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Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

Jackie Clay

We’re all growing webbed feet

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

This year is kind of a repeat of last summer’s rainy weather, although not so much rain at one time. Two days ago, we put 175 square bales in the barn, working till nearly 9:30 PM. (Just in case…) Then Will cut a couple of small fields of clover/timothy that was very nice, which he intended to round bale in the three-day window of dry weather which was predicted. Well, it went fine until yesterday. He was round baling and it was supposed to begin raining around 5 PM. But it began to cloud up around 1:00 and Ashley came in saying she heard thunder. We drove over to the field where Will was working and arrived to see him down in front of the baler, pulling out hay. That meant it was plugged! And angry black clouds were rolling in. And he still had raked hay down on the field, although not much. We tried to help but were more in the way than helping. Finally, he got the plug out just about when the raindrops were starting to fall.

He jumped on the tractor and quickly baled part of a row to finish up the bale in the baler. By the time he was tying it and dumping it out, the rain was beginning to pour down. It only rained for about half an hour but the haying was sure finished. Later on, it cleared up and we were able to work around the homestead till nearly dark. Then more clouds, real nasty clouds, showed up. Some were revolving and the weather radio called in a tornado warning. You can bet we were all watching the sky. Luckily, nothing happened except for some rain, lightning, and thunder. Whew!

The main garden looks perfect with waist high corn. The central and north gardens have been getting too much water from above so are weedy and slow to get growing. But we’re hoping things will pick up soon. After all, everything is growing! We’ve got some tomatoes set on the vines and have been enjoying Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas on salads and in stir fries, along with broccoli and asparagus. Yum! Our berries are fantastic this year so I’d better get out and pick some red raspberries and currants. We’ve finally got a strain of blackberries which not only lives here but is producing tons of berries. Yep, it took ten years of trying, but that only shows you; if you don’t quit when things don’t work, you’ll succeed eventually!

I’ve been working on the fourth Jess Hazzard book, Spring of the Vultures, in the evenings. (It’s my “fun” time to reward me for a hard day’s work.) It’s getting done. I guess I’ll have to start another book to continue the saga as I thoroughly enjoy travelling the trail with Jess. Got a few ideas already. If you haven’t yet read any of the series, take a read on Kindle or pick up a copy. It’s a book all homesteaders will enjoy. That’s a promise. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Trouble seems to come in threes

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

First off, Will’s trying to get started haying and the last time he set out to cut hay, it poured rain even though the weather radio said “sunny and hot.” Ha! Then David’s rear end went out on his ’99 GMC pickup, which he uses at work.  And, of course, we were all pretty broke. Then, for the grand finale, the yearling calves got out and ended up in the main garden. Luckily, at 5 A.M., I heard a cow moo right below our bedroom window and I quickly got up and ran out to the garden. They only had time to munch a couple mouthfuls of corn leaves before I chased them out. (But on the way, I slipped in the wet grass and fell smack in a very fresh cow pie!)

Fast forward a couple of days — David found a used rear end in Grand Rapids, a city about 60 miles from us. But, when he and Will examined it, they decided the housing was too rusty. David had rebuilt the old one only two years ago, including new brakes & rotors.  So they spent a whole day taking the gears out of the new rear end to put in David’s old housing. Ashley and I played “go-fer,” driving for parts. While they were at it, they also welded a sturdy patch on David’s frame, which was very rusted.

Will and David spent two whole days rebuilding the rear end of David’s truck.

The mosquitoes were bad last night, but David and Will were able to get the rebuilt rear end back in the truck. They didn’t have time to get the tires mounted back on or give it a thorough once-over to make sure they didn’t miss anything.

Now Will has two fields of hay down. One is at home and the other about two miles away.  We were kind of nervous as they called for a 50% chance of rain yesterday. But we didn’t get any rain. Whew!

Today, hopefully, Will can get that hay baled. We need some extra as those bad yearlings are now shut in the training ring with a mama cow with a new calf.

The main garden looks great, despite a cow raid yesterday.

The tomatoes are getting huge and are starting to bloom.

The gardens look great. The main garden by the house is best as it has had many years of rotted manure and mulch to improve the soil.  But it all looks pretty good. (Please God, no hail … or cows!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve went from winter to summer; no spring!

Monday, June 5th, 2017

From rain and temperatures in the fifties, we swung abruptly to sun and eighties! Wow, is that hard when you’re trying so hard to get things planted. After all, we barely have a 90-day growing season… So we’re madly tilling and planting. We had visitors over the weekend in the form of a pair of pelicans. It seems so crazy to have white pelicans floating around on our beaver ponds when we live in the north woods. But they stop by regularly.

We got another surprise from a pair of residents. We’ve had sandhill cranes along our creek for a few years now, but this year, they brought family! It was very exciting for us to see that they have two chicks.

If you look closely, you can see the sandhill crane chicks in the foreground.

While Will’s been tilling the north garden with the tractor-mounted tiller, working in the manure he spread last week, I’ve been busy planting the last tomatoes in the main garden along with Burro Mountain popcorn ( a very rare ancient corn, said to come from the Anasazi), Bear Island Chippewa flour corn, Folsom Indian Ruin, Dapple Gray, Black Manitoba, Hurricane, and Succotash beans. And last evening I planted our Glass Gem popcorn in an isolation patch. Whew!

Today, I’ll get the Seneca Sunrise sweet corn and the Monte Gusto and Neckargold pole beans in. Hopefully, Will can also plant some corn with our tractor-mounted three-point corn planter in both the central and north gardens.

I’ve got some fence mending to do in the north garden. I used plastic zip ties on the six-foot-high fence and they photo-degraded, so the fence is now drooping in some places. But I’ll re-do it all with better material so we don’t have deer popping in without an invitation. Lots of pumpkins, squash, and corn will be going in there, along with our leftover tomatoes and potatoes.

The main garden is nearly full today.

We’re planting seven varieties of potatoes this year. One is Bliss Triumph, which is the potato my grandfather brought from Florida all the way to Montana, way back in the Depression. Now they’re nearly extinct. I only found one source and ended up paying, with shipping,
$5 per potato! Needless to say, I will be saving my own seed potatoes this fall for planting next spring. I hate to see old-time varieties of anything go away permanently. Bliss Triumph is a blocky red potato with great flavor and keeping ability.

Our flowers are starting to bloom around the house. I’ve got five varieties of lilacs. One of my favorites is Beauty of Moscow, a double white with lavender/pink shades and pointed petals. As two of the bushes are right below our upstairs bedroom window, the fragrance is very lush.

Aren’t Beauty of Moscow lilacs pretty?

On Saturday, I attended our granddaughter, Ava’s, dance recital down in Cloquet. What an event. There were dancers from age three all the way up to adults, many of which were very professional. Of course, the little girls were oh-so-cute!
Well, back to the garden. — 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

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

 
 
 


 
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