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Archive for the ‘Self-sufficiency’ Category

Jackie Clay

Weeds, weeds, and more weeds

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

Any of you who think we have a “perfect” bunch of huge gardens, let me correct your guess. Oh, sure, our main garden, which has been around for many years, is weed free and pretty. But the others? Hardly! The berry patch garden is okay in the vegetable patch (corn & beans), but the rest … and the Central garden, which used to be our pig pastures? Oh yeah, weeds there too! But despite that, the corn, potatoes, and beans there are doing pretty good despite it.

Will got the North garden all tilled, first using the tractor-mounted tiller, then the TroyBilt Horse and finally the Mantis for smaller spots. But we still have a lot of hoeing and hand weeding to do along with hilling up the potatoes. It does look pretty nice, though, despite weeds between the corn plants. (The corn is getting fairly tall and looks healthy.)

One thing we’ve learned is that new gardens very seldom produce well and are never weed free — or even weed-tolerable. This is one reason I always laugh when self-described “preppers” don’t have gardens, saying if TSHF they’ll simply till up their backyard and plant their survival seeds they hold in storage. Lotsa luck with that, guys! Sometimes it takes years to get a garden up and running. And that’s if you have gardening experience. For instance, our main garden is between thirteen and fourteen years old. Of course it’s great. But the berry patch? It’s only about eight years old, and when Will and I fell off the barn roof together a few years ago, the weeds had a heyday. The garden still hasn’t recovered. The Central and North gardens are only three years old and we feel they look pretty well, considering.

We bartered for a big side-delivery manure spreader and today Will finished doing some repair work on it. He took it out to the cow pasture and loaded it up. It worked nicely! Now he’s got lots of huge piles of rotted manure to spread on our small hayfields. He’s going to save the horse manure until fall when the gardens are done, spreading it there. (You can hardly have too much poop!)

Will’s hot Chinese pepper, he grew from seed he found in the Seed Saver’s Yearbook, over-wintered okay, despite an infestation of aphids. It’s in a five-gallon container and Will just moved it out to our pepper hoop house. It’s blooming its head off and we’re excited. This pepper has slender, long and very hot peppers. My adopted son, Javid, from India, loves hot peppers and when Will gave him a piece to try last fall, even he said it was HOT, but good!

Our peas are setting pods and we’re eating Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas every other night in salads and stir fries. We grew some Alderman, aka Tall Telephone peas this year. They’re six feet tall and setting plenty of nice, long pods. It’s been years since I grew this variety and will be adding it to our garden again next year, giving us both a bush-type (Green Arrow) and climbing pea. Yum! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Hot, hot, and hotter

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Okay, I’ll admit it’s not really that hot, compared to the heat in the South. But for Northern Minnesota, it’s been hot and muggy at times. Luckily, the garden loves it and is doing very well. So are the weeds, which we are slowly getting a handle on. The blankety-blank ground squirrels ate nearly all the leaves off our melons in the second hoop house but Will thinks one plant is still alive. We’ve waged war on the squirrels with Mittens and the dogs killing seven in the last three days. Hopefully, one of the seven was our melon-eating culprit.

Friends of ours have a greenhouse/garden shop in Cook called The Watering Can. We sell them our pumpkins and fancy gourds and squash in the fall and they make us a great deal on their leftover peppers. Luckily, Diane and Gina grew several of the heirloom peppers we grow so we are planting the east hoop house in peppers as it’s too late to start melons again. You learn to roll with the punches when you homestead!

Will cut hay yesterday and hopes it doesn’t rain before he bales it tomorrow. Today is hot (85° F) with a small breeze so the hay should dry well.

We’re getting a nice batch of pie cherries from our Crimson Passion and Evans Bali trees (both Zone 2) For the first time in seven years, we are getting fruit from our Nanking bush cherries. We’re going to pick this evening as the darned Cedar Waxwings already cleaned out one Nanking bush of lots of ripe cherries.

Early this spring I was sorting out dried Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds to sell and shoved the nastiest-looking seed in a pot, just to see if it would sprout. Surprise! It did. And I didn’t have the heart to kill it so we let it grow. It now sits out in front of the house and has two decent-sized squash growing from the little vine. Those squash sure want to procreate and save the variety. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re all growing webbed feet

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

This year is kind of a repeat of last summer’s rainy weather, although not so much rain at one time. Two days ago, we put 175 square bales in the barn, working till nearly 9:30 PM. (Just in case…) Then Will cut a couple of small fields of clover/timothy that was very nice, which he intended to round bale in the three-day window of dry weather which was predicted. Well, it went fine until yesterday. He was round baling and it was supposed to begin raining around 5 PM. But it began to cloud up around 1:00 and Ashley came in saying she heard thunder. We drove over to the field where Will was working and arrived to see him down in front of the baler, pulling out hay. That meant it was plugged! And angry black clouds were rolling in. And he still had raked hay down on the field, although not much. We tried to help but were more in the way than helping. Finally, he got the plug out just about when the raindrops were starting to fall.

