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Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

New Listing of Heirloom Seeds on Jackie & Will’s new website

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 by Jackie | 18 Comments »
Our homestead seed business is up and going for 2015-2016. We raise most of our own historical, open-pollinated, definitely non-GMO seeds right here at home in Northern Minnesota. We have many varieties to offer this year.Our seeds are from beautiful, often rare, wonderful varieties that we love for their production, shining colors, and taste. Some, such as one of our favorites, Hopi Pale Grey squash, is so rare it was teetering on the brink of extinction.
Our prices are right, as is our shipping, so please come take a look at (If you can’t access our website, just e-mail us for the listing!) seedtreasures[at]

The harvest continues

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

We’ve been getting some real cold nights along with rainy days, so we’ve been continuing our harvest. I’ve been shelling the last of our new beans and the star is a dry bean, Monachelle di Trevio. I bought ten bean seeds for this productive pole bean and ended up harvesting two pounds of seed! It isn’t enough to offer this year in our seed catalog, but it is enough that I can plant tons next year. Besides being beautiful red and white, this round bean is easy to shell, and quite early to dry down. We’ll be tasting a few too, but being from Italy, I’m sure it’s very good.


I picked nearly all of our peppers as the plants in our hoop house got frozen a couple of nights ago. Besides taking the seeds from the mature peppers, I’ve been making big batches of Cowgirl Candy. I’m even thinking of how good it would taste as a topping for cheesecake — sweet with a pop of hot.


Will got busy and picked the last of our apples, Keepsake, Frostbite and Chestnut crabs, which are two inches in diameter and very good eating apples. Now I’ve got to get busy and can ’em up as none besides Keepsake really will keep long. Boy, have we ever been munching on them with buckets full on the front porch. Nothing beats an icy, juicy, sweet, crisp apple!


We’ve also been splitting up more firewood. The last pile will fill the wood shed but I’m sure Will is going to go down and get more to pile up on our enclosed back porch. It’s great to have plenty of wood to cook with and keep us toasty warm. Wonderful!


— Jackie

Besides harvesting and canning, we’re finishing putting up firewood

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »


It was such a wet summer, we struggled to put up hay and work in the gardens. So that put us late getting some other stuff done — like firewood. We already had plenty in the woodshed, nice split and dry too. But we like to have it stuffed full — just in case. Last week Will found a broken off big ash tree down in the edge of the woods. Real big! He worked for a couple of days cutting smaller trees to get down to it. Then yesterday, he got it dragged out. Just the branches alone gave us half a cord, which we split and stacked before bringing out the main trunk.


I was seeding some Early Red Bell peppers yesterday afternoon. They are hugely productive, sweet, and big too. I cut up the first batch to dehydrate. The second batch I cut into larger pieces to make Cowgirl Candy, which we really love. Then Will asked for help with the downed tree. Glad to take a break from the peppers, I hopped on the four wheeler and Will and Hondo drove the pickup to the woods. Hondo approved of the big log, running up and down on its full length. Will got it cut up into blocks, then we started splitting the blocks into pieces small enough we could lift into the pickup. (I’ll admit, some I couldn’t handle and didn’t think Will should have either!)


We got ’em all home and this morning we split the whole works with our $100 tractor-mounted wood splitter. Now we just have to get them stacked and in the wood shed. Will took off with the truck to pick up some used tractor tires he’d bought on a Do-Bid online auction but he’s anxious to get back so he can work on the stonework along the lower wall of our addition. Of course he wants to get that done before cold weather hits. It’s coming along real nice and puts a lot of our “crop” of rocks to good use. (The addition has a cantilevered wall with joists extending out 2 feet over a block wall.) Will added treated plywood and lots of insulation board to back the new “foundation” of stone, mostly for looks as it doesn’t support anything to any great extent.


I’m still picking beans and am having such fun discovering some of the new varieties we’ve grown this year! — Jackie

We escaped the frost!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »


But I’m sure there is more frost to come. We shut up our big hoop house, still full of peppers and pole beans and said prayers. And they worked! When we woke up it was 40 degrees.


