The Satisfaction of Self-Sufficiency

The Satisfaction of Self-Sufficiency

We got the Pekin ducks packaged for the freezer as well as a bag of necks and a bag of livers. It is an interesting feeling of satisfaction knowing we raised these guys from start to finish. Ducks are definitely the hardest to process of the three animals we’ve butchered so far. Without a barrel plucker, we won’t do it again. But it still feels satisfying.

So does this:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

3 shelves worth of chicken. Plus there are 28 quart bags of stir-fry chicken breast meat chicken out in the chest freezer. Because we don’t really care for white meat, but it is good in stir-fry. Or made into nuggets.

And there is this:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

8 gallon bags of rabbit meat, 1 gallon bag of belly flaps and fat for grinding, and 2 quart bags of rabbit livers.

It is going to be a month or two before we can eat the Pekins, though. I just don’t have it in me yet to do that. It was the same way the first time we butchered rabbits. I didn’t have any issues eating the chicken right away, though. But then they didn’t have any personalities really.

We got 2 more duck eggs this morning.

We got the finished compost taken care of yesterday and I put some on the hay bale garden.

I also got plant starts. Well, plugs, really, which are 25 cents each. I got 48. 6 cauliflower (hope springs eternal), 18 purple kohlrabi, and 24 broccoli. I was surprised to find them actually, because a few weeks ago they didn’t have any. So those I planted today in the hay bales. I planted the kohlrabi a little deeper than I did in the straw bales and of course they have the compost around them as well. I want to freeze broccoli for stir-fries. I am hoping with the 24 new plants we’ll be able to do that. The six older plants will be for fresh eating this summer. If the cauliflower makes it, it’ll probably go for fresh eating as well. With only six plants it is not worth freezing. Assuming it makes it at all.

I also planted four Blacktail Mountain watermelon seeds in the dirt and 8 in the compost covering the hay bales. It’s a 9 day germination (which may be sped up in this weather, the beans were), and a 70 day growing period. So we’d be harvesting around September 20th if all goes well. It is a little late to be planting watermelon and it very well may not do well. But I may be able to put a little green house around it if necessary to extend the growing season. But the way things are going I think we are going to have an Indian Summer and be able to grow well into October, so I thought it was worth trying. I planted them in hills of four seeds each like I do with squash and cucumbers. That is not what the directions said, but we’ll see how it works.

I am still sick. I am really dragging. But stuff needs doing and I wanted to get it done before the rabbit kits are due and before the husband is gone again. So I am taking it all in baby steps. I am so turned off by protein right now. I don’t know if it is the after effects of the virus or of processing so much meat. Maybe both. I know it will go away and I’ll be back to normal eventually. I can’t eat much anyway at one time. Breakfast was a pudding cup. Lunch was a small Yukon gold potato and a couple berries. Dinner is likely to be a salad. I might be able to handle one hard-boiled egg, some sunflower seeds, and some cheese on the salad. If not I’ll drink a cup of rabbit broth. I just tend to do better if there is some protein in my diet.

I wish we could have gotten the excess Welsh Harlequin drakes butchered, too, but that will have to wait until the next time the husband is home. At least I have picked out which two I want to keep. And if two ends up being too many for the females, then I know which one I want to keep. He’s the biggest and the nicest and the prettiest.

On the turkey front, one of the boys’ heads is starting to turn blue. Apparently this is a male thing only with the Royal Palms, so in a week or two I will definitively know what is what, though I really do think it is 3 jakes and 1 jenny (what they call immature toms and hens). In which case it will be very easy to decide which male to keep and which two are Thanksgiving and Christmas. I just hope if it is 3 jakes and 1 jenny that the males won’t be pestering the poor girl before butcher time. If they are then maybe we can put the two extras in the empty meat chicken coop and cover the top of the pen area there with poultry netting.

I picked a few more handfuls of berries today, but it is all going for fresh eating right now. There isn’t enough yet for freezing.

I still want to get the chickens and pullets integrated tomorrow. I’m not sure how that will go, but they are big enough now and the turkeys are not so nice to the Barnevelders anymore so it has to happen. My pullets are fast so I imagine they can get away from the hens if they need to. Except in the coop. But there is always the meat chicken coop for now. Or Fort Knox, but we’d have to add a perch. Hopefully it’ll all go well and Georgie won’t be the brat she can be.

