HAHA! Not really. However, I did have the honor of being interviewed on a podcast that is produced by a friend on Instagram and some of his compatriots. We have known each other for quite a while and have walked in some of the same “Peak Everything” and Climate Change circles. He has often said that his real curiosity is finding out what caused people to actually move their feet when it comes to world and societal issues where others simply complain about them or live in complete denial. Mike lives in a yurt in New Mexico. We share very similar views on life, the universe and everything (42). So when I was invited to be interviewed I was thrilled to be asked. The content is an overview of what got me (more to the point, us) to actually leave everything behind and start a farm out in a sea of grass on the high eastern plains of Colorado. It is my favorite kind of format. It is irreverent, I get to cuss, and we all laugh and share stories about the absurdity of our predicament. Mind you this isn’t roses, rainbows and unicorns. It was fun, however, to get to ramble and pontificate for an hour and a half with people who actually hear with ears that can hear. I have linked both the You Tube version and the Spotify link below. The roots of JAZ Farm come from not being able to turn a blind eye to the direction our world is taking. It was quite an honor and I look forward to coming back at some point. Let the bloviating commence!
Two years ago, we had an unintended test of the farm’s solar system. While drilling post holes for the fence around our garden, I put the tractor’s auger right through the main power lines to the house. It also coincided with one of the coldest days of that winter. The house is all solar, and if the power goes out we have a 48 volt battery back up system to carry us through just as one might use a gas powered generator (We also have one of those). The batteries kick in automatically when the grid goes down. About 2/3’ds of the house is hooked up to it including the well pump (so we don’t lose access to water) and the main turbine on the furnace. During that fiasco, it was also cloudy for a good three days, which is kind of unusual here. Given that the system is solar, that doesn’t bode well for recharging the batteries. As a result, I spent the next two days rationing battery juice and working to make sure we didn’t get into a situation where we could have had frozen pipes.
The lesson learned was that while in sunny conditions, the batteries can carry the day, but it is quite a burden to put on them. For instance, even if the battery bank is fully charged, it can’t power the turbine all night because the charge, of course, is finite. Everything does well during the day and batteries do well for everything else at night, but we discovered a flaw in the system. Heat.
When we still lived in back in Michigan, and also when I lived up in the high country here in Colorado, we heated exclusively with wood. Times have changed, regulations have become more stringent, and our house didn’t have any venting available to hook up any kind of wood stove. Also, because physically I can’t spend all summer going up into the mountains to cut firewood and still expect to be able to farm, we had to figure out some of the pieces. The bottom line though is that we decided that in some fashion, we needed a more self-sufficient way to heat that didn’t involve propane (not to mention the potential for propane to skyrocket in price) and mechanical parts.
I won’t go into the details of trying to get the stove installed using the contractor we signed up with. It was awful ….. just awful. However, once the county got the permits approved and then the stove got installed and the stove got inspected and signed off on, the ridiculous story of installation came to a close. It is a great unit, it was installed well, and it is ours……. all ours.
The biggest issue in the set up was that we decided to have it placed in the basement. As the basement is a big concrete box, we didn’t have to mess around with heat resistant shields and flooring. We just didn’t want the stove pipe to stay in the house so as to reduce fire danger. This meant we had to have a core driller come out and put a big hole in our foundation so the chimney could go up the side of the house outside. It turned out great. Watching the hole get drilled was really fun and nail biting at the same time. If the installation didn’t work, we could have ended up with a big hole in our basement.
The stove itself is a very highly rated Blaze King Princess model. It is all EPA approved so even when the Front Range issues burning restrictions because of air quality, we don’t have to stop using it. In fact, it burns so clean that even with a raging fire in it, there is almost no smoke visible coming out of the stack. We discovered in short order that it can have you removing clothing rather quickly.
So this latest installation makes the farm about as off the grid as she is going to get. Sure, most of the posts about building the place had to do with fencing, barns, garden beds and corrals, but this one filled in a gap. Other than the fact that the solar system is still somewhat tied to the electric utility, we are not dependent upon it and virtually everything else here is self-contained. We have solar electricity, septic instead of a public sewer line, well water and water catchment, a propane tank instead of natural gas lines, gardens for growing food, animals for the same, and multiple ways to preserve our food as well. With our freeze dryer, my goal for as long as it takes is to have about 2 years of just freeze dried meals available. Not only is this easy in a pinch while we are working outside, it makes putting together meals for Zina when she is in the city, a snap.
We could, if we really wanted to get all purist about it all, build a root cellar and a composting toilet and install a solar hot water system; but I think that given how the majority of this country is dependent on grocery stores, for profit utilities and this glorious just in time delivery system that I have been squawking about ever since the world thought out-sourcing was a great idea, we are doing pretty well. We have another wood stove in one of our barns. I have downloaded some plans on how to turn that into a smokehouse. This will give us yet another way to preserve food – not to mention how good smoked meats taste! Should be fun!
We are going into a pretty cold few days next week. So far, the furnace hasn’t even turned on with this thing burning. We still have to tweak things a bit to get the heat to rise upstairs a bit more efficiently, but that is the fun of new projects like this. Just a short while ago, it was just another vision like all the other visions we have had here. Now here it is. As far as we are. concerned, living off-grid is the only way to fly..
So look at what we done did! We have a new little pooper at the farm. Meet Pepper. We didn’t quite know what we would do with the sudden loss of Basil last summer. She left a big hole here and we didn’t want to just replace her with just anything. Zina and I did some soul searching and, as one has to face up to the fact that time keeps marching on, that if we were going to endure puppy-hood again, we had best get after it. If Pepper lives the normal 10-12 year lifespan of a Lab, we will be in our 70’s when she is gone. So if we wanted to train another dog, now seemed to be the time to do it. It was a bit of a search to find her as well. All these quarantined folks were buying up dogs hand over fist and were hard to find. Remarkably, when I was just about to start searching out of state, an ad on our local grocery store’s community bulletin board said that a farm not 10 miles from us had litters available. So we got on the list and did the couple of months worth of waiting. We even paid a bit extra to have pick of the females of the litter. While Basil was a great dog, she was an Alpha. She was pretty hard to train. Pepper was born on the 5th of November and we got her New Year’s eve 2021. So, if you have ever had a new born puppy, you understand just how much our lives have changed recently.
