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Archive for the ‘Building’ Category

Jackie Clay

Will finished up our new seed rack

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

I had to run to town for feed and when I got back, Will had the whole seed rack assembled in the sunroom/greenhouse. But when I took hold of one end, I wondered if just the two of us could possibly turn it upright! It was heavy and both of us have bad backs. But Will is a work-smart kind of guy and suggested he lift it a bit from the center, while I stuffed paint cans first under the top corners, one at a time, then repeated it, moving the cans closer to center. That went okay and when it was time to set it upright. I stood on the bottom while he lifted from the top center. As he lifted, I shoved the wheeled bottom toward him and … up it came, easy as pie. Wow, was I ever glad! (I had visions of crashing or a trip to the hospital for Will…) So yesterday, I moved the entire contents of the small, old seed rack, plus seeds from here and there all over the house (it seemed) onto the rack, not only in alphabetical order but also by species groups such as pumpkins/squash, peas, beans, etc. It’s so handy for us to fill orders — now if I can get our seed catalog finished and in to the printers.

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Newseedrack_9962

(I’ve also been working on a Backwoods Home project too! Can’t tell, but it’s coming along fine.) Will is working on our new fridge, trying to determine just what is wrong. Hopefully we can escape paying $1,000 for a new cooling unit.

Don’t forget to browse through my books when you’re thinking about buying Christmas gifts for your loved ones. (Hint, hint!) Book sales sure help out our homestead efforts every day.

I recently had good news. I’ve been accepted into membership of the Western Writers of America. This is an honor for me, to be sure! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will’s at it again

Monday, December 7th, 2015

First off, he got our Kawasaki Mule running and running well! Yea Will! He even took me for a speedy ride and then let me drive it. Then he went down the big hill to the barn and tossed two bales of hay in the back and sped right back up the icy, snow-covered hill. He still has a few small things to hook up (choke, starter, etc.) but that’ll be nothing.

And, because we’re offering dozens more varieties of seeds for sale on our little Seed Treasures business, we needed some sort of rack to hold all those plastic shoe boxes containing seeds. Last year we had a smaller one, but no way will that hold all the boxes we need this year. So yesterday, Will started measuring, sawing, and hauling lumber. We still have a big pile of the free ¼-inch and ⅛-inch Russian plywood in the barn, so as the shelves will only be holding very light boxes of seed, he’s making the shelves from that, nailed down to 2×2-inch lumber we cut yesterday on the table saw in the storage barn. We worked on it all day and today, Will’s busy putting it all together. When I get done blogging, I’ll be able to start stocking shelves. It’ll make filling seed orders much faster and more convenient.

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I’m starting to receive seed catalogs, as I’m sure most of you are. And already, we’re planning on some new things to add to our garden next year. How exciting. I go downstairs and look at our bulging pantry and feel so blessed. I’ve been hungry in my life and this is SO much better! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s still raining

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Boy is it hard to get things done outside when it’s raining all day, every day. Grump, grump, grump! I pulled our last carrots and found that the deer had gotten in the open gate and munched off all the tops and pulled about a third of the row. So I quickly pulled the rest … including some the deer had eaten a little of the top. I DO cut off the deer munched parts!

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Meanwhile, Will has been working inside. He re-manufactured one of our new top kitchen cabinets to fit under the new refrigerator. We wanted it moved up some as the fridge part was just too low. In the RV, it sat up on a little step so now it sits on a 12-inch cabinet that I can use to store some miscellaneous stuff. More storage is always good. He has all of the gas fittings so now he has to get it hooked up and we’ll (hopefully) be in business. He is also continuing to install insulation in the enclosed back porch so it (and the house) will be warmer. Eventually, we’ll be heating that porch, which will give us additional greenhouse space, come spring. As the firewood is used, that will free up growing bench space. Pretty cool.

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I’m still harvesting pumpkin, squash, and bean seeds for our little seed business. I really love those crops. The seeds are so cheerful, too; nice and plump, ready to grow. And as the first germination tests have indicated, they ARE ready to grow!

All this rain has Spencer and Mittens depressed. They don’t go out much at all. In fact, Mittens goes out more than Spencer. That dog hates rain! Go figure; he loves to swim but hates the rain. Mittens goes outside and gets wet and doesn’t seem to mind. But even Mittens is spending more time stretched out on the back of Will’s new overstuffed chair. I know the feeling.

