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Archive for the ‘Energy’ Category

Jackie Clay

“Strike while the iron is hot”

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

This is our “second” farm motto! (The first is “Mo’ poo poo.”) The company where David works is starting to cut their own bolts (square logs) that they then use to manufacture milled logs in different diameters and profiles. Last week, David helped saw the first logs on the mill and noticed there were leftover thick slabs. These were “waste” so he brought home as many as his half-ton pickup would haul. On Friday, after work, Will and I took our ¾-ton Chevy truck to the mill with our three axle equipment trailer to get a load. (The slabs are green and VERY heavy.) David was able to load the trailer with the company front end loader.

We drove home carefully as we had a big and heavy load and the roads are extra bumpy due to frost heaves because of winter freezing. Then Will sorted the slabs out; some are thick enough for him to saw lumber from using our portable bandsaw mill. The slabs that can’t be sawn into lumber are still plenty thick on the butt ends. So we’ve been cutting, splitting, and stacking this additional windfall.

Another bonus for us is that a neighbor works in the iron mines. Every couple of years they replace the belts on the conveyors. These belts are about ¼-inch thick and three feet wide and come cut and rolled in 60-foot lengths. He asked Will if we could use them for anything. They’ll make permanent mulch in the berry patch between rows of grapes and raspberries, which always get too weedy. Now we’ll only have to weed between plants — much more manageable! We now have four rolls with more coming.

Over the weekend, David and Ashley helped me put together the vinyl garden arbor that a friend gave me when she moved. We were helping her move things when I spotted it lying in the weeds. “You want that?” she asked. I said I sure did, so we dis-assembled it and took it home. I’ve got just the spot for it this spring and it’s all ready to go now. I could never afford to buy one.

So we strike while the iron is hot, before someone else steps in and beats us to the bounty.

Our migratory birds are arriving daily. Today I saw a red-winged blackbird, a pair of wood ducks, and yesterday we saw the first turkey vulture. Okay, so the vulture wasn’t “pretty” but it was a sign of spring. The ice is about melted off the beaver ponds and my tulips are starting to poke through the dirt. How exciting!

Now I’ve got to get back to transplanting tomatoes, a job I’ll be at for several days. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Hooray, it’s fifty above!

Monday, March 27th, 2017

The sun came out this morning and the temperature shot up. Now almost all of our snow is gone except some slush pack on our mile-long driveway that’s kind of ugly. But, luckily, it’s still freezing at night so it’s passable in two-wheel-drive. I’m in the middle of transplanting our peppers and that’s going nicely. I’ve been “scolded” for using non-sustainable Styrofoam cups for my transplants, which keeps the roots’ temperature even. But as I re-labled the cups, I noticed I’ve used some of them five or six times already! That’s pretty sustainable, in my book! And I should get several more years out of most of them.

The tomatoes are mostly all up now and looking good. I’ll be transplanting some of them as soon as the peppers are all finished. Some of our seeds popped up in three days! They must be as anxious for spring as we are.

We’re still working at cutting and splitting up all that firewood David and Will hauled home. Will and I did a full cord over the weekend, using up the big pile by the storage building. Today, he’s working at the HUGE pile farther up the driveway. And to top it off, as David works for Voyageur Log Homes, he sometimes brings home some log ends and pieces or heavy slab wood for even more firewood! Can’t have too much wood. It’s sort of like having “too much” food in the pantry, isn’t it?


— Jackie

Jackie Clay

After a wet snow, the sun is back out — Happy Spring!

Monday, March 20th, 2017

On the first day of spring, we reflect on how grateful we are. Our weather’s turned nice again, into the forties with sun. Will and David managed to haul more than 9 full truckloads of firewood logs home from the logging site before thawing started. Will and I were able to cut up, split, AND stack away a whole cord, plus more into the wood shed. That’s a full cord, mind you (8’x4’x8′). Then it snowed and rained. Today Will’s out cutting up more logs to get ready to split as it’s again dry.

