Wednesday

How I Got Started Breeding Rabbits

Rabbits:  The Beginning
By Guest Blogger Alexis Lynch:  An Introduction

Hello! I’m Elizabeth’s daughter and after many requests from my Mom, I agreed to do a little guest blogging.  
I will be blogging about Rabbits: raising, feeding, housing and breeding along with other rabbit concerns.    

As a child I had a pet rabbit. It’s been so many years ago that I no longer remember the exact day I got him but he was a grey short-haired Mini-Rex named Thunder.   He was an average example of his breed, only special because he was my very own and I loved him. He lived near our clubhouse in an outdoor hutch my mother built from salvaged lumber.  I have many happy memories of taking him out to our sunny grassy yard where we spent many hours playing together.  Time passed and as all living things do; sadly including pets, Thunder eventually died. I remember crying and running to tell my parents. I never had another pet rabbit after that; my experience with rabbits thereafter stemming from what I read from books or online, watching nature shows or rabbits I saw at county fairs.

Industrial Chicken Farming, Photo from Nat Geo
Years passed, and in my late teens and early 20’s I started educating myself on topics like environmental sustainability, the pursuit and refinement of petroleum, the industrial agriculture movement which eventually caused the Dust Bowl. I read a lot on “factory farm” livestock practices, the FDA, the EPA, and chemical food additives, Genetically Modified plants used for human consumption, non-biodynamic farming practices in relation to its effect on insects, and on top of all of it; the “traditional” historic counterpart practices of each topic, when applicable. For example; multi-million acre mono-crops as compared to small scale bio-dynamic farms. Interestingly enough; all of these topics turned out to be interconnected in a vast web of implications and questions, and led to more hours spent researching laws and regulations and government policy.
It seems to me that despite technological advancement, and new scientific knowledge, that as a society we have become negligent, naive and have our priorities in the wrong order. Especially when it comes to our food.  Most people know little about what goes into growing or raising the food we eat, how it’s produced and processed, where it comes from, and how it gets to us.  Never in the history of the American people has the general conscious of us as a society, and an individual, ever been so negligent in what we consume and the complete willingness to sacrifice our own “Food Sovereignty”. We live in a time where less than 1% of our country’s population controls what the rest of the 99% eat. 

Our farm fresh eggs from fat healthy chickens

How is it that a government can mandate what someone can or cannot eat? Is liberty not the right to make a choice, and to assume responsibilities of all results and consequences of that choice? Do we not know what it best for our own families to eat? Why is it illegal in some states in some schools for children to not be allowed to pack a lunch from home? Or set up a lemonade stand in their neighborhood without a city permit? Why can’t I sell my chicken eggs to my neighbor-who knows me, has seen my chickens and knows my farming practices? But then it’s okay to eat the commercially produced eggs from “factory farms”; who use poor breeds of chicken raised in horrible conditions on a massive scale in closed over-crowded housing, chemically washing the eggs before delivering to the grocery store. It seems ridiculous that something as simple as drinking raw milk or home-grown cultures of Kampuchea tea is targeted and lobbied against, when the American FDA allows deadly chemical ingredients such as Aspartame and Monosodium Glutamate into our food. 
Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying “If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry as state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
After many discussions about all I read and discovered, my family became more aware of the current agricultural and industrial practices of our society.
We started an overhaul of our food consumption, spending more time reading labels, researching chemical food additives, actively trying to avoid GMO’s when possible, cutting out high fructose corn syrup and highly possessed foods any “artificial replacements”. It has taken time and is a learning process as we go.  
 
Organic vegetables from our own garden

I had always lived in Ohio, in a city; Columbus, Grove City, Chillicothe, Upper Arlington, Nelsonville. My mother was raised on a small “farm” with 12 siblings and there was always a large garden and animals. My Father’s family grew and sold vegetables in the summer and my father worked summers baling straw and hay.  Though my parents didn’t like living in the city, they did so to allow my younger brother and I to attend a top rated school district in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
We were lucky because we had the best of both worlds. We spent nearly our entire free time outdoors, in parks, in the woods, camping, hiking and going on adventures. Plus my mother spoiled us with home cooking, and has always grown a huge backyard garden filled to overflowing with fresh vegetables, even in the city.
One of my mother's gardens in the city

