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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

It’s still raining

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Boy is it hard to get things done outside when it’s raining all day, every day. Grump, grump, grump! I pulled our last carrots and found that the deer had gotten in the open gate and munched off all the tops and pulled about a third of the row. So I quickly pulled the rest … including some the deer had eaten a little of the top. I DO cut off the deer munched parts!


Meanwhile, Will has been working inside. He re-manufactured one of our new top kitchen cabinets to fit under the new refrigerator. We wanted it moved up some as the fridge part was just too low. In the RV, it sat up on a little step so now it sits on a 12-inch cabinet that I can use to store some miscellaneous stuff. More storage is always good. He has all of the gas fittings so now he has to get it hooked up and we’ll (hopefully) be in business. He is also continuing to install insulation in the enclosed back porch so it (and the house) will be warmer. Eventually, we’ll be heating that porch, which will give us additional greenhouse space, come spring. As the firewood is used, that will free up growing bench space. Pretty cool.


I’m still harvesting pumpkin, squash, and bean seeds for our little seed business. I really love those crops. The seeds are so cheerful, too; nice and plump, ready to grow. And as the first germination tests have indicated, they ARE ready to grow!

All this rain has Spencer and Mittens depressed. They don’t go out much at all. In fact, Mittens goes out more than Spencer. That dog hates rain! Go figure; he loves to swim but hates the rain. Mittens goes outside and gets wet and doesn’t seem to mind. But even Mittens is spending more time stretched out on the back of Will’s new overstuffed chair. I know the feeling.


Oh, by the way, it’s been suggested that I ask all of you for your favorite family traditional recipes for the holiday meals. I thought that was a terrific idea so are any of you willing to share? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re into the “gettin’ ready for winter” mode

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Although we have the woodshed stuffed full, which is about two years’ worth, we are now filling our enclosed back porch with small wood. (This is the popple sapling poles that Will saves when he clears or thins a patch of woods.) This small wood is often just piled and burned by those less frugal. But we find it such good kindling and kitchen stove wood we just can’t do that. We usually pile about a cord and half on the enclosed porch plus a little bigger split wood for nasty days or when we are sick and don’t feel like bringing in wood from the wood shed.


Of course, Hondo and Spencer help by carrying in wood. They love it and the small wood is a light burden for them. Mittens is there too, supervising from a spot above the noisy, panting dogs, just to make sure it’s stacked just right and that no mice get in while the door’s open.


My oldest son, Bill, works for Oak Lake Campground and RV, a quite large RV dealership. A while back, a man with a big motor home bought a new high-end double door propane/DC refrigerator as his older one had issues when he wintered in the South. In the North it worked just fine. As we live in the North, Bill thought of us and when David went down to visit, he brought the fridge up. Wow! After living years and years with a small propane fridge, a BIG, two-door refrigerator with a double-door freezer looks like heaven to me!


Will is putting it together and working on how to best fit it into our kitchen. We’ll keep the small one too but I’m thrilled to soon be able to have plenty of refrigeration without having to stack things precariously. Thank you Bill! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest is about finished

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Harvest is about finished

When the sun came out this morning after a full week of drizzly, nasty weather, we did a happy dance. I pulled our parsnips (in the rain) and canned them up yesterday. We had a good crop but something strange happened this year. They were not long and skinny; but turnip-shaped and had many roots, looking like aliens from Mars! We figure it was a combination of planting them where the ground was pretty heavily manured and where the run-off from our big hoop house frequently soaked the row. Luckily, despite the weird shapes, they were still tender and tasty. Now we have dozens of pints of parsnips ready to go into the pantry. Yum!


This year, we tried a San Felipe pumpkin that we really liked. Being a C. pepo, we could grow it in our garden along with Hopi Pale Grey, a C. maxima, without having them cross. We loved the shape and color along with the deeper ribbing. Just like the old pumpkins our ancestors grew in the cornfields. When I opened them to extract the seeds, I was happy to notice the fragrant smell and deep orange color. The seeds were nice too and would make wonderful roasted pumpkin seeds. A definite keeper for next year!


Good news!

