The JAZ Farm Grew By Overshot

“Get up you Lard Ass you have stuff to do! You don’t get to just sit around!” “Yes Dad”. So goes the incessant voice in my head. The weird part is that I usually do what it says no matter how abusive. Such is the life of an unwanted Rooster.

I got a laugh a couple of weeks ago from something a friend said. He said something to the effect that “He was impressed at what keeps getting accomplished out here on the farm especially considering my “young” age.” The reference was, as others have said, that it is funny how many times I have said that the farm is “finished” and no sooner is that project done than another one pops up in my head and is made manifest here on the land. Part of that comes from the fact that the work here, if you have never done it, is butt bustin’ stuff. It leaves you pretty spent, especially the necessary infrastructure. Every time I said it, I thought I meant it. This time though……….. I have had many signals from said universe (and my wife) to tell me it is time to stop the building and live in the creation. So that is exactly what I now intend to do.

You see, I was sitting down in the craft room contemplating my next weaving project, when it hit me; “This is how a farm is built!” I was looking at a book that uses a weaving style called “Overshot”. To describe it in painting terms we will use the idea of a blank canvas upon which your Monet masterpiece will be brought upon the earth. You start with a blank canvas, you dream something up, and then you start smearing paint all over it hoping something cool emerges (It might not get discovered until after you are dead, but that is beside the point). In weaving Overshot, you actually weave the canvas while weaving the pattern at the same time. So at the end, you not only have the canvas, but you also have the painting. If you think in terms of needlepoint, the artist starts with a blank mesh base to begin from and the stitches form the image as she sews through it. In Overshot, you are creating the blank mesh AND the picture all at once. THAT is building a farm and a homestead. In our case, we started with nothing and as we went along over the past 8 years, we built the canvas (infrastructure) while at the same time allowing the painting to emerge as we built. For instance, the first infrastructure we built was our chicken coup. There was nothing else here but a house and garage. We wanted chickens so we built that piece of the canvas and the painting was the actual chickens themselves. We wanted a big garden and a greenhouse, so we built it (canvas) now have a big garden and a greenhouse (painting). We wanted goats, turkeys, donkeys and pigs, the canvas was fencing and a barn and corrals. We want to rotationally graze animals and incorporate Permaculture principles (irrigation, water catchment and fencing (canvas), having those things incorporated into our farm (painting). You get the idea. The painting and canvas emerge evolutionarily together as you proceed. The funniest rookies I’ve seen online are those that get the animals, bring them to their property and then scramble to house them because they did nothing with the canvas portion first! It is quite the experience to watch someone buy a cow (a 1200 pound creature), and then scramble to figure out how to keep them from escaping! Happens here all the time.

So that is where the comments came from about being “done”. The continuation of the canvas building was because there was something about it that lacked “closure” and that is definitely where I am now – Creating closure. In this past year, while everyone was scrambling for toilet paper, I was out building fences. Aaron and I built the garden fencing during the beginning of the lock-downs. He helped me until he went back up to school, to build the north pasture so we could rotationally graze. When he left, I continued to build the canvas on my own. Now it is on to the closure, both physically and metaphorically. Our property is a big 40 acre rectangle. The portion we use as our homestead is about 15 acres and we lease the back acres out to a farmer that lives across the road, who grows wheat. The way the canvas developed was from the road to our west and then back towards the east. This wasn’t exactly planned, but the shape of the place lent itself to nice 90 degree angles. So nearest the road are the two big pastures. One has the livestock barn, the other is the new grazing pasture. Come back closer to the house and on one side is the garden and greenhouse, on the other side of the driveway is the boy goat pasture, chicken coops and pig pen. In the middle of it all sits the house and garage (which were the only things on the place when we got it). All of this forms 3 sides of a rectangle. But the 4th side is open to the back 30 and then out into thousands of acres of grass prairie. On top of all of that, for all the critters we have and have made the canvas very comfortable for (they aren’t crowded, they lack for nothing, they all have shelter, etc), our dogs don’t have that luxury. Sure they have a hut and a pen, but so they can range and sniff and do dog stuff, I have to be out there with them. The canvas is incomplete. By closing the back side in, they will have 5 acres to run around on.

If you have never lived in a rural setting, people are a little weird about their dogs. They seem to think that it is ok to let them out and then not worry about what they are getting into or where they have gone. Our neighbors are no different. To our north, the family goes to work in the morning and they leave old FIDO out to roam around at will, which usually means he/she comes through the Piece O Crap barbed wire fence over to our place. Having the back side of the canvas unfenced leaves unfettered access to our place for said foreign critters. Being the more responsible adult in the room, I will not have my dogs returning the favor. With this final closing off of the back side of the 15 acres, the dogs can run themselves stupid and I will never have to wonder where they ran off to. In addition, should any of our other critters manage to escape their pastures (Think goats. They are escape artists that can get past you and out into open field before it even registers in your head that they escaped) they will encounter a redundancy. Nothing can get out without permission. Trust me, I over build everything. The pens are all made with fencing designed to keep horses in and this last side is fencing used for cattle. Unless they are high jumpers, they are staying put!

So I have embarked on what will definitely be the last fencing project (The completion of the canvas). YES I MEAN IT! Fence building is ball busting work, and I have to admit that at 58 years old, this construction stuff is getting just a bit too painful. The last fence closes off the back of the farm and completes a very nice symmetrical canvas with an incredibly cool painting on it that we now get to interact with for the rest of our lives.

Not only did this make sense from a physical standpoint, it was very nicely balanced emotionally as well. When I started this last fencing, I had in mind not only to square off the canvas of the farm, but to have it done by the end of March. You see, the end of March 4 years ago, was when I sold my practice and left work. Unfortunately, 3 months later I was in for surgery and that sidelined about a year or so of canvas building; but, 4 years, to me, was a nice square number to finish the construction career. This last fence is the closing off of the farm, the framing of the painting, and with any luck, the walking away from this psychotic society. A good online friend once said, “I don’t understand the world anymore, so I am opting out.” That is where I am. The metaphor of closing off the farm, living in the painting, and opting out of an insanity that I have no power to cure, works for me. If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time, you have seen what we’ve accomplished. At this point, modesty be damned (thus referencing the injured knee picture) I did it, I am proud as hell of it, and what it can provide and bottom line, we certainly deserve it. For those who have said they are jealous of it….. success comes with blood, sweat, and tears. This is the culmination of a 30 year career, dashed dreams and the emergence of what we consider to be a fantastic success. To quote the movie “The Incredibles” – ‘Luck favors the prepared, darling.’ People are often envious of sports figures who seem to be able to effortlessly perform their chosen activity. What they ignore are the thousands of hours of practice and drilling that got them to that point. Make no mistake, I am a black belt in farm building. We are not novices. We earned the scars and now we have earned this closure.

