Friday, January 29, 2016

New Lambs!

When I went out to feed this morning one of the big ewes was missing. They are always standing at the fence waiting for their flake of alfalfa. Their pen opens into the neighbors field, so after throwing out the hay I walked next door. I found her a little ways out into the pasture laying with a lamb on each side of her. All cleaned up and spotless, and mommy was very alert to them. I was worried about these big ewes, because they were bottle babies. Their own mothers rejected them, and they say that lack of instinct can be passed on to the next generation. She loves her babies! And she CAN count to two! If one gets out of sight she checks for BOTH lambs. what a great start to the lambing season. One female and one male. They were sired by our Shetland ram (Eddie).

 Eddie took up standing guard.

 All the other sheep were curious about them, and had to give them a sniffing.

"Where did they come from?" At least that's what it looked like she was asking me, after checking them out.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Random Pictures

We have had a nice break in our weather. We had quite a bit of rain, and its finally starting to dry up before the next storm moves in. So I took a wander around with the camera yesterday.

 Sugar and Eddie standing behind him.

 Mugsy at her perching spot.

 A woolly feeding frenzy.

 Goat feeding time.

 Maxwell eating with his goats.

 I've started noticing some interesting mushrooms coming up in our pasture the last couple of years.

 I like these yellow ones. My battery died on the camera, so I had to pluck it out of the pasture for a later picture.

 These ones grow on an rotting board.

 This is growing on our mulberry tree in the front yard.

 Recuperating bunny. Had some tummy trouble. She liked to dump her water as you can see.

And the princess, Vicky, in her blankets.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tattooing It Up

