Sunday, May 31, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

My husband and I had a loooooonnnng talk yesterday about our rabbitry. As you already know, we are looking at a probable move, possibly as soon as the end of the year. One of our main goals is to ultimately have a larger homestead with more diversity and be able to provide for ourselves in as many ways as we can.

The rabbits are an essential part of our future plans for a bunch of reasons:

1. I love them. They make me laugh and sometimes they make me cry, but I really enjoy raising rabbits.
2. I've raised them for six years now and I think we've discovered and/or worked out a lot of kinks.
3. They produce white meat that is easily digestible, low in fat, and high in protein.
4. Their pelts are beautiful and useful for crafts and homestead projects.
5. They don't take up a lot of space.
6. They don't have an odor like pigs or cattle.
7. They are quiet.
8. They can adapt to a wide range of conditions and weather without ill effects.
9. My dogs love rabbit and do well on a raw diet.
10. My flowers and vegetables thrive on bunny gold.

There are a lot more things I could say, but in a lot of ways, I think rabbits are the quintessential homestead animal. 

As you know, the hubby and I have been going back and forth about my breed. He really, truly believes that Harlequins are just not a good choice for a working homestead. He told me last night that he thought even now that their meat qualities and pelts are significantly inferior to the NZ culls we brought home at the last Conyers show. I showed him how our type has improved and used Jack as an example as compared to our original herdsire and he just shook his head and pointed to one of the remaining NZ culls that we are behind on processing. Now I am really kicking myself for falling behind on culls!

To be fair, the NZ that is sitting here is amazing compared to my attempts over the last generations to improve on type. He makes Jack look long in the shoulder, low on the topline, pinched, chopped/undercut, and narrow in the loin. And I LOVE Jack compared to many of my others. The NZ looks like the Hulk compared to Jack, who looks like Spiderman in comparison. I can't really argue with my hubby when Jack and the NZ cull are side-by-side:

So I went last night and looked at pictures of Harlequins around the country. If I am being honest with myself, even the top show winner Harlequins had poor commercial type in my opinion. They just can't hold a candle to a good quality NZ or Cali. Breeders have had to selectively breed for markings at the exclusion of a lot of other factors for a very long time in order to have a chance on the show table.

I decided to make a Pros & Cons list here today as a way to sort through everything.

Harlequin Pros:
1. Temperaments. All of mine are sweet, friendly, and clownish. They beg for attention, lick my fingers, and headbutt my hands for rubs.
2. Litters are super exciting because I never know what I'm going to get.
3. I think all the crazy colors and markings would make for especially neat pelt projects.
4. They aren't heavy on bone, too big, or too small.
5. They are a French heritage breed and a rare breed- I've always wanted to support heritage over common/commercial types to ensure they are still around for future generations.
6. I have some animals that are generations of my name on their pedigree. I feel like I've made some progress, but if I start over, I'd throw it all away. 

Harlequin Cons:
1. Their type and resulting meat qualities are lacking. A Harlie dressed carcass looks less muscled when compared to a NZ one.
2. Their coats aren't as nice as other commercial breeds. They are molting right now, but even in top coat they aren't as dense, plush, or shiny overall.
3. I think they are more susceptible to health problems then some other breeds. I don't ever remember seeing a sick rabbit when I raised English Angoras and English Lops, but I've seen a lot of health problems in Harlies over the years- GI stasis, snuffles, glaucoma, etc.
4. SO annoying to get a nice kit that is an improvement only to find a white toe or foot.
5. Difficult to find any quality Japanese to add to the herd and my group is going to be completely inbred at some point.
6. I was completely screwed over by one of the Harlie show breeders in the SE (lied + sold me inferior/sick stock + risked my friend's herd + never even helped with the mess she created) and I still feel pissy about it to this day. It is a little thing, but getting into showing regionally would be a constant irritant.
7. Not much of a sales market for the breed. It is great to be able to eat everything that doesn't work out, but I do miss the days with Lops when they would pay for their own feed and cages, too.

This is really long, but here is my NZ list (my husband's choice):

NZ Pros:
1. Excellent meat qualities
2. Optimal litter sizes
3. Quality pelts
4. Exceptional type
5. Easy to acquire
6. Don't have to go far to find a sanctioned show with competition
7. There is always a market for NZ- for commercial, homestead, or show/breeding. I have a friend that used to raise them in Atlanta and his kits sold for $40+ each and sold out just about every litter. He was complaining that he didn't have enough meat in the freezer, lol. 

