The BIG Tractors started rollin’

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So spring has sprung on the first year of the JAZ Farm.  As I posted previously we agreed with our neighbor to let him farm the back thirty or so acres with wheat.  We hadn’t heard from him in a little while but then round about dinner time I heard the roar of a loud diesel engine, looked out back and there he was pulling this huge plow!  My tractor for the organic garden has a one blade mold board plow to turn over the soil.  This guy’s is 10 feet wide!!  He did about 3 passes and dug into the soil about 18 inches.  My goodness those things are powerful!!

I have to admit some hesitancy here.  While the land would simply lay unused if he didn’t lease it, it is still “conventional” farming.  In that, he turns up the soil and burns diesel fuel.  Because it is wheat, it isn’t a GM crop.  If it were, this would NOT be happening.  It is dry farming so there is little else being done to it until harvest. I get a tax break for Ag use of the land and I should get a huge load of straw from it come harvest time in July.  We have agreed that he will win row the stalks so we can have someone come in and bale it.  So to loosely quote an author:  It is the best of times and the worst of times.  I guess one shouldn’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.  After all, I could be out there with my little putter tractor planting a sunflower or two.  This way I will have all the straw I could ever need for mulch and chicken coop litter.

Building the JAZ Farm Observing Site

What a whirlwind the JAZ Farm cleaning, refurbishing, rebuilding and repurposing has been.  Its hard to believe that so much has happened so fast and how livable and comfortable the place has become.  We are so looking forward to all of it coming together to become the functioning homestead its intended to be.

Today was a project for pure Zen and pure enjoyment of the night sky:

In order to do astronomical observing, it is important to have all white light sources doused.  If they are shining (like headlights) one’s night vision quickly gets ruined and makes stargazing difficult. Our neighbors to the north have one of those bright streetlight type of mercury vapor lamps over their barn.  It is the only irritating white light out back where the scopes get set up.  Until today, we had been moving a utility trailer out back in order to block out the lamp.

Today Bruce of Bruce’s Fences and his team came out and put up an 80 foot windbreak/privacy fence that easily blocks out the neighbors streetlight.  It is rated to 170 mph winds and should also help keep the snowdrifts to a minimum in the observing area.  We joked that if thats the case, the house will blow into OZ before the fence does!

We are looking forward to clear skies in order to go out and observe.  With this fence in place we now will have about 2/3’s of the sky observable, the best being to the east and south.  The house itself blocks out the Denver light dome to the west so we are all set!  Zina’s Binoculars, Aaron’s 10 inch Orion, and Jon’s 22 inch Webster now have a more permanent, useable home!  We are looking forward to many years of gazing up at the stars and losing ourselves in the gorgeous and awe-inspiring objects that create the JAZ Farm night canopy!  Looking forward to many other Astro-nuts coming out to party under the stars.

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Springtime on the Plains

Spring has sort of sprung here!  After a very white April we are starting to see signs of growth and green!  Of course we are expecting snow this Wednesday but we’ll take the sunshine and warmth while we may!  Almost overnight the prairie flowers shot up.  Our entire field is purple!  After doing some research we found the flowers to be called “Purple Mustard”.  Evidently they are invasive (figures) and wheat growers hate them because they reduce yield.  They like to invade land that has been tilled up and not used for a season or two (like ours).  They have a distinct (but not too unpleasant) smell.  During the sunrise and later on in the afternoon the sun really brings out the color.  Zina got a shot or two of them.

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Primed for color

The coop project is coming along steadily.  Zina finished priming it so the new paneling wouldn’t get weathered while we build (we are actually expecting snow again Wednesday – it was 75 degrees today! – no global weirding involved! ; )  )  I have begun framing the interior.  While it is much less heavy and awkward than hanging the new panels, I have been reminded of what squat-thrusts were all about in high school PE:  “Up, Down, measure, lift, move, cut, haul, squat, nail, drill, up…. repeat”.

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In between homework assignments Aaron came out and assembled a bench for us.  It will be used to while away the hours at the Chicken Hilton watching the entertainment  (of course, Basil tried to help!)




