The Donkeys Have Roomates. Baaaaaaa!

Now that I am at the farm full time, we have been able to start building the livestock aspect of the farm.  The chickens and pigs were easy.  They could be set up on automatic waterers, bulk food and solar sensitive coop doors.  They required little maintenance during the week.  However, anything that needs hay is a whole different world.  The donkeys need their hooves cleaned, need fresh water, need fresh hay, and, of course human attention.

In keeping with our wanting to become more and more self-sufficient we have added a small flock of Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  Frankly, cows are too big and are a pain.  I’ve had a lot of experience being around them, but they are very large animals and we didn’t want them rubbing the fences which would require maintenance and dealing with something that large (900 – 1200 lbs) when we don’t eat a lot of beef.  So we investigated, and then purchased our little babies!  Nigerians get to about 70 lbs. which is the size of a moderately large dog.  These little sweeties aren’t raised for meat.  In addition to being pets, they have very high butterfat content in their milk.  It is our intention to 1. Milk them when they are old enough.  2.  Use the milk for making soap and 3. Cheese.  All of this to be made by a simple combination of pasture grazing, hay and water!

I knew quite a bit about the other creatures we have raised but these little buggers took some investigating.  They can come down with all sorts of health issues and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t get caught off guard.  The girls arrived about a month ago.  They are Ginger (the patchwork baby), Cumin (The Chocolate one) and Paprika (the rusty colored one).  This past Sunday (will need to post pictures) our two little boys arrived.  Tank is all black with frosty white ears and nose and Dozer is a patchwork like Ginger.

Goats have an incredible amount of energy and personality.  They want, and demand, attention, just like dogs.  They follow you around all over and because they are currently pretty tiny, they can get underfoot without you knowing it.  These guys are the reason for all of the extensive fence building.  They are little escape artists so things need to be secure.

The youngest donkey has established his territory.  He does NOT like them coming into HIS corral.  He isn’t mean, but he will chase them off and the pecking order is being established.  Not much of a contest between a 15 pound doeling and a 300 pound donkey.  It has all been very entertaining.

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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!

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We won!

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Potatoes getting planted! Woohoo!

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The Farm Doubled In Size.. Beginning With Donkeys and…. Turkeys!

As I limped back to health and got back on my feet, the new garden beds got built, the barn got constructed (we just had power run to it) and the pasture fence got built.  The donkeys arrived and in the whole process we brought in turkeys and built a coop  for them to gobble in!  We have 15 “Bourbon Red” cheepers.  They aren’t quite as bright as chicken babies.  We had to teach them how to eat and drink because they kept eating the pine saving bedding while they were in the brooder.  We lost a couple as a result but we have a healthy flock of 13.  We have no idea how many are Toms or Hens yet.  Our goal is to raise them for meat and to hatch out their eggs to keep our flock going.  They are very sweet and have been trying out their new wings.  Turkeys like to fly and roost in trees so we are going to have to clip their flight wings (which is completely painless to them).  Turkeys don’t lay eggs year round like chickens so when they mature we will be hatching them in our incubator when that starts to happen.  More fun!  We eat far more ground turkey than beef so this made perfect sense to us.IMG_2436IMG_1435IMG_2747

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Catching Up Again. What A Year

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So much has happened in the past 2 years.  Leaving work, surgery, new projects begun at the farm as I have healed up both mentally and physically, brought me back to the blog to share what has been going on and kind of where we are going.  The end of this month marks my 11th month post back surgery.  It is going very well, but, I fear it will never again be what one would consider “normal”.  My new routine now includes a great deal of stretching and bending is a thing of the past.  It takes a considerable amount of time in the morning to get up and loosen up so that I can face the day.  The farm has kept me active, although I am having to get myself back into a regular exercise routine in addition in order to keep up both my stamina and strength.  Having left work a little over a year ago and having had my injury sideline me for most of the first year, I have only now begun to figure out what looking forward might mean.  I was a specialist in retirement planning and have had to remind myself to practice what I preached: Never make any major life decisions in retirement during the first year.  Well, considering that I spent close to 6 months of that first year flat on my back and healing, it wasn’t too difficult to let that sleeping dog lie.  But I have recovered to a great extent and now am now starting to fashion a life going forward.  A life of just leisure would make me insane.  The question to be answered was, “What does this farm life look like now that it is the only thing I have to concern myself with going forward?”

