Garden Progress

When you have a problem, sit and stare at it for awhile and let your mind come up with the answers.  We have three issues that the eastern flat-landers don’t have:  1. Very dry air and desiccating wind, 2. Hail, and 3. Intense sun.  Last year’s drought really  pissed me off.  We lost virtually everything. Being who I am, I was not about to let that become a recurring theme; at least not without a fight.  So as you have seen with previous posts, we ran a high pressure hydrant to the garden areas which has jump started the drip irrigation.  We also built the hail guards and sun shade cloth on all the beds.  As of today, the hail guards have been successfully tested with inch sized ice and the shade cloth is doing exactly what it should.  None of the gardens looks stressed.  In fact, they are looking very healthy (along with the evil Bindweed).  My green beans have not come up and I think it’s because I used older seeds; so more are on the way and I’ll replant those when they arrive.  Even the frost bit tomatoes have all rebounded.  We are back on track.

Cucumbers:

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I even got Spinach to germinate this year!  It’s planted with the Cauliflower.

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A Bajillion Peppers from Bell to Habanero.

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Onions Galore

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Our usual forest of Garlic.  Scapes soon for Pesto and the actual harvest around July 4th.  This bed will get replanted with Green Beans.

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Much to my son’s displeasure, the Broccoli is luvin’ life!

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All of the tomatoes have snapped back from the frost.  It looks like we will be making plenty of sauce this year. There are 60 plants plus the cherries.

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The Black Beans are up.

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Future Coleslaw:

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Farmer Juan taking a break to rough-house with the boys.  They are the sweetest, most rambunctious guys ever.

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While Folks Try To Escape On The Expressway, We Played The Real Life Version Of Farmville

“Create a life you don’t need a vacation from.”  Good advice.  We went to town today for some barn odds and ends and the parade of RV’s getting out of Dodge for the long weekend was pretty impressive.  Pick-ups pulling trailers, pulling boats or ATVs, going 80 mph with their hair on fire to get to a campground somewhere where they can be closer to their neighbors than they are at home in the ‘burbs and with no fence between them.  The stress levels at the local burger joint were palpable.  We went to the ACE Hardware Store, got what we needed and took the back roads home thanking the creator the whole way that we like living on our homestead.

We were awakened this morning to a call from the Post Office to let us know that a chirping cardboard box was waiting for us.  It was fun because Zina had never done a chick pick up before.  You can hear them in the sorting room and people just grin at you as you leave with a box of peepers.  We got them home and did the usual initiation to the brooder:  Open the box, pick one out at a time, put some Vaseline on their butts to help prevent pasty butt, dip their heads in the waterer so you make sure they know how to drink, set them by the food and heat source, repeat.  Job one completed, check.

Next up, get the turkey grow-out coop operational.  We put the door on the pig hut that is now the turkey shelter, put wood chips down, got out the waterers and feeders, washed them and filled them.  Off to the basement to catch birds and put them in the cat carrier.  For the next week our four little teenage Bourbon reds will be in the hut and not out in the run.  This gives them a chance to settle in before emerging into the big scary world.

Off to the feed store next.  We needed to resupply the basics, but we also ordered a ton of organic pig grower feed.  Now that the little oinkers have proven their heartiness (they didn’t die) we need the higher protein feed to get them up to weight, which takes about 6 months.  Organic feed ain’t cheap and it’s damned near impossible to find by the single bag, so 50, 40 lb. bags of specially mixed feed will be here in a week.  It would be nice to have a fork lift to unload it, but alas, that machine is named Jon.

Prior to getting the chicks, it was also the day to adjust the incubator settings – Up the relative humidity, lower the temperature.  If all goes according to plan, we should have more turkey babies hatching on Memorial Day.  Because of this impending event, son Aaron got the second tank rolled out to the barn for their brooder.  We’ll get the heat lamps, feeders and waterers out there tomorrow so all will be ready.  Ever see a diaper for baby turkeys?  They are really small.

