Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Recap

Lately it seems my posts have been full of bad and sad news, but sometimes, that's life I guess.  The good news is the baby I saved is fine.  I'm so thankful!  The bad news is we lost the runt Sunday morning.  After my scare Saturday morning, I brought the babies into the house for the day, so I could keep a close eye on them.  Olivia only feeds them once a day, so they weren't missing out on meal times.  I took them back out at dusk and left them there for a few hours and then brought them back in for the night.  I checked on them during the night, sleeping fitfully myself.  At 4:45, I took them back out to Olivia.  Apparently I waited too long to check on them again, because when I returned, the runt was on the floor of the cage dead.  Once again, I think it was still attached to Olivia's teat when she jumped out of the nest box.  So, last night we went through the same routine.  They were taken out at dusk and returned to the house for the night.  I took them out at 4:30 this morning, and Olivia immediately jumped in the nest box.  This time, I only waited 30 minutes and went back out.  Olivia had finished, and the three remaining kits were snuggled together as they should be.  I brought them back in the house anyway because it was pretty cold last night.  This morning I have three kits who seem to be thriving and growing each day.  Christine, my breeder friend, told me three out of six isn't bad.  She has lost whole litters.  Apparently, the survival rate of rabbits is not great.  I guess that's why they breed like rabbits to ensure good numbers.  They are just so vulnerable for the first week, and it doesn't take much to end a life.  I've been feeling really down about this, and I told Nate I'm a terrible pet owner.  He reminded me that for over two years, I've been making cat food from scratch for our cat, Lucy, who has CRF.  We know it has made a huge difference in her life, so I felt better after he said that.

On a brighter note, the three remaining kits are getting cuter everyday, and they celebrated their one week birthday last night.  Their eyes are still closed, but should be open by Wednesday.  This baby looks like it's going to be blue, like Mama and Daddy.  Looking at it in my hand makes me realize how much it has grown in a week.   


Yesterday was also eventful in that we started round two of our beekeeping adventure.  I think my mind was on the rabbits when we went to install the bees, because I did not put on my veil and neither did Nate.  We ALWAYS wear our veil and gloves.  It was cold and wet yesterday, so not the best conditions to be installing bees, and when the bees were shaken out of the box into the brood box, several of them swarmed up into the air and some of them landed on Nate's face.  Normally he is very calm around the bees, but he reacted in surprise and one stung him on the lip.We immediately went to the house and he took some antihistamine.  His lip started swelling, and I spent the whole morning asking him every five minutes if his breathing was normal, if his throat was itching, if he felt okay.  The car keys were on standby.  By the end of the evening, his lip had returned to normal size. 

I did get together with a friend and trade some seedlings and transplants yesterday.  I now have asparagus bean, european melon, amaranth, and jelly melon seedlings, and oregano, marjaram and creeping jenny divisions.  Most of these are new to me, and she got some varieties that are new to her.  I love bartering!  No money changed hands, and we got to hang out and talk about gardening and share ideas.   

I've had some harsh lessons this past week.  Sunday was a no good, horrible, very bad day with a slight silver lining!  I was asleep by 9:00 last night.   

