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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

Besides harvesting and canning, we’re finishing putting up firewood

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

Jackie Clay

Here’s some more photos from our Florida trip

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016





I just thought I’d share a few of the photos I took on Sanibel Island. We sure had fun and got to see a lot of things that were totally new to me. It was like going to a foreign country! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

David came out to help harvest

Friday, September 9th, 2016

And while he was here, Hondo decided he needed to be held on David’s lap like he used to be when he was a pup. Unfortunately, Hondo’s a lot bigger now, but he still likes being there!



Will harvested most of our Bear Island Chippewa flour corn as the Blue Jays were getting into it. They were also getting in our Yukon Supreme sweet corn, so I’ve pulled all of that too. I sat on the front porch and tied all the shucked corn up into strings so it could continue drying out without molding — it will if left in the shuck.


I’ve got lots more to do but will get on that after my trip to Florida. See you when I get back. I’ll take plenty of pictures. And if any of you can come to the booth at the expo, please stop by and say “hi!” — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Did you ever have one of those days?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Yesterday was mine. Early in the morning, Will sent me to Hibbing, 30 miles away, to rent the 2-inch trash pump again. First off, he needed it to draw down the muddy ground water around the base of our well so he could access the outside of the pitless adapter to hook up the water line to the new well for the barn. I asked him to call first to make sure they had it. He did, so I started off. Then he got a call that the replacement belt for the grain swather had come in at Hongistos Implement, in Cloquet (80 miles in another direction!). I figured I’d get the pump, deliver it to Will, then head to Cloquet. The rental company didn’t have a 2-inch pump; it was either a huge 3-inch pump (overkill) or an 1½ inch pump. (Was it big enough?)

I chose the 1½-inch pump. Drove home, dumped off the pump and headed for Hongistos. Will called. The pump worked fine, however the inside of the pitless adapter had somehow gotten knocked off and was now in the bottom of the well casing and, being brass, there is no way to retrieve it.

Okay, maybe we’d buy another $60 pitless adapter and just use the inside part. As there is an L & M farm store in Cloquet, I got the belt for the swather then headed for L & M. They didn’t even know what a pitless adapter was. But finally a more knowledgeable man said the only one they carried now was a “complete” kit with a well cap, adapter, etc. $159. No way!

I called Will and he made several phone calls and finally located one at Menards in Virginia (on the way home!). Only it was not a 1″ outlet but 1½”. Maybe it would work? And it was only $62; I got it. Meanwhile, he’d called L&M in Hibbing (30 miles west of Virginia) and the guy said they had the right one. So with the “wrong” one in tow, I also stopped at the L & M in Virginia, just in case. No dice. They said they’d discontinued the one Will had bought there a year back and now only sold the same “complete” kit I’d seen in Cloquet.

Off to Hibbing! Got to Hibbing and guess what? The only one they had was the “complete” kit for $159. But at least Will had been able to finish insulating and hooking up the water line and running the electric line. He also graded the ditch in so the well’s ready to go. As soon as the new pitless adapter comes in the mail…

This morning Will tried the wrong sized one from Menards. It was too big to slide into the half of the pitless we already had in place. So it was first off to Hibbing to return the pump. Then off to Virginia to return the wrong pitless adapter. Whew! All done. Will ordered the right one online.


Meanwile, the blessed man picked our wild plums. They were falling off and the deer were eating them! Luckily they spit out the pits. Now I have nearly a five-gallon bucket waiting to make plum jam and harvest pits which we’ll offer on our Seed Treasures website. This is a wonderful wild plum; so sweet inside but with tart skins. They make great jam, if I ever get to it!


We just had a beautiful heifer calf from our half-Jersey, Surprise! I think Will wants to call her Lady and she looks like a Jersey although her sire was a Gelbvieh beef bull. (Gelbvieh is pronounced Gel-fee and is a dual-purpose German breed, bred for meat and milk as well as draft.) Lady is a beautiful little girl!


I also picked some gorgeous Morovsky Div tomatoes. These are definitely one of our favorites; smaller mid-sized, thin-skin tomatoes with wonderful productivity and flavor. They just glow!


— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Well … We had ¾ inch of rain yesterday

Monday, August 15th, 2016

And because the weather radio had our rain chances at 20% yesterday and it was sunny, Will cut hay. He quit when it started raining two hours later. And by the time he’d gotten home and in the house it rained again. No, make that POURED! Luckily, today (so far) has been sunny and breezy so he’s going out to rake the hay so it can dry the rest of this afternoon and tomorrow until he attempts to bale it. What a year it’s been.

Fortunately, the garden and pastures have loved all this rain! I’ve never in my life seen such crops. I have some beans a foot long and Will’s pride and joy, Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (which the cows ate last summer), has nine-inch cobs that are very fat. And LOTS of them. Our new sweet corn, Yukon Supreme, has shorter cobs, about five to six inches, but is very fat and tasty. We ate some last night to try it. It isn’t super sweet but does have nice old-fashioned corn flavor. It appears the variety needs a bit of stabilizing as we got both bi-colored ears and yellow. But when a sweet corn produces five ears per seed (it stools out with about four tillers, each having nice cobs!) and matures at 50 days, we sure aren’t complaining!


In our big hoop house, the peppers are going nuts. One variety that is super nice is Mt. Etna, an Italian sweet pepper. One plant has twelve big peppers with more coming. And the beans? I can’t walk through the hoop house because of the beans EVERYWHERE on the south end — up poles, clinging to the hoops. Very nice.


Will has been whacking tall grass so he can turn on the electric fence on the east pasture for the cows. He wanted them out of the north pasture so there was NO chance of them breaking into our north garden like they did last year. He’d even put electric fencing around the 6-foot-tall welded wire fence but didn’t trust them. Besides, the pasture was getting a little eaten down. So first we drove them to the small north east pasture, which is fenced with barbed wire. But it’s only about five acres and they ate the three-foot-tall grass down in a week’s time.


Today he got the fence working and I turned the cows out onto the east pasture. I didn’t have to call them twice! Mamba, one of our milk cows, saw me open the gate and started trotting right toward me. She knows the routine and LOVES it when we rotate pastures. She’s always the first out the gate. Smart cow. It used to be Lace, our “wedding cow”, but early this spring, we lost her. She wasn’t a young cow when we bought her five years ago and she had a real bad case of mastitis in all four quarters when she calved last fall. With the help of friends, we treated her for weeks and finally stopped the mastitis. But I’m sure it stressed her body. We were sure sad when she died and I think of her every time I go check cows. She was the best cow I’ve ever had. — Jackie

Pictures of our homemade backhoe for Reg

This is the backhoe we bought for $300 from our friend, Tom. The front is an Allis Chalmers tractor with a trailer hitch in place of the front tires. The seat is on backwards for the hoe operator. The hydraulics run off of the “tractor.” Instead of two big rear tractor tires, there are four heavy-duty truck tires to lower the backhoe and support the weight while digging. The hoe has outriggers run by the hydraulics to help steady the rig while digging.




It ain’t fancy, but hey, it works! I’m sure if you have any questions, Will would be happy to help. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

This is an insane year, weather wise

Monday, August 1st, 2016

We still haven’t seen three days in a row without rain! We listen to the weather radio several times a day, plus watch the local weather on the news, hoping for the window of dry weather to make hay in. We were supposed to have that window so Will hurried out two days ago and cut a field of hay. Well, yesterday they changed their minds and called for rain this afternoon. Okay, we’d bale this morning after the dew was off. We woke up to not only dew but also a bank of black clouds. Will went over anyway and decided to bale out of the windrow to save time because rain was definitely on the way. You could smell it coming. He got one bale done then it started to sprinkle. He quickly got another when the bottom fell out of those clouds. Yep, it poured. It’s kind of finished but they’re calling for more rain for the next few days. We’ll get ‘er done one way or another.

I’ve got to tell you about a wonderful canning tool I’m using. At the Dallas Self-Reliance Expo, Cecilia Chavez stopped by the BHM booth to show me the beautiful canning funnels she makes out of pottery. A lot of people, me included, don’t really like using aluminum or plastic canning funnels but up until now there has been no choice. I brought home one of the amazingly beautiful funnels and have been using it ever since. Mine fits wide mouth jars and is so pretty it doesn’t sit in a drawer until I use it. It hangs up with my baskets so everyone can see it. If you’d like to check them out, contact Cecilia at


Our gardens are doing fantastic and I have Provider and some other snap beans ready to eat and can up. Our young cherry trees are starting to bear this year. Both Carmine Jewel and Evans Bali cherries are giving us plenty of snacking cherries but not enough yet to can up. Although they’re “tart” cherries, we find them pretty darned good to eat.


