Category Archives: rabbits

Hungry, Hungry Hippos (or Bunnies)

I do feed my rabbits. I swear I do. They have free choice hay, plus nearly unlimited pellets while they are pregnant, nursing, or babies. Still, though, whenever I refill the bowl, it’s mayhem.

img_6847_zpsqgdfp00g

Absolute mayhem! You’d think I gave them pellets once a month instead of refilling their bowls twice daily.

 

Most of the garden is preparing to sleep for the winter now. I’ve had a light frost on my car windows, but my backyard is a warmer microclimate, and even the tomatoes are still limping along…ripening those last few cherry tomatoes. The olive tree has small green olives on it, but I don’t know what’s going to happen with those. This is the first year it’s attempted to set actual fruit.

img_6855_zpsv3foop7m

We’ll see. The tree is tucked up against the house wall, in the warmest possible place. There are a few apples left on the apple trees, and we just ate the last of the pears. That was exciting – it was our first year to have pears! The mini pear “Seckel” produced about 15 pears, and they were very tasty! Just like full size pears, only half the size. One of my co-workers brought me couple of unusual fruits she’d been given by a friend of hers. They are a pear/ash cross, called a “Shipova”.  I’d never heard of them, but according to One Green World, they are “A unique hybrid of Mountain Ash and Pear, Shipova Mt. Ash Hybrid bears round, yellow-orange fruit, about the size of a large apricot. Quite delicious, the sweet, seedless fruit has a delicate, rose-like aroma. Shipova forms a pyramidal-shaped tree with attractive, grayish-green foliage.” They are pollinated by actual pears, so I think I might try getting a tree next year. The ones she brought me were slightly overripe, but still very good!

It’s weird, planning for the future, when you know the world as we know it is coming to an end. I’m pretty sure I won’t even be here on earth next Spring…but in case I’m wrong about the exact timing of the Rapture and start of the Great Tribulation, I still have to keep going, planting my garden and providing for my family, as the Bible commands. But it’s a strange, strange feeling.  I’m also in high gear planning for Christmas, and I hope I won’t even be here for that! I’d so much rather celebrate Christ’s birthday in Heaven with him.

I’m also crocheting like a fiend, getting tons of charity items and gifts finished…but I’m also making a few things for me, of course! One of those things is this Virus Shawl. Love, love, love the pattern – once you figure it out, it’s fun, because it’s the same four rows repeated, so you can do it without thinking. Perfect for watching YouTube videos and listening to audios!

img_6856_zps6yvy7c1i

And I love MelodyyByWolltraum on Etsy for the yarn. She imports this gorgeous gradient Wolltraum yarn, which is “is hand-tied gradient yarn made with love in Switzerland. The gradients are created by tying little strands of colors together and the tiny knots (TK for short) are so small they are easily hidden within your project with no additional cutting/tying necessary.” It’s so much fun to work with, and unlike many of the other importers, her shipping is very reasonable. The above shawl was made with her Summerwine yarn, and it is just yummy! I have another order in with her for a cake of her Brown Sugar yarn, and I can’t wait to get it.

il_570xN.1231670429_5vh9

Highly, highly recommend her.

 

Advertisements

Broken Beaks and Beauty

A broken beak can be a serious thing for a chicken. Beaks are their tools, their hands, their major way of interacting with the world.  Sometimes the bird needs to be euthanized, if the break is so bad that it can’t regrow. (I’ve seen some truly dreadful pictures of hens with their beaks broken entirely off. Shudder.)

Fortunately for Booty, her break, while serious, wasn’t quite that desperate.

img_6815_zpswrwr2jo3

This picture was taken yesterday, after it had healed for almost a week. It is a lot less bloody and oozy. You can’t truly tell in the picture, but it looks like she snapped the entire top layer off, including the tip.  The below pic, for reference, is what a beak is supposed to look like.img_6826_zpsekzn5ajf

For a couple of days after it happened, poor Booty was clearly in a lot of pain, and although she clearly wanted to eat, she wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. The internet said that a snapped beak has nerves in it that makes the pain equivalent to a broken tooth. I kept dabbing some chicken-safe medicinal ointment on it, and kept offering her all her favorite soft foods. She wouldn’t eat. I seriously was considering putting her down, because I didn’t want her to starve to death, and I was afraid she must be in terrible pain. But then mom took her out some bread, and came back in with the wonderful news that she’d eaten some. It still took a few more days, but finally she is able to eat her regular food again, and is clearly going to be ok. Beaks can regrow if enough of the beak is left, and in her case I think it will. But that will be quite a few months down the road. Poor girl. I wish I knew how she did this to herself!

