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Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Jackie Clay


Monday, September 15th, 2014

Well, it finally happened — Thursday night it froze. David came over in the afternoon after his college course was finished and helped Will cover what we could, hoping to save at least a portion of our tomatoes and peppers. At six p.m. it was 42 degrees. By nine, it had dropped to 38 and the clouds had moved out, leaving it as clear as a bell. Not good!


We woke early to 28 degrees and heavy frost. Too cold to even run the sprinklers to offset frost. Bummer. And even covering the crops did not completely save them, as many plants were limp and dark.

The squash and pumpkin vines were limp and dead and even the sweet corn stalks were toast.

I feel especially bad because I’m recovering from my gallbladder surgery a week ago, and couldn’t even get out to pick what I could to ripen later in the house, as I always do. (One more reason to have at least two years’ worth of food canned in your pantry.)

Friday I pecked away at it a bit at a time (can’t lift much and sure get tired quickly).

Will pitted our last 19 pounds of wild plums as several people have asked if they could buy pits. Then he put the flesh in the Mehu Liisa and juiced it. We ended up with a gallon and half of plum juice which I’ll can up to make jelly later on, when I get time. While he was doing that, I made a big batch of enchilada sauce with the tomato puree Will cranked out with our Victorio tomato strainer. We were almost out of enchilada sauce so now we’re stocked up much better with 15 pints.

Even though a lot of our tomatoes were killed, the heavy leaves on many of the plants did protect some tomatoes so we’ll be able to harvest quite a few to finish saucing and saving seeds. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our weather feels like fall now

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

And I have a beaver report. The beavers in our pond say we’ll have a pretty “normal” winter with plenty of cold and snow, although not as bad as last winter. We’ll see how the “little guys” forecast turns out this year.

As the leaves are turning and the night time temps are getting to feel sharp and cool, it’s putting pressure on us to harvest like crazy. I’m still making jelly from the wild plums, with another batch in the Mehu Liisa tonight.


Tomorrow at 6:45 we have to be at the hospital and by the time you read this blog I will be gallbladder-less. Finally! I hope…

Will and I went down to his corn and pumpkin patch in the old pig pasture. We have ripe Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (the corn Will has bred back from hybrid to open pollinated). It looks great and I can’t wait to give it a taste. We also checked out the Howden pumpkins we planted down there and found dozens of BIG, round green pumpkins! Wow, how productive they are! We raised them for seed for our little seed business but we’ll have lots for the animals and chickens, too.

Our Hopi Pale Grey squash are also very productive (like that’s a surprise!) and getting big. Next to them, we planted Winter Luxury pumpkins, a medium-sized beautifully-netted pie pumpkin (C. pepo), and Canadian Crookneck which looks like a long-necked butternut that’s early, large, and very tasty (C. moschata).

The Glass Gem popcorn is still growing. It’s like Jackie and the beanstalk! Most stalks have at least four ears, many five and six. And the tillers that have stooled out from the mother plant also often have ears. The funny thing is that on the mother plant, newer ears are popping out between the stalk and the older ear! No, it’s not GMO corn!


Our Early Firefall tomatoes that are of our own breeding are now producing like mad. They are a medium-sized plum tomato that I use for tomato sauce — very meaty and flavorful. They also have a point on the blossom end and are pretty, hanging in groups. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment, early Fall weather, and freezing eggplant

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment

I heard that they don’t make a refrigerator/freezer that can be used in a cabin that is allowed to get cooler than 55 degrees. We have been turning our thermostat down to 50 degrees when we leave so it might get that cool for a week or more. Sometimes the freezer section gets above freezing when we do that — the fridge part stays at 35 degrees okay, but it doesn’t run long enough to get the freezer cold (I guess this is a common problem). All kinds of people keep fridges in garages and on back porches — I don’t think most people know how to operate a fridge/freezer properly or safely. Most of the information I have found on the Internet on this subject has been very lame. What to do?

Gordon Hoffman
Lewiston, Idaho

You might try an older refrigerator. I know several people who have older fridges in their unheated garages/lightly heated cabins that work, both fridge and freezer. I’ve been told that modern refrigerators’ manufacturers figure that NO modern people would use a fridge in a lightly heated home; they are built for “normal” living conditions. — Jackie

