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Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

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

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

Spring, glorious Spring

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Although our weather’s sunny and bright with the birds singing, it’s a bit cool this morning — down to the mid-forties. But we’re sure okay with that. Will decided it was time he started repairing equipment, beginning with our Oliver tractor, “The Hulk.” It has a bent rod and needs the valves ground, among other things. This morning, Will pulled the head and started taking things apart. He was happy to discover the cylinder walls are pristine. So at least that much is good. A friend with equipment and experience volunteered to grind the valves.

I’ve been busy transplanting tomatoes. Whew! There are a lot of tomatoes. But while I was working, I spotted the pair of geese who nest on our little beaver pond, below the house. While the female goose was busy exploring the shore for a nesting site, the gander was walking on the ice, watching out for trespassers, honking loudly all the time. We love to watch them hatch a brood and swim about with little, fluffy, yellow babies.

While I was feeding the goats this morning, I spotted a male robin hopping about on our front yard. He even pulled up a worm — I didn’t think they were thawed out yet!

Our peppers are getting big and stocky. I bought another little four-shelf plastic greenhouse, which brings us up to three total. We stack flats of seedlings in them in our south-facing floor to ceiling living room windows. When planting season is over, we take them down and store them in the basement. Our oldest greenhouse is six years old now and still in perfect shape. (But we never take them outside where the wind could tear them apart.)

Just a reminder; if you have questions for me, please don’t be shy about sending them in to Backwoods Home. If we don’t get questions, the Ask Jackie column might go away! I know many of you don’t ask questions for fear of “bothering” me when we are busy. But it’s never a bother. Ask away. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

“Strike while the iron is hot”

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

This is our “second” farm motto! (The first is “Mo’ poo poo.”) The company where David works is starting to cut their own bolts (square logs) that they then use to manufacture milled logs in different diameters and profiles. Last week, David helped saw the first logs on the mill and noticed there were leftover thick slabs. These were “waste” so he brought home as many as his half-ton pickup would haul. On Friday, after work, Will and I took our ¾-ton Chevy truck to the mill with our three axle equipment trailer to get a load. (The slabs are green and VERY heavy.) David was able to load the trailer with the company front end loader.

We drove home carefully as we had a big and heavy load and the roads are extra bumpy due to frost heaves because of winter freezing. Then Will sorted the slabs out; some are thick enough for him to saw lumber from using our portable bandsaw mill. The slabs that can’t be sawn into lumber are still plenty thick on the butt ends. So we’ve been cutting, splitting, and stacking this additional windfall.

Another bonus for us is that a neighbor works in the iron mines. Every couple of years they replace the belts on the conveyors. These belts are about ¼-inch thick and three feet wide and come cut and rolled in 60-foot lengths. He asked Will if we could use them for anything. They’ll make permanent mulch in the berry patch between rows of grapes and raspberries, which always get too weedy. Now we’ll only have to weed between plants — much more manageable! We now have four rolls with more coming.

Over the weekend, David and Ashley helped me put together the vinyl garden arbor that a friend gave me when she moved. We were helping her move things when I spotted it lying in the weeds. “You want that?” she asked. I said I sure did, so we dis-assembled it and took it home. I’ve got just the spot for it this spring and it’s all ready to go now. I could never afford to buy one.

So we strike while the iron is hot, before someone else steps in and beats us to the bounty.

Our migratory birds are arriving daily. Today I saw a red-winged blackbird, a pair of wood ducks, and yesterday we saw the first turkey vulture. Okay, so the vulture wasn’t “pretty” but it was a sign of spring. The ice is about melted off the beaver ponds and my tulips are starting to poke through the dirt. How exciting!

Now I’ve got to get back to transplanting tomatoes, a job I’ll be at for several days. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

March winds blow

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

And they blew and blew yesterday and the day before! So hard, in fact, that I was having a hard time sleeping between the huge bursts of wind gusts and our wind charger’s brake screaming, trying to keep the charger from overworking. Luckily, Will had gotten all the big logs out of the woods and decked up temporarily in a cleared spot about a half mile from the house.

So while the wind blew, we quickly did chores and came inside to do other things. Will got caught up on his computer work for our seed business and I planted a few more new peppers. One interesting variety came from a gentleman now living in Georgia, who grows a “wild” hot pepper he used to harvest from the Florida orange orchards. I can’t wait to see … and taste … that one. What fun!

I know some of you are daylily fans — who wouldn’t be as this gorgeous perennial flower is extremely hardy and also edible! A reader turned me on to a website, The Daylily Auction, where you can bid on roots of some extremely beautiful flowers which would cost two or three times more elsewhere. Just thought I’d let you folks know about it too.

