Today is December 4th, 2021. Happy ninth birthday JAZ Farm! What a year this place has seen. I am sure that most of you are feeling some of the exhaustion from the myriad issues that seem to all be converging all at one time in our lives. While yes things have been tumultuous, the farm has continued to provide projects, entertainment, sustenance, and peace in a world that has become certifiably insane. We won’t get into any of that here, but most of you who know me know that I do not ascribe to the common political and economic narratives that get thrown around at each other like so much worthless confetti. We live in a troubling age and we are so thankful that we made the decision to build this place and use it as our own family Shire against all the Orcs and Goblins that seem to inhabit the “civilized” world.
It is hard to believe that 9 years have passed. Not only has the farm changed since its inception as a dilapidated house on 40 acres, the surrounding area has seen massive changes as well. Sure, we can wax poetically that these things happen, but given my propensity to be able to connect dots and come to pretty accurate conclusions, it seems that forces have been set in motion that will see the start of significant exoduses from the urban and suburban world as people see the writing on the wall and understand the need to escape to more rural areas or places that will let them provide for a certain amount of self-sufficiency. For those who have done it here, you have my support. We are now one of the elder statesmen on our road. Because of the insane and meteoric rise of real estate prices, folks are selling out left and right (I guess if I had any sense we might do the same, but that isn’t why we moved here and built the Shire). People who never thought they would see a financial boon like this have been cashing out with hundreds of thousands in profit and moving to cheaper states, where, they say, they can live like they do now but with no mortgage and significantly cheaper costs of living. But what that means, however, is that for every seller there is a buyer and there are buyers in spades. After 9 years of practically no sounds coming from our neighbor to the south we now have loud music, gunfire, and now the introduction of their livestock (I only resent 2 of the 3). This has been a theme throughout the community. We all wish that the city folks that bit the bullet and moved would have left the city behind. Oh well, they will calm down eventually I guess. Interstate 70 is the main artery from us into Denver and the development has been following that corridor like a virus. The concerning issues with this have to do with the availability of water, and the digging up of wheat and cornfields to create this Oasis of suburbs in the countryside. I told Zina that other day that if we keep moving east to escape these Zombies, we will wind up in Kansas. The primary constant of the universe is that nothing stays the same. It is understanding these changes that prompted much of what we did here on the farm this year and is informing how we live here going forward.
THE COMPLETION OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE:
As you know, if you have been following along for any amount of time, the idea that I actually “retired” was a joke. I quit my job for any number of reasons, but at the age of 50 I became a farm construction engineer. Up until just a post or two ago, the physical labor involved with the farm design continued unabated and would have bested some folks half my age. Not only did we complete all the paddocks and pens we hoped to have, my body was there, towards the end, letting me know that it indeed was over and that I best not come up with any more cockamamy ideas. 2021 began with our finishing out our garden fencing, fencing in a second 5 acre grazing pasture, then enclosing the whole place along the back and south side with yet more fence (This last one being a way to feel like it had become a completed enclosure). It also allowed us to let the dogs out without having to wonder where the hell they went. They now have a good 5 acres to run around in.
As part of our effort to be as self-sufficient as possible we brought in a couple of American Guinea Hogs to breed. They are the most docile of animals, loving ear scratches and tummy rubs. As they will eat most anything, including grass, they are pretty low maintenance. However, it is ironic that if you leave the males and females together, their propensity to breed goes way down! We had two boars and 3 gilts (females) together and they put each other in the “friend zone”. No babies. So upon some advice and research we separated them like we have the bucks and does of our goat herd. We will probably try in early spring to breed them but in the meantime we had to have a place to put the boys. So this prompted the last small fencing project as seen above. You can see in posts from years ago that the space we have used was our original vegetable garden. It was already fenced on three sides so all I had to do was enclose it on the 4th and add a gate. It should have been a piece of cake, except the drought we have been in baked the ground to cement and I had a devil of a time getting the auger into the ground and ended up dulling it and having to replace the corkscrew unit that actually digs the hole. After pounding in the last of the metal posts, I limped away promising myself and Zina that the days of building fences have indeed become a thing of the past. All of it looks spectacular if you have an eye for such things; But one of my to do lists for this winter is to clean and straighten the garage and put all of the banging and clanking devices in their proper places and leave them to gather dust.
To kind of punctuate the completion of all the construction, it was time to clean the place up. 9 years of building and adjusting accumulates a lot of remnants and crap. We called and had a roll off dumpster brought in and loaded the thing to the gills. If any of you have any experience with farms or ranches, you undoubtably have seen the boneyard junk piles that can accumulate on them. Some of them are hideous and show a certain level of slobbery that we didn’t want here. Old rolls of windbreak fencing, fencing remnants, sawed off sections of wood, and all manner of things no longer needed, were bid farewell. While I hate the idea of using the landfill, there were precious few options. We could have burned off a lot of the wood things, but because of the drought there has been a never ending burn ban, so off it went. It will likely be the only time we will need to do this and considering the amount of waste that is generated simply from people buying too much plastic, breakable and unwanted crap, I figure we are still much farther ahead.
