Smoke and Sunflowers

Because half the country seems to be on fire right now, we have been having pretty smoke filled skies.  Last night we watched the moonrise from the deck and it was as orange as I’ve ever seen it.  While it does make breathing a little uncomfortable at times, the pictures are spectacular.  This is from the deck at about 6 am this past week:

Smoke Sunrise

One of Colorado’s big crops is sunflowers.  There are fields and fields of them around us.  In the past week they have all reached their peak and there is yellow all around us!  Next weekend we will be harvesting in earnest as well.  The garden seems to be doing well despite our inattention this year because of so many distractions.  Zina has already picked all the kidney beans and the wheat is in the winnowing stages.  The potatoes look to not be disappointing.  Getting them up and stored is always a big job.  Hopefully my fingers will be healed up enough after cutting them up working on the greenhouse.  Potatoes involve a lot of hand digging despite the tractor’s best efforts.

Sunflowers 2015

Zina The Reaper!

Zina’s birthday present arrived this past week.  She has had so much fun with the wheat growing and harvesting she decided that she needed something more efficient to cut the stalks with.  As this is nowhere near needing machinery the Scythe was the logical choice.  She has all the gizmos:  The scythe, the peening stone and holster, sharpening kit, and book to teach her all the ins and outs.  I don’t dare sleep now, I may wake to the grim reaper standing over me!!  Happy Birthday Sweetie!

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This Thing Is Just About Finished!

Of course now that the more tedious parts of the greenhouse project need to be done, my son started back to school and we are in a heat wave!  While the last remaining pieces aren’t that difficult, I have been forced inside because of the 95 + F temps we have been having.  The walls are up and the door is covered on the back.  I couldn’t keep going today it was just too hot.  So the last steps are to cover the front door, caulk the seam where the roof and the front and back walls meet and then add the decorative trim.  I have had to make many round trips to the hardware store (which is about a 2 hour round trip) because the manufacturer shorted me hundreds of the self-tapping screws.  I kept wondering if I was being over zealous about my screw usage but looking at his website I’m pretty sure I am just following the instructions.

I have burned my thumb and I have bandaids on 3 fingers on my right hand where my cutting/grinder raked across the top of my hand.  Self-inflicted battle wounds.  Now that the whole thing is pretty well sealed up, it is a smart thing that we invested in the fans and vents.  It is definitely a greenhouse!  I’ll bet this afternoon it was 110 inside it.  I’m going to have to get a thermometer to hang in there to see how the temperatures fluctuate and adjust with the seasons.  We are all very excited to see this coming to a conclusion.  This is the end of our hands on construction for 2015.  The solar installers start on September the 8th.  All we’ve had to do with that is print up lots of money!

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It Is Starting To Look Almost Useable!

Aaron and I for yet another weekend, attacked the greenhouse project!  We had to take some time to eyeball and think through the end walls.  The posts you see that frame the doors were too long.  Everything else has fit perfectly and despite the aggravation of dealing with the manufacturer it is indeed one stout structure.  The problem we discovered was in the weight of the roofing and wall trusses.  In an effort to keep me from taking him to court, the manufacturer upgraded the framing steel from 16 gauge to 12.  It is seriously heavy.  I think the design software he was using didn’t take into consideration the sag that would happen because of the added weight.  Aaron sat down and did a few diagrams and we came to the conclusion that the added weight pressed down the roof and made it shorter than expected.  We went back and forth for most of a morning.  After all, this project wasn’t cheap.  Now we are considering cutting two pretty important pieces. It turned out that we were correct and all is coming together fabulously!

We got the front and back doors attached.  Today I finally got to move and fill the 12 raised beds.  They had been weathering in the outdoors since last February but they held up pretty well.  After watching the mice scatter after moving the tarp over the dirt we had delivered back in March, I set to placing and filling the beds.

Tomorrow, Aaron and I will put up the last 4 steel braces on the front and back and then install the fans and vents.  When that is all done, Zina and I will add the last of the plastic panels and check this project off the list as DONE!

I am so glad to see how well this has come together.  It has been such a ridiculous comedy of errors to even get the thing to the property.  This marks the last of my seriously huge projects that I will be doing myself.  There are a few others, but I am so tired of building things that I am going to treat myself to the use of contractors.  I’m spent.  Its time to just farm.

Next up once the permits are issued:  The solar array.  Should be up and going in a couple of weeks!

