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.


Gotta have one of these on a farm!

When we decided that buying our homestead was something we wanted to pursue, I told Zina, “I built the urban farm by hand.  I wheel barrow-ed all the top soil in and I man-handled all the landscaping stone needed to Xeriscape the front yard.  If we are going to do this and it is going to be on the scale that it has the potential for, then I must have some machinery to help out.”

Of course I didn’t want to have one of those ginormous tractors with the eight wheels that are 6 feet tall, pulling a huge disc, seeder or sprayer behind it, but a little putz around tractor to haul inconveniently shaped or heavy objects would sure be handy.

Wishes fulfilled.  A couple of weeks back the local dealership dropped off a compact John Deere tractor.  It was too late for one blizzard and just in time for another.  So far it has a front loader (already coming in handy) and a 4 foot wide rototiller to help with the garden.  On order is a middle buster and a 1 blade mold board plow (the gizmo you often see in pictures being pulled by a horse and a thread bare farmer sweating in the summer sun.).  The middle buster is a piece of steel with kind of a heart shaped blade on the bottom designed to “bust the middle” of a row in order to plant things like potatoes.  It can also be used to help harvest them.  All I can say is thank goodness for some forms of technology.  The farm was never intended to make us a family of luddites.  It is simply healthier, better for the soil, and for the environment to engage in locally grown food production.  Starting this whole production in our 50’s demands a certain amount of convenience.

Here she be:

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Of course, you can see from the images that my son – the mechanical engineer wanna be who starts college in the fall, thinks all of the hydraulics and moving gizmos are just all that!  Who-da thunk you get a teenager to WANT to come and help out with farm chores?  Just give em a nifty toy to mess with and you’re good for at least a few days!

A few days after these photos were taken we got hit with a typical Colorado spring blizzard.  The drifting would have had us all but snowed in save for the new tractor.  Here is what Aaron did for two hours the next day:

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The humor in this story now begins.  While digging the family a trench out to the main road, our neighbor, whom we had never met, drove down to meet us…… one of those very same ginormous tractors (I am six feet tall {the guy in the hat and overalls}) – you can get an idea of the size simply because the tires are almost as tall as me!.  He decided that it would be nice to come down and help out and finally meet the new neighbors.  He had a snow plow blade on the front that was as wide as my pickup is long.  Aaron was pointed away from the main road and didn’t see this beast bearing down on him.  When he did notice it was hilarious – it looked like a go cart being chased down by a semi!  We were wondering if we fed and watered our tractor if someday it might grow up to be like this one!  What had taken Aaron two hours, this guy did in a matter of a minute or two.


It turns out that the farmer (Brad) is the one who has been leasing the back 30 acres of our property to farm it with wheat.  He wanted to come by and see if we would still be interested in doing that.  I told him as long as he doesn’t spray pesticides on it and because wheat isn’t genetically modified, we would be happy to have him do it.  In return I will get an enormous amount of straw that can be used for the chickens and for mulch and general composting.  He gets to sell the grain.  He said that right now he is working upwards of 5000 acres of land… none of which he owns.  The main method for non-landowners out here is simply to dry farm.  The ground gets tilled, the seed gets planted followed by lots of praying and hoping for sufficient moisture and then, around the 4th of July, comes wheat harvest.  Last year’s drought left us with 30 acres of unharvested, stunted wheat.  Considering that as I type this we are getting another 6 inches of snow, the moisture levels are quite a bit above last year…. but that’s not saying much.

The organic garden I am going to put in is around half an acre – Easily that if you take into consideration the seed corn and sunflowers I want to grow for the chickens.  It is HARD packed right now as it is where an old horse corral was.  Many hooves have pounded it down – but all of those horses have also made it the most fertile land on the farm.  Brad has volunteered, when he comes out to disc the back 30, to run the disc up through the garden as well!  Said he’d have it busted up and tilled in about 5 minutes.  Woohoo!  Gotta love other people’s machines!

