The Piggie Count Down Has Commenced! Turkey Babies Are Cooking.

Because of all of the potential for a food disaster in the mid-west due to all of the flooding, the grumpy farmer has heeded that warning.  My sleep schedule usually follows the sun these days.  Rarely am I up past nine, and usually awaken around 4 am.  Laying there this morning, I started thinking about what this spring flooding (which NOAA says is just getting started) will mean nationally.  Bottom line, meat, bread, eggs and Doritos are going to be rarer and more expensive.  Keep in mind that Smithfield Foods, that was one of the largest pork producers in the country, is now owned by the Chinese.  If pork, in this example, becomes more expensive to produce, that company will likely supply its own country of ownership first.  After all, the Chinese don’t have any pretense of following the fallacy that we have of some kind of “Free Market” System.  One article I read referenced our Secretary of Agriculture who said that up to a million calves could already have been lost in Nebraska.  Meat will never be cheaper than it is right now.  Go buy it, freeze it, smoke it, can it or Jerky it.

Because of this, I started shopping for oinkers on- line, on my iPad, at 5 am on a Sunday morning.  By 7:30 I had a response and have secured 3 pigs to be picked up in about two weeks.  Piglets get weaned from their mothers at around 8 weeks so they have a couple weeks to go.  We will get our usual two that will go off to freezer camp in the early fall, and we are spending a little more money to get a show quality female to keep as farm pet and breeder stock.  We had one previously, but I couldn’t handle her because of my back injury.  Now that we have some more infrastructure, and I’m back to living horizontally, we are going to likely try to breed her later in the fall when she is full grown.  Pigs take 115 days to give birth so it stands to reason that we will have piglets next spring!

As long as we can get corn, some feed, and the produce and bread scraps we get from a food bank, we will be able to stay meat sufficient.  We can produce pork at a fraction of the cost of the grocery store, it’s organic, anti-biotic free, and it’s non-GM feed.  Besides!  Piggies is cute!

pig 21 2015

The incubator is up and running.  We are cooking up some turkey babies.  We will candle the eggs next weekend to check to see if Mr. Tom is doing his job correctly.  Whichever eggs show themselves to be fertile should arrive as fluff balls in 28 days.


Between planting, animals, brooding out this year’s chickens, finishing the hail covers for the gardens, the impending visit from Zina’s brother and his wife, teaching gardening classes at a nursery near our old house, and trying to finish a weaving project, things have been anything but dull.  When people are on retreat, don’t they usually just sit and stare at a Lotus flower?  I think I’m not doing this correctly.

Behold!  The grumpy farmer man teaching the city peoples how to grow food for the Zombiepocalypse!


It’s Spring and We Are Back To Normal…..ish.

The animals are all out and about.  Ross the Ferrier was here to give the donkeys a pedicure, the goats are hopping, the chickens are chickening, the little roasters are downstairs growing by leaps and bounds, the tomatoes are loving the grow room and the turkeys are laying a bunch of eggs!  Still looking for pigs, but it’s still pretty early.

We have a pretty good handle on the “cycles” of the Nigerian does.  April won’t just be known for April Fool’s Day (Both my father’s and BIL’s birthdays) and tax deadline day, and, I guess, Easter. It will also be JAZ Farm goat breeding season.  First up will likely be Cumin and Dozer.  After that, we may wait awhile for the others in order to get them on a spring kidding schedule.  If it takes, she will kid at the end of September (155 days).


In the picture above, Cumin is the one on the ground.


Above:  My fave.  Dozer

When we raised our first turkey flock, it was with the intention of hatching their eggs and using them to provide a meat source.  I’d have to do way too much infrastructure work to have cows, and we aren’t trying to feed a multitude.  Ground turkey is quite good and has made a great addition to our pigs, and chickens.  In the last 6 weeks or so, the birds have been getting their turkey on.  We get a few eggs a day and we have been scrambling them.  Tasty!  We held off on incubating them because they were eggs from very young birds and an, ahem, inexperienced and clumsy Tom.  Now that they seem to have their groove thing going, we are collecting eggs and will be putting them in the incubator this coming Sunday.  That way none of them will be even a week old.  They are supposed to be viable for up to 10 days, but anything longer than seven days and things get iffy.  It would be fun to let the hens raise their babies, but we have found, and the literature confirms this, that their motherly instincts aren’t too strong.

