First Year Garden

Before I started my first year vegetable garden I had a phase of bonsai trees and wanting to bonsai other plants. With a move coming in a few months I decided to stop buying plants and wait until after the move. One afternoon Lisa asked if we could grow veggies and when I said yes she told me I could buy more plants. We started with some started veggie plants until we could get seeds to get started.

I am going to pause for a moment and say my grandfather had a garden most of the years I knew him, and him not here to guide me this was and is a lot of trial and error.

We started with some tomatoes, kale, coliflure, and some banana peppers, but we did not stop there. in time we added more tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs all in an effort to see what we could do.

Winter is here and we are starting to harvest from the tomatoes, and looking to what else we can plant and plan for the next things we want to grow.

update before publishing: The winter cyclone my kill my garden and peppers as I just do not have the areas prepped and ready for all the plants to survive. This has been a great leaning experience with my garden and I know the next one will be better.

The Winter Cyclone

The last few days have been throwing us a curve ball, thou my typical weather of Florida joke is we have summer and January. The cold front coming in I bought some tarps from tractor supply the other evening to wrap my livestock pens that are in pasture. I found two pack tarps that fit my need nicely and was able to wrap the 4 pens I needed to and secured them with zipties.

This held up well to the winds and light rains we were seeing. This morning when I went and checked everything had held through the night, and I though would hold a little longer for the day. I left and went to a coffee shop to work for a few hours for my regular job, and when I got home I did a livestock walk. I immediately find that the tarp on Rogers has blown back and he is soaked. I quickly verify the rest of the critters and grab Rogers tuck him to me and book it to the house.

Entering the door I call to Lisa asking her to bring me towels quickly. We both work to dry him off and find a suitable bin to keep him in while he warmed up and dried out.

This is a push to fix up the other few tractors I would like to build for the rabbits to go in as all others remained dry for the day.

I May Not Buy Livestock From Feed Stores Again

This story may be why not to name your livestock for the first few days. The day of the cage debacle I bought two rabbit kits to start replacing what was lost. I chose a spotted white one that the wife and I named biscuit an eight week old New Zealand white crossed with American White and a Grey nine week old meat mutt that we called Gravy. I set these two up in a quarantine cage away from the rest of the rabbitry to keep everyone healthy. Through the afternoon and evening when checking on and handling the new additions everything seemed fine. In the morning it was not the case as Gravy was dead. Gravy had shown no signs of being sick. Calling the feed store I let them know what happened and they inform me of the no refund policy, but offer to trade out for a live one next time I come in, so Lisa and I decide to head up there.

Arriving we head inside and see that over half the kits that were there the day before are gone. Left are a solid black and two black and white meat mutts and one all white from biscuits litter. We look at all of them and decide to get the all of them despite some screaming warning signs not to get the all white one(clear jelly poop). Getting home we load them all into the quarantine cage and see them all getting into a bunny pile.

The next day we see that Salt the all white one in doing a little better, but through the day gets lethargic and lays down. I check on Salt a few times in the night the last being at 2 am and they are still alive, so we have passed the 36 hour mark on Salt and the other three picked up at the same time and Biscuit has passed closer to 70 hours. In the morning thou I find Salt dead.

This is now two kits from two different litters that have passed, and in doing research I find that stress can cause things to exacerbate and kill kits. I bury Salt and take a look at the rest of the new additions. Pepper the all black, Cornbread a black and white, and Meatloaf the other black and white were all well, but Biscuit started showing the same jelly poop that Salt had shown at the store. I immediately separate the kits and clean out the cage and replace the bedding. I don’t know if this is just from that litter or something that could be spreading.

We are upset at the loss of life and capital, but like I told Lisa this is a learning experience, and from it we have learned to only buy from good breeders. I have to also remind my self to not go so fast on things as well especially as we know some of the direction we are going to take the rabbitry over the next few years.

in all I have lost 5 of the 6. Pepper is the only remaining one. This is my story others may have different luck in this area.

