Jen Fan

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since Nov 05, 2016
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Recent posts by Jen Fan

Lots of good responses here.  I'll add mine, which is probably just an echo.

I've had 5 female cats and 2 male cats in my life, a drop in the bucket compared to some people.  But my observations from them have been that the males, neutered, still ROAM.  They travel more.  They fight more.  They disappear for days or weeks at a time.  They hunt far and wide and have been way more prone to injury as such.   But my boy cats hunted prolifically, leaving bodies everywhere almost daily, like they are providing for their mix-species family.   And they both had charming personalities.  Both were less vocal than any of the females and not as physically demanding for attention/affection.
My girl cats have been prone to staying at home, roaming maybe 2-4 acre territories, compared to the boys who wanted to claim a good 1/4-1/2 mile of territory.   The girls make awesome barn mousers.  They don't fight amongst eachother, at least they don't put holes in one another, even if they do scrap, whereas my boy cats would happily go for blood in a cat fight.  And lancing abscesses constantly is a pain!   My girls have been a bit more annoyingly demanding of my attention, but they are loyal, vigilant about their well being, and best of all, they are affectionate with one another, so we don't worry too much about our outdoor cats when winter temps become frigid- we know they're in a big kitty snuggle puddle keeping one another warm, somewhere safe and dry.  

I have no real preference between gender, and I'm sure there are exceptions to the "trend".  Genetics, conditioning, and such all play roles in their temperament.

But what I do have preference on is getting siblings if they're going to be outdoor cats.   2-3 littermates, or just tiny kittens that are raised together.  In my opinion, this enriches their lives and helps ensure and support their safety.  If they love one another they will feed each other if one is sick or injured, they'll keep one another warm, they can watch each other's backs, and they have a suitable playmate.
21 hours ago
I would rather support someone directly than buy from wholesalers.  I'm looking for a variety of culinary herb seeds or starts that can hopefully be grown in zones 3 & 4, or kept comfortably as an indoor plant.  Also interested in any/all pepper varieties.  We've tried many kinds to see what works up here, we have to start early indoors and grow in a greenhouse.  Hot and sweet peppers are both fine.   Also open to grafts from good fruiting trees or young trees.

Things I 'need':
terragon splits
strawberry crowns or starts
blackberries (thorny or thornless, both okay)
any other berry plants (mulberry, boisonberries, domesticated elder cultivars cause our wild ones are not very palatable, etc etc)

Things I have but wouldn't complain about new varieties:
hot & sweet peppers
asparagus crowns
seed potatoes

We have lots of trade mediums available from cultivated garden stuffs, wild plants and forage, meatstuffs, live animals, wood, the list goes on.  Also happy to pay.  Depending on what you've got and how much you've got, we're willing to travel a bit to meet up.  Open to other ideas for cultivated food stuffs as well!
There are work-arounds to some livestock restrictions.  For instance, if you need a meatstuffs but can't have chickens, or livestock in general, and you don't mind flying under the radar, rabbits are a great way to go.  They don't make noise unless they're terrified, they don't stink, and they're prolific.  One good doe can be producing you 5-10 rabbits a month, each of those rabbits is comparable to a standard chicken in meat provision.
If you want eggs must fly under the radar, coturnix quail would be my vote.  The loudest noises they make just sound like wild birds, and it's the male quail chirping out alarms/warning, so the noise can be avoided.  Otherwise they're very quiet and make lovely whispering chirps and whistles.  They need a much higher protein diet than chickens,but they eat way less.  A good hen can produce close to 300 eggs per year, almost 1 per day.  Roughly 3 quail eggs makes up 1 chicken egg.  So 3 good laying hens can out-produce the standard laying hen.  If you got into incubation (or your quail were relaxed/happy enough to go broody) you could also use them as a fast-turn around meat stuff, since they're ready to eat in 2 months and sexually mature in 3-5 months.  The other thing I love about the quail is that you can incorporate them into a garden without the destruction that comes with chickens.  You'll need to have the garden netted over with bird netting or chicken wire though.  

I would disagree with the 50sq ft garden being enough to feed 1 person in the light that it depends on your zone and growing season.  If you can grow year-round, yes you probably can.  If you're like us and only have 100~ days to grow, no, it's not enough space.  

