Tag Archives: meat rabbits

Best of 2018

Normally I do a ‘Best Books I Read in 2018’ post. This past year, however, instead of reading my usual 150+ books, I only read around 30 – and most of those were early in the year. By the end, I wasn’t really reading anything at all other than the Bible. I just can’t get interested in books or tv anymore. They just don’t seem relevant to my life anymore, and real life is so much more exciting and wonderful – how can I be drawn into fictional worlds when I know this world is about to suddenly and violently change, God is about to reveal himself to the world, and the rapture is going to happen absolutely any moment now?

So what I’m doing a modified list instead. Three best books I read this year, plus three best things I did, plus three things I’m working on this year.

Three Best Books I Read in 2018:

  1. Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik

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This woman writes so well – and these re-imagined fairy tales are utterly fantastic.

2. The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion, by Amy Fewell

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I’ve long been interested in using more herbs and essential oils, for me, and for the livestock. This book covers all of that, and makes it simple, reassuring, and practical.

3.The Rapture, by Chuck Missler

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Love Chuck Missler, loved this book. I cannot wait!

The Three Best Things I Did in 2018:

  1. Got meat rabbits. I love these critters, and they are so easy to care for, and provide so much good food. I cannot support the horrors of factory animal farms, but I can’t afford to get all my meat from sustainable, grass-fed natural farms.  This is something I can do.

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2. Started using reusable cloth pads. Seriously. These are THE BEST. I cannot believe I waited this long to try these. I mourn for all those wasted years! I’ve been using them for about 4-5 months now, and I love them more every time. My periods are so much easier to manage, less pain, no discomfort, no expense, and unlike regular disposable pads, I haven’t had a single leak or ruined a single pair of panties!

3. Started cooking from scratch more. I always did cook, but I tended to do the same old quick and easy recipes over and over.  This year, I decided to stop just pinning things to my Pinterest boards, and actually start making them. I discovered I really like cooking, and I really like trying new things. Using different cuts/types of meat, using fresh herbs, etc. The goal is to stop using canned/packaged items, and use all fresh, real foods.

Three Things for 2019:

  1. Get Muscovy ducks. I’m not going to go over this again, because I just did.ducklings-1588915_640

2. Start making my own herbal medicines. I’ve been interested in this forever, but this is the year I’m finally doing it. I already bought a bunch of dried herbs and a big bottle of vodka, and am planning to plant a lot more herbs this spring, as well as start harvesting and preserving them. I am not a big believer in modern medicine. Sure, there are times you need it, but for ordinary injuries and illnesses, you’re far better off staying far, far away from doctors and their drugs. Not to mention that the miracle age of using antibiotics is almost over. Within a very short time, they simply will not work any longer, and it will be a new age of superbugs and a return of illnesses we thought were gone forever. spices-2548653_640

3. Start seriously prepping. Everything points to terrible times coming for the USA and the world. There is going to be a complete financial collapse, and catastrophic natural disasters. Everyone who hasn’t got their head buried in the sand knows this. Everyone is warning of it – two different branches of government (military and Homeland Security) put out reports warning of things like power grid collapse and the advising citizens to have enough resources in their home for at least two weeks – and more probably, up to six months or longer. While I think most, if not all, of these things are going to hit the USA after the Rapture, there are no guarantees of that. Natural disasters and financial chaos can hit at any time, and so I am doing my best to ensure that family is prepared. Just last month, my area had an unusually severe windstorm (including a tornado – and we just don’t get tornados here!) that knocked out the power in many areas for days. My power stayed on, but one of my friends had her power off for three days. If you’re not putting away some extra groceries and needed items – and figuring out a way to provide heat and cook food, you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in the world right now. Not sure how to start? I love Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford – and also check out this video:

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Frosty Garden/Planning for Next Spring

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I went for a walk through my garden before Christmas. This time of year is when I dream. It’s easy to make grandiose schemes when the ground is too frosty to actually do any work.

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The meat rabbits have worked out extremely well (they are definitely the easiest critters I’ve ever kept and from the last batch of fifteen grow-outs, I harvested enough meat to make 36 meals, plus I had three gallon bags of bones to make stock). Last year was all about building their housing and getting them settled, and figuring out how to manage them. Now, though, I’m ready to add some new critters.

