Farmer Juan Where Have You Been!?

Hello everyone.  I come to you with hat in hand, apologizing for such a long absence.  My life took quite a turn for the bad over the last few months and I’ve had to attend to some health issues.  Unfortunately, it isn’t going all that well.  I have taken a full formal leave of absence from work.  I’ve had some “issues” to deal with that caused 3 doctors to ask me if I could retire and if I could, I should.  You can tell just from that statement what beating organ it pertains to.

So instead of leaving outright I worked to bring on a partner to take over while I was gone.  Between now and at least Labor Day, I will not be doing anything work related except to consult on client cases.  Everyone will be well taken care of, but even if they weren’t, I don’t really have the time to care right now.

On top of that!  No sooner did I pass the baton to Eliot, that I practically became a cripple.  I’ve been in Physical Therapy for 2 months now, had Cortisone injections, had to use Prednisone, and next week will be going to a spine and pelvic specialist.  I have pain in my left hip that is so bad that I can barely walk.  Trust me, if I had a wheel chair, I’d be using it right now.  The anti-inflammatories are doing some good (thank god – I hate crying out in pain) and it appears to be a combination of my Sacroiliac joint, an impingement of my Femoral Nerve, and we are going to go in to try to rule out spinal compression or degenerative disc issues.  The fun never ends.

We have still managed to get the seedlings started in the basement grow room.  The tomatoes are about a foot tall, the peppers, eggplant, onions, and tomatillos are all started.  This weekend we will get some of them transplanted into larger pots and then start the herbs.  In a week or so we will start the cucumbers, squash, and melons.  One of our goals is to have fruit on the farm.  25 Blackberry bushes and 15 Raspberry bushes arrived and need to go into pots and then out to the greenhouse.

The biggest problem has been trying to stay on top of the maintenance of the big garden. Last year, we didn’t get the big beds covered to keep the weeds down.  We were met with a small forest and they all had to be weeded out before we could even think about planting.  This year we bought a few rolls of plastic to lay on top of the beds to smother them.  As usual though, gardening on the high plains presents some unique issues.  In this case, WIND!  No sooner did we get the plastic staked down, we had a spell where we had 80 mph gusts.  It tore them all out of the ground. So! re-evaluate and go to option B.

Option B was to re-lay the plastic and we went and bought 16 foot cattle panels (a stout fencing) to put over the plastic to keep it down.  50 mph winds, poof!  It lifted them up and threw them all off.  The plastic was laid in about 60 foot sheets and it was like unfurling the spinnaker on a sailboat.

Option C:  Zina went out and laid them down again (I can’t… I’m an invalid).  This time she laid cinderblocks on top of them.  Again, spring 50 mph winds.  Did it again.  What frustration!

Option D:  Did Option C again but this time cut the sheets into 3rds.  It reduced the sail effect and so far they are still down.  Fingers crossed.

The beds that haven’t been covered are starting to sprout weeds.  I do have a new rear tine tiller and am hoping to get out there and till the weeds under before they get seeds so that we can keep the onslaught of these deep rooted horrors down.

I have also, over the years, built windbreaks around the garden and between every 3rd row.  One of the breaks was a tin wall that was left over from the previous owners.  It was pretty chewed up and I had plans to take it down and rebuild it.  Well, thanks to the wind, half of it isn’t standing any longer.  Yes folks, wind out here is something to behold!

So given my predicament I am trying to get at least one or two tasks done per day, but if you have ever had chronic pain, and on top of that being a little concerned about your cardio system you know, sometimes I find myself just sitting because I know how badly it is going to hurt.  So of all the things here that we have put in place “just in case” we got blindsided by both leaving work and then having the primary farm laborer become disabled.

I don’t know yet.  If the summer passes and I am still not back to my old self, it is quite a question mark at this point if I would actually go back to work.  We are debt free so it gives me some options.  I will always consult and it is WAY to early to think about it, but when you are feeling the emotions of the low ebb in which I currently reside, it pops up in the back of your mind.