Retirement was very sudden and almost imposed on me.  I was sick of being lied to by my company as well as the economic and political world.  If you care about those you serve it creates an aire of fear and anxiety that eats away at you.  There was fear about so many things I couldn’t control, not to mention the lack of understanding people had if I made a mistake.  Fortunately, those were few and far between and I never had any complaints, but it wore me down to the point that when I was injured physically, mentally I knew I just couldn’t take it anymore.  For those whom I served for some 30 years, I simply cannot and will not apologize for how I chose to survive this.  I am still alive, I am healed, I am moving forward, and am able to continue to be a husband and father.  There wasn’t much I could do or would do differently if again faced with the same circumstances.  In fact, I’d have probably done it faster.  The physical proof that the changes were positive is the fact that I’m losing weight, my endurance is picking back up, my mind is quieter and my blood pressure is down.  I was mis-placed in finance and I am happy to be rid of it.

So the way that our new life is progressing is to a simpler lifestyle.  We are embracing a self-sufficient way of living and working to move farther and farther away from this truly insane society.  In a way it is a dropping out.  I cannot abide the news any longer and it seems that there is nothing but hate, lies, and greed running everything this country does.  We have dubbed the farm “The Island for Misfit Toys” from the Rudolph Christmas special.  Indeed, it is rare to have people in one’s life that actually “get you” without pre-conditions.  We welcome those that also share such a longing for a simpler and old fashioned life and I think that my life going forward will be to keep going deeper in that direction.

I think that as a society we are facing catastrophic pressures on too many fronts.  One of them somehow is going to eventually give; be it economic (my first bet), political, geo-political, peak-oil, warfare, resource depletion, over-population or human extinction due to human induced climate change.  One cannot prepare for every contingency, but 95% of this country is completely unprepared for even a 2 week emergency.  My assertion is that it will last much much longer.  It isn’t a question of “if” but “when”.  I guess that is the financial planner inner voice coming out.  After all, financial preparedness included adequate insurance and several months of cash-reserves.  I would now include in that, non-paper currency like metals, and as much food and water stores as you can muster.  As my wife told my doctor at an appointment when I had completely melted down over this, when he asked why I think that something like this is going to happen (I think out of concern for himself, not having ever really heard it before), she said,  “He knows to much.”

So now that the majority of the storm has passed and we are now settled into a new routine and lifestyle, the lifestyle itself is taking shape.  I keep informed about the economic scene because we are still a monetary society, I have tried desperately to filter out the absolutely child-ish and hateful political scene (I can’t even think what my life would be like having to be an advisor during this “administration”. They are simply the most horrible, ignorant and hateful people I have ever seen at the helm).  We are planting again, livestock is back on the land, and I am even learning some crafting.  Not only are we trying to become more self-sustaining, much of what we are learning now has to do with going pre-electric.  Learning how to preserve food the way people did prior to refrigeration (smoking, drying, root-cellaring, etc.). Not all of this is in some grand “prepper” scheme, its that we find these lost skills far more interesting and fulfilling than the world of screens, gossip, social media, and the endless tennis court volleying of one side vs the other.  Locally there isn’t much of a like minded community out there, but we are hoping to help build it.  After all, your neighbors may soon be your only source of community.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you actually knew who they were?

So in the next few posts I will try to get the blog back up to current.  Then going forward, I’ll try to be more punctual about what we are doing and how we are doing it, and why.  The past two years were devastating.  Going forward all we want is to do is live like Hobbits, live the middle path, and enjoy a simple existence far from the deafening roar of a society gone completely off the rails.

 

Populating the Farm

No sooner did the barn get completed and the fencing all stretched and wired shut than two new members of the JAZ Farm appeared.  Meet Julio and Donavan (Donny)!

