Well, at least the perennial garden plants will have plenty of snow cover this winter. We just got another five inches today. I can’t lie and say I wish winter would stay for months and months. I’m about ready for spring! At least we aren’t suffering like some folks on the East and West Coasts are, though, with flooding and big snowstorms. We just do our chores and throw another log on the fire.
But chores are sometimes challenging. Like today when we had to set big round bales out and water the big livestock. The wind was blowing, snow falling sideways, and although it was 15 above, it felt VERY cold. I’m the official gate-opener so while Will runs up and down the hill with the tractor, I wait for him to come so I can open gates. Brrrrr! And although we now have a great new well downhill from the barn, you still have to warm up the generator, start it, hook up a hundred feet of hose (sometimes a little frozen in spots) and stand around while water fills this tank, then that tank. Then the hose must be drained twice in hopes it won’t be frozen next time we water.
No, living in the North is not easy but we couldn’t think of anywhere else we’d want to live.
For Christmas, my friend Dara gave me a big North Georgia Candy Roaster squash she’d grown. She said it’s one of the best tasting squash she’s ever had so she wanted us to try it. It is beautiful and I hate to cut into it! But, of course, we will so we can try this squash. If we love it too, we’ll be growing it this year so we can offer seed next year in our Seed Treasures catalog.
Meanwhile, David has been trimming out some spots in his old bedroom after work. (Work right now means taking his snowmobile and sled to Tower, about 30 miles away, unloading the snowmobile, then driving over seven miles across the ice on Lake Vermilion, to where Voyager Log Homes is working on a log house.) By the time David gets off work, it’s dark and the trip back to the truck must be interesting, especially when it’s snowing so much.
We’ve been spending a little time working on a couple more puzzles, first a bear, then deer, and just lately, an old farm scene. When you walk past the table, you just have to stop and find a few more pieces! We all really enjoy it. Hey, it doesn’t take much to entertain us homesteaders.
I just have to tell you about the huge pile of 20 solar panels we just got from a friend, on a VERY good deal! All totalled, it will boost our charging to double what we have now! Wow, were we glad to get them. Now, come spring, it’s one of the first projects Will has planned. We’ll have to run our generator very little once they’re all hooked up. So very nice! — Jackie
We were a little crazier than usual this New Year’s Eve. No we weren’t partying, but with David and Ashley moving into our house after their rent became a stone around their necks and company coming for New Year’s Eve, we were pretty busy. The craziest was when David and Ashley arrived with their huge king bed. (We didn’t even know if it would FIT up our stairs to the bedroom!) But David pulled from above and Will shoved from beneath and, lo and behold, it finally popped up the stairs! Luckily, the base and bedsprings came apart so those were a snap to get up the stairs.
My son, Bill and his family came up New Year’s Eve day for a belated Christmas dinner. We feasted and enjoyed opening Christmas presents. Then David took grandkids, Mason and Ava, out with the snowmobile. Mason rode the sled behind it. (David drove slowly and carefully!) Ava rode in front of David. Then they went sledding down our hill to the pasture.
Afterward, Ava and puzzle queen Ashley put all six of Ava’s Christmas puzzles together. Then, on a roll, Ava decided they’d start Ashley’s new puzzle. So they got that started, and now I have two puzzles on the dining room table, and neither is small! Oh well, we improvise well.
The new well is working to water the stock down by the new barn. Great water and LOTS of it! What a good idea that was. — Jackie
Due to a big ice/sleet storm which deposited ½ inch of ice in some locations and more than two inches of sleet at our house, only our son, David, his girlfriend, Ashley, and Javid came to join us for Christmas dinner. (The power was out in many locations, making us feel kind of smug as we just tossed another log on the fire and enjoyed our Christmas tree lights.) I ran into a slight snag when I went to set the table, however. We still had our owl puzzle on the table and, with it being so large, we couldn’t move it without breaking it up. I solved the problem by covering it up with a holiday tablecloth and a lace over-cloth. It looked great and you’d never know there was a puzzle under it.
It took half an hour the next day to chip the sleet off the windshield of our Subaru, after the defrosters had run for 15 minutes. Wow, that was a lot of ice!
Thanks to all of you for your Christmas wishes, cards, and wonderful letters. We enjoyed every single one of them!
Our 20-year-old wheelbarrow, which has seen a lot of use, finally had a handle break off. I suggested buying another handle, but ever-handy Will said he’d just make one from a piece of ash. He had cut several lengths for handles of various tools and had one already in the storage building. So, taking the drawknife out, he quickly fashioned a replacement handle. In less than an hour, he had the old handle removed and the new one in place. Believe me, it’s a whole lot easier to haul in firewood with two handles rather than one!
