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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

Harvest time has begun

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


We’re so happy. Not only is our haying under full swing but I’m starting to can like mad! I’ve already put up two nice batches of pin cherry jelly with a lot more on the trees (if I can foil the sneaky robins and cedar waxwings). And three days ago I harvested 3/4 of a basket of very nice Provider bush beans that yielded 9 pints of canned beans. How nice it is to sit in the shade on our front porch and cut beans! Talk about your old-time comforts — can’t be beat! I watch the birds and look out on the flowers in our front flower beds. The hummingbirds even come right up on the porch to sip out of the petunias.


We’ve got hay down in two fields but it showered this morning so we won’t be baling today. The hay will be fine waiting to dry, as it hasn’t been raked yet. Boy, are we having trouble finding anyone to “buck bales.” We pay $10 an hour and can’t find a soul who wants to work! What the heck is wrong with people today? Way back when, when I farmed down by Sturgeon Lake, teens would drive around looking for farmers haying and ask if they needed any help on the wagon or in the hayloft. And the going rate then was $2.50 an hour! Now you can’t drag them off the video games. We really miss having David. He’s working overtime for our farming neighbor, Jerry, also haying. Yesterday, he hit the field at 7 a.m. and got done just before dark.

He did have time to “sneak away” for an hour as his brother, Bill, and his family came to visit us. We sure had a great time. The grandkids, Mason and Ava, were introduced to raspberries and had a wonderful experience picking raspberries out of our berry patch and wild blueberries out in the woods. It was exciting showing them the “good” wild berries and the “bad” ones. They caught on VERY quickly!

We also picked berries so their mom, Kelly, could take a bucket full to turn into jam. It was frustrating for me as my knee still won’t take kneeling down to pick and sitting on a bucket was way too slow. I can pick the pin cherries and the swamp blueberries just fine standing, as they are taller. But ours are only about eight inches high. Oh well, everyone else picked like mad and I was able to bend to pick for about an hour before my back quit.

We don’t take the dogs berry picking because they pick and eat more than we do! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning spaghetti sauce, canning potatoes, and cucumber beetles

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Canning spaghetti sauce

Why is it okay to water bath can salsa but not spaghetti sauce?

Katie Gilbert
Milo, Iowa

You can certainly can spaghetti sauce without meat in a boiling water bath canner but many experts are now advising us to use a pressure canner for both that and even tomatoes. I think because of the possibility of recipes not containing lemon juice or vinegar and having low-acid tomatoes added to the recipe. — Jackie

Canning potatoes

I have been canning for years and have had very little trouble with loss. But this year I have had 7 jars of potatoes come open not good (have you ever smelled that? Omgosh!) My question is with following the same method for years. I wash new potatoes peel and blanch then place in hot jars, pour boiling water over, place new lids and pressure for 40 minutes. Help please, I am about to give up.

Jo Collins
Morehead, Kentucky

NEVER GIVE UP! It’s my motto. Yep, I have smelled bad potatoes and sweet corn. Yuck! But, hey, it can happen. You may have just gotten a bad batch of lids or perhaps you did like I did on that bad batch of my sweet corn. I was in a huge hurry and left the last batch in the canner to cool as I’d been up for three days and two nights with no sleep. Well, in the morning, I opened the canner and they seemed to have sealed. I washed them and put them in the basement. A couple of weeks later … Peeewww! Something smelled pretty rotten. Yep, it was the corn and I ended up throwing away nine quarts and fourteen pints. That’s a record for me. I doubt that I’ve thrown out that many jars in more than fifty years of canning! (And that includes ones the cat pushed off the shelf to break on the floor.) You did everything right so I’d just gird your loins and get busy and put up more potatoes this year. — Jackie

Cucumber and potato beetles

For the first time ever my squash, cucumber, and pumpkin blossoms are overrun with cucumber and/or potato beetles. I am looking for a non-chemical answer to getting rid of them. I went out with a bucket of soapy water and picked by hand as many as I could but of course several flew away in the process. I read to paint cardboard squares yellow, apply Vaseline, and mount next to plants to draw them to the cardboard where they get stuck. I’m going to give that a shot. Is there anything I can spray directly on the blossoms to make them unattractive to the beetles but not the pollinators? I have these beetles by the dozens this year would appreciate any guidance in handling this infestation.

