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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

We escaped the frost!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016


But I’m sure there is more frost to come. We shut up our big hoop house, still full of peppers and pole beans and said prayers. And they worked! When we woke up it was 40 degrees.


Even though we’ve been having real nice, warm, sunny days, we’re still working like mad harvesting what we can. We picked tons of tomatoes, and I sent a crate to Bill and Kelly as David was going down for a weekend visit. I also picked a crate of peppers for the seed and not wanting to waste them, I made a big batch of cowgirl candy (candied jalapeño flavored sweet peppers which are spicy but not firey hot). I’ll be making another big batch as soon as I harvest more ripe peppers. Boy, do we like our cowboy and cowgirl candy. To make cowboy candy I first double the syrup then put up the cowboy candy. Using the extra syrup, I add cut up sweet peppers, boil 4 minutes, then with a slotted spoon, I take the hot peppers out, pack into jars and ladle boiling syrup over them. They are processed 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Very good!


I’ve been picking beans every day since we know frost and freezing temperatures are coming. Some of the more rare beans are amazing and I’ll have plenty of seed so I can plant lots next year. Yes, we are starting to plan for our next year’s planting! Hey, we’re always optimistic. By the way, Will’s injuries are all much better.


Some of you have asked when you can buy some of our new seed varieties. As soon as I get done harvesting, I’ll be updating the Seed Treasures website so you can take a look. You’ll be surprised at how many new offerings we’ll have. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our beautiful fall weather will come to an end with frost

Thursday, October 6th, 2016


We’re supposed to get frost and possibly snow flurries tonight through Saturday evening, and we’ve still got veggies in the gardens. I’ve been picking beans and corn for weeks and now we’ve switched into high gear as our crops won’t take much more freezing or frost. But the fall colors are pretty; our driveway looks like a giant postcard.


We’ve also still got onions, shallots, leeks, and potatoes to get into the cellar, but they should be able to take a little frost just fine, so we’re concentrating on other crops that can’t. Luckily, we’ve got more rare beans in the protection of our large hoop house as well as our entire pepper crop, so they should be fine.


Will’s hauling our big round bales home, a load at a time. Our transport is an old bus frame on bus wheels. It hauls about eight round bales at a time. So far he’s got about fifty bales home with a lot more out there in various fields. He’s also been doing rockwork on the interior walls of our new barn. One interior side is now finished. You wouldn’t believe how many rocks he’s used so far!

Well, I’ve got to go pick more tomatoes. See you next week! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Sunny, warm fall weather lets us get lots done

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Finally, finally, the rain has stopped. We’ve had four wonderful, sunny fall days. The leaves have turned and are all gold and red. Beautiful! Last Friday we had a pair of Whistling Swans stop for the morning on our beaver pond. We watched them glide around, enjoying their rest from their migration southward.


Meanwhile, I’ve been (surprise!) canning like mad. I just got a batch of thick pizza sauce finished, two batches of sweet corn, spaghetti sauce with meat, and Mexican corn (sweet corn with diced green and red sweet peppers and onions). Our late apples are ripe now so I need to switch gears and get lots of apple stuff canned up. We really love our Chestnut crab with its large, sweet, juicy apples and the Frostbite apple with cracking crisp, unusually good flavor. Both are hugely productive also!


I’m busy harvesting seeds from beans and tomatoes too. We are tremendously impressed with the Folsom Indian Ruin beans which are the biggest beans anyone has ever seen and also very productive. And yesterday I picked a batch of Enormous Plum paste tomatoes. Boy, oh boy, are they ever huge! We are focusing on more paste tomatoes this year as they can up so nice and folks need more of a choice than plain Romas. We’ve found several really great ones, including G. Chalmers Large Paste, Mia’s Italian Paste, Andes, Ten Fingers of Naples, and Speckled Roman.


The blankety blank cows got into our north garden and gobbled up most of the crops out there. What a bummer! It took days to get over that one. But we did and you can bet that won’t happen again! But they didn’t get into our pig pasture garden and I’m canning Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn. (Yes, we had a bountiful harvest for seed so I’m allowed to can up the pig pasture corn!


Oh, by the way, Will’s head is healing well although he does have a monster head cold … unrelated. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our rains are here, in full force

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

All I’ve got to say is “Yuck!” We’re madly trying to continue our harvest but it’s nearly impossible when it’s pouring rain every day. I’ve still got plenty of dry bean seed to harvest along with corn, squash, potatoes, and onions. I had friends stop by to help harvest dry beans the other day (the only day it didn’t rain, by the way), and that was a huge help. I’m still shelling the beans but at least they’re not out in the garden, drenched.


We’ve been picking corn every chance we get and I still have some Seneca Sunrise sweet corn out in the pig pasture I want to can — it’s the third planting and is just getting ripe now. Hopefully Wednesday we can get it as the weather man is calling for drier weather. Meanwhile, I’ve been canning tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce every day as we continue seeding our tomatoes.


We run them through our Victorio tomato strainer which removes the skins and seeds. Then we soak them, mixed with half water/half seeds, in a cup or bowl for three days to ferment. The fermenting dissolves the gel and flesh along with killing any bacteria or fungus present. After this period, the yucky stuff is poured into a wire sieve and I run warm water over them, squashing out the fermented material. Will then dumps the seeds/skins into a deep bowl and lets warm water just trickle into the bowl, gently overflowing it. The skins float to the top and the seeds settle to the bottom with a little gold-panning technique, kind of swirling the water very gently. What’s left over is pure seed. This is dumped out into the sieve again to drain, then the seeds are tunked out to dry onto a plastic plate with the variety name on it. We’ve developed a pretty efficient method.


Meanwhile, on drizzly days, Will has been helping our neighbor haul gravel to fill a depression in his yard where he parks his work truck. Yesterday, Will was backing up the crawler-loader out of a dip with the bucket full of gravel. He got a bit distracted and, I’m sure, tired. The crawler-loader had the bucket too high with a load (big mistake!) and the back end suddenly lifted off the ground, bucket to the ground with the weight in it and Will catapulted out of the seat, striking the hood, then the bucket with his head! Luckily, he wasn’t seriously hurt but he sure came home with some unusual scrapes and bruises. We’re so thankful it was not worse. Whew! You can bet he’ll be more careful in the future. (By the way, crawlers don’t have seat belts.)

— Jackie

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.



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?


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?”


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!



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.


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


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!


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).


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…


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…


— Jackie


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