Taking Some Time To Grieve

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.

Basil teaching the kid the ropes

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.

Dad.

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.

I Guess It Is High Time To Get Caught Back Up

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.

Rosemary the invalid

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).

Pedro and Polly. The newest additions to the farm.

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.

Dad, I feel like shit

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.

Beans…. never ending beans
The new food storage toy

Freeze dried sweet corn

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.

The cheese press in action
Our first Cheddar!

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.

Goat prison cells

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.

Loaded to the gills

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.

The Last Week of May The First Week of June

 

HAIL article 2016

It is unbelievable how spring works around here.  The melt off in the Rockies turns to some of the most violent storms I have ever witnessed… EVERY YEAR!  This past Thursday I was off to pick up my mother from the airport.  As per usual the severe storm warnings came up.  We had a bit of a hail storm and I thought not much of it.  However, the memo’s being issued from Denver International Airport had multitudes of flight delays.  They weren’t allowing planes to land and were re-routing them either above the storm or way north into Wyoming to avoid the golf ball sized hail we were being hammered with down on Terra Firma.  I left to pick up mom and didn’t get 3 miles down the road and had to hide out under an over pass to keep from having my truck destroyed by hail.  It was like being in a 55 gallon drum while someone shot a 12 gauge shotgun at me repeatedly.  I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, I was in 4 wheel drive in a big old pickup, and it wasn’t enough.  The hail was golf-ball sized and was coming down horizontally and breaking itself into pieces on the side of my truck.  Springtime in the Rockies… no matter how romantic…. completely sucks!!

This is what exhausted looks like if you are a Lab:

Even the dog is wiped out

This was from today (May 31st):

However, we have been weeding and manure spreading and tilling and planting like there is no tomorrow.  In fact, tomorrow, the root garden gets planted, the drippers pressurized and tested, and the meat chickens go outside (which will be a blessing considering our house now smells a lot like chicken shit).  Here is a “so far” update on the big garden:

 

We had a day or so with a sick piggy but all seems to be ok.  He was throwing up but the day before he was just fine.  My suspicion is that he ate some of the weeds we had pulled up and something didn’t sit quite right.  As of today he is up and running so all is good.

We put the new layer girls out into the “grow out coop” – a coop that allows them to grow up to the size of the existing hens so they can defend themselves once the new pecking order ensues.  I have had to dispatch a couple of our 3 year olds because the flock was pecking them to death and while it might be part of nature, it is painful to watch.

Here are the new little ones:

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The piggies are all healthy again.  Which is fortunate.  I had to give our last ladies Penicillin shots for a week and there is nothing more deafening than a screaming piglet!

Baby sized wallow

So during the “holiday” we all weeded, spread poop, roto-tilled, flame weeded and got the garden ready for the summer.

Aaron with the flame thrower with dad hoping he doesn’t start a wildfire!

Flame Weeding

Grandma has been a weeding machine!  She seems to love it so I’m not going to look a gift horse…..

Grandma the weeding machine!

Because we couldn’t put the beds to bed properly last fall, here is what we had to contend with…. metric tons of the nastiest taprootiest, grassiest crap mother nature ever invented!

The Zombie apocalypse of Weeds

Once we could find the soil again then came the job of spreading composted chicken crap on it for fertilizer…. guess who got THAT job?

composting

Then out came the tractor and the tiller to flatten it out and make it plantable.

Tilled beds 2016

Tomorrow the meaties go out in the chicken tractor, the drippers get pressurized, the onions get planted, the beans get seeded and we are off to the races to get it all in before the end of the week.  Vacation?  What stinking vacation?  I stop doing my real job for a day or so and this stuff happens….. why am I doing this?  I must be neurotic.  Time will tell.

 

My Amazing Friend

She is now just a year and a half old.  Amazing.  How an animal, who only wants to be with her “pack” can be such an incredible friend.  She was so easy to train.  She only wants to make you happy.  She can infuriate you and make you melt…. all in about the span of an hour.  Basil is family.  She is one of the tribe.  She was THE RIGHT ANSWER for a guy who spends an awful lot of time alone dealing with stress.  She never lets you be alone and when you are feeling particularly grumpy about all of the nonsense of the real world…. she brings you a toy and wags her tail.  Dogs ARE Buddha nature.

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Basil Post Thanksgiving Crazy Lady

After having to put up with the lazy humans yesterday and being completely driven nuts with all of the Thanksgiving day food smells, Basil got to go out and romp out in the back 30.  She was so excited that she tried to fetch the frisbee while carrying the stick she was playing with.  Now, after having put on several miles she is crashed in her crate……. dad is very grateful.

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My Therapy Dog

My puppy has been SOOOOOOO sweet today. Anyone who doesn’t think that animals are sentient has never owned one. I am kinda laid flat today with a cold. This is the first time I have been sick since we got Basil a year ago. She hasn’t left my side all day. She has laid with her head on my leg most of the day. She keeps bringing me toys and laying them down next to me. Best nurse I’ve ever had. She has known I felt like a cat litter box all day. The sniffs and licks have been very helpful! She has finally called it quits for the day and is sleeping in her crate. Pretty sure there is a reason that yellow labs make great therapy dogs.

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The Next Project Gets Underway

Now that the place has dried out some and we have had some cold evenings to knock down what has been a plague of mosquitoes, the next project in building the JAZFarm has begun.  Just like one has to defend against predators when building a chicken coop, the garden needs to be able to keep out critters… namely rabbits, deer and antelope.  I am not in the business of raising vegetables for the local wildlife!

A few weeks ago we acquired a tractor mounted post hole digger.  After using a hand held one for our dog run, and having the life shaken out of me trying to get into our concrete soil, I decided that there was no physical way I could hand auger the 60 post holes needed to enclose the half acre garden.  Today (my birthday!) I got the thing hooked up and took it out for a trial run.  Worth every penny!  It dug a 30 inch by 10 inch hole inside of 5 minutes.  The two holes I tried it out on would have taken half the day the other way.  This was pretty much done with no blood, sweat or tears!  AND, I can still walk!

The fence will be kind of a rectangle with a corner cut out of it on the north side where there is a metal wall that serves as a good wind break.  The posts will be 5 feet tall, cemented in and we will have a narrower people gate as well as one wide enough for the tractor.  The chicken coop will be enclosed within the perimeter of the fence, thus providing one more layer of deterrent against would be 4 legged chicken lovers.  The field fencing has squares in it that get narrower the closer they get to the ground so that rabbits and such can’t squeeze through them.  Once done we will then decide if we need to run an electric wire around it or if it is a sufficient fortress  to keep the produce safe for humans instead of deer.

So I have posted some pictures of the auger and of the post layout for the fence.  Zina has been tasked with hiring contractors to replace the front and side doors of the house and to have the whole place painted.  Somethings just never end.  Also posted are some obligatory chicken shots!

Woohoo!

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