It is fall and breeding has commenced. In order to have a dairy, small or large, babies have to be made. In order to raise pork without having to buy babies from somewhere else, breeding has to happen. In order to maintain a healthy flock of chickens for meat and eggs, babies have to be made. This past week we put our lady goats in with the gentlemen. I must say, while bucks are the horniest things on 4 legs, they have been remarkably chivalrous with their girls. Sometimes it is difficult to determine when a doe is in heat. Nigerians come into their cycle monthly, but sometimes it is hard to determine when. Sooooooo, to solve that problem, the girls and boys get put together for 2 months. This pretty much ensures that at some point they will get it right.
On the other hand, it is pretty wise to put the bucks with the does well a part from each other. A couple of years back we put a doe and one of the bucks together and left the other buck out of the fun. Had we not had a chain link fence between them somebody would have gotten hurt. The outrage was impressive
Last year we acquired a threesome of American Guinea hogs. They are smaller than the pigs you see going to the factory farms. They can also survive virtually on nothing but vegetable scraps and grass. They are now of age, but we have yet to see any signs of romantic flirtation. It isn’t that it might not have happened because we can’t watch every hour either. We will likely wake up later this year to a bunch of piglets hopping around.
Here is Petuia (on the right) and Pablo Pigcasso on the left, lounging in the mud looking cute. These are as friendly as dogs. They can’t get enough of tummy rubs.
And lastly, of course we are always hatching chickens and turkeys. In a month or so the 2020 turkey flock will go to freezer camp. These below are Jersey Giants (chickens). We use these for stew and crock pot meat. In 2 days we are expecting 40 Cornish Crosses. They are the larger meat chickens and will be raised up and processed sometime around November 1st. They grow incredibly fast and are a great and economical way to keep the freezer well stocked.
So there you have it. Farm procreation at it’s finest. No folks, your food does not all come wrapped in cellophane at your huge grocer. You gain a much greater appreciation for your food when you get down and dirty and raise it yourself. The next evolution may include meat goats or even raising a couple of steers. Shhhhhhhh don’t tell Zina.
We are coming up on the 8th anniversary of the JAZ Farm experiment. Since then, most everything else has been put on hold. Don’t get me wrong, this has been a labor of passion, but as anyone knows, when you have nothing but a certain task, it can get very old if you don’t have a diversion.
I was a bowhunter and hiker and lived in ranch country for many many years. I was raised in the Detroit area but most of my adult life has been spent in rural towns and the Rocky Mountain back country. Since my spine surgery, my ability to go off into the nether regions has been severely curtailed. Not to mention the fact that we built a farm from nothing up to the point that it supports vegetables, chickens, eggs, turkeys, dairy and pork.
After the last fence build, I was pretty burned out. I had told Zina that I needed to simply spend a day up in the hills in my old hunting, snow shoeing and stomping grounds. As I would never trust my old carcass to be up there un-aided, I went up with the new ATV. I cannot tell you how freeing that was. It was almost as though I had never left, but this time it was just to go see my mountains (I did try to flip the buggy once, but all is well). My next trip up will be during Aspen color season. I may never hunt again, but just being up there in the beauty amongst the mountain wizards with a camera was enough. Find your peace and be there. There is nothing else that matters. This was in the WAY back over 10,500 ft.. I still gots it.
Pandemic, Economic Collapse, Riots, Drought, Fires, Depression and Food Insecurity.
Unemployment, Massive demands on Food Banks, Climate Chaos and a Partridge in a Pear Tree. So here we are in the midst of the most chaotic time of our lives. Here we are on your actual brink. The news is something to be avoided if you are to maintain any semblance of sanity. We have an election that is going to be anything but uncontentious. We have no national plan to combat the bat bug and it appears that this little anomaly had the power to bring down the planet (Especially the U.S.). What does one do when, after years of warning clients, friends and family that this was coming? Answer: Grow a garden just like one has done for years. 95% of Colorado is in a moderate to severe drought. We just went through the hottest August on record and I can attest to how miserable that is. Yo easterners, low humidity doesn’t solve the problem, you can simply dry up and blow away out here and much of our landscape has. A mountain pass that I spent many years around is ablaze as well as places on the Western Slope where I spent a lot of my Jeremiah Johnson years.
