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 ‘Building’ Category
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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
Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
Wow, Spring hits here with a bang. On Saturday, our carpenter friend, Tom, stopped by to ask if we were ready for our porch roof on Monday. Last year we asked him if he would put the shingles on the new porch. He had roofed the rest of the house and we didn’t want to mess up anything so it wouldn’t look “all together.” Then, suddenly, we were in OMG mode. The building center where we got our shingles doesn’t carry that brand anymore. Tom thought Lowes did, so I called. Sure enough, they did. So Will and I set out at 7 p.m. to go get shingles. Unfortunately, when I called I didn’t ask what color they had. Well, it was brown, brown, and more brown — our shingles are green. We’d already traveled 35 miles, and it was getting late, so I called Home Depot in Grand Rapids, another 35 miles away. Yep, they did have the brand and the color. (Very helpful, friendly folks there.) We drove like crazy and got there 20 minutes before closing. We found that not only had the Home Depot employee, Eric, personally gone to check on the availability of the shingles but he had also loaded them on a flat cart and set out the ice and water shield by the contractor checkout desk. And he helped load them into our car. Thank you, Eric. There still are friendly, nice folks out there.
Oh, and if you didn’t know it, both Lowes and Home Depot give a 10% discount to veterans. You just have to have a photo identification card. That really helps us out on large purchases. A big thumbs up to both companies!
Our wild plum trees are blooming this morning and the Manchurian apricots are right with them. It’s sure pretty with all those blooms after a drab winter. I love spring! — Jackie
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
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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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