In the House and Fully Loaded

Last night we were able to get the new canning cabinet into the house. Although we finished it on Sunday, we had to wait for the snow to melt to bring it from the garage to the house. Of course, first we had to unload the old bookcase, then move it into my bedroom so it could go back to being used as a bookcase. Then my husband and son brought it up on its side on the green machine (which is a big gardening wagon, so it didn’t get dragged through the mud and turkey, duck, and chicken poo that our birds always so lovingly leave right in the middle of the sidewalk.

From there it went onto a big plastic board we put things on to slide them around in the house without damaging the floors, and used that to drag it across the porch and into the laundry room and to the main hall entrance. Then it had to go off the plastic to get through that door, pass the plastic through after, put it back on the plastic, and drag it close to its final destination.

Once it got manhandled into place, we were able to fill it. It held quite a bit more than I thought it would. It was quite a workout taking all those jars down and then putting them all back on again. I feel like I did an arm day at the gym yesterday or something. It is perfect, though. It is exactly what I wanted. I can’t wait to get the other cabinets built. We will be able to store so much more now, and once they are all done, have a place to put empty jars, too, until we need them again.

My husband and I decided that this might be a nice little side-income thing in the future, too. If we can continue to get the free wood (and we’ve got a great source) and only have to put time and the $18.20 for 2 x 4’s and screws per cabinet into it, we could turn quite a nice profit. The first one took us 8 hours to do with two people working. I think we can get that down now that we know what we are doing. If we switch to nails and a nail gun, we could probably do it quite a lot faster. But that would require buying a nail gun and an air compressor. We’ve been thinking about that anyway, though. There are so many times when it would have come in handy and made our lives easier.

We have also batted around selling the plans for making them for a small amount, like $5. I mean, the videos I made are available for free if people want to figure it out from those, but actual plans and an ingredients list (as I call it) might be more appealing to some people and since my husband’s original college training was in architecture, he can draw up blueprints and design plans easily enough. We’ll see, though. Hopefully he will get hired soon and I won’t have to worry about things like side income to help out as we continue to deplete our savings. My other blog and my youtube channel are starting to earn some money now, but it is certainly not enough to make up for not having his income anymore. Hopefully he will find work soon.

I think I will clip some rabbit toenails and then breed some of them tomorrow. Probably Bonfire and Ruby. Possibly Serenity. We’ll see. I always do full health checks on them before breeding to make sure there are no issues before putting the stress of pregnancy on them. I also need to do sex determinations on the youngest litter and start on weaning the boys. My husband cleaned the grow out cages so we can get that done now.

If we get a nice day we need to butcher the older litter. Because of the weather it has been hard to plan for a good day to do it. It wouldn’t matter so much if the roof had gotten put back on the butcher station when it blew off in late fall, but it hasn’t. So doing it in the rain is not a lot of fun. Doing it in the snow is not an option and it is supposed to snow again tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll get one nice day soon without a ton of snow on the ground and we can get it taken care of.


And Just Like That Life Changes

I’m homeschooling again. It was a hard decision to make, but the results have been good. We’ve been at it for 3 weeks now and already the stress levels have gone way down. It has been a complete life overhaul to go back to it, though. At least we found a curriculum that is working for us.

We had a lot of craziness dealing with the rat, but we’ve got 6 live kits being raised by Luna Blue. It was touch and go there for a while. I had to feed the brown kit for a few days as it was not getting enough milk. It was weak, but just catching it up with an extra couple of feedings a day and it is now the same size as the red kit. They are both smaller than the white kits, but they are younger, too, so that is to be expected.

This is the method I used to feed the kit:

And this is how the litter is doing now:

The red doe kit we did not butcher because she was acting pregnant and had been in with her brother (we had thought they were both boys). But it has been 34 days so it is clear she is not pregnant. She is now 5 months old. We have named her Bonfire. We were going back and forth between that and Firecracker, since she was born on the 4th of July. But she is more of a Bonfire and we are calling her Bonnie. She is out of Firefly and Wildfire.

I am uncertain of whether or not we will keep her or sell her. Right now she is developing very well, has a gorgeous red coat color, and is starting to be more friendly and less skittish. Her body type is very good for a meat doe and she looks like she would make an excellent breeder. She is friendlier than Firefly who doesn’t want to be touched.

I had thought I was going to keep one of Cinnabun’s kits, but the one with the coloring I liked appears to be a boy. I say appears, because it wouldn’t be the first time one looked like something at 8 weeks old, but by 14 weeks old looked like the opposite. Such as Bonnie. And Felix before that. I may keep it anyway, as Alexander appears to have gone sterile and Leo has fur mites yet again despite keeping him and his cage very clean. So right now we can only breed with Starbuck and Wildfire.

