Sunday, August 29, 2010

Getting Attached

It's been over a year since we decided to try our hand at raising meat rabbits for our own use. We brought home three Californian does and a New Zealand Buck. I had my qualms about starting this project again as our first effort over twenty years ago had a less than satisfactory end. In my effort to not get attached to the furry critters, I spent less time in their care than was needed and our efforts were abandoned. This time my husband told me to spend my time loving on the moms and dad and he would take care of the babies. You know what they say about the best laid plans. My husband is a pastor and many nights and mornings when it was time to do the chores he was called away and most of the bunny chores were left to me.

Our first litter produced a little gray rabbit that was different than any of the others. My husband promptly pick him up and pronounced him "Shadow" and perfect for a pet for our grandchildren. Eventually we realized the kids never got the cage they needed to take Shadow home and as he grew he was moved to a private cage to be kept as a pet. We now realize Shadow is a female and will become one of our mothers next spring.

As Shadows litter mates grew larger and the dreaded date approached, three new litters arrived. In one of these litters was the smallest little rabbit you have ever seen. He was about one fourth the size of his brothers and sisters. His little back bone stuck out and each morning my husband would announce that he had made it through the night but surely would live another day. As the days went by the little white bunny which we named "Mini" continued to grow and each day we picked him up and cuddled him at feeding time. We were both wondering what excuse we could possibly come up with to keep this bunny when my husband announced he though this would be the perfect pet for other set of grandchildren. Amazingly enough Mini is almost as big as his litter mates and there has been no indication that he will be leaving the farm. I wonder if he will be a new mother or father next spring?

Next : The Dreaded Day and Canning Rabbits

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

It's Elderberry Time

This is one of my favorite times of the year. The Elderberries are ripening and soon I will be busy using the fruit to make products that will get my family through the winter months.

Elderberries grow wild in many areas of the country. I find mine in road ditches near my house. In the spring you can harvest the elder flowers to use in teas. In the late summer the berries turn to a dark purple shade and the stems they grow on droop down from the weight of the berries. They may look ripe earlier but it's best to wait until this time to harvest them. Do not eat the berries raw because they can make you sick. The leaves, bark, and roots are toxic.

Elderberries boost the immune system, lower cholesterol, improve vision and heart health, as well as treat coughs, colds, flu, and infections. They are very high in antioxidants. In 1995 elderberries were used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama. Double blind studies have been done that show persons that take 15 ml four or five times a day are likely to recover four days earlier from the flu.

It is a tedious task to take the berries off of the stems. Some people use a comb to gently remove the berries. I put the clusters in a paper bag and then store them in the freezer until I am ready to use them. When I take them out I simply crunch the paper bag until the berries release and fall to the bottom of the bag. I then put the ones I won't be using into freezer bags for later use.

I use elderberries to make jelly, tinctures, syrups, and cordials. In this post I'm going to tell you how to make a tincture as that is my favorite way to use the berries. It is also a very simple process. Simply put the elderberries into a canning jar and cover them with vodka. Let them sit in a dark place for a few weeks, shaking daily. Use a cheesecloth to squeeze all the juice from the berries. Then drain the liquid from the jar and discard the berries. Glycerin which has a sweet taste, can be used instead of vodka and is preferred by some for children. This tincture will last all winter in a dark cool place. Take two tablespoons every 6 hours at the first sign of the flu.