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Archive for the ‘Self-sufficiency’ Category

Jackie Clay

I hope to see many of you at the Self Reliance Expo in Irving, Texas this Friday and Saturday

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

I’m madly trying to get ready to leave for four days and this is a bad time to do that with all the planting I’m supposed to be doing. But, heck, it’ll get done when I get back, right? David and Ashley’s duck family is now in their new duck house/outside pen, complete with a swimming pool. The inside isn’t finished yet so they have to be herded in through the duck door and lifted up into their plastic tote for the night so they don’t poop on the unpainted walls. But they’re real troopers and hop right inside at sundown. (We have lots of owls so they can’t stay outside at night!)

Two years ago I planted some Johnny Jump-Ups in my front daylily bed and they’ve re-seeded happily. They were blooming through the snow! I’m leaving them as they sure won’t hurt the daylilies and make a nice groundcover. I love all those happy little faces smiling up at me!

Two days ago, our pearl grey mother turkey came off the nest with babies. She has nine. I worry about them as it’s been cold and raining but she won’t take them inside; we tried to herd them. No dice! But today the sun’s out and it’s warm so I’m hoping more warm weather’s in store for us all.

I hope all of you who can will come to the Irving Convention Center for the Self-Reliance Expo this weekend. I’ll be speaking but when I’m not, Ill be helping Dave Duffy and Annie Tuttle man the Self-Reliance/Backwoods Home Magazine booth. I sure do love meeting folks at these events! So don’t be shy; come on by and say hi. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re getting plenty of spring rain

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Yes, we need it to perk up the pastures and hayfields, but it sure is hard to do outside work when it’s raining off and on all day … all week. But just before this rainy period struck, Will got busy and spread manure on our north garden and the old pig pen garden, which we now call the “central garden” just because it sounds nicer. Luckily, he only had two breakdowns with the old spreader. All those parts he put on last year sure helped. (Last year it broke down nearly every time he spread manure!) And that wasn’t fun as he had to unload what was left by hand.

He had just finished all of that when the rain began. Luckily, he’d also spread some manure on the small garden next to the house and tilled it in. So I began planting. First in were some of the fancy daylilies I’d bought on Daylily Auction during the winter months. They’ll make a border for that garden, facing the house. Then I drove in some steel T-posts and zip-tied 1½ stock panels to them as a trellis for the peas. I planted Alderman (or Tall Telephone) peas, an old variety I always used to plant, which climbs easily to 6 feet. They don’t blow over in rain and windstorms so they last nicely into summer. I also planted some Mammoth Melting sugar peas on an end trellis and will be planting some morning glories on some end trellises. Just because they’re pretty.

We keep our bird feeders full, year around and, boy, are we getting some pretty visitors. We’ve got lots of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Goldfinches, Purple finches, several song sparrows, as well as Orioles and many more common birds. The Grosbeaks are eating some of the grape jelly I put out for the Orioles. But because they’re so pretty, I don’t mind at all.

We got the big hoop house (which Will split in two halves) all fixed up and will be planting peppers in them by Wednesday. (We’re in for a hard frost Tuesday night so we are waiting … just to be safe.) It looks like we’ll be planting our first tomatoes today; when I got home from mailing seeds, Will had rows marked out and was busy digging holes for them. Of course we’ll use Wall O’ Waters to protect them from that darned frost.

Well, gotta run! Talk to you soon, folks. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had a work day at Bill and Kelly’s house

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

My son Bill and his wife Kelly had talked for a few years about building a flower bed along the front of their house. And in the last two years, the talk had gotten more priority. So for Bill’s birthday in September, we gave him a work day, come spring, to help him build that flower bed.

We’d all talked about it and they decided to go with a raised bed of landscaping block as the ground in front of the house slopes away a little and we all thought the block would look great, dressing up the south-facing porch nicely. So a week or so ago, Bill called and said he’d gotten a big load of well rotted manure, a trailer load of wood mulch and a couple pallet loads of block. When we were all together on Mother’s Day, we said we’d come down the next day, Monday, when both Bill and Kelly were off work.

Unfortunately, it began to rain on the way down. But not to be detoured, we began anyway. Luckily, Bill has equipment! He quickly cut the grass sod off the flower bed area with the Bobcat bucket, leaving a relatively flat surface to build on….with no grass roots. Next, we cut apart heavy cardboard boxes (on the porch when the rain was heaviest) and laid them down on the ground. This helps keep grass roots from entering the raised beds.

