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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

We’re getting plenty of spring rain

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Yes, we need it to perk up the pastures and hayfields, but it sure is hard to do outside work when it’s raining off and on all day … all week. But just before this rainy period struck, Will got busy and spread manure on our north garden and the old pig pen garden, which we now call the “central garden” just because it sounds nicer. Luckily, he only had two breakdowns with the old spreader. All those parts he put on last year sure helped. (Last year it broke down nearly every time he spread manure!) And that wasn’t fun as he had to unload what was left by hand.

He had just finished all of that when the rain began. Luckily, he’d also spread some manure on the small garden next to the house and tilled it in. So I began planting. First in were some of the fancy daylilies I’d bought on Daylily Auction during the winter months. They’ll make a border for that garden, facing the house. Then I drove in some steel T-posts and zip-tied 1½ stock panels to them as a trellis for the peas. I planted Alderman (or Tall Telephone) peas, an old variety I always used to plant, which climbs easily to 6 feet. They don’t blow over in rain and windstorms so they last nicely into summer. I also planted some Mammoth Melting sugar peas on an end trellis and will be planting some morning glories on some end trellises. Just because they’re pretty.

We keep our bird feeders full, year around and, boy, are we getting some pretty visitors. We’ve got lots of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Goldfinches, Purple finches, several song sparrows, as well as Orioles and many more common birds. The Grosbeaks are eating some of the grape jelly I put out for the Orioles. But because they’re so pretty, I don’t mind at all.

We got the big hoop house (which Will split in two halves) all fixed up and will be planting peppers in them by Wednesday. (We’re in for a hard frost Tuesday night so we are waiting … just to be safe.) It looks like we’ll be planting our first tomatoes today; when I got home from mailing seeds, Will had rows marked out and was busy digging holes for them. Of course we’ll use Wall O’ Waters to protect them from that darned frost.

Well, gotta run! Talk to you soon, folks. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our tilling has started

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Because we currently have three tractors torn apart, waiting for cash to buy parts, we haven’t been able to get started tilling the gardens as early as we’d like. So when I got home from mailing a batch of seeds this morning, I found Will hard at work tilling our main garden the “old” way; using our two decades-old Troy-Bilt Horse tiller.

I was really impressed to see how nice our garden soil is looking. After all, I remember well having to haul trailer loads of big rocks off it every spring and the soil being sand and gravel. Now there are only a few small rocks and the soil is nice and black. Wow, that’s wonderful.

Now we have another garden to make that nice. Will was hard at work next to the training ring barn, dozing the new garden area clear of trees and then leveling. He was just getting ready to shove the “hill” on the far end down by the barn into a big pile (to use on the driveway) when the dozer went… the track won’t stay tight. The seal’s not expensive, but it’ll have to wait — just like the tractors.

David and Ashley’s ducklings are nearly “real” ducks now and are still living in the big plastic tote in the bedroom. So David is VERY motivated to get the duck house/garden shed finished. Yesterday, he worked from early morning to after dark on it. Now it’s all closed in with a big window to the east and a duck door to the west and a people door next to the window. He also put one coat of stain on the floor and will do another coat tonight after work. As ducks are very wet critters, he wants to give that floor four coats. Just because.

Our rhubarb and asparagus are coming up nicely. We should be eating asparagus by mid week. Yum. I could eat it three meals a day! The berry patch is fantastic. Our Mac Black black raspberries have all not only survived the winter but look great. And the blackberries we’ve struggled so hard to have survive are also wonderful this spring and very lusty. Finally, this year, I’m getting the grapes up on an arbor! This afternoon I’m going to prune them severely (the vines are running twenty feet along the ground!) and we’re going to train them up on a stock panel arbor so they can be maintained better. I can’t wait!

I’ve been planting some of the fancy daylilies I won during the winter on Daylily Auction (www.daylily.com). My “old” daylilies are coming up very strong and the new plants are fantastic, so I’m sure tickled. It’s sunny and 60 degrees out today so I’m going back outside. See you later! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I had a terrible spring cold

Monday, May 1st, 2017

I hope I haven’t worried any of you but I just wasn’t up to blogging last week. I got a terrible spring cold — runny nose and coughing 24/7. Yep, I took zinc, vitamin C, etc. But it still hung on. Finally, yesterday, it started letting up and today I feel much better. Whew, I’m glad that’s over! Luckily, our spring weather was cold and rainy so I didn’t get too crazy waiting to get outside and do something.

David and girlfriend Ashley collected a big truckload of pallets from our local lumber yard (with permission, of course). Then they set about building … a duck house? Okay, a few weeks back, Ashley bought four ducklings from our local farm store. They’ve been housed in a plastic tote in the bedroom. But ducklings grow really fast and are hugely messy, playing in water more than drinking it. They had to go somewhere safe. When they asked where would be a good spot to build a duck house, I envisioned something like a dog house with a fence. So I walked them down to the garden edge where there’s a nice spot with some young poplar and chokecherry trees in it for shade. Well, they started building the floor. Holy buckets, it’s 8′ x 10′ square!

They sheeted the pallet floor with OSB and leveled it nicely, then started screwing pallets together for the walls, which were then sheeted on the outside with OSB. A trip to the lumber yard brought back enough 2x4s to do the rafters and upper side walls. Unfortunately, they ran out of cash about then. David brought home some used cedar 5/4 decking from a deck the company he works for was replacing and used that for purlins for the roof. They plan on buying sheet metal for the roof but for the time being, it’s covered by a plastic tarp until a paycheck rolls around.

Yesterday was gorgeous and I walked around outside, enjoying the sun, looking at the garden, orchard, and flower beds. Will is taking apart our house garden’s raised beds as we decided to re-do it as a regular row-crop type garden, which fits our needs more right now. And the raised beds were in sad need of either fixing or replacing.

We’d heard we were in for a nasty start to May; up to 8 inches of snow! SNOW on May 1st? Hey, it’s northern Minnesota, after all. So we did extra chores like setting out round bales for the cattle and horses, picking up miscellaneous tools, and putting out extra bedding for the goats. And it paid off.

At 7 this morning, it was raining off and on. But in an hour the snow began. And now it’s snowing like a blizzard. Tomorrow they’re forecasting fifty degrees! Wow … — Jackie

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

 
 
 


 
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