Except for Booty’s trauma, things have been great on the urban farm. The sunflowers are blooming.

img_6813_zpss62yhzuj

img_6831_zpsdv1f3a1j

img_6834_zpskpe5ufk1

The skies are glorious.

img_6820_zpsa4mflmwu

img_6828_zpsbfkc35gs

And I have a bunny barn FULL of bunnies. Two does, and their two litters, born one week apart. I think I have thirteen or fourteen baby rabbits in there. I’m not sure. I was busy, and put off getting an accurate count, and then…they were suddenly out of the nest and hopping everywhere…and getting an accurate count right now is impossible. I went out to the barn last night and watched them playing for awhile, and it is the cutest thing ever. At one point, they tired themselves out and just collapsed into this massive soft wiggly pile of sleepy bunnies! I did get a video of some of it – not the bunny pile, though, the light was too far gone at that point.

Colony rabbit raising is absolutely the best way to go. I feel so sorry for rabbits stuck in small wire cages, either all by themselves, or crowded in a bunch of babies, with no room to express their natural social behaviors. These two does are sisters, and have been together from birth. While they did get a little ornery and testy with each other (and me!) during their very first pregnancies, by this second litter, they have figured everything out, and are perfectly sweet with each other, and I can pet them without fearing a bite.

And the babies! They are so sweet with their babies – with all the babies. I am not sure if they nurse only their own, or if they just feed whichever babies are hungry. I know I have seen babies that belong to Thistle come up to Blackberry and attempt to nurse…but these does don’t believe in nursing when the human is watching, so I don’t know if they hop away because of me or because they are holding out for their own children. I suspect the former, though, by the way the babies are acting.

I should have gotten rabbits on the farm ten years ago!

 

Babies, More Babies, and Baking (not the babies!)

The critters around here think it’s Spring. I have eight (possibly more) bunnies born yesterday, with second doe due on Sunday. This, I will admit, is my doing, since I did enable the affair. They were certainly enthusiastic participants, however! I still have three from the previous litter – one of them I actually sold. This handsome little buck is going to be a pet – and possibly getting a girlfriend later on.

img_6758_zpsnpszyecf

The Snowflake Bobwhite quail have decided to try for a family too. I’m not overly optimistic about success, since Buckbeak (my male) suffered a leg injury as a chick and has never had perfect agility since. I’m not sure he’s able to properly balance on Bellatrix in order to fertilize those eggs. They are so sweet, though.

img_6798_zpsxodfzux5

Buckbeak has taken to sitting on the eggs with her, and when she leaves the nest to stretch and eat, he moves over to keep the eggs warm. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I’d love to see them manage to hatch out at least a couple of chicks!

I’ve also had two different chickens decide to go broody on me, too – despite me explaining over and over again that we have already had our allotted chicks for the year, and we really can’t have any more.

img_6799_zps7opawrlx

So they are taking turns in the broody prison. I just released the last one this morning…I hope she’s actually changed her mind about babies and isn’t just going to sneak back onto a nest when I’m not looking.

I FINALLY got the girls’ musical instrument mounted in their coop, right above the oyster shell and grit where I know they can’t miss it.

img_6788_zpsvdtrg5fr

They are pretending it isn’t there. Not a single hen will touch it. I guess my girls just don’t have dreams of going on America’s Got Talent or the Kimmy Kimmel Show.