Will and Bill began laying cement blocks in the space behind the flower beds to keep the dirt from falling beneath the porch. When this was finished, Bill and I screwed plastic lattice to cover the space from the porch floor to near the ground, hiding the blocks neatly. While we were doing this, Will finished up the block work.

It was raining pretty good about then so we went in and enjoyed a nice lunch, hoping when we were done it would quit raining. It didn’t. Our granddaughter, Ava, didn’t mind though. When she came home at noon from school, she quickly put on her raincoat and rubber boots and started in helping level the ground with a hoe.

Not to be outdone, we joined her. Will and Bill began laying up landscape block, being careful to keep the wall level. It went pretty quick, actually. Then it was time to fill the bed.

Bill scooped up rotted manure with the bucket of the Bobcat and carefully dumped it in each bed. Will, Ava and I raked and shoveled it level. Then Bill and I unrolled some heavy duty landscape fabric he had left over from another project. We placed it over half of the top blocks then Will and Bill carefully laid the cap blocks over that.

The mulch was in a trailer so Bill backed it next to the first bed so I could shovel mulch over the landscape fabric while he and Will finished capping off the second bed. Kelly came out and approved the job and we were all happy. I think it turned out beautifully. Now all they have to do is put some of the plants they got for Mother’s Day in the beds and it’ll be gorgeous.

Hmmm. Makes me think about some beds like that around OUR house! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I hope all of you had a great Mother’s Day

Monday, May 15th, 2017

I know I did. We did our annual Mother’s Day event by starting out at Bryn’s Greenhouse, about 30 miles south of us. We met our oldest son Bill, his wife Kelly, and grandkids Mason and Ava there at opening. David took a morning off his duck house building and came with us. Javid went to church so couldn’t come. But he gave me lots of love and money to buy a nice hanging basket for the front porch.

We all shopped their many greenhouses for two and a half hours! And I’m sure we didn’t see everything. I’d been saving a little spending money back just for this event but knew I still had to be frugal. Bill and David also bought me hanging baskets, so that was real nice. I got a few perennials and just a few geraniums for a pot in the front yard, along with two roses.

Bill and Kelly loaded up with lots of nice flowers and David surprised us by also filling a cart for himself and Ashley (who is busy test driving cars in Florida).

After our flower binge, we had all worked up an appetite and drove another 20 miles to a little family cafe and had a great lunch at a very reasonable price. So we sat, ate, and visited for another hour. Very nice!

Tomorrow we’re driving down to Bill and Kelly’s to help them build and fill two new flower beds along the front of their front porch. It’s something they’ve been wanting to do for a long time and it’s nice to see it about to happen.

Will finally got our little Ford 660 tractor back together and working. The very first jobs he did with it were splitting a little firewood (to see if the new hydraulic pump etc. was working right) and tilling our berry patch, main garden, then the house garden where we’d taken out the raised beds. It was so nice to see all that black dirt nice and fluffy again. Now I get to start planting!

— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our tilling has started

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Because we currently have three tractors torn apart, waiting for cash to buy parts, we haven’t been able to get started tilling the gardens as early as we’d like. So when I got home from mailing a batch of seeds this morning, I found Will hard at work tilling our main garden the “old” way; using our two decades-old Troy-Bilt Horse tiller.

I was really impressed to see how nice our garden soil is looking. After all, I remember well having to haul trailer loads of big rocks off it every spring and the soil being sand and gravel. Now there are only a few small rocks and the soil is nice and black. Wow, that’s wonderful.

Now we have another garden to make that nice. Will was hard at work next to the training ring barn, dozing the new garden area clear of trees and then leveling. He was just getting ready to shove the “hill” on the far end down by the barn into a big pile (to use on the driveway) when the dozer went… the track won’t stay tight. The seal’s not expensive, but it’ll have to wait — just like the tractors.

David and Ashley’s ducklings are nearly “real” ducks now and are still living in the big plastic tote in the bedroom. So David is VERY motivated to get the duck house/garden shed finished. Yesterday, he worked from early morning to after dark on it. Now it’s all closed in with a big window to the east and a duck door to the west and a people door next to the window. He also put one coat of stain on the floor and will do another coat tonight after work. As ducks are very wet critters, he wants to give that floor four coats. Just because.

Our rhubarb and asparagus are coming up nicely. We should be eating asparagus by mid week. Yum. I could eat it three meals a day! The berry patch is fantastic. Our Mac Black black raspberries have all not only survived the winter but look great. And the blackberries we’ve struggled so hard to have survive are also wonderful this spring and very lusty. Finally, this year, I’m getting the grapes up on an arbor! This afternoon I’m going to prune them severely (the vines are running twenty feet along the ground!) and we’re going to train them up on a stock panel arbor so they can be maintained better. I can’t wait!