Of course, if we have a new dozen birds hatch at the beginning of May, we need a place to raise them once they come out of the brooder.

I did a stupid thing last night.  We went out to dinner at our local taco joint.  Because I’d been working pretty hard, I downed a couple of large glasses of iced tea.  The caffeine kicked in and I lay in bed not being able to sleep.  Zina wanted to know where and how we would raise the new birds up.  It was exactly that that my mind latched onto and I spent the night trying to figure it out! (Obsess much?). That’s my thing.  Thinking things over and over until it’s perfect in my mind before a single board is sawed or screw driven.

Fortunately, we figured it out.  When all is said and done we will have 4 different coops and a chicken tractor.  This time the answer will be made of dog kennel chain link panels and a hog shelter we already have.

I have once again been working myself to exhaustion.  It must be spring. I have been meeting my Fit Bit steps goal without any trouble.   All is well and this spring is FAR wetter than last so the gardens will have a fighting chance vs the severe drought we faced last year.  Plants will get planted. The orchard will get developed.  The broiler chickens will get raised.  The goats will be bred.  The layers lay with epic volume.  The donkeys do their donkey thing, and the farm will do everything we have hoped it would do when we drove the first post to make a dog run 6 years ago.

Of course, we are expecting March snow this weekend.



And Just Like That…. It’s “Summer!”

It’s a mud hole here.  We still have drifts big enough that we have to keep the does penned up so they don’t escape by going over the fence by running over them.  BUT!  Where there are no drifts, it is starting to dry up!  YAY!  I am so sick of slop.  Of course, after the 70 degree weather we are going to have this week, we have predictions for snow this coming weekend.  Hopefully, it won’t be enough to mud the place up again.  I’m here to attest to the fact that that bomb cyclone was a SOB.  All of our support goes out to the Nebraskans and all those living in river basins and drainage areas.  They are getting water and flooding like Noah and the flood.  We have the BIL and the SIL coming next week and it would be inconvenient to have the Detroit suburbanites come out and have to slog through the mud to meet the donkeys.

We took the boy back to college yesterday.  He was on spring break but I’m not sure he thought it was much of a break.  We picked him up sporting a wicked chest cold.  He had JURY DUTY that took up two days (fortunately he was able to convince the attorneys to let him go – although he was in the pool of preferred candidates going into the last hour), and he spent most of the rest of the week sleeping and re-charging from being sick.  Oh well.  It was a break.  I never got to do much during spring break either…. oh ya, “Hey boy!  Find a job!”

I’ve been Fit-Bit training.  Both of our doctors don’t seem to understand just how many steps we get in in a day just by doing chores and taking care of things (“You need to get cardio in, in addition to the farm work,” they say.  Look doc.  Have you ever even BEEN to a farm??).  So I had to find out.  The first day I wore the new leash, without doing anything out of the ordinary, I had 8625 steps in for the day.  You can set whatever daily goal you wish, but 10,000 steps is that new thing “they” tell you to aim for.  One additional walk up and down the driveway would fill that shortage. The difference here is that one is usually hauling something or pulling something at the same time (Feed bags, tools, wagons, water buckets, poop – you know….. the basics).  I’d say we are good.

The race to get the hail guards done in time for planting is ongoing.  After today, I have 11 of 21 finished.  If I cover one with screen per day, I’ll have them done in roughly a week and a half.  Planting is the mid-to end of May so as long as we keep drying out, we should be all set.  It needs to dry out and firm up as we need to have a semi come in with a load of planters mix soil for the new beds and the orchard we are building.  I have been teaching gardening classes in the city.  Ironically, this next class is all about raised beds and drip irrigation.  Something I know a thing or two about!

