Today I would like to talk a little about where our food comes from. We currently raise rabbits for meat, hunt, gather berries, fish, and grow a small garden. We are no where near being completely self reliant in the food aspect of our life, but we are working on it. It is my goal to one day only depend on the super market for staples such as flour, salt, and some fruit since we live in Alaska and about the only “fruits” that grow nicely this far north are blueberries, and some other types of berries. I like to harvest from the surrounding wilderness or grow our food because I am not big on the idea of genetically altered foods, or meat pumped full of growth hormones, and vegetables drenched in pesticides and grown in unnatural fertilizers.
I started raising rabbits several years ago with the goal of supplementing our meat supply with a very protein rich, low fat and cholesterol meat. I started out with 3 rabbits and now have roughly 30 in my rabbitry. I chose rabbits over chickens, cows, sheep, and goats because they tolerate cold really well, are a very healthy form of protein, a single breeding pair can produce a lot of little bunnies, and they produce more meat per pound of food you give then than any other “livestock” animal. A rabbits gestation period is only 31 days and rabbits go from birth to butchering size in 8-12 weeks making them efficiently fast producers.
|Three 7 week old rabbits eagerly awaiting more food.|
We house the rabbits out side in wire hutches built into shepters that provide them with protection from the wind, sun, and predators. Rabbits tolerate cold really well and do just fine in our cold winters I can proudly say that I have never lost a rabbit to the cold, even in temperatures as low as -50f. The only addition we add to the hutches in the winter time is a small rabbit sized ply wood shelter with straw or hay as bedding that protects the rabbits from the wind and allows them to hunker down inside and stay warmer.
|A rabbit enjoying his "house"|
We feed the rabbits a simple diet of locally grown oats and hay which is supplemented by grasses and leaves in the summer as well as vegetable, fruit and garden scraps when available. I have found one of the rabbit’s favorite foods to be apple cores. We also supply them with salt licks and fresh water in the summer by bottles and in bowls in the winter.
|One week old bunnies.|
|One day old bunnies.|
Besides meat the rabbits also provide us with two of what we call useful by-products. The first being beautiful and soft fur pelts for making warm clothing out of. And the second being a high quality manure that is great for the garden and does not require a composting before use like other manures such as horse or chicken. You can just throw the little brown pellets right into your garden when ever.
This year I have a small container garden planted which I hope to expand it into a huge raised bed garden in the near future. Currently I am growing lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, chives and other herbs, peas, pumpkins, broccoli, carrots and a small assortment of flowers. In the record warm summer we have been having my tomatoes, lettuce and other warm weather crops are thriving while my colder weather crops that generally thrive in the cooler Alaskan summers like broccoli are not doing well and instead of producing are bolting and going strait to seed. I have been using a blend of rabbit manure, fishmeal, and alfalfa pellets on my garden this year as fertilizer and the plants seem to be loving it.
|Lettuce and Tomatoes.|
|Pumpkins and flowers.|
With a beautiful harvest of wild blueberries this summer I am finding myself in the berry patch quite often, I have been picking as many as I can around firewood and other homestead chores. These delicious wild treats will be made into jam and other goodies as time allows. The next berry harvest will be high bush and then low bush cranberries…I can hardly wait. The low bush cranberries and blueberries seem to carpet the woods in this area.
|Harvesting Wild Blueberries.|
This fall and winter I will be doing some grouse, moose, and caribou hunting to hopefully add some more meat to our freezer. I also hope to do some salmon fishing in the Yukon for chums to help supplement the kennels diet this winter.
Until next time, happy trails.