Senda Verde Permaculture Eco Center

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Farming Rabbits and Chicken tractors


Ive really appreciated the fact that my Goat and my Rabbits dont need any type of special feed, they will eat what grows naturally and the Rabbits are happy with weeds that would be good only for the compost.

Ive been keeping Rabbits since mid October when my sister and family were over for a week.
Edhan and Eilidh treated me to three, two does and a buck, Morag, Heather and Hamish.

Edhan and Eilidh helping build the roundwood porch

Unfortunatley Hamish, the buck, exploited a leak in my rabbit hutch and Carmela took her chance. I finished him off for Sunday dinner.

Rabbit easier than plucking chickens

I also appreciate how easy and quick it is to prepare Rabbit, much faster than plucking chickens so Ive decided to up my Rabbit production.

In John Seymours excellent book "self sufficiency" he reckons with two does and a buck you can produce up to 90kg of Rabbit per year, fantastic for me and also for the dogs.

On breeding them he says:

"You can leave young Rabbits on the mother for 8 weeks, at which point they are ready to be killed. If you do this you should remove the mother 6 weeks after she has kindled (given birth) and put her to the buck. After she has been served return her to her young. Remove the latter when they are 8 weeks old and the doe will kindle again 17 days after the litter has been removed, gestation being about 30 days."

Buck HQ on right hand side Does and family on left

I have just finished the Buck HQ using recycled materials, an old desk I found rammed down the side of the barn, roundwood cut from my land and bits and bobs of timber. Wood mulch from the river as bedding and a few logs here and there and it looks good.

Recycle, repair and reuse

The buck will have an outside run too but its been too wet to work outside and change the combination of chicken wire that will seperate buck, does and chickens on the outside of the barn.

Outdoor run for all with private access to duplex suites

Tuesday is Viseu market where they sell all the livestock so Mr Rabbit might have to spend the first few days indoors till I get around to rejigging the partitions and giving them all outdoor space.

Carmela demonstrating the new chicken tractor

Chicken Tractor.

I mentioned in my last post that the chickens have been running totally freerange. I saw no point in confining them after the ducks mullered the veg garden and they have been doing a grand job of scratching and cleaning different beds. As spring approaches and im getting ready to plant out, that has to change.

My first chicken tractor, more or less recycled materials

Ive just finished building my first chicken tractor, it can be moved around the land and allow them fresh grazing whilst being secure and water tight at the same time. Im going to use some metal arcs Ive got with a shade netting covering to extend their run, it will also fit to any shape or size of raised bed ive got.

Run can be extended with more metal hoops and shade netting to fit raised bed size

The indoor chicken coop and outside run is still a little up in the air at the moment. I had some meat chickens, naked necks, that Im currently culling and they are around 3 to 4 kg and taste very good so I might go that route again.

6 berth with perch

My friend and chicken aficionado Lynn has put some eggs in her incubator so I could use it for those keeping the best of breed to use in a second chicken tractor and filling the freezer with the rest at 3 months. We will see.

The chicken tractor and egg machine

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Saturday, 19 February 2011

Senda Verde Planting Diary 2011

Bill Mollison says you shouldnt do anything on your land till youve been on it a full year and as I approach that mark I can understand the reasoning. I feel I understand the land so much better than last year. To participate in the four seasons and to see how the land reacts to each gives a fundamental understanding that no amount of theory can replicate.

Last year was hard core learning, from the extremes of fire and no water to building everything from scratch with just booked based learning. One year does not a Mollison make, but I feel confident in my decisions and excited to be here and doing my thing.

The polytunnel is laid out and I hope to begin the construction over the next couple of weeks. Im waiting for the local metal shop to cut me some short tube that I will concreate in the ground and then big boy meccano starts.

Ive not decided on the final size, the width is fixed but I can space the arches out to a maximum of 3 meters, Ive got 12 arches and enough plastic to do it.

