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.

A Lot Going On

I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks. I’ve had a lot going on. We butchered 8 rabbits earlier in the week and then last night I cut them up. I made a video for my kids to watch since they want to learn how to do this and I figured they could watch it over and over again before trying for themselves.

We had 2 rabbits kindle and another one miss, the first weekend of July. We are skipping a month of breeding due to the heat and won’t breed again until the night of the full moon. I’ve had two misses this spring and summer and it was a different buck each time, but it was always the buck housed on the second tier and not on a lower tier of cages. Now that I have individual fans on the bucks, especially the second tier one, I am hoping it won’t happen again. Of course we have been in the low 70’s this week instead of the 80’s and 90’s, so I think any temporary sterility that is going on will hopefully pass.

This time around Firefly had 7, but the runt died and Persephone had 5. Luna Blue missed.

I’ve been drying herbs like crazy, both on the wall and in the dehydrator.

My Nesco dehydrator broke after one week of use. I won’t ever be using their machines again. It just stopped working. It’s not like I was running it non-stop either. Apparently this happens quite often with their dehydrators. If it hadn’t been a gift I would have read all the reviews first and certainly wouldn’t have bought one myself. I ended up ordering my Excalibur finally and I am thrilled with it. It is much better of a machine and dries more evenly to boot. I’ve done a lot, but I have a lot more to do. I want to supply the needs for the year as much as possible and get all the medicinal herbs and flowers ready for making medicine as well.

I have been studying a lot on how to do the herbal medicines, reading and watching youtube videos. I also bought a very good book (so far) on herbal medicine for beginners. And I’ve been keeping a notebook with the different herbs and what they do and will be adding recipes to it as I make them.

I can’t remember if I talked about our turkey tom George and the hawk, but he is doing much better now, and the hawk has not been back since their fight. He is almost walking without a limp now and has been able to get up on the roost again at night for the past two nights. He is afraid to get down, though. Probably worried about jarring the sore leg when he lands. We just lift him down in the morning. He’s a big boy, at least 20 pounds, but he’s very cooperative so that helps. And the chicken we thought the hawk had got showed up at head count last night after being missing for a couple of weeks. I don’t know if she was just too scared to come home and was off sitting on a nest being broody somewhere. But I was thrilled she came back, especially when we were sure the hawk had killed her and carried her off. Small miracles, I guess.

The garden has been going crazy. I’ve picked 5 zucchini this week with more coming, peas, radishes, chard, lettuce, sorrel, basil, thyme, marjoram, calendula, sage, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries. I’ve got green tomatoes, several immature crookneck squash coming, some small peppers, and lots of green beans coming on. There are baby watermelons beginning and I will have two cucumbers ready in a few days.

Here is the most recent garden update.

I really love this growing method. It is the best one I’ve ever used and by far the most successful.

Well, I hope that catches things up. I will try to post a little more often.

More Busy

This week has been really busy. I’ve gotten a lot done, but it doesn’t seem like it when I look around. The garden is coming along great.

I’ve actually planted some tomatoes since I took that video on Sunday. I put in 5 Constoluto Genevese, 4 Abraham Lincoln, and 3 Opalka. I only have 2 flats of plants left under the grow lights. Everything else is in various stages of hardening off. I will be able to take one of the trays that is under the grow lights out to the porch tomorrow and then the last tray I think will be big enough to go outside by Sunday.

The fruit garden is doing well. We have boat loads of little green blueberries. I can see apples starting now, though I couldn’t when I taped the following video on Sunday. I can see plums as well.

I am having some problems with the spinach. I am not sure if it is sun scorch or a nitrogen deficiency. I put fertlizer on and hopefully it will respond.

We have rototilled the corn strip and will be planting that this week. The ducks had a field day with the freshly turned earth. We have decided to do the 3 sisters method with the corn, the pole green beans, and the sweet meat squash. We have potatoes starting to come up and we will be planting more of that, too.

I sold 4 dozen duck eggs this week. I also traded 2 rabbits’ worth of meat for 4 quarts of organic lard with another homesteader. I have another potential duck egg customer, another lady who is allergic to chicken eggs. She has shown interest, but we will have to see if she follows through or not.

