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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.



Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

We had a very quiet Christmas

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Due to a big ice/sleet storm which deposited ½ inch of ice in some locations and more than two inches of sleet at our house, only our son, David, his girlfriend, Ashley, and Javid came to join us for Christmas dinner. (The power was out in many locations, making us feel kind of smug as we just tossed another log on the fire and enjoyed our Christmas tree lights.) I ran into a slight snag when I went to set the table, however. We still had our owl puzzle on the table and, with it being so large, we couldn’t move it without breaking it up. I solved the problem by covering it up with a holiday tablecloth and a lace over-cloth. It looked great and you’d never know there was a puzzle under it.

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It took half an hour the next day to chip the sleet off the windshield of our Subaru, after the defrosters had run for 15 minutes. Wow, that was a lot of ice!

Thanks to all of you for your Christmas wishes, cards, and wonderful letters. We enjoyed every single one of them!

Our 20-year-old wheelbarrow, which has seen a lot of use, finally had a handle break off. I suggested buying another handle, but ever-handy Will said he’d just make one from a piece of ash. He had cut several lengths for handles of various tools and had one already in the storage building. So, taking the drawknife out, he quickly fashioned a replacement handle. In less than an hour, he had the old handle removed and the new one in place. Believe me, it’s a whole lot easier to haul in firewood with two handles rather than one!

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Our biggest Christmas gift was not one that comes in a box. Our mother wild turkey showed up on Christmas Eve! Now she’s back in the yard with the other turkeys. One of her “kids”, a tom, showed up the same day, but must have decided Mom was nuts to come to civilization. I surprised him in the storage building when I was getting goat feed and he flapped and flew way up on a beam. That was the last I saw of him, but he may be back. After all, he found out where the grain is stored.

I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! May the coming year bring joy, peace, and a bountiful harvest to all. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

What a Christmas present — it’s 35 degrees today!

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

After a week of very cold weather, today is a gift like no other. We’ve been busy enjoying it to the fullest. Will had one of our old tractors way over at one of our rented hayfields. While loading a big round bale, it just plain quit and wouldn’t start. As it was getting dark, Will came home. Then it got cold and working on it was out of the question, especially because it’s a diesel. So with the warm day, Will drove over there, tools in the truck.

I’ll admit I prayed a lot for God to send diesel mechanic angels to help out. And when I drove out to mail some Christmas cards, there came the tractor with a round bale on the front spears! Thank you! Thank you!

I did extra chores this morning. I fixed the chicken feeder, which had come loose from the chain it had been hung on, cleaned the goat pen and fluffed up their new bedding. Meanwhile, Will took the scoop shovel and went out to clean the heavy snow off our big hoop house. (Friends of ours had their big, new high tunnel collapse during that first two feet of snow we got early in the winter.) So far, the 6 mil greenhouse plastic is holding up very well; this is its second winter.

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We’re looking at the radar map and cringing. They’re calling for a heavy, nasty winter storm for Christmas Day here. But we’ll wait and see. Often the weather swings south of us and we don’t get what is predicted.

We finally got our owl puzzle finished and are missing one piece. Our cat, Mittens, LOVES to pick up small things and trot off with them or else take a paw and shove them onto the floor. And Ashley’s dog, Cooper, will eat just about anything. So we’re not sure where the missing piece went. But I’ve had that happen before and am just going to cut out a similarly colored piece to glue in that spot. You’ll never see it when the puzzle is glued to the plywood.

Will and I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season! May the new year bring nothing but joy and contentment. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Brr, our temps are reaching sub-zero

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

We have been spending time making sure our critters are extra comfortable. I spread a fresh bale of hay in the goats’ indoor pen so they could cuddle down together in a nest. And when it is getting dark, I shut the door so the wind won’t blow on them at night. The chicken coop is all spread with a thick layer of fresh wood shavings as it’s so cold the wood won’t get damp a bit. And I closed up a couple of air vents. The chickens sure don’t need more fresh air now!

Will screwed a few new sheets of plywood over the west side of the run-in shed to stop the wind for the cows and horses. (Our donkeys ate the last sheets!) Yep, I’ve tried hot pepper, anti-chewing sprays, bitter apple, and they still chew. It’s not like they’re bored or don’t have anything else to eat. Will hauled down three more big round bales to row up in a windbreak in the pasture so the stock can eat while standing out of the wind.

I fed our birds extra sunflower seeds and suet as those little guys sure need extra calories when it’s so bitter cold.

Then we added extra wood to the wood stoves and settled in for the evening. I have to smile — We’re working puzzles again and in the latest issue of BHM, there’s that picture of my late husband, Bob and son, David, doing a puzzle back in Montana. Yep, we still choose that low-tech form of entertainment. But I must say, the one we’re working now is the toughest one I’ve ever done! I sure hope it gets done by Christmas as it’s on our dining room table.