Not myself! 
I would never get a tattoo, but when it comes to identifying the animals it is often a necessity. Since the rabbit raising adventure has been going well, the time has come to start tattooing some of these buns. Actually their ears.
When I was a kid and we had to tattoo rabbits using a clamp tattooer for shows (which was only a small amount) I absolutely hated it. Then one day we tattooed a rabbit and it jumped. They always jumped, it was a sudden shock of pain. I had it wrapped tightly in a towel and my mom was the one who stamped the old fashion clamp tattooer on the rabbits ear and the rabbit jumped out of my arms and to the floor, over extending its back in mid air. It could no longer walk. Only drag its back legs. I was so upset. I cried and begged my mom to call my 4-H leader. Thinking that somehow my leader could make things better. What a mistake that was. My leader told my mom to make the rabbit comfortable and that there was a small possibility that the rabbit had swelling in its spine and that after the swelling went away that it could regain use of its back legs. That didn't happen, the rabbit could no longer go to the bathroom, had to be put down. I was so upset thoughts flashed through my mind of getting rid of the rabbits, because I never wanted to tattoo a rabbit again.
Then I went to my next rabbit 4-H meeting. I think it was only days after this event, so I was still very sensitive about what happened. When I got there I soon found out that my 4-H leader was going to be giving a tattoo to one of the kids rabbit in the group. I broke out in a panic. I didn't want to see this happen and I didn't want to be there. I thought that was bad enough. Then my leader stood before all the kids and told them "When tattooing a rabbit, you want to hold it securely, but NOT TO SQUEEZE IT TIGHT. You could break its back if you do. Kim just made this mistake and broke one of her rabbits back." I did my best to hide my tears. I couldn't believe that she just said that to the whole group, in front of me, and it was a lie. It made me feel absolutely terrible as if I didn't already feel bad enough. Looking back I still don't know why she did that. But I never tattooed a rabbit again.
So that's why when I bought my Rex buck that I (very uncomfortably) let the girl tattoo it for me. I was so nervous that it would break its back, but I new that I needed to get over this fear. She pulled out her tattoo set and it was an Inkinator (an electric tattoo pen). That made me a little more comfortable. I had heard that they were a lot easier on the rabbits. I told her I had a rabbit break its back before when tattooing and she said "It was a clamp, right?" Yes "These are so much easier." She proceed to tattoo him and he only squirmed a little. She was having issues with her pen being clogged, so it took a while, but in the end I was happy, because his back was still intact. Yay!
Since we started raising the rabbits, they have produced a total of 57 live bunnies. I just figured that out the other night, when filling out some record keeping forms I got for free off . But 30 of those bunnies are under 8 weeks old right now.  As I said in my last post 6 went in our freezer, and I have cooked 2 so far. My dad says he doesn't want to eat bunny. I'm wondering if he is ever going to be broke of that. I really like the rabbit meat, and so does my mom. Tastes just like chicken! I have been selling the other bunnies, mostly all females, to pay for their feed and shaving and such. It's working out great. I would rather butcher the males than the females, but basically what doesn't sell will end up in the freezer.
With our numbers growing, and I have a couple pairs of does that look alike I needed to tattoo them, so I won't get them mixed up. On the rabbit group I belong to, several people have mentioned a electric tattoo pen called a KBtatts . I looked it up and at $40.00 INCLUDING the shipping, that is a LOT cheaper than an Inkinator at $100.00 plus shipping. Everyone that had ordered one said they loved it. I have also heard of another brand that is mid range in price, but have heard that it was a horrible waste of money, because everyone that buys one ends up turning around and buying an Inkinator. So I used some of the bunny sales money to place an order for the KBtatts pen, a replacement needle (gonna need one of those, so might as well order one now), the extra ink wells, both black and green ink (because I will probably be using it to tattoo LaMancha goat tails in the future, and green ink shows on colored skin), a skin marking pen, cleaning brush kit, and the KBtatts Bunny Balm. Then I bought some stuff I had also read about called Gigi spray from Sally Beauty Supply. Its a skin penetrating numbing spray sold for waxing. Some people spray this on the ear 4 minutes before tattooing. Makes me feel a little better. 
So today I got up my gumption, gathered my supplies, wrapped a rabbit in a towel, and gave it a try.
Here is how it looks.
Not to bad for a shaky first try, if I do say so myself.
She sat on my lap soundly and only fidgeted a couple of times and I think that is because they don't like the vibration of the tattooer. Then I did 6 more rabbits.
For anyone that is wanting to order their own my advise would be to leave off the cleaning brush kit, their bristles are falling out and a pipe cleaner would work just as well. Extra ink wells aren't a necessity. It comes with 2 and you can clean them out with rubbing alcohol, but if you don't want to bother with that, they don't cost much. 

I also made some cage tags out of Sculpey Clay. I got a little carried away with decorating them. Then got tired and just made little colored balls matching the color(s) of the rabbit. Now I need to glaze them and figure out some little wire hangers for them., so I can just hook them on the cage and move them easily if I move the rabbit.
Here they are ready to go in the oven.


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Hopper Soup

I finally got around to cooking some rabbit. I decided to make soup in the crock pot. It wasn't any special recipe, I just used what we had on hand. It turned out very good, and tasted just like chicken.

Here is how how I made it.

1 rabbit cut into large piece (4 legs and the back cut into 3 pieces)
1 medium onion, diced
Approx. 5 stalks celery, chopped
Approx. 8 smallish carrots, chopped
2 beets, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
water to cover
salt to taste
2 bay leaves
a few dashes dried thyme
a few dashes dried parsley

Reserve for after soup is cooked:
cooked rice

I tossed all the ingredients into the crock pot except the rice. I actually started this in the evening, so I turned it down to warm before going to bed and then back up during the day. picked all the bones out of the meat, and returned the meat to the pot. Then put some of the cooked rice into each bowl before adding the soup. I didn't put the rice into the main pot of soup, because I didn't want the leftovers to turn into a gluppy mess. The broth turned out very rich and tasty. There ended up being even more meat than I expected and the bones were very fine. I was careful to pick all the bones out, but still managed to miss some. We ate carefully. But anytime my mom makes chicken soup, we usually end up with some bones in that too.