Because of supply line disruptions and catastrophic crop failures around the world, plagues of locusts in Africa and floods in China, makes for a time where I should have been growing Popcorn. After all, as Uncle George told us, When you are born you are given a ticket to the freak show. When you are born in the U.S.A. you are given a front row seat. Have you awakened yet or are you still in denial? Not only are we going into a second Great Depression (That will make the first one look like a nice Little House On The Prairie episode) we are going into a complete reset of our way of life (Thank God). We are facing food shortages, supply line disruptions, massive evictions, the lack of metal to make canned goods, and all manner of things that will make life pretty uncomfortable in the coming years. I think, and this is simply my opinion, that our lives will reset to look more like the lives of Appalachian Homesteaders of the 1850’s – without the Civil War one can hope. If there could be a time where every possible problem could come to a head (including World War) this is it. I know that everyone is completely fatigued from 2020, but I am afraid you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
So what does one do? Learn from us. Learn from homesteaders and preppers. The faster you can get over your grieving and get on to the task at hand (survival and adjusting to whatever comes down the pike) the better off you will be. Our old paradigm died this year. There is no “waiting for things to get back to normal”. First of all, normal is what got us into this problem, and second, there is no “new normal”. We are going to have to reinvent EVERYTHING! Plans for you career? Screw that. Plans for your kid’s futures? Screw that too. They are going to be with you forever. Perhaps this is the answer to the lack of people wanting to become farmers. The average age of a farmer in the U.S.A. is 58 – that’s friggin’ ME!! Who do you think is going to grow food for the future? Business majors and computer wonks will be WORTHLESS. If you can’t feed the people, well………
Everything about your existence now needs to be about learning how to provide all of the sustenance for your family and your local community. I am so sorry for you who have been caught in the cities. If you have the ability to get out and onto some land I would highly recommend that you do it right now! My father once said (one of the few things he said that I could actually relate to) that the next depression is going to be so much worse because everyone is dependent on trucking and no one knows how to process a pig or a chicken. Absolutely. Have any of you newbie gardeners and freaked out ‘steaders tried to get ahold of canning supplies lately? How about baby chicks? Flour? Yeast? Bulk anything? You all freaked and bought everything with no idea how to use it. My good friend at our local feed store said he can’t believe how many people have come in to get baby chicks thinking that in a few short weeks they would be knee deep in eggs. It takes 6 months ya’ll. The toilet paper freak out was a joke. You should be WAY more concerned about a dollar collapse and a Venezuela style hyper-inflation poverty. If you hear nothing else, understand that our government gives not one shit about you. They do not care. Food inflation? Remember oil inflation in 2007-08? Same story. We shall see the threshold at which food prices can’t go beyond before everything collapses. Wonder why we have 50 million unemployment claims in the last 20 weeks but Wall Street continues to set new highs? Answer, because they care more about a few billionaires than the 99% of the population that makes this economic abortion run.
Whew. I just felt like I was in a client appointment prior to my retirement. I know some of you follow me and you can attest to the fact that I have been warning about this economy since at least the Dot Com bubble. You can take what I wrote for what it’s worth. To toot my own horn though, when I was still working, I called the 2002 dot com bubble and the 2008 collapse. Be F…… careful!! This will end very badly. We are NOW, CURRENTLY, in the World’s Greatest Depression and it will not end anytime soon. It is time to start hunkering down and protect yourself and those things you hold dear. NO ONE is coming to help you.
Here is our financial plan:
Tomatoes. Diced, sauced, and salsa’d. They are still coming.
Serious quantities of beans. So far we have canned 50 quarts.
The peppers got nailed by hail this year but still have given us enough to dehydrate for the winter. Next year all the peppers and tomatoes go in the greenhouse. They need TLC.
This was one plant of potatoes as a test. If this holds true, we will have about 300 lbs. No potato famine here.
