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
The Self-Reliance Expo in Lakeland was great! I met a lot of really nice people and also got a chance to finally meet Mas Ayoob in person. What a thrill!
After the Expo, Ilene Duffy and I took our 3-day girl vacation. I’ll tell you more later as I just got home and have a “little” to do, as you can imagine. But here are some photos — more to come!
See you when I get a bit more caught up. — Jackie
And while he was here, Hondo decided he needed to be held on David’s lap like he used to be when he was a pup. Unfortunately, Hondo’s a lot bigger now, but he still likes being there!
Will harvested most of our Bear Island Chippewa flour corn as the Blue Jays were getting into it. They were also getting in our Yukon Supreme sweet corn, so I’ve pulled all of that too. I sat on the front porch and tied all the shucked corn up into strings so it could continue drying out without molding — it will if left in the shuck.
I’ve got lots more to do but will get on that after my trip to Florida. See you when I get back. I’ll take plenty of pictures. And if any of you can come to the booth at the expo, please stop by and say “hi!” — Jackie
You’ve been wondering when you’d get a chance to see our biggest big Bill Bean tomato? We harvested it before the chickens could get a beak on it, and it’s a whopper — the biggest tomato I’ve ever seen. It measured 22 inches around. Now that’s a tomato!
And the other tomatoes are coming in gangbusters, too. We picked a nice big pair of Solar Flares yesterday and not only are they big, but gorgeous too! We can hardly eat one they’re so pretty (we did, anyway).
Haying is finally finished. And boy, what a finish. We ended up with three out of four tractors broken down and both big round balers with bearings gone out. Just ahead of a big rainstorm, too. Whew, are we glad that’s done!
Now I’m getting packed for the big Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo where I’ll be speaking on Friday and Saturday. Will I ever be canning when I get back! — Jackie
I’ll be away from home from September 8th to the 13th, giving a couple of talks at the Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo. Any of you who can attend, please stop by and visit the Backwoods Home Magazine booth, where I’ll be helping Ilene Duffy. I truly look forward to meeting my great BHM family on these road trips. Since it’s a first-time trip to Florida for me, and just a few miles north of Sanibel Island, which is on my bucket list, Ilene and I will be taking a short vacation and hopefully pick up some beautiful seashells and see wildlife we’ve never experienced before.
Will is going to man the homestead and (hopefully) keep the garden’s produce from freezing. So as soon as I get back, I’ll once again hit the harvesting and canning in earnest.
Today Will is cutting our last hayfield away from home. Yesterday he cut two other fields. All we have left is one small field of second crop clover here at home and we’ll be done. Hooray! We’re supposed to be having 4½ days without rain. We’ll see. We’ve heard that before…
I harvested a basket of Bill Bean tomatoes. The biggest one weighed 4 pounds 3 ounces. And that’s not the biggest one out there! I can’t wait to see how much the big guy weighs. It’s bigger than an ice cream bucket! These are such flavorful tomatoes and so meaty they don’t make your bread soggy when you use them on a sandwich. Mmm, I’ve got half a loaf of whole wheat bread, mayo and…
Yesterday was mine. Early in the morning, Will sent me to Hibbing, 30 miles away, to rent the 2-inch trash pump again. First off, he needed it to draw down the muddy ground water around the base of our well so he could access the outside of the pitless adapter to hook up the water line to the new well for the barn. I asked him to call first to make sure they had it. He did, so I started off. Then he got a call that the replacement belt for the grain swather had come in at Hongistos Implement, in Cloquet (80 miles in another direction!). I figured I’d get the pump, deliver it to Will, then head to Cloquet. The rental company didn’t have a 2-inch pump; it was either a huge 3-inch pump (overkill) or an 1½ inch pump. (Was it big enough?)
I chose the 1½-inch pump. Drove home, dumped off the pump and headed for Hongistos. Will called. The pump worked fine, however the inside of the pitless adapter had somehow gotten knocked off and was now in the bottom of the well casing and, being brass, there is no way to retrieve it.
Okay, maybe we’d buy another $60 pitless adapter and just use the inside part. As there is an L & M farm store in Cloquet, I got the belt for the swather then headed for L & M. They didn’t even know what a pitless adapter was. But finally a more knowledgeable man said the only one they carried now was a “complete” kit with a well cap, adapter, etc. $159. No way!
I called Will and he made several phone calls and finally located one at Menards in Virginia (on the way home!). Only it was not a 1″ outlet but 1½”. Maybe it would work? And it was only $62; I got it. Meanwhile, he’d called L&M in Hibbing (30 miles west of Virginia) and the guy said they had the right one. So with the “wrong” one in tow, I also stopped at the L & M in Virginia, just in case. No dice. They said they’d discontinued the one Will had bought there a year back and now only sold the same “complete” kit I’d seen in Cloquet.
Off to Hibbing! Got to Hibbing and guess what? The only one they had was the “complete” kit for $159. But at least Will had been able to finish insulating and hooking up the water line and running the electric line. He also graded the ditch in so the well’s ready to go. As soon as the new pitless adapter comes in the mail…
This morning Will tried the wrong sized one from Menards. It was too big to slide into the half of the pitless we already had in place. So it was first off to Hibbing to return the pump. Then off to Virginia to return the wrong pitless adapter. Whew! All done. Will ordered the right one online.
Meanwile, the blessed man picked our wild plums. They were falling off and the deer were eating them! Luckily they spit out the pits. Now I have nearly a five-gallon bucket waiting to make plum jam and harvest pits which we’ll offer on our Seed Treasures website. This is a wonderful wild plum; so sweet inside but with tart skins. They make great jam, if I ever get to it!
We just had a beautiful heifer calf from our half-Jersey, Surprise! I think Will wants to call her Lady and she looks like a Jersey although her sire was a Gelbvieh beef bull. (Gelbvieh is pronounced Gel-fee and is a dual-purpose German breed, bred for meat and milk as well as draft.) Lady is a beautiful little girl!
I also picked some gorgeous Morovsky Div tomatoes. These are definitely one of our favorites; smaller mid-sized, thin-skin tomatoes with wonderful productivity and flavor. They just glow!
Boy, are things ever getting ripe. I’m hurrying to get the early tomatoes seeded to save their seeds. So far the early winners this year are: Earlibell, Italian Paste, Morovsky Div, Silvery Fir Tree, and Cougar Red — with Bill Bean crowding in too! Yeah, Don, they are that big; Dad wasn’t stretching the truth. I can’t get a tape measure into the cage where the biggest one is, but it’s about two inches larger than the one I did measure and it’s still green!
Our wild plums are ready to pick and look so pretty hanging in the trees like Christmas decorations. They just glow! I’m making a big batch of plum jam from them this year and saving the pits as so many folks wrote us for them so they could plant some too. (They have to be planted this fall so they can go through winter and come up next spring.)
The corn is simply fantastic! Everything from the rare Burro Mountain popcorn to Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn is out-producing anything we’ve ever had. It must have been all that rain. Now it’s starting to dry up some and we’re really thankful for that. Will’s got hay down and we’re praying the clouds overhead don’t drop you-know-what on it.
The apples are also going nuts! I’m canning like mad and making lots of pies. Our Frostbite is simply over-burdened with fruit and that’s our favorite apple. No complaints there! And the Prairie Magic is loaded with big apples. We love our apples (but we are hoping the bears don’t break down the six-foot fence to get to them). Watch ’em, Hondo!
If you’re looking for a hardy, Zone 3 black raspberry, like we have been for years, try Mac Black from Indiana Berry & Plant Co. 2811 Michigan Road, Plymouth, IN 46563. We bought a dozen last year and they not only survived winter but thrived and are starting to produce great berries. — Jackie