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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.



Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Jackie Clay

Snow, snow, snow

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Well, at least the perennial garden plants will have plenty of snow cover this winter. We just got another five inches today. I can’t lie and say I wish winter would stay for months and months. I’m about ready for spring! At least we aren’t suffering like some folks on the East and West Coasts are, though, with flooding and big snowstorms. We just do our chores and throw another log on the fire.

But chores are sometimes challenging. Like today when we had to set big round bales out and water the big livestock. The wind was blowing, snow falling sideways, and although it was 15 above, it felt VERY cold. I’m the official gate-opener so while Will runs up and down the hill with the tractor, I wait for him to come so I can open gates. Brrrrr! And although we now have a great new well downhill from the barn, you still have to warm up the generator, start it, hook up a hundred feet of hose (sometimes a little frozen in spots) and stand around while water fills this tank, then that tank. Then the hose must be drained twice in hopes it won’t be frozen next time we water.

No, living in the North is not easy but we couldn’t think of anywhere else we’d want to live.

For Christmas, my friend Dara gave me a big North Georgia Candy Roaster squash she’d grown. She said it’s one of the best tasting squash she’s ever had so she wanted us to try it. It is beautiful and I hate to cut into it! But, of course, we will so we can try this squash. If we love it too, we’ll be growing it this year so we can offer seed next year in our Seed Treasures catalog.

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Meanwhile, David has been trimming out some spots in his old bedroom after work. (Work right now means taking his snowmobile and sled to Tower, about 30 miles away, unloading the snowmobile, then driving over seven miles across the ice on Lake Vermilion, to where Voyager Log Homes is working on a log house.) By the time David gets off work, it’s dark and the trip back to the truck must be interesting, especially when it’s snowing so much.

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We’ve been spending a little time working on a couple more puzzles, first a bear, then deer, and just lately, an old farm scene. When you walk past the table, you just have to stop and find a few more pieces! We all really enjoy it. Hey, it doesn’t take much to entertain us homesteaders.

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I just have to tell you about the huge pile of 20 solar panels we just got from a friend, on a VERY good deal! All totalled, it will boost our charging to double what we have now! Wow, were we glad to get them. Now, come spring, it’s one of the first projects Will has planned. We’ll have to run our generator very little once they’re all hooked up. So very nice! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had a very quiet Christmas

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Due to a big ice/sleet storm which deposited ½ inch of ice in some locations and more than two inches of sleet at our house, only our son, David, his girlfriend, Ashley, and Javid came to join us for Christmas dinner. (The power was out in many locations, making us feel kind of smug as we just tossed another log on the fire and enjoyed our Christmas tree lights.) I ran into a slight snag when I went to set the table, however. We still had our owl puzzle on the table and, with it being so large, we couldn’t move it without breaking it up. I solved the problem by covering it up with a holiday tablecloth and a lace over-cloth. It looked great and you’d never know there was a puzzle under it.

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It took half an hour the next day to chip the sleet off the windshield of our Subaru, after the defrosters had run for 15 minutes. Wow, that was a lot of ice!

Thanks to all of you for your Christmas wishes, cards, and wonderful letters. We enjoyed every single one of them!

Our 20-year-old wheelbarrow, which has seen a lot of use, finally had a handle break off. I suggested buying another handle, but ever-handy Will said he’d just make one from a piece of ash. He had cut several lengths for handles of various tools and had one already in the storage building. So, taking the drawknife out, he quickly fashioned a replacement handle. In less than an hour, he had the old handle removed and the new one in place. Believe me, it’s a whole lot easier to haul in firewood with two handles rather than one!

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Our biggest Christmas gift was not one that comes in a box. Our mother wild turkey showed up on Christmas Eve! Now she’s back in the yard with the other turkeys. One of her “kids”, a tom, showed up the same day, but must have decided Mom was nuts to come to civilization. I surprised him in the storage building when I was getting goat feed and he flapped and flew way up on a beam. That was the last I saw of him, but he may be back. After all, he found out where the grain is stored.

I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! May the coming year bring joy, peace, and a bountiful harvest to all. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

What a Christmas present — it’s 35 degrees today!

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

After a week of very cold weather, today is a gift like no other. We’ve been busy enjoying it to the fullest. Will had one of our old tractors way over at one of our rented hayfields. While loading a big round bale, it just plain quit and wouldn’t start. As it was getting dark, Will came home. Then it got cold and working on it was out of the question, especially because it’s a diesel. So with the warm day, Will drove over there, tools in the truck.

I’ll admit I prayed a lot for God to send diesel mechanic angels to help out. And when I drove out to mail some Christmas cards, there came the tractor with a round bale on the front spears! Thank you! Thank you!