We have the tomato crop nailed. Large slicers don’t do well here but saucing tomatoes and cherry tomatoes will make you say “Uncle” after awhile.
This is a sunflower called “Titan”. It seeded itself this year. We will be keeping the seeds to plant more next year. Oh ya, if you do start gardening during the collapse of civilization, I would highly recommend saving seeds. My favorite seed sources were sold OUT this past spring. We ordered next year’s seed already. We will keep them in a fridge and use them next year while the Zombies all scramble for their little packets.
Next year we should be up to our ears in Asparagus
As usual, our Garlic was epic. We save the largest heads for seeding in for the next season. They will get planted and mulched in October.
We have discovered that we really like Sauerkraut. We have many more heads to deal with, but 15 pounds of cabbage went in to the crock in the past week. We also started making fermented pickles in a crock. They are amazing.
We planted boatloads of Celery this year. It dehydrates well and can go into soups and stews. This is a half gallon jar of it and that was close to 2 bushels before it got dried.
The crops that do the best outside of the greenhouse are the root crops. We have hundreds of row feet of carrots and beets. Looks like we will be canning, storing and dehydrating carrots soon.
Get busy people. This ain’t going to fix itself. I pity those that have no initiative. Find a plot to garden. Find a local farmer’s market. Get out, buy some land and grow your own. Shoot, Detroit is the epicenter of urban farming and roof top gardens are popping up all over places like NYC. If you care and you have the initiative, get after it. Otherwise, look to canned goods, freeze dried food sources, or any way possible to become more self-sufficient. It is coming. Be prepared. Get off of Social Media and deal with reality. Your lives may very well depend on it.
Once again, like every year, Aaron dusted off the drone and the Go Pro to do a tour of the farm and to highlight the achievements of the past year. Here you will see our new pigs (Pedro and Pablo Pigcasso and Petunia), both our boy and girl goats, The new baby chicks, the crazy turkeys, the completion of moving the gardens and the new fencing. We have been in quite a drought this year so everything is very brown. But thanks to the well hydrants and timed drip irrigators, our gardens are doing very well. We are up to 43 raised beds. Next year you will see the completion of another pasture fence so we can move the critters from pasture to pasture so none of them get grazed too short. The new apple trees and Asparagus patch are doing great and we expect to harvest a couple of hundred pounds of potatoes. This past week all of those hail guards over the raised beds earned their keep. It isn’t a perfect solution, but nothing got wiped out in our most recent hail storm. Next year we hope to be putting in a Blackberry patch and some grape vines. Work will also begin on our new food forest where the old garden was. All in all it was a very productive year. Sometimes one needs to sit back and admire the accomplishments. This is how one thrives during the Zombie Apocalypse. Looking forward to seeing what the next year brings to the farm.
After finishing the raised beds and their hail guards, one thing remained…. fence it all in. After having the neighbor’s goats wreak havoc on our garden and apple orchard last year, at least having the gardens fenced in with permanent fencing, has been hanging over my head. Also, because of the current Zombie Apocalypse, I was not liking that the entrance to the farm was as open as it was, so I wanted to put up some gates just to make things a bit more private.
More to the point with the gates though, we don’t have haying equipment. In order to be able to hay our land, it would take around $100,000.00 to purchase the equipment to do so (I don’t buy used crap – too much repair work and I hate mechanical stuff). Our northwest field has been open since we moved here. The southwest is all fenced in from having our barn built. So the thought dawned on me, because I have gotten pretty good at stringing fence (probably half a mile’s worth), that if I spent the money and energy to fence in that 5 acres, I could bring the animals to that field to graze. This would give them about 8 total acres or more to rotationally graze on. Thus, bring the animals TO the hay instead of bringing the hay TO the animals. We will still need to buy a fair amount, but this will help heal the land and provide us with dairy after it is all up an running. Goats turn weeds into milk and pigs turn grass into bacon… what’s your super-power??
