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The Steadcast – Gray Area Farms
34 minutes | Jan 30, 2018
The Colorado Local Food Movement is Dead. Long Live the Local Food Movement! – Season 3, Episode 3
We had a sous chef of a west side resort contact us about growing things for them, Travis debuts as a surprisingly good newbie voice over talent, Terry the Rooster saves Tera Lynn from jury duty (in Jason's head, at least), and Jason talks about whether the Colorado Springs area local food movement can survive the recent rash of CSA farm closures and scandals. Jason offers a possible "new food order" to the Colorado Springs food system. (Spoiler: "There's no such thing as regenerative or sustainable veggie growing in the Eastern Plains of Colorado") Heh.... this one is gonna rub some people the wrong way. I guarantee it. But give us a chance. We'll explain what we mean. Interested in hiring Travis for a voice over gig? Check him out on his Fiverr gig. Jason's also available for bringing his dulcet tones to your projects as well, similar link. And finally, please consider supporting the shows and the farm at our Patreon account!
41 minutes | Jan 19, 2018
Electric Fence Training for Pigs (Set-up phase), Brittle Environment Rotational Grazing with Tate Smith – Steadcast S3E2
We’re going to give you some news from the farm, some listener feedback, and a phone interview recorded a few weeks ago with Tate Smith of Regenerative Stewardship up in Wyoming about an idea we have for testing out some grazing and homesteading strategies on Gray Area Farm to help others in what are called “brittle” environments… areas where due to climate, soil, whatever, you can seriously screw up the soil, the pasture quality or your yield if you’re not careful and deliberate about how you manage your animals or crops. Please support The Steadcast and the rest of our agricultural media projects! Become a patron at Patreon.com/GrayAreaFarm today! News from the Farm this week: Chicken Strike of 2018: Worst thing ever to have to go and BUY EGGS from the grocery store when you've got almost 60 freeloadin' winter-strikin' hens out in the pasture. Added electric fence to Lolli: We took the time while Lolli is away to add electric fence lines to the inside of her hog panel fence to either 1) train her to electric fence so she and her eventual piglets can be more easily rotated around the pasture, or 2) at least get her to stop "working" the existing fence and breaking it open at the t-posts. I'd love to see #1 happen, but one can probably expect that #2 is all we can hope for. Media project focus: Jason is trying to get more work done on the media projects he has taken on. The Steadcast, Regenerative Dads, and freelance writing / voice projects. Let's get the Steadcast and Regen Dads up and running and make it worth Jason's while to add things like a Regenerative / Organic / Sustainability version of RFD-TV on the interwebs by supporting the shows at patreon.com/grayareafarm! Listener questions and comments Initially uploaded 36-ish minutes of blank air as the last episode. Oops! And severe side-eye glare at the folks who responded to my request for feedback about how the episode sounded with "Sounds great! Best episode yet, Jason!" when it was just silence. "Carnivores who won’t eat named / known animals are hypocrites," says Tera Lynn. She has a decent point. Tate Smith conversation When you’re initially daydreaming about starting a homestead or small farm, most people binge all the kinds of media out there about homesteading, microfarming, whatever. Of course, you’re going to read all of Joel Salatin’s books. Of course, you’re going to binge podcasts like Steadcast, Chicken Thistle Farm Coopcast, farm Marketing Solutions, whatever. And of course, you're going to watch all the youtube channels like Curtis Stone, JM Fortier, and Justin Rhodes. This is all great content. The trick is that all these writers and YouTubers and podcasters are speaking from their…. Particular.. Context. Joel Salatin speaks from decades of experience in Virginia. Curtis Stone from British Columbia. Etcetera. Yeah, there’s a lot of content. And you could say that content is king. But it’s not. CONTEXT is king. What USDA hardiness zone are you in? What soil type do you have? How much rain do you get, and during what part of the year? What’s the altitude? What’s the legal context of your area? All these things are wildly important. Not just for when to plant, or what varieties to plant. But even the infrastructure. A Joel Salatin chicken tractor in a hot dry envrionment will bake your chickens better than any oven. A Justin Rhodes chickshaw in a very high wind environment like ours will have the roof rip off and fly a hundred feet away above 40 mph winds. If you live in a water scarce environment, following Curtis Stone exactly step by step will get you an enormous water bill. Context. Context is king. An awful lot of inexpensive land can be found in areas a lot like ours: the high, dry, arid plains of Colorado, wyoming, utah, new mexico, Montana, Idaho, and the Dakotas. What works in Virginia, Ohio, British Columbia, the Carolinas… will not necessarily work here. Sure some of it will.
38 minutes | Jan 13, 2018
“The Great Nutrient Collapse” Politico Article discussion, How’d Trav’s Turkey Taste, and More – Season 3, Episode 1
New Years Resolutions for the farm, how the family "out west" reacted to Travis's pasture-raised, field-to-fork, turkey "Batman," and a discussion about Politico's "The Great Nutrient Collapse" article. (If you can't hear the episode, please delete and re-download. The first export was all blank air. Oops.) Do you get value from our shows? Entertainment, inspiration, education, and more? If that's worth a dollar to you, or more, please visit Patreon.com/GrayAreaFarm and sign up to be a patron.
