Walking on Water

For four days there was snow on the ground. It hadn’t gotten above freezing for more than an hour or two at a time, if at all, for a week or more. Multiple trips outside to thaw water bowls, bunnies inside because the sheds aren’t done, and frozen fingers… it was miserable. But despite all that, it was beautiful outside. We, in North Carolina, where we get an inch or two of sleet and freezing rain (great for sledding, not so much for snowball fights and snow forts and all else “snow”), got four inches of powdery, dry, fluffy white stuff! As always, I loved seeing the woods become a white forest with the sunlight filtering through the trees and glinting off the ground. Most amazing of all, though, the lake was almost completely frozen over. Nearly the entire impoundment behind our house had a layer of ice over the top. Where the water was deeper and more open, it was too thin to walk on, but in the alcoves where we tie up our boats, we could walk clear across the lake right to the other side. It was a sight that kids like us, raised in the south, have never seen.

The wind blowing the snow across the surface, and branches and stumps frozen in the lake made for some fascinating designs and formations.

And just for fun, pictures of the miniature geysers made through a small hole in the ice, when my little brother jumped nearby.

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I’m Collecting Supplies for a Shed – for Free?!

My Hollands are getting a shed! The adult rabbits can handle, and even enjoy, cold winter nights, but with all their fur, the summer heat is extremely uncomfortable. And for new kits, either one can be fatal. In my last post, I listed my key criteria for a bunny shed. Now, I’m going to tell you where I’m getting many of my supplies completely free! The siding is going to be boards from pallets, and there are always people trying to get rid of pallets. The insulation would have been the hard part. But I found some thick foam insulation for free on Craigslist, so now I have way more than I need for a shed! As for plywood, I’m planning on reclaiming that, as well, but I do know that it is harder to find sheets of plywood free than it is to find shipping pallets. I’ll either build a door from what I have, or there’s usually someone with some old doors on Craigslist, too. Now, I’m trying to figure out what to do about a foundation. I’m thinking I’ll use reclaimed cinder blocks or footers. And I’m not sure about a roof yet, either. I’ll just have to keep an eye out for someone getting rid of corrugated roofing. But by getting most of the main materials for free, I’ll get a shed for a fraction of the commercial price, plus the labor, of course. But, either way, the bunnies get it free. How fair is that?!

Plans for a Bunny Shed

After losing newborn bunnies to the heat this summer, and having to bring breeding to a stop in the winter because of cold, I have decided I need a shed. I have been keeping an eye out on Craigslist for a shed I can disassemble and move to my own backyard in the back of the truck, but so far I’m not getting anywhere. So I have begun to draw out plans for building my own pretty much from scratch. I want to incorporate a few specifics into my plan. First, it has to fit enough cages for all of my bunnies, a few extras for weaned litters. Second, there obviously has to be storage and walking space. I have settled on a type of flooring, as well. I plan to use peel and stick vinyl flooring, for several reasons: it’s cheap and easy to install, as well as being easily replaceable and simple to clean. If necessary, there are also textured versions available to keep it from being too slippery in the case of spilled water, or more importantly, for fuzzy feet. Next, the bunnies will have their own little doors to the runs, so I don’t have to keep the main door open, defeating the purpose of an insulated shed in the first place. Which brings me to the next to criteria: runs and insulation. Whether I suddenly come up with a shed from Craigslist or if I go through with the plan off building my own, I will insulate it, to keep as much heat or cold out of the shed and away from sensitive kits (as baby rabbits are called). And I will build fences around the outside to make a large run with shorter fences to divide it into two or three sections, so all the bunnies can have exercise at once!

Sneak peek! Next post is about how I plan on doing this as cheaply as possible!

The Giants of the Snail World

Apple snails. Amphibious snails that can get to be as large as your fist! Although they have both a gill and a lung, they mostly stay underwater, and come out if the supply of food is scarce or to lay large globs of bright red eggs. They lay them on logs, leaves, and pretty much anywhere near enough to the water to keep the eggs damp without completely submersing them. These snails have a “door,” or operculum, with which they can make their shell completely airtight. Because of their size, they can eat not only algae and other microscopic food, but also plants, dead bugs, and pretty much anything they can tear apart. The Pomacea paludosa, or Florida apple snail, now inhabits our fish tanks and aquaponics, and will also help maintain our pond when the project is completed.

