Our First Egg!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Fall ARBA Show-Reno Results

We took our French Angora rabbits to the Reno Fall show in Cold Springs for our Reno Rabbits 4-H Club. We entered 5 rabbits in the double ARBA open and my son entered showmanship.

Showmanship is the portion of the show where 4-H youth demonstrate their knowledge of a rabbits health & care to a judge. The kids are judged on rabbit health knowledge and rabbit breed trivia. They must do a complicated demonstration with the rabbit, showing the judge that the rabbit is healthy & demonstrating what health concerns they are checking for and why it matters.

My son had not done showmanship in several months, but his 4-H mentor, Lydia, showed him a few new tricks and he managed to earn first place in Junior class. This was his first time as a Junior, as opposed to Novice class. He was nervous, but did excellent.
Evan and Jett, although he did showmanship with Bunnicula, a red-eyed white FA

Our rabbits did well also. We took Boone-a chinchilla-colored buck that is new to us-and he won first place on body & wool type/density, although his coat was short at the time. Halloween (for sale) earned a leg for Best of Variety in show A.
Halloween (ENS13-For Sale) wins a BOV leg

Overall we had a very successful, if long, day! Can't complain.

Back from Hiatus-Getting ready for the Fall Show-Preparing for Winter

Our family took a much needed hiatus from rabbits, chickens, showing, selling, breeding, and gardening for a few months. We have had a series of "unfortunate events" befall us, are undergoing some major life-changing decisions, as well as needing some time to enjoy the last of summer. But, we are back! And resilient....We missed several important events that would have gotten our name out there this Fall.

My NEW small side garden performed well this year. We got a havrvest of many fruits, berries, eggs, greens, vegetables, squashes, and a pumpkin! 

We lost a rabbit to an injury earlier this year, skinned him, and tanned the hide. We hope to do a post about this in the near future. We are also going to butcher a pinched-hindquarters buck, and tan him as well, and will get lost of pics and provide info about the process. 
Pudge's pelt in progress 

We are beginning to prepare for winter, a project that includes providing supplementary light for the hens, building up the compost in the coops and runs for winter, raking leaves into our garden beds to provide cover for perinneals and fodder for our soil organisms, prepping our rabbit cages for cold weather (tarps on hand, rain covers on at all times), & covering the outdoor bed. We tend not to stock up on food much, but buy more often so more is on hand. We also must get our heated waterers running for the livestock.

We have announcements in our chicken project area as well. Our banty cochin hens have successfully reproduced! We have several little chicks being raised in our small coop. Super easy too. We also learned how to butcher roosters this Fall. They tasted amazing.
Roost view of hatching in progress

We are preparing for the Cold Springs school ARBA show the 12th of November. Here are some of
our buns that are going:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

How to Easily Can & Use "REAL" Fruit in Jams : using those small fruits & large stone fruits that grow in your yard!

So, this is a post about what I learned from a veteran canner of 45 years, my mom. In addition to showing me how to use "real" fruits, she showed me how to can & seal jars without a water bath or boiling, the easy way. Every single jar canned & sealed for me the first time, without getting out the ol' pressure cooker. Here is a little of her wisdom.

Select your fruit & recipe:

You want fruit to be RIPE, even slightly bruised is OK. Almost falling apart because it is so ripe - if NOT rotten or fermenting - is great! Pick it on the day of canning, or store it overnight at room temp to use in am, or in fridge for a couple days to use later. You DO NOT have to pit the fruit first, if the pits are not free-stone and easy to remove. You can par-boil the fruit with the sugar, and run it through a sieve colander with a "reamer" (? I am just making up a name for this colander-like apparatus) before getting down to actually making jam.

We used small plums for this post, from a tree that is about 60 years old. They may be similar to European blue damson plums. Our variety is Early Golden Plums, I believe, although the name is lost to history. They ripen in early July locally. You could also use small tart cherries, such as Montmorency easily, or other small fruits with large stones.