DH and I cut 8 rabbits’ worth of meat today from the first half of 2014 and we will run it through the meat grinder tomorrow. I took the rest of the rabbit meat from early 2014 out of the freezer to thaw and that will also get ground. We may make some jerky from some of this. I have yet to use my jerky gun and it would be nice to try it out. Once we get through this meat, we won’t have anything whole in the freezer from before September. While none of it was freezer burned, I am still glad to have gotten prepared for grinding.

Once we get through all this rabbit meat then I will thaw out all the white meat chicken from last summer and can it.

We have decided to raise meat chickens this year. We are set up for that and it won’t mean adding new infrastructure. We are going to get 50 male black Australorps. Australorps are a heavy chicken breed. They are mostly leg and thigh which is what we want. We will do these 50 and then probably order another batch of chicks as soon as they are done and then the second batch will be ready in November. So 100 chicks total. 50 for Mom and 50 for us. At least that is the plan. If we are too tired after raising the first 50 then we will let it go at that.

We have decided not to raise quail or turkey poults this year. I will order 2 turkeys from the guy who is going to raise my meat ducks. He raises on pasture with organic feed.

The husband is going to go on a major fishing weekend with one of his Alaskan work buddies and then ship home a bunch of fish on dry ice this summer. The guy always gets a ton of fish, so chances are good it will more than pay for the fishing license and shipping costs. If not, well, the husband will have fun.

That pretty much wraps up what is going on here. I’ll try to find the time to do an animal update, especially on the grow outs tomorrow.

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.

A Lot Done This Weekend

The husband, the kids, my father-in-law, and I got a lot done this weekend and today. On Saturday we butchered five rabbits. It was going to be six, but one of the red does has grown out really nicely and has all of the qualities I want in a red doe (except she’s a bit skittish, but I’ll work on that). I don’t think she’ll be a long-term keeper, but I want a doe kit out of her, so I’ll give her a litter or two. Since the doe we sold from the same litter died (feeding transition, I think they went too fast to a different feed and from no greens to lots of greens), there was not going to be any rabbit out there from Sienna’s line anymore. Since she did look so good I decided to go ahead and keep her for now. We’ve named her Ruby.

The new turkey roof got built and then hoisted into place and fastened down. The turkey pen roof got put back into place. The rabbit shed got completely cleaned out and all but 3 cages and dropping pans were washed. I will get to them this week. They are vacant for now, so it’s not a big deal. I repaired 2 of the cages that needed minor fixes. We transferred Alex and Felix out of the 24 X 24 inch buck cages and into the larger doe cages. Wow, did they love having more space. I’m going to replace those buck cages with larger doe cages in the next couple of weeks so that when the boys move again, it won’t be back into smaller cages. I’ll probably use those smaller ones as grow outs, but 2 to a cage instead of 3, or when there is only 1 of one sex or something.

We ground up 14.5 pounds of rabbit meat so with what we have in the freezer already, I will not have to buy hamburger for a few months. We still like to have the occasional beef burger, but for the most part anything we could make with hamburger we now make with ground rabbit meat. I’ll be using up the last of the duck burger patties we made this week.

I’ll be canning beef roast chunks this week and some chunks of white meat chicken that my mother gave me that were just so tough, because she didn’t let the chickens relax after butchering for a couple days. Canning takes away all that toughness. I have something going on with my two back teeth on one side and chewy meat is difficult. I see the dentist on the 9th. One of the teeth has a crown on it and the other one has a filling and they are both acting up. Not sure why, as I have been pretty religious about dental care for the last few years. I know I’ve been grinding my teeth because I wake up chewing on my mouth guard, so that may have something to do with it. We’ll see what the dentist says. I may need to get an x-ray done of that area.

I may make some soup as well this week. Not really sure yet. I’ve still got a frozen turkey carcass from one of our home-raised turkeys and I’d love to make some vegetable soup with. I can can some of it, and then add noodles later when I reheat it. It would be good to get those turkey bones out of the freezer as they are taking up space in a bulky way.