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These guys are two gelding (castrated) male miniature donkeys.  Julio is the old man (around 20) and Donny is around 13.  There is a donkey rescue shelter about 20 minutes from us.  We did some research and discovered that donkeys are great for small farms.  They are intruder alerts, great companions, and do very well with other animals (except canines).  While they don’t serve a food purpose like everything else here does, they are great protectors.  We have all manner of predator out here and they will sound the alarm if they ever show up.  Its not perfect, but when I was down and hurt, we got badly raided by a fox and he/she took out 22 of our 40 laying hens.  They will be a first line of defense and alert should it show up again.  The new barn is going to be housing these two guys along with half a dozen goats, 15 Turkeys and chickens that get housed over there when being brooded out.

The learning curve was actually quite shallow.  They are very sturdy animals and can withstand a lot.  The two things that need to be monitored is how much they eat (over-weight donkeys can get very sick) and ensuring that they have a non-stop supply of water.  The rest is kind of academic .  They deal with the heat with little issue and we only have to blanket them when the temps are in the low teens (like today).

As usual, we went to see the place this past Saturday.  We knew they had the boys, but Zina wanted to see some girls too…. until she actually saw them in person.  They were trailered out to us that afternoon!  They are the sweetest buggers.  Julio will just stand next to you waiting for butt scratching and Donny will follow him around like a shadow.  He is still a little skittish and won’t really let us pet him yet, but he let me clean his hoofs, trailer and lead him around, and pet him while he was still at the shelter.  He is younger and on higher alert than his partner.

Donkeys need to be adopted or purchased in pairs.  They bond with other donkeys and if the partner is taken away or passes away they actually will grieve for days just like a person.  So if Julio were to go, we would take Donny back to the shelter and see who he might bond to next and then bring them home as a pair.  We hope that is long into the future as donkeys can live 30 – 50 years!  They might even outlast us!

Here are the first pictures of the first couple of days:

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And of course when we brought them home it was 67 degrees.  Here is what we woke up to this morning.

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As long as they have hay and you have some treats in your pockets, they will pretty much stay by your side and follow you around.  They are WAY less work than horses and much much less high strung.  They are going to be great fun.

So this year is going to see the livestock ramped back up.  These two arrived Saturday afternoon, we have the dogs, of course (who are losing their minds over this – they will not be allowed in with them as the donkeys could hurt them and could frighten them pretty badly).  In April, the goats will arrive and 35 new laying hens.  The first week of May the broiler chicks arrive. The end of May the Turkeys arrive.  If we decide we like the goats, then sometime toward fall we will be getting a buck for breeding and a little wether (castrated male) as his companion.  Anytime during that time frame two little pigs will be added who will be destined for freezer camp.  We are also looking for a gilt (baby girl pig) that we can raise to be bred for an ongoing source of bacon seeds.

This week I will start to fill cubes with potting soil, fire up the lights and the timers downstairs in the seedling room, and planting season will begin again.  While I’m not 100 percent and I fatigue pretty quickly, I had a great check up about my back and it is just time and strengthening to keep me moving in the right direction.  Considering the hell I was enduring a year ago and how 2016 and 2017 transpired, I couldn’t be happier with the progress.  The animals are really not a lot of work and once the gardens are in, they need weeding and fertilizing.

I was told that in order to recover from both my old career and the trauma from my injury that I needed to live life in “The Center”.  Not getting to rev-d up and anxious and not dropping into the lap of my old friend depression.  Find a center.  I likened that to the PH scale where 1 was most acidic and 14 most alkaline.  Right in the middle is 7, neutral.  Thats where I am planting my flag.  Neutral.  It is a lot like finding the Zen middle path, which is where I’ve always wanted to be.  I’m finding that being out here on the farm full time is affording me that mindset.  The animals aren’t demanding, spoiled, or, for that matter, psychotic like the world seems to have become.  I simply could not have endured my career through this administration.  With animals, you know where you stand (usually involving manure!).  They need water, food, shelter and companionship.  They accept you for who you are and don’t make you feel like crap if you do something wrong.

We have found our niche.  I have no plans to leave here for any extended period of time.  We believed that we should build a life we don’t need a vacation from….. JAZ Farm is that place.

The Bone Crushing Construction Is Over!

