It. Is. Finished

Habits are a funny thing. We are coming up on our third anniversary of the farm. Every week for those three years, roughly from Thursday noon through Monday morning I’ve been on the business end of tools and machinery building out the infrastructure. In addition to that there was the whole raising a kid and working a real job. There has been little to no down time. Very little rest. A friend once asked me how long I thought I could keep it up. Answer: 3 years, evidently.
I told my wife while we sat on the front porch, just after my 50th birthday, when we were contemplating the purchase of this place, that it would be a life consuming project. She has also had her share of projects – the biggest being painting the inside of the house, sealing the wood fences and decks, chicken chores, and harvesting while I burned out power tools. After all it was a dilapidated foreclosure, the only infrastructure being the house, barn, and broken down corral for all of the toy horses of the previous owner. I’m not sure she understood the magnitude of its scope. It CONSUMED our lives.
The habit groove wore itself into my brain pretty well. When I turned the last screw on the greenhouse I found myself in a state of disbelief that that three year chapter had come to an end. Sure, projects never really end, but this was the end of what was needed in order for us to see the farm as “complete”. The remodeling of the house, deck building, fence building, chicken coop building, pig pen building, observing field building, dog run construction, driveway covering, organic garden building and growing and harvesting, greenhouse acquisition and building, grow room building, painting, scrubbing, moving furniture in, installing appliances, heaving anything and everything – none if it lite in weight – a never ending spiral of money down a hole – not to mention the mental fatigue of planning things, designing things and thoroughly trying to envision it so as to not make stupid mistakes, had finally come to an end.
So far, a couple of weeks into it, I am starting to actually let myself believe it. I have a synapse worn in my head that says that when I put on overalls it is going to mean frustration, heavy shit to be hauled, and pain. I can’t even count the number of loads I have filled my truck with and then unloaded, along with dozens and dozens of trips to the Depot and the ranch supply stores. Day after day, week after week how many post holes have I dug in three years? How many feet of fencing? How many tons of aggregate and compost and soil have I had delivered and then had to move? . That isn’t the case any longer. How many times have I cut myself, bruised myself, dropped shit on myself and yet gotten up, cussed like a sailor, and continued on anyway? How many building and construction skills have I had to learn, knowing I will probably never use them again?
One of the things I had always wondered in life, was the outside limit of physical and mental endurance that someone can handle. I know that people in horrible conditions can endure herculean amounts of suffering and pain all of which would make this project pale by comparison. But what about a task you set before yourself? What is the upper limit of what one person can really do? After all, people climb mountains and hike thousands of miles or run marathons to try to discover that in themselves. In my case, I know that now. I. Am. Exhausted. My limit has been reached. I climbed the rope, rang the bell and now I will sit for awhile and heal. It helped me slay a lot of demons along the way. The amount of physical work I took on shows just how vicious the voices in my head have been and how much energy needed to be expended to exorcise them. This was an effort more about mental health than physical prowess after all. The demons are now corpses and they will not be missed.
Yesterday, unbelievably, I actually went out into the greenhouse and just sat there zen-ing out. I have actually gone out to the pens just to see the critters, not to repair or change something. We have been out harvesting, with nothing left to have to do but harvest. This morning I drove into the nearest town that has such a thing, and sat in a shop, had coffee and read the news. What a concept. All the while though, I had to catch the thoughts in my head that were telling me that I had to get back, that I couldn’t just relax, that there was something that had to be built or taken care of. Its an amazing thing to look at all that the farm now has on it and think, “Wow! I built practically all of it”. There is still a barn to build and a ranch hydrant to install, some pasture fences to put up in anticipation of our cows and goats, but the fundamental pieces of the farm that will allow us to grow most of our own food is up. It. IS. done.
So I have to now work on changing the habit. Let myself simply merge into it and let the place heal and grow and provide. The biggest reason is that the place kind of broke me. Physically. My hips and shoulders scream at me every day. I use a cane to get around in the morning until I loosen up, and my heels raise holy hell if I go barefoot. I’ll bounce back, I always do. After all, that is what life consuming means. Time for JAZ Farm to just be the farm, not a place where I do penance and beat myself to death for my sins. It has been transformed from an abused plot in a grass field, to a small farm that will be off grid despite that setback. It is the place that we hope to now play and live and escape from the cacophony of the world. I think I will go put on my overalls, go outside, and do………. nothing. What a concept.


Pigs Off To The Baconator!

We took the pigs off to the processor last week.  The “cookies” – the ones we called Oreo and Double Stuff – got onto the trailer without a problem.  We deprived them of food for an evening so they were more than willing to jump into the trailer when we put some apples in it.  They have extraordinary noses!