Sunday, December 20, 2015


I never got around to taking pictures of all the baby goats that were born this Fall. Then when they were about 3 weeks - a month old I walked out the door and saw something black out in the back of the neighbors pasture. I walked across the road and all the way out to the back field to discover vultures eating one of the baby goats. My favorite one. He was sooooo sweet and easy going. He would often sleep out in the field while the other goats would come up for hay or water, and I would walk out and bring him up. He would look at me like "What? I had a nice, cozy, warm spot here in the grass." I couldn't tell anything from his body what had happened. The head had been eaten and the neck was gone, but the body hadn't been touched. I would have thought that a coyote or fox would have gotten him from the back end leaving teeth marks, and would have eaten him. I talked to my mom about the vultures. Could they have killed him? She said they only eat dead animals. Well what are they supposed to eat when nothing dies? They still have to eat. We were thinking that maybe there had been something wrong with him and we just took him for a really relaxed goat. Maybe he just died out in the field and the vultures were cleaning him up. 

I think it was two days later that I looked out at the goats in the morning when I took the dogs out and I could see Daisy's twins nursing on her. I went in and took a shower. Then my mom told me she could only see 3 baby goats across the road. There should be 5! Again I walked out to the back of the field to find vultures eating Daisy's daughter. I had just seen her earlier. One of the other goat kids was missing. I went home and got my mom. We walked all over till we found a leg from the missing goat kid. That's all we found from it. We looked over Daisy's dead daughter. There were marks on the neck leading us to believe that a coyote got her. But if so, why did it leave her body?

So down to three goat kids, we penned all the goats up in the front pasture. They are right by the neighbors house. We haven't lost any since. What ever it was Daisy's son barely escaped it. He was looking rather sad after his sister was killed, so I caught him and looked him over. His thick fur was hiding scabs down his back. When I was working on the fence to lock them in the front, I talked to the guy that raises livestock on the neighbors property next door. He said they had been loosing animals. He thought it was a coyote, but hadn't seen it. His dad actually waited out there at night to try and get it, but never saw anything.  He said it even took a 2 month old goat kid or lamb I can't remember which. 

While writing this post I decided to do a quick google search for "vultures kill baby goat". As it turns out, vultures DO kill baby goats and lambs and whatever small "smallish" animals they can find when there aren't dead animals laying around for them to eat. My mom had let the goats loose a few days ago in the middle of the day, during what we figure is the safest time to do a little grazing. She said that as soon as the goats got out to the back pasture a swarm of crows flew up and acted like they were attacking our goats. Apparently crows will kill baby goats too according to what I read online. So what are we supposed to do? Put a net over the whole field... They have Snooki the cow over there with them and she has always done a super job of keeping them safe up until this point. She had stopped grazing with them, laying around lazy since the grass was dying back. During the Summer my mom had seen someones dog get out there with the goats and Snooki took off after that dog till it escaped to its owner on the safe side of the fence. I guess she was going to stomp it. Hopefully that was a lesson learned by the owner of the dog!

The last 2 litters of bunnies that were born reached 4 weeks old. They were sooo cute. They made a little tunnel between their pens (they were in neighboring pens). They would run back and forth playing and climbing on each others mothers and aunty. Then the stupid rats came back and got 2 bunnies in their hole. It was too small for their mothers to get into, so I think that's how the rats were able to get the babies without being attacked by the mothers. It of course had to kill our only chocolate bunny. So all the holes are closed off now. We have since had several litters of kits born. 5 live litters actually. That are doing quite well. One of my does I was waiting to have her first litter and I was soooo excited waiting in anticipation for how many she would have. She is my biggest doe. The day came and she had one great big kit. I was out there when she had it. Unfortunately it was dead. 4-5 days later I went out to check everyone in the morning and there laying in the front of her pen was a giant, kinda-furry, chewed up dead kit. She's doing perfectly fine. I don't know how that came out of her. She needs to be rebred. Hopefully things will go better for her the next time around, and she will have a normal size litter. Another doe I named Sparrow had 9 kits! She is one of the smallest does. I couldn't believe it when I started counting her babies and I kept pulling more and more babies out of the nest as I counted. She is an excellent mother, but just didn't have enough milk for all those kits. So it was Dottie to the rescue! Sweet Dottie. It was her first time having babies and she had 3 toads (What you've never heard of a rabbit giving birth to toads before?). After the 2 smallest of Sparrows litter started shriveling up I tried catching Dottie to try nursing them on her. She ran into her nest when I tried catching her, so I just gently tossed the kits in underneath her (her nest is in the back of a dog house). All the babies nursed, and when she came out I checked them and they had nice round bellies. There is a major size difference and color difference between her own children and the fosters, but Dottie doesn't care. She's as good as gold.
Our total of kits in the nest right now is 30 from 5 does.

