Wednesday, September 16, 2015


I haven't posted much lately.  Two projects have taken up much of my time, and besides the garden isn't having a very good finish with the tomatoes gone. 

A litter of ten bunny rabbits can take up some time.  Not at first, but as they get larger they go through a lot of food, and the grow-out cage needs cleaning every few days.  They eat and crap a lot.  They've gone through 4 bags of feed since they were born, and I forage for them in the morning and the evening.  I've managed to cut down most of the willow growing on the levee for their dinner, fed them scrap foliage from the garden as well as any deformed cucumbers (and some that weren't).  A few weeks ago I found that they liked dogwood shoots, which grow at the edge of the woods.  They also enjoy ragweed, whose pollen causes me much misery this time of year.  

The standard time to fatten a bunny to slaughter weight is 12 weeks.  That would have been September 1 for these rabbits.  At 12 weeks they looked a bit thin and small for butchering, but then I don't have an experienced eye for this sort of thing.  Last year I bought a litter of 8 week old weaned bunnies and raised them to 12 weeks.  They cleaned out to a carcass of just over two and a half pounds on average, which is very typical. 

Well I started butchering rabbits a week ago and I won't go into the details of that except I try to make it a quick death.  They were 13 1/2 weeks old. I was more than a little shocked at their dressed weight - about 4 pounds on average!  I finished the last of them yesterday and now have a freezer packed with rabbit meat.  Next year I'll know not to trust my judgement.  I'll process one or two at 9 weeks, a few more at 11 weeks then the rest at 12 weeks, nevermind how I think they look.

Rabbit is a challenge to cook.  It is a very nutritious meat, high in protein and low in fat.  It is the lack of fat that makes it a challenge.  So what was the first dish I made from the freshly processed rabbits?   Rabbit liver.  Most people either like or actively dislike liver.  I stopped buying liver from the store many years ago because of my concerns with the excessive amount of chemicals put into the feed of an animal raised in factory farms, which is a shame because I really like liver.  The liver is the chemical processing center of an animal.  If you like liver, rabbit liver is one of the best, mild, great flavor, and the rabbit liver is huge for the size of the animal.  Two of them make a meal.  I made liver and onions, using one of the Ruby Ring onions from the garden.  The onions were just carmelized a little when the liver was ready.  This is much better than any calf liver I've eaten.

The rabbit muscle meat is a bigger challenge.  The preparation that has produced the best results for me is roasting the cut-up rabbit.  Here's how I cooked the first rabbit:  Potatoes, carrots and fennel pieces were coated with olive oil and thyme and roasted for 30 minutes in a large baking dish.  The rabbit pieces were browned in rendered bacon fat and dusted with rosemary.  Then onions and the rabbit pieces were added to the dish and the bacon slices laid over the rabbit.  This infuses the meat with delicious bacon fat.  After 30 minutes the pieces were turned over, the bacon put on the new side and roasted another 30 minutes.  The dish is easy to make, very rustic and completely delicious.  Now I need to find additional preparations that are as good as this one. 

The other project that has taken up much of my time is a new walkway behind the house, between the flower beds.  The original walkway was wood, and the frame was buried in the soil.  Of course it was only a matter of time before it fell apart.  The old walkway was dismantled, the posts dug out of the ground and the soil excavated.  On three sides a concrete edger was made after trenching and making forms.  I thought this was necessary since the ground sloped and the whole thing would try to slide down the incline if not supported properly.  The walk got the standard 4 inches of crushed stone, 1 inch of sand and the pavers were set in, then the gaps filled with sand.  A lot of work, requiring more patience than I have, but the results are very satisfying.   The back deck is my peaceful haven.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday September 14

The season is ending with a fizzle not a sizzle.  Tomatoes are long gone, cucumbers are mostly done, but the vines still produce an occasional cuke that I give to the rabbits.  The raspberries have some kind of disease and are not making many berries.  Mostly what's coming out of the garden right now are beans and okra, and the beans are nearly finished.  These are Millionaire okra.  The beans are a mix of Fortex and Provider.  The Marengo Romano pole beans have succumbed to rust.

It seemed like a bad year for beans, but so far 30 pounds have been picked, not bad from a 7 foot row of pole beans and two rows of Provider bush beans.  That's only 5 pounds less than I got last year.

There's still winter squash to be picked - Metro Butternut and Teksukabotu.  I don't know if they will be very good.  They lost most of their leaves to fungus and will probably not fully develop their sugars.  Some of the vines put out new leaves and that may help. The rest of the week will be sunny and I'll harvest them before the next major rain.

The chili peppers look like they will be ready soon.  Most of these plants are used for making chili powder.  The Joe Parker New Mexico in the front are already ripe, while the Anchos are a little behind them.   A week of sunny weather should do the trick.  The tops of the ancho plants were eaten by tomato hornworms.  Usually the parasitic wasps get them, but not this year.

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