Rabbit Litter Photo

Edit: sadly we lost the litter to the cold last night. 30 more days for the next litter now.

When a doe has first kindled, you have to be careful she doesn’t spook. If she does, she may eat her young as a defence mechanism. I guess she thinks it’s safer for them in her belly rather than in the hands of a predator?

The above is the excuse I’m using for the poor quality photo of the kits. In a few days we’ll have a proper look and get some good photos of them. Until then, these little pink sausages will have to stay where they are, in their mother’s fur.

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Cat & Mouse

The cat always brings her victims back to the house and parades them around to show off her victories over the local birds and mammals. Most of the times the birds are still alive so we expedite the suffering and give the cat the now dead “toy” back. Yesterday she brought a mouse in unharmed, and played with it for a while in the basement. I’m sure the mouse was acting in self-defence, but if you watch the video it looks like the mouse is playing back. Midway through the video, the mouse went up my leg and then ran off, disappearing into one of the basement rooms.

The morning after, we found their play-date had come to a tragic end for the mouse. Later in the morning, our cat started to bring back baby mice from outside, one by one, gently in her mouth and left them on the back doormat.

The cat's new family.

The cat’s new family.

I think the cat’s intent was to kill the mother to lay claim to the pups to keep as her own. It all started to make sense: we told her earlier last week that she was fixed and she’s been taking it kind of hard.

Round 2 of Ducklings

This is the hatch that never ends. Starting on Tuesday, the latest batch of ducklings started to emerge from their shells. The last two birds hatched last night during. If any more hatch I’d be surprised at this point in the game. Two of the birds needed some help hatching. I think that the low energy of some of the ducks may be a result of the higher humidity experienced while hatching the two early ducks. We lost a couple of ducklings mid-hatch as they didn’t have the energy to push themselves out of their shells, and we didn’t notice in time.

The six ducklings that made it are all the same species, muscovy, but have slightly different colourings which will still be as pronounced when they feather-out as adults. Don’t mind the blur in the below photos. I think the ducklings assumed I was filming a video, not taking a photo, so they kept dancing and moving about.

"No, no.  'Duck a l'Orange' mean we get oranges to eat!"

“No, no. ‘Duck a l’Orange’ means we get oranges to eat!”

 

Smoking & Curing Bacon

I’ve started smoking again. Smoking meats! After months of thinking about it, I finally did it. I made bacon.

Curing and smoking meat comes across as a difficult, time consuming task, sprinkled with a pinch of food poisoning. It’s not true. By following food safety rules and a few simple steps, it was easy as anything to make bacon.

When I say bacon, I don’t mean the supermarket bacon. The stuff wrapped in plastic, piled a foot deep in the refrigerator bins is not bacon. That “meat” is pumped with liquid smoke, chemicals for colour and lots of water to make it heavier and thus more expensive for you. I mean a piece of pork belly, dry cured with salt and herbs, air dried and then cold-smoked for nine hours. Once you taste real bacon, the supermarket version will be all but a distant memory (or nightmare).

I won’t go into a lot of the curing details. Essentially, pork belly (skin on) is put in a bag with salt, sugar and herbs for a week in the fridge with some weight pushing down on the flesh to expel the water from within. Once cured, the pork is washed, to remove the salt and herbs, and put on a rack in the fridge to form a pellicle (a film/skin for the smoke to adhere to).

Now, to smoke meat, there are two methods: cold smoking or hot smoking. Don’t know if the names give it away or not but, hot smoking uses heat, and cold does not. For the bacon, I cold smoked. To cold smoke, I needed to produce smoke without the heat. To do this, I made a stainless steel mesh wood dust burner. I bent to stainless to form a number five (or “s”, depending on how you see the world) and lit one end of the snaking wood. This way I could control the burn and lengthen the time of the burn.

FYI: I may have fabricated this, but it's not my original idea.

FYI: I may have fabricated this, but it’s not my original idea.

Since there was very little heat being created, and all smouldering wood was contained in sheet metal, I opted for a very cheap and recyclable smoking box: a cardboard grocery store box.

With a few slots cut for racks and access, the box I took from No Frills, had taken on the form of a no-frills smoker.

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As you can see this is the 53600 Ultra version.

The wood dust, hickory in this case, was lit and placed in the bottom of the smoker. On the racks I put two sides of bacon and a piece of cheddar cheese, and closed it up. After a couple of hours, things were looking good and the smoke was doing its thing.

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Grab a napkin, the drooling will only get worse.

The cheese was pulled after three hours, and the bacon remained in the box for a full nine until it had a nice coating of smoke all over the meat, fat and skin.

Smoking done!

Smoking done!

 

After removing the skin and resting it in the fridge overnight, I fried it up with some eggs and decided that if I get really fat from this bacon, it would be completely worth it.
SAMSUNGSAMSUNGSpecial thanks to the chickens for the eggs out the garden. I’d say thanks to the pig, but I never met her, only her streaky goodness.

On a side note, the rabbits were mated after breakfast. Beatrix is out looking at baby clothes, while Rex is relaxing with a cigarette.

 

Ducklings are no more

The two ducklings we hatched on Sunday are no longer with us. They are now at the cemetery. But luckily they’re not dead, they are actually going to be working at a cemetery keeping flies down and slugs off the plants around the graves.

Next week we will have more hatched an available for purchase. If you’re interested, let us know and we’ll put you on the list.

The Ducklings have hatched!

In semi-secrecy we’ve been incubating two dozen duck eggs. Really the only people we were keeping a secret from were my parents. They didn’t know we were hatching duck, and more importantly that the birds would be living at their house for the few weeks we were fattening them up.

On Tuesday we had one duck hatch. Sadly he struggled and passed. Then on Friday afternoon two more pipped. Sounds like a really positive thing: the ducks have successfully incubated and are now hatching. It was the opposite. These ducks were all early. Very early. When we bought the eggs they threw in a few eggs “from under a duck” which I took as they moved a duck to get some eggs. What it actually meant was, she had set the eggs and had been incubating them for two weeks by the time I picked them up!

Still might not sound like a terrible thing, but if you know incubation and hatching, it’s a nightmare. During incubation, eggs are stood up on end and secured with rails, the humidity level is set lower and the eggs are turned multiple times a day. During “lockdown” (the few days before hatching) the humidity is drastically raised, the eggs are not turned, and they are laid on their sides to help the ducklings/chicks push out.

With that in mind, I had 15 eggs in need of turning and to remain upright, while two of their siblings needed to be laid down and have the humidity cranked. Luckily, after 36 hours, the two hatched and a further 16 hours in the incubator left them dry and ready for the brooder. At this point I had to clean the incubator (and a couple of eggs) from top to bottom of the nasty mess their hatch-mates had left.

Newly hatched duckling in the incubator.

Newly hatched duckling in the incubator.

Although the secret is out of the bag (I ordered duck layer in front of my mother at the feed store; I’m an idiot), my parents don’t know what type of duck these are. There are dozens of breeds of ducks and I think for anyone with a sharp eye they’ll be able to figure what these are from the pictures below.

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These two are for sale for anyone interested. They must go as a pair. I’m looking for $10.

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