41 minutes | Dec 13, 2017
Ep 19 – Let’s Talk Turkey, and poultry, and bringing pastured poultry to 4-H (or not)
Let's talk turkey! And chicken, too. In the last episode of The Steadcast, we promised you a report on how Travis's poultry operation went for the year. Not just at the El Paso County Fair's 4-H show and auction, but also his private-party sales. We also promised you a Rantcast therein. And we deliver. As grumbly as Jason gets about the experience, consider this... Jason edited out almost 10 minutes of rant! Mainly because we're still getting used to our new microphone and there was some "clipping" in the audio as Jason started hollering a little, but also because Jason let it loose a little TOO ranty, and we don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot too much politically with the club. In this episode, we talk about: the silliness of giving turkeys and chickens a soap and water bath before the show growing chickens and turkeys to make it into the really narrow weight classes in 4-H Market Poultry, and why that means risking shipping day-old birds in fowl (heh) weather the industrial agriculture focus of the judging -- ZERO meat chickens that weren't Cornish Cross, ZERO heritage breed turkeys, and even the Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys were ignored completely by the judge because "packing plants only want white-feathered birds" yes it's okay to name your meat animals, we tell you why. Travis's amazing results both financially and in the quality of his birds' meat closing thoughts about the Thomas Fire and others in California, the 200-acre fire across the street from us, and how small negative or positive actions can ignite huge destructive or regenerative blazes in a community Please also check out the Regenerative Dads podcast, and our supporter of the episode Art Pierson of Phoenix820. Would you like to support our efforts here at The Steadcast and the growing Gray Area Words media network? Visit Patreon.com/GrayAreaFarm to support the show and encourage Jason to publish more often.
23 minutes | Sep 5, 2017
Ep 18: How to Bring More Men to the Organic and Local Food Movement
It's been an interesting season. We've been running a booth at the Falcon Farmers Market, Travis managed to sell his turkey named “SuperGirl” at the El Paso County Fair 4-H livestock auction for a totally absurd amount of money, and we're noticing a collapse in the egg-laying chicken thing among the backyard hobby folks and the small farms around here. But we'll get into those things soon enough. I wanted to take this episode to introduce you to a new part of the Gray Area Media empire, that I've been dropping hints about the last several episodes. Presenting... Regenerative Dads. Doneil Freeman, who we recently had three episodes with here on the Steadcast, and I are bringing organic, green and regenerative knowledge to the dads out there who haven't quite caught on with the organic and environmental movement. The ones who let the moms take care of leading the crew through the farmers' markets, and just kinda shake their heads at the kale, kohlrabi, and microgreens. The ones who get annoyed when their kids rattle on about the new “Idling-free School Zone” rules that make them turn off the car at pick-up, or resent their hipster nephew lecturing them about the roundup or other pesticides they use in the yard. Why haven't these guys embraced these things? Doneil and I think it's because you have only a couple kinds of media addressing the organic / regen / eco world. You have the eco-thrifty mommyblogs, which are written with the busy mom in mind, whether they work outside the home or not. Even if guys find these, we're often not likely to connect with the messaging and writing style. You have the angry lecturing rantblogs, with a real tilt towards accusing us guys of destroying the world or clubbing baby seals when we put a rack of spare ribs on the grill. Telling someone they're whale murders for letting their car warm up for a few minutes in the winter is not a way to bring guys to the eco table. And you have the “homesteading for homesteaders” space, which The Steadcast finds itself in, it seems... along with other great shows like Small Scale Life, The Sample Hour, Permaculture Voices, The Urban Farmer, and Abundant Permaculture. No one's going to find this show – or those – unless they know our farm or are already firmly on this side of the table. Which is great, and I very much appreciate our listeners... and frankly I'm stunned by the continued growth in listenership despite the recent lack of new content while we worked on Regen Dads. But let's face it – how many of your neighbors who listen politely to you rattle on about the awesome pasture-raised pork roast you had for dinner last night, while they spray roundup onto their lawn, are going to listen to The Steadcast? Even if they wanted to start eating more organically and locally to support their community... are they going to know which stands at the farmers market are actually local organic or regenerative farms, versus which ones are selling stuff imported from central america or shipped in from the California central valley? That's what we hope Regenerative Dads eventually becomes. A voice to speak to those neighbors of yours, or your husbands / brothers in law / whatever if you're one of our vast-majority female listenership. We want Regen Dads to do for making “being organic and green while still being men about it” what Mike Rowe's Dirty Jobs did for making trades and manufacturing cool again, or Mythbusters did for bringing science back to the world of viral videos. It's a tall order, but it seems like we have two main kinds of listeners here on the Steadcast, and you both can help. If you're a customer of Gray Area and similar local farms, you can share Regen Dads' message to your friends and family. If you're a fellow homesteader, farmsteader, or urban farm, we have a cool option especially for you. We are making a point of not having any Gray Area or Freeman Family marketing be part of Regen Dads,
34 minutes | Jun 8, 2017
Ep 17: Why Start Homesteading? Adding products to the farm, and whole organic food for autism
Welcome to the June 8th 2017 edition of The 'Steadcast, the homestead and farmstead podcast you listen to in-stead of making the mistakes yourself. I'm your host Jason of Gray Area Farm. The steadcast is supported by Phoenix 820. Art Pierson of Phoenix 820 created the new Regenerative Dads logo for Gray Area and awesome designs for other farms and sustainability brands, as well as real estate agents, banks, schools... anyone that needs an awesome design AND the highest quality swag, signs and business cards to put it on. Check him out at Phoenix820.com. Phoenix820 – winning on purpose. This is the third and final part of the series with Doneil Freeman at Freeman Family Farm in Calhan. I've mentioned before that we recorded these three segments over the course of a day working on wicking garden beds, shoveling gravel and generally homesteading it up as homesteaders do. This segment runs a tiny bit long and has a lot of good information and inspiration you should listen to, so I'm going to cut down my usual News from the Farm segments and other rants. But what you need to know is that we did not get lollipop down to the breeder's farm. Last week was a bit of a hell week, with dance recital rehearsals, Zoo Camp for both the kids, and an epic scramble to get seeds and infrastructure ordered and installed to make sure we have food for our customers this season after the Ahavah Farm partnership program was canceled. More about that during a full blown News from the Farm segment on the next episode. Doneil and I chat about what happens when you add too much to a farm enterprise too fast, without perfected systems in place and appropriate labor force on site. We also talk a bit about why he and his family chose to move out of the city onto a homestead properties even after the farm enterprise he was involved in didn't work out. It parallels the Gray family journey in a few surprising ways. If you haven't listened to the previous two episodes with the earlier segments of our conversation, that's okay. You'll still get a lot out of this episode. But for more about wicking beds and what his family have done with their current property, go back and listen to episodes 15 and 16.