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Oh, by the way, it’s been suggested that I ask all of you for your favorite family traditional recipes for the holiday meals. I thought that was a terrific idea so are any of you willing to share? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We are harvesting a bounty of carrots

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

As our nighttime temperatures are drifting into the very low twenties, I figured I’d better get at it and pull the remaining carrots and parsnips. Wow! They have gotten huge. Even our Scarlet Nantes are reaching a foot long and weighing in at over a pound. That’s a lot of carrot. And they’re so tender and crisp that when I gently toss them into a five-gallon bucket, some instantly snap in half or crack with a pop. I’ve got one five-gallon bucket all canned up and will get at the next one this morning. Boy, are they ever nice.
Carrots_9871
While I’ve been canning carrots, Will is busy pulling all of the tomato stakes, cages, and variety name stakes. He piled all the vines in huge piles to burn in the garden if it ever stops raining, then he raked all of the tangled squash and pumpkin vines into a row along the side of the garden, also to burn. By burning them we help prevent disease and keep insects from over wintering in the vines. Also, the ash adds a little fertilizer (potash) to the soil. Will wants to get the whole garden tilled before the soil freezes.
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My parsnips grew funny this year. Instead of being long and thin as usual, they’re short and fat, almost like a beet! But they taste great and will be easy to peel and cook without waste. We’ll add them to the bins of potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas in the basement.

Monday we went down to my son, Bill’s, and helped him finish the sheet metal he’s laying on the old garage roof to match the new addition. The weather was supposed to be sunny and nice. Well… we hit rain in Cloquet, twenty some miles from his house and it continued until we got there. Bill was already on the roof, screwing down one-inch boards over the old shingles, on which to screw the sheet metal. Did I mention the temperature was forty degrees?

Luckily, Kelly’s two uncles, Mel and Vern, had already shown up so that made a good crew. They finished up after dark and Bill’s last screw was driven by the tiny light on Will’s Dewalt cordless driver. It was that dark. Luckily, the rain quit just as we got there so the guys weren’t too miserable all day, but the temperature never got over 45 degrees. But the job’s done, including the trim and ridge cap and it looks really nice. Now Bill can go deer hunting without that job hanging over his head. We got home just after eleven after being stopped on the highway by the State Patrol. We couldn’t figure out what he stopped us for as Will wasn’t speeding in our old ’85 Chev truck. It was a headlight that was out. We hadn’t even noticed! Will raised the hood and wiggled the wire. The headlight popped back on. The patrolman was nice and we were back on the road with two headlights! Seeing blue and red flashing lights up behind you sure makes your heart race. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest is full under way

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

Every single day now, we’re harvesting crops. As we were expecting rain, we pulled our two long rows of onions and a short one of shallots. All did very well. We had some of the largest onions ever. We ended up with four and a half 5-gallon buckets full of onions! I let them lay out in the sun, in the garden for two days then, because of forthcoming rain, I cut off the tops about two inches from the bulb as some of the tops were still green. I carried them up to the house and spread them out in the enclosed porch to finish drying down so they’ll store well.
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The darned bluejays are starting to get into our very rare Bear Island Chippewa flint corn so we’re pulling several ears every day to keep ahead of them. This corn is very beautiful and will make lots of cornmeal as the cobs are about 9″ long with 10-12 rows of really big, fat kernels on each cob. And each plant made four or five stalks and most plants have four or five ears! Very productive…and early to dry down, too. We’ll add this corn to our seed list for sure!

We harvested our first Sugar Salmon muskmelons from our small hoop house. They are a beautiful golden color with tan netting. And juicy and sweet, too. Another winner!
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Will’s busy burying our water line from the frost-free hydrant in the yard down to the one in the barn. It’s not 8′ deep but we blow the line out with the air compressor after each use and he wanted it out of the way and laid with no dips to hold water. He dug the trench with our little backhoe attachment we bought from our friend Tom at a great bargain. Today Will’s filling in the trench.
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Yesterday we hosted a local garden club so we enjoyed talking about seeds, fruit trees, and plants as well as giving “the tour” of our place. The ladies enjoyed the tour and we enjoyed their company.

Our last two cows have just given birth. Mamba, our black milk cow, had a pretty gray heifer that we named Salsa and Lace, our “wedding cow” just had a huge bull. Darn; we really wanted to keep a heifer from her as she’s getting older. Oh well, you don’t always get what you want. The calves are all doing well and having fun playing together. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fencing and broccoli not heading

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Fencing

We’re preparing to fence in our new 7 acres next spring and are debating how to anchor our wood fence posts. I know you’ve done a lot of fencing over the years! Do you prefer a concrete anchor, gravel, packed soil…? I’ve read many of the pros and cons of each method and would appreciate insight from a homesteader I trust.