So the JAZ Farm has a tractor and has networked to have access to some folks with much bigger toys to help get the big jobs done.

The New Dog Run

Basil is a sweetie but there are times when a dog simply needs to be outside by herself.  Labs are very devoted to their pack, and they will follow you around everywhere…. ALL THE TIME!

So in order for us to do all the painting and repairs needed on the house, between snowstorms Aaron and I  built a dog run for her highness.

We discovered in the process what kind of soil we have here as well.  According to a local fencer it is sand with about 20% clay.  It is incredibly well drained but it also hard packs under pressure.  The post hole auger helped but it was back breaking work!  The end result turned out well.  Basil hates it, but too bad, sometimes we need a moment sans puppy!

Doggy Prison:

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Before and After, How it all Began


JAZ Farm has been an evolution.  While many plans, visions and dreams rarely turn out exactly as you thought they would, JAZ Farm was inevitable.  From as far back as age 17, I had an amazing disdain for cities.  All through college, all I could think about was wanting to live somewhere “in the wilderness”.  At the time this was something of a naive belief that one still actually could move to the mountains and somehow live off of the land.  What they don’t tell you  in your Jeremiah Johnson fantasy is that the mountains don’t provide much in the way of edible assets that don’t need to be shot first.  Now that isn’t an ethical issue as much as it is a scarcity.  I am a fair bowhunter, and a pretty accurate shot.  Considering how much time I spent in archery, I better be.  No the problem is that 1. There is a regularly scheduled hunting season.  Hunting out of season is a great way to get you into a whole heap of trouble and 2. There really is only so much Deer and Elk you can eat; not to mention the fact that greens are hard to come by.  I did live with ranchers for a lot of years and did learn the ins and outs of cattle, but there too, Walden had a growing season of about two and a half months.  I even experienced significant snowfall at that elevation (8200 feet) in July!

In seminary, while living and working in ranch country, I became aware of the moral and ethical dilemmas surrounding our nations’ food system.  The Green Revolution was starting to wreak havoc on the local farmer.  Thousands upon thousands of our “food creators” were being told to “get big or get out”.  A tradition, and ultimately, the most efficient way to produce nutritious food, was being decimated.  This is a topic for another time….. but believe me…. there will be many discussions about this.  We have screwed things up in some of the worst ways imaginable and it must be changed.  JAZ Farm is trying to be a part of that change.

As Aaron grew up and he found his own interests and our archery fascination slowly wained, we began getting into Xeric (water efficient) landscaping in the front yard of our Westminster home.  As I learned more and more about what poison industrial food is I started a quest for some sort of independence from that system.   The first attempt was hydroponics.  I built a hydroponic grow room in our basement.  It was a rousing success but it was in no way large enough to create enough produce to sustain a family.  However, it is absolutely possible to grow all of the salad greens one could ever need in a couple of hydroponic grow tables lit with some T5 florescent lights.  In fact, given how hot and arid our climate is, that is likely how I will always grow lettuce.  You have never seen green lettuce until you have raised it in a nutrient controlled environment!  It even has taste!

The grow room now is primarily a seedling starter room.  It also may be the room that the newly born chickens are brooded in.  The started seedlings were initially intended to provide the plants for the first part of the JAZ Farm…. JAZ Urban Farm.  Our back yard is an Urban Farm.  We have 25 raised beds and it has been astounding how much of our produce we grow in the summer and how much of it we have available through canning, freezing and dehydrating throughout the winter.  Of the 45 tomato plants I grow out back each year, we NEVER have to by any kind of tomato products except for an occasional can of tomato paste.  The taste is second to none!

JAZ Urban Farm was our attempt to create something similar to a family we found on the internet – The Dervais Family.  If you do a You Tube search you will find these folks living not too far from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena California.  On a postage stamp sized lot in the city they raise and sell produce, eggs, and goat’s milk year round.  Now, they are fortunate to not have the season we fondly refer to as winter, but given the restricted growing season out here, we achieved an amazing success.