The chickens are running totally freerange at the moment so this shade netting is protecting my bulb onions, chard,and lettuce ive got in 3 raised beds

Jan. 15th
bulb onions, Chard, turnip green and red, salad
Dry terrace. Green pasture, Grellos, Turnip red and green,

My little temporary greenhouse come potting shed has handled the lot, fire, wind, rain and snow and its doing me proud till I get the big one up.

Jan 15th Potting shed greenhouse,
Cauliflower, turnip, green spiral calabrese, purple headed brocoli, lettuce

beetroot, beans, peas, rhubarb, herbs, citrus trees, cork oaks

Jan. 29th. Covered raised bed
Onion valencia, Parsley root Atika, carrots

There is not much topsoil on this little patch of the riverbank, perhaps a foot or so of errosion soil from my main field. I thought I would try an experiment with some carrots as they like well draining sandy soils.

Easy watering with the river just infront but not much topsoil.. we shall see

Jan 29th Riverbank
Carrots, Long de meaux, white green top, early nantes

Feb 5th Greenhouse
Flowers x 4, Herbs x 5, celery, beans x 4, peas x 2, parsnips,

Ive got a sort of half terrace thats on the riverbank, catching the run off errosion from my main flat field. Before the fires it was unworkable, a tangled mass of brambles but with a few hours work I got this little spot into reasonable shape and decided to give a few different vegetables a go. It gets alot of moisture down here so it might not requiere any irrigation but as I spent most of last summers afternoons lazing on the river beach, literally 5 meteres from the spot a waterering can will do the job.

Feb 7th Riverbank
Chard, onion, carrots, sorrel, parsley

My greywater irrigation system with Rye sown
9th Feb greywater terrace

10th Feb Food forest
Hazel cuttings x 6

14th Feb River bank
Carrots, radish

19th Feb
Garlic 1kg

28th Feb
Planted out brocoli, cauliflour, beetroot, lettuce, sorrel, red cabbage, white cabbage, perrenial cabbage, chard

25kg Mona Lisa Seed potatoes layed out to chit

2nd March

Planted out Milan white turnip, Navet de Nancy,

2nd March Greenhouse. Seeded

Brussel sprouts Sanda, Beetroot, Quiabo Clemson spineless, Minidor dwarf yellow bean, Milan white turnip, Navet de Nancy, Grandpa Admires butterhead lettuce, Autumn giant cauliflower, Purple Autumn Cauliflower, Green headed Brocoli, Sunflowers.

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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Greywater irrigation system

Recycle and reuse materials

Ive been very grateful for not losing the lot during last years wild fires, you can check out some photos of the fires here.

Drip feeding my greywater to the animal feed terrace

My caravan miraculously survived the blaze and post apocalypse, on analysing the site, I realised that it was my greywater that saved it. The caravan is sited just above a small terrace that the greywater pours onto through a simple black 50 mm irrigation pipe. An apple, a plum and a few vines were all it held, but the fruit trees were high yielding even though I didnt get to taste their delicacies, cremated pre harvest.

Cleaning the prepared bed with chicken tractors

Ive been thinking on how best to process the greywater and maximise this terraces use. Obviously I didnt want to have food crops growing in the greywater but a self irrigating terrace is just too good to waste. Ive decided to use the space to grow animal feed and bedding, thanks go to Josh and Veronica for the donation of a bag of organic Rye seed.

Recycle and reuse are my maxims. With some half burnt 60mm irrigation tube and a 3 meter piece of PVC guttering donated by Tom and Lynn Ive put together a nice drip system that should even out the flow of greywater so the whole terrace gets a better share.

Manuring the bed before seeding Rye

The soil looks in excellent condition and im going to scatter some corn on the turned land over the next few days and let the chickens tractor it through and pick up any weed seeds. Perhaps I can get two grain crops a year from the patch, this first one will Rye, good for animal seed feed and the straw will do for bedding. Ill figure out the next crop when I see the harvest timeline on the Rye.

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