The Magazine For Those Of Us Who Won't Just Lay Down And Die!

With ingenuity, with preparation, with creativity, with determination, with inventiveness, and with faith, we will overcome!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "New" Wood-burning Cookstove

While on my recent weeklong trip to the wilds of one of the Great Lakes States, one of my brothers, to whom I'm in debt for this blog post, showed me a stove that he has been experimenting with.

The stove consists of a paint can which is perforated in three places near the bottom of the can, equidistant from each other.  Into these holes are inserted a section of copper tubing, all of equal length and diameter.  These should fit snuggly into the holes, but not so snuggly that they can't be made to travel in or out as needed during the operation of the stove.

To operate the stove, of course one would need a fuel source to burn.  Our fuel source of choice in this instance is wood shavings, or sawdust.  Before filling the can with the fuel, we will need one cardboard tube from inside a roll of paper towels.  Alternatively, one could use two or more tubes from rolls of toilet paper.  This tube is inserted/dropped into the can vertically, till it rests on the bottom of the can in the very center of the can.  Next, start filling the can with sawdust/wood chips, layer by layer.  When the can is half full (this translates as half empty for those of you who are pessimists), pack it down with your hand.  Then continue filling it up till it is two-thirds full, and pack it down again.  Continue like this until it is full, or even over full, then pack it down.

We are ready for the test.

To use the stove, carefully remove the tube, making sure that none of, or very little of, the sawdust/wood chips falls down the "chimney".  Light some paper, or other tinder, and insert it to the bottom.  By moving the tubes outward you increase the draft.  Pushing them in farther restricts the draft, or "chokes" the flame, thus regulating the size of the flame and the heat output.

I hope to post a video and some photos to compliment this post in the next day or two.



Sunday, October 24, 2010

Suburban Farming

Earlier, we wrote about our farming enterprises for the 2010 growing season, specifically the raising of rabbits.  Our rabbit herd consisted at that time of 5 rabbits, purchased in June 2010, or so, from a farm family in SW Ohio.  We had originally purchased 6 rabbits, siblings, supposedly 4 females and 2 males, but it turns out that what we actually got was exactly the opposite, 4 males and 2 females, plus the potential genetic problems of mating siblings together.  My solution to that problem was to eliminate 2 males, and purchase another, unrelated male.  Our herd was at another location, about 5 miles away, which proved to be problematic.  We were unable to observe the rabbits during the day, so we were unaware of whatever was happening at the remote location.  We were completely unsuccessful in the reproduction department over the entire course of the summer.  The host, who is not used to the idea of using rabbits as food, proved hostile to the idea, so the decision to move them was made.  The results are that our herd has now doubled, and actually would have tripled, but for the fact that I was unaware of the projected birthdate of an earlier litter, they succumbed to hypothermia, as I hadn't yet provided the mother with a nest box.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I placed a temporary, plastic box in the cage, but "too little, too late".

So, my friend and I designed and built the following cage system:

The only caveat to I would make regarding our design is that the doors should be MUCH bigger.  Doors of this size make it hard to work inside the cage, and hard to get ahold of the rabbits if you need to move them, or breed them.  The next batch will have doors that are basically the size of one of the walls.

The breeds to get, for meat production, generally are Californian, or New Zealand rabbits, though there is a french breed, Champagne D'Argent, that is considered good as well, or mixes of any of these three. The reason for sticking with these breeds is that they produce more meat, with less food, and deliver a denser, meatier end product than any of the other multitudinous breeds of rabbit.  That's not to say that someone won't come up with a better breed in the future, I'm sure that WILL happen.  But for now...

It is possible to do reasonably well with rabbits while only providing them with pasturage, and not packaged, commercial feeds.  As long as they have freedom to graze on a wide variety of plant life, they will do alright.  I have, at present, not opted to go that route, but purchase commercial, pelletized rabbit feed.  I also supplement their feed rations with a very wide variety of fresh plants.  I give them apple branches, apples, carrots (both cultivated and the wild sorts, i.e. Queen Anne's Lace), tulip tree leaves, silver maple leaves, dock, mallow, strawberry leaves and vines, chickweed, dandelions, chicory, plantain, lemon balm, wild grape vines and leaves, and much more.  They love a treat of freshly fallen autumn leaves, eating them the way we eat potato chips. Just make sure that the leaves you feed them are not poisonous to rabbits.  So, expensive feed costs can certainly be lowered this way, and the raising of their most excellent meat made more palatable, financially speaking.