41 minutes | May 25, 2017
Ep 16: Wicking Beds and Aquaponics for Arid Climates, USDA-Inspected vs. Custom Processing for Pork
We have another great conversation on this episode with Doneil Freeman over at Freeman Family Farm. This time we're talking wicking beds – a great compromise between the water savings of aquaponics or hydroponics and the micronutrient capacity of real in-soil crops. Get right to the conversation by clicking subscribe and listen to the episode! First, let's fill you in on the... NEWS FROM THE FARM! USDA Inspected Processing vs. Custom Processors Pork is being picked up this weekend! Last week I told you that the pigs had gone off to the processor. Well, they're processed and ready to pick up! Invoices are out to our customers, and we'll be heading back to Simla and getting the hopefully yummy bacon, sausage, chops etc etc. We'll of course be putting our own pork from little Hermione in our freezer. But the rest of the deliveries will have to happen fast and direct. Something interesting when you buy a half a hog direct from a farm is that the pork must go immediately from the processor to the customer. Some of the customers asked if they could come out to the farm and pick up their pork. Or if we could hold it here until they got back from vacation. With the processor we used this time and the way we sold the pigs? Nope. Simla Frozen Foods does not have a USDA inspector on-site. It's what's called a “Custom Processor.” They are state inspected, not federal. Legally, the pigs are pre-sold while live, and then the transport to the processing happens as a courtesy. The customer owns the entire half hog, and isn't buying cut by cut from us. That's why we charge “by hanging weight.” We can't currently tell people “ok, well bacon's 8 bucks a pound, sausage 6, chops 7....” and let people pick and choose. In order to do that, the pigs must be processed with a USDA inspector, cleared, get the medallion seal, and then we have to have a food facility license from the county for the pork to be stored in our freezer and sold by cut. Could we do it? Sure. It's just more paperwork and more expense that we weren't willing to do for the first batch until we knew we could get all this sold, and pigs would prove out to be a potentially profitable enterprise for us.Will we do it? There's a strong chance. The first reason is that we are planning on moving our processing from Simla to Jensen Processing in Fowler. They're USDA inspected, which means we'd be able to bring pork here and let the customers pick it up, or deliver at everyone's convenience. We'd also be able to grow out more pigs – or cows – on spec, and then sell the meat cut by cut at farmers markets or online. Or even to restaurants, though that's a low-margin gig. They're only about an hour away, or about 20 minutes further than Simla. But a fascinating additional reason is that one of our most loyal customers is the niece of the folks who run it! Well I'm all about business networking and referral marketing, so you're darn right I'm going to support our customers and their people. She mentioned this in passing and I was thinking “reaaaaaallllly.... how did I not know this?!?!?” So we're definitely giving them a try on the next batch. When Pigs go in Standing Heat... Estrus Cycles and You (Sometimes too much you) Speaking of the next batch, Lollipop had her heat cycle on Mothers Day and that Monday, so we have her on the calendar to go on down the road to Patty Berg's next week to get us some piglets, hopefully. One hears about “standing heat” in pigs, but you really don't understand what it looks like and the creepily amusing aspects of it until you actually are around a pig in heat. Lolli was nosing the fence, trying to climb up on it, just grunting up a storm as I was walking over with food. “Lolli knock it off!!” I growled at her.... because really the last thing I wanted to deal with on a Sunday morning was her breaking loose. And she stopped.... really stopped. I guess my manly presence was enough for her,
37 minutes | May 18, 2017
Ep 15: Pig Processing Day, Doneil Freeman on Beekeeping for Beginners
We're talking bees and beekeeping for beginners with Doneil Freeman! He and Michael Jordan "The Bee Whisperer" of A Bee Friendly Company in Cheyenne, Wyoming held a class on how to install a new package of bees and new bee "nucs" at Doneil's farm in Calhan. Listen in for a brief summary of the three-day beekeeping class. What are packages of bees? What are bee 'nucs'? Find out in the episode. But first, we also have our usual "Updates From the Farm": These little pigs went to market: the five "freezer camp" pigs (Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna and Ginny -- as a shout-out to Chicken Thistle Farm's naming conventions for the pigs they used to raise) have been processed. The loading process went remarkably well (don't worry, we know that was beginners' luck), and we narrowly avoided killing them too early on the way to the processor. Travis's turkeys are growing well. Listen in to learn how we're teaching Travis the importance of consistency in the feed and care of livestock to actually make a buck in this deal. Don't plant outside until Mothers Day, or Memorial Day, or.... ever... in the Rocky Mountain states! This segment with Doneil is the first of three. Next time we'll be talking about "wicking beds," and then the third week will be about the Freeman Family's "why" for homesteading. We have a shout out to the ladies of the "Wine Two Five - Everyday Drinking for Everyday People" podcast. Val, one of the hosts there, donates wine and liquor bottles to our Earthship Home project. Every episode she and Stephanie talk about "what they're drinking" as they're recording. No fancy wines for Doneil and Jason this time, but as you'll be able to tell from the laughter -- and the slower rate of speech across the three segments -- we take our liquid shout-outs to fellow podcasters seriously. Please support those who support The 'Steadcast!! Phoenix 820: Art Pierson designed the Regenerative Road Trip logo and has worked with other farms, regenerative brands and other companies. Regenerative Stewardship: Tate Smith created a horse grazing plan for Freeman Family Farm. He will be heading down to Gray Area Farm in the summer to work on a multi-species managed rotational grazing system. We're taking our soil building and "pasture-raised life" to a whole 'nother level with his experience and systems.
