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Click here for Summer of the Eagles Click here for Autumn of the Loons

Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

In between rains, work continues

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately, with a few sunny days stuck between them, thank goodness. Will pounded 104 T-posts in the garden to stake up the tomatoes we have growing in there. Our big tomatoes would break off wooden stakes in the wind! Then he weeded and mulched them with our seed-free reed canary grass hay. Once mulched, they’ll need no more weeding.

Yesterday, he finished putting wire cages over most of the tomatoes but he had to start making more cages as we’re growing so many more tomatoes this year in the garden. The ones I planted on the new forty acres won’t be mulched or caged; it’s just too much work for us.

Today the sun’s out and Will’s busy making more cages and also side dressing our small household patch of corn in the garden with rotted manure. The corn sure jumps once that’s done and it already looks pretty good. On the end of the sweet corn is a small patch of Glass Gem popcorn.

Unfortunately the chickens got in the garden (we do have a few “wild” escapees) and scratched around in that patch. And ate some corn. But they are ousted from the garden and most of it has come up anyway.

The pumpkin patch/corn patch is doing well as is the pig-pasture corn and pumpkins. So we’ll pray for warm sunshine and alternate days of rain to keep it going. Lookin’ good so far… — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: free-ranging pigs, canned pinto beans, and sunless strawberries

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Free-ranging pigs

I remember you telling about a pig that spent the winter free and that it did very well. I wonder what kind of pigs you raise and do you think I could raise them without grain?

Sandie Heatherington
Siberia, Indiana

Well, Sandie, you remembered my story a bit wrong. There were two weaned pigs and they did escape and spend the summer and fall roaming 160 acres of fields and woods, eating all sorts of wild foods from roots and grasses to acorns in the fall. And they were very nice when we finally found and captured them. But they did not winter out “wild.” In Minnesota, they would never have wintered as food would have been nearly impossible for them to find. You can certainly let pigs roam free in a very large acreage to feed without grain as the old-timers did. But you can’t just fence a pig into an acre or two and expect him to do well with no grain; there’s just not enough food for him to choose and pick from. — Jackie

Canned pinto beans

I canned some pinto beans last fall and was going to use a jar and a few beans had some grayish spots on them. Almost like mold but the seal is perfect. Are they bad?

Carolyn Allee
Raymond, Washington

If your beans were processed correctly and the seal is still good, open a jar. If they smell okay, they will be fine to eat. As always, heat the beans to boiling temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. — Jackie

Sunless Strawberries

My son-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. My granddaughters really want to grow strawberries, but they live in a high-rise apartment, and they get no direct sunlight, not even on their little balcony. Is there a way we can make their dreams come true? Is there a type of strawberry that will grow well under a grow light? Do you have any ideas on something else they might enjoy growing and eating?
Lisa G.
Cottondale, Florida

Any vegetables and, of course, strawberries, can certainly be grown under grow lights or even four-foot regular shop lights, held only inches above the plants. (Think of all of those marijuana growers!) They could try easy-to-grow things like multi-colored lettuce, radishes, or even bush beans. There are a lot of possibilities so they should have fun! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had sad news

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Our friend, Linda, who helped cook at our homestead seminars passed away recently and suddenly due to undiagnosed cancer. Her service brought tears to many of us who knew her and will certainly miss her every day.

But we go on, planting and believing in the hope of the future. Our hoop houses are bulging and so is the garden. I finally finished planting on the new pumpkin/corn patch yesterday. And already the pumpkins and squash are looking good out there. However, I will have to replant a couple varieties that I had old seed. It didn’t come up. Oh well, it happens.

This morning I got up at 6 AM to cows bawling and donkeys braying. Crystal, our donkey, as well as three calves were out. So I spent awhile herding livestock and enjoying the beautiful morning. There were even deer out browsing on the clover next to the woods. How pretty. Cows in, donkey in. So I came back to the house and made pancakes. I was hungry after playing cowboy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

When the weather’s perfect…

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

You get a lot done. We’ve been having nice warm daytime temperatures and last night we had a good soaking rain. It makes seeds germinate quickly and pop up strongly. You can hear our pumpkins and squash growing!

Yesterday morning there were white pelicans on our beaver pond. You don’t usually think of pelicans in Northern Minnesota but we have quite a few. In fact, just a few miles north of us is Pelican Lake, a huge body of water that the pelicans enjoy. I think they are so graceful, soaring in flocks, way up in the sky, before they land. And on the water, they look like swans, all except that pouched bill. They like to swim and fish for minnows on our pond and we enjoy watching them.

I’ve been planting up the rest of the land Will tilled on our new forty acres with the tractor-mounted tiller. He said he’s “all done planting corn!” It was pretty brutal when he and Krystal hand-planted the big patch that they did in the muck. But I can’t stand to waste tilled ground so I’ve been planting more pumpkins between varieties of beans. So far I’ve planted Cherokee Trail of Tears and I’ve got Hopi String and Tongue of Fire to go. Then we’ll see how much land is left…

My favorite rose is blooming near the kitchen garden gate. It’s the old “Yellow Rose of Texas”, which is both hardy and beautiful. Pioneers often carried it West to remind them of home. I’ve always had a yellow rose by my house, no matter where we happened to be, so I really understand how it could be a symbol of “home.”

