I am finding myself in a bit of a conundrum here. I want to try it all!!!! every flavor of ice cream, every shade of color, every breed of rabbit. Oh the choices are torture and all so cute!
Okay I will say right now that I fully believe rabbits to be the PERFECT livestock and/or companion animal. Why? Rabbits provide meat to omnivores, fertilizer for gardeners, and companionship for our human souls. Rabbits are honestly the best homesteading animal because you can litterally keep them in anysize home. Apartment dwellers with patio tomatoes, you too can keep a rabbit to provide fiber, food, fertilizer, and snuggles.
So why am I in a hard spot? Well, I am taking on rabbit stalls for my rabbitry. This month I am building them in my garage with the idea of providing more space for the rabbits sanity and better access for myself and my children to interact with out animals. What is a rabbit stall? Take a peak at this video from Ostara Rabbitry
Isn't this AWESOME?!! Okay well even if you dont agree I LOVE it and am styling my rabbitry similarly. My stalls will be a bit smaller, but I am also housing smaller rabbits. Flemish Giants are huge.
My space allows for 8 rabbits to be kept in 3x5 stalls. I will have a 4 foot walkway between my stall rows to make wheelbarrow access possible on muck day. Each stall will have a litter box, toys, and of course food, hay, and water.
Choosing to raise rabbits this way puts me in the position to have to limit myself. I feel this is a good thing because I would take in any rabbit I could. Did I mention that I LOVE rabbits? I have been researching rabbit breeds and trying to decide what I want for my small breeding program.
I want meat. First and foremost I want to provide my family with healthy organically grown meat in a way that allows me to meet my own ethical standards. Secondly, I want fiber rabbits to have my own anogra fiber to spin. Angora rabbit fiber is luxurious, warm, and a pleasure to spin alone or carded into other fibers. Third, I really have the desire to support and preserve heritage breed animals.
What I have come up with so far is that I will bring home any rabbit I meet simply because I love rabbits. This is BAD. I am not a rabbit hoarder nor do I wish to be. I need a purpose behind my madness. The breeds I am in love with right now are the Silver Fox, French Angora, and Rex.
The Silver Fox has me in love due to her gentle nature and lovely coat. I can use all of the rabbit, including the skins, for food and fiber. The bones can also be used for bone meal for the garden or raw cat food. The Silver Fox rabbit is the 3rd rabbit breed to be recognized as an american meat rabbit. They are on the endangered heritage animal list and breeding them for show and stock will encourage breed survival.
The French Angora Rabbit is a dual purpose breed brought to france from Ankara in the late 1700's. It was sought after for its wool more than anything but also has a nice commercial meat breeder frame. Several rabbitries have found that you can harvest the wool from an 11 week old French Angora rabbit and then butcher it at 12 weeks with the dressed weight of 5lbs, undressed of 2-2.5 pounds.
The Rex rabbit.....Why do I want you? Oh right....I like your velveteen fur. Okay well scratch that. Oh, but you are soooooo soft. Slower growing and smaller meat ratio.
Okay so i have narrowed my choices to the French Angora and the Silver Fox. Now which is more suited to what I want to do? Can I do both and still have the ability to improve the breed? Do I pick one breed to improve on and go full on with that? Sigh......and this is my conundrum.
I love reading other micro, mini, urban, suburban, organic, upstart farm blogs. I have often wondered where they disappear to in the late spring through mid sumer months. Again in the fall they all seem to vanish. The case of the vanishing farmers. Now that i have joined the ranks, I know. They dont vanish they work! From bird chirp to owl hoot they are working to get done what needs done before suddenly the season is gone.
So much planning is done in the soggy months. Seed bought, building plans in hand, watching the window for a glimmer of sun. Then its here and the farmers vanish from the interwaves.
I will do my best not to vanish. In the mean time check out some of my favorite blogsOstara RabbitryFruhlinskabine MicrofarmNorthwest Edible LifeMarbleMount Homestead
Have a wonderful day!
Take a look at our fodder! I am so excited. Even more exciting is that our reluctant silver fox is now loving her fodder. She even eats the root mat.