As usual with Labs, she is a pretty smart little lady. Watching Sage, she caught on to potty training with almost no effort. She still has the occasional accident but that is usually us missing the cues. It is pretty simple. If something goes in the front, it is going to push it out the back. Last night, for the first time, she made it all the way through the night. She will do the basic commands, sit, stay, come, down, get the hell away from the shoes, etc. Of course, they work the best if you have a hotdog treat as a reward, otherwise, the attention span can be a little short. We have done this a few times now, she is doing great. Big sister Sage has kind of begrudgingly accepted this intrusion into her usually tranquil life. She won’t tolerate her in the house, but will engage in Big Time Wrestling with her outside. Sage has also been a good instructor. What a sight it was to watch her teach Pepper how to go up and down the stairs.
One thing for certain, especially since I don’t bend well at the waist anymore, is that they put puppies a lot lower to the ground than in years past. She has definitely up’d our activity levels. She is crazy entertaining, has the energy of a wound up spring, and has brought back some smiles we seemed to have lost somewhere along the way with all the gloom that seems to be hanging over everyone these days. We will photograph and post as she grows into those floppy ears and over-sized paws. Momma was about 75 lbs. Pepper likely will be as well.
Today is December 4th, 2021. Happy ninth birthday JAZ Farm! What a year this place has seen. I am sure that most of you are feeling some of the exhaustion from the myriad issues that seem to all be converging all at one time in our lives. While yes things have been tumultuous, the farm has continued to provide projects, entertainment, sustenance, and peace in a world that has become certifiably insane. We won’t get into any of that here, but most of you who know me know that I do not ascribe to the common political and economic narratives that get thrown around at each other like so much worthless confetti. We live in a troubling age and we are so thankful that we made the decision to build this place and use it as our own family Shire against all the Orcs and Goblins that seem to inhabit the “civilized” world.
It is hard to believe that 9 years have passed. Not only has the farm changed since its inception as a dilapidated house on 40 acres, the surrounding area has seen massive changes as well. Sure, we can wax poetically that these things happen, but given my propensity to be able to connect dots and come to pretty accurate conclusions, it seems that forces have been set in motion that will see the start of significant exoduses from the urban and suburban world as people see the writing on the wall and understand the need to escape to more rural areas or places that will let them provide for a certain amount of self-sufficiency. For those who have done it here, you have my support. We are now one of the elder statesmen on our road. Because of the insane and meteoric rise of real estate prices, folks are selling out left and right (I guess if I had any sense we might do the same, but that isn’t why we moved here and built the Shire). People who never thought they would see a financial boon like this have been cashing out with hundreds of thousands in profit and moving to cheaper states, where, they say, they can live like they do now but with no mortgage and significantly cheaper costs of living. But what that means, however, is that for every seller there is a buyer and there are buyers in spades. After 9 years of practically no sounds coming from our neighbor to the south we now have loud music, gunfire, and now the introduction of their livestock (I only resent 2 of the 3). This has been a theme throughout the community. We all wish that the city folks that bit the bullet and moved would have left the city behind. Oh well, they will calm down eventually I guess. Interstate 70 is the main artery from us into Denver and the development has been following that corridor like a virus. The concerning issues with this have to do with the availability of water, and the digging up of wheat and cornfields to create this Oasis of suburbs in the countryside. I told Zina that other day that if we keep moving east to escape these Zombies, we will wind up in Kansas. The primary constant of the universe is that nothing stays the same. It is understanding these changes that prompted much of what we did here on the farm this year and is informing how we live here going forward.
THE COMPLETION OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE:
As you know, if you have been following along for any amount of time, the idea that I actually “retired” was a joke. I quit my job for any number of reasons, but at the age of 50 I became a farm construction engineer. Up until just a post or two ago, the physical labor involved with the farm design continued unabated and would have bested some folks half my age. Not only did we complete all the paddocks and pens we hoped to have, my body was there, towards the end, letting me know that it indeed was over and that I best not come up with any more cockamamy ideas. 2021 began with our finishing out our garden fencing, fencing in a second 5 acre grazing pasture, then enclosing the whole place along the back and south side with yet more fence (This last one being a way to feel like it had become a completed enclosure). It also allowed us to let the dogs out without having to wonder where the hell they went. They now have a good 5 acres to run around in.
As part of our effort to be as self-sufficient as possible we brought in a couple of American Guinea Hogs to breed. They are the most docile of animals, loving ear scratches and tummy rubs. As they will eat most anything, including grass, they are pretty low maintenance. However, it is ironic that if you leave the males and females together, their propensity to breed goes way down! We had two boars and 3 gilts (females) together and they put each other in the “friend zone”. No babies. So upon some advice and research we separated them like we have the bucks and does of our goat herd. We will probably try in early spring to breed them but in the meantime we had to have a place to put the boys. So this prompted the last small fencing project as seen above. You can see in posts from years ago that the space we have used was our original vegetable garden. It was already fenced on three sides so all I had to do was enclose it on the 4th and add a gate. It should have been a piece of cake, except the drought we have been in baked the ground to cement and I had a devil of a time getting the auger into the ground and ended up dulling it and having to replace the corkscrew unit that actually digs the hole. After pounding in the last of the metal posts, I limped away promising myself and Zina that the days of building fences have indeed become a thing of the past. All of it looks spectacular if you have an eye for such things; But one of my to do lists for this winter is to clean and straighten the garage and put all of the banging and clanking devices in their proper places and leave them to gather dust.
To kind of punctuate the completion of all the construction, it was time to clean the place up. 9 years of building and adjusting accumulates a lot of remnants and crap. We called and had a roll off dumpster brought in and loaded the thing to the gills. If any of you have any experience with farms or ranches, you undoubtably have seen the boneyard junk piles that can accumulate on them. Some of them are hideous and show a certain level of slobbery that we didn’t want here. Old rolls of windbreak fencing, fencing remnants, sawed off sections of wood, and all manner of things no longer needed, were bid farewell. While I hate the idea of using the landfill, there were precious few options. We could have burned off a lot of the wood things, but because of the drought there has been a never ending burn ban, so off it went. It will likely be the only time we will need to do this and considering the amount of waste that is generated simply from people buying too much plastic, breakable and unwanted crap, I figure we are still much farther ahead.
