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Companion Planting and Sustainable Garden - Oregon


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Companion Planting and Sustainable Garden - Oregon

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  • 1. Back Yard Rabbits And A Sustainable Garden You May Want A Source Of MeatAnd Vegetables that is independent of Peak Oil Transportation Problems Economic Problems Ralph W. Ritchie Book Seven In The New Economy Ebook Series Obtain Your Copy From
  • 2. Copyright, 2009, by Ralph W., and Fern J. Ritchie, all rights reserved. Theright to print a personal copy of this book is granted to the purchaser of theebook edition; in whole or part, provided the title page and copyright notice are included. We pray that the reader has sufficient integrity to not pirate this book and will buy their own copy so that we may continue eating. This book is a model for use by individuals to gain information to develop an operating plan. It is general enough to satisfy most situations. Even so, we must disclaim any responsibility for the application of this information. If you benefit from this work, it is because you made best use of it, congratulations! EBook Edition ISBN : 0-939656-90-6 In Keeping With Energy and Material Conservation, there are only on-line and CD editions of this book. Thus, the cost of printing materials, labor, and shipping do not enter into the price of the book. A copy is immediately made available on-line, to the purchaser of the book. After 30 years of publishing,the Library of Congress has decreed that self-published books no longer have the service of a provided Library of Congress catalog card. Written and published in Springfield, Oregon
  • 3. Sketches In ClayBack Yard Rabbits
  • 4. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Preface The purpose of this book is to provide an alternative meat source for the family. It is notmeant to be an agricultural tome on animal husbandry- merely sufficient information to enablethe raising of a small animal as a meat source, and , at the same time, provide a SustainableGarden to provide an independent food source for the family. The voice of experience is my authority. What I described worked for us and grew to acommercial endeavor that lasted ten years. I do not hold with show rabbits, or with those raised as pets, or with those raised forother purposes, such as their fur. They each have their own special requirements and they arebeyond the scope of this book. In most cases, these are less than ideal for a meat source. At the same time, a sustainable garden is achieved by growing feed for the rabbits thatin turn, produce fertilizer for the garden, that produces more rabbit feed, and that produces. . . .The upside is that the garden is also feeding your family.RWRAugust, 2009
  • 5. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Foreword The purpose of this book is to provide an alternative meat source for the family. It is notmeant to be an agricultural tome on animal husbandry- merely sufficient information to enablethe raising of a small animal as a meat source in combination with a sustainable garden.. I repeat, the voice of experience is my authority. What I described worked for us andgrew to a commercial endeavor that lasted ten years. I will repeat a topic if it is relevant to the subject at hand, rather than refer you to anotherchapter. In my view, this makes for easier understanding. Observe your rabbits, from time to time, without having to tend them. See how theybehave when you aren’t around. Learn their patterns and accommodate them, rather than tryingto fit them to your convenience. Most of this book assumes that survival is the primary goal and that these are things youneed to know in order to survive. During a depression most people will not have employmentand they will be spending their time doing whatever they must do to survive. I will assume thatyou have more time than money and most of the tasks in this book require doing the taskyourself. You will note the frugal leaning in the book. All materials are used, or salvaged with theexception of cage clips , some cage wire, a roll of steel bailing wire and the paint. Even painthas been recycled and is now available at some recycle yards. Be sure to get galvanized orplated metal; bare metal will rust out too fast. We welcome suggestions, and improvements and to a lesser extent, complaints. I willhelp all that I can. One reason we bind our books with a plastic comb binding is that we can easily updateor correct the stock on hand- zero waste. With Ebooks, the change can be made without waste, so our product improves withtime, but we do not necessarily announce each change. In the interest of keeping the price as low as possible, and to conserve materials, TheseNew Economy Series books are only available as Ebooks, from our website. For those who do not have broadband download capability, they are also available on aCD. The other advantage of electronic books is that there is no shipping charges and theyare immediately available. We expect to convert all of our books to this format as time permits and Peak Oil oreconomic problems require extreme measures.
  • 6. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Table of ContentsPrefaceForewordTable of ContentsChapter 1. IntroductionIntroduction. Gardening. About Meat, Back Yard Rabbits.Chapter 2. BreedsKeep In Mind. Competition Rabbits. Breeding. Breeding and Birthing. Nest Boxes. Rabbit Mothers.Chapter 3. EquipmentCages-See the pages of drawings and photographs at the end of the chapter. About Cage WireQuality. Cage Cleanup. Cage Shelter. Worm Bed. Stacking Cages. Water Supply. Location.Manure Storage.Chapter 4. About RabbitsBehavior. Care and Handling. Rabbit Social Behavior. Toys. Birthing Rabbits. To Transfer Young. ANest Box With High Sides. Babies Out Of The Nest. Handling Rabbits. Rabbit Handling. Pet Rabbits.Names. Observation.Chapter 5. HealthBasic Rule. Rabbit Health Problems. Medications.Chapter 6. Animal DisposalPigs For Animal Disposal. Dogs. Options. Cautions.Chapter 7. Rabbit FeedFeed and Feeding. About Rabbit Pellets. High Grade Pellets. Feed Options. No Hay ? Winter Feeds.Fresh Feed. Treats- Rabbit Candy. Introducing a New Feed. Balancing A Diet of Greens. Hay Manger.Perennials. Feed For Babies. The Sustainable Garden.Chapter 8. MarketingRabbits To Eat of Barter? Live Sales. BY-Products. CAUTION about selling any food stuff. MarketingOption. Pet Stores. The IRS. Rabbits Are A Business.Chapter 9. FertilizerSustainable Gardening. Animal Fertilizer Comparison Table. Plants Need Moisture and Air. EditorialNote: Arguments For Non-organic Gardening. Meeting The Challenge. Plant Nutrition Nomenclature.How To Use The NPK Data. Plants by Order of Nutrition. Excerpt From Disaster Preparedness ForCountry Living: Soil Test Kits. Other Soil Tests. Trace Minerals. Commercial Seedlings. Damping-OffSeedling Malady. History. In The End. 1.1
  • 7. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieChapter 9. FertilizerSustainable Gardening. Animal Fertilizer Comparison Table. Plants Need Moisture and Air. EditorialNote About Hydroponics. Arguments For Non-organic Gardening. Meeting The Challenge. PlantNutrition Nomenclature. How To Use The NPK Data. Plants, Ordered By Protein Level. Excerpt FromDisaster Preparedness For Country Living:. Soil Test Kits. Other Soil Tests. Trace Minerals.Commercial Seedlings. Damping-Off Seedling Malady.Chapter 10. Sustaining A GardenThe Process. Step by Step. Sustainability. Planning. Evaluation. Covering The Soil. Tillage. Additives.Rock Dust. Aeration. Soil pH. Crop Rotation. Plant Health. Companion Planting. Irrigation. Manure Tea.Conditioning Seedlings To Outside Conditions. Re-Seeding. Back To Rabbits Text. The Big Question.Conclusion. Now, you know what to do. . . .Table- Companion Plant of Vegetables- excerpt.Table- Food Storage - Preservation. A Consensus of Advising Sources.Table- Comparison of Food Storage MethodsTable- Preferred Preservation Methods for a variety of foods.Table- Nutrient Stability In FoodsChapter 11. Rabbits As FoodOld Stories. Fats and Calories. Emergency Foods, Nutrition, and Eating.. Nutrition. Goals ForEmergency Eating. Diets. Calories and The Bodys Needs. What Is A Calorie? For When You NeedCalories. How does Rabbit meat compare with other meats ? Meat Food Values. Redeeming Features.To Cook and Enjoy Rabbit. How about braising? Maybe a Creole dish would better please you?What about Rabbit Cacciatore ? Additions. To Make Sausage. The Ground Meat. Smoking.Chapter 12. ConclusionIn The End. Other Animals. About Our Books. Upgrading Books. Our Own Books As References.The Economics Of PublishingSources and ReferencesRitchie Unlimited Publications Catalog 1.2
  • 8. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 1 IntroductionIntroduction Today, a farmer feeds over 200 people. That is about to change, but first, what is different? One hundred years ago a farmer fed 8 people. The farmer had an extended family and they allworked the farm. Each member had tasks to perform. Timber went to a mill to become boards for aportion of the product. Grain was taken to a flour mill and milled for a portion of the grain; just abouteverything else was done by hand and the family survived. The amount of land and produce waslimited by this scheme. (ADM data ) Today, heavy machinery handles many times the productive acreage and the processing isdone for money. The money buys what the farmer needs for living. Refining the produce is done byanother company; the finished product is done by still another specialized company. Each step in theline is punctuated by specialized transportation, these are also specialized companies. Each companyperforms their task for money, and the money filters down to the individual who utilizes his share of themoney to continue living. The basic ingredient in this process is energy, either in the form of electricity or fuel oil, largeamounts of energy to drive the massive machinery, Take away the energy and the entire system disintegrates. We have the technology, or do we? Is there anyone around who can complete the entireprocess without energy? We must consider the population increase that has occurred in those 100 years. We needthose greater quantities of food. The conclusion is that we must find other ways of producing food. One of them is for individualfamilies to revert to producing their own food. This time, it will be tough, because most families do nothave acreage for farming. A suburban lot has limitations. For other reasons, we happen to have been producing a major portion of our food for aboutforty years. This book is our effort to share that experience with you. We make an effort to describethose things within our personal experience. The primary topic of this book is production of an independent meat supply. The second topic,and no less important, is sustainability: the ability to continue food production, season after season.Let us refer to earlier times: Crops had three purposes: first to provide food for the present, next to provide food for the off-season, and finally to provide seeds for future seasons. This entire process requires gardening,harvesting, preservation, and storage. None of these steps can be omitted or shorted. 1.1
  • 9. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieGardening To continue gardening, the nutrients in the soil must be replenished. That is where the rabbitscome in. Their fertilizer is as important as their meat is for food. The topic of sustainability cannot be contained in a single book. There are several facets:propagation, growing, harvesting, preserving, storage: each of these should be the topic of a book. Wewill endeavor to introduce them here, along with the independently, family produced meat . It would be wise to immediately marshal all of the agricultural academics and industrialspecialists in this country to SOLVE this problem while we still have some time before the oil crisispeaks. The consequences of NOT doing this would be utter chaos.About meat: This country consumes about 700 TONS of chicken a day; 84.1 pounds per person, per year. Beef: 67 -pounds per person, per year. Teen-age girls consume more beef than do teen-age boys. And they are both the largest consumers of beef , pre capita. Pork ranks third: 51 lbs/per capita. Turkey 17.7 lbs per capita. Fish 75 lbs per capita. Rabbit: 410 tons per year. 350 million divided into 410 X 2000 lbs. = .0024 lbs per capita. The other half of U.S. rabbit production, approx 400 tons, is exported. These figures do not likely include back yard chicken or rabbit production. In summary, per month: 7 pounds of chicken, 5 pounds of beef, 4 pounds of pork, 1.5 pounds of turkey, and about 6 pounds of fish- per capita. The rabbit consumption ( from this data ) amounts to two pounds per 1,000 people, divided by 12 months: basically negligible. USDA statisticsBack Yard Rabbits Growing at least part of your food may become a common thing. Meat is an important part ofmost of our diets. It is just that the present popular sources may become unaffordable or disappearaltogether, due to inflation or fuel scarcity. You may want to learn about alternative sources to beef andpork:. Rabbits are one possibility. Let’s compare the common meat sources: Beef cattle require about an acre of pasture per animal, unless they are fed completely onimported hay and grain in a small corral, commonly known as a feed lot. They take at least a year toraise to a practical size for butchering. That amounts to 1 acre of grassy pasture- plus grain, peranimal, per year for about 600 pounds of meat. The meat will require freezing or some other means ofpreservation. Chicken can be raised in compact production quarters, smaller than that required per rabbit.Some chicken ranches contain 1 million chickens at a given time. All of the information presented here was based upon personal experience with the NewZealand White rabbit breed and may not be representative of common practices, but they worked forme. This is a summary and any topic noted could easily become an entire book, or at least a chapterwithin a book. Let us begin: 1.2
  • 10. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Rabbits require a cage less than 3 foot square; produce about 40, 4- pound offspring per yearand may be raised on what you can grow in the garden. Pellet feed is nice, but not an absoluterequirement. Local feed sources vary, according to what grows in any given area. In an agriculture paper originating in Singapore, I read that rabbits were raised on SwampCabbage. Further investigation revealed that Swamp Cabbage was a small variety of the palm treefamily. If you haven’t figured it out, one beef animal needs 1 acre/animal/per year/per 600 pounds ofmeat per year, plus refrigeration costs, plus supplement feed costs. Typically, a beef carcass, cut andwrapped for the freezer, weighs around 600 pounds. Refrigeration time extends over the time requiredto eat it. A Rabbit can produce 200 pounds of meat, per 9 square feet/ per year. They can be killed anddressed just prior to cooking and eliminate the need for refrigeration. We raised and sold about 250, 4 pound fryers ( 1,000 pounds live weight) per month from a1500 sq ft. rabbitry, for over ten years. Of course, we were buying 4,000 pounds of rabbit pellet feedper month, but we still made a profit. There were about 500 rabbits in there at any given time. Wecould sell or use about 3,000 pounds of fertilizer per month. So far as I know, rabbit fertilizer is the onlyanimal waste that can be applied directly to plants without composting. A good part of the fertilizer went into a methane generator for a short period of time. Thatproject was abandoned became of the three hours per day it took to keep it going- we did not have thetime. The super-rich outflow from the methane generator allowed us to produce 2 pound avocadosfrom our avocado orchard. We also fed the rabbits greens grown in our garden for the purpose. Every rabbit had freshgreens every day. We also stretched and dried rabbit pelts to sell, from the few that we kept for ourown consumption. We cooked fresh rabbit in any number of ways; made rabbit sausage; smoked rabbits; andbartered some rabbit meat for all manner of fish and sea food with local fishermen and divers.(including crabs, lobsters, abalone ) We lived about a half-mile from the Pacific Ocean. The rabbit business was terminated only because we sold the place and migrated 1200 milesnorth to Oregon. But that is another story. We sold the entire rabbit business to the Broker, and gavethe cages and plumbing to the local high school. Ten years later, here we are again, starting over with rabbits. This time we are living with a cityclose by and we will limit the rabbitry to two Does and a Buck. There are photographs and drawings toshow you what we have done and how we did it. 1.3
  • 11. Rabbitry Location The green siding is the woodshed. The rabbitry is the brown part. It is chain link fencing withthe tubular inserts made for it. Access is through the woodshed, that is attached to the garage ( shop ). This provides security and privacy. My neighbors next door, didn’t know there were rabbits inthere until they asked about the fertilizer in our garden. Over all, it is 7 f.t wide and 17 ft. long. From the inside, the rabbits have plenty of air and light, plus protection from predators, bothtwo- and four legged. In winter, I cover the fencing with plastic sheeting and block the upper vents. All of the materials came from the local recycling yard. The cages were a gift from a friend whowas not using them any more. Back Yard Rabbits - Ritchie 3.
