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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

We’ll have a white Christmas

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014


After a day without snow and rain, which is unheard of here in northern Minnesota this time of the year, we got a two-inch snowfall. Luckily, today the sun’s out and it’s pretty and not too cold. Our critters are happy and fat and seem to enjoy the fresh snow. The horses are running around bucking and playing and even the cows are joining them. (It’s pretty funny to see a big cow with her bag swinging back and forth, bucking and jumping with her tail kinked up in the air!)

We knew the snow was coming so we carried in extra wood and while I ran to town for feed, Will brought in the Christmas tree and got it set up. It seems like every year we have a prettier tree! This year, it’s a locally grown pine. Our own Christmas tree selection is dim; some nice trees are too big and others, too small. Maybe next year we can go out and cut our own again. But we’re happy to have a neighbor to the North that has a small Christmas tree farm. We get a nice fresh tree and keep the bucks local!

I’m excited; we’ll be picking up our beef from the processing plant on Friday! We’ve sold seven quarters of our natural beef, saving a quarter for ourselves. So I’ll be delivering beef Friday and Saturday as well as bringing ours home. Yum, I can’t wait! (We’ve also started selling quarters and halves from the next two butcher steers. Many are repeat customers, so that makes us feel good.)

Keep watching the box at the top of the blog as our new seed business, which we’ve named SEED TREASURES (we believe seeds are more valuable than gold), is up and running with many more selections this year! Click on the link. But if you can’t open it, just e-mail us at and I’ll see you get a listing. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Heirloom Seeds now available

Monday, December 15th, 2014
Our homestead seed business is up and going for 2014-2015. We are raising most of our own historical, open-pollinated, definitely non-GMO seeds right here at home in Northern Minnesota. We have many more varieties to offer this year.

Our seeds are from beautiful, often rare, wonderful varieties that we love for their production, shining colors, and taste. Some, such as one of our favorites, Hopi Pale Grey squash, is so rare it was teetering on the brink of extinction.

Our prices are right, as is our shipping, so please come take a look at (If you can’t access our website, just e-mail us for the listing!) seedtreasures[at]

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fertile eggs and planting potatoes

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Fertile eggs and planting potatoes

If I put a rooster and a hen in a small pen together how soon can I be sure that she would be laying fertile eggs inspired by the handsome fella she is cohabitating with?

If I save some nice potatoes to plant in the spring, what do I need to do to them before planting them? Do I need to spray or dust them with something?

Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience. I’m sure some of our questions stretch your knowledge but somehow you still have answers. We, your readership, appreciate you. Gail

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

Usually after a rooster mates with a hen, her eggs are fertile about 24 hrs later. Eggs she lays for two weeks following this are also fertile.

Some folks dust their potatoes with sulfur before planting to help ward off disease. But others just cut and “chit” theirs. Chitting is letting the potato sets dry and be exposed to some sun so they begin to produce sturdy green sprouts. Be sure there is no disease in your potatoes before planting your own sets. When in doubt, it’s best to start with boughten seed potatoes that are certified disease-free.

You’re welcome. Glad to help. You all help me learn more and more. It’s fun. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Scarlet Runner beans and canning cranberries

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Scarlet Runner beans

Two years ago I ordered some beans (edible), red flowers, climbers, only got 5 beans in packet. Saved all the beans for this year. Planted them, had lots, ate some (delicious) kind of sweet. Saved lots for next year. Ended up in hospital, they froze. Brought them in opened them up and let them dry, can I plant them next year? Or are they too far gone? if you think they’re OK, would you like a few to start your patch? Don’t remember where I got them. Are you in need of more hostas?

Marlene Kevelin
Circle Pines, Minnesota

Your beans sound like Scarlet Runner beans. If your beans were mature when they froze they’ll be okay. Check for mold. They should be hard, shiny, and full. I do have Scarlet Runners, thanks. Pass them on to other friends. I’ve run out of room for hostas right now. Maybe in the future? Will is going to convert our spring basin pond into a garden spot sometime in the future, making the pond look natural and pretty instead of a hole in the ground. Thanks for the offer! — Jackie

Canning cranberries

I have some nice bags of frozen cranberries that I want to pressure can. I know this has come up in the past but the answers were not very clear. If left to my own devises, I would use little or no sugar since my hubby is diabetic. I would process with 10 lbs. for as long as it took to bring up to pressure after a 7 minute vent time of the pot. Do you think this is too much or too far from safe procedures? I would love trying to cold pack them raw. I would appreciate knowing what variables you have tried. They were bought fresh and I froze them.