33 minutes | Apr 23, 2017
Ep14: Springtime in the Rockies, Creating a Farm Co-Op Partnership, Dealing With Dogs
The weather is crazy, the pigs are almost done growing, we're taking on a partnership with a nearby farm, and out on the pasture there's a lot of rage towards feral dogs. Or as we call it here on the farm: “Tuesday.” NEWS FROM THE FARM What's up with the pigs? The five piggies that are destined for freezer camp are finally... FINALLY... ready to reserve their on-way vacation. Yes, they were supposed to be Christmas hams for our customers. Yes, it's now April. Unfortunately there was really no chance of them being ready for Christmas ham, because they were just not big enough to make it worth while yet. Someone may order a half hog from us, and if they don't get enough sausage for a weekend's worth of breakfast, that doesn't do anyone any good. We knew that they were going to be a smaller breed regardless... but the size difference between where they were in November – and where Lollipop was at that age -- was pretty significant. Now they're getting to the point where sometimes I have to look twice to tell if the black pig with white feet is Lollipop or Harry. But since nothing is ever THAT easy on the farm, it's worth noting that now the processor I wanted to use isn't returning my calls or emails. It's like Jack Spirko over at The Survival Podcast says... WHY DO PEOPLE HATE MONEY?!?!? Speaking of Lollipop. For the ongoing “things “late 90s, early 2000s JG" never thought would be in his future: having a stern conversation with a pig about her not showing her heat cycle, and having to negotiate with a nearby farm to send her on a romantic spa getaway to try to get her bred rather than AI'ing her. I mentioned this to some of my old USC buddies who knew me in my high end finance Marina del Rey – hanging out at the Bel Air Bay Club kind of days and they thought it was just about the funniest thing they've ever heard. And they about passed out when I continued on that I've been trying to woo this darn pig for months now. The little pigs are a lot paler colored so its easier to see when they're cycling, and Ginny will go into standing heat for me. But that doesn't do us any good. We want Lollipop for a breeder, not Ginny or the rest of the freezer camp crowd. So, Mrs Berg the neighborhood pig lady down the road from us is willing to work with us to see about sending her down there and hanging out with one of the un-related boars. At least get her bred, get her opened up with a first litter. Supposedly it's a lot easier to spot a heat cycle in a sow than when they're gilts. Then if she's a good mom we can go and spend all the money on AI and start the genetic improvement project. If she's not a good mom, or if there's really something going on and she's not going to be a good breeder, then.... well, that will be briefly sad. But culling and improving stock is very much part of the deal around here. Weather - It is indeed “Springtime in the Rockies” so that means wild fluctuations from blizzards to record high temperatures. Every year, it annoys he heck out of me to see all these folks on the regenerative agriculture or market farm Facebook pages with their beautiful fields of lettuce and kale, when we are just now in the last couple days getting the barest greening-up of our pasture grasses. Average last frost here between Yoder and Rush is in the may 11 to may 20 kind of timeframe. Sure it may be in the 70s during the day today but we have low 30s / high 20s and snow coming next weekend. Every year this happens, and every year people freak out on the neighborhood Facebook pages about how weird the weather is and how unusual it is to have blizzards that late. The other big fluctuation for us has been the amount of moisture. We were getting into some pretty bad drought levels on the official US drought monitor graphics. And then we got hit all at once with a bunch of rain and heavy slushy snow. Over in Colorado Springs, they actually ended up with so much really dense snow that it destroyed really qui...
30 minutes | Oct 3, 2016
Ep 13: Business Networking for Small Farms and Homesteads, Wardrobe Storage in Tiny Houses (or not)
This time on the Steadcast: business networking for homesteaders and small farms featuring an interview with Lynda Cink and Brian Swanson of LnB Connectors, screw-ups of the week, and the struggle of keeping a professsional wardrobe in a Tiny House. Welcome to Season 2 Episode 4 of The 'Steadcast, the homestead and farmstead podcast you listen in-stead of making the mistakes yourself. As always, this is Jason of Gray Area Farm. Before we go into the networking topic, let's get through the updates and screw-ups of the week. How to Store Clothes in a Tiny House For Professionals. We've been fitting out Barn 2.0 so we can move our storage and utility stuff in there started this week. We bought braces to secure the additional cabinets that we rescued from the school's remodel to the wall so they don't tip over or whatnot since it's a dirt and rock floor in there. Then we can start moving stuff like our storage clothes and such in there. That'll be the biggest improvement to our day-to-day lives yet. The Yuugest struggle for Tiny House livers... and the rest of the person, not just the liver... their spleen too, I guess... is storage of things like clothes when you are a busy professional on the move like Tera Lynn. Working on the farm and doing writing? I can go full Columbo and rock out my khakis, maybe even one of the two polos I still own if I'm really dressing up for an event like a business networking outing. But as a school administration type, supposedly there's some kind of cultural expectation that Tera Lynn not go to work in one of three different outlets each day. I don't really get it, but she's quite insistent this expectation exists. But in a Tiny, and I've read the same from the RV Full Timers sites, it is a real struggle to store clothes in such a way you can choose something to wear and not wrinkle the everliving crap out stuff. Because also in a tiny, there's noplace to store an ironing board. We get to do the old college trick of laying out an ironing pad on the kitchen slash dining room slash office table. Try Using the Storage Space Under the Bed -- But Learn From Our Mistakes About "Clothes Storage Bag" Fails We've solved that for the most part by storing stuff under the master bed, with any backstock, if you want to call it, has been at the storage unit. But every single clothes storage bag we've tried that fits under the bed has ripped to shreds within a week. This has been a terrible thorn in Tera Lynn's side, so it's been very exciting to know that within days that will be solved. But since it's Gray Area Farm, NOTHING can go exactly to plan. The kids were rough-housing and playing, as kids are wont to do. One of them – they instituted their kid mafia Omerta oath so we can't figure out who exactly did this to us – slammed the barn side door with the wind SO HARD that they broke the door jam at the latch. So now it only stays closed if it's deadbolted. So there's another thing to put on the list to fix around here. Hacking the Chickshaw We purchased a whole mess of new chicks a few months ago, and we found our very first tiny pullet egg from one of them yesterday! So that's awesome that they're going to start laying for us here and keeping up their end of the deal. I have a new Pasture Raised Life column coming out in a couple days describing how much “the first egg” costs and why $2 a dozen eggs from a neighbor with chickens is just about the worst thing ever. But where does the screw-up come in? We're still purely free-ranging these gals, about a hundred yards from where they're supposed to be. And the Chickshaws we built for them based on designs we got from Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture still don't have wheels. The Chickshaw is a great concept and a great design, and god love Justin for putting it out, because it's an ingenious plan. But the wheels he uses are basically just not available for any reasonable price. Like people want 60 bucks a wheel for these thi...