We value our privacy and security here almost as much as our ability to sustain ourselves. While the fencing was mostly to house and pasture our animals, the last close off to our east gave a feeling of completion. For some additional security (and to close off the last escape avenues for the dogs) Aaron and I installed an automatic gate opener/closer on the entrance gates. It was super easy to install and when it closes, it has something called a “Zombie Lock” that locks the two sections of gates together that can only be opened either with a key or one of the remotes. It is so nice to be able to go in and out and have the gates close behind you without having to get out of the truck and manually latch them. It is much the same as people that have automatic garage door openers. It is secure and very convenient. Well worth the money. If anyone is interested, the company we used is Ghost Controls. They work great even on our oversized ranch gates.
THE YEAR OF THE VET:
As you know, we lost our oldest lab (Basil) in August, but that was only one of several animal issues. We have been in to the vet and had the vet come out on several occasions. Our youngest lab had bladder issues, we had one of our baby goats break a back leg and we had a pig go lame with arthritis in her front ankles. Sage is fine, Basil died, Rosemary the goat healed up and Petunia the pig became bacon. Life on the farm. Just recently, we had the vet out again to have the donkey’s teeth brushed. This is called a “full float.” They give them some pretty happy drugs to sedate them. This proved to be a rodeo as they didn’t like the idea of being poked. It is intravenous so it is something they really don’t want to be a part of . Donavan, the youngest, had to have a dose for a full sized horse. Once sedated they have their head lifted with a rope, a bit put in their mouths to open it and then the vet uses a cordless drill (DeWalt) with a grinding device on it to smooth out the back teeth and remove any spikes. If the teeth get too rough it can cause abrasions in their mouth and get all infected and all sorts of other happiness. They pulled through without a hitch and it gave the young vet some experience. Fortunately, she had two techs with her and me. We were able to keep them relatively stabile so she could do her magic. Now the boys are good for another couple of years. It was nice to have them compliment us on how good our stalls and pens look. They said they have seen some pretty bad places.
All of the rest of the animals are doing great. We have rethought the way of raising our turkeys so we will be re-arranging their coop. For various reasons, hatching them doesn’t seem to be a good option, so we will just order them from the hatchery every year. We have hatched them before, but the hatch rate is ridiculously low. We have excellent incubators so it appears that the Tom’s just ain’t up to the task. We have hatched more layer chicks and they will fill in the gaps as our current girls are getting along in age. This past molt saw them stop laying altogether. These new ones should be old enough and laying come spring. The pigs are as happy as can be and seriously only care about food and the occasional scratching. We bred three of our goats in September. We should have babies sometime in February. We are getting to the point where we need to look into selling them. Between the bucks and the does, we have 13 head. They are eating machines so we certainly don’t need more. Fortunately, with all the new urban and suburban farming happening because of the pandemic and the economy crumbling, baby Nigerians fetch a pretty good price. Also, 4H is always looking for animals for the kids to raise. Our cheese making has been a fabulous success. We just had some cheddar that had aged 6 months and it was amazing. There are always tweaks to learn, but at this stage, we are impressed. We also built a goat breeding pen and then constructed a playhouse for them to hang out in. We got the idea from a You Tube channel we follow and the goats seem to love it. It is an A frame construction that gives them all manner of ways to jump and play. It also gives the does a way to escape should the buck get a little to aggressive.
Without having to show you yet more pictures of baskets of produce and jars or preserved stuff, suffice it to say that the gardens, yet again, performed admirably. We made a switch to growing both the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse. The peppers seemed to approve and we ended up having them coming out of our ears. Our Asparagus forest went crazy and again we were able to harvest a few hundred pounds of potatoes.
Because of the faux supply chain crisis and because it seems that everyone learned to can in 2020, Ball canning lids became almost unobtainable. We have a pretty large store of them, but because of not knowing how long the shortage would last, we investigated our options. We had currently been freezing, dehydrating and canning as much as we could. From some videos and articles, we happened upon a company called Harvest Right. They are one of the only manufacturers of household use Freeze Dryers. If you have ever gone backpacking you are undoubtably familiar with freeze dried meals from companies like Mountain House, Legacy, Augustan Farms, Thrive life, etc. They are great food storage options but a freeze dryer lets you store your own. We purchased their medium sized unit and the thing has been running non-stop since we got it. It is absolutely amazing how many things you can freeze dry. If stored properly the vegetables can last for up to 25 years. Because it can all be put through the machine, we have had virtually no waste from spoilage out of the garden. We have freeze dried bushels of beans, eggplant, ground turkey meat, potatoes, onions, cheese, fruit and things I am probably forgetting at the moment. For we homesteaders, this thing is a game changer. Oh yes, tomatoes. I wish I had gotten the larger unit, but this thing is serving us very well.
SO WHAT IS NEXT?
That brings us to today, the end of the year. As I write this it is about 70 degrees. I just got back from the store wearing shorts, a T-shirt and Crocs. This weather is insane. Denver broke a record of over 225 days with no measurable snowfall. It is dust bowl era dry here and yet Hawaii is expecting a foot of snow and 100 mph winds. After having been out of the drought for a spell, we are now in an “extreme drought” according to NOAA and the USDA. This is a bit scary. While we have good water with our well, I will be ramping up the creation of our rooftop water catchment system. We had an issue (now resolved) with our solar system and battery back up. Should that system go down, as our well pump is electric, we would not have water. Sure the humans can get water and we have an apartment in the city, but watering the animals would become a significant issue. We have so screwed things up as a species that the north and east are bracing for a very snowy and cold winter and we are wondering if it will ever freeze. I still have Broccoli growing in the gardens and I have had to regularly water the apple trees, Blackberries, Asparagus and Garlic. Our solar guy said that not only did he wish more people had systems like ours, he wished more people would choose to live like we do. I have always been open to teaching these techniques but I largely get silence with just crickets in the background.
As I stated earlier, nothing stays the same. The economy is collapsing, fuel and food prices are sky-rocketing and home heating is supposed to get out of hand. There are predictions of propane and natural gas shortages. The specter of the issues like happened in Texas last year, have the potential to spread everywhere. We are a nation under siege and I wish my giant YAWP into the universe would actually yield some results. But, alas, the Siren’s song of golf, theaters, malls, new cars, fast food, and shiny things, call too loudly and we are indeed screwed. So all we can. do is just live our lives and ignore the noise and criticism of others.