As of tomorrow I will have hand pounded in another 90 fence posts along 900 feet of fence line. My little tractor just wasn’t up to the task of drilling the holes for the wooden posts so I actually hired that done. A local friend came out with his huge skid steer and punched the holes. What would have taken me 2 days, he did in less than an hour. Well worth the money. The gas powered post driver I bought in order to give my shoulders some relief from the relentless pounding of steel posts (when this fence is complete it will mark almost one full mile of fencing installed by yours truly) gave up the ghost after a dozen – #screwTitanpostdrivers. It seems that it is always better to either do it yourself, or work with someone local. This machine was a complete piece of crap. Oh well, as it really is the last fence construction to be done here, as of tomorrow, I will have no need of it. We are expecting what could be the biggest snow storm here in 9 years this weekend, so my shoulders will get a chance to heal before the actual stringing of the fencing commences (We’ll see about that snow prediction, we had the bomb cyclone here a couple of years back and that sucker was no slouch. If it bests that, thank god we are Preppers!)

During the snowstorm, should it transpire, it will be the perfect time to transplant this year’s seeding, fire up the grow lamps, make Mozzarella cheese, and contemplate my next weaving project….. perhaps a nice Overshot.

“Plant like your life depends on it. Because it does.” – Collette O’Neil, Bealtine Cottage, Ireland

My little tractor rebelled against the post holes this time (went through 3 safety shearing pins on the auger).
Thanks Peter!!! You were a life saver!!
His skid steer has some serious beef. This ground is seriously hard.
Lookin’ a little wobbly without the concrete!
I am an animal!! Each of these posts required at least 50 post hammer strokes to get them to the proper depth. Almost done!!
These are the other fences to the west. Should anything escape they will meet with this new fence enclosure.
Just gives you an idea of the scope and size of this craziness. No wonder my shoulders are thrashed. #ScrewTitanPostDrivers!
Startin’ to look like a fence! Oops, I mean Overshot Canvas

Spring Is Actually Arriving!

Spring is actually coming. Of course we are expecting a snowstorm today, but it is the week here to start planting seedling in the basement grow room! Soon the big lights will be running and the new plants will begin their journey to the gardens. The annual garden grid is up and, of course, I do most of it in pencil because it always changes. This year we are moving all of the tomatoes (as usual) and the peppers, into the greenhouse. Some reading up on peppers indicated that they should do much better here under the cover of the greenhouse and the shade cloth. We usually have quite a large pepper harvest but the fruit always look like they fought a bit of a battle. It will be interesting to see if the protection and elevated humidity (versus none) help them out. One gardener said they saw a 500% increase. Doubt we will see that, but if the peppers are larger it would be fun.

But, before the hot weather plants go outside, the cool weather crops get to perform first. As we aren’t even to March yet, there are 3 months until our big plant in dates (usually around Memorial Day). Given the wild weather swings because we broke the Jet Stream, even if it looks like the temperatures are clear, buyer beware. Last year we put things out about 10 days too soon and we ended up scrambling with row covers to keep things from freezing to death before they even had a chance. In the next couple of weeks the Broccoli and Cauliflower and Spinach will get planted into the greenhouse. We still may need to use row covers (I have no doubt), but these three plants do pretty well in cold weather. Next up will be planting out onions and shallots, but that is still a ways off. Once it is time to plant in the peppers and tomatoes, the Broccoli and Cauliflower will be out and frozen and the same with the Spinach.

The newest addition to the main garden space will be the creation of a Blackberry hedge. This will be along the fence that Aaron and I put in last spring. There will be 24 bushes along the south side and will use the fence as a trellis. The irrigation will simply come from an extension of the hoses used to water the apple trees. More plowing, hole drilling, drip irrigation and composting will ensue. We should see those plants arrive sometime around the end of April. They come bare root, so initially they will go into pots and then, when the plot is ready, be planted in then.

In planning the garden we always have to assess what we actually need. If you have enough of something that you might never go through, why plant it, etc. I had planned on using one of our 50 foot beds to plant sweet corn. Out here that can be hit or miss, and we have a great source for sweet corn in Boulder. I have been doing the low carb thing lately so the sweet corn would likely just sit in the freezer and maybe end up getting fed to the chickens. So it was with that thought to feeding the animals that caused a shift in plans. Between that and the enormous potato harvest we had this past year, it was actually getting a little difficult to come up with enough plants to fill up all the beds. Enter the critters. American Guinea Hogs are walking scrap eaters. When we got them all the literature said how great they are as you can feed them on mostly grass and table scraps. Unfortunately, we are lacking in both so we have been feeding them store bought alfalfa pellets and pig feed. That isn ‘t too much of a problem but it is still having to turn dollars into pork. I read an article that talked about planting animal plots. They include vegetables that can be used by both humans and animals so nothing really gets wasted. While raw potatoes can be toxic to pigs, boiled ones are not. Pigs are natural rooters, so things like beets and turnips can be fed to them as well. This way we have ready potential pork to feed extra potatoes to and we can store both those and the beets and turnips I am going to plant in the corn bed, in burlap sacks. While this won’t eliminate the need for purchased feed, I can plant hundreds of root vegetables for a few bucks whereas pig feed is 15 bucks for a 50 pound sack. They will eat the roots, greens and all. Brilliant!

BIRDS EVERYWHERE!

Yesterday was the early spring cleaning of the chicken coops. This is probably the nastiest job on the farm. Unfortunately it is a job one can’t ignore if you grow food without fertilizer. Chicken crap is pure gold. It goes from chicken feed to eggs to poop to tomatoes (Both the humans and the pigs eat the eggs). We have never added commercial fertilizer of any kind to the beds since we bought the place. The animals make all we need. However, that cleaning job is a real butt buster. Not only is it simply no fun (it is after all just cleaning out an enormous bird cage) it is insanely dusty. In my case, and Zina’s too, being a bit asthmatic, that dust just locks up your lungs. As it is also quite a bit of exertion, the choice is made whether to inhale the dust and not be able to breath that night, or wear a bandana and pass out from lack of oxygen. It usually winds up being a combination of the two. Truly, if my locked up lungs last night are any indication of what a bad case of the Roney Virus is like, I am not going out into the world ever again.

However, the birds are all cleaned up, the new compost from it is over in the garden area waiting to be used, the coops smell nice again, and I like eggs and fresh chicken….. things could be worse.

As I had posted previously, we put an outdoor brooder in the barn this year. We did it because we were wanting to eliminate the need to have to start baby chicks in the house. They need to stay in a warm environment for about 4 weeks while they feather out and then they go out into a grow out coop before either going in with the flock or to the freezer camp resort hotel (You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave). We have 52 roasters coming next week (52 because that is where there is a price break). Of course, weather being unpredictable like it is now, we are expecting the first part of March to be too cold for them to be out in the new brooder (even with the heat lamps). We lost a bunch last year for the same reason….. live and learn. Soooooooo, back in the house comes the big tank, heat lamps, wood chips, and feed in anticipation of many small cheepers taking up residence in the basement. Fortunately though, after about 10 days to 2 weeks (instead of 4 weeks) we will be able to move them out to the new cage as they will be partially feathered and the lamps out there will be ample. The last week of a 4 week stint is pretty nasty. The whole house starts to smell like chickens and there gets to be a thin layer of dust settling over everything. This way shouldn’t be all bad. By the time they go out into the grow out pen, it will be April and they will have their adult feathers. Besides, you have never eaten chicken until you have had one raised right outside your door. This is a bit of a hassle (processing is a big job) but we never complain at dinner time.

