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Back To Eden Garden 2.0

March 26, 2017 Leave a comment

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Prior to my long blog posting hiatus, I had a 40 x 20 Back to Eden garden in my backyard.  I loved the beauty of the garden.  The wood mulches gave it such a natural landscape and also kept the soil most and teeming with biological activity.

However, after several seasons, I started to realize some of the drawback of the Back to Eden approach.  I will detail these in a future post.  In an effort to solve some of the problems, I decided to combine the Back to Eden approach with raised bed square foot gardening.  This gave birth to version 2.0 of my Back to Eden Garden which has now been in place for three years now.

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I love the efficient use of space in this garden design. It more than doubles the amount of growing space while sharing the same footprint as the old garden.  The beds also make it very easy to follow the square foot gardening approach for plant placement and spacing.  Best of all, the garden look like the work an artistic engineer rather than the disorganized chaos that I often see in other gardens.

I’ve been using this garden for the past couple of years and still think that it is the best design to maximize the growing space in the southeastern 40 feet x 20 feet section of my backyard.

After a whole winter of no plantings, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the coming of Spring so I can put finally put my garden to work.  Last weekend, to my delight, I found tomato and pepper plants at Costco.  They became the first addition to my Spring garden.

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While the garden makeover did solve many problems, I have still continued to struggle over the past couple of years with squirrels plundering my crop.  They seem to love everything in the cabbage family, including cabbage, collard, broccoli, cauliflower, and kohlrabi.  And their hunger became even more ravenous during the winter when their natural food supplies are low.  I got so discouraged at seeing beds of new planted seedlings destroyed in just days that I gave up growing these crops completely.

This weekend while visiting Home Depot, I saw that they were fully stocked on all of the squirrels’ favorite delicacies.  I decided to give it a go again.  I purchased and planted close to 50 of these seedlings.

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To protect the cabbage family seedlings from the squirrels, I constructed four chicken-wire covered tunnels of 4 foot length.

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After the hard work was done, I shared a well-deserved watermelon snack with the free-range bunnies.

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New Arrivals in the Rabbitry

March 18, 2017 Leave a comment

After several hectic years, I am finally finding some time to get back to writing about my journey in self-sufficiency.

Last time I posted, I had a fairly sizable rabbitry consisting of 20 breeders and was selling quality New Zealand White rabbit breeding stock. Most of my rabbits came from a show breeder in Tennesse. The remaining couple of rabbits were from other sources, including one that produced for the meat market.

In 2014, I gave away my entire herd and started over with Silver Fox rabbits.  I was interested in eventually trying a free-ranging or colony setup and wanted a rabbit that would blend in better in a natural setting. The bright white albino New Zealand Whites would make extremely easy targets for predators. Another reason for my interest in the Silver Fox rabbit was that it was listed by The Livestock Conservancy’s as under Threatened status.  I wanted to help offset the breed’s decline.

While rabbits are thought of as prolific creators, my experience has taught me that each rabbit is different.  The three Silver Fox does I started with were often reluctant to breed.  When they were finally in the mood, they would get pregnant with very small litter sizes.  I never had a litter larger than five.  They also demonstrated lackluster mothering instincts.

After two very frustrating years, I abandoned the Silver Foxes and returned to raising New Zealand Whites.  I gained a new appreciation for the value of a good doe.  While many people tout these values as large litters or fast growing kits, I disagree.  After having my patience tested to the limits by the Silver Fox does, I truly believe that strong maternal instincts are the true hallmark of a quality doe.

A year ago I purchased six New Zealand White does and one buck  and I can’t be more thrilled with the results.  The does are true nymphomaniacs.  They breed readily and have never refused to be serviced.  They also consistent produce and raise to harvest age litters averaging eight in size.  I had purchased six with the intention to cull and keep the best three.  They are all so impressive compared to the Silver Foxes that I am reluctant to cull any of them.

On Valentine’s day, I bred three of the six does and they all bred readily again.  Two were bred to Silver Fox bucks and one  was bred to a New Zealand White buck.  Today, I was greeted with three healthy litters of eight, eight, and seven kits.