Thursday, January 31, 2013

What to plant in Feburary (Zone 9):

English Peas
Beans: Bush, Pole, and Lima
Sweet Corn
Sweet potatoes
Green onions and shallots

* Make sure Fall-planted strawberries are getting enough water so they produce fruit.

Building Soil

We are always working to improve our Florida sand. I dream of the northern rich black dirt, so I aim to get mine as close to that as possible.

We are building our soil using many different things, lots of compost, leaves people bag in the fall, manure, small branches, planting nitrogen fixers (like beans), hay/straw, and covering with lots of wood chips.

Slowly but surely the dirt is getting darker in color, and things are growing better in it!

Market Beef vs Grass Fed Beef

Reposting this from my earlier blog sense people often ask why we prefer grass fed beef.

We all either go to or have been at a supermarket at some point, and we have all seen those Styrofoam trays holding those cuts of red beef nicely wrapped up and stamped with a price... but what is that really?

What is supermarket meat?
Supermarket meat is from animals raised on a chemical treated fields, then sent to feedlots where they are fed corn and soy byproducts, given hormones to make them grow big faster, the given antibiotics to cure any diseases they may pick up in these slums, then shipped off to a slaughter house where there is a assembly line of killing, butchering, then wrapped up and sent to some supermarket somewhere, then laid out under bright lights where you pick it up bring it home and cook it for your family.

What is grass fed meat?
These are cattle that are raised on a farm full of greens the cow can eat. Grass and leaves etc are the cows true diet not the corn, grain, etc that most places are feeding their cows. Cows are normally led to a different pasture every couple days to allow grazing on the best grass with most nutrition, this allows the grass to rebuild and grow before the cow is moved back to that spot, it works as nature intended the circle.. a cow eats the grass, takes what it needs from it, poops out the remaining, that is broken down by worms, etc and turned back into rich soil to grow more grass that in turn the cow will again eat. These cattle are not pumped full of hormones to make them grow big, they are allowed to grow as nature intended which takes more time... of course! I seem to find that grass fed cattle are just more happy and healthy, which leads to the need of less antibiotics, chemicals, treatments, etc

In the past five years, more than 1,000 U.S. ranchers have switched herds to an all-grass diet. Pure pasture-raised beef still represents less than 1% of the nation's supply, but sales reached some $120 million last year and are expected to increase more than 20% a year over the next decade. Groceries like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's are offering more Grass-fed products as the demand increases! This is extremely good news for both us and the cattle!

Compared to typical supermarket beef, grass-fed beef is:
~ About 3 times richer in heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
~ Higher in "good" unsaturated fats and lower in "bad" saturated fats.
~ About 4 times higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) content.
(CLA is a newly discovered good fat that may be a potent cancer fighter.)
~ Loaded with over 400% more of vitamin A (as beta carotene) and E.
~ Virtually no risk of Mad Cow Disease.

Why do I care about Omega 3?
Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. Grass fed Beef is even called heart-friendly. Studies have shown people who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat and are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.

But what about taste?
The taste to me tastes like BEEF but leaner and actually somehow better!
When I first bought Grass Fed beef the color threw me.. it was a deep red almost brown, not like that pink/grey stuff from the market, it also cooked up much faster, but the taste.. Mmmm the taste, it was like a whole new appreciation for the cow, not fatty, just bursting with flavor with every bite.. it brought a new meaning to the burger.. turns out you dont need to top it with every flavor under the sun to make it taste good it does that on its own! : )

The sum of this article is to show you that grass fed beef not only tastes better but is MUCH better for you!!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pictures around Sunny Spot Gardens (1-23-13)

Kitty who kept rubbing up on the camera

Eggplant Flowers

Little Tifa

Blaze the rabbit

Such pretty flowers

Cabbage forming

Bird bath area

Perennial bunching onions


Tomato plant

Rabbit in the kale plants


little nasturtiums

Bunny in the potato rows

Art in the garden

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Community should be the central focus of all humans, it is of animals; they travel in packs, set up community homes, take care of each others children, etc but somehow somewhere we have fallen out of that.

I aim to bring us back together I host events, help others to host events, try to band people together but we have fallen to far from it. I try and try but we base ourselves to a very computer oriented community which is good but what about old communities where dinner every night was together, where people could do a barn raising with people whom they barely knew but were all to willing to come help. We no longer have this, we are reserved, private, we like our home and what we know. Where are the times of the potlucks? game nights? helping each other out? gardening with others? I want that!

