And We Are Now A Gated Community

After finishing the raised beds and their hail guards, one thing remained…. fence it all in. After having the neighbor’s goats wreak havoc on our garden and apple orchard last year, at least having the gardens fenced in with permanent fencing, has been hanging over my head. Also, because of the current Zombie Apocalypse, I was not liking that the entrance to the farm was as open as it was, so I wanted to put up some gates just to make things a bit more private.

More to the point with the gates though, we don’t have haying equipment. In order to be able to hay our land, it would take around $100,000.00 to purchase the equipment to do so (I don’t buy used crap – too much repair work and I hate mechanical stuff). Our northwest field has been open since we moved here. The southwest is all fenced in from having our barn built. So the thought dawned on me, because I have gotten pretty good at stringing fence (probably half a mile’s worth), that if I spent the money and energy to fence in that 5 acres, I could bring the animals to that field to graze. This would give them about 8 total acres or more to rotationally graze on. Thus, bring the animals TO the hay instead of bringing the hay TO the animals. We will still need to buy a fair amount, but this will help heal the land and provide us with dairy after it is all up an running. Goats turn weeds into milk and pigs turn grass into bacon… what’s your super-power??

The gates were a desired addition, but they would have been standing there all by themselves. So the goal this year was to get the north road side fenced along with the gates, and to get the entire garden fenced. As of last week this has all been accomplished. This is a good thing, because I have been informed by my doctor that I need to rest my shoulders as I have severely stressed the deltoid muscles from pretty excessive over use. This is such fun as I have had to contend with back issues for some time now. God said…. here have some of this too! After all, if you are going to credit the almighty with good things, you need to blame her for the bad as well (You know, omniscience and omnipotence and all that rot). I have some happy pain pills so that helps, but today we finally put up barn fans to help keep the does and donkeys cool and to suppress the flies, but afterwards I couldn’t even lift my hands up on to the kitchen table. It is time to rest and heal. When you come from a life that always told you that no matter what you do it is never enough, it is hard to decommission yourself from self-destruction.

So here is what Aaron and I managed to accomplish. This was 1000 feet of fencing with seven new gates, wood corner posts and H-braces, 48 T-posts hand sunk, an auger that drilled through the main power lines to the house, plus seriously physical work in 95 degree heat. You think going to the gym is important? Cummon out…. we’ll show you what it is all about. We are very proud of this.

Next fall, I will finish off the rest of the northwest pasture. But because of doctor’s orders, as well as being seriously burned out on construction projects, the post auger is off the tractor so I can’t even think about finishing the fences to the north until fall. The tools are in the garage and after Aaron and I finish the goat breeding pen next week, I am pretty much going to just weed, harvest, can and pet the critters. It is immensely satisfying, but I am SOOOOOO tired (You know it’s bad when you wake up exhausted). Time to get out the telescope and chill. Maybe take the ATV up into the mountains for a bit. Anything, just don’t make me build anything else for awhile. Stay tuned.

Goats Iz Amazing…. most of the time.

Now that the big garden is completely moved over by the house and greenhouse, we have opened that field up to the boy goats. You have probably heard that goats make good lawn mowers. That couldn’t be more true… as long as it is weeds (they aren’t real grass fans). Tank and Dozer (our bucks) have had pretty much free range over the remnants of that old garden this season. Evidently, they liked it because the transformation has been pretty amazing.

When I hurt my back and was out of commission for awhile, that field seriously over grew. I don’t know what the weed was that took it over but it was three feet deep.

Now granted, I did remove the fencing and knocked down a lot of the weeds myself so as to avoid a wildfire, but here is what it looks like after one season of them munching:

They grazed this down so fast that the weeds never stood a chance. In fact, there is so little in there that we have had to resume hay feedings. This is over an acre….. TWO, count em, TWO dwarf goats!! If you ever need a field cleared, find a goat rancher…. your problems will be solved in short order!

The Potatoes Don’t Seem To Care About The Weather

One of the back breaking projects this year was to finish the move from our old garden, that was simply hilled, long beds, to something closer to the house and greenhouse. They all utilize wood-framed raised beds to help make weeding easier. The three HEAVY beds, were the 6 foot by 50 foot beds for some of the more intensive row crops. This year they contain a new Asparagus patch (doing awesome), a Sweet Potato patch (The jury is still out, but doing ok) and regular potatoes (so far doing amazing).

I got them built and filled, but the weight of the soil has kind of bowed them out. I think that this winter, when I have nothing better to do (laughs hysterically), will be to shore them up with T-posts and be able to hang shade cloth on them; for reason’s I’ve already explained previously. I got the drip tape to them all so we are officially all automated with irrigation, including the new fertilizer dosing gizmos I put on everything this year.

