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Archive for the ‘Seeds’ 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

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

Jackie Clay

March winds blow

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

And they blew and blew yesterday and the day before! So hard, in fact, that I was having a hard time sleeping between the huge bursts of wind gusts and our wind charger’s brake screaming, trying to keep the charger from overworking. Luckily, Will had gotten all the big logs out of the woods and decked up temporarily in a cleared spot about a half mile from the house.

So while the wind blew, we quickly did chores and came inside to do other things. Will got caught up on his computer work for our seed business and I planted a few more new peppers. One interesting variety came from a gentleman now living in Georgia, who grows a “wild” hot pepper he used to harvest from the Florida orange orchards. I can’t wait to see … and taste … that one. What fun!

I know some of you are daylily fans — who wouldn’t be as this gorgeous perennial flower is extremely hardy and also edible! A reader turned me on to a website, The Daylily Auction, where you can bid on roots of some extremely beautiful flowers which would cost two or three times more elsewhere. Just thought I’d let you folks know about it too.

My seedling peppers are growing like weeds. They already have two sets of leaves so I’ll be transplanting them next week. And I’ll be starting our first tomatoes, too. (Remember we set them out in Wall O’ Waters, which allows us to plant out extra early.) I counted up and we have at least 76 varieties to plant this year; many are repeats of some of our favorites and quite a few are new ones that sound great. Time will tell! Can’t wait to get in the dirt. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The peppers are up

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Although we had temps of -2 last night, we are excited that our first pepper seedlings are up and looking great. We start them in peat pellets, soaked in hot water to puff them up, and then plant two seeds per pellet so we can choose the strongest plant to let grow. Sometimes we gently tease one plant out and transplant it while very young into its own peat pellet to grow on. Once a small container of one variety has been planted and labeled, I stick them in plastic bags or bread wrappers to hold in moisture and place them on the shelves behind and beside the wood stove where it is very warm. (Peppers germinate best in temps of 80-85 degrees!) Ours come up within five days or less and pop up very strong.

This year we’re trying some different ones, as usual. We’re adding Franks (a green sweet bell pepper from Sand Hills Preservation Center that’s early and hugely productive), a “bootlegged” hot pepper from Venice a reader sent us, which we’ve named “Bootleg,” Medusa, a container-type decorative mild multi-colored wild pepper we love the look of and New Mexico Big Jim, a large, medium heat chile pepper from, yep, New Mexico!

And beans! We have some VERY neat, new beans from all over the world to try — beans from Africa, South America, Poland, Finland, Native American tribes all across the country, some from the Old South, some from the far north. What fun the garden will be this year! I can’t wait. All those new looks and tastes. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Uh oh, bad news

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

By now, most of you with internet have gotten the message from Dave Duffy, saying that with the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of BHM, the magazine will cease publication of the print magazine. I’m sure this came as much of a shock to you as it did to me (I’ve been with the magazine since 1998). So we had a few sleepless nights figuring things out.

However, Self-Reliance will keep publishing and you’ll still find me writing for it as well as the Kindle version of Backwoods Home, which will continue. And I won’t abandon you with my blog. We’re still trying to figure out things regarding that and the Ask Jackie feature and I’ll keep you posted as the “powers that be” let me know.

On a brighter note, our little homestead seed business, Seed Treasures, is taking off as our catalog is now out and return customers from all across the country are sending in orders. (If you want a catalog, just let me know at seedtreasures@yahoo.com) Will gets up early and packages seeds. I do the mailing, so if you should get the wrong item or miss a pack, please let me know. Doesn’t happen often, but hey, we all make mistakes.

I just ordered a bunch of rare beans for us to try, from the Rare Seed Consortium. They are pricey but pretty cool. So we’ll try a bunch and offer them next year, if they make the grade with us.

I’m ready to plant peppers and am trying to make final decisions on which varieties to plant this year. It’s hard! We have many lively discussions around here about plant varieties and we tease Will that he’ll have to fire up Old Yeller, our bulldozer, to make some new garden spaces.

We are even talking about building a separate Seed Treasures building as the business is taking up a whole lot of the house now. But that’s the way a new home business gets and we are glad things are going well. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Time to can some meat!

