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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

Is it the evil phase of the moon or something?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Wow, first we got a killing frost then as Will was finishing haying, everything broke down. And I mean EVERYTHING! Out of four tractors, three are broken and out of two round balers, both have bearings seized up. Will finished the very last field with two floor chain bearings smoking. But he finished. Then, yesterday, he and our friend Darryl borrowed our neighbor’s self-propelled combine to quickly harvest our oats, which were rapidly shedding oats onto the ground due to unceasing rains. Everything went well until they tried to empty the combine’s bin into our gravity box (wagon) to take home. No dice. The bearing on the discharge auger was seized up. Now Will’s shoveling out the bin by hand. I just hope he doesn’t overdo it and have a heart attack!

Back on the home front, I’ve been going crazy harvesting and canning. But it’s a nice sort of crazy, not a broken-tractor crazy. We’re excited that some of our new tomatoes are performing so well. Will cranked out some awesomely thick sauce from Ten Fingers of Naples paste tomatoes and now I’m cooking it down in the oven to can up spaghetti sauce. The whole house smells like pizza.

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And I’ve been harvesting and shelling bean seed by the gallon. One of my favorite new ones is Iroquois, an ancient bean from the Iroquois tribe of the Northeast. While this pole bean is green, it is a flat, meaty bean great for snap beans. Then when dried down, it is an absolutely gorgeous speckled black and white. This large bean makes real tasty baked beans or bean soup. And did I mention it’s really productive and early too? What’s not to love?

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I just harvested a big basket of Indigo Blue Beauty tomatoes. We’re having BLTs tonight and then Will volunteered to run them through the Victorio strainer to harvest seed so it’s a win-win situation for these gems. Everyone who comes into the garden always says, “Wow! What are THOSE?”

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It’s a beautiful day today — sunny, warm, and breezy. A day to enjoy harvesting and just being outside. Ah, homesteading… — Jackie

Jackie Clay

David came out to help harvest

Friday, September 9th, 2016

And while he was here, Hondo decided he needed to be held on David’s lap like he used to be when he was a pup. Unfortunately, Hondo’s a lot bigger now, but he still likes being there!

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Will harvested most of our Bear Island Chippewa flour corn as the Blue Jays were getting into it. They were also getting in our Yukon Supreme sweet corn, so I’ve pulled all of that too. I sat on the front porch and tied all the shucked corn up into strings so it could continue drying out without molding — it will if left in the shuck.

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I’ve got lots more to do but will get on that after my trip to Florida. See you when I get back. I’ll take plenty of pictures. And if any of you can come to the booth at the expo, please stop by and say “hi!” — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The big Bill Bean is ripe

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

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You’ve been wondering when you’d get a chance to see our biggest big Bill Bean tomato? We harvested it before the chickens could get a beak on it, and it’s a whopper — the biggest tomato I’ve ever seen. It measured 22 inches around. Now that’s a tomato!

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And the other tomatoes are coming in gangbusters, too. We picked a nice big pair of Solar Flares yesterday and not only are they big, but gorgeous too! We can hardly eat one they’re so pretty (we did, anyway).

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Haying is finally finished. And boy, what a finish. We ended up with three out of four tractors broken down and both big round balers with bearings gone out. Just ahead of a big rainstorm, too. Whew, are we glad that’s done!

Now I’m getting packed for the big Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo where I’ll be speaking on Friday and Saturday. Will I ever be canning when I get back! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I hope to see some of you at the Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

I’ll be away from home from September 8th to the 13th, giving a couple of talks at the Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo. Any of you who can attend, please stop by and visit the Backwoods Home Magazine booth, where I’ll be helping Ilene Duffy. I truly look forward to meeting my great BHM family on these road trips. Since it’s a first-time trip to Florida for me, and just a few miles north of Sanibel Island, which is on my bucket list, Ilene and I will be taking a short vacation and hopefully pick up some beautiful seashells and see wildlife we’ve never experienced before.

Will is going to man the homestead and (hopefully) keep the garden’s produce from freezing. So as soon as I get back, I’ll once again hit the harvesting and canning in earnest.

