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Archive for the ‘Building’ Category

Jackie Clay

It was sixty degrees and sunny for Easter

Monday, April 21st, 2014

All we could think was … FINALLY! My sons, Bill (and his family) and David, were here for Easter dinner and we all ate too much. Then we sat out on our new front porch and enjoyed the warm day. After hiking around the place showing all of the new improvements to Bill and Kelly, we again hit the porch visiting and watching David and grandchildren, Ava and Mason, roll balls back and forth on the ramp and blowing bubbles that carried away in the breeze. With all of the gadget toys, it seems like today’s kids still love balls and bubbles.

Will’s busy digging under our addition, preparing to enclose the base with cement and rock, using slip form construction. This will be like the front porch with the rock work just adding a decorative and moderately supportive touch under the walls of our pole-built addition, keeping the brutal winter winds out. Today he’s digging out for footings, carefully saving all large rocks he runs across to add in the walls. He also installed extra insulation board under the floor and is getting ready to lay down a vapor barrier on the soil, raking the area smooth. This will keep any vapor from the ground from transferring to the floor joists of the addition, eventually rotting and weakening them.


Saturday, he dug out next to the foundation on the walk-out, south side of our house and installed two-inch insulation board all the way up to the sill plate with pressure-treated plywood over that. We just have a few more feet of basement wall left to go and the basement will be warmer in the winter. That means less firewood needed to keep the house warmer! Even this last winter, which was the coldest overall on record (90 days straight below zero!), our unheated basement never got below 40 degrees. And our potatoes are solid and juicy as can be with no sprouting, as are our onions. Perfect!

I’m still waiting for hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles. I added new orange halves to the Oriole feeder — just in case. I don’t want to miss those beautiful birds! I’ve got to rake the now-snow-free front yard. We have plenty of doggie “mines” out there. Yuck! But after I get that done, I’m off to can ham. I got two hams on sale for .88 a pound plus the one we had for Easter. That translates into half pints of ham dices, pints of ham chunks, and lots of bean soup and baked beans with ham to be canned up shortly. Mmmmmmm.


Just a note: We still have several spaces left for our June homesteading seminar so if you’d like to come, we do have room. Click on the box above for complete information. We’d love to have you join us! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

With warmer weather here, Will’s back at work on our barn

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


Because there’s still too much snow to get to the sawmill and/or logs, Will’s been busy using some of the lumber he cut last summer to frame up both upper ends of our new barn. Once the snow melts quite a bit more, we’ll fire up the sawmill and start sawing barn siding to nail over it. We’re going to use board and batten siding and stain it before putting it up. And to keep the wind out, Will’s going to put sheets of our free 1/4-inch plywood under it to prevent drafts in case some of the battens warp a bit. At our age, we want this to be our last, best barn.

We wanted to attract more birds to our homestead and had talked about building some more bird houses for wrens and bluebirds (hard to get up here). Even if we don’t end up with bluebirds, we do get swallows. All kinds eat a ton of insects, especially cabbage moths, so we love the birdies!

Luckily, Will had cut some big cedar logs into lumber last summer. They were out of a few cords we’d bought for fence posts and were just too large to use even for corner posts. So he cut them into one-inch lumber figuring we could always use some nice cedar lumber. Yesterday, he went down to the barn and came back up with several lengths of cedar.


I’d researched and drawn pictures with measurements on them, including hole sizes for the birds we want to attract. Will cut the lumber to size and brought the piles into the house for me to assemble. I screwed them together and drilled holes. Now we have six new bird houses ready to hang. And Will is going to cut more lumber so we can build some wood duck houses to hang next to our small beaver pond. I especially want those where we can watch with binoculars because it’s so amazing to see those little baby wood ducks just jump out of their nest holes, way up high, falling to the ground with a bounce that would kill you or me, then get up, wag their tail, and head for Mama and the pond. What brave little guys!


Today I’m clearing the deck to start transplanting tomato and pepper seedlings. They’re growing so well we can hardly believe it! And I can actually see grass in our south-facing back yard! They’re calling for 60 on Wednesday so we’re really excited. The snow is going fast. Hooray! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our snow is finally starting to go

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014


Will trimmed off the log rafters from the new front porch roof yesterday and was going to pick up the sawn off ends of the two-inch boards he’d roofed the porch with. I knew they were headed for firewood, which we don’t need. All of a sudden, I pictured rustic planters! So I ask him to saw them to size (whatever worked) for me while I went to get the cordless drill. With a square bit installed I screwed together five nice heavy planters of various sizes, using three-inch deck screws. Once finished, I drilled a few holes in the bottoms for good drainage. I know they’ll rot after a few years but until then, they’ll look great on the new front porch, brimming with bright flowers. We don’t waste much around here.