If you have a seasonal creek, you can look into making a pond, perhaps?  Are you interested in greenhouses?  You could build a fish pond inside the greenhouse and dig it deep into the earth, below the frost line and away from prying eyes.  It can be fed by the stream and the greenhouse can be irrigated from it.  Or if you can't utilize the stream, and you get decent rainfall, you could catch the water off the greenhouse to fill your pond.  Or use the well since you'd be using it to water your garden at that point anyway.  You can grow goldfish, koi, or others in the pond and you won't have a mosquito problem.    As long as there's nothing abusing it, greenhouse plastic makes decent pond liner, especially in a controlled setting like this where animals and free radicals are limited.  Let's say "It works until it gets a hole".  We build with 6mil greenhouse plastic.  If you don't want to worry about holes, go with HDPE rubber pond liner material, it works awesome, it's just way more expensive.
Unless you want a dog that specifically LIVES with your animals 24/7 and will protect them like family, you don't "need" a LGD.  That said, LGDs can be assets even as a family pet.  
If you do not have direct experience with LGDs, take what you read with a grain of salt.  It's hard to summarize proud, complex dogs.  I've had 2 Anatolians, and they are self-contained, intelligent beings.  Strong willed and stubborn, but ultimately compliant if you stand your ground and stay consistent.   Every dog-individual is unique, but generally Anatolian brains are "love/hate", or "friend/foe".  If you fall under their love, they will adore you, be patient with you, and strive for your affection.  If you fall under their "foe", they will make certain you LEAVE their territory immediately.  Please and thank you.  They have a reputation as barkers because their first instinct is not to engage with violence, it's to drive off predators without engaging.  The alternative to a barking LGD is a fighting LGD, and a fighting LGD is going to have a much harder life.  
I don't know much about St. Bernards.  Honestly what little I know of them is this idea that they're bad family dogs and terrible with kids.  I have no personal experience though.  I would actually say that anatolians have deep loving hearts and make amazing family pets for people who know how to handle a domineering breed.  They are deeply affectionate and seem to crave reassurance that you still love them and always will.  I would expect SB's are similar in personality.  

There's a lot of people breeding the Berny/Toli crosses or GP/Berny crosses and calling them "Grand Shepherds".  The mixes probably have as much potential as the purebreds.   Ultimately, regardless of genes, it comes down to the individual dog's personality, disposition, and handling.  Big emphasis on handling.  Huge emphasis on handling when you're dealing with extremely large, domineering dogs.  
4 days ago
I'd say prioritize; transforming the property will be a years-long task.  My mind says that trees and shrubs should be the first decision.  
Plant some young trees now, and in a few years as the rest of the land is coming together nicely, your trees will start producing, too.  Every year you go without planting a fruit-er is one more year you go without fruit  Same goes with nuts!
I've kept rex's, cali's, NZs, lops, and crosses thereof with flemish in them, and all have seen temps over 100º and as low as -20º.  The only time I had a problem was a dumb buck who hid under a piece of tin sheeting in 100º heat and roasted himself.  I've also had bucks go sterile in the 100º heat when they couldn't get underground to cool off.  They were isolated in pens they couldn't dig in.  The heat sterility only lasts like 3 months, it's not permanent.  
Then again, I've never kept rabbits in cages.  They've always had bare earth to access.  When it's hot they can press themselves into the cool earth, even if they can't burrow.  Cool bare earth in a shady nook makes a world of difference!  If you're in a hot climate, design an outdoor run where they can burrow.  If they can burrow freely, you have nothing to worry about temperature wise, one way or the other.  They will not die of heat or cold if they can dig deep.  They can continue to breed year-round if they have agreeable temps and dry conditions.  Cages make this harder to achieve.  Most the folks I know that keep rabbits in the desert keep them outdoors on the north side of a building where they never get direct sunshine.
1 week ago
We just throw the heads to the dogs, too, unless we want to keep the skull.  There's no reason that I'm aware of to not feed it to the dogs.  Tons of good nutrition right there!  Dogs and cats love brains!

Edit:  We save hides and such, so we just skin, clip off the feet, and throw the rest to the dogs.  We don't gut or bleed them out. The dogs will eat 100% of the entire animal, they adore rabbits.  It's a wonderful whole prey model meal for them!  There's literally no reason to bother dissecting the rabbit for your dogs.  No need to bother with removing organs to ration them.  A whole rabbits is a whole meal, just as nature intended.  Blood, bones, tripe, brains, eyeballs- the only thing they're missing out on is the fur you've taken off if you skin it first.    The contents of the guts are one of the dogs' favorites.  They get lots of nutritious green matter in their "rabbit spaghetti", especially if your buns are fed fresh fodder and dried hay.  It's the first thing our dogs eat, every time.   For our 70lb~ dogs, 1 large rabbit = about 2 days of food.  For the 100+lb dogs, 1 rabbit per day about suffices, with occasional lapses in days where they still had some left over from the day before.   Edited repeatedly because my typos are out of control today, haha.
1 week ago
Do you have greenhouses?  We've got 100~ days to grow outdoors.  We put potatoes in in March in the greenhouses.  I planted the first round of taters 10 days ago and they've already endured -4º (outdoor temp at least) but seem to be growing fine still.   They're under a lot of mulch.  I've already direct seeded onions, beets, favas, radish, lettuce, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, etc.   Also just put in garlic bulbs.  But only in the greenhouses!  Within the next month more will follow.  Peas, carrots, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, and many others will be direct seeded soon.  

