May showers bring June flowers??

It seems like this spring has been exceptionally wet!  The last few days have been nice and sunny. Perhaps too hot for humans and rabbits but the tomatoes and the rest of the  garden is enjoying the heat.  We took a gamble and put our starts into the ground about three weeks too early this year.  The hope is with all this sun, they will finally start to grow.  The cool thing about our tomatoes this year, even though they are super pathetic looking, they are not as spindly as usual.  Hopefully what they lack in height they make up in girth 🙂

We are already on the second seeding of radishes, lettuces and spinach.  Boy does the salad taste better when it is straight from the garden!! My mouth waters simply from typing these words…

Here are some pics to summarize our last month here on the homestead!  Lots happening.  Bunnies are growing, chickens are broody, garden is fresh and green!

Baby bunnies are five weeks old as of yesterday and will be ready to re-home in a few weeks–they are super cute!  Let us know if you are interested in a cute bunny!  We can provide the whole set up–local peeps only!

Honey (meat bunny) is bred and if all goes well–she should kindle on the 14th of June!

Debbie our ever broody hen is sitting on eggs…so far 4 chicken and 3 quail eggs.  We will be getting her a few more eggs to sit on today.  We don’t know if the eggs are fertile so we hope that we can hatch at least a few.  As for quail–we are experimenting.  Chicks should hatch on between June 2nd and 4th.

The plants in the green house are looking WAY better than outside!

Our eggplants NEVER looked this good in 7 years we have been trying to grow them.
Big bush thing is strawberry spinach–its absolutely delicious. We enjoy it in salad and smoothies. The plant next to it is a ground cherry, it has flowers…hopefully we will try the fruit this year.
Second planting of radishes. It took them 3 days to germinate vs. a week in March–yay for heat!
Cucumbers are finally growing!

The perennial garden looks great!

Maximizing space, plating garlic and onions with strawberries

Beans! and some potted stuff
Our two sister garden…corn and squash and the ugly unwanted relatives…weeds!! The plan is to pull as many weeds as we can and cover with woodchips

Our Hoppy News!

 

We got babies–9 bunny babies! Just like our human babies, bunny babies were a surprise. Just like our babies we have no clue what we are doing. This is often the theme of our life, blessings and surprises. We must be an awesome team because we can tackle anything together. We have a strong and knowledgeable support system of family and friends that help and guide us through our journeys.  Huge–no, enormous thank you to Edelweiss Ranch and Rabbitry’s Gryph!!!  She has been my bunny doula and my book of knowledge.  I know she wakes up with the sun and goes down late. Such is the life of a farmer, one that I covet.  Though extremely busy, she answered my questions very quickly at any time of day–thank you!!

Back to the bunnies! We have four adult rabbits: Buster and Honey (New Zealand and Rex mixes) and Oreo and Fluttershy (Mini Lops).

Honey and Buster are meat rabbits and we got them from a barter site from a gal who had to travel a lot to help her elderly parents. They have bread once before and had a successful litter.  They are around 2 years old. We thought that Honey was expecting a month ago as she started to build a very intricate nest. She and Buster boy usually run around the yard together and although we did not see it, we thought he finally caught up with her. We isolated her in our maternity ward. Bunnies have a 31 day gestation. Nest building can start anywhere from two weeks before kindling to day of.   Honey had what is known as pseudo-pregnancy.  Apparently, this is common if the doe and buck reside close to each other.  Honey wants to breed and we will let her soon.  She is not getting any younger and that biological clock is ticking for her.

Back to babies, I promise!  About a month ago, my sister and I were enjoying tea and chatting away, kids were playing and Paul was in the back yard, cleaning the bunny cages.  Buster and Honey were out and about.  Oreo and Fluttershy were out in their little play-yard (this is a typical set up for us). I glanced over and saw that Oreo was out of the play-yard and Buster, taking an opportunity to “meet” her.  The encounter was very brief and we did not think much of it.

About two weeks ago, on Sunday, while Oreo was running around the yard, we noticed she was gathering straw, tearing fur and running back and forth in a corner. Upon investigation, we found she had dug a burrow and was building a nest.  The bells went out in my mind and I was reminded of her interaction with Buster.   Paul and I decided to separate her from Fluttershy.  Paul was hesitant at first, thinking it was another false pregnancy (thinking of Honey). Boy am I glad that I insisted!

