I'm going to use this post to address some questions a reader has asked. I think the questions are good ones and everybody can benefit from them. Here's the comment with the questions...
"For the growing plants indoors, my husband and I would like start our own seeds this year. We tried to last year, but they got moldy and were very spindly. We just planted them in peat moss and had them on the kitchen table. What would you suggest for a better seed starting medium and lighting setup? I'd like to have a set of metal or wood shelves with lights on each tier. Would that be feasible?
Also, I'm interested in raised beds. They seem to eliminate a lot of work in the end, but we think they might be a lot of up front expense and work. The up front expense is the main problem :) Any suggestions for how to make them cheaply?
One last question! I've been interested in rabbits for years. Right now we have chickens for meat (and I love not having to rely on the store for that!) but we're still considering rabbits. My main hesitation is the dressed weight. I've heard that the dressed weight is around 2 and a half pounds, which seems rather small. How many rabbits do you fix for a meal? If it takes a couple of rabbits per meal instead of one chicken per meal, it seems the extra butchering would be a pain, but do you find the benefits outweigh the extra time involved in butchering? "
One question at a time, I'm going to start with the indoor growing one. The moldy seeds are a normal side effect of temperature changes. It's a draft that causes them to mold. Temperature fluctuations to below 75 degrees. For me it's leaky, poor quality windows. They are double paned and about 10 years old, the ones that flip out for cleaning and they are junk. Even with the seams duct taped, they still are not good enough to keep my seeds from molding. Peat pellets are not the problem, I use jiffy peat pellets every year. I bought a huge pile of them several years ago at the end of the spring sell out at walmart. Even peat pellets using the ziploc bag method will mold if the temperature changes too much.
Now for the spindly. They get that way, especially tomatoes, from lack of direct sunlight. Even in the southern facing windows, you'll still suffer from spindly plants. A simple fluorescent shop light hung above them will help. Hang it high enough to compensate for growth, 18" to 24" or so, mine are roughly 36". Fish tank bulbs are cheap and work well if you can't find UV bulbs. Yes, shelves are feasible, you can use anything you want to, as long as there's enough space to allow room between the lamps and the plants.
Now to the raised beds. Anything will do, any scraps you can get your hands on will work. I set up raised beds for my neighbors with old railroad ties they had laying around. Her garden looked almost as good as mine did this year! Landscape timbers, old fence boards, whatever you can pick up will work. They don't have to be pretty to work, just hold some dirt. Even concrete blocks can be useful. The big deal with raised beds is how great they drain and how easy they are to maintain. so, anything you can come up with that will hold dirt and allow good drainage is going to do the trick.
Now to the rabbits. I raise a mixed breed hutch here, checkered giants crossed with new zealands and californians. I butcher mine out around 4 months old and 2 rabbits makes a nice meal. Mine butcher out around 3lbs or so. Rabbit bone is very light and almost fragile in comparison to chicken. From the whack to the pot takes me less than 10 minutes. Rabbits are extremely easy to raise and even easier to butcher. Basically you whack em, hang em on a couple nails in a barn post, slit and yank. I've done them enough that I can yank a hide almost in one shot now. Cut the head and feet off and into the bucket. Quick and easy. There's subtle differences in the texture of rabbit plus less fat and way more protein than chicken. Also there's the benefit of the rabbit berries...
Meghan, I hope this post gives you the answers you needed, thanks for the questions!