It has been a great star party. We are starting to do the zombie stomp from staying up all night and getting up at the crack of noon. I’ll have more pictures later but here are some of the toys being played with.
Aaron and I made it down to Okie-Tex Star Party on Friday evening. It is in the panhandle of Oklahoma near Kenton Oklahoma (not sure how it ever got a name as it it basically a bar and a church). After a two year hiatus while we built out the farm the trailer made it with no issues and the astronomy gear has been “stellar”! Saturday morning we arrived at the entrance at 7 am to stake out our territory. The guys I am with have done this numerous times and knew just where to set up. As we speak, the field is filling with all of the usual astro gear and gizmos. Some is very simple and basic, others intensely hi-tech. One thing for sure, we are not surrounded by the uneducated sort. This is geek central. Just my crew consists of me (a financial advisor), two attorneys, two software engineers and a physician.
The skies are incredibly dark. We were able to see the milky way from horizon to horizon. This is getting harder and harder to find due to the light domes emitted from our apparent fear of the dark.
The first night of observing usually involves the pleasure cruise of hunting the more prominent eye candy. Local folks know the event is happening and are eager to have us help them tour the galaxy. The Swan, Lagoon, Trifid, and Eagle nebula near Sagittarius are big hits. Andromeda, our nearest galaxy, is an eye opener as well as the big globular clusters of M13 and 92 in Hercules and M22 in the southern sky. They wow big time as they look like giant galactic diamond rings made up of millions of old stars.
Going forward, most of the astronomers will go deep. They will break out the observing lists and settle in to a week of hunting down faint fuzzies that will include galaxies hundreds of millions of light years away. Many will be imaging, using their high tech polished glass, CCD cameras and computers to capture and create images of amazing clarity.
This is a badly needed break. It has been over two years since our last star party and hanging with friends and especially my son for a week is a rare treat. Much thanks to my wife for kicking me out the door. She says the dog keeps looking out the window wondering where we are. I miss them a bunch, but wasn’t about to turn this down. Now that we are here…. it looks like it needs to be an annual event.
The Boys with their toys (mine is the closest and Aaron’s is the one next to it.
My scope on the right and some of the other astronomers getting their gear assembled.
Our arrival and just getting the gear out onto the ground. It is a long and heavy ordeal to get everything situated. One doesn’t go to these for just a day or two. It takes to long to set up and take down.
I was just thinking that as of this past weekend we have reached the end of the beginning. The blog has shown the refurbishing of the property when it was first purchased, the build out of the farm infrastructure, the thoughts, philosophies and personal journies that took us here, the planting from seed to ground, the storms, the growing, the chickens, the harvest, and then the ultimate culmination of the labor by showing it on our plate (having been grown 100% here on the farm). The question that came to mind is: “Can You Do This?”
We are far from done with the place but as a friend said, “each year it should get easier now that the infrastructure has been built”. However, some of this was, of course, to see if we could do it, but also to hopefully inspire others to do it as well. Do you need to live in the suburbs or the city? If you do, could you afford a plot of land to go to on the weekends to work it? Could you establish a community garden or farm your yard? Could you find an organic farm to volunteer for and support through a CSA? If you are able to, or if you watched as we went above and beyond the call here and thought how wonderful it would be to do something like that…. why don’t you?
So much of life anymore lacks meaning and purpose. We sell our souls to do a job we hate for some amorphous time in the future when we hopefully can quit doing it. The ridicule of the president when they misquoted him in the press saying, “you didn’t build this” was embarrassing. He was, after all, dead on correct! You didn’t. You may have worked hard to build a business or move up the ranks in a job, or whatever small piece of the machine you were a part of, but you didn’t build it all. If you think you did, go out into a field somewhere with nothing, not even tools or a pen, and give it a shot. You didn’t build it. For you Mad Max fans: “Master Blaster Runs Barter Town!”
I had a sociology professor once in college who went on a rant about that very issue and it has stuck with me ever since. He said to the effect: “If you think you are self-made and that you don’t depend on society, then strip naked and off to the woods with you! You probably didn’t buy, let alone make your clothes (remember he is talking to college students) – some person being paid slave wages probably did. You probably didn’t pay your own tuition. You didn’t invent the car or bike that got you here and you didn’t pave the roads or make the electricity or mine the minerals, or pump the water and oil that supports everything you do every moment of every day. I am also absolutely sure YOU DIDN’T GROW YOUR OWN FOOD! You are baby birds in a nest, no matter what you have aspired to, that are completely dependent on the momma bird of industrial society to support you. You have done nothing independently and alone. You are incapable of anything if you can’t even feed yourselves. Even if you are able to go out and serve your fellow human beings, you can only do so because others ALSO SERVE YOU!” I think that perhaps that point was so poignant in my young mind as I was struggling to find myself and look to a very uncertain future, that got me to this point.