I butchered 5 more rabbits (all bucks).

I had watched a couple video's on Youtube from the Salatins farm demonstrating rabbit butchering, and it was extremely helpful. Saved me a lot of time. I set up a pan of warm water to rinse my hands and knife off in while working, with a couple old towels next to it. Set my knives next to that with the pruners to clip off feet. I did all the butchering, but when I finished each one, I brought it in for my mom to rinse and cut up and bag, since I had a limited amount of daylight. I started at noon and was done at 5 P.M. The last one I did in 30 minutes. After I butchered each rabbit I would dump my pan of water to the avocado tree and refill it with more warm water, before starting on the next. Not only did this help keep my hand clean, but also warm, since the weather was cold. When I came in my mom said "They are so much easier to cut up than chickens!" I said "Yah, and their gut don't stink anything near as bad as poultry!." As far as butchering goes I think we are pretty well sold on rabbits. Now we need to eat them. We have 6 waiting in the freezer, but my dad is freaked out at the thought of eating a cute bunny. He pulls up weeds from around the yard to feed to the rabbits all the time, and lets it be known that they are to cute to eat. But he did come home from work recently with a web address for a rabbit recipe he heard on the radio. He gave me a paper with the address to look it up. He wrote that it was for "blazed rabbit in tears" I went to the website and it was for "braised rabbit with pears" . Oh did my mom and I laugh! So we might have to make him some blazed rabbit in tears!

I think the rabbits were 17 weeks when I butchered them. Most people butcher younger, but the way I see it is the bigger you let them grow, the more meat you are getting from each life. Plus the older they are the nicer the pelts. I didn't weigh them before butchering, but I did after. The smallest rabbit weighed about 2 1/2 lbs. The largest was about 3 1/3 lbs., and all the others were right around 3 lbs. So we were happy with the turn out. I let the rabbits eat as much as they want and found that they have a huge amount of fat on them. Especially compared to the pictures of peoples butchered rabbits I have seen online. Although they also had a lot more meat than the size that a lot of people butcher at. There is something called "rabbit starvation". I learned about this before I ever decided to get the rabbits. Its because rabbits tend to be so lean that, if its a persons only source of protein that they can actually starve to death from lack of fat in their diet. This is why it is good to also have pigs, and cook the rabbit with lard. For this reason I decided to leave as much of the fat as possible on each rabbit this time. I know I said in the last post that I removed the fat from that rabbit (I have heard its a little bitter), but that rabbit had an enormous amount on its back. I have since seen that some people actually render the fat from their rabbits. So I guess it depends on each persons taste.
So hopefully next time I post, I'll actually have a couple good rabbit recipes.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

From Bunny To Dinner Table

I'll start out showing the cute adorable bunny pictures.

I couldn't just pick one of those pictures. They are just so adorable!

The little doe above is a keeper I named Bliss. I love her color, this really wasn't a good picture of her, but its all I have. You can see both a orangey color and a blue color on her. Both colors are layered on each hair, It depends on how the light is hitting her on which color you see. She reminds me of a two tone painted car.