Here's hoping for a better week,


Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Heck of A Ride

Do you ever have one of those days where you just want to go back to bed and start over?  Today has been one of those days, so I'm glad it's ending, although I don't look forward to the night.  I have found two dead kits since Monday morning, of course, one may have been stillborn, since I found it the morning after they were born, and the second one I found Thursday morning, separated from the litter and lying alone.  It's really sad, and so I've been hyper-sensitive about the rest, even getting up in the middle of the night with a flashlight to check on them.  Even so, this morning when I went to check on them, I found one lying out of the nest box in the cage floor.  My heart sank, and I thought to myself, "I just can't take anymore dying babies."  But I removed it from the cage and set it on the shelf until I could get Nate to help me bury it.  I went back inside to process another death and to get control of all the emotions I felt.  My suspicion was it was still attached to Olivia's teat when she jumped out of the box.  I went back out to the shed, and as I was getting Olivia's hay bowl to fill it, I looked over, and the little kit I thought was dead was barely moving.  I mean barely.  My heart skipped a beat, and I picked it up and ran into the house with it.  It was still alive!  I remember reading in my rabbit book about cold babies and immediately snatched out a heating pad and plugging it in.  I placed a cloth over the heating pad and layed the baby on it and placed my hand over the baby to give it some warmth from above.  After a few minutes, it started squirming and squealing a little.  After I thought it had warmed up, I put it back in the box with its siblings.  When I checked them again, it was separted from the other babies.  I called my breeder friend, Christine, who suggested I reheat the baby and bring the whole nest box into the house.  She said once I get the baby warm again, place it back in the nest box and monitor them again.  If they separate again, the baby wasn't warm enough.  This time they snuggled up and stayed together.  Since I don't know when Olivia nurses, although my suspicion is at dawn, my strategy tonight is to put the box back in the cage until I go to bed, bring it back in the house for the night and place it again in the early morning.  After talking with Christine, I felt much better.  She shared her experiences with dead kits and told me it's just nature.  The control freak and fighter in me has a hard time accepting that.  So, I face another night.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sad News

We lost one of the kits last night.  It got separated from the litter, and it was dead this morning when I found it.  So, now we're down to four.  Olivia has been doing a good job of covering them with a layer of wool, so I don't know if it happened while they were nursing or it wandered away from the litter.  I read in my rabbit book that mother rabbits don't pick up their babies like cats to move them, so it had to fend for itself through the night.  It had started growing its wool and was covered with a pretty sheen of dark grey.  I'll be glad when they get a little bigger and are more protected from the elements.  I know death is a part of raising animals, but it doesn't make it any less heartbreaking.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Blackberries and Raspberries and Bats, Oh My!

A few years ago, we planted blackberry canes along the edge of our driveway, and since they were starts, we just let them grow.  Last year we should have trellised them, but I was so busy with work, they got ignored.  They sprawled all over the ground and took root wherever they landed.  I wasn't too worried about them taking over the yard because they can't get past my driveway, but some did root in my neighbor's yard.  I pulled those out.  Today, we took care of the problem and used some of the bamboo from up the street to create a trellis strung with wire.  Nate beat three 7 ft bamboo sections into the ground, strung wire end to end at heights of 2 ft, 3.5 ft and 5 ft, and then braced everything on each end with more wire.  It looks great, and now most of the canes are off the ground.  Now that I have a proper trellis, I think I could dig up some and realign them with the trellis for better management.  The bamboo is beautiful and natural and free.  I already had the wire, so I love when projects come together without a trip to the store. 


We planted some raspberry canes along the front of our deck this evening.  The lengthening of the days is always a blessing!  Hopefully they will thrive there.  With the trees gone, I think we've gained 2-3 hours of sun along the back of our house, which should bring us to six hours of sun on some sections of the yard.  

Before it got too dark to see, I was watching some bats dart around the sky.  I love to see bats because I know they are natural mosquito control.  I can use all the help I can get in that department. 

Happy homesteading,


Monday, March 21, 2011

Have a Cigar or Five

The first thing I've been doing each morning for the past few days is checking on Olivia and to see if she gave birth during the night.  This morning, when I peered into the nest box, the hay and wool were moving.  I freaked out and ran back into the house and yelled, "We have babies!"  Nate followed me back out, and he gently lifted up the blanket of wool covering them.  We counted 4, but without moving them around we weren't sure, and we didn't want to upset Olivia be being too nosey.  When I returned to check on them a little later, they were no longer under the wool and were easier to see and count.  One had separated from the group, and according to my book, I was to put it back with its siblings, which I did.  I also found one not breathing.  So, with excitement and sadness, Blue Moon

and Olivia

announce the birth of their first babies.

Look at those cute bunny ears!  I can hardly wait to see them develop and see what colors they will be.   

Happy homesteading,


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Front Page News

Our ladies made it to the front page of the Metro section of our local paper this morning.  Louise is such a drama queen!

