End of March Round Up

It won’t be long now, less than a week and we should have rabbit kits again. We need to butcher the grow outs, but we’ve been so busy lately running to doctor appointments and getting the garden ready and building another pantry cabinet with so much sanding my arms will never be the same. And that’s with an electric sander.

Today I did a ton of work in the garden. The husband fixed the two beds that were coming apart at one corner and reinforced a couple other corners for good measure. We put netting over the onion bed because of the squirrels digging up everything problem we have each spring. Not to mention the escape artist chickens that always manage to end up in the one garden bed you don’t want them in. I got all of the beds weeded and took the plastic off the herb bed to see what had made it, then transplanted everything that had into a different garden bed. I want to have herbs and medicinal flowers all in one big bed this year.

We topped off one of the narrow beds to bring the soil level back up and I will be transplanting the strawberries into it. We will need to bring the soil level up in the other two narrow beds and one more of the big beds. One pickup load of soil ought to do it.

I picked up an amazing amount of garbage out of the garden. Mostly broken pots, plant labels, and empty soil bags. I obviously got lazy last summer at some point. Oh, wait, when I pulled a muscle in my back, that’s right. So I didn’t get around to proper clean up. It was all I could do to water and harvest and the husband worked 5 weeks straight with no days off and wasn’t home at all to help me.

We still have to roll up the plastic that was over the hoops we used this winter and put it away. I’m not sure exactly where we will store it. Maybe behind the garage. I’m not sure I will bother with covering more than the herb bed next year and just use the little umbrella greenhouse to have lettuce and kale for as long as possible. Once the snow hit, it caved most of them in and smothered the plants anyway. We’ll need better hoops before we consider covering so many beds again.

The husband is going to build a stand for me to set a large sprinkler on so it will be above the level of the raised beds and we will water the garden that way this year. Since I won’t be growing tomatoes or peppers in the back yard garden, I don’t have to worry about water getting on the leaves and getting blight. It’ll make things so much easier to just turn one sprinkler on for 20 minutes a couple times a week during the heat of the summer and be done with it. He’s also going to put legs on a screened box we have and that will be our veggie cleaning station where I can spray the dirt off before bringing it into the house.

I am propagating basil off the stuff growing in the Aerogarden. I want to have lots of healthy, good-sized basil plants to put out in May when the time comes. I have both sweet basil and Genovese basil. I will also want to plant Thai basil and purple basil, but those I will have to buy. I will buy one plant of each and do cuttings from those as well to make new plants, but they won’t have those out until late May, probably.

I am ready for real spring to be here. Not this I’m still really winter in sheep’s clothing nonsense we’ve been seeing. Although it has gotten much better this week, I won’t plant more than cold season crops because I still don’t trust it.

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Kindling, Gardening, and Hurt Birds

Kalia kindled yesterday. She had just one kit again, but she’s getting old. Luna Blue was due on the 8th and nothing, so I think she missed. I was hoping she’d have a big enough litter I could give Kalia another kit to raise so hers wouldn’t be alone, but it looks like a no-go. I’m not sure why Luna missed. The only other time she missed was with Alex when it turned out he was sick. She had a litter of 6 last time. I think it might be Starbuck, but the four week old kits were all fathered by him. That was before the abscess on his shoulder showed up, though. So maybe his immune system is not doing well. I’ve read that can lead to low sperm count in rabbits.

It will be a while before Zander is old enough to sire kits. Leo is still out of commission due to illness and may never recover. We may very well be putting him down the next time my husband comes homes. We do have a four month old buck that could father kits in 2 more months if we kept him, which I wasn’t planning on. He’s very sweet tempered though and does have all of the qualifications for a good meat buck.

I need to make the decision soon on Persephone and Serenity. Persephone is still young, she just doesn’t seem to be shaking this. Serenity is getting old, but I really like her personality and she seems like she is actually recovering. But I have two doe kits right now that are coming up beautifully and maybe it is just time to stop trying to nurse them through this (it has been months) and replace them. One of the doe kits is Serenity’s granddaughter, but there is no off spring from Persephone, which would mean Phoebe’s line would end. Still, there is Piper’s line and Serenity’s line. Maybe I just need to bite the bullet.

If Serenity and Persephone go, that leaves Luna Blue, Serena, and Kalia as white does and Ruby, Firefly, Bonfire, and Cinnabun as red does. Kalia is pretty much too old to give good litter sizes anymore, so that leaves just six production does. I have thought of getting a red buck or a broken red buck. We’ll see. I don’t like just having one working buck, but Zander will be big enough soon enough.