Just a reminder to all of you who said you’d like to come to our June homesteading seminar — time’s getting short and if you are planning on coming, let us know. There’s a lot of planning involved and we want to make every seminar truly great.

Our chickens are now starting to lay like crazy and yesterday I even got our first turkey egg. Wow! And with all those eggs, I made a quiche with mushrooms, onions, broccoli, ham dices, and cheese. For dessert I whipped up a lemon meringue pie, using an extra three egg whites for the meringue. Boy, did that taste good. We homesteaders really look forward to spring’s bounty, starting with eggs!

We still have plenty of seeds left so any of you who would like to order from our little seed business, feel free. There are plenty of Bill Bean tomato and Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds left! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The new front porch is now on

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

After slowly bringing in stacks of two inch home-sawn boards from a snow-covered pile in the front yard and warming them up, Will cut them to length and stained them. So for a week or more, there was not only a scaffold in our living room but a stack of boards in the entryway, too. The inconvenience and mess was well worth it because today Will nailed down the last boards!


Just as soon as we have warm weather, we can get the ice and water shield nailed down on the boards and as soon as our carpenter friend, Tom, who is also a very experienced roofer (and did the roofing on the rest of the house) has time, we’ll get shingles down on the porch, too. Imagine! The entire house will be roofed and shingled!


The porch looks very beautiful and we only have to add railings and the wide front steps Will wants to put down into the front yard and it’ll be finished. Now that’s a great word for a homesteader, isn’t it? Finished. (It only happens every once in a while…) I’m so blessed to have such a creative, hard working husband and believe me, I know and appreciate it. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The medallion goes up

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

This weekend, David and his friend, Ian, helped Will place the beautiful medallion Will had crafted up into place. Will tried to do it himself but that didn’t go so well. And after a couple of tries, he decided to wait for the troops. After all, that ash medallion is HEAVY!


After screwing the medallion into place with 6-inch log screws in every point, they went to work getting the ceiling fan, which had previously fallen to the floor with a crash, back into working order. Besides having a broken glass globe and light bulbs, Will discovered that the inside plate had bent on impact so he had to take the fan apart, rebend the plate, and fix a couple of other things. Then he and the boys put it together and up it went. Wow, does it look nice! Will also took down all of the pole rafters and posts and gave them several coats of poly. And before they go up, I’m painting the entire room and entryway again to freshen it up. During the course of all our construction, there have been a few dings and scratches in the paint.


My newly-planted tomatoes are springing up. Some came up in as little as four days! Boy, do they look nice and happy. And some of the peppers have three sets of leaves already. I’ve moved those down to the bottom shelf of my mini-greenhouse so they will cool down. This will slow their growth so they don’t end up leggy. I picked up another plastic mini-greenhouse at Menards for $19 and it’s the same kind that I got last year and they’re charging $39 for it at WalMart this year. I’ve got another batch of heirloom tomatoes and peppers coming from Sand Hill Preservation Center and will need room in a greenhouse next to the wood stove to start them as well as the one in the living room window where the tomatoes and peppers are growing. Spring seems closer even though it’s 11 degrees out and we still have three feet of snow on the ground. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The first batches of tomatoes are in

Friday, March 21st, 2014

I spent two days planting dozens of varieties of tomatoes in peat pellets. This year, because of our little seed business (which has been very encouraging), we are going to plant more than 30 open pollinated varieties of tomatoes in our garden. We won’t be planting a whole lot of each one, as we would run out of garden. But each plant produces hundreds of tomatoes (usually) and that’s a lot of seed! I’ve got another order of some new tomato varieties coming from Sand Hill Preservation Center so will be planting those as soon as they come in.

Wow, what a bunch of tomatoes! Of course we’ve also planted our old favorites such as Bill Bean, Punta Banda, Old German, and others. We’ve also developed our own variety of tomato called Early Firefall and have found seeds from an old favorite, Early Cascade. Early Cascade was a hybrid, sold by Seminis, which was bought out by Monsanto. (What haven’t they bought out?) Early Cascade was promptly dumped. But some breeders in Canada bred Early Cascade back from hybrid to stabilized open pollinated and are now selling seeds. I bought a big pack and we’ll also be offering these. Early Cascade was one of my very favorites and always produced big, early crops of plum-sized, tasty, beautiful tomatoes, no matter where we lived.

