The last few days have been busy ones. I’ve been transplanting dozens and dozens of tiny tomato plants into styrofoam cups and deep six packs. I fill the container, mark the variety on the side to be SURE I know what the plants are, make a small hole in the center with a teaspoon, use the teaspoon to work the plant loose from the flat, taking care to hold it by the leaf, not the stem, then lowering it into the hole and pushing the soil down on both sides of the plantlet.
Then David has been busy too. So far, he’s made 6 trips home with firewood from the clearcut up north, plus 6 loads that he’s stockpiled at our carpenter friend, Tom’s land near the woods. And some of that ash is HUGE! David can’t reach around some of the trunks. When he loaded it on the truck, the 3/4 ton truck squatted so bad that the springs straightened out!
We’re weird about wood here; we already have almost enough for next winter, plus some saw logs. And David will keep hauling until breakup. In the north, breakup is the end of all wood cutting in low areas because when the frost goes out, you can’t access the wood, even with a four wheel drive or ATV. So right now, it’s a horse race to get as much hauled before spring springs. Much of our lives is ruled by Nature around here in the backwoods. And that’s not such a bad thing at all.
The computer problem still isn’t fixed, but I did manage to attach this photo, after a while meditating in front of a blank monitor.
Raising chicken food
Due to the rising cost of "everything"..what kind of chicken food can I raise in my garden for the chickens to eat during our Maine winters. During the summer they are free-range and doing quite
well. What’s the best kind of corn to grow for chickens and what other crop will be best for them. I currently have 11 hens and will get a rooster (at least for a few months)in the spring.
Luckily chickens are not picky eaters! You can just let several rows of your sweet corn mature. You can later pick it when the leaves are dry and store it in a dry spot away from rodents. But chickens can eat a lot of other extra garden produce. Mine love all the extra squash I can grow. I just bring it into the basement and give them a squash a day or every other day. It’s fun to feed, too. I just whop it down on the ground and the squash pops like a pinata. The chickens come running. They love it. They especially love the seeds, which are high in protein, too.
Of course they’ll also eat your kitchen scraps; potato peels, crushed egg shells, carrot peels, leftover vegetables and fruit, bread that has gone stale (they don’t even mind a little mold!), leftover salads, withered rutabagas and turnips from the cellar; chickens love them all….and they help with the feed bill a whole lot. You can even sprout some seeds for them; like wheat or oats. Of course, the price of wheat is climbing so badly…but you don’t need much to make a whole big pan of four inch high wheatgrass.
Love my chickens and luckily, they’re easy to feed! — Jackie
Raised beds, “making” soil
We are planning to move to Grand Marais, MN, an area of the state with which you are undoubtedly familiar. I want to plant a garden there and as you probably know, there cannot be more than 8-10 inches of topsoil in any area on the Laurentian Shield–any deeper and you hit bedrock. I know my garden will have to be a raised bed because even compost and manure don’t do much for improving solid basalt and granite. Do you have any recommendations for tomatoes, peppers, and squashes (both summer and winter) for zone 4 (maybe 3 if we’re over the hill from the big lake) and what does well in a raised bed.
Nice area! We looked seriously at some raw land about 17 miles southwest of Grand Marais, but it was really, really isolated and we figured we’d end up taking care of my elderly parents….which we did 2 years later, and didn’t think we should get land with only ATV access over 7 miles, then 12 miles on an unplowed forest service road. Actually, there’s more soil than you think, in some areas, depending on where you locate. Up on the hill, it’s shallower; over the hill, deeper.
A whole lot of crops do well in raised beds; most actually. We’ve had good luck with Oregon Spring and Bush Goliath tomatoes, as both of these are relatively well behaved determinate plants that don’t sprawl too much. All peppers do well, as the plants are relatively small and erect. As for squash, you can grow bush squash or make smaller raised "hills" and put vining squash just about anywhere.
You can also "make" soil, over the years by mounding compost up on your garden area, tilling it in, adding more, tilling that in, and so on. It takes awhile, but you can actually build up a productive, large garden "mound" in this way. Mix leaves, sawdust, rotted manure, pine needles, peat moss and straw well together with some soil, and pretty darned soon, you’ll have a big raised area to plant in. And even on the shallow soil, you’ll find that a lot does well up there, due to the moisture from the lake effect. There are a lot of good gardens up north on the Arrowhead! Good luck and welcome to Minnesota! — Jackie
Hopi Pale Grey seeds
I am “still” trying to get some Hopi Pale Grey seeds. Any more suggestions? Would you happen to have 3-4 seeds you are willing to part with?
Also, will you be saving seeds from your "wild" Montana petunias? They sound hardy and anything that’s very fragrant is a big hit with me!
Good news!!! Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) or 2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704 has lots of Hopi Pale Grey seeds this year!!! I’m so relieved that someone is once again carrying this great squash. If you, for some reason, can’t get them there, let me know and I’ll send you some. And Yes, I will be saving my kind-of-wild Montana petunia seeds. I’ll let everyone know, and will have a limited amount (God willing!) to share this fall. Remind me then, okay? — Jackie
Thanks for the inspiration
Not a question, but a thanks: Jackie, you’ve been an inspiration. This week I put a new Briggs &
Stratton engine on the Troy-Bilt tiller my grandfather bought when I was a baby (35 or 36 years ago)
and got the ground tilled for my 1200-sqft garden – the first garden I’ve done since my parents last had one when I was a teenager, 20+ years ago.
I’m looking forward to lots of good veggies for my wife and 8-month old son – keep up the good work, and THANK YOU for the inspiration!
Fort Worth, Texas
Wow! I’m so happy you’re up and running. My old, old TroyBilt, bought in 1976 finally bit the dust a few years ago, after several rebuilds. (We used it a LOT, including a 3 acre market garden.) I loved it so much, we bought another one, and have tilled a lot of ground with it.
I hope your garden is very bountiful, this year and in the years to come. The best of luck! — Jackie
Dealing with milk stone
Recently I was given a beautiful stainless steel milk bucket (to replace a plastic one getting rather worn out.) I was told that milk , after a while, makes something called milk stone, and needs to be cleaned with a special sort of soap. In your experience, is there another way to clean buckets adequately with household ingredients (like soda or something)? I have stainless steel pots that I just wash with regular dish soap. I threw out the dishwasher as I can do a better job than it can so I just use regular soap on all the dishes and am wondering why the bucket wouldn’t fair just as well.
Milk stone is a deposit that adheres to milking equipment that is used very heavily. I have never found it a problem in homestead milking conditions. Yes, you can treat your milk pail like your other stainless steel equipment. Just make sure you rinse your pail well and drain it to dry. Wiping it dry could possibly put bacteria on the clean pail from your dish towel. — Jackie
Jackie on the Oprah show?
I just sent some of your info to the Oprah Show. Please get busy writing your autobiography and be sure to include all your knowledge of some many things that I have read about. I think they should send some Oprah producers (or Oprah and Gayle) to come and spend some time with you. How do you get your snail mail? How long does it take you to get to the nearest town? I’m totally fascinated
with your lifestyle.
Boone, North Carolina
I doubt that Oprah would be interested in our "boring" lifestyle, but hey, we love it! We get our snail mail through our old mailbox, way out on the road, a mile away. It comes through the Angora post office, twelve miles away. But Angora isn’t really a town, town; it has but a few buildings and is a dot on the highway. Our nearest town is Cook (population 600) and it is 16 miles northeast of us. If I drive into town, it usually takes me about 25 minutes; five of those on our driveway, which the top speed is 15 mph because of the humps and bumps. Of course sometimes it takes longer if I see something interesting. So far on our drive we’ve seen wolves, bears, fishers, a lynx, a cougar, lots of deer and smaller woodland creatures. One morning I had to stop and watch a huge bald eagle sitting low in a pine, eating a piece of meat.
We’re actually quite civilized here; we get UPS and even FedEx! Wow! Of course they sure hate to come into our place. I think they’re scared so far off the road. — Jackie
Safe canned Navy beans
I recently canned ten quarts of navy beans. They were dried. I soaked them for 18 hours, boiled them for one hour, and filled the jars. I processed them for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
When the processing was complete, I noticed that all of the jars lost quite a bit of liquid. All jars sealed. Will they be safe to eat, without much liquid?
Interlaken, New York
Yes, the beans will be safe to eat, provided they sealed well. This loss of liquid happens when we fill the jars a bit too full with liquid or when the pressure fluctuates during processing. You know; oops, it’s 14 pounds. I’ll turn it down. Eeek! Now it’s 9 pounds. Back up. It happens. Don’t worry. — Jackie
Making sure the kids get enough to eat
I have new baby goats, among them a set of quads and a set of triplets. They seem to be doing great. They are very active! Would you supplement with bottles or just let the nannys take care of them?
When you have more than twin baby goats, you’ll have to actively make sure they all get enough to eat. You usually have a pig or two in the bunch, and they won’t let the weaker or less agressive kids eat. If you know the doe has enough milk to feed all the kids (be sure of this) you can stand by and play switch the kids so they all have equal turns at the teats. Or you can milk the doe and divide her milk, feeding by bottle twice a day.
If she doesn’t have enough milk, as they demand more while growing, you can supplement her milk with powdered milk replacer. Use either goat milk replacer or lamb. The calf replacer is much cheaper but will give them the scours (diarrhea) and they won’t do well on it. — Jackie