With the drought in California reaching critical status, we could see much higher prices for all kinds of products. Believe it or not, a shutdown of food production in California could lead to shortages of many food products across all of North America.
In the last half century, California has become the agricultural giant of North America. Most of the vegetables, nuts, and fruit consumed in America come from California. Milk, grapes, and almonds are among California’s lead exports. California grows nearly all of the America’s olives, kiwi, pistachios, prunes, raisins, and walnuts, among other products. Even the majority of our strawberries—1,400,000,000 pounds of strawberries—come from California.
Currently, much of that food production is grinding to a dusty halt. News anchors gleefully talk of “potentially higher prices,” while the reality of potentially empty shelves, gets swept under the newsroom rug.
The first few years I grew tomatoes, the plants got big enough that the little tomatoes would form, and then the hottest days of summer would hit. When it gets into the 90’s and 100’s in Utah, my tomatoes always stop growing. They don’t start growing again until the weather drops to the the 80’s in the late summer and early fall. As a result, I would not see any tomatoes ripen until just about the first tomato-killing frost.
I thought about jumpstarting my tomatoes by sprouting them inside under grow lights in late winter or early spring. However, growing plants under electric lights seems to be against all my gardening and prepping instincts.
My second option was buying or building a small greenhouse. We have strong winds in Woods Cross, so I’d need to spend some money to have a greenhouse that wouldn’t collapse or blow away. The price was just too much for me.
Finally, I learned about cold frames. Cold frames are mini knee-high greenhouses. I realized that Cold frames were the tomato seedling growing tool I needed.
Potatoes require less water than most plants in a typical garden. You really need to make sure that you don’t rot the potatoes or cause fungus on the plants. I like keeping the watering down to about once per week. However, doing so when planted with water hungry plants is nearly impossible.
My solution is growing potatoes in tall sturdy buckets. Potato buckets allow complete control over water, sun and weather. And, repurposing buckets as potato buckets is a great use for old pales left over from grinding wheat into flour.
Today’s news highlights the reasons I garden, grow fruit trees, bought a ranch to build a house on, and spend my little spare time learning prepping skills. No one believes in an actual zombie apocalypse, but every terrorist organization in the world (and several nuclear-capable countries) repeatedly state their objective as “death to America”.
I think they mean it. No matter how much we ignore them, they are at war with us. “Death to America” is not just rhetoric to appease their constituency.
I finally got around to pruning my peach tree and other fruit trees. Last year, I didn’t make time for them until they already had leaves and fruit growing on them. This year, I was determined to show them more attention.
I have a peach, two pears, two apples, and a cherry tree. The peach is my most productive tree, so I try to take good care of it. You can see the massive amount of fruit I get off my peach tree in an earlier post.
I’ve heard peach trees don’t need as much pruning after they mature, but my peach gets bushy every year. Maybe when it’s older it will call down. Believe it or not, I prune it back severely every winter or spring and it still comes out looking like the above photo by autumn.
“Prepper” sounds like such a harsh word. It took me many years to come out of the pantry and admit I was a prepper. Coming out of the pantry helped me find tons of people with similar interests. It’s been very liberating.
Preppers look at the world differently than other people. This unique outlook lends itself to plenty of humor. Yes, people point the finger of ridicule at us now-and-then, but that doesn’t mean we can’t smile at ourselves, too. I hope you share a smile or a laugh.
I’ve mentioned financial prepping before. By financial prepping, I don’t mean planning for retirement. Retirement planning may be integrated into financial prepping plans, but it isn’t the same thing. By financial prepping, I mean getting prepared for financial difficulty in your own life. Financial difficulty can come in the form of a lost job, identity theft, a debilitating injury, or the more glamorous zombie appocolypse induced world wide financial collapse. (Yes, I say the last one with tongue firmly in cheek, but life’s strange. Who knows?)
Years ago, I planted a fruit cocktail tree—one of those trees that grows lots of different types of fruits. I managed to kill it off, except the roots. The roots shot up a beautiful peach tree. This last fall it finally had a full crop of peaches.
Homesteading is a lifestyle. Homesteading is simple living. Homesteading is eating food raised or grown with your own hands on your own land. Homesteading is home-baked bread and fresh eggs. Homesteading is a shelf full of canned fruit picked from your own fruit trees. Homesteading is a warm fire on a cold night. Homesteading is that dream of something forgotten by modernity.
Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. This article merely states my opinions and views as a non-professional. If you’re looking for professional advice, contact an actual professional advisor.
One of the most commonly overlooked preps is financial security. Obviously, most people are aware of 401k’s and retirement planning. I’m not talking about these.
In late 2008, the US Fed, Congress, and President all signed on to the first Quantitative Easing. The purpose? The financial markets were in so much trouble that in reality, most US businesses might have lost access to their credit lines. The trickle-down affect would have been much of America going home without a paycheck for a month or more.
This description comes from Republicans and Democrats. I didn’t believe it at the time, but having learned a lot more about how businesses and financial markets work, I agree with their description now, even if I don’t like their “solution.” Continue reading Financial Prepping→
Snow and rain greeted my December insanity, today. My daughter and I decided to risk one more trip to Dove Ranch. On typical years, the road to Dove Ranch is impassible by December. A snowmobile or a big truck with chains might get out there, but not my little Nissan Sentra. The dry and warm weather inspired me to attempt a normally impossible visit.
I decided Dove Ranch needed a visit from Santa this year, and Santa was bringing Christmas trees—little ones.
I love shows that relate to homesteading and prepping. Unfortunately, there isn’t a genre selection on Netflix or Hulu for prepping and homesteading enthusiasts. They’re all ready for you if you want to browse Disney flicks or find Broke Back Mountain, but nothing for people with a little bit of pioneer in their souls. Let’s be honest though, I’d probably hate their selection even if they had a genre for us.
So, here are a few shows I’ve found fun, that I’d put in the Preppers and Homesteaders genre if I was in charge. I’ll see if I can come up with a few more for future posts, but this selection will be a good place to start.
I buy most of my trees online and have them mailed to me. I research my trees thoroughly, and then get very particular about exactly the type of tree I buy. I also like to buy small trees in bulk, and then let them grow before planting them on my ranch. I love getting trees by mail.
The musty smell of our basement surrounded me on the wooden steps down to our cupboard containing glass jars of garden vegetables my mother canned months earlier. Home canned pickles, tomatoes, and yellow beans among other garden goods spread out over several shelves of our large cupboard.
In those days, I never heard the term homesteader or prepper. People still practiced canning food from their gardens, because their parents and grandparents had. Simple country living happened because we lived in the country, and while this lifestyle was becoming less common, it was still common enough that no one thought twice about growing or raising their own food. I knew many kids growing up that had similar lifestyles to the one we lived.
Small as a cherries, yellow as summer squash, and shaped like a pears—they’re pear tomatoes. Great in salads, or by themselves. You can’t go wrong with pear tomatoes.
My father-in-law found a bunch of pear tomato seeds in storage. They collected dust for about eight-to-ten years. Rather than throw them out, he decided to plant them and see what happened. Turns out, tomato seeds can survive for around a decade and still sprout.
He expected the seeds to be duds, so lucky for us, he ended up with way more seedlings than he needed. My wife gladly gave the young pear tomato seedlings a home at our house, and we found ourselves with our first pear tomato patch.
As I lay in bed last night, I heard a loud crinkling sound going on for what seemed like 15 minutes. My first thought was, “What is Honeydew doing this time?” I couldn’t keep my eyes open, so I figured I’d deal with it in the morning.
Morning came and I found the cause of all the loud crinkling. My cat, who is a Maine Coon Siamese mix, had attacked and successfully killed an entire flat of bottled water. Many of the bottles had been completely crushed. Others bled purified water from claw and canine punctures they sustained.
Winter weather caught up to Dove Ranch. The weatherman forecasts snow later today. That means, I won’t visit my little chunk of Earth until the end of March, 2015. Those five months will pass slowly for me. I love working the land, even if my labors won’t be obvious for a few more years.
In semi-arid lands, late autumn and early winter are great times for planting grasses and trees. The relatively wet weather, though cold, is perfect for their root systems to get established. The more established their root systems are before the horribly hot summer months, the better chance they have of surviving.
We took a break from home and ranch life, and visited southern Utah during the first week of August. Moab is pretty expensive, so we found a KOA in Green River, and rented a campsite. We found Green River much more affordable than Moab, and within reasonable travel time to many scenic locations.
I’d gladly stay forever in the green fields and mountain valleys embracing Logan.
