Learning A New Skill

After retiring I found my mind struggling for something to latch on to.  I literally woke up one day and 30 years of worry about clients and analyzing financial charts was just…. over.  It wasn’t easy.  As I progressed through healing from surgery and then needing something besides just building the farm in my life to give me a creative outlet.  I’ve tried wood carving, I do astronomy, of course there is archery if I choose to pick that back up, and writing like this, but days are pretty long and I needed something to help fill the void of the 8 hour day that used to be consumed with work.  I am not a life of leisure kind of guy.  I like to feel creative and productive; especially since I retired at 54.

Also in the criteria was doing something that my relatives haven’t done.  My sister and brother in law are artists, my mother knits, presses flowers, sews and does needlepoint.  We were all musicians, and my wife quilts.  I needed something unique and interesting both because I like to learn new skills and my genealogy are very critical people and I didn’t need someone looking over my shoulder.  It needed to simply be “mine”.

So I thought and I searched and tried to find something “homestead like” and came up with weaving!  I found a shop in Boulder, signed up for a class and have been progressing along with all thumbs.  But, I love it.  One might think that it is simply interlocking threads and making towels, but it is very intricate and it takes a boat load of concentration to do well.  It is very meditational and you can produce some incredible fabrics.  Ya, I know, for all the stereotyping folks are want to do, it ain’t cars and engines and tools and and and.  Its weaving.  You sit to do it, you need to design things out and concentrate or you end up with slop.  Its right up my alley.

I’ve completed my first real project and while it isn’t going to win any awards, I’m kinda happy with it.  The class goes through the end of July and concurrently I have ordered a floor loom and am putting together a studio in one of the rooms in our basement.  I am eager to learn and it sure beats shuffle board!  The farm work kicks my butt these days.  I hate sitting around surfing the internet, so I needed something to do.  This is really the first “craft” type thing I’ve ever done and so far I am finding it very de-stressing.  Something my life has desperately needed.

Learning the basics

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The loom I ordered.  Delivery date July 19.  Very exciting!

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There is soooooo much to learn about yarn

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Starting my first real project.  “Winding the warp”

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Just like playing an instrument, its all about learning the proper touch and technique.  I really learned a lot on this one.

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The final product.  We’ll call it a table runner.  It was great fun!

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The Baby Boys

Here are a couple of shots of the new baby boy goats.  They get to go play at the bomb shelter when they have finished weaning.  Tank is the black one and Dozer is the patchwork boy.

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The Farm Hand

Son Aaron graduated from Front Range Community College this past May with an associates in science emphasizing math and physics.  Proud parents!  He graduated with honors!  I don’t know where he got the analytic smarts but what a proud moment!  As a result, he will be going up to Colorado State University to pursue his dream of becoming a Mechanical Engineer.

Between surgery and over 5 years of building every aspect of this farm, I am completely burned out on construction.  We are so close to having all the infrastructure built and I simply can’t wait to just farm the place instead of building it.  So we recruited the college kid to be a farm hand this summer.  In the past couple of years he has worked on construction crews and spent a summer pulling orders for Amazon.  His ME degree will include at least one and possibly 2 summers.  Because of this, he won’t be around as much as we’ve been used to.  So instead of having him work off the farm, we hired him to get the remaining projects done here at the farm so that when he leaves for school, we will have wrapped up the majority of the projects still remaining.

So far he has helped build a chicken coop, build a turkey coop, refinish our deck, repair our wooden fence that blocks light for our astronomy hobby that got blown down in a typical spring storm, and is currently building the fence around the main coop that will house the boy goats (we do not approve of unscheduled breeding with the girls!).  In addition he and I took some railroad ties we had laying around and some cinder blocks and created what we have dubbed “The Goat Bomb Shelter.”  Goats like to hope around on things and play King of the Castle.  This will give them a jungle gym to play on as well as a place underneath to get out of the sun and the elements.  We figure that it weighs close to 2000 pounds!

So having my kid at home, helping me out, and getting things done has been a thrill for mom and dad.

Luke!  I am your father!!

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The Bomb Shelter

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The Donkeys Have Roomates. Baaaaaaa!

Now that I am at the farm full time, we have been able to start building the livestock aspect of the farm.  The chickens and pigs were easy.  They could be set up on automatic waterers, bulk food and solar sensitive coop doors.  They required little maintenance during the week.  However, anything that needs hay is a whole different world.  The donkeys need their hooves cleaned, need fresh water, need fresh hay, and, of course human attention.