On Tuesday I will be breeding Firefly and Serena. I am debating which doe to breed with Starbuck and which one to breed with Wildfire. Normally I breed Serena with Alex, but she’s missed with him the last two times (and he’s missed with 2 other does, so I know it is him) even though they’ve had successful litters in the past. I am not sure I want to put Serena with Starbuck since he is her uncle, but Wildfire is a lot bigger than her so I don’t know about that, either. I’ll have to make a decision soon enough.

I think Cinnabun is going blind. At first it just seemed like she was keeping her inner eyelids closed a lot. (Rabbits have 3 eyelids). But now it is all milky looking and she doesn’t appear to see my hand when I go to pet her. She jumps at my touch, like she didn’t see it. I have been treating her with Vetermycin eye drops, but am not seeing an improvement. She is still a good mother and doesn’t seem to have any problem raising kits. But if this isn’t an infection, if she is blind for no reason, it might be congenital and then I wouldn’t want to keep any of her offspring. I just wish I knew what the problem was. But I’m not going to take a $35 rabbit to a $150 vet who admittedly does not know anything much about rabbits to begin with. And blind or not, she can still raise babies. And very well, too.

Started canning for the Year

The meat chicks are getting bigger every day. Considering how many recalls there have been on chicken products lately I am really glad I am raising my own.

I harvested enough green beans over the past 3 days to can some. I got 4 very full pint and a half jars canned today (so 6 pints). Last year I did them in quarts, but there was always too much and it ended up kicking around in the fridge. Before quarts I did them in pints and it was never quite enough. So hopefully the pint and a half jars (like you’d get for canning asparagus) will be perfect for our needs.

I also got my first cucumber today and another zucchini (up to 6). I roasted zucchini today, but still have 3 left. I am thinking about dehydrating it. I thinned out some more radishes so the rest have room to grow. I have several peppers that are growing now. None big enough to pick yet, but maybe in another week.

I can’t believe how fast the watermelon are growing. They are visibly bigger each day. I am really looking forward to when they are ripe. Long way off still, but they will get there and then I will be rolling in them.

I am making rabbit jerky for the first time today. I really hope it turns out. The dehydrator is proving itself very useful. I hope it isn’t too spicy. I don’t think it should be, I only used 2 tbsp of chili powder in the recipe. I put my fruit leather liner on the bottom tray of the dehydrator to catch any drips from the marinade. The last thing I wanted was a big mess to clean up.

I sold 2 dozen duck eggs today. She brought her own egg cartons so it was $9 instead of $10. Someone is coming to buy turkey eggs soon, probably tomorrow. Playing message tag with them.

It got really hot again today, back in the 80’s and will be again tomorrow, but after that it’ll go back to a much more reasonable low 70’s. I hate these hot days. They are hard on the rabbits, even with fans on them.

I skipped a month of breeding already because of the heat. I was thinking about breeding on the next full moon (which will also be a blue moon), but I’m not sure. I don’t know if August will be better than June and July have been. If I wait another month it’ll be August 29th before the next full moon. Though I don’t think the litters were any bigger breeding on the full moon than not. And we had an equal number of bucks and does, just like usual, so I think the old wive’s tale is just that.

Man, it’s Hot

It’s not the heat that gets me so much as the humidity. I always know it is going to be a humid day when I wake up with curly hair. Well, my hair is wavy most of the time, but when I brush it, it tends to go flat. Then when it gets humid the flatness goes away and it pops over to downright curly. We haven’t had to put fans in the rabbit shed yet, but it is coming. The pavilion keeps it cool enough for now, but once we pop over 80 degrees instead of 75, there will be no putting it off.

The garden is loving the heat. There is something to harvest every day. The strawberries are turning color so I think I will be able to start harvesting them in a day or two. The front bed is planted, the potatoes are thriving, and the beans and squash will be going into the 3 Sisters Garden tomorrow.

We bred Luna Blue, Firefly, and Persephone on the night of the full moon. I don’t know whether it is an old wive’s tale or not, but with Serenity missing last time, Ruby only having 5, and Phoebe only having 1, I am willing to try it to increase litter sizes.

The gutter garden isn’t doing well. With this much heat it is drying out and I don’t have the time to keep it constantly wet. The garlic is doing okay, though.

