Saturday, October 1, 2011

Deer Apples and Homestead Animals

Mother has been wanting to make and can apple sauce. She's been waiting with baited breath for the mountain apples to arrive at Holden Brothers. And, they have arrived...a variety of delicious apples all from the North Carolina Mountains. A box of them would be around $30. Not bad. But, not great. Then, I saw the sign that said "Deer Apples $10 per box". Deer apples?  We located the owner and she gave a few bewildering answers and then finally something that made sense--apples that have bruises. Ah, perfect! A mixed box of apples that are perfectly good with exception of a bruise or two. No problem. Now, mother can work on making apple sauce.

In my last post, I discussed some of the permaculture principles I want to incorporate into my little homestead. One of the cornerstones of my overall vision is livestock. Before we lost a chunk of our property, I had hoped to include dairy goats, miniatures, in the plan. But, with less space and after considering all the new factors we are dealing with, I've decided goats aren't a good choice for the Not Quite There Yet Homestead. Instead, we will focus on chickens, ducks, and rabbits.

Chickens: This is the quintessential first livestock accquisition for homesteaders. In fact, there may be a rule that one can not call oneself a homesteader without a few of these running around. If such a rule exists, we aren't officially a homestead yet. The chicken coop we had hoped to have this past Spring appears to have taken a wrong turn at the Green Swamp and gotten lost. Fortunately, our friend Captain Jeff does more than just take care of yachts, he also has chickens and shares the eggs they produce. I can't wait to have some cochins and some EasterEggers running around and laying brown and green and blue eggs. But, it isn't the color of the eggs that make chickens the first choice of permaculturist homesteaders. Chickens provide several benefits: eggs, meat, manure, pest control, turning compost, and entertainment. As long as you don't have a rooster, you shouldn't have issues with the neighbors.

Ducks: I've gone back and forth on whether to get ducks or not. They are messy and some breeds are noisy. And, I've never eaten duck. But, muscovies do offer benefits to the homestead: they make good weeders for the garden, eat their weight in mosquitoes and will also eat slugs and mice and even small snakes. Their meat is said to be of the taste and quality of grass-fed beef and leaner than other duck meat. They are also quite prolific which means you can raise enough for the freezer and have some to sell. I already have interested clients and I don't even have ducks yet! Muscovies are much quieter than other ducks, don't need ponds, and don't require much housing beyond a simple doghouse style shed to retreat into when foul weather arrives. I definitely want muscovies! (But, every homesteader has they duck breed that they feel particularly passionate about. They should be a duck for you if you look around.)

Rabbits: Another excellent livestock choice for the small homestead. A small breeding herd can produce a good amount of meat as well as the best most coveted manure with the exception of worm castings. And, if you put a vermiculture box under the rabbit cages, you will have black gold to enrich your gardens or sell at ridiculous prices to the rose growers in your area. You can also opt for a breed that produces wool and have yet another income stream or product for your homestead. I could go two different directions with breed choice: New Zealand or Silver Fox. New Zealands are plentiful and easy to get at cheap prices. Silver Fox is neither plentiful, easy to get, or cheap. But, Silver Fox is an endangered breed, is stunningly beautiful, and very efficient at creating meat. If I decide I want to get involved in going to breed shows, or simply want to raise meat with a rabbit that is docile and beautiful, it makes sense to go to the trouble of getting Silver Fox breeding stock. I'm definitely leaning in that direction.

These three choices of livestock serves the purpose of providing three sources of meat, two sources of manure, two sources of pest control, one source of weeding, two or more income stream options, and three sources of entertainment. While I will buy feed, the chickens and ducks will supplement through foraging and all three can help consume excess produce. This makes them excellent choices for a permaculture plan and for self-sufficiency in general.  All we need now is the required shelter...we just aren't quite there yet with the shelter. God will provide.

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