A good kind of busy

It will come as no surprise to anyone that it’s harvest time on the farm. It’s a deeply busy time of year. Exhausting work, really.
tomatoesOur first wave of tomatoes finally hit hard, so we washed and cut for hours and then simmered for hours more to cook out the water.

Tomato2020_1Then came the milling, and cooking out the water even more. Our milling is done with a small hand mill. It removes all the skin and seeds well but it does take a bit of effort.

Tomato2020_3Then the skins, seeds, and any last bits of tomato go into the dehydrator. This will make tomato powder that we can use in place of tomato paste or we can use as a seasoning. It really brings most BBQ potato chip seasoning recipes to a whole new level.
Tomato2020_2Lastly, we have a bit of an assembly line. With the tomato sauce boiling, the lids and rings boiled, we fill our jars; first with hot steamy water from the tap so they are not shocked by the temperature change. Then we dump that out and fill them to the brim with boiling water to sterilize. One at a time we dump the boiling water out, drop in 1/4tsp citric acid, pop in the canning funnel, fill the jar, wipe the rim, then hand tighten the lids before popping them into the canner. This part goes quickly, with each person in the household helping with a different part of the process, so I don’t have any pictures of it. We used a water bath canning method but you could also pressure can.
And then the canning is done! We made 17 pint jars of sauce but only canned 15. We will use the other two over the next 2 weeks and they will be stored in the fridge. They have nothing in them but tomatoes and citric acid (to preserve freshness). Two ingredients. Perfect.

We put the last plants in the ground – a small crop of peas we’re not expecting much out of. these were the peas from the pods that we saved that looked ugly – like they had gotten mold on them or developed wrong. The culls. If we get a crop of peas from them, great. If not, they will rot in the ground and feed the worms. And that’s not so bad in the end. G pointed out that our season started and ended with peas. It was a happy moment for me. It feels appropriate, like the start and end of the season being marked by a cyclical event.

We also have a lot of babies on the homestead right now. We have several kits from our castor doe, Donut, growing up big and strong. (Unfortunately the runt did not survive the litter leaving the nest box, but the rest are well.) These two are harlequins. One – the girl – we believe is torted, which is not ideal but we can make due.

We have a fresh batch of six baby chicks hatched under one of our broody girls. And another incubation under a broody well under way.
Chix1And a lovely litter of nine from our New Zealand White crossed with a rex.

Look at the lovely, pearlescent and dilute colors on these two. They absolutely shine. Unfortunately, I believe the lighter one might be a self tort, beautiful but not very useful for my needs. I’m holding out hope it’s secretly somehow a lilac.

So as you can see, it’s the busy season. Harvests are in full swing, preservation is taking place, and the animals are having their last babies in warm weather. Before we know it, the chickens will stop laying for their molt, and may not start again until spring, and the rabbits will build their nests deeper and thicker, and the dogs will spend their days running in the snow. But until then, every day will be work. Our next task will be hot sauce, then more tomatoes, then more chicks and rabbits until the season finally ends. It’s exhausting, but busy in a good way.

I hope you’re staying busy in a good way too.

Baby Bunnies

This is Donuts litter, born just about 10 days ago. They started as 11. Ultimately only 8 remain and that’s taken some intervention – not too surprising or shabby for a first time mom though. They’re a colorful bunch. Can you spot the tiny one that almost didn’t make it? It’s hard to believe they’re all the same litter.


They’re right on time for opening up their eyes.


There’s three rabbits we’re considering keeping from this litter. Both harlequins and this exceptionally chunky black kit. He’s literally heads bigger than the rest of the litter.


The rest are very middle of the pack, including the other castor, the two smaller blacks and the white kit. They’re all adorable, though.


Then there’s the runty one. It’s so small it’s been getting bullied away from its food.


About half the litter was like this after the first couple days. Dehydrated, shaky, underfed. A few didn’t make it, including this one, one of the harlequins and the white one. When a bunny doesn’t get enough to eat, it falls behind and will probably NEVER get enough to eat without intervention. So we started force nursing.

This is where you take the mother rabbit and lay her on your lap on her back, and place the babies on her tummy. Through this method they get rabbits milk to drink straight from the tap without competition. It’s more reliable than bottle feeding which often ends poorly for a host of reasons. Most of them quickly recovered – except for this one. This one is still getting daily feedings separate from the rest of the litter.


Dinner time!

The expectation is that once its eyes are open and it starts sampling solid food it will start to catch up… Until then it’s just one high maintenance kit.

Lastly, a picture of Donut, our valiant mom.


What a good first time mom.