The guinea pigs have moved out into the large outdoor coop, and are loving all the space.

img_6791_zpsw1f00q9d

Of course, their favorite activity is still coming up the wire to beg for treats. Both are especially fond of cherry tomatoes.

img_6796_zpsxea1gga3

It’s been too smoky from all the wildfires to do much work outside, so I’ve been doing lots of cooking and baking. You know how you tend to pin things on Pinterest but never actually do them? Well, I’m making a point of making the recipes I’ve pinned, and most of them are turning out! A pretty good percentage are actually keepers, and I’ve transferred them over to a new board “Recipes I’ve Made and Liked”.  Just yesterday, I made the Bacon-Wrapped Cornish Hens, and they were fantastic…and super easy. Besides the Cornish hens, I also made two apple pies with apples from my backyard tree (these apples make the most extraordinary pies…but I didn’t plant the tree, and have no idea what variety it is). One pie to bake immediately,

img_6801_zpsenz4oqxi

and one to freeze for later.

img_6802_zpstmwz47ew

As you see in the background, I saved all the cores and peels to make three gallons of apple scrap vinegar. It’s so easy, and tastes just like store-bought apple cider vinegar. I use it for everything but canning. (Canning requires at least 5% acidity for safety, and I haven’t tested the acidity of mine.) Some apple scrap vinegar recipes tell you to start with yeast, or add sugar, or do all sorts of extra things. I do nothing but throw my apple scraps in a jar and add filtered water. Put some 90 grade cheesecloth over the top to keep out the fruit flies, and stir it vigorously at least a couple of time per day. You’ll notice it starts to bubble, and smell like hooch. Once the bubbles stop, and the apple scraps sink to the bottom after a few weeks, strain the scraps out, replace the cheesecloth and store the jars in a cool, dim place for up to six months. You’ll know it’s done when it smells and tastes like vinegar, and then you can bottle it up and use it like you would apple cider vinegar. When you make future batches, add a little of the dregs from your previous batch to kick-start the process.

In the same day, I also made Lemon Poppyseed Yellow Summer Squash Bread – you’ll find the recipe in my pinterest recipe link above. It’s a super way to use up those overgrown yellow summer squash, and you’d never know it has squash in it! I recommend cutting down the sugar by at least half a cup, though. Most comments on the recipe say it’s too sweet as-is, and I’m glad I followed their suggestion.

Dexter was glued to my side during all this baking frenzy, and boy was he ever exhausted by the end of it!

img_6804_zpsuj3egrha

It is hard work cleaning up all the scraps that accidently (and on purpose) fall to the floor. He didn’t even wake up during his close up.

img_6805_zps47aii80cIs someone talking about me? Are there more treats?img_6806_zpspj2nsaef

Finally, Amazon sent Bundy another cat bed in the mail, and this one, sadly, was slightly undersized.

img_6811_zpsdooefmpj

He did his best to make it work, though!

 

 

 

Critters – Guinea Pigs and Rabbits

img_6722_zpsqaeffdob

Meet Fiona. She is the new companion for our previous guinea pig, Freddie.  Fiona is not AT ALL the type/color of pig I was looking for, but sometimes you just interact with an animal and know they are the one. She is more shy than Freddie, but equally sweet, and also likes to snuggle in against my neck, underneath my chin.

img_6729_zpstqkdculq

Freddie is still getting used to her. Last time I had them out together, Fiona was snuggling under my chin, and Freddie came alone and bulldozed/flipped her right out of the way and laid down in her place. Interloping pig! This is MY human!

They are going to be moving into the garden roof coop outdoor soon – which will be their summer quarters. Lots of room to run and play! As a first step toward that, we moved my mom’s pet rabbits out of that coop and into a brand new pen of their own.

img_6740_zpsmcrrjibi

Both sections of the top lift up, for ease of cleaning, and it has an access door on the front for feeding and litter box cleaning.

img_6741_zpscg26rtn6

I really enjoy designing and building these things – and this time it was easier than ever because I had my mom do the parts I hate, like cutting and nailing the wire to the frame (hey, this pen IS for her bunnies!)

My rabbits are settling into their life as colony rabbits. I have two does together, and although they are sisters, they did have some issues at first – particularly through their first pregnancies…when they turned into hormonal rage monsters.

img_6755_zpsagl9nn0m

The only damage was little hair-pulling and chasing and growling – but now, even though both of them are pregnant, they are perfectly sweet with each other, enjoying grooming sessions and long cuddles in their litter box. Seems like they just needed to get their dominance issues worked out.