Bossy, the one that was almost all black in color, has some issues with her back hips.  She wanted nothing to do with the ramp going into the trailer.  In fact, when we tried to give her a bit of a push, she balked considerably.  Believe me, with their low center of gravity, if a 220 lb pig doesn’t want to be moved…. its not going to be moved.  Also, because the other two were already on the trailer, had we really insisted in getting her in there, we ran the risk of the other two coming back off!  Soooooo, Bossy is still with us for another month.  I am going to have to build a chute to get her up in the trailer.  Not a problem, she now gets all the food to herself and I’m sure she doesn’t mind that much.

Oreo and Doubles are now in the process of becoming smoked ham and bacon.  It has been a great experience and we are thinking that raising our own might be a great idea.  They were fun animals, they were raised with the best food stuffs, they were never caged up, or mis-treated, or given antibiotics, or GMO’s, and in the end they were meant to be food and food they will be.  Not only that but they were a big help in turning over my biggest compost pile and that will be put on the gardens here in the next couple of weeks.

pigs to processor 2015

Carrots Carrots Carrots

While we tried to keep our minds off of the total screwing we took from Solar Mart we harvested carrots.  They never seem to disappoint.  I estimated the harvest at around 60 lbs.  A third were put into the dehydrator, we canned another third and we made and froze carrot juice with the rest.  They are so sweet.  I wish we could keep them fresh year round!

Carrots 1 Carrots 2 Carrots 3 Carrots 4 Carrots 5

You Simply Cannot Make This Stuff Up.

If you are going to do something for your retirement that goes well beyond shuffleboard, traveling abroad, golf, or sitting on a beach somewhere, be prepared for the people you contract with to be a much bigger obstacle to your success than the actual plans.

You simply cannot make this up.  For those who have followed this blog from the beginning you know that not only is it our intent to build this farm as a symbol of sustainability and an effort to preserve traditions of our agricultural past, it is also to be our retirement place.  We hope to be here growing food, raising animals, gazing at the stars, doing crafts and enjoying a rural existence until we are simply too old or unable to continue.

The setbacks have been stunning.  All of them have involved dishonest people.  We lost the first place we bid on, had to put money into this place before we even owned it, had myriad delays in deliveries, a greenhouse company that couldn’t get its act together, and is now bankrupt and out of business, and now…… not a month after the greenhouse was built, the solar company we contracted with to basically take the place off the grid has defrauded us out of $31,000.00!!!  They are no longer in business as we can tell and we have nothing to show for it.

Solar Mart came to us with a spotless record.  They were highly recommended, and we even have a credit union right near the place in town for whom they did their solar installation.  We were told, because we were also having a battery back up system installed, that Arapahoe county didn’t really understand how the system worked and that they kept coming back with questions.  Each question adding delay upon delay.  Finally, we were told that we had a project start date.  It was supposed to be the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Because of that they needed the second payment to pay for the equipment we would have installed.  The third being due upon completion.  I shuffled my work schedule around so that I could be available for the crew when they arrived.  That Tuesday, around 10 am, I received a call from the project manager stating that we were still in the permitting phase; that Arapahoe County still had questions.  No one was coming.  It was then that my BS detector had come off the neutral peg and started to quiver.

We gave them a week after that.  I started making email inquiries and phone calls as to when we could expect the project to begin.  No answers from anyone.  No returned emails.  My wife thought I was just being grumpy.  Then she tried to get ahold of them.  No answers. Then she got grumpy.   I finally decided to jump in the truck and go pay them an unannounced visit.  I drove to their showroom… it was dark.  Fortunately the door was unlocked so I went in.  After a little bit of a wait in a showroom that was clearly being boxed up, the woman we met to give our second check showed up.  She told me they weren’t open.  She didn’t recognize me at first but when she discovered who I was she got visibly shaken.  The DeJong fireworks erupted in a display that I am sure some of the other businesses in that warehouse were quite entertained by.  My voice booms.  If put in an empty warehouse… it echoes.  We were informed that ours was one of the projects that was cancelled due to some alleged negotiations of the sale of the company to another.  At that time there was some dispute as to who actually owned the company now.

I got the numbers to both the old owner and the CEO of the acquiring company and both denied owning the company….  Believe me, both understand that I hold them all responsible for stealing our money.  There is certainly reason to believe that the project never went to the county for permitting in the first place.  It turns out, also, that the woman I encountered at the warehouse was the original owner’s wife.  I confronted her point blank as to whether or not she knew about the company’s demise at the time we gave her the second check.  Almost in tears and clearly scared to death, she denied it.  That is almost certainly a lie.  The company was allegedly purchased. The former CEO resigned on August 24th and we gave them the check on the 28th under the perception that there was some urgency to get it to them.  It turns out that in the buy/sell agreement there was a clause that stated that if the records being used to justify the sale were not accurate or truthful that the contract was null and void.  The seller defrauded that company too and they washed their hands of the sale.  We didn’t know about the sale of the company or any of these events until this past week.