It seems getting together every once in a while is ok with people while I would like it to be more regular. We all need to stick together and help each other because with the power of people we can get amazing things done.

I will be setting up regular potlucks, game nights, just fun parties and I invite all others to do that same. There is no need for us to live so separate when we are not.

You can like the Community Building Facebook Page!

Friday, January 18, 2013

My Mornings

I am starting to love my mornings, and I will love them even more when I am fully better but they consist of wonderful things now.

~ Wake up ~ Hate the alarm ~ pull myself outta bed ~ Wake Brooke Up ~ Go outside and feed the rabbits ~ Then fill the Rabbits water bottles ~ Let the Chickens out of the coop ~ Collect eggs ~ Feed the chickens ~ Fill up chickens water ~ Walk the bank of the pond looking for the fish ~ Walk by the gardens and check the growing produce ~ Get ready for work

Its enriching really, I start my morning feeling productive :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Planting Potatoes

So its time to plant those potatoes you cut and cured. What know?

~ Find your spot to plant, well drained rich soil is key. A little shade is ok but mostly sun.

~ Dig down and loosen soil at least a ft down

~ Dig out a shallow trench and mound the soil on either side

~ Lay your seed pieces in the trench about 8 inches apart with the "eye" facing up

~ Push one side of the mounded soil back over the potato

~ Water well and cover with a little straw

~ Once the potatoes peak out the surface push the other side of the mound on top on the potatoes and cover with a little more straw

~ Once the potatoes reach the surface and peak out again dump some compost on top (about 3-6 inches)~ creating a large mound

~ Let the plant grow and grow

*I hardly ever water my potatoes once they have reached the top of the mound unless we have been very dry*

Once you have a fully mounded potato you can plant all around the potatoes

cabbage, corn, and beans all help potatoes grow better and improve the flavor of your potatoes when grown together.

Tansy, nasturtium, coriander, and catnip planted nearby repel Colorado potato beetle.

Interplant potatoes with lettuce, scallions, radishes, and spinach. All of these crops mature fast and will be harvested long before the potatoes are ready to harvest.

I want!

I want a cob oven... only need to locate clay....

Build a cob oven

Rabbit Stacking Functions

How many functions can a 2ft by 8ft space hold?

Lets see.

~ Meat: New Zealands are known for producing 8-10 times their body weight in meat each year, they do this by having large litters of babies; 30 to 40 young each year. That is approximately 70 to 95 lbs. of dressed, edible meat.

~ Blood Meal: Making your own blood meal is easy, during the processing catch all the blood in a bucket and spread out onto a large pan (think industrial size cookie sheets), dry and scrape into a dry sealable container (you can blend it down in a food processor as well), I have also read about just digging a trench along a row of plants adding the blood in then filling the trench back up

~Bone Meal: Take and spread out your bones on a pan, let dry for a week or until brittle and easily crushed, pound into tiny pieces by hand or throw into food processor

~ Instant Garden Fertilizer: Rabbit poop is cold and does not burn plants like all other manure does, scoop up and sprinkle around the base of your flowers, veggies, or trees. It has approximate values of 3.7% nitrogen, 1.3% phosphorus, 3.5% potassium, and also contains many trace elements such as calcium, magnesium, boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, copper and cobalt to name a few.

~ Raising Worms: Create a 12 inch high wood raised bed, right underneath your rabbits, line the bottom with cardboard then add 4 inches of bedding (straw, hay, ripped cardboard, shredded leaves, shredded paper, or peat moss), on top of that let the rabbits build up at least 2 inches of poop, mix together and WET, then mix and wet every couple days until it STOPS producing heat, add worms, continue to add bedding material and wet as it gets dry, mix up a couple times a month to spread out pee piles (they dont like the pee so you dont want patches of just pee)

~ Tanning the Hides: We plan to learn to tan hides and turn them into really cool home goods Websites to check out: Mother Earth News Tan a Hide , Tanning with egg yolks

~ Using the Hutch Roof: Why waste a space? I have a 2ft x 8 ft metal roof which should heat up, perfect for starting seeds on, the top is lined with trays and the reinforcements on the roof will def hold the little weight that seed trays have, when it rains the trays will catch the water vs. just letting it all run off onto the ground

~ Extra Income: Either selling rabbit babies (Normally $10-$15 a rabbit) or worms from your bin ($14.99- $19.99 a pound)

This is 8 functions from one very small space!