Even though we’ve been having real nice, warm, sunny days, we’re still working like mad harvesting what we can. We picked tons of tomatoes, and I sent a crate to Bill and Kelly as David was going down for a weekend visit. I also picked a crate of peppers for the seed and not wanting to waste them, I made a big batch of cowgirl candy (candied jalapeño flavored sweet peppers which are spicy but not firey hot). I’ll be making another big batch as soon as I harvest more ripe peppers. Boy, do we like our cowboy and cowgirl candy. To make cowboy candy I first double the syrup then put up the cowboy candy. Using the extra syrup, I add cut up sweet peppers, boil 4 minutes, then with a slotted spoon, I take the hot peppers out, pack into jars and ladle boiling syrup over them. They are processed 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Very good!


I’ve been picking beans every day since we know frost and freezing temperatures are coming. Some of the more rare beans are amazing and I’ll have plenty of seed so I can plant lots next year. Yes, we are starting to plan for our next year’s planting! Hey, we’re always optimistic. By the way, Will’s injuries are all much better.


Some of you have asked when you can buy some of our new seed varieties. As soon as I get done harvesting, I’ll be updating the Seed Treasures website so you can take a look. You’ll be surprised at how many new offerings we’ll have. — Jackie

Our beautiful fall weather will come to an end with frost

Thursday, October 6th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »


We’re supposed to get frost and possibly snow flurries tonight through Saturday evening, and we’ve still got veggies in the gardens. I’ve been picking beans and corn for weeks and now we’ve switched into high gear as our crops won’t take much more freezing or frost. But the fall colors are pretty; our driveway looks like a giant postcard.


We’ve also still got onions, shallots, leeks, and potatoes to get into the cellar, but they should be able to take a little frost just fine, so we’re concentrating on other crops that can’t. Luckily, we’ve got more rare beans in the protection of our large hoop house as well as our entire pepper crop, so they should be fine.


Will’s hauling our big round bales home, a load at a time. Our transport is an old bus frame on bus wheels. It hauls about eight round bales at a time. So far he’s got about fifty bales home with a lot more out there in various fields. He’s also been doing rockwork on the interior walls of our new barn. One interior side is now finished. You wouldn’t believe how many rocks he’s used so far!

Well, I’ve got to go pick more tomatoes. See you next week! — Jackie

Sunny, warm fall weather lets us get lots done

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »

Finally, finally, the rain has stopped. We’ve had four wonderful, sunny fall days. The leaves have turned and are all gold and red. Beautiful! Last Friday we had a pair of Whistling Swans stop for the morning on our beaver pond. We watched them glide around, enjoying their rest from their migration southward.


Meanwhile, I’ve been (surprise!) canning like mad. I just got a batch of thick pizza sauce finished, two batches of sweet corn, spaghetti sauce with meat, and Mexican corn (sweet corn with diced green and red sweet peppers and onions). Our late apples are ripe now so I need to switch gears and get lots of apple stuff canned up. We really love our Chestnut crab with its large, sweet, juicy apples and the Frostbite apple with cracking crisp, unusually good flavor. Both are hugely productive also!


I’m busy harvesting seeds from beans and tomatoes too. We are tremendously impressed with the Folsom Indian Ruin beans which are the biggest beans anyone has ever seen and also very productive. And yesterday I picked a batch of Enormous Plum paste tomatoes. Boy, oh boy, are they ever huge! We are focusing on more paste tomatoes this year as they can up so nice and folks need more of a choice than plain Romas. We’ve found several really great ones, including G. Chalmers Large Paste, Mia’s Italian Paste, Andes, Ten Fingers of Naples, and Speckled Roman.


The blankety blank cows got into our north garden and gobbled up most of the crops out there. What a bummer! It took days to get over that one. But we did and you can bet that won’t happen again! But they didn’t get into our pig pasture garden and I’m canning Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn. (Yes, we had a bountiful harvest for seed so I’m allowed to can up the pig pasture corn!