Teresa Liechti
Milbank, South Dakota

Hand picking works wonders if you keep at it. Will and I worked over our potatoes last year twice a day, hand picking both blister beetles and potato bugs. This year we don’t have any — hooray! You can spray your vines and blossoms with Bt, which is a natural spray that only kills bugs that eat your crops, not those that pollinate it. But even if you spray I would still keep picking as it usually takes a couple of days before the beetles quit eating and begin to sicken. One common, easily found brand is DiPel, often sold at big box stores. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just dodged a terrific storm

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

It’s been very hot and muggy and I told Will we were primed for a bad storm. So when the weather radio called for thunderstorms Monday night we weren’t surprised. In fact, we were pretty happy to see lightning on the Western horizon that night as it was 85 degrees with extreme humidity (and being off grid we sure don’t have an air conditioner). Well, it finally rained around 11:30 p.m. and it did cool off.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that we heard how severe the storm front was to the North and South of us, with straight line winds more than 75 mph and inches of rain. Campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness had been pinned under big fallen pines, others injured. And many folks on the Iron Range, just south of us had trees blown down on their houses and garages or roofs torn off, etc. We feel very grateful we escaped this part of the storm and are praying for those affected. More than 15,000 people were without power as well but, of course, we never noticed.

The garden continues to astound us. I’ll be canning green beans in a couple days and have hundreds of inch-long Homemade Pickle cucumbers set on rampant vines. And this year, our dill is amazing. (I’ve even had to buy wilted, old store-bought dill on some other years — for $3.49 a bunch.)


But the star of our gardens this year is the Glass Gem popcorn. We planted it for its beauty but the plants are stupendous. They are near shoulder-high to Will and me and each plant has stooled out, having more than five lusty stalks per plant. We can’t wait to see how it turns out and how many ears we get per plant. Usually popcorn has shorter plants but Glass Gem hasn’t even thought of tasseling out at shoulder-height! Our Espresso sweet corn is tasseling out down in our main garden but not our Glass Gem. Wow!


We are still working at mulching our main garden; it takes a lot of work and hay to mulch an acre! But we work on it every day and it is looking good. My cold seems to have left me but I am still waiting awhile before I call my surgeon’s office to reschedule my gallbladder surgery. I do not want to have to postpone it again! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fruit trees and watermelon dying and red cabbage for Amish coleslaw

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Fruit trees and watermelon dying

We planted fruit trees this spring. We have had a very dry summer, nevertheless we have watered the trees three times a week. Now the leaves of all the fruit trees are curling up, turning brown and falling off. I am not so sure that some are not already dead. The trunks of the trees look different. Some spots are green and look healthy, while other spots are a very dark brown. Do you have any idea what this could be? I realize it is difficult to say exactly without seeing, thought you might have some idea.

This is the first year after five tries that I was able to grow watermelon. Now the vine is wilted and the stem is brown. Could this be a fungus? There are two small fruits set and lots of bloom, still open. Can I save this? Thanks for all your time and information that you provide to all of us.

Mary Ann Nelson
Franklin, West Virginia

Newly-planted fruit trees should receive at least a five-gallon bucket of water at a watering twice a week, provided that they are mulched. Often folks don’t realize this and use sprinklers in the orchard which don’t wet the soil deep enough to keep the baby tree roots from drying out and dying. I’d keep watering them and severely prune the trees, removing most of the branches and cutting the ones you leave off at half-length. Maybe they’ll either start leafing out again or send new shoots from lower down and above the grafts.

While it could be a fungus on your watermelon, it is also possible that it just didn’t get enough water. Your garden should receive at least 1 inch of water every week, more during very hot weather. You can make sure they are getting this by sitting a few cups out in the garden while you water. After you finish, measure the amount of water in the cups. There should be at least 1 inch in each one. Sometimes our sprinklers just don’t reach certain spots very well, leaving them pretty dry. Mulch is also very important in the garden to keep the plants’ roots evenly moist. — Jackie

Red cabbage for Amish coleslaw

I’m really sorry you had to postpone the surgery; what a letdown. Your garden looks great — too bad you can’t send some of that rain our way. We are dry. The Provider beans are just getting into full swing and the single Hopi plant I grew has at least 17 squash on it! Wow, those are powerful seeds you grew! Would it help the plant if I took some of them off? Also, I grew red cabbage and green, this year, and the red are heading way before the others. Have you found that the red cabbages work as well for Amish Slaw and other cabbage recipes? I hope you’ll have good hay making season. I’ll bet the animals are counting every bale.