But a small farm is what my parents really wanted, so when my younger brother finally graduated from High School my parents sold their home and purchased a small farm.
Our farm has enough acreage to double our garden size and then some and raise livestock, which has opened a new world for us.  We finally have more control, not only in what we grow but how we grow it, both vegetable and meat. 
I know it has really changed my life! I remember wishing on every candle I blew out on every birthday cake for us to live on a farm in the country with animals. After purchasing a farm and I had my next Birthday I had to figure out what to wish for! (This was a new and awkward experience for me!) One year I wished for love. And another; honeybees. (I found love, lol, but I’m still trying to lure in and keep honey bees.)
We named our farm “Lynch’s Mt Horb Farm”, after my Grandfather’s hometown in Wisconsin.  We now have a quarter acre garden, which every year my Mother and Brother keep expanding.  

Our farm garden, my mother has doubled it since then

My brother-in-law is rebuilding a Ford 8N tractor for my mother so I’m sure she’s going to plow up even more pasture! 
We also have multiple fruit trees, do lots of canning in season and make our own maple syrup.
As far as animals we have pets and livestock both; Swiss Saanen and Alpine milking goats, duel-purpose heirloom breed chickens, Eastern Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys, Helmeted Guinea Fowl, Khaki Campbell Ducks, multiple Dogs, and even a few barn cats.

We raise chickens for eggs and meat


We selected our livestock breeds upon their genetic integrity (usually heirloom breeds) and usefulness as food. 

The goats for milk and meat, (and just all round fun) fowl for eggs and meat, bees for honey, wax, and pollination, and even our dogs and cats proved useful in dispatching varmints. 



Guinea Fowl

Our animals live in a communal environment; all of them, the goats and fowl alike, roam in the pasture together eating scraps my mother gives them from the garden and playing in the creek all day.

And for two summers, we actually did have Honeybees; wild swarms I had caught and put into hives myself. They stayed with us for a couple months each at a time, before swarming off to the neighboring farmer’s 100 plus acres of pumpkins, strawberries and vegetable fields.
Though I am the resident “bee whisperer”, I really wanted another livestock project to occupy my time between swarms. 





Barn kitten

We plan on getting meat pigs in the future, my parent’s said no to horses (hay-burners), and we have also considered pheasants for their meat and feathers, quail for meat and eggs, and even a couple Angus beef calves for meat. But those will all be my mother’s (and father’s) projects.
In the end; I became focused on rabbits

After extensive research I discovered that Rabbit meat is making a huge comeback, being considered an “exotic meat” and sold in stores for around $10-$14 per pound. Currently, more rabbits are being raised for meat in private homes then since WW2, when our country’s supplies of beef cattle were shipped overseas to feed our troops. 




Rabbits are a multi-purpose animal: Used for meat, fur, kept as pets, shown at fairs, used to train hound dogs for hunting and even their waste makes great fertilizer for gardens or to grow worm farms. 
I became a bit obsessed about the prospect and project, and not able to delay any longer around my birthday of March 2014, I found and purchased my very first meat rabbits.  
These original rabbits began my rabbit raising odyssey!  


Mommy rabbit and her babies

Next Article: Rabbit Breeds I Chose and Why. 
And maybe a little history and information on Rabbits.

Alexis Elizabeth Lynch
Writer. Naturalist. Bookworm. Rabbit Breeder & Bee Whisperer


Want more information about what we're doing on the farm?
Check out these links:

Canning and Cooking at the farm

Farm DIY Projects

Farm Gardening

Me with one of my wild bee swarms



Sunday

Perfect Sourdough Bread

Sourdough bread is great buttered, toasted, served with dinner or used for sandwiches. 
In my opinion bread making is an art. 
There is a special pleasure working with bread and just the aroma of baking bread throughout the house is well worth the effort.

I grew up eating my mother’s homemade bread.  We would beg and beg her to make it and it was always eaten hot from the oven covered with butter.  
My mother never looked at a recipe to make her bread, she just mixed it up and it was perfect. Every time. Sigh.

I can not just whip up a loaf of bread, I always have the recipe right next to me and I have been practicing for years.  In the pass, I’ve had as many bread failures as successes I think, but I kept at it. 





Using a sourdough starter is an ancient method to make leavened bread.
The starter consists of small amounts of basic bread ingredients such as flour, water or milk. The mixture is left out to attract wild yeasts from the air. The yeasts feed on the starch in the flour, resulting in the fermentation and souring of the mixture. The older the sourdough starter the better the flavor, in my opinion.

