More Astro – Fence Building

Wait a minute!  This wasn’t here yesterday!

The astronomy observing field had a couple of issues with bright neighbor lights.  A few months ago we had the main privacy fence put up to block an annoying light to our north (white lights destroy night vision).  Once that was up and we were enjoying the darkness, we discovered of course, another light that is on occasionally to our east (the prime observing direction for our yard).

Not wanting to spend the usual arm and a leg to have another 32 foot section of fence set up, I bought the parts and did it myself (Aaron helped with the screws).   Yesterday (June 29th), after fighting  a body that was rebelling against yet another day of lifting and positioning heavy stuff, I got out and cemented in the posts, ran the stringers and attached the pickets.

The ground out here is kind of funky.  According to one of my contractors, the soil is made up of about 80% sand and 20% clay.  If it is wet its pretty easy to dig into.  If it is dry its as hard as concrete!  I learned a trick from the fencer I hired for the other fence installations.  If one takes a power washer and jams the tip down into the dirt where you want to dig a post hole and jet the water down into the ground and get it all soaked down to about 2 feet, the auger slips into the ground ridiculously easy!  Prior to knowing that, when I built the dog run, I thought the auger was going to shake me to death.  It could only get in about 4 or 5 inches before it would hit dead pan.  It took me several weeks of working every weekend to build the dog run with its 11 posts.  With this new found magic, I dug the 5 holes for the new fence in a couple of hours!  Funny what you can do when you know the secrets!

Anywho, I wanted to get this fence in prior to the weekend of the 13th as we are hosting the first JUGS Star Party (JUGS= JAZFarm Under The Glittering Stars)  A bunch of misfit astronomy friends are coming out to break in the observing field.  At least this way I won’t have to hear griping that the white light is bothering them……. oh yes indeed they would gripe!!  Astronomers are very picky about white light issues.  We have even named one, The White Light Nazi, as he will confront anyone coming into an observing field with their headlights on! ; )

You will notice that the fence doesn’t touch the ground (except for the posts of course).  Thats because it is more important that it block out light than keep anything from crawling under it.  At some point the grass and weeds, etc., will fill in under it.  The ground slopes a little so one side has a larger gap than the other.  I will be curious to see how this stands up in our up to 70 mph wind gusts in the winter.  It feels pretty stout but if it isn’t then I will likely close the two sections off so they can support each other.  But for now, JUGS is ready to go!!

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One BIG Birdcage!

I got up the nerve and tackled the chicken wire issues this past week.  The run needs to be covered in order to keep falcons and hawks from dive bombing the chickens.  Evidently out here in the plains the threat is from both above and below.  The below part comes next.

Chicken wire is infernally frustrating stuff.  It hangs up on everything and bends and then, of course, makes you bleed.  The local hardware store sold rolls of the stuff (technically I guess called “Poultry Netting” – as far as I’m concerned there is no “netting” about it) 6 feet tall and 150 feet long.  Just about right for the amount of space I needed to cover.

The first thing I needed to do was cut off the cute little decorative thingies that were on top of the gates.  They were welded on so I let the sparks fly with my reciprocating saw.  At one point the blade let loose and hit me in the forearm and BURNED me.  Gotta remember, metal on metal gets HOT!  I mounted sections of chain link top rail across the gates so there was something to tie the netting to over the gate.  The gates seem to be the weak link and are needing to be reinforced to both avoid escape and deter ground based critters.

I mounted six shelving brackets to the front of the building to use as anchors.  I needed to get the wire above the coop door in order to be able to open it and this seemed as good a way as any.  I cut a whole roll of re-bar connecting wire into 8 inch pieces and used it to tie the chicken wire onto the fence and the tick tack toe structure I put in to allow for the protective wire roof.  I was able to hang one end of the roll over the fence and then hold it over my head and unroll it the length of the run.  The six foot wide sections then needed to be “stitched” together with the wire ties.  Once done, then it needed to be pulled taught in order to avoid it all being droopy.  Most of it is fairly flat.  In some sections a little droop was unavoidable.  None of it looks like a chicken wire hammock though.

It all seems to have worked well.  We have had ample breeze and it doesn’t seem to have been bothered by it.  We will see what the first big snowstorm does to it, but so far so good.  This is one part of the construction I won’t miss.  I got all scratched up and spent three days working with my hands over my head tying the netting into place.  Need to find a good Jacuzzi.

This is one BIG birdcage.  Thanks for looking!

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Happy Father’s Day!

Father’s day 2013 is the day that marks the end of the refurbishing of the horse shed!  Its been months of weekend work and the building is now complete!  Sure there are a lot of things that still are needed to be done to make it a secure chicken coop but the building itself if DONE!!  I was getting pretty tired of being on the business end of a circular saw and drill.  I finished up the interior walls a couple of days ago. Then Zina and I spent the past couple of days finishing the priming and adding the final coats of color.  All that is left is to build the window shutters, trench and cement in the perimeter of the entire coop and run, and string chicken wire over the top of the run.  That may sound like a lot and it is – BUT!  – it isn’t nearly has heavy and awkward as heaving sheets of plywood, measuring and remeasuring everything and hauling, sawing and drilling 2×6 and 2×4 stringers.