We value our privacy and security here almost as much as our ability to sustain ourselves. While the fencing was mostly to house and pasture our animals, the last close off to our east gave a feeling of completion. For some additional security (and to close off the last escape avenues for the dogs) Aaron and I installed an automatic gate opener/closer on the entrance gates. It was super easy to install and when it closes, it has something called a “Zombie Lock” that locks the two sections of gates together that can only be opened either with a key or one of the remotes. It is so nice to be able to go in and out and have the gates close behind you without having to get out of the truck and manually latch them. It is much the same as people that have automatic garage door openers. It is secure and very convenient. Well worth the money. If anyone is interested, the company we used is Ghost Controls. They work great even on our oversized ranch gates.
THE YEAR OF THE VET:
As you know, we lost our oldest lab (Basil) in August, but that was only one of several animal issues. We have been in to the vet and had the vet come out on several occasions. Our youngest lab had bladder issues, we had one of our baby goats break a back leg and we had a pig go lame with arthritis in her front ankles. Sage is fine, Basil died, Rosemary the goat healed up and Petunia the pig became bacon. Life on the farm. Just recently, we had the vet out again to have the donkey’s teeth brushed. This is called a “full float.” They give them some pretty happy drugs to sedate them. This proved to be a rodeo as they didn’t like the idea of being poked. It is intravenous so it is something they really don’t want to be a part of . Donavan, the youngest, had to have a dose for a full sized horse. Once sedated they have their head lifted with a rope, a bit put in their mouths to open it and then the vet uses a cordless drill (DeWalt) with a grinding device on it to smooth out the back teeth and remove any spikes. If the teeth get too rough it can cause abrasions in their mouth and get all infected and all sorts of other happiness. They pulled through without a hitch and it gave the young vet some experience. Fortunately, she had two techs with her and me. We were able to keep them relatively stabile so she could do her magic. Now the boys are good for another couple of years. It was nice to have them compliment us on how good our stalls and pens look. They said they have seen some pretty bad places.
All of the rest of the animals are doing great. We have rethought the way of raising our turkeys so we will be re-arranging their coop. For various reasons, hatching them doesn’t seem to be a good option, so we will just order them from the hatchery every year. We have hatched them before, but the hatch rate is ridiculously low. We have excellent incubators so it appears that the Tom’s just ain’t up to the task. We have hatched more layer chicks and they will fill in the gaps as our current girls are getting along in age. This past molt saw them stop laying altogether. These new ones should be old enough and laying come spring. The pigs are as happy as can be and seriously only care about food and the occasional scratching. We bred three of our goats in September. We should have babies sometime in February. We are getting to the point where we need to look into selling them. Between the bucks and the does, we have 13 head. They are eating machines so we certainly don’t need more. Fortunately, with all the new urban and suburban farming happening because of the pandemic and the economy crumbling, baby Nigerians fetch a pretty good price. Also, 4H is always looking for animals for the kids to raise. Our cheese making has been a fabulous success. We just had some cheddar that had aged 6 months and it was amazing. There are always tweaks to learn, but at this stage, we are impressed. We also built a goat breeding pen and then constructed a playhouse for them to hang out in. We got the idea from a You Tube channel we follow and the goats seem to love it. It is an A frame construction that gives them all manner of ways to jump and play. It also gives the does a way to escape should the buck get a little to aggressive.
Without having to show you yet more pictures of baskets of produce and jars or preserved stuff, suffice it to say that the gardens, yet again, performed admirably. We made a switch to growing both the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse. The peppers seemed to approve and we ended up having them coming out of our ears. Our Asparagus forest went crazy and again we were able to harvest a few hundred pounds of potatoes.
Because of the faux supply chain crisis and because it seems that everyone learned to can in 2020, Ball canning lids became almost unobtainable. We have a pretty large store of them, but because of not knowing how long the shortage would last, we investigated our options. We had currently been freezing, dehydrating and canning as much as we could. From some videos and articles, we happened upon a company called Harvest Right. They are one of the only manufacturers of household use Freeze Dryers. If you have ever gone backpacking you are undoubtably familiar with freeze dried meals from companies like Mountain House, Legacy, Augustan Farms, Thrive life, etc. They are great food storage options but a freeze dryer lets you store your own. We purchased their medium sized unit and the thing has been running non-stop since we got it. It is absolutely amazing how many things you can freeze dry. If stored properly the vegetables can last for up to 25 years. Because it can all be put through the machine, we have had virtually no waste from spoilage out of the garden. We have freeze dried bushels of beans, eggplant, ground turkey meat, potatoes, onions, cheese, fruit and things I am probably forgetting at the moment. For we homesteaders, this thing is a game changer. Oh yes, tomatoes. I wish I had gotten the larger unit, but this thing is serving us very well.
SO WHAT IS NEXT?
