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.

Finished the Canning Shelves

My husband and I finished building the canning shelves on Saturday and I wanted to make sure I got over here and put up the third part so you can see how it turned out. I am really pleased with it.

In other news, we lost Zoe on Saturday. It was sad as she was a very good duck and we tried pretty hard to save her, but I had a feeling she was going to die. After a while of homesteading, you kind of get a sense of these things and how poorly they are doing towards the end. At least she had some good baths before she went.

We sold Jasper.

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I will miss him as he was the sweetest buck ever, but we don’t need 4 bucks. Well, at least not when 3 of them are whites. If I get a broken red buck out of the next breedings with Zander and Ruby or Zander and Bonfire, I may keep him. If I get a broken red doe, I will definitely keep her. As much as I’d like to have one from Cinnabun and Zander, she has partial cataracts and I don’t want to have those genetics in the rabbitry. Even though she is a big old love of a rabbit and is a fantastic mother, both traits I would like to pass on.

I have made up my list of what I want to can this summer. It is subject to change, but is roughly as follows:

Beets 12 pints
Carrots 30 quarts
Celery 12 half-pints
Green Beans 104 quarts
Parsnips 14 pints
Potatoes, Yukon Golds 104 quarts and 52 pints
Sweet Potatoes 30 quarts
Tomatoes, diced 24 pints
Tomatoes, Enchilada Sauce 12 pints, 12 half-pints
Tomatoes, Ugly Sauce 12 pints, 12 half-pints

Apricots, jelly 24 half-pints
Apples, pie filling 7 quarts
Apples, sauce 0 (still have a boat load)
Blackberries, jam 12 pints
Blueberries, pie filling 7 quarts
Pears, Bartletts, Halves 104 quarts
Pears, Bartletts, Sauce 12 half-pints
Pineapple, Chunks 12 pints
Pineapple, Rings 12 pints
Plums, Italian, Halves (depends on how much is on the tree this year)
Plums, jelly 6 half-pints
Plums, sauce 12 half-pints
Strawberries, jelly 24 pints

Butterscotch sauce 6 half-pints
Caramel sauce 6 half-pints
Chocolate sauce 12 pints

Beef, ground 30 pints
Beef, roast 26 pints
Beef, sausage 26 half-pints
Chicken, bone out 24 pints
Lamb, ground 6 pints
Rabbit, bone out 26 quarts
Salmon, Coho 30 pints, 12 half-pints

Beef Bone Broth 12 quarts
Chicken Bone Broth 12 pint and a half jars, 26 pints, 12 half-pints
Ham Bone Broth 12 half-pints
Rabbit Bone Broth 36 quarts, 12 pint and a half jars, 26 pints, 12 half-pints
Turkey Bone Broth (depends on how much I get from turkey bones at the holidays)

Beef Vegetable Soup 12 pints
Chicken Vegetable Soup 12 pints
Turkey Vegetable Soup 6 pints

I think that is everything. It’s based on what I think we will use from fall through until the following summer for a family of four.

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.

Kindling Day One

Ella kindled this morning.  She had seven, but one bled out from not getting the umbilical cord nipped right.  That one was white.  All of the others look broken!  Zander, the sire, is my only broken New Zealand rabbit. Now we wait to see whether they will be broken red or broken blacks. With the genetic combinations there I could end up with a lot of things.

Ella is a black, but her mother Ruby is a red and her father Starbuck is a white.  From what I understand for Ella to be black, it means that Starbuck carries black, but it is masked by the albinism gene. Ruby has one black in her line 3 generations back and the rest are reds.  So Ella can carry a gene for black, red, and the albinism gene.

Zander is a broken black but his dam is a broken red and his sire is a white, which means he carries the genes for red and for broken from his mother.  His father must also be black masked by the ablinism gene or he wouldn’t be a broken black.

So if you get a kit with the 2 albinism genes then it’ll be white as that dominates and that must be what happens with the dead ones.  If I were to get a black kit out of this pairing then I would know that Hercules, Zander’s sire, had black under his masking albinism gene.  If I were to get a solid red, I’d know he had red under it.  If I were to get chestnut then I’d know he was agouti.  I think.  Rabbit genetics are complicated.

The guy I bought Zander from said he is lucky if he gets one broken kit per litter with Zander’s dam. So proud of Miss Ella. She did good for a first time mother. I’ll post pictures when the fur starts coming in and I have a better idea of what their coloring is.

Waiting on 3 more rabbits to kindle.  One due today and two due tomorrow.

In the meanwhile, have a gander at our nesting box build.  The does love them.  They are so happy with the higher walls and that they can have deeper nests in the back.

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.

Lots of Progress on the Garden

I took this video of the garden a couple days ago. Since then the husband and I have built 3 more raised beds and half filled them with old hay, bedding, manure, etc. We filled the low bed with more soil and still need to get about 1/4 load of soil off the truck. We have to get the turkey pen and coop cleaned out first as that needs to go in one of the beds before we put soil on top of it.

