Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rabbit Breeding Experiment

When we started acquiring stock for the Rabbitry we bought two Flemish Giant does to use in a cross experiment. Although they get very large, Flemish Giants put most of their energy into bone structure before putting much flesh on. This makes them a less than optimal choice for meat production. I hypothesized that by breeding a standard buck to a Giant doe I might be able to achieve a happy medium between size and feed conversion. The first litter of crosses is 18 days old and represented by the grey kit on the left. The brown kit on the right is 20 days old, from the same sire but a standard mom. As you can see although not marked, there is a size difference in the kits. The Flemish mom kindled 7, 2 were dead at or shortly after birth, a third runt died the next day and we were left with 2 nice sized kits (the grey being one of them) and 2 extreme runts which have miraculously survived. The second Flemish doe kindled 14 nice sized kits on the cage floor without having pulled any fur, all were dead by the time we found them. This being the case between the strange assortment of sizes in the first doe and the second does dead litter we have little data so far. The plan is to keep litter size and weaned weigh info on these litters and evaluate the results.

What "out of the box" experiments have you run on your farm?

Here are some great rabbit recipes from Larson Rabbitry

Barbecued Marinated Rabbit
Entertaining on a busy schedule? Prepare this recipe the night before - the longer it sits, the better it tastes! Preparation time, 15 minutes; Marinating time, 3 to 4 hours or overnight; Cooking time, 1.5 to 2 hours. Makes eight servings.
                 heavy duty aluminum foil
                         cooking oil
2                   medium carrots, diced                  2
2                   medium onions, diced                  2
2                   small tomatoes, diced                  2
2                  cloves garlic, crushed                    2
2               whole rabbits (1.25 kg each)           2
                less heart, liver and kidneys
2                   whole cinnamon sticks                 2
125 mL                   dry sherry                             1/2 cup
10 mL                   dried parsley                          2 tsp
5 mL              dried oregano or rosemary        1 tsp
5 mL                        salt                                        1 tsp
                    freshly ground pepper
Prepare foil pouch, big enough to enclose the rabbits, by joining two large sheets of foil together, forming seam. Brush foil with oil. Place prepared vegetables and garlic on foil. Arrange rabbits over vegetables and place cinnamon stick in empty cavity of each rabbit.
In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and pour over rabbits. Close foil pouch tightly to completely seal in marinade, removing most of the air. Refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight.
Place foil pouch on 180°C (350°F) barbecue grill, on the top shelf, or bake in 180°C (350°) oven, for 1 to 1.5 hours (flip over after 45 minutes), or until rabbit is almost cooked. Carefully open foil and lift rabbits onto lightly oiled barbecue grill or oven broiling rack. Brush rabbits lightly on both sides with oil. Cook, turning frequently until evenly grilled or broiled on both sides (about 10 to 15 minutes each side). Remove from grill or oven; discard cinnamon sticks and serve.
*** A store bought marinade can replace spices to make things easier! ***  If using marinade sauce, brush extra sauce onto rabbit after removing from foil to glaze the meat.

 Braised Rabbit with Strawberry Mint Sauce
A refreshing sauce of strawberries and mint provides a delincious contrast to the mild flavor of tender brazed rabbit.  Preparation time, 10 - 20 minutes; Cooking time, 40 minutes. Makes four servings.
25 mL                      butter                    2 tbsp
5 mL                  red wine vinegar                1 tsp
2 mL                   ground cinnamon              1/2 tsp
1 mL                    ground cloves               1/4 tsp
4              legs of rabbit, 2 front, 2 back            4
125 mL                  rabbit stock                1/2 cup
                      or chicken stock
125 mL          dry white wine or apple juice       1/2 cup
500 mL               strawberries, fresh             2 cups
                      or thawed frozen
3 to 4           sprigs of fresh peppermint          3 or 4
                 or 10 mL dried mint (2 tsp)
In a large skillet, over medium high heat, melt butter.  Stir in vinegar, cinnamon and cloves.  Add rabbit pieces and brown lightly on either side, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Add stock and wine or apple juice.  Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook rabbit 30 minutes or until tender.
In blender or food processor fitted with metal blade, process strawberries and mint until smooth.  Remove rabbit from skillet and transfer to serving platter; keep warm.  Drain cooking liquid from skillet and add strawberry puree.  Heat sauce over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes stirring continuously until warm (do not boil.)  Pour sauce over rabbit.  Garnish with strawberry slices and mint. 