On Tuesday, I was making my rounds, tired after a full day of childcare. I peeked into Oreo’s cage and saw the fur move–I was pretty convinced that my mind has been officially lost.  I looked at Oreo and saw that her feet were a bit bloody–I then asked Paul if he was seeing what I was seeing!  Sure enough, my eyes and mind did not fail me, there were indeed babies!  Babies!!! Paul moved Oreo into her maternity suite and we made her a “make-do oh crap, we have babies nesting box” out of a deep baking dish.  It was already midnight and we were pooped!

Morning feeding and check went well, everyone was still moving, warm and super cute with round bellies. Mom did a good job.  Later that day, I found a kit all alone and very cold to the touch, not breathing.  The nest box was flipped over and the rest of the babies were under it.  The lonely baby was lifeless but still very soft (no rigor has set) I am not sure why, but I put him on my chest, rubbed on him and tried to warm him up.  At some point, while still very cold, I saw his mouth open.  I figured it was a muscle spasm, but also got a glimmer of hope.  The bunny started to breath and move and in about a half an hour, I placed him back into the nest with his brothers and sisters and a rock so no tipping over happened again.

The next day, despite being ill, I sent Paul to get a metal bunny nesting box to eliminate any worry for the safety of the kits.  We checked on them every two hours  for the first two days. Now we routinely do a morning and evening belly evaluations–checking for roundness.  As long as their bellies are big and round, we know they are being fed.  Today, the kits are one week old.  They have grown quite a bit and already have fur.

1day old
5 days old (less pink, getting hair)
2 day old runt of the litter-he maybe small, but his belly is always full and he is growing, he must be eating!

Oreo has been a great mama so far. We are excited to see the babies grow and learn how to hop.  Follow our daily bunny updates on our Facebook page: Homestead in the Suburbs 

Thanks for reading!!

 

 

My attempt at a Kulich–Happy Easter Everyone!

Happy Easter 2017!!

I am officially over my fear of baking with yeast, so I thought that this year, it would be good to try baking the traditional Kulich, Russian Easter bread.  I was hoping to use my mom’s recipe (her mom’s and grandma’s recipes, so very special to my heart).  I would love to learn the recipe and pass it on to my children, keeping this tradition alive for at least one more generation).

Of course, nothing went as I planned.  My challenges all began, when  I fell asleep with  the kids (four kids is no joke, I am tired)  and did not get the yeast starter going overnight.

Upon waking up, I realized that I did not complete this simple task. I briefly panicked and then  did what anyone would have done–googled a recipe for Kulich.  I found one that seemed easy enough and it was from a Ukrainian blogger (yay for authenticity).  Here is the recipe:  http://natashaskitchen.com/2013/03/23/paska-easter-bread-recipe-kulich/

It was an all day process but I was prepared for that.  The outcome was not as I hoped.  My kuliches did not come out of the molds well and the taste was good but not as good as my mamas–but I could be biased.

I had a lot of dough (I should have halved the recipe) so I made cinnamon rolls and craisin rolls as well.  Those looked pretty good.

I was able to salvage some of the kulich by cutting the bottoms off–I guess live and learn and then do what your mama tells you!!

We also dyed some eggs, chicken and quail. This craft, I feel very proficient in, the torch was passed on to me, at 16.

We did the traditional Russian onion peel eggs and the food coloring kind.

I have blogged about the process of dyeing eggs in a previous post, check out it out, super easy and very pretty.  Here is a link: Happy Easter 

The girls and I had a blast, the boys were spreading cow manure on the garden beds.

Thanks for reading and Happy Easter!!

 

Drum Roll Please!!

It’s done! It’s done!! Our greenhouse is up and semi-functional!! It is not perfect, but it was within our reach and we will customize it to make it fit our needs.  We are so proud of ourselves!!!  It took us longer than we hoped but we did it!!!

Now we put in some shelving and make some beds and the full production is on!!

My handsome hubby working hard
Almost there
In use.
Still some work to be done…but we are getting there

Next on the to do list: rain barrel and aquaponic tub set up–stay tuned!!

Thanks for reading–visit our Facebook page for updates 🙂

Picture this…

Some random pictures of our first week of spring–thanks for visiting!

