Sunday, October 20, 2013

Best Laid Plans - Rabbit Poop Boards Take 2

This is a continuation of this post.

After I got the dropping boards hooked up, it came to light they wouldn't work. Not only could I not get the sheets to lie flat, having the gutter in the front meant I would have to lean over a pee soaked gutter every time I needed to reach into a cage. I also found out the hard way that rinsing the boards off always resulted in water (that's what I pretended it was anyway) sailing over the gutter and splashing all over me. I'd suspected it would do that, known better than to set it up like that, but I always do things the hard way. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rearranging the hoard

One of the downsides to being an author is that I never really know how much money I'll make from month to month. Other than I don't have any way to track sales, so until the royalties draft into my account I just don't know what to expect. They arrive like magic, the majority from my main publisher on the 16th, chump change from Amazon thanks to a few self-published stories appearing around the 28th, and then a halfway decent check every quarter from another publisher. One month might be a down payment on a two year old Camry, while another might barely cover the electric bill. If I'm industrious and remember to submit short stories to various anthologies I can usually pull in an extra $50 to $200 each on those, but I've been lazy this year. As a result, my hoarding tendencies have been greatly limited.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Aquaponics Project, Part 2

The trip to get gravel for the system, using an open sided flatbed trailer, warrents a post all of its own under the "stupid things I do" label. Suffice it to say it's a wonder I got home with any gravel at all.

No sooner did we get the first bed finished off with gravel than the 4" pipe that serves as a guard around the bell siphon shifted and a ton of gravel got underneath it. If you ever try this project, be smarter than me and silicone that guard in place before you fill the bed with rocks. Digging a hole in slippery, slidey gravel isn't my idea of a fun afternoon.

But eventually, it all came together, and we kicked the pumps on.

DIY Rabbit cage poop boards

Back when I only had a few rabbits in cages on the fence, I had some 55 gallon drums cut in half and set underneath to catch the poo and pee. Let me tell you now, you don't want to go that route. It seems like a great idea until you have to carry a half barrel full of sloshing, urine fermenting poop across the yard to dump in the garden, tripping over every root and twig and stone that has magically appeared in your path along the way.

I only had to do that about nineteen times before I decided to come up with a better idea. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dehydrating Eggs

I did the math and there's really no reason for me to dehydrate eggs.

#10 can of powdered whole eggs from Shelf Reliance costs $22.29 at the moment. It is listed as having 216 eggs inside... or servings, and one egg is a serving so same thing. That's 18 dozen. I sell eggs for $2 a dozen, so I make $36 on 18 dozen eggs. I could sell 36 dozen eggs and buy the equivalent of 54 dozen, already dried and neatly packaged for my convenience.

So why am I dehydrating eggs?

DIY Automatic Chicken Waterer

I was going to write a post complete with pictures about the chicken waterer we built, but since I'd already done a video for it, I figured I'd cheat and just pull it over here.

In hindsight, if I had to do this over I think I'd go with the screw in cups instead of the nipples. In the summer, it seems like the hens get frustrated trying to get enough water from the nipples, and if I let them out to run around in the yard they beeline for the bee watering station and guzzle it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eggshells for Feed & Garden

During my fall egg drying/freezing marathon I accumulate a ton of egg shells. I toss them into a pie pan lined with foil and into the oven @350F for ten minutes or whenever I remember to go take them out. If Facebook is involved, that could be several hours. Baking them will make them very brittle, and much easier to crush.

Trust me, you want the foil. The little bit of egg goop that remains on the shells will burn onto your pan otherwise, and it's the dickens to get off. Once they've been baked they go into the food processor to be pulverized as close to dust as I can get them. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Freezing Eggs

The Mr. and I really don't eat all that many eggs, perhaps 4 a week unless I'm baking. Compare that to the dozen+ I get every day and you can see we have a bit of an overproduction problem. No matter, I have a dedicated buyer who will eat all the eggs I can supply him, which is usually around 10 dozen a week.

Except for that week he accidentally dropped all ten dozen in the floorboard of his truck. That week he only ate around two dozen. :D

Since the temperatures are cooling off, I turned off the automatic lights on the coop on September 1 to allow the girls to go into molt and have plenty of time to refeather before the real cold hits. One month later the coop looks like a sorority had a feather pillow fight in there.

Knowing the egg production was about to come to a screeching halt, I stopped selling and started hoarding the eggs for the months to come. Of course you can only keep so many in the fridge before there's no room for anything else, so I turned to freezing.

I decided to ignore conventional wisdom and try my own idea out on this one. I really don't bake all that much, so our primary use for eggs is fried on Saturday morning, or scrambled for the Mr.'s breakfast burritos for work. Ergo I didn't want to go to the bother of separating the yolks or scrambling and freezing in ice trays. Since these won't last past the next four months or so I don't figure it will be an issue if I don't "do it properly".

Instead, I broke out the muffin pan and dropped an egg in each slot.
Ready to go into the freezer
Into the freezer they went. Once frozen, I planned to pop them out and toss into a freezer bag. 

Frozen Eggs
Except they didn't pop out. Not. At. All.

First I flipped the muffin pan upside down on a cookie sheet and beat it a bit. When that didn't work I tried laying my hands over the back of the pan, hoping to warm it just enough to get them to pop out. Nope, not gonna work either. Finally I pulled out the hairdryer, set it to high, and went to wafting hot air all over the back of the pan. 

This resulted in melty eggs that I had to pry out with a butter knife. But now they were sloppy on the bottom, so tossing them in the bag was out of the question. They'd all stick together. Instead I tossed them into a cake pan and back into the freezer, remembering to shuffle them around after fifteen minutes so they wouldn't restick (they already had). Much fiddling and a great deal of annoyance later, they finally made it into the freezer bag.

At this point I was questioning just how much I really gave a shit if we ever ate another egg again, but with ten dozen eggs still in the freezer, I couldn't give up just yet. However, I got a little smarter on the next run. I used PAM cooking spray in the pan, and just did one egg.


It didn't fall out when I flipped the pan over, but the edges had pulled away from the side just a tad and I was able to pop it out easily with the butter knife.

Frozen eggs

I'm also in the middle of dehydrating my fourth batch of eggs, and lemme just say freezing wins this game hands down. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Aquaponics Project - Part 1

Two years ago I learned about the wonders of aquaponics and decided we had to set up our own system. Our neighbor kindly gave me a bunch of 275 gallon IBC totes that he didn't need, and we promptly got to work cutting them all up. 

After cutting them all up, we shoved them out of the way and let the mess collect dust for two years.

Procrastination is the order of the day around here.