We have completely lost touch with 1. The skills needed to support and feed ourselves and 2. Just how much unpaved land and resources it takes to support the millions of those who live on pavement. We were a nation that was built by neighbors helping neighbors build farms and barns. We were not built by the Marlboro man, greed is good, I got mine screw everyone else, paradigm of today. Get over it. In fact, you need society and infrastructure and the support of your fellow human beings simply to have the privilege to be able to even think like that.
We here at JAZ Farm are also dependent on the system. We make no bones about it; but we have chosen to try to figure out how to derive more and more satisfaction by taking that which we were privileged to be able to take from the system and use it to become less of a burden on it. We do feed ourselves. We are on our way to trying to live not only Off – Grid… but as the author Michael Bunker describes, we want to live Off Off-Grid. Every time we do something like freeze food – we ask… what would happen if there wasn’t electricity? How would we store things then? How would we can if we couldn’t get propane? How would we get staples if the diesel fleet stopped running? How do you go back to an Amish style (without all the god crap) of life and know that you can be self-supporting? Can YOU do this? This is very different from being a “prepper”. Prepping comes off as militant and that you see your fellow citizens as an enemy. Homesteading and self-sustainability is communal. It is a welcoming in of those who have transcended the Ego of the west and want to live peacefully and in touch with the natural roots that have been torn away to make way for more pavement. Check your ego at the door and help your neighbors so they will want to help you in return.
It is my opinion that every action you take and every purchase you make is either done blindly and unconsciouslhy (which makes you a sheep) or is an indication of your overall world view. Why play golf when you can garden? Why watch TV when you can take care of livestock? Why put yourself into a living situation where you have no choice but to be completely dependent on a system that mentally and physically feeds you poison and in turn poisons the world?
We are not perfect, but this has been one hell of an effort. Now that we have finished one big cycle of the homestead’s life, I hope the result, in addition to the increased satisfaction and happiness of my family, will be the inspiration of others to turn on the creative gene and do likewise: create that which creates tribe, community, personal satisfaction, and health.
End of Chapter One of the building and working of a small homestead on the high plains of Colorado.
After all of the worry and anxiety of trying to grow our first garden at the homestead with so many unknowns, the fall harvest is turning into a doozy! We have been canning and freezing and threshing and winnowing and we couldn’t be more amazed as to how well things have gone. There are lessons learned but over all the amount of food we have been able to produce on a half an acre has been pretty amazing. Next year we are going to be trying some new things (like wheat and trying to get the corn to succeed with some better soil conditioning) but the first year has been amazing. Even the eggplant and peppers, that we had given up for dead, have produced more fruit than we could handle. The Acorn squash is superb and we have Butternuts on the way. We have quarts and quarts of green beans, beets, carrots, and corn. The chickens are in the freezer, the cucumbers have been epic and we even have tomato sauce from the city when we didn’t think we would have any. We have 3 more rows of Black Beans to pick and winnow and the onions look like they are going to provide us with enough for the winter. The biggest thrill has had to be the success of the potato crop. We have pulled up two of the three rows and have well over 200 pounds (Thank goodness for the Middle Buster Plow for the tractor!). I am continually amazed at how much more flavor home grown produce has versus the grocery store. Most potatoes are kind of lifeless and are in dire need of toppings. Not these! They are milky in texture and have an amazing flavor. We will be putting them in kind of a root cellar in the basement for storage and we may also dry and can some. I have eyes to build a real root cellar soon as well.
The culmination of it all was a dinner on Saturday night that was grown and raised, processed and cooked 100% on the property. It was probably the proudest meal I’ve ever eaten.
So the 2014 year of the JAZ Farm experiment has been quite a success. So much has been learned and there is much more we hope to accomplish. At least this next year we won’t be refurbishing a foreclosed on home at the same time. While this has all gotten us in shape physically we are learning that if we want to be doing this in our 70’s we need to keep up on the aerobics and light weight workouts. There are days after processing food all day that I have never been so sore, even when I was powerlifting for sport. Anyone complaining that our food pickers want a fair wage will have to answer to me. What incredibly difficult work.
Roasted Chicken and Vegetables…. all from the farm. Distance to table… practically zero. Woohoo!
The end results: Black Beans, Canned Green Beans, Cooling down the Eggplant and Peppers, Red Potatoes, and Yukon Gold Potatoes
The farmer couple picking and digging. Jon harvesting potatoes and Zina picking green beans.