She's just starting to lose her junior coat here and is posing as she eagerly awaits grooming.
This is Mom's favorite Satin girl, Ginger! Her color is GORGEOUS and a unique glossy red we've also wanted to have in our fiber menagerie. She was a special girl that was started indoors as a house rabbit, but longed for the great outdoors and soon joined the others in the warren. She's a bit spoiled but recognizes her name, often comes when called, always leans in for kisses and loves to garden with Mom.
She's just starting to lose her junior coat here and is posing as she eagerly awaits grooming.
This is Jack. He was a special addition to our fiber flock late last year. He came with his 2 year growth of fiber we're looking forward to harvesting this year! He's a great protector and his fiber has wonderful sheen. It will be especially flattering paired with some Satin Angora!
Remember Alpaca is 4 times warmer than wool and Angora is 8 times warmer.
~ A little goes a long way! ~
We harvested over 4 ounces of primarily 7" long, scrumptiously soft fiber that more than filled a gallon sized freezer bag. That's not all of his fiber (it was his 'saddle') but it gives you an idea of how wonderful the fiber from one rabbit can be! With one rabbit you can actually make a sweater from the year's harvest. You can do more than that if you add another rabbit so you have a pair to bond and romp with each other, as they are happier with family.
There is a reason some have called angoras
'Apartment Sheep'. Many have litterbox trained them to keep as the perfect, quiet, indoor fiber pet.
It was time to harvest the bounty of fiber on my German Angora buck Boris, yesterday. I knew it was coming because He had loose and fly away fiber that was catching in his house and any hay he happened to run across, making what looked like a long tail trail behind him. By being attentive in your rabbitry, you can avoid losing precious fiber to matts and keep your rabbits healthy and happier.
This big boy loves to run, dig, explore and mark everything as his own. It's natural rabbit behavior and especially common when you have more than one buck. One way rabbits mark is by rubbing their chins on things - similar to cats. Boys like to also urinate on things - like other animals, but rabbits have a unique ability to thrust their rumps in the air and jump in a circle and fling it everywhere!
Instinctively rabbits will piddle little marking trails that help them navigate in the hours we're still snoozing. Our littlest buns, out for their first romp in the 'Big Garden', can easily navigate back to their house from the adult rabbit trails and it's amazing to observe. This same behavior applies to the herd 'smarty pants' that finds a special escape route to an off-limits area. You fix it and the entire herd, for days to come, checks out what they think is a new trail to greener grass.
Rabbits are especially fun to have around the home and property and this is one unique trait that will help you anticipate behaviors if your planning to bring a rabbit into your home and something to appreciate while observing the special quirks of your funny bunnies!
Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. Proverbs 27:23
We have been enjoying Milk Kefir and Water Kefir for years - along with Kombucha. We tend to crave different pro-biotic rich drinks at various times of the year. Currently, we're craving and making a lot of Milk Kefir smoothies. Even those that couldn't enjoy a milk shake, can enjoy a milk kefir smoothy! Fermenting the milk with kefir grains for just 24 hours breaks down the sugars and livens your yogurt-like food with plenty of micro-flora that work to replace the pathogenic bacteria and bad yeasts in your system. Here's our current smoothy recipe:
We start by pouring a couple of cups of thick milk kefir into the blender, add 1-2 Tbsp's of coconut oil (you need to start small and work up to this) and blend those together to work out the chunks the children tend to dislike. Next, we select from the frozen fruits we have available - maybe 2 + Cups, depending on the consistency you want- and grab about a Tbsp of bee pollen to enhance the nutrients and energy benefit. If we have someone visiting we may add a few drops of vanilla stevia or raw honey, because not everyone appreciates the tang of the kefir and a bit of sweetener can 'take the edge off'. Once you blend it all together, you have a family size pitcher of healthy, pro-biotic dense smoothie that tastes delicious, while helping your system!
When the children were younger I'd call out, "Who wants milk shake?" This would bring them quickly to the kitchen and they were eager to try today's flavor. Sure, we had some misses and it took time to wean them off the initial higher quantity of sweetener - but it's well worth it for every we consume.
If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. Numbers 14:8
We've been enjoying these treats for so long, we forget others don't know about all it's rich benefits and long history. You can learn more HERE. We want to be certain to share that not only is Kefir - in milk or water form - good for you, it's great for your animals! Often, they'll crave it! We found if we have a rabbit that has diarrhea, a bit of kefir cures it- quickly. A dog or cat with sour stomach? They'll be eager to consume it and you'll see the healing benefit as it re-establishes the compromised gut flora. This is an excellent tip for all animal owners.
As a regular additive, I know of rabbit breeders that are using the water kefir grains as a 'treat' for their bunnies. This is a good use of their fast growing, plentiful grain supply!
If you're looking to get started on some of your your milk kefir, take a look at our Mercantile for availability. Leave a comment below if you're interested immediately.
Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me like cheese? Job 10:10
I was able to pot up a few lemon balm starts to be sure we have several available for purchase at the Mercantile. I'm thrilled every year when I see more plants eager to begin in another area of the yard. They are such easy care!
Quite hardy, lemon balm is one I always go to for treating Momma rabbits after kindling. It's very easy to dry in hanging bunches and several of our rabbits happily finished up our last bits in February.
Last year we used the lemon balm to scent a swarm trap for honey bees. 'Dad' ended up using it to bring a hive home from an abandoned building instead, so I cannot account for its efficacy. I do value the benefits of its heady fragrance when rubbing the leaves and enjoy adding it to teas and cool water in the summer. I intend to add more of it to our herbal apothecary this year and our diet as I've learned more of it's ability to enhance thyroid regularity, mental clarity, and it's antibacterial qualities.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; Psalms 104:14
I've come to look at herbal benefits much like I do scriptural understanding. There is always far more information for us to glean about the many benefits in each plant, as their is with every word in the Bible. I can read the same verse or historical account and glean new, deeper understanding every time. To me, this affirms the true life and power in the Word.
