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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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— 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.

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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?

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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?”

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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!

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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.

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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

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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!

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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).

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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…

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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…

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— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Did you ever have one of those days?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Yesterday was mine. Early in the morning, Will sent me to Hibbing, 30 miles away, to rent the 2-inch trash pump again. First off, he needed it to draw down the muddy ground water around the base of our well so he could access the outside of the pitless adapter to hook up the water line to the new well for the barn. I asked him to call first to make sure they had it. He did, so I started off. Then he got a call that the replacement belt for the grain swather had come in at Hongistos Implement, in Cloquet (80 miles in another direction!). I figured I’d get the pump, deliver it to Will, then head to Cloquet. The rental company didn’t have a 2-inch pump; it was either a huge 3-inch pump (overkill) or an 1½ inch pump. (Was it big enough?)

I chose the 1½-inch pump. Drove home, dumped off the pump and headed for Hongistos. Will called. The pump worked fine, however the inside of the pitless adapter had somehow gotten knocked off and was now in the bottom of the well casing and, being brass, there is no way to retrieve it.

Okay, maybe we’d buy another $60 pitless adapter and just use the inside part. As there is an L & M farm store in Cloquet, I got the belt for the swather then headed for L & M. They didn’t even know what a pitless adapter was. But finally a more knowledgeable man said the only one they carried now was a “complete” kit with a well cap, adapter, etc. $159. No way!

I called Will and he made several phone calls and finally located one at Menards in Virginia (on the way home!). Only it was not a 1″ outlet but 1½”. Maybe it would work? And it was only $62; I got it. Meanwhile, he’d called L&M in Hibbing (30 miles west of Virginia) and the guy said they had the right one. So with the “wrong” one in tow, I also stopped at the L & M in Virginia, just in case. No dice. They said they’d discontinued the one Will had bought there a year back and now only sold the same “complete” kit I’d seen in Cloquet.

Off to Hibbing! Got to Hibbing and guess what? The only one they had was the “complete” kit for $159. But at least Will had been able to finish insulating and hooking up the water line and running the electric line. He also graded the ditch in so the well’s ready to go. As soon as the new pitless adapter comes in the mail…

This morning Will tried the wrong sized one from Menards. It was too big to slide into the half of the pitless we already had in place. So it was first off to Hibbing to return the pump. Then off to Virginia to return the wrong pitless adapter. Whew! All done. Will ordered the right one online.

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Meanwile, the blessed man picked our wild plums. They were falling off and the deer were eating them! Luckily they spit out the pits. Now I have nearly a five-gallon bucket waiting to make plum jam and harvest pits which we’ll offer on our Seed Treasures website. This is a wonderful wild plum; so sweet inside but with tart skins. They make great jam, if I ever get to it!

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We just had a beautiful heifer calf from our half-Jersey, Surprise! I think Will wants to call her Lady and she looks like a Jersey although her sire was a Gelbvieh beef bull. (Gelbvieh is pronounced Gel-fee and is a dual-purpose German breed, bred for meat and milk as well as draft.) Lady is a beautiful little girl!

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I also picked some gorgeous Morovsky Div tomatoes. These are definitely one of our favorites; smaller mid-sized, thin-skin tomatoes with wonderful productivity and flavor. They just glow!

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— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest time is here — big time

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Boy, are things ever getting ripe. I’m hurrying to get the early tomatoes seeded to save their seeds. So far the early winners this year are: Earlibell, Italian Paste, Morovsky Div, Silvery Fir Tree, and Cougar Red — with Bill Bean crowding in too! Yeah, Don, they are that big; Dad wasn’t stretching the truth. I can’t get a tape measure into the cage where the biggest one is, but it’s about two inches larger than the one I did measure and it’s still green!

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Our wild plums are ready to pick and look so pretty hanging in the trees like Christmas decorations. They just glow! I’m making a big batch of plum jam from them this year and saving the pits as so many folks wrote us for them so they could plant some too. (They have to be planted this fall so they can go through winter and come up next spring.)

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The corn is simply fantastic! Everything from the rare Burro Mountain popcorn to Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn is out-producing anything we’ve ever had. It must have been all that rain. Now it’s starting to dry up some and we’re really thankful for that. Will’s got hay down and we’re praying the clouds overhead don’t drop you-know-what on it.

The apples are also going nuts! I’m canning like mad and making lots of pies. Our Frostbite is simply over-burdened with fruit and that’s our favorite apple. No complaints there! And the Prairie Magic is loaded with big apples. We love our apples (but we are hoping the bears don’t break down the six-foot fence to get to them). Watch ’em, Hondo!

If you’re looking for a hardy, Zone 3 black raspberry, like we have been for years, try Mac Black from Indiana Berry & Plant Co. 2811 Michigan Road, Plymouth, IN 46563. We bought a dozen last year and they not only survived winter but thrived and are starting to produce great berries. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The Orr Center Homesteading and Sustainable Living Expo was a great success

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

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Will and I attended the Expo on Saturday and Sunday, taking our Seed Treasures booth, seeds, and vegetables and promoting Backwoods Home and Self-Reliance magazines, of course. I gave the keynote address each day, one on canning, the other on gardening and seed saving. Both were well attended by excited and very interested people.

After the workshops, we had a chance to visit with many of these people at our booth and answer even more questions. Needless to say, both Will and I were pretty tired last night.

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The gardens are doing extremely well. Friday evening I picked two ears of Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn for us to try. Oh my! It was SO good I almost went back for a dozen ears more! The ears were nearly eight inches long, had 14 rows of delectable, nicely sweet, tender corn. And Will checked out the Bill Bean tomatoes and found one was ¼-inch short of being the same size as a 5-quart ice cream pail. And it’s still green, not ripe! We think it’s going to be over 4 pounds easily.

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And BEANS! We’re simply blown away by the production on the various bean vines. Some of our new ones are stupendous. And I can’t pick a favorite. There’s a dozen or more we simply love. Like pretty Gold Marie Vining and Purple Dove. And Magpie, Iroquois, and Folsom Indian Ruin and… It’s so great to be doing what you love every day! — Jackie

 
 


 
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