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Motor City Homestead » Uncategorized

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Small town problems, big city solutions

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

So, we’ve got a new addition to the MCH.  Unfortunately, he only comes around at night, steals from the garden and chews holes in our garage siding.  It’s a rat.  And he’s a smart one.  After Gabe and Robbie proved themselves as stellar pest control officers last week, I put them on the case, with a $10 reward for catching the rodent.  Sadly, great enthusiasm and lots of running and yelling proved insufficient in this latest pest control venture.  Not only did we not see the rat, but he managed to spring all the rat traps we set over the course of a week, and eat all the bait.  With the traditional spring traps a failure, we moved on to glue traps.  They are absolutely my least favorite means of pest control, because once the animal is caught, it still needs to be killed.  That’s unpleasant.  My brother Chad recommends the “dip of death” with a youtube video demonstration, but I’ll spare you (more on that later).  For two days the glue traps proved they were only good for catching legions of ants.  Then, this morning I noticed one of the glue traps was askew, and something was definetly caught in it.  Unfortunately, it was a mouse, not the rat.  And, even more unfortunately, I had to give it the dip of death myself.  I used a bucket of water, Chad uses the toilet, and the whole thing is over in about 30 seconds. 

Clearly, the rat is attracted to the food in the chicken coop.  The rabbits are messy eaters, so they spray their pellets on the ground at night.  The chickens get table scraps, so there is often a watermelon rind or something on the ground that a rat would consider good eating. 

Now, on a real farm, I’d have an old tomcat that lived in the barn, a rat snake or two living in the corn crib, and we’d have no rat problems at all.  But, here in the city, I can’t just let a cat run free around the neighborhood.  So, we’re stuck with traps, and so far our own “Templeton” has proven impossible to catch.  Home Depot sells some live traps that I’m tempted to try - I’ll let you know how it goes. 

We’ve done lots of gathering, now let’s do some hunting.

Friday, August 29th, 2008

MCH has spent most of our time focusing on the gathering aspect of survival.  Even the chickens and rabbits are essentially gathered / farmed, instead of hunted.  All that changed this afternoon.  Staying with us this week is an extraordinary young man named Robbie, who has a gift for catching squirrels.  As far as I can tell, it mostly takes the combination of stupid squirrels and lots of patience.  The basic set up requires a cage, a long rope tied to the cage door, and some bait.  Then, the hunter (Gabe and Robbie, in this case) hides behind a tree or garage.  When an unsuspecting squirrel ventures into the cage, the rope is yanked, the door swings shut, and the squirrel is trapped.  Impossible, you say?  Think again.


My favorite part is the obviously panicked squirrel clinging to the side of the cage.  The kids were pretty disappointed when I told them we weren’t going to skin and eat the squirrel.  Maybe next time.

Farmer’s tan, Part 2

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I’ve already documented my transformation into a bonafide farmer during my short stay in Canada - mainly through a farmer’s tan.  I got a second tan line while working on dismantling a barn at the back of the property.  Here’s the tan line equation:

(long shirt + low riding pants) x bending over =


Canada, Day 1

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

I was hoping, in the true sense of a blog, to post updates of our days in Canada as they happened.  But, since that didn’t happen, I’ll post them as a retrospective.  Our plan was to leave at 2AM on Thursday morning, so that half the trip would be under our belts before the kids woke up.  Technical genuis that I am, I set our alarm for 1:45PM instead of AM.  So I woke up at 3:30 in one of those “what the heck time is it” fogs.  We were on the road by 4AM, and after 11 hours in the car, arrived at our destination.  Can I just say that our kids do so well in the car, I’m tempted to take the whole family cross country for a couple of years.  The baby naps better, Gabe and Eva get along, and Levi is surprisingly calm when strapped to a chair.

We arrived at the farm around 3PM. 

 Farm Landscape

Some basic introductions were made, and then Gave and Eva ran off with the other kids.  We caught up with them for a tour of the farm.  If I remember correctly, they have 6 cows, 2 calves, sheep, goats, geese, 20 chickens, 150 chicks, geese, rabbits, 3 dogs, 4 cats, and I think they were going to get pigs in the next week or so.  The whole gang of kids (they have 4 as well) took off again to play.  That was pretty much the last time I saw them except for meal times.  Stephan and I milked the cows, we all sat down for a mildly chaotic 8-kid dinner, and then Stephan and I shoveled manure until dark. 

As Amy and I got in to bed we stopped and realized that when the frogs stopped croaking, it was completely silent.  No traffic noise in the background, no lawnmowers, no TV noise . . . nothing.  It was actually hard to sleep at first - but with a long car ride that day, and a belly full of good food, I quickly fell asleep.  Lucy, on the other hand, was another story.  A new location and new bed had her up all night long.  Thankfully, Amy took the brunt of it, and was up and down many times that first night.  But, we eventually all got some sleep in preparation for the next day’s activities. 

Homesteading field trip

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

Tonight we leave on a homesteading adventure, to visit some friends on a farm in Ontario, Canada.  It’s far.  Really far.   Click on the map for a better perspective.