In keeping with our wanting to become more and more self-sufficient we have added a small flock of Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Frankly, cows are too big and are a pain.  I’ve had a lot of experience being around them, but they are very large animals and we didn’t want them rubbing the fences which would require maintenance and dealing with something that large (900 – 1200 lbs) when we don’t eat a lot of beef.  So we investigated, and then purchased our little babies!  Nigerians get to about 70 lbs. which is the size of a moderately large dog.  These little sweeties aren’t raised for meat.  In addition to being pets, they have very high butterfat content in their milk.  It is our intention to 1. Milk them when they are old enough.  2.  Use the milk for making soap and 3. Cheese.  All of this to be made by a simple combination of pasture grazing, hay and water!

I knew quite a bit about the other creatures we have raised but these little buggers took some investigating.  They can come down with all sorts of health issues and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t get caught off guard.  The girls arrived about a month ago.  They are Ginger (the patchwork baby), Cumin (The Chocolate one) and Paprika (the rusty colored one).  This past Sunday (will need to post pictures) our two little boys arrived.  Tank is all black with frosty white ears and nose and Dozer is a patchwork like Ginger.

Goats have an incredible amount of energy and personality.  They want, and demand, attention, just like dogs.  They follow you around all over and because they are currently pretty tiny, they can get underfoot without you knowing it.  These guys are the reason for all of the extensive fence building.  They are little escape artists so things need to be secure.

The youngest donkey has established his territory.  He does NOT like them coming into HIS corral.  He isn’t mean, but he will chase them off and the pecking order is being established.  Not much of a contest between a 15 pound doeling and a 300 pound donkey.  It has all been very entertaining.

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Taking Back The Big Garden

The biggest travesty of not being able to take care of the farm this past year was the signature food producer of the farm…. the “big” garden.  It is the first garden we put in and it has given us huge harvests year after year.  This past year, nature got to keep it.  When I got out there earlier this year I was heart broken.  Weeds grow out here like, well, weeds.  I was confronted with a field of weeds 3 feet deep.  In my determination to get back to the farmer status I was not about to let this garden die.  So I got out the tools, the work gloves and the machinery and we set to it.  It was an immense amount of work but we kicked the weeds out and got it planted.  As we now grow the vegetables in and by the greenhouse, this has been dubbed the “storage garden”.  It is the stuff that we can put up for the year or root cellar without a lot of fuss.  Currently we have Blackberries, Raspberries, Potatoes, 3 kinds of hard beans, Carrots, Onions, Sunflowers and Asparagus.  I have worked very hard to stay ahead of the weeds and I think that we are now back in the driver’s seat.

This is what we were up against.  SOB!

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We won!

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Potatoes getting planted! Woohoo!

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The Farm Doubled In Size.. Beginning With Donkeys and…. Turkeys!

As I limped back to health and got back on my feet, the new garden beds got built, the barn got constructed (we just had power run to it) and the pasture fence got built.  The donkeys arrived and in the whole process we brought in turkeys and built a coop  for them to gobble in!  We have 15 “Bourbon Red” cheepers.  They aren’t quite as bright as chicken babies.  We had to teach them how to eat and drink because they kept eating the pine saving bedding while they were in the brooder.  We lost a couple as a result but we have a healthy flock of 13.  We have no idea how many are Toms or Hens yet.  Our goal is to raise them for meat and to hatch out their eggs to keep our flock going.  They are very sweet and have been trying out their new wings.  Turkeys like to fly and roost in trees so we are going to have to clip their flight wings (which is completely painless to them).  Turkeys don’t lay eggs year round like chickens so when they mature we will be hatching them in our incubator when that starts to happen.  More fun!  We eat far more ground turkey than beef so this made perfect sense to us.IMG_2436IMG_1435IMG_2747

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Catching Up Again. What A Year

