You Simply Cannot Make This Stuff Up.

If you are going to do something for your retirement that goes well beyond shuffleboard, traveling abroad, golf, or sitting on a beach somewhere, be prepared for the people you contract with to be a much bigger obstacle to your success than the actual plans.

You simply cannot make this up.  For those who have followed this blog from the beginning you know that not only is it our intent to build this farm as a symbol of sustainability and an effort to preserve traditions of our agricultural past, it is also to be our retirement place.  We hope to be here growing food, raising animals, gazing at the stars, doing crafts and enjoying a rural existence until we are simply too old or unable to continue.

The setbacks have been stunning.  All of them have involved dishonest people.  We lost the first place we bid on, had to put money into this place before we even owned it, had myriad delays in deliveries, a greenhouse company that couldn’t get its act together, and is now bankrupt and out of business, and now…… not a month after the greenhouse was built, the solar company we contracted with to basically take the place off the grid has defrauded us out of $31,000.00!!!  They are no longer in business as we can tell and we have nothing to show for it.

Solar Mart came to us with a spotless record.  They were highly recommended, and we even have a credit union right near the place in town for whom they did their solar installation.  We were told, because we were also having a battery back up system installed, that Arapahoe county didn’t really understand how the system worked and that they kept coming back with questions.  Each question adding delay upon delay.  Finally, we were told that we had a project start date.  It was supposed to be the Tuesday after Labor Day.  Because of that they needed the second payment to pay for the equipment we would have installed.  The third being due upon completion.  I shuffled my work schedule around so that I could be available for the crew when they arrived.  That Tuesday, around 10 am, I received a call from the project manager stating that we were still in the permitting phase; that Arapahoe County still had questions.  No one was coming.  It was then that my BS detector had come off the neutral peg and started to quiver.

We gave them a week after that.  I started making email inquiries and phone calls as to when we could expect the project to begin.  No answers from anyone.  No returned emails.  My wife thought I was just being grumpy.  Then she tried to get ahold of them.  No answers. Then she got grumpy.   I finally decided to jump in the truck and go pay them an unannounced visit.  I drove to their showroom… it was dark.  Fortunately the door was unlocked so I went in.  After a little bit of a wait in a showroom that was clearly being boxed up, the woman we met to give our second check showed up.  She told me they weren’t open.  She didn’t recognize me at first but when she discovered who I was she got visibly shaken.  The DeJong fireworks erupted in a display that I am sure some of the other businesses in that warehouse were quite entertained by.  My voice booms.  If put in an empty warehouse… it echoes.  We were informed that ours was one of the projects that was cancelled due to some alleged negotiations of the sale of the company to another.  At that time there was some dispute as to who actually owned the company now.

I got the numbers to both the old owner and the CEO of the acquiring company and both denied owning the company….  Believe me, both understand that I hold them all responsible for stealing our money.  There is certainly reason to believe that the project never went to the county for permitting in the first place.  It turns out, also, that the woman I encountered at the warehouse was the original owner’s wife.  I confronted her point blank as to whether or not she knew about the company’s demise at the time we gave her the second check.  Almost in tears and clearly scared to death, she denied it.  That is almost certainly a lie.  The company was allegedly purchased. The former CEO resigned on August 24th and we gave them the check on the 28th under the perception that there was some urgency to get it to them.  It turns out that in the buy/sell agreement there was a clause that stated that if the records being used to justify the sale were not accurate or truthful that the contract was null and void.  The seller defrauded that company too and they washed their hands of the sale.  We didn’t know about the sale of the company or any of these events until this past week.

Now the money is gone, the project not even started, 40 other projects in disarray and another hassle from dishonest people bedeviling the build out of our homestead.  This was to be the last “core” piece of construction needing completion and now we have nothing to show for it.

We have been getting some help.  The radio show that Solar Mart had a good reputation with was a referral network.  Zina contacted them and their director has been working with us to get some kind of justice.  He has an “in” with the DA of the economic crimes division in Denver and we got all of our documentation submitted to him this morning.  Zina has already received a response from him stating that this is a cut and dried case of fraud and they will be pursuing it.  I doubt that we will see a dime from this.  For my clients who read this…. this is why you keep cash reserves!!  Fortunately we didn’t go into debt and it won’t break us.  This is more a case of shock and disgust.  No way they win… no way!  I will take great joy seeing him arrested and doing jail time.