  • 12. This litter is not quite big enough. The cage will get crowded.- Not all of them show. In the photo. Below: The top of this water bottle opens for filling without being removed. It is spendy, but saves a lot of time. Note the thermometer at cage height, and the sheet metal wall between cages. There is a new litter in the box, so keep quiet. The buck runs a lot and his hocks get raw. A board makes it easier on him than the wire. Note the urine rust stains from splatter. It’s not all urine.Fertilizer-worm bed.The dark brown is worm castings;the red-brown is urine.I try to mix dry pellets into the weturine to make it more acceptable forthe worms. If I watered the bed, theworms would be all over. Meat and Fertilizer Factory Back Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie 3.
  • 13. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 2 BreedsKeep In Mind Most of the rabbit books and especially the ones for commercial breeders will not agree withmany of the things I describe. That’s their problem. I have had does last six or more years with a five-litter per year schedule. Those who advocate breeding more than five times per year are lucky to havea doe last two years. It costs time and space and money to raise a replacement doe up to breedingage- five months, minimum. Besides, you lose a friend. Having four or five litters a year is plenty of stress on a doe. During hot weather, we are likely toextend the mating interval so as not to have her birthing when it is really hot. Rabbits can stand cold weather, but a drafty place will do them in. Provide a windbreak or someother shelter. During an extreme cold spell, we will give all of them nest boxes, with hay or wood chips,so they have something to snuggle in for warmth and conserve their own body heat. No, you stillcannot put them in the same cage.Competition Rabbits After going to several rabbit shows, we concluded that the breeders’ specifications for prizewinning rabbits did not apply to production bunnies. Further conversations with other growers verifiedthis. None of our good producers would have even been admitted to a competition. Either you breedrabbits for food production or grow them for competition, but not both. Don’t expect the same quantityor quality of meat from rabbits bred as pets or for fur or whatever. Don’t expect meat-rabbit quality fromrabbits hunted in the wild. We do not recommend buying your rabbits at a rabbit show; find acommercial rabbitry. In hard times, cats have been known as long-tailed jack rabbits. Dogs are raised for meat insome parts of the world, too. Some dogs are called tough spring lambs.Breeding With five litters per year, I am convinced that any trait or characteristic can be enhanced or bredout of a herd. We have eliminated bad teeth, small litters, poor fur, even unfriendly behavior- all withtime and patience. If you mate a pair that produces unwanted features, don’t pair them again. If youare doing the backyard thing that is promoted here, you may have to go through a few new animals tofind the ones you like. If there is another way, I would like to hear about it. Getting your rabbits from a commercial rabbitry has some advantages, but even they don’tknow all about the rabbits they have. The more rabbits in a rabbitry, the less they know, and it does notall fit on a rabbit record card. Record cards may be purchased or copied from the Internet. Above all,keep a record card for each rabbit. They are usually attached to the front of a feeder box. After so many years, you will have to introduce outside stock into your rabbitry. Inbreeding isfraught with problems. Look in Chapter 4, About Rabbits for good characteristics defined. 2.1
  • 14. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieBreeding and Birthing Rabbits may be mated any time during the year, but if you choose to slack off, do it during thehot summer months or during the coldest months to reduce stressing the does and increase survivalamong the young. When a doe has just given birth, we feed them fresh greens, both as a reward andto bolster their well being.Nest Boxes A box, 12 X 18 inches, about 12 inches high is used for a nest box. We use perforated,pegboard “Masonite” - hardboard, for the bottom, to carry off some of the waste from the young. Besure the nest box will fit through the cage door. We cover the corners and board edges to preventchewing. We give the doe a nest on the 29th or 30th day after mating; earlier if she has begun to pullfur or scratch in a cage corner. If there is a hay manger, she will immediately begin gathering hay toput in the nest although we have provided a nice bed of wood chips and hay for her. If you missproviding a nest at the right time, she will try to provide enough fur on the cage floor to cover thebabies, or she will abandon them.Rabbit Mothers She is protective of the new litter, so be careful about probing around in the cloud of fur to countthe young. She may bite an unwary finger or scratch a hand. This is one reason why I try and pet eachrabbit daily. They are used to me. Her protection extends to abandoning young if she feels threatenedor even to eating them if she is really frightened. If one doe has a large litter and another doe is short, we will even the litters. A bit of talc onyour hand before petting the new mother, then making sure the talc is on the baby, will keep her fromrejecting a strange smelling baby. She will do the culling and will eat any dead babies or discard them on the cage wire; we thinkshe is a better judge of baby condition than we are. Some mothers can raise as many as 16 young, sogive her a chance. If the doe cannot consistently raise eight, she is the one to replace. Somecommercial rabbit breeders replace does after the second year, no matter what. We have hadproductive does for over six years. The more litters they have per year, the shorter their productivelives will be. Six litters per year is too many for the doe; eight litters per year is incredible. When she has fed them, she will jump out of the box, the tall sides help to keep the hangers-onin the nest. A shallow box does not keep the young in the nest. When the young are old enough toclimb out of the box, the nest may be removed. Then the doe is harassed all the time by hungrybabies, but she can handle it. A nest box, turned on its side will give her a respite from her hungrykids.(She will rest atop the box-out of reach by her young). When she is ready to feed, usually twice a day, they all get the message very fast. A veryyoung baby, who misses one meal is not likely to make it to the next feeding. A newborn baby who happens to hang on may be left on the cage wire floor. Without fur, theirsurvival is less than a half hour. We have warmed babies on a towel in an open oven or against ourbody, We have also resuscitated one that has stopped breathing by pressing on its chest with a thumb.When they are warmed or begin breathing, put them back into the nest. If they have been out for along spell, use the talc, just in case. Rabbits are a wonder. Imagine bringing that baby, weighing only a few ounces, to four poundsin only eight weeks. That says a lot for the quality of her milk for the short period she is feeding them.We have had a strain that raised their litters to selling weight in only six weeks, so don’t be surprised.2.2
  • 15. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 3 EquipmentCages Two producing does, plus one buck, plus a holding cage and an additional cage for raising areplacement doe, comes to 5 cages. The cage size is optional: we use a cage that is 30 inches deepby 36 inches wide, by 18 inches high. The deep dimension is shallower so one can reach to the back ofthe cage. See the pages of drawings at the end of the chapter. The cages are all metal, held together with cage clips that are easily fastened with a special,plier-like tool. This cage size is big enough to allow a rabbit some exercise and also provide roomenough for a doe to raise her family of up to 12 offspring, for eight weeks. That is when the rabbitsreach four pounds and are ready for the freezer or for selling. Either 1" X 1", or 1" X 2" galvanized wire makes a cage, with 1" X ½" wire for the floor and withtwo inch high walls of this wire size around the bottom, called a “baby saver”. The finer mesh floor alsoreduces sore feet on the bunnies that result from sitting on coarser wire. Besides, small babies can fallthrough coarse wire. Cages are easy to make from the basic roll of cage wire and only require pliers, cutting shears,and the cage clip tool. The option to the cage clip tool is some 18 gauge, galvanized wire and a pair ofpliers. Each connection uses the wire that is twist-tied at every tie point. Or you can buy the cages.About Cage Wire Quality Cheap means that the wire likely does not have enough galvanize coating. Some wire sourcesuse the galvanizing to hold the wires together. The combination of these , features means that the wirein question will rust early on, and the wires will come apart. Woven wire is excellent, but it must begalvanized. A word about galvanizing: Wire mesh, either welded or woven, is passed through a bath ofmelted zinc. It clings to the wire according to the temperature of the bath and the speed of the wirepassing through the bath. If the bath is too hot or the wire is fed through too fast, the coating will beinadequate. The only way to determine whether the coating is right is to try and separate the wires. Orto examine a section and decide if you see enough coating. Wire that is not galvanized will not last long as cage wire and is a waste of money.. Weldedwire, ungalvanized, may work for fences ( although it will not last long there either ). When you look at the wire at the store, tug on a lose end ( You have brought pliers with you ) tosee if it separates from the wires it touches. Or roll out a length of the wire and inspect it for loosewires. Of course, if you find used cages, you should look them over and decide whether they will beworth your time and the time for future repairs.. 3.1
  • 16. Cage Cleanup Wire cages are the easiest to clean and maintain. Here is what you must plan on doing:• Fur will combine with urine, usually in the corner the animal chooses, and the mass will hardenand clog the wire. Watch for this and clean as soon as the coating begins to show on the wire.• Fur will slough off the rabbits, especially during hot weather, and will collect on the cage wireand anything surrounding the cage. Urine will cement it onto the cage. Clean by brushing or by burningit off with a small, handheld torch. This is when you need that extra cage.• Anything the urine lands on will accumulate a hard coating. If cages are stacked, the runoffmetal or board between the cages will require frequent cleaning and use a lot of water for this task.• Outdoor cages will eventually rust. Wire brush the rust spots early and brush or spray an anti-rustpaint on them. Move the rabbit when you spray paint.• Rabbits will play and/or find something to chew on. If there is a loose wire or a poor joint, they will findit and make it worse. Provide a small can, such as those containing tuna ( make sure there are nosharp edges ) and place it in the cage. This will keep a rabbit from tearing up a feeder. A doe, recentlyfreed of her young, will especially need a play toy., such as the clean, tin can.• Plan on cleaning water bottles or plumbing especially during warm weather to prevent moldbuild up. Flush the plumbing with a weak bleach solution or wash the bottles with soap andwater at the beginning of the hot season. During hot weather, we flush the main pipe at least once aday for a few seconds. There is a valve at the far end of the manifold pipe. You may even adjust awaterer so it drips. This keeps fresher water available and the worms like the extra moisture, too.Cage Shelter You need to shelter the rabbits from direct sun and also from heat. They have a nice fur coatand can stand reasonable cold weather, but heat is hard on them. A wind break is important, too. Afenced enclosure keeps roaming predators away from the cages, which are suspended table-high foryour convenience. This makes fertilizer removal easier, too. The roof should be high enough for you totend them without having to bend over. Under a tree is cooler for the bunnies and that should beconsidered in cage placement.Worm Bed A 1 X 6-inch, board, box frame, with no bottom, under the cages, with a few worms planted in it,will soon become a worm farm. The worm casings are prized by plant people as an excellent plantermix. These beds also solve the fly problem, if there is one. The worm bed must be kept damp or the worms will migrate to damper areas.Stacking Cages Some people have tried to reduce the space by stacking the cages. Here are things toconsider. The tray under the upper cages must be washed daily or the urine will build up as a cement-like crust that can only be removed with a hammer and chisel. The tray must extend out beyond thelower cages so that the drip does not fall on the cage below. Pellets must be cleared daily to keep theupper cage clean. The lower cages must still be high enough to make manure removal from underthem easy. Stacking can be done, but if you have the space, avoid it. Stacking requires lots of cheap laborto be available for cleaning.3.2
  • 17. Water Supply A doe, along with growing young, can empty a Liter-size, water bottle in half a day. Either havetwo water bottles on a cage or plan on plumbing. The water pressure must be reduced for the Dew-Drop waterers ( or by any other name) to about 5 or 10 psi. A toilet flush tank, mounted high in therabbitry will refill itself and provide the reduced pressure ( we did this for 500 rabbits. ). Use pipe-heating tapes and/or insulation if you have freezing weather. You may need animmersion heater in the tank. If it is really cold we drain the system and use bottles.Location Some local ordinances require the cages be so many feet from the house, others do not.Rabbits are quiet and neighbors usually do not object; some may not even know you have them,unless they are visible. A location that is visible from the house will save you many trips. Visits to a doe about to givebirth are frequent enough to justify being as close as possible..Manure Storage All the while manure is under the cages and part of the worm bed, the worms are converting itinto the ideal planting mix, so leave it there until it is time to feed or mulch the plants again. 3.3
  • 18. A top door makes it easier for the handler to reach rabbits and to Door folds back clean or repair the cages. out of the way. Top Door ia wider than the hole for support 30” Back Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie The door hole is sized to Door hangs down accommodate nest boxes. 36” out of the way. 30” Cage Clips at corners and about six Side inches along edges. The floor is clipped Door every four inches. Feeder Hole The depth of the 16” cage makes it easier for the handler to reach “ note the back of the cage Side pieces of baby saver wire are clipped over the cage wire that extends down to the Baby Saver bottom floor. Be sure to leave enough space alongside Making a row of cages saves time the door for the feeder width. and materials. Cage Details3.
