We’ll be having another homestead seminar, limited to 14 people, August 25th, 26th, and 27th. Subjects to be covered include: Canning meat & mixed recipes, homestead tools, raising heirloom vegetables, saving seeds and much, much more. Check it out on www.seedtreasures.com; click on seminars. Hope to see you then! It may well change your life! Secure your spot now. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
It’s raining, mixed with sleet and snow. Freezing rain is forecast for later on. Earlier, Will was hard at work cutting up the big pile of firewood in front of the storage barn/wood shed. Yesterday, we worked hard splitting a big pile, which Will stacked in the wood shed. It’s getting full and we have lots of wood left to cut and split. Gee what a problem…
The painting of the living room is finished. Ashley did a great job and didn’t get a drop on anything. I’ve been coating the oak mantle and shelves with more poly and they’re ready to put back up as soon as the last coat dries. They look very good.
Our peppers are ready to be transplanted into their little individual Styrofoam cups so I’ll be doing that tomorrow. The tomatoes are nearly all up and looking good in the little plastic greenhouses in the living room windows. Boy do we ever have a variety this year!
The chickens are pumping out eggs and David is helping me by catching the “wild” chickens, cutting the flying feathers from their wings and putting them in the chicken run. We’re also holding the extra roosters out in the old small chicken coop, getting ready for a butchering day in the near future. We have way too many roosters but after they are all canned up, we’ll have lots of chicken-based meals available right from the pantry. Those “wild” chickens are a pain as they not only get in my flower beds, digging “fluffing” holes, but also run in the garden, scratching newly planted seeds up then later on eating tomatoes. Not this year, guys.
On the first day of spring, we reflect on how grateful we are. Our weather’s turned nice again, into the forties with sun. Will and David managed to haul more than 9 full truckloads of firewood logs home from the logging site before thawing started. Will and I were able to cut up, split, AND stack away a whole cord, plus more into the wood shed. That’s a full cord, mind you (8’x4’x8′). Then it snowed and rained. Today Will’s out cutting up more logs to get ready to split as it’s again dry.
We heard and saw a Canada goose yesterday morning. Yea! Spring’s really coming. No robins yet, though.
I got all of our tomatoes planted. That’s three full flats of 66 plants each, plus three smaller flats. Hmmm, that’s a lot of tomatoes, isn’t it? (Will, get out the bulldozer…)
Our chickens are starting to lay with the warmer weather again. I can’t wait for my first rhubarb pie, topped with four-egg-white meringue.
I checked our fruit trees in the orchard and can’t see much, if any, winter damage or vole activity. We did have a very mild winter for northern Minnesota. We only hit -35 twice for a short time and we had plenty of snow cover.
Yesterday, Ashley and I painted the living room walls. Actually, she did most of the painting and I refreshed the paint roller for her and helped move things out of the way and position the ladder. I did buy a new ladder as the one we were using was totally unsafe and wobbly. So wobbly it scared the you-know-what out of me to step up on it. Now the old ladder is a pole bean support and we have a new, solid, safe ladder! The room looks wonderful. Will has to get busy and re-cut the logs which framed the walls and octagonal ceiling. It’ll look so pretty, all finished. — Jackie
We had been noticing a new logging site about 10 miles south of us where there were several large piles of scrap logs left over. Luckily, David noticed a sign with the logger’s name and phone number on it. He called him and asked for permission to go in and take firewood. The man said yes.
So on his way home from Virginia (the town, not state!), David drove in and loaded up a medium-sized load. He didn’t dare load more heavily as his truck’s frame is pretty rusty. He and Will unloaded it.
The next day, Will took our old Chevy truck, “Old Blue,” over there and loaded up a real big load. Then on Sunday, he went back for another load. I helped unload at home and he went back for still another load. And with the sun shining brightly and temps approaching twenty degrees, Will (and Hondo) went back for more wood. We know there won’t be many more days because the temps will warm up on Thursday and the site will become impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive truck. So we’re hurrying as much as Will’s bad back will stand. Yep, we have woods on our land. But by getting this free wood, we’re saving our own wood to use later on.
Some of the poles are tamarack and will make good fence posts so we’ve set them aside for fencing projects this spring. Talk about a wonderful windfall! All it cost was one phone call.
Tomorrow I begin planting tomato seeds! I went through my box of seeds and we have a LOT of varieties of tomatoes. How exciting! We won’t even talk about beans. — Jackie
And they blew and blew yesterday and the day before! So hard, in fact, that I was having a hard time sleeping between the huge bursts of wind gusts and our wind charger’s brake screaming, trying to keep the charger from overworking. Luckily, Will had gotten all the big logs out of the woods and decked up temporarily in a cleared spot about a half mile from the house.
So while the wind blew, we quickly did chores and came inside to do other things. Will got caught up on his computer work for our seed business and I planted a few more new peppers. One interesting variety came from a gentleman now living in Georgia, who grows a “wild” hot pepper he used to harvest from the Florida orange orchards. I can’t wait to see … and taste … that one. What fun!
