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Motor City Homestead

4% Peach Harvest

August 25th, 2008

We planted a peach tree several years ago, and this year it actually bloomed and started making peaches.  You may recall that early in spring, we had a wasp laying eggs in the peaches.  We lost all but two.  Those two survivors grew into the most beautiful peaches ever.  They were round and red, and looked downright delicious.  They grew right outside our kitchen window, and Amy and I have spent many hours gazing at them in anticipation.  Saturday morning, I looked out at them and thought “Those things are just about ready to eat.  Awesome.”  Saturday after lunch, Elisse came in and said, “Did you pick one of the peaches?  How did it taste?”  Of course, we hadn’t picked a peach.  Some four legged marauder had come by, IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, and pilfered one of our precious peaches!!!  PREPOSTEROUS!!!  My numerous exclamation points don’t even begin to convey the indignity and outrage we expressed while standing in our small kitchen.  I ran outside just praying I would see the squirrel (of course, I’m assuming it was a squirrel) and dispatch him in a most heinous manner.   No squirrel to be seen, so I shouted in impotent rage at the sky.  Not nearly as satisfying as what I had envisioned, but it was all I had.  One peach left.  We picked it immediately, cut it into slices, and shared one peach among seven people.  So our original 25 peaches ended up as just one peach.  Not a very good ratio.  But that peach was unbelievably good.  We all stood around the cutting board in complete agreement.  Best peach ever.

Thanks for helping with the parenting, honey

August 18th, 2008

Mom:  Eva, would you like to tell everyone what we talked about today?

Eva:  Oh, yes!  I learned that daddy is God’s enemy’s lie.

Dad:  Wait, what?!?!

Life with Levi, in a nutshell

August 17th, 2008

We were doing tongue twisters at the dinner table.

 Dad:  Levi, say “Toyboat” five times

Levi:  Toyboat, Toyboat . . . we need to break something!

Windows Madness II

August 12th, 2008

Last weekend we replaced more windows.  This project was even bigger than the first.  Thankfully, I had lots of help.  My neighbor and pastor Jim Pool, my brother Seth, and my Dad all plugged away cheerfully at an insane project.  Once again, we had to reframe a part of the opening since the house had sagged out of square over the years.  But the biggest part of the project by far was the demolition.  The house has gradually accumulated layers of siding over the years, and so, in a fit of “do-it-right-edness” I decided to strip all the layers of siding off, wrap the house, install new windows, and re-apply the vinyl siding.  We were only working on the front of the house, but still had to remove:

- Vinyl siding

- Layer of foam insulation

- Cement board siding

- Tar-coated cardboard

- Original wood siding

- Tar paper

Once all those layers were off, we wrapped the house in tyvek, installed the windows, and now the siding is 75% re-applied.    Pictures of the whole project can be seen here.  Talk about windows madness.  The sequel was at least as good as the original.  They brought back the original cast, had a bigger budget, and the special effects were state of the art.

MCH Humor

August 8th, 2008

A year or two ago, I regularly posted the funny sayings of my kids (7, 4, and 3) on another blog.  By popular demand, and in an effort to post more regularly, I’m adding a humor category to MCH. 

Dad:  Look, Gabe.  The sun is shining, and it’s raining at the same time!

Gabe:  You know what that means, Dad.  (spells) R-A-M-B-O!!

Dad:  Rambo?!?! Where?

The Circle of Life at the MCH

July 25th, 2008

So, big news at the Motor City Homestead.  We had another litter of bunnies on Sunday, but there were only 5, and one of them was stillborn.  I really think that Princess is just getting too old.  She was a couple years old when we got her, and we’ve had her for a year and a half . . . so that puts her at probably 5 or so, which is pretty much the limit for a rabbit to breed.  This will be her last litter, and we’ll save a female from the litter to start breeding in spring.  Not sure what to do with the mama.  That’s a conversation for another time.  For now, she has a couple of months to raise this litter, and then we’ll decide what to do.  Anyone looking for a gigantic, friendly rabbit for a pet?

 In other news, Runt, the flying chicken has passed on to the great chicken coop in the sky.  A few days ago I noticed her standing huddled in the corner of the run instead of running around scratching like a ’normal’ chicken.  She was still eating, just lethargic - so I figured I would just watch her for a day or two.  Well, on Tuesday I went out in the morning and noticed that her crop was GIGANTIC - like the size of a softball.  First thing in the morning, the crop should be empty.  A chicken’s crop is a sack where they store food.  From there, it moves to the gizzard, where it is ground up.

