The Gardens Are In

3 days of grunt work and the gardens and the greenhouse are planted.  The tomatoes look kind of pissed off from the recent cold snap that inevitably happens as soon as we take them out into the world from their cushy life in the basement, but as of today, dark green leaves are re-emerging.

For here, we have had a pretty wet spring.  It’s been nice to have the outdoor gardens soaked in this year.  However, we still haven’t gotten into real mountain melt off season yet and the longer it waits and the warmer it gets, the bigger the hail will be.  We are supposed to be in the mid- 70’s with a chance of “rain” every day for the next 10 days.  Fingers crossed that the hail guards were worth the price.  The shade cloth already has been.  It is fun to watch their shadows cross the beds at the height of the daily sunshine.  The Prima Dona squash plants seem to be grateful.

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I wrote a letter to a couple of friends this past week that points to a milestone.  This time it is real.  It’s funny, since having written about the need to be finished with the general “Bob The Builder” work, I’ve seen several friends I follow on You Tube express similar sentiments.  Not only does it need to be done, it needs to remain fun:

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>>My son and my wife hear it all the time from me. “This place needs to be done. I’m so tired of being sore and tired”. It kind of goes in one ear and out the other. “Ya, ya, dad says the projects are almost done, but he’ll just dream up more of them.” I laugh and kid and let them have their teases, but inside I’ve been saying ever since surgery, “But I really mean it, This. Needs. To. Be. Done.” The Truth is, that I really did have a vision of what the farm should be able to do and what would be needed to make that happen. While I was building the place out (and also working), I worked pretty hard at making each piece produce as it became finished. My dream was looking forward to the time when I got to simply use it all for its intended purposes and be able to retire the tools.

We got the keys to the place 12/4/12. Today, Memorial Day weekend 2019, I dropped the mic – er, hammer, saw, drill, fencing tools, wrenches, pliers, and all the other various and sundry construction devices. It happened. Every piece is in place. Sure there will always be repairs or things that can embellish or improve upon something, but as of today, it’s done. The JAZ Farm project is completed. I get to take the rest of the summer and play farmer. My general contractor days are done. I won’t have to wake up tomorrow wondering what I have to build today. I was burning out big time and it wasn’t fun anymore. There are no more fences that are immediate, no more garden building or greenhouse construction, no more remodeling, no more corral building, coop building, brooder, construction or pig pen building, just tending the farm animals, gardening, stargazing, archery, and weaving (Along with some well deserved ass sitting). My spine was eaten, my knee is shot, all my joints ache, I’m mentally spent, and it all looks amazing. Now I get to retire to it. It might not be important to anyone else, but this was my Everest. Today I summited. We were sitting under the awning of the barn and I had one last part of a brooder to finish. I looked at Zina and said, “This is it. After this bracket, It’s all done. Even if it isn’t, it has to be. I can’t do this anymore. Everyone else gets to play Farmer In The Dell, but when I look in my basket, it always has tools in it. It’s done. I want to play in the dirt.” So at least for the summer, the tools are hung up. It all works, nothing is missing and I get to farm without distraction. That’s the second half of the summer retreat. Just living the “Mostly Off Grid Life.

Six and a half years of building. If there was anything in my life that should overcome all the self-deprication, it should come from simply looking out the window. I will not miss my twice weekly trips to the Home Depot, Tractor Supply, or the local feed store and Stockyard supply stores. They have enough of my money. It’s time to play and use the place for that which was birthed in my mind. It started as a thought and out onto the earth it came. The End.

Mic drop. Done. 5/25/19. What a long strange trip it’s been.<<

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But of course, having pets means that those tools must never be far away.  We have a temporary fence netting around the greenhouse gardens for the express purpose of keeping critters from raiding the gardens.  I’ve seen it keep the barn cats frustrated, and it does keep the dogs out……… so I thought.  Our youngest Lab, Sage, is a little deviant.  I was watering yesterday, and I looked over and the little shit was in the garden area with me!  How the hell did she do that?  With her teeth of course.  Chewed a hole through the net and jumped through!  Now the garden fencing will need to be built sooner than I expected.

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The Turkey Hilton got its “gazebo” today.  The birds in the grow out coop needed some respite from the sun.  Those steel pig huts can get hot in the sun, and since they are a food source and won’t be around in the winter, we need to make sure they are comfortable during the summer. So, when I ordered the shade cloth for the garden beds, I also got a 90% sun block cover for the turkey runs.  To make sure that it wouldn’t get destroyed by the chain link fencing, I covered the fencing panels with cut open foam swimming pool noodles.  Pretty sure I embarrassed my son when we got them at Target.  Had one on each finger (they are 5 feet long) doing the wave through the store while we walked to the check out (it’s amazing the things you’ll do when you no longer give a damn).

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So summer is ready to commence.  The new broiler chicks are doing great.  We hatched a dozen new turkeys, lost two, so ten are in the brooder, the pigs figured out the feed dispenser (pigs iz smart), and the gardens are in.  Now to start planting the fruit trees and berry vines.  Oh wait…… didn’t I say I was done?