For those unfortunate enough to need to leave Logan and the beautiful Cache Valley, the highway heading south forks just outside the city. The lesser tread road follows Highway 89 out to Heber and I-15. The more trafficked road heads deeper in to the suburbs and farms of the Wasatch Back.
Winter comes on quickly in Utah’s high country. I won’t make it up to Dove Ranch many more times before the snow falls creating impassable conditions on the unmaintained roads. Then I won’t see my ranch for four-to-six months while I wait for snow to melt and roads to dry.
My goal is to complete a fully off-the-grid farm that provides enough for my family to survive comfortably on, and some extra produce to sell at farms’ markets. It’s time to assess my family’s first six months of work on the ranch.
The title says it all. I just about died up at Dove Ranch last night. My heart raced for two hours afterward. This is the first time I’ve ever been glad to leave the ranch. That barely passable dirt road out of the ranch has never seen a little Nissan Sentra take it so fast.
I have wanted a 300-foot-tall sequoia growing in my yard since I was little. I’d dream about everyone on the block looking up and seeing the tree growing into the clouds from our yard—just like Jack and the Beanstalk, except a tree. Of course, I conveniently ignored that realizing that dream would take a thousand years, … and I might not be around to enjoy the experience.
That’s okay. I don’t give up just because reality says I can’t succeed. I’m now an adult, and plan to plant some sequoias, anyway.
Taking a needed break from dealing with garden and ranch, I decided to play with my brand spanking new smoker. My wife let me buy a metal insert for my gas grill that I can put various types of wood chips in to make them smoke and flavor the meat I’m grilling.
I’m a diehard charcoal grill kind of guy, but I have to admit gas grills are fast and easy. They even make it easy to grill in the middle of the winter. So, despite missing my charcoal grill flavor, I’ve been using a gas grill all summer.
I’ve heard that using a smoker with the proper chips can make up for the lack of charcoal in my grill. Of coarse, this bold claim needed testing.
My wife wants tall shade trees on Dove Ranch. The semi-arid conditions allow specialized trees to grow wild. Native trees, such as Colorado pinyons, are slow growing and short. I think she will appreciate some taller drought-tollerant shade trees, like lacebark elms.
I don’t have a well for irrigation, or money to put in a well; and the ranch is nearly three hours from my house. So, watering any trees I plant can only consistently happen once or twice a month during the hottest parts of summer. Traditional drip irrigation or even sprinklers are not possible.
After tons of research, I came up with using large homemade cistern-like ollas to establish my trees and keep them alive until I can do a real irrigation system.
An olla (pronounced oh-ya) is a thin-necked unglazed clay pot. Using a brilliant African technique of burying most of the pot and filling it with water allows the low tech equivalent of drip irrigation. If the pot is unglazed, the water soaks through the pot into the soil in a controlled slow fashion. The plant roots seek out the pot and wrap themselves around it, taking water as needed.
The big question is, “Will the tree’s roots develop properly being irrigated with an olla? It took me forever to find research on this very question, but I found it. I wish I still had the link, but it is buried somewhere in Google.
We planted lots of tree and flower seeds hoping they sprout and thrive up at Dove Ranch. However, nothing says instant gratification like planting living growing things in plain view. I’m starting with four small blanket flowers.
I can’t remember where I heard about blanket flowers. They’re a great match to the semi-arid climate at Dove Ranch. Supposedly, they can live off of 10 inches of rain per year. The ranch gets an average of 9 inches per year, so I’ll need to water them a few times during the summer. Also, grazing animals, such as deer and hopefully cattle, hate how they taste.
Not every experiment ends in success. Ask Edison. So, I shouldn’t find my latest spectacular failure that surprising.
While preparing a blog entry about sprouting seaberries and Utah serviceberries, I discovered plenty of new ways to make mold and mildew. Overall, it was a spectacularly slimy failure.
I shall take the remainder of my seaberry and serviceberry seeds, and plant them on the ranch. If Mother Nature wants to give me a hand, they’ll sprout next spring. If not, then I’ll have given the seeds a proper burial.
The dirt road touching the northern end of my land is obviously an actual road (barely) maintained by the county or state. It even has a name, Dove Creek Hills Road, though the maps seem to have three or four variations on the name. Satellite pictures show the remnants of several four-wheel drive trails across my property. Google Maps shows a road branching off the main dirt road, and heading out the northwest corner of my property. Other less reliable maps show a bunch of other potential road configurations on my land.
