English angoras at 5 and 10 weeks old

The two current litters of English angora bunnies here at Hillside Farm are now at the ‘absurdly cute’ and ‘merely cute’ stages.  Gomez & Cheiri’s babies are now 10 weeks old and Janet & Phineus’ babies are now 5 weeks old.  At five weeks old, Janet’s babies are all pretty much weaned and eating on their own now.

white fuzzy bunny with ears up
10 week old Zeus

Zeus & Co. are ten weeks old now and getting pretty fuzzy.  He’s still the white boy and there’s two black girls and two black boys as his siblings. Since they’re getting so fuzzy, it’s getting pretty difficult to tell the black ones apart these days.

It used to be that Zookie Schwartz was the smallest one.  Ziggy was the one who would come over and lick folks right away.  Zoey was the one bouncing around and had flippy ear tips.  Nowadays, though, Zookie is as big as everyone else or if it isn’t it’s hard to tell under all that wool.  Ziggy doesn’t lick folks anymore and Zoey’s ear tips are now upright like everyone else’s.  Guess I should tattoo them so they’ll be easy to tell apart.

It will be time for their first hair cut pretty soon, no doubt.  Hopefully, Zeus will keep his fairly open face so he will be easier to groom, but we will see what he does as he grows.

black and white really fuzzy bunnies

It’s quite a pile up of fuzziness when they’re all in one spot.

So far all of them are still here and I should recheck the genders to see if any of them have switched.  It’s pretty difficult to be 100% accurate when they’re young but they’re getting old enough that it should be pretty easy at this point.  Once they’re adults, it’s really easy but we want the males and females separated before then.  Last time I looked, Zeus was male and there were two of each gender for the other four blacks.

small brown angora
5 week old Coconut

For Janey & Phineus’ litter, as far as I can tell at this age, they’re all females.  One of them is going to move to Oahu.  The little brown one is now named ‘Coconut’ and she is planning on flying off to Oahu when she’s older.  She’s only five weeks old now, so it’s going to be another month or so before she flies away.  At five weeks old, they haven’t gotten as fuzzy as Gomez & Cheiri’s babies but they’re working on getting fuzzier.

In non-bunny news, I’m still working on getting the bunnie’s website’s home page to show up on mobile devices.  All the pages except the home page seem to be mobile friendly.  Wish I knew more about CSS and other web page building things.

All sorts of interesting internet things

baby English angoras
baby English angoras

Mostly we’re all about fuzzy bunnies and making fuzzy bunnies and other fibers into yarn.  However, we’ve been delving into internet nuances and learning all sorts of things.

For some reason, why I haven’t quite found out yet, the home page of the bunnies’ new website (this website) isn’t mobile device friendly.  The other pages are fine, but the home page shows up as a weird grassy image with a hammer on it.  Not sure why yet, soon as I find out, hopefully I’ll be able to fix it.

For Google Chrome, my current browser, if the ‘home’ page is set to http://www.hillsidehomehawaii.com it gets all bent out of shape and says it’s a dangerous webpage and not secure.   However, if the ‘home’ page is set to hillsidefarmhawaii.com then it’s all happy and everything is fine.  ????  What’s up with that?

Most of this webpage is put together with WordPress which wasn’t a program I’d used before so there’s a lot of staggering about pushing buttons to see what they do.  Apparently, we’re working with CSS or Cascading Style Sheets (a method of programming for web pages).  I’d worked a bit with Hyper Text Markup Languange or HTML somewhat, but unfortunately I haven’t met up with CSS before.  Well, maybe one of these days I’ll figure out how to change fonts and other nuances.

Lately, though, it’s been giving bunnies haircuts and picking beans.

Last day of June

Summer is here, it’s the last day of June and soon we will have July.  Woot!  Not that it makes a whole lot of difference to our seasons or anything.  We do get more flowers appearing in the summer.  This one is a volunteer.  I think it’s a gloriosa lily and it’s somehow survived 27 years of neglect in the back yard.

I think it’s supposed to be poisonous so it won’t be fed to bunnies, but it is very striking looking.  A long spindly stalk with almost vine habits that has flower buds that look more like pods and then these flowers appear.

When opening the flower buds they go through a ‘helicopter’ stage with is interesting.  Then the flower petals go up like alarmed bunny ears.