We heard and saw a Canada goose yesterday morning. Yea! Spring’s really coming. No robins yet, though.

I got all of our tomatoes planted. That’s three full flats of 66 plants each, plus three smaller flats. Hmmm, that’s a lot of tomatoes, isn’t it? (Will, get out the bulldozer…)

Our chickens are starting to lay with the warmer weather again. I can’t wait for my first rhubarb pie, topped with four-egg-white meringue.

I checked our fruit trees in the orchard and can’t see much, if any, winter damage or vole activity. We did have a very mild winter for northern Minnesota. We only hit -35 twice for a short time and we had plenty of snow cover.

Yesterday, Ashley and I painted the living room walls. Actually, she did most of the painting and I refreshed the paint roller for her and helped move things out of the way and position the ladder. I did buy a new ladder as the one we were using was totally unsafe and wobbly. So wobbly it scared the you-know-what out of me to step up on it. Now the old ladder is a pole bean support and we have a new, solid, safe ladder! The room looks wonderful. Will has to get busy and re-cut the logs which framed the walls and octagonal ceiling. It’ll look so pretty, all finished. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Sometimes it only takes a phone call

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

We had been noticing a new logging site about 10 miles south of us where there were several large piles of scrap logs left over. Luckily, David noticed a sign with the logger’s name and phone number on it. He called him and asked for permission to go in and take firewood. The man said yes.

So on his way home from Virginia (the town, not state!), David drove in and loaded up a medium-sized load. He didn’t dare load more heavily as his truck’s frame is pretty rusty. He and Will unloaded it.

The next day, Will took our old Chevy truck, “Old Blue,” over there and loaded up a real big load. Then on Sunday, he went back for another load. I helped unload at home and he went back for still another load. And with the sun shining brightly and temps approaching twenty degrees, Will (and Hondo) went back for more wood. We know there won’t be many more days because the temps will warm up on Thursday and the site will become impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive truck. So we’re hurrying as much as Will’s bad back will stand. Yep, we have woods on our land. But by getting this free wood, we’re saving our own wood to use later on.

Some of the poles are tamarack and will make good fence posts so we’ve set them aside for fencing projects this spring. Talk about a wonderful windfall! All it cost was one phone call.

Tomorrow I begin planting tomato seeds! I went through my box of seeds and we have a LOT of varieties of tomatoes. How exciting! We won’t even talk about beans. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring in February?

Monday, February 20th, 2017

We’ve had a very warm week; over 50° some days, with sunshine! The first day, Ashley and I set out lawn chairs in the driveway and sat down to absorb some fabulous vitamin D. We were in our T shirts! It felt SO very good. Now you folks living in more hospitable climates may figure doing this at 50° is NUTS, but when we’ve been used to below zero temps, 50 seems so very warm.

And it wasn’t just us, either. I had to go to town to mail some seed orders to people and when I got back, my friend, Dara, was sitting in a chair, knitting! I had to laugh.

Then on Saturday, David and Ashley helped haul out trees which Will had been cutting. They were stressed by bud-worms then carpenter ants got into the bottoms of them, which killed the trees. So before they fell and rotted, Will cut them down, limbed them and the “crew” started hauling them out of the woods. David used the four-wheeler for a while, then his snowmobile, giving the four-wheeler to Ashley. We all had a fun day and ended up with over a cord of fir which will be cut, split and stored for next year’s firewood. Will figures there’s over two more cords right in that small area. (We start cutting firewood EARLY in the spring so it’s all split and stacked under cover to dry well before use the next year.)

Today it’s raining like crazy and we even saw lightning. Pretty crazy winter weather, for sure. I guess the beavers were right, after all. They said we’d have an average winter; no crazy cold or snow. And, so far, that’s just what happened, no matter what the weather forecasters and the Farmer’s Almanac predicted.