Hey guys, I’ve been asked to pass along the word; some of you are asking questions in the comments section. Sometimes questions in the comments section get missed. So if you have questions, please feel free to click the link at the top of this blog and fill out the form for your question. Then just click the “Ask Jackie a question button” and an e-mail will be generated and sent to me.

Will’s busy working on our front porch as the weather has moderated, temporarily anyway. He’s staining boards for the roof/ceiling indoors, then taking them out to nail up. It’s kind of slow going that way because if he does too many, the fumes get bad. So he does a few, takes them out and nails them up and repeats the process. It’s kind of “full” in our living room with the scaffold to put up the medallion in there, plus many roof boards drying out and being stained. My little chair is way back in the corner; I feel like I’m in time out! But seriously it’s great to see such progress. And spring is yet to come. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will is at it again

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Since February of ’09, the living room in the new addition has kind of been on hold as more pressing projects have needed to be worked on. But perhaps due to our long, cold winter, Will decided to finish up the decorative medallion he was planning to install at the peak of the 12-foot ceiling. Will decided to use ash to build his medallion as the ash lumber we’d been saving for quite a while turned out so well in the kitchen, as a door for a small base cabinet for cookie sheets and cutting boards, and the baseboard.


While I was gone to rehab (sore shoulder from falling off the barn roof a couple years back), he designed, cut, and fit the lumber. The result was stunning and I was totally surprised when I came home to see what he’d been up to.


It’s now got four coats of clear polyurethane sealer on it after being well sanded and should be ready to put up in a day or so. Will also plans on outlining the entire medallion with small birch branches with the bark left on. I think it will be awesome!

I’ve just completed an order for more tomato (and some other things!) seeds from Sand Hill Preservation Center in Iowa. Any of you who are not familiar with this one-couple company should get a catalog. I’ve never seen a larger collection of corns, melons, tomatoes, and squash in my life, not to mention a ton of poultry of all kinds. This is a very worthwhile company. I know you’ll love them. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Warm weather is finally here!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Yesterday it was 45 and today they say we’ll hit 50 and the sun is out. What a relief! I never appreciated water dripping from our roof so much as this year. Yesterday Will and I, along with the dogs, took a nice walk down the drive and onto some of the trails he’s been making with the dozer through the pines on our ridge. They are getting so big that they need thinning and in between other projects, he’s been going out there and thinning and pruning the lower branches so they’ll grow quickly and be nice and straight. In the bargain, we’re getting some nice walking/riding/atv trails. The rabbits are starting to eat the bark off of tender young popple trees so we know the sap is starting to run. Luckily they don’t actually kill many trees but I hate to see them munching the bark on our few maple saplings as some of the trees get girdled and don’t survive.


Today I saw a raven with nesting material in its beak! And I saw the first grove of blooming pussy willows. (Okay, so that bunch always blooms early.) Will has taken the OSB octagon down from the 12-foot peak in our living room. He is plotting out the pattern of wood pieces he’ll place on it to finish the peak with a decorative medallion. (I think this was hurried when the ceiling fan crashed to the floor a couple weeks ago! It shocked both of us. Luckily the dogs and I were in the kitchen and Will was sitting in his chair so nobody was injured. The glass globe shattered as did the four light bulbs but no other damage was done to the fan. Also lucky that the new laminate flooring was not done.) After examining everything Will found that he had “temporarily” left the locking ring loose so he could finish off the octagonal piece in the center of the peak which did not get done for quite awhile. The ceiling fan jiggled around and popped the ball that it hangs from loose and down she came! When Will’s finished, it will look great, I”m sure. And he is going to be sure to lock the fan in place this time.

For those of you who were wondering what the Idingtion Spring looks like, here’s a photo of where we are getting our water until our water line thaws out. It’s a bit inconvenient but not so bad. We’re sure glad that spring is there and has great water!


I’m starting my tomato plants next week. It’s so exciting. Not only are we planting our old favorites but we’re trying several other great open pollinated tomatoes too so we can add the good ones to our seed listing for next year. (By the way, we still have a lot of seeds so if you’re wondering if you should order, go right ahead. We’re still in great shape and spring is coming quickly!) — Jackie



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