On the garden front everything is growing well. Almost everything is planted, I am just waiting on cantaloupe for hotter days. We are having a very warm, very good start to the gardening season and I am already harvesting kale, chard, chives, oregano, sorrel, blood-veined sorrel, pak choi, and three types of lettuce. I should not have to buy any greens until October and November at this rate unless the lettuce bolts. The tomato plants are really taking off. Two of the ones in the house are ready for me to start hardening them off for transplant. I will have one Opalka and one Lillian’s Yellow Heirloom for sure. The basil I cloned is doing well, also. This is the first time I have ever cloned basil, so I am happy it worked.

Gina still has not fully recovered from her injuries. She spends a lot of time resting in the nesting box. She hasn’t laid eggs since she got hurt. Turkey eggs are my favorite, but what are you going to do? Her feathers are finally coming back in along her back. It looks terrible, but not as bad as raw skin looked. At least the hawk has moved on. I think George hurt him pretty bad when he tried to protect Gina.

Wade has a hurt leg, too. We caged him for 3 days to force him to rest, but let him into the coop with the rest of the ducks at night. He is walking better, but still limping and still holding one leg up when he stands. No signs of bumblefoot and it seems more like a leg injury than a foot injury. If it starts getting worse again, I will cage him for a full week. But it is hard on him, being a flock animal. He wants to follow the rest of the ducks around. They do stay with his cage part of the day, but it makes him sad when they go away to other parts of the yard and he can’t follow.

The Good and the Bad of It

Sometimes homesteading really has me in tears. There is so much good, but when the bad comes it breaks your heart. We had kits born on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. On Wednesday we had a rat get in the rabbit shed and attack a kit. It was injured so badly that I had to put it down. This is the first time I’ve had to do that. I know that we butcher animals and that this rabbit only would have lived 12 to 14 weeks, but this was a death without purpose to me, other than alleviating suffering, I mean. It had me in tears.

This was the first time I have killed a rabbit. My husband does the killing at butcher time. I’ve never had to, but he wasn’t home and it needed to be done immediately. I still feel bad 2 days later. I know it was the right thing, but it was just so sad. We had already lost 2 kits the day they were born. So of a total of 9 born, there are six left. One was with Ruby, one was with Kalia, and the other 4 were with Luna. At first I was just going to foster Ruby’s kit to Kalia, but I ended up fostering the two kits to Luna, who had more milk, so she could raise all six. I didn’t think it was warm enough for any kit to be alone.

Ruby and Kalia are both a little sad. They looked for their kits the first day, but have stopped. But I can tell they are sad. I wish I could explain it to them, but I can’t really. I mean, I tell them, but of course they don’t understand. And Serena never kindled. I think Alexander has gone sterile as there have been no kits from his last 3 breedings now.

On a possibly good news note, DH noticed that one of Firefly’s bucks was haystaching. Bucks don’t do that. At least not that I’ve ever seen. So my son and I did a quick sex check and that buck is a doe. And she had been in with her two brothers up until 3 weeks ago. The magical rabbit sex change fairy strikes again. So we quickly transferred her to a baby safe cage and gave her a nesting box. It is possible that she is just reacting to the mama hormones in the air, but she is old enough that she could be pregnant and I didn’t want another Fiona incident on my hands. Fortunately she is big enough that a pregnancy is not detrimental to her health. She jumped right into the nesting box and started digging. As a boy she was on the butcher schedule for this weekend, but I guess she missed that.

If she does have kits we will let her raise the litter and then sell her. We don’t have the cage space to keep 2 new does and I want to save one of the blackish kits from Cinnabun’s latest litter as a breeder if there is a promising girl. They are gorgeous and super soft and very sweetly tempered. My son wants to name her, but that is dangerous. Once they have a name he always wants to keep it. And we just can’t. Unless we sell some other does. And this really isn’t the time of year that people want to buy starter trios.

So as you can see the week has been very up and down. I hope next week is calmer and not so crazy.

Eating from the Pantry Week Four and the Garden

I have completed the challenge and you can see the results in the video above. I did pretty well with it, though not perfectly and saved $750 by not doing any real grocery shopping or going out to eat at all during this time period. I just need to save another $150 to pay for the set of four new tires the van needs

George is hurt, but he is starting to improve. We lost a chicken. We think it was to a hawk and that George fought off the hawk and that is how he got hurt.

