We could only get boards no longer than 27 inches, which is why the cabinets are two feet of usable space across. They are technically 27 inches wide, but only 24 inches usable. We are not quite finished, we still have to put the top on, but I have the first two videos of how we took apart the pallets and how we built the cabinet up to the midpoint and the other will be coming when we finish it up this weekend.

In other news, our duck Zoe is having some foot problems. First she lacerated it pretty bad and when we were tending to that, we noticed she had bumblefoot, so after the laceration healed we managed to get the bumblefoot scab off and dug out some of the core. I am not sure we got it all, but we couldn’t see more. We packed it with triple antibiotic ointment and wrapped it up and she’s been in a hospital cage in the duck coop to keep her off it and to keep Wade, our drake, off of her. He’s feeling his oats and trying to breed with everything with feathers now that he feels mating season is coming up. I bring her greens once a day and she has her own water and feed in the cage with her. She comes into the house every other day and gets a bath in the bathtub and we check her foot, put on more ointment, and wrap it with fresh gauze and vet wrap. We let her out one day, but Wade was right on her, so she’ll just have to stay in the cage another week or so until she can run from him.

I am worried about one of our rabbits, Cinnabun. I think she might be sick. She’s lost a lot of weight. I don’t see mites and I don’t see diarrhea, but she’s a big rabbit and I’d say she’s lost 2 pounds. She doesn’t seem uncomfortable, though, and she is eating and drinking her water. She’s our oldest red and she’s partially blind, but she’s only 2 years old. And she’s a love. She’s a fantastic mother and has good litters. I don’t want to lose her, but I am going to have to keep a sharp eye on her.

The turkeys are doing great. They look beautiful and are fully feathered. I hope Gina will start laying soon. When she was hurt last February by the owl attack, it took 8 months to grow back the feathers the owl’s talons had dug out when it gouged down her back. Turkeys don’t lay when they are regrowing feathers, and by the time they were all back in, it was winter and turkeys don’t lay in the winter. Or at least Royal Palms without supplemental lighting don’t. I have not seen George and Gina mating yet, but it should start any time now. Gina usually goes broody around April, and eggs usually start in March.

My three Barnevelders are laying. They laid sporadically throughout the winter, but are getting a little more frequent now. The Leghorns are laying, too, but the rest of the chickens have not kicked it into gear yet.

The ducks are laying 2 to 5 eggs a day from 6 females. Zoe isn’t laying right now, probably due to the healing injury.

We still have to buy eggs as we are not getting enough for the four of us, but I think in another month we will have enough that we won’t have to supplement anymore. I am looking forward to that.

Do you want the Bad News First?

That does, of course, imply that there is any good news…

Kit # 2, the one that was in with Kit # 3, who was visited by the magical bunny sex change fairy and turned out to be a boy, and is still quite young, gave birth to 6 kits some time last night. I had no idea she was pregnant. I thought I’d gotten them separated (due to aggressiveness on what turned out to be the boy’s part) with plenty of time to spare. It did not even occur to me, even when Kit # 2 had a fur explosion, that she could possibly be pregnant. Since all of our immature does tend to have fur explosions at this age when another doe gives birth or is about to give birth near them.

Three of them had crawled out of the cage, because it didn’t have any guards on it, because of course, she was too young to have babies. Since that was a cage on the third tier, they fell quite a ways. Three of them were still in the cage. We thought they were all dead, but one was just barely moving and so cold. I probably should have just let nature take its course and let it die, but I can’t seem to do that. I stuck it in my bra while my son ran to get a heat lamp and we fixed up a nest for it. It was so cold. We put the two other kits in there just in case they weren’t fully dead and they could be revived by the warmth. That didn’t happen. But the one kit warmed up and made noises.

Once it was warm we tried to put Mama on top of it to get her to nurse, but she didn’t want to. Then we tried to hold her and force nurse, but she got frantic on that. So then we tried to get one of the other nursing rabbits to force nurse, but it couldn’t suckle. It was too weak. I got a syringe and some goat’s milk and we managed to get one ml into it, hoping to make it strong enough to suckle. Not knowing what else to do, we fixed up a nesting box with a ton of the fur the mother had pulled and put it in the cage with her.

