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Archive for October, 2012

Outdoor Hutch For Meat Rabbits

October 29, 2012 Leave a comment

When I started raising meat rabbits over a year ago, I started raising my rabbits indoors so I could minimize the impact of external factors during my initial learning phase. This turned out to be a great decision since it made it easy for me to pursue things such as automatic waterer and artificial lighting during the winter months. Most importantly, it allowed me to use network cameras to observe the rabbits remotely so I could learn about their natural behaviors such as nesting, birthing, nursing, etc. The drawback to an indoor setup is the additional work required with ventilation and cleanup.

15 months after my venture into meat rabbits, my operation has expanded quite a bit in size and the daily cleanup of the rabbits’ litter trays has become quite burdensome. While this daily chore is not difficult for me, it is not something that I can expect anyone else to do. This has made it very difficult for me to go on extended leave lasting more than a couple of days.

This weekend I finally tackled a project that I have been mulling over for some time and began building an outdoor hutch for the meat rabbits. While the plan initially involved building a small rabbit hutch, it soon mushroomed to building a large structure in the side that can house not only the rabbits but offer covered protection for my gardening tools, mower, and chipper. This construction project would also offer great experience for future projects such as building a pole barn at the orchard and tiny house at the homestead lot.

I decided to build a 8 foot by 32 foot covered structure in the east side yard which is shaded for a good part of the day. With their dense coats, the rabbits tolerate cold temperatures much better than hot temperatures so this side yard is ideal. I wanted this structure to be well built and to resemble a pergola so that if I ever decided to move very little modification would need to be made for it to be repurposed from a rabbitry/tool shed to an attractive pergola.

My goal this weekend was to build out the first half of the structure as proof of concept and to work out any kinks in the design and architecture which I have been tossing around in my mind. I began by constructing the skeleton of the first half section (8 foot by 16 foot) by assembling 6 4×4 posts with 4 2x6x16 headers and 2x6x8 rafters.

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I then constructed the frame for the back wall with 3 2x4x8 per 8 foot section. This was done using Simpson strong ties.

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Once the back wall frame was constructed, I then attached corrugated roof panel. I chose these panels since they offer solid rain and wind protection. More importantly, they will not absorb moisture from the environment and from the rabbit urine. As such, they should be very easy to clean with routine hosing.

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I then tested out the hanging of the rabbit cages. After some trial and error, I settled on passing electrical conduits through the row of rabbit cages and then wrapping jack chain around the conduit to hang off of the overhead rafters. Each 24in x 24in x 18in cage weighs about 10 pounds and will have a total weight of about 20 pounds when holding a 10 pound rabbit. The row of 4 cages that I tested was hung with four sections of jack chain rated for 29 pounds.

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The proof of concept run this weekend was very successful. During the next few days, I plan on finishing the first half of the structure by installing the purlins and the overhead roof panels. This will be followed with side wall construction to further reduce wind draft. Once the first half of the structure is completed, I will be able to house 7 24in x 24in x 18in cages outside and have all of my 30 or grow-out meat rabbits relocated outside. This will leave just my 10 breeders indoors.

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Fall Garden 1.5 Week Update

October 18, 2012 Leave a comment

The fall garden is off to a good start. With the exception of the the spinach, everything else is doing great.

Spinach:

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Swiss chard:

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Kohlrabi:

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Brussel sprouts:

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Red lettuce:

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Cabbage:

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Broccoli:

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Romaine lettuce:

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The watermelon patch has been cleared to make room for more fall plantings:

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Backyard Permaculture Documentary

October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

I came across this documentary which follows the conversion of a typical urban residence in Australia into a permaculture oasis. Very educational and absolutely inspiring.

Categories: Permaculture

Fall Garden Kickoff

October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

Not wanting to make the same mistake as I did on my summer garden, I got off to an early start on my fall garden this week. I bought two batches from Home Depot of:

  • kolrabi
  • spinach
  • swiss chard
  • red lettuce
  • brussel sprouts

Since my thai basil from my summer garden got afflicted with some kind of disease, I also got some replace thai basil.

Everything is in the ground now and the garden plot is now completely full. As soon as the watermelons ripen and the patch is cleared out, I will have more space to plant.

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Planting labels from this week’s planting:

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This spring I started out my edible garden adventure with a 3 ft x 20 ft raised bed for my spring garden. After seeing good results with this garden, my new found enthusiasm led to the creation of my 20 ft x 40 ft summer garden plot. Given that this space was 10 times larger than my spring garden, I was certain the would the end of my lawn to edible garden conversion in the backyard. However, after seeing the watermelon patch take over half of this plot, I decided to extend my edible garden. I had already used up all the mulch from the pine tree which was cut down in my back yard. Coincidentally, the local community garden had several truckload of mulch that hadn’t being put to use. When I recently brought the community garden leader a trailer load of rabbit manure for his fall garden, he told me I could have the rest of the mulch at the community garden. Seven trailer loads later, my backyard was nearly 75% mulched giving me the ability to create at least another 20 ft x 40 ft garden plot.

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Given the plan to further expand my garden space, I also embarked on a parallel expansion of my rain harvesting by doubling the number of rain tanks. With 13 330 gallon rain tanks, I now have the capacity to harvest 4,300 gallons of rain water. Whereas, the last set of rain tanks were set on three rows of cinderblocks, the new set are now set on four rows to allow for even large compost bins.

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Summer Garden Update

October 7, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s been nearly three months since I started my summer garden. The temperature has dropped significantly in the last couple weeks. Temps are as low as mid-50s at night. Due to my work at the orchard, my summer garden got a very late start in mid-July. As a result, I am still waiting on some crop harvest.

The watermelon patch took over half of my 20 feet x 40 feet garden plot and continues to spread daily. I have three medium size watermelons that I am waiting to ripen. I still see new melon developing despite the colder temps. I plan on retiring the patch once the Three watermelons finish ripening.

Peppers and tomatoes are still fruiting. Since these are not sprawling like the watermelons I plan on keeping these around until I get full crop out of them.

The collards, broccoli, and cauliflower are doing OK but all three are being munched on by caterpillars. On the other hand most my romaine lettuce has done very well and are looking very healthy.

Planting in the wood mulch has resulted in mixed results. The mulch has done an excellent job of retaining moisture so I’ve not had to do any watering even during the hot summer weeks. However, the plants do not seem to be thriving as well as the plants I planted before in my raised bed. I suspect this is due to the lack of nutrition. The raised beds were well fertilized. I am hoping that over time as the mulch
continues to decompose this problem will resolve itself.

Here are some pictures from my summer garden.

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Categories: Edible Garden Tags: