Second Raised Bed Filled

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Things have been moving along well with the beds, the middle bed now has a deep layer of aged compost and manure, topped with some chicken coop flooring, and finished with topsoil/decomposed mulch from the existing garden. I hardly know where to start planting!

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While I was emptying the compost pile to fill this bed, I uncovered another rat’s nest. I knew they were hanging out in there. A couple more wheelbarrows in and a huge momma rat jumped out and ran off. We were too slow to get her. She’s still been too wily to step into a rat trap, but she sure doesn’t like the cayenne pepper I’ve spread around the perimeter of the coop where she used to dig in every night. I’m also putting it into the poultry feed itself.

 

Introducing My New Rex Herd Sire

DSC_0003Up until now my Standard Rex herd sire has been Timmy. I got Timmy a year or so ago from a couple that had him as a pet rabbit and couldn’t care for him anymore. He didn’t like being handled and they wanted to concentrate on their friendlier bunnies. While he is a very nice rabbit, type-wise he is terrible. He also has no pedigree and no tattoo. Since there are only a few Rex breeders on the Island, and most of their stock came from the USA, I think it’s safe to assume that Timmy was someone’s cull and it’s easy to see why.

It was time for me to get a proper Rex herd sire. After one debacle with a disreputable local rabbit breeder (who has since had all her rabbits seized by the SPCA), I located a breeder who seemed to be doing everything right. She was extremely kind and helpful and has a herd of the most beautiful and happy rabbits.

Yesterday I drove to her little farm and picked up the most gorgeous 13 week old Broken Castor buck: Moonstruck’s MR16. Once we get to know each other a little better I’ll give him a proper name. A big thank you to Jody Mitchell and Moonstruck Meadows!

DSC_0005This little guy is just the most handsome little buck I have ever seen. He has beautiful fur and body type and a full pedigree. This means that with Tuna’s full pedigree, I am on my way to producing fully pedigreed Rexes. Since he is a broken, this also means that I can start producing broken kits, which is a very fun prospect. Timmy will be retired and probably Bluefin will be also, as she is Timmy’s daughter and not very easy to work with. Unfortunately with limited space and cages I have to trim my herd aggressively.

DSC_0007Just look at that cute little face!

Backyard and Container Garden Progress + Cats

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Parsley (the cat) in the container garden

I was a little on edge using the pure organic fish compost I had purchased, unamended in my giant container garden, but so far tests have been positive! You can distinguish it as the very black stuff in the photo above as compared to the lighter material which is my homemade compost. I think potting soil is a bit of a ripoff so I’m looking forward to the results of this experiment.

I was initially worried about drainage, so I added a 4-6 inch layer of homemade compost to the bottom of each pot, since it’s really light and chunky. It’s pretty much a mixture of kitchen and garden waste mixed with wood chips and rabbit and chicken/quail manure aged for about a year. I have two piles going and I alternate between piles; one gets emptied while the other gets filled. I don’t mind using compost that is a little unfinished, or chunky; but sometimes that isn’t ideal for seed starting.

So far I haven’t noticed any problems with compaction or burning or anything with the fish compost and it’s been a week or two since things were planted. I’ll be interested to see how the growth compares to my homegrown compost pots. Those pots have some fresh chicken pen floor as their bottom layer. Pure folly? We shall see.

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My tomato garden

A few tomatoes are in. These are my first attempt at cold sown tomatoes, so I have big expectations of them. Ideally, they should be as vigorous as any volunteer tomato in the compost pile. I will have a few in the ground and a few in pots. Maybe a total of about 15 plants. It’s a good thing I restricted myself this year because inevitably I found another tomato plant I wanted at the farmer’s market. It is a Striped German and is reported to taste like candy. I also picked up some Moroccan Tea Mint, Chamomile and a Mouse Melon plant. Not to mention a giant Black Bamboo and Sunset Glow Bamboo which will be used for privacy hedges.

I recently got out my shiny, beautiful, All American Pressure Canner to can some rabbit meat and I’m raring to go on the tomatoes, once they arrive. Tomatoes are one of my favorite things to can, they taste so good. There are a few flowers already, so here’s hoping for a bountiful harvest this year. I plan to try to keep suckers pruned and keep things tidy.

DSC_0031My arugula, started from seeds I collected last year, is growing like crazy. It’s ready for harvest after just a week or two. I’m glad these were the seeds I brought to the swap this year, I love imagining other beautiful plots of arugula all over the island. My red and yellow onions are getting big and my leeks no longer look like invisible blades of grass. Beets and carrots are coming in, although some creature (slug) has been helping themselves to part of the rows. Volunteer potatoes are huge already and calendulas are threatening to bloom. The yacon is bursting out of its pot and there are jalapenos and eggplants sprouting. It’s going to be a busy month!

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Mushrooms (the cat) in the container garden

Poultry Update

DSC_0021Yesterday I drove out to the Quennel Lake Livestock Conservatory and picked up these two beautiful ladies. They are a pair of Welsumer (or Welsummer) hens.

Since lately I’ve been selling a lot of eggs to my neighbors, I needed to increase the production around here. Although these girls are in their third year, they are reported to still be laying well and were only $5 each. They are in lovely shape and will be laying eggs the color of wet terracotta. I was also told that they may go broody, so in that case I’ll probably find some fertilized eggs to put under them and see how they do.

DSC_0013Poor white chicken is going through a hard molt, the first hard molt I’ve ever seen here. She looks pathetic and her egg production has slacked a bit. Since she was at the bottom of the pecking order, she was delighted to have the two Welsumer girls show up so she could give them a few good pecks and move up the ranks. Other than that there seems to be no real squabbling amongst the hens. The new girls are sticking together and respectfully keeping their distance for now. The duck and the pheasant seem particularly interested in them.

