Sunday, December 26, 2010

General Update- 101226

Its been awhile I know so I thought I throw out an update.

I have added rabbits to the micro-farm. I originally wanted two mating pairs of Champagne De Argent's, and found a seller that was literally in my neighborhood but when I went to purchase these semi-expensive rabbits the sellers convinced me to purchase three "training rabbits" instead, for half the cost of one Champagne. I thought this was good advice so I did, I mean, why accidentally kill a $50.00 rabbit when I could accidentally kill an $8.00 one?! So I purchased two crossed Champagne/Californian does and a New Zealand buck. I named them "X", "Y", and "Z" (the buck). Z is pictured here. He has about another month before he is ready for breeding.

As a side note... The breeders told me not to put the buck in with the doe too early because if she beet him up on his first experience it might scare him off for the rest of his life. I told them that I thought that was probably true across all species.

So far I have had little problem with them. I feed them pellets once a day in the morning and I was told to "feel them" daily- along their back and sides just like you might if you were to pet them. This lets me know if they needed more or less feed. If I can feel all their vertebrae they need more food, if no vertebrae then less food. The preference is some backbone. To date the amount I've been giving them has been adequate.

I however did not listen to the breeders on one count, I give them all a bit of raw vegetable and/or a bit of bread in the evenings. I have done this for two reasons 1) it has been very cold recently- abnormally so for this part of the country and I wanted to ensure that they had the calories to easily endure the cold, and 2) the breeders indicated that rabbits were a bit touchy when it comes to dietary changes and as this would not be beneficial if one thought that pellets might not always be available I hope to build up their tolerance to a varied diet. A third benefit came about through these evening feeding also... the breeders showed me how to pick the rabbits up and hold them -which is needed knowledge- however it is much easier and faster to reach in and feel their progress while their involved in eating their yummies!

Chickens are also still clucking. I have been getting around 2 eggs a day from 4 hens. This is low I know but because its Winter, and because my family doesn't consume a lot of eggs consistently I am OK with this. I would have 5 hens but I ran into a little problem with pulling feathers and the others seemed to pick on one of my Blue Cochin's in particular. The feathers on half her chest were gone when I finally separated her from the others by placing her in an unused rabbit cage. I read and found that it was probably one of two things (discounting mites, worms or a disease) cannibalism or a lack of protein. I was having problems pinning down a single hen as the abuser - even the rooster had lost a few feathers -so I decided to treat the protein issue. I began adding in a higher protein "starter/grower" feed to their diet. I think I may have guessed right since it seems that the feather loss has stopped. As an added benefit the feathers on the separated hen have mostly regrown.

I also wanted to say two things about the two animals I have chosen. One, if you can keep a rooster do. They seem to round out the flock and everyone seems happy. Ours, "Hero," also acts in some respects as a protector though I think deep down he's really a coward. He does get out in the Chicken-yard, struts around and crows. We gather the eggs daily and have seen only one blood speck in several months... I dunno, something to think about.

And the second thing is that no matter what you read about rabbits being the perfect Urban livestock because they don't smell - they're wrong! Rabbit urine and manure smells, I think very similarly to horses. There might be little to no odor if your cages and equipment were set up like a laboratory and you could wash it all into a sealed container and then somehow dispose of it, however for most people I think that this is absurd! I clean my rabbit cages and manure trays weekly and they still smell. Now, my manure trays are'nt perfect and I am going to redesign and rebuild them so I'm not saying that you can't limit the smell, maybe close to nothing however until someone shows me that one can cage an amount of animals together and not have it smell I won't believe it. Please understand "I" don't find the odor offensive. As a friend said, "It smells like a farm." But I just wanted to throw in my two cents in the bucket if you might be thinking of creating this secret rabbitry in your backyard. Hey, figure out a way and let me know!

The rest of the "farm" is quiet for the Winter. I did plant Cole crops; cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and sweet onions. I need to cut down my old asparagus tops- I'm actually thinking of moving them to another location -in preparation for the Spring. I also have sprouts coming up from my Grapefruit trees that were killed last year. These are "suckers" so the fruit will be questionable and I think I will be digging them up and replanting with fresh trees, probably Satsumas which are type of tangerine local to this area. I think I also want a Kumquat tree... I love my Kumquats!

We got the house tiled and painted (living room/hall) and will soon begin work on two other projects; a temperature stable walk-in food storage room, and the outside deck and greenhouse. I hope to start both in January/February time frame. The deck needs to be built before my son graduates in the Spring... lots of family coming. I will be using the deck/greenhouse for both alternative passive solar heating, and alternative exterior cooking and baking since I plan to install a ferro-cement grill and oven as part of that project. I will probably also install some type/level of aquaponics system, I mean it only seems prudent since its fairly inexpensive and fairly easily maintainable, and now I have the manure to grow worms in!

Well, that's all for now... blessings on your New Year!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

General Update- 100307

Well, its certainly been awhile, and much has happened since my last post.

First, we went through a couple weeks of very cold weather, and several days of freezing temperatures. Though I'm not certain I think it killed one of my grapefruit trees, and possibly damaged a fig. My plums look OK, though only one is currently blooming.