The gates were a desired addition, but they would have been standing there all by themselves. So the goal this year was to get the north road side fenced along with the gates, and to get the entire garden fenced. As of last week this has all been accomplished. This is a good thing, because I have been informed by my doctor that I need to rest my shoulders as I have severely stressed the deltoid muscles from pretty excessive over use. This is such fun as I have had to contend with back issues for some time now. God said…. here have some of this too! After all, if you are going to credit the almighty with good things, you need to blame her for the bad as well (You know, omniscience and omnipotence and all that rot). I have some happy pain pills so that helps, but today we finally put up barn fans to help keep the does and donkeys cool and to suppress the flies, but afterwards I couldn’t even lift my hands up on to the kitchen table. It is time to rest and heal. When you come from a life that always told you that no matter what you do it is never enough, it is hard to decommission yourself from self-destruction.
So here is what Aaron and I managed to accomplish. This was 1000 feet of fencing with seven new gates, wood corner posts and H-braces, 48 T-posts hand sunk, an auger that drilled through the main power lines to the house, plus seriously physical work in 95 degree heat. You think going to the gym is important? Cummon out…. we’ll show you what it is all about. We are very proud of this.
Next fall, I will finish off the rest of the northwest pasture. But because of doctor’s orders, as well as being seriously burned out on construction projects, the post auger is off the tractor so I can’t even think about finishing the fences to the north until fall. The tools are in the garage and after Aaron and I finish the goat breeding pen next week, I am pretty much going to just weed, harvest, can and pet the critters. It is immensely satisfying, but I am SOOOOOO tired (You know it’s bad when you wake up exhausted). Time to get out the telescope and chill. Maybe take the ATV up into the mountains for a bit. Anything, just don’t make me build anything else for awhile. Stay tuned.
Now that the big garden is completely moved over by the house and greenhouse, we have opened that field up to the boy goats. You have probably heard that goats make good lawn mowers. That couldn’t be more true… as long as it is weeds (they aren’t real grass fans). Tank and Dozer (our bucks) have had pretty much free range over the remnants of that old garden this season. Evidently, they liked it because the transformation has been pretty amazing.
When I hurt my back and was out of commission for awhile, that field seriously over grew. I don’t know what the weed was that took it over but it was three feet deep.
Now granted, I did remove the fencing and knocked down a lot of the weeds myself so as to avoid a wildfire, but here is what it looks like after one season of them munching:
They grazed this down so fast that the weeds never stood a chance. In fact, there is so little in there that we have had to resume hay feedings. This is over an acre….. TWO, count em, TWO dwarf goats!! If you ever need a field cleared, find a goat rancher…. your problems will be solved in short order!
One of the back breaking projects this year was to finish the move from our old garden, that was simply hilled, long beds, to something closer to the house and greenhouse. They all utilize wood-framed raised beds to help make weeding easier. The three HEAVY beds, were the 6 foot by 50 foot beds for some of the more intensive row crops. This year they contain a new Asparagus patch (doing awesome), a Sweet Potato patch (The jury is still out, but doing ok) and regular potatoes (so far doing amazing).
I got them built and filled, but the weight of the soil has kind of bowed them out. I think that this winter, when I have nothing better to do (laughs hysterically), will be to shore them up with T-posts and be able to hang shade cloth on them; for reason’s I’ve already explained previously. I got the drip tape to them all so we are officially all automated with irrigation, including the new fertilizer dosing gizmos I put on everything this year.
Here is the potato patch as it first started to push up through the soil:
This was about 2 days ago with the new Asparagus in the foreground:
Other than having to contend with a bumper crop of grasshoppers, all is going very well. It looks like we will be well set for the potato carb crop come the fall. Fingers crossed!
Gardening on the edge of the desert is a task to not be entered into lightly. Being a mile in elevation, the sun is certainly something to contend with. What I have found is that most books on gardening are written for low elevation, relatively high humidity, “regular” rainfall, and a somewhat consistent cloud cover. NONE of that applies out here. We have seriously intense sun, very high temperatures, most often we are on the edge of, or (like now) in a deep drought. Constant hot wind desiccates everything, the clouds are mostly non-existent and if we do get rain, it is violent, windy, full of hail, and can level anything you plant. I should write a book on how to eek out a garden on the High Eastern Plains. We live on the geographic edge of where the dust bowl took place and have a profound respect for those who came before us. Only two percent of the arable land in the U.S. is used to actually grow vegetables at scale. I can assure you, out here, ain’t any of it.