I know some of you are daylily fans — who wouldn’t be as this gorgeous perennial flower is extremely hardy and also edible! A reader turned me on to a website, The Daylily Auction, where you can bid on roots of some extremely beautiful flowers which would cost two or three times more elsewhere. Just thought I’d let you folks know about it too.
My seedling peppers are growing like weeds. They already have two sets of leaves so I’ll be transplanting them next week. And I’ll be starting our first tomatoes, too. (Remember we set them out in Wall O’ Waters, which allows us to plant out extra early.) I counted up and we have at least 76 varieties to plant this year; many are repeats of some of our favorites and quite a few are new ones that sound great. Time will tell! Can’t wait to get in the dirt. — Jackie
Today Will’s out in our north woods, cutting a trail through the trees to a huge white pine he cut two days ago. The pine had been leaning, more and more over the past five years, until it got hung up in a big tamarack fork. Working carefully as such a tree is VERY dangerous, Will got both trees pretty much cut through then drove wedges in. The wind did the rest. While he worked many yards away from the tree, cutting brush, the trees cracked and fell to the ground with a whoosh. The trees will be sawn into boards to use on our new barn. Waste not; want not!
We’re getting excited because the back yard and garden are slowly showing as the snow is receding. I actually walked in the yard for the first time since late last fall. The plum and cherry trees wintered well and I can’t see any vole damage, although there were a few vole tunnels in the grass. There is water on top of the beaver ponds now and the creek is running.
Inside, our peppers are jumping up and looking good. I’m especially excited about a variety a friend sent which she calls Venice Bootleg hot peppers (they were obtained in a cafe in Venice and “smuggled” home to the U.S.). It occurred to me how much gardening brings us all together. Through our seed business, we’ve had letters and seed orders from folks who are Amish, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and more. And you know what? We’re all excitedly awaiting our seeds springing to life with warm weather. Brothers and Sisters in gardening. I think that’s a lesson for us all. — Jackie
Although we had temps of -2 last night, we are excited that our first pepper seedlings are up and looking great. We start them in peat pellets, soaked in hot water to puff them up, and then plant two seeds per pellet so we can choose the strongest plant to let grow. Sometimes we gently tease one plant out and transplant it while very young into its own peat pellet to grow on. Once a small container of one variety has been planted and labeled, I stick them in plastic bags or bread wrappers to hold in moisture and place them on the shelves behind and beside the wood stove where it is very warm. (Peppers germinate best in temps of 80-85 degrees!) Ours come up within five days or less and pop up very strong.
This year we’re trying some different ones, as usual. We’re adding Franks (a green sweet bell pepper from Sand Hills Preservation Center that’s early and hugely productive), a “bootlegged” hot pepper from Venice a reader sent us, which we’ve named “Bootleg,” Medusa, a container-type decorative mild multi-colored wild pepper we love the look of and New Mexico Big Jim, a large, medium heat chile pepper from, yep, New Mexico!
And beans! We have some VERY neat, new beans from all over the world to try — beans from Africa, South America, Poland, Finland, Native American tribes all across the country, some from the Old South, some from the far north. What fun the garden will be this year! I can’t wait. All those new looks and tastes. — Jackie
We’ve had a very warm week; over 50° some days, with sunshine! The first day, Ashley and I set out lawn chairs in the driveway and sat down to absorb some fabulous vitamin D. We were in our T shirts! It felt SO very good. Now you folks living in more hospitable climates may figure doing this at 50° is NUTS, but when we’ve been used to below zero temps, 50 seems so very warm.
And it wasn’t just us, either. I had to go to town to mail some seed orders to people and when I got back, my friend, Dara, was sitting in a chair, knitting! I had to laugh.
Then on Saturday, David and Ashley helped haul out trees which Will had been cutting. They were stressed by bud-worms then carpenter ants got into the bottoms of them, which killed the trees. So before they fell and rotted, Will cut them down, limbed them and the “crew” started hauling them out of the woods. David used the four-wheeler for a while, then his snowmobile, giving the four-wheeler to Ashley. We all had a fun day and ended up with over a cord of fir which will be cut, split and stored for next year’s firewood. Will figures there’s over two more cords right in that small area. (We start cutting firewood EARLY in the spring so it’s all split and stacked under cover to dry well before use the next year.)
Today it’s raining like crazy and we even saw lightning. Pretty crazy winter weather, for sure. I guess the beavers were right, after all. They said we’d have an average winter; no crazy cold or snow. And, so far, that’s just what happened, no matter what the weather forecasters and the Farmer’s Almanac predicted.
We’ve been having quite a response to our fall homesteading seminar and so far, three people have sent in their deposits. I’m thinking we’ll fill up for sure. That’s nice, I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun, as always! — Jackie