Feeling Very Organized

My wife defined my new career: Supply management and Inventory Controller of the JAZFarm Pantry and Root Cellar.  That is in addition, of course, to Chief Cook and CEO of Farming and Livestock Management!

We spent the day adding shelves to the shelving racks in the pantry and then organizing the whole thing.  It’s like having your own grocery store in your basement! We are trying to consolidate two homes into one because we are selling our place in the city.  It’s not that we need any more “stuff” but every square inch needs to be well organized.  Because one whole room is our pantry we are trying to maximize the use of every inch of shelf space and floor space.  It’s coming along pretty nicely!

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The Newest JAZ Farm Addition

Sorry there haven’t been more posts of late. The garden decided to ripen all at once. The canners have been running non-stop for weeks now and it looks like things are going to calm down a bit. That is until we lost our minds again. Introducing the newest addition to the family. Everyone this is Sage! She is another Yellow Lab that we found north of the farm. She has just been weaned and probably doesn’t weigh more than about 4 pounds.

Zina and I decided that Basil, the four year old, needed a companion. As Sage gets older they will be able to go out romping together giving each other needed exercise. Right now Basil doesn’t quite know what to make of her and as you can see from the pictures there is a considerable size difference. That won’t last long as Sage is expected to be about the same size.

For right now however, we are just basking in the cuteness. As my son texted when we sent him her first pictures, “Oh My God! The Adorableness factor is off the charts!”

What have we done? The pigs head to freezer camp next Thursday and a new puppy is in the house. I’m pretty sure We.Are.Nuts! Oh well, I will have lots of animal friends to keep me company when I retire!

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A Milestone and Proud Accomplishment

So here is what we’ve done on the JAZFarm for 2016. As of our harvest today we will be able to provide almost every major ingredient for every meal for about the whole next year.
Breakfast: Eggs, Sausage or Bacon, Potatoes and Onions.
Lunch: Salad and whatever is left over. For the next couple of months, BLTs, tomato everything, cucumbers.
Dinner: Pork, Chicken, Beans, Salad, Hispanic – particularly Black Beans, Pintos and Kidneys. Three different types of squash at least weekly. Chili, chicken soup, split pea soup, black bean soup, Pizza and pasta with our own flour. If I’m ambitious we can grind our own corn for tortillas.
Snacks: canned peaches, chips with home made salsa. Dehydrated Beet chips. Jerky.
Seasonings for all the recipes: Thyme, Chives, Sage, Marjoram, Tarragon, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary. Our own Cayenne pepper, Garlic powder, Onion Powder, Chili powder.
Various Peppers. Carrots.
It’s not 100% but it’s quite a dent. We are being very proud.

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Harvest Time!

Beetsbeets-2016

 

Carrotscanned-carrots-2016

 

Green Beanscanned-green-beans-2016

Giant Mater

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Harvested Green Beans and Cherry Tomatoesgreen-beans-2016

 

The growth in the Greenhousegreenhouse-growth-2016

 

Tomato Saucemater-sauce-2016

 

The first of the onionsonions-2016

 

The first of the tomato harvest partial-mater-harvest-2016

 

Canned Habanero Salsasalsa-2016

 

Tomatillo Salsatomatillo-salsa-2016

Its been awhile since I posted anything.  I am happy to announce that the dog is healthy again.  I’m doing much better, my son is back to school, real work is back on the front burner and all of the produce is coming in all at the same time!  Needless to say we have been very busy!

There are several projects going on in addition to all of the food processing.  We figured out how to handle the grasshoppers.  The biggest deterrent is making sure all of the weeds and grass around the garden are cut short so they have no where to hide.  The second is to use an insecticide around the perimeter of the garden.  This will help keep them down but also won’t be sprayed anywhere near the produce.  The weeds themselves, particularly Goatheads, Round Up resistant Amaranth, and Kochia need to be cut back significantly.  We are going to have a bumper crop harvest but the weeds are crazy making and we need to find a way to keep them kept down or this will quickly become not fun.

We lost the hard bean crop to the grasshoppers.  Not only did they like to eat the leaves, they also took a fondness to the flowers.  No flowers, no beans.  They also tried to take the squash and melon beds but we prevailed and the melons have been awesome.  We also have had an amazing crop of Acorn, Butternut and Spaghetti squash.

The carrots and beets lost their minds this year.  We canned 70 pints of carrots, have made beet chips and canned pickled beets.  There are still hundreds more of each.  I recently bought new sand to put in our storage bins to keep them through the end of the year.  Zina juiced about 3 gallons of carrot juice and is in our freezer.

