Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns
Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013
This morning it was a little windy, but the rain had stopped. Thank goodness! While we were getting ready to go outside this morning, Will noticed a beautiful swan on our beaver pond. We got a pair last spring that stopped for a day then left. We’ve only seen the one so far and hope it’s mate is nearby and maybe they’ll stop and nest. They’ll probably fly onward, but we are hoping. We’ve usually got geese, mallard, and wood ducks nesting out there as well as blue herons and other swamp-loving birds and critters.
While my knee is healing Will has the job of milking Lace, our cow who just freshened. And with her huge bag, she had tender teats. This morning, she gave five gallons of milk! We’re hoping that she tapers off a little (which she will) soon so it doesn’t take so long to milk her. (Will hasn’t milked cows since he was a boy in school. So his hands aren’t used to it… Yet.)
Christian got his first experience milking this morning and that went well. The milk went in the pail and he didn’t get knocked in the dirt! Like every other homestead skill, milking is a learned skill — no matter how many times you’ve seen it done or read about it.
We’re happy that the grass is coming up. The steers and horses are busily munching here and there, finding plenty of tasty new grass. Spring was long in coming but it’s now decided to get on with it all at once. And we’re sure glad to see it!
Our prayers are with folks who experienced the devastation of the Oklahoma tornado. — Jackie
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
With temperatures in the high sixties and not freezing at night, our three feet of snow has been melting fast. And yesterday for the first time this spring, I walked in our orchard. How nice that was! All of our trees look great with no winter kill that I can see. But there were vole tunnels made of dead grass that used to be underneath the snow. We never saw a vole all winter, but they were down there anyway. Luckily, we had wrapped screen around all of our fruit trees so they didn’t eat the bark on one of them. Whew!
Now that the sun is out, we are nuts to get started with all we have to do. Early this morning, Will set in another layer of rock on the wall behind the wood stove. It’s nearly up as high as it’ll go and we’re getting excited. I think it looks great. Once it’s done all the way up, he just has to go back and fill in the spaces between the rocks with mortar and finish it off.
Then this afternoon, our friend Erik came over and he and Will started laying up more sheets of metal on the barn roof. We had seven long sheets, left over from fall when the snow had halted their work. So up they went! They did have to trim two inches off the sheets so Will now knows the exact measurement for the next order. When we get the cash…
But the barn’s looking good! And because the snow’s melting and the ground’s drying, pretty soon we’ll be able to start cutting boards with our little Hud-Son portable bandsaw mill. We still have some to cut for the hay loft floor, then more for the side walls. We’ll have enough boards for the front porch roof too. The only cost now will be more decking for the floor, and then the shingles and water shield for the roof. And we do have two bundles of shingles left over from the addition. I’m getting pretty excited to have it getting that far toward DONE.
Ahhh, isn’t spring great? (Oh, I do have to have surgery on my knee, but it is supposed to be minor and heal quickly to a pain-free normal knee. I can’t wait to get that over with and get on with gardening.) — Jackie
Thursday, April 25th, 2013
But we still have tons of snow on the ground — several feet! And mud and water running everywhere. Will’s been working on the rock wall behind the living room stove every day, knowing nice weather’s just around the corner. So far, he’s used 14 bags of mortar mix, and lots of rocks. I think it looks great. Imagine how much warmth those rocks and the concrete will hold next winter.
Meanwhile, I’ve been transplanting tomatoes and peppers like mad. I do them in Styrofoam cups. So far I’ve gotten three or four years’ worth of use out of the same cups.
But it’s been challenging because my left knee’s been giving me a lot of pain these last few weeks. I finally wimped out and got an X-ray and saw the orthopedic specialists in the nearby town of Virginia. Good news is that my knee won’t ever have to be replaced; it’s in great shape. Bad news is that I may have a torn ligament. Had an MRI this morning so we’ll see. Hopefully, it’s just inflamed and will go ahead and heal. I’ve got LOTS to do this spring and hate gimping around on it. It sure tires one out! If it is a torn ligament, the doctor said it’s a quick, easy fix and will heal fast. Considering the active lifestyle I’ve lived all my life, I guess I can expect a glitch here and there. I’m sure not complaining. — Jackie
Monday, April 22nd, 2013
We got 18 inches of blowing and drifting snow just recently, and winds up to 40 mph! And that was on top of the foot or so of snow that hadn’t melted. On the first day of the storm, Will brought in two little piggies that weren’t getting enough milk and/or were getting chilled. (We can’t run a heat lamp down in the farrowing shed because we’re off grid and the batteries won’t stand it.) The wood box was cleaned out due to Will working on the rock wall behind the living room stove, so I added a couple of old towels and put the piggies in it. Now I’m giving them a bowl full of calf milk replacer every 2 hours all day then getting up at night a couple times to feed them. At first, they seemed chilled so I filled up a gallon apple juice plastic jug with hot water and gave them a hot water bottle to cuddle up against. Now they’re warmed up and doing fine.