As you have seen previously, we have covered our raised beds with hail guards and shade cloth. However, the harsh weather wreaks havoc on greens no matter what you do. Most salad plants like lettuce and spinach will do ok in the early spring, but as soon as they realize that they are living on Mars, they bolt up, go to seed and thus endeth the salad crop. We did have a pretty good crop this spring, but in the last couple of weeks we have torn out the bitter stuff and fed it to the chickens, pigs and the worms in the worm bin. Now that our Cauliflower has headed (it did awesome this year), I will be starting another lettuce patch to go into the fall. But! We strive to grow virtually all of our own food! What does one do for the rest of the time? … after all, those crops, if bought in the grocery store are covered in antibiotic laden manure sprayed on them from factory farms! ICKY! For those of you who don’t follow such things, Spinach CANNOT get eColi. It comes from the bacteria of animal gut. The reason Spinach gets recalled for eColi, is from having sh.. sprayed on it as fertilizer so they can get rid of the manure from confined feeding operations. So we want to grow our own salad year round.
The answer we are currently using is a rolling greenhouse table. I can grow 60 heads of lettuce on this contraption. When the weather is too hot and or too violent, I have it under my seedling lamps (Like you can see below). When the weather is nice outside, I roll it outside and let it use the real world. This way nothing gets destroyed or over heated or blown all over the back yard. Previously, I was using hydroponics tables to grow the lettuce, but I have found that to be much messier and not nearly as consistent as good ol’ dirt. In fact, we may start growing some crops in the basement throughout the year, because, ya, that’s how we roll. So going into the fall we will have some lettuce and spinach growing in the greenhouse. The first frost will take out the lettuce unless I catch it with row covers, but the spinach always over winters. The rolling table will take over with the lettuce and we should have virtually all we need. We froze 2 bushels of Spinach and Kale this past spring and use it a lot in spinach, mushroom and Swiss omelettes for breakfast.
They say out here in Colorado that if you can ski back in the northeast – where ice is really ice, not hard pack – you can ski in Colorado. I don’t ski anymore, but when I did, I would say that that is a truism…. except of course the dizziness you will feel from the wind you will be sucking from the much higher altitude. Likewise, I would say that if you can garden here on the plains, not only can you garden blindfolded anywhere else, you should get the Olympic Garden Gold as a result. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome. After all, it appears, life may depend on it sooner than later.
The annual July wheat harvest is well underway. Farmers keep their fingers crossed as this staple crop approaches maturity and then dries itself out. Hail storms can knock entire fields down in minutes. Too much moisture and they can’t get the combines in the fields. Or this year, when it is so dry that I can dry our clothes on the line faster than a drier can dry them…. the world can go up in flames. The parade of grain trucks usually begins around the 4th of July. The harvesting will proceed day and night until completed. This year was a close one. The fields are bone dry but the heads are mature. Almost a perfect scenario. However, the drought has made things almost too dry. Up north of us a few miles, a 100 acre field (about 2.5 times the size of our place) caught fire and caused evacuations. So far the local elevator is filling up…. Diabetic White Bread and Wheat thins are safe again for another year! We lease out 30 acres to the farmer across the road from us. Evidently we are getting either Milo or Millet put in after he recovers from the marathon tractor session.