We were getting to the end of our green beans from last year.  Not a problem anymore.  We had a huge green bean harvest and were able to put up a couple of dozen quarts of them in the pantry.

Last year’s tomato crop sucked.  Totally sucked.  We had freezes, made some mistakes, had hail, etc., etc. etc.  This year no worries.  In the last picking I have canned a dozen pints of tomato sauce, 10 pints of habanero tomato salsa, and 12 pints of canned fresh vegetable salsa.  There are dozens more tomatoes in the greenhouse.  We’ve had so many cherry tomatoes we have been canning them too!

The pepper harvest has been insane.  We have had the best pepper plants ever this year and have picked bushels of them.  They have been canned, eaten, given away and dehydrated. Its amazing how many peppers one plant can produce.

The blueberries are getting established as well as the Blackberries.  The Blackberries produced a pint or two and are super tasty!

The Tomatillo plants have done well too.  The grasshoppers got into them but didn’t seem to eat them.  I think they just liked the cover.  Because of all the hoppers we had a 4 foot Bull Snake take up residence and help keep the population down some.  We have had a very nice harvest of the Tomatillos and have made one of our favorite Green Salsas in quantity.

We did an experiment to see which way to plant onions – seeds or sets – produced the best.  Answer:  If you have lots of compost rich in Nitrogen, seeds hands down.  Our onions are incredible this year.  Its a bit more work to plant seeds, but totally worth it!

As the year winds down there are many projects to contend with.  The biggest project is putting the beds to bed for the winter.  As we harvest and close them down we will be weeding – both physically and flame – to get the seeds out of there.  We will broad fork them to loosen up the soil, put down straw for mulch and then cover them with black plastic.  This past spring was a weeding nightmare.  A little prevention will go a long long way.

The chickens are making lots of eggs.  We raised and processed 30 broilers for the freezer and the two big pigs weighed in at 550 lbs each thus filling our freezers to the brim.  We have been canning meat and eating pork and chicken to make room in the freezers as we have 2 more pigs going to freezer camp the first week of November.

So other than injuries the summer has again proven fruitful.  We have a very small grocery bill as a result and the activity is much more fun than going to the gym.  I hope that all of you have had a wonderful summer and are looking forward to the coolness of the fall.

 

 

The Greenhouse is Flourishing.

Today my sister-in-law, her husband and my niece came to visit.  It is so gratifying to have relatives come and see what we have been up to.  They got to make friends with the pigs, gather eggs, see the meat birds, hold the new layer babies, and tour the gardens.  They are on their way to a church retreat in Colorado Springs and stopped by after a very early flight from Detroit.

We toured the greenhouse and the cucumbers and tomatoes and peppers are all fruiting!  Even the Tomatillos.  We are going to have boat loads of cherry tomatoes and it appears that the big slicing tomatoes are well on their way!

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It’s May And Everything Happens At Once

This past week or so has been the usual frenzy involved with the impending planting season.  The past two weekends really set me back as we had snow storms that made the outdoor projects impossible.  You can see in past posts that we had an urban farm at our place in town.  I had 24 raised beds all with their own little hoop greenhouses attached to them.  Now that the greenhouse is up I don’t need that garden any longer.  Frankly, to have that one, the greenhouse and it’s surrounding beds along with the half acre food storage garden, it was way too much work for me.  After all, my wife and I also work full time.  I get to work at home, but I am on the road a lot going to client appointments.  So I began to dismantle that garden.  It entailed pulling up rebar, cutting off plastic, and dis-assembling the PVC frames for all of those beds.  Our aim is to smooth all of the dirt out and plant it full of perennials that will attract and help out the bees, much like we did when we landscaped the front of the house.

After the wagon loads up to the truck it was off to the dump.  Why does everything I do have to be so damned heavy?  My back was pretty spent.  When I came out to the farm yesterday I started work on the watering system for the greenhouse.  So today, my body said “ENOUGH”!  I had every intention of getting back after it but my body had other plans.  Now the moral of this story is that even when you “don’t get anything done” on the farm, you still get things done.  By the time we reached this point in the day when I’m currently typing (4:30 pm),  I have cooked breakfast, gotten the solar oven out and heating up to make dinner, been to two local feed stores to get ready for the new chickens coming next week, ordered a semi-load of planting soil to fill the remaining beds in and around the greenhouse, contacted a local pig breeder to get two new “weaners” (pigs that have been weaned from their momma and are being sold to be raised for food), taken alfalfa out to the chickens, moved some of the plants from the seedling room to the greenhouse, unloaded the truck, fed the pigs and did the real job thing.  In the next week we will have 90 chickens and 4 pigs to take care of.  My mom and sister get to play FarmVille for real when they come to visit in the next month!

