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:

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Bindweed, and Other Stuff I’m Working On.

The big devil in my garden is hedge bindweed.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Favorite YouTube Channels

Today I thought I’d show you a few of my personal favorite YouTube channels. First up is Dutchsinse. I LOVE this guy – he’s truly brilliant. You know how great scientific discoveries happen? There is the established “science” that everyone knows is true, and then there’s one maverick voice giving a contrasting opinion. Gravity exists. Germs are what cause disease. The earth travels around the sun. The earth is round. These guys are mocked, cursed, and often destroyed…but eventually, science comes around to the correct view.

Can earthquakes be forecasted similar to weather? Up until very recently, science said no. But Dutchsinse has been saying yes for eight years. Using only a commercially available program that lists earthquakes from approved governmental sources (USGS, EMSC, GeoNet) he tracks earthquakes across the globe, and proves they follow certain patterns across the globe. It’s fascinating, especially since science has now said that forecasting earthquakes IS possible, and they are currently testing out their theory – a theory which, might I say, is pretty much EXACTLY what Dutchsinse has been doing all along! The kicker for me is that the theory fits hand-in-glove with what the Bible says is true of earthquakes, that is absolutely the final authority for me. Check out his most recent video below:

Much love, Dutch!

In homesteading, my favorite guy is Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture. He’s doing it right, folks – especially the way he’s raising his kids.  Love this recent video of his:

I’m totally getting a guard goose in the spring…if I’m still here on earth.

Next up is Jack Hibbs. This guy is amazing. Every single sermon of his is funny, humble, fascinating, and deeply passionate and insightful.

Then there is Amir Tsarfati of Behold Israel. Current middle eastern events and Bible prophecy, from a Jewish believer in Christ, and a former officer of the IDF.

And then there’s J.D. Farag. He’s a pastor is Hawaii who gives the most joyful and enthusiastic Bible Prophecy updates I’ve seen. A true man of God.

And lastly, here’s one from my own YouTube channel…my corgi Dexter getting a good head scratchin’.

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.

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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

The Importance of Variety

Have you noticed that fruit just doesn’t taste very good anymore? When I was younger, there was so much FLAVOR in a fresh strawberry, fresh apricot, fresh pear. Nowadays, everything you buy in the store is so bland, so…cardboard compared to how it used to be. I feel sorry for the younger generation. Most of them have probably never tasted how fruit is supposed to taste! One difference is the way produce is shipped across long distances. Everything is picked unripe, then allowed to “ripen” as it drives across state lines.

The other problem is, even locally-grown fruit doesn’t taste right anymore, and that’s because of the varieties farmers are choosing to grow. Heirloom varieties of strawberries, for example, are smaller, and very fragile. You can’t pick them roughly, and pile them in a box, and expect them to keep for even a few hours, much less for days. When I was a kid, you could tell at a glance the local strawberries from the imported strawberries, because the local strawberries (then heirloom varieties) almost look tiny, smashed, and on the verge of decay…but if you could catch them at the right moment, wow were they good!

Farmers nowadays – even the small local farms – want their produce to last on the store shelves. You can’t blame them, but they are choosing to sacrifice taste for convenience. I went to one of my local organic farms last Friday to u-pick a few berries. Ugh. They were large, perfect, gorgeous berries…and they didn’t have hardly any flavor.

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The heirloom variety I chose to grow in my own yard was particularly for its flavor, not its keeping ability: the Shuksan. I don’t have any pictures of these (we gobbled them up too fast) but the difference in taste is striking. The only reason I bothered getting any from the local farm is because I want some to freeze, and I simply don’t have room to grow enough in garden. The ones in my garden are fresh eating only!

So if you are planning to put in some strawberries, don’t plant a variety simply because it “grows well in your area” or is what the local farmers plant. Really research the flavors. You don’t want your berries to taste like commercial berries!

Read this article and see if your mouth doesn’t start watering for some old-fashioned strawberry taste!

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Garden Things

Just a few quick things…and a chicken video at the end.

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I was reading the Art of Doing Stuff (highly, HIGHLY recommend her blog…and not just because I was the reader who told her about Grow a Little Fruit Tree!) and she mentions she puts zip lock bags around her baby apples to protect them from pests. I don’t really have much trouble with bug pests, but I do have crazy squirrels. I’m wondering if bagging the apples will be enough to throw them off?  It’s worth a try!

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Last year, my plum tree was eaten alive by aphids…until the ladybugs finally swooped in like batman in red spotted body armor and saved the day. This year, they learned where my plum is, and they didn’t wait until the entire tree was covered…only a few leaves.  Wait, don’t spray, and the beneficials WILL come!

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And finally, the chicken video, in which we all learn that Ellie HATES my camera. I don’t know why. It’s not as if she hasn’t had pictures taken of her since she was a day old…

 

A Garden Ramble

Sometimes I amuse myself in the garden. I like my garden moles. I like them even more when I move a hedgehog statue into one of their holes…

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I’ve been busy planting more things in the chicken yard. My mom read me an article that said the one thing that really improves a chicken’s wellbeing is not being able to see the entirety of their run at any given moment…they like having little nooks and corners to explore. My yard definitely fits that ideal!

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I should take you on a video tour sometime – would you like that? It’s basically a very long L shape along the east and south sides of my yard.  They sometimes spend weeks just in one particular end – and then they’ll spend a week at the opposite. It’s like they have vacation homes!

The Rex rabbit kits will be 10 weeks old this Saturday, and are such a lively bunch. I moved them out of the Bunny Barn colony at eight weeks because I bred one of the does (Thistle) and wanted to give them their own space to finish growing out.  Thistle has since had a litter of four very healthy kits! This colony system is really working out well.

Inside the house, I finally got my sourdough “mother” going so I can bake bread.

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I used Maryjane Butters’ book “Wild Bread” and I highly recommend it! Packed with info, cool pictures, and the easiest method of making a mother I’ve ever seen. One bit of warning, she does want you to buy $70 worth of brand-name bowls, etc, to get started, but you definitely don’t have to. I used what I had at hand, and it worked perfectly fine. So far I’ve made pancakes and waffles, and both were excellent. Sunday, my mother will be strong enough to try bread!

And I’ll end this with a few beauty shots of things growing in my garden. This is a water clover, growing in one of my pools.

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And these are calendula flowers. I love growing these intermingled with my vegetables because they attract bees, are so bright and colorful, and are edible themselves!

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