I wrote this about a month ago for a guest blog at ‘Back At The Ranch: Adventures in Holistic Living.’ (http://backattheranch.net/where-you-goin-city-boy/) They were kind enough to have me, and kind enough to forgive the doggerel I turned in as finished copy. The 550 word limit seemed daunting at first, but after I edited out all of the inflammatory religious statements, I almost got it.
As I am still struggling to function past the second round of Therapeutic Botox, I’ll share this with you until I can get running again.
Where you Goin’, City Boy?
A sardonic look at the homesteading craze.
I am still amazed when I can answer someone’s chicken question. For so long, my chicken madness was answered with, “Chicken? There is more than one type?”
Despite my deep family roots in the Amish Community, as a child, I visited the family farm exactly once. Farming was something that I knew people were doing, but as a child growing up in the Greater Cleveland area, it was an abstract concept at best. It was an odd disconnect, in a farming state in the Midwest, but I always said that Cleveland wasn’t really in Ohio. It is in its own State, somewhere between Confusion and Denial.
In 2010, we watched ‘Food Inc.’ and got the farming bug. Always having an interest in Ornithology, naturally I gravitated toward chickens. Impatient to begin, we crammed for the test, found a spot and got started.
Having been a theater carpenter with the Union, I was quite proud of my coop, ‘Hacienda del Chicken.’ Built of found materials, I understood well the mechanics of getting a wall to stand up on it’s own, even in a microburst, while artfully repurposed Ocotillo branches gave the whole thing a rustic feel.
It was obvious that we had no idea what we were doing. So impatient and dismissive of what should be a simple task, we backed ourselves into a corner more and more as we jumped to correct for unforeseen events and circumstances.
Anyone who says they are raising chicks in the bathtub is headed to a dander nightmare of epic proportions.
”Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.” –Sam Elliot as ‘The Stranger,’ The Big Lembowski (1998)
You eventually have to realize your limitations and account for them. Years later, I still don’t know what I am doing, but I am always happy to answer questions. I was once asked by the city’s Botanical Garden to give a presentation to the society ladies about backyard chickens. I harped so hard on Biosecurity that no one in that room made plans for chickens. I had not meant to be gloom and doom, but to skip things like ‘buckets of poo’ is the disingenuity that results in a world where the Humane Society have added chickens to the adoption roster.
On the other end of the Greenhorn Spectrum is my cousin, and he really is my hero. Not only is he ‘The Most Interesting Man in the World,’ he also leads a life some would call charmed if they didn’t know the work he put into it. Despite his city-rearing handicap, his homestead in the mountains of California looks like the brochure for the coolest summer camp ever: lush gardens, towering trees, daily kayaking.
Though I have been trying for years to get the man on the Food Network, he is satisfied to be ‘just’ a Master Chef. He once made whiskey sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, and I still like to recall them fondly five years later.
Despite this expertise, mishaps will happen. While cooking at home, there was a fire. With reactions honed in years of professional kitchens, my cousin sprang into action with the nearest fire extinguisher and sprayed it liberally until the fire was out.
(* Note to Manufacturers: Bear Mace looks a lot like a Fire Extinguisher, and doesn’t put out a fire very well unless you use the whole can.)
(Update!) He’s a good-natured guy and took my ribbing in stride. I can only dream about doing as well as he does, but I didn’t tell him that I was immortalizing his moment of humanity in digital form. He now has three of these, which I imagine will still work better on a bear than bear mace works on a fire.