The one dependency I have always wanted to be rid of is propane delivery. While we are not tied to a natural gas line, some shmoe has to come out a couple of times a year and fill our propane tank. Given that we have been warned all over the country that propane shortages could indeed be a thing, and that our furnace runs on it, we decided this needed to be remedied. I am not going to get into the details of the BS we have endured trying to buy and install this thing (same as everything else we have had someone else do here), but we invested in a wood burning stove. It will be our primary heating source and the gas furnace will be set at about 50 degrees just to ensure that we don’t have issues with freezing pipes should there be no fire. We have about 10 cords of wood out back and the final installation (after having to report them to the BBB) will likely happen this coming week. That will be a relief. We found out through experience that while our battery back ups can run the furnace turbine if the power goes out, it can’t do it all night. So this way we will lower our propane consumption, take the burden off of the batteries and allow us the ambience of a fire and its soothing heat. We could probably be completely off of propane if we had a solar hot water system so if you are so inclined to do a Go Fund Me for the farm, we would appreciate it greatly! LOL.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it ain’t lookin’ pretty. The economy is in shambles and is only being held up by corporate share buy-backs and insane Fed money printing. People are leaving abusive employment in droves. The pandemic and inflation (being created by the fed) is taxing people’s purchasing ability to the hilt. Food shortages are starting to hit home and all that cheap Chinese crap everyone seems to like to buy at Walmart is languishing in a mathematically unsolvable problem called “The Whiplash Effect;” not to mention the many flying penises being launched into space who’s worth could solve world hunger. There is no way we will ever see pre-2019 “normal” again. Given the droughts and major climactic events, we will be lucky to have anything resembling a functional eco-system ever again. Here, let me just tell you where I am….. There will be precious few humans alive on this rock in about 10 years. You go ahead and live in denial. The data favors me.
So given this rosie news, I simply won’t involve myself in politics and social issues. They are pointless. I will help others as I can but I am not a crusader. If people want help doing what we do they need to seek us out. If not, it is nothing but a circus side show. I have my popcorn and a good seat. Bring on the show.
On a personal and familial note, we are indeed done building. The 10th year of the farm will be transitional, hopefully leading to a whole new life paradigm. We will be living the farm life always looking to de-stress and find peace. In my case, I have bent to the whim and scapegoating of sick people enough in my life. My family owes no one, including other family or anyone else. We did the virtuous thing and the kill ourselves thing to please others long enough. As we move into our sixties, the farm will be our oasis, our Shire, our place of reclusion and peace. The 10th year will help us to transition to this life, hanging up post drivers and screw drivers and hammers and pick up feed bags, hoes and hay. We will live and love and move away from this insane society and culture. In a philosophical/spiritual sense it is a death and rebirth. Personally, I am walking away from our virus of a species. I don’t have many in-person friends anyway and I have no desire to interact with the insanity that this abusive culture is inflicting on it’s citizens. There is peace in reclusion. There is virtue in being a hermit. There is love in being a hobbit. Animals love in a way that humans are incapable of. Nature heals, civilization destroys and if I have to die a hermit refusing to participate in a diagnosably mentally ill society then I am willing to do so either by natural or personally chosen ways. I am saying goodbye to all things except my efforts to heal our little piece of Mother Earth. We are at the toxic end of a badly damaged and corrupt empire. I refuse to participate anymore. I hope that my life not only helps to heal, but that it makes a statement. I hope from a personal note that this will rebalance me after a lifetime of abuse and living in survival mode. I gave enough to everyone. My wife has done the same. We now will work on healing ourselves and loving each other throughout the time we have left. JAZ Farm is our safe haven. She deserves our care and I am sure, she will care for us.
It has been some time since I did a musing of something a bit more personal about what is going on out here. Below is simply an unedited version of a journaling I did recently. I gave my 50’s do developing our farm. Most of this blog chronicles the building of the place and how things work. Anyone who has followed this over the years understands the ecological and social issues that made us drop out and build this place. For my part, there was a deeply personal aspect to it as well. That being disillusionment made violently manifest. I turn 59 in less than a week. While ages and dates don’t really mean much to me, there is a part of me that wants to see this farm work of art shine and support us in a way that the previous 58 years were not able to. Sure, I give thanks for the fact that I was a successful business person and yes, there is a certain privilege to being able to say the things I have here – so what? This is raw, unedited and hopefully will give you an idea what happened personally to drive us to go where very few have gone. It is my sincere wish that others can build their Shire and escape the trappings of a completely insane culture. We all deserve it no matter what our sociopathic society says. Peace.
THE FARMER’S GREAT RESET.
TURNING OVER A NEW LEAF. CREATING NEW HABITS. LIVING THE LAST THIRD UNAPOLOGETICALLY AND AUTHENTICALLY. GOING INTO A YEAR LONG RETREAT TO ALLOW EVERYTHING TO TRANSFORM.
What Is Your Great Reset?
Living on and completely immersed in the farm like an artist or a writer is immersed in their craft. Leaving the world and going inward. Finally living without judgment or fear of belittlement. To transform physically and mentally to let the authentic self have life unapologetically.
I hate us. I can’t stand the state of affairs in the world any longer. Therefore, just like I went no contact awhile back, I am going to become a Hermit or Recluse in my 59th year. I can’t develop the way I want to as a farmer-artist, painting on my canvas, unless I can slow down, cut myself in half physically, and tune out the insanity of the U.S. We are a certifiably insane species. The Pandemic illustrated it, exposed people for who they are, and I want no part of it.
I gave my 50’s to creating this farm. It came out of me like a composition written out by Mozart. I just kept going and going and, suddenly, it is all here. The last piece is to let myself inhabit this canvas and live completely merged with what it can do. So the last year of my 50s is to restore my health, unleash my true self, and live here as a Hermit would – Cut off from the world, not leaving the Shire, using ordering methods to get things we need, and being the driver or conductor of the farm making this piece of art sing. I guess I am talking about the death of an old self. “Die before you die and then realize that there is no death.” – Eckhart Tolle. I deserve to have a life of peace and contemplation. I earned it. There is so much about this world in which I was raised and the experiences I have had, to prove it. Not being wanted, being abused, and the absolute whirlwind of an existence that brought me to this point and still be alive. This is now on my terms. The biggest task I have is to “decommission the warrior.” To let the Hulk go and let the warrior sit by the fire and smoke his pipe. I don’t need to be armored up like that any more and, as my therapist said, “there is no doubt that if the warrior is needed, you are so good at bringing him up, you will be able to call on him if and when needed.” I have the battle scars to remind me of it all. But from now on, the artist, the scientist, the painter, the grower of things, is now in charge. How that happens is the puzzle, because after 58 years, old survival habits die hard.