Catching Up

Folks on here are pretty great. I vanish for a while and people express concern… It makes it feel like the past year of blogging was really worth something! Well, I basically got sick of talking about my life for a while. Homesteading can be rough and when you have losses and low production it isn’t very fun to be reminded of it constantly.  Things are looking a bit better right now and so I will probably go back to writing at least semi regularly… Thanks so much for your support!

Things have been generally busy here on the homestead. We lost all of the black and copper maran chicks we hatched out due to local cats. My four year anniversary with Greg came and went. We added several new rabbits to the herd and we now boast two rabbits out of a buck from Dave Mangiones rabbitry. We are still building new cages and our PVC shelf in the garage to go with ’em. Our garage is a mess of building right now!
One of our chickens (Tender, the nicer of our Golden Girls) was murdered by our killer husky, Nukka. RIP Tender. You made an awesome Coq Au Vin! Our Husky now wears a shock collar as this is the second animal dead due to her extreme prey drive and there have been far more than two attacks. While we haven’t used it yet it is there if we need it and we have plans for deliberate training sessions in the future, rigged so she associates the shocks with the animals, not us.

Winter is now in full swing here. We have had a lot of snow lately and the past few months as it got colder the rabbits were just not producing. Nobody is sure what happened to give us three months of no rabbits but a week ago Kibbles and Iams popped out 20 kits for us! Yikes! Unfortunately, we lost four rabbits from these first litters of the season. We struggled a bit with the cold last year, and I suspect we will just loose more kits in cold weather than warm. Two of the kits simply got out of the nest box and it is far too cold for them to survive without their siblings. One of the kits was a runt, and didn’t get fed enough. That kit was in a litter of 11, so I cant say I am surprised that one did not get fed. The fourth kit Iams removed from the nest deliberately. It had a large, infected looking lump on its face when I found it. I am not sure how the lump got there in the first place but Iams knew that this kit wouldn’t make it and pulled it out of the nest. This leaves 8 kits in each litter which is still substantial and they are doing great now. I am really looking forward to what the future holds for our rabbitry!

Egg production for the chickens has fallen off. At this point none of the three Australorps are laying, but at least two of them molted also. Nugget is still going strong and laying an egg every couple of days… But her eggs are often coming out strangely shaped, too big, or double thick shells. This is how double yolker eggs are born, but it is also how chickens prolapse and die. Golden comets are notorious for having issues with their reproductive tracts and are twice as likely to prolapse as a heritage breed as a result. But they also lay very large eggs even through the winter. It is a trade off we make with many domestic animals; High, year-round production often means a higher mortality. This is why I only breed my rabbits once every 2-3 months and why many dairy cows die after only three pregnancies.

And speaking of unreasonably productive chickens, we put the last of the Cornish Crosses in the freezer a couple weeks back. This experience has taught me that I do NOT like processing chickens. I have no problem with slaughtering the bitey monsters, nor with gutting them… But feathers are the worst, whether you skin or pluck. It takes forever and a lot of effort to do either and it left me with a large feeling of apprehension every time I had to dispatch another bird. I started thinking that their constant attempts to bite off my fingers were charming and wondering how well Cornish Crosses would lay… All because I did not want to deal with that awful skin. Eventually every one of those chickens met their fate at the end of my butchering scissors, but it was rough. Next time I am taking them to a processor and letting them deal with it. Can I butcher any chicken I need to at any time I need? Heck yeah, but I have no reason to take on that much stress and effort at this point in my life. Some day I will invest in a plucker and then I will consider butchering chickens myself again. For now the ones I did process have gone on to feed some great local people including myself and are delicious!

Our gardens have gone dormant for the winter. I have some root veggies in the ground under the vauge hope they will come back in the spring… The pepper plants were potted and brought indoors and the tomato plants were ripped out and deposited in the chicken pen. The real champion of our garden was our heirloom organic Kale. This plant took the hot and the cold like a champ and are only just being ripped up as the weight of the snow is crushing them, not the cold. The mother rabbits really appreciate the huge hunks of kale they have been getting as a result! I will be planting a HUGE patch of his kale next year and making kale chips. It is very exciting!

And Christmas is on us once again. Some of you may have guessed but I am not Christian. I still celebrate our modern Christmas, though, because I love the ideas behind a modern Christmas. Almost every culture has a winter fesiltival of lights to bring a bit of sunshine into the grey and cold. I love giving and getting presents and I love how many different cultures went into producing the holiday as it is today, from the Christians to the pagans with Saturnalia and the history of the tree and even the contributions of a commercial society like Santa Claus and holiday TV specials! I feel like Christmas is our modern society’s festival of lights and whether you put an Angel, a star, or a peacock on top of your tree it is beautiful to look at. I hope everyone has a happy holiday this year, and whatever you celebrate for your religion I hope you have a Merry Christmas anyhow!

And don’t worry…. I am sure you will hear from me again soon!