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Archive for the ‘Building’ Category

Jackie Clay

We’ve had a few busy days

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

On Monday, we traveled five hours to pick up a big load of used foam board insulation that our friend Mike found for us in a roofer’s “trash.” We had a great road trip with Old Blue, our ’85 Chev pickup and stock trailer. Old Blue hadn’t been driven on the road for a few years so we were hoping all would go well. It did and we were even home before dark, tired but happy.

Then yesterday we drove to Superior, Wisconsin,  to pick up a Kawasaki Mule (a UTV) that Will had found on Craiglist. We got it cheap ($200) but it has no motor so we’re looking. Anyone know of one around anywhere? I’m confident somewhere, sometime, we’ll get the Mule up and running and it’ll be a big help to me traveling from one place to another, hauling garden stuff, mulch, rocks, dirt, etc. — and letting my bad knee rest up. On our way back, Will also picked up a very-used grain gravity box (wagon) so we can eventually haul and store bulk grain. We got it from our friend, Wally, down near Cloquet. (We did have a flat tire with Old Blue but luckily, had a spare, good floor jack, etc. and got it changed in a few minutes.)

I’m real happy with the reviews on my new book, Summer of the Eagles, on Amazon. Take a look at a few:

• “The author keeps you voraciously tearing through the pages and at the end, you find yourself calculating the months and impatiently waiting for the release of “Autumn of the Loons.”  
• “I don’t usually read Westerns. I started the book as I was heading to sleep on a Saturday night around 9:30pm. Next thing I knew it was 2am and I was wishing the second book was already available. It is well-written, fast-moving, and very engaging. I loved the characters, the setting, and the imagery. I was totally drawn back in time to the wilderness of Wyoming.”
• “I must give credit to Jackie Clay for writing Summer of Eagles. This is a story I can share with my mom and feel comfortable discussing the story line with her due to the fact that it does not have, nor does it need the graphic sex found in most modern day writings. I love the way Jackie builds up each person in the book. When I read a story I can usually figure out where the plot is going well in advance of the ending but Jackie tossed in a twist that caught me off guard. I am looking forward to the next book to see if she can do it again. Bring it on Jackie.”

Needless to say, I’m happy to hear those reviews!

I’ve got the cover for the next book finished and it’ll be mailed to the publisher soon so we can get Autumn of the Loons released.


In the meantime, I’ve been busy transplanting tomatoes and peppers. Boy, did we plant a lot of tomatoes this year! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Ah, Spring!

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Today it’s 65 degrees and sunny without much wind so it sure feels great. Will’s working on the barn, getting ready to put up our home-cut siding. Yesterday he worked on the sawmill all day, cutting ONE log. But that log was a huge spruce log that had to be cut down with a chainsaw to even fit on the sawmill! He’s putting first a layer of our free plywood up over the 2×6 studs, then adding furring strips on which to nail the vertical board and batten siding. The plywood is to prevent any slight drafts from getting through the barn. Inside, we’re going to add some insulation board that a friend found for us. It was a wonderful “deal.” We’ll be off to pick that up soon — a whole trailer load! Thank you, Mike!

I canned up bean soup last night after putting away 17 pints of baked beans first. Wow, that sure looks great in the pantry!

This morning we went to our friends’ house to disbud our new Nubian/Boer buckling.


He is simply stunning and so gorgeously marked; like a pinto-appaloosa horse. His mother and father were out of a buck and doe we used to have so we know his potential as a producer of great milkers on down the line. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s beautifully marked too! (No, he doesn’t have a roached back. Dara is just holding him still on the stump!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: footings for retaining wall and eating collard flowerettes

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Footings for retaining wall

Will’s work on the barn and retaining wall has turned out to be so beautiful. We are wanting to build a retaining wall also about 18-24 inches high. How deep did you all put in the footers before starting the rock work?

