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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

It’s rainy, cloudy, and nasty

Friday, October 31st, 2014

We had snow last night but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness! We still have a lot to get done before serious snow hits. We have gotten more firewood in and stacked and Will got the big pile of small popple from the goat pasture all cut up and that’s ready to come in when it dries out. (We don’t like to stack wet wood because it doesn’t ever seem to dry out well.)

But the drive bearing went out on Old Yeller, our 1010 John Deere dozer, and we spent a good part of yesterday driving to get parts and seals. So much for canning carrots! Then today after I’d gone to town to mail seeds to folks who had ordered them, Will called. Oh oh. Another trip 23 miles to the town of Virginia for another seal. As I was already “out,” I drove on to Motion Industries and got his seal. I’ll pull those carrots today anyway. I remember this time of year about two years ago when I went out to pull late carrots and found that the deer had gotten in and eaten them all. (I forgot and left a gate open…) Don’t want a repeat of that!

Turkeys

Our big turkeys, Christmas and Thanksgiving, are strutting like mad. I guess they don’t realize their time is coming. I sure hate to butcher, but I DO like to eat good food that came from animals who lived a happy life without chemicals and hormones added.

Hopi-seeds

I’m still busy pulling seeds out of squash and pumpkins to dry. We had a slight setback: two of our cows got out and helped themselves to our pumpkin pile! But there’s still a lot left so get busy Jackie. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Leaving Montana and garlic and onions

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Leaving Montana

I’m responding to your last entry in your blog regarding your trip to Montana. Sounded like you really loved Montana. Just curious why you left? I would have to agree with you it is a beautiful state.

Melody
Olympia, Washington

I really, really LOVE Montana. But we left because land prices have gotten so high that we couldn’t afford to homestead on the scale we wanted to. Land is so much more affordable here in Minnesota and you can buy 40, 100, 120 acres of wild land here where the only wild land in such acreages are in remote “subdivisions” where you will have neighbors … and not always the best of neighbors. Here, we have 120 acres that we could afford and winged and four-footed neighbors. — Jackie

Garlic and onions

We are interested in onions and garlic and would like to see an article of in-depth information for dummies. Last year we planted garlic toes in late October. They sent leaves up and when the freeze came they died.

Jim G.
Mount Vernon, Ohio

I’ll be happy to do an article on onions and garlic. They’re really easy if you do it right. Therein lies the key, as with many “difficult” garden crops such as carrots and parsnips. Planting in the fall is necessary for good garlic but, as you found out, planting too late doesn’t let the cloves send out strong roots and get established before freezing weather. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We actually got some Glass Gem corn

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Glass-gem-corn

After a long summer of touch and go, I discovered yesterday that we actually had some mature Glass Gem popcorn! Some friends stopped by and we were giving the “tour” of our gardens and while in the berry patch, I browsed through some brown stalks of Glass Gem corn with the ears still on. Surprise! I got color. Wow! We didn’t think it had made it but obviously it went on and ripened after the first frosts nipped the plants. Tomorrow I’ll go out and pick all that I can find. But the ears I did find in just a few minutes were simply gorgeous with brilliant, unusual colors on four- to six-inch cobs. We may not have enough to sell next year but at least we can replant with the seed we save and know it’ll make a crop here even though it’s a long-season corn (about 110 days).

Patty-pans

Will laid the last of the rock on the new barn foundation yesterday and today he spent hours pulling the tomato cages and stakes in the garden while I spent hours on the phone at the nursing home where Javid is, talking and waiting to talk to a Social Security representative as he is on SSI and needs to get his information changed over from Montana to Minnesota. Why is it that all government agencies make everything so complicated and HARD? Wow, a study in frustration, for sure.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can start canning carrots. They’re so big and juicy they just beg to go in jars! In fact, if you just toss them in a bucket, they split down the side they’re so crisp. Mmmmm. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Getting back to “normal” after my trip

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

My head’s kind of spinning after our road trip to Montana. But I have to laugh. Most people pick up souvenirs like mugs or plates from their trips. I brought home a flat rock for Will and two 50-pound sacks of wheat from Wheat Montana, my favorite company that grows and sells wheat. Their deli/store is at the Three Forks, Montana exit off of the freeway and what a huge, awesome place it is! Not only do they sell wheat and other grains, flours, and cereal, but they also have a wonderful deli where they sell sandwiches, sweet rolls (the size of Texas!), and cookies as well as a huge variety of on-site-baked breads featuring their grain. Wow, I’m impressed!

Wheat

Meanwhile, it’s back to seed saving. I checked out the Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds I harvested the day before I left. They’re drying very nicely but those huge, fat seeds need quite a long drying time, indeed.

Racing-winter

Will’s still working hard on getting the concrete/rock work done on the new barn. We know cold weather’s fast approaching and soon it will be too cold to do this work. Today it’s cloudy, windy, and pretty darned nippy out. Brrrr… Welcome home? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The sun’s out and we’re making use of the nice day

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

After a day’s worth of cold, nasty weather, we were real happy to see the sun this morning. It was gorgeous, seeing the fog lifting from the creek, ponds, and the plowed field. Will’s been working alternately on the barn’s stonework and getting ready to do more under our house where our future walkout will be. He’s been digging and digging, as we have great plans for that (usually) boring walkout.

