brassicas

Brassicas, Bunnies, and a Bargain Bird

It’s been a week of unexpected progress at the Knob house. Unseasonably warm weather has jump started our sense of spring and has catapulted us into homestead project mode. I’ve been exhilarated about all the excuses to be outside and I’m excited about everything that has gotten done…and also a little overwhelmed with the number of new projects the two of us are diving headfirst into. Some projects haven’t gotten as far as others. The greenhouse hasn’t been touched yet mostly because I spend a good portion of my spare time trying to adopt every new dog I find on Craigslist. (I’ll find you a friend yet, Wendell!) But even with that massive time waster, we’ve still gotten a ton done.

So let spring come.

Garden Inspiration from the Greater Community

Over the past week my green thumb has been put through its paces. Part of my AmeriCorps service time is spent working in the agriculture department of a local high school, and the school’s greenhouse in a jungle of green right now as tomato plants begin to top the roof bars and flowers bud in every corner. The small space is crammed with vibrancy, and the earthy musk that permeates throughout is an inviting escape from the stale classroom air. Soon the tomatoes will ripen, the flowers will bloom, and the aphids will be gobbled up by the newly introduced ladybugs. I took advantage of some bushy basil plants and gave them a much needed trim. Soon I’ll turn these cuttings into pesto for my students to taste. I almost hope they hate it so I can take more leftovers home!

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A boxful of basil from the school greenhouse will make excellent pesto!

There was also a wonderful seed swapping event one town over this week. It was an opportunity for people passionate about sustainable living to get together and talk about our mutual love of plants and our dreams for this coming season. I’d already bought most of the seeds I want to plant this year, but I did pick up some special items like Paw Paw tree seeds. It was also a chance for Ian and I to finally meet in person some of the people we have been connecting with online from this community but haven’t been able to actually meet yet. I’m always thrilled to meet people in this new home of mine that care about and love the same things I do.

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One of three demonstrations about how to be a better gardener.
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Tables of free seeds were a highlight of the event

I left the event so inspired that the next day I rescued seedlings from the school greenhouse and planted them into our sturdy cold frame. Time will tell if the young plants survive the inclement weather this weekend, but if things get too bad we can always put a blanket over the frame.

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The cold frame has been planted with kale, chard and collard seedlings and direct sown with radishes.

Expanding the Menagerie with Our Own Meat Rabbits

The seed swapping conference had an additional benefit; it gave us an excuse to drive near some big box department stores, definitely not a normal occurrence in our lives out here. We’ve been talking about getting meat rabbits for weeks, but neither of us has found the motivation to build cages. Actually the idea of working with the sharp, somewhat rusty wire we had set aside for the project filled me with stress. It was practically the last way I wanted to spend precious daylight hours after work. Ian seemed about as eager as me to avoid the task, and building cages became an almost taboo subject between us. But then we wandered into a Tractor Supply. And found ourselves in an aisle filled with rabbit cages. Pre-made cages. We looked at each other and smiled the slow smiles that gave each other permission to cheat just this once. Sure we COULD build cages ourselves, but there are more pleasant ways to spend my time… like playing with baby bunnies. Sue me for taking a shortcut.

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We’ll be building a wooden frame for these anyways, so we aren’t TOTALLY cheating

In any case we walked out of the store with everything necessary to support two does and a buck; the beginning of our anticipated rabbit breeding setup. Now we just needed some bunnies. Surprisingly enough, this proved to be the easiest part of the whole process. The teacher Ian aids has a homesteading brother with an every expanding herd of rabbits he was more than willing to sell off. So after school on Wednesday we drove up his holler and exchanged $30 for three four week old New Zealand Whites.

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Buttercup the pet pygmy goat was sad we couldn’t buy her too. And so was I.
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These rabbits had lived in luxury! Hope they like our cages too.
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Another one of his rabbits was a very good mama and tended to her day-old litter
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We haven’t built the wooden frames for the hutches yet, so the rabbits will probably be spending the next few days in our living room.

Considering what happened to the guinea fowls and the silkies, spending a few days in a cage in our house seems to be a rite of passage for any new critters that we pick up.

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Obviously very happy that she’s first generation and won’t be eaten like all her offspring.
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We upcycled some old beer bottle boxes into bunny nesting boxes.

The bunnies should be old enough to be bred early June. By Fall I anticipate I’ll be as skilled at butchering them as Gollum.

(Yes Ian told me about this clip. So what?! I have pop culture knowledge tooooo…)

BONUS PET! The Big Daddy Rooster

Our bunny provider really must have known the way to my heart, because he threw a free chicken into the deal! A big black orphington rooster, to be exact. These boys are known to be the gentle giants of the rooster world and we were reasonably sure he would get along fine with our hens, so I didn’t see any harm in taking him. Who knows? Maybe he’ll be the key to not having to mail order chicks in a few weeks.

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Ian was more than happy to take pictures of me because he’s secretly terrified of chickens and doesn’t like to hold them. He’s kind of a nancy pants.
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Obviously I have no such fear.
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So far Big Daddy’s doing quite well with ladies. At least they’ve stopped squawking in fear at the sight of him.

On a sadder note, we seem to have had our first livestock fatality. Of our four guinea fowl, there has always been one that seemed especially idiotic and consistently strayed from the larger group. It appears now that she must not have gotten locked back into the coop one night and either took off or got on something’s menu. I’m adamant that she will be back (mostly out of guilt that she disappeared on one of my counting nights) but Ian’s given her up for lost. More will be revealed I guess.

Shared with Homesteading on Grace

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11 thoughts on “Brassicas, Bunnies, and a Bargain Bird

  1. Love these posts! The pictures and writing are a great view into your interesting life. Keep em coming! Even though I don’t always comment, know that I wait for and read every single one!

    1. Oh that is so sweet of you to say! Honestly I really appreciate it. And know that I am loving your blog as well. I hope that you are soon able to turn the corner with your moving stress and begin to relax and enjoy the process. It’s very exciting I’m sure, but it does sound like a toooon of work.

  2. My eight free-range Peking ducks were about 10 weeks old when they did their normal daily swim downstream on our creek…but that evening, they did not come back. They had always come back, and I would feed them and put them in the compound for safety. Then they did not come back the second day. Three, five, ten, eleven…
    I gave them up for gone. Coyotes, dogs, owls, humans; something had gotten them. Then on evening eleven, I’m dealing with my chooks, turks, geese, and a few other ducks when I hear what I think is some far off quacking, but I can’t tell because of all the poultry at my heels. I took off towards the creek, and there were my ducks, all eight of them. Hoopla! Hoopla! I got downstream of them and herded them up to the compound. They went right in, and the next day they went into my freezer.
    I got a paper bag full of feathers, and a paper bag full of down.
    The chooks and khakis campbell ducks are mostly for eggs. When I butcher my last two bourbon red turks, I am done with turks. Male behavior is horrid. He put the hen’s eye out, then scalped one of my sweet laying chooks so that I had to butcher her. Duck, goose, and rabbit are our favorite small meat animals. Enjoy. They teach you something new at every turn.

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