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Ask Jackie headline

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

Jackie Clay

We got a lot done this past week

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Just as soon as Will finished the siding on our storage barn, we got it stained. Then Will stained the wood rack he’d built next to the south wall of the storage barn. He and David had been sawing up some of the wood they’d brought home from the logging site. So we all got busy and hauled it to the new rack and started stacking. That went great. Then we split up some very big pine rounds from a saw log Will had been trying to get ready to run through the band saw mill. They were HEAVY! But we got two trailer loads from just those four rounds.

Finally, all the wood that would fit on the rack was stacked neatly. All in all, the new rack holds a full cord of wood and we think it looks so nice, protected from rain by the roof overhang.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to transplant tomatoes and a few peppers. The earlier transplants are doing very well and will soon be moved out onto our enclosed porch to continue growing slower in much cooler temperatures. The porch is pretty much unheated except for solar gain from the big floor to ceiling windows. (I can open the door to our greenhouse if the temps dip too low.)

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported our homestead growth by buying seeds from our Seed Treasures business. Every sale has contributed much to getting more done around the place: Without you, we couldn’t be doing as much as we have been. Thanks from the bottoms of our hearts!

Will is busy clearing another spot for more garden. Next to the training ring barn is a gentle slope, treed with young jackpines. The soil is mostly sand but the area is convenient to water from the new well and we have plenty of manure to enrich that sand. We need more room so we can better isolate different crops to grow even more pure, open-pollinated seed. I can’t wait until it’s cleared and level. (And we can use the waste rock and sand to improve our very bumpy driveway and to make concrete for the new barn. Another win-win situation for sure!)

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. We did, even though my oldest son’s, wife, Kelly had to work so they couldn’t come. David drove to town and brought Javid out so we had a nice dinner, some fun, and enjoyed the day. And we didn’t even have any snow. Often, here in northern Minnesota, there’s snow on Easter, so having spring-like weather was a huge blessing to us. We even got to play with Ashley’s four ducklings. For now they live in a plastic tote in the bedroom but are darned messy. So David brings them down into a duck corral he put together for some R & R while he cleans their tote and puts in new wood shavings. Javid really enjoyed watching them play in the fresh grass and in their little water dish.

Our birds have been joined by purple finches, pine grosbeaks, and a few grackles. Grackles are kind of bullies but are sure pretty with their shining blue-black feathers. Two days ago, our spring peepers joined the wood frogs in singing their little hearts out. They sound like thousands of jingle bells! Such a pretty night song, we just had to open our windows so we could go to sleep listening to them.

One of our readers wanted some photos of our hoop house so here they are:

— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring, glorious Spring

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Although our weather’s sunny and bright with the birds singing, it’s a bit cool this morning — down to the mid-forties. But we’re sure okay with that. Will decided it was time he started repairing equipment, beginning with our Oliver tractor, “The Hulk.” It has a bent rod and needs the valves ground, among other things. This morning, Will pulled the head and started taking things apart. He was happy to discover the cylinder walls are pristine. So at least that much is good. A friend with equipment and experience volunteered to grind the valves.

I’ve been busy transplanting tomatoes. Whew! There are a lot of tomatoes. But while I was working, I spotted the pair of geese who nest on our little beaver pond, below the house. While the female goose was busy exploring the shore for a nesting site, the gander was walking on the ice, watching out for trespassers, honking loudly all the time. We love to watch them hatch a brood and swim about with little, fluffy, yellow babies.

While I was feeding the goats this morning, I spotted a male robin hopping about on our front yard. He even pulled up a worm — I didn’t think they were thawed out yet!

Our peppers are getting big and stocky. I bought another little four-shelf plastic greenhouse, which brings us up to three total. We stack flats of seedlings in them in our south-facing floor to ceiling living room windows. When planting season is over, we take them down and store them in the basement. Our oldest greenhouse is six years old now and still in perfect shape. (But we never take them outside where the wind could tear them apart.)

Just a reminder; if you have questions for me, please don’t be shy about sending them in to Backwoods Home. If we don’t get questions, the Ask Jackie column might go away! I know many of you don’t ask questions for fear of “bothering” me when we are busy. But it’s never a bother. Ask away. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

“Strike while the iron is hot”

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

This is our “second” farm motto! (The first is “Mo’ poo poo.”) The company where David works is starting to cut their own bolts (square logs) that they then use to manufacture milled logs in different diameters and profiles. Last week, David helped saw the first logs on the mill and noticed there were leftover thick slabs. These were “waste” so he brought home as many as his half-ton pickup would haul. On Friday, after work, Will and I took our ¾-ton Chevy truck to the mill with our three axle equipment trailer to get a load. (The slabs are green and VERY heavy.) David was able to load the trailer with the company front end loader.

