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Homestead Journal 3/11/18

This week we have been doing a lot of planning for our expansion. We are seriously considering getting goats for milk and meat some time later this year or next year. Over the years on the homestead we have met some amazing people and they have become great resources for us. We have plans to visit a friends farm and see how she does all of her goat chores, hopefully try some milk and gain knowledge of what its like to live with goats on the homestead. There is still a lot of research and building to be done before we get any goats but we are thinking that we will head in this direction.

Chickens:

Rooster is still in isolation after his leg band issue last week. He is definitely improving. Now he can walk on the leg and he is starting to scratch with it. It won’t be much longer and he will be back with the rest of the flock.

The tote that I used in the past for baby chicks broke over of the winter. Our chicks are scheduled to arrive the week of 4/9 so I am starting to get ready for their arrival. While we were in town this week, I made the decision to try something new. We have always used large totes to house our baby chicks for a few days before they go to the brooder. Keeping them in a tote makes checking on them hourly for those first few days a lot easier. This time we are going to try 2 X 2 X 4 stock tank. It looks like it is going to work great.

Stock tank for baby chicks

Currently the Delawares are providing us between 6 and 10 eggs a day. To keep our egg production up as much as possible during our transition from Delawares to other meat chickens, we have decided to run our new egg layers in a tractor until they are laying. Since the new egg layers won’t start laying until the fall, we will keep the Delawares in the coop until the layers need that space. Some of the layers that we received last year from a friend were raised in tractors here. They were our test run to see how we liked doing the chores with the tractors. See the video we made about our tractors here. The tractor plans came from John Suscovich’s book : Stress free chicken tractor plans. We made a few modifications to the feeders in the one that we used for layers last year and plan to use that same tractor for the layers this year. For our broilers we will go back to his original feeder system.

Fodder is up and running. With a few hiccups in the chores and learning how to share the chores between us, we are finally on the right track. The chickens will get the first pan today. First pan doesn’t look great due to some errors on our part but the chickens will eat the seeds even if they didn’t sprout. It is not very cost effective to just give them seeds, but it’ll do for today.

Not the best fodder.

Rabbits:

At this moment we have all of our eligible does pregnant. Three of the five does received their nesting boxes this week.  Its a little early to give them the boxes since they are not due until 3/23, but it doesn’t really hurt anything for the boxes to be in the cages either. We have a doe that is a food digger when she gets pregnant and sometimes adding the nesting box to the cage makes her quit digging her food. Right now we are trying to do food cost tracking for the rabbits and having her dig out her food is not helping to track costs.

The breeding schedule for 2018 is set! We have couple of does that we kept last year that needed to be added into the 2018 breeding rotation. Our goal for 2018 is process 140 rabbits at a minimum. The schedule that we made will allow our does about 6 weeks off between breeding cycles.

This week we processed 4 rabbits. Those four rabbits never made it into bags. Yesterday we smoked two of them in a new Bradley Electric Smoker that we received as gift from family. All we did was coat the rabbits in yellow mustard and sprinkled Strawberries BBQ seasoning on top. The rabbits turned out amazing! The meat fell right of the bone and the flavor was awesome. The other rabbits will be cooked today. I am making Rabbit Divan.

Strawberry BBQ rub, yellow mustard and rabbit meat
Ready to go in the smoker.
All done!

Garden:

Only a few more weeks until we get to start our first plants! Its hard to think about with two feet of snow on the ground. All of our seeds, 1020 trays, and pots are purchased and ready to be used. This year we will be using 3″ plastic starter pots instead of the peat pots that we used last year. I was not a fan of the peat pots. I felt like the second that the pot dried all of the soil for the plant dried too. The peat pots also allowed the roots of the plant to grow threw the sides of the pots which was not good when it came time to transplant.

1020 trays and 3″ plastic pots

One of our goals with the harvest for this year is to can. Last year we did a lot of freezing which worked but I would like to make some sauces and other things with the vegetables from our garden this year.

Project/ General:

We had another big snowfall at the beginning of the week. The barn roof and chicken shed roof need to be shoveled off again. I hope that is the last time it needs to be done this year. The roof on the chicken shed may need some repairs before next winter. It has a saggy spot in the middle that we need to add a support to.

Over the past few months we have been contacting some local businesses about adding rabbit foot key chains to their inventory. We have lots of antique and fur dealers close to us that like that sort of product. One of the places that we had contacted was the Hairy Mosquito Trading Company. On our way home from town we stopped in and had a wonderful chat with the folks there. After sitting down and talking to them we are planning to be vendors at some of their events this summer and fall. This will be a great opportunity for us to meet more people, get our name out there and hopefully sell some product.

Now that we have ATVs on the property, we need cut some trails through the woods. We have marked out a potential trail to the food plot. We will not start cutting anything down until the spring when we can see what is in on the ground under the snow. Who knows, the trail that we marked may be on a very soggy part of the land.

Potential ATV trail.