Getting the Greenhouse Ready For Spring

While we languish in winter, the non-planting and building projects emerge.  We can finally see the workbench surfaces in the barn!  We organized, swept out piles of mouse poop, threw junk away, and generally created a neatness.  There was junk in there in boxes strewn about from way back three years ago when I was building the coop and fences.  After all, who wants to clean up when you are too tired to walk?  Its actually possible to walk around in there without fearing for your shins!

Now that the greenhouse is up and the raised beds in place, it was time to start getting the thing ready for the spring.  The drip irrigation parts are here waiting to be assembled and I am using a small solar panel battery charger hooked up to a deep cycle battery to provide power out there.  The big solar array has the ability to bring power to the building but it has yet to be wired up.  Considering that the ground, depending on the day, is either hard frozen or a muddy mess, that will just have to wait.

This weekend I put up the shade cloth.  After checking it out last fall after the greenhouse had been built, it became quite clear that something was going to have to be done to cool it down.  I did some research about the best shade cloth to use for plants like tomatoes and the powers that be suggested that a 50% block was optimal.  This material will block half of the sunlight and it claims that it will keep the temperature inside about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temps.  If it works that will be perfect.  If its 100 outside (which its sure to be this summer), then it should be around 80-ish.  The fans will certainly help as well.  This is important in a warming climate.  For instance, tomatoes will stop producing pollen at temperatures sustained above 95 degrees F.  They will drop their flowers and voila, no tomatoes.

The last assembly piece is to get the drip irrigation set up.  The drippers themselves aren’t  such a big deal; I’ve done it many times.  The challenge this time is the actual source of water.  Over by the big garden we have a ranch hydrant that provides water to the critters and to the drip system.  Over by the greenhouse there is nothing but a house spigot.  So what we are planning is a combination rain water harvesting tank with a pump, and use the house spigot that is supplied by the well to keep the tank topped off when there isn’t enough runoff from the roof.  The tank we will be ordering is 1100 gallons and has a water pump plumbed to it.  It has enough power to actually run an oscillating sprinkler so we my have to add a pressure regulator to the line. Drippers don’t care much for high pressure.  If it works then T’s and ball joints can be added to redirect water to various areas around the greenhouse, including the apple trees we are hoping to plant.

The projects now are a lot less intimidating.  There are three basic capital intensive projects we still want to do but we will be whittling away at those between now and some far off day in the future.  To really bring the place off-grid I still want to have a solar – hot water heater installed (with all the sun here there is no reason not to use it).  Also, in order to reduce the propane use, I would like to install a pellet stove (pellets instead of wood because in either case it needs to be brought in from off site. Wood needs to be split and stacked. Pellets come bagged and on skids) and what is referred to as a solar hot air condenser .  If you have ever felt the water that comes out of a black hose that has been lying in the sun, that’s essentially how it works.  Its a big black box aimed at the sun with a fan pushing air through it to heat it up and then bring it in the house.  The last, which will simply be a work in progress, is to build a livestock barn.  The livestock wouldn’t necessarily be for food.  We are trying to heal the fields, and having goats or a couple of cows rotationally grazing around different paddocks, will aid in the re-fertilization of the ground and help restore the natural grasses.  However, in blizzard conditions, and if we breed them, we need a place to get them out of the elements.  But that’s a ways off.

All of the seeds for the spring planting have arrived from their various sources.  We acquired a small refrigerator to keep them in as it aids in the longevity of their viability.  Considering that we are also doing some of our own seed saving, this will help to keep them useable from year to year.

So the winter at the JAZ Farm has been a little lazier than the last few years – thank god.  Now if we could get the children running Wall Street to get a grip and calm down maybe work would become more tolerable as well.  We live in one weird world.  I wonder what’s going to happen next.  Its all one surreal adventure.

This was the temperature in the greenhouse yesterday.  Today there is snow on the ground!  You can see the texture of the shade cloth behind the thermometer.

GH Temp

Not a bad crop of Spinach for the middle of winter!

GH Spinach

The shade cloth is up on the roof.  YAY!  No more climbing up ladders for awhile!  I hate ladders!  It was like trying to hang a 10 x 36 foot long curtain with a drill and self – tapping screws 12 feet off the ground with someone that gets nervous about unstable heights!  I know.  I’m a whimp.  Hey, bite me.  I did it.  Anyone wanna see if they can keep up?

