The rabbit breeding went without a hitch today, much to my surprise considering how flighty this doe can be. It took the buck a few minutes to figure out what he was supposed to be doing, but he got the idea in the end, and it was pretty much by the book after that. I mated them twice, once in the morning and again several hours later. Rabbits are induced ovulators, meaning the mating will trigger ovulation in the female to occur about 10-12 hours after the initial breeding. Mating the rabbits again later in the day can give a better chance for a successful breeding and possibly also a larger litter, or so I’m told. We shall see! Rabbit gestation is about 31-32 days, so by breeding her today we should expect kits the weekend before Christmas if she takes.
The New Zealand White doe is about 7-8 months old, and seems to be having a false pregnancy. She’s pulling fur and building a nest in the back corner of her cage. From all my research and consultation with more experienced rabbit raisers, this indicates that she has reached sexual maturity and can be bred whenever I like. I had been planning to breed her around Thanksgiving anyway, so I’ll just move my schedule up a week! I plan to breed her on Wednesday so that she should kindle the weekend before Christmas. If she takes, and is a good mom, we should have rabbit ready to eat by Easter/Ostara!
Apologies for the radio silence; I’ve been battling a cold-turned-sinus/ear-infection and sleeping just about every minute I haven’t been at my day job. Of course, the farm keeps turning no matter what else might be happening. Last weekend, with the help of some friends, we held a big harvest day to process our poultry. We had 8 large Muscovy drakes, 3 female Muscovies, a couple of chickens, and a trio of turkeys traded from a friend and fellow homesteader. It was the biggest poultry harvest we’ve ever done. We were able to borrow an electric chicken plucker from our landlord’s plumber/electrician, and it was a great help. I’m sure we’ll be looking to build our own sometime down the line. He even sent along an electric scalder with a temperature control. It was much fancier than what we’re used to. I wish I’d been able to take some photos; the machinery setup was pretty impressive and I loved getting to introduce some new friends to the process of slaughtering and bringing birds from wing to table.
We did our first big farm-to-table supper as a celebration that evening. While we’ve certainly hosted plenty of dinners that featured some home raised components or even a home raised main course, this was by far the most complete meal we’ve done from things we’ve grown ourselves. The only exceptions were the apple cider, which came from a nearby orchard, and some Parmesan cheese. We used the cider to braise one of our pork shoulders in the crock pot for pulled pork, and served it with acorn squash, kale, cauliflower, and broccoli. We also cooked up the duck hearts we’d harvested that morning.
Last weekend we also got the call from the butcher saying that our smoked meats were ready, and they were picked up on Wednesday. The bacon is absolutely the best I’ve ever eaten. I’m eager to try the ham; I’ve been disenchanted with commercial ham for the last several years, so I’m excited to see if this will change my mind!
With impeccable timing as we finish our harvest season, the first snow arrived overnight last night. Of course it all melted away by this afternoon, but it was a treat to wake up to a beautiful light coating of snow this morning. A lovely transition towards winter!