31 minutes | Sep 22, 2016
Ep 12: Barn 2.0 roof, mistakes of the week and the only nice weather day was yesterday.
This time on The 'Steadcast: what's up with Barn 2.0, the mistakes we made on the farm this week, how small farms are like geese, and the pasture-raised life segment is “the only nice weather day was yesterday.” Barn 2.0 roof is on! I visited a store next to the new laundromat, and was briefly excited to go in and see what it was like, and how much a load of laundry cost there. During the winter we've had to drive almost an hour into Colorado Springs to use the coin laundry. But realized I don't NEED the laundromat anymore because we have A BARN ROOF NOW!!! And we're going to get our washing machine out of the storage unit! Then Tera Lynn said “yeah, but we don't have electricity in there yet, we don't have it plumbed....” sooo, it's $1.25 a load, in case you were wondring. Which is nice. And a lot closer. A very local guy who used to own a construction business up north in Denver stepped up for us and completed the barn when SO MANY so called 'real' roofing companies left us hanging the last several months. Now it's pretty dark in there, though. So now we have to get lights, I guess. Oh well, it's always ONE MORE THING on the homestead, isn't it. Other interesting things to listen for... The benefit of line drying even if you DO have a roofed barn utility room for a washer and dryer More updates from the farm! Especially "what we screwed up this week," including the Tiny House fresh water pump, bolting green leafy veggies, and leaks in the piggies' waterers. Some of you have taken our call to action to heart and started leaving reviews on iTunes and Stitcher! Out on The Pasture Raised Life... The only nice-weather day was yesterday Why "competing" organic local food producers are like geese. In a good way.
35 minutes | Sep 14, 2016
Ep 11: The “What IF” Festival, Lollipop is Shy and More on Well Water
This time on The 'Steadcast: The Farmkids and I visit the "What IF Festival" in downtown Colorado Springs, updates from the farm, more on what the solution was to the well water crisis for Colorado small farms, and The Pasture-Raised Life segment “Meet your Meat.” First off, I'd like to give a shout out to some original listeners who stuck by us and got right back on the podcast bike with us. Now, that's a phrase I've never quite understood: it's just like riding a bike... like it's supposed to be easy to get back to it after you've been away from it for a while. Because have you ever watched someone who hasn't ridden a bike for a few years get back on a bike? They look like drunken idiots for the first few blocks, and if they're doing it on a beach bike path or something, there's a good chance a rollerblader is going to be eating a set of handlebars along the way. So, in that case getting back to a weekly schedule on the 'Steadcast is indeed like riding a bike, because we're wabbling and cursing our way through the first few. More cursing off-mic at Audacity and Wordpress, but you get the idea. So I thought I had a point there... right, right... shout outs! One of the early adopter listeners, Ed of the St Louis area, is doing good stuff on social media with his own efforts at homesteading. Check out Coriander Fields on Facebook to see what he's been up to. We also received a visitor post on the Gray Area Farm facebook page from Rebecca, who says she's originally from Eugene, Oregon... which, as a staunch USC Trojans family we'll forgive the Oregon Ducks reference... but she's now in Istanbul, where she listens to the Steadcast which she says gives her a taste of home. So hey Ed, hey Rebecca. There are many more early listeners who are clearly back with us based on social media likes and the geolocate stuff on the server logs. I also want to give a shout out to Yosef and his crew at Ahavah Farm for a great share on Facebook that brought a few new people over. The 50 new chickens we had shipped to us a couple months ago are almost ready to start laying eggs. Probably another two weeks or so. A back-of-the-envelope calc shows we would probably get about 16 dozen eggs a week out of them, which means the really ad-hoc way we've been selling eggs so far is going to be changing. Until now, we've had situations where people have been either really annoyed that we'd already pre-sold the eggs we bring to Falcon or on the flipside we come back home with some unsold. Therefore, we're introducing an egg CSA program that we're calling “rent a hen,” so people can rely on getting their eggs and we can rely on getting their money, to put it somewhat callously. We still have a couple shares of pork available, as we mentioned last week. We're somewhat confused by Lollipop because we haven't seen her come into heat yet. She totally should have, because she's plenty old enough. But because of her coloration and behaviors it's been difficult to tell. Meanwhile, the younger ones that are destined for freezer camp have been cycling and if you scratch their ears just right they'll go into standing heat. Which... is kinda disturbing that these girls think I'm just that sexy as a boar that they'll go into standing heat that quickly. But... when you got it, you got it, I guess. Anyway, with lollipop we definitely want to start tracking her cycle because artificial insemination supplies are.. shall we say... perishable.... and wicked expensive. Like $200 a dose expensive. Sure we could let her hang out with a local boar for a few days, but our goal with her is to really start getting a super-awesome genetic line of piglets and breeding stock so we can get awesome pork and awesome show pigs a few years down the line for Travis for 4-H. One of the better meteorologists around here is saying that the long term models show we're probably going to be getting some snow in the first week or so of October. So indeed,