My lilies and daylilies are blooming their heads off and we enjoy walking through the yard each morning to see “who” is blooming today. As you can see, Hondo doesn’t share our enthusiasm for flowers! I especially love the Wonder Of It All from Dancing Daylily my favorite daylily site to go toonline. ( Becky and her husband have tons and tons of exceptional daylilies at a reasonable price. I’m so excited when a new variety blooms. (And daylilies ARE edible for those of you who spurn “flowers”! If you could bear to eat one…)



— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Just what we needed — another rainstorm

Monday, July 18th, 2016


We were hoping for some warm weather so we can get started making hay. You need at least three dry days in a row to do this. So far, the most we’ve had is one sunny day. All the farmers in our area are getting really nervous. We watched the storm front coming in from the west — a big white roll of cloud in front of blackness. And we prayed we’d get no hail out of that storm. Well, we didn’t get any hail, but boy, oh boy, did it ever pour rain. There was about an inch that fell in less than half an hour.


Luckily, the gardens are loving the rain and hot weather. Our first corn is shoulder-high and Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn is nearly that tall. The pole beans have climbed up over head high and are wandering around looking for something higher to latch onto.


We’ve been trying to weed, although we still can’t walk in the north garden for the muck. But the squash, pumpkins, corn, and beans look pretty darned good despite all the weeds. And the third planting of sweet corn in the pig pasture garden is up and looking good. Yep, the ground squirrels took to the trade and are eating the piles of corn I put out instead of digging up the sprouted sweet corn seed. Hooray! (Mittens got two more ground squirrels and Hondo got another.)

On a sad note, one of our heifers turned up missing the other day so we spent the whole afternoon and evening searching the woods on the north forty for her. No cow. She was bred and we were worried she’d hidden to have a calf. Early the next morning, Will took out again and finally found her… dead. She’d been down calving and gotten her head under a fallen log and her hind legs under another. Both heifer and calf were dead. It took us several days to get over that loss; she was one of Will’s favorites. Homesteading is not all sundrops and roses. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s been raining so much the frogs are complaining

Monday, July 11th, 2016

It seems that we haven’t had more than one sunny, dry day at a time for a month now! Our North garden is basically white clay and you can’t even walk in there without sinking to your shins in gumbo. And we’ve had enough heat that the weeds are having a field day … literally! Oh well, the garden plants do look good even if they are weedy.

Since Will can’t go haying yet because it’s so wet, he’s been doing odd jobs. One of them was driving down a well on the side of our spring basin. This was a homemade 6″ steel pipe with a welded, homemade point on the end, 10 feet long. First he dug a hole with our little backhoe and buried most of the first 10′ length. Then he welded another 10′ pipe onto that. He used our tractor-mounted post-pounder to drive it down. When finished, four feet was left, two feet of which will be buried. There’s water in the pipe but also silt from driving. So Will has to get our gasoline pump and pump out the silt. This well will supply our new barn, the buried line draining back into the well so it doesn’t freeze in the winter. (We’ll put a big round bale over the well head to make sure, just like we did for our house well.)


Another job was burying the plastic irrigation line which runs along our main garden, below the plum orchard. This was always a “nasty” area because I couldn’t mow it with the lawnmower because the pipe laid in there … somewhere. He built a trenching plow out of junk (of course!) and with it hooked to the three point on our Ford 660, he was able to run a trench quite easily. Now the pipe is buried and I will be able to mow there. Hooray! By the way, this pipe is only buried about a foot and half deep but we completely drain the irrigation line in the fall so there is no problem with freezing.


We had the Cook area garden club out last week and enjoyed about 30 people visiting and asking questions about our garden, orchards, and homestead in general. It was fun for all. (Of course, I wish my flower beds were better weeded…)


But our cat, Mittens, doesn’t mind a bit. It’s her private jungle. She especially likes stalking through my Oriental poppies and hostas. — Jackie


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