To paint on this canvas that I dedicated my life to must be a slow and simple life; A life without the stresses of the outside world; A life devoted to the simple pleasures that our farm affords us. It is going no contact with all of society, keeping in touch only to stay abreast of things of normal responsibility. People make everything up. They tell themselves stories in order to survive. In other words, it is all lies and I will not live in lies anymore. We are a psychopathic, uncaring, lot. One need only look at the history of the last century, all the wars and brutality and death, to see that humanity is certifiably abusive and insane. The only way to have a good and peaceful life is to leave.
Old habits to be rid of:
>Not caring for myself. Even writing like this feels foreign. It makes me shake and feel guilty because, after all, this is selfish according to that horrible Calvinist upbringing I was forced to endure. Priority number one has to be good diet and exercise. Not powerlifting or biking to god knows where. Simple stretching, walking and resistance exercises with the TRX Band. A diet based on JAZ Farm food and the foods we buy in bulk.
>Drinking wine to calm down. The substitute for the rev up with coffee and slow down with wine needs to be a complete slow down of my life. The Thich Nhat Hanh “Just drink your tea” habit applied to everything. This isn’t a substitute way of doing the same things that caused my pain, it is a complete redevelopment of me. Thus, I am going full on hermit for my 59th year. It is about controlling my thoughts, stop thinking, moving slowly and deliberately avoiding everything that has caused me such duress in the past. Calm, Quiet and Slow.
>As Jennifer Aniston said when asked how she kept in such good shape she replied, “Don’t eat shit.” That is the foundation of this. Taking the time to fix healthy food, not drink to escape, and allow myself to isolate and not flee the farm. After all, I am leaving the farm to eat crap under a tree to try to escape my thoughts and fears….. which, of course, I take with me because they are in my head. Replace the dopamine hits from fast food and wine with living deliberately, simply and slowly.
So these are the main habits to kick in this year long retreat: Don’t eat crap. Don’t drink wine to escape. Decommission the Warrior and cease the hyper-vigilance. Don’t neglect yourself.
So conversely then, what are the new habits to develop to allow the farm artist to flourish in the last third of his existence?
> Wake up slowly. Ease into everything and hurry nothing. Not even if Zina is raring to go. Let her do it and follow as you see fit. After all, you work on the farm every day. Wake slowly and catch the thoughts that create those awful mountains and make your whole existence seem insurmountable. Don’t think about all the things that “Have to be done” all at once. Arise, stretch, go about the morning tasks and chores and let yourself begin the day with a gradual re-entry into the world. You know that with your back’s side effects you can’t just jump out of bed and get moving anymore. Take it slow. You know it can take a couple of hours. Be accepting of that fact.
> Walk. Every day. Walk. Start slowly and over the course of this year long retreat, become the walker/hiker you used to be. In other words, embrace the things of your past that give you contentment and jettison the rest.
> Use the TRX Band to rebuild your legs (A TRX Band uses your own body weight as resistance instead of having to use weights or weight machines).
> Cut yourself in half. Your extra weight is the symbol of all the stress and abuse you have endured and how hard you fought and how much you denied yourself for everyone else. Lose the weight as the symbolic gesture of not needing the warrior and the armor. See shedding of weight as a victory dance, a giant “fuck you” to everyone that tried to destroy you. In order for you to paint requires your physical health. Do not let the world steal this from you any longer – NO fast food. NO processed food, wheat or sugar. Eat JAZ Farm food that you cook. There is no better diet than that. Stay on the farm and eat real meals and don’t eat snack food thinking that cooking or heating something up is too much work. All that is an excuse to neglect yourself again. It is what you did to survive. Stop self-loathing and your diet will come automatically and sustain you and clear your head.
> Slow your daily life down by an order of magnitude. While there are the daily chores and gardening, nothing HAS too get done in a hurry. Those days are over. Using the current pig pasture changes as an example: it needs to get done to accomplish the pig breeding goals, but it doesn’t need too all be done in a day. What you used to do in a day, do in a week. Enjoy the process and take care of your body. You need a lot of rest after your career and building the farm and overcoming things that should have killed you. Part of the self-care is doing just that, regardless of whether or not someone else wants to run. Move slowly and deliberately, doing what you want to do and not destroying yourself in the process. No one you know has done what you have done. There is nothing to prove…. Just be the farm artist. No Hurry.
> Stop thinking. Stop gluing yourself to the outside world via the news and such. There is nothing you can do for the world that you aren’t already doing. If you think of something new, great, then you can explore that, but for daily sanity, devote yourself to your craft. Drop out of society and thinking you have to stay hyper-informed like you did for work and the need to feel safe. You are safe here and should an event occur that needs your attention, you will certainly find out about it. As you have told others, “One could drop out just like not following a soap opera, come back in a year and not have missed a thing.” It is all awful and insane. Protect your own sanity and your own path of achieved enlightenment and ignore it. Pay attention only to those things that further your farm art and self-sufficiency. You owe no one anything. You tried that and it burned you for decades. Quit putting your hand in the fire now that you know it will always be hot.
>Continually walk away and leave the insanity to the outside world. They are not your concern.
To sum up the new habits:
Walk, stretch and resistance train.
Wake up slowly and ease into the day as you need to, keeping your mind calm so as not to catastrophize and build mountains.
Cut yourself in half and eat right using the foods you so expertly raise and process
Slow your daily life down by half, making life a meditation
Don’t think and stay present
Ignore the outside world and only leave the farm to hunt and gather as necessary (not running to escape – remember, your head comes with you) Escape comes from controlling your thoughts.)
Stop thinking and staying hyper-informed. Work methodically and when you don’t feel like it….don’t.
Use this journaling to help keep you focused and help keep your true self from becoming buried.
Don’t speak unless necessary. Don’t argue points because people and their opinions are usually ignorant and uninformed. Whether or not you are right…. It doesn’t matter.
Be reborn in the likeness in your head. Create yourself unencumbered. Create yourself in your own image. You deserve it.
After all, it isn’t that you don’t know who you are. The real you was just bullied into submission for most of your life. The time to keep doing that to yourself is over.
So who am I and where is all of this leading?
“Decide what kind of life you really want and then say “no” to everything else.”
An introvert that really thinks his species is a disgusting viral catastrophe incapable of regulating itself or doing things for the common good. As a result, I choose not to be with them.
Creative. After all, look at this place. There is nothing else to say.