24 minutes | Sep 2, 2016
Ep 10: The Aftermath of Summer 2016
The 'Steadcast is back! We took a bit of a hiatus during the spring and summer to struggle through our veggie CSA program and get our new pork project going. which we'll be telling you more about as we get back going on a regular schedule here on the 'Steadcast. Summer 2016: Worst. Evah. The summer of 2016 has been described by many around here, including several of the small farms and market gardens that we have come to get to know better over the season, as the worst veggie farming year in the Pikes Peak region in about a hundred years. Why? Well, we talked before we went on hiatus about how cold the spring was. Our “last frost” date was about normal, but normally we are pretty warm during the day and then have periodic dips below freezing in the spring. That wasn't the case this year. So the soil temps weren't warm enough for seed germination, and transplants were easily shocked. Then, it suddenly got hot. H-A-W-T hot. Anything that got going as far as cool weather spring crops promptly got stunted by the heat. So much so that even the broccoli plants we transplanted in early spring are JUST NOW setting their very first floret heads. "I'm not comfortable living and farming in a place that measures hail depths by the foot." Then, the hail came. And came. And came. The Camire family over at Ahavah farm, who we've really gotten to know better this season, got wiped out something like FIVE TIMES by hail. Their hoophouses look like someone took an uzi to it. And it wasn't normal kinda loose snowball kind of hail like we're used to in Colorado. This was “knock you on your butt, crack your windshield, and roll away intact” kind of hail like you'd expect in the Midwest or something. Then with all the damaged plants, the pest insects had an absolute field day... literally, I guess. The grasshoppers were so bad this year that a friend who does pasture management advice (Tate Smith of Regenerative Stewardship) started trying to calculate how many cows worth of livestock the hoppers represented per acre. Of course this happens our first CSA year! So, not the best year for us to be starting our very first CSA year. Luckily we gave our new customers just a wicked deal on a full season CSA program, so they're still getting their money's worth. But we went from 20+ varieties down to maybe 10 varieties total. And went from expecting a big bushel box per week to a grocery bag per week. But wait, there's more! So we had temp problems. We had hail and wind problems. We had pest problems. What's left? Oh yes.... “We're from the state government, and we're here to help.” That's when the Division of Water Resources noticed the small farms of El Paso County and greeted us with a cease and desist order against Ahavah Farm, saying that they – and by extension all of us doing any amount of veg and poultry – were illegally using our well permits for commercial use. That's about when the entire local food provider world in Southern Colorado about threw their hands up and said “Aaaaaaaaand we're done.” As it is, Yosef and his water law peeps were able to figure out a way to get out of the Cease & Desist and save all our butts. But with some pretty significant catches. And we'll be talking about that more in detail in an upcoming episode. In the meantime. Sharp-eared listeners will say “wait, he said something about a pork project? So.... y'all have pigs?” Check out the rest in this episode of The 'Steadcast! Please subscribe, rate and share!
30 minutes | Mar 16, 2016
Ep 9: Is Unprofitable Agriculture Sustainable?
Welcome to The 'Steadcast, Episode 9. There's some good "Rantcast" stuff in this one, in case you like that sort of thing. It is the 2nd week of March 2016, and spring is trying to get into the air. The Western Meadowlarks are back in full force on the farm with their melody, that like a bad commercial jingle, eventually drives itself into your soul. Our chickens are laying pretty well again. We actually had a couple dozen eggs to sell at our Friday morning networking meeting again, to the excitement of the folks who like to buy eggs from us. We raised the prices on our eggs a fair amount, since we did a better running of the numbers to figure out what we would have to charge in order to even break even on ALL the inputs needed to raise laying hens in this kind of pasture system, not just the ongoing cost of feed. Jason goes on a pretty good rant about treating your small farm like any small business. Or actually, better than most people treat their small business. Especially when it comes to selling yourself, your chickens and your farm short when pricing your eggs. Sure a backyard chicken pet owner could get away with essentially "sharing" their leftover eggs at $3.50 a dozen. But if your're being honest with yourself as a small farmer. Small-scale agriculture shouldn't be looked down on for so many small farms failing when ANY small business industry has as-bad, or worse, a failure rate by percentage. There's no good reason why small ag should be any more likely to fail OR any less likely to fail than a mom-and-pop espresso shop, an Edward Jones new adviser, or a local restaurant. And since EVERY.... SINGLE... ONE of my Edward Jones classmates for the entire region from the year I joined them is out of business, maybe small scale ag actually has a BETTER percentage of success. Some links from the show: Ahavah Farm in Peyton, Colorado. They have a very good blog post about how they came up with the pricing of their chicken eggs. Permaculture Voices. Diego Footer and Curtis Stone recorded an encore episode of their great Urban Farmer series to discuss their reaction to the article "What Nobody Told Me About Small Farming: I Can't Make a Living."
