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Archive for July, 2017

Jackie Clay

Hot, hot, and hotter

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Okay, I’ll admit it’s not really that hot, compared to the heat in the South. But for Northern Minnesota, it’s been hot and muggy at times. Luckily, the garden loves it and is doing very well. So are the weeds, which we are slowly getting a handle on. The blankety-blank ground squirrels ate nearly all the leaves off our melons in the second hoop house but Will thinks one plant is still alive. We’ve waged war on the squirrels with Mittens and the dogs killing seven in the last three days. Hopefully, one of the seven was our melon-eating culprit.

Friends of ours have a greenhouse/garden shop in Cook called The Watering Can. We sell them our pumpkins and fancy gourds and squash in the fall and they make us a great deal on their leftover peppers. Luckily, Diane and Gina grew several of the heirloom peppers we grow so we are planting the east hoop house in peppers as it’s too late to start melons again. You learn to roll with the punches when you homestead!

Will cut hay yesterday and hopes it doesn’t rain before he bales it tomorrow. Today is hot (85° F) with a small breeze so the hay should dry well.

We’re getting a nice batch of pie cherries from our Crimson Passion and Evans Bali trees (both Zone 2) For the first time in seven years, we are getting fruit from our Nanking bush cherries. We’re going to pick this evening as the darned Cedar Waxwings already cleaned out one Nanking bush of lots of ripe cherries.

Early this spring I was sorting out dried Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds to sell and shoved the nastiest-looking seed in a pot, just to see if it would sprout. Surprise! It did. And I didn’t have the heart to kill it so we let it grow. It now sits out in front of the house and has two decent-sized squash growing from the little vine. Those squash sure want to procreate and save the variety. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re all growing webbed feet

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

This year is kind of a repeat of last summer’s rainy weather, although not so much rain at one time. Two days ago, we put 175 square bales in the barn, working till nearly 9:30 PM. (Just in case…) Then Will cut a couple of small fields of clover/timothy that was very nice, which he intended to round bale in the three-day window of dry weather which was predicted. Well, it went fine until yesterday. He was round baling and it was supposed to begin raining around 5 PM. But it began to cloud up around 1:00 and Ashley came in saying she heard thunder. We drove over to the field where Will was working and arrived to see him down in front of the baler, pulling out hay. That meant it was plugged! And angry black clouds were rolling in. And he still had raked hay down on the field, although not much. We tried to help but were more in the way than helping. Finally, he got the plug out just about when the raindrops were starting to fall.

He jumped on the tractor and quickly baled part of a row to finish up the bale in the baler. By the time he was tying it and dumping it out, the rain was beginning to pour down. It only rained for about half an hour but the haying was sure finished. Later on, it cleared up and we were able to work around the homestead till nearly dark. Then more clouds, real nasty clouds, showed up. Some were revolving and the weather radio called in a tornado warning. You can bet we were all watching the sky. Luckily, nothing happened except for some rain, lightning, and thunder. Whew!

The main garden looks perfect with waist high corn. The central and north gardens have been getting too much water from above so are weedy and slow to get growing. But we’re hoping things will pick up soon. After all, everything is growing! We’ve got some tomatoes set on the vines and have been enjoying Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas on salads and in stir fries, along with broccoli and asparagus. Yum! Our berries are fantastic this year so I’d better get out and pick some red raspberries and currants. We’ve finally got a strain of blackberries which not only lives here but is producing tons of berries. Yep, it took ten years of trying, but that only shows you; if you don’t quit when things don’t work, you’ll succeed eventually!

I’ve been working on the fourth Jess Hazzard book, Spring of the Vultures, in the evenings. (It’s my “fun” time to reward me for a hard day’s work.) It’s getting done. I guess I’ll have to start another book to continue the saga as I thoroughly enjoy travelling the trail with Jess. Got a few ideas already. If you haven’t yet read any of the series, take a read on Kindle or pick up a copy. It’s a book all homesteaders will enjoy. That’s a promise. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Trouble seems to come in threes

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

First off, Will’s trying to get started haying and the last time he set out to cut hay, it poured rain even though the weather radio said “sunny and hot.” Ha! Then David’s rear end went out on his ’99 GMC pickup, which he uses at work.  And, of course, we were all pretty broke. Then, for the grand finale, the yearling calves got out and ended up in the main garden. Luckily, at 5 A.M., I heard a cow moo right below our bedroom window and I quickly got up and ran out to the garden. They only had time to munch a couple mouthfuls of corn leaves before I chased them out. (But on the way, I slipped in the wet grass and fell smack in a very fresh cow pie!)

Fast forward a couple of days — David found a used rear end in Grand Rapids, a city about 60 miles from us. But, when he and Will examined it, they decided the housing was too rusty. David had rebuilt the old one only two years ago, including new brakes & rotors.  So they spent a whole day taking the gears out of the new rear end to put in David’s old housing. Ashley and I played “go-fer,” driving for parts. While they were at it, they also welded a sturdy patch on David’s frame, which was very rusted.

Will and David spent two whole days rebuilding the rear end of David’s truck.

The mosquitoes were bad last night, but David and Will were able to get the rebuilt rear end back in the truck. They didn’t have time to get the tires mounted back on or give it a thorough once-over to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Now Will has two fields of hay down. One is at home and the other about two miles away.  We were kind of nervous as they called for a 50% chance of rain yesterday. But we didn’t get any rain. Whew!

Today, hopefully, Will can get that hay baled. We need some extra as those bad yearlings are now shut in the training ring with a mama cow with a new calf.

The main garden looks great, despite a cow raid yesterday.

The tomatoes are getting huge and are starting to bloom.

The gardens look great. The main garden by the house is best as it has had many years of rotted manure and mulch to improve the soil.  But it all looks pretty good. (Please God, no hail … or cows!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I hope you have a great fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

We did, although the days leading up to it were pretty busy. On Monday, Will and I traveled to Bagley, Minnesota, to visit Jim and Bernis at their farm, Honeyberry USA. They raise and sell many varieties of berries, chiefly many kinds of honeyberries along with hardy cherries and others, coupled with their U-Pick farm.

We really love honeyberries, which look like a large, elongated blueberry, growing on upright bushes about three feet tall. They excel in jam and we were out to restock our depleted honeyberry jam. (Of course, it wouldn’t have been depleted but for Will generously giving jars to many visitors…)

Will and I picked while we visited with Bernis as she escorted pickers to their own sections of the netted bushes. Like us, they have hungry cedar waxwings and have to net to get berries for themselves. Without nets, the birds get most of the berries. We also got to sample many different varieties and we chose our very favorites so next spring we could buy a few new bushes to add to our growing orchard. We ended up with almost 30 pounds of berries!

Guess who gets to make jam now? I did five batches yesterday, netting 22 half-pints. But today the temperatures shot up to the high 80s and I’m not doing jam until evening. The berries are in the fridges and seem to be holding well. But I have to keep at it so they don’t start to spoil.

We were impressed with Bernis and Jim’s berry cleaner. They have a cardboard trough on a slant with a heavy duty leaf blower facing it. As berries are poured slowly down the chute, the blower blows leaves and debris away leaving clean berries. Very nice and the berries keep much better than if they were rinsed in water. While we were there a friend of theirs was remaking the chute with plastic. The advantages are that it can be washed between cleanings and will last much longer. Very innovative! — Jackie


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