Friday, April 3, 2015

Garden or Farm?

Back in January I mentioned that something we'd been working on for a while finally came through. Meet Ruby and Checkers:
 We'd been talking about getting rabbits for a while. While I would really love to get a cow or a pig those critters are a touch big and would probably raise problems with the neighbors but bunnies? Bunnies are quiet, clean, easy to care for, cheap to feed, and reproduce, well, like rabbits. Plus their poo is a gardener's dream! The perfect blend of nutrients that needs no composting to be used-you can take it straight from under their furry tails and side-dress a tomato plant for glorious results.

Yeah, I got them for the poop.

Rabbit is also quite tasty. The meat is lean, high in B vitamins and protein and, with how fast they reproduce, it is possible to fill a freezer with organic meat that you have raised, ensuring a "happy life and one bad day"for the animals harvested. That is important to me. I grew up helping to raise and care for most of the meat I ate. We had pigs and cattle (and chickens but they were mostly kept for eggs). We made sure the animals had the best care, good food, lots of space, and allowed to be themselves. That was just everyday life. It was rather a shock after I left home to taste store-bought feedlot beef. It just wasn't as rich or flavorful, even though we fed our stock grain as well, and I missed our 'pasture-raised and grain finished', 'free-range' beef. Who knew back then our way of ranching would be a big deal? Kinda funny now.

There are several wonderful farms in our area (my favorite is Winter Green Farm where we get our CSA produce) that provide the quality of care and product that I am looking for but I still want to be in more control. Rabbits fit the bill.

Of course, one needs a boy to...assist...with things. After Ruby and Checkers got used to us we added Lance to the mix.
I love this picture. Doesn't he look like a tough guy? He's actually super sweet and cuddly.
All three are purebred New Zealand rabbits. The New Zealand breed is a larger breed that excels at producing good fur and fast-growing kits. They, along with Californians, are one of the most common meat breeds. They are also gentle and calm, which is great since the kids love to feed and care for them. In the fall, when Munchkin starts 4-H, they will be part of her 4-H project.
In February Munchkin asked if we were going to hatch eggs again. I pulled out the incubator, cleaned it off, then went online to find some local fertile eggs. A nice lady on Facebook offered a dozen Muscovy duck eggs and in they went. Munchkin has spent the last 30 days glued to the incubator, watching for any wiggle or crack.

A couple weeks after I started the eggs I was chatting with a friend about ducks and she mentioned she had two drakes that were harassing her chickens, would I want them? Sure! I did warn her that they might turn into dinner and she was perfectly fine with that (in fact, she was going to do it herself but after harvesting her meat chickens she didn't want to pluck another feather).

So we brought these two home and they went right to work clearing my garden and greenhouse of slugs and snails. I've yet to lose a seedling since turning them loose in the garden.
Hubby has been excited about a roast duck dinner but I haven't gotten up the nerve yet. I may end up with more ducks than I'd planned.

With all this livestock, have we reached farmhood yet? And there are still eggs to hatch!

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