Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bunny Condo Design

In designing our bunny condos, we decided to make a list of considerations. Maybe these will help you, too, if you decide to build your own.

1. Shelter from wind and rain: New Zealand and Californian breeds- the two kinds we have- are cold-tolerant creatures, and are fine with temps down to 20 below zero. They can't stand wind or getting wet, though- they will get sick and die. Colorado is a windy place. Since we've lived in our current home for a couple of years, we were familiar enough with the storm patterns and wind gusts to know they needed solid walls on the north and west sides of them.

2. Exposure to sun in the summertime: These same rabbits that can tolerate the cold cannot tolerate the heat above 90 degrees F. It goes above 90 frequently in the summer, so we needed to figure out how to shade and cool them. We placed the condos at a spot in the back that maximizes their shade from the tree foliage in the summer, and I am building a raised garden bed in front of them where I'll plant thick, tall-growing edibles to further shade them. By tilting the roof, the heat can escape, and we have vents at the top. The burrows provide a stable temperature underground as well, which they take advantage of sometimes.

 Compare this shot of early construction this past spring to the last shot here of mid summer. Big change!

We were thrilled beyond words when we completed the first bunny condo. There was such a sense of accomplishment. Using the space for living things made our yard feel healthy, purposeful.
My first construction project!

Thank goodness we don't have a rooster

This is nothing short of awful. This rooster wouldn't last one week at our house- he'd end up in a cooking pot! I had to watch it twice to believe it really crowed like this.


Oh my.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Foundational design

We decided to try to give our rabbits something closer to a natural life. This meant providing ground-level dwellings, so they could dig, hide, and be more... rabbity. My father-in-law felt we should provide the burrows for the rabbits, rather than making them dig. Kris thought they could do their own digging. In the end, we decided to try one side with a burrow, one without, and see what the rabbits were inclined to do.

To let a rabbit live outside, on the ground, one must accept that the rabbit will dig. And one must assume that raccoons and other predators will also dig. So we decided to beat them to it. We dug down two feet and laid a reinforced wire the whole way around, and placed cement tubes in the corners to hold the posts for the building.  In the process, we dug out one side enough for me to construct a burrow using cement roofing tiles and rocks. Then we back-filled.

In these pictures, we've already back-filled quite a bit to hold the cement tubes in place. The wire drops down much further than you can see. The burrow tiles are also all buried already, except for the one over the earthen ramp/entry.

The dimensions of the individual dwellings were dictated in part by the size of the fencing we scavenged to use as our roof, and in part by reading what housing sizes are considered standard:  rabbits in cages about 6 square feet, 18 inches high. That's only 2'x3'. We decided that was way too small, and ours have about 16 square feet, plus whatever they've carved out underground (which is impressive- they ended up personalizing the burrows, adding second rooms on!). So far, none have collapsed, but one has an involuntary skylight (you'll see later).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

One year ago

One year ago, I finished reading Radical Homemakers, and it rocked my world. I decided to start canning. I decided to raise meat rabbits. I decided to shop only for what we needed, and try to use only thrift stores, recycling centers, and online forums to get what we needed.

First I wanted to can things.  I harvested over 100 peaches from the neighbor's tree and made peach jam and peach salsa. Then I canned a killer katsup that is the best ever. I'm making a ton more this year. I picked apples and went to a cider-pressing party, and came home with the tastiest apple juice in the world- I was unable to exercise any restraint, and the winter's supply lasted maybe a month. I hope to do better this year, and by that I mean, make waaaaay more juice!

I also spent a day picking all of my own produce from a local farm and making insane amounts of soups and stews. Picking yourself is really fun, and also tiring. I might do it again if I have time, but I'm hoping to beg tomatoes, carrots and parsnips off of other local growers this year.

I decided we had to build the rabbit housing right away and start breeding right away. FAIL. After a few weekends digging and digging to lay the foundation in miserable river rock, I gave up on getting it done in a month. Here is a friend helping in October 2010... we owe them a couple rabbits for their sweat and toil!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I must gush with enthusiasm for a moment

I have so many posts I'm working on and am impatient to catch everyone up with our process of the past few months, so that I can move onto current interests and observations! Please be patient. What I've noticed in the blogs I like to read is that if there are too many posts in a short period of time, I tune them out. So my goal is to post 1-2 times per week only. However, due to the aforementioned impatience, I think I'm going to break that rule just to get this blog started. So for the next few weeks, I will attempt to write 3-4 posts a week until we're mostly caught up. Please bear with me!