Advertisements

First Duck Eggs and a Straw and Hay Bale Garden Update

First Duck Eggs and a Straw and Hay Bale Garden Update

We got our first duck egg yesterday, but one of the chickens got in and ate it (Bad Georgie!). Today we got two eggs and the duck coop was closed as soon as the ducks came out until I could go back and get them and then I opened the coop back up again, since that is where the feed is. I think it is interesting that the day after the Pekins were butchered, the new ducks started laying. The Pekins were majorly stressing them out. The flock is so much more harmonious now. One of the new ducks hangs out with Addy now and the other three hang out together, but they all sleep close in with the boys now.

We’ve been butchering the last of the meat chickens. I did some cutting up and bagging last night. Today I have to cut up and bag the rabbits and also wrap the ducks in freezer paper since I am not sure where to purchase poultry bags other than online.

The hay bale and straw bale gardens are doing well. The cabbage and lettuce got moved from the straw bale garden to the dirt in the hay bale garden and I planted the winter savory, 2 types of parsley and the cilantro in the dirt there as well. I don’t think I’ll do carrots this year at all. The husband and the father-in-law will put up the new part of my gutter garden today and I will get some radishes and some peas planted and maybe something else.

The duck coop will be moved today, hopefully for the last time, and the good finished compost will be spread and the compost bins will be moved, too. We are going to start sifting the hay out of the rabbit droppings and packaging the rabbit droppings for giving away or selling in old feed bags.

We sold Fiona yesterday to a woman I feel good about and we weaned Phoebe’s kits. We will wean Andromeda’s kits just as soon as we clean out Fiona’s cage. Andromeda probably leaves us on Tuesday. Tomorrow we will start trying to integrate the Barnevelders in with the other laying hens.

Serena and Kalia have stopped taking all the bedding out of the nesting boxes and seem to be building nests instead. They are due on the fourth. Hopefully they will have them on day 31 and not day 32. I worry about fireworks. I just wish I’d thought about that when breeding, but I was two days later than I’d planned on being when I bred them. Oh, well, what is done is done. Hopefully the new city fireworks ban will be followed this year and it won’t be an issue and they will have them in the morning, well before the city’s late night blast.

I still feel pretty weak and shaky, but I am keeping my food down for two days now, so I think I am probably on the mend. None too soon.

This Week Has Been Rough and Rabbit Dress Out Weights

This Week Has Been Rough

This has been a very rough last few days. I am sicker than I’ve been in a long time (haven’t kept food down in 5 days, I’m starting to suspect an ulcer) and it has just made things very difficult. Stuff still had to get done, but I’ve had to count on the rest of the family to pick up the slack. It is really making me rethink some things. I am reducing my homesteading plans somewhat. I just don’t think I can handle having goats or pigs or sheep. And I’m not sure about having a big flock of any type of birds anymore, either. I think we are at the capacity of what we can handle if I am incapacitated and the kids have to step in. Maybe a little beyond it.

My husband and my mom are going to butcher all of the Pekins tomorrow and 2 of the male Welsh Harlequins. That will bring our flock of 13 ducks down to 7. Once the duck flock is down we will start working on integrating the Barnevelder pullets with the rest of the laying hens. The turkeys are getting a little rough on them and there is a lot of squabbling going on.

We butchered rabbits a few days ago at 11 weeks old, all of Serenity’s and all but one of Lola’s. Starting and dress out weights are below.

Serenity’s:

5 lb 12.2 oz———-2 lb 15.9 oz doe
5 lb 14.0 oz———-2 lb 15.8 oz doe
6 lb 8.2 oz———–3 lb 5.8 oz doe
5 lb 7.2 oz———–2 lb 13.4 oz doe
5 lb 9.8 oz———–2 lb 15.6 oz buck

Lola’s:

4 lb 14.2 oz———-2 lb 7.2 oz doe
5 lb 2.6 oz———–2 lb 10.6 oz doe
4 lb 10.6 oz———-2 lb 5.1 oz buck

And 2 pounds of liver.

The bunny we hand fed with a dropper after Lola died is still quite small. We put her in with Firefly. They get along very well. Firefly seems very happy to have a companion and so does the little runt. She did not like being alone all day after her siblings were taken away. I don’t know if we will keep her or not. We may keep her as a pet. We may sell her as a pet. I don’t know if we can butcher her. That’s the trouble with rescuing kits. You love them more than you should. She hasn’t been named, though we do refer to her as Blue Bunny because when she was little we had to spray her with that blue spray a couple of times. If we keep her she will have an L name after Lola. Either Luna or Lily or Lila.