He jumped on the tractor and quickly baled part of a row to finish up the bale in the baler. By the time he was tying it and dumping it out, the rain was beginning to pour down. It only rained for about half an hour but the haying was sure finished. Later on, it cleared up and we were able to work around the homestead till nearly dark. Then more clouds, real nasty clouds, showed up. Some were revolving and the weather radio called in a tornado warning. You can bet we were all watching the sky. Luckily, nothing happened except for some rain, lightning, and thunder. Whew!

The main garden looks perfect with waist high corn. The central and north gardens have been getting too much water from above so are weedy and slow to get growing. But we’re hoping things will pick up soon. After all, everything is growing! We’ve got some tomatoes set on the vines and have been enjoying Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas on salads and in stir fries, along with broccoli and asparagus. Yum! Our berries are fantastic this year so I’d better get out and pick some red raspberries and currants. We’ve finally got a strain of blackberries which not only lives here but is producing tons of berries. Yep, it took ten years of trying, but that only shows you; if you don’t quit when things don’t work, you’ll succeed eventually!

I’ve been working on the fourth Jess Hazzard book, Spring of the Vultures, in the evenings. (It’s my “fun” time to reward me for a hard day’s work.) It’s getting done. I guess I’ll have to start another book to continue the saga as I thoroughly enjoy travelling the trail with Jess. Got a few ideas already. If you haven’t yet read any of the series, take a read on Kindle or pick up a copy. It’s a book all homesteaders will enjoy. That’s a promise. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I hope you have a great fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

We did, although the days leading up to it were pretty busy. On Monday, Will and I traveled to Bagley, Minnesota, to visit Jim and Bernis at their farm, Honeyberry USA. They raise and sell many varieties of berries, chiefly many kinds of honeyberries along with hardy cherries and others, coupled with their U-Pick farm.

We really love honeyberries, which look like a large, elongated blueberry, growing on upright bushes about three feet tall. They excel in jam and we were out to restock our depleted honeyberry jam. (Of course, it wouldn’t have been depleted but for Will generously giving jars to many visitors…)

Will and I picked while we visited with Bernis as she escorted pickers to their own sections of the netted bushes. Like us, they have hungry cedar waxwings and have to net to get berries for themselves. Without nets, the birds get most of the berries. We also got to sample many different varieties and we chose our very favorites so next spring we could buy a few new bushes to add to our growing orchard. We ended up with almost 30 pounds of berries!

Guess who gets to make jam now? I did five batches yesterday, netting 22 half-pints. But today the temperatures shot up to the high 80s and I’m not doing jam until evening. The berries are in the fridges and seem to be holding well. But I have to keep at it so they don’t start to spoil.

We were impressed with Bernis and Jim’s berry cleaner. They have a cardboard trough on a slant with a heavy duty leaf blower facing it. As berries are poured slowly down the chute, the blower blows leaves and debris away leaving clean berries. Very nice and the berries keep much better than if they were rinsed in water. While we were there a friend of theirs was remaking the chute with plastic. The advantages are that it can be washed between cleanings and will last much longer. Very innovative! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve got all our tomatoes in the main garden, caged and mulched

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017

It’s a big job, getting all our tomatoes ready to grow; first we pull the WallO’ Waters off them, then weed each and mulch heavily. Then each gets a steel T-post and heavy duty wire cage. Because we have more than 100 tomatoes in the main garden, that gets to be a BIG job, taking several days. But finally it’s all done and Will is continuing on to mulch the rest of the garden. After that, there’s no more weeding all summer. That’s a huge blessing, for sure!

We have planted the heirloom Native corn, Bear Island Chippewa, in the main garden and Will’s Seneca Sunrise up in the berry patch as well as in the central garden. All are doing very well and will be “knee high by the Fourth of July” for sure.

Talking to a lot of people at different events, I keep hearing about how we’ll starve because of the decline in honeybees. Yes, I’m concerned about just why we’re losing them. (Chemicals? GMO crops? Climate change? Disease? Or a combination?) But I sure don’t worry about starving because of this possible loss. After all, honeybees are not native critters and Indians grew crops well before Europeans with honeybees entered North America. First off, crops such as corn are wind-pollinated, not insect-pollinated. Most importantly, there are hundreds of other insect pollinators besides honeybees. A great example was put before me this morning on my trip to the garden.

