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Archive for February, 2017
Tuesday, February 28th, 2017
Although we had temps of -2 last night, we are excited that our first pepper seedlings are up and looking great. We start them in peat pellets, soaked in hot water to puff them up, and then plant two seeds per pellet so we can choose the strongest plant to let grow. Sometimes we gently tease one plant out and transplant it while very young into its own peat pellet to grow on. Once a small container of one variety has been planted and labeled, I stick them in plastic bags or bread wrappers to hold in moisture and place them on the shelves behind and beside the wood stove where it is very warm. (Peppers germinate best in temps of 80-85 degrees!) Ours come up within five days or less and pop up very strong.
This year we’re trying some different ones, as usual. We’re adding Franks (a green sweet bell pepper from Sand Hills Preservation Center that’s early and hugely productive), a “bootlegged” hot pepper from Venice a reader sent us, which we’ve named “Bootleg,” Medusa, a container-type decorative mild multi-colored wild pepper we love the look of and New Mexico Big Jim, a large, medium heat chile pepper from, yep, New Mexico!
And beans! We have some VERY neat, new beans from all over the world to try — beans from Africa, South America, Poland, Finland, Native American tribes all across the country, some from the Old South, some from the far north. What fun the garden will be this year! I can’t wait. All those new looks and tastes. — Jackie
Thursday, February 23rd, 2017
We’ll be having another homestead seminar, limited to 14 people, August 25th, 26th, and 27th. Subjects to be covered include: Canning meat & mixed recipes, homestead tools, raising heirloom vegetables, saving seeds and much, much more. Check it out on www.seedtreasures.com; click on seminars. Hope to see you then! It may well change your life! Secure your spot now. Email email@example.com for more details.
Monday, February 20th, 2017
We’ve had a very warm week; over 50° some days, with sunshine! The first day, Ashley and I set out lawn chairs in the driveway and sat down to absorb some fabulous vitamin D. We were in our T shirts! It felt SO very good. Now you folks living in more hospitable climates may figure doing this at 50° is NUTS, but when we’ve been used to below zero temps, 50 seems so very warm.
And it wasn’t just us, either. I had to go to town to mail some seed orders to people and when I got back, my friend, Dara, was sitting in a chair, knitting! I had to laugh.
Then on Saturday, David and Ashley helped haul out trees which Will had been cutting. They were stressed by bud-worms then carpenter ants got into the bottoms of them, which killed the trees. So before they fell and rotted, Will cut them down, limbed them and the “crew” started hauling them out of the woods. David used the four-wheeler for a while, then his snowmobile, giving the four-wheeler to Ashley. We all had a fun day and ended up with over a cord of fir which will be cut, split and stored for next year’s firewood. Will figures there’s over two more cords right in that small area. (We start cutting firewood EARLY in the spring so it’s all split and stacked under cover to dry well before use the next year.)
Today it’s raining like crazy and we even saw lightning. Pretty crazy winter weather, for sure. I guess the beavers were right, after all. They said we’d have an average winter; no crazy cold or snow. And, so far, that’s just what happened, no matter what the weather forecasters and the Farmer’s Almanac predicted.
We’ve been having quite a response to our fall homesteading seminar and so far, three people have sent in their deposits. I’m thinking we’ll fill up for sure. That’s nice, I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun, as always! — Jackie
Thursday, February 16th, 2017
By now, most of you with internet have gotten the message from Dave Duffy, saying that with the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of BHM, the magazine will cease publication of the print magazine. I’m sure this came as much of a shock to you as it did to me (I’ve been with the magazine since 1998). So we had a few sleepless nights figuring things out.
However, Self-Reliance will keep publishing and you’ll still find me writing for it as well as the Kindle version of Backwoods Home, which will continue. And I won’t abandon you with my blog. We’re still trying to figure out things regarding that and the Ask Jackie feature and I’ll keep you posted as the “powers that be” let me know.
On a brighter note, our little homestead seed business, Seed Treasures, is taking off as our catalog is now out and return customers from all across the country are sending in orders. (If you want a catalog, just let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org) Will gets up early and packages seeds. I do the mailing, so if you should get the wrong item or miss a pack, please let me know. Doesn’t happen often, but hey, we all make mistakes.
I just ordered a bunch of rare beans for us to try, from the Rare Seed Consortium. They are pricey but pretty cool. So we’ll try a bunch and offer them next year, if they make the grade with us.
