New Dehydrator!

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My old cheap, round white dehydrator from Canadian Tire served me well for a few years, but the plastic trays finally crumbled and fell apart and it needed to go. I do a fair bit of dehydrating and decided it was time to invest in a better quality model, so I went with the 3900B 9-Tray Deluxe Excalibur.

I’m not sure why a plastic box with a heat element, thermostat and fan is so expensive, but all dehydrators of this size and quality seem to be comparable in price. At least this one has lots of great reviews. It’s definitely got a lot more capacity than my tiny round one did, and it’s a bit easier to clean. So far here’s what I think of it:

Pros:
-Large drying capacity
-Square, easy to store and easier to arrange items
-Seems fairly durable
-Adjustable thermostat
-Relatively easy to clean*

Cons:
-Expensive
-No timer
-Tray are a bit flimsy
-Door does not latch shut
-Large footprint
-*Still annoying to clean

The door just hangs on the front which would be fine if I didn’t have cats and often dry meats. This means if I’m not supervising I have to put something heavy in front of the door to deter cat theft.

They say you can wash the trays in the top shelf of your dishwasher IF you take them out before the drying cycle. I don’t know about you, but me and my dishwasher don’t really know each other all that well and I’d rather not take the risk of melting my trays. This means I have to scrub the 14″ square trays in my sink and well, they just don’t fit. It’s awkward, water gets everywhere, and I hate it. At least I can dry the trays when I’m done right in the unit!

If I had wanted to spend another $40 to $50, I could have purchased a model with a timer. However, I can just buy a timer for $10 and plug into that if I need one. I think I would rarely use one anyway, and the built-in timer only goes to a maximum of two hours, which generally isn’t enough time for what I’m drying. It’s also just one more thing that can break on the unit, so I decided to go without. Looking forward to drying lots of garden herbs and vegetables this year!

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Easter Sunday Rabbit Road Trip (Plus Tiny Chicken)

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We were contacted last week by a local retirement home that desperately needed some bunnies for their Easter party, since they had advertised it everywhere and their previous bunny wrangler had backed out.

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We agreed, and spent a few hours today introducing some of our rabbits to a very enthusiastic bunch of seniors and their grandkids. As a special treat, Tiny Chicken the Old English Game hen came along as well.

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The bunnies did very well and were very well-behaved being placed on so many strange laps for photographs. They enjoyed their spacious box filled with treats while the kids gave them lots of love and attention.

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Tiny Chicken surprised me by being the best behaved little chicken I have ever seen. She sat quietly while being petted, picked up, loved and hugged by dozens of kids. She never once tried to fly off even though she is an excellent flier, and just calmly trusted that I would not put her into a dangerous situation. I’m very proud of her and now I know I can bring her to events with no problems. She was a huge hit.

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We couldn’t have done it without the help of our lovely Miss Nanaimo contestant who was stationed at the bunny pen making sure everyone was gentle with the animals. Thanks for a great day!

 

My Coturnix Quail Eggs are Too Big!

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Standard quail egg on the left and one of my typical eggs on the right

It’s that time of year again when I do my first big quail hatch of the season, so I’ve been dutifully collecting eggs and placing them in the turner in a cool place until I have enough to incubate. I get about 12 to 20 eggs a day so it takes about a week to fill my turner up with the best eggs. But there’s a problem this year… My eggs are way too big!

I’ve come back to the turner to find crushed eggs almost every day now. The quail rails on my Hova-Bator turner are just not large enough, and when the turner goes all the way to one side, the largest eggs get crushed by the edges of the rail next to them and fall through making a huge mess.

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Regular untrimmed rails

I know this is not the worst problem a person can have… I select for large birds and I guess I’ve finally reached a point where their eggs have outgrown the turner. These are not double yolkers either, they are just very big. It was getting so that less than half of my daily egg collection would fit in the rails safely. But I wanted to hatch out those big eggs, they probably have big chicks in them! What was I going to do?

Solution: Trim the rails. It turns out that you can make some simple alterations to the plastic rails with a Dremel tool that allows for even very large quail eggs to fit without being crushed. The integrity of the rail is maintained, and it’s quite easy to do. In fact, the rails really should have been designed this way to begin with!

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Two bottom rails have been notched

DIY Swarm Trap/Nuc Box

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When I moved here, the garage contained a waterlogged, rotten old plywood workbench that I ripped out right away. It was super gross, but there were still a few pieces of wood that looked salvageable. I let it dry out really well and was able to turn what was left into two lovely little nuc boxes!

Since I don’t have any nucleus colonies to house in them right now, I’ve set them up as swarm traps. They each contain five medium frames that have been worked on by my bees last year (so they smell good to scout bees), and a lure, which is just a drop or two of lemongrass oil on a q-tip, in a small plastic bag.

They’re a bit small to be ideal swarm traps at 20 litres, as bees prefer a volume of about 40 litres (the size of a deep brood box), but it can’t hurt to try! Ideally, you want them in a sunny location at least ten feet up off the ground. I check mine every day and I love that I can make something useful out of something that seemed destined for the burn pile! I’ll post the exact measurements and instructions on how to build this nuc box at a later date, stay tuned!

The Broody Banty Experiment

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I have a very determined little hen who has her heart set on hatching out some chicks this year. I don’t really need more chicks right now, but I’d like to see if she can do it.

All the chicks I’ve raised so far have been by artificial brooder and I’d love to watch a mama hen take on the job. I think it would be even more entertaining to see a bantam hen hatch out full sized chicks and boss them around even when they get bigger than her!

There’s always a market for chicks and layers around here so I think I would probably end up selling them unless I see one or two I like. I don’t want any expensive eggs for this, just some barnyard crossbred mutts are fine. I think I’ve located a source of fertilized eggs at $10 per dozen and that seems a fair price.

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First I’ve got to make sure she’s really serious about this. I know she’s serious but she has to be SERIOUS. For this, I’ve brought out the big guns. Fake eggs. These are some ceramic eggs I ordered off eBay some time ago and they look and feel exactly like real ones. I set them up in the nestbox for her and she was on them in minutes. Once she’s good and settled for a few days I’ll move her in the evening to a small seperate pen with everything she needs and give her the real deal. Then we wait!

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