A colander sieve & wooden reamer with stand (important)

Stand, sieve colander, wooden reamer (filled with jam)

A few large bowls
Stainless steel pot or Teflon-coated (make sure isn't coming off), large enough for boiling all ingredients
Flat-bottomed spatula, long stirring spoon
Jar funnel
Jar funnel for canning (important)
Lg. baking sheet
Jars & new lids if used already
Towels for covering jars, at least a couple medium bath towels, if using kitchen towels I double or triple the amount for top & bottom (discussed later)
Canning jar lifter (handy, but can use hot pad)
Ove-Glove high-heat wearable pot holder, or just regular pot holders
Dedicated clean wash cloth for washing jar rims only
Kitchen scale that goes up to at least 4lbs (small batch jam to start with)
A recipe you like! Don't just think about sweet jams, we also made a savory Asian Plum Sauce Jam that was amazing! If this is your first or hundredth time making jam a recipe that someone else has made that actually jelled is key. You can tinker with it but a starting point is crucial.
Pectin if using and ingredients for jam.

Pre-Jam Chores:

Wash your fruit and all instruments you will use in canning, including all the tools above. Alternatively you can run them in dishwasher while picking fruit & set to a HOT dry. Wash kitchen counters and stove top.

Ready to simmer when getting close to jam time!

Wash & sterilize your canning jars (small for jams), even if brand new. If you have used your jar lids before, save them for freezer jam purposes. You need fresh lids to can. Set aside in a pan of water the lids and jar rings, these will be for simmering on stove top for when jam is ready to can.

Set your oven to between 250-275 degrees, and place a clean, washed, large cookie sheet in the middle of the oven. This will be for your sterilized jars. Place DRY jam jars into oven on the sheet, being careful that you have enough room to grab them (not too close to element) or for them to explode (if too hot). This will keep your jars hot enough that it will be LIKE a water-bath, and avoid that step.

Set up a dedicated canning area that your jars will cool on: must be lined with a bath towel or two kitchen towels on bottom - HOT jars placed here to cool & seal, then will be covered by two to three kitchen towels or bath towel on top to seal out drafts & cold air overnight (plan on not having this area disturbed).

Place all tools needed close at hand. Plan an activity to keep kids busy or if helping make sure you have something as backup. If you burn the jam while paying attention to something else, it is tragic & heartbreaking after all the work picking & sanitizing.

Jars in oven ready to fill when time! Oven at 260 degrees

Let's Jam!

Juice, fruit, & stones ready to ream!
Place all fruit and the amount of sugar called for into the stainless steel pot. Measure fruit in lbs, adding some extra to account for the stones (if small cherries or plums they are 1/3 to 1/2 stones, so add another lb or two of fruit to recipe. You can adjust sweetness later. Most recipes I use call for around 4lbs of fruit. You can also add more than one type of fruit together, just cut up all larger fruits to the same size as the small ones. One batch I made with small plums and large pluots.

Place pan on stove on medium to medium high. Bring to boil, check that skins slide off easily with your spoon. If they do, then remove pan & place into sink to begin removing skins and stones. Place sieve colander on stand over a large bowl. Ladle it 2/3 full of fruit/juice. Begin reaming with a circular motion, be mindful that when you slosh over edge stones end up in jam. Ream as necessary, adding in more fruit as you go. It is easier to ream & remove all flesh from stones when sieve is on the fuller side I found. You do not need to remove stones or skins, just add more until all juice & fruit has been reamed. Transfer the juice back into the pot, return to stove on medium & bring back to a boil. Add in lemon (tart citrus to kill botulism spores; read about on northwest edibles blog or internet or canning book), pectin if using, other stuff you are using. Bring to a boil, but NOT on high! Medium is high enough. Stir every few minutes, careful to touch bottom to pull off anything that is sticking. Do not adjust sugar yet.

After removing stones from skins, this is
added back into jam on stove to cook
Now you have a choice: do you want the skins back in the jam, or not? I like to add the skins, they have lots of flavor and sweetness. If you do, then you must let the skins cool a little, then untangle them from the stones in your sieve colander. It is not very complicated, takes very little time, but is hands-on and kinda messy. When/if you add them back to jam, you may want to use an immersion blender to grind them finer. This is why care must be used to not have stones in the jam, as some blenders are high-powered enough to cut pits into small chunks that are going to be in your jam unless you strain it again later (pain in the butt!). So take care. Maybe on your first-ever batch of jam or jelly, you don't use the skins. Who knows.