We embarked on the hail project mainly because of the drought last year.  The challenge here is the increased intensity of the sun at a mile above sea level.  Last year we had extreme drought that dried everything out and got the best of us.  I gave it some thought and decided that having a cover that we could throw sun-shade cloth over would help tremendously (It works pretty well in the greenhouse).  This year though, is the complete opposite of last year.  The mountains have “mountains” of snow which will likely make our spring thaw the normal violent hail/rain/tornadoes we normally get.  It will be nice to have the shade cloth, but I suspect the hail screening will be the real hero this spring.  I think the screens will work great.  I still have to cover the rough edges so the sun shades won’t get hooked on them.  I’m thinking of globbing on silicone caulking to provide a nice soft edge.  We’ll see.

The grow tables in the basement are filling up.  In the next day or so the plants will all be transplanted from their cubes into the grow-out pots.  Then the next round of seedlings get started, including hundreds of onions.  I go through at least 15 big bags of potting soil a year to get everything started.

Now that the ground is firming up I can finally get to the greenhouse again.  Chicken poop compost is on the agenda for the beds along with the new drip irrigation plumbing for the 9 new beds we are adding.  I’m excited to try out my new in-line fertilizer doser that mixes liquid fertilizer into the drip irrigation lines so the plants can be fed automatically.

We are on piglet search for the spring and our new broiler chicks arrived last week.  All is bustling here once again.  It’s nice to not be contending with retirement, selling a house, unnecessary conflicts, building a barn, having surgery……….   just farming.  My self-imposed JAZ Farm ashram retreat, such that I’m allowed, has been the ticket.  The head is clearing up.  I’m not the same person I was (better for me and my family – the three of us) so some folks will see some serious differences.  For me they are the right answer.  Others will simply have to adapt.  Not my problem.

Weaving, unfortunately, is on the back burner these days.  I have these great napkins on the loom, but finding time to get there and throw the shuttle has been a bit difficult.  Just the way of life on the farm.  It’s spring!  Even the garlic, wheat, and dandelions are coming up!

Hail 1Hail 2

Why To Have A Food Storage System

There are lots of reasons to keep a pantry well stocked.  Out here, it is simply logical.  We are a 40 mile round trip from the nearest grocery store, so just hopping in the car like a happy suburbanite to go grab a box of cereal because you ran out, simply isn’t feasible.  Stuff happens.  People come down with the flu or have surgery (hmm…) so they can’t shop, cars break down, the zombies are in the streets, or like just recently, a monster land hurricane descends upon you and you couldn’t get to the store if your life depended on it.  For far too many people, their lives indeed do depend on it.  But it need not be a complete dependence.

Being the ex-financial guy, my biggest concern is the fragility of our economy.  When the next crash happens, to quote Nomi Prins, “We will be falling from a higher height”.  Our debt loads alone are stratospheric and in a world of rising interest rates, this will likely end badly.  I imagine a time when all the Diesel trucks stop running and city folks sit and wonder what happened to all the mama birds that were supposed to bring in the chips, snack cakes, and candy to the 7/11.  Understand that I’m not faulting folks for living in urban/suburban areas, but it is a fatally flawed system.  It is a trap that most will find themselves in should the excrement hit the moving oscillator.  Rural folks will have their issues too.  Isolation being a big one.  Most farms today don’t grow food they can actually eat.  Everything needs to be processed and that takes energy, fuel, and resources – All of which contribute to an earth where biblical floods inundate the very landscape that is needed to produce food so folks can get out and buy Apples (notice the cap denoting a name not an item).

Seriously though, given just general demand and inflation pressures, food will never be as cheap as it is now.  The article pasted below came from a pen pal.  I’ve been watching this story unfold since the cyclone hit us last week.  I read that one third of the country (mostly in the breadbasket) are at high risk for record flooding.  It’s already started.  What that means is that farmers can’t get in their fields to plant all the corn and soybeans (and some wheat) to grow food to produce steaks, cheeseburgers, Nachos, Little Debbie’s snack cakes,  vegetable oils and the corn syrup for tasty sugary beverages.  Just look sometime and do a search about how many items consumed in this country are made with corn.   Virtually everything.  We are made of corn.