Declaring War on Furry Tree Rats

When we first started to clean the property the Tangelo fruits were on the cusp of ripeness. Walking back and forth past the tree while working I would grab a fruit off and eat it while working and tending the fire. After the first real cold front the fruit became sweeter, and started missing with bits of peel scattered around the yard. War was declared when I left 6 fruits on the tree one night expecting to harvest the next day. Reaching the tree I looked for the tangelos I was to harvest and only two remained on the tree.
I had threatened to shoot the furry tree rats, but with out a hunting licence I could get in to trouble, so instead we adopted two outdoor kittens. No these are not some indoor from the pound pets, but found through a farm swap group. We looked through a farm group as I needed these cats to be good with both the rabbits and later the chickens we plan to get.
The ad that was posted made full use of the season an the poster gave it Christmas flair which drew Lisa and I in. The kittens were described as elf kittens from Santa,s workshop. I showed Lisa a picture of the three and we settled on getting one of the boys., but after having him home for two days we decided to get his brother, as to give him some companionship. Naming the cats was fun bouncing back and forth between winter / Christmas-y type names and star wars based names. We finally landed on calling the first one Kylo and when we picked up his brother we called him Ren.
We have set up Kylo and Ren on the screened in porch to get them acclimated to the area and to know us and where food is, and until we can get them to the vet. Our goal is to keep the tree rat population in check as to not eat so many of my tangelos next year. Here is to the war on my tree rats.

Chickens, Rabbits, and Tractors

While the image of a bird or rabbit chugging along on a John Deere, and many people I talk to this is their first thought, but this is not what I mean. A chicken or rabbit tractor is a ground cage typically made with PVC pipe or wood and covered in such away to shelter your livestock. These devices are not all that bad, or hard to make and can be a great addition to your homestead. I recently made 2 of these tractors with a slight modification or two in ways that I thought it would help for my needs. There is a lot of modularity in the design and I plan to put together a how to post when I build out a few more so I can refine my building technique.

The reason I was building tractors is that we got some polish chickens from some new friends. We were offered these birds when we picked up our cat Ren. Separated from the rest of the flock as they were smaller and not getting along with the other chickens, or so we were told we accepted these chickens. Lisa has been wanting chickens for some time now and getting some grown birds helps with the learning curve as well as puts us in eggs quicker.

So update on the kits I bought we have lost 5 of the 6, with Pepper being the lone kit left. Pepper will be moving out of quarantine in a few days, as they are not showing any signs of illness. Monday we will be giving a nesting box to Delilah and hope to have kits a few days after that. Rita Hayworth will also be placed with Rogers to see if we can get a lift from her.

-After writing this post before reading for the edit Rita escaped again and we are not pursuing as hard this time as she did not lift when we put her into the cage with Rogers

Wheat Fodder Experiment

There is a lot of information out there on the benefits of feeding rabbits fodder. One of the most touted easy to grow grains is barley, but in looking at several stores and calling around I have not been able to find it, and I am not yet ready to order it online. Through my travels I did find a 5 lbs. bag of wheat seed which is next on the list of grains used for fodder.

Getting the seed home I started to look for a container to runs some test batches in, and this is where I thought back to things I had seen online with dollar store tubs, nusarey flats, and other such vessles, but I needed something for a single rabbit serving test. looking around the house for something I could get more of or had several of I thought of a water bottle.

fodder seeds soaking in lower water bottle half.

Day 1 – 12/05/17

I took a water bottle and cut in two with the bottom slightly smaller than the top. I then took seeds and cover the bottom to about 3 seeds deep and then covered with water. the first time or two I did this I used a little more seed and after a few days found slightly fewer seeds was still giving me good coverage. I am using the water bottles to experiment quickly before moving to a bigger scale of production.

Day 2 – 12/06/17

cutting another water bottle like the first and poked a bunch of holes in the bottom with a push pin. This gave me a lot of great drainage. I poured the seeds that were soaking in to the new container and rinsed. rinsing and setting up the first container soaking more seeds. I noticed the first set of seeds starting to poke out taproots

Day 3 – 12/07/17

Repeat the procedure with cutting, punching holes, and transferring seeds. I started noticing longer shoots coming from the seeds. I also started getting push back from Lisa about the pile up starting on the back of the sink, so I started to look for that solution. Started rinsing seeds 2x daily

Day 4 – 12/08/17

Repeated the first few steps and started more seeds. I started to see some more green coming up and the volume in the container was growing between the taproots and the sprouts starting to form.

Day 5 – 12/09/17

Sprouts are longer and volume is still increasing. I found a bin that I could keep the fodder sprout containers in that would be ok for the water to drip in to and that could be moved from the back of the sink.

Day 6 – 12/10/17

Oldest sprouts are about two inches tall and looking healthy. It is feeling nice to run my hands over the top of the mat. I am noticing that we may not be able to pull the fodder out of the cups the way I am using them.

Day 7 – 12/11/17

We are +6 days from soak and I think we are going to wait to +8 to feed the fodder to Rogers. Tomorrow I plan to start moving to the lower half of solo cups to see how that would work for growing out fodder while I look for small trays to build out little bigger better system for feeding the current stock. I will also be looking at a system that I can easily add more trays into the rotation quickly. I have seen some nice ideas online so I have a few thoughts on what I would like and what may work.