Our biggest Christmas gift was not one that comes in a box. Our mother wild turkey showed up on Christmas Eve! Now she’s back in the yard with the other turkeys. One of her “kids”, a tom, showed up the same day, but must have decided Mom was nuts to come to civilization. I surprised him in the storage building when I was getting goat feed and he flapped and flew way up on a beam. That was the last I saw of him, but he may be back. After all, he found out where the grain is stored.
I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! May the coming year bring joy, peace, and a bountiful harvest to all. — Jackie
After a week of very cold weather, today is a gift like no other. We’ve been busy enjoying it to the fullest. Will had one of our old tractors way over at one of our rented hayfields. While loading a big round bale, it just plain quit and wouldn’t start. As it was getting dark, Will came home. Then it got cold and working on it was out of the question, especially because it’s a diesel. So with the warm day, Will drove over there, tools in the truck.
I’ll admit I prayed a lot for God to send diesel mechanic angels to help out. And when I drove out to mail some Christmas cards, there came the tractor with a round bale on the front spears! Thank you! Thank you!
I did extra chores this morning. I fixed the chicken feeder, which had come loose from the chain it had been hung on, cleaned the goat pen and fluffed up their new bedding. Meanwhile, Will took the scoop shovel and went out to clean the heavy snow off our big hoop house. (Friends of ours had their big, new high tunnel collapse during that first two feet of snow we got early in the winter.) So far, the 6 mil greenhouse plastic is holding up very well; this is its second winter.
We’re looking at the radar map and cringing. They’re calling for a heavy, nasty winter storm for Christmas Day here. But we’ll wait and see. Often the weather swings south of us and we don’t get what is predicted.
We finally got our owl puzzle finished and are missing one piece. Our cat, Mittens, LOVES to pick up small things and trot off with them or else take a paw and shove them onto the floor. And Ashley’s dog, Cooper, will eat just about anything. So we’re not sure where the missing piece went. But I’ve had that happen before and am just going to cut out a similarly colored piece to glue in that spot. You’ll never see it when the puzzle is glued to the plywood.
Will and I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season! May the new year bring nothing but joy and contentment. — Jackie
We knew it was coming, but that doesn’t mean we like it. We spent two days doing “extra” chores, getting ready for sub-zero temps with highs in the negative numbers. Will hauled out several extra big round bales for the cattle and horses. I spread another square bale of hay in the goats’ inside pen and closed up a few cracks in the chicken coop.
Will and I also brought in several wheelbarrow loads of firewood and stacked it in the wood boxes and on the back porch. Luckily, last week David brought a truckload of discard wood that was dry from logs they’d cut at the log home mill and they were also piled on the enclosed back porch. We sure needed all of it!
We filled all the stock tanks, as generators are very hard to start in sub-zero weather. We also filled our big 300-gallon house water storage tanks.
That night, temperatures steadily fell. We spent the day making sure both the living room stove and kitchen range were burning merrily all day. Living in a log home, when you heat up all those logs, it acts as a heat sink and those warm logs radiate warmth for a long while. But we still had to take turns staying up to keep everything toasty. First I stayed up till one o’clock, then went to bed. Will got up at three and stayed up for several hours. At dawn it was -23 with a slight wind. The weather radio said the windchill was -42. But the house was toasty and all the animals and poultry fared well, so we were grateful.
David was renting a house in town with his friend. But when the rent was due to go up by $175, David’s friend bailed and David knew he couldn’t make the full rent — he was barely making ends meet as it was. He and his girlfriend, Ashley, want to buy a chunk of land to build a cabin on, but renting never left enough money to save up for a down payment. After much thought and discussion, we all decided it made sense for them to move back home with us as we have two bedrooms standing vacant and they could pay off some debts (such as student loans, etc.), then start saving money for a down payment. It just made sense to all of us. So now we’re all in the transition stage, with things being moved in and out, getting ready for the big move after Christmas.
We’re also finishing getting all of our seed varieties packaged and labeled as hopefully our new catalog will be hitting the press in a few weeks. We’re real excited about that.
Last night I made some venison stew and a batch of half-time spoon rolls and that sure tasted good. Later David and Ashley came over with some more boxes and cleaned out David’s old upstairs bedroom, getting ready to do some fixing up and then moving in. Afterward, we all worked on our owl puzzle, which we all agreed was the hardest puzzle any of us had ever done. Luckily, Ashley is a puzzle whiz so it’s finally getting together. Then it’s getting glued up as it will never go back in the box. We all agree that putting it together once was enough!
