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.

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Quick Update

I’ve been sick for quite some time and so haven’t really been taking the time to keep up with the blog. I do post on the youtube channel a lot, because that just requires me to talk with a camera and not sit down and actually formulate thoughts. Despite this long illness, I’ve managed to get quite a lot accomplished between now and the last few months of summer.

I’ve filled 3 bookcases that are six feet high with food that I’ve canned, most rows are double stacked and 3 jars deep. I’ve got two more shelves filled with winter squashes and one more shelf filled with home canned food on a 4th bookcase. I feel really good about what I was able to grow this year and more than made my money back on the garden investment.

The rabbits are doing well and I should have 4 does kindling this weekend. I will get some solid reds this time as I did a red doe/red buck pairing. I’ll also get two sets of solid whites and then one set of mixed kits from a red/white pairing. Assuming they all are pregnant. All 4 are nesting like mad, but Luna nested like mad the last two times she missed and Serena did the last time she missed as well. Kalia and Ruby are both showing other signs of impending motherhood as well, though, so I’m pretty sure we’ll at least get the mixed litter and the red litter.

The ducks are finishing up their molt and looking really pretty again. I got 2 eggs today after going a few weeks only getting 1.

My tom turkey George finished his molt and looks gorgeous. My hen turkey Gina is all bedraggled and in the middle of a molt, yet she is still laying. Not sure how that happens as it was my understanding that they don’t lay while badly in molt. Mabye that is just chickens and ducks?

The 3 new pullets started laying couple of weeks ago and now their eggs are up to size. Both Auracanas and the other leghorn are laying, too.

The garden is winding down, but I am still getting herbs, sorrel, kale, chard, celery, and lettuce to harvest. I have broccoli with heads on it growing. I have managed to plant 50 cloves of garlic, though I’d like to triple that. We haven’t had a frost yet, so we still could get the garlic in. I need to clip and transplant my strawberry runners. I do have frost blankets ready to save some things.

I want to build a small hoop house over one of the garden beds and maybe grow a few things over the winter.

We may be taking our son out of high school to home school. We’ll make that decision by weeks’ end. He’s not learning well there. Some of the classes are out of control. He’s frustrated.

Anyway that’s the quick version of what I’ve been up to.

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.

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.

Meat Supply

The chicken video does show a chicken bleeding out (but not being killed) if that sort of thing bothers you.

Yesterday we butchered 25 of our meat chickens. It was a long process. I worked from noon to two, took a break to pick up my son from school, and then worked from 2:30 to 5:30. I personally gutted 19 of the 25 chickens. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I didn’t have to do any of the killing myself and got out of pulling most of the pinfeathers, which I hate, since I was doing the “worst” job.

This year was the first year I learned to gut chickens. I have helped with other things during butchering time, usually cutting the whole birds into pieces, but this is a new homesteading skill for me.

While it is not the most pleasant thing in the world, it was not nearly as gross as I thought it would be. It was really like getting an anatomy lesson in chickens and I got pretty fast at it. I could gut them in 5 minutes. The time-consuming part was really getting the pinfeathers out that the plucker missed.

Today we will be cutting up the whole birds and packaging them into meal-sized portions. They didn’t get as big as we wanted, mostly because the hatchery sent us a lot of hens instead of all roosters. 23 of the 25 birds we processed were hens. There were eggs starting to develop in them, which is how we could tell. We ordered 60 roosters, so this does not bode well for our total outcome and explains why growth was less than expected.

At least we got the 2 roosters who were crowing. We are going to let the others grow out longer and just cull any that start crowing. If there actually are anymore roosters.

We also picked up our beef supply last week on Thursday. We got 1/4 of a grass fed beef. The video below does show a beef carcass hanging if that bothers you.

I haven’t been very good about posting since I broke my nose and got a mild concussion, but things are starting to get better. I have been doing a video on the youtube channel almost every day, though. Something about the white computer page when typing just makes the headaches bad, but that is starting to improve now. I am plenty functional and mostly the headaches just come on when I do too much or at night time now. Or when I sneeze. Sneezing has definitely not been fun since I broke my nose, but even that is starting to not be so traumatic. Hopefully after the full six weeks of healing has passed the sneezing won’t hurt at all.

When Box Fans Attack…Or I Broke My Nose

Last Wednesday I broke my nose. And gave myself a mild concussion. It was the stupidest thing, really. I had a box under the window that I was sorting through. One of those boxes that when you are in a hurry to clean up you just throw everything into to get it out of the way and then at a later date sort through and put the stuff away. Well, I was sorting it and I must have pushed it over and caught the cord on the box fan because the next thing I know it is crashing down on my face. My glasses flew across the room and I started bleeding. I had cut the bridge of my nose and was also bleeding down my throat, which is a really hard type of nose bleed to stop when you can’t pinch your nose because of the pain.

I cried. In fact I don’t remember crying so hard since I was 33 and had my hysterectomy and a nurse screwed up on my painkiller pump and didn’t put any into my IV bag. I was able to get into the doctor the same day, but it’s a clean break and there wasn’t much they could do since it didn’t need to be reset. I go for a follow up on Thursday.

It gave me black eyes, but they weren’t too bad since I put ice on right away. I mostly looked like someone who had failed at removing smudged eyeliner for a few days and had massive bags under my eyes, like an inch long and full of fluid. And of course my nose was swollen. We got my glasses fixed the same day, but she loosened the nose pads for the swelling. I need to go back and have them tightened again now that the swelling has gone down some. It’s not completely gone, but it’s better. And my black eyes are sort of a faded greenish yellow and less baggy. With my glasses on you can’t really tell anymore.

I haven’t driven yet between the painkillers and concussion, but think I will be able to in another couple of days. I hope so, anyway, as my husband just went back up to Alaska tonight. Anyway, that’s why I haven’t blogged for a while.

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday and my son made the above cake from scratch using India Tree natural food dyes and sprinkles. I wasn’t up for baking a cake and my husband, son, and daughter went out to Korean food without me.

I am doing what I can with rabbit care and the kids are taking care of the birds completely. My husband was doing the cooking this week and my daughter is taking over now for the time being.

We have had to do a lot of canning this week, but I mostly just talked my husband through everything. Tomorrow it will be talking my kids through it. I feel like a total space cadet, but everyone is being very good with picking up the slack and Mom is pitching in some, too.

The garden is really coming on strong and I saw my first coloring tomato. We’ve had green ones for weeks, but today was the first day I saw any color on one and I am excited.

Today I dried 8 trays of basil and 1 tray of garlic. The garlic was the last of what I had from last year’s braid. We got a new braid earlier this week since my garlic crop failed. My house smells like an Italian restaurant right now.

As soon as the husband returns from work in 2 weeks we will be butchering the meat chickens. I hope I am feeling much better by then because it is going to take all five of us to do 60 birds. If we can set me up with a table and a chair I think I will do fine. It is mostly when I am standing that I get a little dizzy and unsteady. My turkey George is completely healed from his injury. His mate Gina is not currently broody. The ducks are doing well. The new laying pullets have been integrated with the laying hens.

We weaned the two foster kits off of Phoebe today. Then in a couple of days we will put Phoebe’s kit in with them, too. I sexed them today and the two reds are a boy and a girl and the white is a girl. The boy can stay with the girls for another 2 weeks but then will have to be separated. The next set of kits coming up is doing really well and growing strong. We have not lost any rabbits to the heat, thank goodness, but have a lot of fans on them to help them stay cool in our 80 and above temps.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to and why I’ve been so quiet.

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.