But the kids are stoked, and we’ll drive through the night for most of the trip.  Lots of pictures and posts to follow (though not until we get back).  Amy will have her camera, so expect some high-quality, artsy-fartsy pictures.  And I’ll debut the latest addition to the Motor City Homestead - my gigantic straw hat.  I bet you’re just aching with anticipation.

Trendy Environmentalism, Part 2

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

I wrote a previous post on trendy environmentalism.  Today I was reading CNN Mondey, and came across this article.  It basically states that support for organic products is slipping - largely because people are skeptical that organic actually means anything anymore, and because it’s so stinking expensive.  And that proves my initial point.  If there’s no underlying value to ’living green’, and instead it’s just a response to savvy marketing and trying to keep up with the current trend, support will eventually wane.  And according to the above article, that’s exactly what is happening.  People jumped on bandwagon without adjusting their core beliefs.  And now that they’d rather save a buck than go organic or go without, the bandwagon is slowly emptying again.  My personal opinion is that in 6 to 12 months, you’ll be hard pressed to find a ‘going green’ magazine or news article.  We’ll be on to something new.

How I justify shopping at Wal-mart

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

I’ve been looking for a good pair of muck boots this year.  It goes along with the larger theme of wearing shoes without laces.  Considering how many times I change shoes every day, I figure I’ve wasted half of my life fiddling with those lousy laces.  Last winter Amy bought me a pair of slippers because our house has zero insulation, and I was immediately hooked.  They slip on and slip off in seconds.  I don’t even need to bend down.  So, I’ve been swapping all of my lace-up shoes with slip ons.  I have slippers for the morning, dress clogs for my 9-5, slip on casual shoes, and now muck boots for chores.  I’m pretty sure when it comes time to teach my kids how to tie their shoes, it’ll have to be mom’s job.  The rabbit does what now?  Around the tree and bakes a cake or something?  I have no idea.

Muck boots eluded me for quite some time.  There are plenty of boots out there, but they  cost anywhere from $75 up to three million for a pair of stupid rubber boots.  I must have been talking about them at work with alarming regularity, because a co-worker mentioned that he had found rubber boots at Wal-mart for $9!!!  The good news is that $9 is about what I was hoping to spend.  The bad news is that they were for sale in hell.

He brought them in - some awesome brown rubber boots with camouflage on the top.  I’m not a huge fan of camouflage, but luckily that also had basic black boots - albeit for $20 instead of $9.  So I made the trip to Wal-mart and bought the pair of boots I’d been looking for.  I figure I’ll spend the $60 I saved constructing our compost system.  That should get me pretty close to break even.  On one hand I’ve supported the exploitation of underpaid workers both at home and abroad, and given money to a corporation with no social or environmental conscience.  On the other hand, I’m saving my lawn clippings.  So I feel pretty good about that.

Trendy Environmentalism

Tuesday, April 1st, 2008

Just got finished talking to a co-worker who informed me that a small flock of chickens made an appearance on “Keeping up with the Kardashians”.  The show follows the adventures of a family of women who are apparently famous for being famous and having enormous breasts(that’s what wikipedia makes it look like anyways).  On the recommedation of a dietician, they bought four chickens for fresh eggs.

To my co-workers surprise (and dismay) it got me started on a rant about trendy environmentalism.  I’ve summarized my rant here for your reading pleasure. 

It seems like every magazine I see has a section, or sometimes the entire issue, devoted to “going green.”  Now, we’re not the greenest family in the world.  We drive two cars, our home is poorly insulated, and we re-heat leftovers in tupperware.  Our thermostat is set at a balmy 69 degrees, we leave too many lights on, and our weekly garbage pile dwarfs our recycling pile.  So this may be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  I’ll let you be the judge.

But here’s my beef.  It’s not that these green articles are bad, it’s just that there’s something missing - and that something strikes me as very, very important.  Very rarely do they convey the notion that reducing your carbon footprint means changing your lifestyle.  There is lots of information on better appliances, electric cars - mainly ways to make your current lifestyle greener.  Again - that certainly has a great deal of value, but it falls short of change.

If the root of self-improvement is not a willingess to alter behavior and lifestyle, inertia will win.  The steady pull of convenience will outweigh any short term sense of accomplishment or inspiration.  And that’s the problem when environmentalism gets trendy.  It becomes a part of our superficial lives - the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the appliances we use - instead of a part of our core values.  Green is a buzzword that moves products, instead of a belief system that drives decisions.

And I guess that’s my fear when the Kardashians buy chickens.  Organic eggs, for example, should be more than an accessory, more than a reality show gimmick.  Do it because you believe in it and because it’s a step closer to being who you want to be, not because it’s cool and Martha Stewart just “greened out” two of her five mansions.  Cool changes.  Next month’s Martha will be about chocolate and kid’s birthday parties.  But what you believe in at the core of yourself will be the same tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.  And that belief will make the world green for you, your kids, and your grandkids.

That’s some motivational sh*t if I do say so myself.

Motor City Homestead Blog

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

Welcome to the Motor City Homestead blog. We’ll soon be adding our videos, photos, and more blog posts, as well as sprucing up the look of the blog. Check back soon for updates and videos.

In the meantime, you can check out all our videos here!