Unexpectedly, the FEDEX guy showed up.  We really didn’t know why he was here.  Surprisingly, the shade cloth sheets I had ordered showed up a week early!  I tied one on to test it and they are  going to work great!  So tomorrow we will be finishing up the turkey brooder, doing critter chores, putting up the shade cloth on the raised beds before settling into a week of planting.  The plants in the greenhouse survived the freak cold snap.  They look a little shocked, but I’ve seen them snap back from worse.  It’s supposed to be in the 70’s and mostly sunny for the next week.  Time to get the roots in the ground.

So that’s what our vacation time looks like.  Now to sit on the beach with my foo-foo drink.  Maybe make some S’mores.

Baby Jersey Giants in their new home:

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Baby turkeys freaked out about their move:

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The new shade cloth for the garden beds:

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A boy and his donkeys.  He was happy and relieved to have passed all his engineering exams.  Now for a couple of weeks of recuperation before summer classes begin:

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Construction Moratorium While We Farm

Farmer Zina

Tomorrow is May Day.  Only gardening stuff and critter chores til after the first week of June.  If there is a building thing needing doing write it down and take it up with the foreman the second week of June.  Also, the retreat continues for those incapable of taking a hint.

Only tasks related to animals, plants, cooking, weaving, and mostly no contact regarding anything or anyone else are on the agenda.  This will be the longest stretch of no construction work since we bought this adventure. There is more than enough happening just finishing up the new beds and getting them planted that I may not even recognize it as time off from the power tools.

I am friends with the leader of the local beekeeping club.  I made an offer for members needing space to house hives out here.  They seem pretty interested so we may have some literal busy bees out here sometime.  We get pollinators and an education.  They get to keep their pets out in one of our fields.  Everyone wins.

The first round of hatching turkeys went pretty well.  Of the eleven eggs, 4 were infertile, probably because the adults are still pretty young and some of them were laid in pretty cold weather.  We killed two of them because we really couldn’t tell how they were doing when we candled them (Turkey shells are very thick). So we caused two turkey abortions (don’t call the pro-life militant freaks!); but we got to see the embryos up close and personal because of it.  One died trying to hatch (Which is common) leaving us with 4 babies down in the brooder.  Today we cleaned out the incubator and started a new batch of 18.  Somewhere around the end of the month they should start to emerge.

Weeds and Groceries

The outdoor planting hath begun.  It’s cool weather crop time and the Onions, Spinach, Cabbage, Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower and a bunch of herbs are all going in.  It’s nice having the new hail covers on knowing that there will be at least a little protection from Hell month, er, HAIL month in May.  It’s fun to just be sitting on my little garden scooter planting stuff in. I didn’t even contemplate another building project except for figuring out how I’ll mount the shade cloth on these beds.  It’s the first time that the garden feels like “my own”.  I’m not being torn in a zillion other directions; just doing the farming thing.  Spent the day planting about 400 onions and listening to an audiobook.  It’s brand spankin’ new dirt so they should do well.  Having respectable water pressure from our new hydrants doesn’t hurt either.

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With the onset of spring though, and it being considerably wetter than last year, everything wild and invasive is coming up too.  I’m not really missing the old garden as it could rob you of your soul trying to keep it weeded.   Boxed beds are so much easier to work with.  But with the wet has come the weeds.  Many of them now, unfortunately, are becoming herbicide resistant, Red Root Amaranth being the biggest culprit.  It grows like mad and it sets down a super hero tap root.  Fortunately, the chickens like the seeds and the goats like the plant.  I’m thinking that even if our little dairy adventure doesn’t pan out, just having our little goat sweeties to mow down weed fields earns them their keep.  As soon as I get a needed gate mounted, the bucks are being turned loose in the big garden to eat to their heart’s content.

Another weed that no one seems to like, I think, because it is super smelly with pollen, is something the locals call “Purple Cap”.  Colorado State Extension Service calls it Purple Mustard.  It likes disturbed soil and boy has it found its home out there this year.  It’s everywhere.  So looking at the bright side, my son isn’t here having his allergies knock him flat, and it’s actually kind of pretty.  If you can believe it, this is our back wheat field.  The wheat is doing fine, but because it is still short, the purple mustard has temporarily overtaken it.  I’ll be happy when it is done blooming…..stinky,

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The baby pigs still stay pretty buried in their straw out in the hut.  They are soooo tiny.  Zina has been coaxing them out from time to time but they are still pretty freaked about not being with momma.  Our meat birds are doing what they do best: eating and crapping.  Half will go to freezer camp the middle of next month.  The other breed takes a bit longer.