I did extra chores this morning. I fixed the chicken feeder, which had come loose from the chain it had been hung on, cleaned the goat pen and fluffed up their new bedding. Meanwhile, Will took the scoop shovel and went out to clean the heavy snow off our big hoop house. (Friends of ours had their big, new high tunnel collapse during that first two feet of snow we got early in the winter.) So far, the 6 mil greenhouse plastic is holding up very well; this is its second winter.

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We’re looking at the radar map and cringing. They’re calling for a heavy, nasty winter storm for Christmas Day here. But we’ll wait and see. Often the weather swings south of us and we don’t get what is predicted.

We finally got our owl puzzle finished and are missing one piece. Our cat, Mittens, LOVES to pick up small things and trot off with them or else take a paw and shove them onto the floor. And Ashley’s dog, Cooper, will eat just about anything. So we’re not sure where the missing piece went. But I’ve had that happen before and am just going to cut out a similarly colored piece to glue in that spot. You’ll never see it when the puzzle is glued to the plywood.

Will and I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season! May the new year bring nothing but joy and contentment. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

How about 30 below?

Monday, December 19th, 2016

We knew it was coming, but that doesn’t mean we like it. We spent two days doing “extra” chores, getting ready for sub-zero temps with highs in the negative numbers. Will hauled out several extra big round bales for the cattle and horses. I spread another square bale of hay in the goats’ inside pen and closed up a few cracks in the chicken coop.

Will and I also brought in several wheelbarrow loads of firewood and stacked it in the wood boxes and on the back porch. Luckily, last week David brought a truckload of discard wood that was dry from logs they’d cut at the log home mill and they were also piled on the enclosed back porch. We sure needed all of it!

We filled all the stock tanks, as generators are very hard to start in sub-zero weather. We also filled our big 300-gallon house water storage tanks.

That night, temperatures steadily fell. We spent the day making sure both the living room stove and kitchen range were burning merrily all day. Living in a log home, when you heat up all those logs, it acts as a heat sink and those warm logs radiate warmth for a long while. But we still had to take turns staying up to keep everything toasty. First I stayed up till one o’clock, then went to bed. Will got up at three and stayed up for several hours. At dawn it was -23 with a slight wind. The weather radio said the windchill was -42. But the house was toasty and all the animals and poultry fared well, so we were grateful.

David was renting a house in town with his friend. But when the rent was due to go up by $175, David’s friend bailed and David knew he couldn’t make the full rent — he was barely making ends meet as it was. He and his girlfriend, Ashley, want to buy a chunk of land to build a cabin on, but renting never left enough money to save up for a down payment. After much thought and discussion, we all decided it made sense for them to move back home with us as we have two bedrooms standing vacant and they could pay off some debts (such as student loans, etc.), then start saving money for a down payment. It just made sense to all of us. So now we’re all in the transition stage, with things being moved in and out, getting ready for the big move after Christmas.

We’re also finishing getting all of our seed varieties packaged and labeled as hopefully our new catalog will be hitting the press in a few weeks. We’re real excited about that.

Last night I made some venison stew and a batch of half-time spoon rolls and that sure tasted good. Later David and Ashley came over with some more boxes and cleaned out David’s old upstairs bedroom, getting ready to do some fixing up and then moving in. Afterward, we all worked on our owl puzzle, which we all agreed was the hardest puzzle any of us had ever done. Luckily, Ashley is a puzzle whiz so it’s finally getting together. Then it’s getting glued up as it will never go back in the box. We all agree that putting it together once was enough!

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Today, the weather is more moderate with a high in the high teens … ABOVE zero! It feels like summer. What a relief. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Brr, our temps are reaching sub-zero

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

We have been spending time making sure our critters are extra comfortable. I spread a fresh bale of hay in the goats’ indoor pen so they could cuddle down together in a nest. And when it is getting dark, I shut the door so the wind won’t blow on them at night. The chicken coop is all spread with a thick layer of fresh wood shavings as it’s so cold the wood won’t get damp a bit. And I closed up a couple of air vents. The chickens sure don’t need more fresh air now!

Will screwed a few new sheets of plywood over the west side of the run-in shed to stop the wind for the cows and horses. (Our donkeys ate the last sheets!) Yep, I’ve tried hot pepper, anti-chewing sprays, bitter apple, and they still chew. It’s not like they’re bored or don’t have anything else to eat. Will hauled down three more big round bales to row up in a windbreak in the pasture so the stock can eat while standing out of the wind.

I fed our birds extra sunflower seeds and suet as those little guys sure need extra calories when it’s so bitter cold.

Then we added extra wood to the wood stoves and settled in for the evening. I have to smile — We’re working puzzles again and in the latest issue of BHM, there’s that picture of my late husband, Bob and son, David, doing a puzzle back in Montana. Yep, we still choose that low-tech form of entertainment. But I must say, the one we’re working now is the toughest one I’ve ever done! I sure hope it gets done by Christmas as it’s on our dining room table.