Shade Cloth 3


There I Said It

Charlie BrownI’m a Prepper. There, I said it. That is not to say I’m a survivalist; the folks who seem to think bullets are more important than food, shelter, water and clothing. A prepper is one who prepares. What could be more basic than that? I am also a Homesteader. A homesteader being someone who raises their own food, tries to build and make the things they need, and be less reliant on the economy itself, unless it is local. The Prepper prepares for events that can leave you on your own, a homesteader has adopted a lifestyle that comes from the traditions of America’s agricultural roots. I am both. Combine Prepper and Homesteader and what you have is someone who is as prepared as they can be, within their means, for what would best be described as an On Your Own event (OYO). Think in terms of storms knocking out power, disruptions in the food supply, acts of war, or anything that many of us have actually encountered. It could be caused by most anything. It could also simply be, as in my case, an aversion to a lot of what our society espouses as normalcy: chemical dependent food production, factory farming, fossil fuels, environmental degradation, a distrust of the pharmaceutical industry, the gun lobby. Name your poison. In this day and age I would also put my money on a crumbling infrastructure no longer able support the millions of people to which this country has grown. The trump card of it all, of course, is climate change, but there is no real prepping for extinction. No amount of stored beans is going to get you down the road past that horror I’m afraid.

None-the-less, I’ve heard some describe preppers as being those who are going to Mitigate In Place – a bugging in so to speak. It does not involve things that survivalists tout, like having Bug Out Bags or the latest and greatest gizmos and gear; nonsense like thinking that in an emergency event they will just throw on the survival backpack and head out into a wilderness in which they currently don’t live, and will likely be disappointed to find doesn’t exist (or what does exist is already peopled). Why is it important for me to say this? Why do I think that I must stand on my stump and proclaim that this is who I am? I say it because I have to admit that at its most fundamental level, the redneck tea party folks that claim to be Preppers, actually get it. They don’t seem to be able to articulate the problem well and they may very well think the enemy or the cause of said OYO is someone or some entity it is not, but their sixth sense of things seems to be quite right. Something on this planet is very, very wrong and they know that no one is going to ride to the rescue when whatever it is, happens. No one. They know it viscerally and I must admit, I would throw my hat into their ring over those who still think sports like golf are a good and viable past time. Understand, I am about as progressive a guy as you will ever meet; but I am also very wide awake to the world in which we live after having spent almost 3 decades as a financial planner. My entire career has been an effort to help clients to be prepared financially for the future. It follows logically, in my mind, that I would think being prepared for all of life’s ups and downs is a demonstrable consistency.

Survivalists use the acronyms: SHTF (When the Sh.. Hits The Fan) or WROL (Without Rule Of Law). I think that these are misguided and largely amped up terms created by those who allow themselves to become freaked out by the propaganda machine we call the Main Stream Media: Which of course is owned by corporations who profit off of those they can keep terrified. Survivalists are those who demonize, and continually create an evil “other” that is going to come and wreak some sort of havoc on our “American Way of Life”. I don’t identify with this crowd in any sense. They are a paranoid portion of the populace and would likely end up causing many of the problems they claim to be avoiding. I don’t know about you but having someone approach me or my dwelling place with a modified assault rifle, carrying a backpack, playing Rambo, is as much of a terrorist as I would ever be likely to encounter. According to the CIA and FBI those folks are the genuine terror threat to the U.S.

Besides, I would challenge many of those folks claiming to be survivalists, to don their bug out bags and all the gear they say they would hump into the wilderness and just take a simple 2 mile walk. Just 2 miles. If you live in an urban or suburban setting you likely haven’t even made it out of town yet. Then what? Motel 6? What happens to you if this so called event happens in the dead of winter? How’s that going for you? What happens when you do get out of town and find some woods that aren’t just a park, its the dead of winter, you have no shelter, kids with you, and no food to shoot and grill on that fancy backpack stove you think will save you? Folks, I’ve camped in snow. I’ve been in the high back country. I’ve lived off of what I could scrounge and I’ve taken survival courses. The only thing this stupidity is going to get you is 1. An encounter with another fool just like you. 2. Unbelievable despair when it doesn’t work out like you thought, thus putting you at the mercy of someone you don’t know just like homeless people on street corners, or 3. Dead. The second you step off your porch or out of your apartment and head out, you become a voluntary refugee. A friend who’s videos I follow said to the effect that you should, “just do the math.” There are 350 million people in this country, most in urban or suburban areas. That means they are all in close proximity to one another. If you all are going to go off into the “wilderness” there are only about 60 million deer in the woods. There will be many people vying for the same food sources you are.” This, all because you thought that no one would be able to do this like YOU can. It comes from an over inflated sense of ego and a vast over-estimation of what you are prepared for. It would be a very very dark and sad time. Which of course, I think some of them idealistically pine for. Also, let me clue you. Out here in the Rockies, in the winter…. there is no food and currently in the San Juan’s there is 22 feet of snow and it is only mid-January. If you think you are going to slog through drifts 10 to 20 feet high, shoot an elk, make a lean to and tough it out you are dreaming. Just as a matter of course, elk are currently down lower in their wintering grounds, most of which is comprised of private land… ranches. Think ranchers can’t shoot? Get a grip.

