What Happened To Summer?

It dawned on me today that we are only a week or two away from Labor Day weekend.  It’s that kind of transition time into fall I guess.  The Cottonwoods are already beginning to yellow and the Maples, planted as landscaping trees in the city, are also beginning to turn.  This has been a summer of many types of weather.  As I write, a town to our west was just hit with tennis ball sized hail.  Usually that happens in the spring, but this year the moisture in both rain and ice form has happened throughout.  While we only had a couple of days over 100 degrees, we have had weeks on end of the very dry, mid-90’s.  We’ve been pretty good at getting out in the cool mornings to get chores and gardening done. Otherwise it just gets too hot to function.  As the storm blew through tonight on its way to Kansas, one of our basement window screens blew out and landed in our garden about 200 feet away.  Part two of this storm is on its way.  The lightning is flashing through the bedroom window blinds.

In this the early advent of fall, our gardens have not disappointed.  Harvest is getting into full swing.  The peppers have done so well that we are already dehydrating them and also giving them away.  We have Eggplant, Kale, Herbs, Cucumbers, Onions on the way, Green Beans, Garlic, Black Beans, 7 foot tall Sunflowers, and the Tomatoes have begun to turn despite some irregular watering that caused some blossom end rot, and over 60 tomato worms.  Our cabbage patch is insane.  We have been picking volleyball sized cabbages.  We stir fry a lot of it as well as mixing some into “to die for” coleslaw.  The onions will come out next.  The Zucchini have grown legs and are walking on their own. As usual, our celery is going great.  Our carrots and beets look great despite not thinning them as much as I should have   The squash plants seem to like their new home and we are starting to pick them as well.  The only thing that isn’t doing well this year are the Tomatillos.  Not entirely sure why, but they have always been a bit persnickety.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, I am going to start getting the fall succession planting in.  This will include more onions, more cabbage, Broccoli and Cauliflower.  In the next week or so I will sprout and plant spinach and seed in a bed of leaf lettuce that will give us salad until the first freeze. It appears that we have been successful in drought proofing the gardens, which is a big relief.

We are also on baby goat alert.  One of our does, Ginger, is due in under 2 weeks.  We are very excited for the new arrivals and have been working to get the kidding pen all in order. As she looks like a waddling quadruped, I’m sure she will be relieved when it’s all over too.

Today was canning and dehydrating day.  I canned tomato sauce from our first good sized harvest.  We ended up with 10 pints.  More are on the way so we will be canning tomatoes up until the first freeze, or until we are sick of it.  All told we have out about 20 lbs of peppers in the dehydrator, not to mention how many we have given away.

So other than the wetter weather this year energizing the weeds and promoting east of the Mississippi kinds of bugs, this year has gone very well.  Bring on the fall.  The sooner the cold weather kills off the flies and grasshoppers the happier I’ll be.  I’m tired of this high plains oven!  I have a fence to build.  I need it cooler!

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Homesteading Is Like The Movie Groundhog’s Day

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On a Farm, basically the same thing happens every year.  The cool part though is that it has variations as you go, and the end result is always satisfying.  We discovered, in this year’s garden, that the spacing recommendations on the packets don’t always hold true.  With our green beans, this was absolutely the case.  We harvested 2, 4×12 beds of green beans and came away with just as many beans as we had in our old garden spaces with a measured seeder.  These beds were hand sown and way too close together.  BUT!  If you add a huge amount of chicken poop, no amount of crowding seems to matter because there is enough nutrient for all involved.  We harvested several bushels of beans that translated to the 41 quarts plus give aways.  This easily matched the old garden yields. We have enough canned green beans to provide beans as a vegetable once a week for over a year.

If you are striving for self-sufficiency, keep in mind that if you have a large organic garden (ours is a half acre of 40 raised beds), when you harvest your produce, you need to know how to store it.  It is an immense job.  I’ve found that no matter what the vegetable, the canning of it takes a whole day.  My last 14 quarts are in the canner as I write this and it is 6 pm.  I started at 9 this morning…. actually it took 3 days. I’ve been cutting off the ends and chopping them into bite sized pieces for the past two days.  Of course, there are all the other chores that don’t disappear.  My friend Eddie, who owned our local feed store, said that no one seems to understand that everything you add to a farm in order to expand, just compounds all of the care taking involved.  Absolutely true.  You need to take care so as to not grow beyond your ability to handle.  Animals are just like children.  Just because you are canning, doesn’t mean the donkeys don’t need feeding or eggs need collecting.  Know your limits.