I still have not finished building the rabbit nest boxes for the fryer cages. I have 5 left to build. I'm also concerned that the boxes are not well shaded from the sun. I may need to build a little awning over each... got an idea for it. Just on the South side, I think the North side will be shaded enough. I also found a Champagne De Argent breeder in my neighborhood... pretty cool since they are not a common breed. The breeder has a dairy goat farm so may also be a good source for info.

I told the breeder that I would be looking to place an order this Fall. I think raising them through the Winter will be easier than through our hot Summer. The cost for a breeding pair will be around $100. I will probably decide to breed them in conjunction with the cooler part of the season. Should be a pretty easy life for them.

As I said before my chicken coop is done. A week ago I ordered the chicks and they will be in on March 19th (next Friday) and I will need to go pick them up from the post office. I bought 12 Cochins- 3 each of 4 different colors. I eMailed the breeder and gave specs and he gave me two possible breeds; Cochin and Buff Orpingtons. The Cochins are bantam, and are suppose to be docile, good layers and brooders. I will be building the brooding box and the chicks will live there for 8 weeks until they are big enough to move to the coop. Depending on curcumstances I may build a chicken tractor to move them around the yard a bit. I haven't decided yet.

I have also built two 4'x8' raised beds and placed them in the front yard by the two I already had. I have room for another in that line and then can move away about 3' and start another row. This year it might be just 4-10 beds, we'll see, and now Spring garden. I have missed that train but Gail and I will go select some plants next week and raise what we can. Next year will be different. I will be prepared! I should have a bit of chicken poop too, and maybe some rabbit!

I'll be glad to get the animals placed and move on to work on the house, then on to the aquaponics system. The microfarm must LIVE!!


Monday, November 9, 2009

General Update-091107

Today I built the first nest box for the fryer cages. I just duplicated the other nest boxes except they are 24" wide vice 12". I had to add another hinge to the roof due to the length but other than that, the same. I still need to add the screen to the bottom of it and mount it. Which reminds me, I need to add the mounting support for both upper and lower cages.

I just bought a book on raising rabbits and chickens on less. It is called oddly enough, "Keeping Poultry And Rabbits On Scraps" by Claude Goodchild and Alan Thompson. It is interesting because it was written in 1941 and references pre and post war issues and their solutions. Mr. Goodchild writes the first half and is an expert in poultry, and the rabbits portion is written by Mr. Thompson. Its a small book, an easy read and I can recommend it.

I will may not work on the rabbitry this weekend since this Saturday is our aquaponics workday, but when I continue I will mount the support scaffolding and continue to make nest boxes.

In the garden where the cabbage, garlic and acorn squash, everything is looking fairly well. I may have planted the cabbage too early since the cabbage worms have ravaged my green cabbage. The red cabbage must be a slower grower since it still doesn't have many leaves. On the other hand it is not being attacked by any worms which I find immensely interesting!

The garlic is sprouted, and the acorn squash is taking over my garden! I thought perhaps I wouldn't get much of a yield because of the recent cold weather, and lack of pollinators, and the flower hidden by the large green leaves, but I was wrong. I have many squash all from three plants which I think have been pollinated mostly by Bumble Bees.

I am still harvesting Cayenne, Bell, and Jalapeno peppers. Somehow I must remember to try planting all these late in the Summer and comparing the yield. The tomatoe plants are doing OK, not fabulous but seem healthy. I am concerned about the same pollination issue as the squash but will be patient. All are being watered as I write by Tropical Storm Ida. She was downgraded earlier from a Category 1 hurricane.

I think some of the plants slowness is the lack of fertilizer in the raised beds where the tomatoes live. I have used my own compost, as well as some "store bought" composted manure. All this is why they look fine but the lack of synthetic fertilizers are perhaps the reason they don't "look" like a picture from "Southern Living" magazine.

All the fruit trees are still in good shape. I have a dozen or so figs on my two Fig trees. I found some indoor plant food outside, left over from one of Gail's house plant fertilizing jaunts, and scattered it around all the plants. This rain will help disperse it, or wash it away!

Cantonment, 2009

Sunday, October 25, 2009

General Update-091024

Yea, I know more pictures, and I have some... videos too, but I just am always in the wrong place when I decide to write! This morning I'm at church waiting to lead a Baptism class and don't have access to the pictures.

I had productive day. I finished all four nest boxes, painted them with rot preventer and mounted them to the support rail. The support rail, being only a 2"x2" may sag eventually so I think I'll run a vertical support leg up the center of the rails.

I also mounted all four Fine-X feeders, and moved the water bottles to the inside next to the feeders. The feeders just need a slot cut in the wire. They have a support wire that is mounted to the feeder and that you just slip into the wire caging... easy!

The above doesn't seem like much but it took all day. I also gave guidance to Samuel as he cleaned the front of the house. The tree frogs hang out on the front porch waiting for the porch light to draw bugs, and they aren't much hassle, but they just don't wipe their feet when when they walk around on the vinyl siding and eventually they form dirty spots where they hang out. Sam sprayed on some bleach and water, then scrubbed with a brush... he did a nice job. I won't tell him that the sides are next!