Here is the potato patch as it first started to push up through the soil:

This was about 2 days ago with the new Asparagus in the foreground:

Other than having to contend with a bumper crop of grasshoppers, all is going very well. It looks like we will be well set for the potato carb crop come the fall. Fingers crossed!

Always Looking For a Good Solution

Gardening on the edge of the desert is a task to not be entered into lightly. Being a mile in elevation, the sun is certainly something to contend with. What I have found is that most books on gardening are written for low elevation, relatively high humidity, “regular” rainfall, and a somewhat consistent cloud cover. NONE of that applies out here. We have seriously intense sun, very high temperatures, most often we are on the edge of, or (like now) in a deep drought. Constant hot wind desiccates everything, the clouds are mostly non-existent and if we do get rain, it is violent, windy, full of hail, and can level anything you plant. I should write a book on how to eek out a garden on the High Eastern Plains. We live on the geographic edge of where the dust bowl took place and have a profound respect for those who came before us. Only two percent of the arable land in the U.S. is used to actually grow vegetables at scale. I can assure you, out here, ain’t any of it.

As you have seen previously, we have covered our raised beds with hail guards and shade cloth. However, the harsh weather wreaks havoc on greens no matter what you do. Most salad plants like lettuce and spinach will do ok in the early spring, but as soon as they realize that they are living on Mars, they bolt up, go to seed and thus endeth the salad crop. We did have a pretty good crop this spring, but in the last couple of weeks we have torn out the bitter stuff and fed it to the chickens, pigs and the worms in the worm bin. Now that our Cauliflower has headed (it did awesome this year), I will be starting another lettuce patch to go into the fall. But! We strive to grow virtually all of our own food! What does one do for the rest of the time? … after all, those crops, if bought in the grocery store are covered in antibiotic laden manure sprayed on them from factory farms! ICKY! For those of you who don’t follow such things, Spinach CANNOT get eColi. It comes from the bacteria of animal gut. The reason Spinach gets recalled for eColi, is from having sh.. sprayed on it as fertilizer so they can get rid of the manure from confined feeding operations. So we want to grow our own salad year round.

The answer we are currently using is a rolling greenhouse table. I can grow 60 heads of lettuce on this contraption. When the weather is too hot and or too violent, I have it under my seedling lamps (Like you can see below). When the weather is nice outside, I roll it outside and let it use the real world. This way nothing gets destroyed or over heated or blown all over the back yard. Previously, I was using hydroponics tables to grow the lettuce, but I have found that to be much messier and not nearly as consistent as good ol’ dirt. In fact, we may start growing some crops in the basement throughout the year, because, ya, that’s how we roll. So going into the fall we will have some lettuce and spinach growing in the greenhouse. The first frost will take out the lettuce unless I catch it with row covers, but the spinach always over winters. The rolling table will take over with the lettuce and we should have virtually all we need. We froze 2 bushels of Spinach and Kale this past spring and use it a lot in spinach, mushroom and Swiss omelettes for breakfast.

They say out here in Colorado that if you can ski back in the northeast – where ice is really ice, not hard pack – you can ski in Colorado. I don’t ski anymore, but when I did, I would say that that is a truism…. except of course the dizziness you will feel from the wind you will be sucking from the much higher altitude. Likewise, I would say that if you can garden here on the plains, not only can you garden blindfolded anywhere else, you should get the Olympic Garden Gold as a result. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. After all, it appears, life may depend on it sooner than later.

Before The Flames, The Harvest

The annual July wheat harvest is well underway. Farmers keep their fingers crossed as this staple crop approaches maturity and then dries itself out. Hail storms can knock entire fields down in minutes. Too much moisture and they can’t get the combines in the fields. Or this year, when it is so dry that I can dry our clothes on the line faster than a drier can dry them…. the world can go up in flames. The parade of grain trucks usually begins around the 4th of July. The harvesting will proceed day and night until completed. This year was a close one. The fields are bone dry but the heads are mature. Almost a perfect scenario. However, the drought has made things almost too dry. Up north of us a few miles, a 100 acre field (about 2.5 times the size of our place) caught fire and caused evacuations. So far the local elevator is filling up…. Diabetic White Bread and Wheat thins are safe again for another year! We lease out 30 acres to the farmer across the road from us. Evidently we are getting either Milo or Millet put in after he recovers from the marathon tractor session.

Grass fire:

Amber Waves Of Grain