24 Carrot Rabbitry

City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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Archive for November, 2010


Finally, for the first time since mid-February, we have popples!  For those of you who might not be familiar with the RabbitTalk forum at http://rabbittalk.com, a popple is a babby bunny.  Someone on another forum observed that baby rabbits “pop” (make little jumps) like popcorn, and the nickname “popples” was born.  It stuck at RabbitTalk, and we routinely refer to baby rabbits as popples, even though the proper name for them is kits.

Anyway, here we are, trying to raise meat rabbits and be self-sufficient and all, and we haven’t had a litter of rabbits since February?  What’s up with that?


Right when the litter Pearl had in February was 10 weeks old, we moved.  Then my husband Shay started looking for a job, and we started building a rabbitry.  We completed the rabbitry and moved the bunnies in.  Shay continued looking for a job, and we didn’t get around to butchering our first batch of rabbits until they were 24 weeks old.

We mated Pearl to Thumper again, but it had been so long that she was unwilling, and she didn’t have any babies.  We tried again, and Pearl was a little more cooperative, but it had been so hot that Thumper went heat sterile.  So this is why we had all this delay.

But finally, FINALLY, we have baby bunnies again!

Rabbit does aren’t always good mothers the first time around, but Pearl had been perfect.  So I was hoping that Squeak, who by this time had reached maturity, would be a good mother right from the start as well.  I have not been disappointed!  She had 6, all alive, active, and healthy, and just as squeaky as Squeak had been as a popple, which is where she got her name.  She had them in the nestbox, in a nice nest of hay and lots of fur that she had pulled.

Squeak's litter of 6 kits.

Pearl’s first litter (of which Squeak was one) was 8, so I was crossing my fingers for 8 again.  She had six.  But that’s okay.  We have 12 baby bunnies!  Pearl again made a marvelous nest with an explosion of white fur in it.  Her babies are so spoiled with that thick fluff she gave them!  :)  They need it, too… it went to freezing last night, and should get close again tonight.

Pearl's litter of 6.

It’s good to be back on track again.

I can’t take the suspense!!!!!

Thirty days ago, we bred our two does, Squeak and Pearl.  We finally realized that Thumper, while a perfectly capable buck, was a little too much of a gentleman to get his job done.  His son Pinto, however, was perfectly capable and also very assertive.

So Pearl and Squeak were both bred to Pinto.  Rabbits have a gestation period of about 30 days.  I believe Pearl delivered her previous litter at 31 days (nearly a year ago).

I checked the nest boxes this morning, and there were no baby bunnies out there yet.  However, when Pearl flopped down to rest, I noticed that her belly seemed to be bulging quite a bit.  Also, Squeak, who normally has this slender, jackrabbit-like figure, wasn’t looking so slender.

I think!  I hope!!!!!

So it looks like — just maybe — the heat sterility is over, and we should have baby bunnies in another day or two!  It’s kinda hard to have rabbit meat when you aren’t getting any rabbits.

Raising Catfish in a Barrel

Yeah, really, apparently.  There isn’t much record on the internet of lots and lots of people doing this, but we’re planning to give it a try!  From what I’ve read, you can actually raise 40 channel catfish from fingerlings to 1 – 1 1/2 lbs in a 55-gallon drum.

It isn’t easy, and it requires dedication.  For starters, you have to be willing to pull 15 gallons of water from the bottom of the barrel EVERY DAY, and replace it with fresh, dechlorinated water.  This is water you have drawn the day before and allowed to sit for 24 hours, in a place that gets sun in the daytime.  So you have to have something to do with the water you pull out (garden?) and a container to allow 15 gallons of water (per barrel) to dechlorinate.

You also need to make the catfish barrel mobile, so that you can put it in the sun or in the shade, depending on the temperature.  You also need something to oxygenate the water — a bubbler, or sprayer, or something.

You need something to feed to the catfish.  Dog food will foul the water.  But you can feed fish pellets or earthworms.  You can raise the earthworms yourself in worm bins.

Picture this:

  • Our rabbits eat (eventually) greens and such from the garden
  • We take the rabbit manure (bunny berries) and put it into the worm bin
  • We take the rabbit urine and dilute it and water the garden (think NITROGEN)
  • The worms eat the bunny berries and reproduce
  • We feed the worms to the catfish
  • We change 15 gallons of fish water per day, and water the garden (more NITROGEN)
  • We eat the fish
  • The fish water and bunny urine water make the garden go crazy
  • Our rabbits eat greens and such from the garden

Here’s where we’re getting our ideas:


http://yardstead.com/Urban-Homesteading/raising-catfish-in-a-barrel.html (same page, but not in .pdf format)


And for some warning about what happens if something unexpected comes up (like an early baby!) and you can’t take care of the barrel:  http://www.freewebs.com/clarkshomestead2/catfishinabarrel.htm

So we’ll be giving it a shot.  Barrels need to be food-safe, and I hear you can get them from the local dairy.