THE GOATS HAVE EXPLODED!

We have posted about our new goat babies. I don’t think there are many animals as cute as baby goats. By now they are about 3 weeks and are hopping about playing dodge the donkeys. It is always so entertaining to see them learning howt to use their springy legs and seeing the wide open world under momma’s supervision. After 2 weeks the milking begins. This is Ginger’s second round of babies so milking her is pretty simple. Because she had 5 kids she is pretty full and I imagine having some of the milk removed in the morning is a welcome relief. That little lady is producing about 1/3 of a gallon in a morning! Momma Paprika is a completely different story. She is petite to begin with and doesn’t seem to understand this whole milking thing (“What are YOU DOING back there!!??”). To be fair, it is her first time, I am human, and neither one of us is known for our patience. When she doesn’t want to be touched she simply kicks at you and lays down. I pick her up by her tail, she kicks and lays down. Oh well, it will come around. But not all goats are great milkers by volume either. While Ginger has opened up the flood gates, Paprika is a bit of a trickle. As milking is why we have them, one needs to evaluate. I won’t breed her again (as we are only getting about a pint from her) so she might have a date with our local community sale barn to be sold as a pet (Nigerians are sweet little kid friendly buggers and Paprika is very cute).

The one thing that makes things a bit of a challenge while milking, is the way it is done. Me milking a little Nigerian Dwarf Goat by hand would be akin to Andre the Giant milking a Hummingbird. No way that is happening. The milker we had been using is a good one, but it was simply a hand pumped device. If you have a skittish goat like Paprika, all that additional pumping commotion doesn’t help matters. So, UPGRADE! We have gone all modern and got an electric milker that doesn’t require pumping. Once it is on and in place the little motor does the rest. The thing, of course, has a fitting name: The Udderly EZ milker. Yep…..

If I could convince Zina that we should have a Jersey Cow, it would work on her as well…….. but for the goats, especially when I am out in cold weather, this thing is awesome. So for those thinking I am some kind of Luddite, think again. This, plus the new filter for processing, is going to save me so much time. By the sound of the dogs barking their fool heads off as I write this, it sounds as though the new cheese press has arrived as well. Time to start making some righteous Cheddar.

So this was kind of a mish-mash of things. It is typically what happens as spring starts to appear. Last year at this time I was finishing the last of our raised beds and hail guards. This year, I am going to finishing our last needed fence. My goal, weather not withstanding, is to have that fence done by the end of March. The gas driven post pounder has come back repaired so, hopefully, I won’t be driving t-posts by hand like I did for the most recent pasture fencing. My shoulders can’t handle that impact much anymore and there are over 100 to do. So far this year I have thrashed my shoulders, popped my right knee again, broken the middle finger of my left hand and sprained the one on the right. I always thought that the old farmers in Iowa, hobbling around in their overalls, must be some really ancient old codgers who have been around the block a few times….. I really need to not look in the mirror. As POGO said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” I are one. Maybe I just need a shiny new pair of overalls and I will be all fixed. Add some Bondo, a few bearing and U joint repairs and I’ll be all set to go. Or not. As my t-shirt says, “Everything will kill you so choose something fun”. Peace.

Phase One Of The JAZ Farm Oasis Project

As I mentioned in a previous blog, the next evolution of the farm is to work to regenerate the land and try to create something of an oasis in a sea of dry grass that is on it’s way, according to climate models, to becoming the Sahara. The first piece is putting in the necessary earth works. It will include swales and other water catchment systems as we progress, but the first piece is to allow for better rotational grazing of animals. It’s important to be able to move the grazing animals around so that any one pasture doesn’t get over grazed thus killing the vegetation that is there. Today I finished the new north pasture. I hand pounded 140 posts, drilled in and cemented in H braces and Corner braces and tied on and pulled 1750 feet of horse fence. Actually, I have a last 100 feet to do tomorrow but in essence, it’s done. Using portable fence netting we will be able to direct which paddock the animals have access to. Between the 4 pastures I figure we can block out 8 different paddocks thus rotating the goats, pigs, chickens and turkeys from field to field so they can graze and peck and actually help to heal the land. I do have one last humdinger of a fence to build so that in case of a possible escape by said creatures, they run into a back stop. It will also give the dogs about 4 acres of their own to run around on without us having to wonder where their dumb Lab butts ran off to. After having to pause to throw a bunch of hay into storage (about 60 bales – gasp), I will start on the second fence. The goal being to have all this infernal fence torture done by planting season (Memorial Day). After that, the fun jobs start…. I actually can’t wait for that. Being the gardener and Permaculturist will be so much more enjoyable than pulling galvanized steel fencing around (It weighs about a pound a foot and they come in 200 ft rolls). Pretty tired of construction, but it comes with the territory I guess.

The New JAZ Farm Oasis Project (The Re-Greening of Part of the Prairie)

Every year, it seems, there is another addition to the farm. Another task arises because of a discovery or an adaptation to surroundings and events. Of course, 2020 was a spectacular shit show for so many people. It put many in danger and it exposed how completely inept people are at governance. It also showed how resistant folks can be to being resilient in the face of adversity and change. My whole life has been something of a fight. This hasn’t been difficult. In fact, I found it pretty interesting. I will post a bit more about how it all affected me in a different post, but suffice it to say that I have been affirmed in all that we do and all that we’ve done to get to this point in our JAZ Farm life. Last year tested the farm and her inhabitants’ mettle. From a major power outage around this time last year, to coming home from school and work and having to work and study at home, to a farmer man who tried to keep all these cats herded when it affected the returnees pretty badly for awhile (Perhaps a more precise phrase would be “disoriented them for awhile.). A crisis will expose the cracks in one’s character pretty explicitly and ours were no different. However, We are all here. We are all still alive. We are all much smarter for the experience; and I must say that if this Bat Bug were to go away, my life wouldn’t change much. We are so fortunate to have had foresight into the fragility of our society – from a medical stand point, a failed economic standpoint, and from an environmental one as well. We were able to not only feed ourselves, but carry on with our lives and also provide for some time down the road (which by the looks of things will be needed). The JAZ Farm homestead and farm did it’s job and we know that we can continue on pretty much indefinitely if we keep on tweaking the issues we find simply from the experience of living it.