Today, the weather is more moderate with a high in the high teens … ABOVE zero! It feels like summer. What a relief. — Jackie
We have been spending time making sure our critters are extra comfortable. I spread a fresh bale of hay in the goats’ indoor pen so they could cuddle down together in a nest. And when it is getting dark, I shut the door so the wind won’t blow on them at night. The chicken coop is all spread with a thick layer of fresh wood shavings as it’s so cold the wood won’t get damp a bit. And I closed up a couple of air vents. The chickens sure don’t need more fresh air now!
Will screwed a few new sheets of plywood over the west side of the run-in shed to stop the wind for the cows and horses. (Our donkeys ate the last sheets!) Yep, I’ve tried hot pepper, anti-chewing sprays, bitter apple, and they still chew. It’s not like they’re bored or don’t have anything else to eat. Will hauled down three more big round bales to row up in a windbreak in the pasture so the stock can eat while standing out of the wind.
I fed our birds extra sunflower seeds and suet as those little guys sure need extra calories when it’s so bitter cold.
Then we added extra wood to the wood stoves and settled in for the evening. I have to smile — We’re working puzzles again and in the latest issue of BHM, there’s that picture of my late husband, Bob and son, David, doing a puzzle back in Montana. Yep, we still choose that low-tech form of entertainment. But I must say, the one we’re working now is the toughest one I’ve ever done! I sure hope it gets done by Christmas as it’s on our dining room table.
In my “spare time” I even got the kitchen cleaned up somewhat after all the fall and early winter canning. I want to get some more chili and hamburger canned up as our beef is getting a little old and I don’t want it to freezer burn. Besides, I’m running a little low on canned chili, and we sure love it — especially in cold weather. Then there’s beans to can up, which we also love as it’s so convenient. See, I’m not done canning yet — I don’t think I ever am, really.
Then there are the seed catalogs which are beginning to trickle in. We spend a lot of time scanning through them to see if there’s something new in heirloom seeds we’d love to try in next summer’s gardens. Just think, come February I’ll be starting peppers! Can’t wait. — Jackie
We’ve got serious snow on the ground and temps which are destined to see below zero this week, but Will and I are hard at work planning our next year’s gardens. Like many of you, we’ve been getting seed catalogs in the mail. To avoid missing out on some new listings of rare seeds I’ve been ordering a few things.
Not only do we raise food to eat and put up, but we also raise food for our seed business as well. We grow a lot more varieties than we offer in our catalog and on our website because not all meet our requirements: productivity, taste, and hardiness. This year we grew 27 different bean varieties; some we loved, some not so much, and a few were really rare varieties. Take Monacello di Trevio for instance — I paid $4 for 10 seeds of this gorgeous red and white shiny round bean. It was supposed to be a bush bean but I soon found out it was a pole variety. Will almost had a heart attack when I paid forty cents a seed for beans! But those 10 seeds produced more than 4 pounds of beans. They tasted great, shelled easy, and produced well. Not enough to offer yet, but you can be sure I will be planting many more next spring!
Not only do we study seed catalogs but also the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, in which hundreds of seed savers across the globe let us know what seeds they have to offer folks like us. The seeds in this book are open pollinated, often ancient heirloom varieties. This past summer Will grew Yellow Monster sweet bell and Giant Chinese Hot peppers and I tried several new-to-us beans. What fun! It doesn’t take much to please us homesteaders, does it? — Jackie
The two feet of snow is mostly gone and the ground froze, at least a bit. So Will is hurrying to haul our last hay home from the fields. He’s had a little tractor trouble — nothing serious, just a plugged fuel filter, so far. He’s almost done on one field and the round bale storage yard is about full. He’s got another thirty or so bales over at another field. If all goes well, he should be finished in a couple of days.
We did get a little new snow but it’s nothing much; only a two-inch buildup and today it’s 32 degrees above! We’re rejoicing about that.
This past weekend we went to grandson Mason’s ninth birthday party. The best part of it for him was when Grandpa Will played Pie Face and got clobbered with a big gob of whipped cream right in his mouth and mustache!
I never showed you how the new stain on the west end of the house turned out. I got it done just before the weather turned too cold. I think it looks great and come spring, I’ll give it a couple more coats as that’s the “tough” end of the house. All our weather comes from the west and it gets plenty of hot sun in the afternoons in the summer. Some folks think once you build a log house you are freed from any maintenance. Not so. You need to keep the stain redone every few years to protect the logs as well as caulk up any large cracks so moisture doesn’t go in and start rotting the logs. But even with that, we sure love our logs!