Enlightened. In my reality, I know that the wider society is completely asleep. I don’t know everything but I know enough and hope to keep evolving towards my higher self. My old self was completely for defense. The self that was imprisoned, is real and awake.
A farmer and rancher
A painter on the earth canvas, a nurturer of the land and a rejector of human “progress” and its destruction of the planet. I seek to heal the small portion of the earth upon which I dwell.
A Prepper. The threats from modern society are real. I and the farm proved we are able to endure during this pandemic. My only hyper-vigilance is to make sure we continue to prepare for the hell scape that is civilization. If I have a mission that keeps me tied to staying informed it is that. Water, food, shelter, medicine, defense……. Repeat. I enjoy doing it and we are pretty far along that path, so it too, needs to be methodically maintained, not done out of panic.
A weaver. I want to create my weaving. I would love to have a presence where people can buy my wares like a painter sells paintings at fairs.
A Homesteader. I love raising animals and have them provide us food. I love gardening and preserving what we have grown. I love making cheese and making soap and butter and cooking delicious, healthy food. I love the old ways. I am just not able to work as hard to build things as I used to be at the beginning of this escapade and am completely burned out from it.
A believer in the here and now issue of catastrophic climate change. There is no prepping for this. However, the blinders that people have on regarding it also makes me need to drop out. Ignorance, without a desire to become educated, is one of the greatest disgusts I have for humans. They have completely exposed their true colors. Between denying climate change, the refusal to do anything about it and the stupidity revolving around the pandemic, I am through with humanity. It is quite likely that when I reinforce these new habits, this year long retreat may very well become permanent.
A lover of animals. I would have dozens of goats, chickens, turkeys, pigs, donkeys, dogs and cats. Human beings are not the most intelligent species on the planet. The animals are. If you doubt it, come spend an afternoon with the donkey farm gurus. They will absolutely set you straight. Shit, I’d take our goat bucks in rut year round over people in expensive cars and business suits. With the former, you know where they stand, the latter will stab you in the back when you aren’t looking.
So for the next year, I will be leaving the farm as little as possible. I will be working very hard at developing the new habits that I deserve and that the farm was designed specifically to support. I will still be posting and doing the occasional videos and things, but I created my own Shire after throwing the ring of power into the fiery mountain and I intend to take full advantage of that privilege. This is my promise and birthday gift to myself. It is high time someone lived up to their promises – even if it is me promising me.
There is nothing else I care about. I have, in my book, done it all. What I have accomplished and endured would have killed most people. The warrior, still, refuses to let me die. For that I am grateful.
We received several request for another flyover to show the progress we have made over the past year. It was a little more hastily done as being out in the heat this summer has been pretty stifling. We have been up around 95 degrees or more for most of the summer. That and movie maker Aaron was getting ready to head up for a pretty exciting year at school. His senior design classes started today and so he is back in the thick of it.
In this video you will see the newest fences and pastures, the donkeys in said pasture, the new baby pigs, a couple of chickens fleeing the drone, the completed garden all fenced in, as well as the new goat pens and Rosemary the goat with her broken leg.
You will see Sage the dog doing some photobombing with our Basil conspicuously absent. We all miss her very much.
Because the layout of the place isn’t likely to change much anymore, and because I may very well lose my cinematographer to a new career in the next year, this will probably be the last one of these drone movies for a little while. After all, I would need to learn how to do it! There will be more posts and videos as we go, but considering the ridiculous upheavals of the past two years, we have accomplished an awful lot.
I ran across two videos today while making breakfast. Both pretty well sum it all up for me. Neither address climate change, which is the ultimate trump card; There is no preparing for extinction. But in the movie, The Lion In Winter, in a confrontation with his father, King Henry, Richard The Lion heart said, when asked if he knew he was going to die, why did how he dies matter, his answer was to the effect, “When falling is all there is, how you fall matters.” I have long asserted that I have no interest in left vs right politics. I think it is nothing but a distraction to keep the masses fighting each other instead of targeting the real enemies of the state. The truth is, in my estimation, that the battle comes from the top down; Master versus slave, sociopaths versus normalcy. To win this war is really to deprive the rich and corporate elite of their power and to keep them afraid and in check. But in the spirit of Chris Hedges, that fight must be waged through massive movements of civil disobedience and a refusal to comply or participate in the corporate state no matter how violent I would like to get at times (and how much they deserve it.) But then, of course, I get torn by also agreeing with Derrick Jensen’s assertion that “we need it all.” So there is the conundrum. Perhaps it is situational. But I really think that living peacefully detached from the system is a powerful weapon. It deprives the oppressors and planet destroyers of their power to control.
The first video below pretty well describes the problem. The second is the solution we choose to follow here. It describes well what it means when I say, “Live like a Hobbit”. Many changes have happened to us here in the last year, and even just in the last couple of weeks. We are doubling down on our chosen lifestyle. If there is to be a future generation, this at the very least, should be how we move forward in order to help them. Deprive the Orcs of their power and live happily without them. Know your community and build resilience. Strive everyday to increase your self-sufficiency. Peace.
As I mentioned in the previous Blog post, we have been dealing with Vet issues; a goat with a broken leg, a lame pig, and a pretty sick pooch. Two of the three of those vet visits have failed. The goat will recover. She is looking fine; but the pig and dog are another issue. I am sad to inform you that Petunia the pig doesn’t look like she will recover and will be sent off to the butcher as soon as there is an opening. She can’t be bred, can’t walk well, and, well, that’s that.
The heart break, and why we will be taking some time alone, is that our dear friend and absolutely best companion, Basil, passed away at 6:30 am yesterday, August 4th. I was with her when it happened and she blew her last, very weak breath into my face. We are all just wrecked by this. It came on suddenly and the vet simply wasn’t able to figure it out. Aaron did some Googling and it seems likely that it was a digestive track issue that blocked her ability to move food through her system. It really doesn’t matter. She got very sick and was gone in a week. I told my mother, when she was here visiting, and Basil was starting to head south, that we were going to lose her. Unfortunately, I was right. We thought she would be around much longer. She would have reached her 9th birthday in September. It is the average life expectancy of Labrador Retrievers, but this blind sided us.