NZ Cons:
1. Questionable temperaments. My husband thinks it would make all the difference in the world if I raised them vs buying them already as teenagers, but I'm not convinced.
2. Nothing super special with the color- the local reds are junk, so we'd probably have black and broken black with the occasional white if they popped up.
3. Would be starting over completely and that makes me super sad.
4. Would no longer be supporting a heritage breed. NZ are the main commercial rabbit breed in the US.
5. I dunno. I just wanted to add a number 5 here because it looked less unbalanced.

I realize this is the longest post in the history of posting, but the decision time is upon us if we are going to make any changes before we have to deal with trying to move and get settled somewhere else. My inclination is to buy a few really nice NZ and see how they do. I also told my husband that I am not opposed to breeding NZ x Harlie if we could get all of the good traits from the NZ and keep the good traits of the Harlies, but it may go the other way where we get bad and more bad, plus color and pattern gets screwed up. It would be years until we knew how it would go for sure, so quite a gamble. Such difficult decisions ahead! Don't be like me- start off with something that makes sense for you and your family and then you don't have to go through this, lol.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Girls

Tough decisions ahead. I have way too many juniors and now with the extra Lannister litter, I will need to be culling some young and old from the herd so everyone has enough space once they are bigger. 

Doe #1


Doe #2:


Doe #3:


Doe #4 (I don't care for this one very much honestly):


Also, I just like this picture of doe #2, who is a cutie with a funny personality:

TGIF! Sorta. We have this super serious inspection coming up on Monday at work and I'm nervous about it. Plus I have a big exam coming up that I'm dreading. So basically I don't want the weekend to end. Can anyone arrange it so it can be weekend forever? Great, thanks!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Boys

The two young bucklings we have here are both lilac Japanese and I am a little bit smitten.

I have a problem with bucks though. They are always my favorites. They will overrun my rabbitry if I let my heart decide who stays.

But sometimes I get to keep my favorites anyway.

Not as deep as I like, but we are finally getting some bootay!

Sorry his legs are a little wonky, but you get the idea. And here is buck #2:

He peaks early and is just a bit more pinched/undercut, but is also halfway decent for Harlequin.

See what I mean? His profile doesn't look as good as the first, but his HQ is still none too shabby.

Also, I am obsessed with the eye color on lilacs. Aren't they gorgeous in their amber glow?

I look forward to our eventual move because I hope to expand the Harlequins so I can actually do what I want to do without so much regard for space. Worst case scenario, we eat like kings. Can't be all bad, right?

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Seeing Spots

This is Kurayami's kit, the only survivor that was fostered off to Tacoma shortly after birth. She is 8 weeks old in the picture:

She's kinda cute. Nice face split and color for a blue Japanese. Type ain't bad except for being pinched in the HQ. Shoulders and topline are decent. Except.. wait.. what is going on with that right front leg?

Gah! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Yup, Dutch spotting gene strikes again.

Just thought I'd share one of the many challenges of raising this breed. One of the other kits that didn't survive also had a full half Dutch marking, so it was clear that in addition to being a poor mom and having an eye problem, their dam wasn't meant to continue on as a breeding doe. On the bright side, at least you got to see a cute little doeling, right? :)

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Lannisters and Weights

GUYS. I've thought for years that Harlies with very light markings can produce heavily marked ones and visa versa, but the Lannisters (aka Jack and Pancake) are helping me prove it in my lines here. This has happened in other litters I've had repeatedly, but these two rabbits in particular have the most poor markings of any keepers before. Let's face it, Jack has like.. a butt stripe. And a few little black bits here and there. But that's it. No face split. No alterations. No banding or checkering. Nada. If I were to show him, he'd be immediately disqualified. I picked him as a herdsire soley to improve on type, but it helped that they had fantastic temperaments and an excellent base colors.

The bottom line is that they are outproducing themselves already in terms of color/placement. The markings needs to be more solid, but I can work on that over time. The rufus on these kits is also completely blowing my mind- they look like copies of their parents at the same age.

Don't take my word for it though. Look at these babies glow:

It looks like 2 chocolates and 4 blacks, so that's neat. Here is a choco next to a black for comparison:

I'm very curious to see how they grow up. Here is a lovely face split:

In the meantime, I did get weights on Tacoma's (with the 1 singleton from Kurayami) litter. Here are the 6 week and 8 week numbers:

1. Blue doe
1lb 9.6oz
2lb 3.0 oz

2. Lilac buck
1lb 9.1oz
2lb 4.6oz

3. Lilac buck
1lb 7.2oz
2lb 2.7oz

4. Chocolate doe
1lb 5.8oz
2lb 0.1oz

5. Chocolate doe
1lb 7.5oz
2lb 1.4oz

6. Chocolate doe
1lb 7.2oz
2lb 8.8oz

7. Chocolate doe
1lb 4oz
1lb 13.2oz

The weights aren't super impressive, particularly on the chocolate runt doe, but they are weaned now and being free-fed, so they should keep putting weight on. One of the lilac bucks looks pretty darn good and I'm fond of a couple of the chocolate does as well. I will be posting pictures of them before too long.