I know it is very unlikely that it will live. Maybe maternal instinct will kick in and she will feed it without our interference. But I don’t know how it will stay warm on its own, even with all that fur. If even one other kit had survived the odds would be much better. I know it will probably die. I wish I’d been paying more attention to the mother. But I thought they’d been separated more than a month and I thought she was too young to get pregnant.

I did think about putting it in with Andromeda’s kits, who are a week old, just to keep it warm and then syringe feeding it, but I think the size difference would be a problem and I think Andromeda might get upset. I don’t know. Does anyone know if it would work? Or would the bigger kits crush it? I’m asking just about everywhere I can to try to get info.

In other bad news, the third kit of Lola’s died yesterday afternoon. I had thought it would as it wouldn’t eat that morning.

In other, other bad news, Curious the chicken seems to have badly sprained her leg. We are keeping her in one of the outdoor rabbit coops with food and water so she can’t move about too much. She hates it. She misses the flock.

So, to try to end this on a semi-positive note, the 4th kit that was affected by diarrhea is still going strong. We are feeding it milk. It took 8 droppers at the mid-day feeding yesterday and then 8 more at the night time feeding. This morning it took 6. It takes less in the morning. It was also playing leap frog with its siblings and running around like a possessed bunny. It has gained weight. I see it eating solid food. We are keeping blue spray on its bottom. It helps with any rawness there might be because it is a topical analgesic and it also is supposed to help any poops slide off and not get mushed into the fur. It seems to be working for that.

I still refuse to get my hopes up that it will live. Everything keeps dying.

I had a momentary freak out this morning when I opened the duck coop and only counted eight ducks after they came out. I had counted nine at bedtime and I was worried one had slipped out when I’d put the hose away. But it was there when I did another head count after checking in the coop. So all ducks are alive and healthy, but man…with the way things have been going, I think I would have just sat down and cried.

The turkey poults and the chicks are doing great in their new house. They don’t seem to be able to make it up to the bottom perch though. We will have to put one more lower down for them.

We have to drive down to the feed mill today. We used the last of the 17% feed. The drive will give me something to do so that I will not sit around all day fretting about the lonely newborn kit and whether or not its mama will feed it. Well, I’ll fret, but I’ll be productive while doing it. We will check on the kit when we get back and decide then whether to foster it. Maybe by then the decision will be taken out of my hands.

Not Black after All–Turning Brown

Not Black after All--Turning Brown

While all of Phoebe’s kits were born a nice, dark black, as their fur has come in, it has come in a nice dark brown, almost chocolate. So no black kits after all. But they sure are a lovely color anyway.

Andromeda’s kits are not as big as they should be considering that there are only four of them and they were born the day before Phoebe’s six.

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They are doing okay, but the last litter she had was very fat and big, so I know she’s not feeding these ones as often as she did her first litter. Which was 4 times a day at least, so I guess that is okay, but I do wish they were at least as big as Phoebe’s kits.

So far we have lost 2 of Lola’s kits. One was dead yesterday morning, the other the previous morning. We started three kits that had shown signs of diarrhea on raw goat’s milk on Friday, but it was too late for the one. The other two drank it like crazy Friday and yesterday. The one wouldn’t take it this morning and looks weak. The other one has gained weight, but does not seem all that great either, and only drank 3 droppers after drinking 6 last night. So we may lose a total of 4 of the 7. The other three remain stubbornly healthy. Let’s hope it stays that way.

I’ve got rabbits sneezing, too. No signs of discharge and they are mostly active still. The hay we are using is really dusty, but I don’t know. Leo does not act himself and neither does Kalia. I have antibiotics coming in the mail. Hopefully they get here soon. With having lost Piper and Lola so recently, I figure antibiotics can’t hurt. It’ll be the first time I’ve tried them. It goes in the water. I am just worried I may end up losing the rabbitry, though the reds all seem sneeze free and healthy. The reds were all vaccinated, though.

I’m just not sure there is much else I can do at this point. I am getting different hay today. I don’t care for the texture of it at all and it is so dusty it makes me sneeze and my son sneeze, too. It was supposed to be high quality orchard grass second cutting hay from Eastern WA, but it is honestly the worst hay I have ever purchased. Plus I think it has to be from last year’s second cutting, not this year since I bought it in April.

