Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category
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…
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…
Monday, August 15th, 2016
And because the weather radio had our rain chances at 20% yesterday and it was sunny, Will cut hay. He quit when it started raining two hours later. And by the time he’d gotten home and in the house it rained again. No, make that POURED! Luckily, today (so far) has been sunny and breezy so he’s going out to rake the hay so it can dry the rest of this afternoon and tomorrow until he attempts to bale it. What a year it’s been.
Fortunately, the garden and pastures have loved all this rain! I’ve never in my life seen such crops. I have some beans a foot long and Will’s pride and joy, Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (which the cows ate last summer), has nine-inch cobs that are very fat. And LOTS of them. Our new sweet corn, Yukon Supreme, has shorter cobs, about five to six inches, but is very fat and tasty. We ate some last night to try it. It isn’t super sweet but does have nice old-fashioned corn flavor. It appears the variety needs a bit of stabilizing as we got both bi-colored ears and yellow. But when a sweet corn produces five ears per seed (it stools out with about four tillers, each having nice cobs!) and matures at 50 days, we sure aren’t complaining!
In our big hoop house, the peppers are going nuts. One variety that is super nice is Mt. Etna, an Italian sweet pepper. One plant has twelve big peppers with more coming. And the beans? I can’t walk through the hoop house because of the beans EVERYWHERE on the south end — up poles, clinging to the hoops. Very nice.
Will has been whacking tall grass so he can turn on the electric fence on the east pasture for the cows. He wanted them out of the north pasture so there was NO chance of them breaking into our north garden like they did last year. He’d even put electric fencing around the 6-foot-tall welded wire fence but didn’t trust them. Besides, the pasture was getting a little eaten down. So first we drove them to the small north east pasture, which is fenced with barbed wire. But it’s only about five acres and they ate the three-foot-tall grass down in a week’s time.
Today he got the fence working and I turned the cows out onto the east pasture. I didn’t have to call them twice! Mamba, one of our milk cows, saw me open the gate and started trotting right toward me. She knows the routine and LOVES it when we rotate pastures. She’s always the first out the gate. Smart cow. It used to be Lace, our “wedding cow”, but early this spring, we lost her. She wasn’t a young cow when we bought her five years ago and she had a real bad case of mastitis in all four quarters when she calved last fall. With the help of friends, we treated her for weeks and finally stopped the mastitis. But I’m sure it stressed her body. We were sure sad when she died and I think of her every time I go check cows. She was the best cow I’ve ever had. — Jackie
Pictures of our homemade backhoe for Reg
This is the backhoe we bought for $300 from our friend, Tom. The front is an Allis Chalmers tractor with a trailer hitch in place of the front tires. The seat is on backwards for the hoe operator. The hydraulics run off of the “tractor.” Instead of two big rear tractor tires, there are four heavy-duty truck tires to lower the backhoe and support the weight while digging. The hoe has outriggers run by the hydraulics to help steady the rig while digging.
It ain’t fancy, but hey, it works! I’m sure if you have any questions, Will would be happy to help. — Jackie
Thursday, August 11th, 2016
By the grace of God, we got another 18 big round bales up before the rain. That brings our total this year up to just under sixty bales. Now if we can just get the rest up…
I made a huge batch of mustard bean pickles out of the last bucket of Provider beans. Boy, did they ever turn out great. And since I overestimated how much vinegar/spices/sugar I’d need I canned up the leftover sweet and sour sauce in half-pint jars. My “mistake” let me have all this ready-on-hand sauce to dip chicken, pork, and fish in as well as to pour over chicken and pork roast as a glaze. (It really isn’t too mustardy … rather like hot mustard sauce without the “hot.”) We love it.
Our beans are producing like CRAZY lately. I planted more than 27 different beans this year on three gardens. Some are yellow, some green, some dry, and others snap. Many are multi-purpose. All are doing excellent both in plants and the beans they’re making. We’re especially excited about a pole bean, Folsom Indian Ruin, which I was given while living in New Mexico. A neighbor knew we loved heirloom seeds and brought me a sample he’d found in a clay jar in his cow pasture, in the rocks of an Indian ruin. They’d been sealed with pine pitch and his son, who went to school at the University of New Mexico, took one and they carbon dated it back to 1,500 years! Some of those beans actually germinated!