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In my “spare time” I even got the kitchen cleaned up somewhat after all the fall and early winter canning. I want to get some more chili and hamburger canned up as our beef is getting a little old and I don’t want it to freezer burn. Besides, I’m running a little low on canned chili, and we sure love it — especially in cold weather. Then there’s beans to can up, which we also love as it’s so convenient. See, I’m not done canning yet — I don’t think I ever am, really.

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Then there are the seed catalogs which are beginning to trickle in. We spend a lot of time scanning through them to see if there’s something new in heirloom seeds we’d love to try in next summer’s gardens. Just think, come February I’ll be starting peppers! Can’t wait. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Now that most of the snow’s gone, we’re hurrying to finish jobs

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

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The two feet of snow is mostly gone and the ground froze, at least a bit. So Will is hurrying to haul our last hay home from the fields. He’s had a little tractor trouble — nothing serious, just a plugged fuel filter, so far. He’s almost done on one field and the round bale storage yard is about full. He’s got another thirty or so bales over at another field. If all goes well, he should be finished in a couple of days.

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We did get a little new snow but it’s nothing much; only a two-inch buildup and today it’s 32 degrees above! We’re rejoicing about that.

This past weekend we went to grandson Mason’s ninth birthday party. The best part of it for him was when Grandpa Will played Pie Face and got clobbered with a big gob of whipped cream right in his mouth and mustache!

I never showed you how the new stain on the west end of the house turned out. I got it done just before the weather turned too cold. I think it looks great and come spring, I’ll give it a couple more coats as that’s the “tough” end of the house. All our weather comes from the west and it gets plenty of hot sun in the afternoons in the summer. Some folks think once you build a log house you are freed from any maintenance. Not so. You need to keep the stain redone every few years to protect the logs as well as caulk up any large cracks so moisture doesn’t go in and start rotting the logs. But even with that, we sure love our logs!

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— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Believe it or not, most of our two feet of snow is gone

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

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But it is snowing a bit this morning. Mittens went out exploring the big snow pile next to the yard made by the snowplow truck. She LOVES the snow. When fresh snow is deep she buries her head under it and runs forward. All you can see is her upright tail!

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When all the snow melted, I found a crate of carrots on my front porch. Yep, I’d forgotten them and they had gotten buried in snow. I gingerly felt one and was shocked to find all of them totally solid and in fine shape. I promise to get them canned up tomorrow! I hate to waste food.

While deer hunting, David saw the mama wild turkey and two others, going to roost in a big cedar tree on the edge of our woods. What a surprise! We were really happy to hear she was still around.

Prior to the rains, I bedded the goat stall with a bale and half of wood shavings. That was a mistake! In two days’ time, the shavings were totally soaked. So I had to shovel them out and bed them with a nice big bale of reed canary grass. Much better! It’s so fluffy that even when it gets damp it quickly dries out. The goats have a nice dry place to lay down now.

We are now watering the horses and cattle using the new well Will put down below the new barn. I can’t believe how much faster the water fills the tanks and as the water is spring water, it never runs out, no matter how long we use the well. Our house well is 375 deep, through 300 feet of bedrock and is slower to fill the casing. So we can only pump about 400 gallons before letting the well rest and refill. What an improvement our barn well is! And best of all, should something happen where we couldn’t get gas to run our generator which powers our house well, the barn well can be run from our battery bank! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We all had fun working off our Thanksgiving dinner

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

We had a full house for Thanksgiving. Bill and his family, David and girlfriend Ashley, and our other son, Javid, all came to help us eat turkey and tons of other goodies. What a pleasant day that was. We are truly thankful for all our blessings, especially including a wonderful family.

After dinner, Mason and Ava asked Uncle David to come out and help them make a snow fort because the snow was perfect for packing, and there was plenty of it. So creative David grabbed a plastic tote and headed for the side yard where there was plenty of undisturbed snow. He took the scoop shovel and tossed two shovels full of snow into the tote then Ava bounced up and down on it with her sitter-downer. Then David carried the tote to the fort area-to-be and carefully dumped it. Mason got to work and packed snow between the blocks. It wasn’t long until they had a great fort built, including turrets made by packing snow into a five gallon bucket.

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Then Mason came in and informed me they needed a flag. I quickly taped an old flag onto a plant stake and they had a completed fort. Then the snowballing began. Will stood way out on the drive and bombarded Mason, in the fort, with snow. (Okay, they were more like snow puffs, not hard-packed snowballs. But Mason loved it anyway and they didn’t clobber him so hard.)

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Ava dubbed the wire next to the garden gate as the jail so when someone got snowballed, they had to go to “jail.” What a fun afternoon!

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Now the temperature has warmed up and it’s been raining for two days and staying above freezing all night. Much of our two feet of snow is gone, including, sadly, the snow fort. But the memories remain. — Jackie

 
 


 
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