Getting ready for our 2nd annual open house and plant sale
Our first year growing edible crocus’. They sure are pretty
Comfry, the magic plant…bunnies love it and so do chickens! It’s an excellent mulch and weed deterent
Camas, another edible bulb new to our zone one garden https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camassia
Bleeding heart, I find these so pretty
Chickens are laying to their fullest and the quail just began
Starts! There is lots of new plant life on the homestead and some already have been planted outside (kale, spinach, lettuce and chard)
We took down a bunch of trees in our back yard and decided to move the green house. We are in the final stretch–super hopeful to have it complete in a the next two weeks. We work as much as we can when the kids nap.
First little radish…the peas are out as well!
My new homestead foot attire–trying not to let this slow me down
Kids getting some quality time with their favorite chicken–Chicoleta




Spring is in the air

Spring is here–wait, it snowed earlier this week but I am pretty sure it’s on its way, around the corner!  Feeling very blessed!!

The perennial garden is coming back to life!

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Fluttershy and Oreo enjoying their time roaming the backyard

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Potatoes are going in! Emphasizing container gardening this season!

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The girls are in the full swing of things with egg production 🙂

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Making starts using our soil blockers

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Peas and radishes went into ground last Saturday!

If these aren’t blessings, I don’t know what is!!

Thanks for reading!!

Visit our FB page for daily updates of our journey to be self sustainable on our almost a farm!!

 

Some bunny loves me

happy-valentines-cute-rabbits

One day too late…

Our sweet bunny Honey has been acting weird.  She has been attacking the cage door with her paws and making a grunting noise. She isn’t vicious but is definitely acting different–strange. I got a bit concerned and asked our local bunny expert Alecia, from Edelweiss Ranch and Rabbitry, if I should be concerned.  I got an answer I was not really expecting–she wants to breed!   Well, who am I to get in the way of nature??  We decided that it was time for our homestead to have more babies.  We love babies and what is cuter than baby bunnies??  We were advised to wait a month, which was a month ago, for warmer weather and longer days.  Alecia is a wealth of information. I am not sure how she feels about it, but I am glad that we met!

We never just do something, so it was time to take out our bunny books and do some research!  Here are some bunny breeding facts and cool information I found in our books.

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals: Choose the Best Breeds for Small-Space Farming, Produce Your Own Grass-Fed Meat, Gather Fresh … Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, Cattle, & Bees

Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits

  • Bucks are almost always willing to breed–not so shocking!  Buster has been chasing (not very successfully) Honey from day one.
  • When it’s time, the girl bunny (doe) goes into the bucks cage. Does are territorial and can hurt the buck.
  • If the doe is ready to mate, she will not make the buck play hard to get, she will “lift” for him.
  • According to the books, it is easy to tell when mating occurs. The buck usually is very vocal toward the end.
  • It is recommended that you, the owner, are present during the mating to ensure that it did indeed occur. Also ensuring that everyone is safe, intervening if needed.  I guess rabbits are not shy and have no issue with an audience however I have read and heard that the act is quick enough to miss.
  • If the doe is not interested, take her out in 10 minutes and give it another try another day.
  • A girl bunny giving birth is called kindling and the gestation of the pregnancy is  28-35 days (average of 31).  It boggles my mind that it goes from conception to baby bunny (or nine) in just a month!!
  • Fatness in a doe causes a difficult pregnancy, so properly feeding the mama is important.  It is recommended to keep the doe on the same ration of food for the first half of the pregnancy (15 days) and then gradually increase her feed.  Towards the end, before she kindles, she will decrease her food intake on her own.
  • The doe will need a nest box; wooden, metal or wire.  Dry clean shavings, hay and straw (all clean and dry, of course) is placed into the box and the doe then makes it her own by pulling out fur from her chest and belly, providing a soft nest and exposing her nipples for the babies to nurse from.
  • It is important to place the nesting box on day 27 (so documentation is a must) into the clean (not potty) corner of the cage.
  • Once the doe kindles, her appetite increases and so should her feed, as she is now eating for the babies as well.
  • Does get anxious about their babies as any mamas do. Be considered of her needs and provide a quiet and safe area for them to be.
  • Baby bunnies are born naked (no fur) and blind.  They begin to grow fur within a few days and by 2 weeks will be completely furred.
  • Keeping the nest box clean and dry helps control disease.  Cleaning it is essential.
  • By 10 days the babies should open their eyes.
  • By 3 weeks, kits (baby bunnies) start to come out of the nest and nibble on pellets.  At this time, it is advised to start handling them for socialization.  It is also recommended to start sexing the rabbits as it tends to be difficult when they are young.  So doing it weekly can help confirm your previous observation.
  • At 8 weeks, the babies are ready to be weaned form their mama.  To make it easier on the mama psychologically and physically (reducing milk production), some separate all the boys first and a few days later separate the girls.
  • By 8 weeks, the bunnies are ready to go to a new home or if they are meat rabbits, to be butchered.