At almost nine weeks, I just moved Thistle’s last litter of kits into my separate grow-out pen. It is so cute to see two does and a passel of babies all happily living together.  Love, love, love the colony system of rabbit raising! Both does are currently pregnant for the last litter of the year, so it will be fun to see TWO litters playing together in the Bunny Barn!

And speaking of rabbits, thanks to them, I am able to eat meals that are entirely home-grown in my backyard urban farm: meat, veggies, and herbs – the only things on this plate that I didn’t grow are the salt, butter, and soy sauce!

img_6738_zpszndy4ye6

Rabbits and Other Critters

Let’s talk about the rabbits first. I wish I would have gotten meat rabbits years ago – they are fantastic! Such easy care, especially in a colony system, and I am discovering more uses for them besides meat. Sorrel, my buck, is such a tame sweetie, and his favorite food in the world is hedge bindweed…luckily enough, hedge bindweed is the greatest evil in my garden. I’ve taken to penning him outside in a bindweed-infested area, and letting him take care of the problem. This is pre-bunny:

img_6669_zpszbjqbpd0

This is post-bunny (I removed the chair, once it was freed from its chains):

 

img_6698_zpsfzxtbzmc

In this pic, I’ve actually enlarged the area over to the left, so he can start cleaning the bindweed out of the compost/bucket storage area. He loves it! It’s amazing how quickly one bunny can make bindweed disappear! And for those of you who might have seen bindweed on the list of plants poisonous to rabbits, never fear. After turning the internet upside down and hearing from a vet with knowledge of bindweed, it turns out that there are two different varieties of bindweed: hedge and field. Field bindweed is the poisonous one. I have hedge bindweed, and it’s supposedly edible even to humans. I tasted a leaf, and while I was expecting it to be bitter, it was actually good. I’m still a little leery of eating it myself, however! It just seems…wrong.

We’ve had about five rabbit meals now, and each was terrific. I’m super impressed with how tender and good it is, and from six 5lb rabbits, I’ll be able to get around 19 meals for the two of us, counting things like liver and broth from the bones. I’ve heard you can even make rabbit bacon…I really want to try that!

In other critter news, the snowflake bobwhite quail pair has moved from one coop into another. They used to be in the ‘display coop’ in the center of my garden, but it’s really not a great cage for a flighty bird like bobwhites – too difficult to clean when I have to worry about them spooking and flying out. I put them into a slightly larger coop in the chicken garden.

img_6684_zpswpweq22l

I’ve noticed that quail and chicken like to be in company with other; the chickens hang out around the cage and the quail like to watch them. Plus, the quail like to eat the fermented grain I feed the chickens, and in two days they’ve already learned what it means when I call the chickens to dinner, and they’ve started demanding their own share. Since they are so close, it’s easy to throw a little into their cage! They’ve also started building a nest. It would be nice if they decided to start a family – but they did try last year, with no success. The male has a slight leg deformity, and I wonder if perhaps he’s unable to mate her properly.

img_6694_zpsbgsftctm

The other reason I wanted to move the quail out of the display coop is because it’s difficult to wrap in plastic during the winter to keep out the wind and rain. The new plan is to keep part-time critters inside it, ones who will occupy it only during the summer, and in the winter will be moved inside. Specifically, a pair of guinea pigs!

I was not intending to immediately get the pigs, but I sort of accidentally-on-purpose wandered by the rodent section of a pet store, and they had this little girl.

img_6709_zpslja4tjce

Meet Winnifred (also known as Piggo). I’ve had a number of guinea pigs during my life, and while most of them were nice, I’ve NEVER met a pig like this one. From the first instant she met us, she loved us. She snuggles under our chins and purrs and chatters happily the whole time we’re holding her. When she’s tired, she falls over on her side on my chest with her little legs stretched out and takes a nap. She likes Bundy, our cat, and isn’t frightened by our extremely excited corgi – even when he can’t contain himself and jumps or scratches at her cage.

img_6702_zpskchsv9ko

img_6708_zps8gllupri

Now I’m keeping a look-out for a friend for her. I’d like one of the wire-haired ‘teddy bear’ type, but we’ll have to see what shows up.