We are reducing our rabbit herd adults. It has gotten up to levels I am not happy with handling. Andromeda goes to live in a colony situation the first week of July and a woman is coming tomorrow to hopefully purchase Fiona and Funny Bunny as a breeding pair. I am thinking of selling Leo. He’s a good buck, but I can’t get him to stop rolling in his poop. He will poop on his tile, roll in it, then push the poop off the tile and through the cage wire into the dropping pan. As soon as I get him cleaned up, he does it again. I love him, but I’m tired of it. If I sell Leo I will keep Alexander in his place. Alex is a dream rabbit. The plan has always been to sell Serena (originally with Alex) after she has her first litter and they are weaned and to keep her best doe kit. But I may sell someone else instead. I don’t know.

For sure I am keeping the following:

Reds–
Wildfire, buck
Cinnabun, doe
Sienna, doe
Firefly, doe

Whites–
Starbuck, buck
Kalia, doe
Phoebe, doe

I think I want to keep Persephone, but we will see what type of mother she is. I am debating between Serenity and her daughter Serena. I am debating between Alex and Leo. I might even put Starbuck on probation at some point as he likes to jump and spray his pee on my son. Which is not as irritating as Leo and his rolling in poop habit. At least not to me. My son on the other hand…

Andromeda’s 3 kits and Phoebe’s 2 kits need to be weaned soon. They will be 8 weeks old in a few days. I am waiting to see if Fiona and Funny Bunny go tomorrow to determine which cages to put them into. I also need to sex them, though it doesn’t really matter for another 4 weeks and I am pretty sure that Phoebe’s will be at butcher size at the 11 week mark. Actually I think one of them is probably going to hit butcher size at the 9 week mark.

Kalia got her nesting box today and immediately started digging in it. Serena has had hers for a couple of days, because she was wanting to nest build much earlier. Both are due in 6 days. I hope it all goes well. I don’t like doing two unproven rabbits at the same time, but I didn’t have a choice because of the deaths of Lola and Piper. It’ll be the same for Persephone and Cinnabun, but when I breed Sienna I will breed either Phoebe or Serenity so we can get back to having a veteran mother with a newbie mother. I am not sure which one. I want to make sure they are both good and healthy and are at their previous weights before breeding. Phoebe needs to gain back 10 ounces still. I haven’t weighed Serenity, but I think she is probably a pound lighter based on appearance.

Everyone is switched over to the 17 percent protein feed again except Firefly who is eating about 90% of her old feed and 10% of the Conway. We are doing a very slow switch for her since the first time we tried to do it with 75% old and 25% new, she quit eating for a few days. She is 5 weeks older and 3 months old now and hopefully able to handle it better now. She hasn’t quit eating this time, I’ve seen her doing it, and the food cup has been going down.

The gardens are doing well. I didn’t think the cucumbers responded to the rabbit poop fertilizer, but by the 3rd day after applying it they were all green again and flowering, so it just took longer than the other plants did. So we no longer have any struggling plants. I’ll try to do a video update soon. We have ripe raspberries and a handful of both blueberries and blackberries that are ripe, too.

We took all of the composting bedding off the property yesterday and the day before. I had a friend who wanted it to start a deep mulch garden on her new farm. It was getting ridiculously high and needed to go. It didn’t smell, but we were worried about keeping it that way. It took 4 compact pickup truck loads and was a lot of hard work. I did what I could, but that wasn’t too much. Basically just rode out to the farm with the husband and helped unload, which is a lot easier than loading, since we just raked it off in the spot it needed to go.

We have to move the duck coop again because the neighbor is complaining. The Pekins do quack, I’m not saying they don’t, but they will be gone tomorrow anyway, so it will be much quieter after that. They are way quieter than his two yappy dogs who bark constantly whenever they are outside, or his ham radio that comes in over our speakers, but we are moving it to the other side of the property anyway, because he might call the health department on us and while we don’t have codes that limit the number of animals we can keep, we do have to keep them from becoming a nuisance. And we don’t want people coming out here that might be PETA types and deciding that because we butcher our own food we obviously can’t be good animal owners. So better to just move the darn thing again, even though it weighs a ton and has to be taken apart and put back together. Our other neighbor doesn’t care.

