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.

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.

I’ve Been Busy Canning

April seems like the off season for canning, but it is a great time to be putting up meat for those of us who butcher year round. In the last couple weeks I have canned rabbit and made and canned rabbit bone broth. I made videos of each and will post them here in case anyone would like to learn how to do so. It’s really not terribly complicated, but if it is not something you know how to do, maybe this can help make it a little less intimidating. I know it helped me greatly to watch videos when I was first learning how to pressure can.

I also made a batch of rabbit jerky out of the abdominal flaps. I don’t recall if I ever posted my jerky video here or not, but it’s an even simpler process than canning. So it is nice to be able to put things into food storage at this time of year instead of just depleting the shelves.

I have plans to make some dandelion jelly this week. I still have some left from the last time I made it, but with all those yellow flowers poking their heads up all over the place, I couldn’t resist. I’ve got the tea made and just need to make it into the jelly. I will probably do that tomorrow.

The rabbit kits are all healthy and seem to be thriving. A couple of Bonnie’s kits were still smaller than I’d like at their age, but looked better than yesterday. We gave them an extra nursing session and they all looked great afterwards. I think maybe one more tomorrow and then they will probably be fine with just what mama does on her own. Cinnabun’s are all doing great. The smaller one yesterday looked a lot more filled out today and had a big rounded belly, so I am no longer concerned for it.

I put out inquiries today looking for a broken New Zealand red buck. I decided I wanted to replace Wildfire and I should get solids out of him as well. If I can’t get a hold of one here then I will try for a broken black. If nothing else, the husband and I can make a trip to the farm where we got Wildfire from originally. They have both types of broken NZ’s there.

See Me Interviewed

I was interviewed last month by The Homestead Nation and it went up on youtube on Tuesday night. It talks about how I am raising meat animals, a big garden, and trying to be as self-sufficient as possible on half an acre in the city and what brought me on this journey. It was a really fun interview. Brad and Tommy are great.

I have found The Homestead Nation to be an excellent resource for all kinds of information in regards to this lifestyle. They also cover some preparedness issues. If anyone is interested in seeing it, it is here:

It’s a little over half an hour long, so make sure you have a chunk of time if you are going to watch it.

Back to It

I took 2 days off from canning as I had exhausted myself pretty much with what I have done the past couple of weeks. My son went back to school yesterday, but I think he left his cold with me. I have been fighting it all week and hopefully I won’t go down hard, but I can feel it on the edges. Still, I’ve got to get the next batch of canning done today. I’ve got 3 buckets of ripe tomatoes and 2 more buckets that will probably be ripe tomorrow or the next day and many more still coming. I still have about 18 pounds of potatoes left to can, too. Those can wait if they need to, though. We’ll see how I feel after chopping all those tomatoes.

After I do get to the potatoes, I want to order another 40 pounds to can. Ultimately another 80 pounds. I think that will get us through the year. We ran out of potatoes in June this year and I’d like to go an additional 2 months this time. When I do the potatoes, if there is room in the canner I will also throw in a jar of carrots, since we thinned the Nantes this week.

I am keeping a sharp eye on both the acorn squash, pictured above, and the watermelon, which are both close to being ripe. The weather has really turned on us this week though and is in the 60’s. I hope there is enough heat for the watermelon to finish ripening. I’ve got several big ones that are so close, but the temps aren’t going to go up any time soon. These are supposed to be a short season watermelon, too, Blacktail Mountain.

The cantaloupe isn’t going to make it. I knew it was a risk, since I planted it so late. I will try again next year and plant it much earlier in the season. I think the zucchini is done. I was hoping it would go a little longer, but it really didn’t survive the storm a couple of weeks ago, despite putting out two more fruit. Most of the root mat was pulled up from the wind. We were supposed to have an Indian summer, but I don’t think that is actually going to happen. Especially since the nights have been in the low 50’s and seem to be heading towards the high 40’s.

So this is what my weekly canning looked like:

And my weekly harvest:

I am pretty happy with both. It has been a fantastic garden year.

What We Got from Our 25 Butchered Chickens

These birds were smaller than traditional meat birds. We will be letting the rest grow longer since none of them are crowing yet. But for the size that they were, I think we did pretty well. And I am very happy with how much broth we got. I did not end up doing the chicken feet, so all of that broth is just from the breast bones.

I am pretty tired. Besides canning bone broth yesterday, I cooked down and canned spaghetti sauce, and canned carrots and green beans as well. The canner was pretty much going all day, but it feels really nice to have gotten so much done. Of course by the end of the day my hands were barely working from all the chopping. I iced them and they are doing better today.