We are in hatching mode with the turkey eggs.  I stopped the egg turner today, decreased the temperature and ramped up the humidity.  If all goes well, and the candling shows movement in quite a few, we should have some hatchlings somewhere around Sunday.  I ran to the stockyard supply place yesterday and got the kennel panels to make a grow out pen.  Birds is stoooopid.  If we put smaller birds in with the bigger ones, they will likely get pecked to death.  Chickens too.  So after all is said and done, we will have 5 different coops: A brooder, 2 turkey pens and two chicken coops.  Dats a lot oh feathers and fertilizer!

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So if there is one constant to this grand experiment it’s that it is all a big adventure.  From surgery, legs that seem to not want to work right anymore, to growing your own Pizza, Salsa and Carnitas, it’s never predictable.  Problem solving becomes priority number one.

 

The Last Major Infrastructure Project is Done

I thought I’d cry when I turned the last screw on the last bed.  We did it.  Unless we are possessed by demons, the last big infrastructure project is over.  Sure there are always things to do, but unless we were to fence in another pasture for something like, say, cows, the farm vision has all the parts.  Smaller projects like the water tank, grow out pens, the orchard, brooder, some gates, and a fence around the gardens certainly aren’t small, but they aren’t mission critical and can be done over time.  Those are nothing compared to these big honking heavy things that I’ve broken myself over for the past six and a half years.  Today it was over 80 and with Zina as another set of hands, we got the hail covers on the beds that I placed and filled yesterday.  With a back that doesn’t bend, the getting up and down 36 times to screw on the supports wiped me out pretty good.  The drippers go on next and then we start to brainstorm the shade cloth.  Still haven’t figured out the best way to secure those yet.  In the past year we finished the barn and pasture fence, ran water to the greenhouse and the new barn, ran power to the barn, got goats, raised turkeys, adopted donkeys, and built 18 4×12 raised beds with covers (bringing our garden bed tally to 40).  Dunno about you, but I’d say that’s plenty.  I’m hiring out the goats to graze the area where we are going to plant the fruit trees.  Cheap help.

So very soon all of these:

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Will go in all of these:

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Its time to go part time with the JAZ Farm construction company and bring the farmer on full time.  I’ve been building for so long I wonder how tough the transition will be.  I’m willing to find out.  Looking forward to May.

Moving Dirt

It was 80 degrees today and nary a cloud in the sky.  The farm boss and crew (one and the same dude) mounted the mighty John Deere steed and commenced to a loadin’ up the last 9 garden boxes.  Another task that I can say goodbye to.  Literally tons of lumber and 27 more yards of planting soil.  That’s a pretty big effort for a few Zucchini and Onions!

So some have asked, both here, in person and in the class I taught, what I do to get these going.  So here goes:

  1.  Figure out what kind and how big of a raised bed you want.  All of mine are 4 x  12.  I built them out of decking lumber for longevity, but you are really only limited by your imagination.

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2.  To suppress the weeds, either  turn the  soil over, or put cardboard down over the bare ground.  This smothers the foliage and when it’s usefulness is over, it composts.

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3.  I had a mountain of composted chicken manure so I added about 3 inches of it per bed over the cardboard.

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4.  Unless you have good soil to begin with (ours is from Mars evidently), have some good quality planter’s mix brought in and fill up the boxes.

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Tomorrow Zina and I will add the hail guards and all that will be left is to plumb in the drip irrigators (super easy and I don’t need them for another 5 weeks!)  The projects are done for now!  Time to focus on the little green things.

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Then, after your hips,  knees, shoulders and butt, can’t take any more, partake in your first deck sit of the year, pity the poor slobs in the concrete jungle and revel in another awesome job.

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For those that care, Happy Easter.  Go hunt up some eggs er some spring thing.  Better yet, feel up a Vestal Virgin and dance around a May Pole for spring is here!  Fertility, celebrate it while we still have it.