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!!