So I’m a Prepper. I’m a Homesteader. I actually think the more conservative and maybe not the more highly educated of our population are right now the most astute. I agree with them when they say they don’t trust the government and that you can’t count on them. Where we diverge is to the reasons why. The stereo-typical prepper you already know of. They are the “anti-big gubmint”, “their coming for our guns”, “the liberals are the enemy”, “gays, guns and god wedge issue believers”, thinking that somehow the more progressive of their citizens are the cause of all the fuss. They’ve been fed a bill of goods because those who would distract them from the man behind the curtain, the real culprit, has bamboozled them. They know the problem exists, they have just been sold on the straw-man to keep them complacent so the injustices can go on unabated and unregulated. You know of which I speak; people who have been so thoroughly convinced of the propaganda that they continually vote and act against their own self-interests.

So why do I prep? Why would a man who has almost 30 years in finance, a Masters Degree, the equivalent of a Masters in financial services, started a PhD, and could live in a mini-mansion overlooking the 8th fairway buy a foreclosed home on the high plains and kick his ass for 3 years to create a homestead that provides almost all of our vegetables, meat, generates all of our electricity, and walk away from empire? Precisely because of empire, thats why.

I agree with the prepper community. I don’t trust the government. Not because the government can’t work. It has. Anyone who lived in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s knows it can work. We also know that the government is the citizens. It is self-rule. The government was supposed to be the voice of those who can’t stand up to goliath corporations and is supposed to be the employer of last resort in economic downturns, and is supposed to support and protect our social safety nets. The government did all of that until the population was dumbed down in the 80’s and told that government isn’t the solution to the problem, government IS the problem. Once that was bought into, it started a downward slide that has now culminated in a government that no longer functions for the people it was designed to serve. The government that was once an entity of the people is now an oligarchic plutocracy that has been bought off. Legislation now is passed for whomever was the highest bidder. Think tanks write legislation, oligarchs fund it, and politicians are purchased, not elected. It was a coup-d’etat in slow motion and not a shot had to be fired – at least not domestically. Drones and false-flag wars had to be drummed up to make us give up our rights for faux-protection. The government has been completely high-jacked by special interests and has rendered it completely unresponsive to the needs of its citizens. I prep because I know that Wall Street owns Washington. I prep because our country was taken over by huge, powerful, monied, interests. I prep because even if an OYO event were never to happen, an economic one is on the horizon and our children and grand-children will reap the whirlwind. We have been conquered and the treasury looted by huge corporations. Laws have been written to make theft legal and to give almost unlimited power to entities that the Supreme Court has granted Personhood status to. There is no representation any longer. The victories of Cannabis legalization in some states, Gay marriage, etc., are not victories, they are bones being thrown to the masses to keep them distracted and to create the illusion of progress. Since the 80’s, human rights and the representative government we learned about in civics are gone. I prep because no one is coming. In fact, those we think should come are the ones who have caused the problems.

I prep because of free trade. NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, institutions like the IMF and the WTO, have rendered the borders of sovereign nations irrelevant. Should the TPP pass, which looks like it will, the workers of this nation will be forced to compete with laborers in countries who essentially are slaves. Redneck preppers are still convinced that hard work at places like Walmart can afford you the American dream eventually. GM used to be the largest employer in the US and a one worker family could afford a car, a home, some vacation time, insurance and send their kids to school. We now have Walmart being the largest employer and it is estimated that each outlet of this fine institution costs the tax payers $900,000.00 per year for the privilege. They can’t get full time hours, they have no benefits, and when they get sick they go to the emergency room in hospitals that are for profit organizations designed to suck every nickel they can from their patients. It will continue to be an unbelievable race to the bottom. Globally, middle classes will evaporate, the money will trickle up to the already insanely wealthy, corporations will rule, and the average person will have no options, no recourse, no safety net.

Should the average Joe the Prepper or Annie the Survivalist actually wake up and realize that yes there is a problem and no, they aren’t targeting the right people and come to understand that it isn’t Washington that is the problem it is the result of the problem, things could change very quickly. If Preppers, Tea Partiers, Survivalists, all of whom are heavily armed (after all the soldiers of the south during the civil war weren’t the brightest of men but they could damned well shoot) realized that they had more in common with Occupy and Anonymous than they do with their corporate masters, things could change on a dime. If they understood that the enemy lives in gated communities and flies private jets with gold plated toilets, and found out where they live, the Bastille could indeed be stormed and all of the rats forced into the sunshine. A new day could dawn. But it won’t. No one will come. No one will help. Learn who your neighbors are. Get local, get more self-reliant. Begin to re-create small town America, even if it’s in a big city. That’s why I’m a prepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a prepper too?

JAZFarm Aerial Tour

Aaron, my son, has been experimenting with the drone, the GoPro Camera and editing software.  I found this kind of awesome.  We have some other flyovers but this one is pretty neat.  Zina even makes her movie debut!