We drove home carefully as we had a big and heavy load and the roads are extra bumpy due to frost heaves because of winter freezing. Then Will sorted the slabs out; some are thick enough for him to saw lumber from using our portable bandsaw mill. The slabs that can’t be sawn into lumber are still plenty thick on the butt ends. So we’ve been cutting, splitting, and stacking this additional windfall.

Another bonus for us is that a neighbor works in the iron mines. Every couple of years they replace the belts on the conveyors. These belts are about ¼-inch thick and three feet wide and come cut and rolled in 60-foot lengths. He asked Will if we could use them for anything. They’ll make permanent mulch in the berry patch between rows of grapes and raspberries, which always get too weedy. Now we’ll only have to weed between plants — much more manageable! We now have four rolls with more coming.

Over the weekend, David and Ashley helped me put together the vinyl garden arbor that a friend gave me when she moved. We were helping her move things when I spotted it lying in the weeds. “You want that?” she asked. I said I sure did, so we dis-assembled it and took it home. I’ve got just the spot for it this spring and it’s all ready to go now. I could never afford to buy one.

So we strike while the iron is hot, before someone else steps in and beats us to the bounty.

Our migratory birds are arriving daily. Today I saw a red-winged blackbird, a pair of wood ducks, and yesterday we saw the first turkey vulture. Okay, so the vulture wasn’t “pretty” but it was a sign of spring. The ice is about melted off the beaver ponds and my tulips are starting to poke through the dirt. How exciting!

Now I’ve got to get back to transplanting tomatoes, a job I’ll be at for several days. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring is officially here — we saw robins today

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

Will bummed me out this morning. He got up earlier than I did and saw our first robin in the tree in our backyard. But I one-upped him when I drove to town this morning to mail a bunch of seeds; I saw two robins just to the side of our driveway and three more, coming back from town. Then I saw a red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, and eight bald eagles, really close up, feeding on a road-killed deer. Of course, when I got home the chickadees were still gobbling up the suet in the basket on the front porch. Lots of wildlife this morning!

And, when I got out of the car, I took a peek at the daylily bed beside the driveway which had been buried under four feet of plowed snow all winter, not expecting to see anything. There were daffodil noses poking up three inches! How exciting!

I’ve just got a couple more peppers to transplant and I’ll start on the first tomatoes. Those tomato seedlings are pretty leggy as they sprouted in a bag-covered flat much earlier than I’d expected. But I’ll just plant them deeper in the cups, covering most of the stem with potting soil. They’ll grow roots along the stem and will do fine regardless of their leggy start.

We’ve got seven people signed up for our homesteading seminar this August so we have room for seven more. If you’re interested in coming, be sure to get your deposit in. We had to turn away folks from our previous seminar and that made us feel bad. We’ve got lots planned for this one. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Hooray, it’s fifty above!

Monday, March 27th, 2017

The sun came out this morning and the temperature shot up. Now almost all of our snow is gone except some slush pack on our mile-long driveway that’s kind of ugly. But, luckily, it’s still freezing at night so it’s passable in two-wheel-drive. I’m in the middle of transplanting our peppers and that’s going nicely. I’ve been “scolded” for using non-sustainable Styrofoam cups for my transplants, which keeps the roots’ temperature even. But as I re-labled the cups, I noticed I’ve used some of them five or six times already! That’s pretty sustainable, in my book! And I should get several more years out of most of them.

The tomatoes are mostly all up now and looking good. I’ll be transplanting some of them as soon as the peppers are all finished. Some of our seeds popped up in three days! They must be as anxious for spring as we are.

We’re still working at cutting and splitting up all that firewood David and Will hauled home. Will and I did a full cord over the weekend, using up the big pile by the storage building. Today, he’s working at the HUGE pile farther up the driveway. And to top it off, as David works for Voyageur Log Homes, he sometimes brings home some log ends and pieces or heavy slab wood for even more firewood! Can’t have too much wood. It’s sort of like having “too much” food in the pantry, isn’t it?