  • 19. Clip Pliers With Clip In Place - Basic Cage Tools At this point, the hook part of the clip is placed over the two wires about to be joined. Then asqueeze and its over. The clip can be placed so that it goes over or under the wires. The clips andpliers are a minor investment that will save you a lot of time. The alternative is to grasp each wire end with pliers and wrap it around the second wire. Itworks, and with practice, you can get good at it. You need a way to fasten cage wire and a way to remove the fasteners. The blunt point s anold screwdriver, ground down. The point is driven into the end of a clip to remove it. Simple, buteffective. There are some special tools. Back Yard Rabbits - Ritchie 3.
  • 20. Cage repair often requires clip removal. What went on easily resists removal. The blunt point may be hammered into the closed clip to spread it. A pair of long nose pliers can be modified to do the job. Heat the tips enough to bend them with a hammer, blacksmith-style, and form them to slip inside a closed clip. Touch up the ends with a file. So far as I know, no one sells such a tool. Other views of the same tool. One need not be limited justbecause a tool is not in a catalog. The square metal tubing extends the handles to give the user enough power to force the clip open. Clip Removal Tool Back Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie 3.-
  • 21. These are the tools you will need for metal working, whether cage wire or sheet metal. The Side Cutters ( blue handles) and the electrician’s pliers come from another set. Side cutters can be used to cut cage wire, one wire at a time. The scribe, combination square, and dividers are common. Compound metal shears will cut both cage wire and sheet metal with a lot less effort than regular tin snips. Cutters, Pliers, Layout Tools, Compound Metal Shears With clips every six inchesalong cage corners, and four inchspacing around floors, get a large bagof cage clips. A pair of cage clip pliers areusually available wherever the clipsare found. I ground down an oldscrewdriver to a blunt point for use asa clip opening tool. These are the onlyspecial tools you need for cagebuilding and repair. It is possible to bend the cagewire ends around an adjacent part ofthe cage and not use the clips, but thecage clips are MUCH easier. Blunt Point, Clips, Clip Pliers Basic Tools For Cage Work Back Yard Rabbits - Ritchie 3.
  • 22. Weatherproof roof with overhang Suspending Wires are on all sides. cross-braced to prevent swaying. Cages are suspended to deny access by creeping and crawling things. Three- or five cages wide, Back Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie or two rows back to back with plumbing in between. Wooden Posts or pipes Windbreak walls Worm Box as required. Vertical suspension on all cages Diagonals on end cages. Size wires to support a maximum of 50 pounds per cage. Roof overhang to shelter handler 3’ Cage height 3’ Cage Shelter3.
  • 23. The tank empties and refills, keeping the water fresh H* “H” : Tank height above water pipe governs the pressure Immersion Heater Toilet Water Tank may be placed in A minimum of six feet is necessary.. With float vslve the tank Water Supply Drain valve Pipe may be wrapped with a heater wire and then insulated. Option Waterers Insert into SupplyBack Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie End of last cage The cages Low pressure To ground to cages Pressure Regulator The watering valve is opened when the animal touches it with its tongue or teeth. It is sensitive and requires a low pressure water line or it will leak. These valves go by “Lix-It”, ot toggle valve, or any other name. Locate 4” from cage floor Plumbing Layout 3.
  • 24. Cage The manger is accessible Wire through the cage wire Al lips are 3/4” * note A D C Bend Lips IN on one E side. Out on the B is 1/8” or finer other side E screen to get rid B Back Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie of pellet dust. A B See Text note. Use sheet metal screws or POP rivets. Both require drilling holes. Be generous with the fasteners, C Width and Height of Fabricate a cover if birds or The feeder determines moisture are a problem the capacity. Make larger feeders for the Does. D Nominal 8” high 12” wide * note: This lip is 1/4”. It keeps bunnies from scraping the feed out of the tray. Sheet metal gauge is 22 to 28 ga., Whatever is available3. Pellet Feeder Details
  • 25. The basic tools do not change. The scribe, square, and shears are used most for feeder construction. The sheet metal may be used duct, or vent pipe, or even the sheet metal covering found on water heaters. Below: The wide-billed pliers makes bending easier. A hole punch is also faster than drilling each hole. Finally, Pop Rivets do an easier job of fastening, than do sheet metal screws. The can faster pieces when a sheet metal cannot.Learn to make feedersand you have anotheritem to BARTER, Just to be fancy, here is a hydraulic pop rivet gun. Not necessary, but nice to dream about. If these tools are new to you, make a small box and learn to lay out sheet metal and cut it. You can always practice with scissors and a piece of cardboard, before you try sheet steel. Make several if need be, to gain the skill you need to make the feeders. Once you make a feeder, you will never be happy with the store- bought ones. Basic To Making Feeders Back Yard Rabbits -- Ritchie 3.-
  • 26. Can’t weld ? BARTER the job.Bending Sheet Metal For Feeders- Beyond Pliers 3.- Back Yard Rabbits - Ritchie
  • 27. Cage MaintenanceThe primary tool for cage maintenance is a torch that is used to burn off the loose fur that clings toeverything. Next would be a wire brush to scrub away the combination of dried urine and fur. It is much easier to keep at it than to put off the cleaning job until it becomes a major task. Those who elect to stack cages will have the additional task of washing down the tray thatcatches all this stuff every day.. It is much easier to let the worms clean up the mess under the cages. The torch shown ihas an automatic ignition button, and that saves gas because it is so easy toshut off and relight, Any other torch would do. Now is the time you discover why I specified an extra cage. You must move a rabbit out of itscage while you clean it, especially while you burn away the loose fur. 3. Back Yard Rabbits - Ritchie
  • 28. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 4 About RabbitsBehavior Animals are very conservative. They like the status quo. Anything that is new orchanges is resisted; in rabbits Panic is the reaction. Their expression is a singular beating of theground by their hind legs. This is a trait from their wild ancestors. A thump on the ground is transmittedto all rabbits and puts them on alert to a new situation. In a cage, it respresents the same thing.A Story One day, my wife, Fern, grabbed my coat early in the morning to go check the rabbitry. As sheentered the rabbitry, it sounded like thunder as 500 rabbits thumped. She came back in, found her owncoat, and everything was peaceful when she again entered the rabbitry. Rabbits will often thump a visitor or anything unusual around the rabbitry. A doe with a new litterwill thump just about anything. Panic. Is a stage beyond thumping. In this case, they will freeze and stare wide-eyed at thecause of their panic. Intelligence is inherent in any animal, Chickens are considered dumb because of their reactionto a new situation or event. Sheep are next. They both follow the flock- blindly. The description ofsheep often includes the situation where an entire flock follows the leaders over a cliff. Maybe it didhappen once, somewhere.Care and Handling The trick is to condition your animals to whatever you have to do with them. I make it a practice to pet each animal every day, so when I must, they are accustomed to mytouch. In a case where I carry a doe to a buck’s cage and then back again, she will shy away from mytouch. The Same goes for treating with ear mites with a drop of mineral oil. They HATE having oilsquirted into their ears and it will take several days for them to forgive me. I leave the cart in the rabbitry for a while before I shovel manure so they are not alarmed by itspresence. They always thump my shoveling under their cages.A Story I did not like hiking all the way to the end of the pasture to round up the animals and get themback to the barn and corral. When I fed them each day, grain and alfalfa, I stood in front of the mangerand waved my arm over my head. In a week’s time, they would head for the barn whenever I waved atthem. Of course, to the neighbors the sight of Ritchie, standing behind the barn, waving his arm overhis head for no apparent reason, signified that I had truly lost ( the rest of) my marbles. I had to do thiswaving bit until one of the herd saw me, then they would all start home. It worked for the goats, too, butthe sheep never caught on. They just followed the rest. 4.1
  • 29. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieRabbit Social Behavior Rabbits are territorial. Once a doe claims a cage as her domain, she will fight any other rabbitsthat are placed in her cage. To mate them, introduce the doe to the buck’s cage. He will become soexcited that mating is over in one or two minutes, or less. You may want to restrain the doe by holdingher head into a corner so she cannot run around. He will mount her and 10 to 20 seconds later fallover, having done his job. Then take the doe back to her cage. About eight weeks, the litter will become adolescents and soon, young bucks will try toemasculate their competition. Does will fight as the cage is claimed by the dominant doe. The evidenceis obvious: tufts of fur within and under the cage or evidence of blood around and under the buck’s hindquarters. If you must keep them beyond this stage, they must all have separate cages. The time to dothem in is when it is time to remove them from their mother’s cage, or shortly thereafter. This is a breed selection criterion. The young should reach the accepted, four-pound fryer sagebefore they are adolescents. Obviously, the larger breeds are the ones who do this. A buck in a cage next to a doe will irritate her and excite the buck. Placing a non-chewable,opaque wall, a piece of tin or hardboard, between them is necessary. If a doe is upset when she hassmall babies she will either abandon her litter or eat them. A possum or racoon or a cat, roaming on top of the cages, will really upset a rabbit. All themore reason for a fence around the cages. We have had a fox reach through the wire of chicken cages and chew off the birds’ legs fromunderneath, but the fine mesh wire on a rabbit cage prevents this, especially if the cage is big enoughthat the rabbit can get far enough away from the sides of the cage. Our buck is spoiled. He expects to be petted when he is fed or he will sulk in a corner. so wepet him. I mention this because I have seen people who were cautious about even entering a buck’scage. I also pet him after a mating to calm him down.Toys Rabbits need things to do. A doe, suddenly alone when her kids have been removed, wantssomething to do. She will try to chew up her feeder if nothing else. We use a shallow can, like tunacomes in- as a toy, or something like a chain hanging from the cage top, that she can tug on. She willplay with a tuna can for hours. A buck likes toys too, but they like to race around their cage in short bursts to expend energy.Ours looks to see if we are watching and do it again.Birthing Rabbits Birthing is a time for praise for the doe and a green leaf reward. I did not try petting her at thistime; that would be asking too much. If you got there just after it happened, while she was cleaning up,you can praise her, but she will ignore your presence until she has finished cleaning. I will try countingthe young while she feasts on her reward. If the babies happen to be born on the wire, I will scoopthem up and into the nest as quickly as possible, picking up as much of the tufts of fur as I can to coverthem. She is still nervous, but busy with her fresh leaf. We give the doe a nest on the 29th or 30th day after mating; earlier if she has begun to pull furor scratch in a cage corner. If there is a hay manger, she will immediately begin gathering hay to put inthe nest although we have provided a nice bed of wood chips and hay for her. If you miss providing anest at the right time, she will try to provide enough fur on the cage floor to cover the babies, or she willabandon them.4.2
  • 30. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie She is protective of the new litter, so be careful about probing around in the cloud of fur to countthe young. She may bite an unwary finger or scratch a hand. This is one reason why I try and pet eachrabbit daily. They are used to me. Her protection extends to abandoning young if she feels threatened,or even to eating them if she is really frightened.To Transfer Young If one doe has a large litter and another doe is short, we will even the litters. A bit of talc onyour hand before petting the new mother, then making sure the talc is on the baby, will keep her fromrejecting a strange smelling baby. She will do the culling and will eat any dead babies or discard them on the cage wire; we thinkshe is a better judge of baby condition than we are. Some mothers can raise as many as 16 young, sogive her a chance. If the doe cannot consistently raise eight, she is the one to replace. Some commercial rabbitbreeders replace does after the second year, no matter what. We have had productive does for oversix years. The more litters they have per year, the shorter their productive lives will be. Six litters peryear is too many for the doe. The strong, hot winds that blow off the desert toward the Coast in Southern California may lastfor days and everything cooks in the intense, dry heat, One morning it was over 100*F at 8:00 AM inthe rabbitry. We spent the day going up and down the aisles, hosing down the overheated rabbits. Notime for spraying, just poor the water on them. We lost about 200 rabbits that day. Previously, we were breeding a strain that would raise 16young in a litter and get them to four pounds in eight weeks. They were stressed, but we werebreeding the strongest ones in hopes of strengthening the good features. All of this strain died from the heat.A Nest Box With High Sides When she has fed them, she will jump out of the box, the tall sides help to keep the hangers-onin the nest. A shallow box does not keep the young in the nest. When the young are old enough toclimb out of the box, the nest may be removed. Then the doe is harassed all the time by hungrybabies, but she can handle it. A nest box, turned on its side will give her a respite from her hungry kids, because on top of thebox, she is out of reach of her young, always hungry babies. When she is ready to feed, usually twice a day, they all get the message very fast. A veryyoung baby, who misses one meal is not likely to make it to the next feeding.Babies Out Of The Nest A newborn baby who happens to hang on may be left on the cage wire floor. Without fur, theirsurvival is less than a half hour in cool or cold weather. We have warmed babies on a towel in an openoven or against our body, We have also resuscitated one that has stopped breathing by pressing on itschest with a thumb. When they are warmed or begin breathing, put them back into the nest. If theyhave been out for a long spell, use the talc, just in case.Handling rabbits. A rabbit, born in a cage, knows no other life and they panic outside the cage. To carry a rabbit,tuck their head under your upper arm- close to the body, and cradle it on your forearm. As long as theycan’t see what is around them, they are calm. Use the free hand to stroke them, and say nice things tothem. Be ready to let go in a hurry-into a cage; they will kick and scratch in panic. 4.3