Walk-out
We’re putting in stepped flower beds with mixed slipform rockwork and landscaping blocks under the house which will hold back the side hills. On the outside it’ll be the same with nice flower beds. When done, the effect will be a combination Northwoods and Italian vineyard as I’m planting grapes next to the house that will climb trellises and cross over the entrance to the walkout and go up to climb on the railing of our upper deck.

Rocks
Of course, the under-the-house flower beds will be quite shady, even if facing south. But I’m going to try hostas and see how that works. With a drip irrigation system runnning off our big irrigation system, it should be pretty and quite labor-free. It will be a nice, shady place to sit in the afternoons and we can look out onto the beaver pond. And we will be able to walk in and out of the basement easily. No more carrying buckets of potatoes, carrots, and onions down the basement stairs! (Of course, we won’t get the door cut in till maybe next year…)

We carried in more squash, pumpkins, and Painted Mountain corn, depositing it on the inside floor of our greenhouse/sunroom. It’s SO pretty I hate to use any of it!

Pumpkins-squash
I’m leaving for Montana so pray we have a good trip! And that Will has no problems here on the homestead without his wonderful donkey-catcher wife home to help. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: dehydrated oatmeal, canning sweet chili sauce, canning spaghetti sauce, and Sweet Dumpling squash

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Dehydrated oatmeal

I recently saw an ad for dehydrated oatmeal. Is oatmeal that I purchase from the grocery requiring a dehydration process to long-term store them? I had vacuum sealed some but left others in the store package. Any advice?

Judi

OMG, another marketing ploy! Plain old oatmeal is fine for long term storage. Oatmeal is dry or “dehydrated” already, needing no more treatment to store. And it stores for years and years! — Jackie

Canning sweet chili sauce

Here I am asking for help once again. I found this Chili recipe for sweet Thai chili sauce and it is so easy to make and good I would like to can it.

2 fresno chilis
2 Thai chilis
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup water
1/4 rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar (I used splenda)

After cooking this to thickening use 1 Tbsp. cornstarch 2 tbsp water mix then add to sauce. I got this from userealbutter.com

Sherry Englehart
Lancaster, California

Boy, that sounds good! But search as I might, I can’t find anything similar in the “recommended” for canning archives. It’s so different. I would think that it would water bath for 15 minutes okay, but I sure can’t recommend doing so (and in this case I would use sugar, not Splenda for its preserving qualities) since you add 3/4 cup of water to the vinegar and you do have cornstarch, although not enough to make such a thick sauce as would be unsafe for canning. Sorry. — Jackie

Canning spaghetti sauce

Your spaghetti sauce with meat recipe calls for 30 lbs of tomatoes. I know it is sacrilege to ask, but since we do not have the space to grow enough tomatoes and store bought are running $1 a pound, can a quality precanned sauce be substituted? I can get #10 cans for approx $2.50 each and would substitute at one quart sauce for every 5 lbs of tomatoes. Would it also be possible to substitute Italian sausage for the ground beef? We are trying as many different recipes to cut cost in preparation for retirement.

Ken W.
Killeen, Texas

You’d be better using sauce in #10 cans rather than store tomatoes as store tomatoes taste awful and it doesn’t improve in sauce. Not to mention the COST! Use the sauce as if it were freshly made when canning, using the correct time and pressure. Yes, you can substitute Italian sausage for the ground beef but you might use a little less due to the seasoning. You are very wise to prepare so well for retirement. And you’ll eat pretty darned good too! — Jackie

Sweet Dumpling squash

Do you think I could store not-quite-ripe Sweet Dumpling squash? I cooked a couple the other night and they aren’t quite ready but I’m nervous about leaving them too much longer in the garden.

Virginia Gardner
Earlysville, Virginia
 
Yes, you can store them, but Sweet Dumplings really aren’t a long-term storage squash. They will store best at room temperature, not in a root cellar or basement where it’s cooler. Leave them out until temps fall into the 30 degree range at night as they’ll continue to ripen even when the leaves have been frosted. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Fall rains have begun

Monday, October 13th, 2014

After several nice, sunny days with temps in the high fifties and even sixty yesterday, we woke up to rain. Yuck. But we had a nice week, last week. We even got to visit two different friends. The first visit was to Mike and Dara’s homestead. They are as dedicated homesteaders as we are, also having several large gardens. We took “the tour” and saw all they had been doing this fall, then sipped coffee and cocoa and talked seeds and crops. Dara gave me some of her Painted Mountain corn which she’d hung in ropes to dry as a room divider. It’s gorgeous! We both love Painted Mountain as it not only is beautiful and makes tasty cornmeal, but actually dries down in northern Minnesota. Their carrots didn’t do so well this year but their rutabagas sure did. So we traded two buckets of our carrots for some rutabagas, which I didn’t plant this year. Dara also gave us a Marina Di Chioggia squash and a beautiful squash that was a cross between Marina Di Chioggia and Hopi Pale Grey. It’s unusual because it’s orange, smooth skinned with ribs lined in green, and the Marina “turban” on the blossom end. If it tastes good, we’re going to save seed and see if we can breed a stabilized version of it that will reproduce true. How fun!