The Bat Bug and Economic crisis not withstanding (which we have yet to fully experience), one of the real lessons learned, which is becoming more and more urgent here, is the use of water and how to acquire it. As well as the fires in California, thousands of acres burned here in Colorado this year because of a most severe drought (which continues currently and, of which, climate models show could turn much of the Southwest and Mid-West into a Sahara). This was particularly sad because most of the fire damage was in my old backcountry stomping grounds when I was still able to be a modern Jeremiah Johnson. The devastation is unreal. It will be decades before those scars (if they ever will be – we could see it again this summer) can be healed. We had almost no snow this past winter, virtually no rain this past summer (which included the first recorded “Haboob” dust storm in Colorado and decided to go straight through our place) and so far this winter has only seen dustings of snow. Every footstep here makes a dust poof and larger winds now brown the skies out because of the bare dry topsoil blowing away. All this means that industrial farmers will have to pump more and more water from the aquifers and with all the new homes going up in Colorado, wells are now having to be dug down to 900 feet. On top of the drought, the heat has been climbing with 2020 being the hottest year on record and I mean to tell you, weeks at a time in heat north of 100 degrees F is no picnic if you are out every day trying to keep your food source (garden) productive. As I read in one of my desert agriculture books, a farmer in New Mexico said, “The rain is dying”.

The cloud in this picture is all smoke coming from the fire in and around Rocky Mountain National Park.

So that is where the title for this posting came from. The Corona crisis instilled it even further for me. It is a realistic understanding and a coming to grips with the fact that all has changed permanently. Nothing is ever going to “go back to normal” so that everyone can continue on with Walmart TV’s and plastic crap, consuming as though it was the only real reason to exist. You either adapt or you suffer and I pity those (which seem to be most) who cannot see it, will not see it, or choose to ignore it. Mother Earth is in charge and I think that only those involved with trying to heal her have any hope for longevity (Understanding full well that it might be way too late). The world is in hospice and living with a species with no Erete (Greek for Virtue) or Wisdom, seems pretty much destined to continue to become an orbiting cinder. Now some may agree with this idea or not, but despite it all, one needs to live. Evidently, the energy vibrating this dream state into existence seems to have me be doing this farm project to the exclusion of much else. So that is what I do. In the end, it might all end up being but one scene in a cosmic play, but if that is what I have to do that is what I have to do. I guess I will continue on until all of me is used up. At least I will be able to say unequivocally, that I tried. That might not matter either, but it gets me up in the morning when not much else can.

So the wake up of 2020 had to do with awakening to the desert dogging my heels (as Derrick Jensen said). According to many, many desert dwellers I have researched and read about, it is all about basically two things: Earthworks (the shaping of the land being used) and, of course, water. The earthworks are designed to slow down water flow and keep it on the property in useful form for as long as possible. Every drop of water should be caught as high up on the property as possible (in our case mostly roofs), diverted to the growing areas and then infused into the soil through the use of swales and waffle pattern gardens all using mulch, cover crops, trees and grasses to hold the water in place. Catching the water involves plumbing. This means water catchment systems to hold water until needed that come off of the roofs of the Garage, Barn and House, as well as the horse run-in shed that will be built in the future. All of this gets plumbed to ponds, large water barrels, as well as simply into the swales where the actual vegetation is planted. Through a combination of earthworks, water catchment, proper “guilding” of plant groups to utilize the shade from trees and bushes and the water retention of leafy ground cover, a veritable “Food Forest” to coin a Permaculture term can be built in a semi-arid climate. By using perennial plants as much as possible, as long as moisture can be used efficiently, the land can be healed not only to produce food for the homestead inhabitants, it will also create habitat for the non-human species that are being displaced as we continue to destroy our only living planet. So if the universe is saying that this is the rock that I must break myself upon…. at least I’m not in Bermuda Shorts on an electric tricycle at some human Romper Room or wearing a pink polo shirt with Khaki’s riding around on a golf cart while white pebble smacking myself into oblivion. In other words, trying not to add to the problem, even if there is no real fix. You have to draw your line in the sand somewhere and mine is in real sand. The picture posted at the beginning of this blog is the area where we will be working. This is just east of the conventional vegetable garden and greenhouse and on the south side of the house. It is a bit over an acre, dry as a popcorn fart, and has the perfect slight slope to aid in water flow. As this is now the Permaculture/Regenerative Agriculture part of the endeavor and we are pretty self-sufficient in most other respects, this will be the painting I hope to create on the canvas that all of the other farm structure building created. It is now time to be able to do what I was born for – biology, husbandry, growth, and being in nature – even if I have to get her to accept the invitation. Trust me when I tell all you easterners, you gotta really turn on the charm to get anything to grow here. Mother Nature needs to be enticed. I gotta be on my best flirtatious behavior otherwise all we will have is weeds and thorns. The ultimate ambition is to go from hell-scape to Oasis, then sit and watch the bees. While not knowing the future of course, this is likely to be the last project of my life. I say that because there is literally no end to it and as I see it, there is no other real reason for me to do anything else. I could spend all my time hand wringing about the collective insanity that everyone sees on those infernal techno-devices, but, in the end, what does that actually accomplish other than allowing sociopaths to invade your psyche and ultimately your peace and your life? Go do something. Don’t let them steal your life. You see, JK Rowling knew this: Dementors exist and they will steal your soul.

The next lesson that was learned had to do with proper land management; the positive and negative effects of grazing livestock. Our donkeys and female goats have about a 3 acre pasture to roam around on and munch on. The goats love to go after the weeds and the donkeys are primarily grass eaters. So it makes for a good combination. Over the past few years that worked out fine. They would keep the field from being overgrown and the prairie plants and weeds would come back strong in the spring. This past year that was not the case. The pasture went brown almost immediately in the spring. Donkeys and goats graze virtually all day. The result this past summer was a pasture that was grazed down practically to dirt. In a regenerative model this is pretty bad. For instance, the roots of grass only go as deep as the plant is tall. If it is grazed down to a nub the plant gets very weak and, in many cases, can’t recover. I fear that this is the case here. Because we don’t have a huge flock of critters out there it didn’t seem that it would be an issue. Then of course, we plunged into drought and smoke filled skies and voila….. something new to deal with. What we need to do is to be able to “rotationally graze” the animals (Oh ya, our boy goats have another pasture that was originally our old vegetable garden – about an acre or acre and a half – and it is on it’s way as well). Rotational grazing means only allowing the animals onto single divided paddocks and then moving them to other paddocks so the previous ones can grow back. The animals graze and poop. They are often followed by poultry that scratches the poop about, and the paddock provides food and fertilization thus helping to improve the overall health of the land.

I am afraid that this year, that whole pasture is going to have to be reseeded in order for it to not become a thistle field. That means buying seed, borrowing a friend’s seeder and then keeping the animals off of the pasture for most of next summer. There-in lies the rub. We don’t have another pasture to run them on. We have plenty of land to accommodate them, but not the fencing to hold them. Sooooooooooo, this winter’s project (again) has been, you guessed it, fencing. I have set to task of fencing in another 4 acre pasture on our north field. It will look really cool when completed and provide all sorts of room for grazing (It won’t have a barn in the middle of it.). But it is still 1500 feet of wooden posts, metal T-posts, H and Corner Braces, fence pulling, blisters, exhaustion, and yes…. cussing the likes of which navy sailors haven’t heard. Of course I am having to hand pound the posts in because the fancy gas powered pounder I got for Christmas destroyed itself after 6 posts. So it remains to be seen if I get the rest of the posts in before it gets back from whence it came for repairs. I make really nice fences but I can’t say there is anything more that I hate doing. It is painful, time consuming drudgery…. and yes, it is all apart of that whole “This seems to be what the universe is telling me to do” rot. So fences be going up. I am now just seeing it as part of the whole Oasis project. The fences need to exist so the land can stop being degraded. But damn does it hurt.