I was wounded in action today!  It was kind of like being shot with a BB Gun.  I had to pull out an old nail with a crowbar and in my not so subtle and gentle fashion I pulled the head right off the nail!  It sparked as it left – indicating it was hot – and lodged itself in my forearm.  Chicken battle wounds.  What one won’t do for their hobby!

Which one is the chemical weapons criminal?

I was perusing the online paper today and came across what I thought was an interesting conundrum.  We are so concerned, and rightly so, about an evil dictator using chemical weapons against those who don’t seem to dig the way he’s running things.

We on the other hand have a chemical company that gets us to do it to ourselves.

Which is worse?


I wonder….. did the same company make both?  Didn’t research it but the second one was responsible for many chemical weapons.  We spray it by the millions of gallons on fields, golf-courses, driveways, you name it.

Hmmmmm,  me thinks farming makes lots of sense.


JAZ Farm Library

This post is a lengthy listing of Books, Movies, Documentaries and Articles that have influenced our worldview and led to the creation of JAZ Farm.  It is kind of unwieldy.  If you are interested in any of them you can simply copy the title and paste it into Google.   It is a great library and has kept me busy in my Kindle and iPad and, lest we forget, real honest by goodness print for several years.  I hope you find some of them informative, challenging and thought provoking.  I will post new titles and links as I discover them so this post will be updated and edited from time to time.  Simply click on the Bibliography category link on the home page and it should bring it up instead of having to scroll through all of the other posts.

I’ve seen or read them all – The * symbol indicates highly recommended

Books about Food and the Food System:

* >The China Study – T. Colin Campbell

>The American Way of Eating – Tracy McMillan

* >Animal Factory – David Kirby

>The Vegetarian Myth – Lierre Keith

>The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan

* >The End of Food – Paul Roberts

>Farm City – Novella Carpenter

* >Fast Food Nation – Eric Schlosser

* > The Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan

* >In Defense of Food – Michael Pollan

* >Salt, Sugar, Fat – Michael Moss

>Tomatoland – Barry Estabrook

>Empires of Food – Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas

* >Pandora’s Lunchbox – Melanie Warner

>Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer

>The Accidental Farmer – Tim Young

>Beautiful and Abundant – Bryan Welch

>Bringing It To The Table – Wendell Berry

>The Chicken Chronicles – Alice Walker

* >Diet For A Hot Planet – Anna Lappe’

>The Dirty Life – Kristen Kimball

>Folks, This Ain’t Normal – Joel Salatin

* >Everything I want To Do Is Illegal – Joel Salatin

* >Food Inc. – Karl Weber

>The Good Food Revolution – Will Allen

>Growing a Farmer – Kurt Timmermeister

>Its a Long Road To A Tomato – Keith Stewart

>Life is a Miracle – Wendell Berry

>Living In The Land of Enough – Courtney Carver

>No Happy Cows – John Robbins

>Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life – Joshua Fields Milburn

>Organic Manifesto – Maria Rodale

>Son of a Farmer Child of the Earth – Eric Herm

* >Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle For The World Food System – Raj Patel

>Food Politics – Marian Nestle

>The Way of Ignorance – Wendell Berry

Political, Philosophical, Ethical

>Cooking Solves Everything – Mark Bittman

>The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future of Our Economy, Energy and Environment – Chris Martenson

* >The Culture of Make Believe – Derrick Jensen

* >Dreams – Derrick Jensen

>Eaarth: Making a Life On a Tough New Planet – Bill McKibben

>Empire of Illusion – Chris Hedges

* >The End of Growth – Richard Heinberg

>End Game Vol 1. and Vol. 2 – Derrick Jensen

* >The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego In Human History and the Dawning of a New Era – Steve Taylor

* >Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – John Perkins

>Hoodwinked – John Perkins

* >Limits To Growth – The 30 Year Update – Donella Meadows and Jorgan Randers

>Confronting Collapse – Michael C. Ruppert

>Crossing the Rubicon – Michael C. Ruppert

* >The Long Emergency – James Howard Kunstler

* >Peak Everything: Waking Up To The Century of Declines – Richard Heinberg

>The Race for What’s Left – Michael T. Clare

* >Resistance Against Empire – Derrick Jensen

>Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit From The Nest Eggs of American Workers – Ellen E Schultz