Whats fodder? An alternative to commercial feed systems, a more natural way of feeding your livestock. For more in depth information about fodder check out Frühlingskabine Rabbitry
We are working on many projects around the homestead right now, including learning how to feed our animals without the use of commercial pellets. This is actually more research than practical application at this point.
Why? Well we are working on phasing out pelleted feed for our rabbits and our chickens. We are doing this because if pelleted feeds continue to rise in cost and GMO's infiltrate everything I would like to be able to feed my animals without commercial reliance. As of yet I still have not figured out how to get the calcium, protien, and minerals to the animals without the pellets. So this paticular project is being done in our down hours. So far we are finding that most fodder feeding farms supplement with a commercial feed.
What this means for us is that we need to continue with the reduced consumption of pellets until we have more time to experiment and document OR just let go of our fears and charge ahead. When I decide a plan of action I will certainly let you know! Until then look how the fodder grows!
8 day fodder ready to divide and feed
lettuce among the garlic
I love french kitchen gardens. I wish I knew anyone who did them here with veggie gardens. In the mean time I will do what I can and cross my fingers that I remember what is where.
cabbage? and kale and a broccoli? I honestly dont know other than brassicas
A row of cabbages and broccoli's, kales, and cauliflower. Where everything is exactly? No idea. I have a nifty garden planner, I love organization, but reality is I dont have time to write everything down. Next year......maybe.
My tomatoes I started waaaay back in January. They are now ready to enter the garden under a hoop house. I have 10 tomatoes of either gold nugget cherry type or a sheyboygan paste tomato. Mixed in there is also some little bell sweet peppers and a hot pepper of some sort.
Look what i found in the garden! A little brownie. Whats growing in your garden?
Yell's every mother out there. Today we cut our 6lb lush green fodder carpet into perfectly weighed squares. Each rabbit portion weighed .52lbs. This left me with 5 lbs of fodder. Well poo. My baby goats got 1/2lb for the both of them since they are still mostly bottle fed. Well 4.5 lbs left......I have 8 more trays this size. I think as of morning I will only be soaking .5lb to get me started.
Do they like it? Well Nutmeg, our newest addition, happily ate her square all day long leaving the seeds behind.
Silvermist, our newly bred junior doe, nibbled a bit but was not thrilled. Mostly she dragged it around the cage. This evening I decided to give Silvermist a ration of pellets just because I am worried about her health during pregnancy. Here's hoping she decides its tasty. The goats nibbled but they prefer their pine needles, I think.
Then there were the chickens. Its true, chickens love freshness. My ten hens, 5 layers, 5 layers to be, were given the rest of the fodder. A whopping 4.5lbs of fresh barley goodness. They devoured 2 .5lb squares upon drop, the rest they picked over all day long.
So tomorrow we will try again. Lets see if those critters will eat there fodder!
Woooohoooo we got goats! I have been dreaming of the day we bring home goats for years. Urban farming, backyard chickens, roof top bee's, and city goats!!! My dream is happening. A bit faster than I might like but i will take it.
With the help of some friends, neighbors, and an amazing dad, my goat shed is slowly but surely coming together. It started with a bunch of pallets littering my yard. I then picked up some cinder blocks for a foundation and started digging.
I am not a carpenter. I rarely measure things. Can you cut a straight line? Well I can't. And this is where I fell in love with the pallets. They were basically all square-ish. I could just screw them together and place on top of level bricks. Then suddenly I had 3 walls. It was time to to move on to the roof.
Here my father came to the rescue. I had used a 2x4 as a steadying roof beam. If I had continued on this path the roof would have buckled under the weight of the shingles. Dad took it apart and used my 4x4's to make a roof that WONT squish my dairy ladies in a wind storm. So now my rafters are up and my plywood is nailed.
Another of those awesome neighbors I mentioned brought me some shingles and tar paper to roof the shed with. Oh wait and another brought me more plywood scrap. So here is how its coming........
Lovely right? I bought some quaint little windows to add to that front corner. The whole shed is about 9x7 and enclose on 3.25 sides. I cannot wait till it is done and the babies are weaned.