Beds 2 2015 Beds 3 2015 Beds 2015

Red Skies At Night….. The Country Is On Fire

Aaron and I were driving to the farm yesterday and I asked, “Is it foggy out here?”  I thought my sunglasses were dirty.  Aaron answered, “Yes it is very hazy”.  It turns out that once again our skies are foggy because the country is burning down.  Colorado and the north west are burning in a manner that is almost incomprehensible.  Fire fighters being brought in from other countries because, in essence, we are tapped out.  For the first time, they are looking for volunteers.  If you think climate change is a hoax and you are dumb enough to listen to the bought and paid for politicians that try to convince you it is not an established fact you are one of the dumbest individuals that has ever donned a human suit.  We are truly screwed and it is a very short time until we see most of our species, and the rest of them for that matter, die.  I don’t farm because I think I can do anything about it now.  I farm because it feels right.  That would be my suggestion:  sit down, close your eyes, and ask yourself…. what do you want while you have the time to choose.  I can no longer act like it isn’t happening when I have known for decades that it is.  Peace.  Please. Peace.

Blood Red Sun, Pink Skies.  From hundreds of fires.  We really screwed up this place.

Fire sun 2015

Wind, Ulcers and Lots More Progress!

I have been playing a bit of hooky from work this last half of August.  I usually do as I used to take off for archery elk hunting.  Aaron came back from town today and there must have been damned near a tornado.  No sooner do we say that it looks like the greenhouse stayed up for the day we were gone that we saw the unattached plastic…. EVERYWHERE! There was even a piece behind the house in the wheat field over 100 yards away!  This is what it looked like:


Needless to say we kind of freaked until we discovered that none of it was damaged.  A contractor once told me that the need to pick up a sheet of plywood is directly proportional to the velocity of the wind!  No truer words were ever spoken!  These pieces of plastic are pretty light and pliable.  They must have just lifted up from the wind during the thunderstorm and they turned into kites.

It was MUCH cooler today so Aaron and I set to it.  We got the rest of the roof on and the side walls.  We had one incidence when the wind took one of the panels and threatened to rip two others off.  Wind SUCKS!!  Especially out here!

BUT!  It looks awesome.  I will not disclose any of our “errors”  As far as all readers are concerned… it is absolutely perfect:

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Tomorrow we will start building the door wall frames and begin placing the raised beds who’s boxes have been sitting outside since last February!  Finally!

The Garden Continues Despite our Neglect

With all the rain this year, plants that have laid dormant have now exploded to life… much to our chagrin.  Most are weeds.  Anyone who has not had to contend with goat heads count yourself fortunate – they are proof positive that nature cares not a wit for you and me.  It has been our best intention to weed and tend 3 beds a day while we are out here.  That will keep the weeds down and cover the whole garden every 6 days.  Best laid plans I guess.  However, the garden produce appears to be coming along nicely despite our seemingly life consuming, never ending projects.  Farmer Juan has declared that his days of non-stop construction are done once the greenhouse is completed.  We have the infrastructure now to produce virtually everything we eat.  My commitment to myself is to use next year’s season to grow and tend, not get bogged down on the business end of another friggin’ power drill!  Yes there will always be projects, but it is now time to let them be of secondary importance and enjoy the reason for all of the construction in the first place.  Yes we will be adding grazing livestock which will mean fencing and a barn; but the barn is going to involve someone else’s back and tools and frustrations… not mine.  Fences are easy.  My first love is growing stuff.  We have grown a lot, but it has had to take a back seat to 3 years of building. THREE YEARS!!  No wonder I’m so sore all the time.

We are going to have a bumper crop of carrots, onions, kidney beans, potatoes and beets. The Butternut and Acorn Squash are looking pretty good and we are experimenting with melons for the first time.  The melons are forming, it will just be interesting to see if they actually have any taste to them. The tomatoes simply haven’t recovered from the freezes they were subjected to because of the infuriating conflict with the greenhouse company.  Good thing we had a big crop last year.  It will get us through a lot of the winter. I did our annual trek to the local organic farm and got our sweet corn for the year and we now have 50 lbs of corn in the freezer. As cheaply as they produce it and how well the ears are formed, it makes no sense to waste my time planting our own. We are awaiting the tomatillos for salsa, the peppers are being put up and I’ve canned 10 pints of pickled Jalapeños.  We will be starting broccoli and cauliflower, spinach and lettuce downstairs in anticipation of growing in the greenhouse this fall.  I can’t believe I can now say that with some confidence.

Our newest addition.  We call her Happy Feet.  Can’t for the life of me figure out those feathered legs.  She was a “surprise” bonus bird that came with the broilers this year.  Slowly she is being accepted into the flock but the disruption in the pecking order has been quite apparent.

