The Harvest Is Beginning

We have been very focused on getting the chicken coop finished and making sure that all is well with the birds, the farmhouse, dog, and a kid going off to college.  We haven’t posted much about why the farm even exists!  FOOD!

Despite the blistering schedule of trying to balance two jobs, a high school graduation, kid off to college and a farm, we managed with the help of grandma to get the urban farm planted this year too!  It has kind of been left to its own devices though.  The birds took the onions and a squirrel took a bunch of the corn (my squirrel repeller being at the farm and not in the city).  In a moister part of the yard we had some slugs in the tomatoes.  BUT! We have had a great harvest of broccoli all summer, we have had strawberries, kale, herbs, lettuce, cucumbers, green onions, a year’s worth of garlic, beans, some corn, and a bunch of peppers.  Not bad!

Today, I got up early to beat the heat here and went out and picked stuff.  I got through most of it but I got stopped in my tracks with the tomato harvest.  My Roma saucing tomatoes lost their minds.  I picked over 100 lbs of tomatoes thus forecasting what the rest of my day was going to be like.  I froze 25 lbs of whole tomatoes and as I type, have 3 stock pots of tomatoes boiling down to sauce consistency on the stove.  This one day will provide us with all of the tomatoes we will need until fall 2014!  Due to time constraints I am freezing it all instead of canning.  When the beans come in they will need to be canned as we have found no good way to freeze beans that doesn’t make them taste like bicycle inner-tubes.

This evening I am going back out to pick Basil (not the dog), Kale, green onions, and peppers.  I will be able to make and freeze all of the Pesto we need for a year.

Corn, cherry tomatoes, cucumber salad and Italian sausage for dinner!  Yum!  Total distance to plate …. 40 feet.  Chemicals used….. ZERO.

I am completely amazed that the city garden did so well this year even though it was kind of treated like a nuisance.  Next year it will likely be mostly summer food with the homestead growing the storage foods for the pantry.  I love growing chit! ; )

Happy Labor Day all!   Given that labor is now treated like an evil step-child, we need to remember the people who really built this place.  Working and laboring to build a farm and all of the construction work it has taken, they have my undying respect.

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Off To College Despite the Truck

What a week it has been!  Our one and only is off to college!  Mom and I are officially empty nesters.  The transition has been a little muddy and so has the farm!  We had a week of some pretty serious monsoons.  The week prior to Aaron’s departure to engineering school, JAZ Farm was hit with two deluges.  We got close to 4 inches of rain in two days.  Well….. at least we found out where the low spots on the property are.  One is in the front (right on the drive) and the other is out back….. which is now a shallow lake about the size of a baseball diamond.  Because of the rare occurrence of having standing water, we have had a chorus of toads and a nursery for breeding mosquitos.  Because of the frequency of West Nile virus out here we have been limiting our outdoor activities.

I was at the farm during the rains.  Wanting to get back to spend time with the kid prior to going off to school I went against my own best judgement and attempted to 4 wheel drive it through the swamp in the front yard.  I got into the water and high centered the truck front and back.  I hoped and waited for the ground to dry, but it never did.  As I write this a week later, it is still out there.  Evidently, the front differential is broken. The front wheels won’t engage and the rear wheels spin freely not even touching the ground.  Oh well.  The truck is 14 years old and has been through an unimaginable number of adventures since Aaron was five.  We are planning on having someone come out and winch it out and then donate it to charity.  A fitting end to what has been one tough beast.

Fortunately, we were already leery that the truck would eventually leave me stranded by the side of the road (especially since it didn’t like to shift out of first gear without a secret incantation).  So to take Aaron to school we rented a mini-van.  We got him there without any trouble, classes started today and I have received emails and text messages that all is well.

I am usually pretty grumpy about technology.  It seems that anytime you need something to work it is the perfect time for it to crash or have to load updates.  It is intensely impersonal and I would be just as happy in a world without it.  However! I am now a big fan of texting, emailing, and Skype-ing.  Unlike my days at Michigan State {not like my dad would want to hear from me anyway –  more for mom of course : )  }  Aaron has been texting and Skype-ing us.  It is great because it is just enough to let you know he is ok. Both the parents and the student can connect.

I am fortunate that most of the hauling needed to be done for projects at the farm are pretty much caught up.  As we just refi’d our house in the city we have to wait a month before we can go truck shopping.  In the meantime, the half-acre organic garden fence needs to be staked out and the post holes dug.  We are hoping for some astronomy observing time in September as well as getting into the fall routine…. yet again waiting for the markets to collapse.