We’ve been having quite a response to our fall homesteading seminar and so far, three people have sent in their deposits. I’m thinking we’ll fill up for sure. That’s nice, I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun, as always! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Winter finally hit with a huge bang

Monday, November 21st, 2016

morningafter_1232

Although we’ve had a fabulous fall, with hardly any snow and cold, Old Man Winter finally arrived all at once. We were expecting 8-12 inches which the weather radio updated Thursday evening to 12-18 inches. Well, it began snowing and blowing, then REALLY snowing. We ended up with more than 24 inches of heavy, wet snow. Then it got cold. Will had to wade out through knee-deep snow in the evening to sweep off our solar panels so the heavy snow didn’t break down the rack as the wind was also pretty stout. It was very nearly a blizzard but the 40 mph wind came in gusts not steady winds as in a true blizzard. At any rate, we couldn’t even see the storage building from the house which is only about 50 feet away!

solarpanels_1230

Luckily, we’d spent two days picking up tools, hoses, firewood, etc. in preparation for the snow or we’d have been in a fix. Will also got our plow truck ready. He found out the smog pump was seized up, making the fan belt screech. He spent all day Thursday working on getting that fixed and didn’t have time to put on the plow.

plowing_1234

Well, the storm finally blew out and do we have snow! It took Will an hour to hook up the snowplow, which was buried in snow, of course. Then he worked for nearly three hours to just clean out our yard and make a couple of passes up our mile and a half long driveway. (We had small trees down all along the drive, due to the heavy snow and wind.)

hondo_1237

Meanwhile, I shoveled out a path to the goat barn and chicken coop. Luckily, I’d brought the goats up from their pasture on Thursday, before the storm — just in case. All of us, including Hondo, were pooped. Now we just have to continue cleaning out to get ready for the next snowfall on Wed. Hopefully it’s not so much. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re enjoying nicer weather now

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.

Will_Mulching_0357

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.

Frog_0345

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.

Peony_0348

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

Jackie Clay

Rain, rain, go away

Monday, June 6th, 2016

While it looked like a hot, dry summer weeks ago, when temps were in the high 80s, the last two weeks have brought rain. Lately, it’s been every day. Boy, is it hard to get stuff planted, especially out on the new north garden, where the soil is minimally improved white clay. It sticks to our feet when we walk and soon our boots are carrying pounds that refuse to be shaken or scraped off! Luckily, just before the rains got serious, Will got in with the tractor and planted 3 different varieties of pumpkins and squash; 12 rows each, with 30-foot spaces between, 100 feet long. I’ve hand-planted dozens of hills of pumpkins and squash so far but still have many more to go and it’s almost getting too late to plant. After all, we often get our fall frosts mid-September … or earlier.

In the house, I’ve started many different rare and heirloom beans (folks have sent some to us and we have bought some from various places across the country) that are long-season maturing beans. Some will go in the hoop house while others will be planted outside on each end, hopefully absorbing some heat from the structure. Others will go on our stock panel trellises in the garden.

Polebeans_0281

Meanwhile, Will built a rack for our new solar array and while friends Mike and Dara were here to help, we put it up. We’re really excited as it will increase our charging capability from 100 watts to over 1,000 watts. Huge improvement. We’re waiting now for the combiner box and the cables Will ordered. I can’t wait to have the thing hooked up to our battery bank!

Solararray_0288

The weather radio forecasted scattered frosts after midnight for tomorrow night. And we have 107 unprotected tomato plants out in the garden. They’re too big for hot caps and too tender to throw plastic over. So we’re going to use thin slices of hay off square bales to make tipis over each one. After the frost danger has passed, we’ll use the hay as mulch around the plants. We harvest our own reed canary grass which is seed- and weed-free so we don’t plant a hayfield in our garden. Been there; done that! Luckily, none of our other crops are up yet except for some onions which don’t mind frost. Homesteading is never easy but the challenges make it exciting for sure. — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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