So here is a picture of the garden challenge. You can notice in the upper left corner the wall that is being destroyed by the wind.  All is going great otherwise.  Eliot is doing a great job for me at work and all seem to really like him.  We are putting our house in the city up for sale this weekend.  The dogs are my ever present companions.  The farm, even if I can’t currently do the work I would love to be out doing, is my favorite place in the world.  All in all, there isn’t much to complain about.  This year’s batch of broiler chickens arrive the first week of May.  It is always fun to have the little cheepers around.  They are very entertaining.  Because I can’t handle them when they grow up, and not knowing what shape I’ll be in in a few months, we decided to postpone the pig projects.  They are powerful animals and right now I am not.  Very frustrating.  Once the house sells, the farm will get paid off.  When that happens we will be contracting out to have a livestock barn put up for goats, cows, and whatever else strikes our fancy.  We planted a dozen apple trees in March and so far more than half of them have sprouted leaves.  Good news.

So again, my apologies for my delay.  I’m coming to terms with not being invincible.  Thank goodness all of the hard building work is done.  Looking forward to being able to walk without pain sometime in the near future.  As the saying goes, “While you are laying plans, life happens.”  Yes indeed.

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Feeling Very Organized

My wife defined my new career: Supply management and Inventory Controller of the JAZFarm Pantry and Root Cellar.  That is in addition, of course, to Chief Cook and CEO of Farming and Livestock Management!

We spent the day adding shelves to the shelving racks in the pantry and then organizing the whole thing.  It’s like having your own grocery store in your basement! We are trying to consolidate two homes into one because we are selling our place in the city.  It’s not that we need any more “stuff” but every square inch needs to be well organized.  Because one whole room is our pantry we are trying to maximize the use of every inch of shelf space and floor space.  It’s coming along pretty nicely!

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Getting Caught Up

It’s been a wild year.  I apologize for going so long without updating the blog but it has been a tough summer.  I’ve been going through, lets just say, an illness, and I haven’t felt much like blogging.  We managed to bring the garden in and the food processed and the pigs processed, but between that and the hell that I call work, I have been somewhat reclusive. 2017 looks like it has the potential to destabilize our world in a way that we thought was behind us and that we were better than.  I’m having to kind of start all over mentally and physically.  While some folks don’t always show scars and can put on a happy and professional face, it doesn’t mean the problems aren’ t there.  Let’s just say that 2017 will bring many changes.  But in the meantime, lets show you what has been going on.

The Garden:

We were plagued by grasshoppers this year.  They really made the plants have to work hard to grow.  Some did well, some didn’t.  We lost most of our hard bean crop, the potatoes produced but were very small and many of the herbs were feasted upon.  The Squash and the melons got attacked as well but they did quite well anyway.  The onions, beets, carrots, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, tomatillos and the Blackberries did pretty well and the canners ran for days and days as we worked to get things preserved.

We Canned dozens of pints of tomato saucecanning-2016-1

Because we had so many tomatoes we made lots of Salsacanning-2016-2

The onion harvest was crazy.  However, not all of them were storage quality, so we made quarts and quarts of canned French Onion soup.  The quarts up on the counter are chicken soup and chilicanning-2016-3

The Tomatillos lost their minds. They really like to grow here.  So we made Tortilla soup.canning-2016-4

The potatoes struggled because of the grasshoppers.  They weren’t a good enough quality to store in the cellar so we canned as many of them as we could.  They work great as pan fried, mashed, and in soups or stews.canning-2016-5

We found some strains of onions that do well here (and love Chicken Manure fertilizer).  We found some mesh bags and we tied them up and hanged them in the basement.  These should keep for several months.  Considering how many recipes use onions we will likely go through them with no trouble.hanging-onion-1onion-hanging-2