The garden is doing fantastic.

We have kits due on the 3rd or 4th. They got their nest boxes last night and all three rabbits promplty got to work nest building. Persephone and Luna even started pulling fur.

The foster kits and Phoebe’s one kit are doing really great being raised by Phoebe. They are starting to catch up to the size they should have been if all had gone well from the start. They are 4 weeks old now and the sweetest, friendliest little loves.

We weaned the previous 3 litters this week. I need to let the lady who is going to buy Serena know that her kits have been weaned. It will be hard to see Serena go, but I know she is going to a good rabbit person who knows what she is doing, so that makes it easier.

It has been so hot here the last week or so that I feel like I am living in California and not NW WA. We have 7 fans going in the rabbit shed and between that and the pavilion they seem to be staying fairly comfortable. We check on them and their water bottles several times per day. So far no one seems to be having any issues, thank goodness.

On Kindle Watch

I’ve got three rabbits due today, Kalia (bred with Wildfire), Cinnabun (bred with Starbuck), and Serena (bred with Alexander). Kalia and Cinnabun have built elaborate nests. Serena’s nest is not that elaborate, but she’s the only one who has pulled fur. Kalia and Serena are both in that uncomfortable looking stage. Cinnabun looks perfectly fine, but nothing really seems to phase her. My guess is Kalia will have hers first.

I have some more videos I took earlier in the week. The gutter garden is coming along nicely, planted with garlic, green onions (in succession), spinach, and edible violas. Since the video, the foot of radishes I planted have sprouted. I need to plant another foot of radishes. I want them coming about every ten days or so.

Gutter Garden:

I think we will have a lot of fruit this year if all goes well. I have seen some bees pollinating. Mostly bumble bees and mason bees, but there have been a few honey bees. Speaking of honey bees, google “accident on I-5 with bee hives” and watch a few of the videos. They had 448 hives on the semi-truck that flipped. And they were headed for my county, rented to the big blueberry and raspberry farms here. We could see tremendous loss of production in our county this year. They were able to save some, but berries are a huge part of the farm economy here. All the more reason for farmers to keep their own hives, I think.

Fruit Garden:

Out in the vegetable bed that is planted, you can just see a few of the snap peas that I planted starting to burst through the soil. They just started coming up and last night I could see 3 and this morning I could see 8. I am really happy with how everything is growing. The lettuce is getting big. I think I can start taking a leaf off each plant in another couple of days for my salads. The kale is also doing very well, and the snow peas are starting to reach for the trellis. The onions look great. Everything I planted in the window boxes and planters is also doing well. The chamomile, which got yanked out of the planter by a chicken, seems to be recovering.

The chickens that keep hopping the fence will be getting their wings clipped this weekend. They are Mom’s chickens. Mine are well-behaved. I saw baby chicks at the farm store last night when I was buying feeders for the new cages. They are so adorable. I want some. But I think the only babies we will have on the homestead this year are rabbit kits. Though I still would like to raise a couple of turkeys, I just don’t see it happening.

The First of What Will Probably Be Many Garden Plans

So I spent about an hour drawing up my plans for my 2015 main garden. It will consist of 1 long strawberry bed that runs the length of the garden, with about 2 to 3 feet between it and the blackberry canes. Then branching off it like an E, the wider beds will go. The shorter bed will be a foot less wide than the other two bigger beds. I know they look crowded, but some of the stuff written on them is for succession planting. And some of it is because I am going to use the French Intensive method in a raised bed where the roots will easily be able to go two feet down into lots of rabbit poop fertilizer.

I think I am actually going to be quite pleased with the result. Corn and potatoes will be planted elsewhere on the property. And maybe some more sweet meat squash at the feet of the corn. The goal with the corn is to have enough for us to have a few fresh ears and maybe a bit of canned, and then to dry the rest to crack for the birds to eat. The corn we are planting is fast to mature at 55 and 75 days so it has a better chance than many that are grown in this area.

Tomorrow I am going to go ahead and plant just a few radish seeds in the gutter garden. I know it is early, but we’ve been having great weather, so if I plant some seeds I might get something and if not, no big deal. I have a ton of radish seeds. Even if they don’t make it all the way to radishes before a frost threatens, I can pull the greens and have a tasty topper to my winter cabbage salads.

The rabbits are getting ready to give birth on Saturday. They all have quite different nesting styles.

It will be exciting to have kits again. It was nice to have a break for the cold season, but I miss my little snugglies.