Monday, April 28, 2014

My Basement's Vegetarian Garbage Disposal

So I have a bunny.  His name is Dusty Bunny (haha--you're supposed to laugh)!  He lives in my basement because we have a "room" down there without carpet, just concrete that I turned into as we call "Dusty's Barber Shop."  He has free roam of the room.  I litter box trained him, so don't think he's peeing and pooping all over the place because he is not--he's really quite clean.  He is furry though--he is a lionhead breed of rabbit.

My last post was about being resourceful, and I realized I have been using him as a way to be resourceful and I am being resourceful with how I care for him.  A rabbits diet should be about 10-15% veggies.  I frequently have leftover veggies.  If my rabbit-safe lettuce* is a little brown or soon to not be fresh anymore, I give it to Dusty Bunny.  The tops of my carrots, the stems of my broccoli and cauliflower, the extras of my celery, and I'm sure so much more, I give to him and he gobbles it up all day long.

The main portion of a rabbits diet is 80% hay.  This can also be expensive depending on where you shop.  In my former employment position, I couldn't tell you this secret, but now that I'm not in my former position, I can!  Hay is rather expensive I've found at most stores.  My father in-law bales hay every year a few times a year (I think).  So he donated a bale of hay to my rabbit's cause.  But you could easily purchase a bale of hay for $5 from a farmer which would amount to a savings of at least $100 if you're buying the large sized package of timothy hay at your local pet store--way more if you're buying the smaller sized package.  Timothy hay would be your best option.  My rabbit is a young rabbit, so he's getting alfalfa hay which is recommended for rabbits 6 months and under.

Another way I am resourceful in regards to his care is by not using bedding.  To begin with, when I got him, he came with some bedding, but I realized that even if I had wanted to, it would be so annoying to pluck all of those wood shavings out of his fur every day.  I have his litter box inside of the cage he came with in a corner in his room downstairs.  This way if he misses and pees or poops outside of his litter box, it's not on the floor.  I line the cage with B&W newspaper currently, but if I run out of that, I will line it with some scrap fleece that I have which can easily be washed.  Since I cloth diaper, that's no big deal to me, but I guess it could be to the average person.  I put some wood pellets in his litter box that work really well at keeping the ammonia smell away.  I got a 40 pound bag of them for $5 at Farm & Fleet.

Finally, he creates fertilizer on a daily basis.  Our yard basically looks like the picture above, but isn't actually my yard sorry.  It has a few weeds growing here & there, but no grass.  We are renting our house so we don't want to put too much money in the house, but we also want to enjoy the yard and not get covered in mud and dirt every time we take the dog out.  So we planted some grass seed, no fertilizer.  Instead, we opted to spread rabbit poop all over.  I'll just be real with you--we're country folk living in town and we do what we want so you can judge us, but we won't care.  Rabbit pellets are actually excellent fertilizer, and I did a little research (other than my degree in animal science from the #2 agricultural college in the country).  Consider it "organic" fertilizer, because that's really what it is!  It doesn't need to be composted in order to be used because it is a "cold" manure.  If you think about it, a rabbit, as I said previously, consumes 80% of its diet in the form of hay.  Even the small portion of its diet that is pellets is mostly made of hay.  The rest is vegetables.  Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You plant the seed, and it uses nutrients from the soil to grow. The rabbit eats the hay & veggies, and the rabbit puts back those nutrients that the plant used to grow in the first place by pooping as it hops.  If I were to just throw away his poop like any normal person, I'd be wasting a lot!  So spreading his poop around as fertilizer is just the natural thing to do, right?  It's even easier  to do because he is litter box trained so I just sift the poop out & throw it outside!  I can even toss the extra hay from his litter box on the yard to help keep the mud down until the grass starts growing.

Now something that I don't do, but many people do, is you can use rabbits for meat.  Obviously Dusty is a little too small and a lot too fluffy for raising for meat, but you can easily get a couple females and a male bunny and they'd gladly supply you with lots of babies to grow and consume.  Maybe one day I could do that, but right now I don't have the heart for it.  I do have the knowledge of how to go about doing it, and since I took a slaughtering class in college, I could probably figure out how to best do that as well.

