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Ask Jackie headline

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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

We got a lot done this past week

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Just as soon as Will finished the siding on our storage barn, we got it stained. Then Will stained the wood rack he’d built next to the south wall of the storage barn. He and David had been sawing up some of the wood they’d brought home from the logging site. So we all got busy and hauled it to the new rack and started stacking. That went great. Then we split up some very big pine rounds from a saw log Will had been trying to get ready to run through the band saw mill. They were HEAVY! But we got two trailer loads from just those four rounds.

Finally, all the wood that would fit on the rack was stacked neatly. All in all, the new rack holds a full cord of wood and we think it looks so nice, protected from rain by the roof overhang.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to transplant tomatoes and a few peppers. The earlier transplants are doing very well and will soon be moved out onto our enclosed porch to continue growing slower in much cooler temperatures. The porch is pretty much unheated except for solar gain from the big floor to ceiling windows. (I can open the door to our greenhouse if the temps dip too low.)

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported our homestead growth by buying seeds from our Seed Treasures business. Every sale has contributed much to getting more done around the place: Without you, we couldn’t be doing as much as we have been. Thanks from the bottoms of our hearts!

Will is busy clearing another spot for more garden. Next to the training ring barn is a gentle slope, treed with young jackpines. The soil is mostly sand but the area is convenient to water from the new well and we have plenty of manure to enrich that sand. We need more room so we can better isolate different crops to grow even more pure, open-pollinated seed. I can’t wait until it’s cleared and level. (And we can use the waste rock and sand to improve our very bumpy driveway and to make concrete for the new barn. Another win-win situation for sure!)

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. We did, even though my oldest son’s, wife, Kelly had to work so they couldn’t come. David drove to town and brought Javid out so we had a nice dinner, some fun, and enjoyed the day. And we didn’t even have any snow. Often, here in northern Minnesota, there’s snow on Easter, so having spring-like weather was a huge blessing to us. We even got to play with Ashley’s four ducklings. For now they live in a plastic tote in the bedroom but are darned messy. So David brings them down into a duck corral he put together for some R & R while he cleans their tote and puts in new wood shavings. Javid really enjoyed watching them play in the fresh grass and in their little water dish.

Our birds have been joined by purple finches, pine grosbeaks, and a few grackles. Grackles are kind of bullies but are sure pretty with their shining blue-black feathers. Two days ago, our spring peepers joined the wood frogs in singing their little hearts out. They sound like thousands of jingle bells! Such a pretty night song, we just had to open our windows so we could go to sleep listening to them.

One of our readers wanted some photos of our hoop house so here they are:

— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Making siding from scraps

Monday, April 10th, 2017

David rescued a truckload of ¾” boards from the burn pile at work. They were cuts off of full length cants prior to being run through the mill to make round logs for building log homes. We didn’t exactly know what we’d do with them, but then we got an idea — siding!

Will began nailing them up on our storage barn wall, closest to the house, in board and batten fashion, only using a whole board for battens. Nearly running out of boards, he squeaked by at the final corner. Whew! Then he snapped a chalkline down the bottoms, which were uneven and cut them off with the circular saw.

Then he, Ashley, and I started giving it a good coat of semi-transparent dark stain to match our house. Will did the ladder work and Ashley and I traded holding up the can for him and painting the stain on the lower parts. It looks great.

As soon as that was done, Will had another bright idea: Why not build a wood rack next to the wall, which would be sheltered by the large overhang above? So he started building again. Now we have a wood rack which will hold more than a full cord of split firewood, conveniently accessed from the house. (The wood shed is full and we still have a big pile of wood to cut up and split!)

We spent the weekend picking up, raking, and cleaning around the yard. There’s still more to go, but we’re getting there. I saw a killdeer, a woodcock, and several pine siskins this weekend. We also heard the first wood frogs starting to sing in our beaver pond. But this morning, there was ice on the birdbath and goat water.

Our wild turkey hen has gone off to sit on a nest; she wasn’t in the orchard yesterday or today. We sure wish she’d bring her babies home instead of taking them off in the woods. But, hey, she’s a “wild” turkey — It’s what they do.

We got in from chores this morning and found Spencer lying in Will’s chair with one of his “babies” (stuffed animals). He sure loves them. Sometimes he lays on his back and tosses the baby up in the air with his front feet and catches it in his mouth with a happy smile. How many dogs play catch by themselves?

— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring, glorious Spring

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Although our weather’s sunny and bright with the birds singing, it’s a bit cool this morning — down to the mid-forties. But we’re sure okay with that. Will decided it was time he started repairing equipment, beginning with our Oliver tractor, “The Hulk.” It has a bent rod and needs the valves ground, among other things. This morning, Will pulled the head and started taking things apart. He was happy to discover the cylinder walls are pristine. So at least that much is good. A friend with equipment and experience volunteered to grind the valves.

I’ve been busy transplanting tomatoes. Whew! There are a lot of tomatoes. But while I was working, I spotted the pair of geese who nest on our little beaver pond, below the house. While the female goose was busy exploring the shore for a nesting site, the gander was walking on the ice, watching out for trespassers, honking loudly all the time. We love to watch them hatch a brood and swim about with little, fluffy, yellow babies.

