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.

barn-cats

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!

washing-a-chicken-3washing-a-chicken-2016-1washing-a-chicken-2016-2

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.

compost-bin

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.

eggs

chickens-2016

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.

militia

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!

pig-shed-2016-2pig-shed-2016

I thought this shirt was cool so I ordered it!

t-shirt

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!

christmas-dogs-2016christmas-dogs

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!

 

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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.

Chicks in the Tractor 2016 2chicks in the tractor 2016 3chicks in the tractor 2016

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:

babies on the roost 2016Babies in the grow out coop 2016

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

Baby sized wallow

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

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

Flame Weeding

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

Grandma the weeding machine!

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

The Zombie apocalypse of Weeds

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

composting

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

Tilled beds 2016

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

 

Have to Vs. Want to

As of today, the JAZ Farm “have to” projects have practically ended.  There are some things yet to be done with the drip irrigation to get water to the greenhouse, but other than that we have a functioning homestead that we can now enjoy with all the infrastructure built to support our goals.

It has been practically 4 years since the start of this endeavor.  Looking for the place, rebuilding the place, putting in the coops and pens and gardens and greenhouse and alternate power source, and all the other “pieces” of it all finally have come to an end.  Should we want to add more pens or livestock or other “homestead things” we can do them at our leisure and want.  The last bits have happened in the past week.  We built a sub-divided chicken coop, added a pig loading corral, strung the drip mainlines to the greenhouse, moved plants out to the greenhouse, built the chicken tractor, and started the bed prepping for the root vegetable gardens.

I was about to the end of my physical capabilities and wouldn’t you know it, the world conspired to attack me mentally through work.  The times they are a changing’ and I must change or retire (the jury is still out, I love my clients and I hate having to continually defend them against criminals).  Every generation thinks they are changing things for the better, but my experience has taught me that it is simply one big circle.  Everyone forgets history, repeats it, and then says “no one could have anticipated that….”.  What nonsense.  Sorry, I digress, but in our efforts to be prepared, the one variable I didn’t anticipate was “real” work.  Now that the farm is done, I guess I can focus my attention on whatever the Department of Labor thinks we need to change at work.  They are attacking the wrong people.  Why aren’t the banksters in jail?  Why haven’t hedge fund managers and those responsible for the worst heist in the history of the world been summarily jailed or executed for crimes against humanity?  Instead, lets target those who already work in the best interest of their clients.  Let the criminals go free.  Such are the ways of things.

So I am thrilled about the fact that the JAZ Farm is as self-sustainable as it can be at this time.  That in itself is a sense of security.  The rest of the world?  What a joke.  We are just big apes with big malfunctioning brains thinking we are the superior species on earth.  Arrogance and sociopathy rule.  I long for the gentle and the kind.  My motto, probably for the rest of my life is:  Live Like A Hobbit.

 

 

Mini – Coop….. er

I have fingers crossed that I will have a whole summer to just tend the gardens and animals.  The 2016 projects are almost done.  Aaron is going to come out and assemble the chicken tractor for me next weekend leaving me free to install the drip irrigation to the  greenhouse.  We built the smaller coop for the babies to inhabit when they are about 4 weeks old.  They can’t go out with the adult chickens until they are similar in size otherwise there will be pecking and dominance issues.  There will be anyway but at least when re-ordering the flock they will be able to hold their own.  Also, because the new chicks are meant to replace the old church ladies who aren’t laying any longer, they won’t be around long anyway.

So I am eager and excited to have the construction stuff done!  Even having to do the last big project – the irrigation system – just knowing I am at an end for the year makes it much more bearable.  Pain is no fun and after awhile, if you don’t enjoy the fruits of your labor, the fruit starts to smell rotten.  Something I never want to have happen here.  After all, retirement calls!

Spring Rains and New Babies

April and May are certainly entertaining in Colorado.  While Kansas and Oklahoma are getting pummeled with hail and tornados we have snow!  April 29th and a foot of snow!  Fortunately it is relatively warm out and a lot of it is melting on contact.  Ya Ya I’ve heard it a million times – we need the moisture.  Bah humbug.  I have a water tank to plumb to the greenhouse, a chicken tractor to build, chickens and pigs to care for, and a garden to get ready to plant.  I will be complaining in August of the heat so I guess I should just chill and let nature take her course.