Where the Deer and Antelope playantelope-2016

I have really burned out mentally.  I brought on a partner at work to help relieve some of the strain.  After training him and introducing him to my clients I am thrilled to know that I will be able to take the entire planting season and summer off from work.  I haven’t had a real vacation in 30 years and if my clients want me to stick around, they’d best understand why I’m doing this.  I love em all but I refuse to die because of someone else’s financial whoas.  I desperately need to “Live Like a Hobbit” for a few months.  Either that or I need to quit altogether.  At this point, both are on the table.hobbit

We contacted the Dumb Friends League this year and picked up a couple of “working cats” or what ranchers and farmers call Barn Cats.  Their job is to hunt and eat mice.  We think they are doing their jobs.  They are quite feral so they are not looking for human companionship.  This is allegedly where they sleep.  We know they are around because the food and water disappears.  But this picture shows how much we know about them and what they look like.

barn-cats

One of the funniest things that happened this fall was washing a chicken in the kitchen!  Yes you read that right.  We had taken the pigs to freezer camp the week before.  However, their wallow was still sloppy and muddy.  The chickens love to go into the pig pen and scratch around and eat any remnants of food left behind.  One evening Zina was out rounding the hens up to put them to bed and she noticed one was still in the pig pen.  When she got closer she saw that it had gotten into the wallow and was stuck up to her wings in mud.  The rescue attempt involved putting a plank out onto the mud, pull the chicken out and bring her into the house to rinse her off.  She was amazingly docile and is now doing well, but now we can honestly say we gave a chicken a bath in our kitchen.  I feel so fulfilled!

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We have commenced work decommissioning the gardens in the city.  We have decided to sell that house because the equity in the place will pay off the farm.  Zina and Aaron will maintain an apartment instead and I will pretty much live full time at the farm.  I lugged the boards we used for the raised beds to construct compost bins for the garden waste and chicken litter.  This past year we spread the composted chicken litter on the garden beds.  While it was terrific as fertilizer it was also full of herbicide resistant Amaranth seeds that sprouted the second we applied water to the beds.  This is an attempt to try to keep those down.  There were thousands of those infernal plants.

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Our newest members of the flock started producing in October and even with the shortening of the days into the winter we have never had a shortage of breakfast food.

eggs

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I never thought I’d see the day when our country could become so divided.  This was the unfortunate discovery of the fall.  We have a militia training facility about 7 miles from the farm.  These folks are pretty “out there” and I hope they have sense enough to leave well enough alone.  That mound of dirt running along the upper third of the picture is actually a big horseshoe shape containing a very large shooting range.  I fear our country has lost it’s mind and could be considered clinically insane.

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So as the farm progresses we have decided to start breeding pigs ourselves instead of buying piglets to raise.  We have some fences and pens to complete but if all goes right we will have a Hampshire Sow and Boar to raise in the next year.  If successful, the sale of the piglets we don’t want to keep should pay for the feed and thus allow us to have our meat for free (minus the physical exertion of raising them and processing them).  A lot of folks do that out here and between eggs, chicken, and pork, we see a way to completely offset our grocery bill.  That would make us, food bill, electric bill, water bill, house payment and car payment free.  Someone in this household is one hell of a financial planner!

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I thought this shirt was cool so I ordered it!

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The puppies had a ball this Christmas.  They could smell that there were treats amongst the gifts and when Christmas morning arrived they couldn’t wait to join in!

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So there you have it y’all!  The JAZ Farm has progressed despite our silence.  Not only are we looking forward to the growing season in 2017, the new pigs, and ordering our new meat chickens for the year, we will be hatching some of our new layers with our incubator, moving from the city, paying off the farm, taking the summer off, building a livestock barn, fencing in a pasture and perhaps, if the timing works, buying some pet goats to help with the lawn mowing.  If there is one thing that can be said for our homesteading/prepping project its this:  It Is Always An Adventure!  Happy New Year everyone!