Reading of George Washington Carver, we learned how much God can reveal about his plants, if we make him the One we go to for understanding. We were amazed at the hundreds of uses for Sweet Potatoes and Peanuts, not to mention George's dedication to time with Lord ~ every morning. What an amazing account of the miracles in creation that defy our limited understanding.
Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Deuteronomy 32:1-2
Well, it's time to divide and move the up-and-coming herbs to other areas of the property. Comfrey, Horse radish, day lily and chives have already been finding more garden locations. We want to make certain we give more growing space for these and other herbs while making plenty of these beneficial greens available all over! I'm noticing my yarrow and oregano need to be divided as well...
Our goal is to harvest and dry the largest quantity of herbs we've ever attempted. We're using up the tail ends of many of our personal dried herb supply to be certain we have containers, space and motivation to follow through!
The rabbits have been enjoying tree greens we segregated from the the mulch and comfrey tops are a special treat as well. Comfrey used to be a common and highly sought fodder plant in cow fields. I believe we have a Russian Hybrid more common today. It doesn't spread by seed, but by division only. I'd love to find the true variety, but have yet to learn of a source. (Anyone who knows, please pass the info. our way! Or if you have some, would you be willing to trade?)
One down side we've learned to watch for; they are like velcro (where's that trademark sign?) to an angora coat! Avoid leaving fresh comfrey in your rabbit's cage/hutch or running area. They should be suspended or hand fed so they can carefully nibble without acquiring a new, nearly impossible to remove, wardrobe! They can be a challenge with your sheep too, but I've found mine tend to eat any remains right off of each other - not a tidbit wasted!
Comfrey is considered one of the most valuable herbs in botanic medicine. We have used it in teas, juicing, salves, tinctures (just leaves) and as a valuable fertilizer. Mixed with molasses and nettle in a bucket of clean water, you'll have the finest compost tea around.
The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. Proverbs 27:25
Just last week, we were blessed with a free landscaper's truckload of fresh wood chips that smell wonderful and have enabled us to cover all of our drowning walkways (it's been pouring in sheets!) and nearly every remaining un-mulched raised bed. Before covering the beds, I harvest plenty of rabbit, sheep and alpaca poo to ensure an abundant quantity of nitrogen in the healing compost tea that will be infusing the soil through all the weeks - most likely months - of rain. Are you interested in learning more about this approach? Please enjoy this FREE viewing of Back To Eden. In it, Paul (of Sequim, WA) shares how he has used this method to abundantly increase his soil fertility.
I'm sure I've watched it at least 5 times, and I share it with as many as will listen. It was so generous of him to share his knowledge freely and for the video creators as well!
It took prayer and time before we were blessed with the wood chips we needed, but it was the Lord's perfect way. We were first gifted with literally TONS of composted horse manure (in 2012) and that is a needed and beneficial precursor to the wood chips. After that top dressing, those gardens were the best they'd ever been; no more heavy digging, just wonderful loam. You'll learn why this works so well, when you watch this quality video for yourself!
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; Luke 15:8
It's becoming all the more exciting to meander the garden and see all the new life poking through the mulch and soil. We were visited by a robust Robin - a sure sign of spring - and enjoy the increase in bird song as the weather warms and the day light lingers longer.
The nettle has been growing for about a month and I have several plots to harvest for tea, soup and drying. I remember reading years ago that the best time to harvest is around 10 or 11 am. At that time the sun has dried the dew and the plants are rich with vitality.
I most often cut, bunch and hang herbs upside-down inside, but I'll be snipping and laying to dry the nettle, with gloves on to protect my hands from the spiny 'stingers'. Several years ago I found a hanging, enclosed 'Squid Drying rack' at an Asian Mart that is perfect for herbs! It has three different compartments and can hang neatly indoors or out. I just zip it closed to keep any insect marauders at bay.
Nettle was once a commonly used fiber source by Native Americans, who utilized the inside pith of the nettle stem as a fiber, much like flax is used for linen. Rich in chlorophyll, it is also known as an excellent natural dye plant and was used in WWII as a camouflage paint. Nettle is also loaded with vitamins A and C, contains an abundance of calcium and vitamin D and is an excellent blood purifier. There are many reasons why the Lord blesses us with it so early in the new year and why many herald it as THE spring tonic! I've also learned He wisely clusters other plants within the proximity of nettle that easily alleviate the sting of those prickles. Otherwise, a quick slug smear can also do the job!
I'll be putting some in my bone broth today! Yum!
For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God. Hebrews 6:7
And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: Genesis 9:20
"To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve. Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals - obviously because of the importance of these things to the household. And there have been times, one of which is now, when some people have tried to practice a proper human husbandry of the non domestic creatures in recognition of the dependence of our households and domestic life upon the wild world. Husbandry is the name of all practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.
And so it appears that most and perhaps all of industrial agriculture's manifest failures are the result of an attempt to make the land produce without husbandry."
Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writings on Farming and Food
I have been reading and thoroughly enjoying this book. I would highly recommend it! (Remember, you can borrow it from your library.) I've often wondered why many do not consider more deeply what they are feeding their own bodies, animals and soils. The Bible points to many ways the Lord shows us how to care deeply and appropriately for the gifts in His creation. There is much that can be applied to how we are to be husbandman of every gift we're given personally and the revelation of how He cares, and will continue to care...
The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. 2Timothy 2:6
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. John 15:1
Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. James 5:7
This is our journey.