May is insane.  Everything comes to a head at once.  The trick we have found, is to just keep showing up.  Do one thing at a time.  Rest, drink water, do something else.  If you hurt, stop and sit down.  It’s not a race and virtually everyone I know is not doing this, nor could they keep up if they came to help. The only person who cares if it gets done on some kind of time frame is yourself.  Remember, its a hobby.  Its a hobby that feeds you but it is still a hobby!  If you are slave driver to yourself you will only kill yourself.  The MAJOR projects are done. The ongoing upkeep and planting and daily chores on a farm don’t require a starting gun (Roosters crowing are good enough!). Nor are you trying to best your previous times.  It’s OK to sit when tired, drink when thirsty, sleep when fatigued and never, ever care what others think.  If someone is a critic who hasn’t got skin in the game, they matter not one iota.  Homesteaders – be good to yourself. You know it will get done eventually…. even if it snows a foot.

Check out the Sun Oven and the Lazy Porkers:

 

 

Living Mostly Off Grid Is Pretty Cool!

 

Sorry that I haven’t posted in a while.  As spring gets closer there is much to do.  The seedling room is loaded with tomatoes, peppers, herbs, eggplant, and are getting ready to be transplanted into the 2 gallon pots.  I have a friend coming out to be a farmhand this weekend and to help transplant, so it ought to go fairly quickly.

So I wanted to do a quick post to show you what incredible changes can happen out here on the plains.  On Monday and Tuesday of this week it was in the low 70’s.  I even got out and worked in and on the greenhouse and got color in my face from the sun.  Then today happened.

I woke up (I’m out here alone today) just as the power kicked off.  It is currently in the low 30’s, blowing 40 mph and ice is building up every where! What happened to spring!?  Oh ya, this is springtime in the west… along with a broken jet stream.

This is the first test of the solar panel/battery back up system.  The batteries are supposed to kick in automatically when the power goes out on the grid.  That part failed so we will be having the technician out to make sure it gets some troubleshooting.  It could be that there was a fairly large load on the circuits it’s supposed to supply so we will have to see what needs to be done.  However, I went downstairs and flipped the switches manually and they fired right up!  Genius!  We have however, decided that we need to hook in a generator to the system with an autostart function just in case.  Should I have not been here and the batteries hadn’t kicked in, the house could have frozen and the freezers could have thawed.  Both are the reasons we installed the batteries in the first place.

So as it seems that FEMA isn’t coming out here any time soon, I am thrilled with the off-grid progress we have made!  Even without it working perfectly, this was the RIGHT answer for farm self-sufficiency.  The batteries aren’t supposed to power the entire house but it is certainly supplying a lot of it!  The battery back up is wired to power the entire basement (lights and outlets as it is where the two big freezers are located), the upstairs refrigerator, well pump, and furnace.  I got a bonus in addition that I didn’t realize.  The outlet the refrigerator is on is also the one the coffee maker is plugged into!  So on a cold winter blizzard morning with the power out I still had hot liquids!  Yes its a power drain but the batteries recharge from the solar panels during the day.  The fridge is on and cool as are the two freezers.  The electric stove doesn’t work and I can’t use the outdoor kitchen because its covered with ice.  So how to cook?  Well, if there was no other choice I could go out to the fifth wheel camper and cook out there (but I didn’t want to trudge through this awful weather).  So I went downstairs and pulled out the propane stove I use at hunting camp and astronomy star parties.  Voila! Breakfast (with hot coffee!).

This off grid adventure has proven to be just amazing and awesome.  Now we know that if the power goes out, we need to make some minor adjustments but so far NONE of the comforts of home have been eliminated.  I simply ran an extension cord to the internet router and I am sitting here posting while the farms for miles around us are out of power (unless they have generators).  I know they don’t have solar.  There are only one or two other houses around here that I’ve seen that do.

As it seems that FEMA isn’t coming out here to rescue me, this is very very good news.  So the first minor OYO (On Your Own) event has happened and the farm is doing great!  The chickens and pigs are all hunkered down in their respective pens, coops and huts, and I am just sitting here watching the world ice over!  Pretty cool!  Very happy!  I’m glad that even with all the difficulties getting the solar built out in the first place that we did indeed get it done!  So now I have to watch the CDOT website to see when they might open the highway so I can get into the city to do appointments tomorrow.  But in the meantime… I think I’ll just go take a hot shower, enjoy some coffee, do some real work…. because.. well…… I can!

And in closing, should you think I am completely off my rocker…. read and watch this video post (punks with some explosives are bad but this will displace a half a billion people – sooner than later).  If you deny a chief NASA scientist you are simply a fool:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-james-hansen/