Note:  We don't think store bought eggs have preservatives.  We were trying to get across that our eggs are healthier because of the varied diet our hens receive. 

Happy homesteading,


Friday, March 18, 2011

Bees, The First Salad and A Good Read

I spoke with our beekeeping mentor earlier today, and he's coming by to get a hive box, top board and bottom board to catch a swarm for us.  I didn't ask him, but I think he's planning to capture a swarm from one of his colonies.  Plus, we should be getting a nuc from him in the next few weeks.  We are excited to get started with our beekeeping education again, because it is indeed a lesson in disappointment, patience, being in the moment, and hopefully, reward.  Here's to a better year in beekeeping.

I decided I couldn't take it anymore.  I am dying for a fresh salad, so I marched myself out to the lettuce bed, which is finally starting to look like something.  I picked enough mixed greens for a VERY small salad for each of us and then proceeded to the radishes and pulled some of those as well.  I think I'll add a few lemon balm leaves, a pinch of fresh thyme, sunflower seeds, chopped boiled eggs and oil and vinegar, which should be enough to slightly resemble a decent salad.   

I don't know where I've been, but I'm finally reading, Farm City, by Novella Carpenter.  She is now my new hero.  I love her humor especially.  I had to call my husband to read him the excerpt about her lesbian chicken, Agnes, who crowed.  It seemed so apropos in light of Vanilli crowing yesterday.  I am so inspired! 

I would love to know who inspires you and why. 

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wake Up Call

Our Vanilli has taken to crowing.  Yes, she's crowing.  I've read that in the absence of a rooster, one hen will take up the role and crow.  Lordy, lordy, what are we going to do with her? 

Yesterday was day 28 for Olivia, so we may have baby rabbits soon.  She immediately started taking hay out of her hay bowl and placing it in the nest box, which I had already filled with hay and bedding.  When I went to check on her later, she and the cage were a mess.  Her wool picks up hay easily, so she had it all over her.  I checked this morning for kits, but none yet.  The breeder who sold her to me told me she delivered on the 34th day for her, so I'll keep a close watch on her over the next several days.  Here she is with hay in her mouth, a sign according to my rabbit book she is getting ready to kindle.  Isn't she a cutie!


Happy homesteading,


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Flowers

I get so excited to see the flowers start blooming in the spring. 

I just love the crisp white of this Iris,

and the Phlox and Dianthus are pretty in pink.

The Bugleweed is not in full bloom yet, but I couldn't resist.  It was given to us last year so this is the first time it's bloomed in the yard.  I just love it!

The Azaleas are just starting their parade of color, and soon our yard will be filled with color, front and back.

Lastly, I must apologize publicly to my hydrangeas.  I'm embarrassed to admit I've neglected them lately, so I spent a considerable amount of time pruning them this weekend.  I have ten throughout the yard, so it was no small task.  They are so low maintenance it's easy to forget about them.  It may not be the appropriate time of year for pruning, but it was easy for me to see the buds and know which ones to leave alone.  Plus, I was motivated, and the weather was not too hot and sticky yet.  I'm ashamed.  Look how dense this is; you can barely see through it.


This after picture doesn't do it justice, but there is a world of difference now. 

Don't be like me!  Prune your hydrangeas and keep them happy.

Happy homesteading,


Monday, March 14, 2011

Holy Moly!

In case you didn't know, today is National Pi Day.  The Greek letter "pi" is the symbol for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.  To celebrate, I made a pie.  I'm not a baker and have never ever ever made a pie crust or pie that I'm proud of until today.  I hope it tastes as good as it looks.

Here are the recipes I used:

Blueberry Raspberry Pie (I used blueberries and blackberries, and I took a reviewer's advice and baked it on a pizza stone at 450 for 20 minutes, and 400 for 30 minutes.)

Pie Crust

What's your favorite pie recipe?