Happy Feet 1 Happy feet 2

Our melons attempting to melon.

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Poblano and Cayenne peppers.  Don’t rub your eyes after cutting up Cayennes!!!

Peppers 2015 1 Peppers 2015 2

We have grown dozens of Sunflowers this year.  Will be saving the seeds for the chickens.  This plant is six or seven feet tall!


A Boy, A Dad, A Truck, Power Tools! How much cooler could that be?

Yesterday we got the roof two thirds of the way on.  Not a couple of hours later, Godzilla El Nino arrived with a vengeance and doesn’t look like it will go away in the next three days.  Today, Sunday, it is currently sunny but muddy as all get out from the grid killing thunderstorms we had yesterday afternoon.  We have pulled the truck under the new roof along with the tractor and put Zina’s car in the barn as we are expecting the possibility of tennis ball sized hail.  Hopefully that is the exception to the rule, but the forecast from Denver to Des Moines is for raucous and nerve wracking thunderstorms.   Best to be prepared. The pre-solar system, JAZ Farm off grid back up system, got put to the test last night.  The oil lanterns and candles lit the house.  The little generator was put to work keeping the freezers running and my marine battery/inverter gave us a little power for other things as well.  All I know is that when the power is out one comes face to face with the reality of how many stupid electrical things we rely on.  No one in our family today now doubts that the solar system with the battery backup is a bad idea.

So here are the latest construction pictures of dad and the kid.  Its been a lot of fun working with my son.  He has come a long way this year and I hope it continues.  Today we are cleaning and such indoors and then will be celebrating Zina’s birthday!

Saturday’s work:

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Saturday evening the sky put on quite a show.  We have only detected one drip in the roof so far.  Nothing a little caulking won’t cure!

El Nino 2015

And Now To Cover It!

Aaron and I have had fun working together to build the greenhouse.  It has been fun having some help for once and watching him be an independent young man.  Rarely have I had someone to stand and scratch my head with and wonder the best way to proceed.  It was interesting to see the 20 year old assert his opinion about how things ought to be as we tackled the logistics of putting up the plastic on the greenhouse roof peaks.  He took a year off of school and I got him a job working as a waterproofer on construction sites.  Because some of the greenhouse needs caulking to waterproof the roof he got the nod.  I debated some points with him and, of course – as a dad will – lost.  We needed to make sure it was done correctly because once the roof is on, there really isn’t any way to go back and fix it save taking off all the plastic panels…. which just ain’t happinen’!

We got our system down and got the most difficult part of the roof put on.  The very top peak panels need to be very straight so that the others all fall into place.  Of course this means being at the highest point on the ladder (I hate ladders!) and also trying to make sure everything is aligned.  I think we did pretty well!  It was HOT!! So after each row we went into the air-conditioned house and drank a quart of water.  A third of the roof today and a third Saturday and then Sunday and the roofing will be done.  After that we place and fill the beds, finish the plastic on the side walls, build the ends where the doors will be and get the new drip irrigation in place.  Hopefully we will have some cool weather crops in there for the fall!

“Look old man … I got this, just hold the flippin’ ladder.”


The worst is over… the roof peak is on and straight!


The first third of the roof is in place!  Not bad for a couple of rookies!  The wind made us stop.  The panels are 4 feet by 12 feet and turn into sails when the wind blows.  Considering we were up 12 feet it was time to start conceding that we just weren’t safe anymore.  As it is we probably violated every rule OSHA has ever written!


Quite A Construction Weekend!

The greenhouse frame is up and all squared, anchored, and plumbed.  It is all ready for the roof plastic.  We had to keep the door walls off of each end because before we enclose it we have to place the raised beds and fill them up using the tractor – which won’t fit through the door.  Also, when we put on the roof, one person (me) will be on the tall ladder and the other (Aaron) will be in the back of the pick-up holding it in place while I screw it down.  Once the bed boxes are in and placed we will assemble and cover the doors, end walls and side walls.

This was a huge project that has been hanging over my head for a year!  While the dealings with the company were absolutely a nightmare, this is a very sturdy, well built structure.  I have a hunch it will do quite well during our spring storms.  Hopefully, we will be growing greens and cool weather crops during the three non-summer seasons and that the more delicate plants won’t get creamed during our Rocky Mountain runoff spring storms.  That will keep out of the grocery store a LOT!

Thanks to Aaron for all of his work.  Sorry it was so hot and humid and heavy.  The sunburn will heal!

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