Early Fall weather

I wanted to share with you how well the Bill Bean tomatoes have done this year. We actually got a 3 pound tomato too! We couldn’t believe it! It is a very meaty tomato, and has a great flavor. Have you ever heard of or grown an Italian heirloom (I believe) called Purple Plum? They are a smallish pear shaped tomato with a smoky flavor. If you are interested in trying them, I’ll be happy to send you some seeds. I am also wondering if you have noticed anything unusual with the weather this year. I live in So Indiana, and I feel we are having an early fall this year. And I mean REALLY early. A few of us noticed about 3 weeks ago, lots of leaves on the trees just turning yellow, or completely brown, and then falling off. Other trees are starting to change color. And even though I got a late start in my garden this spring, everything is coming to the end of its life cycle and begging to be harvested. It’s so weird. I’ve never seen such an early fall. All the leaves on my winter squash plants have completely withered away, and the same is happening with the Hopi squash. Should I harvest them now? We are still having 90 degree days here. I will say that it has been a mild summer for us, with a cooler spell mid summer for a couple weeks. But weatherwise, we didn’t seem to experience any stressors. It’s just got me perplexed. I thought you might have some insight.
Lisa Graves
Georgetown, Indiana

No, I haven’t grown Purple Plum tomatoes and would LOVE some seeds to give a try next year. I’m tickled that your Bill Beans are doing so well! I’m harvesting some right now. MMMMmmmmm! Yeah, this year is “different” alright! I know first we got 17 inches of rain, then heat and drought. The rivers are as low as I can remember right now and our leaves are falling, too. Are your Hopi Pale Grey squash bluish gray yet? If not, I think I’d leave them a bit and see if they get enough nutrients through the remaining vines to go ahead and mature. If not, harvest before it frosts hard. They’ll keep over a year even if immature and they still taste good although not as good as if they had matured. I think our weather is just in one of those weird cycles. — Jackie

Freezing eggplant

Is there any way to save/freeze/dry eggplant until the tomatoes are ripe to use in marinara? The tomatoes are just starting to ripen. Not sure how many will actually get to ripen before frost since I am seeing scattered gold on the locust and cottonwoods. A few willows look like they are changing too.

Thank you for all the info on canning & drying squash. I canned 30 quarts on Sunday and Tuesday last week in addition to giving away a lot. I am now resorting to drying. I did try drying broccoli for the first time and green beans. Really a huge space saver. Drying jalapenos, bell pepper and Fresno chilis now as well as 2 racks of squash. Obviously, I have been on “vacation!” I have several quarts of potatoes canned. Can they be sliced and dried or would it be better to wait on fresh potatoes although I am not even seeing blossoms yet. I have gotten finished canning my 1/4 beef and will be getting another 1/4.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Yes, you can freeze your eggplant. Just pick and quickly bring inside, peel and slice about 1/2 inch thick. Blanch for about 4 minutes, then plunge into ice water to quickly cool. Drain very well, pack into freezer containers to exclude as much air as possible, then freeze.

We’re getting leaf color changes too and the birch are losing their leaves. It SO feels like FALL! It sounds like you’re plenty busy now. So are we! Wow, so much food — how great that is.

I’d wait and dehydrate fresh potatoes as your canned potatoes are already “put up.” Sometimes potatoes don’t bloom at all. We’ve had that happen in the past and still harvested great potatoes. You can peek under a hill with your fingers to see what’s going on. Will did that and pulled out a big fat potato.

Oh yes, beef! We’re thinking of that too, having four steers ready to go this fall. We’ll keep a half and sell the other three and a half sides/quarters. The steers look so nice and fat on good pasture. I can hardly wait! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our weather’s been perfect although dry

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014


It seems like our beavers’ forecast is coming true. We haven’t had a speck of rain for 10 days. But we’re not complaining. We’ve been getting a lot of hay up after such a slow, rainy start. And the warm sunny weather has made our garden boom. Our sweet corn has lots of ears set, the squash are loaded with baby squash (the Hopi Pale Grey squash vines are HUGE), the beans are begging to be picked, and, boy-oh-boy, are there ever tomatoes! Our favorite Bill Bean tomatoes are so loaded with one-pound-plus tomatoes that they look like green pumpkins under and on the vines. You’ll remember that last year we harvested one that weighed 3 pounds on a scale.


Will baled 130 more square bales yesterday. Our poor round baler blew a bearing (we thought). Will started taking things apart and found that not one bearing is shot but five! Parts ordered and should be here tomorrow. So we’ve got more square bales to put up in the storage barn.

Our favorite milk cow, Lace, was in heat Sunday so our friends, the Zups, came over Sunday night to A.I. her. Lace is SO hard to catch in heat but this time, it was a full-blown one where she was even trying to jump up on ME. I hope she took. We’ll know September 1st, when she has a blood test taken.