The little black and white boar was real scared and aggressive when I first picked him up to feed him. He’d bark at me and scramble to get away. But he quickly figured out that being picked up meant getting fed. Now he jumps up, right into my hands when it’s time to eat. We called him Jumper, for good reason.
Now we’re set to get another 3-6 inches of snow. Bummer. I got out my copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, to read. At least we don’t have it that tough! They were twisting hay to keep warm and ran out of food. We still have firewood and plenty to eat. But winter does get long…
The newscasters are calling this “The Relentless Winter” and it’s the most snowfall in Minnesota’s recorded history for April. — Jackie
Thursday, April 18th, 2013
You work inside. I think the snow’s going away. It’s sure sloppy/nasty outdoors and there’s water everywhere. We even saw geese today so they’re hoping for water to land in soon. The rivers are starting to flow free in spots so at least they do have some water. The beaver ponds are still frozen solid with a little water on top.
Will’s working at setting big stones into mortar behind the wood stove. Judging by the cussing out there, it’s not going so hot. I have confidence in him though but I AM smart enough to stay out of the way unless called. The dog and cat are upstairs holding their ears shut. It’s hard to hold the big stones in place until the mortar dries.
We just got another kitchen cabinet with some “windfall” money that showed up unexpectedly. So that gives us a complete “L” of base cabinets. It looks so good I’m all excited; the finished job will look great! — Jackie
Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Okay, so it sounds like we’re getting depressed. Got that right! After getting a foot of new snow a couple of days back, we’re getting another foot right now. We got eight inches overnight and it’s still snowing. Sigh. We’ve got nice green tomato and pepper plants in the little greenhouse in the living room, but even they look depressed because they look out on all that snow.
I’ve lived in Minnesota on and off for a total of about 30 years but this is the longest winter I can ever remember! At least we’re not in drought now, so that’s something we can be thankful for.
Because he can’t work outside, Will brought in three wheelbarrow loads of rocks during our last thaw and is now starting in on the rock wall behind the wood stove in the living room. Right now it’s framed and he has stapled plastic backing, used chicken wire as re-enforcing wire, and then screwed in long screws, wiring the chicken wire to the heads to hold the wire out from the plastic.
There are sorted rocks all over the floor and six bags of cement sitting in the dining room. Pretty soon he’ll start in on the rock work. While that’s in progress, I’ll be transplanting all those tomato, pepper, and snapdragon plants into larger containers to sit in the big greenhouse windows. (Maybe, just maybe, spring will come eventually?) — Jackie
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Although the weather threatened (and later proved inhospitable), there was quite a turnout for the 2013 Earth Fest celebrating sustainability at Mountain Iron, Minnesota, this past Saturday. Held in three different buildings, the event attracted many new people to Backwoods Home Magazine.
Will and I talked to dozens of folks, some who had never heard of the magazine and others who were loyal fans and had traveled there just to meet us. We talked gardening, seed saving, alternative energy on a shoestring, raising animals, as well as the joys of homesteading all day. Whew, did we have fun. We also passed out some flyers for our August seminar to some very interested folks. (We still have five spots open.)
As we stood there visiting with people, we kept glancing out the window at the heavy, wet snow that was falling steadily. Oh oh. Just like Earth Fest 2012! And it kept on snowing all day. Luckily, it didn’t take much carrying to pack up at the end of the day as we trudged through a foot of very wet new snow to our Subaru.
As we drove home the roads got worse and worse. Luckily, the snowplow had been over the road halfway through the snowstorm. There was about eight inches of snow on the road, but it was drivable. Finally, five miles from home, the snowplow had turned off, leaving a foot or more of snow on the road. Very tough going with the Outback dragging in the snow and spinning on the slippery ice under the snow. We do love our ‘Roo!
We got to our drive and plowed on in. Whew! No robins yet and the beavers are snickering under the ice. We’re plenty tired of winter already. Come on spring! — Jackie
Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
We were just starting to get some thawing days when we got clipped by another 8 inches of snowfall. Nice and wet snow, too. For awhile I thought it was snowing chickens…white chickens! But yesterday Will got the driveway and yard plowed and I used the snowblower to create paths to all the different animal pens and goat barn. Our previously-sick California goats liked it though, and were bouncing off the walls of the barn while bucking and playing in the fresh snow.
Today I’ve got a ham in the oven which I’ll be canning after we eat what we want. I sure do love the convenience of all the jars of ham dices. I use them for so many recipes from ham salad to ham and scalloped potatoes, potato and ham soup (thick!), quiche, omelettes, and so much more.
Will’s busy with our trusty dozer, Old Yeller, across the creek in our big woods. He’s hauling in logs which blew down in the July wind storm. We’ll be using some as rafters on our new front porch and sawing boards from many others. The only time he can get across the creek so far is during the winter. The bridge is kind of at a standstill until we can get some heavy-duty planks on it. Right now we can drive the four wheeler over, but nothing heavier than that.
So while there’s snow on the ground, Will’s busy getting ready for sawing in the spring…which should only be a few weeks away. Usually by the second week in April, all the winter snow is gone. To tell the truth, I can’t wait! I’m dying to dig in the dirt. — Jackie