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 23, 2016

More of the Same

This week on the homestead not much has gone on. In part because Mel has been under the weather, and the other was my doctor appointments hither and yon. I was driving back and forth between Demorest, Gainesville, and Athens. It's amazing how quick you settle into a rural life. I actually make an audible groan when I have to get in my car and leave the homestead. My van actually hates climbing up the 1/8th of a mile hill with all the broken pavement and clay. Somehow we've got to come up with $5,000 to fix the driveway properly. We've approached our neighbors who live along the driveway about sharing the cost of repair, but they aren't interested. We of course, are on the lowest point of the leeway. If I pay to fix it everybody benefits. That doesn't seem fair, does it?

Mel did manage to put in most of the rabbit poo disposal system. If she would work at the rabbitry little by little each day, it would have been done inside a week. Now instead two months later, it's a haphazard affair. Nothing is totally complete and it drives me nuts. It drives her nuts because its such a mess and she gets frustrated.

Bennie Dufus has finally reached the point where he finally trusts us and has become trainable. It has only taken three months to reach this point. I figure within six months, he'll be disciplined enough to sell so I can get the money I paid  for him back with interest. He's actually becoming a good dog like his German Shepherd genetics destined him to be. Although still extremely playful and loving, discipline is evident. You can see that he is figuring out what it is that you are wanting him to do. He's trying to please you so long as his "puppy" behaviors aren't engaged. He no longer chases our vehicles onto the main road but stops just short and climbs the ridge towards home. He still has his dufus moments which will eventually be trained out of him as his attention span grows. Now if we can just get some coordination between his huge paws and his brain going on, he won't move like a dufus too.

I'm still cleaning out the raised beds. I loped off the tops of my heirloom tomatoes yesterday for rooting. I must have put twenty top leaves with 2' stems in my five gallon bucket of rain water. These will go into the greenhouse to overwinter. we will have a jump start on tomatoes and herbs for next Spring. I wasn't paying attention too closely and pruned a branch with a cluster of tomatoes on it. There are still tomatoes growing on the plants. We'll probably have fresh tomatoes until first frost in mid November, if I don't pull them up. I'm kind of hem-hawing around with pulling them up. I do love fresh tomatoes in my salad. I'm not looking forward to grocery store gassed or the price of this fresh vegetable.

Mel and I have been very active with The Homestead Network online/YouTube. They are a PG-12, Christian based group of homesteaders from urban to rural. They do live, interactive shows across YouTube. We've even met a couple members and a slew of homesteaders within two hours driving distance from us in person. Homesteading can be such a solitary life that it's great communicating with other like minded souls. We offer each other solutions to problems we may be experiencing, support, sharing news, checking on each other, and just general comradery. We'll Skype or call each other often when not in a chat room of a live show. The way God intended us to be.

We haven't been invited to have our own live show because our channel is not Christian enough in our videos. Imagine that! I'm a minister and not Christian enough. But, it's just as well. I don't shove religion down people's throats, but instead, go where the Lord leads me. I'm not an evangelist, but a pastor who guides. I prefer tending to my flock and leading by example, rather than bible thumping. Not that I think that the evangelical side is bad, someone has got to bring souls to the Lord. That's not my calling.

Well, that's it for this week. Until next Sunday... Have a blessed day.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Rabbits, Rabbits, and the Rabbitry

Last week I talked at some length about the garden plans and touched on the meat rabbits. This week I'm going on about the English angora rabbits and the rabbitry building, and touching on the garden.

The rabbitry building is coming along very slowly. I wish I could help Mel more but only being able to lend A (as in one functioning) hand doesn't help much. All I can do is assist rather than build which still irritates me to no end. I currently wish that I hand my mother's hand which were large with beefy fingers. She wore a size 8 ring. Or my paternal grandma's really large hand with a 11 ring size because then I could grab and hold a pair of pliers or wire dikes single handed. But no, I had to born with my maternal grandma's hands very petite and dainty with long straight finger. In case you were wondering, I wear a size 4 1/2 to 5 ring. The half size makes a huge difference as in one of the cooking videos I made where I lost my engagement ring of my 20th anniversary wedding set. You see when I first moved here I weighed a whopping 183 lbs. Today, at my morning weigh in, I weigh 150 lbs. Don't ask me how but it probably has something to do with not being able to get out of my house much with my husband alive. Here I'm constantly doing stuff. My wedding set spins around on my finger. I should get them sized down, but can't bear to take them off and leave them anywhere just yet. I will someday.