The next batch of tomatoes I do will only be quartered and put in the blender. That will cut down on some of the cutting. Though I really think it was chopping the carrots and beans which have little give in them that did the damage. Well…actually gutting and cutting up all the chickens last week did most of the damage, but the chopping on top of it made it worse. I am icing them off and on today and using MSM cream, so hopefully they will continue to improve. I’ve never had my hands get so messed up before. But I am able to type without it hurting so I know the inflammation is going down.

My doe Serenity is doing better. She ate the big piece of chard (because it has a lot of moisture in it) and the raspberry leaves (for diarrhea) that I gave her last night, plus half her hay and she drank about 2 inches of water in her water bottle. It’s been about 1 inch in a 24 hour period, so that’s an improvement. Normally she drinks at least half a bottle in 24 hours. She’s still not eating pellets or oats. We will clean her up again this evening and probably give her a little bit more of blu-kote spray on her undercarriage if her skin is still tender. Blu-kote aids healing, has a pain reliever in it, and helps keep diarrhea from sticking to sore areas.

I am thinking about putting Serenity into retirement. We’ll see if and how well she recovers from this. I don’t need her to be a productive doe with 8 other does in the rabbitry. I was hoping to get another year or two of kits out of her, but she really has to come out of this well in order for me to do so.

Well, it looks like there is a break in the weather so I better get outside and harvest what needs harvesting in the garden.

The Garden is Going Nuts

I am doing a lot of preserving, almost every day at this point. I brought in 3 buckets of tomatoes today and a couple quarts of green beans. Still getting zucchini, yellow croockneck squash, zucchini, the occasional peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers. I made a big batch of salsa today, 10 pints. I also made a huge batch of bone broth I will can tomorrow from the 25 chicken breast bones. We still have to skin and roast 50 chicken feet and make bone broth with them as well. That ought to be interesting, but it really is supposed to make the richest, healthiest broth. So are chicken heads, but I’m not there yet.

We cut up all the chickens yesterday that we butchered Thursday. All of the breasts got skinned and cut up into stir-fry meat and tenders. Everything else got divided up into family-sized portions and all of it went into the freezer.

Tomorrow I will be canning spaghetti sauce, carrots, and green beans. It will be a long day in front of the stove, but my husband helps with baby-sitting the pressure canner. I want to get as much done as possible before he leaves on Tuesday night. I still have to lay down a lot when I get headaches from the concussion and the healing broken nose. They are not as bad as they were, but when they come I have to go put an ice pack on my head until they pass. I will be glad when both my brain and my nose heal, because they are really slowing me down.

I took some vegetables over to the neighbor lady today who is so good about our chickens hopping the fence into her wild backyard. We have so much right now and she is really enjoying having some of the overflow. I’ve been also giving some to my physical therapist and my chiropractor. Everyone is so appreciative it really makes me feel good. Not that I do it to feel good, but it does.

We sexed the latest batch of kits today. Out of 11 kits there are 2 girls, 1 in each litter. These were the kits that I bred on the night of the full moon, which supposedly leads to both larger litter sizes (nope) and more females (double nope). We’ll see when the next batch is born and grows up how that goes, but so far all evidence is pointing to it being a whoppingly huge, false old wive’s tale.

We took 3 buck kits from each doe and put them into their own cages. In a couple of days I will remove the remaining boys to my last empty grow out cage. We are going to try to get the 3 kits from the last batch butchered tomorrow as well, which will free up 2 more grow out cages. Probably do that first thing in the morning before we start canning. If not, the girls can stay with their mothers for a little while longer.

Serenity is still not doing very well. Despite being on her 4th day on Corid and Benebac, she is not eating anything but hay and she is only drinking about an inch out of her water bottle in a 24 hour period. She still feels okay, though. Her backbone is well-fleshed and she still comes forward in her cage to be pet when I open the door. But I am worried about her. This is the same thing that killed Piper, Lola, half of Lola’s last litter, and Sweetie Belle. I have also been giving her raspberry leaves which are good for diarrhea in rabbits. She does nibble on those a little, but not enough.

We have to keep cleaning her off and it is a messy, smelly business. If she does not get better after this course of treatment, I think we will have to put her down. I don’t want her to suffer and if she doesn’t start eating and drinking, she will starve and dehydrate to death, which is an ugly way for an animal to die. It will be very hard on me though to lose her. She is a real sweetheart.