So it stands to reason, that if corn can’t get planted, feed lots get flooded, and industrial meat producers have to pay more for feed, that we are in for one doozy of a spike in food prices.  If the flooding further erodes the topsoil, fuel prices will rise because of the increased demand for fertilizers.  This isn’t some Doomsday Prepper nonsense.  This is happening right now.  This is how it happens.  We won’t suffer because it got too hot for us.  We will suffer because the change in climate destroyed our habitat.

This also will see a spike in farm bankruptcies, many of whom are being tortured by an insane and unnecessary trade war with a willing and eager soybean purchaser, which will lead to a decline in machinery sales, etc, etc, etc.  Agriculture is the primary string in a very complexly woven Gordian Knot.

Enough rant.  I need to get to the feed store to buy a few more bags of corn; maybe some more rice.  Beans.  Always need more beans.  Perhaps I’ll splurge and buy a bag of Doritos.



Here Comes The Sun

We are looking forward to warmer weather coming this week and next so the drifts will melt off.  So are the animals, as they’ve been corralled and penned up the past few days.  It will be muddy, but the sooner it happens, the sooner I can finish the new garden boxes and covers.

Tomorrow new Chicks arrive!  30 little cheepers.  2 different kinds of broilers.

The seedling room is in full swing!  I transplanted the baby tomatoes into their grow out pots.  That means that the mini-suns had to be fired up.  The lamps have a new air filter, the fluorescents light the littler babies and now the halides are in charge of the tomatoes.  More will be put under them as they get replanted.  The tomatillos are ready and the peppers won’t be far behind.

Yes.  If we were powering those monsters from the power grid, this would be stupid expensive.  That’s why we are solar.  While the sun is up, the panels transfer the sunlight into the basement.  We could never grow these all out without them.  It’s 29 outside and even the greenhouse doesn’t hold enough heat overnight to get them all going.

Next up….. starting the onions.  Lots of onion.  We start them indoors because mice eat the seeds if we plant them out directly.


The Latest Conundrum

So the storm is over.  The mud has begun and the roads are horrible.  There is a big Caterpillar front loader down the road from us stuck to it’s axles in the mud, and from what I hear, Nebraska is already flooding severely and they are monitoring the water levels around a nuclear plant. The locals at the cafe were expounding how they have never seen the like;  But thats nothing!  Everything is well for everyone else;  We have GOATS!

Goats like to be up high.  No.  They LOVE to be up high!  Just like mountain goats, they are climbers.  The bucks have the bomb shelter to hop around on; BUT, now there are a whole bunch of new high places to play on!  Snow drifts!  And, of course, the snow drifts have completely buried sections of the fences!

I went out to feed this afternoon and I turned to look, as the boys were calling to me like they usually do, and there they were…. on top of a drift at the edge of the fence line.  I think there is only one reason they didn’t walk over the top, down the other side and off into the big wide world:  Electric fencing.

Because the fence is essentially buried right now, the hot wire is grounded out.  They wouldn’t get shocked if they touched it;  But they do know what it looks like and what it does.  I think it was enough of a deterrent to keep them from stepping over the top and going off into the great wide world.  But wait!  That’s not all!  The same thing is true in the pasture where the girls live!  Not only is this a problem with the goats, turkeys also like to get up high.  Their drift is right next to a tree line (roosts!) and is as tall as I am.  This one buried the fence completely!

Nigerian Dwarf goats come into heat once a month.  So maybe they didn’t escape today, but two of the girls are still due for March and we could look out one day and see out of control Foat Gucking right out in the driveway!  Trust me, they will move mountains and swim oceans to “satisfy” their needs.  Worse than teenagers.

Then… we have two yellow labs!  Bird dogs!  They like chickens and would love to play with the goats!  Sage has already found the entertainment value of running up the drift that could give her access to the chicken run.  There is never a dull moment when it comes to the critters!  As we have also had some trouble with foxes, now the access to the chicken free range pasture is now open to the public.  Chickens, as well as all the other critters, stay put until these things shrink (supposed to be 60 next weekend).