Which of the trails and roads historically found on my hobby farm are actually official roads, and which are put in by ranchers, but are not really roads? If I fence land and it turns out that I’ve stretched fencing across an actual road, then someday the government could come along and rip up my fence and other land improvements, or worse yet, fine me.
In short, I’ve had a terrible time figuring out what is a road and what is not a road on my land.
Dove Ranch doesn’t get much rain. In fact, the Salt Lake Valley gets twice as much rain as Park Valley where the ranch is located. That doesn’t mean trees can’t grow at the ranch, but it does mean they need help getting started. A lot of trees can survive up there as long as they get extra water until they are established. There are a lot of trees that can handle low water environments, but fewer that can handle winters, too. So, my search for Park Valley friendly trees has been slow. Still, I’m having some success. Here is a list of some interesting drought tolerant trees I’ve been researching for possible planting on Dove Ranch.
The next tasks I have at my hobby farm are all related to clearing sagebrush. I have to clear about half a mile of future fence line. I need to clear several hundred feet of driveway. Also, I need to clear the spot I am going to start testing buffalo grass varieties and drip systems on apple tree saplings.
That adds up to a lot of very slow backbreaking work. That got me looking into brushcutters. Even a wimpy brushcutter could finish all that work in just a few visits to the ranch. Whereas, it would take well over a year of visits for me to do all that work by hand.
Alas, (very dramatic) I can’t afford a brushcutter. The low-end brushcutter and saw blade that will do what I need is over $300. I’m broke from monthly payments for the ranch, so $300 is out of the question. However, I came up with a plan.
I was up in northern Utah today, so took the opportunity to visit my ranch. I wanted to double check one of the t-post’s positions from the other day. I wanted to make sure it was really on my property according to my GPS. Not that I doubt my use of a compass, but … well … I doubt my use of a compass.
My wife, Bridget, visited Dove Ranch for the first time this last week. We have planned several trips together, but work or other commitments got in the way every other time. I was pretty excited to show her around the place.
Once again, this visit was filled with firsts. This was her first visit, we drove t-posts for the first time, and we saw our first prickly pear cactus on the ranch. Luckily, we still have not seen any rattlers on the ranch.
Know your sprinklers. Sometimes you can look at a sprinkler in the store and know at a glance the limitations of the design. Other times, you need to try the sprinkler out before you learn what it is good for.
Take, for instance, the cheap sprinkler pictured below. It cost under $3 (US). Looking at the design, I thought it held promise. My old sprinkler is wearing out, and get’s stuck sometimes. I thought that I’d give a newer one a chance. Testing the new cheap sprinkler out, it seemed to give great coverage when used on a small area.
My desire to own and run a hobby farm spring from my love of gardening. My children, wife, and I maintain a garden that spans much of our back yard. Even with that much space for the garden, we never have enough space for all the types of seeds that we want to plant.
This year, we finally had success with our pea patch. We will be harvesting our first peas later this week. In the past we planted the peas in May, but the weather here in northern Utah gets hot quickly, and peas hate the hot dry weather.
My first scorpion said “Hi!” to me out at Dove Ranch on Saturday. It was a small tan one, probably 2-3 inches long. I’ve never seen a scorpion here in Utah, but knew they were around. I’m just glad I saw him before he saw me.
It took a few hours before it dawned on me that I missed a great photo op. Instead I gently moved the scorpion about a hundred feet from my worksite with a shovel. He took that agitated, I’m going to get you pose for the whole trip. In the end, neither of us killed each other.
I have a newly purchased 80-acre piece of dirt, sage, and clay. I have a vague idea of turning it into a sprawling hobby farm with orchards, ducks, rabbits, chickens, mini angus, and horses. I don’t have any equipment, except a shovel and gloves. I don’t have any vehicles, except an old Nissan Sentra with 100,000 miles on it. I don’t even have water on the land, … yet.
Anyone in their right mind would say, “I’ll get started when <insert excuse here>.” However, I learned a long time ago, don’t put off work just because you don’t have everything you need. So, I’m getting started, now. It’ll be slow going with the wrong tools, but it will be going.