Today I finally butchered a rabbit for the first time. I couldn't be happier. It went really well. I used a pellet gun, and the rabbit had an instant death. I was so relieved. Then I had the project of skinning, gutting, washing, and cutting up. It took me quite a long time, but I know I will get faster, and better with practice.  So here is my finished product.

I have been selling as many of the babies as possible to pay for their feed and he was one that didn't sell. I kept putting off butchering him, but I knew I needed to get it done and over with. The weather has turned cooler, so it was just perfect. That was an issue I was worried about, butchering with lots of flies around. He was an adult and the smallest of all the males, so I really didn't think that I would get hardly any meat from him. I was surprised at how much meat he produced. In fact I cut a huge amount of fat off of him. I guess I fed him a tad to much. I have read that rabbit fat is kinda bitter, so I gave it to the cat and dog that were hanging around.
Now I have about 5 more young bucks to do. Anyone want to help?  ; )

I should also mention that in my last post I talked about the comfrey starts I bought, and that none had come up. Well as soon as it started raining (over 3 weeks after planting), they started popping up. So far there are 5 or 6, so that's pretty good. If I had to buy them locally they would have cost $5 a plant. I think it turned out to be a good deal. Since it only takes a tiny piece of root to start a comfrey plant, I decided that I am going to dig up my plant that is in a bad place in my garden and divide up its roots to start a bunch of plants from it come Spring. I think anyways, I still have to look up what is the best time of year to do that. I looked in all our garden books and couldn't find anything. Hopefully I will get a nice big patch of it going. Comfrey is supposed to be a very good high protein bunny feed, and they sure do love it.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Goodbye Summer

More like good riddance. I'm so glad Summer is over (for the most part anyways). I can't stand the heat anymore, it just makes me feel sick. I started out Summer by slicing my hand with a very sharp, dirty pair of hoof shears. It was a bad judgement call when a doeling started kicking her leg. With the little steri-strips the clinic gave me to hold the wound shut, I was kinda useless for a while, as if I used my hand for anything it would pop the strips off. I have been blessed that I hadn't had a wound like that, since a rabbit bite the end of my finger when I was around 3 years old. I did discover that large amounts of Ester-C worked great to keep my hand from hurting.

I wasn't going to have any baby bunnies in the Summer, because of the heat. Then I remembered "Duh, the does have nice cool holes they can kindle in.". So three litters it was. One doe kindled as expected in her hole, doe # 2 decided to use her house (because she was never able to dig a tunnel off of it, because the dirt is too hard in her pen.), and that resulted in a couple lost kits. One kit got lost when it blindly crawled off on a hot day. I think an animal got it. I had to put a second one down that got abscesses. So that left 4 kits in the second litter which were doing great. Then when they were about 3 weeks old my mom stopped putting food in the chickens feeders in the back of our orchard, because of rats. The chickens of course had feeders that she was feeding them with up at the front. Well this I guess caused all the rats to come up to the backyard and they ate the face off of one of the kits, and attacked a second that survived from litter # 2. I am so disgusted with rats and the things I have seen them do to animals over the years. I don't know how anyone can keep them for pets! They will eat your bunnies face off!

There was also litter # 3 by a doe I named Gypsy. I picked that name for her, because she was the one that ran loose at her previous owners place, and would return to feed her children at night. She had a nice hole and at kindling time spread a bunch of hair around her pen. I checked her hole, no babies. She filled in the entrance, they do that, but she was digging a tunnel in the other direction. She had milk, but no babies to be found. So after 2 weeks I had assumed she had a false pregnancy. I put her in with the buck for another go around. I thought it was strange that her milk hadn't dried up. I think it was only a few days later that baby bunnies appeared in her pen! 

Oh no! They were darling, but their mother was just re-bred, so I made sure to bump up her nutrition. I took the kits away a week before she was due and she's done just fine. She has some of the prettiest babies: castor, blue, blue otter, lilac, lilac otter, and lynx.