Nana from Texas

Our footings are 8 inches deep with plenty of rebar and wire, and are twice as wide as the wall is thick — 12 inches wide as our walls are 6 inches wide. In the barn, our walls are 8 inches wide so the footings are 8 inches deep and 16 inches wide. When building a retaining wall, you should lean the wall into the bank ⅛ inch per foot, bare minimum. If your soil is not sand and gravel, you should install drain holes along the bottom so that any moisture doesn’t get trapped behind the wall, eventually cracking it. Our soil is 100% rock, sand, and gravel so this isn’t a concern, especially beneath the house. — Jackie

Eating collard flowerettes

I read with interest your reply to the reader asking if broccoli leaves can be used like kale or collards and you affirmed that indeed they can be. I also want to tell you the opposite can be true. Down here in the lower South I let my collard plants overwinter and they normally do quite nicely, but the time comes, especially when sitting in the garden for almost a year that they go to seed. What I noticed was that the flower stalks look remarkably like broccoli or broccoli rabe so I cooked some up as broccoli spears and were they ever good! In fact, they had a delightful taste and texture almost like asparagus and broccoli together. I continued to pick the spears as they appeared and got a harvest of about 3-4 weeks from them, for multiple pounds long before the spring-planted broccoli was ready. The spears grow faster and longer than broccoli spears and because of that fast growth were exceptionally tender. My next project is overwintered kale flower stalks!

Dave Franklyn
Tallassee, Alabama

Thanks for the information, Dave! What a creative bunch homesteaders are. I know I find myself continually experimenting with this and that to see just what would happen if… I know a whole lot of folks will be eating collard flowerettes in the future! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Mittens “helps” Will stamp our seed envelopes

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Our cat, Mittens LOVES to knock small things off tables and shelves. She even tears open plastic bags and carries screws around in her mouth. (Never had a cat do that before!) We bought a hand stamp with tiny letters to stamp our seed envelopes. So when Will was changing these tiny letters, Mittens thought it would be wonderful to toss them off the table and onto the rug where we can’t find them. She even picked up the tweezers he was setting them with and shoved that off. It was so funny we couldn’t help laughing. She was crazy about it, going from one thing to the other while we played catch it before it hit the floor. Sure, we could pay to have the envelopes printed, but then we’d have to charge more for seeds, which we don’t want to do. So, Mittens, it looks like you’ll have fun for years!

By the way, those of you who have homestead businesses, check out the Uline Company. They have tons of different boxes, bottles, envelopes, packing material, etc. at a very reasonable price. So if you’re shipping wine, cupcakes, paintings or prints, seeds, beads or whatever, get a catalog. Great source.

Will put up another kitchen cabinet. We only have the three to hang and we’re done! Now if we could only get enough time to do it!

Yesterday my adopted son, Javid, moved from Eveleth to Orr, about 30 miles north of us where he can have a private apartment with handicapped accessibility. Great. But first thing this morning, the nurse called, getting me out of bed, to say that Javid’s medical air mattress was leaking air. Panic! She said I had to do something NOW. So we grabbed a regular mattress off a twin bed and tore to Orr. I took the bedding off the now-flat bed and Will took a look, hoping he could fix it. The air plug in the mattress had come unplugged, letting out the air. So hard to discover since it had a bright yellow rubber handle on it for emergency CPR, that would deflate the bed instantly when pulled. Will plugged in the plug, the pump pumped it back up and ta-da: FIXED.

I talked to the publisher of my Western novels about an early release date and how to figure a way to do autographed copies. And that’s before chores! You ever get one of “those” days? I’m sure I’m not alone. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sawmill and movable goat pens

Thursday, January 29th, 2015


I remember reading that you and Will purchased a sawmill. My husband and I are wondering what brand and model you purchased.

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

We bought a Hud-Son 121, which cuts a 21-inch log however long you buy or make rails for. We really love our sawmill and we paid roughly $3,000 for it. Will “flat-sided” log floor joists for the new barn and front porch rafters. We’ve cut boards and lumber for our training ring barn, tons of one-inch lumber for siding and the floor of our new barn’s haymow, 2″x6″ lumber for the new barn’s framing where the board and batten siding will go, and lots more odd jobs for ourselves. Will has also done minimal sawing for friends. He cut one-inch birch boards for someone in trade for the huge bus frame on wheels that he turned into a big hay transport that will haul 10-11 big round bales. The sawmill has been a VERY good buy and we’re not done, by far! — Jackie

Movable goat pens

A while back you mentioned that you folks had movable goat pens so that they could be pushed back to the walls so that Will could run the tractor through the barn to muck it out. This sounds wonderful and time and labor saving. Where could we get those plans or could you share how this was done?