I have some chef friends who swear that rabbit meat is normally sold, to them, for prices that astound me.  I was told that a rabbit raised in the standard manner, meaning it was fed commercial, non-organically certified rabbit feed, goes for an average of $30/rabbit, and that if that animal was raised "organically", then the price jumps to $60/rabbit!  So, I see a substantial rabbit farm in our future.  That beats the sox off any other farm animal I am aware of, and that coupled with the fact that rabbits reproduce like, well, rabbits, pretty much makes it a go for me.

If one were to search for "organic rabbit raising procedures" on, chances are you would end up finding several videos of Joel Salatin, that famous farmer from Virginia who is rocking the agricultural boat of our nation at present.  Mr. Salatin shows us, in his YouTube videos, how he has created "rabbit tractors", that are mobile rabbit hutches that allow a large degree of freedom to the fuzzy little fellows, and allow the farmer to provide them with fresh green-age each day, all the while fertilizing the soil.  Mr. Salatin practices the same technique with chickens as well, with great success.

At any rate, it looks like raising rabbits is going to work out well for us, whatever direction we take from here on out.  Take a good look at raising rabbits, it could keep your family in food if things go really sour for us here in the USA, or elsewhere.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fun On The Bunny Farm

Installment one of the The Bunny Farm:

Several months ago, I purchased 6 Californian rabbits, meat rabbits that is.  Supposedly, they amounted to two males and four females.  That did not, in the end, turn out to be factual, as it turns out, the truth was just the opposite.  So, two males became dinner fare, a French recipe from a very good cookbook called "The French Country Kitchen" by the illustrious chef, James Villas.  As it turns out, my family was NOT crazy about how that dish turned out, so it's back to the drawing board with the rabbit recipes.

The bunny ranch is growing.  We now have 5 little bunnies.  There was a sixth, but it didn't make it.  I found it when I looked in the nest box, all rotted and stinking.  Ooooh!  Somehow the momma didn't bother to take the little thing out of the nest box, but only move the other bunnies to the other side of the box.

We had another litter born earlier, via "Dutchess", the name that the girls gave to the other doe, but I was not prepared and hadn't built a nest box for her, so they perished, the poor little things.  I think she is now pregnant again, since the 11th of October.  That puts the next delivery at or near the 10th of November.  I will have another nest box built before then.

A Hispanic friend of mine said that his father kept a male and a female together all the time and they just cranked out the bunnies.  Something to consider.  Tomorrow, time permitting, I'll post photos of the rabbit-works.



Thursday, October 7, 2010

And All Fall Down...

I spoke to some kids today.   The topic of my oration was being part of the solution.  The response was lackluster at best.  What's gone wrong?  The kids I spoke with are exceptionally good kids, really!  But they are still SO self-focused, so concerned ONLY with themselves.  Not even their family's well being was all that important to them, it seemed.  

The above didn't actually happen, as such.  But, it did happen, many, many times now.  I did speak with someone today.  Well, actually it was yesterday, the time now being past midnight.  I spoke with MY kid!  I spent the better part of an hour talking to my kid about commitment to family, contributing to the wellbeing of the family, working toward family goals, going out of one's way to make the family a success, putting your back into it, etc.  Several times I asked the kid whether he/she was "ready" to actually DO the deeds necessary.  The response was a weak, "I think so..."  My kids are, as stated above, exceptional, and not just in MY eyes.  We get kudos continually from all directions, and have for years.  But...

How do we get our kids on board?  That is my question of the day, sort of the "Question du Jour".  Some say we just need to invite them into our adventure, and that will be good enough.  Hmm???  Others say we need to be a strong leader, and make them do the deeds.  Hmm???  I don't know.  Maybe I need some training?  Maybe I needed it a long time ago?  Probably.  Are there any companies out there that can help me with my dilemma?  Couldn't afford it if there were, probably.  I've seen the military work wonders with a few of my nephews, as well as my friend's sons.  Perhaps there's something there?  They say the military tears them down and then builds them back up.  I think perhaps that's true.  Maybe a stint in the service would do them good?  Maybe not...

Well, enough for now.  Fair thee well!