Saturday, April 20, 2013

It truly has been a while!

Three months, give or take a bit, to be precise.
Been busy as the proverbial beaver, I'm sure I've said that before, but now I mean it!
Trying to write things down in chronological order would be futile, so I'll go by topic.

Bunnies: they needed to be moved: away from the house and into their permanent outdoor accommodation. Even though, or because, they hadn't bred properly this year I had only one male, Silver and five girls, Brownie, Wanda, Whitepaw, Lavender and Ginger. Brownie, due to her thyroid condition can't be bred anymore, but as she's the first one, the pet one and I do have a special bond with her, she's a keeper. Wanda had two breedings, each with their own problems, but she's a cheeky girl so I'm tempted to keep her as well and give her another chance. Lavender had had one try so far and nothing happened, but I put that down to Silver not having done the job properly! The other two are at the moment with Silver and I will see if anything happens. At the moment I'm just letting them be, but if nothing happens I will have controlled matings and make a decision in a month's time then. So, to make suitable habitats for them I've subdivided the present run and house making it a decent space for 5 bunnies in total. In addition I created another run, which still needs a bit of weather-proofing and bricks laid, but Wanda has already moved in, eaten down all the grass and started digging a burrow! I need to make one more run, the boys ward, but as long as it's only one boy I can improvise. And he doesn't mind the girls company one bit!

And while I'm waiting for them to breed like bunnies, I'm learning/experimenting to tan their hides. I've used a 'commercial' kit and some 'traditional' methods and Ross will let me know which ones are better to work with. Here's a couple of pics of me at work!

 Poultry: since the last entry daddy duck has indeed quietened down, due to excess of other ducks. I had taken the daughter back to her siblings and waited another couple of weeks and then moved them all together into the big run. The first day or so a bit of nudging and pecking occurred, but nothing excessive towards one single duck. In February I slaughtered one and it was very nice. Only a minute bit too small, only just enough for the four of us. And again, I nearly wrecked my epilady trying to completely pluck it, but I seem to have stumbled upon a quick and easy method: shortly sear the meat and then pull out the feathers easy as pulling them out of warm butter! Anyway, as the others were even smaller, I decided to wait with culling the rest, 6-8, til they had fattened up a bit more and finished moulting. Which will be pretty much now. So, when I feel like committing some mayhem again, I will go down there and select a few.
The chickens went through quite a moult as well, every day it looked as if something had gotten into the hen house and plucked them! And then they stopped laying! I had about 20 potentially laying hens and got about an egg a day. After a stern talking to and the dispatch of two hens, who after 10 days in isolation had not laid a single egg, the egg production has picked up again. I've been ringing the ones that are laying, this year's colour being fashionable purple! At the moment we're getting 6-7 eggs a day, which is an improvement, but I still want to cull at least 6-8 before winter is here properly: there's too many for them to all get decent shelter in the hen house. My Light Sussex birds, a boy and girl  hatched from eggs bought online, are doing fine too: the girl has been laying now for a fortnight and they are good looking solid brown eggs. In spring I will put these two together and try to raise some chicks for eating: they are considerably bigger than my barn yard mix and reach a good weight a lot faster. I had to butcher two boys of that hatching and they were just beautiful. The meat quantity was like store-bought, juicy as well and definitely more flavour!

And last, but not least: the goats.
Over this summer Moritz, born December 2011, was behaving more and more like a greedy guts bully and becoming a bit of a danger for his younger brothers, cousins, aunty and even mum. By now he was bigger than them and had a decent set of horns. As the time drew closer for the little boys, I decided that he had to go as well. With only one paddock available I can't afford to have a bully with horns around. With a heavy  heart the home kill guy was called and a date set.
And then two of the little ones started to look down, one even got a bad case of the trots! I drenched them, gave them scourban and lots of honeyed cups of tea. But to no avail. I spent a few agonizing days trying to figure out what to do: have him euthanized or to persevere and get some vet meds into him. Which I did in the end: drenched him again, gave a shot of Antibiotics and a multi vitamin shot and then put him and his brother in the home paddock, to be able to keep a closer eye on him. After about 3 days he started to come right and I was thoroughly relieved. But then they both did a jail break, got back to mum, sucking whatever milk she had left and boom, next day he had the trots again! Blatantly obvious by now, that all he needed to be was weaned off the milk! I thought nature knew best and they would get weaned when they needed to, but obviously not. Anyway, I spent a day in the pouring rain patching any holes in the fence, which is keeping them in and now he's fine. And he's even started to put on a bit of weight.

And in between all of this we had three goats killed and butchered. The guy came at lunch time and by the afternoon I had three carcasses hanging under cover and three hides needing to be salted and packed away for tanning.
I had done the first salting on the day and because the weather was too warm for my liking, I had to butcher the carcasses quickly. I did this similarly to the pig and now our chest freezer is full to the top with lovely roasts, ribs and filets! In hindsight I'm glad we didn't do all of them, we wouldn't have space for them. And the tanning of three current hides is taking more of my energy as I've got to spare!
Yesterday we had our first meal: a meat fondue with the goat filet. And it was DELICIOUS. I'll post the sauce recipes and a pic on the food blog, but suffice it to say everyone was happily munching away.

And then there was/is the vege garden of course. I had planted lots of tomatoes and could barely keep up pruning them. Despite this time consuming effort we've only had a moderate crop this year. Four plants though have done well, so I will get some seeds and see if next year will be better. Maybe a new set of compost is called for?! We've also had beans, which never made it to the table, as Kara kept picking and eating them of the bush! This year we were given a range of mint plants and I made a decent tasting tea out of them. Excellent, as Peppermint tea is quite a favourite with Ross and the kids. I also tried making Kawakawa tea, I had serious toothache at the time and it's supposed to be very helpful in treating inflammations of the teeth. Our neighbours have a veritable forest of it and I picked and cremated the first batch. The second time I was a bit more careful with the temperature and time! The smell and taste by itself is pretty revolting, but after adding a bit of ginger and honey it was quite nice. But not be taken as a casual drink, definitely only for medicinal purposes: I was going on a bit of a trip, it has similar qualities as Kava.

For some reason this autumn I have been on a bit of scrounging mission and as a result tried out a range of preserving methods. Part of that was harvesting some lemons, zesting and juicing them and bottling the juice.

I think I'm almost up to date, things to come now are the results of my tanning adventure, which hopefully end up as nice cushions for our dining table benches! Next up will be making some liver pate, making edible acorn flour, learning to make a good goat curry and learning to play billiards/snooker/pool again.