We decideded to raise a few rabbits. My wife looked into how to raise them and which breeds were best for resale and for meat production. It seemed like a feasible way to raise quality meat quickly. We decided on the New Zealand and Lion head breeds though initially we were taking in any free rabbits that were a larger size.

We ended up with 7 rabbits very quickly. After some more research we were able to decide which rabbits to breed. We gave some of the lesser desired breeds away to other folks through the Facebook Backyard Meat Rabbits group. So with 7 rabbits, 5 of them being does, we were going to need a real rabbit hutch. I had some pallets stored for a large barn I am planning to build soon so I borrowed from that pile and bought two sheets of plywood and a few 2×3’s, and still had some leftover metal roofing. Now we needed cages.IMG_20151222_161952725(1)

After shopping around, it seemed that the most affordable setup was the Dumor stackable rabbit cage starter kit. We wanted them to be stackable so that we could make the most of our space. After we purchased them, I began to assemble them….then I saw there were no instructions on how to stack them and the frames had no real way of stacking! I looked all over the internet for some sort of instructions or video or even a better picture….NOTHING!

IMG_20151124_122639587_HDRMy handy neighbor came over to assess the situation with me and we came up with a plan to modify the cages so they would stack. First, we came to the conclusion we needed some sort of dowel or stick to fit inside the metal frame tubing so that the framing on the top cage would fit over the same dowel snugly so that the cages would stack firmly.IMG_20151124_122651955_HDR

My neighbor had some small pieces of oak trim laying around. He cut them into 3 inch strips and planed/sanded them down to the right thickness. Then we nailed a small trim nail through the center of the wood strips. I took them over to the cages and tapped them into the top of each frame tube of the bottom cages. Then I placed the top cage over and fit each corner frame tube down over the rest of the oak strip. It fit very snug and firm. IMG_20151124_122644518

I am happy with the way it came out but VERY dissatisfied with Dumors claim that they are stackable out of the box. Anyone else have any other ideas?IMG_20151203_103206931_HDR

 

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Hello fellow readers!

I have kept my promise and I have built something new with a few pallets. I recently came upon a great source of pallets that are in great shape. They are chemically treated, so they will last quite a while. They were used to haul cardboard so at least I know there aren’t any REALLY toxic chemicals on the wood other than what would be in regular pressure treated lumber.

12122653_10153702124083478_7960561557761858400_nSo anyway, I used about 5 pallets to build this coop. I also have a gracious neighbor who gave me two landscaping timbers to use as bottom rails. I mounted the bottom frame on cinder blocks and field stone.

I then bought some hardware cloth and stapled it across the bottom so that the chicken12115535_10153702124208478_6588436197097495638_n manure would fall right to the ground. I made sort of a lean-to roof out of 2X8 lumber I bought and left over 12107281_10153702124708478_5713115505629419724_nroofing that I STILL had leftover from my other pallet barn project. I had the roof sloping so that the west wind would not have a damaging effect should any storms come along.12049402_10153705627458478_136994185988808480_n

I cut out a small entrance door for the chickens, and a human door so we can access the inside. I also built one egg laying box. I will add two more as they all fight over getting a chance to use it. I placed it next to an area where I cut down some brush next to an 12140852_10153728626728478_4030075741522017953_novergrown field. I have a small area of that fenced in. Once I get more fencing, I will increase their forage area.

Ever since they started using it, 12074656_10153744043178478_4754959207487340399_nthey have been laying eggs MUCH better than they were. Although where they were prior wasn’t the most ideal for them, they really worked over our new garden area and turned hundreds of bags of leaves into fertilized, rich, soft soil!

12063333_10153744000423478_8519027066427334673_n 12046864_10153743999693478_4268920681116930929_n 12039496_10153743999198478_1620982966691752573_n


Hills Creek Lake

Hills Creek Lake

It’s that time of year. The leaves are changing color, the days are getting crisper, and the frost is on the pumpkin. This is my favorite time of year. From the late days of September to late November, no other season beats it here in Pennsylvania.

This year has been outstanding for apples. Trees that had never even bore fruit in a generations memory, were loaded with apples, or pears. We have a few trees on the hill beside our house that I knew were some sort of fruit tree but being that I am not an avid botanist, I was not sure what kind they were. They had never bore fruit to my memory. This year they were loaded with pears! I was so excited that I grabbed one and took a big bite……BLECH! They were very wild pears, bitter, and leaving a “dry mouth” feeling. But in any case, my neighbors apple trees which we usually pick from were loaded down with delicious apples.