I'm also glad to report that Pancake is a great mamma. Look at these little fatties:

It is a very pretty day out today, so I'm trying to get as many pics as I can before the heat slams us again like it did the past couple of days. Hope everyone is staying cool and dry!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Spring Veggies

Our lettuces are quite prolific these days. Here is our Oakleaf lettuce, which has done really well here and may be one of my new favorites. The leaves are gorgeous and taste good:

Here is another type in the same bed that is Salad Bowl Red. It hasn't thrived here like some of the others, but is still productive.

Then we have Parris Island Cos, which is a kind of Romaine and does really well here, too:

Our germination with some of the others was poor including Black Seeded Simpson and Buttercrunch, which I think might have given us trouble in other years as well. They might have also just been out competed by those that are more heat tolerant like Oakleaf. I'm curious to see if our favorites remain so if we move to another state with different soils and climate.

And then we have this guy:

Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks this Easter Egg radish looks like a butt.


It would make me feel a lot better if I wasn't alone in this, lol.

Anyway, time to go grab myself a nice salad for lunch.

I hope everyone is having a good start to the week!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Homestead Update

I know I have been quiet, but I haven't felt much like posting, taking pics, or doing any of my usual stuff. I thought I was ready for when the time came with my heart dog. He had serious medical problems for a while now that we were taking him to a specialist for. We had been warned that his time was limited and that his quality of life would become an issue, but the truth is that no amount of preparation made it any easier and his passing left a hole in my heart. I know it will get better over time, but he was my constant shadow and I think of him everywhere I go still. We used to travel all over the place to dog shows together and he had his International champion title and only needed 1 more win to become a UKC champion. I had to retire him from the ring due to lack of travel funds when the company I was working for at the time closed its doors, but even in his final days he would still get excited over the sight of his collar and leash coming out of the drawer. He was a giant breed and of course he was impossible to miss, but even if he was tiny, his heart and gentle nature was larger than life.

I miss my boy terribly, but as it is said, life goes on. The garden has exploded and we've been having spinach and lettuce salads with radishes and such. Unfortunately with everything that's happened this year, I have been way late on getting the summer veggies started. I have tons of heirloom tomato seeds, but I may end up having to just buy started plants for fresh tomatoes in particular this year, which sucks, but I'm sure next year will be better. Hopefully by this time next May we will be on a bigger property and I will need to order even more seeds than I already have.

In the rabbitry, I have been playing catch-up since the surgery. I finished weaning Tacoma's litter with the single Kurayami kit yesterday and attempted to vaccinate them only to find out I ran out of vaccine halfway through. So I will need to place an order for more- I can't believe I had already given 50 doses since I got it, but I guess it makes sense when I think about vaccinating all of the adults x2 and then all of the kits at 6 weeks + another round for my keepers as boosters.

I did end up removing Kurayami from the herd even though I didn't have a doe to replace her with. I have an abundance of bucks and does from the Spring litters so I'll probably just keep an extra to make up for it. I really wanted to keep her, but she was the only truly bad mother I've ever had and then with the eye problem we discovered, there just wasn't any other option. I really need to do the same with Kari and Valkyrie, but I am dragging my feet because I love those does. I know I've said it before, but raising animals can be very difficult sometimes.

In an unusual turn of events, we found ourselves with a great surprise when I went out to see poor Pancake had kits all over the wire. Apparently while I was at the hospital and recovering afterwards, Jack got to her and I wasn't aware. It looks like she had 8 kits, but 2 didn't make it before I found them. I don't know if any of you watch Game of Thrones, but my husband is calling Pancake and Jack "The Lannisters" for the brother-sister pairing and is insisting that we name the kits after the characters from the books/show, lol. On the bright side, the kits look very healthy now. As soon as I added a nestbox, Pancake immediately pulled fur and has been taking good care of them, for which I am grateful. I am actually very curious to see how they turn out considering Jack is the best buck I've produced in type and size. His rufus is also the deepest orange-red of anyone I have and Pancake is no slouch either.