Check out the dry dusty ground in front of the posts….. this is January.

There it is. Discovery and necessity become the mother of construction. Improvise, adapt, overcome and even when you think you will wind up in a wheelchair, revel in the accomplishments and don’t be afraid to feel proud. I think we will name this the Sam Todaro memorial fence. Zina’s dad passed on this last week just while I was getting the fence project underway. We will miss you Sam…. the old Sicilian farmer would have loved this place. “That Jonathan…..”

Let the last great project of my life commence. If anything, I don’t have to go to the city – Too much to do, too many idiots. I think I am quite ready for the painting to finally begin. Nothing could be any weirder than 2020 right? 2021 said, “Oh ya….. hold my beer.”

Go plant something.

Happy 8th Anniversary!

It’s a few days late, but as of December 4th, JAZ Farm turned 8 years old! Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but it was pretty fortuitous to have spent all of these years building our Shire here on the high eastern plains. Given the disease of the undercooked bat, we have been so fortunate to have our place and be able to really live pretty much unchanged from normal. Personally, my life hasn’t changed much. Before the Bat Bug I was here full time anyway, usually venturing off the farm simply to get groceries, animal feed and construction items. As with so many people, Zina and Aaron have been here as well, since about March. This has been something of an adjustment. Zina was used to at least having her co-workers and professional organizations to satisfy her more social needs (something I don’t really suffer from), but after a rough patch, everyone is pretty well settled in. Aaron still takes his engineering classes on line and mostly just disappears into cyber-world for his entertainment. I have, however, had him out working on my small engines and generators, and that has given him some hands on experience. After all, a Mechanical Engineer ought to have at least been introduced to a carburetor even if they don’t much use them anymore. Farmer Jon is Doby the house elf. I cook and repair and shop for the bits of food we need and generally keep the place running while the two new full time residents stare at their screens for work and school. We have found that we are really pretty self-sufficient for food. Most of the food stuffs we need to shop for are things like beverages snacks and lunch meat. Most everything else is ordered in bulk or grown here. Because we are transitioning to breeding our own pigs we got low on pork. To make up for the shortfall we ordered a quarter steer from a ranch near here. While the world freaked about wiping their behinds, we stocked up on tons of animal feed and hay so that we have a cushion. After all, they will keep feeding us if we feed and care for them.

The Animals:

Because of the lockdowns this year, as well as simply a fear of going out, there have been many shortages of things we homesteaders have taken for granted over the years. The biggest shortage has been canning supplies; lids and quart jars in particular. Fortunately, we have quite a stock of both because we have been at it for so many years. But, unlike the newbie gardener wannabes, we have been getting out ahead of things for years. The motto, “Two is one and one is none” is something we tend to follow for most everything. As with this past spring, seeds were also in short supply, so mid-summer I ordered all of my seeds that I will need for spring of 2021 to avoid shortages (plus, we save as many of our own seeds as we can)

Chicks! Whodah thunk there would be a shortage of CHICKS! We usually order a passel of meat chicks each year to raise up and put in the freezer. This year we waited MONTHS to get them. Thank goodness we hatch most of our own (both chickens and turkeys). So this year I have an order in for over 50 of them. They are due in the first week off March of 2021. We had some issues with our meat birds this year including, heat, a different breed that didn’t seem to be suited for altitude, and some health problems. We also raise stewing hens, and we had hatched 20 of them. Unfortunately when we put them out into the grow out coop, a skunk discovered them and had a smorgasbord. By the time we got it trapped, it had killed 8 of them. That problem will be remedied by next spring. Our other coops are fortresses, so I need to dig a trench and get the sub-surface concrete put down to prevent burrowing.

As if we didn’t have enough bird cages, we got sick of brooding out the chicks in the house and in a cattle watering tank. It is dusty, smelly and awkward. Because we raise so many chickens, we decided to dedicate some space in the barn for an enclosed, walk-in brooder. I ordered some construction site fencing panels, laid down some rubber stall mats and walled it all off with OSB panels. This thing could easily brood out 200 birds, but the best feature is the ability to clean it easily, not have to get on one’s knees in the water tank to clean it, and just generally create a more efficient environment.

Pigs:

One change we made had do with the pigs. Heritage (traditional) pigs can grow to be enormous animals. Many that we have taken to the processor have weighed over 400 pounds. Most are very friendly, but they are immensely strong and even if they don’t intend to hurt you, they can without even knowing they did it. So with that in mind we discovered American Guinea Hogs. Guineas were actually the pig of choice in the early Appalachian homesteads of the 1800’s. They eat mostly grass, fatten up pretty easily, are docile like dogs, and don’t get to be as big as the traditional Iowa hogs that folks are used to seeing at the State Fair. We are now raising up three and are on the list for a couple of more from a breeder in Colorado Springs. If this works well, just like our chickens producing breakfast every day, these little guys will keep us in bacon and ham. We have 2 males (Pedro and Pablo Pigcasso) and a female (Petunia). They are just now getting to breeding age so we have been building a farrowing pen in the anticipation of little squeakers.

Goats:

We just got done getting the dairy running again. We bred two of our girls to Tank and Dozer – the bucks. We are certain that one is pregnant as she has turned into mother waddles. The other, Paprika, we don’t know yet. She wasn’t really thrilled with spending a couple of months with Tank. She would have had to have gone through 2 cycles and Tank, shall we say, is very devoted to his purpose in life, so it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t be pregnant but she isn’t shown nearly has obviously as Ginger. Both should be due in February or March so we will see. At that same time in the spring we will breed the other 3. This way we will have milk, yogurt and cheese all through 2021. Goats will try every inch of your patience, but they are very sweet and just riot to watch. They have grown on me and I really enjoy having them around.

The donkeys:

The two Gurus of the farm continue to simply live in the moment. Give them hay, treats and petting and they are as content as they can be. Donovan honks at us around sunrise as if to tell us that we are slacking off and not feeding him on the schedule that HE thinks we should be on. I am working on fencing in another 3 acres of pasture though. Those guys graze all day…. every day. We have been in a severe drought and they actually ate their current pasture down to the nubs. We don’t have haying equipment (very expensive). So in order to feed them fresh pasture we decided that we should fence in another section of grass and bring THEM to IT! It is another huge job, but once done, I can do some proper rotational grazing to help take some of the pressure off of the land. A friend has a ground powered seeder, so I may borrow it next year to reseed the original pasture to heal it back up. Being able to move them around will also help save some on hay expenses. If this drought continues, hay will be hard to come by and be expensive. The goats, donkeys, pigs, and sometimes the chickens all eat it, so staying stocked is important.