After immersion blending skins into jam
Once you have come to either putting skins back in or not, you need to adjust the sugar in your jelly (without skin or chunks) or jam (with skin and/or chunks) after it has cooked for awhile & boiled away some of the water. Sugar and pectin help it jell quicker, but make sure it is a sweetness that you like. Real sugar is key to jelling and avoiding botulism. There are numerous books and posts about botulism and jam, so read some!

Hard to get pic, but
notice bubbles along
top of jar edge
Ok so once you have cooked your jam awhile, say 30 minutes, test for done-ness by the way it sheets on an ice-cold spoon (from cup of ice & water). Again, there is a wealth of information about this that I am not going to cover here. Make sure your jar lids and rings are simmering.

Don wearable hot pads or get hot pads ready: Take a jar from the oven, top with canning funnel, and ladle jam into jar. If it is not boiling, it will be when it touches the jar edge. Look for the bubbles along jar edge! If it is not boiling around edges, then raise heat in oven, but mine did at 260 degrees. WIPE DOWN RIM with dedicated wet wash cloth (even if can see no smears of jam) before covering with a lid (grab them out between the tines of a fork), then finger-tight screw jar lid on. Turn upside-down for about 2-3 seconds while carring over to the cooling towel, then turn upright and listen for escaping air. It will be obvious when/if it ever happens. Place upright on towel, making sure not to touch any previous jars directly (but snuggled up close is great), and cover with towels to make sure no drafts. Lift & replace towels as necessary. When all done, make sure sides & top covered well. You can sometimes hear them POP when sealing. This is normal. Not hearing it is normal too.

All wrapped up ready to seal overnight
Warn everyone not to peek or disturb, with threat of violence if necessary (just kidding.....sort of). Leave overnight. In am, the lids will be sealed: check by pushing center with finger, if any move/pop then place in fridge or freezer and use first. Label them with date and description. Unscrew rings to just barely tight or remove totally as that will ruin the seal over time.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Pumpkin and winchester's litter, ready for new homes!

This litter should make excellent show rabbits! And be great for wool production! Sire is a Grand Champion (three "leg" awards at rabbit shows for Best of Breed), dam has one leg (award) : Best Opposite of Breed - but is rarely shown (never seems to be "in coat" at the right time for the show).

We had two go home a couple weeks ago.  Now we have three does and three bucks to offer.  They are blue tort,  fawn,  and black. Let us know if you would like more information! 100.00 each. Wool is over 3" long already. Great for homesteading, meat, wool, pet, show!

Jett: black buck

Another view of Jett

Carmel: fawn doe

Carmel from the side
Halloween: Tort buck

Ginger: blue tort doe

Ginger: top coat view

Cornflake: fawn doe

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Kit update, rabbits in the heat of summer

Kit update:
Out of Pumpkin and Winchester's first litter together, 6 juniors are left. We have 3 does and 3 bucks. We have not noticed any disqualifications (no white toenails, no "less energetic" ears, good colors) for showing any of these buns. We have been a little lazy in putting them up "for sale," as we are in a vacation mindset right now.

We had a very nice family contact us from California and purchase our ermine buck and a black buck, Winter and Cedric, before we even listed them for sale.

Also, we had a BIG exciting thing happen, we brought home a very nice senior chinchilla-colored FA buck, a little over a year old, named BOONE. He is very special and beautiful. We hope to enter him into a show this fall, then breed him to a doe to get more chinchillas. I have a personal liking to the chinchilla color in angoras. It has a nice salt n pepper look to the guard hairs that I find appealing. Boone is a real sweetheart, and we were so glad to get him!

Rabbits in the heat:
We will be listing our rabbits, and posting updated pictures and information about each junior in about a week. We should probably also update the status of our senior FA: they are all shaved or plucked! Not a good time to take pictures. We decided we are done showing until fall, so they can be sufficiently in coat for the late fall/winter shows. Until then, we plan to keep the wool very cropped, so the heat is less of an issue for them. We plucked or cut all the wool off earlier this month.