Quick thinking and problem solving needed doing.  We have the ability to separate the big chicken coop into two coops.  So I did it and put the boy goats in that side of the poultry barn (Should have done that during the storm too.  Live and learn).  They now have part of a small barn and half the fenced in run to goof around in.  They will be fine and I won’t have to try to rope two rambunctious goats running down the county road – I’ve already done that with piglets, wouldn’t recommend it.  Because chickens are stoooooopid, the bucks will be sharing the space with one chicken that refused to go over with the rest of the flock.

The girl goats are sequestered in their pen in the barn and the turkeys are in their coop, also closed up.  There will be no free ranging for awhile.  Zina thought we could keep them in their pens until we have a chance to plow out the drift.  Nope.  Its WAY too muddy and because it is warming up, the snow is too heavy.  So until these drifts melt down some, the playgrounds are closed.

Julio and Donovan, the two gray Gurus, just stand there looking at me like I’m a mental deficient.  All they want to do is roam the pasture, but it is a mud hole so they just hang out in the barn.

As if two days of a land based hurricane wasn’t enough; This melting is already a mess and yesterday it was still a storm….. oh ya, there’s a chance of another round next weekend (probably rain this time.. oh joy).

It’s always an adventure.  Golf…. I guess I could sell it all and go play golf.  Nah.  Too many people, my back doesn’t bend that way anymore, and its a game that is almost as stupid as the chickens.


(Above) Boy goats and chicken free range pasture. You can see the bomb shelter in the back (the cinder blocks and railroad ties).


(Above) Girl goats, turkeys, donkeys.

We also have a new neighbor husky dog who’s owners think its ok for their dog to run all over creation.  He/she can get through those trees.  I’ve seen it sitting there drooling over the turkeys.  I’ve warned the neighbors that I’ll shoot it if I see it in the pasture chasing the goats and turkeys (The donkeys would stomp it if it got too close to them).  Now it has a ladder straight into a turkey dinner.  All of my defenses have been breached!!!  Melt, damn it, melt!

Out To Feed. Hope That You Never Have To Bug Out In This!

The wind howled all night.  Thumps and bumps kept us wondering what will need to be fixed.  We can’t tell yet if the snow has stopped and is just blowing around now, or if it’s still coming down.  I posted yesterday that this wasn’t the biggest storm I’ve been through but it is in the top 2.  The biggest was when I lived at 8200 feet back in the 80’s.  The drifts are as tall as me.  I’m 6’1” with my boots on.  Zina is dwarfed by them.  Many of the fences are completely buried as you can see on one of them relative to the T Post.  I took a few pictures this morning until I started to frost bite my fingers.

The snow was pretty wet while it accumulated and the 40 mph winds glazed everything with ice.  I could walk up onto the drifts and then sink as the ice gave way.  It was aerobic work just to get to the barn to feed.

The critters are all fine.  The boy goats took the brunt of it.  The wind swirled around their hut and some came inside.  We gave them a whole bale of hay this morning to both eat and curl up in.  Tank had ice on his fur and Dozer had a frozen hairdo.  Tough tough little buggers.

Tank and Dozer’s struggle through the night gave me Prepper pause. So many blogs about having to leave or “bug out” because of an LCE (Life Changing Event) seem to revolve around the non-winter months.  I’m tellin’ ya, if you had to bug out, or survive in this……. you wouldn’t.  I’ve snow camped before.  Folks would only find a human popsicle with a lot of neat gear.

The girl goats and the donkeys and the turkeys were all sequestered in the barn and are fine.  We discovered where the barn isn’t air tight.  The blizzard found all the cracks.

The chicken coop is completely drifted in and we couldn’t open the door to get eggs.  Once this blows out of here we will go shovel it out.  Fortunately, with the blowing snow, the chicken wire cover didn’t get loaded down.

For all the hassles we went through to get our greenhouse, you won’t hear me complain about it.  It took this wind, drift weight and snow with no issues.

This was one for the JAZ Farm history book.  I guess we are making up for the drought from the past 2 years.  Some of these drifts will be here for weeks.


The greenhouse is still standing!!


It seems we won’t be camping soon.


Those are 5 foot posts.




Nanook of the worrywart clan.


What drought?


Taller than me.  That brown isn’t just the ground.  It is dust encrusted ice.  Very slick.


I don’t think the dogs will be using their huts any time soon!