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Back of Beyond Farm is a small, family run operation in Rist Canyon, Colorado. We work closely with natural rhythms to create wellness teas from indigenous and naturalized plants. 2013 marks our 4th year of supporting our community through tasty teas. In the year ahead, we hope to continue our work of not only producing healthful teas, but also exploring the edges of what it means to farm and be a part of a place.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Soups and Stews

Wow. Our Stove Prairie Winter Festival Weekend was incredibly successful - for the school and the little farmers. So much gratitude for the support of our whole community - tea drinkers and farmers and hunters and firefighters and friends and little kids and big people for deer and elk and grouse and pheasant the 1000 of snow geese that flew over one night a few weeks back.

The forest gave trees to celebrate this abundance - Molly and Carla and Gene and Josef and Elliot and Trinity and Jen and Dave and Mia and Cleo and Brendon and Sarah and Luke and Maggie and Gracie and Walt and Sophia and Kendol and Megan and AnnMarie and Nicole will all be sharing a bit of our home this Holiday.

So now, a few more deliveries and tending the soups and stews of chicken carcass and bison bone base. Warming smells, in an awfully warm late Fall.

A little rest for now - I'll rejoin the conversation next week - after celebrating St. Nicholas Day and the birth of our Earth Boy, Makabe - a full decade on this Good Earth.




Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Making Meat

The first time I went hunting I was probably 4 or 5, right on the edge of memory. I remember the Twinkies I got to eat. When I was 10, we knocked off working one Saturday afternoon and drove to the Sterling Dam to jump ducks for my first "real" hunt. My dad let me shoot his gun and I ended up on my backside. I grew up with goose down floating out of our garage in town and into the streets as my dad and uncles plucked geese. We had bison and deer hanging in our barn when we moved to the country. I worked cold hands alongside my dad making meat out of the animals he brought home to feed us. And so I still do the same.

I am off somewhere between home and Wyoming right now - pursuing meat, chasing life. Asking the gift of loin and liver, burger and roast. I subscribe to the belief that the animal gives itself to the hunter when it's done right. I am to poor of a hunter, to lousy of a shot for it to be otherwise. It's not to say that some folks don't just go take life, even when it's not offered, but I have had experiences I can't otherwise explain but that the animal knew and chose.  One elk makes most of a year's meat for us - and meat that is created from the same herbs we grow and tend. In Lakota, Monarda is sometimes referred to as Hehaka Pejuta - elk medicine. It's a round, a sacred round of energy shared and passed and used and passed again. The energy of the Sun, the gift of the Earth, the holy work of immersing oneself into life and death and that mystery. I am thankful for the teachers - uncles, friends, my Dad foremost, who taught me this - though subtly and without words.

Making meat - meat making me - me tending herbs that tend the maker of the meat.

Kabe and Grandpa Making Meat

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Putting Up Wood

One of the things we harvest with the sole intention of keep at home is our firewood supply. We heat, almost exclusively, with our wood stove. Among the causalities of the fire was our 2 1/2 cord supply of firewood we'd already put up for the coming year. We burn 4-6 cords, depending on the Winter.


So, this weekend we went back into the forest to make up some of what was lost. Lower temps - 80 degrees - made us think that we'd be able to get some wood in and not be overcome with the heat (that and the extra hands on my father-in-law).

We pulled some dried out beetle-kill from the unburnt area down by the creek and also worked on some of the scorched logs, piled in the forest. We have a start and could handle one of those early-mid September snows that seem to come every couple of years. So that feels good.

Firewood is best made in the 50s weather of Autumn days. Looking forward to those - the coming gold of Aspen and reds of Sumac. There have been hints of it in the past few days - cooler mornings and cooling in the evenings. The Arc of the year is bending again. 

Planting and Harvesting this Week: Tomorrow, Monday, is a bust - skip it if you can. Tuesday, into Wednesday morning are good time to work your root crops, with Thursday through Friday at noon, again, iffy time for any harvesting. Saturday should be a good day for working with leaves and Sunday afternoon a good time for harvesting fruits. It's in the stars!


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Landscape Scale Wildynamics

How do you take a large affected landscape and assist it in being restored to health? I use to be a "let nature take it's course" but then I realized that there is not one landscape that I have been in that has not experienced human influence - whether logging or suppression of fire, flooding for new reservoirs or drought from overuse of water. So, I figure, I might as well be part of the restoring process of the Earth.

Let's say you have a 2-5 acres section of land that was intensely grazed for years, and not managed for weeds. You probably have issues with soil compaction, massive stands of weeds, and due to the compaction low levels of sub-soil moisture. There are probably other problems too. How does wildynamics approach this?

Weed management first. Avoiding chemicals at all costs, we'll look for the least costly and most ecologically fitting. That might mean, if appropriate, spot burning weeds. Using a propane fired torch, we consume plant and seed in fire. Next up entice birds to the area to pick through for remaining seeds. Sometimes a bird path and perch is all you need in the middle of an area to get doves and other ground seed feeders in poking through. If the landowner has them - get the chickens in their tractors and get them stirring the land.

Next up is seeding. I want to get as diverse a seed mix of natives as possible - I want grasses, warm and cool season, wild flowers, forbs, a huge mix and diversity. Quick run of the rake or harrow, and then seed in, another run of the rake or harrow and then a mulch of what's available and appropriate.  I like to hold down the mulch with wide-spread compost - made on site quickly or hauled from BoB.