And sadly, we lost 2 of Ruby’s kits and had to foster the rest of her litter to Phoebe. Ruby had issues with her milk coming in, I think. She’s okay with us having taken her kits away. At least, she doesn’t seem to be upset about it. And Phoebe took right to them, no problems at all.

I haven’t been feeling great this week. I don’t know if it is just bad allergies or a cold. It can be really hard to tell at this time of year. I don’t feel full on sick, just kind of run down and tired with a runny nose and the urge to sleep 20 hours a day. Maybe it is a little of both as both kids were sick this week. I made up some more flu bombs this morning and started taking those. They work pretty fast and if it’s not allergies, I want to nip this in the bud as we have a lot to do next week, starting with butchering 8 rabbits, cleaning out the rabbit shed, scrubbing every single cage, getting ready for weaning, hauling the used animal bedding off the property (the neighbors are good with the animals as long as the waste doesn’t pile up and start to smell). The rabbit manure has to be screened out of it to go into the garden. The turkey pen and the duck yard need to be shoveled out as well and hauled off. Fortunately we have some people making new garden areas for next year that will take it so we don’t have to pay dump fees.

I need to sit down and plan out next week’s meals for the eat from the pantry challenge. I’ve been videoing each dinner and when I get through the week I will edit it together and post it so you can see what I’ve been doing. We’ve done really well so far and my leftovers management is good. We’ve been eating some of the leftovers for lunches and carrying over some things, like mashed potatoes. The leftover stuffing I made this week will go into meatballs I am going to make tomorrow, since I am nearly out of panko breadcrumbs and then I will freeze them for later next week for both spaghetti and meatball sandwiches. I’d also like to make up a couple of small lasagnas for the freezer as well since I will already be making the sauce for spaghetti.

I need to make hamburger buns and hot dog buns (for meatball sandwiches) this weekend, a batch of peanut butter cookies, and some blueberry cornbread muffins. I’ll probably make the cookies and muffins today and the buns tomorrow, since I am using the bread machine this afternoon for making pizza dough for dinner.

I also need to try and get the kitchen organized once and for all. One cabinet needs to be cleaned out entirely and a bunch of the stuff that has been sitting out on the counter needs to be put away. I’ve been neglecting the inside of the house a bit while working outside so much in the garden, so I’m having to play catch up. That’s life on a farm, I suppose.

Sausage Sow

About a month ago someone on a farm group I am on posted that they were selling shares of a sausage sow. He raises his animals well and others in the group always talk up his pork. I was able to get the last of six shares of it and today it was ready so we went to pick it up. I ended up with:

10 packages of ground pork
7 packages of regular sausage
6 packages of sweet Italian sausage
6 packages of bacon
4 packages of Canadian bacon
2 pork roasts (for pulled pork)
2 packages of spare ribs

Everything but the bacon and Canadian bacon came wrapped in freezer paper. The bacons were wrapped in vacuum packed plastic. I don’t know why this surprised me as the place where we buy our beef is all vacuum packed plastic. I guess I figured they’d go either all freezer paper or all plastic. I would prefer all freezer paper. When we are able to source our beef in this county instead of the next county over, I am hoping it will be all freezer paper.

I am excited to try it. I think we will mix the sweet Italian sausage with our ground rabbit meat for making meatballs on spaghetti night. I don’t like sweet sausage or sweet anything first thing in the morning. But I do like it in spaghetti or meatball sandwiches at dinner time. If I were getting a whole pig or even a half a pig I would request it just all be ground pork so I could season it myself.

The bacon is enormous. One slice of bacon is equivalent in size to 4 slices of regular bacon. We’d have to cut it in half lengthwise and in half widthwise for it to be the same size.

It has been raining today so we didn’t get much accomplished with the garden. The kits are all doing well. They are healthy and strong. Firefly’s are the biggest. I’m really impressed with the Firefly x Wildfire pairing. We did breed rabbits last night. I decided to breed 3 pairs again instead of 2. I bred:

Kalia x Wildfire (white and red)
Serena x Alexander (white and white)
Cinnabun x Starbuck (red and white)

The only pedigreed buns will be the ones from the Cinnabun x Starbuck pairing. I decided to breed Cinnabun with Starbuck because she is a full sister to Wildfire. With Firefly as an unrelated red, I don’t need to breed Cinnabun with Wildfire to get reds. And Ruby will be old enough to breed next month so I will have full red kits then as well. With two pairings having mixed babies, I figured I would be more likely to end up with a black kit, hopefully a doe. And if not, well, then I’ll have pretty food.