To quote a simple half wit shrubbery:  “Major construction operations have ended.  The effort to refurbish and repurpose the horse shed  has been won!”  In other words….”Mission Accomplished!”

Here are  before and after shots:


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If you’ve never seen it

We have had 100 degree temperatures the past couple of days (mid-June).  Today we also had Scirocco type winds (hot 30 mph windspeed). As a result, 4 new wildfires have spawned.  One is in the Black Forest near Colorado Springs which is south and west of the farm.  If you have never seen a wildfire smoke plume here it is.  I took this from our back deck.  The big difference between this and simple cloud cover is that 1. It smells like a gigantic camp fire.  2.  It drops ash everywhere, and 3.  The “cloud” is orange and gray instead of the white or gray clouds one usually sees.  Here we go again in Colorado.  We cross our fingers every year that all of the forests that have been decimated by beetle kill (of course NOT cause by climate change Wahahahahaha!) don’t ignite and make the air here completely unbreathable.


This cloud is all smoke.

Back to work

What a whirlwind the past couple of weeks have been.  The kid is all graduated.  Grandma has come and gone (thanks again for the gardening and coop painting help!).  I’ve visited clients in Steamboat Springs.  We sold a piece of property that will help to greatly reduce our expenses.  Aaron and mom are headed to college this weekend for freshman orientation and I am out here for the rest of the week trying to get the building phase of the chicken coop finished.

We are hoping that by the end of this month that we will be ordering our first chicks.  For ease of initiation, we read that Buff Orpington chickens are pretty easy to care for.  From there, we will try others and we also hope to both hatch our own chicks and start raising our own meat birds in the not too distant future.  After all, JAZ Farm exists to be sustainable.  What is more sustainable than raising your own meat and having chickens to provide you with eggs- all with a majority of the flock’s food raised right here on the same property!

Here is a link that shows what Buff Orpingtons look like:

What has happened, that was indeed expected but is always something of a shock, is HEAT!  As I write this it is 97 degrees with 30 mph winds and it seems to be starting a bunch of Colorado on fire.  For those of you who have gone on tours with us to Royal Gorge… it has been evacuated due to a fire that broke out today.  Global warming is a myth right?  The latest is that NYC will see a two foot rise in sea levels by mid-century.  Seester!  Come to the high ground!

My sister once described western heat:  “Its like sitting in an oven while trying to cool yourself off with a hairdryer.”  Its WAY too hot today so the banging and clanking of construction hasn’t started yet.  Poor Basil the dog is trying to cool herself down any way possible.  I have been feeding her ice, which she really seems to enjoy.  I may head up to the feed store tomorrow and see if they have a small water trough I can use as a wading pool for her.  She’s downright miserable.

This past weekend Zina started to add the final coats of paint to the coop.  We chose a cream color to match the barn’s trim.  We also plan to paint the house the same color so all will be somewhat coordinated.

While she painted, I insulated and started to put up the interior walls.  Once done and painted, the coop will be useable.  After that, then we will order our 25 chicks (one rooster).  They will brood in my grow room in the city.  It has plenty of room, hot lights, and the ability to have one of us around to give them the constant supervision they require for the first month.

At about 5 weeks they will be transported via dog crates that Basil has long since outgrown (she is now 9 months old and weighs 90 lbs!).  I will take some time off to be here at the farm to make sure they get acclimatized and that all the feeding and watering and automatic door opener gizmos work.

We are very proud of all of our accomplishments to date.  We got the place in December of 2012 (the predicted end of the world) and since then it has been full days every weekend or more since.  It certainly doesn’t look like the place we bought!

Also, our door wall to our deck didn’t have any curtains on it.  We would eat breakfast with the sun shining directly into our eyes.  Zina bought a curtain rod and some french style drapes and we now have some of that good ol’ modern ambience.  It looks great!

Here are the latest:







A Palestinian Poem

The Seed Keeper

Burn our land
burn our dreams
pour acid onto our songs cover with saw dust
the blood of our massacred people muffle with your technology the screams of all that is free, wild and indigenous. Destroy.

our grass and soil
raze to the ground
every farm and every village our ancestors had built every tree, every home every book, every law
and all the equity and harmony.

Flatten with your bombs every valley; erase with your edicts our past
our literature; our metaphor Denude the forests
and the earth
till no insect,
no bird
no word
can find a place to hide.
Do that and more.
I do not fear your tyranny
I do not despair ever
for I guard one seed
a little live seed
That I shall safeguard
and plant again.

(Palestinian poem)