Carol Bandy
Hightown, Virginia

I think I’m finally getting over that darned cold. I think… Wow, 17 squash on one plant! If you want really big squash, you can pick off some of the littlest ones and use as you would summer squash. Otherwise, Hopi Pale Grey is a very strong-growing squash and can handle that big a load as long as it gets plenty of water.

Yes, you can sure use your red cabbages in Amish coleslaw. The color would really pop.

The haying is going well so far and we pray it continues the same. We stock up the haymow with the same feelings we do our pantry. What a great feeling when it’s full to bulging! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I think my cold’s on the run — finally

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Yesterday was my last day on antibiotics (again) and today, I feel a lot better. I hope this tenacious thing is finally on the run. It’s in the nineties today with 100% humidity so we’re really panting! Will’s over at one of our hayfields with the tractor and disc, getting ready to plant oats and clover on a small, previously rough spot. It’s late because of all of the rain earlier this spring and summer, but it’s supposed to rain this evening and it would be good to get the seed in ahead of it. He planted our little new hayfield yesterday on our new forty, so for a change we’re waiting anxiously for rain. Hopefully not 12 inches though!

The garden is great, with the corn starting to tassel out and tons of tomatoes already set. We are having to water as it’s pretty darned dry. But that’s okay as the hayfields are still kind of wet in spots and they need to dry out so we can continue haying.

Mamba, our new milk cow, is doing great! The calf runs with her and she still gives us two and a half gallons of milk a day with no kicking or swatting of her tail. I do spray her for flies before I milk as I don’t hold still myself when they are biting me. I just put her feed in a bucket, wash her udder, and milk away. She isn’t tied or even in a stanchion. Pretty good for a half Angus when that breed is known as kickers!


Our orchard sure took a hit from the past record cold winter. Many of our trees have dying branches, but the wild pin cherries on the edge of the orchard are producing fantastically. The branches are weighted down with larger than usual cherries. This morning Will went out and picked a bucket full and when I get done blogging I’ll pick as many as I can. Then the Mehu Liisa will get busy, extracting juice from them. They sure make great jelly! Our favorite is pin cherry/jalapeño jelly (with just a little almond extract added at the last minute).


I checked our Provider beans and many are about two inches long already so I’ll be canning beans pretty soon, too. The plants look astounding and are full of blooms. Those beans are our favorite bush beans and have never disappointed us yet. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

My surgery was cancelled again; my cold came back

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

I was unbelievably depressed Saturday when I started coughing. It felt just like when I had my two-week-long cold that got my gallbladder surgery postponed. Oh no, couldn’t be! Oh yeah? Well, I coughed all night Saturday and called the hospital on Sunday morning, feeling sicker. Then I crawled back into bed feeling sorry for myself. After all that pre-op stuff: physical, blood tests, EKG, making sure all the laundry and dishes were caught up, helping Will hurry up and mulch most of the garden, etc. Big bummer. (It takes a while to psych up for a surgery, for me at least…) Now I’ve got to do it all over again when I get better. Oh well, there probably was a reason for it. Or stuff just happens. I want to thank all of you for your care and prayers for my upcoming surgery. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, I really do appreciate it.

Anyway, the weather’s turned nice and Will’s stopped working on the barn stonework (which I think looks GREAT) and is cutting hay like mad. We’ve had so much rain, it was impossible to get any hay dry prior to this and they’re calling for a whole week of sunny, warm weather. Hooray!


Our garden is doing absolutely wonderful with corn up beyond my waist and big squash starting to run all over the place. Luckily we got it well mulched. Even our pumpkin/corn patch on the new forty looks good. The weeds were trying to get a hold on our pig pasture corn/pumpkin patch so Will went down, first with the Mantis and, when that wasn’t enough, the big Troy-Bilt. Yesterday he started side dressing the plants with rotted manure and they”ll just shoot up. We know this from years of experience.