I potted up most of my tomato seedlings. There were a couple I didn’t do as they didn’t have their true leaves yet, but the majority of them I did. I buried almost the full stems in the bigger pots so just the leaves are sticking up. It makes them look all small again, but I know that it will give them a stronger root system in the long run.

I have used almost all of the 4 inch pots that I had on hand, so I need to see if I can round up some more. If not I will just repot them in red cello cups, but I prefer to use garden pots if I can get my hands on them without spending money.

My peppers are doing great and getting tall. They are just starting to get their true leaves so I will probably pot them up in another week. I will do what I did with the tomatoes take them down low in the pot so that I can cover most of the stems to give a better root system. The kale seedlings are about ready to be potted up. And I am hoping the watermelon, which is going like gangbusters will be fine in their pots for a while. I only planted them 5 or so days ago and they are just huge.

I finally got some chard to germinate, but it is still pretty tiny. Who knew I’d have relative ease growing the harder things from seeds like tomatoes and peppers, but that chard and lettuce would be so difficult? If the chard doesn’t improve much I will likely just direct seed it into the garden in May and see if I don’t have better luck that way. If worst comes to worst I’ll just go buy transplants.

I still need to make it over to Joe’s to pick up some shallots and calendula and comfrey if they have it. I want calendula for healing balms and comfrey for the rabbits. The comfrey will go in large pots, though as I don’t want it spreading. I also want to look at some of their other herbs and flowers that are edible like nasturtiums. I’ll start them from seed if I have to, but I don’t want to have to. I am pretty much out of room under my grow lights, or will be by the time I pot up the peppers.

I know I have a small two-shelved green house in storage someone gave me as a gift that I never used and I could start hardening some things off before much longer if I use it. Then time would be spent under the sun and not under the lamps and I could baby along some more stuff a little longer and maybe start my squash. I may just direct seed it, though.

I had bought some really, really good seed trays to use for fodder and then got really sick so quit doing fodder and I pulled those out to put under my four inch pots and they are very, very sturdy. I will definitely use them when I take up fodder again in the future if they last that long. I think they will, though. They are quite strong.

The rabbits are due in 3 days. The husband has put together two of the new grow out cages and has 2 left to do. The older kits will be 7 weeks old this weekend and then will have one week to go before weaning and moving to the grow out cages, though I will leave at least a couple doe kits in with their mothers longer than that. With 18 kits and 4 cages available I can do 4 to a cage and still have 2 left over. So I’d rather do 3 to a cage and have the mothers each have a couple doe kits until the bigger ones get processed and we can move them out.

I probably won’t breed again until early May. Since deciding to do 3 litters at a time I don’t need to do them as close together as when I was only doing 2 litters at a time.

We are fully on the organic rabbit pellets now and I have to say that I really like what I am seeing. They are not wasting feed like they were before and I’m not seeing any faders or sick kits since switching. I hope that’s all I needed to do to stop it, change to superior feed.

I am worried some about whether Cinnabun will use her box for her kits or not. The first day she took everything out of it, sat in it, and pooped in it. We cleaned it out, fixed it up again and while she has sat in it, she hasn’t pooped in it or taken the materials out again. But she might. We will pack her cage with hay on Friday, though, to make sure if she doesn’t nest in the box she can still make a good nest outside of it and keep the kits warm.

Serena is good about having her kits in the nesting box and I think Kalia is, too if I remember right. But they will also have plenty of supplies to build nests wherever they want in their cages. Better safe than sorry.

Building a Light Stand for Seedlings out of PVC Pipe

Today my husband and I built a light stand out of PVC pipe. We mounted a shop light on it with 4 daylight light bulbs in it. As the seedlings get bigger we will be able to raise up the light. Here’s how we did it.

Materials needed:

4 1 foot lengths of 1 inch PVC pipe
2 4 foot 6 inch lengths of 1 inch PVC pipe
4 3 foot lengths of 1 inch PVC pipe
4 3 way elbows
4 2 way elbows
2 lengths of chain and hooks
2 carabiners
1 T8 shop light
4 48 inch long T8 daylight bulbs

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Attach 2 of the 3 way elbows to 1 of the 1 foot pipes. Repeat.

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Use the 2 4 foot lengths to connect the pieces together in a rectangle.

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Put the 3 foot length pipes into each remaining opening in the 3 way elbows.

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Build bottom stabilizer pieces by connecting 2 two way elbows to either end of 1 foot length of pipe. Repeat.

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Place onto the feet of the light stand and flip over.

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For added stability you can clamp it to the table. If it is on the floor it would not need to be clamped.

Hang chains from the top of the stand and attach to shop light with hooks. Raise to level you want it at and fasten with carabiners, raising as the plants grow. And it’s done.

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Tomorrow I will start my seeds. Can’t wait.