And I am quite through with it! After finding ourselves having gotten through our -13F night with-36 windchills coming off the lake two weeks ago, this week we dropped down to -6 over night (much lower wind chill this time) and will remain in the dastardly cold temperatures until further notice. In fact, for the rest of the month (and the past several days included) we will have seen temps over 20 degrees once. This makes walking to the grocery quite difficult and has inspired me to have a bigger, better garden this year and start lots of seeds… But to do that right now I would have to literally chisel the frozen soil out of my back yard with a pick axe and then bring it in to thaw. So I have been settling for a lot of absent minded, slow, boring projects this winter.
Of course, the rabbits keep me somewhat busy. We’ve had a fair amount of success in recent months, selling off pretty much all the does from the litters and really good breeding… Let’s hope it continues!
Tanning hides. I used a recipe consisting of battery acid and rock salt that can be found over at Rise and Shine Rabbitry‘s blog. I think I made two major mistakes. One, I did not wash the hides well enough post tanning. They smell pretty strongly of tanning solution after weeks now in a scented closet or out in the open air and it’s not cool. I also didn’t “break” the hides enough. I really need better instructions on how to do that to prevent the hides from becoming “papery”. I think it just takes a lot more time and effort than I put in. Lastly I need sandpaper to buff the skin side of the hides to even the skin out and give it a softer feel.
Making soup and changing our diet. I have been cooking a lot more this winter and I have found a deep love for soups with lots of vegetables. Now I am looking to reduce the amount of meat we consume so I’m going to try adding things like beans and chickpeas to meals. Hopefully by the time spring rolls around I will have three days of the week being vegetarian meals. No, I’m not going vegetarian… But with a greater understanding of the amount of work that goes into our meat, I want to eat it less! If I want to sustain myself on raising a few dozen chickens a year, that means eating a lot less chicken!
Making Glue. Self-sustaining means reducing our reliance on outside sources. I recently made an awesome glue out of just a few household ingredients. I used the recipe from a quick internet search and this page here; http://sustainableecho.com/homemade-natural-glue/
I wanted a glue I could make from whatever I had lying around and was completely edible. I tried this recipe and it works great and holds strong. I used it to make some minor repairs on out wicker furniture, glue a label to my jar of glue, and then made some rabbit toys and seed starters with it!
Making seed starters. I spoke to a nice lady who also lives on a quarter acre about 40 minutes from my house. She came to trade a delicious, cleaned whole duck for one of my buck rabbit kits and will be coming back later for two does. We also swapped seeds and talked gardens for a bit and she does a lot more gardening than I do! She raises out thousands of plants each year, and she said to me she kills the majority of the plants she tries to grow. I gave her all of our weird arugula from last year, some of the amazing kale we got and several other seed batches. She gave us quite a bounty of seeds in return, but also (perhaps by accident) pointed out a valuable lesson to me… Even the pros kill plants. Lots of ’em. So this year I will be trying to start three seedlings for every one plant I want. I do not have enough paper towel rolls for this, so I made tubes of glued newspaper (see the glue above!) and folded in the bottoms. I will probably be going crazy and trying to start hundreds of seedlings this year because I would like several of each plant type and there’s just not enough paper towel rolls for that around here! The newspaper rolls also allow for a bigger seed starter, meaning the seeds may grow better for longer indoors.
I have also been making rabbit toys. You all may have been to a pet store and seen the “rabbit toys” there. They are always made for a rabbit that is 4lbs at most. There are never toys appropriate to a rabbit keeper like me. My smallest rabbits are 8lbs. Of course, they are catering to the “pet” rabbit, not the commercial rabbit. Who on earth would give a commercial rabbit a toy, right? Well, I do because I find it helps a lot with temperament and wellbeing. I want my animals to live good lives and if a small rabbit likes toys, why wouldn’t a large rabbit? So I have been seeking out materials and designing scaled up rabbit toys for homestead meat rabbits that won’t collapse with the first nibble! You may find me offering some of these things for sale in the not too distant future! If you have any ideas for toys you’d like to see for your extra large rabbits, let me know!
Despite all these projects, the long and short of it is that I am bored with winter! The cold keeps me cooped in, and changing water bottles every few hours. Even the rabbits are quite done with it and ask that it please warm up so they can have fresh grass in their diet instead of almost-frozen kale from last year.
Is it spring yet!?