Sourdough Starter

Most good bread dough recipes call for two risings.  Although rising times are given on most recipes, it is good to know that the times stated are not precise.  How long the rising may take will depend on many factors such as temperature of the room, the amount of yeast used and even the weather.

Also, I say this for many of my recipes, but it needs repeating: the better the ingredients the better the end product.  Use the products and brands you like but know there is a difference in quality from one brand to another.  

Start with good quality ingredients

For this recipe I used:

    King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (Regular or Organic)
    Raw honey
    Real butter
    Natural Sea Salt
    My own raised eggs

Sourdough Bread Recipe


Ingredients:
1 1⁄2 cups lukewarm water (100°F)
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup Sourdough Starter (click here for the recipe)
1 tablespoon honey
6 cups unbleached bread flour, (plus more as needed)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 eggs
2 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal mixed with 2 tablespoons bread flour


First combine water, yeast, sourdough starter and honey

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the water, yeast, sourdough starter and honey.
Beat on low speed just until smooth, about 1 minute.

Cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Switch to the flat beater on your mixture and stir the starter mixture on low speed. Add 3 cups of the flour, the butter, eggs and salt. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add 2 more cups of the flour and beat for 2 minutes.
At this point I had flour all over everything in the kitchen!!



With beater add 3 cups flour, butter, eggs and salt.  Add 2 more cups of flour and beat.

Switch to the dough hook. Reduce the speed to low and add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until a very soft dough forms that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead on low speed, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time if the dough sticks, until smooth, springy and moist, about 6 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.


Using dough hook, knead on low

Brush the bowl with a thin film of melted butter and turn the dough to coat it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until slightly more than doubled in bulk, 1 ½  to 2 hours.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 -1/2 to 2 hours

While dough is rising, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with the cornmeal mixture. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and shape each into a tight, round loaf. 



Shape sourdough into 3 round loaves

Place the loaves, seam side down and at least 4 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops of loaves with flour and rub in. Cover loosely with a double layer of plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
Remove loaves from refrigerator and remove plastic wrap.
Using a thin, sharp knife, make 3 gentle slashes across the top of each loaf. 



Using a thin, sharp knife make 3 slashes across each loaf

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F and bake until the loaves are golden brown, approximately 20 to 25 minutes more. Let cool completely on wire racks before slicing and serving. Makes 3 small round loaves.
This recipe was adapted from a Williams Sonoma cookbook I received as a gift.



To make rolls.
This recipe also makes great rolls and buns.  Just divide the dough into desired roll shape and follow the same directions for loaves except do not slice the tops, unless you want too.
Baking time should also be reduced.  Bake until golden brown. 

Sourdough Rolls



For storage, sourdough bread freezes well.  First cover with double layer of aluminum foil then place in a freezer storage bag.  Label with contents and date.


Tomorrow I’m making Hoagie Buns with this same recipe to use for homemade Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches.  Yum!

Elizabeth


Other Recipes:



Friday

Easy Shelves You Can Build Yourself

Easy Shelf Design For Multiple Shelf Use

Recently I finished painting my newest pantry shelves. The shelves were a combination of new and used wood.
When we purchased our small farm the kitchen had a small 4’ by 4’ pantry closet, (with 6 inch wide shelves, ugh) and later I converted another closet for pantry space.  But last year we did a complete kitchen remodel, going down to bare studs so I had to build a new pantry.

You may have read in another blog post of mine that I am no expert.
I am a trial and error kind of person and self taught, right or wrong.  My father was a wonderful carpenter and builder of things so I like to think I got a little bit of that from him.
Maybe from following him around a lot when I was little.

I use a pretty basic shelf design which can change slightly depending on the character or purpose of the shelving.  Storage shelves are more rustic and not always “perfect”. 
Book shelves get a little added trim and detail work and are put together with a more attention to ascetics.

Looking through photos of shelves I have constructed in the past made me realize I am sort of obsessed with shelving.  But in my own defense, I just think you can never have enough! If this is not something that rings a bell with you, try to compare it with “not enough shoes” or “never enough chickens or pets” or something similar.  I also have an issue with books so have to keep building shelves!

Closet converted to pantry storage before Kitchen remodel
 
Anyway, after skimming through photos, I’m started feeling like Sarah Winchester and the Winchester Mystery House. She is the woman who continually built rooms onto her house that she never used!  OK, I’m not that bad! I am using all my shelves.