— Jackie

Jackie Clay

The weather’s nasty so we’re working inside today

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

It’s raining, mixed with sleet and snow. Freezing rain is forecast for later on. Earlier, Will was hard at work cutting up the big pile of firewood in front of the storage barn/wood shed. Yesterday, we worked hard splitting a big pile, which Will stacked in the wood shed. It’s getting full and we have lots of wood left to cut and split. Gee what a problem…

The painting of the living room is finished. Ashley did a great job and didn’t get a drop on anything. I’ve been coating the oak mantle and shelves with more poly and they’re ready to put back up as soon as the last coat dries. They look very good.

Our peppers are ready to be transplanted into their little individual Styrofoam cups so I’ll be doing that tomorrow. The tomatoes are nearly all up and looking good in the little plastic greenhouses in the living room windows. Boy do we ever have a variety this year!

The chickens are pumping out eggs and David is helping me by catching the “wild” chickens, cutting the flying feathers from their wings and putting them in the chicken run. We’re also holding the extra roosters out in the old small chicken coop, getting ready for a butchering day in the near future. We have way too many roosters but after they are all canned up, we’ll have lots of chicken-based meals available right from the pantry. Those “wild” chickens are a pain as they not only get in my flower beds, digging “fluffing” holes, but also run in the garden, scratching newly planted seeds up then later on eating tomatoes. Not this year, guys.

— Jackie

Jackie Clay

After a wet snow, the sun is back out — Happy Spring!

Monday, March 20th, 2017

On the first day of spring, we reflect on how grateful we are. Our weather’s turned nice again, into the forties with sun. Will and David managed to haul more than 9 full truckloads of firewood logs home from the logging site before thawing started. Will and I were able to cut up, split, AND stack away a whole cord, plus more into the wood shed. That’s a full cord, mind you (8’x4’x8′). Then it snowed and rained. Today Will’s out cutting up more logs to get ready to split as it’s again dry.

We heard and saw a Canada goose yesterday morning. Yea! Spring’s really coming. No robins yet, though.

I got all of our tomatoes planted. That’s three full flats of 66 plants each, plus three smaller flats. Hmmm, that’s a lot of tomatoes, isn’t it? (Will, get out the bulldozer…)

Our chickens are starting to lay with the warmer weather again. I can’t wait for my first rhubarb pie, topped with four-egg-white meringue.

I checked our fruit trees in the orchard and can’t see much, if any, winter damage or vole activity. We did have a very mild winter for northern Minnesota. We only hit -35 twice for a short time and we had plenty of snow cover.

Yesterday, Ashley and I painted the living room walls. Actually, she did most of the painting and I refreshed the paint roller for her and helped move things out of the way and position the ladder. I did buy a new ladder as the one we were using was totally unsafe and wobbly. So wobbly it scared the you-know-what out of me to step up on it. Now the old ladder is a pole bean support and we have a new, solid, safe ladder! The room looks wonderful. Will has to get busy and re-cut the logs which framed the walls and octagonal ceiling. It’ll look so pretty, all finished. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Sometimes it only takes a phone call

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

We had been noticing a new logging site about 10 miles south of us where there were several large piles of scrap logs left over. Luckily, David noticed a sign with the logger’s name and phone number on it. He called him and asked for permission to go in and take firewood. The man said yes.

So on his way home from Virginia (the town, not state!), David drove in and loaded up a medium-sized load. He didn’t dare load more heavily as his truck’s frame is pretty rusty. He and Will unloaded it.

The next day, Will took our old Chevy truck, “Old Blue,” over there and loaded up a real big load. Then on Sunday, he went back for another load. I helped unload at home and he went back for still another load. And with the sun shining brightly and temps approaching twenty degrees, Will (and Hondo) went back for more wood. We know there won’t be many more days because the temps will warm up on Thursday and the site will become impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive truck. So we’re hurrying as much as Will’s bad back will stand. Yep, we have woods on our land. But by getting this free wood, we’re saving our own wood to use later on.

Some of the poles are tamarack and will make good fence posts so we’ve set them aside for fencing projects this spring. Talk about a wonderful windfall! All it cost was one phone call.

Tomorrow I begin planting tomato seeds! I went through my box of seeds and we have a LOT of varieties of tomatoes. How exciting! We won’t even talk about beans. — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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