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
By now, most of you with internet have gotten the message from Dave Duffy, saying that with the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of BHM, the magazine will cease publication of the print magazine. I’m sure this came as much of a shock to you as it did to me (I’ve been with the magazine since 1998). So we had a few sleepless nights figuring things out.
However, Self-Reliance will keep publishing and you’ll still find me writing for it as well as the Kindle version of Backwoods Home, which will continue. And I won’t abandon you with my blog. We’re still trying to figure out things regarding that and the Ask Jackie feature and I’ll keep you posted as the “powers that be” let me know.
On a brighter note, our little homestead seed business, Seed Treasures, is taking off as our catalog is now out and return customers from all across the country are sending in orders. (If you want a catalog, just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org) Will gets up early and packages seeds. I do the mailing, so if you should get the wrong item or miss a pack, please let me know. Doesn’t happen often, but hey, we all make mistakes.
I just ordered a bunch of rare beans for us to try, from the Rare Seed Consortium. They are pricey but pretty cool. So we’ll try a bunch and offer them next year, if they make the grade with us.
I’m ready to plant peppers and am trying to make final decisions on which varieties to plant this year. It’s hard! We have many lively discussions around here about plant varieties and we tease Will that he’ll have to fire up Old Yeller, our bulldozer, to make some new garden spaces.
We are even talking about building a separate Seed Treasures building as the business is taking up a whole lot of the house now. But that’s the way a new home business gets and we are glad things are going well. — Jackie
February is half over! Groundhog or not, we’re thinking spring around here. Today it was nearly 40 degrees above with the sun out. What a nice day. So Will decided he’d set out a few round bales of hay and then go work on the new barn. It’s been so cold he hasn’t gotten much done but hopes to stay on it for awhile now that it’s warmed up. So while he went up and down the hill, getting round bales with the Oliver, I stayed at the pasture gate, opening and shutting it to let him through. As the critters always have hay, they aren’t particularly hungry and will zip out the open gate if given half a chance, just for an “adventure.”
Today he hauled two bales out while I got a chance to pet the horses and donkeys. Crystal and Moose, our donkey “herd,” always leave the hay to come get some attention. I noticed Crystal, the tan one, is shedding. Wow! Another clue spring is not far away. And I did see some pussywillows in bloom yesterday on the way to town.
Yesterday I put away my last batch of chili. All in all, I now have 74 quarts and a pint of “new” chili on the pantry shelves! We ate the two which didn’t seal. (Real hard on us … lol)
Tomorrow I’ll get out the seed trays and some peat pellets then decide which peppers I want to grow this year. My friends, Mike and Dara, were here yesterday and we all discussed various varieties we’ll be wanting to plant. It was fun and exciting too. — Jackie
I’ve been canning up a storm trying to gain some freezer space. Since Will brought home about 200 pounds of hamburger from a steer we had butchered, I have extra motivation for canning more meat and meat recipes.
Friday I thawed out a shank portion ham that I got on sale. Over the weekend I first cut ham chunks from it, then dices, and canned these prime pieces. When there was still considerable meat left on the bone, I put it into a large stockpot with water and boiled it for an hour or so. Then I cooled the pot and later skimmed off the excess fat and took out the bone. Then I cut even more pieces from it, adding them to the broth, along with grated carrot and chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Bringing this up to a boil, I added the dry beans I’d soaked overnight. When the pot again came to a boil, I ladled 1/3 of a jar full of beans/veggies and filled it to within an inch of the top with broth. This gave me 10 jars of ham chunks and 27 jars of ham and bean soup. Again the bone went into the stock pot with half a pot of water. I simmered it for a couple of hours, then fished out the spent bone. Adding split peas, grated carrots, chopped onion, and garlic, along with salt and pepper to taste, I again filled jars — only 10 pints, this time.
When all was finished, I had 47 meal ingredients/meals from one half a ham. Not bad! Today I’ve got 10 pounds of hamburger thawed out and a kettle brimming with soaked beans. So this afternoon, it’s going to be another batch of chili. We use a lot of this, especially in the winter with a nice batch of cornbread to go with it.
We are excited that we just got our Seed Treasures catalogs from the printer. They look great and I’ll start sending them to customers who’ve requested them. Past customers will receive theirs, mailed bulk mail from the printer. Wow, suddenly spring seems a lot closer! — Jackie
What do we do when it’s so cold? Play catch-up on those chores we’ve been putting off before spring comes and we don’t have time. Today, Will brought in his chainsaw chain sharpener on the stand he’d put together from assorted “junk” and started sharpening. He has more than seven chains and now they’re all ready for the woods.
