I came to an epiphany a few days ago and I’m just getting time to write about it. Growing vegetables has always been a struggle for me. It’s not that I cannot grow them — I can, but it’s a struggle and I do not really enjoy it. I think I do not have the patience required to be a vegetable gardener. I know I bit off more than I could chew with the size of the garden we put in and that coupled with the drought made it almost impossible for the garden to succeed.
My gut feeling, however, is that even if the conditions were better, the garden would have got the best of me. It’s no surprise given how much I juggle on a daily basis. I think I am a glutton for punishment, but I do thrive on keeping busy. I am very easily bored – always have been!
So, the goal next year is to put the first section of garden (14-25-foot rows) into vegetables for Wally and me. If there’s extra, I’ll sell them, if not, then that’s okay too. The second set of rows (14-30-foot rows) will go into food for the ducks, goats and rabbits. Some of these rows will have food for Wally and me such as sweet potatoes and corn, but these crops will also yield food for the animals.
I already have a list of summer crops like velvet beans, iron and clay cow peas, plantain, sunflowers, nutritious grasses that will grow fast enough for me to scythe them, etc. These forage crops will be a lot easier to maintain and will be a lot more tolerant of weather conditions, pests and neglect.
My expertise and aptitude lies in livestock farming, there’s no way around that and I need to stop trying to change that. Dairy animals is the thing I do best, but the rabbits and ducks are starting to perform as they should.
I am excited about the future prospects of a strong Silver Fox herd. I’ve done some aggressive culling and there may be more culling to do in the future. I’ve made some contacts with other breeders in the area to see about getting some new bloodlines into my herd.
I have had issues with the length of time it takes my rabbits to reach slaughter size. Given that the Silver Fox is a heritage breed, I do not expect it to grow out as fast as a commercial breed like a New Zealand, but five to six months is way too long. I’d like to get them down to four months – the amount of time it takes most heritage-breed chickens to grow out to slaughter size. The Silver Fox is listed with the Slow Food Ark of Taste (a catalog of delicious and distinctive food facing extinction). Like all of the items listed in the Slow Food Ark of Taste catalog, the Silver Fox is slow food – it should not grow like a frankenstein. I’ve talked to some breeders who brag on their rabbits reaching market weight at eight to ten weeks. Maybe my definition of market weight is different than theirs, but I do not want my rabbits to grow as fast as commercial rabbit breeds.
Gradually I am getting away from conventional pellets. The goal is to start the newest groups of kits on the current mixture (rabbit pellets, whole oats and sunflower seeds along with forage) so that they will reliably eat it. I have not noticed a lot of food dug out of feeders so I believe they are eating it pretty well.
It would be easier if I’d just do things like other people, but where would the fun or challenge be there?
Until later …