  • 31. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieRabbit Handling A small, young rabbit may be handled by grasping them around the body just before the hindlegs, This is the way to dump them into an empty feed sack for transfer to another cage or for weighingthem- singly or in groups. Ideally, someone else should hold the bag open. Do not pick them up by the ears. Try not to pick up an adult ( NZ’s weigh 12 to 16 pounds) bythe scruff of the neck, unless it is to immediately cradle them as described above. Any other way willearn scratches. You will learn to wear long sleeves. A cage provides nothing to wear down their claws.Pet Rabbits Rabbits make nice house pets. They can be trained to use a litter box. The Library kept a bunnyin the children’s room- the kids loved the bunny almost as much as the bunny loved the attention.These are not raised for eating- which is the hangup many folks have about rabbits as food, “I couldnever eat that nice bunny.” Tell them to think of a chicken with two extra, free, drumsticks, or becomevegetarians if rabbit is the only meat in town. I try to pet each rabbit daily when I feed them, even if it is no more than running my hand downtheir backs.. It makes them easier to handle when you need to. After mating, a doe will not let you getclose for a while. The breeding herd becomes family after a while and we give them names. Talking tothem helps to calm them; after you have fed them for a while, your visits are welcomed.Names We never name those who will become meat, but we give them loving care as long as we havethem. Little bunnies are active and inquisitive and are fun to watch. We do not handle them or petthem. It’s hard enough to kill any animal without doing in a named bunny. Names can also have a functional purpose. One original doe was named Alice. All of heroffspring that we kept ( we were expanding the herd ) had names starting with “AL”. Those from Annieall had names beginning with “AN”. Many breeders do this with a numbering system, but names aremuch easier to remember. You will not have this problem with three rabbits, but I threw it in anyway.Observation You can learn a lot about your rabbits if you observe their activity from a slightly remotelocation. They are individuals and no two behave exactly the same. You may as well enjoy them whileyou have them.4.4
  • 32. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 5 HealthBasic Rule Whatever you raise is best kept by adequate feeding and watering and best possibleenvironment so that the plant and animal can grow rapidly and without stress of any kind. A healthy,vigorous plant or animal is least susceptible to disease or pests. Any interruption or stress encounteredby the living thing reduces its chances of perfection and increases its chances of pest infestation ordisease.. You must learn what the perfect conditions are for your plants and animals to have the greatestyield and greatest chances of not having disease or pest problems. Before chemical insecticides and pesticides, there were natural remedies. Learn about them.A Story I always had a dog as long as I lived at home. I was taught that things happened to pets andyou got over it. Since this was a big city, the most obvious danger was being hit by a car. One of myfirst goals was to minimize this hazard by teaching our dog never to go into the street. Since we livedon a busy corner, this was a primary consideration. If Bruno saw another dog, across the street, hewould lay at the curb and whine for a visit, but he did not set foot on the paving. My mother added onions and garlic to his food to keep him free of fleas; fed him a tiny bit ofsnuff yearly to keep him worm-free, and some beef or bacon fat added to his food to keep his coatshiny. If he got the runs or evidence of any upset he got the same spoonful of castor oil that any of theothers in her house would receive. Nobody disobeyed my mother, even the dog. You have never seenanything if you haven’t seen a dog take castor oil- to the last drop. There is always room for another dog story- even in a book on rabbits. During the war, mymother decided that we should all become vegetarians, even the dog. She would put down a bowl ofvegetable greens for the dog, It was flavored with meat broth, derived from the second boiling of soupbones, but Bruno would stand before the bowl and growl, until Mom said “Shut up and eat it.”. Hecouldn’t go for a walk after dinner and have a hamburger, like some of us did. That lasted almost ayear.Rabbit Health Problems Those nice, long ears shelter mites and cause great agitation for the rabbit. A drop of mineraloil placed in the ear will eliminate the problem. Our rabbits, knowing how we treat ear mites, will usuallyretreat to the most remote point in the cage when we are near, if they have mites. That is the earliestindication of a problem. It is time to look them over. A dirty tail indicates a diet upset. This may be caused by introducing too much of a new food, orspoiled food, or the wrong kind of food. The easiest remedy is hay, especially the stems. It is a goodpractice to incorporate a hay manger in each rabbit’s cage as a regular feed supplement. I always puthay into a nest box as part of the nest material, so the little ones learn early. We lost about 100 rabbits from a new load of pellets. The pellets were not dried sufficientlywhen produced and they soured. I exposed the pellets to an ultraviolet light and the mold fluoresced a 5.1
  • 33. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchiebright blue-green color. When they were presented with this evidence, the Feed Co-op cleaned out ourtank and reloaded it with good feed. I used the bad pellets as pig feed. Pigs can eat anything. After thatwe chewed a couple of pellets from each new load. We were getting ground-up carrots from a Juice Bar. The rabbits love this, but they would eattoo much and get runny and die. We gave up this treat. There are lists of things that are harmful forrabbit feeding. We have found that non-green foods seem to cause diet problems, like squash, carrots,radishes. They can eat these, but only in very small amounts.. The only problem we have had exclusively feeding rabbits the greens we raise is that it isdifficult to provide adequate protein in their diet. To compensate, we include a commercial pellet feedfor them. They will always go for the fresh food first. We do not limit food; our rabbits always have feedavailable. The buck runs around the cage for exercise. Having four or five litters a year is not fattening, the does need all the nutrition they can get. A rabbit may have bad teeth. The front teeth will grow excessively and curve back into thegums. They can be nipped off with wire cutters. Better is to breed out the offending strain. Another problem is a fuzzy fur. It is usually not salable as a pelt. These, and other unwantedtraits, can be eliminated by using the faulty rabbits for meat and not keeping them for breeding. To maintain a healthy herd, one occasionally buys a rabbit from another herd. This is also thecommon way to bring in problems. When buying a rabbit, check the hind quarters for stains, the teeth,the satin-like feel of good fur, the ears, and the eyes. Also run your hand down along the body to see ifit is bloated. Check the back legs for raw spots from cage wire irritation, called “weak hocks.”Medications The only medications I allow are those that have been incorporated into rabbit pellets, simplybecause I have no way to exclude them. The best medication I recommend for upset rabbits is fresh greens, not of the Cole family(create gas ). Next is mineral oil, especially for ear mites, a common rabbit problem. Their digestivesystem is delicate and they react to diet changes, even to a source change of rabbit pellets. A sickly strain of rabbits will often eliminate themselves - according to Darwin. If you are into pills and store-bought medications, please follow your inclinations- it is just notmy way. We don’t even use aspirin in our house. If you have an ache or pain, eliminate the problem,don’t hide it.5.2
  • 34. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 6 Animal DisposalPigs For Animal Disposal We raised a pig each year for garden waste and dead rabbit disposal, but with five hundred,you have dead rabbits from natural causes, no matter what. The omnivore pig will eat anything. Most commercial rabbitries keep pigs for this purpose, as do large scale chicken ranches. In some countries, a herd of pigs will be driven into a village after an epidemic to consume thedead. What do they do with the pigs?Dogs Dogs can eat rabbit meat as a main source of food, second only to door to door salespeople, Adog has unique enzymes in their saliva that enables them to eat the entire animal. Additional protectionis provided with a short intestinal tract that allows faster elimination and reduces the chances ofdisease growth within the animal. Look this up for further study if this is an option for your situation. The salesperson bit above is a piece of humor stemming from the occasional sign, “Our watchdog will be right with you- as soon as he finishes his lunch of the last salesperson”.Options The option I have heard of is a pond stocked with pirana fish. A pig farm used this method toget rid of dead pigs. There are strict rules about this. Snails are a bad enough import, but to haveomnivore fish running wild in our streams is beyond comprehension. A few dead, or the innards of those you clean, can go into the garbage, but if your herd getsany larger, you will learn about an on-going lime pit with a removable cover. Public Health departmentshave rules about this. Assuming you get serious about raising rabbits, and a pit is acceptable in your area, when youdig it, it must be lined or it will surely cave in with the first rains. One way to do this is to hire a cesspool outfit to bore the hole and insert the lining. Hauling off animals as garbage is a costly proposition, and you can only bury so many garbagebags, if the bags continue to exist in the wake of Peak Oil.. If you consider grinding up remains and running them into the public sewer, abandon the idea.Besides, the Public Health people would have purple fits at the very thought, and the word would getout, sooner or later.Cautions If you have a well for your water supply, it would be best to consider any other option to a limepit. At least, if you must do it this way, site the pit as far away from the well as possible, on the down-hill direction from the well. Animal remains should be treated with lime if they cannot be disposed of immediately. You donot want to deal with maggots and flies, and ants, if you can possibly avoid them. 6.1
  • 35. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 7 Rabbit FeedFeed and Feeding You will read in some literature from feed suppliers and in other books that your rabbits shouldbe feed an amount of feed based upon their weight; that they should be fed the same time every day.That their diet should be balanced as only a pellet feed could supply. A doe is either getting ready to give birth or she is making milk for a hungry bunch of young.On a five litter per year schedule, she does not have time to grow fat, As you run your hand down herback, you will feel skin and bones. The same is true of all milking animals. A milking cow looks like abone frame with skin draped over it. So it is with rabbits, but the fur makes them look otherwise. We try always to have some kind of feed before the animals at all times. Since pelleted feed islargely made up of alfalfa, this feed is a good at-hand feed type. The problem is that it may not beavailable or become too expensive. Besides, buying rabbit pellets defeats our goal of a sustainablegarden.About Rabbit Pellets The reason for growing your own meat supply is the limitations placed on the usual sources ofmeat from commercial sources by Peak Oil, or a shortage of money brought on by job loss or inflation.Let’s consider for a moment that your pellet supply is not cut off. We kept a goat for dairy products; the goats love alfalfa leaves and ignore the stems. Rabbitsdo just the opposite: they discard the leafy part and eat the stems. We fed the alfalfa to the goats,scooped up the stems for the rabbits. A second feed partnership was to pass the rabbit pellets over a screen and collect the dust. Weusually had all or part of a fifty-gallon barrel of pellet dust. Both the chickens and geese were fed thisdust. I even mixed a slurry of dust and water for pig feed when it got to be too much for the birds. Of course, we were getting four thousand pounds of pellets each month. There is no way ofavoiding dust in pellets. In shipping and handling whether it has been bagged or is obtained in bulk,dust will rub off from the friction. A bag of pellets will produce dust in proportion to the amount androughness of handling each bag experiences. This dust will tend to clog the screen in the feeders as it accumulates. If it is not cleaned away,it will block the flow of pellets altogether. If you have worm beds under the cages, the dust is not lost; worms will eat it.High Grade Pellets There is a special grade of pellets containing 18 percent protein for lactating does. We nevertried having special feed for does and the regular, 16 percent protein feed for the rest. Neither did anyof the other commercial growers I knew.Feed Options In the absence, or scarcity, or unaffordable availability of pellet feed, Hay is a good substitute,hence, our feeder design includes a manger. Hay, if available, is kept available in the manger for all 7.1
  • 36. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchierabbits. It is part of their digestive process.No Hay ? During the spring when grass, a.k.a. weeds, is growing luxuriously with increasing warmth andrains. Weeds grow well and are nutritious. Harvest this growth and dry it and store it for later use. Youcan never have too much. During this growing season, the weeds will come before your other plantsbegin to produce after winter and the rabbits will always eat this fresh, green stuff. If you can get hay through barter or other arrangements, by all means, keep hay on hand.Single family lots hardly have enough space for a hay field. During WWII, when the terrain dictated the use of mules and donkeys as the hauling means, atrailer, equipped with trays and a transparent roof, would be used to grow hay hydroponically.Hydroponics can produce as much as forty times the crop as would a plain growing plot of land.- ofequal area. Growing hay could become a community project, if everyone needed feed for animals.Winter Feeds We try to grow vegetables that are hardy enough to continue through the winter with minimumshelter. Swiss chard is a good option. And additional plus is that they don’t seem to harbor aphids asdo the cole family. New Zealand spinach is another winter-hardy green plant. Sweet potato greens are another. They are not related to white potatoes and their greens arehealthy enough. As a kid, one of our first growing plants was a sweet potato, supported on tooth picks and halfimmersed in a jar of water. We watched the roots and vines flourish on the widow sill. Collards are a good source of greens and they are cold hardy. They must be fed sparingly astoo many produce digestive upsets in rabbits. Too much lettuce can also produce gasses. A tray of grain seed sprouts can be harvested for the rabbits, too. Harvest after they havegrown enough to begin showing green leaves. A tray of dandelions are also another source of greens, and they certainly aren’t hard to grow.Obtain seeds from the white puff balls out in your garden during the rest of the year. I have read that Basil from the herb garden is also a rabbit treat, but I have never tried it. Sunflower leaves go well for rabbit greens although I do not have any information on theirnutritional value.Fresh Feed Everything on the winter list works during the regular season, too. Although I find it a little hardto accept growing dandelions when they volunteer so well. Still, if you are short on greens....Treats- Rabbit Candy Raspberry canes and leaves are more important than the berries are for us, seeing as how wellthe rabbits like them.7.2