The Gardens:

Despite the drought, our gardens lost their minds this past summer. We harvested so many potatoes that I am still processing them. It is December and I have yet to get the carrots in. Our new Asparagus patch did very well in getting established and I am looking to a light harvest next spring. Because of the canning supply shortage, I bought a second dehydrator and went to town. We have dozens of half gallon ball jars just filled with produce (In addition to all the canning we have done). The freezers are full as well. Growing food is something I do well.

It is a challenge to grow greens in our environment. The heat makes everything bolt. I ran across a book that described a system of growing greens indoors year round. That is my latest project so that we can eliminate the need to have to buy them in the stores. Mine won’t have eColi!

In addition to all of the issues that we have faced because of the saga of 2020 was a wildfire season for the record books. California usually gets all the press, but it saddened me to no end to watch my old mountain stomping grounds go up in flames. I have hiked all over the Northern Rockies and lived for a time up where the fires have now devastated. We live about 2 hours from there now but the massive smoke plumes still managed to cause some pretty awful breathing issues and very smokey skies. Climate Change is devastating the west with fire and drought. Hurricanes seem to be sexier and happen where more people seem to be living, but forest fires are an experience. We have been in our fair share and hope that we see some moisture sometime in the not too distant future. It has really put a burr in my saddle to get the swales and ponds dug and the water catchment system up and functional. If we are going to see more anniversaries here, water management needs to be the cornerstone of what we do here. A mini-dust bowl is already here. We need to get the core of the permaculture forests done so that we can help tie the dirt down and not have to go through too many more of these awful dust storms.

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So I posted this blog just to celebrate the 8th anniversary of the farm and how admirably it has performed for us during this ridiculous year. I am officially declaring homesteaders and preppers off limits for ridicule. Ya’ll are all trying to become us now. Learn from those who have gone before you. This is going to do nothing but get worse. The escaped virus might be brought under control at some point, but the economic depression is just starting. While there is time, get out and get stocked up. I wish I could tell myself that I am over-reacting, but the signs simply don’t lend themselves to that. It is one thing to make sure you can wipe your butt, it is entirely another to ensure that you have food, especially if the supply lines continue to fail. I held off here on the absolute rant that I wanted to include in this…. we’ll save it for another time. Happy Anniversary JAZ Farm, ya done us proud.

Homesteading Is Tasty, m’Kay?

So mini-winter is but a memory. This week and next temperatures will all be up around 90 degrees with no moisture in sight. Working outside today was like working around a camp fire. There is yet another fire, this time up in Wyoming north of where I used to live. It is about 14,000 acres and it seems that a good chunk of the smoke made it’s way here. The air quality is quite bad and for we asthmatics, that limits outdoor time. But, while mini-winter was a very strange blip in the weather world, we are now back to getting the gardens harvested and processed at a more reasonable pace.

Probably the most back breaking task involved with gardening is harvesting potatoes. There is no real easy way to go about it, so down on your hands and knees you go trying to dig them up without skewering them in the process. This is not a perfect science, so any potato that got poked scraped or sliced will get canned or dehydrated as they don’t store well with wounds. Zina did the hand digging part and I followed behind her with a shovel to dig down deeper and seek out the stragglers. It worked out pretty well. The trench I dug needs to be done anyway in order to plant next spring. Once done we will line the ditch with peat moss and composted chicken manure and we will be ready to go in 2021. I have always ordered our seed stock; I am currently investigating the best way to store our own for next year as we might be facing the same over-demand for them that we had this year. Worse, I fear. Fortunately, our previous predictions about the yield are proving true. We have gotten through 1/4 of the planted rows and we are already over 100 lbs. This means we have recouped the seed potatoes by weight and are 50 lbs. to the good. The total should be in the ball park of 400 lbs. So if one is looking to stock a pantry, not only to make sure bellies stay filled, but to also have things that taste good, our main preserved staples should do the trick. We still have yet to check out the sweet potatoes, but I fear that that will be our lost crop due to the freak snow.

It seems that from the core of our food stuffs, Green Beans, Corn (from a local organic grower) Onions, Garlic, Canned Tomatoes, Carrots, Potatoes, Peppers, Celery, Sauerkraut and Pickles, we should be able to keep the eating interesting. This will all go along with our Eggs, Turkey, Chicken, Pork, and the Beef that will be arriving in about a month. I am pretty sure we will have at least one pregnant goat, possibly two by November, with three more set to go in the spring. This will keep us in milk, yogurt and cheese. We will also be growing all of our own lettuce during the winter in our basement growing facilities.

So folks, it might not be on this kind of scale, but it can be done. Just be creative. “Oh Jon, you are just bragging.” Well, after all of the work over the last almost 8 years, you bet your ass I am bragging. I am (We are) as proud as we have ever been about anything. And, more bragging, we were right about it all. Makes you angry? Move along. This one is ours to puff up over. Also folks, jealousy (and I am talking to specific folks who have said this), doesn’t accomplish anything. We have never had any real consistent offers of help that have actually panned out (which is a typical refrain among small scale farmers). Mom did help and a couple others very sporadically and we did higher a part time farm hand, but as luck would have it, she crunched herself up in a car wreck. Guys, once you get the hang of it, it really isn’t that tough. Plus! You get exercise. Digging that trench is as aerobic as pretty much anything, unless you are a runner. Given that my legs are pretty deteriorated, using my upper body to dig with works out pretty well for me. All that lacks, in most cases, like setting any goal, is vision and desire.

So from my family to yours, stock up, stay awake, and become as self-sufficient as possible.

All that green has yet to be harvested.

Mucho spuds.

The Official 2020 JAZ Farm Drone Flyover and Tour

Once again, like every year, Aaron dusted off the drone and the Go Pro to do a tour of the farm and to highlight the achievements of the past year. Here you will see our new pigs (Pedro and Pablo Pigcasso and Petunia), both our boy and girl goats, The new baby chicks, the crazy turkeys, the completion of moving the gardens and the new fencing. We have been in quite a drought this year so everything is very brown. But thanks to the well hydrants and timed drip irrigators, our gardens are doing very well. We are up to 43 raised beds. Next year you will see the completion of another pasture fence so we can move the critters from pasture to pasture so none of them get grazed too short. The new apple trees and Asparagus patch are doing great and we expect to harvest a couple of hundred pounds of potatoes. This past week all of those hail guards over the raised beds earned their keep. It isn’t a perfect solution, but nothing got wiped out in our most recent hail storm. Next year we hope to be putting in a Blackberry patch and some grape vines. Work will also begin on our new food forest where the old garden was. All in all it was a very productive year. Sometimes one needs to sit back and admire the accomplishments. This is how one thrives during the Zombie Apocalypse. Looking forward to seeing what the next year brings to the farm.

https://youtu.be/3KA0EODfXRs

And We Are Now A Gated Community

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

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

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

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

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

Re-Stocking The Aisles

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I had a strange feeling this past New Year.  It felt like the twenty teens were somehow the last “normal” decade we were ever going to see.  Forces have been arising that seemed to have enough clout to really rock our world through the 2020’s.  The markets were too long in the tooth, being held up by rubber bands and paper clips as well as massive amounts of money being fed into the system by the fed and companies doing the same thing that helped cause the Great Depression (Buying back their stock).  This, and the fact that over half of this country didn’t participate in the recovery from 2008 and are incapable of handling an emergency that would require them to come up with $400.00.  If you have read this blog for any time, I think Climate Change is the ultimate trump card.  There is no escaping it and if the IPCC is correct, the talking points say that we only have this decade to turn things around (I am not of that camp.  I don’t think it can be turned around at all).  So the clock is ticking and the doomsday clock was pushed closer to midnight than it has ever been.  I just didn’t think we would see it all happen in the first quarter of the first year of the new decade!  I had been calling out warnings for a couple of years now that a life changing event was coming.  I just didn’t know the catalyst was going to come from a bat.  Welcome to the jungle.  And you thought Mother Nature could be controlled and wasn’t in charge.  Baaaa, baaaa, says the sheep.