We tried, while taking her to be cremated, to eulogize her in our own way. She was with us since the beginning of the farm venture. The pet store told us that she was considered an Alpha Female. The breeder noted that while she was in the litter that Basil didn’t want just her food, she wanted EVERYBODY’s food. We didn’t know what that meant exactly, but she was going to be a farm dog, mostly with just us, so who cared who’s food she wanted? It was only going to be her, and later the inclusion of Sage, four years later. She was just as sweet as the dickens and we loved her to pieces. Because I was the one working from home and then later, just the one always at home, she became my dog. She was always there, always wanted attention, seemed to know when I needed companionship and couldn’t be a better dog to have around. There, she was awesome. She was also a GIANT pain in the ass because she was an Alpha. I think it is also what lent her her charm.
Basil was a very smart dog. Because food treats were involved, she trained up on the basics pretty easily. It was the more involved behavioral issues that could send me into tyrannical fits! We have a line of trees that separate us from the neighbors. She knew, KNEW!! she wasn’t supposed to go into or beyond the trees, but, as if to simply give me the finger, she did it incessantly. I could spank her within an inch of her life and she would just do it again. At the same time, though, she would just come up to me in the house and be the most loving girl on the planet. She also knew, KNEW!! that she wasn’t supposed to be in the kitchen. One, she was a chow hound and two, she was 113 pounds and was easily underfoot while I was cooking. She decided that it wasn’t breaking the rules if she went into the kitchen when no one was there or looking. What she didn’t know is that her toenails tapped on the linoleum and I could hear it when I was in the basement. After violating the rules and raiding the garbage to dig out a ham bone, the fight ensued. She ran into her crate while I chased after her, snapped at me when she felt cornered and the bashing my elbow took landed me in the hospital for 2 days for IV antibiotics due to a ruptured bursa.. She is the reason I don’t wear a wedding ring. It had to be cut off due to the swelling. So there. We are honest. Basil was a big, big challenge and could test every inch of our patience. I was definitely in charge (probably because she knew I could, and did, kick her ass); but it was always a question where Zina stood with her. Basil thought she was absolutely second in command with Zina 3rd and Aaron a non-issue and later, Sage, at the bottom of the heap.
But she was as sweet and docile as they come when dealt with on a day to day basis. When we got little Sage, during all the potty training, etc. that happens with little puppies, we discovered that Basil, was telling us when Sage had to go outside. She would act as though she needed to go out, when not minutes before she had just GONE out. She was helping to train the little one and us, about what was going on. It was pretty amazing. 3 nights ago, when Basil was pretty much losing her cognitive ability, it was Sage who went in and licked Aaron while he was sleeping, to try to let someone know that Basil needed to go out. It turned out to be too late, but if you don’t think there is a language there, you need to expand your horizons.
So Basil was a challenge. She was a pain in the ass and the most wonderful, loving animal on the planet. That is what made her so special to us. I wouldn’t have traded the last 9 years with her for anything (although I wouldn’t have said so in the midst of yelling fits). We won’t own an Alpha again but damned if she wasn’t my best friend. So if you are, or know anyone who is in charge of this insane existence, could you please let them know…… I really want my puppy back. My heart hurts. Basil, I loved you to the moon and back. Please walk with me the rest of the way. I miss you more than I will probably miss most people. I love you. I’m so sorry I couldn’t stop you from suffering.
Basil the farm dog: 9/11/2012 – 8/4/2021. Rest my sweet friend. May there be sticks and rabbits and an open kitchen where you are now. Sometime let me know how you are doing. I will always be listening.
Surprise!! We are all still here! Since the end of the fence construction we went straight into spring. It is the busiest time of year all on it’s own, but of course, just planting isn’t all that goes on. Now that the gardens are well on their way I thought I should at least acknowledge that we still exist. I have been doing this blog for about 8 years now and I don’t want it to get monotonous. Actually, I’m not really sure if anyone actually reads it. I guess I do it for future posterity. Assuming an internet still exists sometime down the road, it is a nice way to record everything we have done here – readers or not.
I am taking time today to do this because I am playing nurse. Basil the farm dog has been with us since we bought this place and launched into this grand self-sufficiency experiment. This past week she just up and stopped eating. Now if any of you have ever had experience with Labrador Retrievers you know that something ain’t right. More often than not she eats her food so fast it is likely that she doesn’t even taste it. Noticing that, she became the third animal in a string of three inside of 2 weeks that needed a vet’s attention. First, we had a baby goat that got stepped on by one of our donkeys and is now in a splint for 2 months. Oh the crying and lamenting going on because she can’t be with her other sisters! We let her out once in awhile just to give her some attention and it doesn’t last long due to the unauthorized hopping and tearing around that ensues. She is alive only because I have other people in my life. We could make another one that looks just like her in short order so you can bet on the fact that she WILL behave. Vet visits are expensive.
Next up on the vet list was one of our pigs. We have breeding pairs of American Guinea Hogs. It is a bit of a different experience than just buying babies, raising them up and sending them to freezer camp. The adult female, Petunia, went lame. She couldn’t (and still really can’t) put any weight on her front right foot. We read up on it, of course, and discovered to our surprise, that pigs need to have their hooves trimmed. Who knew!? So we figured that that must be the case. It is easy to trim goat hooves and the Ferrier comes out to do the donkey’s hooves, but how does one trim the hooves of a 250 pound hog that is in pain? They are pretty sweet and docile animals, but still…. she wasn’t likely to be terribly cooperative. So we called the vet out. Two of us pinned her to the ground while the doctor set to giving Petunia a manicure. Unfortunately, that didn’t solve the problem. So now, once a day for the next couple of weeks we are hiding pills of Meloxicam inside hardboiled eggs. Evidently, pigs are susceptible to arthritis in their ankles and the pills are helping her to reduce inflammation and lessen the pain. She is a registered Guinea Hog so we didn’t want to give up right away but if she doesn’t improve she will probably have to be bacon. We have a new little pair that I got from Kansas, so we have another female coming up (Polly).