Since purchasing our house I have built storage shelves, book shelves, laundry room shelves, garage shelves, gardening shed shelves, closet shelves and shelves for three pantries!
For this final pantry (yes, I am done building pantries!!) I had most of the needed supplies.  I do not like to throw away wood, so a lot of the wood for this project was leftover from the kitchen remodel or the old pantries.
Outside 8 ft pine boards with 3 ft shelves

I started with two 8 feet long by 10 inches wide pine boards for the frame (or outside boards).
I then attached 1” x 1” pieces of board (cut 10 inches wide) along the 8 foot outside boards.  These are the shelf support boards. (The support boards actually measure about 3/4 inch by 1 -1/4 inch.   Wood is no longer actually the sizes stated).

1" x 1" support boards holding shelves

I like to use drywall screws, and always pre-drill the holes.  The usual out come of not pre-drilling the nail or screw holes is splitting the wood. 

Under side view of support boards

Once the 1” x 1” x 10” shelf supports were in place I cut and attached the shelf boards.  I intend to put a lot of weight on these shelves so did not want to make them too wide. Too much weight without extra support and the shelf will bow.  I made my pantry shelves 3 foot wide. 

Front view of outside boards, support boards
and shelf board. 

Besides making them stronger, by making them 3 feet wide I could also just buy six foot long pine boards and cut them in half.
Once together I secured the shelf board to the shelf support. This the shelf boards from moving and makes the entire unit very stable. Also,  I held the entire shelving unit in place by running a screw through the shelf unit and into the pantry wall.  It is best to find a wall stud to fasten the shelving unit too so the shelves do not possibly become top heavy and fall over!

Second shelf unit joined with first.

I have also used this design to build book shelves when I remodeled a lower level room.
The wood for those shelves was salvaged old oak barn wood from a 1800's post and beam barn.

Book shelves in lower level made with the same design and from salvaged barn wood

I built my storage room shelves (holiday decorations and crafts) and cold storage room (Canning Jars) in the same manner, but with a slight difference.
For the storage room I used 2 x 4’s as the shelf supports and ¾ inch plywood cut in half long ways as the shelving because of the extra weight the shelves needed to support. I also used 2' x 4' boards for the sides instead of pine boards.

In the Cold Storage Room I used regular 10 inch wide 8 foot long pine boards for the shelves but used 2" x 4"’s for the supports here too.  The following photo also shows how I used 2' x 4' boards for the sides instead of pine boards.

Cold Storage shelves for canning jars

Painting is optional for any storage shelves you build, but I usually like mine painted.  I use a semi-gloss paint because it holds up better than flat and is easy to clean. 

Once my new pantry closet shelves were complete I used paintable caulk to cover or fill any flaws, nicks or dents in the wood as well as cover up the screw holes.
Paint and caulk can go a long way to cover mistakes and imperfections, let me tell you!

Caulk will cover holes and flaws

I completely painted all the shelving with one coat of paint, let it dry overnight and then did a little touch up paint or added a second paint coat where needed. 


Painted and ready for stocking

As a last minute idea I decided to add a wine rack!  Click here for instructions on a simple basic Wine Rack.  (post coming soon)

Finished!!


Don’t have a pantry?  Not to worry, any closet or area can be turned into one, and many empty nesters are turning their really small extra bedrooms into a first laundry / pantry room.  Our original kitchen even had a small closet built in one corner for a pantry! If space is limited build one in the basement or garage.  Just make sure there’s an even temperature year round so jars will not freeze in winter or overheat in summer. 

I'd really love to hear if you built shelves yourself, the design you used or just see photos of your pantry! 


Elizabeth


Other Building Projects:

Installing a Chair Rail and Kitchenette

Salvaging Old Barn Wood

Building a Chicken Coop


Lower Level storage room shelves


Thursday

Bean Soup

Canning Bean Soup

Our busiest canning "season" is during the summer and autumn months while we are harvesting our garden vegetables.
But during the winter months we love lots of soups and stews.
Usually when I cook, I try to make enough for two meals to save time later.  Half we eat now, and half gets frozen or canned for a convenient meal later.  For soup, I make a large stock pot full and have plenty left over to can.

Having jars of soup in the pantry, ready to just heat up is a huge time saver and works just wonderful for a cold winter day meal.  Just grab one or two jars from the shelf and heat.  Add a side salad or sandwich and you have an easy no fuss meal! And one without the added sodium, additives and preservatives found in commercially canned soups.

