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.


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.


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


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.


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.

Hail 1

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.


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.



This Is What $1100.00 Looks Like

The day started at 4:30 am today with a dog having “digestive issues” (She crapped all over the bathroom).  The latest prediction of snow/rain fizzled out and we got the Semi in here today!  50 yards of planting soil for the new beds and the gardens!  Yay!

Of course, as with the pigs, I didn’t actually expect them to bring the dirt today because they have to go almost to Wyoming to get it.  As a result, today’s projects changed a bit and I got down to one of my least favorite tasks, the annual tractor maintenance.  Of course, I couldn’t find my ratchet set.  Once found, I didn’t have the right sized socket.  Once I got the socket, I oozed transmission fluid onto the garage floor.  Cussed like a sailor at the filters cuz they wouldn’t come off and chewed out the Mechanical Engineers (this is a dig for my son) for putting them in the worst imaginable places.  But, after a day’s work, tending the critters, and the dirt in a pile where it is easy to get to with the front loader, we are all ready to go about the tasks of filling, covering and plumbing the remaining 9 beds and amending the orchard.  Fit Bit says over 10k steps today.  I’m such a couch potato.

Tomorrow may not be as many steps, as the tractor gets to do a great deal of the work.  I love it when things fall into place and the boss says, “We are a bit ahead of schedule, it’s ok to slow down a little now.”  Of course, I’m the boss AND the employee.  My volunteers never listened to me anyway.  But I am well on track to being able to focus just on gardening beginning the first week of May – The first time in the nearly 6.5 years we’ve been building this place.  There are other jobs to do, but this time they take a subordinate roll.  They aren’t crucial, not getting skunked this year, is.  I have my new little rolling gardening cart to sits my butt on whilst weeding. The water is where it should be.  We have 4 new apple trees. The existing one’s appear to be budding.  The drip irrigation parts have arrived and are in the garage. The plants in the grow room have lost their minds again.  The tractor is ready to roll and I am flippin’ pooped.  Not bad for an old guy with a rigid back.


Reminds me of the Triceratop poop in Jurassic Park.

At Least It’s Spring In The Seedling Room!

The Second bomb has come and gone.  Not as strong as the first one but we are snowbound and the highway is still closed.  The snow was heavy and it has frozen everything closed.  Zina is out trying to get the barn doors open so the critters can go outside after being holed up for a day and a half.  We are keeping an eye on road conditions to see if we can get Zina to work but if not she’ll work from home again.

It was an excuse to work in the seedling room though.  All the plants that need to be started ahead of time are in and the room is starting to look like a bit of a jungle.  The baby birds are almost ready to go out into the coop.  If we can just get dried out again that would be helpful..  I have a semi load of soil ordered for the gardens and new orchard but he would sink to his axles if it isn’t dried out.  It’s happened before and the ruts are still in the field to prove it.

Plant all the things!


Here Comes The Sun

We are looking forward to warmer weather coming this week and next so the drifts will melt off.  So are the animals, as they’ve been corralled and penned up the past few days.  It will be muddy, but the sooner it happens, the sooner I can finish the new garden boxes and covers.

Tomorrow new Chicks arrive!  30 little cheepers.  2 different kinds of broilers.

The seedling room is in full swing!  I transplanted the baby tomatoes into their grow out pots.  That means that the mini-suns had to be fired up.  The lamps have a new air filter, the fluorescents light the littler babies and now the halides are in charge of the tomatoes.  More will be put under them as they get replanted.  The tomatillos are ready and the peppers won’t be far behind.

Yes.  If we were powering those monsters from the power grid, this would be stupid expensive.  That’s why we are solar.  While the sun is up, the panels transfer the sunlight into the basement.  We could never grow these all out without them.  It’s 29 outside and even the greenhouse doesn’t hold enough heat overnight to get them all going.

Next up….. starting the onions.  Lots of onion.  We start them indoors because mice eat the seeds if we plant them out directly.


Might As Well Get Something Done Before Stormaggedon

It’s almost 60 degrees and no wind.  The calm before it all cuts loose.  The weatherdude just gave us a 100% chance of a blizzard tomorrow with over 75 mph gusts.  Evidently, the farther out onto the plains you go, the more snow is to be expected.  So that puts us at a foot or more of wet heavy slop.  We are definitely east/central Colorado.  Unfortunately, because the mountains are expecting up to 2 feet, that means that very soon when spring runnoff starts we are going to have to contend with hail again.  The last wind storm cost us shingles.  All the other buildings have metal roofs…. just not the house.  Figures.