The garden didn't get planted till REALLY late. I can't remember if it was mid or the end of June when my mom planted it. We moved the garden area up to what was the main chicken area. As soon as the plants got past the shock of transplant they took off. Thanks to all that chicken manure. But unfortunately she had to replant many plants and seeds. The rats and ground squirrels think she planted everything for them. They ate off entire rows of beans as they emerged, and ate all the cabbage plants I started. She had to plant the beans 3 times. I guess third times the charm. We sure enjoyed the Provider beans while they lasted. My dad and I never tire of them. Just cook them with a little bacon and oh they are so good. That used up all our bean seed planting 3 times in one year. I had gotten Boyd Craven JR.'s books Backyard Meat Rabbits, and Beyond The Pellet: Feeding Rabbits Naturally for my birthday. He wrote about a heirloom seed company called Everwilde that sells none GMO seed, and have really good pricing. So I checked them out. They carried Provider seeds. Yay! And extremely cheap. I was concerned about the possibility of them selling seeds with chemical treatments on them, like I have received from some other places in the past. So I contacted them to ask. They responded that they only carried a few different types of seeds that come with the treatment on them, with a list of which seeds it was. Luckily it wasn't anything I wanted to order. So I placed my order and when my package arrived I couldn't have been happier. All their seeds are sealed in gold colored plastic packages that can be resealed with a ziplock type closure. I read that someone after getting dirty planting, put their pants in the wash forgetting they had put a packet of seeds in their pocket, and when they pulled them out of the washer the seeds were unharmed. I think that's a pretty good seed pack. Especially when its at no extra cost. Plus the seeds are supposed to last a lot longer in these packets vs. being stored in paper packets. We shall see.

I already have some comfrey growing in my garden, but it doesn't do a whole lot, because of where its planted. I want to grow a plot of it, so I can feed it to the rabbits. I have seen an advertisement running for years for comfrey root cuttings, so I used some of the money from bunny sales to place an order. I actually didn't even know if it was the time of the year to start their roots, and for once in my life I didn't feel like looking it up. I figured it wasn't the right time, I wouldn't be receiving them for a while. Not even two weeks after mailing in the order my little bundle of root snippets arrived. I followed the instructions they came with, and planted them in 4" pots, because I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on them, till they become a good size plant to put in the ground. The instructions said that they will start to emerge in about 2 weeks. Its been 3 1/2 weeks and I haven't seen anything yet. I'm not giving up. If they don't do anything I'll order some from someone off e-bay. There are a lot on there and they are better deals. 

The first day of June my mom and I had to drag all our stinky bucks home from our neighbors pasture. They had begun to come into rut and the does were coming into heat, including 2 month old doelings. What is wrong with these animals? Don't they know what time of year it is?! Their breeding cycle obviously doesn't have anything to do with day length. Just like they still don't know how pigeons know how to fly home. So over the past week our goats have been delivering kids. It started with a 7 month old doeling turning up with her own little doeling she delivered all by herself. Then my moms 8 month old doeling delivered a great big white buckling again unassisted. A 7 month old doeling had a set of twin girls. She had them after dark, so I helped dry them. They were fine the next morning when I checked them, but something happened later in the day. The mother took one a long way out into the field and it was laying their injured. I brought her home but she died. We think she got stepped on, and was bleeding internally. The mother wouldn't stay with the other kid. She was HUNGRY after getting 2 kids out of her, and just not mature enough. We brought the surviving kid home. She could have cared less. That changed the next morning when she woke up with a swollen udder. We brought her home,set her up in a dog pen, and gave her daughter back which she gladly accepted. Our mature doe Daisy had great big white twins, again unassisted. 1 doeling with LaMancha ears, and a buckling with big floppy ears and a big Boer head. That completed our out of season - kidding season. Or so I thought..... Since writing that earlier I went to check our goats for the evening to discover our doe Violet in labor! We didn't even know she was pregnant. She had a great big chocolate colored doeling. So who knows if the goats are done kidding, and to think this is going to start all over in March.