Today Will is cutting our last hayfield away from home. Yesterday he cut two other fields. All we have left is one small field of second crop clover here at home and we’ll be done. Hooray! We’re supposed to be having 4½ days without rain. We’ll see. We’ve heard that before…

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I harvested a basket of Bill Bean tomatoes. The biggest one weighed 4 pounds 3 ounces. And that’s not the biggest one out there! I can’t wait to see how much the big guy weighs. It’s bigger than an ice cream bucket! These are such flavorful tomatoes and so meaty they don’t make your bread soggy when you use them on a sandwich. Mmm, I’ve got half a loaf of whole wheat bread, mayo and…

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— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest time is here — big time

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Boy, are things ever getting ripe. I’m hurrying to get the early tomatoes seeded to save their seeds. So far the early winners this year are: Earlibell, Italian Paste, Morovsky Div, Silvery Fir Tree, and Cougar Red — with Bill Bean crowding in too! Yeah, Don, they are that big; Dad wasn’t stretching the truth. I can’t get a tape measure into the cage where the biggest one is, but it’s about two inches larger than the one I did measure and it’s still green!

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Our wild plums are ready to pick and look so pretty hanging in the trees like Christmas decorations. They just glow! I’m making a big batch of plum jam from them this year and saving the pits as so many folks wrote us for them so they could plant some too. (They have to be planted this fall so they can go through winter and come up next spring.)

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The corn is simply fantastic! Everything from the rare Burro Mountain popcorn to Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn is out-producing anything we’ve ever had. It must have been all that rain. Now it’s starting to dry up some and we’re really thankful for that. Will’s got hay down and we’re praying the clouds overhead don’t drop you-know-what on it.

The apples are also going nuts! I’m canning like mad and making lots of pies. Our Frostbite is simply over-burdened with fruit and that’s our favorite apple. No complaints there! And the Prairie Magic is loaded with big apples. We love our apples (but we are hoping the bears don’t break down the six-foot fence to get to them). Watch ’em, Hondo!

If you’re looking for a hardy, Zone 3 black raspberry, like we have been for years, try Mac Black from Indiana Berry & Plant Co. 2811 Michigan Road, Plymouth, IN 46563. We bought a dozen last year and they not only survived winter but thrived and are starting to produce great berries. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will and I will be attending the Homesteading and Sustainable Lifestyles Expo in Orr this weekend

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Will and I will be manning our Seed Treasures booth, showing some of the various crops we grow and answering questions as we pass out catalogs on august 20th and 21st. I’ll also have some of my books available for those who wish to purchase autographed copies. I’ll be speaking on gardening at 2 PM on Saturday and speaking about canning at 4 PM on Sunday. We’re expecting a great show as there are many workshops as well as vendors. The Orr Center is housed in the old school in Orr Minnesota, about 40 miles straight north, up Hwy 53, from Virginia, Minnesota. Check out the Orr Center’s website for more information at www.orrcenter.com. I hope to visit with you there!

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Yesterday I picked a bucket of Norland apples to can up. They were starting to fall off the tree they were so ripe. Norland is a very productive fall apple. It’s tasty, early to produce and very hardy, but it doesn’t keep. So after giving my friend a pail full, I picked one for us and canned ’em up. I did keep out enough for a pie, of course. I wasn’t so sure how it’d work as it is a soft apple and might not make a nice pie. I was wrong! Although it was soft, it more than made up for it by being very tasty.

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You should see our Hopi Pale Grey squash vines. They have entirely taken up the narrow bed they were planted in and are now climbing trees, the fence and the bank next to them. What vigorous vines! And I know they’re loaded with squash, too, as usual. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Well … We had ¾ inch of rain yesterday

Monday, August 15th, 2016

And because the weather radio had our rain chances at 20% yesterday and it was sunny, Will cut hay. He quit when it started raining two hours later. And by the time he’d gotten home and in the house it rained again. No, make that POURED! Luckily, today (so far) has been sunny and breezy so he’s going out to rake the hay so it can dry the rest of this afternoon and tomorrow until he attempts to bale it. What a year it’s been.

