Saturday, November 30, 2013

Meat Rabbits

Well,  we were going to wait until spring for the a new addition to the homestead, but as luck would have it, I ran across a guy who was selling a bunch of his rabbits and hutches in a feeble attempt to reduce his daily chores. He had quite an operation going there. 
I didn't need the cages, as I had already been planning this project for a while. They have been set up in the garage for a little while now, just waiting for some inhabitants. 
Why eat rabbits?
Good question.
1) Their meat is extremely lean. (wild being even more lean than domestic). 
2) They are simple to raise and easy to process.
3) They breed like bunnies.........
A trio of rabbits can produce enough offspring to provide about 180 pounds of meat in a single year. Granted, this is achieved by immediately breeding the rabbits as soon as the mother gives birth, but this causes considerable stress  to the momma, and will shorten her life tremendously.
If you have followed our little homestead for any length of time, you would know that we would NEVER do this. We plan on waiting until the young are weened before we will consider breeding her again. That will be about approximately 6 weeks. 
Also, we are starting with only a pair, rather than a trio. We are hoping to get between 4 and 5 litters per year, which should yield about 60 pounds of meat. This first year will be a trial year to determine if we need to get another doe, or begin a massive rabbit breeding operation (just kidding cris).
Anyway, let's meet the new additions.

This is the buck (male). He is a Californian. Californians are the second most popular meat breed of rabbit. He is about 5 months old, which makes him "almost" ready to breed. He weighs in at about 4 1/2 to 5 pounds. This is actually the size of which rabbits are slaughtered. As long as he does his business with the lady friend, he will not have to worry about that any time soon.

This all white fluffy ball of joy is the doe (female). She is a New Zealand. New Zealands are the most popular breed of meat rabbit, as they have large litters, and are pretty hefty little buggars. They are by far not the largest breed, but due to the feed to meat ratio, they remain seated high above the rest on the list. 
This girl here was born in early spring of this year, making here about 9 months old. She is able to breed right now, but I am waiting a little bit longer before I introduce her to the buck. 
When I am ready to breed them, I will move the doe into the bucks cage. If I moved the buck instead, he would be less interested in the female and begin to spray her cage with urine to "mark his territory". The deed would just take longer thats all! By moving the doe, a five minute timer, and a little Barry Manilo should do the trick.
Unlike most animals, rabbits do not "come into heat". They are ALWAYS in heat, which means that as soon as they breed, she should have conceived. Once they breed, I'll mark the calendar, and hopefully in 28-30 days, there will be a nice little litter of babies. 
We SHALL SEE!!!!!!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pallet Goat Shed

Trying to keep costs to a minimum, we decided to utilize pallets to make our new goat shelter. With winter closing in fast, it became a mad dash trying to break apart enough pallets to finish walling up the north, east and west sides. The south side is half finished, just enough to keep the goats inside of the enclosure. I couldn't have gotten this far without the help of my good friend Jeremy once again. Together we broke up almost 400 pallets to salvage just the 4 runners from each. All of the slats were either burned while we worked, or stacked for future bonfires.  If I had to guess..timate how many man hours went into building this shelter, I would place it somewhere around the 60-70 hour range (most of which were prying and bashing the pallets). 
I designed the shelter with the pallets in mind. Knowing that the runners are mostly 40 inches (with a few at 36"), I spaced the 4x4 posts about 3 feet apart on centers so that all of the walls would only require small cuts on the runners to fit them in. Some runners only had to reach center to center, while others had to cross the entire end of the 4x4, or even cover the end of the other runners after the 4x4's (corners).  Lot's of measuring and cutting.
These are what the pallets we broke apart looked like. As you can see, each pallet has only the 4 verticle runners in the middle, holding the slats together. This was the "gold" we were digging out. As if it wasn't bad enough, having to work so hard for just a few runners, that sometimes 1 or 2 of the runners were actually bad and had to be burned with the slats because they were too warped, cracked, or rotted underneath a few slats. 

After salvaging the runners, the nails had to be pounded in (no way I was going to remove them all) prior to use. 

here is a small pile of the slats which we will burn at our next bonfire.

This was the very start of the project. Just 2 4x4's set about 2 feet deep in concrete.

As more 4x4's were placed and concreted in, the design slowly began to form.

Roof framing completed

sheeting and felt paper 

shingle time. I was going to use corrugated steel instead of shingles, but in the end, I elected to use shingles, as they more closely match the garage.

Roof is DONE.

At this point, putting up runners was all that was left to do (besides designing the inside stalls and hay storage)

feeding area is in the entryway to the shelter

this back stall actually has a small "doggy door" at the back left. In spring, I will be fencing in a small area within the current enclosure so that Smokey can be separated from the girls. This way, I can stagger the does kidding times to maximize our milk production.

and of course there is Goat Chicken. He has finally found a friend. A New hampshire red hen that was brought back to me by a friend because all of her other chickens were smoked by a fox. The hen, like Goat Chicken, doesn't really get along with the rest of the flock, so they both stay in the goat shed together. During the day, I have noticed them to be almost inseparable. 

Jersey just wanted to say Hello!

Ginger just wants to eat!

So that's it. Our new goat shelter. These dang goats better appreciate how G-o-o-d they have got it. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Baked Pears

Posted by Cris

As a mom, I'm always trying to get my kids to eat healthier - but our house has tons of leftover Halloween Candy and we attended a VERY early Christmas parade last weekend too. Sweets are not in short supply around our house. It didn't work out at our house - but your kids might be less picky or less oversugared. Or you may just want to do what I did and enjoy by yourself. 

First cut the pears in half.

Then use a melon baller to scoop out the seeds and core.  Leave the stem on, don't worry about it. 

Sprinkle with cinnamon, brown sugar and drizzle honey.  I don't know how much, enough. I'm not that technical.  I added walnuts in the little scooped out holes, but those are optional.

Put in oven at 350. and baste every 15 minutes - cook time will vary.  Here's what I did - cook for 20 mins, remember, baste - set timer for 15 - baste - why aren't they tender yet? Hmm.. 10 minutes - Baste - cover with tin foil - 10 minutes - DONE! Finally!

They are done when they are tender and a fork slides in and out easily.

At this point they smell REALLY good - the whole kitchen, maybe the whole house will smell REALLY good.  Only - wait a little while before you try them, they are HOT! and will burn your mouth - They smell delicious but you won't be able to taste once your tongue is burned - Wait a few, but not too long, they are best warm.  

There you have it - a healthy dessert. You are welcome!

PS - My kids wouldn't try these (cue whining) "The walnuts looked like brains. They are brown. That's not a dessert!" 
I enjoyed them for several days.