We rigged up a fan and misting system in the trees near the rabbit hutches which keeps/kept them cool enough up until about 93-94 degrees. If you plan to install your own misting system for FA, then keep in mind that you want the mist to be a "heat barrier curtain" without getting them or cages wet! Otherwise you will have a wet, matted, dirty bunny in less than a day! That is about the only wool I would throw out or use only for nest boxes.

A fan is helpful, just keep it under the eaves and up near roof, pointing down, to protect from sprinklers and rain/hail storms.

Deep shade, misting, and fan systems are a must if you plan to leave your buns out in hot weather, and probably pull them in anytime it reaches over 92 degrees, as they will die from heat stroke. We are able to make it to about 93-94 degrees without pulling them inside, due to misting/fan/deep shade. I think I would define deep shade as shade that is truly never dappled with sunlight, is deep and cool, and never really sees the light of day. We also have the buns against a tall cinder wall, backed by 5' of dirt and plants, which also retains the cool longer than a wood fence, per say. This also helps keep them cool.

Some people use frozen blocks of ice or gallon water bottles for the rabbits to sit next to, but we had no luck with this. Here is our two cents: the litter pans are filled with gross pee-water at the end of the day, flies are horrible, water bottle and large blocks of ice are completely melted after about 4 hours. So, just really creates lots more work & mess, and doesn't make much of a difference in our opinion.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Pumpkin and Winchester's First Litter, 8 weeks

These kits are 8 weeks old and beautiful! We have three does (2fawn, 1 blue tort) and five bucks (2 black, 1 fawn, 1 tort, 1 ermine). They all have very good crimping to thier first coats and very good balance of guard hairs to wool. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Our First Video~

We uploaded our first video, and although it WAS HD quality, Blogger converted it to a low-pixel mess. Sigh. At least you can see how cute the kits are, under Winchester and Pumpkin's First Litter page >>> to right.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Upcycling Old Mattresses & Box Springs

When we decided to paint our house and remove/redo the front garden path, we also had an old box spring sitting around from our outdoor bed. Yes, we have an outdoor double bed on a shaded & covered deck, complete with fan. It's a must, really!

We didn't want to pay to dump it at the time, so I decided to experiment & I stripped it apart. It was/is a really old box spring, from the time when they actually contained springs! We stripped the cloth cover off, detached the wooded slatted platform (and left on the double bed as the new box spring of sorts), and removed the connected inner springs. Then we spray painted the inner springs yellow, along with another part that I am fairly vague about what to call. It is sort of a wire trellis sheet thingee.

We hung the new trellises the south-facing wall of our house in the sun. It gets HOT along this wall, and I planted some grape vines along it. The inner spring mattress-turned trellis-gets the leaves & grapes off the wall some, allowing them more space to grow & support. It allows them to not fry in summer. The grape vines will eventually alleviate all the glare from the wall off the other plants below, allowing them not to fry as well. When fully "in leaf" the vines did their job last year, and the plants in the bed below grew HUGE!

We have an experiment next to the inner spring trellis, in which I wired my own trellis (created with wire & hooks) right next to the siding. The grape vine there is significantly smaller in size this year, but was not when it was planted last year. I think the grapes like the additional air space between the wall & plant that the inner spring trellis provides. As you can see, we had no problems with the heat from the wall scorching our plants. You can see the trellis to the right along the wall (more pics soon). In fact, we had to beat a path to the front door at times....

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Growing Citrus in High Desert & Permaculture Remodel of Side Yard

Side Yard Project:
I have been interested in permaculture for a couple years now, and the permaculture methods of soil building, plant companions, and water-scaping drive my every move in my garden. Water-scaping in permaculture seeks to add more moisture into the ground from rain/snow, and involves several techniques to get the water into your soil for storage.

One method of water storage we will be investigating in the coming week is swales. Swales are small trenches made in just the right spot to divert run-off from your sprinklers, rain storms, snow melt, etc. into the ground, and not into your neighbors yard or into the storm drains. We have a side yard that we are building into a raised bed, using some free HUGE cottonwood half-rounds as a retaining wall, and will start project by building swales under the raised bed to make sure water is stored so we can use less drip-system irrigation.

