The Other Famers Still Made A Harvest

I was able to get the seedlings going this year.  After that, my back and health deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t get them planted out in the greenhouse and its surrounding beds.  Grandma and Zina took over and got it all planted along with a new Blackberry patch in the big garden.  I tried to help but I’m afraid it didn’t amount to much.  Here are some pictures of what has been accomplished.  I am so grateful for the help and tomorrow begins the food storage and canning process in earnest.  We won’t have root crops like onions and carrots, or squash and beans, but fortunately we have grown oodles of them in the past so it should bridge this year without too much trouble.  I am determined to get back at this as soon as possible.  After all, what else to life is there?IMG_1185IMG_1188

Just before I had to hit the floor for several months we managed to get a dozen apple trees planted.  So far all but one have survived.  We had to use a post hole digger to make the holes for them because our soil is akin to concrete when it is really dry.  Planting trees is a very optimistic endeavor.  You believe that you will actually be around in five years when they actually begin go produce!

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Because of the fierce winds we have hear we have been trying different things to keep the beds covered when fallow.  This set up has potential but the plastic sheets are like sailboat spinnakers.  We eventually started weighting them down with car tires.  This poor garden is completely over grown now because of my neglect.

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I love my seedling room.  That is all.

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One of the JAZ Farm migrant workers.  Commutes in every year from Michigan to play in “her” greenhouse!

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Another adventure because of the wind was that we had  an old dilapidated section of fence finally blow down.  Because of it, there was now a back door entrance to the big garden, and then to the chicken coop.  Of our 40 hens we lost 20 to foxes.  Again, I couldn’t do anything about it.  We will be hatching more out in the spring.  It was sad to come home and see a field full of feathers.  Because we pay Aaron’s tuition and feed him regularly, his job was to use the old materials and rebuild the fence.  Now that it is rebuilt and that we have a new gate to close it all off, we are hopeful that our fox whoas may be over.

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Getting Caught Up

It’s been a wild year.  I apologize for going so long without updating the blog but it has been a tough summer.  I’ve been going through, lets just say, an illness, and I haven’t felt much like blogging.  We managed to bring the garden in and the food processed and the pigs processed, but between that and the hell that I call work, I have been somewhat reclusive. 2017 looks like it has the potential to destabilize our world in a way that we thought was behind us and that we were better than.  I’m having to kind of start all over mentally and physically.  While some folks don’t always show scars and can put on a happy and professional face, it doesn’t mean the problems aren’ t there.  Let’s just say that 2017 will bring many changes.  But in the meantime, lets show you what has been going on.

The Garden:

We were plagued by grasshoppers this year.  They really made the plants have to work hard to grow.  Some did well, some didn’t.  We lost most of our hard bean crop, the potatoes produced but were very small and many of the herbs were feasted upon.  The Squash and the melons got attacked as well but they did quite well anyway.  The onions, beets, carrots, peppers, green beans, tomatoes, tomatillos and the Blackberries did pretty well and the canners ran for days and days as we worked to get things preserved.

We Canned dozens of pints of tomato saucecanning-2016-1

Because we had so many tomatoes we made lots of Salsacanning-2016-2

The onion harvest was crazy.  However, not all of them were storage quality, so we made quarts and quarts of canned French Onion soup.  The quarts up on the counter are chicken soup and chilicanning-2016-3

The Tomatillos lost their minds. They really like to grow here.  So we made Tortilla soup.canning-2016-4

The potatoes struggled because of the grasshoppers.  They weren’t a good enough quality to store in the cellar so we canned as many of them as we could.  They work great as pan fried, mashed, and in soups or stews.canning-2016-5

We found some strains of onions that do well here (and love Chicken Manure fertilizer).  We found some mesh bags and we tied them up and hanged them in the basement.  These should keep for several months.  Considering how many recipes use onions we will likely go through them with no trouble.hanging-onion-1onion-hanging-2

Where the Deer and Antelope playantelope-2016

I have really burned out mentally.  I brought on a partner at work to help relieve some of the strain.  After training him and introducing him to my clients I am thrilled to know that I will be able to take the entire planting season and summer off from work.  I haven’t had a real vacation in 30 years and if my clients want me to stick around, they’d best understand why I’m doing this.  I love em all but I refuse to die because of someone else’s financial whoas.  I desperately need to “Live Like a Hobbit” for a few months.  Either that or I need to quit altogether.  At this point, both are on the table.hobbit

We contacted the Dumb Friends League this year and picked up a couple of “working cats” or what ranchers and farmers call Barn Cats.  Their job is to hunt and eat mice.  We think they are doing their jobs.  They are quite feral so they are not looking for human companionship.  This is allegedly where they sleep.  We know they are around because the food and water disappears.  But this picture shows how much we know about them and what they look like.