Day 8 – 12/12/17

The sprouts are tall and green. I started to give them to the rabbits. The red cup bottoms are working better as grow trays for the fodder as well.


The fodder experiment is going well, and is ready to be up-scaled soon to feed more rabbits fodder at one time. All rabbits seem to be enjoying the fodder.

Adventures in Catching Rabbits

Disclaimer: I have no ear tattoos on my rabbits yet, so with 2 Californians it is hard to tell them apart. please understand when reading this story.

TL;DR: 4 rabbits escaped, and caught

This week has been crazy, frustrating, and wonderful, but it started like crap. Mornings around here have their own rhythm with a morning fodder routine, feeding rabbits, walking dogs, and most days a trip to Buddy Boys for coffee.  Monday morning started out as something else though, and began after taking care of the fodder. Feeding the rabbits requires me to go to the workshop to get the pellet food. Retrieving the food, I came out of the workshop and rounded the corner with the feed bucket in one hand and two chunks of fodder in the other. Before me  I saw the cage we keep our 4 does in turned over and empty. My heart sank.

Filling with rage and anger, as yet here again we have lost rabbits I begin walking back to where I found buck when he got out. seeing nothing I look in the old coup to see if any were there and nothing. Turning back to clean up for work I put away the food bucket and right the cage on the ground.

Letting Lisa know what happened outside I grabbed my bag for work. Placing my bag in the trunk I decide to look around one last time before leaving for any trace of the four. Tromping through high grass and over growth where I thought the rabbits would hide and finding nothing I head back to the house.

Locking up the workshop I see movement behind the carport and look up to see one of the Californian does. Moving slowly I approch and bend down. Breath quickening and heart beating faster i place my hand on her scruff and she darts away under the lattice of the carport and into the junk pile. walking around and moving things I flush her back out and the dance begins again. Under and out I chase the doe until she darts under the trailer and I resign myself to go to work.

My drive to work was processing fact that my breeders were lost and I was set back months in production, so planning the next move. Seeing the Californian before work made me think the others could be close, so I buy a live trap. Stopping at feed store for the live trap and an axe handle I  look to see if they had rabbits(story at 11). Entering the store to find the trap I see they have two live cages with rabbits, some being eight weeks a cross of NZ and Florida White others a between eight and nine weeks and unknown breed. Deciding that I do not know how many rabbits I will be able to recover, and I may as well get new stock now at a decent price I purchase two kits.

Arriving home I prep a quarantine cage for the new additions to keep Rogers, my now lone buck, healthy and to make sure I was not bringing in other nasty into the rabbitry, if I did catch the does. Lisa came out to greet me and I told her about getting the 2 new kits, and she not only understood, but fell in love with them as quickly as I did. After getting the kits into the cage and setting the trap I went and found my hog ring pliers and set to fixing and reinforcing the does original cage and set it up on the ground hoping to lure the lost does in.

Doing some other cleaning in the yard Lisa and I catch a glimpse of Delilah behind the carport from the corner of my eye. Communicating quickly to Lisa that I wanted to do a flanking maneuver we set off. Lisa coming around from the house side and I from the workshop side and queue the Benny Hanna music.

Chasing her to and from a few time close with a touch and gone again she would elude us for minutes. Finally we herd her to a choke point by as much luck as grace and on ether side finally get her scuffed and carried her back to a waiting cage and fed her. Lisa and I hi-five and congratulate each other. Before leaving for small group we look for other does, but find none.

Home Lisa heads inside to let the dogs out and as she opens the door asks about letting Lizzy out I tell her no as I see a Californian doe behind the carport, but it is too late Lizzy is off the porch and I am moving quickly to catch her. The doe darts under the carport and I loose track of her, but all of a sudden Lizzy flushes it from the front to the back of the carport, but the doe stops to nibble and I am able to catch her. Placing the doe back into the main cage I see the other Californian and call out to Lisa. Giving chase and had several close calls, but in the end missed and the doe went back under the house. We called it a night and figure we can try some more tomorrow in the light.

Going out one more time tonight to check the trap and move it to the back of the choke point I catch a glimpse of the last two rabbits out Rita Hayworth and the Californian. I start working around and flush the Californian to the back of the carport and back into the choke point. She sees the trap but I coax her into it and it latches and I return her to the large cage.

The next two nights we have had sightings of Rita and a few small chases, but she goes to ground quickly and we do not see her again. we have not given up hope but know that it could be sometime or never when we catch her.