These are a huge bean. The pods are like Kevlar so you couldn’t eat them as snap beans but the young beans are tender and make great shelly beans. As a dry bean, they are also tasty and swell up nearly the size of a ping-pong ball! (You have to mash them or slice them to eat them.) We’re so tickled to be able to pass them on this year as our row of beans are simply going crazy with both blossoms and pods. Actually, I’ve NEVER had so many blossoms on a bean in my life! Talk about production. No wonder those ancient Native Americans took the trouble to store them so well — Jackie
Tuesday, August 9th, 2016
Haying has been difficult. We’ve been having significant rain every three days or so. Not half an inch or less, it’s been 2 inches, 3½ inches (and more) at a time. The hayfields never dry out well. But just lately we have had four days with no rain so Will is out raking hay today. We’re praying the standing water in the field has gone away and that it doesn’t rain before he can get the hay dried and baled.
But all this rain has made our garden boom. This year I only planted one double row of Provider green beans, our standby canning bean. Yesterday I picked a five-gallon bucket full from one side of that fifteen-foot row! And the same today. So yesterday I canned up green beans and today it’ll be mustard bean pickles, our favorite pickle of all.
For our seed business, we planted 26 different rows of beans. Some are pole beans; some bush. Wow, are they producing too!
Three of our favorites this year are a yellow pole bean, Monte Gusto; a yellow Romano-type pole bean, Gold Marie Vining; and a green multi-purpose bush bean, Magpie.
Monte Gusto is covered with ten-inch-plus long, narrow, round beans. I can’t wait to try some tonight for supper.
Gold Marie Vining is so beautiful. It’s also very productive and the long, flat beans are super pretty and tender; I ate a few raw. Very sweet and crisp.
Magpie simply blows us out of the water with its productivity! It is covered with refined green beans and blossoms, and I do mean covered. We’ll also eat a few to try out the fresh eating potential, which I think will be wonderful. But Magpie also makes a beautiful, tasty dry bean. It’s refined and has gorgeously marked black and white beans.
The first tomatoes are ripe so I’m thinking bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches tonight. Mmm, can’t wait. — Jackie
Monday, August 1st, 2016
We still haven’t seen three days in a row without rain! We listen to the weather radio several times a day, plus watch the local weather on the news, hoping for the window of dry weather to make hay in. We were supposed to have that window so Will hurried out two days ago and cut a field of hay. Well, yesterday they changed their minds and called for rain this afternoon. Okay, we’d bale this morning after the dew was off. We woke up to not only dew but also a bank of black clouds. Will went over anyway and decided to bale out of the windrow to save time because rain was definitely on the way. You could smell it coming. He got one bale done then it started to sprinkle. He quickly got another when the bottom fell out of those clouds. Yep, it poured. It’s kind of finished but they’re calling for more rain for the next few days. We’ll get ‘er done one way or another.
I’ve got to tell you about a wonderful canning tool I’m using. At the Dallas Self-Reliance Expo, Cecilia Chavez stopped by the BHM booth to show me the beautiful canning funnels she makes out of pottery. A lot of people, me included, don’t really like using aluminum or plastic canning funnels but up until now there has been no choice. I brought home one of the amazingly beautiful funnels and have been using it ever since. Mine fits wide mouth jars and is so pretty it doesn’t sit in a drawer until I use it. It hangs up with my baskets so everyone can see it. If you’d like to check them out, contact Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our gardens are doing fantastic and I have Provider and some other snap beans ready to eat and can up. Our young cherry trees are starting to bear this year. Both Carmine Jewel and Evans Bali cherries are giving us plenty of snacking cherries but not enough yet to can up. Although they’re “tart” cherries, we find them pretty darned good to eat.
My lilies and daylilies are blooming their heads off and we enjoy walking through the yard each morning to see “who” is blooming today. As you can see, Hondo doesn’t share our enthusiasm for flowers! I especially love the Wonder Of It All from Dancing Daylily my favorite daylily site to go toonline. (www.dancingdaylily.com) Becky and her husband have tons and tons of exceptional daylilies at a reasonable price. I’m so excited when a new variety blooms. (And daylilies ARE edible for those of you who spurn “flowers”! If you could bear to eat one…)
Monday, July 18th, 2016
We were hoping for some warm weather so we can get started making hay. You need at least three dry days in a row to do this. So far, the most we’ve had is one sunny day. All the farmers in our area are getting really nervous. We watched the storm front coming in from the west — a big white roll of cloud in front of blackness. And we prayed we’d get no hail out of that storm. Well, we didn’t get any hail, but boy, oh boy, did it ever pour rain. There was about an inch that fell in less than half an hour.