That being said, I finished up the last of the hail guard frames for the raised beds and tried out the screens.  Looks like they will work.  One down and “only” 26 more to go.  This is the part that pokes and scratches.  I’ll just turn up the radio so no one hears my cherub like expressions and colorful chanting.

Tomorrow is a canning and weaving day intermixed with clearing the snow off of the chicken coop netting.  We had it collapse once under the weight.  Lesson learned.






The Pantry Is Filling Up Despite The Drought!

We had a terrible gardening season.  The drought and the excessive heat (because we all know there isn’t any global warming – idiots) totally destroyed our hard bean, carrot, tomato, pepper, potato, melon and squash plants.  We did get green beans, a few tomatoes, lots of cucumbers, basil, egg plant, sweet potatoes and celery.  Our garlic was great but that is because it is planted before the hottest time of the year.  The onions were on their way and then got wiped out in a hail storm.  So all in all it was pretty sad.  We produce tons of food and this year we kind of watched helplessly as it all withered in the heat and sun.

So as always, the problem solving had to start.  We are in the process of putting up hail guards and sunblock netting over the gardens by the greenhouse.  We may begin converting the big garden to more trees and berries.  If these crazy heat waves continue (Which NOAA says will continue until at least 2022 – and I think will continue well beyond) we will be continually learning how to improvise, adapt and overcome until we simply can’t.

I am in the midst of canning as usual though.  Our goal is to have a couple of years of just canned food in the pantry that we can rotate in order to keep current.  We are on our way and we probably have close to that amount of food (not all canned) if you take into consideration the 2 pigs and 40 chickens in the freezer, the never ending re-supply of chicken butt nuggets every day for breakfast, a flock of turkeys,  and the individual items that we have canned like carrots and beans, etc and the hundreds of pounds of pasta, dry beans, wheat berries, and oats we have in storage buckets.

We were lamenting the fact that the tomato harvest was a disaster.  We got a couple of gallons of sauce made but not nearly the same was the hundreds of pounds we usually get.  Low and behold though, we had a source to get some cheap!  Zina has a relationship with a food bank near her office.  In the past month they had an open house for their donors so they had a lot of excess that they couldn’t give away (probably because of food safety issues).  It was still good though, they simply couldn’t use it.  Usually, Zina picks up the waste to bring out for us to compost.  This goes to the critters and also to fertilize the gardens (We have fed our pigs loaves and loaves of left over bread from them over the years).  But this time she came home with about 40 lbs of Roma tomatoes and probably close to 50 lbs of potatoes!  The tomatoes were tasteless, but when combined with ours, it made a pretty good sauce.  I had already purchased about 30 lbs of potatoes so we combined them with the food pantry potatoes and spent all day yesterday canning 40 quarts of potatoes!  Brilliant!  So in the last couple of days we have canned over 68 quarts bringing this fall’s canning production well over 100 so far.

Next up is more split pea soup, white bean and ham soup, black bean chili, baked beans, chicken soup, and whatever other canned meals I can dream up.  So despite it all, the pantry is staying stocked.  Food self-sufficiency folks.  Get after it.  Even if it is just canned goods from Costco.  The prices will never go down, and…. well…. ex-financial advisor here…. the next crash on the horizon will make 2008 look like a ride at Disney.  Plus the food tastes better and is better for you.  Sorry.  It’ll make you have to do something else other than work on your short game at the country club though.  Bummer.

Two is one and One is none:


Taking Back The Big Garden

The biggest travesty of not being able to take care of the farm this past year was the signature food producer of the farm…. the “big” garden.  It is the first garden we put in and it has given us huge harvests year after year.  This past year, nature got to keep it.  When I got out there earlier this year I was heart broken.  Weeds grow out here like, well, weeds.  I was confronted with a field of weeds 3 feet deep.  In my determination to get back to the farmer status I was not about to let this garden die.  So I got out the tools, the work gloves and the machinery and we set to it.  It was an immense amount of work but we kicked the weeds out and got it planted.  As we now grow the vegetables in and by the greenhouse, this has been dubbed the “storage garden”.  It is the stuff that we can put up for the year or root cellar without a lot of fuss.  Currently we have Blackberries, Raspberries, Potatoes, 3 kinds of hard beans, Carrots, Onions, Sunflowers and Asparagus.  I have worked very hard to stay ahead of the weeds and I think that we are now back in the driver’s seat.

This is what we were up against.  SOB!


We won!


Potatoes getting planted! Woohoo!