Now the money is gone, the project not even started, 40 other projects in disarray and another hassle from dishonest people bedeviling the build out of our homestead.  This was to be the last “core” piece of construction needing completion and now we have nothing to show for it.

We have been getting some help.  The radio show that Solar Mart had a good reputation with was a referral network.  Zina contacted them and their director has been working with us to get some kind of justice.  He has an “in” with the DA of the economic crimes division in Denver and we got all of our documentation submitted to him this morning.  Zina has already received a response from him stating that this is a cut and dried case of fraud and they will be pursuing it.  I doubt that we will see a dime from this.  For my clients who read this…. this is why you keep cash reserves!!  Fortunately we didn’t go into debt and it won’t break us.  This is more a case of shock and disgust.  No way they win… no way!  I will take great joy seeing him arrested and doing jail time.

So in the meantime, we are all trying to once again heal from the antics of people who simply don’t understand the real meaning of the word honesty.  I haven’t really had time to defuse from the whole greenhouse debacle yet and now this!  I trust no one anymore.  I am continually flabbergasted how some people can live with themselves.  I don’t know how many psychological blows I can withstand, although I think my success rate to date has been pretty exemplary.

The warrior is once again determined.  Make no mistake, we will pursue this to the end.  The farm WILL have solar electricity and we will win.  I do NOT take defeats lightly.  In fact… I do not take them … at all.

I know the saying that what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger… I am strong enough thank you very much.  Never let your guard down because even when something looks on the up and up (and we had NO reason to believe these people would do this to us) it can still go full goose bozo wrong on you.  The key is to be able to take blow after blow, get up and keep moving forward.  That is what I fully intend to do.

Beware homesteaders…. the monsters are out there and they want your money.

All dressed up but nobody’s home:

Solar mart 2 Solar Mart 1

Healing the Fields

Its pretty amazing how quickly nature will take back what is hers if left alone.  Our fields were badly beaten up by years of chemical farming in order to grow wheat.  The first winter we watched as our topsoil blew away with the wind having been left bare and exposed from the previous year’s harvest.  We decided that enough was enough and that we were going to restore the place to natural short prairie grass along with some alfalfa.  The idea is that we want to get some grazing animals (goats and cows) to rotationally graze the fields to get some nutrients back into the ground naturally as well as keep the weeds in check.  We have been working with a guy in town to have him come out and mow the place and then seed drill it for us.  Unfortunately, it has been such a wild summer with extreme dry and then more moisture than we’ve seen in years, that it was either too soft to get the tractor in or too hard so that the driller wouldn’t penetrate the ground.  As a result, the weeds took over.  The mice had a “field day” – literally, and the hawks and falcons had a happy hunting ground.  It has felt all year as if we were trying to repel an invading force of weeds….. and we were losing.

Today we finally got the mower onto the place.  The weeds are over 4 feet deep.  Thankfully the tractor has enough power to cut them down without much trouble.  However, we have had to split the job into a couple of days because with all of the dust and the abnormally hot September weather, the tractor kept overheating.  Its quite a job but it is coming along.  Next spring, when the ground dries out some but still will sprout seed, he will come out and drill about 20 acres and then we sit and wait and see if the seed takes.  The seed has gotten insanely expensive and we have to put down about 35 lbs an acre.  Guess I better start saving my pocket change.  If it works though, not only will the land get healed but we will be able to put up all of our own hay for the animals to eat for the winter.  They will become the compost factory and the manure to vegetable nutrient loop will be complete!


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Mow 2015


I’ve done landscaping and built huge gardens.  We’ve refurbished a house and built a chicken coop and pig pen but this is simply the biggest structure I’ve ever built.  All I can say is good job son, and farmer Jon!  Even Zina got in on the act today and helped hold the trim in place while I climbed up that infernal ladder one last time!  I am looking forward to some good nights of sleep where my brain isn’t spinning trying to figure out the next stages and ensuring that I don’t do anything stupid and irreversible.  Its up!  Its here!  Woohoo!!

What we have discovered is that it is very hot!  We will definitely be putting up shade cloth next spring to help block some of the sun.  The fans seem to be doing their job and when the solar array is put up we will be able to run all the fans we want to without having to worry about the electric bill.

We have started laying Lumite on the walk way areas with the intention of bringing in gravel for the “floor”.  A trick we learned from some greenhouse videos is that you can spray down the gravel with water in the morning and it will help to keep the humidity up throughout the day.  You flat landers might not think that that would be important because your air is as thick as a swimming pool, but out here where the humidity on a bad day is only 30% it will certainly help.

IT”S DONE!!!!!!!!!!!

IMG_4030 IMG_4029 GH done 3 GH done 2 GH done 1