35 minutes | Feb 9, 2016
Ep 8: The first volunteer day of the year and raising dinosaurs on the farm
Hello there podcast listeners, and thanks for pulling up The 'Steadcast, the homestead and farmstead podcast you listen to instead of making the mistakes yourself. This is Jason from Gray Area Farm. In this episode, we have our obligatory updates about things that have been going on around the farm, especially the big Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2016 here in the Pikes Peak region. The winter egg strike is over, and production is slowly ramping back up. We also had the first 'beta test' of a volunteer work day here at Gray Area Farm, wherein we worked on the floating walls of the utility room / washing station in the barn. What are floating walls and why are they needed in places with expansive soils and frost heaving? Listen to the show and find out. Could we call the podcast "How to Train Your Chicken?" Well, Dreamworks' legal department might have something to say about it, but I share an anecdote about Travis and my discussion about this XKCD cartoon that says "by any reasonable definition, birds [chickens] are closer related to T. Rex than T. Rex was to Stegosaurus." So if chickens are dinosaurs and dragons are dinosaurs, then when you're trying to "train your chickens" to nest in certain spots, then you're "trying to train your dragon." It's kid logic, but it works. Please consider pledging your support and undying love for the 'Steadcast and what we're trying to do here at Gray Area Farm to advance regenerative agriculture and local food by visiting our Patreon page. Even a dollar helps, and the higher levels of support come with fun benefits like farm store credit and sponsorship opportunities for your own business.
47 minutes | Jan 6, 2016
Ep 7: New Year on the Farm and Firearm Needs and Issues for Homesteaders
I made a small edit to this episode based on feedback from listeners. Thanks for helping to hold us accountable to our core values. Sorry if this shows up as a 'new' episode on your feeds because of that. Welcome to episode 7 of The 'Steadcast: New Year on the farm and firearm needs on the homestead featuring an interview with Dan Lanotte of Falcon personal security. Happy New Year, 'steaders! It's 2016! One of the things that struck me about the changes we've made to ourselves and our world views taking on this homesteading project is that I don't find myself saying things like “It's 2016, and still no flying cars.” I don't want a flying car any more. I don't want a real hoverboard – and certainly not those no-handle segway deathtrap firebombs they're selling nowadays. What is “the future?” The future is when the windbreak pines are tall. The future isn't a talking robot that serves drinks, it's when the soil is built up around here enough to support grazing animals. The future looks a lot like what the past did. Just without the whole dysentery and wacky ranchers waging range wars and stuff. Oh... wait. Maybe not the range war part if you're reading the news about Oregon. Yup, I went there. I think we've got a good show for you today. I had a fascinating conversation with Dan Lanotte of Falcon Personal Security. He's a NRA instructor, firearm and security consultant and all around good guy I've known for several years now as part of the Eastern Plains Chamber of Commerce in Falcon. But first, updates around the farm: The Christmas and New Years holidays marked our mostly annual trip out to Southern California to see both sides of the family, get out of the wind and cold a little, and visit the water that Colorado is forced to take from the ranchers and farmers of the mountains and send down that way. It's also sometimes known as the annual pilgrimage to California to remind us why it's okay that we left California. Of course it's great visiting with family and friends over the holidays, but stepping out of the truck back here on the farm after two weeks in suburbia? Going from being able to see basically the next house over to our 175 mile views here? It was something special. That said, we did see some promising things out there as far as the grow-your-own food movement. We gifted a special little mini-garden tray for microgreen growing to Tera Lynn's parents. TL's brother and his family were proud to show off a really nice batch of tomatoes and peppers they grew in their garden and they're getting kale other winter greens going, and the across-the-street neighbors had a small flock of backyard chickens in the middle of a planned golf course community! But there are still some negative things we noticed out there: Standard factory farm chicken eggs at Walmart were going for $4.28 a dozen. We sell our epic pasture raised natural eggs of awesomeness for between $3.50 and $4.00 a dozen. $4.28 for standard factory eggs? Are you kidding me? And it's December when we saw that, WAY after the whole bird flu thing so don't tell me it's still part of the whole egg shortage thing, because that's over and done. Their organic eggs were going in the $6s and the alleged pasture raised eggs – which props to a walmart for carrying that, you can only really find those at whole foods around here – were in the $8s. I told one of my fellow reporters from the herald that, and she messaged me that I should start shipping our eggs to CA with those kinds of prices. Which at first I said “yeah, but interstate commerce for eggs is a whole thing that's just as bad as chicken meat,” but at $8 a dozen, maybe I'll have to research that more. And of course, going from the land of $1.71 a gallon gas to the land of between $3.01 and $3.89 a gallon gas is a big shock. Meanwhile, back at the ranch – as they say on the old westerns – the chickens made it through the two weeks thanks to original Friends of the Farm the Klunders.
32 minutes | Dec 11, 2015
Ep 6: There’s no sick days on the homestead
There may be no sick days on the homestead, but there must have been for podcast production. We had almost a month off to deal with first The Great Blizzard of 2015 and then Farmer Jason's relapse of his adrenal adenoma -- that very same issue that partially drove the decision to live a more active and healthy lifestyle in the first place. We talk about some of the ways living and working on a homestead or farmstead are different from working in corporate America. The chickens don't care -- AT ALL -- if you don't feel well enough to go out and feed them. So you have a choice: feel bad laying in bed or feel bad doing your chores. We also talk about the lessons learned from the Great Blizzard of 2015. We didn't get all that much snow here at GAF, but we had ALL THE WINDS. It was blowing well into the 70 mph handle sustained, with 80-85 gusts. Did Barn 2.0 survive? You'll have to listen to find out? Also there's an important announcement: So often people ask "how do we give you money so you can continue being totally awesome, build more infrastructure and take more time planting and raising animals so later we can give you even MORE money buying stuff from you?" Okay, so maybe it doesn't happen so often. Or... ever. But if could. Therefore... introducing the GrayArea Farm Patreon account! You can give us money to help continue making awesome podcast and blog content, put in more raised beds and irrigation, and buy more chicks! Because.... reasons! Hey, it works for PBS. Check out our GrayArea Farm Patreon account and please consider donating even a dollar or two. Every bit helps to support the local food movement and homesteading around the country. Even another patron at $1 a month shows that people care about this issue.