We’ve Run A Fowl

Right on schedule, 28 days, Turkey peepers are hatching.  4 of 14 so far.  There will likely be more tomorrow.  Gardening, brooding our our new broiler stock, hatching turkeys, raising pigs, watching Ginger the goat for pregnancy,  what a life.

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Outdoor Beds Done.

The outdoor beds are in! It only took 2 days to do 26 beds.  We are machines!  Moving the main garden was definitely the right answer.  These are so much easier to work on.  We have had tornadoes all around us the past couple of days.  Typical Colorado spring weather in the age of climate collapse.  We are very pleased with how it’s all coming together though.  Barring a direct hit, the garden ought to do pretty well this year.

Tomorrow is supposed to only be in the high 50’s so we will be able to get the greenhouse planted without having to swelter.  The tomatoes are still looking pretty shocked after the sudden cold snap last week but I’m stubborn.  We are going to plant them and see what happens.  We can always buy replacements but that’s not my style.  We’ll see if they green up in the next week or so and decide from there.

Oh ya.  The turkeys are hatching!

Here’s the crop rundown:  (For the infernal critics:  the beds that look empty have those things called seeds in them)

Black Beans, Garlic, Beets, Strawberries, Shallots, Eggplant, Green Beans, Bell Peppers, Anaheim, Cubanelle and Poblano peppers, Jalapeños, Cayennes and Habaneros, Carrots, Cabbage, Acorn Squash, Zucchini, Butternut Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Yellow and Red Onions, Roma Tomatoes, Ace 55 slicing tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Celery, Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumbers, Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano, Sunflowers, and Colorado Catnip.  That ought to keep us busy.

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While Folks Try To Escape On The Expressway, We Played The Real Life Version Of Farmville

“Create a life you don’t need a vacation from.”  Good advice.  We went to town today for some barn odds and ends and the parade of RV’s getting out of Dodge for the long weekend was pretty impressive.  Pick-ups pulling trailers, pulling boats or ATVs, going 80 mph with their hair on fire to get to a campground somewhere where they can be closer to their neighbors than they are at home in the ‘burbs and with no fence between them.  The stress levels at the local burger joint were palpable.  We went to the ACE Hardware Store, got what we needed and took the back roads home thanking the creator the whole way that we like living on our homestead.

We were awakened this morning to a call from the Post Office to let us know that a chirping cardboard box was waiting for us.  It was fun because Zina had never done a chick pick up before.  You can hear them in the sorting room and people just grin at you as you leave with a box of peepers.  We got them home and did the usual initiation to the brooder:  Open the box, pick one out at a time, put some Vaseline on their butts to help prevent pasty butt, dip their heads in the waterer so you make sure they know how to drink, set them by the food and heat source, repeat.  Job one completed, check.

Next up, get the turkey grow-out coop operational.  We put the door on the pig hut that is now the turkey shelter, put wood chips down, got out the waterers and feeders, washed them and filled them.  Off to the basement to catch birds and put them in the cat carrier.  For the next week our four little teenage Bourbon reds will be in the hut and not out in the run.  This gives them a chance to settle in before emerging into the big scary world.

Off to the feed store next.  We needed to resupply the basics, but we also ordered a ton of organic pig grower feed.  Now that the little oinkers have proven their heartiness (they didn’t die) we need the higher protein feed to get them up to weight, which takes about 6 months.  Organic feed ain’t cheap and it’s damned near impossible to find by the single bag, so 50, 40 lb. bags of specially mixed feed will be here in a week.  It would be nice to have a fork lift to unload it, but alas, that machine is named Jon.

Prior to getting the chicks, it was also the day to adjust the incubator settings – Up the relative humidity, lower the temperature.  If all goes according to plan, we should have more turkey babies hatching on Memorial Day.  Because of this impending event, son Aaron got the second tank rolled out to the barn for their brooder.  We’ll get the heat lamps, feeders and waterers out there tomorrow so all will be ready.  Ever see a diaper for baby turkeys?  They are really small.

Unexpectedly, the FEDEX guy showed up.  We really didn’t know why he was here.  Surprisingly, the shade cloth sheets I had ordered showed up a week early!  I tied one on to test it and they are  going to work great!  So tomorrow we will be finishing up the turkey brooder, doing critter chores, putting up the shade cloth on the raised beds before settling into a week of planting.  The plants in the greenhouse survived the freak cold snap.  They look a little shocked, but I’ve seen them snap back from worse.  It’s supposed to be in the 70’s and mostly sunny for the next week.  Time to get the roots in the ground.

So that’s what our vacation time looks like.  Now to sit on the beach with my foo-foo drink.  Maybe make some S’mores.

