Construction Moratorium While We Farm

Farmer Zina

Tomorrow is May Day.  Only gardening stuff and critter chores til after the first week of June.  If there is a building thing needing doing write it down and take it up with the foreman the second week of June.  Also, the retreat continues for those incapable of taking a hint.

Only tasks related to animals, plants, cooking, weaving, and mostly no contact regarding anything or anyone else are on the agenda.  This will be the longest stretch of no construction work since we bought this adventure. There is more than enough happening just finishing up the new beds and getting them planted that I may not even recognize it as time off from the power tools.

I am friends with the leader of the local beekeeping club.  I made an offer for members needing space to house hives out here.  They seem pretty interested so we may have some literal busy bees out here sometime.  We get pollinators and an education.  They get to keep their pets out in one of our fields.  Everyone wins.

The first round of hatching turkeys went pretty well.  Of the eleven eggs, 4 were infertile, probably because the adults are still pretty young and some of them were laid in pretty cold weather.  We killed two of them because we really couldn’t tell how they were doing when we candled them (Turkey shells are very thick). So we caused two turkey abortions (don’t call the pro-life militant freaks!); but we got to see the embryos up close and personal because of it.  One died trying to hatch (Which is common) leaving us with 4 babies down in the brooder.  Today we cleaned out the incubator and started a new batch of 18.  Somewhere around the end of the month they should start to emerge.

Now We Can Turkey To Out Heart’s Content

As I mentioned previously, it presents some difficulties when trying to introduce new turkeys or chickens to an existing flock.  These birds are a food source for us, but I was NOT going to put up with blood spattered bird fights like we’ve had with our roosters.  So in order to solve the problem, we now have two turkey coops.  One will house our breeding stock:


The other will house the babies.  The chicks we hatch will grow out in their own fenced in area.  As they will all be destined for freezer camp at some point, we will just not have any out there during the winter – Thanksgiving being the perfect processing time.  The breeders have an indoor coop but the grow-outs have an old pig hut that wouldn’t do much good in a blizzard.

The new pen is made of dog kennel panels from the local stockyard supply place.  I was so happy that this went up easy.  The guy at the supplier laughed when I told him it was going to be a bird cage, as these panels could sequester a bull! (Yes I over build –  but then again nothing breaks now does it?)  My only injury was dropping one of the panels on my foot (Bruised!).  But!  No blood was spilled in the accomplishment of these tasks!  A rarity indeed!



Right On Schedule! Turkey Babies.

Woke up this morning and went to check the incubator and voila!  Right on schedule.

7DEDFA4A-8D0E-4402-91C0-02C41CC136EAFour haven’t hatched yet but these three are actually a day early.  Zina is frantically getting the brooder ready (teased her that she needs to make a nest so she can sit on them).  Turkey babies.  Woohoo!   Drumsticks are a little small yet though.


The Bacon Seeds Are Growing!

We got these little guys very young.  They are now about 7 weeks old and aren’t any longer the infant skin and bones they were just a week ago..  We were a little concerned that they were so scared after weaning away from their mother that they might not make it.  It was still getting pretty cold at night too so there was also the worry of them not being able to stay warm.  We’d find them though, all tucked underneath the broken up straw-bale using it for a blanket.  As you can see they have found their appetites.  They are doing little supervised tours around their hut and then scamper back in from the scary world to hunker off for another nap.


Weeds and Groceries

The outdoor planting hath begun.  It’s cool weather crop time and the Onions, Spinach, Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower and a bunch of herbs are all going in.  It’s nice having the new hail covers on knowing that there will be at least a little protection from Hell month, er, HAIL month in May.  It’s fun to just be sitting on my little garden scooter planting stuff in. I didn’t even contemplate another building project except for figuring out how I’ll mount the shade cloth on these beds.  It’s the first time that the garden feels like “my own”.  I’m not being torn in a zillion other directions; just doing the farming thing.  Spent the day planting about 400 onions and listening to an audiobook.  It’s brand spankin’ new dirt so they should do well.  Having respectable water pressure from our new hydrants doesn’t hurt either.


With the onset of spring though, and it being considerably wetter than last year, everything wild and invasive is coming up too.  I’m not really missing the old garden as it could rob you of your soul trying to keep it weeded.   Boxed beds are so much easier to work with.  But with the wet has come the weeds.  Many of them now, unfortunately, are becoming herbicide resistant, Red Root Amaranth being the biggest culprit.  It grows like mad and it sets down a super hero tap root.  Fortunately, the chickens like the seeds and the goats like the plant.  I’m thinking that even if our little dairy adventure doesn’t pan out, just having our little goat sweeties to mow down weed fields earns them their keep.  As soon as I get a needed gate mounted, the bucks are being turned loose in the big garden to eat to their heart’s content.

Another weed that no one seems to like, I think, because it is super smelly with pollen, is something the locals call “Purple Cap”.  Colorado State Extension Service calls it Purple Mustard.  It likes disturbed soil and boy has it found its home out there this year.  It’s everywhere.  So looking at the bright side, my son isn’t here having his allergies knock him flat, and it’s actually kind of pretty.  If you can believe it, this is our back wheat field.  The wheat is doing fine, but because it is still short, the purple mustard has temporarily overtaken it.  I’ll be happy when it is done blooming…..stinky,


The baby pigs still stay pretty buried in their straw out in the hut.  They are soooo tiny.  Zina has been coaxing them out from time to time but they are still pretty freaked about not being with momma.  Our meat birds are doing what they do best: eating and crapping.  Half will go to freezer camp the middle of next month.  The other breed takes a bit longer.