(As an aside, it is remarkable to me that we could mobilize all of these logistics globally to fight a bug because it is killing and maiming people, but human extinction due to climate change?  Virtually nothing.  Save ourselves from the bat bug, so we can die from accelerated habitat loss.  Humanity, if nothing else, is certainly a conundrum.  But I digress).

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Vacuum sealed and stored Black Beans.

We, like everyone, have been pretty scope locked on this infernal virus.  But, because we live the way we live, we have been prepared for just about everything for many years.  As I have some pretty hyper-vigilant situational awareness senses, we were out ahead of this thing.  We filled in the gaps (Not Toilet Paper – because of where we live, you ALWAYS have extra) and instead of having to freak and scramble for basic daily rations, I went out and filled in the more comfort items:  snacks, drinks, chips, etc.  For any of the more long-term food storage items we simply add to it as a matter of course.  My spidey senses told me that the window was closing fast to get prepared, so I went when all the others still seemed to think all was normal.  Friends, relatives, neighbors at the cafe’, as usual, poo poo’d it because that thing we call media, was convincing everyone it was “over there” and it was just a bad case of the “flu” and those bad government doobies were just trying to scare us.  We in the prepper and homesteader – verse were not convinced for a minute.  Most of those I follow and are friends with were on the same page we were.  The mantra was “get prepared now before everyone else suddenly realizes how serious this is.”  And, of course, here we are.

It was the week after I did all of this that the hoards descended en-masse like the pictures and videos everyone is now familiar with (maybe you were even featured in them).  We have always had some masks and gloves around (we use the masks to clean the chicken coop).  We have always had an extensive first-aid supply so all I really did was pick up a bunch of cold, flu, nausea and cough meds for possible first response needs (Oh ya, and a new thermometer and finger mounted Pulse Oximeter).  The weekend AFTER the first feeding frenzy was entertaining.  I went to Costco to get some meat I needed for some canning I’m doing.  I got to joke around with the staff amidst the empty shelves and cardboard boxes.  They said that past weekend was worse than Christmas.  The photo below is a clerk at our closest grocery store.  She is a friend.  She and I had gone to physical therapy together.  The woman she is checking out had 3 carts loaded to over-flowing, and every check out aisle was similar.  All I was after was some whole milk that we make yogurt for our pigs with!

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Keep in mind this is a full size grocery store out in the sticks in a town of 2500 people.  They did this to the shelves in 2 days:

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Because we produce so much of our own food and because we always keep the things we don’t grow stocked up in the pantry or freezers, we were fortunate not to have to go out into the freak show for very much.

Our virus prepping was quite a bit different from the norm.  Some of our food walks around and eats grain.  In addition to this little pandemic surprise we are now confronting, climate change hasn’t gone away.  Last year, for the blissfully unaware, was a terrible year for grain crops.  Severe flooding prevented many farmers from planting.  Many had their grain stores ruined or washed away and the freak freezes in the mid-west this past fall made harvesting a challenge.  As a result, there have been warnings about possible grain shortages (potatoes too).  We are expecting an El-Nino this coming summer which, at least here, usually means drought conditions and heat.  Should we experience another poor growing season for crops, animal feed will get expensive.  So in order to withstand this virus shindig and to get out ahead of potential grain price increases, we prepped for our critters more than we prepped for ourselves.  For us, feed means a continuous source of eggs (a re-producing breakfast supply), feed means pork (we have breeding stock now so our pork will beget more pork).  Hay means milk, cheese and yogurt from our goats. They all make compost and that means vegetables.  We feed a lot of our eggs to our pigs as a protein source, so, in essence, the chicken feed gets used twice!  Our goal is to have a year each of chicken and pig feed and a year or more of stacked hay (In a drought, hay gets ridiculously hard to find and, as a result, expensive).  So while the citiots were out mobbing Costco, Sams, Walmart and Target, we were just up the road ordering skids of feed.  With the eggs, pork, chicken and dairy taken care of, we are well situated, and it will help stretch the stored goods for quite some time.

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Other preps have included, butchering 125 lbs. of turkey and grinding it up and putting it in the freezer; making gallons of turkey and chicken soup along with the ingredients to can loads of other meals.   Now that the weather is turning for the better, we will be collecting our Jersey Giant meat bird eggs and hatching them out.  We have Cornish Cross chicks due in in a month and they will add to the freezer in short order (they grow very fast).  We have one goat in milk right now and will be breeding the others.  They will kid in the fall and the milk faucet will continue on unabated.

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We only milk once a day so we are getting about a quart per morning.  Plenty for us.

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We WEALLY Likes to Play!

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The Single Dumbest Farm Animal In Existence…. and one of the tastiest.  Both For Meat And Eggs

Like so many people who are privileged to be able to, Zina has been ordered to work from home for the foreseeable future.  We are very grateful to her company to be out ahead of the problem as well.  Aaron came home for spring break and it has turned into a year ending affair.  He will be taking the remainder of his classes on line this semester and then he will be home for the summer.  It remains to be seen if school starts back up in the fall.  Given the blundering way the powers that be are handling this, don’t hold your breath.  For those who can’t work from home, we certainly hope for the best.  Too bad we can’t count on those living off of our tax dollars to do anything important.  Isn’t it ironic that those who have the low “skill”, low wage jobs are now considered indispensable?  Quite frankly, I think this bat virus is exposing “capitalism” for the two tiered sociopathic farce that it is.

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So after getting hunkered down at the farm (which didn’t change much except that I’m not alone for most of the week now), we started looking to the long term.  You see, it is my contention that if we are to survive not only through this virus, or if there are others (which there are sure to be), and the changing living conditions in which we find ourselves, there is going to be a re-ruralization – or at least a massive re-structuring of urban settings.  The supply lines will become more localized.  Globalism will be seen for the failure that it is (Who’da thunk that a virus from a poor wet market in Asia could get on a plane and kill people all the way around the world.  Globalism….. the perfect model.).  Knowing this, it makes sense to get out ahead of that curve as well.  In World War II they were called “Victory Gardens”.  Due to food rationing and military mobilization, people were called upon to farm their yards.  It is currently going on in Russia and it is a large part of how Cuba has survived its sanctions and horrendous treatment at our hands.  It is a remarkable thing, abundance.  If you have the means and some space it is time to start growing a garden.  It is great exercise, the taste of the food is without equal, and if you do it with your neighbors, the bartering and sharing (gasp!) creates community.  Hey!  You are locked up anyway, its something to do instead of shooting zombies on the PS4 and produces an actual result!  If the supply lines get disrupted because of this, you will be ever thankful for taking this advice.  We do save our seed every year, but for those we can’t we are even getting a supply ordered for 2021 ahead of time (seeds can last for several years in a fridge – we have a little one just for that purpose).