Gloria Meyer
Wauseon, Ohio

The very best way is to use concrete but we’ve always just used very well tamped soil, tamping it down hard with a shovel handle or some such tool with every few inches of new soil added to the hole. Make your holes at least three feet deep; four is better and large enough around so you can adequately tamp the fill soil. Don’t forget your brace posts (H braces) on each side of each corner and beside each gate opening. Check out my fencing article in Issue #77 (13th year anthology) for more detail. — Jackie

Broccoli not heading

My broccoli plants started beautifully this year however, they never went to a head — they produced “branches” that quickly flowered out. Is my soil in need of something or would it be the plant (I got them from a nursery)?

Michele Gerdes
Rhinelander, Wisconsin

This sometimes happens when the plants are root bound in packs. When buying plants, try to choose the smallest, yet healthiest plants, over the great big ones. Also, sometimes intense heat will cause broccoli to not form heads; all cabbage family plants like cool weather best. Another thought: What variety was the broccoli? There are non-heading old-time varieties that don’t ever produce heads. It isn’t your soil. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Rain, sun, rain

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Boy, the weather can’t seem to make up its mind lately. We get a big thunderstorm and the next day the sun’s out. Then it rains again! But this rainy weather is pretty common for June in our country. And it makes the garden and flowers grow. I went out yesterday and took pictures of our big patch of lady slipper orchids, our state flower. They’re in full bloom and just gorgeous this year. Huge too! Some are the size of the palm of my hand.

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This morning, between storms, we went to the berry patch and put up a stock panel for the pole beans we’re growing there this year. They’re already sending out long runners. Our friend, Dara, grew Neckargold last year and they were fantastic for her. So we thought we’d try them this year. They’re a bright yellow snap bean that simply covered her vines, making them appear gold from a distance. So far, ours are very lusty and we have high hopes. We’re also growing one of my old favorite flour corns, Bear Island Chippewa, which is getting extremely rare. It’s multi-colored and short seasoned, making it a great corn for those of us with challenging climates. And this is Chippewa country so we thought it appropriate!

Our peppers and melons in the hoop houses are doing great. Some of Will’s Hot Banana peppers already have peppers set on them. I’ve been thinning carrots and tucking tomato vines back inside tomato cages. Boy, are they growing fast! Some of the vines have wandered 18 inches out of the sides of the cages in a week’s time. Wow!

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Everything in the pumpkin patch is doing very well and Will wants to get started fencing it as the deer are already wandering through “shopping.” So far, only a few nibbles on the potatoes. But we’re getting big thunderstorms today and it’s dangerous to be out when there’s lightning. A neighbor was killed by it getting into his car a couple years back and we’re very careful.

The dill I planted last year did so well that it self-seeded and is coming up all in that end of the berry patch. Cool! We love dill.

The red raspberries Will and Krystal transplanted are doing very well as are the blueberry row and the new Mac Black black raspberries we bought this year (supposed to be Zone 3). The rain and heat helps a lot.

Because he’s not able to put up fence today, Will is working on the forms for the interior slip form concrete and stone walls inside the barn. Not only will there be outer walls but interior walls as well; no rotten wood next to the manure. Ever. Nice but a lot of work! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our new apprentice, Krystal, arrived

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

We’ve got a summer apprentice homesteader, Krystal, who arrived yesterday from Georgia. She’s anxious to learn what we can teach her for her own future homestead. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun this summer together. Welcome to the family, Krys!

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Yesterday, Will hooked our new tractor-mounted rototiller up and tilled a little out on the big pumpkin/corn patch on the new 40 to try it out. Then he brought it into the garden where there’s less room to turn around etc. It did a wonderful job of working in the rotted manure that we placed on the garden over winter, leaving a fluffy, deep seed bed. We were really impressed. Today he and Krys are moving some fence posts and PVC pipes off our old small hoop house so he can get in to till that western corner of the garden, which hasn’t been tilled for a couple years.

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We are getting some rain today and we need it. The beavers say we’re in a drought and it’ll be a dry summer so we’re getting ready for it with plenty of mulch available. We harvested some asparagus spears yesterday and Will brought a tractor bucket full of nice old, rotted compost down to the garden so they can spread it out on the asparagus bed. It hasn’t had compost for a couple of years and we figured it needed it.

The fruit trees are starting to bloom and the Adirondack Gold apricot is absolutely covered with white blooms! And, boy, are they fragrant.

Tom got the shingles on the new porch roof and it looks great! I had a small accident as Will and I struggled to get a 500-pound porch rafter log stuffed into place (he thought the wide spacing would be okay but the roof was just too springy). I was hurrying to step off of the stepladder on the porch, missed a step and fell, bouncing off the porch onto the ground. Nothing broken but I feel like a truck ran over me, yet. Don’t hurry when doing a job! — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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