>Snakes in Suits:  When Psychopaths Go to Work – Paul Babiak

>The Third Industrial Revolution – Jeremy Rifkin

>Vulture’s Picnic – Greg Palast

>Oil and Finance:  The Epic Corruption – Raymond J. Learsey

>The Oil Depletion Protocol – Richard Heinberg

>Powerdown – Richard Heinberg

>Too Much Magic – James Howard Kunstler

* >American Facists – Chris Hedges

>Born To Be Good – Dacher Keltner

>Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture – Ellen Ruppel Shell

>the Death of the Liberal Class – Chris Hedges

* >Deer Hunting With Jesus – Joe Bageant

* >The End of Growth – Richard Heinberg

>The Great Disruption – Paul Gilding

* >Here We All Are – Ram Dass

* >Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That is Breaking America

>The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution Against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos – Ravi Batra

>A People’s History of The United States – Howard Zinn

>The Political Mind – George Lakoff

>The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson

* >Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain

>The Science of Fear – Daniel Gardner

* >Screwed: The Undeclared War Agains the Middle Class – Thom Hartmann

>Self-Reliance – Ralph Waldo Emerson

* >The Shock Doctrine and the Rise of Disaster Capitalism – Naomi Klein

>The Uprising – David Sirota

>Virus of the Mind – Richard Brodie

* >When Corporations Rule The World – David C. Korten

>Winner Take All Politics – Jacob S. Hacker

* >The World Made By Hand – James Howard Kunstler

* >The Witch of Hebron – James Howard Kunstler

Movies and Documentaries

*>Critical Mass

*>Genetic Roullette

* >Crazy, Sexy Cancer

* >Dirt! The Movie


* >Farmaggedon

>Fast Food Nation

* >Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

* >Flow: How do a Handful of Corporations Steal Our Water

* >Food Fight

>Forks Over Knives

* >Fresh

>The Future of Food


>The Harvest

>Hungry for Change

* >I Am

>Killer At Large: Why Obesity Is America’s Greatest Threat

* >King Corn – You Are What You Eat


>The Perfect Human Diet


* >Surviving Progress


* >The World According To Monsanto

>The Consequences of Suburbanization

>A River Of Waste

>Manufactured Landscapes

>Meat The Truth


* >What A Way To Go: Life at the End of Empire

>Blind Spot


>No Impact Man

>The 11th Hour

>Poison On The Platter

>A World Without Water

>The Slow Poisoning of India

* >Natural World: A Farm For The Future

* >Patent For a Pig: The Big Business Of Genetics

* >Life Running Out of Control

* >The Story of Stuff

>Way Beyond Weight

>Seeds of Freedom

>Fast Food, Fast Profits: Obesity In America

* >Food Matters

* >Super Size Me


* >Ingredients

>Food Beware

* >Why We Fight

>Our Daily Bread


* >Bananas!

* > Vanishing Of The Bees


Books About Things That Make You Go HMMM…..

>The Believing Brain – Michael Shermer

* >Bio-Centrism: How Life and Consciousness Are The Keys to the True Nature of the Universe – Robert Lanza

>Be Love Now – Ram Dass

* >Becoming Enlightened – The Dalai Lama

>Emotional Freedom – Judith Orloff

* >The End of Your World – Adyashanti

>Emptiness Dancing – Adyashanti

* >God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens

* >The Greatest Show On Earth – Richard Dawkins

* >Forged: Writing In The Name of God – Why The Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are – Bart D. Ehrman

* >The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – William Strauss

>The Jewel Tree of Tibet – Robert Thurman

* >Last Words – George Carlin

>A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle

* >The Power of Now – Eckhart Tolle

>The Republican Brain – Chris Mooney

>1984 – George Orwell

>Back to Sanity – Steve Taylor

>Being Gay is Disgusting – Edward Falcon

* >Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing The Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them) – Bart D. Ehrman

* >Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed The Bible and Why – Bart D. Ehrman

>Outliers: The Story of Success

>The Power of Your Subconscious Mind – Joseph Murphy

>Total Freedom:  The Essential Krishnamurti – Jiddu Krishnamurti

How To Instructional Books

>Aquaponic Gardening – Sylvia Bernstein

>Country Wisdom and Know-How, Everything You Need to Know to Live Off the Land, From the editors of Storey Books