Jeannie Livezey
Richardson, Texas

It’s really easy to can cranberries. Just thaw, rinse, and sort. Then pack cranberries into jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Gently shake the jar to settle the berries. Pour either boiling syrup (light for your husband) or plain boiling water over them leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar, place hot, previously-simmered lid on jar, and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints and half-pints for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Cranberries can up very nicely and are great for baking. Since they are a high-acid fruit, they do not require pressure canning. Enjoy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sweet potatoes and chicken feed

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Sweet potatoes

I left some sweet potatoes in the garden, thinking since they were under ground, I could just harvest them as I needed them, regardless of freezing. Wrong! I didn’t put any straw on them, so the top 2 inches or so froze, but anything lower than that is fine. What should I do with them now? The part that froze gets mushy when I bring them in and wash them. Are they ok to eat?

Chrissy Mullender
Luray, Kansas

It depends. Did they freeze and stay frozen? If so, just wash them and cook them. But if they froze, thawed, froze, etc. I’d add them to your compost pile and chalk it up to a lesson learned. Sweet potatoes can’t take any freezing so next time, dig them earlier and be safe. — Jackie

Chicken feed

In your recent article “Saving money on the homestead” you mentioned not buying packaged chicken feed. You buy grain in bulk. What homemade chicken feed recipe do you use? I’ve looked at many, but they have SOOO much hard to find and expensive things in them. You seem like a down to earth kinda girl, so I’m guessing your recipe is simple and to the point. I have noticed a lot of recipes have fish emulsion in them. Its very expensive, but the amount used is so small, I don’t think it would add up to being expensive in the long run. Anyways, I would like to know your recipe for happy healthy chickens! This year we hatched 100 chicks, and are going broke feeding them to butcher size. I need a cheaper route for next year!

Roxann Bagley
Williston, North Dakota

You’re right; I don’t buy packaged chicken feed — the kind that comes in nice paper sacks, made by name brand feed companies either in 50 pounds or 25 pounds. Our local grain elevator, Homestead Mills, carries their own mix which is sold under the generic name of 18% poultry and 14% feed. What I usually do is use the 18% poultry for our egg layers and as a general growing mix for young birds. Then I switch our meat birds to the cheaper 14% ground feed at about five weeks. If we keep them longer than eight weeks, they get plain corn screenings. The 18% poultry grain is half the cost as those cute paper bags; I can buy 100 pounds for the same money as the 50 pound sacks bought elsewhere. You often buy the name brand and pretty picture instead of the feed.
Mixing your own poultry feed is pretty easy but it is extra work. Here’s a sample for a grower feed:

50 pounds cracked corn, barley, or wheat (or a mix of any of these)
18 pounds rough mill feed or screenings
16.5 pounds soybean, meat, or fish meal
5 pounds alfalfa meal — when the birds are not on pasture
vitamin supplement added as per package directions
1/2 pound trace mineral salt
Mix well and store in a tight container

We substitute our own homegrown pumpkins and squash in the winter, fed daily, for the alfalfa meal. The chickens love it and we cut down on feed costs. I hope this helps. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Austrian Winter Peas and canning corn chowder

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Austrian Winter Peas

I just read an article in Mother Earth about Austrian Winter Peas. They sound like a great thing. The article says the shoots make a great salad, make great fodder, and are beneficial to the soil. I don’t know that you could grow them in your climate, though they are hardy. But I thought others might like to try them. I know I’m going to.

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

Nope. Austrian Winter Peas won’t over-winter here. Instead, we grow Field Peas, which are just plain old peas that we plant to improve the soil, use as fodder, and even pick to use as “people peas” to can, dehydrate, or dry for soup. We plant them early in the spring, harvest some pods for us, cut some fodder for the critters, then mow and turn under the rest as green manure. It’s one of the top legumes for many homesteaders, especially those of us in the north. — Jackie

Canning corn chowder

I have made several batches of corn chowder and canned the excess for use this winter. I processed in my pressure canner for 100 minutes at 13 psi (I am at 4,255 feet) and most of the jars were pints, 6 were quarts. Now here is where I messed up. I use bacon, milk, and flour in my chowder. Things I never once thought I shouldn’t can. Is it safe to eat? I have 7 pints in the canner now!