“Winter of the Wolves,” the third book in the Jess Hazzard series, has been scheduled for release on December 1st. You can order an advance copy for immediate delivery here: . (If you haven’t yet read these fast-moving adventure stories, you don’t know what you’re missing.

If you’re a Kindle reader, you can pre-order it for Dec. 1st delivery here:

And if you can wait until mid-November, you can order the print edition direct from the publisher and save 10% – 20% (with complimentary bookmarks) here: .


Happy reading. I hope you enjoy it! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re making good use of our spell of good weather

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Because we know the “other season” is roaring down on us like a freight train, Will’s still busy working on the water line insulation. And because last year our neighbor ran over our frost-free hydrant next to the driveway and bent it over flat, Will decided to dig it up and move it further away from the driveway. We were able to straighten up the hydrant and we used it for a year afterwards, but when Will dug down, he discovered that the pipe was bent like an S! So instead of buying a new hydrant (the top and bottom along with the inside rod were okay) I ran to Menards for a 10-foot length of pipe. It was pre-threaded on both ends.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. The 10-foot frost-free hydrant was 10 feet long overall. So Will had to cut the pipe and we don’t have a die. So I took the pipe to town to get it threaded. Still not the end! When I got it home again, Will discovered that he had made an error in measuring. So I ended up taking it back to town after running to the neighbor’s first (he has a machine shop, but no pipe dies!). Now it’s back together and has passed its inspection by Mittens. She closely follows everything we do.
Whew! Hopefully now that it’s back together, we can soon bury everything with plenty of insulation over all and no more frozen water.
Yesterday I harvested the last of our Glass Gem popcorn. It’s just beautiful. And because each plant stooled out and made multiple tillers, each plant produced up to five ears each on 10-foot tall stalks. Amazing, and truly beautiful as there are colors you seldom see on Indian Corn: pink, baby blue, lavender, and mauve. I love it! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Snow is in the forecast

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

The weather radio is forecasting temps in the twenties tonight and a good possibility of snow flurries. So I’ve moved all our squash that was out on the front porch inside. Boy, do we ever have squash! This year one of our favorites is Gila Cliff Dweller. It’s a C. mixta from the ancient Southwestern tribes and is very productive. It makes two different shaped and colored squash. One is roundish and quite large with smooth skin and pretty green stripes and blotches. The other is a very large neck/bottle shaped fruit. Our heaviest weighs 35 pounds! That’s a LOT of squash! We’re still letting it cure and will cut one open to eat it in a couple weeks and let you know how it tastes.
We had a sad event last night. Our big Bourbon Red turkey tom, Red, free ranged because he was beaten up by the other toms in the run. But he was so heavy he couldn’t fly up to roost so he roosted under the spruce trees in the yard. This morning, we were shocked to see turkey feathers down by the goat pasture. I followed them and unfortunately, I recognized them: Red’s feathers. We figure that either a wolf or coyote got him as a fox could never have handled an active 40-pound bird. I tried to follow the feather trail but it petered out in the cow pasture, then was gone. We’ll miss Red as he was pretty much a pet. But when you homestead, there are good things and bad, just like life. And you learn to roll with the punches.
Will’s busy digging a four-foot-deep trench in our driveway so he can bury foam board insulation over our water line. As it passes along and across the driveway, frost goes down deep and has often frozen our water line. Although Will did install a heat cable inside the water line, we want to worry less and have water all winter in the future. The insulation will surely help that!
He started out with our little backhoe, then is using the bulldozer to dig up the dirt and the Ford 660 to move it out of the trench. Take a good look at the dirt; it’s the same dirt we started out with in the garden so don’t think “well, if we had good soil like Will and Jackie we could grow a good garden too:” Ours started out all rocks, gravel, and sand! With lots of rotted manure and other organic material, it’s much improved over its humble beginnings. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The cows got into our pumpkin/corn patch

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Yesterday Will was bulldozing the horse manure in the horse pasture where we feed round bales all winter up into a compost pile. He noticed that the cows seemed to be too far north on the new pasture. He dismounted from Old Yeller and walked out to see. They’d gotten the gate open into the pumpkin/corn patch on the new pasture and were eating/walking through corn and pumpkins. To make it worse, we were going to have our buyers from The Watering Can nursery out today to BUY pumpkins!
He called the cows and they came right out and he fixed the gate. Today I went early to buy that last 20 feet of fence we’d “Mickey Moused” with six-foot-tall chicken wire.

