Friday, September 29, 2006

The Buck Stops Here

We got a buck about a month ago, to keep our does company. Here he is, in all his red-eyed evilness. After a small initial skirmish, they've decided they like him, and he likes them. Yay!

He's a Californian (the three does are New Zealand Whites). He is white with dark ears and nose, and gray tail. His toes have a tiny bit of darkness to them. Some Californians have really dark ears, feet, and tails.

Californian bucks and NZW does are supposed to produce some good meat rabbits, with a good meat to bone ratio and a good feed to meat conversion. I have no idea what the kits will look like.

The does are old enough to get pregnant now, so it's just a matter of time until we see kits. I'm getting excited. Two of the does are getting serious about digging burrows. I'm hoping that means they're nesting. Time will tell.

These pics aren't the greatest, because Mr. Buck is shy and a wee bit skittish. That's kind of odd, because he was in a hutch before we got him (he's about 16 months old) so he was handled plenty. To get these pictures I had to lift up the scrap of particle board he was using as his top-secret hideout, snap the pic, and hope for the best.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Feeder Hutch

This is our rabbits' new feeder hutch. No longer shall they dine beneath the overturned bottom half of a dog crate! And best of all, I built it all by myself. With input from my husband, yes, but every mistake and cut and screw and bit of hardware cloth was done BY ME.

You can tell I'm a total amateur but all carpenters have to start sometime and why not now? I thought a rabbit feeding hutch was a great beginner project. Big enough to make me feel like I'd done something (not like a simple bird house) but not so difficult I'd throw up my hands in despair. And "rough" is okay, so imperfections aren't disastrous: they're merely "personal touches".

It measures two feet deep and four feet wide. It has a vertical welded wire "silo" on the left where we will put hay (timothy with some clover and a wee bit of alfalfa, when we get around to purchasing some). It will also have a pellet hopper eventually but for now it has a dogfood dish to hold the pellets (not visible at this angle). The bottom is hardware cloth because the rabbits really like to poo where they eat, and hopefully this will allow the poo to fall through. There is a gap at the bottom of the walls to facilitate changing of the hardware cloth, should we need to, and to shove poo out, should we need to. There is a nifty ramp that the rabbits don't use (they just jump right up and back down) but maybe kits will use it one day. The top is hinged to make it easier to get into the pellet-hopper-of-the-future (we plan on attaching it to the hutch) and there are latches to keep the hinged roof from blowing off in a storm. I still need to put some kind of roofing material on top but that's all that's lacking.

I guess I could clean up my scraps of 2x4 from the ground too, huh?

Anyway, this is my feeder hutch and I'm pretty darn proud of it, warts and all.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let's make Marinara

Here's how I made my marinara sauce. It is delish! I also realized I left out an ingredient so I'll edit the recipe in my previous post.

First chop up the onion, celery, and carrots. I find that a food processor works *great* for this. The smaller the better, because you're just going to cook it and smoosh it anyway.

To easily skin tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for a minute or two. Frequently the skin will split, more often it does not. If you are going to chop your tomatoes, like for salsa, only leave it in for a minute and then put it into cold water, or the outer part of the tomato will get mushy and "too cooked." For sauce it doesn't matter, so I just take them out of the boiling water and put them in a bowl to wait on me.

The skin comes off very easily after a minute in boiling water. If the skin didn't split (and usually it won't) just cut a slit in it with a knife and slip the skin right off. Then core the tomatoe and cut out any bad spots (blemishes). Don't use fruit that has real bad spots like bruises or where bugs have eaten some. Yuck.

Put the peeled, cored tomatoes into the pot and cook for about a zillion years. You want it nice and soft, and with a lot of the liquid cooked out. if you removed the seeds when coring and peeling your tomatoes this cooking down bit will go more quickly.

Put the cooked veggies through a food mill. This is a Foley Mill and it is really cool! The hand crank turns a blade that presses the veggies against a grate with very small openings - like the smallest openings on one of those four sided grates. Just keep turning and turning the handle, frequently going in reverse for a turn or two, until you absolutely cannot get anything else to squish through the openings.

The recipe calls for one tablespoon of oregano OR marjoram OR basil. I used great amounts of all three, fresh. The general rule is 1 teaspoon dry equals one tablespoon fresh. I chop my herbs with this nifty gadget one of the kids gave me for Christmas.

Simmer it for another gazillion years, until it reaches the desired consistency. It will look thick enough long before it really is.

This is how I tell if my sauce is thick enough. I get a bit in a teaspoon and see how much "water" separates from the sauce, and how quickly. I don't like to put marinara on my spaghetti only to have a water puddle form under my noodles.

This stuff is SOOOO good! It takes a lot of time but oh my gosh it can't be matched with store-bought.

I found that a half bushel weighs about 25 pounds and makes about 6 or 7 pints. The general rule for tomatoes is 4:1 or 3:1 meaning it takes 3 or 4 pounds of tomatoes to make one pint of sauce. Paste tomatoes have less juice in them so you don't have to cook them down as much, and you get more sauce per pound of tomato. The added celery, carrots, and onions in this recipe increased the amount yielded, too.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


We went to Trax Farmer's Market in Pittsburgh over the weekend. While there, we picked up canning tomatoes for just under $8 a half bushel. We got three half bushels. I made and canned a batch of marinara, using the following recipe. I tripled it because a half bushel weighs about 25 pounds.


1 1/4 cups onions, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups celery, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, finely chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
8 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 teaspoon granulated sugar (optional)
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tbsp oregano or marjoram or basil
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed (optional)
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Cook onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil over medium heat in a large pot, covered, until the vegetables are tender - about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add garlic and c ook 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Put the sauce through the medium disc of a food mill if you prefer a smooth sauce. Omit this step if you prefer a chunkier sauce.

Add remaining seasonings (except salt) and simmer, stirring often, until sauce reaches desired consistency (about 20 minutes - but I didn't seed my tomatoes, and they weren't plum tomatoes, so it simmered half a day). Add salt. Remove bay leaf.

Pack into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; seal. Process in boiling water bath 45 minutes. Yield: about 3 pints.

This turned out to be a fabulous recipe! I had intended to make some ketchup and salsa but the tomatoes may all go to marinara sauce. I'm making another batch now, and taking pics as I go. I'll post them in the next day or so.


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