We are calling this year’s garden planting, “re-stocking the produce aisle”. While it hasn’t changed from what we normally do and because the building projects here are largely done, I have been able to give it more attention than years past.  This is an aisle restocking for the late summer and fall.  The seedlings are up and loving the basement “suns” as they get set to go into their pre-garden grow out pots.  Later this week I am expecting 20 tons of planting soil to be delivered so that I can finish my last 2 48 x 6 foot row crop beds.  Then the composting and amending begins in earnest for the planting to begin in the next 6-8 weeks.

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I have also begun making tinctures.  For those who don’t know what these are, they are extracts made by soaking an herb or spice in grain alcohol or vodka for about a month.  The resulting filtered liquid can be used for many medicinal situations.  For instance, our garlic tincture is great for regulating blood pressure, can act as a blood thinner, and has strong anti-viral properties (hint).  Considering that 97% of our antibiotics come from China, learning the old medicinal ways only makes sense.  Get ahead of the curve!

So, personally, I think all those that are acting like my eldest Lab when we put her out in her pen and then just stands there staring at the house like we have locked her in prison, lack creativity.  This should be used to learn, to experiment, to develop new skills to adapt to a life that is certainly going to be different.

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Learn to bake, cook, sew, knit, crochet, can, wood work, weld, garden…. anything!  Get off yer butts!

I assert again that the twenty teens were the last “normal” decade.  The new normal will be something akin to living like an Amish Hobbit in the 1850’s.  You can prepare for it, or you can sit around like baby birds in a nest waiting for momma Robin to come stuff a worm down your gullet.  Of course, that makes one dependent upon the same government they claim to hate.  Hey, I just call em like I see ’em.  As I learned to affirm in therapy, “I wasn’t wrong then, I’m not wrong now.”  Given how many people are now contacting me about what to do, I get to feel a little smug.  The days of insulting or dismissing homesteaders and preppers are over.  We don’t engage in Schadenfreude, but there is some shaking of our heads.  A certain amount of “I told you so” is well deserved.  We earned it.  We in the community do hope that there can be a civilized transition to the new normal and not Mad Max. But rest assured there is preparedness for that too. We are at a crossroads and where it goes from here and how it goes from here is destined to be incredibly entertaining.  Keep your wits about you.  Don’t believe any rosie short term forecasts, this is going to be with us for a very long time to come.

Hunker down.  My favorite meme from this:

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Kremmling Revisited

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When I was still working, even my housing while I was traveling was pretty much off the grid.  I had an office in Boulder, but my main office was up in Frisco near the big Colorado ski resorts.  The office itself was at 9200 feet above sea level.  If you are familiar with Breckenridge, A-Basin, Keystone and Copper Mountain, that’s where it was (About 20 minutes east of Vail).  For many years when I was up there I stayed overnight in my “Hotel Room”.  My hotel room was my 24 foot fifth wheel camper.  I kept it parked full time about 40 minutes north of there in a small hunting town called Kremmling.  During the summer, things were fine.  I had the usual full hook ups of electricity and sewer and could use the shower in the trailer.  Winter, however, was a different sort of duck.  As Kremmling was about 7500 feet above sea level instead of Frisco’s 9200, the coldest air from the high country would come rushing down and settle in that basin.  This rendered water hook ups impossible.  It is February 2nd 2020 right now as I write this, back then during a February in the mid-2000’s, I ran out of propane in the middle of the night up at the trailer.  I got schooled right quick about what it must be like to live in a deep freeze.  I piled every sleeping bag and blanket I could find on top of me along with my sweat pants and sweat shirt.  That morning, as with every morning, I had to get up and head over to the showering facilities to get ready for work.  The thermometer at the main building showed 35 below zero F.  I took my shower and after the 50 yard walk back to the camper, my hair was frozen.  The memories of my life would scare most people.  It has certainly not been ordinary.

Which leads me to this current SHTF fiasco (When the Excrement Hits The Revolving Oscillator).  I would have never dreamed this scenario up if I was playing for money.  Ok, so I’m not the first person to attempt suicide via digging into a cable or gas line.  It’s getting fixed, and all will be well.  In fact, I just got a call from the electrician and he will be coming out tomorrow!  Something about a “Butt Joint” – an unfortunate name in any case.  Anyway, this whole episode reminded me of living in my trailer in Kremmling during that cold February.  This cable severing couldn’t have happened at a worse time.  I was out working in 70 degree weather when it happened.  That night the temperatures plunged into the 20’s and tonight will go into the single digits.  As I have described before, the power grid is our back up.  Should the solar not produce enough because it is CLOUDY! The grid fills in the gaps.  The next day (today) the forecast is 5 inches of snow, single digits, and no sun!  I have been playing the power conservation game all day!  Because it is cloudy and everything is covered with ice, the solar panels aren’t charging the batteries like they should.  So to combat the problem, I’ve shut down the water pump, turned off any and all vampires, turned the thermostat down to 55, put on layers of clothes, am proud that this winter’s weaving project has been blankets, got a propane heater for the basement to keep the water pipes from freezing, hooked my sleep machine to a separate deep cycle battery, cooked on a propane stove and hunkered down.  It might not be 35 below like Kremmling, but the years up there taught me a lot of tricks.  Hopefully, it is only one more night if this guy shows up.  Otherwise, Tuesday night will be down to 1 degree F and I will NOT have the battery power for that.  “Well, Jon, why don’t you use a generator as a bridge??  &*^%$#$%^&%$#@$%^%$!!!  I DO have a generator!  When I realized what I was up against I tried to fire it up and found out that the carburetor is gunked up!  It might be time to replace it.  The generator WAS supposed to be a redundant back up (The one we have is more powerful than the panels and is supposed to run on gas or propane.). Doesn’t anyone make anything reliable anymore?  So as with the food challenge I took in November, this has exposed some big gaps in the farm’s sustainability and self-reliance capabilities.  Namely, if the grid is down (In this case it is because of a severed cable) and it is winter and snow-storming, we have some serious adjustments to make.  My first take is that we MUST have a non-electricity dependent source of heat.  If I didn’t have to worry about running the furnace turbine on the batteries and we had a pellet or wood stove, this would have been a piece of cake.

So the moral of this story is that you can find yourself stranded for any number of ridiculous reasons – especially this one that we shall call, “Head Up Your Ass-itis.”  Prepare to improvise.  There WILL be things you can’t imagine.  Now if we can just keep our goat from kidding until AFTER the power is restored that would be fabulous.  Stay lucid ya’ll.  Dementia comes in all forms!

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