We moved the turkeys into the turkey coop yesterday. I didn’t get photos, but they seem to like their new space. The brooder box got cleaned out, but we will not be separating the 30 Cornish cross meat chicks into two groups until they get bigger. The ducks are all doing great. I’ve heard six different quacks now, so I think we have 3 female Pekins and 3 female Welsh Harlequins. It is still a waiting game until I either see drake feathers or on the WH’s their heads turn color. The bigger Rainbow Ranger meat chickens are getting big. I think they will be ready to go in about 2 to 3 weeks.

We cleaned out the duck house yesterday. We do it once a week, just putting clean bedding on top of the dirty bedding daily to give them a nice area to sleep on. In the winter we will likely do a deep bedding set up, but at this time of year, this works better, since we don’t want to attract flies.

We’ve got a couple of bees trying to build a hive above the rabbit shed door so I will have to deal with that tonight at sundown when they are sleeping. I am not sure what sort of bees these are, but they build the hive that looks like spitwad material. We’ve dealt with them before. They always seem to want to build in awkward places like the side view mirrors on the van or above doors.

We had tent caterpillars again this year in both apple trees. The branches they were on have been cut down and burned as of yesterday. Nasty business those. We usually don’t get an infestation two years in a row. Usually we can go a decade between them. I have a feeling one of the neighbors has them and doesn’t deal with them properly so they keep coming back. Last year was a bad year for them around the city. They were in the flowering cherry trees. I haven’t seen them on the city trees this year, though.

I am trying to keep a positive attitude, but right now I am kind of just numb with all the deaths. It is hard to lose so many animals.

A Little Bit of Everything

I am very, very tired, so just a quick blurb or two tonight. The yard is starting to look very inviting with gorgeous flowers springing up everywhere. I think the above are a form of hyacinth. And the lilacs have started blooming and the scent is downright heady.

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We’ve had some storming going on since last night and there is all kinds of debris around the yard. We were still able to get all the hardware put on the turkey coop and the perches are up.

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Tomorrow we will get the corrugated roofing put on. We still need to cut the hole for the birds to get out and make the ramp, but that will probably wait until the next time the husband gets back from Alaska. He leaves on Tuesday and I just don’t know if we will have the time to get it done. Especially since we need to take a run to the feed mill. Since the turkeys and chicks won’t be going outside for another 3 weeks it is not a big deal to not have their door and ramp done yet. As long as I can access the food and water, which I can, and clean out the coop, which I can, they can move in and be happy in their larger space.

I am on kindle watch again. I’m not very anxious this time, but I am impatient to see if we will get any reds from the Phoebe x Wildfire breeding. It is day 30 in the pregnancies of both Andromeda and Phoebe. So either tomorrow or the next day we should have babies. Both rabbits seemed very tired today and spent a lot of the day sleeping. I am not worried about Phoebe at all, she is a good mother and likes to give birth in the nesting box. Andromeda was kind of insane the last time she had babies so who knows how she will be this time.

Oh, I had a wonderful thing happen. Lola let me pet her. She was plopped in front of her cage door and when I opened it to put in fresh hay, she didn’t move. So I stroked a finger over her forehead and she still didn’t move. She let me full on pet her after that. I can’t even remember the last time Lola let me do that. She is generally so standoffish, so it was a lovely moment. Maybe she is so used to the kits crawling all over her now, she’s just more agreeable to being touched.

I weighed all the rabbits that aren’t quite at breeding age yet, but who will be breeders.

Kalia is 9 lb 5.1 oz! I never thought this day would come. Okay, she’s 6.5 months old, so she is technically old enough to breed, but I want to get her to 10 pounds before I breed her for the first and possibly only time. We won’t know for sure what her genetics might do, and there is only one way to find out. If I hadn’t lost her mother I probably would never breed her due to her history, but she’s a fine looking rabbit, she has Piper’s temperament and Starbuck’s fur quality despite her rough start in life.

Serena, who will be 6 months old on the 23rd is 8 lb 8.5 oz, Cinnabun who is almost 5 months old is 8 lb 14.1 oz, and Sienna who is 4 months old is 7 lb 8.3 oz. Alexander, who will be 5 months old on the 15th, is 8 lb 4.1 oz, so everyone is moving along pretty well. Serena is a little bit small, but she was bred for coat quality and ear shape and based on her parentage will get bigger.

The ducks are growing very big. They will be 7 weeks old tomorrow. The Welsh Harlequin markings are beautiful.

Wings:

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Back:

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The group:

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The Pekins are getting huge. I can see why some people might butcher them this young.