The new ducks haven’t been laying since we brought them home. I hope that once we reduce the duck population they will feel a little less stressed. The Pekins pick on them a little. But once we butcher it will be the four new girls, Addy, and the 2 drakes so the numbers between new and old will be more even. I will be switching to a layer feed with the next bag I buy so that might be what is going on as well, that the flock raiser isn’t quite enough for them. Hopefully that is all it is. I’d hate to think the guy I bought them from sold me old ducks instead of the one-year-olds they are supposed to be.

And I think that about covers it.

Duck Integration

Duck Integration

So the ducks seem to have almost completely integrated. No one was the worse for wear when I let them out this morning and the new girls were close behind the rest of the flock on the way out the door, if still bunched together. They were all happy around the pool first thing, and now in the afternoon they are taking a snooze together. You can see that the new girls are still together on the left side of the photo above and there is a small gap between them and the rest of the flock, but they are definitely all getting along. There weren’t any eggs this morning, but hopefully the girls will relax and we will have some tomorrow or the next day.

I wanted to give you the results of the rabbit poop soup going onto the garden plants that were suffering.

This zucchini had really yellowed, but the green has come back very well.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The bush crop cucumbers now have tiny fruits on them and are flowering more. The leaves damaged by sun scald are being replaced with nice green leaves.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The pepper leaves are still a little faded, but they seem healthier than they were. The fruits look shinier.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The parts of the tomato plants that stayed green are more green and look stronger. The parts that had yellowed are putting forth new green growth.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The pickling cucumbers are still struggling.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

I may not have put enough of the rabbit poop soup on them as I was almost out when I got to them. I am going to try putting on some of my organic fertilizer and see if that helps. They really don’t seem to like the straw bale. I am thinking about getting four more bales of straw, making a square, putting compost in the center and transplanting the cukes into that to see if they will thrive in dirt. I will give them another week.

The potatoes are doing well, both the ones we planted and the volunteers.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

And we have some actual blue blueberries. In June. Never has happened before.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The blackberries are not far behind.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The raspberries are coming on pretty well. We got about 20 berries today. In a few more days I think we’ll be picking them by the pint and starting to freeze them for winter. The strawberries are still going about a handful at a time every 4 days or so. And I am impatiently waiting until I can pick my next set of lettuce leaves. Judging from the growth, that will be tomorrow.

As usual, everything in the dirt of the hay bale garden is thriving.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

I love it when the harvesting starts. It makes all the work that goes into the garden so worth it.

All the Single Ladies

All the Single Ladies

Meet my new one-year-old Welsh Harlequin females. I’ve named the girls Annabeth, Zoe, Lemon, and Tansy after the Hart of Dixie characters. They join Addy, bringing me to five female WH’s. I am really excited I was able to get a hold of them. We drove out to a lovely hillside farm on Camano Island. The guy gave us a tour of his operation and it was pretty impressive. I got to see Jersey Giants and Delawares (they are both so huge) and white Wyandottes and New Hampshires and half a dozen other types of chickens as well as WH and Silver Appleyard ducks, for the first time.

The new ducks were very happy to get out of the van and into the yard. Since they were raised in what looked to me like a 16′ x 8′ pen, I think they thought they’d arrived at heaven when we put them onto the clover field. The first thing they did was drink a ton of water and then nibble on the raspberries and then the other ducks started checking them out. Addy made it clear that she is in charge of the flock. Even though these girls are older, Addy is bigger. These girls are gold phase and Addy is silver.

The girls went into Fort Duck with the rest of them tonight. It took a little coaxing, but not as much as I feared. There was some squabbling for about five minutes and then they settled down. I put in a nesting box. I don’t know if the girls will lay tomorrow or not, because they might stop for a day or two from the stress of the move, but maybe they will. All I know is I should have some eggs sometime this week. If they hadn’t gotten along, I would have put the girls into Fort Knox instead, but I think all is going to be well. We have the window open listening for any signs of disharmony.

I am definitely going to butcher two Welsh Harlequin males. I am almost tempted to do 3, but I’d rather have a backup drake, just in case. I think I am going to butcher two of the Pekins as well. I’m not sure when. We have to butcher rabbits and the rest of the meat chickens. If I wait until the ducks are 18 weeks old it will be easier to pluck them. They will have the least amount of pin feathers at that age. But they are coming into sexual maturity and they might harass the new girls too much if I wait. 4 boys is a lot for a handful of females to deal with. So maybe we will do them this week.

