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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

I saw our first robin today!

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

First of all, I’m sure you’re wondering how I came out with my stress test. I passed. It seems like I got a case of walking pneumonia out of my last nasty cough-cold and that was what was causing my chest pains and shortness of breath. (The doctor looked at the first X-ray but didn’t see the light consolidation that was already fading, but the radiologist spotted it.) Anyway, I’m feeling better and so is Will. Come on, spring!

Every time Will has a hamburger, Spencer, Hondo, and Mittens crowd around for bits of the bun (and maybe a little meat). So I just had to post a picture of them. I think it’s so cute!

Will-and-the-gang
Today has been busy. I’m starting our first tomatoes, canning hamburger, and had to run to town this morning. But while I was in town, I saw a robin, our very first. I even backed up to make sure! Luckily, there was no traffic in town. Yesterday I saw three geese at home and Will also saw a pair of swans.

Nice-firewood
Will also split up a truckload of firewood from some logs that didn’t make the cut for lumber. Now all we have to do is to stack it inside the storage building. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Poppin’ peppers!

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Sprouting-peppers-01
Our peppers are really popping up! Today Will moved two tables into the living room windows so they can get plenty of sun until we get the other mini-greenhouse set up in a window. They are just leaping out of their peat pellets, despite waking up to snow falling this morning.

Sprouting-peppers-02

Sprouting-peppers-03

We’ve had a busy week. Tuesday Will and I had to drive to Minneapolis for a doctor’s appointment for his back at the VA hospital. He was not looking forward to that as it’s a five-hour, one-way drive. And sitting for even an hour is the thing that gets his back the worst. But he came through it fine and came home bearing a Tens unit, the battery operated machine that sends electrical impulses to electrodes pasted to his back. It does seem to help a lot.

Then we had to get up at 5 a.m. yesterday to get to the Hibbing hospital for my stress test at 7 a.m. Boy were we NOT ready to get up that early … again. But other than a nurse not being able to hit a vein in my arm (ouch, ouch, ouch!) it all went well. Tomorrow I visit my doctor and find out the results of all the tests; echo, X-ray, and stress test. I’m so hoping that my shortness of breath and chest pains are nothing to worry about.

This weekend we’re planting tomatoes, come rain or shine, as they’ve got to get in! Spring is coming, you know. All you lucky guys further south know all about that by now. I’ve also got to get at painting the cover for the next book in the Jess Hazzard series, Autumn of the Loons. I’ve been sketching and have a great idea — just have to get it down on canvas. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our first seeds are coming up

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

Petunia
We’re feeling springy up here in northern Minnesota! Our first pepper and petunia seeds are popping up. Boy, do they like the rock wall behind the little greenhouse. The woodstove is on one side and the warm rock wall behind, and a window beside them. You can see the little grins on the seedlings’ faces when they come up.

Peppers
In a week I’ll be starting tomatoes. Yesterday I put all of the new types of tomato seeds we’ve ordered this year together and then counted them. Wow, more than 25 NEW varieties. Then there are the OLD ones we love and will keep. Will, get out Old Yeller, our bulldozer — we need more garden!

We got a phone call yesterday morning from Chiwon Lee, a professor at North Dakota State University in Fargo. We had met at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference this spring and talked for a long time about hardy fruits and tomatoes, both specialties of his. He wondered if he could come visit us. Of course, we said YES! He brought a nice couple with him and we had a great time talking fruit and tomatoes. As NDSU has bred many early tomato varieties, he brought some of their seeds for us to try and I gave him many of our favorites along with some scion wood from our apple trees and a wild elderberry.

Chiwon
He brought us a whole carload of GREEN things! Seedling rootstock from Russian pears, apricots, Nanking bush cherries, and even grafted apples. Then there were four Easter lilies, a beautiful flowering house plant, and a HUGE hibiscus! We were floored! He also brought some tomato seedlings and grafting supplies and taught us how to graft tomatoes. And he showed us how to graft a tomato scion onto a potato rootstock, making a topotato (or whatever). I’m sure our grandkids will love those!

You never know when you’ll meet wonderful people with like interests, do you? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring is so nice!

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

But yesterday, while I was cleaning on the back porch, I turned and saw bloody paw prints in the doorway…and across the dining room…and right up to Spencer! Real bloody! I picked up his hind paw and saw a big gash in between his toes. I took him immediately outside to stand in the snow as cold reduces bleeding. Then after calling Will over to watch him, I hurried inside to gather up first aid supplies. Drying his paw with an old washcloth, I packed his foot with soft sterile gauze pads, added another square and taped his paw and leg. All afternoon, we “made” Spencer lie down on his rug and not lick his bandaged foot.