The Ducklings Move into Fort Duck–Lots of Photos

We got the ducklings moved into Fort Duck yesterday afternoon. They were so excited and so happy to have so much space to run around in.

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We are going to keep the heat lamp on for another week and see if they are fully feathered by then or not. The Welsh Harlequins seem to be more feathered out than the Pekins. Their markings are becoming quite striking. I can’t wait to see what they will look like as adults. After a week, we will probably keep the heat lamp on at night for another week, and by then all the feathers should be in and the nights will be warmer.

The ducklings did great overnight in the duck house. And it was nice to just be able to throw fresh straw down instead of having to deal with wet sand. The drain is working great by the water. There were not standing pools or really gross areas.

We will leave them inside the duck house for another 24 hours so that they know that this is home now and then tomorrow we will let them out into their fenced area and they can eat all the dandelion greens they want. To start with their penned area will just be about 10 feet by 24 feet. We will expand it as they get bigger or eat all their greens. When they are bigger than the chickens we will allow them to go with them during the day.

We mucked out the brooder box yesterday after we moved the ducks and then sprayed it out with water and let it dry out in the sun. We need to spray it down with vinegar this morning and let it dry again and then add a perch and fill it with straw. The weather is beautiful today, so it should dry again fairly quickly and then we can get the Royal Palm turkey poults and the Barnevelder chicks moved into it. It will be nice to get them out of the bathtub. The turkeys keep flying out, even though we’ve got it blocked off three feet up.

The turkey poults are turning white and getting some of their black markings now. They won’t be fully feathered for some time yet. The chicks are almost fully feathered and their markings are beautiful. I can now tell Willow and Tara apart. Tara has yellow bloomers and Willow has darker ones. Their head coloring is almost identical, a dark stripe with two light stripes on either side. Anya has the stripes, too, but with spots in them. Buffy’s head is solid colored. I’ll try to get individual pictures of them today when they get moved.

Well, enough lolly-gagging for me. I need to go out and help the husband to finish the duck pen fence panels and then we have to work on the tractors and start work on the coop.

I got my straw bale garden started. Just four bales so far, but that is a start. All we did so far is get them in place. I will start conditioning them today and I should be able to start planting out on May 12th. I am starting peas and green beans in the house for it. I do need to get more bales, but the truck only fit five and one of those is for duck bedding. We will pick up five more today, one for turkey and chick bedding and four more for the garden. I think I’d like a total of 25 bales, so we will need to get moving on making trips.

I will try to do photos of that as we go along.

Yesterday Didn’t Go as Planned

Due to a plunging temperature we didn’t slaughter rabbits yesterday. The ground was frozen, the water spicket was frozen, and the hose was stuck to the ground. Without running water it is too hard to keep the slaughter station and knives clean. So instead we decided to take all the rabbit heads that have been building up in the freezer out to the Sardis Raptor Center in Custer. Since it was Saturday, their one open to the public day, we didn’t have to call ahead to make an appointment to drop them off.

They have some beautiful birds in recovery out there. Ska, the snowy owl in the photo above is my favorite. Some of the birds are there for the rest of their lives, like Archie the vulture who has a cracked beak and weak legs. He can’t tear up his own food so he would die if released back into the wild. They feed him hamburger or other finally chopped meats. Some birds will be released back into the wild after their injuries heal.

They had several bald eagles, a couple of golden eagles, a red-tailed hawk, a brown hawk, and some barn owls. They are majestic creatures, especially the eagles. And the size of them was remarkable. I know that they say that an eagle can pick up a toddler, but I didn’t really understand that until looking at one of these eagles at eye level. They are huge and powerful.

Anyway, Sardis accepts the rabbit heads and any dead whole rabbit or kit as long as it has been frozen for at least 24 hours. They especially like the heads though, because the birds need to wear down their constantly growing beaks and trying to get through the skull of a rabbit or any small animal helps with that. I am glad to do it as otherwise we would just be throwing them away and we want to use as much as possible of the rabbits we raise.

After Sardis, we picked up some local Timothy hay for the rabbits and then stopped by my husband’s parents’ house to visit for a couple of hours and to pick up a couple of Christmas gifts that had finally been delivered. One of them was my pasta machine. Now with my new ravioli press, I can make homemade ravioli. I am excited to try it. We will be making rabbit sausage so I will use some of that to stuff the ravioli with.