26 minutes | Nov 12, 2015
Ep 5: The PRIME Act and legal pitfalls of small scale farming
Hello there podcast listeners, and thanks for pulling up The 'Steadcast, the homestead and farmstead podcast you listen to instead of making the mistakes yourself. One of the primary figures in the small scale agriculture world is Joel Salatin. He owns Polyface Farm in Virginia, wrote many of what are considered the go-to bibles for pastured poultry and beef, and is a regular fixture in movies like Food Inc and outlets like Ted Talks, permaculture voices, etc etc. One of his key rallying cries is “Folks, this ain't normal.” Finishing cattle on grain 'aint normal' because that's not what their stomachs are built for. Confined or even the woefully misleading “cage free” laying operations 'aint normal' because chickens are omnivores and need bugs as much as sunshine and green plant matter. Kids touring a farm asking where The Salsa Tree is because they are that far removed from where their food really comes from “aint normal.” But his other rallying cry is “everything I want to do is illegal.” The USDA and the Virginia Dept of Ag tried to shut down his chicken processing operation for being unsanitary despite independent lab tests showing his chicken being several orders of magnitude cleaner than grocery chicken. He had inspectors tell him his eggs absolutely had to be rinsed or sprayed with chlorine. Things that the entire purpose of hyper-local, know-your-farmer buying is supposed to save you from! There are a few nationwide issues I want to bring to your attention, as well as local laws for Colorado and California, where many of our listeners hang their hat for the moment. The Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011, but like many other such laws, it's the rulemaking process at the agency level that is where the rubber really hits the road. The FDA decided that farms that have less than half a million in GROSS sales AND sell their food direct-to-consumer or retail food establishment within 275 miles. Well, that's fine and sounds good. But if we want to sell microgreens by e-commerce and ship them to folks in California, then the sales cap falls to $30,000. At that point we'd be subject to all these rules in here, including having our compost tested by the USDA before using it on our gardens needing to test our well water FIVE TIMES A YEAR – right now we do it yearly since it's the same well we use for drinking water, and that's just good personal health sense. A 9 month waiting period between having chickens or other animals in an area and planting crops in it – which would make nearly all rotational grazing / cropping systems illegal. A bill that's working its way through committee in Congress, but doesn't really have an awesome shot at passing, is the PRIME act, or Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption act. I wrote about the PRIME act for The New Falcon Herald this month, and had the chance to talk with Pete Kennedy, the president of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund and the spokesperson for Jared Polis, the congressman from Boulder who we talked about in previous episodes who has been working to defend products like kombucha. Check out my article about the PRIME Act at The New Falcon Herald.
42 minutes | Nov 3, 2015
Ep 4: There’s Always Something to Do on the Homestead, featuring Jeff Woodruff interview
The seasons continue to march along here at Gray Area Farm. We had our first frosts (Finally!) and that marked the end of the squash harvest. It also marked a chance for a few more things to break. Thus "there's always something to do on a homestead." You can't defeat the prep list, you can only hope to contain it! The "noise reduction" feature on Audacity is only so strong, so headphone listeners will surely note that I recorded most of this in the "mobile studio," aka "the truck as the kids and I ran errands." (Protip for podcasters: take frequent breaks while recording to let the kids ask questions or get their "wiggles" out.) This is our first "interview show," featuring Jeff Woodruff. He's the campaign manager for Nancy Woodruff, who's running for Los Angeles City Council District 7. We talk about foodsheds, community gardens and odd legal issues surrounding things as simple as backyard gardening and beekeeping. Topics and links for the day: Daylight savings time, seasonality, and how shorter and longer days are so much bigger a deal on the homestead than for office workers. The Tiny House propane furnace and main door lock crap out on the same day: highlights how important a backup plan, some emotional resiliency and YouTube are. It only took Los Angeles city council a hundred and thirty some odd years, but they finally got the birds and the bees talk from someone. Listener questions! Why chicken eggs have a "season" in real life (ie not in factory farms) and how to hand pollinate squash blossoms during late summer / early fall periods when you still have blossoms but the natural pollinators are done for the year.
33 minutes | Oct 20, 2015
Ep 3: Home Cures for Cabin Fever, and a Rant About Kombucha Regulation
As promised, we talk about how to plan ahead for long shut-in days during winter. Cabin fever with kids is bad enough in suburban McMansions, what about in a Tiny House? If you don't have things prepared to keep the kids (and yourselves) entertained, things can get real old real quick. We also talk about a new attack on Kombucha brewers by the federal regulators of alcohol taxation. A classic Jason Rant ensues. Topics and links for the day: Thanks to our early adopter listeners for helping us make it onto iTunes's "New and Notable" screen. Let's work on sharing and subscribing more so we can get from line 3 to line 1! Updates on physical winter preps, and how awesome Agribon is for frost protection and excluding the locust plague. How to keep kids entertained over winter -- keep your best ideas 'in your pocket' for the worst weather days. Kombucha regulation. Why are the feds harassing the brewers of this tasty (to some people) and beneficial (to most people) probiotic drink? Learn about what U.S. Rep Jared Polis (D-Colo) is doing to get the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to lay off commercial and small brewers. And it's not enough just to rant -- we share some *ACTION ITEMS* to actually *DO* about this. What's on tap for the rest of the week on the farm.
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