  • 37. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie We still choose to give a does a large green leaf after she has given birth to a litter.Introducing a New Feed One of the things we learned from feeding geese was that you made sure that the young hadtasted all of the things in the yard that they were supposed to eat. (The geese roamed free as watch-geese.) That way we didn’t have to have a goose-proof fence around the garden. We had the originalpair of geese for 28 years. If they tasted a green that wasn’t in their memory, they left it alone. Well, almost. One day our senior goose bit into a strawberry and soon we had to fence theberries to have any. Fern went into the yard with a dress print with a strawberry pattern and the goosetried to eat the berries from her dress. Any way, we try to feed the young bunnies chopped-up weeds, grass, or greens that we maywant to feed them later. If they had tasted the weed as a baby, they would eat it later withouthesitation. In order to switch pellet brands, or go to a new supplier, mix the old and new pellets together,with a gradual increase of the new ones. It will not upset the rabbits this way.Balancing A Diet of Greens The rabbits would just as soon eat the same greens all the time. Our garden is planned morefor garden survival, so it has variety, so they get a variety of greens. A list is provided elsewhere thatshows vegetables ordered by decreasing protein content. This gives you some selection of what toplant in your garden as rabbit feed.Hay Manger We always try to have a manger-full of hay or alfalfa available to the rabbits. The feeder shownin the drawings had a built-in manger for hay. Its main benefit is that much of what would usually passthrough a cage floor and down onto the earth is kept available to the rabbits.Perennials We try to grow greens that are perennial so that we have some greens all the time: Swiss Chard New Zealand Spinach Collards These are all winter hardy and the Swiss Chard will provide greens even when it snows. Generally, we avoid feeding greens, especially weeds, that have milky liquid within, such as lettuce. In addition we will provide hay or alfalfa as long as it is available and Timothy grass that hasbeen harvested and dried. We have also cut and dried grassy weeds for winter feed.Feed For Babies We add hay and the leafy part of the alfalfa to the wood chips we place in a new nest box. Ofcourse, mother rabbit does this also when she is close to birthing and she begins to collect anythingsuch as straw to carry into the nest when she starts working in the nest box, before she begins pullingfur off of her body for the nest. She will especially pull fur from around her teats. The finely chopped greens are added to the nest when the young are old enough to begincrawling around in the nest. Soon enough, they will begin sampling anything edible that they find. Thisis when we begin adding samples of all the greens we may feed them later, including weeds. 7.3
  • 38. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie When they are lively, but still too young to climb out of the high-walled nest, we toss in a young,tender leaf when we are feeding all the rabbits. We have never experienced bad effects from thispractice. When they can climb from the nest box, we place a two-inch thick, piece of wood under thefeeder tray. They can climb up on this board to reach the feed. If you do not do this, they will climb upinto the feeder tray and eat anyway. You can tell they have started climbing into the feeder by thepresence of those little, dark balls that show up amongst the feed pellets.The Sustainable Garden It is debatable as to which comes first: Ether the rabbits are making fertilizer for the garden sothat the garden can make more rabbit feed, or the reverse. It is a partnership that requires a mutualcontribution for both in order to survive. I have not found data on how much the volume of fertilizer, say, from chickens, diminishesduring the time required for composting. This would have a great influence on whether a sustainablegarden can be achieved with chickens, alone. The fact that rabbit fertilizer does not require composting eliminates consideration of loss due tocomposting.7.4
  • 39. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 8 MarketingRabbits To Eat of Barter? If, as we anticipate, what with the economy plus Peak Oil influence, the meat you grow maybecome your only meat supply, marketing may be a negligible problem. Unless there are some thingsyou need more than meat. At that point, rabbits become barter goods. If you expect to barter them, begin early to develop a market for your supply. You cannot waituntil they reach their weight. Everything, selling or butchering, must happen THEN. Be ready toprocess them at the time, not hold them while you get around to it. Besides, you don’t have enoughcages to delay what you must do. One litter equals eight rabbits; held over, that means eight cages. Barter live or as cut-up meat. See the caution, below. The real advantage to selling liverabbits, and chickens too, is that refrigeration is not needed when the animal is killed and cleaned justbefore cookingA Story When I was a kid, we would stop at the Butcher Shop for a chicken. At the back door, outsidewere cages. Mom would pick out the chicken, either to carry home in a bag or to have the butcherclean and de-feather it, right then. I used to watch the speed and ease with which the butcher did theentire task in a few minutes.Live Sales Live sales - minimal refrigeration, no preparation or butchering costs. They aren’t likely to spoilon the way to the purchaser’s home. In earlier times, there was a cage for the chicken on the backporch to keep it until just before the meal preparation.BY-Products ( also provided elsewhere in the book ) Ears as pet reward / treats. They are dried and seasoned. Feet as good luck, key chain charms. They are dried and capped to fit on a key chain. Worms and worm castings for gardeners and fishermen. Fertilizer for your own garden, then barter the excess, if any. Pelts. Either go into tanning yourself, or sell them to a taxidermist who tans them. In either case, the pelts are stretched to dry when they are removed.CAUTION about selling any food stuff: If you advertize meat for human consumption, you are exposing yourself to any number ofgovernment public health restrictions or personal lawsuits, if anyone gets sick and can blame it on yourrabbits. 8.1
  • 40. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Either sell them as meat, for whatever purpose the buyer intends to use them, or make specialnote that they are primarily for use as pet food or for pets, whatever. It is best to have a Lawyer draw up a disclaimer that every customer signs– and you keep filed. The best test is to be consuming them yourself as proof of their quality.Marketing OptionA Story After we were recognized as a commercial rabbitry, we were classed as having “select” rabbits.That is: nearly perfect, without blemishes, healthy- disease free, and white ( a requirement becauseanything negative shows up easily on white rabbits), we could sell them as lab rabbits. Let me say, at the beginning, all medicines, makeup, soaps- anything that is placed in thehuman body, are first tested for allergenic reactions on a live rabbit. So, ladies, if you wear lipstick orshampoo your hair, the rabbit got it first. Not just once, but every production batch. Then, there are allthe medical students who learn from using live rabbits. In high school, it was frogs. Why would I, or any grower do this? They sell at three to five times the price of meatrabbits. The Broker, who bought our product, also supplied pigs or any other “select” animals tomedical schools. They could specify sex, age, even a pregnant sow, and he would supply the animal. This was when you declared your rabbitry off limits to visitors, so that nothing could be carriedinto the rabbitry by guests. We kept the doors locked at all times. I even challenged the visits of ourBroker and he chose to stop at our place first on his collection route. There was a time when pregnancy tests for women involved “sacrificing” a rabbit for the test.One test, one rabbit. You do not need to worry about this, Your location must be in proximity to cosmeticmanufacturers and university medical schools in the first place. The second consideration is that whatever you sell changes ownership and control the instantyou take the money and wave goodbye. The only control you have over a buyer is not to sell tothem: if the thought of one of your bunnies being stalked and swallowed whole by a snake, don’t sell topeople who have snakes. Why do you think that rabbits can naturally have offspring so frequently? They are a commonfood source for many animals higher on the food chain.Pet Stores One place to get rid of your rabbits are Pet Stores. They are always searching for a new feedsource. In earlier times when I was a student at the University in Santa Barbara, The town’s populationwas mostly wealthy people and those who worked for them. The student population multiplied with theG.I. Bill, after WWII. There was a pet store that had a meat counter filled with horse meat for thosewho wanted fresh meat for their pets. The student population bought meat there, too. We married students got $105.00 per month to live on. Horse meat was a survival factor, alongwith a part-time job.8.2
  • 41. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieThe IRS If you have read our Barter Handbook, you already know that Uncle Sugar treats every barterlike a CASH SALE. There is a place to report barters and exchanges on Form 1040. You mustreport barters and pay income taxes on them, according to Law. But what about the costs of producingthose rabbits, and your capital investment in cages, etc. ? They can only be deducted in the year theyoccur. That means that your costs will be heavy that first year, even if you do not do any bartering. Ifyou do not wish to do this, those expenses are lost forever- you cannot go back, unless you choose tofile an amended return for a previous year. The plus side is that new businesses rarely make a profiton start up.Rabbits Are A Business Treat your rabbits as a business and keep a journal of expenses and any income from rabbitsor fertilizer. Keep all receipts as part of the paper trail. Oh, dead rabbits are a business loss. Rabbitrecord cards become part of your paper trail. Fortunately, the meat you eat is not taxable- yet. If your family is large enough that you can eat all of the meat produced, should you forget aboutthis? It may be that you need something more than you need meat for a meal, and rabbit meat may bethe barter item that the other party needs. Keep the records from the onset. You are likely to needthem, sooner or later. If you intend to barter garden produce, your entire garden should have a business journal. It isa fact of life. As government income from other taxes diminish, they are going to look for other sources, andbarter is likely to become more important as a taxable income, plan on it. It will not require a new law, itis already there, all they need to do is get out a magnifying glass. 8.3
  • 42. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 9 FertilizerSustainable Gardening Fertilizer is the vital rabbit contribution to the sustainability loop between animal-feed-fertilizerthat makes year after year gardening possible. Without the animal contribution to growing plants, sustainability cannot be achieved. Plantingwithout fertilizer will soon deplete the soil nutrients and plants will no longer grow in that location. Thetable below explains why we chose rabbits as that part of the sustainability link.Animal Fertilizer Comparison Table Fertilizer N P2 O5 K2 O Minerals Rabbit * 2.3 - 2.4 1.4 0.6 - 0.8 5 - 18 Poultry 1.1 - 6.0 0.5 - 4. 0.4 - 3 Mo*** Cow 0.5 - 2. 0.2 - 0.9 0.5 - 1.5 Dried Blood 12 - 14.5 0.4 - 2 0.6 - 1 Steer 0.7 0.3 0.4 Worm Castings ** 0.5 0.5 0.3* Need not be composted. Most concentrated plant nutrition of animal manures.** 50% organic, plus 11 trace minerals. Will not burn. No composting required. Data not found for othermanures.*** Molybdenum is found in most organic fertilizers. The trace minerals, boron, chlorine, manganese,iron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, play an important part in plant growth. Most trace minerals are notfound in inorganic fertilizers and must be added separately.Keep in mind that the nutrient availability to plants of these ingredients is governed by soil pH. Youcan have rich soil, but with the wrong pH, the plants will starve. This pH level varies from plant type toplant type.Estimate the amount of fertilizer produced by multiplying the amount, by weight, of feed consumed bythe rabbits by 1.5 - 2, to obtain the total dry matter produced.Figures in the table are a percentage of unit dry measure for all manures.This data is average, consensus, figures from over a dozen sources. 9.1
  • 43. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchiePlants Need Moisture and Air The way to get moisture and air to plant roots is to continuously provide the moisture and shieldit from evaporation with surface mulch. Air is provided by having a loose, non-compacted soil. Both ofthese requirements are met by adding a large portion of compost to the planting mix. No matter what,plants lose moisture by evaporization from their leaves, and this must be replenished.. In an enclosed environment, such as a greenhouse, this evaporation can be minimized byhaving fog nozzles to keep the humidity high in there. Otherwise, plan on watering longer or more oftenin dry weather. The best example of this is hydroponic gardening. The bare plant roots are exposed to acontinuous bath of water-bourne nutrients, and at the same time, air is bubbled into this bath while itwashes the plant roots. This is part of the key to achieving as much as forty times the produce yieldover normal planting in the same amount of space. The other important part is lighting for 18 hours and total darkness for the remaining six hoursof each day. The intensity and spectral content of the light source are also controlled. We will not go to this extent, but we can condition the growing soil to approximate idealconditions for plant growth.Editorial Note: To feed an ever-increasing population, hydroponics may be a last resort. This method is highlyproductive; it is not cheap, but neither are funerals.Arguments For Non-organic Gardening There are many advantages to farming with non-organic fertilizers and chemicals: Productivity is greatly increased. Damage by insect or disease is greatly reduced. The application of weed killing chemicals increases yield and reduces labor. The bad news is that these chemicals are the very things that we anticipate losing with thedemise of fossil oil.Meeting The Challenge Also known as survival. With a much larger population, it is questionable whether sufficient food can be produced byorganic means to feed the populace. That is a primary reason for growing at least a portion of one’s own food in a continuing,sustainable manner. It is also the justification for this book. What is presented here are basic to this goal.Plant Nutrition Nomenclature NPK is the basic information provided on a bag of fertilizer. It pertains to the chemicalcomposition of the fertilizer, whether organic or inorganic: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium are the basic ingredients The organic chemistry of howthese ingredients contribute to plant growth is fascinating, but beyond the scope of this book. ConsultWikipedia as a starting point. Suffice to say that plants need these chemicals in order to grow. Note that of the organic fertilizers available, rabbit manure is the best choice, again justifyingthis book.9.2