We had a mother turkey sneak off into the woods to lay eggs and she came off the nest with 8 babies! Then she tried to run away with them. As we have lots of foxes, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, fishers, and wolves, we herded her into the chicken run/orchard where they’d stay safer. Did you ever try to herd a mother turkey and babies? It’s like herding minnows! — 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

Things are finally getting back to normal

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The rains have seemed to quit and we’re getting more caught up (or is it less behind?). Yesterday and today Will poured cement and laid up rock in the lower barn wall’s slipforms. Today, he’s out cutting our first hayfield. It’s only a small patch (4 acres or so). It’s the cleared spot down below the goat pasture that used to be log trash, willow brush, and potholes. Now it’s orchard grass, clover, and birdsfoot trefoil, some six feet tall. We’re not supposed to get rain for a few days so we’ll see…

Meanwhile, I planted our late cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower and weeded the berry patch. The whole garden looks great! For the first time, we will have sweet corn that’s “knee high by the Fourth of July” here in northern Minnesota. Wow, usually, we’re lucky if it’s six inches high.

We’re anxiously waiting for Mamba (our very-much-a-pet Angus-Holstein heifer that we bred to an All Jersey last summer) to have her calf. She’s a few days late but that’s kind of normal for heifers. Since Lace, our hard-to-breed Shorthorn didn’t get bred last summer, we’ll (hopefully) use Mamba for our milk cow. We’ve been taking extra care to handle her udder and teats and she isn’t too kicky, so we have hopes…


My flowers in the front beds are gorgeous. I have a dozen different peonies all blooming and the delphiniums are just starting. Luckily, they’re so vigorous that they don’t let weeds come in or ignore them when they do pop up.

I promised photos of the rockwork in the barn, so here’s a glimpse from today to see how it’s coming. When it’s finished, we’ll have to go around and mortar up any holes or open places. For now, I think it looks gorgeous and will last forever. Thanks to all who participated in the first laying of stone!


Have a great Independence day and think about the blessings you’ve received along the trail to your own self-reliance. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

What a summer! I have to have my gallbladder out and Will went to the ER Saturday night

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

We’ve had more than 12 inches of rain in the last two weeks. Hey, it’s homesteading, right? But it didn’t help that I found out that I need gallbladder surgery, then after two attacks of severe pain in his left side, Will ended up in the ER Saturday night.

I thought it was probably kidney stones as severe recurring pain in the left side and/or back often indicates that, but you never know. So in we went. (Will doesn’t have health insurance and receives medical care through the VA…which isn’t open on weekends and evenings so we figured it’d be expensive.) After taking his blood pressure and temperature, the nurse handed him a urine cup and screen and pointed through the door to the bathroom. In a minute, Will came out with an amazed look on his face. There in the screen was what the nurse and doctor described as a “huge” kidney stone!

Done deal! Relieved that we were right and that he’d passed the stone, we came home with follow-up instructions to keep screening urine and to contact his primary care VA doctor, which he will do.

It’s amazing how quickly health issues can pop up with no warning at all! Luckily, this was relatively minor and should be resolved. Now Will is making sure to drink plenty of extra water both for prevention and to flush out the big stone’s possible little brothers.

Meanwhile, the electric fence continues to keep the cattle and deer out of the corn/pumpkin patch as it grows nicely. Will’s little 12-volt fence charger hooked to a truck battery is doing the trick. We’ll see if it keeps the deer away when the corn gets taller, though…


Will’s been working on the rock work on the new barn (I promise photos in the next blog!) and it looks real nice. We’ll always remember the spring 2014 seminar every time we look at the first section as the guys pitched in and learned slipform concrete work by building that section. Looks great, guys! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Although our attendance was low, we had a wonderful seminar

Monday, June 9th, 2014

With only seven people attending our spring seminar here at our homestead this past weekend, we had a great time. We had folks from as far away as Alaska (Jessi) and Illinois (John and Geri) and all were lovely, fun people. As there were few, we crammed in as much other-than-planned-for workshops as we could and even canned up meatballs in spaghetti sauce.


The weather was great. The forecast was rain, rain, and rain. Luckily, the sun was out and it was gorgeous all three days. Thank you God!

Most folks said they’d definitely be back for another seminar. We parted sadly on Sunday afternoon and evening, having made many new friends in homesteading. I’m sure we’ll all be in contact.


Now Will and I are playing catch-up, switching gears from “getting ready for the seminar” to getting caught up on projects. It sucked that spring was a month late again this year! We’re kind of behind on a lot of things but keep remembering that it got hot fast and it isn’t all that late. I still have carrots and parsnips to plant along with cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower.


Will thought he had a corn planter all set for us but when he went down to pick it up it turned out to be unusable because of rust so no corn planter. We’re not sure what we’re going to do with that big corn patch now but I’m sure we’ll think of something. One thing we’re good at is switching gears mid-stream! — Jackie



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