I have to wait til May or June for the snow to be gone to plant outdoors.  But I start the toms and such indoors at this time, for transplanting into the greenhouses.  Greenhouses really make growing in cold climates a lot easier  One trick I like is planting early in pots and feed bags.  I like doing my corn this way.  I can start them inside and mvoe them out when the weather breaks.  I can pick up and move them in out of the weather if we're going to have an unseasonal snow or hail storm or something, which is common in June.  Or if the cows come chomping through >_>
You can start your plants in a feed bag with 2-4 gallons of substrate, and by the time you're ready to plant outdoors, you've got a large, well started plant in the bag.  You can bury the feed bag partially, or even just set it on some loose soil, and the plant's roots can go through the bag and continue to grow in the ground without having to suffer transplant shock.  Though if you do it that way and let the roots grow out, obviously you can't move the bag around without hurting the root system.  But, you can rip it out of the ground if there's a tomato plant in it that needs a little more time before it freezes.  The destruction of those peripheral roots will shock it into finishing its fruit.  You can bring it inside at that point and prune it heavily.  I've grown tomatoes inside through the winter with some success.  Anywho, the woven feedbags are reusable as long as they're not getting torn up.  We have loads of them so we use them for lots of stuff!

Starting early indoors is a great way to get an edge on the growing season and also sate the green-thumb itch that sets in every winter  
I've read and researched a lot of pro's and cons of meat cavies.  I watched one little video of a permies couple raising them in cages over a pond that had crayfish in it who fed on the feces.  They're a slower turn-around than rabbits, they reproduce less, but their pro's are easy care and containment.
I personally can't keep an animal in a tiny cage.  My rabbits go colony style on the ground and in special out buildings made for them.  But if they find a way out?  Sheesh.  Off and away!  FREEDOM BUNNIES!  Garden massacre time!  At least they get eaten before they make a real pest of themselves.   GPs?  I haven't tried it, but I've read plenty that they have small territories they're not prone to straying from.  That they can be kept outdoors easily if given enough food/fodder and a safe place to live (and if you can keep them from getting eaten).  They also do well in much smaller areas of confinement if need be than rabbits do, since they're so small.
Rabbits are also really good at drawing blood on me at butcher time.  It wouldn't happen if I wore thick gloves, but I don't like wearing gloves.  My goal is to try and get a butcher round done without getting scratched to shreds, but I rarely meet that goal.  I imagine GPs would be pretty harmless to handle and butcher, as long as you weren't breeding chronic biters.

I've long wanted to get into meat cavies, ideally the big varieties, but whatever I get my hands on when the time comes will suffice.  I would consider them part of "not putting all my eggs in one basket" in terms of meat and livestock.  They seem particularly a diverse prospect in terms of permaculture due to their timid and tame reputations.  

 I already raise rabbits, but they are a fight and a pain sometimes.  Sometimes they reproduce too much, other times not enough.  If I could set up some GPs in an established run or in the aviary or another cat-proof area, and they could feed themselves in the growing season, not make a whole bunch of noise, not demand extra chores from me, and produce meat on their own?  I'm game to try!  Curious for more input here.
1 week ago
A big thing to consider is your planting varieties.  Most guides are based on the run-of-the-mill varieties available at most stores by big seed companies.  But if you get local, landrace, or specialty varieties they could be as much as half the days to maturity, or twice!  Like, I grow sweet corn that's producing ears for eating within 70 days.  But mainstream varieties can take 120 days or more.  So a conventional sweet corn guide would be useless to me.  

It also depends on when you want to harvest.  Like, I grow lots of leafy greens and eat the baby greens continually as the plant grows, rather than letting things develop a head or big giant leaves.  So a planting guide for harvest dates on leafy green s wouldn't be much help for me either.  

There's a lot of variables.  I'm a fan of 'allocate as much space to gardening as possible', and just planting anything and everything everywhere you can.  Have extra seeds for succession planting just in case you get a late frost or a hail storm or something.  These things are often learned by experience.  There's an infinite combination of what you can grow, how quickly, and when to plant and harvest.  Allow yourself some wiggle room for experimentation and learning, whatever schedule you go with