That brings us to today, the end of the year. As I write this it is about 70 degrees. I just got back from the store wearing shorts, a T-shirt and Crocs. This weather is insane. Denver broke a record of over 225 days with no measurable snowfall. It is dust bowl era dry here and yet Hawaii is expecting a foot of snow and 100 mph winds. After having been out of the drought for a spell, we are now in an “extreme drought” according to NOAA and the USDA. This is a bit scary. While we have good water with our well, I will be ramping up the creation of our rooftop water catchment system. We had an issue (now resolved) with our solar system and battery back up. Should that system go down, as our well pump is electric, we would not have water. Sure the humans can get water and we have an apartment in the city, but watering the animals would become a significant issue. We have so screwed things up as a species that the north and east are bracing for a very snowy and cold winter and we are wondering if it will ever freeze. I still have Broccoli growing in the gardens and I have had to regularly water the apple trees, Blackberries, Asparagus and Garlic. Our solar guy said that not only did he wish more people had systems like ours, he wished more people would choose to live like we do. I have always been open to teaching these techniques but I largely get silence with just crickets in the background.
As I stated earlier, nothing stays the same. The economy is collapsing, fuel and food prices are sky-rocketing and home heating is supposed to get out of hand. There are predictions of propane and natural gas shortages. The specter of the issues like happened in Texas last year, have the potential to spread everywhere. We are a nation under siege and I wish my giant YAWP into the universe would actually yield some results. But, alas, the Siren’s song of golf, theaters, malls, new cars, fast food, and shiny things, call too loudly and we are indeed screwed. So all we can. do is just live our lives and ignore the noise and criticism of others.
The one dependency I have always wanted to be rid of is propane delivery. While we are not tied to a natural gas line, some shmoe has to come out a couple of times a year and fill our propane tank. Given that we have been warned all over the country that propane shortages could indeed be a thing, and that our furnace runs on it, we decided this needed to be remedied. I am not going to get into the details of the BS we have endured trying to buy and install this thing (same as everything else we have had someone else do here), but we invested in a wood burning stove. It will be our primary heating source and the gas furnace will be set at about 50 degrees just to ensure that we don’t have issues with freezing pipes should there be no fire. We have about 10 cords of wood out back and the final installation (after having to report them to the BBB) will likely happen this coming week. That will be a relief. We found out through experience that while our battery back ups can run the furnace turbine if the power goes out, it can’t do it all night. So this way we will lower our propane consumption, take the burden off of the batteries and allow us the ambience of a fire and its soothing heat. We could probably be completely off of propane if we had a solar hot water system so if you are so inclined to do a Go Fund Me for the farm, we would appreciate it greatly! LOL.
As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it ain’t lookin’ pretty. The economy is in shambles and is only being held up by corporate share buy-backs and insane Fed money printing. People are leaving abusive employment in droves. The pandemic and inflation (being created by the fed) is taxing people’s purchasing ability to the hilt. Food shortages are starting to hit home and all that cheap Chinese crap everyone seems to like to buy at Walmart is languishing in a mathematically unsolvable problem called “The Whiplash Effect;” not to mention the many flying penises being launched into space who’s worth could solve world hunger. There is no way we will ever see pre-2019 “normal” again. Given the droughts and major climactic events, we will be lucky to have anything resembling a functional eco-system ever again. Here, let me just tell you where I am….. There will be precious few humans alive on this rock in about 10 years. You go ahead and live in denial. The data favors me.
So given this rosie news, I simply won’t involve myself in politics and social issues. They are pointless. I will help others as I can but I am not a crusader. If people want help doing what we do they need to seek us out. If not, it is nothing but a circus side show. I have my popcorn and a good seat. Bring on the show.
On a personal and familial note, we are indeed done building. The 10th year of the farm will be transitional, hopefully leading to a whole new life paradigm. We will be living the farm life always looking to de-stress and find peace. In my case, I have bent to the whim and scapegoating of sick people enough in my life. My family owes no one, including other family or anyone else. We did the virtuous thing and the kill ourselves thing to please others long enough. As we move into our sixties, the farm will be our oasis, our Shire, our place of reclusion and peace. The 10th year will help us to transition to this life, hanging up post drivers and screw drivers and hammers and pick up feed bags, hoes and hay. We will live and love and move away from this insane society and culture. In a philosophical/spiritual sense it is a death and rebirth. Personally, I am walking away from our virus of a species. I don’t have many in-person friends anyway and I have no desire to interact with the insanity that this abusive culture is inflicting on it’s citizens. There is peace in reclusion. There is virtue in being a hermit. There is love in being a hobbit. Animals love in a way that humans are incapable of. Nature heals, civilization destroys and if I have to die a hermit refusing to participate in a diagnosably mentally ill society then I am willing to do so either by natural or personally chosen ways. I am saying goodbye to all things except my efforts to heal our little piece of Mother Earth. We are at the toxic end of a badly damaged and corrupt empire. I refuse to participate anymore. I hope that my life not only helps to heal, but that it makes a statement. I hope from a personal note that this will rebalance me after a lifetime of abuse and living in survival mode. I gave enough to everyone. My wife has done the same. We now will work on healing ourselves and loving each other throughout the time we have left. JAZ Farm is our safe haven. She deserves our care and I am sure, she will care for us.