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|
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.
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.
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!