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!

Advertisements

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.

 

The Greenhouse Is Full!

After having moved through the most recent cold snap, the forecast for at least the next 10 days is over 75 degrees.  Soooooooo, the plants in the basement grow room have been moved into the greenhouse!  The dirt for the remaining beds arrives Friday and I will be stringing the drip irrigation to the greenhouse tomorrow.

In the next 2 weeks we will plant the greenhouse, the raised beds outside the greenhouse and the half acre for root plants.  If you are interested here is what we grow (for both eating through the summer, but also for storage – freezing, dehydrating, and canning):  Blueberries, Blackberries, onions, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, lettuce, spinach, Kale, melons, squash, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, beets, hard beans, green beans, sunflowers, potatoes, asparagus, strawberries, and green beans, wheat, corn, and if we include the animals:  eggs, chickens for meat, and pork.

 

 

Spring is Springing!!

I spent the day today moving plants to the greenhouse and also planting the last of the seeds that need to get going in order to have them ready for the gardens.  Today it was the 3 different types of squash.  The big outdoor garden is primarily for storage type vegetables.  Most of them are root  vegetables but the melons and the squash need to be started ahead of time in order to give them a jump on the season.

I moved the pepper plants out today and introduced a bunch of lady bugs to help ward off the aphid attacks I’ve been having.  The Basil and the peppers all had a pretty good assault in the seedling room.  They could only have come in with some of the potting soil I purchased to get the seedlings going.  They have been maddening.

The tomatoes and tomatillo plants will stay downstairs until mid next week.  We are supposed to get some cooler weather Monday and Tuesday but by Thursday it is supposed to be pushing 90.  At that point everyone comes out of the basement and I can turn off most of those high powered lights!  So as usual, while anxious about whether or not I’ll get all the work done and get the garden in, the one step at a time, one day at a time, never seems to fail.  I just get mental when I can’t see my way clear in my head a way to the end result.

So after all the hassles of actually getting the greenhouse, having it is just about as much fun as I know how to have (yes I’m boring – but a move to a simpler life is NOT a step backwards).  Being able to get the plants out there to get ready for the season is such a big help – not to mention the fact that we have had spinach and lettuce since February!  The big spring weather out here has begun and the greenhouse has endured at least one mild hail storm.  The more ferocious ones are on the way – they always come, but another couple I met when I picked up the pigs had a greenhouse too and theirs has stood up to the ice balls.  Here’s hoping ours will too!

Getting the Greenhouse Ready For Spring

While we languish in winter, the non-planting and building projects emerge.  We can finally see the workbench surfaces in the barn!  We organized, swept out piles of mouse poop, threw junk away, and generally created a neatness.  There was junk in there in boxes strewn about from way back three years ago when I was building the coop and fences.  After all, who wants to clean up when you are too tired to walk?  Its actually possible to walk around in there without fearing for your shins!

Now that the greenhouse is up and the raised beds in place, it was time to start getting the thing ready for the spring.  The drip irrigation parts are here waiting to be assembled and I am using a small solar panel battery charger hooked up to a deep cycle battery to provide power out there.  The big solar array has the ability to bring power to the building but it has yet to be wired up.  Considering that the ground, depending on the day, is either hard frozen or a muddy mess, that will just have to wait.

This weekend I put up the shade cloth.  After checking it out last fall after the greenhouse had been built, it became quite clear that something was going to have to be done to cool it down.  I did some research about the best shade cloth to use for plants like tomatoes and the powers that be suggested that a 50% block was optimal.  This material will block half of the sunlight and it claims that it will keep the temperature inside about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temps.  If it works that will be perfect.  If its 100 outside (which its sure to be this summer), then it should be around 80-ish.  The fans will certainly help as well.  This is important in a warming climate.  For instance, tomatoes will stop producing pollen at temperatures sustained above 95 degrees F.  They will drop their flowers and voila, no tomatoes.

The last assembly piece is to get the drip irrigation set up.  The drippers themselves aren’t  such a big deal; I’ve done it many times.  The challenge this time is the actual source of water.  Over by the big garden we have a ranch hydrant that provides water to the critters and to the drip system.  Over by the greenhouse there is nothing but a house spigot.  So what we are planning is a combination rain water harvesting tank with a pump, and use the house spigot that is supplied by the well to keep the tank topped off when there isn’t enough runoff from the roof.  The tank we will be ordering is 1100 gallons and has a water pump plumbed to it.  It has enough power to actually run an oscillating sprinkler so we my have to add a pressure regulator to the line. Drippers don’t care much for high pressure.  If it works then T’s and ball joints can be added to redirect water to various areas around the greenhouse, including the apple trees we are hoping to plant.

The projects now are a lot less intimidating.  There are three basic capital intensive projects we still want to do but we will be whittling away at those between now and some far off day in the future.  To really bring the place off-grid I still want to have a solar – hot water heater installed (with all the sun here there is no reason not to use it).  Also, in order to reduce the propane use, I would like to install a pellet stove (pellets instead of wood because in either case it needs to be brought in from off site. Wood needs to be split and stacked. Pellets come bagged and on skids) and what is referred to as a solar hot air condenser .  If you have ever felt the water that comes out of a black hose that has been lying in the sun, that’s essentially how it works.  Its a big black box aimed at the sun with a fan pushing air through it to heat it up and then bring it in the house.  The last, which will simply be a work in progress, is to build a livestock barn.  The livestock wouldn’t necessarily be for food.  We are trying to heal the fields, and having goats or a couple of cows rotationally grazing around different paddocks, will aid in the re-fertilization of the ground and help restore the natural grasses.  However, in blizzard conditions, and if we breed them, we need a place to get them out of the elements.  But that’s a ways off.

All of the seeds for the spring planting have arrived from their various sources.  We acquired a small refrigerator to keep them in as it aids in the longevity of their viability.  Considering that we are also doing some of our own seed saving, this will help to keep them useable from year to year.

So the winter at the JAZ Farm has been a little lazier than the last few years – thank god.  Now if we could get the children running Wall Street to get a grip and calm down maybe work would become more tolerable as well.  We live in one weird world.  I wonder what’s going to happen next.  Its all one surreal adventure.

This was the temperature in the greenhouse yesterday.  Today there is snow on the ground!  You can see the texture of the shade cloth behind the thermometer.

GH Temp

Not a bad crop of Spinach for the middle of winter!

GH Spinach

The shade cloth is up on the roof.  YAY!  No more climbing up ladders for awhile!  I hate ladders!  It was like trying to hang a 10 x 36 foot long curtain with a drill and self – tapping screws 12 feet off the ground with someone that gets nervous about unstable heights!  I know.  I’m a whimp.  Hey, bite me.  I did it.  Anyone wanna see if they can keep up?

Shade Cloth 3

Carrots Carrots Carrots

While we tried to keep our minds off of the total screwing we took from Solar Mart we harvested carrots.  They never seem to disappoint.  I estimated the harvest at around 60 lbs.  A third were put into the dehydrator, we canned another third and we made and froze carrot juice with the rest.  They are so sweet.  I wish we could keep them fresh year round!

Carrots 1 Carrots 2 Carrots 3 Carrots 4 Carrots 5