Another question is how or when to harvest oats?  These are special ‘hull less’ oats which are supposed to be able to be harvested and processed without machinery.  I have an oat flaker, so if we can figure out how to harvest and dry the seeds and get the husk off, then they can be made into oatmeal.  I’m sure the bunnies will want to eat the grassy parts.

There’s the current state of the garden.  The lettuce is still hanging in there pretty well.  A few of them are thinking about bolting but haven’t done much about it yet.  There’s been tons of beans, still no tomatoes.  The oats are the silvery green in the back left corner.  The orange in the middle is a large marigold.  The really red lettuce is outside the picture as well as the gloriosa lily.

So far there’s just one melon but it’s bigger than a softball now.  It’s escaped out the back of the garden and is climbing all up the hillside.

The watermelon isn’t the only climber around.  Ziggy climbed up and over the wall between the baby bunnies and the three adult REWs.  So, Ziggy was visiting with her aunties, Dolce, Petunia & Suzie.

The rest of the ones who weren’t climbing over to visit with the Aunties had ti leaves to munch on for awhile.  Hopefully Ziggy will decide to stay on the side with ti leaves.

Now it’s African Violet Time!

box of African violets packed for shipment

So my friend got three boxes packed just like this.  The plants that you can see the leaves of are standard African violets.  Each one is a small plant and each one is different.  The white packages have semi-miniature to full miniature plants in them.  He got three boxes like this!  Over 100 different African violets!

So, of course he drops by to open the boxes at my house and it took hours to unpack them all.  However, occasionally there would be a leaf which had broken off or had a bent stem.  So those leaves were potted up and will hopefully sprout a new plant.

Aftrican violet leaves being started

Mine!  If they all sprout a new plant I have no idea where they will all go.  Maybe outside somewhere in the shade.  African violets can grow outside since we’re in Hawaii as long as they don’t get sun burnt or eaten by the chickens.   All of these leaves are from the standard sized African violets.

small leaves being started

These nine leaves are either ‘semi-miniature’ or ‘miniature’ African violets.  Some of them are fully grown and flowering in a two in pot and their leaves don’t go over the edge of the pot.  Way too tiny, but really cute.  The tiny leaf in the middle with the white edges is from a miniature African violet called “Bunny Hop”.

tiny pink African violet

Isn’t that just the cutest thing?  It’s the one called ‘Bunny Hop’.  That’s a two inch Dixie cup that it is planted in.  The leaf being started from this plant is in a small terrarium.  That may increase the odds of it surviving.  These aren’t my plants, I just got some leaves from some of them.  He got them from a place called ‘VioletBarn’, I’m sure there’s an online link somewhere if you need African violets, too.  https://www.violetbarn.com/    Aha!  Thought there would be one.

So we will see how many of these sprout into new plants.  If they all sprout, then we will have to find a place to put them all, but one thing at a time.

close up of black bunny showing fiber quality

I don’t know if your screen is big enough, but can you see the utterly soft fiber on that bunny?  I’m pretty sure that’s Ziggy and the undercoat is the really soft fiber that we harvest to make into Hula Bunny yarn.   Ziggy is going to make fiber for ‘Moonlit Dance’ color.

Little black bunny eating grass to make into fiber

Ha!  Those gourmet folks are always enthusing about grass fed beef.  What do they know?  We’ve got grass fed yarn, that’s gotta be better, don’tcha think?

Here’s our Grass Fed Yarn video

 

 

 

Gargoyle Bunny

Dunno as if Zeus thinks it’s near Halloween or what, but he’s been practicing his gargoyle moves.

white bunny imitating a gargoyle

He was right up on the front edge of the nest box just about falling off.  Dunno as if fluffy and white quite goes along with the whole gargoyle theme, but he’s just a beginning fashionista and still needs to work on a few details.

Zelda was trying out the gargoyle thing too, but nowhere near as convincingly as Zeus.

black bunny trying to be a gargoyle

She just doesn’t have the whole gargoyle thing figured out yet.

Other than fuzzy bunnies, there’s been fuzzy scarves being knit.  I’ve started writing out the pattern for it since it may turn out well enough to be knit by other folks perhaps.

detail of a knitted scarf

This is the front side of the scarf.  It’s being knit out of Hula Bunny’s ‘Beach Bunny’ color of yarn.  It’s mostly ‘Old Shale’ or ‘Old Shell’ pattern which is sometimes erroneously called feather-n-fan.  This is NOT feather and fan, it is Old Shell.  Which is sometimes called ‘Old Shale’ because of the accent from when it’s spoken.  So, now that we have that clarified, here’s the back of it.

back side detail f scarf

This is the back and because the Hula Bunny yarn gets so soft and fuzzy, a lot of the fine details in a pattern will get lost in the fluff.  Which is why a big broad pattern is best with Hula Bunny yarn.