And the great part?  Beans are a low cost meal packed with high nutritional valve!
Beans are an excellent source of cholesterol-lowering fiber and provide a virtually fat-free high quality protein.  Their also a very good source of folate, manganese and vitamin B1 as well as the minerals phosphorus, copper, magnesium and iron.

Tuesday

Sourdough Bread Starter

Sourdough Starter

Let me start this post by saying I am no expert when it comes to bread making and I believe bread making is an art form. I have been practicing for years and kicked up the experimenting in the last couple years.  
I have tried to get a sourdough starter going a few times with no luck.  But my son Daniel absolutely loves a good sourdough bread so I persevered. 

Making good loaves of bread is time consuming so it's not for everyone.  But the joy and feeling of accomplishment you get when the bread turns out perfect are well worth it. 

So let's get started.  Here are a few tips on how I got my starter to work.
It needs restating and underscored that the better the ingredients the better the end product.  
Also, if quick and easy bread is what you are more interested in try my Easy Beer Bread recipe. 

Sunday

Building A Patio

Building / Pouring a Concrete Patio
It’s about this time of the year, right after the holidays, that I start looking forward to spring.
The gardening and hatchery catalogs start arriving in the mail and I make a list of projects I hope to finish in the coming year.
On the list was building a patio. 
When we purchased our little farm 4 year ago, (which we named Lynch’s Mt. Horb Farm), flower beds, a veggie and herb garden and even a patio were all missing from the landscape.

At our previous homes I built our patios from old salvaged bricks.  But those were smaller in size than what I envisioned for our farm. And besides, I’m saving my newest collected stash of bricks to make a floor in the original chicken coop that I’m rebuilding and turning into a camping cabin.

Thursday

New Year Wishes and Resolutions

Happy New Year!
Here are a few quotes and sayings I like for the New Year.

Photo from Pinterest
HAVE  hope
TRY new things
BE active
SEE the good
SAY I love you more
CHALLENGE yourself
CHOOSE to be happy
EAT better
ENJOY today
FORGIVE more readily
READ more often
BECOME your best you



"The greatest need of this nation is strong, healthy, intact families. 
The greatest thing you can do as a mother is to strengthen your own family. 
Build your family life. 
Don't get involved in too many things outside your home. 
You will become flustered, frazzled, and the family will become fragmented. 
Instead, think of ideas to gather the family together. 
Think of things to do that will strengthen your family.  
Daily gather around your family meal table for your meals. 
As you strengthen and build up your family, also seek to 
encourage and bless other families around you. "

Saturday

Hearty Beer Bread

A rich thick hearty easy bread to make, this is I think the best beer bread I have made so far.  
There is no kneading or rising needed so it’s super easy to make. 

Beer adds its own unique flavor and because it's a product of fermentation, it also adds its own leavening agent.

The bread will take on what ever character or flavor of beer you use, so the bread can and will taste a little different each time you make it.

I like using Imports, stouts or stronger flavors of beer.  
But a domestic beer will work just fine too.
And in case putting beer in bread is of concern for you, a great percentage of the alcohol evaporates during the baking process.




There are many debates as to whether beer or bread came first in early civilization. But one thing is certain; both have been in the human diet for thousands of years.

Wednesday

Vacation Ornament

Beach or Vacation Ornament

Here's a cute idea for a last minute ornament or one to commemorate a vacation.

Recently we took a trip to Orlando and St. Augustine, Florida and spent a few days on the beach.

While shopping around St. Augustine's historical downtown I saw similar ornaments like these going for $10.00 to $15.00 a piece!

Mine cost approximately $1.00 a piece for the clear bulb. The sand and shells are free to collect on the beach.








Beach Ornament


What You'll Need:
  • Clean sand from the beach
  • Small shells or other interesting beach items
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Funnel
  • Wire

Monday

Coconut Macaroons

Here's another of our favorite Christmas cookies: Coconut Macaroons.

These are easy cookies to make, have just a few ingredients, but pack a big punch of flavor.

Adding a little almond extract gives the cookie just enough extra flavor, but not enough to over shadow the coconut.  
If almond is the flavor you wish to dominate add a little more extract.

These store well in a sealed air tight container.
These can be made Gluten Free, just use GF flour.

COCONUT MACAROONS

Ingredients:
I use Bakers sweetened coconut
  • 1 -14 oz package (5 1/3 cups) Flake coconut
  • 2/3 Cup sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/8   to 1/4 teaspoon almond extract