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So much has happened in the past 2 years.  Leaving work, surgery, new projects begun at the farm as I have healed up both mentally and physically, brought me back to the blog to share what has been going on and kind of where we are going.  The end of this month marks my 11th month post back surgery.  It is going very well, but, I fear it will never again be what one would consider “normal”.  My new routine now includes a great deal of stretching and bending is a thing of the past.  It takes a considerable amount of time in the morning to get up and loosen up so that I can face the day.  The farm has kept me active, although I am having to get myself back into a regular exercise routine in addition in order to keep up both my stamina and strength.  Having left work a little over a year ago and having had my injury sideline me for most of the first year, I have only now begun to figure out what looking forward might mean.  I was a specialist in retirement planning and have had to remind myself to practice what I preached: Never make any major life decisions in retirement during the first year.  Well, considering that I spent close to 6 months of that first year flat on my back and healing, it wasn’t too difficult to let that sleeping dog lie.  But I have recovered to a great extent and now am now starting to fashion a life going forward.  A life of just leisure would make me insane.  The question to be answered was, “What does this farm life look like now that it is the only thing I have to concern myself with going forward?”

Retirement was very sudden and almost imposed on me.  I was sick of being lied to by my company as well as the economic and political world.  If you care about those you serve it creates an aire of fear and anxiety that eats away at you.  There was fear about so many things I couldn’t control, not to mention the lack of understanding people had if I made a mistake.  Fortunately, those were few and far between and I never had any complaints, but it wore me down to the point that when I was injured physically, mentally I knew I just couldn’t take it anymore.  For those whom I served for some 30 years, I simply cannot and will not apologize for how I chose to survive this.  I am still alive, I am healed, I am moving forward, and am able to continue to be a husband and father.  There wasn’t much I could do or would do differently if again faced with the same circumstances.  In fact, I’d have probably done it faster.  The physical proof that the changes were positive is the fact that I’m losing weight, my endurance is picking back up, my mind is quieter and my blood pressure is down.  I was mis-placed in finance and I am happy to be rid of it.

So the way that our new life is progressing is to a simpler lifestyle.  We are embracing a self-sufficient way of living and working to move farther and farther away from this truly insane society.  In a way it is a dropping out.  I cannot abide the news any longer and it seems that there is nothing but hate, lies, and greed running everything this country does.  We have dubbed the farm “The Island for Misfit Toys” from the Rudolph Christmas special.  Indeed, it is rare to have people in one’s life that actually “get you” without pre-conditions.  We welcome those that also share such a longing for a simpler and old fashioned life and I think that my life going forward will be to keep going deeper in that direction.

I think that as a society we are facing catastrophic pressures on too many fronts.  One of them somehow is going to eventually give; be it economic (my first bet), political, geo-political, peak-oil, warfare, resource depletion, over-population or human extinction due to human induced climate change.  One cannot prepare for every contingency, but 95% of this country is completely unprepared for even a 2 week emergency.  My assertion is that it will last much much longer.  It isn’t a question of “if” but “when”.  I guess that is the financial planner inner voice coming out.  After all, financial preparedness included adequate insurance and several months of cash-reserves.  I would now include in that, non-paper currency like metals, and as much food and water stores as you can muster.  As my wife told my doctor at an appointment when I had completely melted down over this, when he asked why I think that something like this is going to happen (I think out of concern for himself, not having ever really heard it before), she said,  “He knows to much.”

So now that the majority of the storm has passed and we are now settled into a new routine and lifestyle, the lifestyle itself is taking shape.  I keep informed about the economic scene because we are still a monetary society, I have tried desperately to filter out the absolutely child-ish and hateful political scene (I can’t even think what my life would be like having to be an advisor during this “administration”. They are simply the most horrible, ignorant and hateful people I have ever seen at the helm).  We are planting again, livestock is back on the land, and I am even learning some crafting.  Not only are we trying to become more self-sustaining, much of what we are learning now has to do with going pre-electric.  Learning how to preserve food the way people did prior to refrigeration (smoking, drying, root-cellaring, etc.). Not all of this is in some grand “prepper” scheme, its that we find these lost skills far more interesting and fulfilling than the world of screens, gossip, social media, and the endless tennis court volleying of one side vs the other.  Locally there isn’t much of a like minded community out there, but we are hoping to help build it.  After all, your neighbors may soon be your only source of community.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually knew who they were?

So in the next few posts I will try to get the blog back up to current.  Then going forward, I’ll try to be more punctual about what we are doing and how we are doing it, and why.  The past two years were devastating.  Going forward all we want is to do is live like Hobbits, live the middle path, and enjoy a simple existence far from the deafening roar of a society gone completely off the rails.