James Mc Ginnis
La Pine, Oregon

Your chowder is safe to eat, assuming your chowder isn’t REAL thick — which most isn’t. However, at 100 minutes at 13 psi, you’ve over-processed your batches. The bacon (the meat ingredient) is processed for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts) and milk for only 10 minutes for quarts. Corn is processed for 55 minutes (pints) and 85 minutes for quarts. I’m not sure how badly that will affect your chowder. The milk may separate or become dark because the sugars in the milk turn brown. I guess you’ll just have to open a jar and see. Sometimes if you just heat a separated product and stir it well, it’ll still be okay to eat. You can use a little flour to thicken some canned foods but never so much that the food becomes quite thick as then it may be too thick to can up safely. I can up chowders without milk, using a broth instead. Then when I want to eat it I’ll make a white sauce and slowly stir in the jar of canned chowder. Done deal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Keeping busy even when it’s cold

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

We haven’t had a break from the Arctic cold and wind we’ve been having lately, with the lows in single digits and the highs in the low teens. Brrr. But we’ve still got lots to do. I’ve been saving seeds from lots of pumpkins (Howden and Winter Luxury) and squash (Hopi Pale Grey, Canada Crookneck, etc.) and shelling Painted Mountain and Glass Gem popcorn. While we save seeds, we’re planning what to plant next spring. And just where we’ll put it to keep our seed pure. Will jokes that he’d better fire up Old Yeller and get out and clear some more land!


Meanwhile, Will’s been out in the woods hauling in dead logs he stockpiled this fall. Yesterday, he brought in about a cord of some big ash and some mixed logs. The weather this weekend is supposed to be mild, so I hope we can get it cut up and split.


Because it’s been so cold, I’ve started using the kitchen range. It’s sure nice to have it fired up again and it really helps keep the house toasty. Since it’s below the upstairs bedrooms, the floor gets nice and warm.

We were having trouble getting our cows AI’d; they kept returning in heat. So Will talked to our neighbor who happened to have a young bull he needed to move out of a pen. We ended up moving him to our pasture for the winter. He was only here a few hours before he bred our Jersey cross heifer. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just missed the big snow!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

We listened to the weather radio yesterday morning, cringing when they talked about significant snowfall for our area and south of us. Eek! Luckily, we only got a dusting but Duluth and parts south and east got hammered with 12 to 18 inches of snow.

We knew it was coming and Will and I have been working like mad to get things done ahead of winter. I pulled the last ears of our Glass Gem popcorn and was really happy with the ears (and colors!) we got. We didn’t get a full crop as it was quite late-maturing. Next year I’m planting it farther apart so the stalks get more sunlight. I discovered that the rows on the outside matured faster than those on the inner rows because it’s such a thick-growing corn. But the colors — Wow! Colors I’ve never seen in corn: light blue, pink, mauve, and pastels. We’ll definitely plant it again!


I wrapped up the last of the fruit trees and bushes yesterday. Will salvaged some heavy aluminum screening from an old TV dish so we could wrap the honeyberries and a couple of bush cherries that were too bushy for a regular screen to fit around. It worked great. We had quite a bit of vole damage to our trees last winter so we wanted to make sure the same wouldn’t happen this year. We have a friend whose big apple tree was killed because the voles had totally girdled the trunk. That’s depressing. Some of our orchard trees have grown so much that the white spiral plastic tree guards won’t fit. I used old aluminum window screen instead. We aren’t taking any chances!


I got a whole pork loin on sale at our local store for $1.99 a pound. I roasted it up for dinner, cut into two chunks to fit my roaster. Then the next day I warmed it up and canned what was left from dinner, using the pan drippings with water added for a broth. We got two meals plus three quarts and a pint to add to our pantry. And I also got busy and readied another batch of carrots to go in the canner after the pork came out. I’ve only got one more batch to go plus some rutabagas.

We aren’t hunting deer this fall because winter killed off about half of our local deer herd. Besides, we are butchering a steer and we already have half a pig left in my son’s, freezer. And canned venison down in our basement from last fall. And the meat chickens… We sure don’t need more meat and we feel sorry for the neighboring deer herd and decided to let them rest with plenty of feed (Will’s oats/clover patch!). There’s always next year if we need one. — Jackie



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