Baby Jersey Giants in their new home:

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Baby turkeys freaked out about their move:

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The new shade cloth for the garden beds:

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A boy and his donkeys.  He was happy and relieved to have passed all his engineering exams.  Now for a couple of weeks of recuperation before summer classes begin:

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Vacation Time Here Means Farm Projects

The Bean Counter of the farm is taking some time off to help me get the spring work of planting, chicken processing, brooder construction and chick arrival, taken care of.  Aaron will be coming home on Monday to cave-dwell until Summer semester starts at CSU.  He sounded tired so I’m sure the farm quiet will be a welcome respite.

This weekend we got the initial targeted tasks completed.  All of the plants in the downstairs seedling area are now in the greenhouse.  As usual, the tomatoes look a little bedraggled, but they always snap back.  We gave them all some Epsom Salts to green them back up.   That, along with the real sunshine instead of artificial light, will have them on their way shortly.  We are being thankful for the Greenhouse, because, of course, now they’ve posted a frost advisory for tonight.  Figures, something else to worry over.

I have been fussing over how best to set up a more permanent way to brood out our birds.  Putting them in the basement is fine, but they get smelly and very dusty.  I have some pretty pricey telescope equipment down there and I always worry about the dust.  We came to the conclusion that adapting some space in the barn would be a good idea.  We brood them in large cattle watering tanks that are just shy of six feet across.  They will hold a lot of birds, but, with using them in the barn, the issue to solve was how to keep the goats and the possible cat from getting to them.

We needed to subdivide the barn a bit more for kidding stalls for when the goats deliver and that spawned the brooder idea.  We used goat kidding panels to square off two sections that now house the water tanks.  That will keep the goats out and will work as stalls when they deliver just by rolling the tanks out of the way.  Chicken wire covers, secured with clamps will solve the cat issues.  Voila!  Outdoor brooders!  No more farm creatures indoors.

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But alas, as the planets have always aligned for me, all was not unicorns farting rainbows.  I have been fighting off the demons out here for 6 years and Thursday was no exception.  All I did was step up onto the tractor.  “POP!” Said my right knee.  “Cuss!” said I to the demon gods – “Your Mother’s Are All Truckers!!” Yep.  Something ain’t right.  I had that knee scoped back around 2003 because I tore the meniscus backpacking a bunch of gear up to our 12,500 foot hunting base camp in Vail.  Looks and feels like I did it again.  More doctors, probably another scope, more PT.  Crap.  The retreat is over.  It was supposed to translate into lots of walking and focusing.  Guess I’ll be focusing on being able to get back to walking!  Ironic.

But the barn looks great!  The newest turkeys will go out to the new grow out coop next weekend.  We have 20 Jersey Giant chicks arriving that will make up our broiler breeding stock and will go into one of the new brooders, and the turkey eggs in the incubator should start hatching around Memorial Day weekend.

So not being one to be deterred, all is underway!  The planting starts this coming week and the shade cloth for the outdoor beds will arrive around the end of the month.  Other than the knee, this year is off to a much better start than last.  Stay tuned!

Some pictures from inside the barn.  Just cuz we think it’s cool.  I’m freezing my knee with this ice pack.  Toodles.

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Farmer Engineering

When something works do it a lot!  We were so pleased with how the second turkey coop worked out by using dog kennel panels that we decided to make one for the chickens.  Ya, ya, I know….. so much for the projects being over with.  There’s always something.  After all, there was some empty space…. it had to get used! Because of the “help” the boy goats were being while setting it up, I took a full on jolt from the electric fence!  Thanks boys!  I could feel it run through both arms.  Makes ya jump and cuss!  6700 volts!

We are messing with the idea of having a “by invitation” business here, as well as hatching and raising our own birds for chicken, eggs and turkey.  Because we have so much room, we thought we could include some friends, co-workers and ex-clients (Financial advisor turned chicken rancher!  The lassos are really tiny.).  They get the most awesome meat and eggs organically raised in Colorado, and it, in turn, would pay our feed costs.  Other than a bunch more birds to process (and maybe pigs), along with some general bean counting, it wouldn’t be much more than we are doing now.  Stay tuned!

So the process with these additional coops happen thusly:  Hatch chicks, put the chicks in the warm brooder for 4 weeks until fully feathered, transfer them to the new grow-out coops until they are about 80% the size of the rest of the outdoor flock so they don’t get beaten up too badly, then transfer them to the main coops where the existing grown up birds get processed and sent to freezer camp.  This goes for both the broilers and the layers.  We also have the chicken tractor that we would likely put the “store bought” fast growers in. It can handle up to 30 at a time.

So, we may at some point put together a website/JAZ Farm Facebook page listing times to sign up for the number of birds wanted.  Eggs will be whatever we can provide and ramped up if needed.  Turkeys will be hatched and ordered in the spring for November harvest and we can add to the menu as we go.  A work in progress for sure.  Now that everything here is built and works, I figured I needed something to do with myself.  This might be fun.  If it isn’t…. shift gears.  This is the one result of the spring retreat that resulted from staring at and thinking about something long enough.  After all, it’s not like I don’t know how to run a business.

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In memory of Miz Katherine the barn cat.  Got badly bitten by a coyote.  Left her at the vet this morning.  Wherever you are, may there be mice.