This last week things have really shifted from late summer sun to fall drizzle. The days are noticeably shorter and the animals and wasps are feeding voraciously. The bobcat is teaching her young how to hunt and the coyotes are taking down deer around here. I’ve been busy preparing too, sensing the final lap in the food preservation marathon.
Despite kitten-induced bursitis (read, cannot bend knee for several months) I managed to get in all the winter/spring starts from Cascadian Edibles (they are the rocking start CSA that I mention in the book, totally coming to save the day for me this year). Then I realized just how full of slugs my garden was so I moved the ducks out from the poultry area. They have been fairly well-behaved around the starts, focusing instead on slugs.
Awesomest husband finished building the rabbit shelter and I finished building larger cages so they would actually be able to hop around.
Just in time too, because Nibbles had her kits last Thursday just about dark.
This bunny is four days old and just starting to get fur. There are six babies in total. Many people have a hard time understanding how we can celebrate the birth of these small creatures which will one day grace our table. It’s easy to imagine a chicken farmer enjoying his baby chicks, knowing that some day they will be dinner. And if you don’t want to buy factory farmed food, need to keep your food costs down, and want to control the diet, lives and deaths of the animals you are responsible for – rabbits just make sense. Until post World War II rabbits kept many families in protein, but then we became this affluent society too good for our roots. In the forties north of Seattle, my father had the childhood job of working in a meat house processing rabbits. And already in the partial span of one generation they are no longer main stream cuisine. Unless you are a foodie and can afford it from a butcher’s shop that is.
Raising chickens takes longer, costs more, and requires more space to keep them healthy. Here’s some rabbit math for you: a rabbit can breed when it’s six months old. That rabbit can have four litters a year, with six to eight rabbits per litter. It takes 8 weeks to raise a batch to “market” weight, or “table” weight in my case. Baby rabbits nurse for six of those eight weeks so their food requirements are minimal. Rabbits gain weight well year round, unlike chickens that work great when the weather is warm but don’t gain rapidly in our cool winters and springs. And also, rabbits don’t need heat lamps.
One other great thing about rabbits: compost. I’ve designed this rabbit shelter so that it’s elevated enough to have compost piles underneath. I’m still working on those but they will have raised sides so I can pile it up and have some kind of chicken wire cover so the chickens can get at the scraps and some of the worms but not totally destroy my entire worm population. My goal this winter is generating as much compost as I possibly can to regenerate the depleted garden and orchard soils here. Between the goats, rabbits, chickens and ducks I think I just may be able to finally make enough compost. Rabbit’s eat primarily alfalfa so their droppings are nutrient dense amendment without a ton of weed seeds.
The fall weather has me in the kitchen, baking up tons of bread. This is one rare time you’ll find white flour in my kitchen but sometimes you just need some holes in your baguette and whole grains don’t give you that like white flour does.
I’ve been finishing off the last of the tomatoes from the big buy a few weeks back. I’ve fermented salsa, canned salsa and sauced roasted tomatoes until the goats came home. I’m making some cheesy tomato tarts with Beecher’s for the freezer. It’s nice to have something to pull out of the oven and not have to think about dinner on occasion – and especially nice while flipping through seed catalogs in January deciding which varieties of tomatoes to plant.
How about you – what have you been up to this week? Are you putting the garden to bed or planting out your winter starts?