I’m ready to plant peppers and am trying to make final decisions on which varieties to plant this year. It’s hard! We have many lively discussions around here about plant varieties and we tease Will that he’ll have to fire up Old Yeller, our bulldozer, to make some new garden spaces.
We are even talking about building a separate Seed Treasures building as the business is taking up a whole lot of the house now. But that’s the way a new home business gets and we are glad things are going well. — Jackie
Monday, February 13th, 2017
February is half over! Groundhog or not, we’re thinking spring around here. Today it was nearly 40 degrees above with the sun out. What a nice day. So Will decided he’d set out a few round bales of hay and then go work on the new barn. It’s been so cold he hasn’t gotten much done but hopes to stay on it for awhile now that it’s warmed up. So while he went up and down the hill, getting round bales with the Oliver, I stayed at the pasture gate, opening and shutting it to let him through. As the critters always have hay, they aren’t particularly hungry and will zip out the open gate if given half a chance, just for an “adventure.”
Today he hauled two bales out while I got a chance to pet the horses and donkeys. Crystal and Moose, our donkey “herd,” always leave the hay to come get some attention. I noticed Crystal, the tan one, is shedding. Wow! Another clue spring is not far away. And I did see some pussywillows in bloom yesterday on the way to town.
Yesterday I put away my last batch of chili. All in all, I now have 74 quarts and a pint of “new” chili on the pantry shelves! We ate the two which didn’t seal. (Real hard on us … lol)
Tomorrow I’ll get out the seed trays and some peat pellets then decide which peppers I want to grow this year. My friends, Mike and Dara, were here yesterday and we all discussed various varieties we’ll be wanting to plant. It was fun and exciting too. — Jackie
Monday, February 6th, 2017
I’ve been canning up a storm trying to gain some freezer space. Since Will brought home about 200 pounds of hamburger from a steer we had butchered, I have extra motivation for canning more meat and meat recipes.
Friday I thawed out a shank portion ham that I got on sale. Over the weekend I first cut ham chunks from it, then dices, and canned these prime pieces. When there was still considerable meat left on the bone, I put it into a large stockpot with water and boiled it for an hour or so. Then I cooled the pot and later skimmed off the excess fat and took out the bone. Then I cut even more pieces from it, adding them to the broth, along with grated carrot and chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Bringing this up to a boil, I added the dry beans I’d soaked overnight. When the pot again came to a boil, I ladled 1/3 of a jar full of beans/veggies and filled it to within an inch of the top with broth. This gave me 10 jars of ham chunks and 27 jars of ham and bean soup. Again the bone went into the stock pot with half a pot of water. I simmered it for a couple of hours, then fished out the spent bone. Adding split peas, grated carrots, chopped onion, and garlic, along with salt and pepper to taste, I again filled jars — only 10 pints, this time.
When all was finished, I had 47 meal ingredients/meals from one half a ham. Not bad! Today I’ve got 10 pounds of hamburger thawed out and a kettle brimming with soaked beans. So this afternoon, it’s going to be another batch of chili. We use a lot of this, especially in the winter with a nice batch of cornbread to go with it.
We are excited that we just got our Seed Treasures catalogs from the printer. They look great and I’ll start sending them to customers who’ve requested them. Past customers will receive theirs, mailed bulk mail from the printer. Wow, suddenly spring seems a lot closer! — Jackie
Thursday, February 2nd, 2017
What do we do when it’s so cold? Play catch-up on those chores we’ve been putting off before spring comes and we don’t have time. Today, Will brought in his chainsaw chain sharpener on the stand he’d put together from assorted “junk” and started sharpening. He has more than seven chains and now they’re all ready for the woods.
I cut up and canned a ham. And next I’m boiling the bone and will make bean soup to can. Out of that one half ham I’ll end up with about 35 meals, all totalled. Not bad for one piece of meat!
Mittens and the dogs just laid around in the sun and slept. Of course, Hondo, being a comfort creature, just hopped on the (forbidden) good sofa, put his head on a pillow and went to sleep, perhaps dreaming of chasing rabbits or coyotes.
For all you Jess Hazzard fans out there (Jess is the main character in my Western novels), I thought you might like to see the real country where he lived; the Upper Green River Valley and the Green Lakes region in Wyoming. We’ve travelled there several times and enjoyed the Bridger-Teton Wilderness. It’s one of the most beautiful sections of the U.S.