Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rabbits and the garden, seeing the greater benefits.

The babies are getting big, very big actually. Big enough that we should be moving them to a growing out hutch soon even if Twilight weren't going to be giving birth in a couple weeks. At 6.5 weeks old we are technically past the time that we can safely separate mom and babies, but we tend to like leaving them together until 8 weeks for socialization reasons.

In this case we are thinking to take them out and put them in the empty hutch at 7 weeks. The smallest of the babies is now 1131 grams, or 2.5 lbs. The largest is 1340 grams, or 3 lbs. That is a good solid weight for this age, and the runt seems to have recovered nicely from his scare out of the hutch on Monday. How big these babies are getting, and how fast they are taking up space really makes me think that I do need to build 6' by 3' hutches for the breeding females. It would give mom more space, and it would allow the babies to express their personalities more while they're with their mom. I also really need to get to work on building the next growing out hutch because we will need at Least one, probably two over this summer and right now we have none available, just an empty 4'x3' breeder hutch that will do ok for one litter of no more than 6.
So get to work on it! Well, I will get to work on it but beyond needing to scrape together the money to pay for more plywood, there is a lot more going on right now than just rabbits though Twilight seems dubious about that statement, after all, she is the most important creature on the homestead. Just ask her! Right now though a lot is being done to prepare the garden for planting, and caring for what is already there.

Last night in the hour or so between when we got home from work and having to leave for social obligations, me and the Lady of the House worked on the front garden space more. Right now we are looking in to how well kale, lettuce and radish transplant because we have a bunch of all three doing quite well in the outdoor gardens. The Kale already have somewhere to be put, but the radish and lettuce do not.

Now from what I can find radish of the size we have planted won't need to be transplanted because it'll do just fine even though it is technically too close together. Kale on the other hand, we have WAY too much kale. Fortunately we have the Hilltown Seed Saving Network seedling swap in a couple weeks. We are planning to bring a bunch of the kale since we really don't need more than 10 - 14 kale plants for how much we will be using.
Above are some photos from the work getting rocks out of the patch we got prepared last night. The big rock you see me prying up is one of the three of that size we got rid of. We don't even know how many smaller rocks we tossed out. How we prepared this bed is basically the same way we've prepared all of our other beds so far. We dig down about a foot, turn the soil, get rid of the grass mat from the top, and sort out the big rocks leaving plenty of the small ones because it isn't worth it to try to get every single one of them at this point. What we are doing now because we learned from the gardening 101 meeting, spreading mulch immediately over the soil until we plant. In the case of this bed we put a 1/2" layer of rabbit poop down, then spread a thick layer of old hay from under the hutches over that to act as mulch. After that we thoroughly watered the whole mess, and are leaving it for the moment to transfer seedlings to.

Left you see our concerned four legged helper making sure everything is ok.

As we get in to gardening we are starting to really see the homesteading extra value of the rabbits. Our initial idea was simply the meat and fur. We were certainly going to garden, but we hadn't considered how much of the waste from the rabbits was actually exactly what we'd need as budding gardeners. Poop for fertilizer and soil additive, waste hay is great mulch so it isn't just waste. We're really happy with how efficient rabbits are turning out to be. Pellets and hay into rabbit, out comes fertilizer, mulch, and meat. As we have weeding scraps, leftover greens and the like we will be able to feed those to the rabbits and make the system even better. Seems to be working out fairly well for us so far, now we just see how far it can go!

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