  • 44. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieHow To Use The NPK Data Every plant type and species requires a slightly different mix of NPK in order to produce edibleparts. They all require more N component to grow leaves and support trunks and branches; they allrequire enhanced amounts of P and K to produce fruitage, and so it goes. Such information iscontained in our Vegetable Handbook, which discusses fertilizers generally and the specific needs ofover 900 plants. It will not fit into a chapter of this book. Fern Ritchie wrote this book so that we couldhave this information for our own use. It was formalized and published so we could share it with you. The following list orders plants according to their protein content: This is your clue as to whichplants require the heaviest feeding.AsparagusBeansBeetsBroccoliBrussels SproutsCabbageCarrotCauliflowerCeleryChicoryCucumberFennelLeekLettuceMallowMushroomOkraOnionParsnipPeasPeppersPotatoPumpkinRadishSpinachSweet cornTomatoesTurnipWatercressYam Even this list has faults. Corn, which is noted as a heavy feeder, is way down the list in proteincount, but corn is generally noted as a high-protein food.Excerpt From Disaster Preparedness For Country Living: Ever read about pemmican? Its an old time, woodsman, carry-along food. It is made from nutsand berries, mixed with pounded dried meat , and packed in fat. Its the original trail mix. 9.3
  • 45. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Corn cakes are another old time emergency food, corn meal, fried hard in fat and carried in abag to be chewed on most of the time, which is what it takes to eat them. Notice that a basic ingredientis fat, high calorie fat. A long time ago there was knowledge of the need for a body’s fuel, calories, although I’m surethey didn’t even know the word. I have an ongoing debate with dietitians about including fat in the everyday diet. Fat is thecalories that the body-engine requires as fuel. It should not be eliminated or minimized just to have aslim figure. There are other ways to having a slim figure, exercise being at the top of the list. But if youhave a garden, you should be getting plenty of that.End of excerpt.Soil Test Kits Test Kits measure four components: N, P, K, and pH. A Table accompanies each kit that tellshow much of each ingredient to add in order to reach an acceptable level. You need another Table thatnotes the ideal NPK balance for the vegetable you intend to plant there. Check that these tables areprovided before you buy your soil test kit. The reactive chemicals you add to make your test are supplied as liquids that you add, drop bydrop, or as tablets that you dissolve in water. These chemicals must be replenished after a while; youneed not buy another test kit, just the chemicals.Other Soil Tests Take a pint jar and fill it half-full of the garden soil. Shake it well and let it settle until the water isessentially clear. Note the stratification from fines, on the bottom, to coarse on the top. The fine stuff isclay and the layers graduate up to the coarse layer of mulch. Some of the mulch may float. Now, repeat the same test in another jar using a soil sample from a planter mix. Note thedifferences. Now you have some idea of what needs to be added to your garden soil for improvement. Whatever materials you add to the soil will likely need to be replenished next year, especiallyorganic material. Get used to the fact that plants EAT plant food. That is the first clue. You will likelyuse all or most of the fertilizer that the rabbits produce.Trace Minerals There are tell-tale symptoms of trace mineral shortages, such as pale leaves, that indicateeither a shortage of Nitrogen or a shortage of certain trace minerals; likely the latter. It is anotherreason for adding rabbit manure in generous quantities. If you are using chemical fertilizers, the trace minerals must be obtained and added separately.On way to obtain the necessary ingredients is to obtain a bag of rock dust from a gravel quarry thatobtains its rocks from an alluvial, stream or river bed, source. The variety of rocks contains all of theminerals you need. Sometimes the quarry will sell it by the bag; others may be happy to have youscoop up a bag-full and haul it off. Some organic garden supply stores sell it, bagged, as if it was gold. You will likely need to apply rock dust about every thee years.Commercial Seedlings Nurseries usually plant in a soil mix that contains sufficient nutrients to feed the seedlings for sixweeks. That means that seedlings purchased from a garden shop are nearing the end of the nutrientscontained in their tiny pots. Purchased planter mixes rarely tell you how long the contained nutrientswill last because different plants consume the feed components at different rates.9.4
  • 46. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieDamping-Off Seedling Malady When seedlings first appear, the presence of certain bacteria may be present that may causethe tiny seedlings to wither and die as they begin to grow. Powders are added to coat the seeds toavoid this, or the seedlings are planted in a sterilized soil mix. One way to sterilize a soil is to pour boiling water through it, or cause steam from boilingwater to bubble up through the mix from below.. Another way is by composting: The natural heatingkills most bacteria. Heating is the key, even in an oven, if need be. One of the problems of organic fertilizers, especially rabbit manure, that can be applied to pantswithout sterilizing, is this damping - off problem with unsterilized fertilizer in the planter mix, or otheranimal fertilizers that did not get hot enough during composting. It is a reasonable precaution tosterilize seedling planter mixes before using them. Inadequate watering looks much the same as damping off, but the end result is the same.History Likely, we have all read during early school days how the Pilgrims learned from the AmericanIndians to put a fish head in the hole with each corn seed- in order to have the corn grow and theycould survive. Fish are a good source of nitrogen, and that is what makes corn grow. Corn needs all thenitrogen it can get. So do most plants in their early growing stages. Maybe you should brush up onyour fishing. We used to keep a bucket with a close fitting lid in a remote location. All of the fish remainswent into this bucket and became a supplement plant food when used in a highly diluted form. It wasan excellent source of nitrogen, but it could kill off the plants if we didn’t dilute it enough. How to check this? Check the pH of the diluted mix. The real problem is whether you have enough space on a city lot so your neighbors do not geta whiff of this foulest of odors. We had five acres, and that worked, but here in the city, I cannot bringmyself to stir up another bucket.In The End You will discover what it takes to grow edibles in the same soil, year after year. Everything inthis book is directed toward that goal. You should realize that the roots of the word, fertilize, means to make the growing mediumfertile. 9.5
  • 47. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 10 Sustaining A Garden There will be plenty of spare time what with job losses and the decrease in transportation. Thisis the time that will be taken up by creating and continuing a sustainable garden and meat supply.Everybody will have a part to play and a responsibility to the family to continue.The Process First, get your rabbits settled and producing fertilizer. Second, start your garden by planting seeds inside, before the weather will permit them outside. Third, condition the growing beds with all the fertilizer that is produced. This includescompleting a drip irrigation system, if at all possible. When the weather permits, the seedlings will be transplanted into the growing beds. Anextended cold season may require transplanting seedlings into bigger pots before they can go outside.Seedlings must be hardened by daytime exposure outside and returning inside during colder nights.Plant outside when soil has warmed and frost likelihood has passed. Keep the plants watered, weeded, and do whatever is necessary to keep them free of insectsand other plant pests. Harvest as the produce becomes ripe, enjoy the fresh produce and preserve the rest for therest of the year. Food preservation becomes top priority as the preserved produce is best when it isprocessed at its peak.Step by Step Produce is harvested, trimmed, washed, dried and placed in temporary storage for processing.Here are jobs for all members of the household. Drying is started, cutting and jar-packing goes on as long as there is produce to process.Someone, usually the cook, takes care of the actual canning: time, temperature, and handling. A day after the canning jars are processed and cooled, they are washed and placed in boxesfor storage in a cool, dark, place. Records are made at this time. Shortages of a particular product maybe bartered with someone who has an excess of what you need. The same goes for a heavy crop thatis beyond your needs. Use your excess for barter. Immediately after drying, vacuum seal the dry stuff in jars or bags and store them. Delay afterdrying allows the produce to pick up moisture and shortens the storage time. Canning jars are aneconomical, reusable storage container. Survey what you have and try to make up any shortages while produce is available in topquality. With all of these tasks to be accomplished at nearly the same time, there is plenty of work for 10.1
  • 48. Back Yard Rabbits - RitchiePhotos From The Ritchie Garden- Following PageUpper left, across, then downTwo plants gave us all the artichokes we could eat. Plastic goes over thehoops for winter.After ten weeks of Asparagus, we let the bushes grow to increase the plants for next year.We harvested over 100 pounds from the eight potatoes in this bed. There’sa row of beets along the side.Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Cabbage doing nicely. Everything is drip watered.Watering from buried, 1/8" porous tubes shows dark areas in the bed. That’sabout all the evidence that we can see. The Swiss Chard feeds rabbits all year.It is perennial and cold tolerant. We have another box of New Zealand Spinach,also winter hardy, and a third bed of Kale and Collards, both cold hardy.Our sculpture garden to the right of the Day Lilly border to the front entry.They are winter hardy. The 9 X 12 ft greenhouse is from Harbor Freight. We call it“China’s Revenge.” The sculptures are leftovers from our Studio in Encinitas,California- many years ago. I did the bear in 1957. Fern was the artist forthe hangings and fountains. There is more room for planting, if need be.The Day Lilly border leads to our front door. Both left and right of the door arePassive Solar Space heaters that heat us during the winter. The shade screenawning covers the Living Room window.We have nine boxes, 3 X 9 ft, of stacked 2 X 12s, with screened bottoms toblock gophers, and a chain link fence to keep out the Nutria. The boxes sit onotherwise unplantable earth: a 50 year old gravel driveway and old tree stumps.Outside of Springfield, Oregon, we are four blocks from the Willamette River, againstthe mountains on the south, uphill end of the Valley. It empties into the ColumbiaRiver about 60 miles north. We are about 60 miles inland from the Pacific coastwith a rather mild climate. To the east are the Cascades, up to about 14,000 ft.We get some snow and freezes. With the mountain snowpack and about 40 inchesof rain, there is plenty of water.Oregon is young, still doing things up here for the first time. The area was settledabout 150 years ago with the first wagon train from the East.
  • 49. Artichokes AsparagusPotatoes Cauliflower and BroccoliIrrigation StrawberriesSculpture Garden and Greenhouse Front Entry The Ritchie Front Yard Sustainable Garden - Ritchie
  • 50. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchieevery member of the family. Time is very important if you are going to have enough food for the rest of the year. Nothingtakes priority over food preservation and storage. See Hard Times Vol 2 - Food for ways ofdetermining how much food you need.SustainabilityPlanning These are the factors that comprise a sustainable garden: How much garden will your space provide?. Location: sun or partial sun. Fences surrounding the garden should be painted white to reflect as much light as possible. Irrigation: water source location, soil amendments, irrigation type. Growing time in your climate. Self-supporting plan. Plant-animal balance. What plants grow in your geo-area?Evaluation The big questions are: What isn’t working. Fix it. What is working may be subject to improvement. Continual revision is as important as continual evaluation of your plan .As soon as you arecertain about a shortcoming, work towards a solution or correction.Covering The Soil Under natural conditions the soil remains covered with a layer of dead plant material, thatprevents and moderates temperature extremes, increases water penetration and storage, andenhances soil aeration. Most importantly, the organic layer maintains soil structure and preventserosion by raindrops. Bare ground is vulnerable to water and wind erosion, dries out more quickly, andloses organic matter rapidly. Mulch, fallen leaves, and a cover crop of grass ( discussed later) that covers the bare groundand takes up the space that weeds otherwise try to cover. If you have a path, lay down the special fabric or a strip of plastic sheeting and cover it withbark or gravel. Border it, if you feel the need.Tillage Avoid tilling the soil in any manner that disturbs the organic layer cover and the fertilized soilnear the surface. Turning over the surface layer reduces water retention, buries the fertilized layer, andbrings up weed seeds that are always present. Open this layer only so much as is required to plant seeds or transplant seedlings. Soonenough, add a mulch covering to the plot. If the ground is not prepared where you want to plant, one method is to cut down a cardboardbox to about three inches depth, place the box on the undisturbed ground where you want to plant, fillthe box with planting mix, and plant in it. There are several planting mixes listed in The VegetableHandbook if you do not want to buy a bag of planter mix. The box will deteriorate during the seasonand become part of the mulch.10.2
