July 2013 Q&A :: Part 1 of 3
Hello, I am Sarah from Frühlingskabine Micro Farm and this is July 2013’s Question and Answer session. So what I do is, every month people send in questions on various things that they’re interested in that we are doing, and some things that we’re not. Then at the end of the month I compile all of those questions and put them and all into a video and answer them the best that I can.
So, on our little micro farm (we’re on a quarter acre), we raise chickens, rabbits, honey bees, as well as a garden. We used to do quail, but we don’t anymore, and I can tell you all about that in just a minute. So if you have any questions about various aspects of growing plants, or raising animals for wool or meat or just for fun, send in questions you have for me at email@example.com and I will answer them in the next video.
So, the first thing I wanted to talk to you about is our quail. We started out with 12 quail, ten hens and two roos, so that’s ten females and two males. I have been reading that quails do best with one male for every four to five hens. I had one male to every five hens, and even then I was having a lot of problems with them. I am convinced that they are a really high maintenance animal to keep. I did try to raise them on my sprouted fodder, which is barley seed/grain that has been sprouted for eight days and then fed to the animals. I feed my rabbits this sprouted barley fodder quite successfully, and you can read about that on our blog at fmicrofarm.com. I have also been feeding the chickens this quite successfully. I supplement the chickens with calcium for their egg laying. But otherwise, I haven’t seen a decrease with egg laying for the chickens so I figured the quails would be okay on this. I also knew that the quail needed a higher protein percentage than this, so I was also raising mealworms, I still am, I don’t know why. I was supplementing their soaked barley with mealworms, so I figured soaked barley has about 16-17% protein, and mealworms have much more than that. I think it’s almost 20% for mealworms. So, I was feeding them both of those, so theoretically, the quail who needed 22-26% protein would theoretically be getting like 35% protein. And that just wasn’t working out.
I had all the quail together in a very large pen: they were on the ground, they had shelter, various water dishes, plenty of food. They decided to go cannibalistic, which was super fun. They literally pecked each other to death and in like 10-15 minutes all that would be left would be carcass, like wings and bones, and that would be it. So, after a couple of times of that I decided to put them on a commercial feed. I put them on a turkey layer feed, or turkey grower feed. It was very hard to find an un-medicated feed, because I figured if I am going to be eating this meat, I don’t want medications in this food that the quail would be eating. So, put them on a turkey feed, which was recommended by a lot of people, and even after that I had 4 more quail die. So that didn’t work out too well. At that point, I was doing turkey layer and meal worms. I even de-beaked them at one point after I had about 4 dead. I de-beaked all the quail. I think that in itself is pretty controversial, I know a lot of people don’t like to alter their animals in any way, but at this point it was like, there were already 4 dead, so what would be worse? Cutting off the first third of their beaks and hopefully having them not peak each other to death, or just let them go at it? So I decided to de-beak them all, not just the males, I also did the females, and I still had two die.
Out of a dozen quail I ended up butchering 6. That’s was all that was left. I also tried bone meal and blood meal as supplements for them, and that also wasn’t working, so we decided that it would be better to just cut our losses even though we spent about $50 on buying the initial quail. We just decided that it would be better to be done with it, butcher them all and stick them in the freezer, and just know that our lesson was learned. The very, very hard way, but that it was learned. So I’m thinking about writing a couple of articles for the blogs that I’m writing for. I’m writing for Mother Earth News and GRIT magazine, so I think I’m going to call it: “Quail; The High Maintenance Livestock.” I did not have a very good experience with them at all. And I will never raise them again. SO those of you who can do it, and do it well, congratulations, I know how hard that is now. That’s my quail update so other than that… oh I do have a rabbit update too.
We are holding a–it’s not really a contest, nobody really wins, but it’s a vote on the name of our new rabbit. We had a woman that we sold a couple of rabbits to, bring a couple back because she felt like she wasn’t prepared to care for them any longer. So, thank you to this person (that I am not going to name). She was a very responsible person, she knew that this was something she couldn’t do anymore, so she brought them back to me to see if I could try and re-home them. I’m actually going to keep one of them, because I really like her, but I am still trying to find a new home for the male. Anyway, the female I am keeping is a chestnut doe and she has that kind of brown and black, speckly wild color. She has black tips on her ears and stuff like that. She’s very pretty. She is about 5 months old and so we are going to re-name her.