Then, it's time to apply wildynamic preps - to send  the messages of grow well and prosper to the plants. We're helping to build strong roots, great cell structure, superb nutrient exchange.

And we do all this by the stars. The result is biodiversity, beauty, resilance, and no chemicals. It does take a little more work, but probably not, given ongoing delivery of poisons won't need to happen. And we can extrapolate this over the whole landscape - taking it in chunks of 2-5 acres at a time. Depending on locations - we use different methods, but always the same concepts.

A rake and a how and some seeds to sow -

Planting: Sun-root, Mon, Tues, Wed AM flower, Thursday - leaf, it's in the stars.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Invasives

With the canyon doing some re-greening, it gives us the sense that world is returning to what it once was. And, in many cases the Earth will heal perfectly, given some time. One of the initial challenges is that much of this re-greening is being done by invasive species:
Cheat Grass
Leafy Spurge
Toadflax
Thistle

What invasive do is they overtake an area because there are no biological controls in place (they are ungrazable, don't have natural pests or diseases, etc) Cheat grass is a huge fire concern and sprurge and toadflax steal away forage base areas for native and introduced grazers.

Our best chances are to try and out-compete these pest by getting competitive and crowding seeds on the ground.  Other options step up intensity: intensive grazing with goats - hand picking - chemical applications - flea beetles introduction to spurge stands.

So get some seed in the right areas to hold back the wrong kind of re-greening.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tool - Saw

Chainsaws have been a part of my life for a long time. My Dad used his little McCulloch to whittle away our log house on the prairie, my brother-in-law and I went in on a Stihl O56 for $50 to start our forestry business while I was in college, and the VERY FIRST post-move-in purchase when we came to the Back of Beyond was a Stihl "Farm Boss".

There is a reason the chainsaw is the featured "tool" of the horror movie, but I've only had one, well two....so three close calls in hundreds of hours of use. Two were my fault, plain and simple, the other the saw turned on me in a Stephen King, "Christine" kinda way. But we talked it out and got past our mutual differences.

My chainsaw is by far the most technical, mechanical of my favored tools, but it's really quite simple - keep it clean, keep it sharp, keep the chain the right tight, clean the air filter, and it keeps on going. Some days I take a hand saw into the woods to get some exercise or revel in the quiet....I am always glad to go back to the chainsaw after the burn in my arms subsides.

Quite simply, I am glad to have the "Farm Boss" on this little farm.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tool - Tin Cup

Ok, this is as lame as it gets in the realm of "tools" but honestly, I can't say enough how much I enjoy these "tin" cups I got somewhere, from someone.


The kids collect berries, in them, I make a quick twig fire and brew fresh tea in them right on the fire, I dig with them, I water plants with them, I do everything with them (except wash them....I need to do that).

They are just "around" so make for sponteneous use. They are indestructable. They are functional. Maybe I am making some guidlines for tool purchases in the future - easy, simple, functional, long lasting.....hmmm....sounds good to me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tool - Knife

I read a magazine article many years ago - it was about your favorite knife and as people went on about their stag horned, dropped forged, billion dollar knife, one guy wrote about his cheap, Mora knife from Sweden. Cost him $8 bucks, is ugly as sin, and works wonderfully.

Shortly after, my friend Tom, gifted me with a Mora knife. It quickly became my favored "do it all" knife. (Incidentally, several of my favorite tools came via Tom, who know tools and woods).

My Mora is what they call the Army knife with the high carbon blade (now $18.00). Mora does make really expensive knives, but you're paying for prettiness, not function. this knife can hack down a tree and yet gets an edge that can skin a peach without getting juice on your shoes.

In the picture (yellow do-hickey) is also a quick sharpener. I find it to be a quick answer to a stone and oil sharpening. One side features a coarse carbide sharpener, the other a fine edge for finishing touches. I have one suggestion when using one of these - be sure to draw your knife an equal number of times from each side (not each end). Because of the way the sharpeners are placed in there (off-set), I find it works to count how many draws you do from one side, then do an equal from the other.

This knife gets sharper than any other I've ever owned, with half the hassle, can do crazy amounts of prying, chopping, and other un-knife like work, and still keep or regain an edge. I agree with the guy in the article: Make mine a Mora.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Tools - Ax

In exploring some of the things I am most thankful for in 2011, I couldn't help but keep thinking of the basic tools that make my daily life easier - or at the least - more enjoyable. Over the next few weeks, I would like to pay tribute to a few of these "extensions of hand". My apologies if you are looking for wizarding tools that will preform magic. These are tools of "appropriate technology" (see post on 1/5/11 ).  And as a means of dialogue, please feel free to share your favorites with me as well.

My ax is a daily part of my life from September through April (most years). Keeping the fire burning at the right times of day allows us to use minimal heat from other sources. Axes have an appeal that, similar to the hammer and knife, go back to our earliest experiences in a craft - hammer and nails in scrap pieces of lumber, a knife peeling ribbons from a marshmallow roasting stick, and the ax on an early camping trip.

My ax is onto it's second handle in 8 years. My ax is nothing special - just a tool that came with the forest, left behind by the previous owner. And though every year there is a renewed commitment to better tending my tools, it generally gets one or two sharpenings with a stone (St. Mathias day in February is a good time, as is early September in preparation for the Winter of chopping) and a periodic oiling of head and handle. I am no Dick Proenneke with an ax, but I get by.

Some day, I imagine a Gransfors Bruks ax in my hand, deftly making "little from big", but till then, my freebie ax is most appreciated in making a home in these woods.