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Motor City Homestead » 2008 » June

Archive for June, 2008

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 =

Sunburn

Canada, Day 3 (guest writer)

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

This post is being guest written by Gabe, age 7.  Here are his thoughts on day three in the great wild north.

Me and Alex got up at 5 o’clock in the morning.  By 6 o’clock we had already fed the rabbits, the geese, and given the baby calf her bottle.  Then, we made some bunnies do the hula dance.  By 8 o’clock we were eating biscuits, sausage, and eggs.  We petted lambs and sheep.  There was a barn in the back field that had blown over.  We needed to take it apart.  First we took out some nails that were holding in metal roof plates.  Then we walked home.  The men stayed and worked.  

Gabe and Alex

There is a legend that the two men that lived in the farmhouse before buried their money somewhere in the woods, under the shed, or they hid it in a bucket of paint.  Me and my friend Alex searched over half the woods trying to find the money. 

 In the woods

By the time we were done with that, we were eating lunch.  My dad wanted to eat roasted grasshoppers.  Kinda gross. But he didn’t get to do it.  By this time it was almost bedtime, so we went in to our tent that we had set up, and went to sleep.  One of their three dogs slept with us. 

Tent

Canada, Day 2

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Lucy was up bright and early on Friday morning.  I think the sun rises earlier up there - because by 5:00AM sunlight was streaming through the windows.  Lucy and Amy were up and about, while I slumbered, blissfully unaware of the legion of mosquitoes munching on every inch of exposed skin.  Amy came in and shook me just before 6:00AM and whispered, “Nate - Stephan is waiting for you downstairs.”  Anybody that is up and waiting (Waiting!) to get started at 6:00AM is the real deal, let me tell you.  So I slogged out of bed and tumbled downstairs.  Stephan said, “Good morning!!”  Way more cheerfully than I was ready for, and followed that up with “We have to cut grass for the cows while it’s still wet.  They eat while we are milking.”  No problem, I thought.  I can cut grass.  Just point me to the mower.  When we got outside, Stephan handed me a scythe - pointed me to a patch of tall grass, and I broke my first sweat at 6:05.

Cutting Grass

I cannot believe that whole fields used to be cut that way.  Who needs the ab-lounger when you can just go out and cut hay for half an hour.  My obliques and lower back were definetly feeling the burn.  My first attempt pretty much just knocked over a huge swatch of grass, but we managed to salvage enough to keep the cows happy.  After that, we let the cows out.  The following picture is also the debut of the promised “huge straw hat” which I love and I don’t care if you all think it looks stupid.

Getting the cows

I’ll post picture of the actual milking another time.  After breakfast, we spent the bulk of the day fencing in a new pasture for the goats, sheep, and cows.  You have to rotate animals around to different pastures so that the grass has time to recover.  Otherwise, they’ll chomp and pound it into a barren mudpit.  It was a hot, sunny day.  But I had a secret weapon.  That’s right.  My hat.  It kept me cool and happy.  And clearly I’m in good company.

Gabe in Hat

Exibit A above, Exibit B below

Alex in Hat

By the end of day one, I was already turning into a real farmer, as evidenced by my rockin’ farmer’s tan.  I had Amy take a picture to document the extraordinary transformation.

Farmer’s Tan

Yeah.  That’s a chainsaw behind me.  We’re men.  Real men.  With tan arms and pasty white torsos.

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.

Map

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.

2008 Season Update

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

The first video post of 2008! We have a lot happening this year: rabbits, chickens, fruit trees, kids everywhere… find out what\’s happening in our 2008 season update.

Video thumbnail. Click to play
Click To Play

Trouble in the orchard

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Our peach tree showed great promise this year - by late spring there were two-dozen tiny peaches forming.  Considering that the “tree” is little more than a 6 foot twig sticking up out of the ground, we were pretty excited.  Enter this bugger.

Apple Maggot Fruit Fly

Amy and I both saw him (or something very similar) on the tree last week, along with lots of damage to the marble sized peaches.  They all had oozing puncture wounds.  I was hoping they would just recover - but now most of them are turning brown and mushy.  There seems to be a couple that may survive, but our dreams of peaches in 2008 are rapidly fading.  If anyone knows what we can do (this year, or in the future) advice would be greatly appreciated.

 I’m not a huge fan of pesticides, and I wouldn’t really know when to spray either.  This article makes it sound like timing is important.  So organic options are even better.  Still, I’m imagining that the reality of growing fruit in Michigan includes some sort of chemical intervention.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

 FOLLOW UP:  Upon further research, the apple maggot fruit fly does not seem a likely candidate for our infestation.  They don’t usually show up until July.  And even with the unseasonably warm week or two we’ve had, it doesn’t seem probable.  So - two part question.  Does anybody know what is eating our peaches (oozing puncture wound, followed by brown and mushy flesh at the site of the puncture) and what can I do about them? 

Moral Support

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

I butchered a litter of rabbits yesterday.  It went about as expected.  I get better and better at the physical aspect of butchering every time - but it is, psychologically, still very difficult.  Thankfully my brother Seth, and a friend of ours, Andre, were there to help.  Doing an unpleasant job is always easier when there is help.  And not just in the misery-loves-company way.  So . . . thanks, guys.

In other, not emotionally wrenching news, we decided to tan the hides this time around.  The rabbits are a bit young for tanning, but we’re going to try it anyways.  Right now the hides are soaking.  I’ll post updates over the next couple weeks at different steps in the process.  We also saved the livers and kidneys to add to pork sausage, and fed the heart and lungs to the chickens.  So we used just about every piece of the rabbit except the intestines, head, and feet.  That feels pretty good - and it makes for a lot less to clean up.