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I think this is the year for Muscovy ducks. I’ve considered them before, but wasn’t quite sure how to wrangle them with the chickens. Some people keep a mixed flock quite happily, but I’ve also heard horror stories of the Muscovy drake killing chickens. I value my hens; I don’t want to risk their lives. But my hens have a much larger area than they actually need, so I’ve worked out a way of dividing the chicken runs, so that they will rotate through different areas with the ducks. We’ll see how it works. The ducks, being non-diggers, will also get access a lot of the time to the garden. I miss having a devoted slug patrol!

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The things that are awesome about Muscovy ducks is their extreme quietness (always valued in an urban farm) their fly and rodent catching abilities, their devotion to motherhood, and the fact that their meat is more like red meat than regular poultry. It’s said by top chefs that their breast meat in particular tastes like sirloin steak! Since there is zero chance I will ever be able to raise sirloin steak in my backyard, I’m all about this. The downside is that I have to order a minimum of 15 chicks from my hatchery of choice.

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So I’ll keep the trio of ducks I want (1 male, 2 females) and either butcher the rest, or possibly sell a few ducklings. Ducklings! I’m so excited to be getting ducklings again. They are seriously my favorite kind of babies.

I’m also making plans for the new trees and plants I’ll be ordering. Not so many trees this year, but there are at least a couple I want. It’s weird, though, making plans this far ahead, because I know I won’t be remaining on this world much longer. Literally any moment now, Christ is going to return and take his children away. It’s 100% going to happen, and happen soon. But just in case I have to wait a couple more years (rather than the weeks or months I think it will be) I have to keep doing what God wants me to do. The Bible says to garden, and provide for my family, and live a quiet life while working with my hands, and that’s exactly the life I desire…while I’m here on earth.

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But I cannot wait for the moment when I finally get to fly away and meet my Savior in the air!

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.

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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.

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The skies are glorious.

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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!

 

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!

New Rabbits!

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Last Sunday, Mom and I drove up by Hamilton to pick up two little 9 week old Rex does. These will be the mothers of my meat rabbits. I chose the Rex as my choice rather than going with New Zealand Whites because as a two-person family, we really don’t need a super high production animal, and with the Rex breed, I can learn to tan hides as well, and have some really lovely furs. This is good, because I believe it’s important to waste as little as possible when a death is involved.

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Blackberry is a “black otter”, a color I didn’t know ever existed until I started looking at Rexes. I’m really pleased to have found her, because I fell completely in love with the color.

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Thistle is a blue, and is so lovely and plush! Unless you’ve petted a Rex, you have no idea of how incredible this fur feels. It’s completely unlike regular rabbit fur.

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They are living together as a colony in the Bunny Barn I built them. It has a thick layer of pea gravel, followed by hardware cloth to keep them digging out (and other critters digging in).

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The inside is spacious, enough room for a hay loft. The roof is a framework of wood, covered in more hardware cloth, with a used billboard tarp to make it waterproof. These tarps are pretty cool, being tremendously cheap as well are being fairly indestructible. You can’t choose what design is printed on it…mine is an advert for an island golf resort!

They have a litter box (which they are already using) because I want to collect their manure for the garden, and a hayrack made from an old magazine rack.

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There is a side door; it will lead eventually into the buck’s quarters. Only the foundation of this section is built so far. The chickens are enjoying peering in through this door to be scandalized by the new neighbors!

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There are big windows in the front, both so I can walk by and see inside, and so the bunnies will be able to jump up on a window ledge and see out themselves.

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They will have a great view of the chicken yard!

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Then, yesterday, we met another breeder in Stanwood and picked up our buck. He’s a bit older, about 6 months, and is a real sweetie.

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I think his name is going to be Sorrel (we name all our rabbits after garden plants.) Until his Bunny Barn wing is completed, he’s got a pretty fab apartment in the Roof Garden quail coop. I moved the white Bobwhite girls out to another coop, cleaned it out, and moved him in.

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He loved it, from the moment I moved him in. Probably, he’d never been out of a wire cage before…and no matter how nice a breeder tries to make a cage, it’s no substitute for a pen with enough room to run and jump and play. I decided a long time ago that if I got meat rabbits, I wouldn’t keep them in wire cages, but in a manner that lets them express their ‘rabbit-ness’ (as Joel Salatin puts it.)