>The Organic Farming Manual -Ann Larkin Hansen

*>The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – Edward C. Smith

*>The Beekeeper’s Bible – Stewart Tabori and Chang

>The Backyard Homestead – Edited by Carleen Madigan

*>Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens – Gail Damerow

>Homesteading in the 21st Century – George Nash and Jane Waterman

>Storey’s Guide to Raising Meat Goats – Maggie Sayer

>Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats – Jerry Belanger and Sara Thomson Bredesen

*>Guide to Rocky Mountain Vegetable Gardening – Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough

*>The Self-Sufficient Life and How To Live It, The Complete Back To The Basics Guide – John Seymour

*>Mother Earth News

The Chicken Hilton

The big project other than the farmhouse remodeling projects has been turning an old horse shed into the future JAZ Farm chicken coop.  This is an attempt to use what is already here rather than build something new.  The shed was essentially a structure that the animals could come into in order to escape the elements.  You’ve probably seen them on any trip to the country.  The front is open and has a sloped roof to channel water from when it rains or snows and can house a manger and water trough out of the baking sun or the severe elements of winter.  The shed on the farm also had, on its southern end, an enclosed tack room.  While the whole thing was well worn and used, the tack room had a professionally poured cement floor!  Perfect for a coop.  The big issue with any chicken keeping operation is to keep predators out of your coop and chicken run.  It seems that not only does everything taste like chicken, EVERYTHING likes the taste of chicken.  I believe in sharing, but coyotes, foxes, badgers, falcons, owls and hawks, tend to take more than their fair share!  The cement floor provided the space for a roosting and laying coop that can’t be burrowed into or flown into by said critters.

This is what it looked like:

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The big plus, of course, is that there is water right at the coop.  The big negative is that the horses had kicked in the paneling and chewed most of the rafters and stringers that hold the paneling.  While the cement floor is solid, it wasn’t too terribly critter proof with all of the holes in the walls.  Also, the shelter part of the building did not meet the ground solidly all the way around.  So while it is an existing structure with support posts and a solid roof, the entire thing needed to be rebuilt.  This is a very BIG Chickie Hilton!  Also, you might have noticed that there is no fence around it to keep the birds in and the other diners out!

So as Zina took over the interior painting jobs and with the dog run finished, I have set to transforming the old horse facility into the JAZ Farm chicken coop.  We plan on raising 15 to 25 egg layers (probably a combination of Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, and Barred Plymouth Rocks).  We know this will give us far more eggs than we could use, but I have also had indications from clients and neighbors that they would happily receive fresh eggs from us!  The layers will get the cement floored coop.  On the other side, because they don’t need nearly as complex a coop, we are going to raise 25 – 50 meat birds a year.  If one goes with the Cornish X hybrid, they grow to slaughter weight in about 8 to 10 weeks (its almost like somebody blows them up with an air pump they grow so fast) so they won’t be around long.  They also don’t need laying boxes, insulation, electricity, or all of the creature comforts the more spoiled layer women require.

As of this writing, I have replaced the old horse chewed stringers and replaced the paneling all the way around.  Zina has finished the interior farmhouse painting and came out yesterday to help prime the plywood.  As you can see below we had a fencer come in and build a 25 x25 foot chain link fence for the chicken run.  If we really wanted to go all out it would be possible to house up to 100 chickens in this setup.  Considering how much bedding and feed that would take, don’t hold your breath – unless we find a lot of eager customers!

There are several tasks yet to complete.  The fence needs to be covered with hawk proof material, the entire perimeter needs to be made burrow proof to keep out the four legged hunters. The feeders, waterers, chicken doors, roosts and laying boxes need to be installed.  There will also be windows and screen vents for proper air circulation.  This will take some time but the pictures below show the stark contrast of what was and now what is.

Chicken coop face lift

Chicken coop face lift

Chicken coop

Chicken coop


We are anxious for the day that the construction comes to an end and the squawks, cooing and crowing replace the noises of the air-compressor and circular saw.