So the contest/vote, we call it Name That Rabbit, it’s up on our website right now at fmicrofarm.com. If you want to vote, here’s the score so far. We are doing geek names. So, I chose 6 and then one of you recommended a name I really liked so I put it on there. We have 7 names to choose from. “Caprica Six” from Battlestar Galactica, we have “Inga” from Doctor Who, “Luma” from Star Trek, “Maeve” from Dr. Who, “Saffron” from Firefly (she’s probably not one of the better known ones), and “Ripley” from Alien. “Khaleesi” was suggested, and she’s from Game of Thrones. I’ve seen that show, it’s so good, I’ve never read any of the books, but I really like the show. So anyway, those are our names and so far Khaleesi is in the lead by one point. Second is Saffron, and third is Ripley, so vote for whoever you like and I’ll probably close the voting here soon just so I can update our website. Go vote. Look for the post titled “Name That Rabbit.”
July 2013 Q&A :: Part 2 of 3
Hi, I’m Sarah from Frühlingskabine Micro Farm, and this is Part 2 of our July 2013 Question and Answer session. I’m answering questions that you guys sent in, and we actually didn’t have a Q&A last month, because June is crazy around here. I have a lot going on and it seems like it is the only month where everything is happening. So now that it is July and things have calmed down, I will answer all of your questions. Our first question is, “Do you receive much criticism? Or how do you handle criticism from the Internet and people in your life towards what you are doing?”
I actually just wrote an article for GRIT about this, and it was mostly on online criticism because I do receive a lot of emails, both good and bad. And a lot of it is constructive criticism, which I really do appreciate. A lot of people will say, “hey you’re doing this wrong,” and it does make me feel kind of bad. For example, the quail, a lot of people had ideas on how to raise the quail better. I really appreciated that and I did try everything that people had mentioned, and it still failed miserably. But I did try. You know, constructive criticism is a lot different than hate mail. Those are the kind of things that really get to you, even from people you don’t know, and from people that don’t know you.
You know, I think it still strikes a chord with you, no matter who you are. So, it’s nice to block those things out sometimes, and that is also a reason why I moderated comments on our website because, not only was there just a bunch of spam, but there were also some comments from people that weren’t trying to be helpful. They were just trying to be hurtful. In my everyday life, my family is full of weird people, just like I am weird myself. So, it’s kind of weird, I’m sure my family is a little different than other people’s, you know, “Average Joe’s” family. It’s not that they are not supportive, they just think that this is a whim. I don’t think they pay much mind to what I’m doing. And I don’t think that they really grasp the concepts that I am trying to work on right now. Because I’m trying to work towards being more sustainable. It seems like such a cliché word right now. I want to be more self-reliant. I would love to be able to grow the grain that I use to grow fodder, for the animals, and I would like to grow all of my own food and my own meat. So, that is definitely my primary goal here. And I’m not going to be able to do that on this small acreage, and with a homeowners association, but I think in the future we will be able to do that. I think most of the criticism that we get is about raising meat. And, our family is full of meat eaters. As much as people would like to think that meat comes from a grocery store and it’s all pre-packaged and neat and you don’t have to think about where it has come from, I think that really messes people up. Because now when I talk about butchering my rabbits for meat, for our own home consumption, or even the quail, I get a lot of criticism.
Talking about processing our own animals to people who don’t do it themselves, I get a lot of criticism and most of it is negative. And I think their thought process is that I’m ‘murdering’ these animals or something, or that I can’t handle taking care of these animals, when actually that’s not what it is at all. They’re being grown out for meat. That is their sole purpose. So, I’m not really sure how well I handle that. If it’s someone I’m just talking to, I usually get a feel for them first to see if they’re open to that idea. I’ll make a little joke or something to see where they stand on the subject and if they’re not in the same like-mind as I am, then I don’t push it, I don’t really say anything. But you know I certainly don’t have any problem talking to people about processing your own meat and your own animals for meat. But I think that a lot just handling criticism is being able to brush it off, and to move on. So, that’s how I handle it. I don’t know if that’s the right way, or the wrong way. But I think a lot of it is knowing your crowd. Who are you talking to? What do they typically believe in? And then from there, I think confrontation is not really worth it. You can’t change people’s minds on things like that. Big things. I just don’t confront people don’t believe the same things I do. But that’s just a life choice in general. I don’t confront people or force things on them at all. So that’s just me, and as far as the Internet, there’s always the delete button. You know, delete that Facebook post, or delete that email, or delete that comment off of Youtube. That’s what I’ve been doing and sometimes you have to roll your eyes, and brush it off, and delete that message, and move on.