I planted my Colorado pinyon sprouts in my trays, and waited for anything to happen. I’ve grown a lot of trees for a city guy, but never have I tried to grow hundreds of seedlings at the same time. This is brand new territory for me. However, I need thousands of pinyons for my wind break, and growing my own trees from seed is the only affordable option.
After about a week, I started seeing soil bulging and my first seedlings emerged from below ground. I’ve included a series of images showing the stages of the seedling getting out of the ground, the needles emerging from the seed casing, and the needles nearly pushing the seed casing off the plant.
If you look closely, you can see the future needles beginning to work their way out of this seed topped seedling.
My previous experience exploring Dove Ranch on a blustery winter’s day proves one thing. We need a sturdy windbreak around our ranch. The problem is finding something that grows out there. Dove Ranch only averages nine inches of rain per year. Not many windbreak worthy trees survive off that kind of rainfall. However, it turns out one type of tree not only grows fine off that kind of rainfall, but also bears nuts that sell for a good price. That tree is known to live for many hundreds of years. Of course, I speak of the Colorado Pinyon.
Colorado Pinyons, also known as Pinus Edulis, are the perfect match for Dove Ranch. Nine inches of rain per year, suits them just fine. They grow up to 60 feet in height, and have a spread of about 15 feet. They are a slow grower. A Colorado Pinyon can take 80 years to reach 10 feet in height, so this is a windbreak that my kids or grandkids will enjoy more than me.
I bought 500 seeds, and proceeded to try and sprout all of them. I didn’t know if any would sprout. With acorns, you can do the float test. That means, you put them in some water, and if they float, they’re no good. Only sinkers are alive. I tried the same test with my 500 pinyon seeds and they all floated. That worried me, but pinyons are a dry climate tree, so I was willing to try to sprout them anyway.
I planned on visiting all four corners of Dove Ranch. I only managed to visit three corners. I got distracted by the 22-acre wash that cuts down the center of the 80-acre ranch. So, I gave up my quest for visiting the last corner of our ranch for the thrill of seeing what the wash looked like from inside.
I had two concerns for investigating the wash. First, I needed to be careful not to fall over any of the drop offs. There is no cell service out at Dove Ranch, so if I fell and broke my leg, I’d be in serious trouble. No one would come to the rescue, probably for well over a day or longer.
My second concern was rattlesnakes. It was a nasty cold and windy day, so I was hoping reptiles wouldn’t be out and about, yet. I’d be amazed if I never see a rattler out on the ranch. There are plenty of kangaroo rats for them to dine on, and the terrain is stereotypical of their habitat. Again, if I got bit out there with no cell service, I’d likely die before anyone knew I was missing.
I have a newly bought ranch that my wife named Dove Ranch. When I look at it with my eyes, I see lots of dirt and sage. However, when I close my eyes I see tree-lined pastures with a couple of horses grazing. I see a chicken coop, rabbit hutch, and a duck pond. I see myself playing my guitar on the porch of a farm house while the sun sets.
Then, I open my eyes and see all the work left to do.
I am excited to turn the piece of sage and dirt that we’ve bought into a beautiful hobby farm. First, I need to learn more about it. I’ve looked at the land, of course. However, there’s a lot I don’t know about Dove Ranch.
Isn’t land, just land?
Well, … when you’re cruising by in a car at 65 mph, it’s easy to think that land is just land, but when you get up close land gains personality. For example, the soil types on Dove Ranch are drastically different across the property. It is pure clay in some sections, and pure sand in other spots.
My wife and I signed for it, and the county recorded it. We’re the proud owners of 79 point something acres of dirt and sagebrush. It’s actually closer to 80 acres, so I’ll probably call it 80 instead of 79 acres most of the time.
Funny, I was looking for just over one acre to grow some fruit trees, and all we could afford was 80 acres. All the 1+ acre parcels we looked at were four to ten times more expensive than this 80 acre parcel. Life works out that way sometimes.
I’ve been dreaming of buying my own chunk of dirt for almost 20 years. You’d think that growing up in a rural community I’d be thinking, “Hey! Why don’t I start a farm?” But really, I just wanted somewhere to stretch out and have a few apple trees.
Originally, I was thinking of buying a piece of land back in my home state of New York. I watched real estate there in the mid 1990’s. I found several multi-acre chunks of land for very reasonable prices. I fantasized about purchasing one, then I watched land prices inflate beyond my ability to purchase more than a small bit of an acre.