While I was feeding the goats this morning, I spotted a male robin hopping about on our front yard. He even pulled up a worm — I didn’t think they were thawed out yet!

Our peppers are getting big and stocky. I bought another little four-shelf plastic greenhouse, which brings us up to three total. We stack flats of seedlings in them in our south-facing floor to ceiling living room windows. When planting season is over, we take them down and store them in the basement. Our oldest greenhouse is six years old now and still in perfect shape. (But we never take them outside where the wind could tear them apart.)

Just a reminder; if you have questions for me, please don’t be shy about sending them in to Backwoods Home. If we don’t get questions, the Ask Jackie column might go away! I know many of you don’t ask questions for fear of “bothering” me when we are busy. But it’s never a bother. Ask away. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring is officially here — we saw robins today

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Will bummed me out this morning. He got up earlier than I did and saw our first robin in the tree in our backyard. But I one-upped him when I drove to town this morning to mail a bunch of seeds; I saw two robins just to the side of our driveway and three more, coming back from town. Then I saw a red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, and eight bald eagles, really close up, feeding on a road-killed deer. Of course, when I got home the chickadees were still gobbling up the suet in the basket on the front porch. Lots of wildlife this morning!

And, when I got out of the car, I took a peek at the daylily bed beside the driveway which had been buried under four feet of plowed snow all winter, not expecting to see anything. There were daffodil noses poking up three inches! How exciting!

I’ve just got a couple more peppers to transplant and I’ll start on the first tomatoes. Those tomato seedlings are pretty leggy as they sprouted in a bag-covered flat much earlier than I’d expected. But I’ll just plant them deeper in the cups, covering most of the stem with potting soil. They’ll grow roots along the stem and will do fine regardless of their leggy start.

We’ve got seven people signed up for our homesteading seminar this August so we have room for seven more. If you’re interested in coming, be sure to get your deposit in. We had to turn away folks from our previous seminar and that made us feel bad. We’ve got lots planned for this one. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The weather’s nasty so we’re working inside today

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

It’s raining, mixed with sleet and snow. Freezing rain is forecast for later on. Earlier, Will was hard at work cutting up the big pile of firewood in front of the storage barn/wood shed. Yesterday, we worked hard splitting a big pile, which Will stacked in the wood shed. It’s getting full and we have lots of wood left to cut and split. Gee what a problem…

The painting of the living room is finished. Ashley did a great job and didn’t get a drop on anything. I’ve been coating the oak mantle and shelves with more poly and they’re ready to put back up as soon as the last coat dries. They look very good.

Our peppers are ready to be transplanted into their little individual Styrofoam cups so I’ll be doing that tomorrow. The tomatoes are nearly all up and looking good in the little plastic greenhouses in the living room windows. Boy do we ever have a variety this year!

The chickens are pumping out eggs and David is helping me by catching the “wild” chickens, cutting the flying feathers from their wings and putting them in the chicken run. We’re also holding the extra roosters out in the old small chicken coop, getting ready for a butchering day in the near future. We have way too many roosters but after they are all canned up, we’ll have lots of chicken-based meals available right from the pantry. Those “wild” chickens are a pain as they not only get in my flower beds, digging “fluffing” holes, but also run in the garden, scratching newly planted seeds up then later on eating tomatoes. Not this year, guys.

— Jackie

Jackie Clay

After a wet snow, the sun is back out — Happy Spring!

Monday, March 20th, 2017

On the first day of spring, we reflect on how grateful we are. Our weather’s turned nice again, into the forties with sun. Will and David managed to haul more than 9 full truckloads of firewood logs home from the logging site before thawing started. Will and I were able to cut up, split, AND stack away a whole cord, plus more into the wood shed. That’s a full cord, mind you (8’x4’x8′). Then it snowed and rained. Today Will’s out cutting up more logs to get ready to split as it’s again dry.

We heard and saw a Canada goose yesterday morning. Yea! Spring’s really coming. No robins yet, though.

I got all of our tomatoes planted. That’s three full flats of 66 plants each, plus three smaller flats. Hmmm, that’s a lot of tomatoes, isn’t it? (Will, get out the bulldozer…)

Our chickens are starting to lay with the warmer weather again. I can’t wait for my first rhubarb pie, topped with four-egg-white meringue.

I checked our fruit trees in the orchard and can’t see much, if any, winter damage or vole activity. We did have a very mild winter for northern Minnesota. We only hit -35 twice for a short time and we had plenty of snow cover.

Yesterday, Ashley and I painted the living room walls. Actually, she did most of the painting and I refreshed the paint roller for her and helped move things out of the way and position the ladder. I did buy a new ladder as the one we were using was totally unsafe and wobbly. So wobbly it scared the you-know-what out of me to step up on it. Now the old ladder is a pole bean support and we have a new, solid, safe ladder! The room looks wonderful. Will has to get busy and re-cut the logs which framed the walls and octagonal ceiling. It’ll look so pretty, all finished. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The sun’s out and the birds are singing

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

Jackie Clay

We’re back to sub-zero temps

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.

— Jackie

 
 
 


 
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