It’s all about being a little more self-sufficient in uncertain times.  The weak link is the availability of catfish fingerlings.  No fingerlings, no fish to fry.  Or bake.

And, of course, there’s the fact that I don’t yet have a garden from which the rabbits can eat greens… and the fact that I probably don’t have enough yard here to grow all the food the rabbits need, PLUS enough for us.  Not sure on that one.  But I do need to get the garden going.

Exactly what kind of socialization?

Any homeschooling parent can tell you that the number one question they hear from people who find out they homeschool is, “How will you socialize your children?”.  In spite of the fact that homeschooled kids have been shown over and over again to be at least as socially adept as their peers who attend public and private schools, the most common question asked of homeschoolers is, “But, how will your children be properly socialized?”

(The voices in this video are computer generated, so that’s why it sounds a little odd.)

No matter how many clubs or other extra-curricular activities your children involve themselves in, no matter how many spelling or geography bees or academic fairs they participate in, no matter how many homeschool group field trips they go on, no matter how many homeschool co-ops they participate in, no matter how many friends they have or kids in the neighborhood they play with… somehow, the idea remains that a child not in public or private school is sheltered and will be unable to cope in the “real world” (whatever that is), and will turn out “weird”.

Yeah, I never knew anybody who was educated in public or private school who was weird.  Never.  Is my nose growing?

I started out in a private school, but only through first grade.  After that, it was public school.  I had some good times, and I had a few friends.  But I was also bullied.  And I was bored.  I learned new material very quickly, and often already knew it when we got to it, especially in math.  I was bored enough that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do, and got bad grades as a result.  I finally applied to the gifted and talented program and was accepted.  The work was challenging, and I got good grades, but I had to be bused across town to go to school.  So I didn’t live anywhere near any of my friends.  At least I wasn’t bullied there.  But some of the stuff that happened at that school was pretty bad.  Kids from other schools were surprised to learn you went to this school, and would ask, “Have you ever been stabbed?”  I had a friend who had been burned as a kid, and had scars on his face and down his arm.  Other kids would ask him how he got them, and (just to mess around with them) he would reply, “Oh, I go to ______ High School.”  The other kids would say “Oooohhh,” and nod knowingly.  It was bad.

I remember the socialization I got in public school.  I remember being surrounded by some 30 kids who were mercilessly teasing me.  I remember the girls teasing me in gymnastics.  I remember the daily verbal pelting I got in middle school.  I remember the everybody’s-doing-it pressure about makeup, sexy clothes, drugs, alcohol, and sex.  Yeah, socialization was wonderful.

I would have loved to be homeschooled.  But when I was going through school, the homeschool movement in this country was just getting started.

Until very recently, nearly everybody in history was homeschooled.  Yet, somehow, we still managed to survive as a vibrant, well-socialized people.  We still produced great thinkers and mathematicians and scientists and writers.  If public school socialization is really so vital, then why is this the case?

Socialization itself is a very recent concern.  It was not among the reasons the public schools were founded.  The focus was on learning.

The idea seems to be that placing your children in a situation in which they will never again find themselves somehow prepares them for the “real world”.  I know that at no point in my life after school have I ever been expected to work in a group comprised of people who are exclusively almost exactly my age.  When I worked in retail, the employees and customers there were not all 22.  So if the socialization environment in a public or private school is an artificial one that does not resemble the “real world”, then how does that help the kids involved learn to handle the “real world” later, and deal with people of all ages?  How does it prepare them better than the environment of a homeschooled child, who has regular interaction with kids and adults of all ages?

This post is not a my-way-is-better-than-your-way post, but an is-there-really-something-wrong-with-my-way post.  The studies have been done.  Homeschoolers have been studied as they have grown up and become adults, and it has been shown time and again that they have no socialization deficiencies.  How many more studies need to be done before this is accepted, and homeschoolers stop having to deal with this maddening question for which no answer seems to be good enough?

