Kate Fortesque-McPeake

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since Jan 02, 2011
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Recent posts by Kate Fortesque-McPeake

If you don't have other animals to feed the offal to, try digging a hole in the ground within a few feet of a young fruit tree or some other woody thing you want to encourage. I do this when slaughtering chickens. It has to be at least 15" deep, or scavenger animals will dig it up. I don't really mind, but I intend it as fertilizer for the trees. Just don't situate the hole *too* close or you risk major damage to the roots.
3 years ago
I've been mulling adding rabbits to our sub-acre homestead for a few years now. I think it may happen for next year, and I'd like to build some housing for them over the winter so we're good to go when spring rolls around. But I have questions and concerns.

We have very little lawn space left, and it's mostly reserved to keeping our laying hens in rotational grazing. So I don't think I could keep rabbits on grass most of the time even if that were the best course of action. My understanding is that the does will need to be sequestered just before kindling and for a while after the kits are born. I'm prepared to build two types of housing, if necessary, and enough to keep a breeding trio appropriately. So what are my options?

I'm more or less familiar with the pasture pens that Daniel Salatin uses, but I don't think we'd be able to use them all that often due to limitations of space. One option I thought of was to build caging designed to sit over our very large compost bin/worm breeding area, so that the rabbit manure would either fall in, or be easy to scrape in. Such housing could be made safe from predators, I believe, while a mobile pasture pen could be kept inside the little bit of electro-netting we use for our few turkeys. My concern with caging is that full time, or near full time caging seems rather miserable and inhumane. I don't really want to keep rabbits if my only option is to deprive them of any quality of life. I'm already committed to preventing them from digging their own burrow, but I don't know if I can in good conscience confine them nearly all the time to a cage. Given my space constraints, do I have other options?

I'd also love input on how much feed I might need to buy. Ideally I'd like it to be none. We have a very large garden and a sort of straggling stand of alfalfa in a shady part of the yard. I'd happily give the rabbits the thicker stuff that the chickens don't usually want (outer cabbage leaves, kale, etc.) along with plenty of clover, dandelion and weeds. And we could make more of an effort with the stand of alfalfa - a little tree pruning would improve the sunlight there.

Our plan would be to alternate breeding the does, probably no more than twice a year, certainly no more than three times per year. The purpose would be to provide feed for our pet cat and maybe the occasional serving of meat for ourselves. I'd like to give up buying cat food, thus reducing our carbon footprint, the household budget, and our dependence on the formal economy.

I'd welcome any advice on my specific questions, or any information you feel I should have that I don't.
6 years ago
You'll get the hang of it.  But yeah, the early failures are really disappointing.  While it's always good to question what is possible, it's also invaluable to pay attention to what has worked for the locals for a long time.  So try potatoes and other stuff, but do it alongside what is tried and tested in your area.
7 years ago
Potatoes from the store were probably treated with a growth inhibitor to keep them from sprouting.  They will often sprout nonetheless, but if the ones you used got an especially strong dose of the stuff, then that could account for them failing to grow.

If you don't want to pay for seed potatoes, which are certainly more expensive than just potatoes from the store, then try to find some from an organic grower near you.  That will probably give you potatoes which weren't treated with the inhibitor, and also probably give you a variety suited to your location.  The drawback there is that you have a possible increased risk of bringing in disease on those potatoes.  Tubers sold as seed potatoes are (at least in the US) usually certified seed potatoes, which means the incidence of disease is very low, though not zero.
7 years ago
I'm guessing temperature was not the issue in Costa Rica, though in case you live in someplace considerably cooler than I imagine, I'll point out that potatoes do not like to be planted in cold damp soil.  If your mulch of banana leaves was very heavy, it could cool the soil underneath considerably.  That's the drawback with mulch: most types lower the temperature for the roots/seeds. 

If low temperature's ruled out, then I'd ask about the source of both the compost and the seed potatoes.  What do you know about either of them? 

I know nothing at all about banana leaves.  Is it common to mulch with them?  There isn't some odd allelopathic property of banana leaves, is there?  Any possibility they were contaminated with fungicides or other sprays?
7 years ago
What about some of the mustards?  Those seeds seem to come up through just about anything.  Some of them are quite tall.  Some have corkscrew roots that drill down deeply, improving drainage. 

I second the sheet mulching suggestion.  If doing the whole area is impractical, then consider doing strips or patches where you can beat down the grass and give other plants a chance.  You could seed those patches with aggressive stuff that will compete with the grass and make inroads. 

You could also just ignore the grass until you need more space.  Sheet mulch it only as your plantings require.  It's doing a decent job of controlling erosion at the moment.  And you could cut it as needed for mulching whatever plants you grow in your beds.  The problem is the solution, maybe?
7 years ago
Right there with you, rlmays.  I use the pee-nice outside, straight into the compost pile, or into the watering can.  But inside I use a plastic yogurt container, especially for the first specimen of the morning, which is typically the most concentrated.  I posted about some simple hacks for pee usage in the garden not long ago on my blog.  Some people just don't have the needed privacy to pee outside.  Some neighbors would just freak out.  But if you carry out a container or a bucket with liquid, they're none the wiser.  Could be you were just saving water from warming up the shower.
7 years ago
Thanks for all the responses. The coturnix is the breed I was considering.  Partly just out of curiosity, partly for the meat, and partly because I think I should be able to figure out how to use them for pest control in the garden.  Still ruminating on that last one.
7 years ago
Now that's some Russian gobbledegook!  I know my Russian is rusty, but I also know a lot of that is ungrammatical nonsense.  Ballerina diets, sugar and blood diets, pancreatic diets, post-operative diets, and Kelly Osborne diets.  Doesn't make much sense, but at least it flexes some linguistic muscles.
7 years ago
Thanks, John and Livingwind, for the input.  At the moment I'm less inclined to make quail a project for this year.  I've got a lot of other projects that are higher up the priority list at the moment, though I'll reassess in three or four months.  That just gives me more time to do research before trying them next year.  I'm slowly getting a bit smarter about these things - thinking and reading about something, and giving myself time to literally prepare the ground, before diving into another homesteading experiment.
7 years ago