So, our second question is, “How do you pronounce Frühlingskabine?”
We’ve heard it a whole bunch of different ways, and since our website is online, obviously, people see it in print a lot. It’s a very scary word to look at. It’s difficult to pronounce if you haven’t seen a lot of German words. So, Frühlingskabine is German. It’s kind of, you know how people call Spanish and English together “Spanglish?” This is like Germlish… It’s not really German, it’s… Germanish. “Frühling” means spring in German and “kabine” means cabin in German. So, the S is in there kind of like an apostrophe S, but it was all put in to one word. My uncle actually named this house Frühlingskabine, because Spring is a family name. So it is “Spring’s Cabin”. It’s pronounced Froo-Ling’s-Cabin. But we’ve heard it a whole bunch of different ways. Like Finklebeen, or Frulskabean, or Frulee’sCabin. We’ve heard it a whole bunch of different ways, so don’t worry if you butcher it. We’re pretty used to it.
Alright, our next question is “Can I use something other than barley or wheat for growing fodder?”
Yes you can. The big three are: barley, wheat, and oats. You want to make sure that they’re not processed, not rolled, not heat treated, and do not contain pesticides or not been sprayed with pesticides. I have actually been talking to someone about finding a gluten free alternative, because… I didn’t know that oats had gluten in them, in fact I kind of thought they didn’t. Barley and wheat DO have gluten in them, oats may or may not, I’m not really sure about that. So, we’ve been talking about finding a gluten free alternative. You can use things like beans, like mung beans or lentils, or sunflower seeds, things like that. But the thing is that it can’t really be used as a complete diet, like wheat, barley or oat fodder could be because it doesn’t have that stable protein percentage, the fiber rate is not quite the same, and the inherent vitamins are not the same. So, you can, but if you are using something other than barley, wheat or oats, I probably wouldn’t feed it as their whole diet. I would give them some other things, even if it’s just foraged foods.
This person is unable to forage because of where they live, but I know a lot of people ask grocery stores for scraps for their chickens, so maybe think about doing something like that. I’m working on putting together a list of “foraged” wild plants for rabbits. I have a rabbit safe list, but it’s mostly the kind of the weird things you aren’t sure about. It’s not really a comprehensive list of things that you can use to create your own diet for these animals. The whole purpose of the Black Oil Sunflower Seeds is to provide oils and fats into the diet, which is really important with fodder because fodder has almost no fat in it. So, sprouting Black Oil Sunflower Seeds is probably not going to be you most financially sound idea because they are very expensive. But go ahead and sprout whatever kinds of beans that you find that are cheapest, but just make sure that they are safe for rabbits, or whatever animal you will be feeding, and go from there. Maybe with a combination of sprouts and foraged food or grocery store rejects, you can find a diet that works for you. Or maybe some other type of whole grain, maybe just don’t sprout it. I’ve seen a lot of gluten free flours, but I don’t really know what they’re made of. I feel just like so ignorant right now… But think about the things you use for flours, gluten free flour, and see if maybe some of those ingredients are things you can feed raw to your animals, if it’s cheap enough. Or maybe you can sprout it and combine a whole bunch of different things to make a diet for your animals. Think about that and I will definitely get that list together on forageable foods for rabbits.
July 2013 Q&A :: Part 3 of 3
Hi, I’m Sarah from Frühlingskabine Micro Farm, and this is Part 3 of our July 2013 Q&A session. So, our next question is, “When do angora rabbits go through their first shedding of hair? Mine seems to shed all the time. How do I know it’s a true moult? Mine are 4 and 6 months old.”