Brad & Rhona Barrie
Strong, Maine

What we’ve done so far is to weld stock panels to the lighter weight livestock pipe gates. These are hinged and can easily be swung out of the way for manure removal with the tractor or other equipment. We also plan on having some plywood available to bolt on to these in case we want to keep certain pens warmer during kidding. We also plan on having more than one set of screw-in hinges for these gates to set on so if the manure pack gets too deep we can just lift the gates up a few inches and set them on the alternate pins. This keeps gates from being “manured” in as the deep litter gets too deep. We are also going to use this method on the front of the pens, using a narrower gate as the walk-in gate with a longer gate as the main front of the stalls. These, also, can be swung or even lifted completely away for quick, easy cleaning of the barn, come spring. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference was a big success

Monday, January 26th, 2015


I flew down to Aberdeen, South Dakota, on Wednesday afternoon as my first workshop was on Thursday. It was an all-afternoon session on gardening and canning. I’m always amazed at how many folks have similar interests! There were hundreds of people attending the conference, many more than in years past. And my workshops were very lively and pretty full. People asked dozens of good questions and we had intense sessions.

My second workshop was on canning mixed foods and the third was on canning meat, poultry, and fish. The final workshop was on Saturday morning — growing fruit for cold climates. That one was filled to overflowing and folks were standing in the hallway, listening.

Now I’m playing catch-up! Will and I went to town Sunday and bought the last four kitchen cabinets for our house. Wow! Now all that’s left is the center island where all the food preparation takes place and we’ll be done. That’s D-O-N-E!

We spent until 11 p.m. last night filling the seed orders that arrived on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while I was gone and I took a big bag to the post office this morning.

I’m feeling relatively caught up now. So it’s back to “normal” (if I know what that is …) Whew. I’m so glad to be home. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just installed our next batch of kitchen cabinets

Monday, January 19th, 2015


After many months of cabinets being on the back burner, we saved up and bought three more kitchen cabinets. (They’re cheaper because they’re not as deep as the base cabinets, so that helped.) This weekend, Will and I put them up. They proved a bit difficult as they didn’t want to fit square in the corner or go up tight to the log wall. And the corner cabinet was HEAVY. But with some props made out of 2x4s and a few one-inch wood blocks, Will finally got them to hang well. We’ve got one more to the right of the right hand upper cabinet, one 18-inch cabinet in the corner by the sink, and two narrow ones above the propane stove. Then, other than the island, the cabinet work will be done! Wow. I think they’re turning out beautiful and will sure de-clutter my kitchen a whole lot.

I have to laugh at Mittens. She goes with us everywhere. She even goes with Will out to the woods to cut firewood. But she was pretty miffed when Will went into the bathroom to shave and shower. AND shut the bathroom door! She sat right by the door all the while until he came back out. Then she wanted to go to bed and announced it by saying “NOW!” I swear it’s true.

I’m packing for my trip to Aberdeen, South Dakota, as I have to leave home at 5:00 Wednesday (that’s a.m.!) to catch a flight to Minneapolis where I have a 5-hour layover. Now why couldn’t I have that 5 hours at home? (I’m doing several workshops at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference on canning and growing fruit in cold zones.) If any of you can come, I’d love to visit with you there! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning cream and wood flooring

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Canning cream

Jackie – can I can fresh cream from my cow? I know that the stuff from the store is super heated and the purchased cow’s milk doesn’t can right – but my own milk does. Can I can cream and have it turn out somewhat ok? I see that people can cream cheese — can I can my own homemade cream cheese?

Verona, Kentucky

I really don’t think that cream would can up well. I have not canned homemade cream cheese yet, so I can’t advise about that. Any readers out there that can help Marilyn? — Jackie

Wood flooring

I love your hardwood floor, but am wondering how it is holding up to the “snow pacs”? (I can see feet in your picture for the current post!) I spent a winter near Isabella Minnesota 32 years ago and my current locale, while usually a little “warmer” (temp wise), has winds that cut through you. Since you heat with wood I am guessing that pacs are your norm in footwear at this time of the year — indoor and out. I am wondering how the floor is taking it? (I am considering the ceramic “wood” tiles for flooring as the boots that come through my house are similar only with less snow we get a lot of rocks, mud/grit clumps, and hay.) Our temp at the moment is -9, but wind chill is -30F. Brrrr!

Mandan, North Dakota

We love our “fake” wood floor. It’s laminate from Menards and has stood up extremely well to farm conditions and two big, active dogs. We wheelbarrow wood into the house, the dogs play on it, and nobody takes off their boots. The only faint scratches have been when someone dragged a chair without protected legs on it across the floor. Definitely minimal.

We’ve got -12 with a windchill of -26 right now. You’re right; brrrrrrr. But definitely not as bad as last winter so far. — Jackie



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