It is supposed to be warmer this afternoon. Right now it is still frozen outside. I hope it will warm up so we can get started on the next batch of rabbits. We also need to cut up and grind some of the 4 rabbits that are now aged. At least we can do that indoors. Three of them will go to making sausage and one will go to making stir-fry meat and all bones with meat hanging on will be boiled for stock and soup meat.

Temptation, Thy Name is New Zealand Reds

These little guys are sorely tempting me right now. A breeder in Oregon is offering up pedigreed New Zealand Reds and New Zealand Blacks, both of which I want to raise one day, but right now a breeding pair of reds is what I really want. Said breeder will be on the Olympic Peninsula on the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which is not too far to drive (well, four hours there and four hours back, not too bad if we go down the night before and stay in a hotel).

It would bring a completely different blood line into the rabbitry, I’d have three for the diversity, and I could also breed reds and whites together for broken reds. If I bred them with any of the S bunnies (Starbuck, Sweetie Belle, and Serenity), the kits would be fully pedigreed. If I put them in the outside rabbit hutches I’d have room enough. They’d have to be outside anyway for quarantine for a month.

What I should be is patient and stop looking at rabbits on craigslist. I saw some American Blues there, too. Fortunately they were not my favored color of the three shades of blues so much easier to resist.

The little kit is still alive and growing, though at such a reduced rate compared to his siblings. Today we tried keeping Piper in more of an upright position and put the baby into more of an upside down position, more like how they would be during a natural nursing. It seemed to help. The baby didn’t root around near as much as before. He sure is an active little guy compared to how he was when we first discovered he wasn’t eating enough. I just wish it were a bit more obvious that he is growing. I suppose I could try weighing him daily to convince myself. Once I can’t see the ribcage I will feel better. He is getting milk belly so I can tell he is eating and he is staying pink and white not grey. I just wonder if he’ll ever get to a normal size or if his growth was permanently stunted by missing out on a few early meals.

All of the other kits from both litters are thriving. Sweetie Belle is doing a great job her first time out. And she is so friendly now. Protective, but good-tempered. It’s like she’s a completely different rabbit.

Things are going well on the chicken front. Egg count is up to six a day. Wind season has begun so I have to remember to prop the door of the duck den open, which is where their food trough is now. If I don’t prop it open the wind will blow it shut and then they won’t have access to their feed all day.

We did not end up slaughtering rabbits yesterday. The handyman called and said the new kitchen window had come in and so they came over and put it in. They were doing a lot of work outside with loud tools and of course smoking like chimneys. Mom won’t tell them not to smoke on the property even though she hates smoking as much as I do. I didn’t want to have to breathe that while working and I didn’t want the rabbits upset by the noise of the saw. This window is not the same size as the old one, but it is a far better window. The frame had to be rebuilt. It’s not quite done, will probably be finished tonight, so we decided to just wait until next weekend.

The meat we bought on Saturday is thawed now, so I will be able to can the beef today after my appointment with the sleep doctor. And I really need to get cracking on the next batch of pickles or I’ll have cucumber soup, not crisp pickles. I think the stove top is big enough to have both the water bath canner and the pressure canner on it at the same time. The pickles won’t take long at all. Water bath canning is fast and easy. The meat will take 90 minutes after it gets up to temp and probably another 30 to depressurize. Fortunately I have plenty to read.

I finished the first book, Living with Pigs, and am partway into Storey’s Guide to Raising Pigs. It seems like something we could probably do. I ran across a website called Farmstead Meatsmiths for a group based out of Vashon Island and after watching this video http://vimeo.com/39451071 it seems even more doable. They will come and teach you how to do it, very hands on, and you can even turn it into a class for others as well and get a discount, but even without the discount it would be worth it to learn from people who really know what they are doing.

Pigs are still quite a ways in the future, but it’s nice to know that when we are ready, a place like this exists.

Our house had a showing on Saturday and apparently our house is the front runner in what these people have looked at so far. Still refuse to get my hopes up, it’s only been listed for 2 weeks, but it’s nice to know the buyers were very impressed by it. Heck, we’d move back into it if it was on acreage and not in an HOA in a neighborhood where my daughter’s friend was killed. Sometimes I wish we could just pick up the house and plop it on a different property.

Oh, well, that’s not possible and we have to work with what we’ve got.