Tomorrow, pepper harvesting and cleaning the barn.  We have a prego goat that needs a clean nest.  She’s due in the next few weeks.  Stay tuned.  We are guessing (Hoping for) twins.  She is really turning into Mother Waddles.

 

You Have To Graduate Sometime

 

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Imagine it.

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Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.  Be the expert.

So many Homesteader, Small Farmer, Off-Gridders don’t give themselves enough credit.  Admittedly,  most I see are 30 and 40 somethings that have had it with the city, knew nothing about self-sufficiency, but needed to escape Cubicalville.  I get that.  But enough with the self-deprecation!  I know a lot of them, to avoid having to have a job at the same time, are trying to use You Tube and other means to generate incomes.  To that I say, “more power to ya”.  My answer was to work in high anxiety corporate hell until I broke down, and then take the money and run….. plunging it into our Shire.

But enough with the sad sack “We are all just learning and we don’t know what we are doing, we are just sharing our journey with you, tripe!”  As I used to tell my rookies when I was a training manager, that simply by passing the regulatory and licensing exams that have  allowed you to be here, you know more than 95% of the people you will meet and consult with……. act like it!  At some point you need to admit that you know what you are doing.  Admitting to setbacks doesn’t imply stupidity or lack of knowledge.  No amount of knowledge could help you get through the plague of grasshoppers that the folks in Las Vegas are contending with, or the drought that wiped out our gardens last year, or any other unforeseen issues that continually come up.  If you encounter it, it is called problem solving!  It isn’t some Romper Room childish phrasing you hear from the clueless, suburban, BMW driving, bedroom nurseries that “It’s all a learning experience!”  Hack Gag Puke!  That is someone else’s desire to level you down to their ignorance.  At some point you have to put on the big farmer panties and problem solve, adapt and overcome.  It’s not arrogance to say so.  How many tie wearing assholes have you encountered that think their heads are too big for their hats because they can swing a friggin’ golf club?  This is self-sufficiency boot camp.  You don’t get to stay there forever.  At some point you need to go out and be a specialist in your chosen and self appointed mission.  “Learning experience”….. blech!  That’s like getting tongue kissed by your dog!  I guess I won’t be doing THAT again.  See- I learned.  What a wonderful experience.  Tastes like dog ass.

They don’t have graduation ceremonies for this kind of thing so at some point (in our case, 15 + years) you need to walk away from the folks that self-deprecate, put on a robe and tassel, walk across your own stage and say “Yes, we are experts and we know what the hell we are doing”.  After all, even musicians become virtuosos at some point.  In our case, we be rockin’ self-taught, semi-arid climate, vegetable growing, virtuosos!  If you started down this path and you haven’t given up that means you are a problem solver.  It means you have skills.  It means that you can mentor and help.  Just because you were told by society that we should all act like sixth graders, be subservient and use (dear god kill me now) corporate speak (I just thought I’d reach out to you and…..  where’s my AR??!!) , doesn’t mean you need to bring that to your own life of freedom.  Be free.  Revel in your expertise.  Very shortly, you will be in high demand.  Your problem solving skills will be all you have.  JAZ Farmers excel in what they do.  Strap on the overalls and use your brains as well as your rake and shovel.  Let the Citiots all talk like Dick and Jane.  You are passed that now.  You know your food doesn’t just appear in wrappers in a cooler at the Walliemart.  Rise above it.  Don’t slog through it.  Rant Over.  The End.

 

The Harvest Begins!

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After surgery 2 years ago this month, a drought and infestation of grasshoppers last year, a revamping of the raised beds, including hail guards, shade cloth and high pressure water hydrants, the JAZ Farm gardens are performing like they have always been expected to. We adapted and overcame just like farmers have to.  So far we have only had to contend with “normal” gardening annoyances like tomato horn worms (hack, gag, puke!), some grasshopper issues in our cabbages, and – something I never thought I’d say- too much water!  The whole garden is exploding!  Weeds included.  We are going to be manufacturing rope out of the bind weed and see if we can’t find a market for it! LOL.  The baskets shown here are from just one of our bush bean beds.  There is one more ready to be harvested this afternoon so we will be at close to 3 bushels.  We have 2 more that will be ready around the beginning of September.  I guess I’ll be canning tomorrow.  We should be all set on green beans for the coming winter.  Once we pull the bean plants, there will be Cauliflower, more Cabbage, Broccoli and fall onions waiting in the wings.  It’s nice to be back on track.  Maybe a bit more hobbled, but the main gardening implements – the people – are alive and kicking and back in the saddle.  We were left unsupervised and a garden broke out!