Just like with human babies, you can do all the research and read all the books but you will never be too prepared when the babies come.  This type of knowledge is not learned, it’s experienced.  We feel that we are ready for the challenge and are looking forward to having more babies.  We haven’t made the decision whether we will be butchering these rabbits or re-homing them.

Once Honey is bred, we will keep a journal of the experience.  We know she had two litters before we got her and we’ve had her for almost a year now. We  hope that she is still capable of having babies.   It will be fun to see the new fuzzy little bunnies in her nest box.

Thanks for following our journey!  Check out our Facebook page for daily updates and announcements.

Happy Belated Valentines Day!!!

 

The seeds are on their way!

For us, late fall and winter are seasons to get crafty for the upcoming holidays, shop from our pantry, reflect on our year and plan plan plan. Holidays are behind us and the good Lord knows we reflected…so now for the planning mode–seed ordering! A few weeks ago, I placed an order with Seed Savers.  It was so much fun to go through all the cool seeds and select the ones we will be harvesting come spring and summer.  I tend to go into my own little world when I order seeds, and have many visions about the upcoming garden.  I reread that sentence and sure, it sounds like I am crazy, but its true–I go to my happy place!

Last year, we used up most of our seed reserve, so this year, we needed everything.  I also ordered some additional seeds for people in our community–a small co-op group of local backyard farmers/homesteaders/gardeners/.  Here is a photo-list of what is on its way.  To say that I am excited is a HUGE understatement!  I can’t wait until late February-early March to get these guys into soil…some as starts and some directly sown into the ground!

0001-chervena-chushka-pepper-organic 0046-five-color-silverbeet-swiss-chard-organic 0107-amish-paste-tomato 0201-black-valentine-bean 0205-kentucky-wonder-bush-bean 0207-scarlet-runner-runner-bean 0229-dwarf-gray-sugar-pea 0236-feher-ozon-paprika-pepper 0277-grandma-eincks-dill-herb-organic 0320-bulgarian-carrot-pepper  0357-danvers-carrot-organic 0365-early-fortune-cucumber-organic 0367-golden-bantam-improved-corn-organic 0394C-yellow-borettana 0420-french-breakfast-radish-organic 0602-arugula-arugula-organic 0609A-sieva-lima-bean-organic 0610-bulls-blood-beet-organic 0620-pingtung-long-eggplant-organic 0623-lacinato-kale-organic 0630-red-romaine-lettuce-organic 0645-aurora-pepper-organic 0655-america-spinach 0661-beams-yellow-pear-tomato 0825-gold-medal-tomato 0829-thai-basil-herb 0844-bunte-forellenschluss-lettuce 0912-aunt-mollys-ground-cherry-organic 0937-baby-oakleaf-lettuce 0939C-amish-snap-pea 0993-empress-of-india-nasturtium-flower 1057-kelloggs-breakfast-tomato-organic 1217-strawberry-spinach 1218A-australian-butter-squash-organic 1299-joes-long-pepper 1302-philadelphia-white-box-radish-organic 1303-black-beauty-zucchini-squash-organic 1431-maules-red-hot-pepper 1460-japanese-trifele-black-tomato 1478-mcmahons-texas-bird-pepper-organic 1532-russian-pickling-cucumber-organic 1604A-paul-robeson-tomato-organic 1608-winter-luxury-squash 1616-gulleys-favorite-lettuce-organic

My mouth watered and my heart was happy looking at all of these photos!  Thanks for reading! Like us on Facebook for daily updates, news, recipes and pictures of our journey.

 

 

Yet Another Revelation

A revelation, conclusion or an admittance to ourselves, whatever the proper word here is, Paul and I made peace with the land we have. After spending much of our time trying to move our homestead to acreage, we decided that its time to live and not dream.

Staying put in our home had many deciding factors. The kind of land we want and can potentially afford is too far away from family.  Having my whole family within walking distance or a short car ride away has been a life saver for me. Four kids is no joke. Plus, my kids adore their cousins and the idea of separating that bond is unthinkable.  We grew up in a very tight-knit family. My sisters are my best friends. I want my children to have the same experience as I did, not just among themselves but with their whole family.

Another factor in this decision was what we can afford.  Our pocket book did not match our vision.  The kind of land that is within our price range would require a lot of additional finances and time, that we simply do not have.  Although it would be fun to get a wild piece of land and mold it into our own homestead dream, we simply don’t have the means.