So to all who have been following this project of ours I hope the rest of your summer goes well and that you have found some time to recharge.  Two pictures below:  Basil the college therapy dog, and one that looks like we just slowed down, threw Aaron’s stuff on the curb and wished him the best of luck! (haha!)  We are very proud parents.  We look forward to some of our own new found freedom, hearing stories from the college front, and getting to be friends with a very cool budding young adult.

Sincerely, We JAZ Farm nuts!

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The Truly American Philosophy That We All Seem To Have Forgotten

We live in a culture today that makes feigned reference to the rugged individualist when in fact our country wasn’t built on the Marlboro man cowboy fantasy but as a nation of communal barn builders where neighbor helped neighbor.   Our politicians implore us all to take personal responsibility for our lives and if somehow  we are not successful that we are to “blame ourselves” (to quote Allen West).  There is a philosophical war that has been fought in this country since before the civil war and it has to do with the nature of humanity and how we care for one another.  The Puritans evidently came to this country to live an even more oppressive life than they were allowed to live in Europe.  My grandparents were hellfire reformed church preachers.  As today, they believed that Man is wretched and we are all scum in the eyes of God.  Some are ordained to be saved, others to be damned.  As this theology of its originator, John Calvin, has morphed and been perverted, it has become the foundation of a vast swath of our American culture to justify greed.   The true American philosophers, however, were those we called the Transcendentalists;  The most prominent and well known (at least by name) were Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.  I think that if we were to understand and take to heart more of what these great thinkers espoused and how they stood in defiance of inequality, oppression and greed, we would be able to have a more intelligent conversation of what it means to be free.

Too often today, Calvinism forms the basis of religious and political thought – that capitalism is the measure of human worth and that you can know who is divinely chosen by their wealth.  Those who believe this, even though they don’t even know anything about the Calvinist origins of their thinking, have chosen a pseudo-intellectualist and sociopathic author, Ayn Rand, as their champion.  If one stands against this, the quick McPhilosophy or mindless response is to label someone a socialist (most these days not having one clue as to what that really means).

If we could resurrect the deep thought of those who taught that all people are one and that no one is superior in any fashion to another, perhaps, like Thoreau, we would spend more time caring for one another and sit amongst our bean fields contemplating the deeper thoughts of life.  Indeed, it seems likely that we would learn to sit still and quit running east looking for a sunset.  Our country is badly off course and inequality of wealth is being hoarded at the very top as though they did anything legitimate to earn it.  We don’t need to look to Stalinist Russia for a scapegoat.  We simply need to understand that there is another way of looking at true American Freedom and what that really means.  Our philosophers are still  here and now, unfortunately, to hear them requires that one put down the remote and read.  If we agree that America has lost its way and that our founders never wanted us to become an empire in the way the Romans, The Dutch, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Soviets and the English all have tried and failed, the Transcendentalists of our own land and our own history point us in the direction that could restore us to a peaceful and pastoral land.

When you have some time, this is a 6 part series on Emerson.  The Calvinist/Baptist offshoots all have the megaphone of these ridiculous “church” monstrosities that have sprung up in the past 30 years.  Because we don’t value philosophy in our education departments anymore and religion is too concerned whether or not we are descended from apes, the greatest minds this country has ever produced are being lost in the cacophony of nonsensical noise we call consumerism.

Think local, think community.  Think peace.  Re-learn how to share and care.

From The Basement, To the Coop, To the Real World

It is such a sense of accomplishment to see the coop now being used by the birds it was built for.  Last Friday the chickens embarked on a rather bumpy ride to the farm from our grow room in the city.  I am happy to say that the one who’s foot was caught under the cage (we’ve been calling it “Hoppy”) is now starting to put weight on it again.  It looks as though she/he will make a full recovery.

Today, I hooked up and activated the automatic chicken door and the little teenagers got to come outside for the first time and experience the entire coop and run.  As of this writing (which is 5:30 in the afternoon mountain time), they have been running around, scratching and pecking and dust bathing and having a righteous old time!  You can always tell if they are content because they will make little trilling sounds.  When you hear that you know all is right with the world.

They are certainly cautious.  Their world just got infinitely bigger than the galvanized water tank of their brooding.  They heard a couple of wild birds outside the coop and they all, as if wired together, stopped and looked up on command.  It happened again and they all scurried for the interior of the barn area attached to the coop.

I don’t yet know which ones are roosters, as they are too young yet.  But there is at least one bird standing watch.  I heard a couple of warning barks in the afternoon and the rest ran to congregate next to each other as though there was strength in numbers.  As they figured out that they weren’t in mortal danger, they slowly spread out again to do whatever it is they seem to like doing.  So far it seems like a pretty simple life:  Eat, sleep, scratch n peck, drink, poop…. with a few little temper skirmishes along the way.