If it were made with an unmodified Old Shell pattern, the back of the scarf would sort of have an overall pebbly texture and no real interest, IMHO.  The vertical stripes were added in to make the back nice to look at, too.

At the moment, it’s only half knit since it’s only about three feet long.  I’m thinking maybe six or seven feet would be the nicest length.

Not that we need a scarf in the middle of June, but I have to start knitting now so there will be things ready for folks in the fall and winter.  More bunny haircuts tomorrow!  The bunnies have to help or all kinds of folks will be missing out on toasty ears, necks and noses come next winter.

Grapefruit tree oopsie!

grapefruit tree taken out with moneytree

Ooops!  The roots of the grapefruit tree were all tangled with the moneytree being taken out next door.  When one fell over they both went.  Oh wellos!  Guess we will have to get a new grapefruit tree.  Maybe the next one can be a ruby red grapefruit tree.  I like those much better than the white grapefruits.

last grapefruit and first beans

So this is our last grapefruit, but we did pick the first beans today from the Mother Stallard vines.  They are producing about a week before the other bean vine.

We’ve been eating the lettuce and beet greens for over a week now, too.  The little garden is going well even if excavators got the grapefruits.

The Power of Stacked Concrete Blocks

Well, we’ve been eating salad now for a few weeks and I don’t think all the garden construction pictures were ever assembled in a tidy manner.  There’s been some interest in it on an online garden forum so I thought I’d put the pictures here, too.

This is the fifth stacked concrete block garden so far.  The first three were on flat land and the same height all around.  The fourth is just off the side of this newest one, although I planted too many ‘permanent’ plants there (grapes, cotton, papaya, mulberry) so it is too full to plant lettuce and salad greens.

This newest garden is not only a garden, but also a terrace to hold back the hillside.  I’m planning to make another garden behind this one to continue terracing up the hillside.  Perhaps for that one, a much longer but narrower one which wouldn’t be accessible from the back.  We’ll see when it gets built what it ends up looking like.

 

This is the beginning picture with the problem hillside.  It’s too steep to mow very easily and we have things growing 24/7 around here so it is a continual problem.  Turning it into small terraces will hopefully make a problem into a benefit.

This new salad garden is very close to the kitchen door, so that will be handy for greens and herbs.  In the picture, the digging has already started a little bit.

I should have taken more pictures at this stage, but we were busy digging in the dirt and hauling concrete blocks around.  We were using whatever blocks we had laying about, it’d be easier with all the same size blocks.

When choosing the final size of your garden,  layout the first layer of blocks where you’d like your new garden.  That will give you an idea of how big it will be.  Then stack up a column of blocks as high as you’re planning on building the sides.  Reach into to the middle of the garden area over the column to see how easy it will be to garden in the middle.  It’s easy enough at this point to make the garden a half block narrower or wider depending on how far you can reach.  Since it’s accessed from the front and the back, you can make it as long as you like.

When building multiple gardens, leave a walkway wide enough after the plants have reached their mature size to still fit through between the gardens.  I had one set of raised beds that were too close together and after the rosemary had gotten large in the garden on one side and the asparagus on the other, there wasn’t much room between them.

At this stage in the picture, we’d dug down to the level of the lowest concrete block and spread weed mat across the bottom to keep weeds from growing up inside.  There’s also weed mat along the sides to keep weeds from growing in from there, too.  Depending on how aggressive your weeds are, you may not need to do this part.  If you’re in a dry area or concerned about anything in the concrete blocks leaching into your soil, then a layer of plastic would be an option there.

Notice the rebar stakes stuck in the blocks.  It would be better if it were every hole but we didn’t have that many of the rebar stakes.  You could also use old pieces f metal pipe, short fence posts, pretty much whatever metal reinforcement you can find.   The wire bunny cage in the middle is being used to screen out miscellaneous roots and rocks from the soil being shoveled back into the garden.