Family picking apples

Family picking apples

We usually make applesauce with our neighbors apples. They make the BEST applesauce. Dont ask me what kind they are because I don’t know. They are yellowish green, with a tinge of pink in the skin. This year I was interested in making apple cider as well as applesauce since there was such an abundance. I began looking into what was involved in the whole process. I figured that it couldn’t be any more difficult than the Maple Syrup we make. So I began researching. I found many examples of cider presses,  both homemade and some professionally made. It was clear that I didn’t have the time to make one, nor the money to buy one ($500+ for a good one).

Interestingly enough, that same day I came across a facebook post of one of my friends using a cider press with a youth group. I sent him a message asking where he got the cider press and he told me that a mutual friend of ours had built one and that he lent it to the youth group to use as an activity. So I contacted our friend DJ and scheduled a time that we could bring our apples over one evening.

DJ making the mash

DJ making the mash

He has children of similar ages to ours so it was a great time together. When we arrived we unloaded the apples and he showed us how the whole process works. We had a table where we had the apples sitting in a cold water bath, just as a rinsing method. Then we chopped the apples in half and took them by 5 gallon bucket full to a sink he had attached to some pallets and attached a garbage disposal to the sink. The apples get shoved through the disposal which turns them into a mash. The mash is then poured into a cloth net material that is draped over a

Homemade cider press with empty frame

Homemade cider press with empty frame

hollow frame on the press table. The extra netting is folded over the mash that is in the frame, the frame is removed and a wood lattice, made of slats of oak screwed together with 1/4′ spaces between slats, is placed on top of the netted mash. The frame is then placed on top of the slats for another layer of netted mash. This is done until about 3-4 layers are stacked. Then a car jack is mounted to the top of the press and you start expanding the jack as it presses down on a few blocks of wood that are placed on the top layer of the stack.

Pressing stack

Pressing stack

The press table has a 2-3″ high rim around the perimeter with a notch cut out in the front to allow the juice to pour out, where we placed a 5 gallon bucket underneath to catch the juice. On top of the bucket there is a pillow-case-type cloth rubberbanded over the top to filter out any finer unwanted dirt or pulp. The filter also helps if you’re doing this during the day and yellow jackets start wanting some too. My youngest hung outside with me and my friend DJ in the cold. He was a trooper. He also got to enjoy a drink of cider as it flowed out from the pulp, you should have seen his smile!

Out of about 5 bushels of apples we got about 11.5 gallons of cider….16 oz of which I am drinking as I write this post =). YUM!

close up of stack

close up of stack

Fresh juice!

Fresh juice!


It’s been a while since I posted updated pictures of our Pallet Barn. We have since poured a concrete floor and set up the dividing wall for the goat area. Pouring the concrete was a learning experience. The floor was too large to have any kind of way to scree it level and I did not have a large float so I did it by hand. So with the help of my brother nephew it turned out ok…not perfect, but ok. I am satisfied with it.

Concrete floor (4.5 yds)

Concrete floor (4.5 yds)

I also made use of more pallets for the goat area. The only new material I purchased for this was the wire mesh and the hardware for the gate.

Divider for goat area.

Divider for goat area.


Lifting a truss.

Setting a truss.

Fir strip for setting trusses and for nailers for the metal roofing.

Shell is done.

Leftover metal roof from my house a few years ago.

half the roof on...just needs trimming.


I had my brother and his kids up for hunting after Thanksgiving. I made use of their time, and also invited my other two brothers and my dad to help. It was a great time working together. Three generations of Schwarz men working together to raise a barn…it was awesome.

Adding the second layer of pallets.

Everyone had an important part in the whole process. I had lots of minds to bounce ideas off of. The younger men (my nephews) were very useful in doing the things that just needed extra hands to be done, holding this or that, bringing lumber where it needed to be, nailing, screwing etc… One of my brothers was helpful in being a “go-getter” when we needed material I hadn’t gotten already and also as an extra set of hands.

Adding interior support and exterior sheathing.

Another brother did some other jobs I wasn’t able to get done with all the busyness, and he helped build the trusses. And the other brother was able to be a sort of  “job foreman”, directing the younger kids what to do, and being able to jump on jobs without much instruction. My Dad was helpful in thinking of different ways to design and build the trusses and where to add extra support of the entire structure.

Taking a break for some laughter and planning.

I thought I would be completely stressed out trying to direct everyone, but it went rather smoothly. Everything seemed to work out. Any hiccups were quickly figured out and never really became a problem. I didn’t get as much done in that day as I had hoped due to some early morning errands that took too long but all in all a lot got accomplished. A big thank you to my family!

Both layers on. Top plate installed. Sheathing and Trusses ready to be installed.

Designing the trusses.

Building the trusses.Lifting trusses in place.Setting the trusses.Fir strip to set trusses and also for nailers for metal roofing.Almost finished the trusses.

Leftover metal roof from my house used.