Luckily, although they had bitten and eaten some pumpkins and squash, there were still a lot that they hadn’t gotten into yet. So Gina and Dianne were still able to fill up their van. Oh well, you can bet that won’t happen again next year!
One thing we’ve learned is that you win some. And you lose some. It’s all part of homesteading. Luckily, Will harvested two feed sacks full of Painted Mountain corn BEFORE the cows got in. And it’s just gorgeous. Meanwhile, I continued picking and seeding tomatoes. I did a big batch of Topaz tomatoes. Boy, do I love them — about ping pong ball-sized perfect light yellow with white stripes. Gorgeous and great in salads too. They’re a new favorite, for sure!
While Will and I sure do our share every day, Hondo is bound to get Will outside faster each morning. Not only does he drag him out of bed by the pajamas, but he pulls his pant legs and jacket if he comes in to sit for even a short break. What a boss! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning acorns and double yolk eggs

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Canning acorns

We want to can burr oak acorns. These have some tannin in them, enough that we want to leach them, either in changes of boiling water, or room temperature water (to be determined). For this reason, we are uncertain if your method of packing dry into pint jars, and processing 10 minutes at 5 pounds of pressure will be safe. We would of course dry them first, probably at 100 degrees on cookie sheets. We hope to use the leached nuts for 1) Eating as is, 2) in cooked recipes, and 3) to grind into flour We do not want to refrigerate or freeze them.

Michael and Norma Bounk
Tipton, Iowa

Although I have not yet canned acorns, there’s no reason you can’t after they have been leached enough to draw out the tannin, then thoroughly dried. Be sure to stir the acorns several times during toasting so that they both dry and heat thoroughly. Then can as other nuts. Be sure to take care during the leaching process so they don’t stand too long in “old” water and get moldy or begin to spoil. — Jackie

Double yolk eggs

I have a barred rock chicken that every time lays double yolk eggs. Is that normal or do I have a special chicken ?

Bill Cole
Merlin, Oregon

While this isn’t “normal”, some chickens just do this. Give her treats for her productivity! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest is full under way

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Every single day now, we’re harvesting crops. As we were expecting rain, we pulled our two long rows of onions and a short one of shallots. All did very well. We had some of the largest onions ever. We ended up with four and a half 5-gallon buckets full of onions! I let them lay out in the sun, in the garden for two days then, because of forthcoming rain, I cut off the tops about two inches from the bulb as some of the tops were still green. I carried them up to the house and spread them out in the enclosed porch to finish drying down so they’ll store well.
The darned bluejays are starting to get into our very rare Bear Island Chippewa flint corn so we’re pulling several ears every day to keep ahead of them. This corn is very beautiful and will make lots of cornmeal as the cobs are about 9″ long with 10-12 rows of really big, fat kernels on each cob. And each plant made four or five stalks and most plants have four or five ears! Very productive…and early to dry down, too. We’ll add this corn to our seed list for sure!

We harvested our first Sugar Salmon muskmelons from our small hoop house. They are a beautiful golden color with tan netting. And juicy and sweet, too. Another winner!
Will’s busy burying our water line from the frost-free hydrant in the yard down to the one in the barn. It’s not 8′ deep but we blow the line out with the air compressor after each use and he wanted it out of the way and laid with no dips to hold water. He dug the trench with our little backhoe attachment we bought from our friend Tom at a great bargain. Today Will’s filling in the trench.
Yesterday we hosted a local garden club so we enjoyed talking about seeds, fruit trees, and plants as well as giving “the tour” of our place. The ladies enjoyed the tour and we enjoyed their company.

Our last two cows have just given birth. Mamba, our black milk cow, had a pretty gray heifer that we named Salsa and Lace, our “wedding cow” just had a huge bull. Darn; we really wanted to keep a heifer from her as she’s getting older. Oh well, you don’t always get what you want. The calves are all doing well and having fun playing together. — Jackie



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