Crop

If the crop gets packed full of food, or obstructed in some way, the chicken’s food and water doesn’t get passed to their digestive system.  In addition, the food stuck in the crop starts to spoil, so that adds bacterial and viral complications as well.

When I squeezed Runt’s crop, it wasn’t hard like a compaction.  It felt like a water balloon.  And sure enough, when I squeezed a little bit more, she started to throw up copious amounts of foul smelling water with bits of food in it.  Not a good sign.  I squeezed everything out of the crop, and squirted vegetable oil down her throat, hoping that it was just simple obstruction and some lube would get everything moving again.  Honestly, I wasn’t too hopeful, because she was pretty weak at that point.  I also gave her water with a little bit of vinegar in it to counteract any bacterial build-up in her crop, and bread soaked in olive oil - again just hoping to get everything moving.

Yesterday morning showed now change.  Her crop was again full of food and water, meaning nothing had moved through in the night.  I repeated the above treatement, and called my dad for any additional ideas.  He said that if the crop wasn’t impacted, there’s the possibility that the obstruction was further down her digestive tract, which is big trouble.  And, big trouble it was.  When I got home from work yesterday, Runt was dead.  My only regret is that I didn’t catch it sooner.  The treatment might have worked if given another day or two - and if it didn’t work, I could have at least put her out of her misery sooner.  Bummer. 

Blacksmithing 101

July 17th, 2008

So, if you’ve visited the homestead lately, you may have noticed several books on blacksmithing laying around.  I started off as just curious, but the more I read, the more I thought - that can’t be too hard.  Granted, it’s not like I’ll ever be a pro, in fact, I probably won’t even be very good.  But to have a working knowledge of it seems like a worthwhile pursuit.  So, I went to Home Depot, bought some metal rod, and set about fashioning something through the ancient art of smithing.  It’s not nearly as glamorous as I imagined it, but it was still fun, and it’s kind of a amazing to form something out of metal.  Pictures will follow, but here’s a basic diagram. 

Butchering Hooks

It’s a tool for skinning rabbits and small game.  Basically, you hang each back foot on one of the hooks for skinning / butchering.  I actually got the idea from one of the blacksmithing books.  I forged the hooks, the horizontal rod that keeps the hooks spread, and the ring at the top that holds the three lengths of chain.  Total cost, about $5.  Total time, 1 hour.  But using it I saved myself an hour butchering our litter of rabbits this weekend, so that seems like a pretty good trade off. 

 DISCLAIMER:  I’m a better artist than blacksmith.  The actual piece looks really crappy.  But it works, and that’s the important thing.

Window Madness

July 11th, 2008

I know it’s been quite a while since my last post.  I’ve been working non-stop replacing windows in our house.  It’s a relatively straightforward procedure, as long as your measurements are right.  Most of mine were right on.  The ones that weren’t ended up being both a blessing and a curse.  I had to replace the three windows in our front dormer.  The opening was placed something like this:

front-windows1.jpg

Only problem was, that once we had the opening totally clear, I realized two things:  First, I had measured the rough opening wrong, and the windows were the wrong size.  Second, I realized that the window opening went right down to the roofline, leaving no room for any sort of window trim, flashing, or waterproofing.  Just enough room to put out a sign that said, “Hey leaks - here’s an opening.  Please destroy our living room ceiling.”  This is where the mismeasure turned in to a blessing.  Since I had measured the windows too narrow, we could (theoretically) scoot them together and up, to create the room at the bottom of the dormer we needed.  Like so:

Reframed windows

My dad and I spent the full fourth of July weekend reframing the opening, but we got it done.  The rain this week resulted in no leaks.  At least not on the work we did.  There’s another leak or two back in the attic that I will have to address at another time.  Awesome.  Here are some photos of the whole procedure.

Removing the old windows

Removing the old windows.   We found 20 or 30 wasps nests in the framing of the dormer.  Some abandoned, some not.

Rough opening

Here you can see how the rough opening is right at the roof line.  We framed the opening higher (both top and bottom) and narrower. 

Re-framed opening

Here is the re-framed opening.  It’s about six inches higher and six inches narrower on each side.  Time for windows.

Installing new windows

Here are the new windows going in.  I’ve since trimmed the out, re-sided the dormer, and iced my legs from the trips up and down ladders all weekend.

Farmer’s tan, Part 2

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)

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