Monday, February 6th, 2017

I’ve been canning up a storm trying to gain some freezer space. Since Will brought home about 200 pounds of hamburger from a steer we had butchered, I have extra motivation for canning more meat and meat recipes.

Friday I thawed out a shank portion ham that I got on sale. Over the weekend I first cut ham chunks from it, then dices, and canned these prime pieces. When there was still considerable meat left on the bone, I put it into a large stockpot with water and boiled it for an hour or so. Then I cooled the pot and later skimmed off the excess fat and took out the bone. Then I cut even more pieces from it, adding them to the broth, along with grated carrot and chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Bringing this up to a boil, I added the dry beans I’d soaked overnight. When the pot again came to a boil, I ladled 1/3 of a jar full of beans/veggies and filled it to within an inch of the top with broth. This gave me 10 jars of ham chunks and 27 jars of ham and bean soup. Again the bone went into the stock pot with half a pot of water. I simmered it for a couple of hours, then fished out the spent bone. Adding split peas, grated carrots, chopped onion, and garlic, along with salt and pepper to taste, I again filled jars — only 10 pints, this time.

When all was finished, I had 47 meal ingredients/meals from one half a ham. Not bad! Today I’ve got 10 pounds of hamburger thawed out and a kettle brimming with soaked beans. So this afternoon, it’s going to be another batch of chili. We use a lot of this, especially in the winter with a nice batch of cornbread to go with it.

We are excited that we just got our Seed Treasures catalogs from the printer. They look great and I’ll start sending them to customers who’ve requested them. Past customers will receive theirs, mailed bulk mail from the printer. Wow, suddenly spring seems a lot closer! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Are any of you suffering from lack of sun?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

We were until I came upon some of my photos taken in June! My gosh, the colors just knock us out after a winter of drab and white. Now I really can’t wait till spring.

We’re planning and ordering some interesting new seeds. As always, we look for beautiful, tasty and often Native heirloom varieties we can grow here in Zone 3. Already we’ve found some new-to-us old beans, squash, corn, and others. David’s girlfriend, Ashley, can’t wait to help out in the garden as she’s never had the chance to garden before and just loves all things “homesteady.” We have a lot of fun together.

Our warm weather has cooled and is heading back to normal for January. As long as I’ve lived in Minnesota — more than thirty years, in all — I’ve never seen a January thaw before. What a nice surprise that was! And it lasted nearly two weeks in what is usually the very coldest time of the year. Spring seems a lot closer even though I know we’ve still got a lot of winter ahead of us. (But, hey, we get to plant our peppers and petunias next month!)

I’ll be canning up some ground beef next; dozens and dozens of pints. It’s so easy to put up and so very handy to have around. I season some for tacos and leave other plain for a variety of mixed recipes. We just love having that pre-cooked burger handy for quick, homemade meals. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

With winter definitely here we are planning our gardens

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

We’ve got serious snow on the ground and temps which are destined to see below zero this week, but Will and I are hard at work planning our next year’s gardens. Like many of you, we’ve been getting seed catalogs in the mail. To avoid missing out on some new listings of rare seeds I’ve been ordering a few things.

Not only do we raise food to eat and put up, but we also raise food for our seed business as well. We grow a lot more varieties than we offer in our catalog and on our website because not all meet our requirements: productivity, taste, and hardiness. This year we grew 27 different bean varieties; some we loved, some not so much, and a few were really rare varieties. Take Monacello di Trevio for instance — I paid $4 for 10 seeds of this gorgeous red and white shiny round bean. It was supposed to be a bush bean but I soon found out it was a pole variety. Will almost had a heart attack when I paid forty cents a seed for beans! But those 10 seeds produced more than 4 pounds of beans. They tasted great, shelled easy, and produced well. Not enough to offer yet, but you can be sure I will be planting many more next spring!

bean-seeds_1202

Not only do we study seed catalogs but also the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook, in which hundreds of seed savers across the globe let us know what seeds they have to offer folks like us. The seeds in this book are open pollinated, often ancient heirloom varieties. This past summer Will grew Yellow Monster sweet bell and Giant Chinese Hot peppers and I tried several new-to-us beans. What fun! It doesn’t take much to please us homesteaders, does it? — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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