That’s 1/2″ x 1″ screen for the bottom of the cage which is a nice size for screening garden soil.  Being part of a cage, it holds it up nicely, too.  If you don’t happen to have a small animal cage handy, you could make a wood frame and nail the screen to that.  It’s rather a lot of soil, buying screened soil would possibly get expensive.  For this particular garden, it was made with stuff laying around so we didn’t have to go buy anything specific for it.

Well, we did get some new seeds while on vacation.  There’s a seed bank in Petaluma, California which is just an astonishing place.  All heirloom and open pollinated seeds and varieties I’ve never heard of before!  Woot!  I don’t know if you enjoy seeds as souvenirs, but I think they’re great.

view looking out of the seed bank's windows

This was one of the highlights of my vacation in Napa, California.

interior view of the Petaluma seed bank

It used to be an old bank building, now it’s full of seeds.  All of them heirloom and open pollinated so I can grow them and save seeds and continue growing the same varieties.  Having all these seeds and nowhere to plant them had been a driving factor in building the new garden.  Okay, back to the garden now!

garden helper co-opted with a bribe of new seeds

All those new varieties of seeds were useful in bribing our local youth to help shift soil and blocks around.  We added in some bunny manure from the bunnies we have here along with the bribe of seeds so he was enthusiastic in helping.  A bit disrespectful sticking his tongue out at the camera, though.  Ah, youth these days, eh?  It’s so hard to get good help, too.   (insert grins and snickers here)

pile of soil behind garden being built

It was rather a lot of soil to move around, the pile there is what was dug out of the area to start with and still needs to be moved back into the raised bed area.  It was a lot of moving of soil.  Fortunately, once it’s built, it doesn’t need that level of effort again.

almost filled new raised bed garden

It doesn’t look all that much different from the previous picture, but it was hours of work to screen and fill.  These gardens have more soil in them than you’d expect.

I’d thought about lining the top row with solid flat concrete blocks, but didn’t have enough of them and decided to plant small plants in the concrete block holes instead.  Small low herbs like thyme will go well there.

At this point when the added soil was several inches down from the top, we started adding in the best soil as well as the amendments.   We have acidic soil, so crushed oyster shell was added.  We have really high rainfall which washes out the nutrients, so we added bio-char (crushed charcoal) to trap and hold the nutrients for the plant roots to find.  There’s also a lot of bunny manure added.  We have a whole herd of English angora bunnies who are very interested in garden greens so they do their part to help.

Planted five types of lettuce only three showed up
Missing two lettuces

All the little round things at the top of the soil is bunny manure.  It is a ‘cold’ manure and doesn’t need to be composted although by the time the greens are big enough to harvest it will have broken down quite a bit.

picture of a raised bed garden
New garden April 22nd, 2017

This is the garden after it’s been seeded and we put the little fence around it to keep the chickens out.  At least, we thought it’d keep the chickens out.  One still got in and scratched things around and ate a lot of the hulless oats we’d planted.  So now we have a fence across the front, too.  I may make one big fence panel to make it easier to put the fence up and down.  Or build a fence about six inches shorter so it can be gardened over easier.  I can reach and weed the front several feet but can’t reach the middle with the fence up.

That picture was taken on April 22nd, just after putting in the new seeds from the seed bank and a thyme plant at the front and Joey’s Tomato at the back.  The same person who gave me the Bleak Hall Sea Island White cotton seedlings also gave me what he swears is the world’s best tomato.  He had been growing it for ages so it’s acclimatized to the islands, but he was down to only six seeds so I’m growing it out for him and will hopefully get some new seed.

picture of tomato seedling

Interesting leaf shape and he says it’s an indeterminate variety so we should continue to get a lot of tomatoes from it once it starts.  I put it in the back corner so it can grow huge and escape out the side.

The other little sprig of green in the beginning garden is a small thyme plant.

the new garden at six weeks later

This is the garden about six weeks later.  As usual, I put in too much seed.  The lettuce still needs some severe thinning and the beans are at war with the tomato.  The ‘mater will last longer, though, so in a couple months the beans will die off and the ‘mater will still be there.  The beans provide nitrogen for the growth stage of the tomato.  They provide beans, too.

growing beans

These are ‘Good Mother Stallard’ soup beans, I should mark the first pods to be saved for seed later.  With things like beans that I want to make pods early on, I’ll save the first seeds.  With lettuces, which I want to take awhile before bolting, I’ll save the last seeds.

I should take another picture from the same angle as the first, I suppose.  Just to show what six weeks and a small excavator can do.

six weeks later