I don’t have much experience with English angoras and I have no experience with German angora. My primary experience with angora rabbits is French angoras so that’s kind of what I am basing my advice off of. My own experience. I know that French angoras shed their hair, some English do, but not all of them. I know someone with English that plucks their angoras and it works just fine. But then I’ve also heard that another breeder’s line that don’t shed, or moult, or “blow” their coat at all. So I think it’s going to depend a lot on what kind of angora rabbit you have, first of all. And second, if they even shed or moult their hair. So, you say they are going through a shedding of hair, or they’re shedding all the time. My first question would be, is this during grooming where are you actually brushing them out and a whole bunch of hair is coming out? Because that’s fairly normal. Some hair will come out, but you will know if it is a true “moult” or what you’re calling it here. It’s really called blowing their coat. You’ll know. My French angoras’ blow at about 5 or 6 months old, 7 at the very latest, and basically they go down to nothing. When you pluck their hair out, or when you comb to get the plucked hair out, basically what is happening is they’re releasing their first coat. It is loose, it’s just kind of caught in the rest of the hair and wool that they have, their new coat of wool. It’s released so it’s just kind of hanging there so when you’re combing it out, or plucking it by hand, it’ll come out very, very easily and in big clumps. If it’s not coming out in big clumps, it’s not ready.
So, if they’re more shedding, like, you know, you get hair all over your shirt or something when you’re grooming them, don’t worry about that too much. Just comb out what you can, and that’s kind of what weekly grooming is for. Not only to acclimate your rabbit to being groomed so they aren’t skittish. You’re also doing it to get all that loose stuff out. Sometimes, hair just releases on its own, kind of like our hair. We shed too. I constantly have hair all over my clothes. But, don’t worry about it. You said you have a 4 month old and a 6 month old. I would think more about the 6 month old moulting or blowing their coat pretty soon. I mean if they aren’t by now, they will be in the next month or so. So you’ll know when it all comes out and what I do is I just spend 30 minutes for 2 or 3 days to get the whole coat out. That way your rabbit is not getting irritated with you… and bad things happen when rabbits get irritated. So once they start squirming too much, or trying to jump back and forth, they’re done for the day. Just give them a break, stick them back in their cage, and do some more tomorrow or do some more that evening or the next morning or whatever you choose to do. I know my French angoras blow their coat about every 3 months. Sometimes 4 if you don’t have that great of a wool producing rabbit, it will be more 4 months instead of 3, but start checking every 3 months once they’re at that 5 to 7 month old range when they start shedding and moulting their coats.
The next question is “I want to keep bees, but I don’t have a lot of time during the week. Is this something that I can do reasonably?”
Yes it is. It’s actually quite easy to keep bees, and although Trevor is the beekeeper in this family I know a thing or two. So what he does is he really only checks on the hive, does a hive inspection, about once a month. And you want to make sure to catch them on warm days so you don’t chill the hive. It’s takes them a few days to build that heat back up to where they want it. Summer time is probably the best time to be checking a hive, you just want to make sure they’re not in full sun. You really have to adjust your inspection schedule to the bees. So you’re not going to be inspecting at all during the winter… you just kind of cross your fingers and hope to God they make it through the winter. Especially around here where we have snow for months on end.
Aside from when we first set up the hive, when they were a brand new nuc, we aren’t feeding them sugar syrup. We were only doing that for the first month or two, until spring came. And now we don’t feed sugar syrup during the winter at all. I know a lot of people feed those fondant patties. If your hive is strong enough, they won’t need that. When you harvest your honey, if you leave enough honey in there for them for the winter (you need to keep that in mind when you’re harvesting), you won’t have to supplement, they’ll just use what you left behind for them for the winter. There aren’t that many tools involved, sure the hive is kind of expensive, but you can just buy the beekeeper veil (you know the little hat and the veil that goes on), and then just wear a white long sleeved shirt and white pants tucked into your socks. Or light coloured pants, like maybe khakis or something. So I mean, it isn’t a big financial investment. Especially, if you find someone with bees who will give you a starter nuc. As far as time management, I think you can do it. If you have weekends, you’re maybe using one Saturday a month to check on your bees. Other than that it might take a whole weekend to harvest honey, but that’s only once a year. We only harvest at the end of August. I think it’s the most reasonable thing, of all the things we have on our farm, to do. The rabbits are a huge commitment, chickens are so-so, the garden is really only a huge commitment during the summer, but bees, they pretty much take care of themselves. They’re still very wild.