  • 51. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieAdditives If you do not choose to buy a planter mix, analyze the soil. If it has too much clay, add somesand to it. Either vermiculite or pearlite, both natural mineral ingredients, will be added for moistureretention, We use rabbit pellets in the mix for both fertilizer and part of the mulch component. Thesethree components are added about equally unless your soil has special needs, such as the sand.Rock Dust The dust from rock crushers contains a wide variety or minerals for replenishing the soil, everythree years in our sustainable garden, The rocks should come from stream or river beds to obtain thedesired variety. Rock dust from a hill quarry are homogeneous and do not qualify for this purpose.Quarries are likely to give it away, but some garden stores sell it. If your soil is the source for a wide variety of weeds, you may want to learn how to sterilize thesoil before adding the other ingredients. Place a screen-full of soil over boiling water so that the steam must go through it. Pour boiling water through the soil and let it drain. Use a processed additive, such as Pearlite or Vermiculite. These are both processed through kilns and are sterile. Your sterile planting mix may not contain any soil at all. Both retain moisture, that is a plus. Some of the ways of adding fertile soil to your garden plot, but not to the entire garden, are : A wooden frame. This can also become a raised bed. The cardboard box- cut down. The bag of planter mix with one side cut out ( the bottom side has drain holes punched in it.) A straw bale border with new soil inside the border. A brush ( trimmings) border to retain the special soil. Old auto tires have been used for this purpose, too, if you can stand the sight. Almost anything else that will hold the special soil in place.Aeration If you get into hydroponics, you will discover how important providing air to a plant’s root systembecomes. Hydro systems even have air pumps to create air in the water-based plant nutrient solution. We will not go that far, but we will seek to have our planting soil open enough that air can reachthe roots. That means the soil has plenty of mulch in the mix. We use the dry rabbit pellets in ourplanting mix, both as a nutrient supply and for a porous mulch. We spread another layer on the surfaceto minimize evaporation, retain moisture around the plant, and feed them at the same time.Soil pH The acidity of the soil determines whether the plants can make use of the contained nutrients.The pH value varies with plant type. You really need to adjust the soil pH for the kind of plants in it,either with a meter or with soil test paper strips, chemically treated to change color according to soilpH. That is part of the Vegetable Handbook data on every plant. The amount and kind of fertilizer willalso affect the soil pH. You can have rich soil and starving plants in it.Crop Rotation Insects, bacteria, and such things as nematodes in the soil are thwarted if their favorite plantsare moved before they can really become a problem. It is called crop rotation. Another advantage is gained by interplanting with legumes that replenish the soil after heavyfeeders, such as corn, have depleted the soil from last year. 10.3
  • 52. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchiePlant Health The best solution to having healthy plants is to allow them to grow as rapidly as possible underStress-free conditions. They will be least likely to incur diseases or pests. Should pests invade yourgarden, there are many remedies for their elimination besides chemicals. Borax, sodium borate, a natural mineral, is an excellent ant eliminator and it is beneficial toplants by providing boron, an often short trace mineral. It dehydrates the insects.. It also works withsnails. Crop rotation and companion planting are both non-chemical solutions to this problem.Mechanical, wind driven vibrators repel gopher type pests to some extent. Insect-eating Birds are something you should plan on attracting to your area. Yellow colored boards, spread with Tanglefoot, a weather resistant sticky paste, will attract andcapture the little flying things. Yellow is a color insects like. That’s why marigolds are often provided invegetable beds.Companion Planting Some plants are friendly and some plants refuse to grow in the presence of certain other plants.We choose to grow the companion plants, either together or nearby. See the abbreviated list,excerpted from the large listing to be found in Hard Times, vol 2 - Food..Irrigation Ideally, you should stand out in the garden with a mist nozzle on the hose, making sure thateach plant has moist soil in which it can grow readily and stress-free. Next best is to install a dripsystem so enough water is applied around each plant to keep the soil moist, not wet..The emitterscome in different sizes so the right amount of water can be delivered to each plant. The option is toinstall another emitter to each plant. If the planting is a row crop, a porous hose is laid along the row and it “sweats” droplets alongits entire length. The flow is controlled by a valve. Oh, you moan, this costs plenty. The cost decreases as you use the same fittings and hosesyear after year. We take up the hoses and tubing and put the appropriate one in place, just before thetransplanting. What we have just described is a means of optimum watering that uses one tenth as muchwater and does a better job. The added plus is that the plants get water while weeds do not.Manure Tea Fertilizer, soaked in water dissolves nutrients into the water. This can be applied with a wateringcan or by using a syphon directly into the watering system. Seedlings, just replanted, benefit from a sprinkle of manure tea to minimize the stress oftransplanting. Diluted Fish extract does th same thing.Conditioning Seedlings To Outside Conditions Seedlings, still in their pots are placed outside during the days and brought back in during coldnights. This hardens the young plants to outside weather .and gives them a better survival chance byreducing the stress of outside transplanting.10.4
  • 53. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieRe-Seeding Each year, we select one or two healthy plants of each kind and allow them to go to seed andharvest the seed for next year’s planting. We always have some seed left over from last year. Theobject is to have seeds enough for at least three year’s plantings. There are two reasons: In really hard times as with a garden calamity ( floods for example) youmay need to reseed more than once in a season. In desperate times, you may want to eat some of theseed stores.Back To Rabbits Text While all of the above is going on, the rabbits have continuing care, without interruption. Afterall, they are growing things and require the same treatment. Besides, with all of the food preparationfor canning, they have been getting lots of trimmings, etc. During the winter months, fertilizer collects under the cages and it will be waiting for the Springbed preparation. Any excess can be bartered, of course.The Big Question If you decide that you want a sustainable garden these are the items you must consider. As tothe problem of seeds that were started and did not come up, or the seedlings that did not survive, FernRitchie compiled an entire book , The Vegetable Handbook, about 900 of them, so that we wouldknow what was necessary for success: Depth of planting, seed viability, special considerations- suchas which ones need a frost to germinate, soil temperature, and light conditions ( some seeds need totaldarkness ). We like to know our efforts have a chance of success. She even added what parts areedible and how to prepare them for the table. It took eight years to assemble and prove before writingthe book.Conclusion All of these factors need to be addressed in order to have a sustainable garden. None of themare speculation, they have worked for us, and we have been gardening for forty years, wherever wehave lived. Now, you know what to do. . . . Next page is part of a multi-page table showing companion and bad-companion plants.: 10.5
  • 54. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie10.6
  • 55. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Here is a table from, Hard times, Volume 2 - Food, a book entirely devoted to this task.Food Storage - Preservation. A Consensus of Advising Sources. Kind Storage Duration Prep M ethod Notes Fresh Stored M eats 1-2 Days W eeks Refrigeration Dried Indefinite Heat + air Dry sealed rem oved. Canned NA years Heat sealed Salted NA m onths to Depending on Salt rubbed on. years thoroughness of Soaked in brine. salting Sm oked NA m onths Depending upon Enclose in sm oke sm oke cham ber penetration M ilk Pasturized 1 - 3 days NA High heat to Rapid chilling Pasturize. Condensed NA 2 years canned Sweetened NA over 2 yrs canned May thicken or discolor condensed but still usable. Dried NA over 2 yrs dried May cake with m oisture Vegetables See note 2. Canned 1 - 4 days Several See vegetables chart (opened) years Pickled NA several canned As a pre-seasoned food years Ferm ented NA 5 to 7 yrs self sealed As is or washed Dried NA 10 years vac sealed Must restore water to eat. Kind Storage Duration Prep M ethod Notes Fresh Stored Fruit See Note 1 Canned NA see fruit chart Pickled NA longer as is or washed Ferm ented NA longer W ash until sweet 10.7
  • 56. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Dried NA longest Must restore water Fats Canned 8 - 10 yrs depends on absence of air Bottled 1 yr. ditto Salted m inim al Oils Canned NA 8 - 10 yrs No air all depends upon absence of air and light Bottled 1 yr 8 - 10 yrs unopened Drinks Canned hours 2 + yrs effects on m etal can Bottled 2 days 2 + yrs. exposure to light Staples Baking 1 yr Powder Baking 18 m os. Soda Spices Keeps better whole, rather than ground. Salt indefinite if kept dry, then lum ps but OK. Vinegar indefinite loses flavor but OK. Yeast Dried com press- longer if refrig. or frozen ed 1 yr Vac sealed works. Fresh Sugar indefinite does not spoil Cane Syrup 1 -2 yrs Molasses 1 - 2 yrs Corn Syrup as dated Honey May contain bee Pure honey m ight m old treating drugs. Crystallized is OK Maple Syrup up to 2 (pure) yrs.10.8
  • 57. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieNotes.1. If you are going to store canned fruit, select that with heavy sugar syrup to replace as m uch water as possible.2. Som e vegetables require a coating inside the can to prevent reaction with the m etal. Can lids are alsosusceptible to corrosion. Never store food in an opened can.3. Everything keeps longer if kept in cool, dark place. There is conflicting information from every source. This chart may be considered a consensus. 10.9
  • 58. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Comparison of Food Storage MethodsFactor metal Cans Plastic Plastic bags Root Cellar In the ground Refrigerator Freezer BucketsDurability Good good semi-durable very good Many Risks It is works If it worksStorage 10 years ten years question lifetime seasonal ditto dittoDuration contentsEnergy no no yes- for No no yes yesRequired sealingExtreme rust, corrosion rats heat NA animals power loss power lossEffects heat sharp objects floods earthquakesClosing After difficult possible reseal NA no yes yesAccessHazards rust heat heat NA rodents door coming door coming corrosion rodents rodents flooding open open power loss power lossDamage From moisture Plastic ages puncture NA loss of power loss of powerEnvironment corrosive faster with heat temperature chemicals moisture contentNotes 1 2. 3. 5. 6.1.Metal cans are affected by coating thickness, metal thickness, corrosive environment.2. Plastic deteriorates with time- faster in heat and light.3.Plastic bags age and become brittle.4. All of the above can be damaged by the contents.5.Energy required for continued use.6. Energy required for continued use.10.10
  • 59. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Preferred Preservation Methods for a variety of foods . 1 = good, 4= best, x= not recommended Consult process books for details.Foodstuff Freeze Dry Juice Salt Pickle Smoke Can Package NotesFruitsApples x 4 4 x sweet x 3 3Plums x 4 4 x x x 4 3Oranges x powder 4 x sweet x juice powderApricots x 3 2 x sweet x 4 2Avocados x x x x x x x x fresh onlyVegetablesCole Family some 3 x some some x some 3Asparagus x x x x 2 x 4 xArtichokes x x x x 2 x hearts xCorn 4 meal x x tiny x 4 mealPeppers 4 4 x x 3 x 4 driedTomatoes 4 4 4 x x x 4 driedOnions x 4 x x tiny x tiny driedBeets grated x 3 x 3 x 4 xCarrots x 3 4 x tiny x 3 dried 10.11
  • 60. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Preferred Preserve Methods page 2 Foodstuff Freeze Dry Juice Salt Pickle Smoke Can Package Notes Cucurbita x 3 2 x 4 x pickled dried Potatoes x 4 x x x x 2 dried Dairy 2 4 Milk 2 4 NA NA NA NA condensed dried Cheese 2 3 ‘’ 3 ‘’ 3 1 1 SoftCheese x x x x x x x 1 fresh only Eggs x 3 ‘’ ‘’ 4 1 pickled dried Cream whipped dried ‘’ ‘’ NA NA condensed dried Butter 2 1 NA 3 x x 1 dried Meats Beef 4 4 broth 3 x 4 4 dried Pork 4 2 broth 3 4 4 4 smoked Turkey 4 jerky broth 2 x 4 4 smoked + j Chicken 4 jerky broth 2 x 4 4 smoked + J Rabbit 4 jerky broth 2 x 4 4 smoked + j Goat 4 jerky broth 2 x 4 4 smok3ed + j Goose 4 jerky broth 2 x 4 4 smoked + jExcerpt from Hard Times Vol 2, Food by Ralph W, and Fern J. Ritchie10.12
  • 61. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chapter 11 Rabbits As FoodOld Stories You will come across stories about someone’s father telling the youngsters that you can starveeating rabbits- The human body needs fat in a normal diet. That is true enough because rabbit meat isa low-fat meat, but find out if they were stories about rabbit hunting in the wilds. What holds for wildgame does not hold necessarily for rabbits bred for meat, like the ones we are talking about. Except for hibernating animals that store fat for winter survival, wild game is essentially low onfat.Fats and Calories We are going to grow a unique meat that has all the desired traits for a normal diet- except one.We just mentioned it: The tradition that says a person could starve eating rabbit all the time. Thatcomes from the meat being so devoid of fat. Dietitians love that, but we are not writing a new diet plan;we are only trying to provide a meat source in the presence of a new culture that may not be able toprovide meat for the populace, or that will cost so much that it will be unobtainable. The excerpt below,from Disaster Preparedness For Country Living, and most of the books of that Series, is anotherslant on diets. Realize that this excerpt was written for another purpose/ Emergency Foods, Nutrition, and Eating. Nutrition I must preface these remarks with apologies to dietitians, nutritionists, perennial dieters, and natural food lovers, all of whom may go into a frenzy after reading this. Disasters create unique conditions and the rules change. Goals For Emergency Eating. All normal eating rules are hereby canceled! A human body, after a disaster, is stressed. It needs extra water on a continuing basis; needs excessive fuel (calories) to maintain body temperature; needs to resupply losses of energy from excitement, intense physical exertion for rescue work, and as a source of calming which food has on most of us. Thats a big order. Diets What the body needs most are calories. That means that everything you may normally try to restrict or eliminate from your normal diet is required now: sugars, fats, carbohydrates. They supply the energy the body needs. Ever read about pemmican? Its an old time, woodsman, carry-along food. It is made from nuts and berries, mixed with pounded dried meat , and packed in fat. Its the original trail mix. Corn cakes are another old time emergency food, corn meal, fried hard in fat and carried in a bag to be chewed on most of the time, which is what it takes to eat them. Notice that a basic ingredient is fat, high calorie fat. 11.1
  • 62. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie A long time ago there was knowledge of the need for a body’s fuel, calories, althoughI’m sure they didn’t even know the word. Nutrition and balanced diets are not the issue here, although it would be nice toaccomplish everything at the same time. We are talking survival and the bodys basic need iscalories for body heat, and water to maintain body liquid balance. The water has the toppriority. The high energy bars that are sold today for this purpose are supposed to contain about3500 calories each. Lets discuss that next.Calories and The Bodys Needs. Normally, a human requires about ten calories per pound of body weight, at rest, withminimum heat loss, as a minimum intake. Add exertion to that and the need increases to about50 calories per body weight pound. Add excitement and stress and the caloric need doubles,again. The basic requirements vary only slightly even when a person is starving. The bodyengine keeps on burning fuel until there isnt any, then the engine shuts down and Lilies arethe only diet necessary, on one’s chest, in a box. A body used to hard work and exercise consumes a minimum of fuel. The sedentarybody, which gets little exercise, requires about fifty percent more than the minimum of tencalories per pound, just to maintain its weight. Under heavy exertion, living out of doors, thecaloric need may require double or even triple the minimum requirement. Cooler or coldtemperatures only increase the calories the body burns.What Is A Calorie? First of all, it is a measurement of heat quantity in the metric system. Oh, great. Evenwith the country going metric, we have to relate it to the things we know. Lets revert to theEnglish system. A BTU, British Thermal Unit, is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of apound of water (pint), one degree, Fahrenheit. There are 252 gram-calories in a BTU. Since we have gone scientific and most foods are rated in calories per gram, just takethe amounts listed and multiply by 28.35 to obtain a measure of calories per ounce.For When You Need Calories Food Type Approximate Unit of meas. Calories Bread-White 70 calories slice Whole 399 cal cup wheat flour White flour 420 cup Candy Almond Joy 135 ounce Milk 145 oz. Chocolate11.2