Baked Whole Pumpkin (or, In-The-Pumpkin Pie)

BAKED WHOLE PUMPKIN (or, In-The-Pumpkin Pie)

Some nineteen years ago, Shay and I came across a very interesting historical American recipe in a cookbook.  We served it that Thanksgiving to our family, just a couple of months after we were married.  Or, maybe it was one year later.  But anyway, it was the talk of the table that day.  Since that Thanksgiving, I have made this every year.  Over the years, I have adjusted and refined it to suit our tastes, and have learned by trial and error.  This recipe is the result.  Enjoy!  :D

1 pumpkin, 6-7 pounds, with a stem if at all possible

6 whole eggs

2 Cups heavy whipping cream or heavy cream

1 Cup packed brown sugar

2 Tablespoons molasses or Steen’s cane syrup (it’s very dark)

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter

A note about selecting a pumpkin: try to select the most stable pumpkin you can. Wider is better than taller. Straight is much better than tilted. You don’t want the pumpkin to fall over. Also, though you can use a few toothpicks to open the lid, you really don’t want to have to. It’s not easy or foolproof, since the pumpkin will be cooked, and therefore easy to pull through. A stem handle is much better. Also, pie pumpkins will give you a smoother, sweeter meat than others, but it can be difficult to find them in the 6-7 pound range. I have found them, though.

Cut the lid off the pumpkin, being careful to cut at a nearly flat angle all the way around AND to end up with a hole that is at least 5-6 inches wide. Remove the seeds and strings, saving the seeds for toasting. Place the pumpkin in a baking pan or even a pie or cake pan. If your lid has very little stem, you will need to stick a few toothpicks into the lid for later handling (but, like I said, you don’t want to do this unless that’s the only suitable pumpkin you could find).

Mix (don’t beat or whip) the remaining ingredients together except the butter. Pour it into the pumpkin; then cut the butter into small pieces and drop it on top of the mixture. The pumpkin will be about half full or a little more at this point, depending on the size of the pumpkin. Put the lid back on the pumpkin.

Bake the whole thing at 350 degrees for 1 – 1 ½ hours or more, until the mixture has set like a custard. I’m afraid I have never been able to come up with an exact formula. I have had pumpkins done in that 1 ½ hour time, and I’ve had them take up to three hours. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the thickness of the meat of the pumpkin.

When checking the pumpkin while it is cooking, and the first time after it’s done, it is best to use a butter knife to go around the lid again to make sure it isn’t stuck.  If you don’t, the stem might separate from the lid.

How do you know when a custard is done? Remove the lid of the pumpkin and thump the side of the pan, watching the surface of the custard. If the whole thing (or most of it) ripples like water, it isn’t done. It’s done when all but the center 1 inch or so ripples like jelly (in other words, not very much), and the center inch still ripples like water. Or, an inch or so away from the center, slowly sink the blade of a butter knife through one of the pools of butter and into the custard a couple of inches, then slowly bring it back out. If it comes out almost clean, the custard is done. Put the lid back on and let the custard finish setting as it cools.

By the way, I have had the custard overflow the pumpkin before. Don’t panic. It looks strange, but still tastes great. It is, however, a good reason to put the pumpkin in a pie pan and then also on a baking sheet to catch any accidents.

The pumpkin will look wilted and wrinkled and will be a dark orange color. It makes a great conversation piece. Serve straight from the pumpkin right at the table, scraping some pumpkin from the sides to go with the custard. If you wish, top with whipped cream.

This is said to have been a favorite of George Washington. The original recipe comes from The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American by Jeff Smith. Finding it bland (sugar and spices were much more expensive way back), I’ve played with the amounts of sugar, molasses, and spices to arrive at this recipe. Jeff Smith’s recipe lives on all over the internet. Some people have come up with different ideas for cooking it and getting the custard to set (sometimes it does seem like it will take forever). Don’t try the idea of leaving off the lid. Your pumpkin may collapse inward without it supporting the walls. Another idea is to microwave it part or all of the time. I read that this can tend to come out lumpy unless you slowly stir it now and then (I didn’t think you were supposed to stir them after they started cooking!). I was in a time crunch recently, though, and, in a fit of desperation, I took the partially-baked pumpkin out of the cake pan and put it into a bowl (bad idea – put it onto a plate or something… or at least a low bowl… something low and microwaveable) and microwaved it the rest of the way, checking every five minutes or so. I did not stir it. It finished just in time, and there were rave reviews.

I have never found anyone else who has actually changed the recipe. Should you want the original recipe, it called for a 5-7 pound pumpkin (too many overflows), ½ Cup packed brown sugar, 1 Tablespoon molasses, ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon ginger. The other ingredients were the same, as were the directions.

I also noticed over the years that the pumpkin was most attractive when a little butter spilled over from inside. It made the pumpkin browner (like a sienna color) and glossy where the butter had run down. I have started giving the entire skin of the pumpkin a very light coat of butter right before I fill it. It comes out beautifully!  Just don’t lose your grip…

One more thing — this thing has a short life span.  It is best eaten the day you make it.  You can refrigerate the leftovers and polish it off the next day, but it really doesn’t last longer than that.  Well, it still tastes good, but it starts separating.

Here’s the result for me this Thanksgiving:  http://rabbittalk.com/blogs/24carrot/2010/12/02/in-the-pumpkin-pie-pictures/