Growing in Colorado presents some challenges; the least of which is the short growing season – The biggest…. water.  One learns very quickly how to conserve water and, through the use of different kinds of mulches, keep the water sequestered in the beds instead of evaporating off into the stratosphere.   It isn’t inexpensive to get started, but if you spend the money to build the beds, put in the drip systems, and as I did, put mini-greenhouses over all of them, it is simply the net present cost of all the produce you won’t have to buy.  This isn’t for the inactive.  Just as we learned when we got Basil the dog, one doesn’t buy a Yellow Lab if you want to be a couch potato.  Gardens, too, don’t grow themselves.  Leave them to their own devices and you will find a weed patch just happy as can be to choke out your Roma tomatoes.  My rodent control is a little less than conventional.  I try to be organic with pest control, and I do the necessary weeding, and use drip irrigation.  However, when them little brown varmints with the big fuzzy tails come around and they threaten to put bite marks in my gorgeous Oregon Spring slicing tomatoes…. sucker’s gotta go!  They usually meet with some unfortunate demise where they get a hole in them and fall off the fence….. “honest officer I think it just slipped!”

James Howard Kunstler, an author, wrote a book entitled, The Long Emergency.  I would recommend it to everyone.  Suffice it to say that we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet.  Kunstler is someone pigeon holed as being a “peak-er”, someone who researches and believes that we have hit the peak of the easily accessible fossil fuels on the planet.  From here forward it will be more and more difficult, and more and more expensive, to extract oil from mother earth.  He wrote a phrase that I believe completely, “The creation of American suburbia has been the greatest mis-allocation of resources in the history of the world.”  It is not possible to do much in a suburb that doesn’t entail jumping in a car of some sort and motoring off to somewhere else.  If we are indeed at peak oil, and our food travels some 15o0+ miles to reach our plate (and often ridiculously longer miles – like 90% of our garlic coming from China!), then food is destined to get amazingly more expensive and scarce.

Armed with that information, the desire to grow our own food and somehow live off the land and become more sustainable, we began a search for somewhere to homestead.  We don’t have any delusions of quitting our day jobs and becoming Green Acres, but having someplace away from the suburbs that offers infinite opportunities for us to experiment, and sometimes, simply to sit and contemplate our navels, the peace of the country has already been recharging.  As a financial advisor, I work in the heart of the insanity of our “capitalist” system.  As much as I love my clients, I hate what I am having to defend them from.  JAZ Farm allows me to feel like I have some control over other aspects of my life that don’t involve my career.

Our astronomy club has a dark site for observing in Deer Trail, Colorado.  It is out I-70 on the eastern plains.  It is beautifully desolate; grain fields as far as the eye can see.  On our way out to the site, we would take side trips to the little bergs along the way.  Because of the housing bubble and financial collapse, a lot of the small homesteads were coming on the market as foreclosures.  To make a long story short, the first one we found fell through.  This one happened shortly thereafter.  Physically, it was a complete mess.  I will post some pictures of the interior before and afters.  It was built in 2006 and we got it for a song.  The problem was that it it didn’t look like anyone had ever cleaned it or much less cared for it.  We had to repair windows, put on a new roof, completely redo and repaint the interior, fix water damage, and generally get it so that it was liveable and not look like a slum.  The previous owners evidently had dogs that had the run of the house.  They must have smoked.  The dirt inside was unreal.  Thick to the point that a rag would simply make mud.  When we had the carpets steam cleaned they literally changed colors.

The fortunate part was that it was just what we wanted.  The months after the closing have been a non-stop fix up.  We are finally seeing the end of it.   The JAZ Farm projects can now focus on…. the actual farming!  40 acres, a well, a house, a chicken coop, a garden, an astronomy space, and a barn. This is all very exciting for us.  Thanks for looking!



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Chicken coop face lift

Chicken coop face lift