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I put in a litter box for him, too. And if you’re wondering why their food is in/close to their litter box, it’s because rabbits like to poop and eat at the same time. His hay rack is made from the wire bottom of a hanging flower basket.

He likes his ‘nest box’.

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And even though he has all this room, and doesn’t really know us yet, he still is friendly enough to come over and say hello.

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It’ll be quite awhile before the does are ready to breed, but until then, I’m enjoying these little sweeties!

 

 

 

 

 

Apples and Bunnies…

First of all, though, let me show you a couple of pictures of the progress on our front yard garden fence.

We basically have two sides done, which means we only have one side left to go.  And it’s killing me that the weather turned wet and windy, so I can’t work on it.

In case you missed the previous post, it’s made of rolled, 1″ bamboo fencing, attached to T-posts.

While I can’t work outside (I refuse to make myself miserable by working in the rain) I’ve been doing some more research into apple trees.  I was originally planning to have purchased them last fall, for planting this Spring.  That did not happen…because wow.  Getting apple trees is FAR more complicated than I would have imagined.

First of all, there are a million different varieties, and they all require different pollinators, so you can’t just pick one and bring it home.  You have to make sure that you have one or two others that will bloom at the same time.  And even then, you have to make sure that they are varieties that actually have fertile pollen!  I didn’t know that.  I knew fruit trees often require a second tree to pollinate, but I had no idea some apple trees have infertile pollen, and are completely incapable of pollinating anything.  If you get two of those trees, you won’t get any fruit at all.

Then, you have to select a rootstock to have your tree grafted onto.  There are a many choices, and they all have their pros and cons.  I’m looking for something that will make a dwarf tree, because I plan to turn mine into espaliers.

So at this moment, I am still trying to figure all this out, but I am utterly determined to order my trees this fall.  For one thing, since I am doing espaliers, I have to start out with a 1 year old tree.  Basically, a stick, with no branches.

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With a lot of growing and pruning, it will eventually be this:

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But as you can see, it’s not going to be ready to produce fruit for some time.  I need to get started ASAP!

I do have three apples I am quite determined to get.  They are:

Arkansas Black.

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So freaking beautiful!  And a great keeper, too.  It starts out quite tart on the tree, then sweetens in storage.  And they are, quite possibly, the most beautiful apple ever.

arkansas-black1It is also a heirloom apple; it has been around since 1870.

Another is Cox’s Orange Pippin.

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This one is even older, dating from 1830, and it reputedly the BEST tasting apple in the world, ever.  If it likes you.  It’s also reputedly somewhat difficult, which would normally make me give it a pass.  But I am just hugely drawn to this apple, so I am going to give it a try.  It grows well in England, and the Pacific NW is often described as having an English climate.

Gravenstein is my third choice, and also very old, dating from around 1669! The problem with both Gravenstein and Arkansas Black is that they both possess infertile pollen.  Cox’s Orange Pippin is a pollinator, but is not enough.  I need at least one more fertile apple tree.  I may end up getting a crab apple.  They are among the best pollinators for other apple trees.  One crab I wouldn’t mind having is Wickson’s Crab.  It is far sweeter than most.

Decisions, decisions!

I am also mulling over the whole meat rabbit thing.  I already know that I don’t want to keep them in small cages – and absolutely NO wire on the bottoms.  I want to give them a happy, natural life.  Recently, I’ve begun looking into keeping them in a colony setup.  I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve read/watched so far.

I’m also considering French Angoras as my breed of choice.

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Yes, under all that fluff, they do have the body of a meat rabbit.  In fact, they were originally bred as a dual purpose animal…meat and wool.  If I keep angoras, not only will I have a source of meat, but I could sell babies and wool for a little extra income.  I’ve also long been interested in learning how to hand spin with a drop spindle, so maybe I’ll end up keeping all the wool for myself.

Another bonus; angoras are so soft.  In fact, when you pet them, you can hardly even feel their fur, it is so incredibly soft.  They are also quite easy to keep, not nearly so demanding as other angora breeds, and are very gentle.