Poor-Spencer
The bleeding stopped and he was VERY good about the whole thing. This morning, I removed the nasty, bloody pack and took the tape off. It looked much better. I let him lick it a little, then re-bandaged it so when he goes outside to potty he doesn’t snag the wound on ice or something to re-open it. I’ll change the bandage again tomorrow and see if the cut is healed enough to keep the bandage off. Poor Spencer! We never did find out how he cut it.

This morning, I peeked at my petunias and guess what? They’re coming up nicely! Wow, after only five days, too. I set them on the table by my chair, in the window so they would get plenty of sun but wouldn’t cook. Some were still not up and as petunia seedlings are SO little and planted on the soil’s surface, I didn’t want them to dry out, either so they are still in their bags. The peppers will be next.
Hooray!

Cherry-buds
As our temps have been very mild, a whole lot of our snow has gone. I walked in the garden and orchards today and was real happy to report that there had been NO vole damage on anything I could see, even unprotected trees and shrubs like our wild pin cherries and some “wild” Nanking cherries. That was very exciting as I hate voles.

Will-new-tractor
Will and I are both feeling better. He’s been working on our new tractor. It came with only one rear hydraulic outlet and he needs two to run our big round baler…which is why he bought the tractor in the first place. Instead of spending more than $300 on new parts, he remanufactured it himself (with quite a bit of trouble, I might add) and today it is working. He did have to raise the seat a bit as the seat had a rod that was resting on one of the new fittings. But that’s homesteading — you always have to think outside the box to get by! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: moving to Minnesota, growing beans on arches, and using manure for garden compost

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

Moving to Minnesota

I have been a huge fan of yours for a long time. I have a question on a place to move to in northern Minnesota. I am 23, married, and have two little boys. I want to move to a place where there is good hunting and nature where we can have animals and a big garden. But it also has to be within reasonable distance for work.

Joshua Grossman
Hazelton, North Dakota

You might check out the areas around Cotton or farther north, say north of Hibbing and Virginia. Cotton is within commuting distance of Duluth and you can find some relatively inexpensive land with homes within driving distance of Virginia or Hibbing. All of these areas have good hunting, plenty of wildlife and nature. As with all real estate, the farther the commute, the cheaper the land prices. Good luck in finding your homestead! — Jackie

Growing beans on arches

I want to tell you about my favorite way of growing beans. I wish I had pictures of it, but I haven’t been able to do this in a few years.

I bought cheap, plain garden arches at the store, about 6 feet high, I would say, maybe a bit more. Sprayed rust proofing on the part that went in the ground. We lined them up in a good long row, about 3 or 4 feet in between them. Then we planted beans all along the row. They grew up and completely covered the arches. The leaves were able to soak up all the sun they wanted. Inside, it was cooler, and darker. There those beans were, hanging down all around just waiting to be picked. It kept them out of the dirt, there was no bending to pick them, and it seemed like the bugs never did find their way into the tunnel. They did very well there. An extra bonus was that inside the tunnel with the shade and coolness, lettuces and greens grew better most of the summer. Some herbs did well there too. Amazingly enough, basil did well at the ends of the tunnel. It always burns, for me, in full sun. One year we did summer squash. It did real well also, and was well supported by the structure even when the squash got pretty big.

I will be doing this again, it’s just so pretty, and it’s nice being in the shade while picking!

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

Very nice, Barb! Another way to do that is to set one or more 16-foot welded wire stock panels lengthwise in parallel rows 10 feet apart. Then bow up others over the walkway. This makes a cheap arbor for growing any vine crops. We’re doing this with our grapes as soon as the ground thaws and we can pound steel T-posts,. Good thinking and send us some pictures this summer so we can all enjoy your arbor. — Jackie

Using manure for garden compost

In preparing garden compost I know cow and chicken “poo” is good to use to enrich soil. Are there any “poos” that should not be used…such as dog poo?

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Dog and cat feces are the only “bad” poos I can think of. They are “bad” as they can carry internal parasites and possible disease that are transmissible to humans. Dig a hole in the side yard under some shrubs and bury feces out of reach of children. They will give a good boost to your shrubs too!

We LOVE poo! Our homestead motto is “MO’ POO POO,” translated; more poo poo! It fixes just about anything, we’ve found. It loosens clay, lets sand hold more moisture, fertilizes naturally, and mulches wonderfully. Love that poo poo! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

You wanted to see pictures of Red chasing Hondo?

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Red-Hondo-1
Well here are a few. Honestly, those two go at it for fifteen minutes at a time. Red, our Bourbon Red tom seems to be in earnest about the whole deal while Hondo thinks it’s great fun. He doesn’t seem to notice Red’s scowling face and determined look at all.