*You could also use the worms to feed tilapia if you raise them but it is more productive to sell the extra worms for cash, You can also feed rabbit droppings to fish but this can cause problems and I prefer not to east fish that have been feed poop their whole life (but thats just my preference)**

Rabbit Weigh In: 12 weeks

While we are are not planning on eating these breeder rabbits I am very interested in their weight gain, food conversion, etc.

Its all about learning and research. The New Zealands were born 10-29-12 so they are a little over 11 weeks(thats almost 3 months old). While I could not weigh them before we got them I am going to document the growing process from this point forward. Now I do have to say it is at this age the meat rabbits will be... well meat but I am curious at why we do it so young they say the growing slows; We shall see.

So our current weigh in:

Blaze (New Zealand Buck):
4.68 pounds

Foo Foo (New Zealand Doe):
4.36 pounds

This equals our to be about 1.5 pounds per month. Once I have babies I'll see how rapidly or slowly that weight is actually gained.

Tifa the havana did not get weighed as she is not a special meat breed(though they say havanas dress out well for a small rabbit breed). The Havana/New Zealand crosses we will use for meat are mostly for a nicer pelt.

By the way a rabbit sitting in a bucket on a scale is a very funny sight, but they were so well behaved! :)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Welcome Rabbits

We have welcomed 3 rabbits onto our little urban farm. They happily lounge in their hutch, play with paper towel rolls, or roam the house.

For our pedigree Havana Doe we traveled almost to Brandon. A wonderful breeder family gave us some insight on raising rabbits, and let us see some other breeds they raise like the mini rex whose fur is amazingly soft. We held our little doe while we received her paperwork and drove her the 45 minutes home with her riding in Ronnie's lap. After peeing on both of us, Ronnie claimed her as his and named her Tifa.

Folks lets welcome Tifa!

Next we met a friendly girl off craigslist selling New Zealands. New Zealands are the most typical meat rabbit you find being raised since they have excellent food to meat conversion rates and dress out very well. We picked up a Doe and a Buck. They got to ride home in a large wooden basket lined with hay.
Brooke decided she would name both of these bunnies so now we welcome Blaze (the buck) and Foo Foo (the doe)... and yes thats little bunny foo foo! :)

Here is Blaze!

Here is Foo Foo!

These are our breeders. They will live a happy life here at Sunny Spot Gardens. Get lots of treats from the garden, good food, play time, be cuddled A LOT, and have lots of "other bunny time" once old enough. We will create another large single hutch where they will spend about 3 weeks after being weaned (which will be at 6 weeks) until its time for processing. These meat bunnies will not be named or cuddled daily but they will still have a good happy short life.

The Flu

We got the pesky flu, the whole stinking family. Starting with a cough and becoming a full blown achey, coughy, head pounding fiasco the next day. While we were able to get our Daughter on tamiflu before the 48 hour period was up we weren't so lucky so while she has her energy back we do not.

Its hard for me to move from the bed to the couch let alone get up and go to work but that's what I have had to do, luckily they found someone to cover part of my shift today so I could come home after 3 1/2 hours.

Still having the flu means not being able to get out and garden, and I'm itching to do just that. I have potatoes, celery, and kale to plant before the rain and cold snap comes back (its been in the 80s all week) but alas I'm stuck either working or in bed surfing the internet and looking at all the other things people are doing.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Potatoes: Getting them ready

This is the month to plant regular potatoes here in zone 9 so after getting a call from our local feed store that the seed potatoes were in we headed down to pick some up.

The baskets were set up out front of the store with potatoes inside, what i look for when picking my seed potatoes are a single potato with many sprouted eyes. That way I get the most bang for my buck. They base the price on pounds, we pay 89 cents a pound. you can get a 1 pound potato but what if it just has one eye? Then you just paid 89 cents for one potato plant. I look for smaller potatoes that have 2/3 sprouted eyes. I ended up with 3 pounds of potatoes and at least 30 cut pieces so thats 30 plants.

I cut them into pieces (1 eye per piece) then leave them out in my living room to cure for a couple days, until their cuts have healed over and no longer wet. This helps prevent them from molding before growing.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Weekend Project: Building a Rabbit Hutch

I say weekend project though we did not build or complete this during the weekend.
I simply call is that because you could easily build this in a weekend if you have all your tools, lumber, etc on hand. We built this over a stretch of 5 days working an hour or more a day depending on what else we had going on (work, family, teaching class, etc).