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Community Gardens

Having lived in Atlanta for a few years, I really enjoyed this video on some of its community gardens.  My neighborhood doesn't have a community garden, but I've become acquainted with a lady who helps run one in a neighborhood very near to mine.  I hope to volunteer some time and maybe resources this year to that garden.  It is a somewhat depressed neighborhood, so I'm interested to see how the garden has helped, much like the one discussed near the end of this video, in its few years of existence. 

Urban Agriculture in Atlanta

Do you have a community garden near you?  If so, how do you participate?

Happy homesteading,


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Backyard Chickens

A reporter and photographer came by today to interview us on the growing trend of backyard chickens.  The reporter said when she was assigned this article, she had no idea how she would find someone with backyard chickens.  She happened to be talking to a mutual acquaintance and the subject came up.  After talking with me on the phone, she said she was more interested in doing a piece on urban farming, but since she was assigned backyard chickens, she would stick with that.  We really enjoyed sharing our experience, and the ladies took advantage of the photo ops.  I don't know when the article will be published, but I'll post it when it does.    

Happy homesteading,


Monday, March 7, 2011

Hawk Scare

As we let the ladies out of the run to free range in the yard, we always tell them, "Ladies, look to the sky or you die."  Once I finished with work today, I went outside to let the hens out to enjoy what is left of the day.  Oddly, they made a beeline for the loropetalum and not the grassy area of the yard.  They always head straight to the grassy area for their daily greens, but not this time.  Thankfully, I had enough sense to follow our advice and look to the sky.  Apparently, they had already done it.  Above me at the tree line were four huge hawks circling the yard.  They were flying REALLY low.  I ran into the shed and grabbed some bird seed and called everyone back into the run.  They know the yellow cup means bird seed so it takes them about five seconds to make it back to the run.  They don't get any free range time today, but better safe than sorry. 

Happy homesteading,


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Clean-up Day and Possibilities

A great friend came over today to help us clean up the trees that were taken down this week.  When I say great friend, I mean it.  It was no small task, and he and Nate worked most of the day, along with my help for some of it, to clean up the mess.  We managed to get up all of the small limbs and cut up and dispose of the limbs that the chain saw and the strength of two men could manage.  The thicker sections of the trunks are still there for another day.  I counted the rings in one of the pines, and it had 60, so it was an old tree as were the other two. 
Like I said in a previous post, I hate to see beautiful trees cut down, so I will try to do right by all three and be productive in the area of my yard they were shading.  We did save as much of the oak as possible for firewood, and I've been tossing around some ideas for our yard, but haven't come up with a good plan of action yet.  One thought was an espaliered orchard using posts and wire.  I have two guinea pig apple trees in the front yard that have suffered through my espalier learning curve.  I like the advantages of espaliered trees for ease of harvesting, maintenance and efficiency.  They wouldn't be too tall, so I could harvest the fruit and prune them myself without a ladder.  Plus, I can fit more trees in a smaller space allowing me to meet the cross-pollination needs of each fruit I plant.  I'm excited about the prospects!                    

It's been overcast for several days now, so I really want the sun to come back out to see the effect the missing trees have on the yard. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Super Duper Good and Easy Breakfast

We LOVE pancakes at our house.  Writing that sentence made me think, "If you love 'em so much, why don't you marry 'em?"  He! He!  Anywho, with a few slices of bacon, it just doesn't get much better.  And what makes this breakfast even better is how fast it is to prepare.  When I mix up a batch of batter, I put it in a recycled ketchup bottle (36 oz.), which is the perfect container for squeezing out the amount of batter I need for each pancake.  Plus, I never use the whole recipe at once, so keeping it this way allows me to store it in the refrigerator for next time.  We like them plain with maple syrup, but sometimes after I squeeze the batter onto the griddle, I sprinkle chocolate chips or berries on each.  Oh, and to give them the ultimate flavor, I rub the griddle with butter before I pour each pancake.  Yummy!  Yummy!  Butter and bacon in the same post.  Enough said.  Here's the recipe.  I hope you try it and like it.  