Oh, I forgot to mention we had a hen turkey come off her nest with 12 babies. The problem is that there wasn’t a turkey poult in the bunch! They were all chicks. She’s evidently found a chicken nest and started sitting on it. Oh well, they don’t care and after losing one weak one the first day, they’re all doing great and feathering out already. We also got 15 Cornish cross, five Black Sex Links and five Americauna pullets which we’re raising in the small chicken coop until they feather out and grow a bit. One of our other turkey hens has a nest out in the bushes somewhere. She pops up from time to time to eat and drink but I haven’t been able to catch her going back to her nest. I sure hope there are a turkey eggs in that nest! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: pepper plants and Amish canner

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Pepper plants

I’m hoping you can help me with my pepper plants. I’ve planted several sweet bell peppers and jalapeños this year. Normally I have no trouble and would have been loaded with peppers by now. This year the plants look pitiful. They have lost leaves and just look sickly. Some of the leaves that are left are brown on the edges. I have not seen any bugs eating on them They do look like they are coming back a little but still no little peppers. I’ve searched the internet but can’t find anything that seems to match up. Do you have any idea what is causing my pepper problems? My tomatoes and other plants all look great!

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

A few things come to mind from my own experiences through the years. First off, have you been having unusual weather? Too much heat, drought, and rain will cause peppers to really set back as yours have done. I’d mulch them well and then use a fish emulsion foliar feeding every two weeks for a month and see if that doesn’t perk them up. Don’t go with heavy fertilizer as you may end up with huge plants with no peppers. — Jackie

Amish canner

I’m considering purchasing the large Amish-Made Stovetop Water Bath Canner ( that Lehman’s sells. The height would allow better boiling water coverage of quart jars and keep the boiling water inside the canner rather than all over my stovetop and would allow me to process larger numbers of jars at a time.

However, since the canner sits over two burners, the configuration of my gas stove will only allow me to sit it over a high-output burner and a small burner on one side or a medium and small on the other. Will there be cold spots in the canner that would leave some of the jars underprocessed?

DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

No, you won’t get cold spots in your canner. Once the water comes to a boil, it will all be the same temperature inside the canner. The large canner that Lehman’s sells reminds me of the first canner my mom and grandma used in our basement back in Detroit when I was very little. It was a copper clothes boiler with a top. Mom and Grandma canned quarts and quarts of food in it using a small gas stove down in our basement. One thing that puzzles me is you saying that you get water all over your stovetop from a regular water bath canner. I’ve canned on electric, gas, and wood stoves and have never had water (other than a few small drips) get on my stovetops. Are you over-filling your canner? You only need to cover your jars by an inch of water. If you fill it too full, you will get boiling over. — Jackie


Jackie Clay

In between rains we’ve been working in the garden

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Rain, rain, rain, UGH! I’ve had enough, already. But, hey, it’s been good for the garden. We now have thigh high sweet corn, squash and cucumbers that are starting to run, and very nice potatoes, carrots, and onions, not to mention huge tomato plants that are starting to set tomatoes already. The peppers are so-so, but we haven’t (still) gotten the plastic on our new hoop house. So much to do, so little time between rainstorms!)


We’ve been weeding our squash for the last time and mulching them heavily with partially rotted manure. Will also mulched both sides of our sweet corn rows in the garden. I’m afraid to look at it tomorrow. It will probably be seven feet tall! Corn and squash are both heavy feeders and really benefit from plenty of manure.


I’ve been milking our heifer, Mamba, and aside from two short rear teats, it’s been going fine. (We never got around to teaching her to lead or stand tied, so I just feed her a bucket of grain and milk.) I saved the first milk this morning. It’s going to be so nice to drink plenty of ice cold raw milk again and start making butter and cheese!

I saw the surgeon yesterday and she put the hurry up on my surgery so I could get it over with. Monday morning I’ll be in the hospital getting my gallbladder out — laparoscopically. I read the patient information sheet and was relieved to read that my gallbladder would be disposed of “in a respectful manner.” Oh please! I mentioned that statement to the surgeon and she did a double-take. Then she read it and we both laughed.

Anyway, I’m sure I won’t post on Monday and maybe not until Wednesday so don’t worry. I’m in good hands and am as strong as a horse. (Okay, maybe a Shetland pony…) — Jackie



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