 

The Greenhouse Foot Shuffle

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Of course, with everything that has been going on lately, the tasks lower on the totem pole get pushed off.  I should have been tying  tomatoes onto the trellises for awhile now, but that hasn’t happened yet.  Evidently the plants in the greenhouse kind of love the place.  The walkways are overgrown and the tomatoes have hundreds of flowers.  So now we have to walk by shuffle stepping so as to not damage the plants by stepping on them.

We are going to have a bit of a heat wave the next few days so I added another ventilator fan to keep the air moving.  The fruit is staring to set so we don’t want all of this progress to get stopped in it’s tracks.  Everything is doing amazingly well.  I have to take an injured goat to the vet (probably today sometime), then I’ll get to working on the plants again.  Fortunately, plants don’t demand as much from you as those farm creatures with feet, mouths and eyes.  Having my new farm hand has been a big help.  That, and putting down the saw for awhile.  As a good friend said the other day, “You do know that you are good enough, right?”  No, not really, but thanks.  I farm to burn off the crazy…. and there is a whole lotta crazy to burn.

 

This Year Couldn’t Be Doing Much Better

I weeded 15 beds today and Zina set out cleaning pens and coops and feeding.  We found a farm sitter we can use when we are in a pinch and she is coming out on Sunday to see things.  She is studying to be a Vet Tech which is a bonus feature for us.

This year’s growing season couldn’t be doing much better.

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Our little girl, Ginger, appears to be with child.  Kidding can happen anytime on or after August 23.  Zina is going to need a sedative.

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Piggies

These little guys are growing really fast!

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The Jersey Giants Chicks

All the brooders are empty.  But we are expecting a turkey hatch to begin tomorrow!

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Tank and Dozer

The bucks are rutting.  They are stinky and fighting.  Tank, the black one, got his bell rung pretty good yesterday.  Almost took him to the vet but he seems to have come back as a contender.

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Donavan and Julio

The Stoic Farm gurus.  You will never meet a calmer gentler soul than an old donkey.

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The turkeys

The turkeys are totally worth the effort but whodoggies iz they dumb!

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The layers and his highness

We have toooo many layers.  We’ve been getting 2 dozen eggs a day and have been giving loads of them to the food bank.

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The Greenhouse

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Some of the beds.  All freshly weeded out.

Feeling vindicated after the collapse from last year’s drought.  We appear to have this wired.  We put the green in Greenhouse.

 

 

It’s The New Worm Order

How many of you did THIS over the last week?  I drove out to Boulder to go to my favorite construction site recycling warehouse and yard (You think Habitat’s Restore outlets have a lot of stuff – this place is a goldmine of rich Boulderite discards).  I picked up two steel 55 gallon barrels in order to make a couple of Biochar furnaces.  This is a process that creates charcoal via gasified wood that is turned into carbon.  The end product is then inoculated with compost and worm “tea”.  This gets buried in the garden beds and can increase overall yields by up to 40%.  Biochar gets beneficial microbes into the soil to help make nutrients available to the plant’s roots.  I’ve hit a snag though.  I need a smaller barrel to go inside the 55’s as a part of the retort.  These have proven difficult to find.  Soooo, I’m brainstorming.

In order to inoculate the biochar with worm tea, one of course, must have worms.  We have a worm bin for our kitchen but it can’t possibly make enough vermicompost for a couple of acres of gardens.  So on my quest, I also scrounged up a used bathtub to make a ginormous bin to raise thousands of worms who will, in turn, provide me with righteous compost, second only to composted chicken poop.  This combination of worm castings, composted animal manure and biochar, will virtually eliminate my need for garden inputs.  It will also be helpful in building the soil for the Permaculture Food Forest I’m going to be embarking on.

Here is the almost finished Worm Hilton:

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You can see the barrels on either side that will be turned into the furnaces.  I am heading back out to Ecocycle tomorrow to scrounge an old door for a cover.  This location is right by our clothesline so it will double as a table for the laundry basket when we are hanging clothes out to dry (We don’t own a dryer – the sun is just as fast here in our arid climate).

I will be ordering about 5 pounds of worms here shortly (Yes, you heard right. You order red wrigglers from folks who are obsessed with this kind of thing, because they are about the best worms for this task).  Never received worms in the mail before?  It’s a head turner to be sure.  Usually comes at the same time as the Victoria’s Secret catalog.  Win, win.  After you finish looking at bras and thongs, the worms will eat the catalog.  Junk mail turned fertilizer.

After having my little junkie putter around town car crap out a quarter of a mile from the farm on Tuesday and having to go get my truck and tow it the rest of the way, this was the highlight event of the week for me.  Does one count worms as livestock?  If so, do you have to count them?  5 lbs. is a lot of worms.