Then we come to Basil. She is feeling so badly. Upon seeing her not eat and then realizing that she was likely losing weight, not because of her diet but because of being sick, off to the vet we went. She has an exceptionally high White Blood Cell count, a liver enzyme out of whack, and up until today she had a 104+ temperature when normal is 101. It helps not one bit when the vet calls it “A fever of unknown origin.” So she went on some pills for her liver, antibiotics for whatever the infection might be, and pain pills. After a few days she had not improved. We took her back and they admitted her to their vet hospital and was there for 2 days. So as not to bore you with details, she is now on a different anti-biotic and Prednisone (Steroid). This has succeeded in getting her fever down and she is eating her food – All pluses. However, she is as lethargic as ever and they have noticed that she has an enlarged spleen. This can be a sign of cancer (Which I had been asking about since this started – have had animals go through this before). So now we wait. As Basil is really my only in-person friend other than Zina and Aaron, this has been pretty depressing. How long do you prolong things like this? I guess we will just keep playing it by ear. If nothing changes, then the next step is going to get her an ultrasound. I’m thinking that at that stage we will need to face the music. Labs don’t live that long to begin with, but they totally steal your heart while they are around. She is one sweet beastie. She was an alpha female, which made her almost impossible to train. They seem to think they own the place and you exist to serve them. Personality – wise, she has been quite a challenge. But no matter the challenges, we certainly don’t want her to go. Her little sister, Sage, is very confused by it all.
I don’t have many pictures of the gardens this year for obvious reasons. But we have been working diligently on food storage. Due to the Bat Bug Industrial Complex and it’s resulting supply chain disruptions, it has been a real issue trying to source canning lids. After waiting for 18 months, we finally got some from Lehman’s. They are their own brand, not authentic Ball lids, but I trust Lehman’s for their homesteading products so we are pretty well stocked. BUT! So as not to get caught like this again, we investigated Freeze Drying. We already have dehydrators that simply heat up the food and blow hot air on it to make it store-able. We Can, freeze and ferment as well. But Freeze Drying made some sense to add to our food storage repertoire. It retains 97% of the food’s nutritional value and if you store the results in sealed mylar bags with an added Oxygen absorber, it can last for 25 years. Harvest Right makes really the only machine on the market. Fortunately, it has been all the rave on the homesteader websites. So we bit the bullet and purchased their medium sized unit. Since it’s arrival it has run non-stop. We have tried several fruits for fun, and have started to freeze dry our sweet corn and our green beans. Because almost anything that doesn’t have a high oil or sugar content can be freeze dried, this will help to ensure that nothing we grow or produce will go to waste… including meat! We still have many many pounds of potatoes from last year’s harvest frozen in the freezers and this season’s potatoes are just about ready to be dug up from the gardens. By using this contraption we will save huge amounts of room in our deep freezes and it will also last much much longer than had we canned it.
We have also gotten our little dairy operation going full swing. I have just dried off (stopped milking) two of our little goats. I have been teaching myself cheese making and so far have had great success making Yogurt, Mozzarella Cheese, Colby, Cheddar and Monterey. In the past couple of weeks we have been finally able to cut a couple of them open (after having aged properly) and wouldn’t you know it, it tastes like cheese! They all have a bit sharper taste because of the more tart nature of goat’s milk, but we are fans! So in September we will breed three of our ladies in anticipation of more miking in the spring. Anybody want baby goats?? They are ridiculously cute and we can’t keep them all.
Because our little goat flock has been growing (Between the bucks and the does we are now at 13), it became necessary to rethink our pen situation. Goats are pretty rambunctious critters and we needed a way of separating them in order to get the right one’s out at the right time for milking and to separate the babies at night. Again, with the supply chain disruptions, the new gates took MONTHS to arrive. Finally, they showed up and that created yet another project. No wonder I am so behind with the farm blog. Aaron is supposed to create a new drone video so keep an eye out for that. I think this turned out great and it is so much more practical than the big single pen we had.
And of course, there is the never ending sourcing of feed and hay. Because of the drought and what seems to be corn and grain crop failures, the bags of feed have increased by about 15%. So I ordered a bunch and stored it in the barn. As our main source for hay irrigates his land to raise it, I was able to get enough to likely get us through to next spring. Gotta get it when you can find it! It is very frustrating to get low and not be able to find it. Answer, don’t get low. 3300 lbs of hay and 6000 pounds of feed…. check. With my back the way it is, I was happy to have Aaron’s help. Not to mention that it has been one seriously HOT summer.
So that pretty much gets us up to speed. Oh ya, we have a new flock of turkeys and Aaron and I need to reconfigure how their coop and run are set up. Not a big deal but we are always looking for ways to make things more efficient. These little guys/gals are “Spanish Blacks”. Very cute with black bodies, white heads and big ol’ eyes. This picture was when they just arrived. They are now out in the world running around in the grow-out pen.
So now that we are into August and the garden is moving into harvest mode, there will be more on how it all worked. We have a goat hut to build, the turkey coop to re-jigger and a pen to make for our boar pigs, but nothing excessive. Oh ya, we are having a battle trying to deter, catch and dispatch an egg eating skunk that figured out how to get into the chicken coop. Gotta be careful because that can be one stinky affair.
I have become the homestead/farmer I had hoped this place would allow me to become. I must say, that by enclosing the place, closing the gates, declaring the homestead infrastructure complete, I am finding a piece of mind I have never had before. I live my life anymore by the acronym “IDGAF”. I realize now that so much of what brought me to this point had been from dealing with a level of insanity that negates any assertion that humans are the “most intelligent species on the planet.” We most decidedly are not. Sane creatures don’t destroy their habitat. So as not to use this new awful word, “Woke”, I will use “Enlightened”. If you want to know what I mean, check your baggage at the gates up by the entrance and come spend some time just sitting with the donkeys. You will see what I mean. Become a Hobbit. Drop out and come to your senses. This way of life will certainly help you do it. Peace.
Planting this year was relentless. Going from constructing two major fences to planting in the 50 raised beds was seriously taking its toll on me. I haven’t had a rest in several months. I was starting to wonder when this old ass was gonna simply collapse. Yesterday was brutal. Got the drip irrigation mostly up and running. However, as usual, what should have only taken a few hours, took all day. As with anything, including people, it is possible at times to start to hate what you want and love in your life. This planting season got me there. Now that it is done, I sit here on the porch looking at it all and think, “You know, this place is pretty neat when the Demons and Devil Sprites aren’t rending me with anal probes.” I think we will survive another season.
The last project in the garden will be to get the new Blackberry hedge planted. We got the holes drilled for the plants this past weekend. We still need to run the water lines to them and then mix soil and compost together to put into the holes so that we can plant the bushes into them. The fun part of having this much space to grow things is that we can try out new things. If it all fails, it won’t affect our food for the year because it can be grown in other spaces. This year we are attempting to grow Peanuts, the Blackberry bushes, and intercropping the Strawberries with the Asparagus. It is all just one grand adventure; my kind of adventure in that I can do it all right here. Frodo can go to Mordor…. I prefer just staying put.