Friday, December 18, 2009

Urban Living Post Questions

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!


  1. we're going to start rabbits this year. I found chicken butchering to be messy at best. lol An indoor plant starter with double shop lights bolted on the shelf above works great.

  2. Thank you so much for the answers to my questions! I can't wait to show your responses to my husband and start planning for next year!

  3. I started out using concrete blocks for beds & still have 3 of them. Blocks are one of the easiest things to scrounge there are. It seems that everyone has a pile of them stacked out behind the garage doing nothing. Cruise the alleys in town and then knock on a few doors and you just might get them for free. Same with commercial sites.

    I've found the regular tubes work just as well as grow lite tubes for seed starting. I've replaced the grow lites I had with regular tubes as they went bad and haven't noticed any big difference. Putting a cheap, clear plastic painters drop sheet over the light and plants also helps hold in some of the heat generated by the lights themselves and blocks drafts. I hang mine from hooks in the ceiling with cheap chain, like you see power cords threaded through on hanging lite fixtures and just raise them up as the plants get bigger.
    I also scrounged an old waterbed heater and put it under the plants (That are in a plywood box I made from scrap to fit the heater size)& that has made a big improvement on not having mold. I think an old heating pad would work for that too, but I'd try to keep the water off it as much as possible.

  4. have you tried chamomile tea to stave off damping off ? I will be trying it this year.

  5. i raised rabbits many years ago and found the following.
    Rig your cages so that you have a long cage separate it into two parts with a piece of wire. Let the dow have her babies on one dside. When they are weaned put them on the other side of the wire so that they can see each other, [the mother and babies]. Feed the babies 1 tbsp of calf replacer a day on TOP of their feed, they love it and will scratch all the food out if you don't.
    I harvested my rabbits at 4 to 6 weeks and they were large by then. Best ones I found were Californians.
    DON'T let cats near your hutches if possible.

  6. Cool post. Concerning raised beds: I've seen plenty of raised beds that are just dirt piled up in a heap. I'm doing this at the moment on a small veggie patch I've got hold of.

    If you do go for building some be wary of split logs rammed into the dirt as slugs love em! I was over at Rainbow Valley Farm ( and they were in the process of removing all their log raised bed boundaries due to this very problem.

    MM where do you make the slit on the rabbit? Down the belly, accross?

    Happy Xmas MM!

  7. Hey Badger! Yah, I've seen some slugs but the chickens and ducks keep em at bay pretty well here.

    I hang my rabbit by the back legs, belly out and slit it down the belly, stem to stern ;)

  8. Ahh, thanks for that info I'll give it a go. Just need to find some rabbits!


Comments always welcome