Red-Hondo-2
Our weather finally turned nice. Today it’s FIFTY degrees with the sun out brightly. Boy, is the snow melting! I’ve been having periods of shortness of breath and chest pains so I went to the doctor today to get that checked out. I spent five hours at the clinic being tested and they are making an appointment for a stress test for me in the near future. So far, nothing has showed up. I hope it’s just Cabin Fever! When I got back from town I sure noticed the snow pack on the driveway getting thawed. I sent up a rooster tail behind the Subaru all the way in. But I never felt like I was getting stuck so I just kept coming the whole mile and a third to the house.

Red-Hondo-3
Will’s been under the weather this last week, feeling tired and achy. He, too, went to the doctor last week. The Dr. put him on antibiotics with the idea that he (besides me and Spencer!) had a run-in with a deer tick last summer and picked up Lyme disease. He’s four days into the antibiotics and does feel better. When I came home from town he was outside, in a T-shirt, working on a tractor!

I’ve got all my peppers and petunias planted and in their little plastic greenhouse next to the woodstove in the living room. Wow, that was a lot of peppers, but this year we have a 32-foot hoop house to put them in.

I’m so happy about all the great reviews of my book, Summer of the Eagles, both on Amazon and this blog! It’s nice to know that both Western fans and folks who aren’t all love the book. That’s exciting to me. Thank you all! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

More snow and below-zero temps

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Plowing-snow

As we’re crawling towards spring, we’ve been stuck in a cold arctic spell. Last night it was -18 and today at noon, it warmed up to zero. With a wind. Plus we just got four inches of new snow. So Will and the “boys” set out to plow the driveway.

stopped-plowing
Hondo used to hate going in the truck. He got sick, drooled, and shook. But Will worked with him all winter, putting him in the truck and only driving around the circle in the yard, parking the truck with Hondo and Spencer in it. And it worked. Just lately, Hondo decided that he loves to ride! Now when Will says “load up boys,” Hondo is the first one to the truck door and the first inside. He sits right up and watches with interest as the snow flies, observing the birds, squirrels, and other wildlife he spots on the driveway. To Spencer, it’s old hat; he’s ridden shotgun in the pickup all his life and has always loved to go. It got so we even had to spell the word “go.” Then he learned to spell. Go figure…

peat-pellets
While the boys were plowing, I started soaking my peat pellets so I can get my peppers and petunias planted. I’ve found that when I use hot water to soak them, they swell up faster and the warm, damp pellets encourage very fast germination of the seeds. I cram several pellets into a variety of trays I’ve saved for this purpose, plant two seeds per pellet, then slip the whole works into a plastic shopping bag. The containers then go on the shelves of my cheapo little plastic-covered greenhouse that I’ve got on the side of the wood stove. So they stay nice and warm, out of the way of Mittens; and seedlings pop up very fast.

They say it’s supposed to be 40° F or even higher, come Sunday. And let me say we’re REALLY looking forward to that! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: rendering pig fat, canning mulberries, and source for weed-free hay

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Rendering pig fat

Could you give me a rough idea of how many pounds of pig fat I will need to render down in order to end up with a dozen pint jars of lard? I check your blog each morning to see what’s going on in your part of the country; and to see what advice to others I may be able to use.

Vala Johnson
Harlem, Montana

You’re going to need roughly 14 pounds of fat to render down to a dozen pints of lard. I’m glad to hear you visit the blog often and I hope you’ve gleaned a lot of information from others. — Jackie

Canning mulberries

This coming year I am wanting to can mulberries for making pies at a later date but I have not been able to find any info on doing this, if it can be canned, what pressure and for how long?

William Fisher
Grinnell, Iowa

You don’t need to pressure can any berries, including mulberries since they are acidic enough to process in a water bath canner. You can just water bath them under the directions used for blackberries and raspberries, which is 10 minutes for pints or 15 minutes for quarts. I’d suggest using a medium syrup, poured over the raw berries in the jar, near boiling. Be sure to count your water bath time from the time the kettle comes back to a full boil after putting your filled jars in. — Jackie

Source for weed-free hay

Do you have any advice about finding a local source for weed-free hay?

Jonathan F.
Somerville, Tennessee

If you don’t know any local farmers, why not put an ad in your nearest Craigslist like “wanted to buy, weed-free, chemical-free hay for my garden.” Or put up some cards at feed mills or livestock yards. I’m sure you can find some pretty easily that way.

If you are using it for mulch in your garden, also be sure it is immature hay with no hay seeds present. I once “planted” a great crop of timothy in my garden by using hay for mulch that had already gone to seed. — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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