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Motor City Homestead » 2008 » April

Archive for April, 2008

Planting trees

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

We’ve finally started putting our fruit trees in the ground.  Here’s the basics. 

1.  Dig a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the root ball of the tree

2.  Break up the ground at the bottom of the hole

3.  Fill the hole with compost or rich soil

4.  Place tree in hole.  Make sure the base of the tree is right at the finished ground level.  Too deep or too shallow will kill the tree.

5.  Fill around tree with more compost or rich soil.  Don’t just use dirt.  The tree needs as much nutrition as possible if it’s going to get established

6.  Mulch the top of the hole, and form a donut shape of soil / mulch around the base of the tree.  This basin will catch water and send it towards the roots.

7.  Stake the tree to keep it from tipping over in wind or under heavy snow 

8.  Water the tree at a steady drip for 30 - 60 minutes every day.

9.  Marvel at the following diagram.

 tree diagram

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.

My wife is a saint

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

We had a second litter of bunnies on Thursday, and here at day three they are doing great.  That brings our total rabbit count up to 12, along with 6 hens, 2 dogs, and 4 kids.  See title.

5 Eggs Yesterday

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Only one hen isn’t laying - our Buff Orpington.  And she eats the most, too.  I’ve been threatening her with the stewpot, but without much success.  Getting eggs every day is so much fun (I know, I’m a dork).  But peaking in the nest box and seeing eggs feels like a little bit of magic every morning.  And the kids beg to check for eggs in the morning.

The other thing I’ve noticed about eggs every morning, is that it changes they way I think about food.  Traditionally, we shop for groceries once a week.  On that day, the cupboards and fridge are bursting with food, and by the end of the week, all that’s left is a scrap of bread and some condiments.   So my typical thought is “If we’re getting low on food, we need to conserve / go shopping”  Eggs are totally different.  The number of eggs in the fridge has absolutely nothing to do with how many eggs we actually have.  They are just potential eggs instead of actual.  I still have a brief thought of “uh-oh, we’re almost out of eggs” every day.  Silly city boy.

The Cadet 3

Friday, April 11th, 2008

It’s 3 AM.  I hear the soft thump of footy pajamas coming down the stairs.  Moments later, the bathroom light clicks on, flooding our bedroom across the hall.  There’s a zip, a flush, and then the padding of feet through the living room, up the stairs, and back into bed.  So begins another  day in the life our our toilet, the Cadet 3.  From that moment on, it’s go, go, go, for our little toilet.  A rough calculation puts our A.H.F.P.D. (Average Household Flushes Per Day) in the low 20s - and depending on how much juice is consumed at breakfast, it rapidly climbs higher.

Our old toilets were the 1950s monsters with gigantic tanks and 3.5 gallon flushes to match.  The Cadet 3 has a miniscule tank by comparison - only 1.5 gallons.  And, unless you hold the lever down during the flush, it only sends out about half of that in an average flush.  We probably save 50 gallons of water PER DAY with this awesome toilet.  I can’t take too much credit for this modern marvel.  The reason we settled on the Cadet 3 was because it was the only model that would fit in our impossibly tiny bathrooms.  And even then, I had to notch out the door so that it would clear the bowl when it swings open and closed.  Here’s a fancy schmancy diagram.

toilet-diagram.bmp

Still, I’m thrilled with the toilet.  And it all came together when we got our water bill last week.  We averaged $57 per month on water for the first quarter.  We averaged about $90 per month at our last house.  So, combining efficient fixtures like low flow toilets and showerheads with our new PEX plumbing system, we’re saving about $30 per month.  At that rate, we’ll have paid for the whole plumbing system (not fixtures) in 12 months.  I’m stoked, to say the least.

 EDIT:  The toilet diagram isn’t very clear.  I’ll make a better one and post it soon.

EDIT2:  Diagram is fixed.  It’s so life-like, it feels like you could reach out and flush it.

Chickens and Rabbits

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

Our Ameraucanas have started laying.  I’ll be honest, I gasped like a little girl when I saw the blue egg in the nest box on Sunday.  I may have even clasped my hands in front of my mouth.  Not my most macho moment.  But, you can see why.  They are stunning.

Blue eggs

In rabbit news, our first litter of spring is growing like gangbusters, and Mamacita is due next week.  I’m feeling pretty good about it this time around.  She has been desparate to make a nest for the past week or so.  Every time I put hay in her cage, she would carry it to the corner, and start scrabbling wildly in an attempt to make a nest.  I finally relented and put a nest box in, just so she would settle down.  And she has.

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.

Three eggs a day, and some tylenol for the Rhode Island Red

Saturday, April 5th, 2008

Today we got three eggs!!  One of the Rhode Island Reds has been spending a lot of time in the nest box, and today she finally produced an egg.  It was a whopper!!  Here are standard egg sizes, by ounce, for comparison:

Small:  1.5 ounces

Medium:  1.75 ounces

Large:  2 ounces

Extra Large:  2.25 ounces

Jumbo:  2.5 ounces.

Ergo, when a recipe calls for one large egg, it’s asking for 2 ounces of egg.  In the following picture, the first egg is 2.25 ounces (extra large), the middle is 2.7 ounces (jumbo), and

3 eggs

Egg number three is 3.25 ounces!  That’s like extra large jumbo or something.  Off the charts, baby.

Two Eggs a Day

Friday, April 4th, 2008

2 down, 4 to go.

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.