The Sunshine Rabbit

Summer heat kills. Summer heat kills rabbits, in particular. When temperatures reach the high 90’s or into the 100*F degree range it becomes harder and harder to keep the more sensitive critters alive. Every June I shear all of my wooled rabbits and any day where the outdoor temperature is above 85*F, all of the rabbits get a frozen water bottle to lean against. Fans are always going; some pushing hot air out, others circulating what is left of the cool air. But sometimes it just gets too hot. All you can do at that point is hope that everyone makes it through the day.

Saturday was especially warm here, reaching 100*F around 2:00pm. We had had a week of somewhat mild temperatures ranging in the mid to high 80’s. Once in awhile I will notice that a couple of the animals become heat-stressed, like the rabbits and chickens. Saturday we lost Bunaby Jones to heat stress.

As you may know, he was born and raised here like his father before him. He was my main “herd sire” for my breeding program. Bunaby was also my prized Orange Agouti rabbit with perfect coloring, perfect temperament, and an abundance of easily managed wool. It would be an understatement to say that he will be missed. I am rather sore that I did not save any of his offspring to continue his line. Now I will have to attempt to bring back my Orange line using Bunaby’s littermate. The problem is that this littermate is a ruby-eyed white (albino) so there is no way to tell if he carries the agouti gene.

Good thing I was waiting to process several rabbits once they were all of a proper weight instead of butchering the one ruby-eyed white on his own. I now need him to continue my line from Seven of Nine. Lucky rabbit, that one. He skips the butcher block once again.

RIP Bunaby Jones.

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Farming with the Tao :: farmers

The Tao Te Ching is a philosophical and often spiritual text of meditative verses. The Tao Te Ching is a book of ancient Chinese wisdom written sometime around 500 B.C.E by the sage, Lao Tzu. The book has endured thousands of years because it has timeless understanding of life. Second only to the Bible, the Tao Te Ching is the most translated book in the world.

In this series, we are going to approach the Tao Te Ching from a farmer’s point of view. Let all of us– backyard farmers, market farmers, chicken raisers, and “wannabe” farmers alike– take on these poetic truths together.

Farming with the Tao series
Farmers

Plain country folk with rounded bodies,
Skin turning to bronze in the valley heat.
Why talk to them about the Tao?
They eat when they are hungry,
They sleep when they are sleepy.
Even a sage with infinite permutations
Could not match their simplicity.

Firstly, I would not like to be thought of as having a rounded body, but I am totally fine with the whole bronze-skin bit. If only my fair skin would tan instead of lobsterize.

How perfect is it that the Tao Te Ching discusses farming. These verses reflect what farming should truely be. Farming is not about how many head of cattle you have or how many pounds of cabbage you can grow. Farming is about simplicity. If one wants to learn of simplicity, all they need to do is become a farmer. Although farming is anything but easy, it is a simple life.

Farmers live their lives according to the seasons. Daily tasks are coordinated by the crops and animals, and thus, the weather and rotation of the earth. Honesty is a quick realization in farming. You cannot deny the existance of death, or life, or water, or sunlight. There is no need for politics, or heirarchy, or literature, or technology. Farming in itself is simple, as can be the farmer.

*Tao Te Ching translations by Ming-Dao Deng. Unsightly opinions by Sarah.

Bellqueen

I don’t know about you folks, but I just got my July/August copy of GRIT Magazine in the mail. They had an incredible article on how to use a Bellwether to guide a grazing goat herd. A Bellwether is typically a wether (castrated male goat) that is a also regarded by the tribe as a leader. I like to think of it as the goat version of an alpha male, although, I’m sure others would disagree with that comparison. The Bellwether wears a bell around his neck (hence the job title) and the other goats follow him along. When his bell rings abruptly, the other goats know that danger is near and to crowd together to follow the Bellwether to safety.

The article was quite interesting, especially since one of my little wethers has been escaping from the electric fence. I think the solar charger I have the pen hooked up to is not delivering a strong enough shock. Now that the goat kids are much larger, they don’t seem as affected by the little zap the fence delivers. Next week we plan to get a regular electric-powered charger to replace the inadequate solar-powered one.

In the meantime, I thought I would distract my little goat friend by letting all four of the goats out for snack time instead of just Freyja. Using these new goat tips, I devised a plan.

None of my little wethers are old enough or high-ranking enough to be a Bellwether, but I do have a herd queen, Freyja. Even after my trade on Tuesday for my new doeling, Freyja will still be considered the herd queen because of her age and dominance over her own kids. So why not make a Bellqueen of her?

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I had this neat looking, lightweight, hand hammered, copper bell just laying arounds the house. With a key ring, I attached it to Freyja’s collar. Voila! Fancy musical goat.

Yesterday and today I have tested my Bellqueen theory and tethered Freyja to a tree to graze while her kids stayed close. I figure if I can control how far Freyja can wander by tethering her to a tree, I can in turn, have Freyja control how far her kids and growing tribe will wander. With so many coyotes around, I will always be outside keeping a watchful eye on everyone when they are outside their pen. When snack time was over, I simply walked Freyja back into the pen and everyone followed without so much as a snort. So far, so good.

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Farming with the Tao :: totality

The Tao Te Ching is a philosophical and often spiritual text of meditative verses. The Tao Te Ching is a book of ancient Chinese wisdom written sometime around 500 B.C.E. by the sage, Lao Tzu. The book has endured thousands of years because it has timeless understanding of life.

In this series, we are going to approach the Tao Te Ching from a farmer’s point of view. Let all of us– backyard farmers, market farmers, chicken raisers, and “wannabe” farmers alike– take on these poetic truths together.

Farming with the Tao
Totality

Those who consider their path superior are condesending.
A parrot who speaks of the totality of the self is absurd.
Many paths lead to the summit,
But it takes a whole body to get there.

I was actually quite inspired by this particular verse and decided to begin this new series with it. Many times I have voiced my opinion on the beekeeping gurus and all-knowing homesteaders of the world, so you should know by now that I do not tolerate such “parrots” well. No one has the right to condemn another’s methods and beliefs, even in farming. And yet we all see condesending behaviors within our community of dirt-lovers.

If we all have the same mountain summit as our goal, what does it matter how we get there. Some paths may be slower or have more obsticals, but this is the path we have chosen for ourselves and we should never let anyone, guru or parrot, force us to change paths to suit their own superiority. All that matters is that you keep on your path and know your destination.

Consider this, if you follow another up their chosen path instead of choosing your own, have you really made the journey yourself?

*Tao Te Ching traslations by Ming-Dao Deng. Unsightly opinions by Sarah.

Ideas Brewing

I need to fine tune these ideas, but for now I have jotted them down. I would at least like to get the mushroom garden up and running by the end of summer with or without the rest of the Aquaponic system attached. My current lack of mushrooms (I sold all my fruiting shiitake logs just before moving) has made me crave them more.

Oh, and kudos to you if you can read my scary handwriting.

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fodder/aquaponics/mushroom/tomato/strawberry system

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A “topical” fencing idea to avoid the bedrock the whole field sits on. Several miles down the road I saw someone use a similar method to fence in a pasture… they must have suffered from shallow bedrock as well.

5-Year Garden Plan

We think we can get this all built and fenced in within five years. Hügelkultur beds are time consuming to create, but they are well worth the effort considering how much water is saved. We will try to get the “daisy” shape made this year, the left side of rectangles in 2015, the center circle in 2016, and the right side rectangles in 2017, all the while building up the orchard along the road. That plan should give us a whole extra year to bleed over into.

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