 

The Newest JAZ Farm Addition

Sorry there haven’t been more posts of late. The garden decided to ripen all at once. The canners have been running non-stop for weeks now and it looks like things are going to calm down a bit. That is until we lost our minds again. Introducing the newest addition to the family. Everyone this is Sage! She is another Yellow Lab that we found north of the farm. She has just been weaned and probably doesn’t weigh more than about 4 pounds.

Zina and I decided that Basil, the four year old, needed a companion. As Sage gets older they will be able to go out romping together giving each other needed exercise. Right now Basil doesn’t quite know what to make of her and as you can see from the pictures there is a considerable size difference. That won’t last long as Sage is expected to be about the same size.

For right now however, we are just basking in the cuteness. As my son texted when we sent him her first pictures, “Oh My God! The Adorableness factor is off the charts!”

What have we done? The pigs head to freezer camp next Thursday and a new puppy is in the house. I’m pretty sure We.Are.Nuts! Oh well, I will have lots of animal friends to keep me company when I retire!

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A Milestone and Proud Accomplishment

So here is what we’ve done on the JAZFarm for 2016. As of our harvest today we will be able to provide almost every major ingredient for every meal for about the whole next year.
Breakfast: Eggs, Sausage or Bacon, Potatoes and Onions.
Lunch: Salad and whatever is left over. For the next couple of months, BLTs, tomato everything, cucumbers.
Dinner: Pork, Chicken, Beans, Salad, Hispanic – particularly Black Beans, Pintos and Kidneys. Three different types of squash at least weekly. Chili, chicken soup, split pea soup, black bean soup, Pizza and pasta with our own flour. If I’m ambitious we can grind our own corn for tortillas.
Snacks: canned peaches, chips with home made salsa. Dehydrated Beet chips. Jerky.
Seasonings for all the recipes: Thyme, Chives, Sage, Marjoram, Tarragon, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary. Our own Cayenne pepper, Garlic powder, Onion Powder, Chili powder.
Various Peppers. Carrots.
It’s not 100% but it’s quite a dent. We are being very proud.

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Harvest Time!

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Carrotscanned-carrots-2016

 

Green Beanscanned-green-beans-2016

Giant Mater

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Harvested Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoesgreen-beans-2016

 

The growth in the Greenhousegreenhouse-growth-2016

 

Tomato Saucemater-sauce-2016

 

The first of the onionsonions-2016

 

The first of the tomato harvest partial-mater-harvest-2016

 

Canned Habanero Salsasalsa-2016

 

Tomatillo Salsatomatillo-salsa-2016

Its been awhile since I posted anything.  I am happy to announce that the dog is healthy again.  I’m doing much better, my son is back to school, real work is back on the front burner and all of the produce is coming in all at the same time!  Needless to say we have been very busy!

There are several projects going on in addition to all of the food processing.  We figured out how to handle the grasshoppers.  The biggest deterrent is making sure all of the weeds and grass around the garden are cut short so they have no where to hide.  The second is to use an insecticide around the perimeter of the garden.  This will help keep them down but also won’t be sprayed anywhere near the produce.  The weeds themselves, particularly Goatheads, Round Up resistant Amaranth, and Kochia need to be cut back significantly.  We are going to have a bumper crop harvest but the weeds are crazy making and we need to find a way to keep them kept down or this will quickly become not fun.

We lost the hard bean crop to the grasshoppers.  Not only did they like to eat the leaves, they also took a fondness to the flowers.  No flowers, no beans.  They also tried to take the squash and melon beds but we prevailed and the melons have been awesome.  We also have had an amazing crop of Acorn, Butternut and Spaghetti squash.

The carrots and beets lost their minds this year.  We canned 70 pints of carrots, have made beet chips and canned pickled beets.  There are still hundreds more of each.  I recently bought new sand to put in our storage bins to keep them through the end of the year.  Zina juiced about 3 gallons of carrot juice and is in our freezer.