I started with a basic plan in my poor drawing skills (to call it poor may still be an overstatement) which consisted of a series of lines with measurements scribbled next to them. I wanted a relatively small footprint so it ended up being 2ft wide by 8 ft long with 3 rooms each measuring 24inx32in. After talking to a rabbit lover group they seem to mostly keep their rabbits in a 24x24 cage so mine is a little larger which I think will be nice for them. We used 2x4 pieces of wood for the bottom frame, and side braces. 2x2 pieces were used for the roof, doors, and extra braces. 1/2in galvanized metal hardware cloth (i guess is what it would be called) is the floor, the back is simple plywood secured to the braces, and the sides and door frames are covered in 1x2in 14 gauge wire which is what the local feed store told me they use to build all their hutches.

The hubby and I decided this would make a great family project and it was, we built the hutch together with Brooke helping with little things like bringing us screws, finding a certain tool, and keeping us smiling while we worked.

As we worked we realized some things didn't work the way i had planned so there were minor switches but my basic draw up really helped figure out what we were doing and how to get to the end result.

**Project was done with all hand tools and the only power tool was the drill, if you use all power tools you will go much quicker (all the cuts take time with a old hand saw)**

Attaching the roof pieces together

Cutting the wood down to size

Ronnie screwing the frame pieces together.

The frame was finished and checked for sturdiness, it passed with flying colors!

Brooke was a huge help!

At this point the hutch was almost done just needing the additonal braces in front and back and doors

Here it is with just 2 small pieces of wire missing

The totally finished product, in its new home and ready for install of food and water holders.. oh and rabbits!!!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happenings at the garden 1/3/13

Wow its 2013 its weird for me to write that and I come February I am sure ill still be writing 2012 and crossing it out to rewrite. Oh well. This morning I woke up a a thick fog hanging over the gardens complete with the grey skies of a gloomy day. Though I say gloomy lightly as rainy skies make me happy since I can assume along with it comes rain (on the other hand if its gloomy and no rain that a big UGH).

I drove to work through the fog and spent my day laboring at the workplace. Around 4pm it started sprinkling making the perfect afternoon break. I sat in my car watching the rain come down around me. Coming home at 6 during the winter stinks because its already long dark and nothing can be done in the garden but here I am being useful and typing a blog and I am about to get caught up on my magazines (urban farm and hobby farms). Today Ronnie cut the remaining wood for our project so by this weekend it should be completed and ready for usage. I cannot wait (blog post coming soon)!!

Ta Ta for now my wonderful readers!!

Our Newest Adventure: Rabbits

Ever since I went to a rabbit butchering class at a friends house I have wanted to embark on my own backyard rabbit meat production adventure. This idea was promptly shut down by my husband.... until recently.

I have somehow convinced the DH that rabbits were a good idea so now we begin our search. I purchased Storeys Guide to Raising Rabbits because I adore Storeys books ( I also purchased their guide to turkeys and ducks and already own their guide to raising chickens)and placed a hold on 3 other misc rabbit raising books from the library.

I currently have designed a wood with wire rabbit hutch but am looking into other options as well such a metal cages all in all I want them to have a nice happy home.

Our rabbits will be handled, loved, and let out to roam in the garden. They will get scraps just like our hens (plus they like veggies that my picky chickens wont touch) as well as commercial food and hay. There final purpose will be as food but I dont want them to know that. I want them to be happy healthy loved bunnies until the day comes.

I am looking at New Zealand type breeds as I read that they get 9-12 lbs when mature and are supposed to have the highest quality meat. I have been chatting with a kind lady in St. Pete you has some babies ready to go I just want to get my books and hutch finished first.

Here is a brochure I found on breeding bunnies. There is one part that cracks me up!

See the part that states: "when a buck serves a doe properly he usually falls over onto his side or back".... I mean really?
I imagine little rabbit voices in me head.. Buck: Uhh that was soooo good im sooo tired now Doe: Are you kidding me right now?

Ok that was just to good to pass, I about spit out my cider reading it :)

I will continue to post and update about this awesome new adventure!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Resoultions 2013

~ Raise backyard meat

~ Utilize all available growing space to its max potential

~ Keep detailed notes in planner about planting seeds, harvests, and weather patterns

~ Blog more

~ Be a awesome mother and wife

~ Pay off all debts and DO NOT go back into debt

~ Continue being awesome

Do you have any new year resolutions?

What to Plant in Zone 9 (January)

Plant Seeds of:

** Inside: **

** Outside: **
English Peas
Turnips Beets
Chinese Cabbage
Green and Shallot Onions

* Remember to keep mulch around your vegetable plants to conserve moisture and reduce weed problems.
* Add a new topping of compost to your garden beds and rake in