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One of the funniest things that happened this fall was washing a chicken in the kitchen!  Yes you read that right.  We had taken the pigs to freezer camp the week before.  However, their wallow was still sloppy and muddy.  The chickens love to go into the pig pen and scratch around and eat any remnants of food left behind.  One evening Zina was out rounding the hens up to put them to bed and she noticed one was still in the pig pen.  When she got closer she saw that it had gotten into the wallow and was stuck up to her wings in mud.  The rescue attempt involved putting a plank out onto the mud, pull the chicken out and bring her into the house to rinse her off.  She was amazingly docile and is now doing well, but now we can honestly say we gave a chicken a bath in our kitchen.  I feel so fulfilled!

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We have commenced work decommissioning the gardens in the city.  We have decided to sell that house because the equity in the place will pay off the farm.  Zina and Aaron will maintain an apartment instead and I will pretty much live full time at the farm.  I lugged the boards we used for the raised beds to construct compost bins for the garden waste and chicken litter.  This past year we spread the composted chicken litter on the garden beds.  While it was terrific as fertilizer it was also full of herbicide resistant Amaranth seeds that sprouted the second we applied water to the beds.  This is an attempt to try to keep those down.  There were thousands of those infernal plants.

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Our newest members of the flock started producing in October and even with the shortening of the days into the winter we have never had a shortage of breakfast food.

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I never thought I’d see the day when our country could become so divided.  This was the unfortunate discovery of the fall.  We have a militia training facility about 7 miles from the farm.  These folks are pretty “out there” and I hope they have sense enough to leave well enough alone.  That mound of dirt running along the upper third of the picture is actually a big horseshoe shape containing a very large shooting range.  I fear our country has lost it’s mind and could be considered clinically insane.

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So as the farm progresses we have decided to start breeding pigs ourselves instead of buying piglets to raise.  We have some fences and pens to complete but if all goes right we will have a Hampshire Sow and Boar to raise in the next year.  If successful, the sale of the piglets we don’t want to keep should pay for the feed and thus allow us to have our meat for free (minus the physical exertion of raising them and processing them).  A lot of folks do that out here and between eggs, chicken, and pork, we see a way to completely offset our grocery bill.  That would make us, food bill, electric bill, water bill, house payment and car payment free.  Someone in this household is one hell of a financial planner!

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I thought this shirt was cool so I ordered it!

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The puppies had a ball this Christmas.  They could smell that there were treats amongst the gifts and when Christmas morning arrived they couldn’t wait to join in!

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So there you have it y’all!  The JAZ Farm has progressed despite our silence.  Not only are we looking forward to the growing season in 2017, the new pigs, and ordering our new meat chickens for the year, we will be hatching some of our new layers with our incubator, moving from the city, paying off the farm, taking the summer off, building a livestock barn, fencing in a pasture and perhaps, if the timing works, buying some pet goats to help with the lawn mowing.  If there is one thing that can be said for our homesteading/prepping project its this:  It Is Always An Adventure!  Happy New Year everyone!

 

Greenhouse Update

So the dog and the husband are into their physical therapy.  Basil had her second back (right) knee reconstructed.  She is doing fine but because she thinks she is all  better we need to keep her on a leash so she doesn’t go tear-assing after bunnies and blow out her new joint.  Dad has been in physical therapy for the past couple of months trying to get his sacroiliac joint to unfreeze and to get he muscles to quit trying go clamp down and render him crippled.  It’s getting better but it is oh so painful.

In addition, we are working on getting our house in the shitty ready for sale.  We have a bathroom that needs to be re-done and they start on Monday.  This project costs more than the entire greenhouse setup.  Me thinks contractors are shysters.  Oh well, once we get this done, Zina is going apartment hunting for a place for us to hole up in the city for work.  Having the burden of two places to upkeep while both of us work and a son who is in college is just too much.  It will be a welcome relief.

Here is a video update of the greenhouse.  Considering that we are dealing with a plague of grasshoppers this year, it looks like we will still have a harvest worthy of Colorado homesteaders.  Our freezers are completely filled with meat because of the chickens and pigs we’ve processed, so all of our produce must either be eaten, canned or dehydrated.  Usually this time of year we make a trip to Munson Farm in Boulder to get a bunch of sweet corn to freeze and use for the year… this year we simply don’t have room so it looks like when we need corn we will use what we have left or go to Whole Foods to buy organic.