So in the meantime, we are all trying to once again heal from the antics of people who simply don’t understand the real meaning of the word honesty.  I haven’t really had time to defuse from the whole greenhouse debacle yet and now this!  I trust no one anymore.  I am continually flabbergasted how some people can live with themselves.  I don’t know how many psychological blows I can withstand, although I think my success rate to date has been pretty exemplary.

The warrior is once again determined.  Make no mistake, we will pursue this to the end.  The farm WILL have solar electricity and we will win.  I do NOT take defeats lightly.  In fact… I do not take them … at all.

I know the saying that what doesn’t kill you makes your stronger… I am strong enough thank you very much.  Never let your guard down because even when something looks on the up and up (and we had NO reason to believe these people would do this to us) it can still go full goose bozo wrong on you.  The key is to be able to take blow after blow, get up and keep moving forward.  That is what I fully intend to do.

Beware homesteaders…. the monsters are out there and they want your money.

All dressed up but nobody’s home:

Solar mart 2 Solar Mart 1

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Smoke and Sunflowers

Because half the country seems to be on fire right now, we have been having pretty smoke filled skies.  Last night we watched the moonrise from the deck and it was as orange as I’ve ever seen it.  While it does make breathing a little uncomfortable at times, the pictures are spectacular.  This is from the deck at about 6 am this past week:

Smoke Sunrise

One of Colorado’s big crops is sunflowers.  There are fields and fields of them around us.  In the past week they have all reached their peak and there is yellow all around us!  Next weekend we will be harvesting in earnest as well.  The garden seems to be doing well despite our inattention this year because of so many distractions.  Zina has already picked all the kidney beans and the wheat is in the winnowing stages.  The potatoes look to not be disappointing.  Getting them up and stored is always a big job.  Hopefully my fingers will be healed up enough after cutting them up working on the greenhouse.  Potatoes involve a lot of hand digging despite the tractor’s best efforts.

Sunflowers 2015

Red Skies At Night….. The Country Is On Fire

Aaron and I were driving to the farm yesterday and I asked, “Is it foggy out here?”  I thought my sunglasses were dirty.  Aaron answered, “Yes it is very hazy”.  It turns out that once again our skies are foggy because the country is burning down.  Colorado and the north west are burning in a manner that is almost incomprehensible.  Fire fighters being brought in from other countries because, in essence, we are tapped out.  For the first time, they are looking for volunteers.  If you think climate change is a hoax and you are dumb enough to listen to the bought and paid for politicians that try to convince you it is not an established fact you are one of the dumbest individuals that has ever donned a human suit.  We are truly screwed and it is a very short time until we see most of our species, and the rest of them for that matter, die.  I don’t farm because I think I can do anything about it now.  I farm because it feels right.  That would be my suggestion:  sit down, close your eyes, and ask yourself…. what do you want while you have the time to choose.  I can no longer act like it isn’t happening when I have known for decades that it is.  Peace.  Please. Peace.

Blood Red Sun, Pink Skies.  From hundreds of fires.  We really screwed up this place.

Fire sun 2015

Burning Out

I sat musing today after once again wielding power tools, building something that should have been simple but wasn’t, how hard it is to get off the ground anymore.  Prior to this place, I built out the landscaping and urban farm in the city.  Thousands of pounds of rock, lumber and topsoil was moved.  Of course I was ten years younger then and it didn’t feel nearly as painful.  I also recovered a lot faster.  2 and 1/3 years have passed since we bought JAZ Farm.  It was a total mess and I remember sitting on the front porch wondering if I had the physical stamina to actually make this place into what it has become.  I will likely take on the project to install the rainwater harvesting tanks but other than that, when this greenhouse is built, I HAVE to stop with all this heavy shit.  The question of the day isn’t, “are you sore from all the work?” which of course the answer is yes, but rather, “are you NOT in pain today?”  The answer is invariably NO!!