Not bad for a guy who, just six months ago, was in a hospital bed having his spine fused.  Zina and I have both agreed that now that the barn is built and the pasture fenced in, that the farm’s infrastructure is completed and its time to just be here and farm the place.  There will always be a hammer to swing at something, but none of it has to be a priority over the gardens and animals.

Friend Paul designs and produces archery equipment.  He called and wanted me to come with him to this year’s World Archery Championships in Las Vegas.  I used to go every year and bring my team of kids, but since having bought the farm, we have not been in at least 5 years.  He has a time share out there and it just happens to be just across the street from the South Pointe Casino where the shoot is being held.  Since we had just finished the big building projects I thought it would be a nice break.  We’ve been hanging out at his trade show booth and at the apartment.  Because we have kitchens, we bought our food instead of eating factory farmed slop at the buffets.  It has been so much fun.  Not only do we share archery as a common hobby, we both run hobby farms and our world views couldn’t be more similar.  Sometimes just begin around the like minded is very soothing.  It helps to re-confirm your sanity.

I have been using the week to unwind, but at the same time as a transition.  For the 30 years I slogged through my career I never had just a “routine” life.  It was largely crisis mode, multi-tasking and racing to deadlines; not to mention having gone through 3 major market corrections (thank god I’m missing this one – although I’m in touch with my partners fairly frequently).  Between work and the farm construction I was mostly running from one task to another.  So this week, during this break, I started to put together my new routine.  Some people in retirement want to travel and explore and do all the things they never got to do while they worked.  I couldn’t be farther from that perspective.  I’ve had too many adventures.  Like the Hobbits, I’ve seen the Orcs and Goblins and quite frankly wasn’t impressed.  I threw my ring in the fiery furnace and the eagles had to come and rescue me and carry me back home.  I’m done.  Right now I can’t think of anything more peaceful and healing than working in the gardens and hangin’ with the critters.

The weekend after I get home, Zina and I have an appointment at the Donkey’s Rescue Shelter over in Bennett.  The stalls and corrals are built and we will be adopting a pair of donkeys.  They will serve as companions and pets and predator deterrents.  They do not get along with Canine’s and will do well to keep the coyotes and foxes at bay.  In addition, we are in touch with a breeder and come spring (using another stall area in the new barn) will begin raising Nigerian Dwarf Goats.  I just ordered the fencing panels to build a turkey coop inside the barn, and we will be getting pigs again and our usual flocks of chickens.

So its been a nice break but I’m getting eager to get back at it on the farm.  There is so much to do, but now it can be done on a measured schedule instead of a breakneck pace that made a lot of it a struggle to maintain.

New batteries are arriving for the solar system next week as well.  All is coming back together…….  time to chill.

 

Here is a picture of some of the first day’s official scoring and a look at some of the pro’s targets that shot clean on the first day.

 

Above:  The completed barn.  Cupola and Stall door and everything ready to go.

I am retiring to the Shire.  Orcs need not apply.  Just a pipe, good ale, good food and company.  The rest can stay outside the fences.

The Barn Passed Inspection!

The Livestock barn passed muster today!  So no sooner did that happen, the guys were out laying out the lean to.  I set to work flattening the dirt floor with my tractor and then brought in the gates to verify that I had the spacing correct (and I was dying to actually see if it matched what I had in my head). I also got to assemble the new goat hay feeders and was very pleased to see how stout they are.  It’s funny, I get such a clear picture in my mind about how something should come together, that when it actually shows up out onto the earth, it’s not a big deal.  My thought is usually, “Yep, that’s it!”

Tomorrow I will be unloading 25 sheets of plywood and start the process of putting them on the walls.  Between the insulated ceiling, hay stacked 6 high against the back wall, and boards to create airspace on the sides, it ought to be a rather comfortable critter hotel.

I’ll be in Vegas next week for the World Archery Championships.  When I get back, we should be all set to bring in the hoofed creatures.  Oh ya, I heard back from my solar guru and the battery company actually came through.  They are giving us a big discount on the battery replacements and it will cost about half of what I expected!  It’s nice to catch a break from time to time!

 

New hay feeder

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Goat Hilton

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Donkey pavilion

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Loads of room for stanchions and hay storage

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