So all is going well.   The dog is healing up, my hip is doing much better though not perfect.  My most recent mental melt down is being treated and it appears that all will right itself with work (I was convinced it wouldn’t).  So whatever you do, whatever you fill your time with, enjoy the adventure.  After all…. what else is there?

My Father’s Day Gift

My son took the Phantom drone with the GoPro and did a 2016 early summer update of the farm.  The garden is in and the endless battle with the weeds has commenced.  We are staying ahead of it and the rains have stopped so we may get the upper hand.  I have had numerous requests for flyovers on You Tube so Aaron was nice enough to take the helm and then edit it together (something I know nothing about).

You will see that the farmer across the road came over and began plowing up the back 30 acres.  The green patch on the right is a drainage area that turns into quite a swamp and mosquito nursery when it rains.  It’s not really fit for canoeing (haha!).  It is fun though when it does flood because the toads out here that go dormant until it gets wet, come out and start chirping like a huge choir.

The outdoor garden is planted with 2 kinds of melons, 3 kinds of winter squash, carrots, onions, red onions, beets, 2 kinds of potatoes, black beans, white beans, string beans, sweet potatoes, and asparagus.  The greenhouse has 7 kinds of peppers, 5 kinds of tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, marjoram,  tarragon, tomatillos, and chives.  We added blueberry and blackberry plants outside of the greenhouse this year as well.

I have been laid up with a couple of issues after having shoveled some 6 tons of compost onto the garden you will see in the clip below.  The muscle relaxers have helped but they make me feel pretty loopy.

In any case, I hope you enjoy the video.  JAZ Farm is now in maintenance mode.  It was great to see my mom and sister the last couple of weeks.  Now we look forward to the arrival of Zina’s sister, brother-in-law and niece over the 4th of July weekend.

Thanks for all of your interest and thanks for following along!

The Tractor Is Coming To Save Us On Taxes!

So the neighbor farmer across the road lived up to his billing.  Today after we sent my mom and sister back from whence they came, we got home to see the big John Deere discing up our back thirty.  What a relief.  We have enough to concern ourselves with than having to wonder what to do with the big back field in order to not have to pay residential taxes on 40 acres.  We are also going to use the proceeds of the land lease and pay it back to them so they will mow our front 10 acres in order to have some fire suppression when all of the “cheat” grass dries up.  That stuff turns to a flash fire hazard as soon as their seeds dry.

So thanks again to my mother for all of her help planting, especially when I hurt my back.  Note to self:  one need not rake and till the compost in on the big garden all in one day.  Sincerely, your smarter self…. idiot.

It was so great to have my sister here to see the farm for the first time as well.  We had to be very watchful of her to make sure she didn’t steal my dog!  They hit it off pretty good and Basil is now looking around wondering where everyone went.

So the field is plowed, the gardens are planted, the animals are all doing quite well too.  I’ll post a picture later but we hooked up our fifth wheel’s solar charger to an inverter out by the broiler’s chicken tractor and plugged in a fan to help keep them cool.  As I type it is around 90 degrees.  Gotta keep the critters comfortable!

 

We Did It!!

Everything happens the last weekend in May and the first week of June.  The goal is to get the gardens planted by the first week of June and Jon, Zina, Grandma and Aaron did it!  The drip irrigation is all hooked up on both the big root garden and the greenhouse and surrounding beds. They are all on timers and will come on early in the morning and mid evening until the seedlings are all up and established.  After that, depending on the heat factor, we will probably go back to just mornings.

The broilers are also now out in their chicken tractor and that seems to be THE way to go.  By moving it the length of itself each day the birds get to have clean grass to live on and it avoids the problems of having to constantly clean up after them like one does with a cat litter box.  We put up an electric poultry net around it to keep the neighbor dogs, our dog, the barn cats, and the coyotes and foxes away from them.  All in all, if you are going to raise chickens for meat and want to do it on grass, this is the best bet.

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So we are all exhausted.  I did manage to wrench my back pretty badly so now I’m forced to lay flat until these muscles loosen up.  That’s the penalty for farming in your 50’s I guess.  Grandma was a trooper too.  We just had wine and griped about our aches and pains afterward!  But the major projects are done!

We even had the farmer from across the road come over and ask to farm our back 30.  This will save us a ton on property taxes and also help kind of rebuild the soil.  It will be nice to have the land used in a more sustainable way as he uses a “no tilling” method.  The first year it needs to be plowed and disced but after that there will be a rotation of 4 crops and a fallow year in the 5th.  He will begin by planting Wheat then Milo, then Millet, then Sunflowers.  I am looking forward to a field full of big yellow flowers!

Here is the most recent You Tube update.  Thanks for stopping by!

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?

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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.