I have a big rugosa rose on the edge of our plum/cherry orchard, between the house and garden. The flowers are just opening and in the center of each one was a mass of activity. Mason bees, wasps and small flies clustered in the center of each bloom, busily gathering pollen. Will and I watched one mason bee dancing about for 15 minutes, gathering until its leg sacks were bulging full of pollen. Then he flew to a nearby flower and began again.

And these critters don’t just pollinate roses; we’ve seen them in our fruit trees, squash, pumpkins, and other vegetable crops. So let’s try to save the honeybees but don’t do it out of fear of starvation but for the love of these enterprising critters. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve got beautiful wild orchids in bloom

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

We have a “secret” spot along the woods where Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids bloom, the state flower of Minnesota. And they are just now starting to bloom in force. There are dozens and dozens of them, too, so they make quite a show. I love the way they begin to bloom. First there’s a big, pure white puffy “snowdrop”. Then, quite quickly, the drop begins to open, slowly revealing the gorgeous pink and white “slipper. They are so big!

A couple of days ago, we had an unusual (and not happy) happening. Will was in the garden mulching and I was in town buying feed. He heard Spencer and Hondo, our dogs, barking like they do when they have a ground squirrel at bay. He didn’t think much of it until ten minutes later when he ran the four-wheeler and trailer up to get more bales of hay. He stopped, at our older Subaru, jaw dropping. The dogs had yanked both wheel well covers off and the bumper was sagging down several inches!

Obviously, the ground squirrel had run up under the hood and the dogs were bound to get him. Wow does my beautiful trusty Subaru look awful. (Sure can’t turn it in to the insurance; I can see me now: Yes, my car was attacked by wild dogs. Well, they WERE wild, trying to catch that ground squirrel!) David took a look and said he can fix it. I hope so. It’s an older car but very trustworthy.

The garden looks fantastic and we have high hopes for a very productive year. Will went out yesterday and finished putting up a two-strand electric tape all around the north garden as cows have eaten it twice before and we don’t want that to happen again, especially as well as it’s doing this year. The corn, pumpkins, and squash all look great and the “extra” tomatoes and potatoes are coming on strong. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had a good time at the MREA Fair

Monday, June 19th, 2017

My carpenter friend, Tom, and I manned the booth at Custer, Wisconsin, this weekend. We met a lot of old friends and met new ones. It’s just like a family reunion! I got to meet a lot of fans who knew me but I hadn’t had a chance to meet them until the MREA Fair. Such fun! Some were from as far away as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.

But after three days, I was ready to head home (a seven and half hour drive). Luckily for me, Tom drove his car so I rode shotgun and could watch the scenery more than he could.

We got home at midnight and I was sure glad to climb into my own bed and snuggle up to my sleeping husband, Will. Our cat, Mittens, soon hopped up onto my legs and purred in my ear. Yep, I was home!

This morning it was raining off and on so I toured our gardens, which we’d hurried to get planted before I left. Lookin’ good! The corn’s coming on very nicely and evenly, as is everything else. Hot weather, coupled with nice rains made everything pop up. I couldn’t believe how much things had grown in just four days. I’ve got peonies and roses blooming as well as lupines starting. Very pretty.

While I was gone, David and Will got the sheet metal roof on the duck house so no more puddles in the house from a leaking tarp.

And Will got the peppers planted in the hoop house that I didn’t get around to. Now I’ve got about thirty to set in rows out in the garden somewhere! But it’s so nice to be home I can’t wait to get started. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will was busy while I was in Irving, Texas

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

While I was at the Self-Reliance Expo over the weekend, speaking and helping out at the Self-Reliance and Backwoods Home Magazine booth, Will kept busy. Not only did he set out 72 tomatoes inside Wall’O Waters, adding stakes to each with variety names, but he also did my chores. That included milking our newly-freshened doe and feeding her kid as her udder was too full for him to nurse without hurting her. She kept kicking at the kid and moving away. So Will milked to relieve that pressure and fed the kid. (Now the kid nurses on his own as Mom’s udder isn’t so tender.)

Look at what Will got done between rains while I was gone!

At the Expo, I enjoyed visiting with Dave Duffy and Annie Tuttle as well as meeting lots of readers and fans. I really enjoy that at each show.

I enjoyed meeting fans and readers at the Self-Reliance Expo.

Now that I’m back, I’m hitting the deck running as there’s so much to plant.
When I got back, it was rainy and 50 degrees … It felt really cold after the 95-degree weather in Dallas!

And now I’m busy too, getting ready to plant some beans and corn.

But today the sun’s out and it’s 60 already and not yet noon. I
already planted cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce plants as
well as readying another row of stock panel trellis for pole beans.
Hopefully today I can get the Bear Island Chippewa corn planted in the
berry patch and maybe some more tomatoes. (If only the days were
longer!) –Jackie


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