DSC_0015The pheasant cock is still doing very well. He is a very calm and happy bird and makes delightfully musical little chirping noises. I have read that he will probably go through a molt this summer and that’s when his adult plumage will really come in. I’ve also read that it’s common for their tail feathers to get wet and freeze in the winter and get stepped on by other birds, causing them to break. I’m hoping that since he is now being kept in a covered run, that this will prevent further breakage. The tails are very impressive so it would be a shame for him to break it again. I’ve also hopefully lined up a lady pheasant for him this summer, from the same breeder that he originates from. Very exciting!

New Bunnies Day

DSC_0044 Today was the due date for Esther, Samphire and Tuna; but when I went out to the barn for chores this evening, only one nest was furry and that was Sam’s. She kindled ten pink and healthy purebred Californian kits. Here they are next to my purple and orange cauliflower starts that need to get put in the ground ASAP.

As for Tuna, nothing. She just wanted her grass and treats and that’s that. I was a little surprised because I remember the breeding going very well. She hasn’t used her nestbox as a toilet yet though, so I’m still hopeful. Maybe tomorrow.

Esther sometimes kindles on day 32, so it’s not that unusual that her box was still empty. Once I had just about finished my barn chores, around dusk, I noticed her going into birthing mode. She was acting restless and breathing very rapidly and heavily. Then she started pulling fur. I sat down and watched her for awhile since it’s not something I usually see. She pulled it rhythmically from her dewlap and also from down both her sides. Then she gathered it all up and put it into the nest box. It’s nice that my rabbits have become comfortable enough with me that I get to witness these private moments more and more.

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Resting in between fur-pulling sessions

It’s been a few hours since then so I’ll bet she has a litter out there right now. I’m very excited to see what she’ll throw since this is my first Standard Rex/Creme d’Argent litter. I don’t think we’ll have any Rex-furred kits this generation, but I’m hoping for some interesting colors. I’m also interested in finding out how this hybrid combo compares to the others as far as grow out is concerned.

Here’s an idea of the amount of greens the bunnies get fed every day during this time of year. The grass is growing so fast they can scarcely keep up. I have one tractor of four bunnies who have a low roof and a huge bundle of grass placed on top for them every day where they can pull it down and eat it. These particular bunnies have eaten almost no pellets and have only made it through one quarter of a 32 oz water bottle in ONE WHOLE WEEK. I will be constructing more low-roof tractors so that I can capitalize on this. I love the more natural diet, the fact that it’s free, and the added health benefits both for the rabbits and for the eventual consumer of the rabbits. Me.

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Bluefin’s Litter

DSC_0031These little Standard Rex bunnies are nearly five weeks old. I am feeding all the rabbits a primarily fresh grass and forage diet right now as there is so much lush growth in my yard. Every day I go out with my little scythe and mow down fresh bunches of greens for them which they happily dive into. They all eat a lot less pellets this way and they all love it. Plus it’s free!

DSC_0050I took a little look at the tort baby and it seems to be a doe. I’ll know for sure next time once I’m able to do everyone. She is the runt of the litter but still doing very well and very friendly. Bluefin has done a great job raising everyone and soon they’ll be out in their own tractor, on lawn mowing duty with the other kits.

DSC_0032In other news I finally got myself a tattoo machine for doing rabbit ear numbers. I decided on the KBTatt pen which I ordered through Martin’s Cages. I’m excited to try it out on these little guys, it’s a skill I’ve been wanting to learn since I got into rabbits a couple of years ago. More info on that to come!

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Bunnies Move Out

DSC_0065The two first litters of the year are now seven weeks old and it’s time to move out!

Each group is now in their own tractor on lawn mowing/fertilizing duty. They will be moved each day to a new patch of grass and their mothers will finally have a break and some more room to themselves. Two hybrid bunnies have been sold, so there are six buns per tractor which is a good number. In about three weeks the bucks and the does will be separated out. From some preliminary sexing, I know that the hybrid litter is mostly does, but the sexes of the Californian litter are still unknown. I’ll probably flip them all over in the next few days to see what I have.

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Californian kits

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Hybrid kits

I also sexed the oldest Standard Rex litter today and we have four bucks and three does. Here’s one of the blue otter bucks.

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Sexing position

DSC_0087I also got a few pictures of the younger Rex litter, they are about three weeks old and at the very cute, cotton-ball stage. Bluefin is still growling every time I take them out, but I’ve been ignoring it and giving her an overdose of petting each time which has helped a lot. She’s such a bratty girl.

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Bluefin’s buns

The kit who I thought would be white has turned into sort of a tortoiseshell color. It has a tan topside, a white belly and white/greyish sides with a little grey dot on the nose. I’ve never seen a Rex this color before. Does anyone have any ideas?

DSC_0131 DSC_0129 Esther, Samphire and Tuna have all been bred again today so I’ll be expecting three more litters in a month. I’ll have purebred Rex, purebred Californians, and I bred Esther to Timmy for the first time, so there will be some Creme d’Argent/Rex hybrids. I’m excited to see how they turn out. Here’s hoping for some neat colors and coats.

After my last post about my struggles getting pedigrees for some of my rabbits, I reached out to another local breeder who was able to figure out Tuna’s pedigree for me, as she owns her parents now. One down, two to go! It’s so interesting to look back into her lineage, there are actually quite a few brokens in there. I wonder if she’ll ever throw any?