Next month’s breeding will be:

Phoebe x Leo
Serenity x Felix
Ruby x Wildfire

Normally I breed Serenity to Leo, but I don’t want to breed Phoebe to Felix as she is Felix’s mother and Felix’s father is also Phoebe’s father. Phoebe hates Starbuck. She likes Wildfire, but since he’ll go with Ruby, that only leaves Alex or Leo. Makes more sense for me to go with Leo. Plus Leo and Felix did not breed this time so it will be their turns.

It’s supposed to rain until Saturday afternoon so I’m not sure what else will really get done. I may go pick up some organic potatoes to can. I like using canned potatoes, it makes my day to day mealtimes go much faster.

Luna Has Calmed Down

Luna has calmed down so much I think Leo must have successfully bred her. She hasn’t had any of the freak outs and circle runs and loud grunting noises since being bred. And she’s become much more affectionate. Of course she is now in the magic cage, too. We’ve always put the worst behaved rabbits into the magic cage after breeding and suddenly their personalities are no longer crazy. Of course I think it has more to do with being bred, but then again, every time a nutjob rabbit goes into the cage it seems to calm down.

We got the garden cleanup done today. There is nothing more left from the garden last year and what was left of the hay and straw bales was spread on the duck yard. The ducks and chickens had a field day going through it. We also put one wheel barrow load into the turkey pen. The turkeys were very happy since there were lots of worms to eat.

I had chives coming up. The warm days in the 50’s have really confused the plants around here. My son dug up the chives and put them in a pot for now since where they were growing was going to be destroyed. I just hope the weather does not confuse the fruit trees. Early budding can be a catastrophe if it starts and then a hard frost hits.

Mom wants to take up the concrete from the old garage pad. It would be nice if she actually follows through, because then I could plant my garden on dirt this year and not on concrete. But she’s said she’s wanted to do this for the past couple years and hasn’t. I hope it gets done before I’d want to build new raised beds. There are only a couple of months to go before early planting time. I want to have seeds in by the last week of April.

I don’t want to start late again like I did last year. Since we will be here for at least another year after the house sells, I want to grow a lot more than last year, but I have to jockey for the space to do it, especially with Mom wanting to grow so much non-GMO corn that she wants to use for bird feed. And we still have to leave enough space for the birds to roam. Oh, well, we’ll figure it out. We always do.

One of the farms we were looking at has big electrical transmission lines running through it and they are too close to the house for my liking. That was why it was so affordable. So we will have to save for a year to have a much better down payment to afford one of the more expensive five acre farms. It’s the wisest choice for our pocketbook, if not for our sanity. My Mom is a pretty great person, but she has moments where she drives us all a little crazy. I will be glad when we can actually move out and not have to deal with that so much.

Breeding Day for the Rabbits

I started breeding the rabbits today after taking the last few months off. I chose to mate Wildfire and Firefly and they did really well and had several fall offs right away. I also chose to mate Luna Blue with Felix. She would not lift for him. After a half an hour I tried her with Alexander. Again, no lifting. After another half an hour I put her in with Leo and left her there for a few hours. Hopefully something happened. It wasn’t what I wanted, but Leo is very experienced and gentle and if anyone can get her to lift, it would be him. To be on the safe side, I decided to breed Persephone and Starbuck and that was very successful. I didn’t want to risk having only one litter with no foster mother available. So now I will either have two litters for sure and possibly a third. They will be due February 28/March 1st.

I bought a new pool for the ducks today. The old one had cracked. The weather has been so mild it is just sad not having a pool for them. Today was 57 degrees F and glorious. They were so excited to get a new pool. Daisy didn’t even wait until it was half full before getting in. Bluebell went in as soon as I took the hose out and then Wade jumped in. They had so much fun swimming in circles and preening. The others did not get in the pool but they all dunked their heads and played in the water. It takes so little to make ducks happy. And all their little backsides were wagging like a dog’s tail.

I think Kyri is not long for this world. Either that or she has injured her hip because she is walking really funny. She has been for a couple weeks, but today it was really bad. She looks like an old grandma shuffling along. She is almost four years old, which is not super old for a chicken, but it is for a chicken who has been exposed to lights every winter. She’s still laying though. Her distinctive blueish egg is still there a few times a week. If she dies, Mom will be down to five chickens and then I have my four.

I canned beef roast chunks today. I got 5 quarts and 1 half-pint. I was down to 2 pints of beef on the shelf, so I am glad to have got some more done. We really like to make beef stew or rabbit stew about once a week. There is still plenty of canned rabbit, though. I need to dig around in the freezer. I am pretty sure I have some more roasts in there I can can. It’s just a question of looking.