This is what it has taken to build the temple.  My hips are dust, my knees ache constantly and my right shoulder is beat senseless from hauling everything from chicken feed, to fence posts, to bags of concrete.  Every weekend for over 2 years! I haven’t shot my bow in years and my telescope is calling my name.

What keeps me going is the vision of being able to wake up and make breakfast with eggs from our hens, onions, peppers and potatoes from our garden, brew my morning coffee and wander out and walk through the greenhouse, sitting for awhile enjoying the green around me.  I’d eventually move on, taking some time to sit and watch the chickens before doing some weeding in the outdoor garden.  I long to be able to get out my telescope and look forward to a night of observing rather than wondering if I can even stay awake until sunset and then giving it all up before I even get started.  In short, I want to be done with the construction and simply be here with our homestead – our temple to right living and all that being self-sustaining can mean in this day and age.

Sure there will always be projects or repairs needing to be done but they can be hired out, or done over longer periods of time than the whirlwind we have undertaken since December of 2012.  We are so proud of this place and everything it has become and what it represents but I am burned out.  I don’t WANT to learn a new construction skill.  I don’t WANT to have to read up on every disease a pig can get or how to tension a fence, or fight with suppliers of greenhouses, top soil, seed drillers, and all contractors that say they will do something and not show.  I want to wake up and think, I’m going to go walk around Eden.  After I do that…. who knows.   The day is coming soon.  2 more months of hard work and then the rest will become more normal.  Solar panels to go off grid – somebody else.  Install a wood stove – somebody else.  Hook up rainwater harvesting cisterns – yours truly.  Replace the shower kits – after having replaced the toilets and sinks myself – somebody else.  Its time to let JAZ Farm produce what it was designed to produce – peace, produce, pigs and poultry.  Amen

Squash and Such 2014 IMG_3584 IMG_3742 IMG_3744 photo-3 Ash tree 2014  IMG_3568 IMG_3556 IMG_3552

A Great Quote

From:  The Joy of Hobby Farming, Grow Food, Raise Animals, and Enjoy A Sustainable Life, by Michael and Audrey Levatino

“Quality of Life:

The most important element of all is your happiness.  Why live and work on a farm if you’re not loving almost every minute of it?  Weigh all new farm venture ideas against how it will affect your life and relationships.  Take the time to enjoy what’s been created for you and what you’ve accomplished yourself.”

Good advice no matter what you want to accomplish in life.

A Little Midwest Pragmatism

This article was posted by a friend on Facebook.  She and her friend have been members of the sustainable living and environmental movement in a significant way far longer than I have had the privilege.  I think this article helps to shed some light on what is -and may not be – important to the notion of localizing our food system.  Once a movement gets momentum there is always a fringe (and this case more than a fringe, especially in the city) that take a minutia of the movement and blow it up into monumental significance.  In this case, the micro-managing and obsession of cooking.  You know of which I speak.  When I was in high school my family was one of the first around to take up long distance bicycle touring.  We had decent bikes and we wore those old white helmets that looked like half an eggshell.  But we did it in T-shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes.  Now 30 some years later, everyone thinks they need to shave their legs and look like a competitor in the Tour de France simply to go on a nice bike ride.  This has now happened in cooking.  While having good equipment is nice and having a gathering of friends over wine and a nice meal contains a soothing animal warmth, the hipster movement has made cooking the Tour de France of food.  While yes cooking is important, the movement now has a plethora of those who are still out of touch with how their food is produced and the simple pleasures of eating foods that comfort like grandma used to cook.  A loose quote from the article is that if you cooked like your grandmother you would likely never open a cookbook.  Having to open a cookbook is indicative of how much of our roots, traditions and simple self-sustaining skills we have lost.  I would suggest that instead of learning how to cook Thai cuisine or attempting to become the next Julia Child, go to the farmers market, buy some great produce, and cook yourself up a good old fashioned hearty stew.  You will glow with satisfaction and you will have the basis of a recipe that you can build on and change and let evolve, that doesn’t require you to wear a stupid white hat and apron.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/03/shut-eat