Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: Rabbit Raising

Lately, I have been pursuing I find the collection of early 1900s chicken magazines fascinating but recently found a few interesting rabbit resources as well. 'Rabbit Raising' by George S. Templeton, Frank G Ashbrook, and Charles E. Kellogg was published in 1942 by the U.S. Department of the Interior and originally cost 10 cents! (Direct link here)

While it is important to be critical of any publication I do think that vintage publications should be approached with an extra critical eye simple due to the drastic changes in scientific knowledge that have occurred since 1942. With that said, here are some of the interesting information I gleaned from reading 'Rabbit Raising'.

- Rabbits waste a considerable quantity of hay as they pull a stem of hay from the manager, eat part of it and drop the rest. This wastage can be reduced by cutting the hay into 3 or 4 inch lengths.

- It is recommended to leave kits with the doe for a full 8 weeks because the mother's milk supply will gradually decrease over this time frame and the kits will become accustomed to consuming more solid foods as this decrease occurs. Natural weaning in this way results in less of a shock to the kit and the weight loss that occurs with sudden weaning will be avoided.

- When fed a mixed feed, rabbits will scratch out the most palatable kinds of feed resulting in considerable food waste. This can be resolved by placing the different grains and supplements in separate compartments so that rabbits have free access to any kind of feed they want. This means that the rabbit can consume the particular type of feed they desire without waste.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Prairie Farmer

In the months after the purchase of our agricultural land we began to pay attention to agricultural issues as presented in social media and main stream media as they pertain to our future in Manitoba. There really seemed to be a vacancy in clear, concise, coverage of agricultural issues that presented the issues and concerns while remaining professional in nature. Rather than simply complain about this lack of journalistic coverage I decided to do something about it and The Prairie Farmer was born.

The Prairie Farmer is an annual print journal that discusses innovative agricultural ideas and techniques for backyard producers, market gardeners and mid-scale farmers through a balanced journalistic approach that focuses on prairie agricultural issues and is written by women of the Canadian prairies.

The Prairie Farmer accepts submissions from women (cisgender and transgender), transgender men, Two-Spirit and non-binary people of all backgrounds and identities. We prioritise submissions about experiences relating to the Canadian Prairie Provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba). Submissions of an academic, experimental, instructive, personal and/or artistic nature are welcome.

Please check out for more information!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Indoor Worm Composting: Lessons From the First Year

I have been exploring the wonderful world of vermicompost for the last year (see Indoor Worm Composting and Indoor Worm Composting: Update!)

Record Keeping
About half way through the year I started keeping detailed notes on my worm bins. I note the amount and type of food fed, vermicompost and worm harvest, and problems as they arise and resolve. This helped me see why my second bin developed a fruit fly infestation - I was basically overfeeding them which was apparent when reviewing the records. Accurate and detailed record keeping is a vital skill and habit to develop.   

Learning Curve
Any new skill set comes with challenges and the learning curve for composting worms was a bit steep for me - but I think I have a handle on it currently. Understanding that every practical, homestead, and livestock related skill will have a steep learning curve will allow me to set up future projects for success from the start by implementing changes slowly and scaling production at a reasonable rate. Recognising  that livestock projects have steep learning curves will also help me avoid disappointment when it's not all easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy and hopefully help keep livestock safe during that initial learning phase.

Hive Mind
I have two favourite Facebook groups (Vermicomposting and Red Worm Composting) and I love pursuing the posts there for personal education (for example, someone was experimenting with an all cardboard worm bin) as well as adding my 0.02 cents when it comes to helping out newbies. There is always more to learn and my favourite Facebook groups encourage that type of open communication, learning and polite discourse. 

Hopefully these skills will allow me to scale up production in the near future. My system has to get larger to fully incorporate the food scrapes that we produce. Additionally I have some ideas to allow for a small stream of income to emerge. To that end I recently made a Beginner's Guide to Worm Composting zine.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Indoor Worm Composting: Update!

I've had my Indoor Worm Composting system since February (see first post here) and over the summer I switched from the 5 gallon bucket system to the more common rubbermaid tote system. I found that the materials became dense in the bucket system and I found it difficult to regulate feeding. The tote system seems to have a better surface area ratio which makes the upkeep simpler. 

Once I made the switch to totes, my worm population really took off so I started a second bin (which is currently stacked in my kitchen!) I find it difficult to remove finished vermicompost from an active bin as the uneaten food, bedding, and finished compost is mixed together so I plan on only feeding the new bin. This should allow the worms in the first bin to eat through all available food making harvesting vermicompost easier.   

I have also started a more detailed record keeping system. Each bin has a sheet that details the Bin #, date started, and the initial worm count/type. This sheet also has a place to record the date and amount of vermicompost removed as well as the date and amount of worms removed. A second sheet tracks the inputs for each bin by recording the date, bin #, type and amount of food, as well as type and amount of bedding. I hope this record keeping system will improve my worm wrangling abilities! 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Raising the Home Duck Flock

(Photo from Thriftbooks

Next in the 'Modern Guide' saga, is 'Raising the Home Duck Flock' (1978). This book offers a good overview of raising ducks and presents ducks as an viable and easy alternative for the homestead. Ducks seem to have an easy place within a permaculture design as ducks can forage for insects while simultaneously controlling insects in the garden. Ducks require less infrastructure than chickens and can even be raised without a permanent shelter (given the correct conditions). 

This resource presents ducks as an easy and low-maintenance homestead animal and because of this, it feels like this resource is lacking details - especially in the area of problem solving. This could be a deficit in the resource or perhaps - ducks really are a unproblematic homestead resource!

Raising Rabbits the Modern Way

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: Raising Rabbits the Modern Way

Next on our series of 'Modern Way' resources, is the Raising Rabbits the Modern Way which was published in 1975.
(Photo from Thriftbooks)

Overall, this book is a decent resource that I am glad to have on my shelf but it is far from a comprehensive guide to raising rabbits. Some information is down right outdated and the author leads (although less so than in Raising Poultry the Modern Way) towards the adoption of industrial agriculture's mindsets and motivations. Additionally, information regarding pedigree/registered and specific breeds is entirely the author's personal opinion with very little neutral information presented. 

The information regarding choosing your first rabbits is helpful as well as the basic information presented regarding genetics. I also enjoyed the author's ideas regarding a side business making and selling rabbit cages and growing food in your garden for your rabbits. I also like the addition of rabbit recipes. 


Friday, July 7, 2017

Review: Raising Poultry the Modern Way

The modern series released by Storey has a good reputation. I grew up with several of the series in our house as well as our neighbour's house and many seem to be classic tomes of agricultural knowledge. With that in mind I ordered a few on thriftbooks.

(Photo from Thriftbooks.)

Sadly this publication from 1983 does not hold up to the reputation of the series. It is a product of its time with the focus on 'bigger is better' through the imitation and replication of industrial agricultural's methods, motivations, and practices. 

The following are some bits of advice that I would never follow: 

Broody behaviour in poultry is uniformly viewed as negative and should be 'broken'.  
To avoid feather picking and cannibalism, chicken combs are cut off with manicure scissors. 
Washing eggs before incubation is advised as a blanket procedure.   
All poultry houses are to have indoor lighting. 

Some of the scientific information on capons, egg hatching, and butchering was acceptable and basic enough to withstand the change in agricultural management. 

The chapter on water fowl was a tiny bit interesting to me as this was the first time I have done any research on water fowl - but I suspect that after a few more resources I will feel the same way about the water fowl chapter as I did the rest of the book.