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.

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.

Rabbit Update

We weaned Ella’s male kits 3 days ago. I don’t generally like to wait this late, but I wasn’t doing well enough to go out there and so DH and DS have been on rabbit duty. Since I am the only one who knows how to sex the rabbits (which is what they call determining their genders), it didn’t get done sooner. I finally dragged myself out there and got it done, because if I waited too much longer there could be a small chance that one of the males could have impregnated Ella.

There turned out to be 3 boys and 3 girls. 2 of the boys are broken blacks and one is a solid black. Two of the girls are broken blacks and one is the lightly broken fawn (light red). One of the female brokens has promising coloring so I may keep her and breed her back to Zander to try to strengthen both spots and coloring. I might not though. Persephone’s kits (above) are coming up and if the right one of them is female she’ll have better coloring and spots.

I haven’t been posting here much despite a determination to be better at it. It’s been hard since my fall in November, but I am really starting to get back on my feet again. It’s slow going and I still have pain, but I’m able to do a lot more. Not like before, but hopefully in another month I will be able to take over all of my chores again.

The Kits are Thriving

I am so happy with how the kits are doing. They are growing very well. Admittedly I haven’t been able to check on them as much as I normally would. My husband and son have had to do the majority of the rabbit chores since I still have bronchitis and a lot of swelling in my sprained ankle. I can’t go out at night, because I can’t see where I’m putting my feet and I can’t risk rolling my ankle again and the doctor doesn’t want me outside at night until this cough goes away.

We got the hoops in the garden covered with greenhouse plastic today. We are due for our first hard freeze and possible snow on Monday night and possibly more snow later in the week, but tomorrow night will get down to 35. I want to jolly my lettuce, kale, and chard along through the winter if I can and protect my herbs.

I am really struggling with the nightshade allergy. They put paprika in everything. I even found it in my uncured, nitrate free, nitrite free, high fructose free hot dogs. And I realized that my shelf full of homemade canned garlic dill pickles are not something I can eat now because of the red pepper flakes. And no one else in the family likes dill pickles. So now I can’t eat pickles until I can make more come summer when there are pickling cucumbers again, without the red pepper flakes. It’s a little discouraging.

I’ve started loom knitting again. I quit sometime around April last year. I finished the sock that was on the loom, but I don’t think I have enough yarn to make a matching sock. I will take a piece to the store and see if they still even have that yarn. If not I will just knit another sock in a different yarn I don’t have enough of to do two socks and just wear that pair in my boots where no one can see them.

Tomorrow we are going to fetch a 55 gallon barrel of produce. It is $15 for the produce and $15 deposit on the barrel. We’re getting it to feed to the ducks, turkeys, and chickens. They need the fresh stuff at this time of year when the garden is only making enough for us to eat and only a little to share with them. I have been giving them squash guts and seeds, but I like being able to give them some green leafy stuff, too, as well as some more substantial veggies. It’s all stuff that was simply pulled off the produce shelf the day before. A lot of it is still good for human consumption since they pull it the day before the sell by date and that is not even the use by date. I don’t know if I would consider eating any of it. I’d have to see it. It might be worth canning if it is root vegetables that are in decent shape. He said he had a lot of organic stuff. We’ll see.

I’ll leave you with some kit photos. They are now three weeks old.

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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.