It has been fun to watch them grasp just how big their playpen really is.  They have all been trying to do running take offs and stretching out their wings.  I am thinking that although I put the netting cover over the run to keep out hawks, it may serve as good a purpose to keep the chickens IN!

All has gone extremely well with this mind-bogglingly long project.  I sat there for awhile watching them thinking, “this is all good”.  Proud construction manager/farmer.










But what about MEEEEEE????


The Storms Keep Coming

An interesting thing about being out here on the plains is the ability to see storms build and move on.  The other day I watched a storm develop where lower level clouds were blowing west while the upper level clouds were headed south and east.  I was convinced that it was going to spin up a tornado.   Fortunately it ended up being just a severe thunderstorm.  While we are in a drought (especially south of us near Colorado Springs) we seem to have entered into a period of monsoons.  For the past month, every afternoon around 4 o’clock the thunderheads build over the mountains and seem to pick up steam as they head east over us and then out into Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.  We are getting some badly needed rain but of course that means that using the telescope has been out of the question.

As new moon is this week, I had thought seriously about bringing the scope out and leaving it up all week.  I am here acclimating the chickens to the coop and had some time on my hands.  Fortunately I didn’t get to it.  Yesterday we had at least 40 mph sustained winds out of the north.  It had the potential of laying the VLT flat and I would have been a sad puppy.  So I am watching the weather and the charts to see if there is a chance there will be any clearing into this next weekend.  In the meantime, here is the gift we sent to Kansas this evening!  Auntie Em, Aunti Em!!


The JAZ Farm Has Livestock!

Friday morning Aaron and I got up and rounded up the little birds from the brooder at the city house.  It was entertaining trying to catch these little critters as they can now run and kind of flutter fly around.  We ended up using the top of a tupperware storage bin to kind of herd them into one place and then grab them up.

We rigged one of Basil’s old puppy crates by taping some cardboard around the sides to keep them from slipping through the wire sides.  It seemed like the perfect option.  After all they are birds…. birds should go in a bird cage.  Of course, there is thinking its the right answer and it BEING the right answer.

We got them in the cage and got them in the car just fine.  There was the expected cheeping and freaking and all I could do is keep driving.  Much about the crate didn’t hold its integrity while en-route.  At a stop light I looked back and the cardboard had all dislodged itself from the sides.  The birds all had their heads stuck through the bars and as I started to move again, noticed that a couple had escaped.  I was now on the highway doing about 75 mph and there wasn’t anything I could do.

Upon arrival at the farm, I took a few deep breaths.  After all, this is just a bunch of birds right?  What could have gone wrong?  Hmmm.

Evidently the floor of the crate slides in and out for cleaning.  On the road it slid and that was how some of the birds were escaping.  I left the escapees in the hatch of the car and pulled the crate out that was housing the rest of the birds.  The spacing of the bars under the plastic tray are bigger than the sides so about a half a dozen of them fell out onto the ground!!  I quickly closed the car, set down the crate and scrambled to pick up multiple birds that were involuntarily free ranging around outside of the coop!!!  Fortunately they were a bit disoriented and were fairly easy to grab.

I then opened the car back up and my heart sank.  Three of the five chickens were fine.  One was running around with Duct tape on her wing, but one had evidently been crushed by all of the jostling around in transport.  I had to break her neck to put her out of her misery.  Things happen, but I was sad that it had to be due to such a malfunction.  Next time we will use simple boxes.  I had seen the crates used and thought it would be great….. not so much.  The one with the duct taped wing evidently has a bruised foot too.  We are watching her and may put her in a small brooder to let her heal.

The rest of them (32) are going gangbusters!  They love their new home and have been scratching and pecking and hopping up and down the roosts!  They seem very content and have been loving the treats we have been giving them to spoil them into their new abode.

I food-milled a bunch of our tomatoes yesterday to get them ready to make sauce.  This leaves nothing but seeds, skin and a little bit of pulp.  I took two paper plates full out to the coop and the party was on!  At one point they had surrounded the plate so completely you couldn’t see it.  All that was visible were brown butts.  It didn’t take them an hour to completely pick the plates clean!

So I guess, as it should be, the introduction of livestock to the farm was not without incident.  It was only one fatality and all the rest are very content.  I am wrapping the run with chicken wire to make the holes smaller and when completed we will be able to let them have some small introductory ventures to the outdoors!

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