We will cut our sprinkler system off to the side yard zone, and install a washing-machine grey water recycling box that will do the irrigation for us as we wash our clothes. The side yard will be planted with fruit trees & associated forest-garden rings, and vegetables.

Citrus Tree:
We have a small improved Meyer lemon citrus tree that produced about 7-9 lemons for us last year. It is about 1 ft tall x 1ft wide. This year, we hope to get at least that much from our little tree. How do you grow lemons in the high desert? Well, glad you asked!

We repotted our lemon tree into a felt barrel, about 2ftx2ftx2ft in dimensions. We planted it with soil-less potting mix, per the felt barrel instructions. We mixed in lots of rabbit fertilizer, dried leaves, and humus. We put in a little fruit fertilizer & soil biotics as well to get it started growing again quick fast. Then, we positioned the barrel near our outdoor fountain in mostly sun. We planted beans to spill over the sides, as well as a few annuals.

The citrus barrel is positioned next to the house and fountain because they both insulate the citrus from occasional temps below 40' a this time a year. The evaporation off the fountain will also make the citrus grow better in the high desert.

Citrus does best if the temps do not fall below 40' at night, and will die if frozen. We over-winter indoors next to the slider.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The 10 Kits are Here! with pictures....

winchester and pumpkin have a litter of 10 kits! Winchester has 3 legs, Pumpkin has one. Both have good bodies and wool. Both are very dense. More pics of kits & progress notes on the page "Pumpkin & Winchester's First litter" >>>>

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Chicks ** Coming Soon!

So, this year I said I would never get more chicks, only feathered-out pullets. Then, I found a breed that I could only get in chick-form.

Background: We have a coop that isn't working for us in the side yard, was used only temporarily while building big coop/run. It is a "mobile" chicken tractor type coop. We have been trying to sell it to someone who has a big enough yard to accommodate moving it with the large footprint (8x5 ft). We have too many gates.

I can't stand parting with it for 200.00, as we paid twice that. But, no takers on CL. It has a rather small upper deck nesting/coop area that is super easy to clean out, but...not too roomy for roosting.

Thus: we decided to get bantam hens & roo. Now, the lady at the feed store was kinda....skeptical ....about the ability of a bantam to fill a fridge with eggs. However, we are taking a stab at it. They lay from 4-5 eggs/week per hen, that are 1/2-2/3 the size of "normal" eggs. "Normal" eggs have a big variation in size, depending on breed and age of hens.

The Chicken Math: But, you can fit more bantams into tight spaces. They are good for backyard & urban settings, and have a tender meat that is larger than a quail when through laying. We figure at 4 ft/bird outdoor space....we can fit 10 of them into our little coop. IF they were all hens, laying 4-5 eggs/week, that are 1/2 the size of normal eggs, then our little hens would lay the equivalent of 20-25 "normal" eggs per week. That's a lot of eggs!
Dark Brahma Bantam roo, hen

Gold Laced Cochin Bantam, hen

Gold Laced Cochin Bantam, roo

Partridge Cochin Bantam, hen

Partridge Cochin Bantam, roo
We can also potentially sell chicks for show/pet/livestock. We ordered some pretty boutique-ish hens, with flashy feathers ^^^ . The Dark Brahma Bantams are not as broody as the Cochins/Pekins, and the Cochins will brood all eggs for us & raise chicks.

Modifications: Our little coop will require a larger roost/coop part, which we will build onto the back, as well as needing one side roofed in, and a large box/raised bed garden on the bottom. That a way, we can do the deep-litter method that is working so well for us in the larger coop.

And I have to brood the damn chicks. Grrrr.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

West Coast Classic show results!

We attended the HUGE West Coast Classic show this weekend. And, I swear I will never do all three days again. Whew! It was exhausting for people AND rabbits. I think in the future one day is enough. I suffer from crowd exhaustion myself, and get pretty snippy at times.  The rabbits were all pretty crabby and stressed on day three.

In terms of goods and booths, it was fun to see the angora booth, with yarn and angora spinners (kicking myself for not getting a photo). Picked up two great books about spinning and caring for Angoras (future post). Evan also bought polymer clay french angoras, and a cage. We are thinking of making these ourselves. We picked up some awesome handmade felted soaps and felted bunnies from Black Diamond Rabbitry. We got to hand out our new business cards.