I pushed publish on this last night and of course tonight we catch her. Lisa had seen her in the back by the old chicken coop and let her keep running as it was dark and Rita was now a free rabbit, while I had walked around to check the mail. Returning to the back drive Lisa let me know about Rita and I started to track her down by shining my light into the yard looking for her eyes to light up. Finding her behind the chicken coop happily hopping around I decided to herd her to the carport and flush her to the trap. I walked long around the Workshop and behind the future rabbit area, and started to push her back to the main back yard area. Rita hopped toward the compost area and I walked around to push her back toward Lisa and the carport. After she went to ground there I moved the trap to the choke point we had found and setup. We tried to drive Rita out but she would not budge from her spot which we could not get to. Lisa ready to be done asked if I still needed her help. I relieved her of her task, and unrolled some tin around to drive Rita more to the trap than letting her get back to the yard. Grabbing a cup of pellets, turning off my flashlight, and spreading out handfuls of food I attempted to lure Rita out. Quiet I hear Rita moving and I shine my light on her and she moves back, so I put my light back in my pocket and spread more pellets on the trap. Seeing her form move out from under the car in the carport I quickly move around. Finding her out I step over the tin and she hops back under the lattice of the carport. I move a tire and Rita dashes out and then heads to my choke point. Like the Californian she senses the trap and lays down out of my reach, but not in the trap. Taking a piece of wood I push her back and into the trap where I then moved her in to the main cage.

Prepping for the Cold

Last week we experienced the first real cold for the season with temperatures dipping low into the 30’s and touching the edge of freezing. This meant we had to pull in the plants from the garden, as they are all in containers and somewhat easily  moved. Moving in we placed the containers of the garden on top of the septic drain field as it was out of the way from a lot of the other yard trash that was about. When we knew the temps were going to drop I started to prep the porch.

Starting with covering the rails with various blankets we use for the dogs I was able to block a lot of the cutting wind that was blowing across the porch. after getting all the plants up there and low we took other blankets and covered them. over the course of covering everything a few branches and stems did get snapped, but that is to be expected when things like this happen and there is not a good enclosed space for them to reside. This does make me want to build out a green house for starting plants, and having a good place to keep things warm in the winter when we have freezes and I wish not to migrate plants every few days.

my next goal is to look in to cattle panel tunnels and other ways of building cold frames and such to keep the garden in one place and protected. I think this could also give me some pre-ideas on building out chicken and rabbit tractors at a later date.

Rabbits were a bit easier I just pulled down the tarp to keep the direct wind off of them and then made sure to give them a little extra hay that night. With my does currently housed together I knew they also cuddled up to stay warm.

Thankfully the cold front only lasted a day or two and the lasting cold is passing quickly and each night is warmer still.

Shed Pre-delivery Inspection

today 12/11/17 we had the pre-delivery inspection for the new storage shed we are having delivered in the coming week. The company that is doing the sales and transport had some concerns with the knowledge that there was a power line overhanging the delivery area. Looking at the site several times before we went to look and fill out the paperwork I knew I had the slack to push the line up to surpass the peak height of the building.

Inspecting the area I knew I also needed to cut some saplings that are growing out of some partially rotted stumps, and knock down a fire pit that should never have been put into the area. I found glass scattered through the area and thought it good that a shed would keep most of it from being a danger to anyone in the area soon enough.

Now with the pre-delivery done I know what my task list is to getting the area cleaned up over the next week before the shed arrives.

Losing Livestock

This is a sad post, as it is about loosing a rabbit due to negligence. Our last day of moving I had help moving the live stock, but before moving them I pulled the pans on Buck and Rogers and cleaned it and left the litter out for the move. When we set up the cages in the new location and I did not check to see if the latch for the litter pan on Bucks cage was locked. Coming home with the last load of boxes and cleaning supplies from the old place I had to dig out the food and feed the rabbits.

Walking out with my flashlight, rabbit pellets, and wife we immediately see the litter pan from Bucks cage on the ground. I shine the light at his cage and he is not there. my first thought is “crap we just lost a rabbit”, but looking behind the workshop we find him. I expect him to bolt as I reach down, but he does not. I expect him to fight my hand as I scruff him, but he does not. I lift him and his foot dangles and flops, and I know his leg is broken. This is where most pets would be taken for care, and this is where I places him in his cage to purge for the night. I lost the rabbit as he was not worth the expense to take to a vet. for that same cost I can replace him with another buck and still have a good breeding program.

Was I sad yes, but I was more mad that I did not check the pan. More so I became more diligent with my live stock immediately and hope that I can keep someone else from making the same mistake.