Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns
Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category
Tuesday, June 28th, 2016
And we’re getting a lot done, too. We just finished mulching, staking, and caging all 107 tomato plants and are working on weeding and mulching our main garden. Will is hard at work mulching the sweet corn and pole beans right now. With warmer weather, all of our corn is taking off big guns. (Thank you God!) And the beans everywhere look fantastic.
I had to laugh. Yesterday I was going to turn the water on to water the big hoop house and did a double take. “Hidden” on the frost-free hydrant was a pretty tree frog. He was all in camo but that didn’t cut it on a red hydrant. He looked cool though and looked like he had a big smile on his face.
My flowers look fantastic this year. The peonies are blooming like crazy and only two are the same variety. I think there are fourteen … so far. Okay, I’m a junkie.
We are enjoying having our big solar panels hooked up, generating over 10 times as much charging power as the little ones did. Wow! Those batteries charge up SO much faster now. And I know we’ll be saving tons of money in gas for the generator. When such a big milestone comes around we really rejoice. It really happened! — Jackie
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
And boy are we busy! We couldn’t do any cultivating or anything else, during the rain so we’re hurrying to catch up (as if one ever does!). The weeds loved that warm, wet weather and parts of our gardens look like a lettuce bed. And our North garden and pig pasture gardens, because they’re mostly clay, were too wet to even walk in.
The bad news is all of our pig pasture corn rotted in the ground and never sprouted. Today Will’s going over to help at our carpenter friend, Tom’s, homestead where they’re going to pour five truckloads of concrete — with a little manual help. After that’s done, Will’s going to till up the corn patch in the pig pasture and I’ll replant it, hoping we’ll have a long enough growing season to harvest corn from it to can. (I do have other sweet corn patches that ARE up, however, but we sure hate to lose any.) All the beans and North garden crops are up and lookin’ good as are the crops in our main garden and berry patch. Hooray!
Now we’re working like mad to get the weeds under control before they get big. Will tilled and tilled yesterday, finishing our main garden and then going out to the North garden. He had a setback when our Troybilt’s fuel pump quit. Luckily, Will had another he’d salvaged from somewhere and after an hour of changing over, he was back at tilling. The garden was still damp but it tilled up fine and it looks so much better without the weeds!
The peppers and pole beans in our big hoop house look great. I’ve got six different rare pole beans inside as they’re relatively long season beans. Plus we have tons of different beans outside, both pole and bush. They just POP out of the ground. It’s so cool! Mittens sometimes sits by a bean row and watches them. She’s a homesteader cat and it doesn’t take much to make her happy. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Seven inches Sunday and four last night! I’ll swear I saw a bearded man at the lumberyard ordering cubits of lumber for an ark … Luckily, our gardens were well tilled before it hit and there aren’t lakes on them to rot the seed.
We’ve still been planting a few odd things here and there. (No, they’re not “odd,” just kind of leftover stuff we didn’t get around to getting in sooner.)
There’s a mama killdeer with a nest out in the corn on our north garden so we don’t bother her area. The rows need tilling with the weeds flourishing out there but it’s too wet now and we don’t want to disturb her while she’s sitting on eggs. Speaking of eggs, one of our turkeys came off the nest with three babies and another hatched a CHICK — not a poult. One chick. She found a nest with one chicken egg and became attached to it. Now she has a baby to raise up and love. Strange but cool.
Our tomato plants look awesome! Very stocky and dark green. Unfortunately, we have billions of volunteer tomatoes all over the garden; our only weeds this year! Luckily, they’re easy to till up and pull. It’s time to stake and cage the tomatoes and start in weeding and mulching the main garden. As soon as the rain quits, that is.
My flowers look great this year and my Yellow Rose of Texas is blooming its head off. I’ve been hitting one flower bed at a time trying to get rid of the weeds, especially perennial weeds like nettles and raspberries that keep popping up. And it’s working. So far I’ve got four beds pretty well “domesticated” and another bed pretty good. Mulching after weeding helps a lot. I’m using wood chip mulch about six inches deep. The peonies, delphiniums, hostas, and daylilies look great and make me smile as I sit on the front porch. Ah, homesteading! — Jackie
Tuesday, May 31st, 2016
Planting, planting, planting … between the rains
We’ve been getting very little sunshine between the rains. When it’s nice, we’ve been planting like crazy. So far we’ve got in tons of different corns in various isolation gardens around the 120 acres, lots of beans from all over the world from Maine to China! We also have 107 tomatoes, including 68 varieties, this year. I also got 11 hills of Atlantic Giant pumpkins planted yesterday. We planted all of this just before the rain hit this morning. It looks like it will continue for a couple of days.
Inside, we’ve started several pumpkins, squash and long-season beans to set out when the weather is warmed up for good. And on these rainy days, we keep busy inside. Will is painting polyurethane on the home-sawn oak planks that will be the mantel shelves behind our wood stove. So far they look great! What a wonderful addition they’ll make.
For those of you who are wondering how Sir, our wonder goat kid, is doing, he’s growing like a weed! He’s still very friendly and follows me all over the pasture when I go out to check the electric wires on the fence.