I cut up and canned a ham. And next I’m boiling the bone and will make bean soup to can. Out of that one half ham I’ll end up with about 35 meals, all totalled. Not bad for one piece of meat!
Mittens and the dogs just laid around in the sun and slept. Of course, Hondo, being a comfort creature, just hopped on the (forbidden) good sofa, put his head on a pillow and went to sleep, perhaps dreaming of chasing rabbits or coyotes.
For all you Jess Hazzard fans out there (Jess is the main character in my Western novels), I thought you might like to see the real country where he lived; the Upper Green River Valley and the Green Lakes region in Wyoming. We’ve travelled there several times and enjoyed the Bridger-Teton Wilderness. It’s one of the most beautiful sections of the U.S.
Ever have to be in two places at once? Not uncommon for us. For instance, we had two steers butchered and yesterday was the day we’d arranged to meet various customers who bought quarters of beef. But it was also the same day our son, Javid, was going skiing! Luckily David and his girlfriend, Ashley, drove Javid to the Giant’s Ridge Ski hill while we delivered beef.
Javid used to ski in Montana, using adaptive equipment and he has sure missed it here. He joined a special program here and yesterday he had a ball on the slopes. I asked David if they put him on the bunny hill. David laughed and said, “No, it was a pretty good hill!” And because David snowboards, I took his word. So we got it all done and everyone was happy.
Today it’s snowing pretty good and I’m getting ready to can up a big batch of baked beans. Like our beef, our pork is getting a little old so I need to use up the hams and bacon we have left. And we all love baked beans! So the beans are soaking and I’ll get at it soon. Mmmm!
We’ve finally set our program for the fall seminar so if any of you are interested, just click on the Seed Treasures link and check out what we’ll be offering in August. We’ve already got four people signed up so if you’re interested, I’d suggest getting signed up. We can only accept 14 people so everyone can get a good, hands-on experience.
It’s hard to believe we’ll be planting seeds soon! Especially when it’s snowing outside. But we’re real excited and are already discussing the wheres and hows of our 2017 gardens. And with the political unrest, we will be planting even more. Just in case … — Jackie
We were until I came upon some of my photos taken in June! My gosh, the colors just knock us out after a winter of drab and white. Now I really can’t wait till spring.
We’re planning and ordering some interesting new seeds. As always, we look for beautiful, tasty and often Native heirloom varieties we can grow here in Zone 3. Already we’ve found some new-to-us old beans, squash, corn, and others. David’s girlfriend, Ashley, can’t wait to help out in the garden as she’s never had the chance to garden before and just loves all things “homesteady.” We have a lot of fun together.
Our warm weather has cooled and is heading back to normal for January. As long as I’ve lived in Minnesota — more than thirty years, in all — I’ve never seen a January thaw before. What a nice surprise that was! And it lasted nearly two weeks in what is usually the very coldest time of the year. Spring seems a lot closer even though I know we’ve still got a lot of winter ahead of us. (But, hey, we get to plant our peppers and petunias next month!)
I’ll be canning up some ground beef next; dozens and dozens of pints. It’s so easy to put up and so very handy to have around. I season some for tacos and leave other plain for a variety of mixed recipes. We just love having that pre-cooked burger handy for quick, homemade meals. — Jackie
Since we have a freezer half full of nearly year-old hamburger, and Will just took in two steers to butcher, I’ve been canning like crazy. No more putting it off for me! So far, I’ve put up 36 quarts of chili. But I’ve got a little warning for you. I learned something in the process. I had nearly run out of quart jars so at WalMart, I saw Anchor Hocking quarts, with lids and rings for more than a dollar cheaper than Kerr jars. Being cheap, and have used “alternative” brands for years, I bought two dozen jars.
Okay, fast forward. Two jars’ rings let loose during processing, blowing chili everywhere! One in one batch, one in the second. Not good! Will checked the rings and found that if jiggled a bit loose, they would pop right off! So I threw away ALL of the shiny gold new rings and finished the batches with old Kerr rings. Yep, all sealed fine. Surprise! I figured Anchor Hocking had been around for decades and the jars would be okay; but I didn’t think about rings. Lesson learned! Just a warning to all you who can. Don’t use the rings that come with Anchor Hocking jars!
I have to correct a statement in the last blog; we did not buy a battery from DB Electrical, but a starter. Love the company!
We had one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen the other evening. I grabbed my camera and tore off around the house, trying to find where I could get a shot. Nearly killed myself, dashing under the deck! But I did get a few good photos and it was all worth it.
I bought a used rocker-recliner from Goodwill years ago but it was getting pretty shaky. So over the weekend, Will took it apart and re-glued and added a few screws to it to strengthen it further. Now it’s in great shape. It’s amazing what a good man, some glue and screws can do!