I am finally starting to feel like I might get back to normal again. I still have a runny nose and slight cough and have to take antihistamines, but I am doing so much better and I am so much more functional than I was. I’ve been pretty careful with what I’ve been eating since starting the diet December 31st, focusing on proper nutrition and lots of vegetables with my proteins, and I think that may have finally got me over the worst of the flu/cold cycle I’ve been in since October. It was hard to cut out the chocolate and popcorn and limit bread to once a week, but I feel better now that I have.

Probably on Tuesday I will cut up the rabbits we butchered on Saturday. I am going to do one full rabbit for our customer and then am thinking about cutting up the saddle meat and back legs for stir-fries and then doing the front legs in one bag for barbecued “wings” and then boil the ribcages for stock and freeze the meat that falls off the bones for quesadillas or enchiladas.

I am still getting 2 duck eggs a day, so I am happy about that. I found out the ages of the two new ducks and one was hatched the last week of March and the other was hatched the first week of April, so they are in their first year, which means whichever one of them is not laying yet should start up as soon as she feels secure. I am pretty sure Bluebell is the one who is laying. And of course Addy continues to give me one a day.

I’ve got something to use as a nesting box for Gina. It’s a large round tote. It will sit on its side and I will attach a board across the bottom of the opening. That will keep it from rolling, plus keep the straw and any eggs she lays from rolling out when she walks out of it. She should start laying in the next month or so. I’ve never eaten a turkey egg before. I am very curious as to what they will taste like and how big they will be in comparison to chicken and duck eggs.

We had to buy some garbage cans and a covered tote to keep feed in. We have mice in the garage and they were chewing holes in the feed bags and eating the feed. I don’t like having to keep everything in plastic, but it is better than losing it to mice. And the metal cans were cost prohibitive. We can get 10 bags of rabbit feed into three garbage cans. We store 2 bags of duck and chicken layer feed (still in their bags) in the 4th can and another bag is out in a can we already had by the duck coop. The oats have taken up residence in our giant cooler we take on road trip vacations (fits 3 bags of oats). The turkey feed goes in the tote. I do still have some barley that is not protected that I am going to have to figure out what to do with. Now that we don’t have kits I’d like to mix it with the oats I give the rabbits. I think maybe one more covered tote would take care of it.

Things seem to be progressing well with the house sale. We will have our guy out working on the few things that need to be repaired that were found during the inspection. We will have the stuff with the hot water tank get scheduled tomorrow so that will be done soon. The husband is running out to measure the tank tomorrow and the closet it fits in so we can make sure we get the correct size. The sellers offered us another $1000 if we’d just replace the tank so they don’t have to deal with it down the road and can finance it into their mortgage. It’ll cost about half that for a new tank and install. And the rest of the repairs will cost about $500, so we don’t really see any of that money, but that’s okay. It has to get done either way. I am so looking forward to closing. I am ready to be done with homeownership for a year or so and also to paying off the van and owning it free and clear so we can be free of car payments as well.

Them Bones

Gracious, but I am one tired and sore girl. I wouldn’t think deboning ten rabbits would give me such a backache! It took me 2 hours. It is not as easy as they make it look on youtube, that’s for sure. I did all but the front legs. There are just too many tendons in the front legs, so those got put into “wing” bags for freezing. I cut the meat off of everything else and then set aside all the bones for making stock tomorrow. I filled 5 gallon sized baggies with the meat for grinding. That will be frozen and then ground when the husband comes back home.

I’m sure I could figure out how to work the meat grinder on my own, but I really don’t want to clean it afterwards. I hate cleaning out fiddly things and the husband doesn’t seem to mind that sort of thing.

I will have to do two stockpots for the bones. I will get a lot of stock out of that, I’m sure. I think I will also make some actual soup in pint jars. I wish I could add noodles without them getting all soggy, but noodles will just have to be added in in the future when I actually make the soup. Or not. The soup will still taste great without noodles.

I seem to be getting 2 duck eggs again now. It had gone down to one a day for a week. It is weird only seeing 5 ducks out there instead of 6. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, though. I am still getting eggs daily from the Barnevelders. They are the most consistent chickens I’ve ever had. I found some plans for making a turkey nesting box for Gina. I think it will be big enough.

There were 2 showings this weekend on the house. One of them seemed really interested, but did not have their financing in place. I’m not holding my breath. Usually those types have no idea what their credit is like and are totally unprepared to be buying. But one can hope these folks aren’t like that.