Saddle of rabbit in mustard sauce
You will need:
1/2 pound fileted saddle of rabbit
3/4 cup of heavy cream
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
Dredge the meats lightly in a little flour. Saute until browned. Heat cream, mustard, pepper, and garlic in saute pan until boiling. Add the browned rabbit, cook until the rabbit is cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 4 or 5 minutes. Serves two. 

 Boneless Rabbit Stew
1 whole rabbit
ground black pepper
slow cooker or casserole dish
vegetables to taste (celery is good!)

Cut the rabbit into three sections, then cut off all easily removed meat with a knife and then cut this into small (1/2 inch) cubes. Dredge cubes in flour with black pepper and garamasala to taste. Put remaining bones and meat into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes. Put boiled bones through sieve, keeping the stock. Let bones cool. Saute cubes in small amount of vegetable oil until browned. Remove remainder of meat from cooled bones by hand. Put all ingredients (except bones!) into casserole or slow cooker, bring to the boil and then simmer until cooked.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pear Sauce, Grape Juice and other bounties......

I put up pears and grapes last year but they were more of an afterthought than an eagerly anticipated harvest. Our peaches, plums and nectarines did not produce this year due to the weird winter so I have been hanging my hat on the loaded pear trees and grape arbors to make up the majority of our preserves and canned/frozen fruit for this year. Every day I check the pears and eagerly hunt the grape arbors for ripening fruit. Today it was there :)

The first batch of pears are cooking down in the crock pot for pear sauce. When it is done I plan to freeze it in pint jars. I cooked the first grapes down then blended them and hung the wonderful mush to drain for grape juice. Today was not a good day for jelly making due to time constraints so I set the first harvest up for more "set it and forget it" foods. The house smells wonderful between the simmering pears, the dehydrator full of Basil and a batch of oat meal bread I baked today. This is what home is supposed to smell like.


Peal and core pears and load in crock pot. Color preservation aid of choice optional, I have used lemon or fruit fresh to keep sauce from browning.

Some recipes suggest adding any desired spices at the beginning and some recommend adding after you drain and mash your pears. I am going to save my pear juice for future recipes so I will be adding my spices and sweetener at the end.

Add 1- 1 1/2 cups of water to pears and cook down in crock pot on high aprox 6 hours until tender.

Drain pears and mash. Reserved pear juice may be saved for future recipes (pork roast etc)

Add desired sweetener to taste (honey, sugar etc) as well as any desired spices (cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg etc.

Sauce can be put in jars and frozen, used immediately or canned (follow safe canning directions for apple/pear sauce). I freeze in point jars and take a jar out to defrost in fridge as needed.

Oatmeal Honey Bread

2 cups warm water, whole milk or buttermilk (if using milk warm it so it will activate your yeast)

2 tbs active dry yeast

1/4 cut honey

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup rolled oats or other rolled grain ( I use mixed rolled grains to add more oomph)

aprox 5 cups unbleached flour (I am a fan of King Arthur flours)

Mix warm water/milk, honey and yeast and let stand ten minutes (I put this directly in my kitchen aid mixing bowl)

After you have a nice head on your yeast mixture add eggs, oil, salt and oats and start mixing (can be done by hand, I use my mixer with the dough hook from here on for all the mixing).

Start adding flour one cup at a time and continue mixing. When your dough has formed a stiffer ball that wants to hang on your hook it is ready to kneed.

Oil large bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.

Place dough on floured surface and kneed just long enough so it is not sticky anymore and you start to feel an elasticity to the dough as you kneed. Place in oiled bowl, cover with damp towel and place in warm spot to rise for apron an hour or until doubled.

Prepare 2-3 loaf pans then turn your risen dough back out on floured surface and kneed for a minute, divide into equal parts and form. Place in loaf pans and cover with damp towel. Let rise 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Once loaves have risen use serrated knife to slice top before placing in oven. Bake 30 minutes. 

Add butter/honey/jam..... and enjoy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Do you have those projects..........

Do you have those projects that it takes you a while to get to, then when you do they were SO easy you kick yourself for putting them off? I have had all of the stuff to set up the automatic water system in the rabbitry and on the rabbit tractors for WEEKS. Every day when I fill bottles I think, I really need to install the automatic waterers. Between the heat, being busy and flat out procrastination I didn't do it until today. Wouldn't you know, it was SO easy and SO fast, I am still kicking myself for putting it off.

The system I have set up on the tractors and in the rabbitry is a very simply gravity system using a five gallon bucket for the reservoir, tubing, t connectors, these cool gizmos that keep the tubing off the cage so they can't chew it, other cool gizmos the sipper fits into to latch on the cage and the sippers themselves. I bought filtered connectors to go on the buckets but I did not use them I just drilled a hole and put the tubing straight into the bucket like we do for the auto waterers on the chicken tractors. I have not finished installing cages in the rabbitry but have all the pieces to run water to them easily when I hang the cages. I ordered everything but the buckets from:


Here are photos of how it is set up.

