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 the ‘Animals’ Category
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
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 email@example.com.
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. (www.dancingdaylily.com) 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…)
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
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
Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
And we’re getting a lot done, too. We just finished mulching, staking, and caging all 107 tomato plants and are working on weeding and mulching our main garden. Will is hard at work mulching the sweet corn and pole beans right now. With warmer weather, all of our corn is taking off big guns. (Thank you God!) And the beans everywhere look fantastic.
I had to laugh. Yesterday I was going to turn the water on to water the big hoop house and did a double take. “Hidden” on the frost-free hydrant was a pretty tree frog. He was all in camo but that didn’t cut it on a red hydrant. He looked cool though and looked like he had a big smile on his face.
My flowers look fantastic this year. The peonies are blooming like crazy and only two are the same variety. I think there are fourteen … so far. Okay, I’m a junkie.
We are enjoying having our big solar panels hooked up, generating over 10 times as much charging power as the little ones did. Wow! Those batteries charge up SO much faster now. And I know we’ll be saving tons of money in gas for the generator. When such a big milestone comes around we really rejoice. It really happened! — Jackie
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
And boy are we busy! We couldn’t do any cultivating or anything else, during the rain so we’re hurrying to catch up (as if one ever does!). The weeds loved that warm, wet weather and parts of our gardens look like a lettuce bed. And our North garden and pig pasture gardens, because they’re mostly clay, were too wet to even walk in.
The bad news is all of our pig pasture corn rotted in the ground and never sprouted. Today Will’s going over to help at our carpenter friend, Tom’s, homestead where they’re going to pour five truckloads of concrete — with a little manual help. After that’s done, Will’s going to till up the corn patch in the pig pasture and I’ll replant it, hoping we’ll have a long enough growing season to harvest corn from it to can. (I do have other sweet corn patches that ARE up, however, but we sure hate to lose any.) All the beans and North garden crops are up and lookin’ good as are the crops in our main garden and berry patch. Hooray!
Now we’re working like mad to get the weeds under control before they get big. Will tilled and tilled yesterday, finishing our main garden and then going out to the North garden. He had a setback when our Troybilt’s fuel pump quit. Luckily, Will had another he’d salvaged from somewhere and after an hour of changing over, he was back at tilling. The garden was still damp but it tilled up fine and it looks so much better without the weeds!
The peppers and pole beans in our big hoop house look great. I’ve got six different rare pole beans inside as they’re relatively long season beans. Plus we have tons of different beans outside, both pole and bush. They just POP out of the ground. It’s so cool! Mittens sometimes sits by a bean row and watches them. She’s a homesteader cat and it doesn’t take much to make her happy. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Seven inches Sunday and four last night! I’ll swear I saw a bearded man at the lumberyard ordering cubits of lumber for an ark … Luckily, our gardens were well tilled before it hit and there aren’t lakes on them to rot the seed.
We’ve still been planting a few odd things here and there. (No, they’re not “odd,” just kind of leftover stuff we didn’t get around to getting in sooner.)
There’s a mama killdeer with a nest out in the corn on our north garden so we don’t bother her area. The rows need tilling with the weeds flourishing out there but it’s too wet now and we don’t want to disturb her while she’s sitting on eggs. Speaking of eggs, one of our turkeys came off the nest with three babies and another hatched a CHICK — not a poult. One chick. She found a nest with one chicken egg and became attached to it. Now she has a baby to raise up and love. Strange but cool.
Our tomato plants look awesome! Very stocky and dark green. Unfortunately, we have billions of volunteer tomatoes all over the garden; our only weeds this year! Luckily, they’re easy to till up and pull. It’s time to stake and cage the tomatoes and start in weeding and mulching the main garden. As soon as the rain quits, that is.
My flowers look great this year and my Yellow Rose of Texas is blooming its head off. I’ve been hitting one flower bed at a time trying to get rid of the weeds, especially perennial weeds like nettles and raspberries that keep popping up. And it’s working. So far I’ve got four beds pretty well “domesticated” and another bed pretty good. Mulching after weeding helps a lot. I’m using wood chip mulch about six inches deep. The peonies, delphiniums, hostas, and daylilies look great and make me smile as I sit on the front porch. Ah, homesteading! — Jackie
Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
Planting, planting, planting … between the rains
We’ve been getting very little sunshine between the rains. When it’s nice, we’ve been planting like crazy. So far we’ve got in tons of different corns in various isolation gardens around the 120 acres, lots of beans from all over the world from Maine to China! We also have 107 tomatoes, including 68 varieties, this year. I also got 11 hills of Atlantic Giant pumpkins planted yesterday. We planted all of this just before the rain hit this morning. It looks like it will continue for a couple of days.
Inside, we’ve started several pumpkins, squash and long-season beans to set out when the weather is warmed up for good. And on these rainy days, we keep busy inside. Will is painting polyurethane on the home-sawn oak planks that will be the mantel shelves behind our wood stove. So far they look great! What a wonderful addition they’ll make.
For those of you who are wondering how Sir, our wonder goat kid, is doing, he’s growing like a weed! He’s still very friendly and follows me all over the pasture when I go out to check the electric wires on the fence.