We’re still searching for a used laptop or tablet for my handicapped son, Javid, so he can be online while being forced to lie down to ensure his pressure sore continues to heal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s finally drying out

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

After all the rain, making the fields and garden soppy, it finally quit pouring. Yesterday, Will and Krystal went out to the new corn/pumpkin field and hand planted several trial varieties of corn. If they do well for us, we’ll choose one to grow out next year and save pure seed. But planting was awful, with them sticking in the mud, hoisting heavy boots and struggling with the planting. Will wouldn’t let me help because of my bad knee and I kind of felt left out.

Luckily, when Krystal and I planted the pumpkins and squash on the pumpkin side, it was dry and very easy planting! Now we’re waiting for them to come up.

Today Will and Krystal went out again to plant more corn, and it went much better due to warmer temperatures and a good breeze that dried things out a lot. Now over half of the field is planted but we’ll have to wait to do the rest as it’s too wet for the tractor to till. We’ll see how that goes…

Every Wednesday we’ve had a baby doe goat born. And today we had another! Willow, our best doe, had a huge, long-legged doeling that we’re calling “Wednesday.” We’re thrilled at how pretty she is.

Does anyone happen to have an old, working tablet or laptop they would donate to my adopted son, Javid, who lives in assisted living? He has a desktop computer but is restricted in the time he can be up in his wheelchair as he is still healing from pressure sores. So he spends a lot of time in bed (boring!) and would sure like to be online instead of watching daytime TV. Right now we can’t afford to buy him a new one so thought I’d ask around.

We are amazed that our Hopi Pale Grey squash are popping up so strong. Most are as big as your hand when they come out of the ground. This year we are trying two new pumpkin/squash varieties,  San Filipe (Native pumpkin) and Apache Giant squash. We are hoping they’ll do as well for us. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It never rains but it pours

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Our area was so very dry earlier this spring, with the rivers and lakes down alarmingly. Then it started to rain! So far, we’ve had four inches in two days, another inch, then an inch and 7/8 with lighter rains in-between. It’s very lucky that we were able to plant what we did.

Yesterday it was only cloudy and Will and Krystal took the tractor out to try and plant Painted Mountain and some other trial corns. No dice; the field is way too wet. So I planted potatoes in a furrow he’d made (by accident) and we called it good. Today it’s so wet out there that he can’t even drive the four wheeler on it! We’re hoping for a late fall!

We’ve had two single goat births, both cute doelings that are doing very well and are really fun to watch as they bounce and play in the grass.

Our first planted crops are coming up: pumpkins, squash, Bear Island Chippewa corn, and the melons in the hoop house. The Kuroda carrots were three inches tall when they emerged from the soil! Stunning.

I’ve got asparagus coming out my ears and have to pick three patches this afternoon. After Will tossed four inches of rotted manure on the beds, the stalks have doubled and more in diameter. Many are thicker than my thumb. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some canned up real soon.

Good news on the second book in the Jess Hazzard series, Autumn of the Loons. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order and delivery on the 15th here:

The print edition order page on Amazon will be ready by the 15th according to Amazon, but folks can order Autumn of the Loons and save 15% or order Summer of the Eagles and Autumn together and save 20% on both if you go to the publisher’s order page here: . And you’ll get complimentary bookmarks with your order, too!

If you’re looking for more Jess Hazzard, here it is! And if you haven’t read Summer of the Eagles, you’re missing a lot of good reading. Okay, so I’m prejudiced but readers seem to agree! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

All work and some play

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

We’ve been working hard, so Krystal and I took an evening off to drive up to the Vince Shute Bear Sancturary west of Orr, Minnesota. There were few bears around, but we were lucky enough to see a momma bear with four cubs! She brought them out right after we got there and they were just coming down when we left, three hours later.

I’ve seen quite a few bear cubs but never four at once so that was a huge treat. It was neat to be close enough (and safe enough, up on a viewing platform) to actually hear her “tell” the cubs to come down with quiet grunts.

We are so lucky to live in such a wild place where seeing such things are possible. It makes up for the sub-zero winters! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have been busy with more planting

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Krystal and I planted three rows of Howden pumpkins (C. pepo) and two rows of Atlantic Giant pumpkins (C. maxima) in the old pig pasture. Then we went out in the new “garden” and planted three 250-foot rows of assorted pumpkins and squash that we are not going to keep seed from — sort of a trial patch to see what we like and how well it grows (and tastes).

We had a couple of cold days with frost warnings. One night was so cold that we closed up the big hoop house where we planted our peppers, and lit the propane heater — just in case. It turns out that it didn’t freeze here but our friends two miles away had 27 degrees on their deck!

This morning, we all hit the garden and got two long rows of tomatoes set safely in their Wall O’ Waters. Not only do these protect against freezing but also against strong winds which damage tender plants. As I write, Will and Krystal are setting out to plant two varieties of corn in our old pig pasture, between the pumpkin varieties. One is Will’s own Seneca Sunrise (a 75 day sweet corn) and the other is Glen Drowns’ Yukon Supreme, which he’s had mature in 45 days! We’re anxious to give it a try.

Some of our goats are kidding and some are getting very close. Ghost had a single doeling that’s mostly white with a beige head and neck that we named Demi. Willow has such a huge udder that we think it’ll pop! She is a gallon milker but gee…We’ve been thinking for days now that surely she will drop those kids within an hour. Maybe today? — Jackie



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