The last, and very important reason for staying on our current property is our kids!  We home school and LOVE it.  The plan was to show our children as much as we can outside the textbooks.  We are looking forward to taking trips and learning together once the boys are bit older.  It is much simpler to find a sitter for bunnies and poultry than for goats and cows.  Maybe once the kids are out of the house, we can revisit other live stock.

We have a fifth of an acre, doesn’t seem like much, but its enough land to keep us  busy. We have a garden that is very productive but there is more land that is not being utilized, we have room for a few more fruit trees and a backyard that will one day be an awesome outdoor kitchen for fun BBQ and food preserving.  Our current children per room ratio is two to one. We are looking to expand our home, so every child has a bedroom to call their own.  I think sharing a room is important in building a bond between siblings and solving some of the “entitlement” problems (not mine, but ours), but it  would be nice if everyone had a corner they can call their own.  In reality it will be a while (if at all) before each kid of ours has a bedroom, I am hoping that they will experience the best of both worlds.  We are going to talk to an architect soon about adding a story with four bedrooms and and a bathroom.  I dream of having a guest room and an office.  Whether the dream of expanding our home will become a reality or not, we love our home and want to put down roots for our kids.  We are staying and making the best of what we have.

Paul and I sat down and made a few lists (we like to make lists).  One list of improvements for the outdoor and one for our home.  The home list is always on going, this needs to be fixed, that needs to be replaced, so I won’t bore you with details.  The outdoor list is a bit more exciting.

A fence!  We have been working on a fence for almost all seven years we have been at this house.  I think we have narrowed it down to what we want and if it turns out how we think, it will be super cool.  The fence will be a big part of the garden as it will be used as a trellis for many of our perennial edibles.  We will also build planters into the fence to add more vertical gardening space. Hopefully this will increase our harvest and attracting more pollinators.

If you have been to our home, you know about our Pagoda and the 30 year old non-functioning hot tub.  The pagoda is our temporary rabbit barn, but one day it will be an awesome out door dining room.  The hot tub is from the 80’s. The heating and electrical part of it is so huge, it required a whole side building, placed near the pagoda.  This structure will be converted into a wood oven and grill.  It is perfect for this project as three of the four walls are made out of cinder blocks and there is already natural gas and electricity there.  Paul’s dream of having a fancy outdoor wood burning oven will soon be a reality.  He is thinking grilling…yum, I am thinking canning in double batches–we each have our reasons!

We have a lot of space in partial and full shade that are currently under utilized.  We hope to turn some into garden beds for plants that are sun sensitive (spinach, kale, lettuce to name a few) and leave some as areas for the dogs to go potty on.  One of the shaded areas will one day have a pond, fish and maybe two ducks in it.  I am working on Paul to give up some of the drive way space for a few raised garden beds–the theme is vertical and container gardening to maximize space.  He is not super keen on this idea, so I really have to sell it to him.

This post turned out to be much longer than I thought and more of a dear diary moment but I am so excited to finally start living outside an unrealistic dream and start putting down roots in a home that I really love and realizing its full potential.

Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year and Welcome 2017!

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2017 is the year of the Rooster!!

As we say good bye to 2016, we evaluate all that it brought us! We make plans to improve and make things more efficient on our homestead. Here is a short list of things that we hope to achieve in 2017
1.) FINALLY finish the greenhouse and actually use it for starts!!!
2.) Depend only on our starts this year. Last year we bought a few pepper and cucumber plants. This year, we hope to do it all…and barter some of our starts at fairs and have another spring plant sale.
3.) Preserve our own seeds. I will experiment with the tomato seeds I preserved this season–if it work, it is super easy and there is no reason to buy seeds. If it does not work, then I shall try again and do more research to better my protocol.
4.) We hope to add to our home, so that will be a huge project! I am dreaming of having a bigger sun room or built in greenhouse, fingers crossed on this one.
5.) Work on a patch of grass that is overtaken by buttercups–we will conquer this war!!
6.) Put in our duck pond…maybe get a few ducks. We will only do so if we are able to build them a 100% secure home. I don’t want to ever live through another raccoon tragedy .
7.) Get meat birds to fill our freezers.
8.) Learn the art of making ham, bacon, sausages and other cured meats and smoked fish.
9.) Learn more about medicinal plants and dry more herbs for teas.
10.) Have an open house on the homestead.