Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Archive for October, 2016
Friday, October 28th, 2016
This afternoon we’re going out to dig the last of our potatoes, two 75-foot rows in our old pig pasture. We already have the North Garden and the Main Garden, so instead of continuing to call it the “pig pasture garden,” we changed its name to “The Central Garden.” Isn’t that high class? Anyway, we’ve got to get those late potatoes dug before the ground freezes. We sure don’t want to waste them.
I’m getting ready for a trip to Denver, Colorado. I’ve been asked to speak at the Self Reliance Expo there which is November 4-5th. So if any of you would like to come, I’d sure be real happy to meet you. Just come up to the Backwoods Home booth. Jeff Yago, Dave and Ilene Duffy, and Don Childers will also be there so it’ll be kind of an “old home weekend.”
We had a pile of Hopi Pale Grey squash on the front porch but as the nights are getting colder, I’m moving them into our downstairs spare bedroom to store. (We still have four from last year!) These squash taste and store so well they’ve always been our favorites. I don’t know how they possibly nearly went extinct! They’re so much better than plain old acorn or buttercup squash, favored by commercial growers.
I’ve got a crate of nice carrots to can up, grown by my friend Dara. Our main garden was filled with extra tomatoes and beans this year, so we decided that this spring, she would grow extra carrots and we’d trade sweet corn for carrots. That was sure a win-win trade. She got to can up two crates of sweet corn and I’ve got carrots I didn’t grow.
This afternoon David’s girlfriend, Ashley, is coming over to help me can apples. She’s never canned before so she’s getting hands-on lessons. I’ve got tons of apples and the extra help is much appreciated, for sure. — Jackie
Wednesday, October 26th, 2016
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!
Wednesday, October 19th, 2016
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
Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
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
Thursday, October 6th, 2016
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
Tuesday, October 4th, 2016
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