Peanut

This past week, someone joined our household. Her name is Peanut. She is a brown and black one year old cat who loves playing, chasing things, and sleeping in laps. She gets along with Midnight, although she’s not exactly friends with her yet. She has yet to meet any of the rabbits. I hope to trust her around even the little ones eventually!

Toads, Toads, and More Toads

Summer is in full swing and with it comes an overabundance of toads congregating each night on our driveway, patios, sidewalk, and even in the garage. The chickens love feasting on the occasional early arrival, but my constantly bare feet do not enjoy squashing them when I venture outdoors without a flashlight. They act like moths, crowding around doors and windows where lights shine. So, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way – never step outside in the summer without looking where your next foot might land.

Breeding Zebra Danios and Other Egg-Laying Fish

Danios and Tetras are small tropical fish that lay eggs. The reason they can be difficult to breed is that as they spawn (laying and fertilizing eggs while swimming rapidly around the tank), they often eat the eggs. And the few eggs that fall between the gravel and out of reach are eaten after they hatch. So we breed our fish in separate tanks. We use ten gallon tanks with a piece of plastic canvas that you can get from pretty much any craft store to keep the fish in the top few inches of water. Make sure all the edges are flat against the glass, trimming the corners where the silicone is if necessary. Check for gaps carefully, because these little fish are somehow great escape artists… Then we cut a whole bunch of pieces of yarn into eight to ten inch lengths, and drape them over a chunk of foam or pretty much anything that floats, so they hang down to the plastic. Finally we move in the fish from one of the other tanks, and leave them for a few days. It helps to turn the light on and off every few hours to make them feel like it’s early morning again, as this is their favorite time to spawn. In about a week, you should see little tiny (and I mean tiny) fish, that look more like specks, attached to the sides of the tank. If you haven’t moved the adult fish and the plastic back out at this point, you’d better do it now. You can wait a few days before feeding them flakes (crush them into dust). We usually just let some algae grow on the gravel and the sides of the tank and don’t worry about feeding them until they are big enough to move into a raising tank (we use another tank to let them grow bigger before adding them to a community tank with the bigger fish, so they don’t get eaten. Have fun!

Deworming Rabbits (or Chickens) Cheap

Outdoor rabbits are more susceptible to worms than house rabbits. They should be dewormed regularly. But although commercial rabbit dewormers are not super expensive, I have discovered a much cheaper, not to mention easier, option. Food grade diatomaceous earth. You can get a large canister or bag for the same price as a commercial dewormer. Simply dust their food every week or so, or mix it into the whole bag. It doesn’t bother the rabbits, and it’s completely natural, so you don’t have to worry about over dosage, and it won’t hurt the little babies either, whereas commercial dewormer, or horse dewormer, you have to be careful with. And by the way, the same thing works with chickens! (Once our entire flock went from laying 18-20 eggs a day to zero in about three days. We were just plain confused for a while, but then we suspected worms and added DE to their food, and they were laying eggs again in less than two days!)

Summer Project Number One of Two Hundred Seventy Three Point Five

Last winter’s greenhouse did pretty well. Until a few weeks ago when were about to take it down and the storm ran through here. It blew apart on Thursday morning while there was a tornado watch. This year we plan on collecting old double pane windows and building a serious, permanent greenhouse. It’s going to be a lot of really hard work, and we aren’t really sure yet how we are going to go about it. However, we are really excited about the prospect!

The Turkey Who Thinks She’s a Chicken

We had an …um… addition to our flock last month. I really have to give her a name. We got back from a family road trip, and there were several wild turkeys hanging out like they belonged in our backyard, rather than the woods. Well, the tom and one of the hens left, and we haven’t seen them since the first week. But this one hen flocks with the chickens, eats with the chickens, runs into the underbrush with the chickens, scrambles for treats with the chickens, and dust bathes with the chickens. She even sleeps on top of their coop! She is hardly afraid of us at all, and just walks calmly away when we approach. She is wary, but for a wild turkey, she is extremely docile. As for the other hen, I wonder if she’s nesting and will come back eventually with a bunch of chicks, or if she’s just more normal and went back to living in the woods like a regular turkey.