Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Continuing high paced spring, eagerly anticipating new kits and planting our seedlings.

As seems to be the normal now that we are in to spring, a lot has been happening since the last post on Thursday. Babies growing, starting a new hutch, and plants growing, and 4 new litters within the next week and a half. It's the time of  year where everything happens at once.

Let's start with the rabbits, the babies are now huge, and unwilling to sit still long enough on the scale to get weights, so weight checks have stopped at the 3lb range which is fine.They will be moving over to a growing out hutch shortly. Below you can see said growing out hutch, in this case because there are only 6 of them I am just going to put them in the 4x3 that Halley and Comet were in until recently.
Since we moved Halley and Comet out, we decided to take the opportunity to paint the hutch to protect it from the weather. We still need to roof it properly, but I think it will hold up to the weather a lot better this way. It also looks good. The Lady of the House and I spent about 30 minutes last night working on painting the hutch up. She is thinking that it would be nice to do some accenting with the red paint we have. All of the paint was a generous gift of a friend of ours, which is very helpful. We'd actually intended to get the hutches painted up before rabbits moved in, but we can see how That turned out.

Back to the rabbits themselves though. Below is a great shot of Twilight right next to one of her babies. I love how similar she looks to the blue kits. She is still watchful when I come in to the hutch, but not aggressive towards me. The babies however are no longer the size of her foot, they're essentially a quarter of her size by now, and it shows in this picture. We are very happy with how well they are growing.
With this group of babies I am going to be curious regarding a temperament question. With basically all of Dawn's litters when we move them into a hutch with more space we start seeing fearfulness developing than when they were around their mother. Given the consistency I wonder if that is a normal thing that will happen with all rabbits or if it is a trait that Dawn has. I think it probably is, but we will see when we move over Twilight's litter. If it is a trait that Dawn passes on when we do breed to keep from her we will have to select very carefully for temperament. We know she is a great mom, and produces good looking, healthy kits. But for future generations we want to keep that while also getting more docile, happier kits.  It is an aspect of long term breeding that we need to start thinking seriously about. We don't just want to breed for meat with short term "buy more stock" as how we get solid kits, we want to eventually be able to breed our own solid stock, and only have to bring in new blood from time to time. Right now it's just very long term thinking but seeing how Twilight's kits do temperament wise once they are away from their mother contrasted to Dawn's litters will be a useful bit of information for me and the Lady of the House to have long term for thinking about our Creme lines.

 On to the really new stuff, gardening! We have a lot going on with the gardens. Right now we have the bed Right which has a huge amount of Kale growing in the uncovered area. We're not quite sure how much yet, but it's a lot. I know it mostly looks like dirt from here but trust me, up close there's lots and lots of little Kale plants getting their first leaves. In the foreground covered by plastic is seeds for cabbage that are hopefully going to sprout soon. We've been using plastic as a makeshift greenhouse to help the soil retain water. So far those seem to be working, but have to be taken off as soon as the plants sprout so we don't suffocate them. The bed pictured Right was actually the result of a bad planning decision last year as it is an East to West facing bed rather than North to South which is better. We've learned a lot about how to arrange our garden since last year. For now we are just going to leave it and keep using that bed since it is located in a decent place.

We've been doing even more digging and planting since last Thursday. Above in the bottom left corner is that bed we dug last Wednesday, as you can see it is partially covered because we planted a single row of a different kind of radish. We will be planting more next week so we have a 1 week rotating harvest of radish for a while. But that's not all! Left is the bed I dug on Friday evening. It's yet another bed that's about 4' by 12' this time. This time we lined the whole thing with rocks, mostly that we dug out of that patch of ground. There isn't anything in there at the moment. We actually haven't fully decided what is going where yet to be honest. A lot of this first year we are playing by ear because we don't have to worry about rotating what gets planted where yet. The whole four crop rotating planting thing takes work in later years to make sure you keep pest and virus loads down. That's a subject I'll go more into as we learn more about it.

The indoor seedling sprouts are doing very well, they've become a veritable jungle in that growing station. We are watching the weather closely, and considering giving in to the unwise temptation to plant after May 15th if the 10 day forecast looks safe. Now just to be clear, we know that it's unwise to do so. It is still a strong temptation to push ahead and try to get seedlings in the ground sooner rather than later so they have more chance to grow.

So I mentioned WAAAaaay up top that I'd gotten started on building a new hutch. I'm actually very excited about the ideas going into this one. As with everything so far it's all a development process. I haven't perfected the hutches yet, but with this one I'm trying to incorporate what we've been learning to make a safer hutch, that's still easy for the humans to use, has more room, a second level, and is more sturdy. Oh, without costing significantly more. No big deal right? Sure.
This new hutch in concept is 6'6" long and 3' wide due to limitations on size of wire. The front comes out to 3'6" tall  and the back is around 2'1" tall. Only 6" taller than the first hutches, but it should allow me to make a nice enclosed two level area for a nesting area as well as a second level with a solid floor to get away from stressful situations like the dog. I hope that by having that available it will reduce the threat from situations like we had last week with the dog scaring the rabbits enough to break the latch and get out. Obviously I'm still in the first stages of hutch building, but I'm very excited about it so you'll be seeing a number of these step by step photos as I work on it an hour at a time over the next week or two.

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