I love recycling windows, wood, tiles, flooring, dirt, and just making do in general. What do you build out of recycled materials?
The weekend of June 1st and 2nd I get to go away for a weekend with my husband! This is exciting for two reasons. Firstly, I get to spend 2 nights away with my husband for the first time since having children. I am so excited to spend this time with him.
Secondly, well, its the Mother Earth News Fair! I will hopefully get to meet a few of the people whose blogs, websites, and books I have read while preparing myself for my eventual urban homestead. I will get to talk with fellow farmers, urban farmers, homesteaders, DIY'ers, and maybe even make new friends.
If you get the chance to attend one of the M.E.N.F. you should snag it. A perfect learning ground from experienced people who just want to share the simple, good life. Hope to see you there!
This is our beautiful new doeling. Hello Kitty is a Nigerian Dwarf goat from Twisted Vines Farm
. There are still a few of these gorgeous babies left. Check them out!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Fodders the next big urban farming wave! It has hit the blogger waves and started a "movement" so to say.
I first read about fodder feeding over at F.MicroFarm
. I was intrigued. Who doesn't want to reduce their feed costs by at least 1/3?
So what is fodder? In this case fodder feeding is 7 day sprout of a grain such as barely or wheat. You soak and sprout this grain over the course of a week starting a new bin every day. One pound of grain can turn into 6lbs of sprouted fresh food for your animals.
So after some more reading, researching, and banter with fellow urban homesteaders I decided to take the plunge. I went to the feed store and purchased a 50lb bag of barley seed. I had great plans of building a fodder system for myself. Well as plans often go things changed. I went with pre-built shelving from lowes to save me time and sanity. I chose two shelving sets and duck taped together. I then purchased 12 locking tubs for 2$ each and drilled holes into one side of the tub. The total of this system was about 70$. Now this can be built much less expensively, I am sure. For me this was the easiest way to start.
So what is the course of action?
Day 1...........soak the seed for 12 hours
Day 2...........drain the seed, tray the seed, water 2x
start second batch soaking
Day 3-8 .......Repeat day two.
Day 9 ..........Your sprouts should be ready to harvest.
And repeat the steps for the other days.
So far my fodder is on day 6. See the pretty green sprouts? I like it so far however, I have not fed it to my animals yet. I am nervous about switching from pelleted feed to fodder as a main source of nutrition. A new friend and fellow urban homesteader over at Ostara Rabbirty
has been making the switch and may have a few more details.
Stay tuned to see the finished product on our micro farm and how our menagerie reacts to to the new system.
I had an interesting experience today. I cried, well almost, while in public. This is something I never do. The kids and I were at a party. A small bird ran into the slider breaking its neck but not killing it. I felt sorry for the poor bird and quickly scooped it up and popped its neck to release its little soul from the pain. Problem is the little birds neck is SO much smaller than the animals I have helped butcher that I decapitated it. This made me feel terrible.
Three months ago I would have said OMG OMG someone get it. Having decided to take charge of our food and unable to be a healthy vegan, I have been learning to butcher our own small meat. This has empowered me in way's you may or may not be able to fathom. It has also made me respect the creatures that give me nourishment on a whole other level.
No child saw the incident but some of the adults were......shocked. A friend quickly and quietly said "she butchers her own meat animals." I am not sure if she realizes just how hard it is for me to do so. I hope her explanation was more of a reassurance to the other guests. The comment and the looks made me realize that my quick action may have appeared callous. They were anything but, I assure you. Having seen animals stunned but souls still aware and frightened while death slowly creeps in is horrifying to me. I did not want the bird to suffer needlessly. It was better to end its life quickly.
I am not weird, insensitive, or unfeeling. In fact I have a hard time taking another creatures life even so I can eat. I love all the animals here. I love that my rabbits come for a pet or a treat. I love that I can love them, give them a good, respected, and even honored life while they are here. It is a little easier for me to give my body what it needs knowing the lives of my critters are more blessed than most that may meet the fate of the freezer.
So little bird, I hope your body returns to the earth and your soul left without the memory of pain to be reborn another time. I hope compassion finds you again in another form