Fortunately, the garden and pastures have loved all this rain! I’ve never in my life seen such crops. I have some beans a foot long and Will’s pride and joy, Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (which the cows ate last summer), has nine-inch cobs that are very fat. And LOTS of them. Our new sweet corn, Yukon Supreme, has shorter cobs, about five to six inches, but is very fat and tasty. We ate some last night to try it. It isn’t super sweet but does have nice old-fashioned corn flavor. It appears the variety needs a bit of stabilizing as we got both bi-colored ears and yellow. But when a sweet corn produces five ears per seed (it stools out with about four tillers, each having nice cobs!) and matures at 50 days, we sure aren’t complaining!

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In our big hoop house, the peppers are going nuts. One variety that is super nice is Mt. Etna, an Italian sweet pepper. One plant has twelve big peppers with more coming. And the beans? I can’t walk through the hoop house because of the beans EVERYWHERE on the south end — up poles, clinging to the hoops. Very nice.

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Will has been whacking tall grass so he can turn on the electric fence on the east pasture for the cows. He wanted them out of the north pasture so there was NO chance of them breaking into our north garden like they did last year. He’d even put electric fencing around the 6-foot-tall welded wire fence but didn’t trust them. Besides, the pasture was getting a little eaten down. So first we drove them to the small north east pasture, which is fenced with barbed wire. But it’s only about five acres and they ate the three-foot-tall grass down in a week’s time.

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Today he got the fence working and I turned the cows out onto the east pasture. I didn’t have to call them twice! Mamba, one of our milk cows, saw me open the gate and started trotting right toward me. She knows the routine and LOVES it when we rotate pastures. She’s always the first out the gate. Smart cow. It used to be Lace, our “wedding cow”, but early this spring, we lost her. She wasn’t a young cow when we bought her five years ago and she had a real bad case of mastitis in all four quarters when she calved last fall. With the help of friends, we treated her for weeks and finally stopped the mastitis. But I’m sure it stressed her body. We were sure sad when she died and I think of her every time I go check cows. She was the best cow I’ve ever had. — Jackie

Pictures of our homemade backhoe for Reg

This is the backhoe we bought for $300 from our friend, Tom. The front is an Allis Chalmers tractor with a trailer hitch in place of the front tires. The seat is on backwards for the hoe operator. The hydraulics run off of the “tractor.” Instead of two big rear tractor tires, there are four heavy-duty truck tires to lower the backhoe and support the weight while digging. The hoe has outriggers run by the hydraulics to help steady the rig while digging.

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It ain’t fancy, but hey, it works! I’m sure if you have any questions, Will would be happy to help. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got that hay up!

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

By the grace of God, we got another 18 big round bales up before the rain. That brings our total this year up to just under sixty bales. Now if we can just get the rest up…

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I made a huge batch of mustard bean pickles out of the last bucket of Provider beans. Boy, did they ever turn out great. And since I overestimated how much vinegar/spices/sugar I’d need I canned up the leftover sweet and sour sauce in half-pint jars. My “mistake” let me have all this ready-on-hand sauce to dip chicken, pork, and fish in as well as to pour over chicken and pork roast as a glaze. (It really isn’t too mustardy … rather like hot mustard sauce without the “hot.”) We love it.

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Our beans are producing like CRAZY lately. I planted more than 27 different beans this year on three gardens. Some are yellow, some green, some dry, and others snap. Many are multi-purpose. All are doing excellent both in plants and the beans they’re making. We’re especially excited about a pole bean, Folsom Indian Ruin, which I was given while living in New Mexico. A neighbor knew we loved heirloom seeds and brought me a sample he’d found in a clay jar in his cow pasture, in the rocks of an Indian ruin. They’d been sealed with pine pitch and his son, who went to school at the University of New Mexico, took one and they carbon dated it back to 1,500 years! Some of those beans actually germinated!

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These are a huge bean. The pods are like Kevlar so you couldn’t eat them as snap beans but the young beans are tender and make great shelly beans. As a dry bean, they are also tasty and swell up nearly the size of a ping-pong ball! (You have to mash them or slice them to eat them.) We’re so tickled to be able to pass them on this year as our row of beans are simply going crazy with both blossoms and pods. Actually, I’ve NEVER had so many blossoms on a bean in my life! Talk about production. No wonder those ancient Native Americans took the trouble to store them so well — Jackie

 
 


 
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