We were getting to the end of our green beans from last year.  Not a problem anymore.  We had a huge green bean harvest and were able to put up a couple of dozen quarts of them in the pantry.

Last year’s tomato crop sucked.  Totally sucked.  We had freezes, made some mistakes, had hail, etc., etc. etc.  This year no worries.  In the last picking I have canned a dozen pints of tomato sauce, 10 pints of habanero tomato salsa, and 12 pints of canned fresh vegetable salsa.  There are dozens more tomatoes in the greenhouse.  We’ve had so many cherry tomatoes we have been canning them too!

The pepper harvest has been insane.  We have had the best pepper plants ever this year and have picked bushels of them.  They have been canned, eaten, given away and dehydrated. Its amazing how many peppers one plant can produce.

The blueberries are getting established as well as the Blackberries.  The Blackberries produced a pint or two and are super tasty!

The Tomatillo plants have done well too.  The grasshoppers got into them but didn’t seem to eat them.  I think they just liked the cover.  Because of all the hoppers we had a 4 foot Bull Snake take up residence and help keep the population down some.  We have had a very nice harvest of the Tomatillos and have made one of our favorite Green Salsas in quantity.

We did an experiment to see which way to plant onions – seeds or sets – produced the best.  Answer:  If you have lots of compost rich in Nitrogen, seeds hands down.  Our onions are incredible this year.  Its a bit more work to plant seeds, but totally worth it!

As the year winds down there are many projects to contend with.  The biggest project is putting the beds to bed for the winter.  As we harvest and close them down we will be weeding – both physically and flame – to get the seeds out of there.  We will broad fork them to loosen up the soil, put down straw for mulch and then cover them with black plastic.  This past spring was a weeding nightmare.  A little prevention will go a long long way.

The chickens are making lots of eggs.  We raised and processed 30 broilers for the freezer and the two big pigs weighed in at 550 lbs each thus filling our freezers to the brim.  We have been canning meat and eating pork and chicken to make room in the freezers as we have 2 more pigs going to freezer camp the first week of November.

So other than injuries the summer has again proven fruitful.  We have a very small grocery bill as a result and the activity is much more fun than going to the gym.  I hope that all of you have had a wonderful summer and are looking forward to the coolness of the fall.

 

 

Greenhouse Update

So the dog and the husband are into their physical therapy.  Basil had her second back (right) knee reconstructed.  She is doing fine but because she thinks she is all  better we need to keep her on a leash so she doesn’t go tear-assing after bunnies and blow out her new joint.  Dad has been in physical therapy for the past couple of months trying to get his sacroiliac joint to unfreeze and to get he muscles to quit trying go clamp down and render him crippled.  It’s getting better but it is oh so painful.

In addition, we are working on getting our house in the shitty ready for sale.  We have a bathroom that needs to be re-done and they start on Monday.  This project costs more than the entire greenhouse setup.  Me thinks contractors are shysters.  Oh well, once we get this done, Zina is going apartment hunting for a place for us to hole up in the city for work.  Having the burden of two places to upkeep while both of us work and a son who is in college is just too much.  It will be a welcome relief.

Here is a video update of the greenhouse.  Considering that we are dealing with a plague of grasshoppers this year, it looks like we will still have a harvest worthy of Colorado homesteaders.  Our freezers are completely filled with meat because of the chickens and pigs we’ve processed, so all of our produce must either be eaten, canned or dehydrated.  Usually this time of year we make a trip to Munson Farm in Boulder to get a bunch of sweet corn to freeze and use for the year… this year we simply don’t have room so it looks like when we need corn we will use what we have left or go to Whole Foods to buy organic.

So all is going well.   The dog is healing up, my hip is doing much better though not perfect.  My most recent mental melt down is being treated and it appears that all will right itself with work (I was convinced it wouldn’t).  So whatever you do, whatever you fill your time with, enjoy the adventure.  After all…. what else is there?