The 5 gallon reservoir is sitting on an old ladder and bungied to the corner post for now. This is temporary until we decide how we want it permanently.
The tubing runs across the top of each row with individual feeder lines to each sipper.

This handy gadget holds the sipper on the cage and keeps the tubing out of the reach of sharp teeth.
 One can never rest throwing cute baby bunny pictures in.....

The original love/hate relationship...

This has to be one of the original love/hate relationships. Who among us does not love living close to nature and her many creatures. On the other side of this coin, any of us who have gardens and raise livestock are in a constant battle to keep our gardens and animals safe from them. This lovely mom and her two fawns were grazing two pastures over from our property this morning. She is beautiful, the sight of her twins was a true gift, now if they would stay out of my garden so I can feed my family, we will get along so much better. My rational side reminds me that we have chosen to live in their world, for this land was certainly theirs before it was ours. My homesteading side is really tired of losing hard work and food to them... sigh.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Visits from Murphy...

Do you have those weeks were everything seems to come crashing down, literally! Last week was like that around here. It started a week ago Tuesday when I went to town for a massage, walked out from my appointment and the van would not start. It had been running fine, no problems, no forewarning, just poof! So I called Rick and wonder of wonders he hadn't worked late and was able to come to the rescue pretty quickly. These are the times that marrying a mechanic really pays off, god love him. The diagnosis was that the fuel pump had given up the ghost. Rick preceded to drop the 30 gallon (full) gas tank right there in the gravel parking lot and change out the fuel pump. Now is when I mention that I during this process I managed to kill the battery on lil red while he was fixing the van. Apparently with automatic lights if you get in on the passengers side, turn the key on to roll the windows down then turn the key off the silly lights stay on. You have to open the drivers side door to trigger the mechanism that turns the automatic lights off! Oh, and neither car had jumper cables in it (grumble grumble).  The week proceeded with more vehicle issues, a massive limb falling on the house (we hadn't even cut up the last one that fell but missed the house yet), and our refrigerator died (just bought a new upright freezer a week ago don't you know). Through all the turmoil I was trying to get ready for a really big Pharmacology test and the universe was doing everything it could to mess up study time. As I look back now that the test is over and I passed it, the dust has settled and for the time being Murphy is leaving us alone, I have to acknowledge all the blessings. My husband is a mechanic so we could fix the van, we were able to get the limb off the house and cut up with no real damage to the house, and there was money to replace the refrigerator.

Sometimes it is hard to are the blessings through the turmoil when everything seems to be imploding. Try to take a deep breath and open your eyes to the good when Murphy visits.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another volunteer for relocation

When I climbed on the mower yesterday to try and find the yard again, this lovely fellow crawled out from under it. He is a Grey Rat snake, also referred to as an Oak Snake around these parts. After thanking him for making his presence known before he helped himself to any eggs or baby bunnies, I tucked him in an old plastic tool box that I keep exactly for this purpose. When I finished mowing, the snake and I went for a ride out into the national forest that borders our farm and I introduced him to a new home. As much as possible we try to work with mother nature and relocate critters like this that can cause issues on the farm.

Have you relocated any visitors lately?

Why Scurvy elephant, you ask...

Wayne Dyer tells a story from his childhood about over hearing one of his teachers tell another teacher that he was a "scurvy elephant". When he went home that day he went straight to his mom and told her about it. Concerned, his mother went to see the teacher and asked about this comment. The teacher told her, after stating that Wayne had once again "gotten it wrong", that what she said to the other teacher was that Wayne was a "disturbing element" because he didn't do things the way everyone else did them. I agree with Wayne Dyer in that the world needs a lot more "disturbing elements" and have considered myself a scurvy elephant ever since. It also fit because I have collected elephants all of my life :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning the hard way.

We try to foresee potential dangers and guard against them. Today we lost 4 rabbits to heat stroke due to a completely avoidable situation. These are the mistakes that make my heart ache. It never occurred to me that our horses might flip open a rabbit tractor roof door. Apparently one of the horses really wanted some rabbit food and managed to flip open one of the hinged roof doors. It was 100 degrees today and this left the rabbits in this tractor exposed to the direct sun during the hottest part of the day with no shade to retreat to. Miraculously we only lost 4 of the 10 that were growing out in this tractor. Foreseeing the possibility and this could have been avoided. All of our tractors now have bungy cords on the roof doors now.

I hope our loss can help others to look around and identify similar weaknesses before losses occur.