Disclaimer:  I tend to do my own thing when it comes to recipes, so my descriptions are not textbook.  Most things I eyeball, such as the size of my pancakes and a really hot guy, but that's another post.  And I don't squeeze the hot guys, just the ketchup bottle.  I am married, after all.

Buttermilk Pancakes 

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbls sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk (99.9% of the time I use whole milk because I never have buttermilk.)
4 tbls oil
butter for greasing griddle

Preheat and lightly grease a skillet or griddle.  Whisk the dry ingredients together (flour through sugar) and then lightly whisk in the eggs through oil.  I try to make it fairly lump-free so it squeezes out of the bottle easily.  Either squeeze or scoop with a cup whatever you think is a decent-sized pancake (maybe 1/4 cup?) and cook until lightly browned on both sides.

What a really wacky post!  It must be the rain outside.

Happy homesteading,


Friday, March 4, 2011

Taking Down Trees, Day 2

The tree service came back today for the two pines.  Watching that first pine being topped off was just as nerve wracking as watching the oak yesterday!  With Nate's workshop right beside the trees and the power lines running behind the yards, I marvel at their precision in topping off and dropping each tree.  Even with the day being overcast, I can see how much more open the yard will be, and I'm excited to see the difference it will make once the sun gets higher in the sky.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but that oak cast alot of shade over the yard during the summer.  I hate taking down beautiful healthy trees, but believe me, there are many more you don't see on all sides.   

Here are some before and after photos for your viewing pleasure!


With those three trees, I think we managed to open a pretty good corridor through the backyard at least until late afternoon when trees in the other neighbor's yard and along the back end of my yard start to interfere.  There is one tree on the west side of my yard that I would love to take down next, but the budget didn't allow it this time.

This is the mess we get to clean up!  We only paid to have the trees dropped, but not removed.  It was 1/2 as expensive to do the clean up work ourselves.  Good manual labor never hurt anyone, right? 

I guess the bright spot is it smells like pine in my yard.

Happy homesteading,


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stressful Afternoon

After serious deliberation and debate, we decided to take down four of our neighbors' trees, three in one yard and one in the other.  The tree service came this afternoon and took down one oak and one sweet gum.  Two pine trees remain, but we need to get permission from the neighbor who lives diagonally behind us for the tree service to bring a bobcat into his backyard.  Fortunately we know him, so I'm waiting to hear back about that.  In the meantime, the oak tree was very easy to drop, but seeing if fall put my stomach in knots.  The sweet gum tree was dying and dropping limbs in our front yard and has already damaged my fig tree, so I was happy to see it go.  Plus, it drops the gum balls in our yard, and it's a pain to get those up.  They managed to take down that tree without dropping any limbs on my fig tree.  They moved my potted blueberries for me, and I'm glad they did.  The only almost-heart attack I had was when one guy threw a limb on the onions and then another stepped on my beets while picking up the limb.  I came out of the house like a crazy person when I saw that.  The boss man laughed and told me I could yell at them, but I think after they saw me run at them with fear in my eyes, no yelling was needed.  They quickly retreated to the neighbor's yard to be safe.  Crazy woman alert!  Hopefully the two pines can come down tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted and pictures to follow.   

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Renegade Egg Layer

Nate found an egg today under the loropetalum, and while we think it was laid today by Pearl, we aren't sure so we trashed it.  He said she was doing her egg-laying cluck earlier today in that area, so we feel certain she laid it today.  I'll have to keep an eye on her or keep her in the run for several days to make sure she's laying in the nest box and not willy nilly in the yard.  Nate said she's gearing up for an Easter egg hunt, Pearl-style.  All of our ladies have always been very good about laying in the nest box, so maybe this was a fluke.  Do you have renegade egg layers, and how do you deal with them?

Speaking of eggs, we have received 168 eggs from five hens since January 1.  I am astounded!  When you collect them everyday and don't really pay attention to the numbers, sometimes you don't realize what a blessing you have in your own backyard.  Thanks, ladies!  We truly treasure you.

Happy homesteading,