Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall Garden Cleanup and Beyond

I have been so disgusted by the DB Chickens in my garden, I practically gave up on it except to cut a few fresh herbs, salvage some tomatoes, and watch for whatever insect that's eating the leaves of a fairly new potato plant starts. I usually will squish the head of the offending insect and throw them in a bucket to feed to the chickens later. But they have had free range of the garden since the dog fight between our Nnyus and Sheba two months ago. That's pretty bad. I haven't even watered it. I haven't weeded. I haven't side dressed or pruned. Nothing, nada, zilch.

It broke my heart to see the damage the chickens and dogs had done to my once flourishing vegetable patch. Granted this being the first year, I'd only planned to test the area for what would grow and fresh eating. Actually before the chickens and dogs, the garden was doing quite well so I have hope for next Spring, But I'm not waiting until Spring. I'm starting now.

I've decided to fix Mel's hoop greenhouse and make it work for us instead of being an eyesore. You might remember, it was destroyed by Mel's first foray into goat ownership a year and a half ago. It will first have to be moved out to the area where the chicken coop was. This is no mean feat because not only did she build the hoop house but she raised it by placing it on pallets. It might be easier to dismantle it and then move it. I bought 2 of the 100' rolls of new plastic already. I forgot the pipe insulation, but we have a few weeks before it really cools down.

Keiran and Colleen
Mel also built shelves inside to plant vegetable starts on. Once dismantled, I've got some reconfiguring to do. My plan is to put Keiran and Colleen, my buck and doe American Chinchilla meat rabbits in the greenhouse over winter on straw bales. Why? The rabbits will throw off their heat to warm the greenhouse for my plants, but be saved from snow or freezing rain.Their manure will soak into the straw bales so when I mulch my Spring garden with it there is a slow release fertilizer effect. The straw from the new chicken coop has to compost at least six months to a year.

I'll also be breeding Colleen this month and again in four months (October and February). So the babies will be in there also. When the second set of kits are born, it will be slaughtering day for the first batch.  If the litter is extremely small, a third breeding is necessary before the summer heat hits. By working in breeding cycles this way, we are overwhelmed by having to slaughter a huge amount at one time.

These are big rabbits weighing in at 12 lbs a piece. They'll be a year old in October and never been bred before. Am I worried about inbreeding brother and sister? Nope. Their offspring are destined for the deep freezer. Any bad traits will be history in 12-16 weeks. Their hearts, livers, kidneys, and brains will become dog food. The meat will feed us. Their pelts will eventually clothe us or bring us cash. That's Colleen and Kieran's purpose on this homestead. You may remember Colleen is our escape artist rabbit too. I usually wait until my rabbits are a year old to breed them. Even though everything I've read says 5-6 months old is fine. I just like to see them as grown ups. I mean the average lifespan of rabbits is 16 years. I figure at least ten of those are reproductive years before retiring. I also don't look at my meat rabbits as just baby making machines either. I figure breeding them twice to three times a year is fine. I mean take a look at the numbers with me...

Litter size                       6-12 kits
Pre-Butchering weight  7-10 lbs each
Actual meat for us         4-7 lbs each for total of 24 - 120 lbs per breeding cycle
                                                      (2-3X a year) and yes, I've done this before.
Dog food                         6-12 lbs total
Pelt for us or sale          6-12
Other unusable bits for maggot farm for chickens
Bones used for bone broth for drinking and/or canning.

Waste- Zero

 I don't know about you, but how many times can you eat rabbit in a year? At the maximum count, that's 360 lbs of rabbit meat alone. That's almost a pound of rabbit meat every day and there is only two of us. A pound of meat covers both of us a meal unless it's prime rib. Don't forget, we'll also be raising some meat chickens too for some variety. Any dish that uses chicken or pork can be cooked with rabbit including sausage with some added fat including chicken fat although it is harder to grind unless partially frozen.

Jennifer and David (my daughter and son outlaw) love to fish and crab. I've taught all my girls the same thing my Daddy taught me... you catch it; you clean it. So they've done it since they were old enough to yield a knife. We can trade with them if they don't do everything I did on my property. Oysters, clams, shrimp, squid, or even octopus make tasty eating and with very little effort in getting them. It means a 10-hour round trip drive to pick them up but heck, I still have family there too so it won't be just a grab and go situation. I will miss the year around growing season down south though.

But as usual, I digress. In the greenhouse over the winter, I'll be growing tomatoes rooted from the organic tomatoes in my garden now. It's a perpetual thing. Take the suckers or clipped top of an existing plant and you get a new plant. Fresh greens for salads and rabbits. Strawberries in hanging baskets. Carrots and herbs planted in flats. The greenhouse will full of life so when the winter seems to be dragging on, all we'll have to do is step inside. We will be adding a heat lamp leftover from Mel's chicken hatching experiment for those nights well below freezing. Also the plants need light so we can put a grow bulb in it at other times too. It can't hurt the meat rabbits either. 

I'll leave room to start my vegetables in the Spring. Our official outside planting date is May 1st, but this year we had a late freeze so the plants I started Easter weekend didn't fair well without the greenhouse being in tact.  Wish us luck and a powerful green thumb.

Y'all have a blessed day!


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