Luckily, the gardens are loving the rain and hot weather. Our first corn is shoulder-high and Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn is nearly that tall. The pole beans have climbed up over head high and are wandering around looking for something higher to latch onto.
We’ve been trying to weed, although we still can’t walk in the north garden for the muck. But the squash, pumpkins, corn, and beans look pretty darned good despite all the weeds. And the third planting of sweet corn in the pig pasture garden is up and looking good. Yep, the ground squirrels took to the trade and are eating the piles of corn I put out instead of digging up the sprouted sweet corn seed. Hooray! (Mittens got two more ground squirrels and Hondo got another.)
On a sad note, one of our heifers turned up missing the other day so we spent the whole afternoon and evening searching the woods on the north forty for her. No cow. She was bred and we were worried she’d hidden to have a calf. Early the next morning, Will took out again and finally found her… dead. She’d been down calving and gotten her head under a fallen log and her hind legs under another. Both heifer and calf were dead. It took us several days to get over that loss; she was one of Will’s favorites. Homesteading is not all sundrops and roses. — Jackie
Tuesday, June 21st, 2016
And boy are we busy! We couldn’t do any cultivating or anything else, during the rain so we’re hurrying to catch up (as if one ever does!). The weeds loved that warm, wet weather and parts of our gardens look like a lettuce bed. And our North garden and pig pasture gardens, because they’re mostly clay, were too wet to even walk in.
The bad news is all of our pig pasture corn rotted in the ground and never sprouted. Today Will’s going over to help at our carpenter friend, Tom’s, homestead where they’re going to pour five truckloads of concrete — with a little manual help. After that’s done, Will’s going to till up the corn patch in the pig pasture and I’ll replant it, hoping we’ll have a long enough growing season to harvest corn from it to can. (I do have other sweet corn patches that ARE up, however, but we sure hate to lose any.) All the beans and North garden crops are up and lookin’ good as are the crops in our main garden and berry patch. Hooray!
Now we’re working like mad to get the weeds under control before they get big. Will tilled and tilled yesterday, finishing our main garden and then going out to the North garden. He had a setback when our Troybilt’s fuel pump quit. Luckily, Will had another he’d salvaged from somewhere and after an hour of changing over, he was back at tilling. The garden was still damp but it tilled up fine and it looks so much better without the weeds!
The peppers and pole beans in our big hoop house look great. I’ve got six different rare pole beans inside as they’re relatively long season beans. Plus we have tons of different beans outside, both pole and bush. They just POP out of the ground. It’s so cool! Mittens sometimes sits by a bean row and watches them. She’s a homesteader cat and it doesn’t take much to make her happy. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 15th, 2016
Seven inches Sunday and four last night! I’ll swear I saw a bearded man at the lumberyard ordering cubits of lumber for an ark … Luckily, our gardens were well tilled before it hit and there aren’t lakes on them to rot the seed.
We’ve still been planting a few odd things here and there. (No, they’re not “odd,” just kind of leftover stuff we didn’t get around to getting in sooner.)
There’s a mama killdeer with a nest out in the corn on our north garden so we don’t bother her area. The rows need tilling with the weeds flourishing out there but it’s too wet now and we don’t want to disturb her while she’s sitting on eggs. Speaking of eggs, one of our turkeys came off the nest with three babies and another hatched a CHICK — not a poult. One chick. She found a nest with one chicken egg and became attached to it. Now she has a baby to raise up and love. Strange but cool.
Our tomato plants look awesome! Very stocky and dark green. Unfortunately, we have billions of volunteer tomatoes all over the garden; our only weeds this year! Luckily, they’re easy to till up and pull. It’s time to stake and cage the tomatoes and start in weeding and mulching the main garden. As soon as the rain quits, that is.
My flowers look great this year and my Yellow Rose of Texas is blooming its head off. I’ve been hitting one flower bed at a time trying to get rid of the weeds, especially perennial weeds like nettles and raspberries that keep popping up. And it’s working. So far I’ve got four beds pretty well “domesticated” and another bed pretty good. Mulching after weeding helps a lot. I’m using wood chip mulch about six inches deep. The peonies, delphiniums, hostas, and daylilies look great and make me smile as I sit on the front porch. Ah, homesteading! — Jackie