I don’t know. Their heads are starting to turn green. I’d like to see how they turn out, so maybe I’ll wait at least one more week and see if that makes a difference in my choices. I will probably just keep the two biggest. They are all very pretty. I really wish the females were as pretty as the males, though.

First Salad of the Season

First Salad of the Season

And second salad of the season:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

The blueberries are starting to turn blue. Well, red and purple. The blackberries are starting to turn pink and red. I picked about a quarter of a pint of raspberries today.

Still waiting to hear back from the duck guy. Phone tag sucks. I wish he’d just give us an address, date, and time and we’d be there. I’m starting to feel like I’m in one of those movies where they give you the directions to the drop while you are on the way driving there. I hope it all ends up being worth it. I really want those female Welsh Harlequins. But if this falls through then I will order some sexed ducklings to raise. I just hope Addy won’t get overwhelmed once the boys hit sexual maturity in the meantime.

One of the little wild bunnies was on the path today nibbling on weeds. The husband and I were coming from one direction and a chicken was coming from the other direction. The bunny kept looking back and forth between us and the chicken. As we got closer it didn’t know where to go. We stepped to one side of the path and then it made a beeline past us. Guess we were the lesser of two evils. I don’t blame it. Georgie, the duckling killer, can be threatening.

24 hours after the application of the rabbit poop soup fertilizer, the tomatoes and cucumbers are doing great. It actually took away most of the yellowing on the cucumber leaves. It did not do that with the tomatoes, but the parts that were still green are now greener and the plants have perked right up. I used most of the second container to put on the peppers and then all of the other plants in the straw bales except the green beans and yellow French beans. I will do those tomorrow with the remainder. What I did do was standing taller within 2 hours of application.

I think I will do an application of this stuff every week on the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers, and then maybe less often on the rest of it. We’ll play it by ear.

We dumped a bunch of spent rabbit bedding on the potato garden for hilling purposes and then left more to be used in a few days when it needs to be done again. The potato plants are getting big and healthy looking. We’ve got some volunteers that I want to put some on as well. We might as well make use of those ones, too.

I am going to put compost in the buckets that the strawberries came in and use them to grow some brassicas. I am debating between broccoli and cabbage. Probably broccoli, since cabbage, even organic cabbage, is cheap.

Breeding Day and Hay Bale Garden Update

Breeding Day and Hay Bale Garden Update

I had originally planned to breed rabbits on Wednesday, but one thing or another got in the way so the breeding didn’t happen until today. I went back and forth a bit on who I was going to breed Persephone with but settled on Starbuck. He sure got the job done and how. Persephone was the most receptive rabbit I have ever seen in my life. She’s settled down, too. She had been going a bit crazy the last few days, squeaking and running around in her cage, or sitting with her head down and her butt up in the air. All sure fire signs around here that she wanted to breed. And I think they had about a dozen successful rounds.

I also went with Cinnabun and Wildfire. They are full brother and sister, but I wanted to get one litter of red kits without waiting for Firefly to grow up. I’d just like to see what they are going to be like. Cinnabun had also been exhibiting some of the behavior that Persephone had been, just not to the extent. Wildfire managed to get one in right off the mark, but then she went tail down for a while. She did eventually come around again and I did see two more successful breedings with her.

Cinnabun was ticked off, though, tonight when we went out to do food and water. She charged me when I opened the cage door to put hay in. She has never charged me before. Maybe she thought I was going to take her out of her cage and put her in with Wildfire again. I had hoped she’d settle down like Persephone did. Usually breeding takes away the slight crazy. Maybe she’ll have to have a day or two to calm down.

It’s been a week since I updated the hay bale garden. I am really pleased with how things are going. In one more week I can plant the actual hay bales. The stuff in the center is taking off.

Full shot:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Broccoli:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Lettuce:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Kale:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

First ripe raspberries of the season:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

They were delicious and I’m not even a huge fan of raspberries. Everyone else loves them, but no one else was around so I ate them.

Gutter garden:

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

Video update of the hay bale garden:

I did a video update of the straw bale garden, too, but I have to edit it together still. My memory card only allows me to do 2 minutes and 17 seconds before it glitches so I have to stop the camera and start again if I don’t want that to happen. A couple of the tomato plants are getting yellow leaves on the bottom. It is a nitrogen problem. I am brewing up some rabbit poop soup (rabbit manure soaked overnight in 5 gallon buckets) and I will pour the liquid around some of the plants in the straw bale garden tomorrow, then put the solids around the base of the tomato plants. That should give them a good shot of nitrogen.