Lastly, I tried the old cucumber trick on my cat. If you’re not aware of this, go to YouTube, and search for cats and cucumbers. It is hysterical.  Unfortunately, Bundy did not have quite the same reaction:

And I’ll end this blog with a couple of cat-in-a-box photos, because if there is one thing on earth Bundy is obsessed with, it’s boxes. When a package comes, he’s often trying to force his way into the box at one end, while I’m cutting open the other. This particular box…well, it was a bit of a tight fit.

img_6675_zpsbntkjkiv

I’m not even sure where all of his body is!

Bindweed, and Other Stuff I’m Working On.

The big devil in my garden is hedge bindweed.

img_6667_zpsyu884u8k

It is literally EVERYWHERE. If I didn’t spend time continually pulling it, by the end of summer, I would have no garden, just a massive pile of bindweed. It winds up everything, pulling it down the ground and smothering it.

img_6666_zpso8vkhl2v1

Yep, that’s definitely not a currant flower….

img_6663_zpsvrt9vpe3

The only hope I have is that permaculture books say that if your soil improves enough, it goes away on it’s own. It certainly can’t be smothered under mulch, black plastic, or paving stones. The neighbor sprays his with roundup, and it laughs in his face as it pretends to die, then springs up from the ground again with the strength of ten men.  Supposedly, if you keep pinching it off at the ground every time it sprouts, it will eventually grow weak and die…but I simply have too much of it and too much garden. It would be full time job to pinch it all.

Recently, however, I discovered there are two kinds of bindweed. One is field bindweed (which, if you can believe it, is the “bad bindweed”). That bindweed is non-edible, but, as I discovered, hedge bindweed is actually an edible plant, with several nutritious benefits. I doubt I’ll eat it myself, but as my rabbits have always made a beeline for it, whenever they get out in the yard, I’ll now be feeding it to them. It will make me feel a little better, to have an actual use for the fiendish stuff! A British vet actually says it makes wonderful bunny fodder; those lists that have bindweed listed as a poisonous plant to bunnies are referring to field bindweed, so just make sure which kind you are growing before you feed it.

It’s actually been a wonderful summer so far here – not hot like usual, and enough glorious rain to keep everything watered. The past few years have been abnormal for the PNW: upper eighties temps, and no rain whatsoever during the summer. I hated that with a passion; I’m a true Washingtonian – there is nothing I love more than a summer rain! It is so fantastic to be outside in a summer rain, and smell the green, and feel everything all fresh and crisp!

But since there has been rainy days, I’ve kept up with my crocheting, which is normally just a winter activity for me. I’ve put aside the baby blankets, though, and am just making infant hats. Lots and lots of adorable little hats! So much fun to make.

img_6656_zpspybzcmf3

I also made the most beautiful egg bread yesterday. I do love making bread!

img_6661_zpsuies8tds

First Rabbit Harvest

I am so proud of myself this week. There was a time, not so long ago, when I never imagined I could raise and harvest my own meat – even though factory-farmed meat sickens me, and I desperately wanted a way of assuring my meat was humanely and happily raised, as well as humanely killed. I also liked the idea of knowing exactly what my future meat was eating!

I started out by designing and building – entirely by myself (other than some help lifting the walls and roof into place) a colony bunny barn. You can read about that, here.

img_6169_zpsldbvj4uw

From my first breeding, I got six kits, and boy howdy, were they cute!

img_6422_zpsohexdo1q

Twelve weeks later, they weren’t quite so adorable, and it was time.

I used my ballista, a captive bolt gun, which made the death entirely instantaneous and humane. The part that was hardest on the rabbits was the weighing before hand – for some reason, they hate going into the basket scale. The rest of the process was MUCH faster and simpler than chickens.  I let the meat rest in the fridge for 24 hours, and then cut it up into servings and froze them. Again, much easier than chickens!

img_6651_zpsnxlofzpo

From six rabbits, I have enough meat for fourteen meals, PLUS a huge pot of extra bits to turn into broth. Several more meals, right there!

img_6652_zpsdstfoeya

We ate the livers fried – rabbit livers are even more mellow flavored than chicken livers – and yesterday, had our first official rabbit meal. I used two of the thighs, in an Asian sauce over rice.

img_6654_zps5fufolt5

Turned out perfectly! I’m sold. These rabbits are going to work out really well on our farm.