That's about it for now. I'll plan to get my butt motivated and take some pictures, but in the meantime I hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Heart Dog

Sept. 3, 2005- May 14, 2015

Rest in peace, my handsome boy. I will love you always.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all of the lovely, dedicated mammas! Thinking of you and hoping you have a wonderful weekend with your family! :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Southern Decadence (Grits a Ya Ya)

I don't normally post recipes, but this one is pretty unique to the Southern Lowcountry. Shrimp and grits were reported to have started as a simple fisherman's breakfast by the shrimpers using a small part of their catch. It was simple back then- mostly just shrimp sauteed in butter with true stone-ground grits, but these days it tends to have more flair. I found a recipe for Grits a Ya Ya on AllRecipes (shared below) that is a Louisiana version of this dish and is about a decadent as you can get with heavy whipping cream and smokey, creamy Gouda cheese. Here is a picture of the finished meal:

We made everything but the grits in our cast iron pan and it came out perfectly. Also we were able to keep the bacon fat for other future meals (yum!).


3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup old fashioned grits
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda cheese (this kind gives the grits just the right texture and flavor)
1/4 cup butter (I used salted)
8 slices bacon, chopped (crispy!)
3 tablespoons additional butter (salted.. sorry, I have a problem..)
1 tablespoon minced shallot (if not grown, can be purchased next to the onions at the grocery store usually)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 splash white wine (we just used the cheapest dry one at the store)
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 cups chopped spinach
1 cup chopped portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 cups heavy cream
1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste (I used several good shakes, but I like it with a kick)
salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan over high heat.
  2. Slowly pour the grits into the stock while stirring constantly.
  3. Reduce heat to low; simmer until the grits are tender and thick, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in 1/4 cup heavy cream to thin the grits.
  5. Stir in the Gouda cheese and 1/4 cup butter until melted and smooth.
  6. While the grits are cooking, place the bacon in a large, deep skillet over medium heat; cook until the bacon fat is rendered, about 3 minutes.
  7. Stir in the shallot and garlic; cooking and stirring until the shallots are tender, about 5 minutes.
  8. Pour in the white wine and stir in 3 tablespoons butter, cooking and stirring until the butter has melted.
  9. Drop the shrimp in the skillet; cook and stir until they are bright pink on the outside and the meat is no longer transparent in the center, about 3 minutes.
  10. Stir in the spinach, mushrooms, and green onions; cook and stir until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes more.
  11. Remove the shrimp with a slotted spoon.
  12. Stir in 2 cups heavy cream. Simmer until the cream is reduced by about a third, about 10 minutes.
  13. Season with hot sauce, salt, and pepper.
  14. Return the shrimp to the skillet to heat through.
  15. Serve shrimp and sauce over the prepared grits.
We are trying to use less heavy cream next time so it is healthier, but the recipe is very forgiving and you can play with the ratios in the sauce to get it customized for your needs. Bon appetit!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Garden Update

Just thought I'd post a little of what is going on outside. Everything has been pretty neglected the past couple of weeks with all of the hubbub, so there has been a lot of weeding catch-up. Another thing I discovered on my return is that the radishes have exploded- greens galore:

We have the Easter Egg heirloom in right now, so some of the roots are one color and some are something completely different, like purple:


Versus white:

We also have Spinach and a bunch of lettuces to nibble on (though it is starting to get too hot for them):

White onions are doing well:

We also have heirloom brocolli and cauliflower, though we did plant them too late this year with everything going on:

Fortunately, the carrots continue to grow:

We also have snow peas doing their thing:

And the lemon balm is back under control in a pot where it belongs (it is related to mint):

Aren't baby asparagus cute?

I'm thrilled that our berry crop should be amazing this year. The raspberries are coming in:

And we have SO MANY blueberries this time around. See them all over the place? I planted them probably around 4 or maybe 5 years ago and we've been getting fruit, but this year is much improved:

Can't wait until they ripen:

So I can blueberry ALL OF THE THINGS. Happy Monday!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring Flowers

Unfortunately I missed most of the Spring flower explosion this year, but I did manage to catch a few late blooms yesterday afternoon. One of my favorites are our old-fashioned Bearded Irises. We were given the rhizomes years ago from a friend at work. They were gifted to her by her grandma, who had grown them for years also. Basically, these flowers have been truly passed down through the generations. 

They have huge blooms, even bigger than my whole hand. I like that the fans stay green year-round so I can enjoy their minty color even in the middle of winter.

They come in all different colors, but the ones we have here are the purple and white, gold and burgundy, and straight bright yellow (which I sadly missed taking pictures of this year with the hospitalization).

If we move out of state, I'm totally planning to dig some up and take them with us. I just couldn't bear to leave them all behind, though I suppose I could share these treasures with whomever purchases the property.

I hope they would enjoy them as much as we do. :)