We are in hatching mode with the turkey eggs.  I stopped the egg turner today, decreased the temperature and ramped up the humidity.  If all goes well, and the candling shows movement in quite a few, we should have some hatchlings somewhere around Sunday.  I ran to the stockyard supply place yesterday and got the kennel panels to make a grow out pen.  Birds is stoooopid.  If we put smaller birds in with the bigger ones, they will likely get pecked to death.  Chickens too.  So after all is said and done, we will have 5 different coops: A brooder, 2 turkey pens and two chicken coops.  Dats a lot oh feathers and fertilizer!


So if there is one constant to this grand experiment it’s that it is all a big adventure.  From surgery, legs that seem to not want to work right anymore, to growing your own Pizza, Salsa and Carnitas, it’s never predictable.  Problem solving becomes priority number one.


The Last Major Infrastructure Project is Done

I thought I’d cry when I turned the last screw on the last bed.  We did it.  Unless we are possessed by demons, the last big infrastructure project is over.  Sure there are always things to do, but unless we were to fence in another pasture for something like, say, cows, the farm vision has all the parts.  Smaller projects like the water tank, grow out pens, the orchard, brooder, some gates, and a fence around the gardens certainly aren’t small, but they aren’t mission critical and can be done over time.  Those are nothing compared to these big honking heavy things that I’ve broken myself over for the past six and a half years.  Today it was over 80 and with Zina as another set of hands, we got the hail covers on the beds that I placed and filled yesterday.  With a back that doesn’t bend, the getting up and down 36 times to screw on the supports wiped me out pretty good.  The drippers go on next and then we start to brainstorm the shade cloth.  Still haven’t figured out the best way to secure those yet.  In the past year we finished the barn and pasture fence, ran water to the greenhouse and the new barn, ran power to the barn, got goats, raised turkeys, adopted donkeys, and built 18 4×12 raised beds with covers (bringing our garden bed tally to 40).  Dunno about you, but I’d say that’s plenty.  I’m hiring out the goats to graze the area where we are going to plant the fruit trees.  Cheap help.

So very soon all of these:


Will go in all of these:


Its time to go part time with the JAZ Farm construction company and bring the farmer on full time.  I’ve been building for so long I wonder how tough the transition will be.  I’m willing to find out.  Looking forward to May.

Moving Dirt

It was 80 degrees today and nary a cloud in the sky.  The farm boss and crew (one and the same dude) mounted the mighty John Deere steed and commenced to a loadin’ up the last 9 garden boxes.  Another task that I can say goodbye to.  Literally tons of lumber and 27 more yards of planting soil.  That’s a pretty big effort for a few Zucchini and Onions!

So some have asked, both here, in person and in the class I taught, what I do to get these going.  So here goes:

  1.  Figure out what kind and how big of a raised bed you want.  All of mine are 4 x  12.  I built them out of decking lumber for longevity, but you are really only limited by your imagination.


2.  To suppress the weeds, either  turn the  soil over, or put cardboard down over the bare ground.  This smothers the foliage and when it’s usefulness is over, it composts.


3.  I had a mountain of composted chicken manure so I added about 3 inches of it per bed over the cardboard.


4.  Unless you have good soil to begin with (ours is from Mars evidently), have some good quality planter’s mix brought in and fill up the boxes.


Tomorrow Zina and I will add the hail guards and all that will be left is to plumb in the drip irrigators (super easy and I don’t need them for another 5 weeks!)  The projects are done for now!  Time to focus on the little green things.

Hail 1

Then, after your hips,  knees, shoulders and butt, can’t take any more, partake in your first deck sit of the year, pity the poor slobs in the concrete jungle and revel in another awesome job.


For those that care, Happy Easter.  Go hunt up some eggs er some spring thing.  Better yet, feel up a Vestal Virgin and dance around a May Pole for spring is here!  Fertility, celebrate it while we still have it.


This Is What $1100.00 Looks Like

The day started at 4:30 am today with a dog having “digestive issues” (She crapped all over the bathroom).  The latest prediction of snow/rain fizzled out and we got the Semi in here today!  50 yards of planting soil for the new beds and the gardens!  Yay!

Of course, as with the pigs, I didn’t actually expect them to bring the dirt today because they have to go almost to Wyoming to get it.  As a result, today’s projects changed a bit and I got down to one of my least favorite tasks, the annual tractor maintenance.  Of course, I couldn’t find my ratchet set.  Once found, I didn’t have the right sized socket.  Once I got the socket, I oozed transmission fluid onto the garage floor.  Cussed like a sailor at the filters cuz they wouldn’t come off and chewed out the Mechanical Engineers (this is a dig for my son) for putting them in the worst imaginable places.  But, after a day’s work, tending the critters, and the dirt in a pile where it is easy to get to with the front loader, we are all ready to go about the tasks of filling, covering and plumbing the remaining 9 beds and amending the orchard.  Fit Bit says over 10k steps today.  I’m such a couch potato.

Tomorrow may not be as many steps, as the tractor gets to do a great deal of the work.  I love it when things fall into place and the boss says, “We are a bit ahead of schedule, it’s ok to slow down a little now.”  Of course, I’m the boss AND the employee.  My volunteers never listened to me anyway.  But I am well on track to being able to focus just on gardening beginning the first week of May – The first time in the nearly 6.5 years we’ve been building this place.  There are other jobs to do, but this time they take a subordinate roll.  They aren’t crucial, not getting skunked this year, is.  I have my new little rolling gardening cart to sits my butt on whilst weeding. The water is where it should be.  We have 4 new apple trees. The existing one’s appear to be budding.  The drip irrigation parts have arrived and are in the garage. The plants in the grow room have lost their minds again.  The tractor is ready to roll and I am flippin’ pooped.  Not bad for an old guy with a rigid back.


Reminds me of the Triceratop poop in Jurassic Park.