So there you have it!  My vegetarian garbage disposal that makes fertilizer!

*not all lettuces are created equal.  Do your research to determine if it is good or bad for your bun bun.

$1 Chicken DinnerS

You see those delicious looking chickens rotating around at Walmart becoming a splendidly roasted, seasoned dinner all the time.  Growing up, we never got them, and quite honestly, I'm not sure why.  For just under $5, you have the hardest part of the meal complete!  It's just a little bit more than you would pay to buy the 3 lb chicken raw and cook it yourself, so to me, it is worth it just because of the fact that you don't have to use your gas/electricity all day to cook it and risk burning it (or in my case, burning yourself).  But I think I managed to about get my money back by buying one of those chickens, and I was so excited about it that I decided to share it with you today.

Go pick the best looking, 3 lb roasted chicken in whatever flavor you desire.  I can't remember what ours was, but we did notice it was quite salty--a treat for me and a couple extra glasses of water for my husband.  You can either cook your sides like mashed potatoes and carrots yourself, or buy them.  Cooking your carrots yourself will actually add to what you're going to do with the remains of your chicken.

Now we are only a 2 people eating solid food family so we had about half of the chicken left over.  If you're a bigger family, you might want to consider purchasing 2 chickens or you'll just have less leftovers.  With the left over chicken, I made chicken salad and chicken tacos.  Save it in your fridge, and shred it the next day.  For the salad, just add it to your usual salad.  The chicken tacos are just a little bit more work, but it's already cooked so it saves you so much time!  Then you can either use a package of taco seasoning or since I didn't have that in my pantry I used this recipe from, add about 1/2 cup of water and heat on the stove.  I already had corn tortillas in the fridge that I heated in the microwave for a few seconds for some low-fat soft taco shells.  It was delicious!

Don't throw away your carcass either, because this is where you make your money back (if you don't consider the labor you save buying it pre-made and using it as leftovers as savings already).  You can make delicious chicken stock with your carcass to freeze for later.  I found this really good recipe at Closet Cooking for Homemade Chicken Stock.  I was able to use some onions and carrots that needed to be used up.  I didn't have any celery, so I just left that out, but it's not like a little celery is going to ruin it.  I was able to make enough chicken stock to equate to about $4 worth of what you would have paid at the grocery store.  Which in my mind means, I only paid $1 for my chicken dinnerS for two people!  I ladled my stock into freezer bags in a mix of 1 and 2 cup portions, laid them flat in my freezer, and went on with my day.

Another thing which I can't actually recommend doing, but I did anyway is I tossed some of the leftover bones to the dog after I had made my chicken stock.  Technically, you aren't supposed to feed dogs chicken bones because they may splinter causing them to choke, but I obviously am a horrible dog-mother and chose to ignore that fact.  For those of you concerned, she lived to beg for more chicken bones.  I also gave her the leftover carrots from the stock since you were supposed to discard them anyway, and carrots are in fact good for dogs.  She was over the moon with chicken flavored carrots!  Saving money on dog treats means I had even more savings.  My chicken was free.  :)

If you just take a look at some of your leftovers, you really can go a long way with them.  Try to get creative.  Green onions that are partially leftover with the roots still can be placed in a cup of water to grow more green onions.  They produce quite a bit more and then they start to fade and that is when you take them out, chop them up and put them in your freezer.  They'll be waiting for you the next time you need them, and are just about as good as the fresh ones.  Your leftover carrot tops, onions, and celery can be used for making the chicken stock in this recipe--just put them in your freezer until you're ready for them.  Bread that is nearing its use by date can be placed in the freezer and only takes a few seconds per slice to thaw out.  You can buy discounted "day old" bread at most grocery stores and put it in the freezer for later.  There are so many ways to save if you just give it a shot.