But I digress (what's new with that, huh?). The rabbitry ceiling is done. The walls, two walls are only partially complete. The floor is still undone. When looking at it, it looks a mess right now. But in our minds we want it done. So what have we been working on? The poo drainage system. Unlike their JerseyWooly/Lionhead and American Chinchilla rabbit cousins, the angoras are in an enclosed space with flooring. We don't want rabbit poo on that. Remember all those light panel covers we bought from the ReStore to do the walls? We had a few left over. Although we've seen similar rabbit waste removal systems online, we wanted something different. Of course we did, we're the cockeyed homestead. The system we designed has the poo and urine running towards the front where it is caught by a gutter which in turn is angled to drop into a Tinker Toy configuration of sewer pipes to all drain into a five gallon bucket at the end under the building. If the poo gets stuck on the panels as it's apt to do, we simply flush the system
with water. The bucket at the end has holes drilled into the bottom and lower third of the bucket for water drain off. we did dig a small trench lined with pea gravel giving the water and liquid waste some place to go. The solid poo will go into the garden beds for slow release fertilizer or sold to other gardeners. We are thinking $7 for 10 pounds, but our beds' needs come first. We will be also making rabbit poo tea, a liquid fertilizer. At $7 a gallon, it's a bargain.We have used both in our garden with great success.

We have started up the fodder system again. This summer was way too hot. Now that we have an air conditioner in the rabbitry, we can grow it in there during the summer. With 15 rabbits and looking to breed them, the standard, commercial rabbit food gets expensive. Over the summer we spent over $100 on feed for them, plus their timothy hay and black oil sunflower seeds (another casualty of the chickens) :o( I ordered from the seed and feed company, 100 lbs of winter wheat and 96 lbs barley seeds. The cost $66 for a year of fodder that will feed all our existing rabbits and kits for a year! Is there any question of why I made this choice? Plus, I know it's organic. That ties directly into our record keeping for organic certification process of our produce. While in the Spring the rabbits could eat it or leave it, the rabbits are gobbling it down especially the new angoras we got last month.

Speaking of the new angoras...they now have names. We ran a poll on our Tea Time for August. The commenters had a choice between 6 buck names, 4 doe names, or they  could write in their names. At the end of the month we had winners for the two bucks and one doe babies of the new English angoras I purchased.
Angus is the buck with all the furnishings on his face. 
Alby is his brother with the tan tipped nose.
And, the precious, little doe is named Moira.
They join their parents

We decided to use Celtic/Irish/Scottish names for all the new rabbits in our rabbitry. Benjamin and Daisy were already named by their previous owner, Kim

Well with the new triple hole cage Mel made this week, we now have six pure bred English angoras in our rabbitry. I've got feelers out for at least four more does before the end of the year. Then we can start breeding them. Although, we might go ahead and breed Daisy to Dustin, our only surviving buck of Mel's. That's after I build some drop down nest boxes for the doe cages for Mel to install. The are only 10x14x8 so I should be able to manage that providing the J clips and their pliers behave. I thought this was perfect. It solves the problem of a rabbit having their babies on the wire and it
Got this pic off Pinterest
mimics nature by giving the doe a burrow to have their kits in. I also won't have to worry about baby proofing the whole cage because when the kits are big enough to jump out they'll be too big the wiggle out between the 1x2 cage wire. I plan to do the same thing with our meat rabbits, but Colleen's will be proportionally larger. I'm thinking 12x18x10 because she can have twelve or more kits at a time. English angoras rarely have more than eight babies at a time, and they are considerably smaller. Rabbits grow pretty quick. They'll double their birth size in a matter of a few weeks.

Talking about babies. Another new happening sort of on the homestead is a new arrival. My #4 daughter, Jenn, delivered a healthy baby boy this week. Murphey Fíon Behan was born 10/4/2016 at 1:27 PM. He weighed 8 lbs and 4 oz and was 20.5 in long. You may remember, Jenn moved into my Golden Isles house back in August and last month brought a U-Haul with my things to Cornelia last month. She was released from the hospital just in time to be evacuated to Charlotte, NC to be safe from Hurricane Matthew.

That's it for this week. Y'all have a blessed day!

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!