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In my “spare time” I even got the kitchen cleaned up somewhat after all the fall and early winter canning. I want to get some more chili and hamburger canned up as our beef is getting a little old and I don’t want it to freezer burn. Besides, I’m running a little low on canned chili, and we sure love it — especially in cold weather. Then there’s beans to can up, which we also love as it’s so convenient. See, I’m not done canning yet — I don’t think I ever am, really.

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Then there are the seed catalogs which are beginning to trickle in. We spend a lot of time scanning through them to see if there’s something new in heirloom seeds we’d love to try in next summer’s gardens. Just think, come February I’ll be starting peppers! Can’t wait. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Believe it or not, most of our two feet of snow is gone

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

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But it is snowing a bit this morning. Mittens went out exploring the big snow pile next to the yard made by the snowplow truck. She LOVES the snow. When fresh snow is deep she buries her head under it and runs forward. All you can see is her upright tail!

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When all the snow melted, I found a crate of carrots on my front porch. Yep, I’d forgotten them and they had gotten buried in snow. I gingerly felt one and was shocked to find all of them totally solid and in fine shape. I promise to get them canned up tomorrow! I hate to waste food.

While deer hunting, David saw the mama wild turkey and two others, going to roost in a big cedar tree on the edge of our woods. What a surprise! We were really happy to hear she was still around.

Prior to the rains, I bedded the goat stall with a bale and half of wood shavings. That was a mistake! In two days’ time, the shavings were totally soaked. So I had to shovel them out and bed them with a nice big bale of reed canary grass. Much better! It’s so fluffy that even when it gets damp it quickly dries out. The goats have a nice dry place to lay down now.

We are now watering the horses and cattle using the new well Will put down below the new barn. I can’t believe how much faster the water fills the tanks and as the water is spring water, it never runs out, no matter how long we use the well. Our house well is 375 deep, through 300 feet of bedrock and is slower to fill the casing. So we can only pump about 400 gallons before letting the well rest and refill. What an improvement our barn well is! And best of all, should something happen where we couldn’t get gas to run our generator which powers our house well, the barn well can be run from our battery bank! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Have a very happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

I’ve been cooking and baking up a storm today in preparation of our family’s Thanksgiving feast. I managed to do two of Will’s very favorite “pumpkin” pie made with Hopi Pale Grey squash, an apple pie, cheesecake, and pecan tartlets. And the garlic mashed potatoes are in the oven now so I just have to reheat them tomorrow.

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Amid all the tearing around and feasting, please take time to be truly thankful for all we have. We homesteaders are a blessed lot!

I just had to show you another Hondo picture. Last night he was again up on the “bad dog” couch but he’d fluffed the pillows just right and plopped down with both his hind end and head on his favorites — with a big smile on his face. I think he was dreaming of turkey leftovers!

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Happy Thanksgiving all! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Winter finally hit with a huge bang

Monday, November 21st, 2016

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Although we’ve had a fabulous fall, with hardly any snow and cold, Old Man Winter finally arrived all at once. We were expecting 8-12 inches which the weather radio updated Thursday evening to 12-18 inches. Well, it began snowing and blowing, then REALLY snowing. We ended up with more than 24 inches of heavy, wet snow. Then it got cold. Will had to wade out through knee-deep snow in the evening to sweep off our solar panels so the heavy snow didn’t break down the rack as the wind was also pretty stout. It was very nearly a blizzard but the 40 mph wind came in gusts not steady winds as in a true blizzard. At any rate, we couldn’t even see the storage building from the house which is only about 50 feet away!

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Luckily, we’d spent two days picking up tools, hoses, firewood, etc. in preparation for the snow or we’d have been in a fix. Will also got our plow truck ready. He found out the smog pump was seized up, making the fan belt screech. He spent all day Thursday working on getting that fixed and didn’t have time to put on the plow.

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Well, the storm finally blew out and do we have snow! It took Will an hour to hook up the snowplow, which was buried in snow, of course. Then he worked for nearly three hours to just clean out our yard and make a couple of passes up our mile and a half long driveway. (We had small trees down all along the drive, due to the heavy snow and wind.)

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Meanwhile, I shoveled out a path to the goat barn and chicken coop. Luckily, I’d brought the goats up from their pasture on Thursday, before the storm — just in case. All of us, including Hondo, were pooped. Now we just have to continue cleaning out to get ready for the next snowfall on Wed. Hopefully it’s not so much. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

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

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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

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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

 
 


 
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