So how is everyone doing during the quagmire that is 2020? It has been a while since I got an update written down and posted. Mainly, because we have been pretty busy gettin’ it all done. Other than the fact that Aaron is home from CSU and Zina has been working from home part time, not much in my life has changed. However, I didn’t realize that these people actually think they need to eat every single day! That, plus the fact that I have been hot and heavy getting the outdoor spring projects done, has at times, made meal prep a little tough. I am the family cook and while I have a pretty good repertoire, coming up with new things, especially when going to the grocery store had felt like venturing into a biohazard zone, has been a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, we live pretty rural so much of the no contact and distancing hasn’t really been too bad. I’m afraid, though, given how infantile our fellow citizens are being about this, not distancing, not wearing masks, demanding to be able to go to the bar and restaurants, thinking it is all over, is going to prolong this nuisance for a very long time. I have little hope for rationality in a world of Karens and infants parading as adults. If one has half a brain, it isn’t too much of a stretch to understand that if quarantine and social distancing reduces the number of infections, doing the opposite will do the opposite. Shazam, that is just what we are seeing.
We are pretty self-sufficient out here. We raise our own eggs, meat and dairy, so having to worry about shortages hasn’t been a thing. Shoot! We had months of toilet paper even before this was a problem! As they say, “Two is one and one is none.” We didn’t really bulk up on food items. What groceries I did get were just the usual things you can’t really produce yourself: Orange Juice, Coffee, fresh produce on the off season, etc. I ventured out for these things just to be able to not have to feel like we were having to make major changes and, so far, we have really not noticed much change in our day to day.
While the world burns, crumbles, gets mis-managed and in all other fashions, ripped off during all of this (Never let a good crisis go to waste) I have been outside getting the garden in place and finishing up some last fencing that, for me, will make the place feel balanced. As I have mentioned, we don’t have the equipment to put up our own hay. So I got us out the better part of a year in hay storage for our goats and donkeys. One of the fences is to provide for more grazing area. Instead of having to hay the fields and spend upwards of $100,000.00 for the gear to do it, I am spending far less and fencing in our north field. It will be another 4 acres where we can move the animals to. The donkeys eat the grass, the goats eat the weeds and instead of bringing it to them, we will bring THEM to IT. Being one of those folks that like symmetry and balance, having it fenced off will feel balanced as well. Also, if you will recall from previous posts, we had issues with the new neighbor’s goats. They got loose and did a bunch of damage to our trees and fence netting. The new fence around the gardens is to prevent this from happening again. Lastly, we have put up entrance gates to the farm. Given the current climate, having a deterrent that doesn’t allow for someone to just drive up to the house seems to make sense. It also creates a bit of a sense of security.
I am happy to report – and also received – that all of the hail and shade cloth additions to the garden have worked great. In addition, in order to make the move to the new gardens complete, I built, filled and planted 3 new 50 foot raised beds. This year they contain potatoes (which have sprung up with a vengeance) Asparagus – a permanent planting as they can live 15 years, and an attempt to grow a passel of sweet potatoes.
The animals continue to entertain. I am in the process of building a couple of breeding pens for the goats. In order to provide the yogurt and cheese we like and need on a more regular basis, we need more than one goat in milk at a time. Folks have asked why we don’t get a cow. It’s a fair question and the answer is that a Jersey cow will give you upwards of 2 -3 gallons of milk a DAY! We don’t drink milk much so that would be a Tsunami of moo juice. We could turn it into cheese, but 2 gallons a day would be a pound or more of cheddar a day. Way too much! So with a couple of our Nigerians in milk we would get around half a gallon. Between yogurt, milk for my coffee and various cheeses, that would be plenty.
We raise turkeys for meat. Again, why not a cow? There are two and sometimes three of us. A half a beef is a few hundred pounds of meat. Way too much for us considering we raise our own chickens and pigs for meat as well. Turkeys, while perhaps the dumbest farm animal ever bred, provide a good deal of meat for burger, soup, stews and whatever else comes to mind. This year, we had a few hens go broody so we let them sit their eggs. So far we have had a momma hatch one chick and we have two others sitting on about 20 eggs. We shall see how that turns out. Usually we put the eggs in incubators, it will be fun to see how the mommas fair.
So I hope everyone is dealing with this strange year without too much turmoil. We are doing well and the farm is performing admirably. Here is hoping that we actually all pull together and help one another. Given our current climate, that would be a refreshing change. Farm your yard, help each other and fight the powers that be. Peace ya’ll.