Monday, May 23rd, 2016
After waiting so long for nice weather, we’re making very good use of it! We disbudded all five of our goat kids. That’s one of our least favorite homestead jobs but we feel it’s very necessary for the goats’ sake so they won’t get caught in fences, water pails, each other’s collars, or any other dangers. And we won’t get smacked in the face as they swing around to chase a fly. We also got our donkey, Crystal’s, feet trimmed. She has terrible feet which tend to grow twisted over winter. So we have to keep them well trimmed to prevent that. Poor Will, with his bad back, did the job while I handed him tools. Luckily, Crystal was pretty good throughout the process. I think she knows we’re helping her walk well.
While I finished transplanting our tomatoes and peppers, Will spread lime on our main garden as our soil is pretty acidic. He had also done the new north garden and the old hog pasture. So yesterday, he went ahead and tilled them with our tractor mounted tiller because it’s supposed to rain soon.
He also seeded two more of our hayfields into oats and clover. (He slept very well last night!)
Our orchard is simply wonderful this spring. The trees are in full bloom and as they are getting bigger, the whole orchard looks like a snowstorm. Magnificent!
While I was driving to town, I noticed a Canada goose on a nest, on an old beaver lodge, in a creek. She’s sitting tight and didn’t move when I stopped to take a picture. She’ll be hatching soon and we probably won’t see the family again as they leave the nesting area right away after hatching.
Last night we were all tired. I had to laugh when I came into the living room to find Hondo cuddled around a big Hopi Pale Grey squash Will had brought out to show some visitors. We all like our HPGs!
Wednesday, May 18th, 2016
I was so happy to get to meet so many of my extended BHM family at this show! Thank you, all of you, for stopping by and saying hi, giving me a hug and telling me how much you enjoy what I do. It really means a lot to me. I spoke two days on gardening and canning, to a “full house” although I did have competition from a nearby group demonstrating their noisy attack dogs with BIG voices! (I much prefer our “attack” dogs, Spencer and Hondo, who, I’m sure would attack a “bad guy” if necessary but are gentle and saps for petting from “good guys”… and are MUCH quieter!)
While I was gone, I kept in touch with Will at home, who said we had a quarter-inch of snow on the ground and temps in the high 20s-30s. Luckily, he took in my tender plants and Mother’s Day hanging baskets!
Now, it’s back to homesteading. This afternoon I’m going to set out my onion sets and plant the peas; I’d meant to get that done earlier but somehow it always got shoved back to a lower priority. That happens on the homestead! Now I’ve got to play catch-up. Sort of like disbudding our goat kids. They’re way overdue so this afternoon we’ll get that done. (God willing and the crick don’t rise!)
Speaking of the creek, our pair of Canada geese came off the nest this morning with five (we think) babies. So cool. They nest on our small beaver pond every spring. But, unfortunately, they move the babies on to the large pond as soon as they hatch so we don’t get to see much of them after hatching. — Jackie
Monday, May 2nd, 2016
In Northern Minnesota, nothing much is easy. We had a couple dozen apple trees plus cherry and pear trees in our little acre of orchard. And they were doing great. But two winters ago, we had record-breaking winter temperatures: 90 days below zero. We lost about six apple trees and the rest took hits from mild to extreme. This spring we pruned them all, Will sawed out the dead trunks, and some were beyond help. So we ordered trees to replace them. The old saying “plant till you’re planted” sure rang true! So we re-planted trees.
Luckily, all the survivors are looking very good as are the cherries, apricots, and plums in our other little orchard in the “back yard.”
I’ve got to start canning up hamburger as we’ve got a lot that needs canning before hot weather. It’s so very handy all canned up and ready to heat and eat! We love it. I just lightly brown and crumble the burger, spoon it in jars, leaving 1 inch of headroom, and process it — no liquid added. It turns out great every time.
By the way, our baby goat Sir is getting smarter; he follows me like a dog for his baba. And he’s doing great. Who’d have thought? — Jackie
Friday, April 29th, 2016
And so are our goats! We just had two more “litters” of baby goats, twins from two does — two bucklings and two doelings. They must not have wanted to wait and see if more cold weather was in the future. All babies are doing very well.
So is Sir, the baby who nearly died due to exposure after being born outside in the cold rain. He’s up and playing. This morning he discovered his ears. He spent a lot of time twitching his head to see them flap. And he’s starting to bounce and jump too. He won’t stay in his box during the day so I’m putting him down with his mom. He can play, nibble on grass, and when he’s tired, he finds a sunny spot to nap in. One of his favorites is on a half log near the gate. His mom watches over him but won’t let him nurse, yet. But she is a good milker and gives a gallon a day. Because Sir only eats three pints so far, I see a batch of yogurt in our future.
I’m busy transplanting tomatoes. Whew, are there a lot! And because I strained my shoulder last week, I can only do it for a little while then need to give it a rest. But like the tortoise, it’s getting done, although slower than I’d like.
Will helped me fix up our front flower bed for those fancy daylilies I ordered over winter, a little at a time. We added composted manure, put ID stakes by the plants that were already there then fenced the whole thing with 2-foot-high fence as I was tired of the chickens “fluffing” in deep holes they dig there, which isn’t good for the plants. Now the hens are confused and I’m sure depressed. Hey, they are our “wild” chickens; they can go down in the brush to dig! — Jackie