She is now just a year and a half old. Amazing. How an animal, who only wants to be with her “pack” can be such an incredible friend. She was so easy to train. She only wants to make you happy. She can infuriate you and make you melt…. all in about the span of an hour. Basil is family. She is one of the tribe. She was THE RIGHT ANSWER for a guy who spends an awful lot of time alone dealing with stress. She never lets you be alone and when you are feeling particularly grumpy about all of the nonsense of the real world…. she brings you a toy and wags her tail. Dogs ARE Buddha nature.
The fence is up and the JAZ Farm has a windbreak on the south side! I put up 400 pickets yesterday and in the past two days have screwed in 2000 screws. Even with a screw driver attached to a drill my shoulder is aching pretty good.
The next step is to put braces along the back. We get a good wind and that fence will be laying on the ground. The braces are pretty simple; Just 2×4’s attached to the frame and a small sono-tube footer for it to cement into. We had some 30 mph winds while I was putting up the pickets and you could tell that the garden was being sheltered from it. Good thing to. 9o feet long plus a second section 35 feet long. It is high time these construction projects were done so we can get to planting!
We have decided that above all else…. We love our JAZ Farm!!
Zina was washing dishes this evening and looked out into the wheat field and thought she saw our dog. She couldn’t figure out why she would be so far away from the house when she almost never ventures too far away. She got out the spotting scope and asked me if it could be a deer. Close. Antelope. We get them with fair frequency out here. He/she was just out for some evening snacking. From our deck, it didn’t even care if we existed.
This is about an eighth of a mile away.
From talking with people in the know, and from having experienced the weather out here now that we’ve been here a year, it was advised that in order to have a garden that actually produces vegetables, that we build windbreaks around the beds. Oh goodie! More fences!! This, on top of actually wanting to PLANT the garden this spring. So once again, sit and stare at it. Let one’s brain get ahold of it. Put together a plan, go to the Home Despot and load another 800 lbs of lumber and concrete into the truck.
Word to anyone following this blog with the eye to wanting to do it yourself: If you have the dough, buy a farm with the infrastructure already in. Otherwise you will spend a year and a half on the business end of any power tool you can imagine, sore, exhausted, pissed, elated, and a true believer in gravity. Why gravity? Because everything…. and I mean EVERYTHING (including the tools themselves) are HEAVY!! The post hole digger you see on the back of the tractor below is a hernia maker. It weighs over about 70 pounds and there is no easy way to mount it on the tractor. You better have a LOT of holes to dig before you slap that puppy on the PTO. We had 17.
So Zina and I got to it and put in 130 feet of fence framing in the past three days. She did the chicken coop spring cleaning while I dug the posts and cemented them in, and today, we put up the framing. Next week the pickets go on and the south, east and west and part of the north breaks will be in. There is still about 80 feet of fence that needs to go on the north side, but in the summer, the worst of the wind comes from the south east. It can be done a bit more slowly.
On a happy note, I am not the cripple I thought I was. I have been suffering from the worst sciatica imaginable. It is truly disabling. The muscles in my lower left back and hip would clamp down and make it almost impossible to stand upright. It is the worst, awful pain when you are trying to stay motivated to get this place built. With daily stretching and some serious juicing to get some of the hulk status reduced, I have been working today pain free! YAY! I feel like marathon man I have so much energy. That might all disappear tomorrow when all the physical exertion catches back up to me. For now! It is so nice not to have chronic pain!
I went out to the new beds today fearing for the worst regarding the soil quality out here. With all of the work involved building the farm’s infrastructure there hasn’t been a lot of time to get soil amended and ready for planting. My self-imposed deadline was to have the garden planted this spring and I have been feeling pressed pretty hard to get that done. My worry, because of how hard the water is here, would be that the soil would be too alkaline and that I would need to bring in sulphur to help make it more acidic. My PH tester came this past week, so just like going to the doctor for tests not really wanting to know if anything is wrong, out we went.
Finally! A positive surprise!! My choice to use the old horse corral worked! It is indeed the most fertile and best soil on the farm. The meter, when first stuck in the ground pegs WAY to the alkaline side of the scale (the green). Exactly what one doesn’t want to see. I stayed patient and stuck to the directions that said it would stabilize to a true reading in 2 to 3 minutes. On all six sampled sites, the soil was a PERFECT 6.6!!! Woohoo!! Thank you horse crap!
We won’t need to do an awful lot to the soil so that gets me back on track. After the windbreaks are built, the tiller comes out and the drippers get installed, then it is almost time to plant! Thank goodness because the tomatoes in the grow room are already over a foot tall!
Our chicken processing equipment has all arrived. We ordered kill cones, knives, a catching net, and automatic plucker. Monday I am heading up to Ft. Collins to pick up a stainless steel processing table. We hope at some point to not only raise our own chickens as we do now for eggs, but also hatch them as well. This will let us replenish our flock as well as utilize them for meat without having to have them shipped by mail as chicks whenever we need new ones.
This year, however, because of time constraints we ordered 30 Cornish X chicks. They will be arriving May 12th just a week before our visit from my mother. These broilers grow incredibly fast (they are the basic breed used in all of your cellophane wrapped grocery store birds.) In just 10 weeks they will be ready to be put into the freezer. This will easily provide us with all the meat we will need for the rest of this year (we have plans to raise some pigs too but that will be another evolution and more posts as – if – it happens).
We had one rooster out of our four that, well – quite frankly, was a pain in the ass. The other 3 would crow, but “Spike” as we called him (because of the way his crop was shaped) would crow about every 20 seconds for HOURS at a stretch. I kept threatening just to shoot him and throw him to the coyotes, but was convinced by calmer minds to wait until the processing equipment arrived and use him as the trial run. That trial run was today. Spike, became tasty stew.
Roosters need to be slow cooked. Their meat, compared to younger pullets and cockerels, is pretty tough. It is very flavorful, but it isn’t something you would cook up and serve with potatoes to Sunday guests. As with farm fresh eggs, the flavor of the meat is leaps and bounds better than the store. The birds also live a very good life prior, which, we think, is important.
So here are pictures of the trial run. If you have a queazy stomach, don’t look; but this is a blog about farming and homesteading. This goes along with it.
Everyday gets us closer to planting. It also makes us feel a bit anxious because the clock is ticking. This past week we were advised to build windbreaks around the garden. Folks in the know on the high plains said that one of the biggest reasons a garden fails is because of the Wizard of Oz wind we get out here. So I have been hanging drift fence and building up the metal wall that is to the north of the garden. Plans are to put up yet another cedar windbreak to fill out that northern length of the garden boarder. We are both looking forward to the gardening and farming season NEXT year because all of this building will be over and we can concentrate more on just the fun of gardening. In building a farm from scratch, EVERYTHING has to be built. Every time you come up with an idea for the homestead it usually involves heavy things, power tools and a sore back.
With the end of tax season here finally we are both taking some time off this next week. I will be here for most of the week and Zina will come out for a long weekend. This week will entail rototilling the beds and getting them ready to plant, installing the drip irrigation, and continuing to build windbreak fencing.
We have gotten most of the seedling starts transplanted into bigger pots. Tonight we did most of the peppers and Zina, in her Agrarian Hippie Chick get up, got them all watered down.