I have to take a moment to express my gratitude to the Boulder Culinary Gardener's group, and the amazing expert gardeners there that are helping me learn so much. I posted my desire to find a cheap bobcat to scrape the grass from my yard, and the need to find dirt, and got great responses, encouraging me to try sheet-mulching instead- saves money while allowing me to benefit from soil that is decidedly rich in nutrients and worms without tilling.  I decided to give it a go, but found I am lacking in enough good manure for the project. I posted that need, and already have more than enough being offered! I also posted that I'm looking for a variety of rabbit-safe tree trimmings and such, and have had invitations to come harvest what I need from a number of generous folks. Now I just need to find the time to take advantage of their offers!

In the meantime, a friend sent me this very useful bit of information about how rabbits see, which helps me better understand their behavior. I hope you enjoy it too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Off topic? This is too cool.

I just have to share this fellow's work. Adam Katzman used to work in the solar industry, and now... I don't know what he does for income, but he builds really cool experiments in ecologically sustainable processes.

The one I'm admiring right now is the The Poop & Paddle  ....bare with me (I couldn't resist)

It's a floating outhouse that is also a contained water treatment system for the sewage he produces. The end result? No waste. None. How does he do it? Watch this Science Friday video to learn more about it!

I am disgusted by the amount of overflow waste he mentions that passes into our waterways, and am amazed by his very simple, natural system. And it reportedly doesn't smell.

Other projects I noticed upon quick perusal of his blog include a floating garden that makes use of trash in its design, the houseboat he made self-sustaining, and a rain-water collection system that results in food-grade quality drinking water.

I'd like to try to track Adam down for an interview. I found his extremely interesting blog, and will drop him a line. If I do, what questions do YOU have for him?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Who are we?

Most of these posts will probably be from me, Samantha, but I expect my husband will contribute occasionally too. When he does, I'll ask him to identify himself at the beginning, otherwise, you can assume the "I" is me. ;)

A quick background on my husband and myself:

My husband comes from a family that has hunted for generations, and grew up hunting. Past generations include ranchers and miners of the old west. Even today, his parents still harvest and process their own meat from deer and elk. My husband and I started doing the same about 10 years ago, and stopped having to buy beef. We've been living off of deer until last year, when he harvested his first elk.

My dad's family hunted and fished to have any meat- they couldn't afford to buy it. Growing up, Dad would go hunting and fishing on weekends to stock the family up, even having to hunt squirrels when the pickings were slim. When he married, things started to change some. My mom wasn't a huge fan of hunting, and sided more strongly with the animals. Dad's hunting tapered off to just water fowl, but as a kid, we did raise quail for meat as well as to release into the wild. I grew up fishing, but beyond that, couldn't stomach killing things- Mom's strong empathy won out.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Welcome to our experiment!

My husband and I spontaneously embarked on a project that has lead us off the marked path of 'best practices' or even 'practices described on the internet', and so in the interest of filling the void, we are starting a blog.

The project I'm referring to is raising meat rabbits in our backyard. The thing is, we fundamentally object to using wire cages. We decided that if we were going to try to have a more humane meat source than what is available at the grocery store, we needed to find a better way for the rabbits to live, to honor their instincts and make them happy. Yes, we want our animals to be happy, even if we're going to harvest them for food.

So we built three-sided "condos" on the ground, complete with burrows- one for each rabbit. This was a bit daunting. There's NOTHING on the internet about breeding and raising below-ground rabbits in this manner. We had to design it all, experiment, and learn behavior that wasn't described- or cared about- by industrial rabbit breeders.

Besides Rabbits, Other Topics!

I thought about calling this site "The Compassionate Carnivore", but I didn't want to limit us to just talking about meat-related stuff. We have more going on than that, and depending on responses and interests, we'd like to be able to discuss and share other topics, and hope you will weigh in on those topics too. There are some amazing people who I hope to have as guest writers for this blog.

We garden, and I'm very interested in urban gardening/farming in particular- learning to make the most use of our limited spaces, since most of us can't just up and move to the country, but desire some farm-life quality to our existence. Some topics that come to mind include: