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Archive for June, 2015

Jackie Clay

Rain, sun, rain

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Boy, the weather can’t seem to make up its mind lately. We get a big thunderstorm and the next day the sun’s out. Then it rains again! But this rainy weather is pretty common for June in our country. And it makes the garden and flowers grow. I went out yesterday and took pictures of our big patch of lady slipper orchids, our state flower. They’re in full bloom and just gorgeous this year. Huge too! Some are the size of the palm of my hand.

This morning, between storms, we went to the berry patch and put up a stock panel for the pole beans we’re growing there this year. They’re already sending out long runners. Our friend, Dara, grew Neckargold last year and they were fantastic for her. So we thought we’d try them this year. They’re a bright yellow snap bean that simply covered her vines, making them appear gold from a distance. So far, ours are very lusty and we have high hopes. We’re also growing one of my old favorite flour corns, Bear Island Chippewa, which is getting extremely rare. It’s multi-colored and short seasoned, making it a great corn for those of us with challenging climates. And this is Chippewa country so we thought it appropriate!

Our peppers and melons in the hoop houses are doing great. Some of Will’s Hot Banana peppers already have peppers set on them. I’ve been thinning carrots and tucking tomato vines back inside tomato cages. Boy, are they growing fast! Some of the vines have wandered 18 inches out of the sides of the cages in a week’s time. Wow!

Everything in the pumpkin patch is doing very well and Will wants to get started fencing it as the deer are already wandering through “shopping.” So far, only a few nibbles on the potatoes. But we’re getting big thunderstorms today and it’s dangerous to be out when there’s lightning. A neighbor was killed by it getting into his car a couple years back and we’re very careful.

The dill I planted last year did so well that it self-seeded and is coming up all in that end of the berry patch. Cool! We love dill.

The red raspberries Will and Krystal transplanted are doing very well as are the blueberry row and the new Mac Black black raspberries we bought this year (supposed to be Zone 3). The rain and heat helps a lot.

Because he’s not able to put up fence today, Will is working on the forms for the interior slip form concrete and stone walls inside the barn. Not only will there be outer walls but interior walls as well; no rotten wood next to the manure. Ever. Nice but a lot of work! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

One of our hen turkeys hatched out … chicks

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Yep, that’s right, chicks, not poults (baby turkeys). It seems Mama turkey found a nest of chicken eggs and decided to sit on them instead of making her own nest. Oh well, she IS a good mother and it’s the second time a turkey has raised chicks on our ranch and last time she raised the whole batch.

Will got most of our tomatoes not only staked but mulched and caged, too. We’ve got to buy another roll of concrete reinforcing wire to do the last 30 or so tomatoes. Boy, there are a LOT of tomatoes in the garden this year! We’re out of money so in the meantime, we’re busy tilling, weeding, and mulching the rest of the crops. Today Krystal and Will are working on the isolation patches of squash.

I’ve been kind of under the weather with another bout of diverticulitis and finally had to go to the doctor for antibiotics. Whew! After three days the meds are working and there’s much less gut pain. Boy, how I hate that. So today I’m kind of easing back into the swing of things gently. No, I won’t overdo.

Our adopted son, Javid, is still in need of a donated used laptop or tablet to use while he’s forced to lie in bed to keep healing his previous pressure sore. So if you have one around you’d part with, please let me know, okay?

Our rhubarb is HUGE again this year. The stalks are the size of baseball bats and the leaves are higher than my head. Wow! One plant would make a million pies! I need to get busy and can up some sauce. My friend, Jeri, found that if she extracted a couple of pints of juice from cut-up rhubarb with her Mehu Liisa juicer, then canned up the rhubarb as well as the juice, the rhubarb was just right for sauce, not being watery like regular canned rhubarb. Great for rhubarb crisp, too. Yum.

The broccoli and cauliflower is doing great this year, as it did last year. All mulched and weeded, they’re shooting up. Can’t wait. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

In between rains, work continues

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately, with a few sunny days stuck between them, thank goodness. Will pounded 104 T-posts in the garden to stake up the tomatoes we have growing in there. Our big tomatoes would break off wooden stakes in the wind! Then he weeded and mulched them with our seed-free reed canary grass hay. Once mulched, they’ll need no more weeding.

Yesterday, he finished putting wire cages over most of the tomatoes but he had to start making more cages as we’re growing so many more tomatoes this year in the garden. The ones I planted on the new forty acres won’t be mulched or caged; it’s just too much work for us.

Today the sun’s out and Will’s busy making more cages and also side dressing our small household patch of corn in the garden with rotted manure. The corn sure jumps once that’s done and it already looks pretty good. On the end of the sweet corn is a small patch of Glass Gem popcorn.

Unfortunately the chickens got in the garden (we do have a few “wild” escapees) and scratched around in that patch. And ate some corn. But they are ousted from the garden and most of it has come up anyway.

The pumpkin patch/corn patch is doing well as is the pig-pasture corn and pumpkins. So we’ll pray for warm sunshine and alternate days of rain to keep it going. Lookin’ good so far… — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: free-ranging pigs, canned pinto beans, and sunless strawberries

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Free-ranging pigs

I remember you telling about a pig that spent the winter free and that it did very well. I wonder what kind of pigs you raise and do you think I could raise them without grain?

Sandie Heatherington
Siberia, Indiana

Well, Sandie, you remembered my story a bit wrong. There were two weaned pigs and they did escape and spend the summer and fall roaming 160 acres of fields and woods, eating all sorts of wild foods from roots and grasses to acorns in the fall. And they were very nice when we finally found and captured them. But they did not winter out “wild.” In Minnesota, they would never have wintered as food would have been nearly impossible for them to find. You can certainly let pigs roam free in a very large acreage to feed without grain as the old-timers did. But you can’t just fence a pig into an acre or two and expect him to do well with no grain; there’s just not enough food for him to choose and pick from. — Jackie

Canned pinto beans

I canned some pinto beans last fall and was going to use a jar and a few beans had some grayish spots on them. Almost like mold but the seal is perfect. Are they bad?

Carolyn Allee
Raymond, Washington

If your beans were processed correctly and the seal is still good, open a jar. If they smell okay, they will be fine to eat. As always, heat the beans to boiling temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. — Jackie

Sunless Strawberries

My son-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. My granddaughters really want to grow strawberries, but they live in a high-rise apartment, and they get no direct sunlight, not even on their little balcony. Is there a way we can make their dreams come true? Is there a type of strawberry that will grow well under a grow light? Do you have any ideas on something else they might enjoy growing and eating?
Lisa G.
Cottondale, Florida

Any vegetables and, of course, strawberries, can certainly be grown under grow lights or even four-foot regular shop lights, held only inches above the plants. (Think of all of those marijuana growers!) They could try easy-to-grow things like multi-colored lettuce, radishes, or even bush beans. There are a lot of possibilities so they should have fun! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had sad news

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Our friend, Linda, who helped cook at our homestead seminars passed away recently and suddenly due to undiagnosed cancer. Her service brought tears to many of us who knew her and will certainly miss her every day.

But we go on, planting and believing in the hope of the future. Our hoop houses are bulging and so is the garden. I finally finished planting on the new pumpkin/corn patch yesterday. And already the pumpkins and squash are looking good out there. However, I will have to replant a couple varieties that I had old seed. It didn’t come up. Oh well, it happens.

This morning I got up at 6 AM to cows bawling and donkeys braying. Crystal, our donkey, as well as three calves were out. So I spent awhile herding livestock and enjoying the beautiful morning. There were even deer out browsing on the clover next to the woods. How pretty. Cows in, donkey in. So I came back to the house and made pancakes. I was hungry after playing cowboy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

When the weather’s perfect…

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

You get a lot done. We’ve been having nice warm daytime temperatures and last night we had a good soaking rain. It makes seeds germinate quickly and pop up strongly. You can hear our pumpkins and squash growing!

Yesterday morning there were white pelicans on our beaver pond. You don’t usually think of pelicans in Northern Minnesota but we have quite a few. In fact, just a few miles north of us is Pelican Lake, a huge body of water that the pelicans enjoy. I think they are so graceful, soaring in flocks, way up in the sky, before they land. And on the water, they look like swans, all except that pouched bill. They like to swim and fish for minnows on our pond and we enjoy watching them.

I’ve been planting up the rest of the land Will tilled on our new forty acres with the tractor-mounted tiller. He said he’s “all done planting corn!” It was pretty brutal when he and Krystal hand-planted the big patch that they did in the muck. But I can’t stand to waste tilled ground so I’ve been planting more pumpkins between varieties of beans. So far I’ve planted Cherokee Trail of Tears and I’ve got Hopi String and Tongue of Fire to go. Then we’ll see how much land is left…

My favorite rose is blooming near the kitchen garden gate. It’s the old “Yellow Rose of Texas”, which is both hardy and beautiful. Pioneers often carried it West to remind them of home. I’ve always had a yellow rose by my house, no matter where we happened to be, so I really understand how it could be a symbol of “home.”

We’re still searching for a used laptop or tablet for my handicapped son, Javid, so he can be online while being forced to lie down to ensure his pressure sore continues to heal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: local co-ops in Minnesota and use for small dropped apples

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Local co-ops in Minnesota

We are new to the Iron Range. Also new to self reliance. My question is are there any good locally owned co-ops where we can get started on the range? Any tips or advice for the Virginia and Hibbing area would be greatly appreciated.

Kaila Kvasnicka
Chisholm, Minnesota

Welcome to the North, Kaila! As far as I know, there is only one Co-op: Natural Harvest Food Co-op. Their address is: 505 N. 3rd St., Virginia, MN 55792. Phone number: (218) 741-4663. There are farmers’ markets in the towns of Hibbing, Virginia, and Cook also. — Jackie

Use for small dropped apples

I have a lot of small apples falling from my trees. Is there something I can do with these small apples? Are they too green for spiced apples like pickled crab apples? Thank you for this helpful web site and the articles in Backwoods home Magazine.

Charles P. Britton
Southwest City, Missouri

Sorry, Charles, but these drops are usually way too green to use. If you have pigs or chickens, they will appreciate you tossing them over the fence to them. I would remove the apples from your orchard as they are sometimes stung by apple pests and will increase any insect problem you have in your apples, over time. This is one reason we have our chickens fenced in our orchard. They clean them right up as they fall. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sealing cedar for raised beds and squash not germinating

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Sealing cedar for raised beds

We just got some cedar raised garden boxes. Do we need to seal them from moisture? We would like to seal them and also give them a little color with wood stain but fear that we will be putting harmful chemicals right where we are growing our food. Do you have any definitive information about this situation?

Deborah McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

It is recommended that we do not seal our cedar raised beds for the best quality garden soil. Untreated, cedar boards should last for decades, leaving the soil pure. — Jackie

Squash not germinating

I bought some of your Hopi Pale Grey Squash seeds and planted them about a month ago (approx. early May). So far nothing shows. All the other seeds like Provider Beans and Pumpkin seeds have germinated and are about 2-3 inches tall. Is Hopi a slow germinator or did I put the seeds in too early? Will they still sprout after a month of watering? Your insights are much appreciated. Thanks for all the great articles and blog!

Draza Knezevich
Miramonte, California

No, Hopi Pale Greys are very fast germinators. They should certainly be up by now. I’d dig in a hill you planted and see if the seeds are still there. If they are and look rotted they may gotten dry while trying to germinate. If they are gone, a squirrel, chipmunk, or bird may have made off with them. If you have more seeds, go ahead and replant. I sure hope you have better luck. As you know, Hopi Pale Greys are one of our favorites! — Jackie


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