  • 63. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieFood Type Approximate Unit of meas. CaloriesDark 157 oz.ChocolateCarob/raisins 220 1/4 cupChoc./raisins 480 1/4 cupChoc. Chips 480 1/4 cupCereals- 160 3/4 cupAll BranBran flakes 127 cupCorn flakes 108 cupMost cereals 100-400 cupCheese- 35 oz.Ched. Most 100 oz.Milk- whole 150 cup Skim 90 cupFood Type Approximate Unit of meas. CaloriesNuts-almonds 100 cupWalnuts-roasted 100 2 TablespoonsPeanuts-in shell. 200 2TFats-bacon 125 1T Beef 216 oz. Pork 192 oz. Chicken-raw 115 TButter 36/t ; 108/TMargarine 105 TShortening 100 TMayonnaise 99 TMeatsBeef-lean 70 oz.Beef hot dog 145 ea.Pork-bacon 35 slice Ham 40 oz. Sausage 100 oz. 11.3
  • 64. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Chop 200 ea. Lamb-lean chop 128 ea. Leg-lean 180 3 ½ oz. Fats top the list. Sugars are next, and carbohydrates are third, if calorie content is the important criterion. Its easy, these days, to find what foods should fill an emergency diet. Just take any of the published diets and read up from the bottom, or make a list of the foods they don’t even mention. Dont read anything into the above that isnt there. Vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional elements are still important and still required. Its just that what has become diet no- nos are important fuel supplies and that takes first priority in emergencies. Salt, as an example, must be replaced in the body under conditions of extreme exertion or elevated temperatures. Salt tablets are required in hot work areas. On the other hand, salt improves water retention in the body, and that is a giant no-no in almost all diet plans. See what I mean? (End of Excerpt ).How does Rabbit meat compare with other meats ?Meat Food Values MEAT PROTEIN FAT CALORIES Pork Chops (grilled) 28g 24g 340 Turkey (roast) 28g 6g 165 Rabbit 27g 8g 187 Chicken (average) 2g 12g 140 Beef burgers 18g 20g 260 (average) Pork Bacon (grilled) 21g 35g 400 There is considerable disagreement over values for rabbit meat.Redeeming Features: Rabbit meat is mild in flavor. So much so that it may be used as a substitute by adding the flavorof the meat you desire: Add beef extract ( bullion cubes, etc. ) to the rabbit meat and you have a beef-tasting meat. Rabbit can be ground for sausage, smoked, baked, broiled, stewed and prepared in any of theways suggested in the sample recipes. I have since learned that it makes good jerky ( I never tried that). It is not likely to become same old- same old, if you have ever been stuck on beef or any othermeat day-in, day-out.11.4
  • 65. Back Yard Rabbits – RitchieTo Cook and Enjoy Rabbit Most of us have fried chicken, so that is an easy place to begin: First of all, you fry the pieces until they are fully cooked. In this case, about an hour and a quarter,or until the meat is loose from the bones. You may have chosen to dip the pieces in egg and rolled them in bread crumbs, corn meal, orflakes, or whatever. The seasoning is your choice: lemon pepper, salt and pepper, or any combination ofspices you prefer. Think about how you best like chicken. Now, to go beyond frying:How about braising? Let’s cut up a green pepper, a cup of onion, 1 cup of sliced mushrooms, 2 cups of diced tomato, salt and pepper to taste. How about a dash of Tabasco? Heat a pan with 1 T of oil and brown the rabbit on all sides; set aside. Add the peppers, onions, and mushrooms and saute until tender; add tomatoes and seasoningsand spread everything out in the pan. Place the rabbit pieces on this mix and simmer, covered, for 45minutes- longer if meat doesn’t feel loose against the bones. This is our basic recipe.Maybe a Creole dish would better please you? Substitute a can ( 15 - 16 ounces ) of tomato soup for the fresh tomatoes. Add a half-cup of Okra pieces - Gumbo. Season with Oregano and a dash of Ginger, or hot pepper. Bake at 350*F for one hour, removing the cover for the last 15 minutes.What about Rabbit Cacciatore ? Substitute two cans of tomato sauce. Keep in mind that “canned” means home-canned from ourfood storage. We prefer it to the store-bought kind. Add a stalk of celery, chopped. Season with Oregano to taste, or your favorite Italian seasoning mixture. Simmer for I hour and serve on a bed of spaghetti. Be generous with the grated Parmesan cheese.Additions Go with Soy or Teriyaki sauce for your favorite Asian dish. Any of these dishes may include a half-cup of wine of your choice, added about 15 minutes beforeserving, and perhaps a clove or two of chopped garlic. 11.5
  • 66. Back Yard Rabbits – Ritchie Maybe you just go wild and substitute a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, or Cream of CelerySoup. Or Cream of Chicken soup, add two cups of mixed vegetables and simmer for an hour, Season toyour taste and selection. Those “cans” are the store-bought kind. Expand the recipes to fit your family size. I am sure your family has its favorite seasonings, go with them. That is why Fern wrote EdibleHerbs And The Plants That Add Flavor. There is great adventure before you if you learn what can bedone with what is around you.To Make Sausage An older rabbit is preferred. A young fryer , ground up, tastes more like paste. Sausage needstexture. Or just scrape the meat off with a fork and don’t grind it at all. This is where the meat on the backpieces can go. They are the last pieces usually chosen from the serving plate. The older rabbit will add some fat to the mix, but add enough to make up 10 percent or more, byweight, of animal fat ( Lard works ) to the mix. This is also an important part of sausage texture. Somesausage uses up to 30 percent fat. Add your favorite sausage seasoning mix to the ground meat sparingly. Fry a small, 1- inchdiameter, patty, very thin so it will cook fast. Taste it and add more seasoning as desired. The mild meatwill require much less seasoning than either pork or beef. The sausage may be extruded into casings for links, if desired. We make a two- or three inchdiameter roll, freeze it, and slice off patties of the desired thickness. Vacuum-sealed sausage will not go rancid when frozen, even after long time storage. I find no mention in the literature of rabbit meat being subject to the diseases associated withpork.The Ground Meat Maybe you are wondering what to do with the back pieces besides sausage? Scrape the meat offthe bones with a fork and use it as ground meat. Here are some ways to use it: Ground meat can be rolled in tortillas and served as Tacos, with a chili sauce. Cooked, and mixed with mashed potatoes, seasoned with cloves, and wrapped in a pastry shellto make Knish. Perhaps you would mix the ground meat, cooked with chili sauce, surround it with a corn meal(Masa) shell, fasten it in corn husks, and steamed to cook the corn meal, and served as tamales. Add some soy sauce, or Teriyaki sauce, extrude the mix into 1-inch wide strips and dry them asJerky.Smoking The rabbits, freshly cut, and cooled, may be hung in the smoker as is, or rubbed with salt. Smokethe fryers for about one week, and older rabbits for two weeks for a preserving smoking. If you desire onlysmoke flavor, 15 to 30 minutes in the smoker will accomplish that. Treat these as fresh meat. I just realized that this was the style of recipes found in Cooking Without A Kitchen - SurvivalCooking. It’s the way I approach cooking- nothing formal about it, but it works for me.I am hungry already.11.6
  • 67. Back Y ard R abbits – R itchie Chapter 12 ConclusionIn The End No matter how you go, or what advice you follow, you will learn a lot. Rabbits are fun and theyare productive, and productivity is what you will need. Might as well enjoy them in the process. Try notto become attached to the young ones who are destined to become meat and do not name them. Remember also that these are my ideas, not carved in stone. They are suggestions based onmy personal experience with New Zealand Whites, and provided for your information. I am sure youwill find many conflicting stories, so make your own choice and live with it, but you can aalwayschange your ideas. Above all, don’t blame the rabbits, it is not their fault.Other Animals It is a toss-up as to whether laws or the space required for the larger animals restrict raisingthem in your space. A goat can be raised in a back yard; pigs require more space and have more lawsagainst them. I would say cattle are definitely a rural animal. We raised a pair of Nubian goats, one for milk- the other for its company, in a 16 by 20 footpen, with some additional barn space. Each year they must be freshened if you want milk or moregoats for meat. We used a rent-a-buck to mate with our does, rather than keeping a buck for the oncea year mating. You will either do in the young or sell them each year. We raised them for milk productssuccessfully for ten years. In San Diego county, between the Mexicans and the South Sea Islanders,we had no trouble selling off the excess goats. You must milk a goat at least once a day, every day, but the milk, cream ( for butter) andcheese is beyond compare. We experienced no strange tastes to the Nubian goat milk, although themilk is flavored by what they eat, and they will eat anything if you are not careful. In our other books, I describe a garden pig. We raised a weaner pig every year. They are agreat way to get rid of garden waste and another way of disposing of rabbits. We fed the pig two, 5-gallon buckets of fruit falls from the orchard or two buckets of grapes each day, as well as whatevercame from the garden. Piggy also ate the dead rabbits. The other task was to move the 8 X 16 ft pig pen every year so the pig would dig up andfertilize a new garden plot for the next year. As with every critter we had, piggy got fed rabbit pellets. Therein lies the problem: would you have enough stuff from the yard to maintain a pig withoutneeding to obtain other feed? Chickens are another meat possibility, but the rooster creates a noise problem. I guess it ispossible to find a rent-a rooster to maintain sustainability . The disadvantage is outweighed by theadvantages of independent living, and perhaps an egg or two.
  • 68. Back Y ard R abbits – R itchieAbout Our BooksUpgrading Books As we learn more, find more information, we include it in the existing copies. That is why weuse the plastic comb binding in our printed editions: they are easy to modify without having to discardwhat is left of a previous printing. Unfortunately, updates are not retroactive to former purchasers. What you got in a book is thebest information we had at the time of publication. Ebooks are updated periodically, also without retroactive updating.Our Own Books As References I do not write a book about a topic that is already in print, unless I think I can do better. We useour own books as references mainly when a single topic has been amplified in a separate book. Whynot reference it for the reader who desires more information? The other point I wish to make, once again, is that our books were written from our personalexperience. We know what has worked for us. If you wish to profit from that experience, you can buythe book.The Economics Of Publishing Quantity is what makes books cost less. We could lower the price of any book if we printed inlarger quantities. Let’s look at the problem: We have approximately 50 books. Let’s say we print 1000 copies of each book ( That is thefirst price break ). Now, we would have 50,000 books to store, and our storage overhead must bereflected in an increased price per book. Not only that, but we cannot update the books alreadyprinted. Updating means destroying all the old copies. Bad news for costs. Why would we update? Nearly every one of our books touches a topic that changes with timeand that has new information added to that particular topic. Example: When we first wrote a book on Disaster Preparedness, little or no information was available on Bombings School Shootings Cell Phones Technical improvements in techniques and the infrastructure, such as the Internet ( It did notexist.) . We have added these topics, first as a Preface note, then as a section of the Appendix, finallyas a separate chapter. In a few cases as a separate book. Our first edition of that book would be trulyoutdated today. Instead, we use the print-on demand approach, where a small number of copies are printed asneeded, and storage is not a problem in our home. We do not have costly, high-productionequipment, either. If we connect with a big publisher or distributer, we must pay their costs. Amazon sells ourprinted books: they take a 55 percent commission, plus shipping costs, plus a yearly “membership”fee. They do not have the rights to sell our Ebooks or our CD books- they are only available from ourwebsite. What with the advantages of electronic books, that produces the lowest possible price. Our books were written to be used and sold at the best possible price. .
  • 69. Back Y ard R abbits – R itchie References and SourcesFeed Companies Many of the Feed Companies have a small book on the care and feeding of rabbits. Checkyour local supplier. State University Extension Departments have written material available as well as on will show you rabbit feed sources in your local area.A Google search of the words “rabbit feed presented 2.94 Million listings. Take your pick. For that matter, search anything you want to know about rabbits on Google. Use cautionwith the results, there is a lot of chaff in that wheat.Here are the books we have that are related to the topics of this book:Disaster Preparedness For Country Living. Coping With Disasters On Your Own. 2nd EditionRalph W. And Fern J. RitchieDisaster Preparedness For Urban and Suburban Living: Coping With Disasters In The City andSuburbia. Revised Edition, Ralph W. And Fern J. RitchieFIRST AID FOR DISASTER STRESS TRAUMA VICTIMS. A Guide and Self-Help Manual For TheLay Person Treating Disaster Stress Trauma Victims. Ralph W. RitchieCooking Without A Kitchen- Survival Cooking, How To Cook In An Improvised Situation for PowerOutage or Disaster. Ralph W. Ritchie and Fern J. RitchieVegetable Handbook, All The Information You Need From Garden To Dinner Table, Fern J. RitchieEdible Wild Plants and Weeds, Vol 1, Field Guide, Vol 2. Reference,Fern J. Ritchie, Also available with both volumes on CD with Auto Index.Edible Landscape Plants and Trees, The Edible Plants and Trees Commonly Found In Gardens,Available From Local and Specialized Nurseries. Fern J. Ritchie, Also Available on CD with AutoIndex.Edible Herbs, And The Plants that Add Flavor, Fern J. Ritchie,Farming Is Easy. . ., A Tale of Two City Kids Who Chose The Rural Life.30 plus years of farming, what they learned, and how they did it. An autobiography.Ralph and Fern RitchieIn the interest of keeping the price as low as possible, and to conserve materials, The New Economy