We sold our sweet bunny, Oyster, to Kelly and Christine from Southern California. We sold Coal and Cinder to Elodie, an amazing mom, spinner, and farmer from the Sacramento area. Sad to see them go, but to great homes! We now are lacking in rabbits to sell...thus...upcoming breeding.

We registered Winchester and Pumpkin with ARBA. Winchester won his third leg, this time as a senior, and he will be a Grand Champion now! Hot Cocoa got two legs, and did well competing against adult long-time breeders in the Angora Specialty Open (consistently came in second). We were surprised by Hot Cocoa, as she has consistently been judged second or third to her litter mates at previous shows. Oyster won his first leg for his new owners! And Baked Potato won first place, almost got a leg, but lost out to dad, Winchester. Both Winchester and Hot Cocoa were purchased from Black Diamond Rabbitry. Oyster and Baked Potato are our rabbits, bred from their stock.

Baked Potato and Black Diamond's Spook being judged

Hot Cocoa and Black Diamond's Heather being judged on shoulder width
Pumpkin (with a very short wool coat) being judged. She is not "in coat" yet.

We mainly lost some points due to the softness of our baby coats on our juniors, although it cannot be said that we did poorly at these shows by any means. Our juniors are not yet balanced out with lots of guard hairs, and some have very few to no guard hairs. I don't find this to be a problem, Winchester has always been cottony, and will soon blow his first coat and start to grow "real" wool, which will be exciting to see. His kits still have two months left competing as juniors to balance out more. Since Winchester is already a Grand Champion, I don't think their future is dim by any means. They take time to grow into real true adult wool coats. The dam of our juniors is well balanced with plenty of guard hairs. Pumpkin, who is just about a year old, is just starting to grow in her first ever adult coat. It just takes awhile. I am excited to see how the remaining juniors grow!
Oyster's show comment card went home with his new Mamas. Baked Potato's not pictured yet.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Our next show: West Coast Classic April 8-10th, 2016 in Reno, Nevada AND Feeding Angoras in Spring

We are going to the West Coast Classic April 8-10th

We are going to bring four junior bucks, one junior doe, and one senior buck. Two junior bucks are FOR SALE.

Pudge will be on-site, but is not entered into competition, as he is not a show buck, but rather a fiber buck, despite his excellent body and wool! He is there to promote his upcoming litter, in which we expect and hope for all very light-colored fiber bunnies (almost pure white). Pudge has one leg, despite his being a DQ for incorrect color.

We plan to bide the time during the long weekend talking to people about ANGORAS, visiting the Northwest Angora Rabbit Association booth (angora fiber contest, garment contest, spinning demos), and spinning on our travelling spinning wheel!  Not to mention that we are entered in 4 different shows, and Evan will do showmanship.

An update on FEEDING your bunnies & chickens in Spring, Summer, and Fall:

We feed the outdoor birds. We love to do so, as they are a very natural method of pest-control in our yard. They also bring beauty and song into your backyard, and are interesting in all seasons. We have 25 regular species that visit our yard in the Winter. The number decreases by the Summer, as some birds move up elevation back into the Sierras.

The natural by-product of feeding the birds is sunflower sprouts under the bird feeders. These used to be pesky little problems to me, and got quite thick. You can do several things with them, however! The first is to eat them yourself.
Organic sunflower sprouts under our bird feeders.
The second is to let the chickens root around under the feeders when free-ranging. And indeed, they will do this themselves without encouragement.

The third, is to pluck the sprouts and feed them to your bunnies. Sunflower seeds are on the list of foods ARBA recommends to "show condition" a rabbit up to two weeks before a show, for coat condition & flesh condition. It contains natural oils. Our little sprouts contain pieces of sunflower seed & shells, as well as the yummy sprouts. They also contain soil microbes and flora, which rabbits are supposed to get in the wild. Just pluck them and knock off most of the dirt. I feed now that they are growing nicely in good healthy clumps.
Clump of sunflower sprouts, leftover seeds, a little soil

Yum! Says Pudge