Oh, by the way, Will’s head is healing well although he does have a monster head cold … unrelated. — Jackie

Our rains are here, in full force

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 14 Comments »

All I’ve got to say is “Yuck!” We’re madly trying to continue our harvest but it’s nearly impossible when it’s pouring rain every day. I’ve still got plenty of dry bean seed to harvest along with corn, squash, potatoes, and onions. I had friends stop by to help harvest dry beans the other day (the only day it didn’t rain, by the way), and that was a huge help. I’m still shelling the beans but at least they’re not out in the garden, drenched.


We’ve been picking corn every chance we get and I still have some Seneca Sunrise sweet corn out in the pig pasture I want to can — it’s the third planting and is just getting ripe now. Hopefully Wednesday we can get it as the weather man is calling for drier weather. Meanwhile, I’ve been canning tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce every day as we continue seeding our tomatoes.


We run them through our Victorio tomato strainer which removes the skins and seeds. Then we soak them, mixed with half water/half seeds, in a cup or bowl for three days to ferment. The fermenting dissolves the gel and flesh along with killing any bacteria or fungus present. After this period, the yucky stuff is poured into a wire sieve and I run warm water over them, squashing out the fermented material. Will then dumps the seeds/skins into a deep bowl and lets warm water just trickle into the bowl, gently overflowing it. The skins float to the top and the seeds settle to the bottom with a little gold-panning technique, kind of swirling the water very gently. What’s left over is pure seed. This is dumped out into the sieve again to drain, then the seeds are tunked out to dry onto a plastic plate with the variety name on it. We’ve developed a pretty efficient method.


Meanwhile, on drizzly days, Will has been helping our neighbor haul gravel to fill a depression in his yard where he parks his work truck. Yesterday, Will was backing up the crawler-loader out of a dip with the bucket full of gravel. He got a bit distracted and, I’m sure, tired. The crawler-loader had the bucket too high with a load (big mistake!) and the back end suddenly lifted off the ground, bucket to the ground with the weight in it and Will catapulted out of the seat, striking the hood, then the bucket with his head! Luckily, he wasn’t seriously hurt but he sure came home with some unusual scrapes and bruises. We’re so thankful it was not worse. Whew! You can bet he’ll be more careful in the future. (By the way, crawlers don’t have seat belts.)

— Jackie

Is it the evil phase of the moon or something?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »

Wow, first we got a killing frost then as Will was finishing haying, everything broke down. And I mean EVERYTHING! Out of four tractors, three are broken and out of two round balers, both have bearings seized up. Will finished the very last field with two floor chain bearings smoking. But he finished. Then, yesterday, he and our friend Darryl borrowed our neighbor’s self-propelled combine to quickly harvest our oats, which were rapidly shedding oats onto the ground due to unceasing rains. Everything went well until they tried to empty the combine’s bin into our gravity box (wagon) to take home. No dice. The bearing on the discharge auger was seized up. Now Will’s shoveling out the bin by hand. I just hope he doesn’t overdo it and have a heart attack!

Back on the home front, I’ve been going crazy harvesting and canning. But it’s a nice sort of crazy, not a broken-tractor crazy. We’re excited that some of our new tomatoes are performing so well. Will cranked out some awesomely thick sauce from Ten Fingers of Naples paste tomatoes and now I’m cooking it down in the oven to can up spaghetti sauce. The whole house smells like pizza.



And I’ve been harvesting and shelling bean seed by the gallon. One of my favorite new ones is Iroquois, an ancient bean from the Iroquois tribe of the Northeast. While this pole bean is green, it is a flat, meaty bean great for snap beans. Then when dried down, it is an absolutely gorgeous speckled black and white. This large bean makes real tasty baked beans or bean soup. And did I mention it’s really productive and early too? What’s not to love?


I just harvested a big basket of Indigo Blue Beauty tomatoes. We’re having BLTs tonight and then Will volunteered to run them through the Victorio strainer to harvest seed so it’s a win-win situation for these gems. Everyone who comes into the garden always says, “Wow! What are THOSE?”


It’s a beautiful day today — sunny, warm, and breezy. A day to enjoy harvesting and just being outside. Ah, homesteading… — Jackie

Here’s some more photos from our Florida trip

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »





I just thought I’d share a few of the photos I took on Sanibel Island. We sure had fun and got to see a lot of things that were totally new to me. It was like going to a foreign country! — Jackie


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