2018 JAZ Farm Fly Over

My son was my farm hand over the summer. After the projects were completed his final task was to make a fly over video with the drone. It shows the new fence, the new barn, the goats and donkeys as well as all the other critters. He leaves for college this week and dad is feeling melancholy. Somehow it feels very final. I get choked up every time I watch it. Be sure to watch past the credits to get the whole thing.

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The Good, The Bad, The Finale

So if you haven’t been completely asleep you have noticed that the weather has been pretty freaky.  We are in a pretty awful drought.  Couple that with intense sun because of our mile-high altitude and heat that started way too early this year, our gardens have been getting the crap kicked out of them.  Most of the outdoor gardens (Those not in the greenhouse) have gotten terribly scalded.  I am going out on a limb and predicting a 50% loss.  Our melons got fried, our peppers are dropping flowers and not producing peppers and we have lost all of the hard bean crop.  There may be some soil issues involved because I had to take a year off because of surgery, but flat out, it is way too damned hot and dry.  The carrots NEVER germinated over two consecutive plantings.  The potatoes and sweet potatoes and some of the onions are doing well and we had a great garlic harvest.  Inside the greenhouse everything is doing well, although the tomatoes are not going to produce nearly what we are used to.  When the temperatures get over about 93 degrees they don’t readily set fruit.  There is some out there but nothing I would call a “success”.  If our garden is any indication what food is going to be like going forward I would seriously recommend learning how to can and store food long term.  We are all going to get a lot thinner.

As I am not a person to give up without a fight, we did some studying of the gardens.  Why were the greenhouse plants doing so much better than the outdoor gardens?  As near as I can figure its because 1. There are fans keeping the air moving and 2. There is 40% reduction shade cloth on the roof and the walls.  If the sun is too intense and the temperature too hot, then wouldn’t eliminating one variable help?  I’m betting yes.

As a result, Aaron and I set to task to put covers on all 18 of the outdoor beds.  These covers will include quarter inch galvanized screen to help deflect hail and also the same shade cloth that is in the greenhouse.  Next season this ought to reduce some of the stress on these poor plants.  In the past, as long as the plants got to get their roots down and established, high heat was tolerable.  This year, the heat started the end of May and hasn’t let up yet and we are yet to get into August.  This set up will create something of a roof over the beds and (fingers crossed) give the plants a chance to get established and rooted to better help with these extreme temps.

So everything we do out here is an adventure.  One of our pigs is off to freezer camp.  Two weeks ago we put 50 chickens in the freezer. The turkeys are looking more and more like turkeys, and the goats are getting bigger.  The vegetables are going to be a disappointment this year.  Because we rely on it for our food, I will be going out to look for other bulk sources to fill in the gaps.  If you are a farmer or a gardener, anticipating success “next season” (if there is one), is indeed optimism.  We will get potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, pumpkins, celery, basil, oregano, sunflowers, and green beans.  Still not bad, but an awful lot more was planted.  Melancholy is the word of the day.

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The Weaving Studio

My loom arrived this past week!  It is so beautiful and I can’t wait to get started on it.  We are currently working on “blocks” and “Summer and Winter” patterns in class so I haven’t had time to try it out yet.  But, I took a day off yesterday and headed to Boulder and put together some yarn and patterns so I am ready to go!  This thing is an amazing piece of wood working.  We’ve ordered our share of furniture and this is easily as well built as our Amish stuff.  it is all solid maple and I didn’t have any part of it not fit as advertised.  Time to go full on hermit!

The new toy!

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The beginning of the studio.  The dogs checking things out. Very well camouflaged.  They are the same color as the loom!

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The first yarn for the first project on the floor loom.

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The latest project for class:  block design with Summer and Winter pattern.

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The new “Pixar” light.  The loom has holes drilled for lights.  This will help with threading immensely!

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The Boy Goats Get A Home

Aaron and I got the fencing put up so the bucklings couldn’t escape.  They will be living in the grassy run area around the chicken coop.  The girls will stay over with the donkeys.  This should help to prevent unchaperoned breeding!  Tank and Dozer are the cutest little guys.  They are as sweet as the girls and actually are somewhat less demanding.

Aaron and I also built what we have named “The Bomb Shelter”.  It is a stack of cinder blocks and railroad ties we had lying around.  Because goats love having things to climb and hop around on, this gives them a place to play king of the castle.  It is also open underneath which gives them a place to get out of the sun.

To let then live among the chickens, the puzzle was how to keep them from getting at the chicken feed.  While they would love to eat it, it is very bad for them.  Goats, like cows, are ruminants.  This means they eat primarily grass, weeds and leaves.  Corn and other grains can cause “bloat”.  This comes from their inability to digest something and it can be fatal quickly.

So far, all is going well.  They lived up to their billing as being incredibly energetic.  It was explained to me while learning about them that keeping goats is like giving a three year old a hammer.  Yep.  Good description.

Tank eating out of the new feeder I built (Still needs a cover).

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Maybe if I eat from the side I can get my head in there farther.

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The Bomb Shelter (we figure it has to way close to 2000 lbs).

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King of the castle.

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I dare ya to knock me off!

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This buffet is pretty tasty!  I loves me some thistles!

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Dozer

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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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