The next question is “How much do you save on growing your own food and meat? And how big is your garden?”
Our garden is 32’ by 24’, that sounds about right. This year we have reign over the full garden. So, for those of you that don’t know, we actually share a garden with our neighbours. They built the garden because they have a nice sunny spot or it, which is perfect since our whole yard is shade. And then we share. They water and we plant, care for the plants, harvest, and we share the harvest (whatever we’re growing that they seem to like) in exchange for the giant fence. ‘Cause around here the deer eat everything! Even things that are “deer resistant”, they still eat it, and if they don’t eat it, they pull it out and toss it to the side. The deer are pretty vicious. We’ve got a ten foot fence around the garden and it barely keeps them out. So, we do share our garden and I think it’s 24’ by 32’, I know it’s 32′ x something.
I’m not sure how much we save by growing our own food to eat, but I am doing a tally this year. If you look at the very, very, very, very bottom, (scroll all the way to the bottom) of our website fmicrofarm.com, on the left hand corner I am keeping a tally of all the produce, eggs, meat, honey, and wool, that comes out of the garden and how many jars I “put up”. Now some of the jars I put up, or can, are things that I buy at our local co-op. They’re still organic food, but some of those things haven’t come from our garden. So far this year, I have put up peaches and plums that didn’t come from our garden. But that kind of balances out because I also didn’t count the couple of gallons of pickles that I made this year. Maybe I should put that down there. But so far our tally is, and this is July (I don’t even know what day it is, July 20 something): in produce we have 58.75 pounds, we have (chicken eggs I only count that up every month) had 476 eggs, we’ve got 6 quail eggs (fail!), in meat we’ve harvested 23 pounds, honey is at zero so far (because we only harvest in August), and prime- plucked angora wool we have 16 oz. (which is one pound). I’m not counting the stuff we sheared because we use that for stuffing and dolls and stuff. I’m only counting the plucked, never been cut, you know the long, 3-6” wool. The stuff that I use for spinning. So for spinning quality wool I have harvested 16 oz., which is a pound. I’ve put up 27 quarts, which actually– I think there’s more if I count the pickles.
So that’s what we’re at so far and I think there’s going to be a lot more. I just harvested about 5 pounds of pickling cucumbers out of the garden and they look really good. I’m going to have to make some more pickles. Some other things I have been canning from the garden are shredded zucchini and I just pressure canned it in water. I don’t know how that’s going to turn out, but supposedly once you can it, you can use it for bread and stuff. Everyone has so much zucchini and you don’t know what to do with it, it’s coming out of your ears! I only have two zucchini plants and I have 8 or 10 quarts of shredded zucchini, not counting all the zucchini we’ve been eating. So, it’s getting pretty crazy. But I am keeping a tally at the bottom of our website.
If you’d like to see more about what we’re doing, or to submit questions for August’s Q&A, please go to fmicrofarm.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to answer your questions for next month. Hopefully next month I will have Trevor with me to answer some of your beekeeping questions, because I have received quite a few of them, but I don’t want to answer them myself. I’m going to wait for Trevor to help answer all those questions, ‘cause he’s the beekeeper guy. If you’d like to see more of our chickens, angora rabbits, bees, or our garden, go over to our website or check out our Youtube channel.
We have a lot of do-it-yourself projects both on our Youtube channel and on our website. We have a whole bunch of posts on sourdough starters, how to build different garden tools, and how to make your own ginger bug– which has been very popular lately. A gingerbug is what you use to make natural soda (or if you leave it out too long, it turns fruit juice into wine). We have a lot of do-it-yourself projects and building projects. Everything that we’ve done here for the last, we’re in our third year now, so in the last two and a half years. So please come over to our website, fmicrofarm.com and check us out.
I will see you guys next time! Bye.