Next is the fryer cages. I think I will create open front communal nest boxes for the six cages. This will allow the rabbits to congregate together when frightened, or for warmth. I think they will be about 24"Wx18"Dx12"H. I'll make one then see how I like it. I will also make the support frame sturdier to enable it to hold the weight. I will need to look at the fryer cages that are next to the AC fan. In the Summer it will blow hot air onto the box and cook the bunnies. I will have to come up with a housing/vent for the AC blower that vents the air away. Currently I have leaned a piece of plywood up against the offending side and that has worked.

After I complete the rabbitry, which I am lovingly calling the "Wise Rabbit Rabbitry", I need to do a few things to the house. Faceing, eaves, windo caulking, all need to be worked on. I little painting too, around the doors and on the front porch. I noticed that the windows need caulking bad. I fear that I already have wood rot in several places.

After the house is repaired then I'm not sure. I want to build the aquaponics system, but I'm getting really antsy about building my ferro-cement hut/cabin... whatever. If I consider that the AP build will be fairly easy and quick then that would come first. On-the-other-hand, I really need to build the back porch greenhouse along with the AP build so then it becomes more complex. I could build the back porch green house before the AP project, just add it into the "house" repairs... 'might do that.

I researched construction for the greenhouse and had all but decided on a PVC frame but then I still need to consider the look when complete. I would like the greenhouse to fuse with the courrent house (a small ranch style on a slab) so then maybe wood... still undecided. I think I will draw both up and get with Gail and see what she says.

Pensacola, FL

Sunday, October 18, 2009

General Update-091018

I created the ramp up to the chicken house. I used a 2"x10" scrap about 3' long and nailed some plywood strips to it, then painted on some weather treatment. I think I'm officially done with the chicken coop. Extras excluded; power, heat & water.

I also built the two nest box support braces and another rabbit nest box. I painted weather proofing on the outside of the boxes to keep the weather out. I used the circular saw and the cuts were much cleaner.

Tony Faircloth
Cantonment, FL

General Update-091017

I placed boards around the bottom of then chicken yard and attached the bottom of the poultry netting to it. With the exception of the ramp to the house I think the chicken coop is complete. I still must decide upon any extra insulation to block wind but otherwise I'm finished.

I think I will get the bitties in the Spring so that I don't have to worry too much about extreme cold temps while they're young. However for the next Winter (2010) I will need to work on insulating the chicken house from the wind, and by adding a heat source of some type. Currently it is fully walled with chicken wire except for the floor which is 1/4" screen supported by two lengths of heavy wire with turnbuckles for tightening as needed.

I am also reveiwing my Storey's book on chickens for feeder and waterer placement, as well as feeding guidelines.

I decided to alter the rabbitry design to allow for the nest boxes to protrude outside the cages. I will build a support for the backend of the cages consisting of 2"x4"x12" arms that will hold a 2"x2"8' brace. I have the wood and screws I just need to assemble it.

I also built a 12"Hx12"Wx18"L nest box from 1/2" scrap plywood. The front entrance swoops from 12" tall to 6" to allow the rabbit to enter. It turned out a little rough but I'm sure the rabbits won't complain. I think using a circular saw vice a jig saw would help the look. I also hinged the back 10" of the top so that I can get into them for cleaning and inspection from the outside. I think I can have another three made by the close of next Saturday.

Several weeks ago I ordered some 2 liter bottle adapters from the Bass Equipment company to allow me to use 2 liter soda bottles for rabbit waterers. They came in and I set them up on the four breeder cages. One I filled and found that the spring that holds the top of the bottle to the cage also squishes it strong enough to force the water out past the ball at the end of the waterer. I was pretty upset but i think I can save the expense by buying a set of short bungie cords, or adding a setion on to the spring so as to lessen its strength against the bottle. I did check around at local pet and farm stores for similar adapters but found none.

This week I ordered 4 Finex feeders. This style feeder aids in filtering dust from the food so that the rabbits don't inhale it and get lung ailements. They should come in within a couple weeks. With the waterers, feeders and nest boxes in place I will be ready for the breeder rabbits and then will work on the fryer cages and equipment.

Though the rabbits won't mind the cold I may wait to get them in the Spring also, however if all gets done and I have the money maybe before.

I will take and publish some poictures when I get time.

Tony Faircloth
Pensacola, FL

Monday, October 12, 2009

General Update-091012

Interesting news, apparently they project to widen the road I live on is coming. If so it may remove 8-12 feet of my small front yard. Not just remove part of my yard but also deliver a lot more traffic down the road. My understanding is that there is a housing development that will need the increased road size and that will increase the traffic.

The nice thing is that the house allowed us to send Samuel to a great Middle School, and get us out of the city so I can't complain for the reprieve.

So, what do I do?! I was talking to God this morning and though I didn't get a clear word i deffinitely heard, "Seek me first and everything else will come." So, I am still going to think about my options but if they don't pan out I know God will still be taking care of me.