The L&I wood stove inspector finally got off his butt and went to the house to inspect the stove, but of course didn’t bother to look at the form that said the house was vacant and he would have to make an appointment for someone to actually be there to let him in the house because it is vacant. We applied for it back in August. Now he wants us to pay for another inspection because he wasted his time and gas going out there! I was not happy. I am going to complain to his supervisor, because the instructions were clear and it is not our fault he didn’t bother to read them.

There is a business in town that installs and maintains wood stoves and we may be better off having them come out and look at it and make sure it is up to code before dealing with the L&I bozo again. I don’t even know why this falls under L&I. Washington state wood stove laws are the weirdest and most stringent in the nation, worse than the national laws. This is of course due to the population base in the Seattle/Tacoma area and the fact that they don’t actually heat with wood, so they can be all tree huggy about it. They don’t really worry about the rest of the state being pretty rural and maybe not having access to things like natural gas or sometimes even propane for heating.

It isn’t even like we installed that wood stove. It was in the house when we bought it. But the codes and laws have changed since then. Drives me crazy. I think old stuff should just be grandfathered in. Oh, well, this entry was not meant to be a rant about stoves and dumb WA state laws.

We still need to get the emergency outlet valve on the hot water tank piped to the outside of the house, too. Hopefully the husband will get on that, too, when he comes back home, because it is also a “laws have changed/code violation” that has to be fixed before the house can be closed on.

I am finally getting over the flu. Still a little coughing, and a runny nose, and I’m tired, but I am getting way more functional, which is really, really nice. I feel like it is actually going away now. Hopefully that will continue.

Cold Snap

The unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having is over. The lovely 45 degree days we’ve had for the last week are in the wind. Literally. The wind chill is very cold on top of the current 29 degrees F. The heater is on in the rabbit shed for the first time in a month or so and we’ll have to be checking on bird waters more frequently during the next five days as they will freeze solid during the nights. It is supposed to stay sunny and clear, but the nights will be going into the teens.

My father-in-law and my mother helped my husband with butchering rabbits yesterday since I am still recovering from the flu/sinus infection (yes, I have both) and we have ten more rabbits in the cooler. On Wednesday or Thursday they should be relaxed enough to cut up. I’m going to cut quite a bit of it off the bone for ground meat, but will throw it in the freezer until the husband comes back. He leaves tomorrow, so no time to do it before. It grinds better from half frozen anyway.

I’ll either save the bones and freeze them or I’ll make stock. Depends on how I am feeling. I’d like to get some more stock canned, but I have to take it easy until I get my full strength back.

My husband made up 28 hamburger patties tonight so that I can have some cooked ones in the freezer. That way the kids can just thaw and heat and slap them on buns with some cheese and nuke a baked potato and have homemade fast food. They’d eat burgers every day if I let them. Right now, being so sick, it will make my life easier, so I will let them. The kids don’t go back to school until next week and while they both know how to cook enough to get by, they don’t like to.

There aren’t any leftovers from Christmas. They got scarfed pretty fast with me not cooking after Christmas. I think I can probably start doing a little cooking tomorrow, but only dinner. They’ll have to fend for themselves for breakfast and lunch. They can both do eggs and bacon and pancakes and French toast and there is sandwich stuff, salad stuff, and pizza fixings (they both know how to make dough in the bread machine), they know how to make rice (both Spanish and chicken-fried) and spaghetti with meatballs, and my daughter can roast a chicken or a pot roast, so I know they aren’t going to go hungry unless they are lazy.

I finished reading the book Beyond the Pellet. I got some good ideas from it, but was a little disappointed it didn’t go into more detail. I mean, it’s a very good start, but I think there could have been a lot more to it. But I definitely know some places I will start when we buy our farm, planting bush willows right away and reseeding any lawns with things more favorable to rabbits. It was definitely worth the money for the book, though.

I got a bunch of new books from the library that I will be reading this week on gardening and homesteading. A lot of them I saw on Michigan Snowpony’s giveaway on youtube and thought they looked good and my library had most of them. I loathe buying a book if I can get it free from the library, unless it is something I am going to be consulting often. When you have four people living in 1000 square feet, you try to keep everything to a minimum.