I’ve been planting some of the fancy daylilies I won during the winter on Daylily Auction (www.daylily.com). My “old” daylilies are coming up very strong and the new plants are fantastic, so I’m sure tickled. It’s sunny and 60 degrees out today so I’m going back outside. See you later! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I had a terrible spring cold

Monday, May 1st, 2017

I hope I haven’t worried any of you but I just wasn’t up to blogging last week. I got a terrible spring cold — runny nose and coughing 24/7. Yep, I took zinc, vitamin C, etc. But it still hung on. Finally, yesterday, it started letting up and today I feel much better. Whew, I’m glad that’s over! Luckily, our spring weather was cold and rainy so I didn’t get too crazy waiting to get outside and do something.

David and girlfriend Ashley collected a big truckload of pallets from our local lumber yard (with permission, of course). Then they set about building … a duck house? Okay, a few weeks back, Ashley bought four ducklings from our local farm store. They’ve been housed in a plastic tote in the bedroom. But ducklings grow really fast and are hugely messy, playing in water more than drinking it. They had to go somewhere safe. When they asked where would be a good spot to build a duck house, I envisioned something like a dog house with a fence. So I walked them down to the garden edge where there’s a nice spot with some young poplar and chokecherry trees in it for shade. Well, they started building the floor. Holy buckets, it’s 8′ x 10′ square!

They sheeted the pallet floor with OSB and leveled it nicely, then started screwing pallets together for the walls, which were then sheeted on the outside with OSB. A trip to the lumber yard brought back enough 2x4s to do the rafters and upper side walls. Unfortunately, they ran out of cash about then. David brought home some used cedar 5/4 decking from a deck the company he works for was replacing and used that for purlins for the roof. They plan on buying sheet metal for the roof but for the time being, it’s covered by a plastic tarp until a paycheck rolls around.

Yesterday was gorgeous and I walked around outside, enjoying the sun, looking at the garden, orchard, and flower beds. Will is taking apart our house garden’s raised beds as we decided to re-do it as a regular row-crop type garden, which fits our needs more right now. And the raised beds were in sad need of either fixing or replacing.

We’d heard we were in for a nasty start to May; up to 8 inches of snow! SNOW on May 1st? Hey, it’s northern Minnesota, after all. So we did extra chores like setting out round bales for the cattle and horses, picking up miscellaneous tools, and putting out extra bedding for the goats. And it paid off.

At 7 this morning, it was raining off and on. But in an hour the snow began. And now it’s snowing like a blizzard. Tomorrow they’re forecasting fifty degrees! Wow … — Jackie

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

Making siding from scraps

Monday, April 10th, 2017

David rescued a truckload of ¾” boards from the burn pile at work. They were cuts off of full length cants prior to being run through the mill to make round logs for building log homes. We didn’t exactly know what we’d do with them, but then we got an idea — siding!

Will began nailing them up on our storage barn wall, closest to the house, in board and batten fashion, only using a whole board for battens. Nearly running out of boards, he squeaked by at the final corner. Whew! Then he snapped a chalkline down the bottoms, which were uneven and cut them off with the circular saw.

Then he, Ashley, and I started giving it a good coat of semi-transparent dark stain to match our house. Will did the ladder work and Ashley and I traded holding up the can for him and painting the stain on the lower parts. It looks great.

As soon as that was done, Will had another bright idea: Why not build a wood rack next to the wall, which would be sheltered by the large overhang above? So he started building again. Now we have a wood rack which will hold more than a full cord of split firewood, conveniently accessed from the house. (The wood shed is full and we still have a big pile of wood to cut up and split!)

We spent the weekend picking up, raking, and cleaning around the yard. There’s still more to go, but we’re getting there. I saw a killdeer, a woodcock, and several pine siskins this weekend. We also heard the first wood frogs starting to sing in our beaver pond. But this morning, there was ice on the birdbath and goat water.

Our wild turkey hen has gone off to sit on a nest; she wasn’t in the orchard yesterday or today. We sure wish she’d bring her babies home instead of taking them off in the woods. But, hey, she’s a “wild” turkey — It’s what they do.

We got in from chores this morning and found Spencer lying in Will’s chair with one of his “babies” (stuffed animals). He sure loves them. Sometimes he lays on his back and tosses the baby up in the air with his front feet and catches it in his mouth with a happy smile. How many dogs play catch by themselves?

— Jackie

 
 
 


 
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