Room-divider

Saturday, we were invited to another friend’s family farm near Cook, Minnesota (Jan) to help her and her sister (Bette) start to develop a plan to rehabilitate the farm which had been mainly empty for several years. We discovered a row of asparagus in the overgrown garden, found rhubarb and wild plums in several spots, and figured out how we could help the historical place. Jan and Bette fed us a wonderful meal, which we didn’t expect, and we got to look at old family farm photos and tour the solid buildings finding history in each one. Jan had found some of her grandfather’s ears of corn in a box which she thought were sweet corn he’d grown at the farm. She gave us a dozen kernels which we brought home to see if I could germinate. It’d be great if the corn was still viable and we could develop a population of that old corn!

Yesterday morning, one of our doe goats had triplets. Unfortunately, she totally ignores them and won’t let them nurse. Eeek! I’m leaving on Wednesday to go with my oldest son, Bill, and his family, in their motorhome, to pick up my adopted son, Javid, in Montana. I sure hate to leave Will with three bottle babies, but that’s the way it looks. I bought a fifty-pound sack of doe milk replacer this morning. (I WON’T tell you what I paid!) But kid goats don’t do well on calf milk replacer and Homestead Mills didn’t have any lamb milk replacer.

Front-porch

Our front porch looks like, well, what it is: a seed saving area. It’s full of squash, pumpkins, baskets of tomatoes, etc. On nice days I work out there as it’s a messy job and I’d rather squirt tomato “guts” on the porch floor instead of our kitchen floor! The rain washes it away. Will was working there yesterday while I cut up Hopi Pale Grey squash for their seeds. He was husking our Painted Mountain corn so we could bring it inside to finish drying. We were happy with the harvest from our new cornfield/pumpkin patch. With all its problems (infertile soil, 17 inches of rain at one time, white clay, etc.), it still produced and the deer didn’t eat it.

Picking-rocks

Now Will’s hauling tons of composted cow and horse manure out to that two-acre patch, which he plowed. So far he figures he’s put around 200 tons on it. Wow, now that’s “Mo’ poo poo!” But we know it’ll really produce next year. Over winter we’ll be buying a roll of 6′ 2″x4″ welded wire, which comes in 50′ rolls, so when spring comes, we can fence it (at least mostly), to keep the deer out. This year they ate all our pumpkins and squash. Oh well, we did get to keep our corn! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Winter’s just around the corner

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We had ice on the animals’ watering tanks this morning. Brrrrr.

Gathering-firewood

Will’s been trimming dead trees that hang over the driveway and will cause trouble this winter when we plow snow. Luckily, a lot of it is birch which makes great firewood. Yesterday he cut up a trailer load and this morning while it was still very crisp out, he began stacking it in our wood shed. The dogs must have been cold too because they started picking up wood and following him in the shed! Unasked. But after awhile, Spencer started picking up wood and heading for the house. I opened the door and he dropped it in the woodbox and headed back outside. He repeated this four times, until Will had stopped carrying wood (or Spencer got tired). Who says animals are dumb? They know wood makes fire and fire makes doggies toasty warm when they lie in front of it!

Spencer-firewood

Spencer-house

I’m jumping through hoops, trying to get things arranged to get my adopted son, Javid, back to Minnesota from Montana. Because he’s physically handicapped, he is on SSI and MA in Montana. And to come here, they can’t simply transfer his MA. He has to reapply here in Minnesota. After he’s been in the state 24 hrs. Then it takes up to a month (or so) to be approved. Then he has to apply for a CADI waiver so the state will help with his housing/care expenses. That takes another (long) period to wait. And he can’t go into an assisted living apartment until he is approved for both. The only out is to transfer him from the nursing home he’s currently in, recovering from surgery on a pressure sore, to another nursing home in Minnesota. But I had one heck of a time even arranging that! Seems that some nursing homes require $5,000 up front for the first month’s rent in case the person is not approved for state help. $5,000 a month!

However, I think I’ve found a small facility fairly close (25 miles) that hopefully will take him, temporarily, until the paperwork is done. And they have an opening. (Seems like most nursing homes in our area are full!) Whew! All this makes me tired!

We’re trying to get this done so we can get Javid moved here before we have to travel across North Dakota in a blizzard.

Meanwhile, while I’m waiting for phone calls, I’m continuing seeding tomatoes, pumpkins, and squash. (If you’ve ordered seeds recently, which include Hopi Pale Grey squash, I know your order is late but I want to be sure your seeds are dry as they are very “fresh”! I don’t want them to mold.) — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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