My seedling peppers are growing like weeds. They already have two sets of leaves so I’ll be transplanting them next week. And I’ll be starting our first tomatoes, too. (Remember we set them out in Wall O’ Waters, which allows us to plant out extra early.) I counted up and we have at least 76 varieties to plant this year; many are repeats of some of our favorites and quite a few are new ones that sound great. Time will tell! Can’t wait to get in the dirt. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s mid-forties but cloudy and misty today

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Today Will’s out in our north woods, cutting a trail through the trees to a huge white pine he cut two days ago. The pine had been leaning, more and more over the past five years, until it got hung up in a big tamarack fork. Working carefully as such a tree is VERY dangerous, Will got both trees pretty much cut through then drove wedges in. The wind did the rest. While he worked many yards away from the tree, cutting brush, the trees cracked and fell to the ground with a whoosh. The trees will be sawn into boards to use on our new barn. Waste not; want not!

We’re getting excited because the back yard and garden are slowly showing as the snow is receding. I actually walked in the yard for the first time since late last fall. The plum and cherry trees wintered well and I can’t see any vole damage, although there were a few vole tunnels in the grass. There is water on top of the beaver ponds now and the creek is running.

Inside, our peppers are jumping up and looking good. I’m especially excited about a variety a friend sent which she calls Venice Bootleg hot peppers (they were obtained in a cafe in Venice and “smuggled” home to the U.S.). It occurred to me how much gardening brings us all together. Through our seed business, we’ve had letters and seed orders from folks who are Amish, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and more. And you know what? We’re all excitedly awaiting our seeds springing to life with warm weather. Brothers and Sisters in gardening. I think that’s a lesson for us all. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring in February?

Monday, February 20th, 2017

We’ve had a very warm week; over 50° some days, with sunshine! The first day, Ashley and I set out lawn chairs in the driveway and sat down to absorb some fabulous vitamin D. We were in our T shirts! It felt SO very good. Now you folks living in more hospitable climates may figure doing this at 50° is NUTS, but when we’ve been used to below zero temps, 50 seems so very warm.

And it wasn’t just us, either. I had to go to town to mail some seed orders to people and when I got back, my friend, Dara, was sitting in a chair, knitting! I had to laugh.

Then on Saturday, David and Ashley helped haul out trees which Will had been cutting. They were stressed by bud-worms then carpenter ants got into the bottoms of them, which killed the trees. So before they fell and rotted, Will cut them down, limbed them and the “crew” started hauling them out of the woods. David used the four-wheeler for a while, then his snowmobile, giving the four-wheeler to Ashley. We all had a fun day and ended up with over a cord of fir which will be cut, split and stored for next year’s firewood. Will figures there’s over two more cords right in that small area. (We start cutting firewood EARLY in the spring so it’s all split and stacked under cover to dry well before use the next year.)

Today it’s raining like crazy and we even saw lightning. Pretty crazy winter weather, for sure. I guess the beavers were right, after all. They said we’d have an average winter; no crazy cold or snow. And, so far, that’s just what happened, no matter what the weather forecasters and the Farmer’s Almanac predicted.

We’ve been having quite a response to our fall homesteading seminar and so far, three people have sent in their deposits. I’m thinking we’ll fill up for sure. That’s nice, I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun, as always! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The sun’s out and the birds are singing

Monday, February 13th, 2017

February is half over! Groundhog or not, we’re thinking spring around here. Today it was nearly 40 degrees above with the sun out. What a nice day. So Will decided he’d set out a few round bales of hay and then go work on the new barn. It’s been so cold he hasn’t gotten much done but hopes to stay on it for awhile now that it’s warmed up. So while he went up and down the hill, getting round bales with the Oliver, I stayed at the pasture gate, opening and shutting it to let him through. As the critters always have hay, they aren’t particularly hungry and will zip out the open gate if given half a chance, just for an “adventure.”

Today he hauled two bales out while I got a chance to pet the horses and donkeys. Crystal and Moose, our donkey “herd,” always leave the hay to come get some attention. I noticed Crystal, the tan one, is shedding. Wow! Another clue spring is not far away. And I did see some pussywillows in bloom yesterday on the way to town.

Yesterday I put away my last batch of chili. All in all, I now have 74 quarts and a pint of “new” chili on the pantry shelves! We ate the two which didn’t seal. (Real hard on us … lol)

Tomorrow I’ll get out the seed trays and some peat pellets then decide which peppers I want to grow this year. My friends, Mike and Dara, were here yesterday and we all discussed various varieties we’ll be wanting to plant. It was fun and exciting too. — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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