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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

The harvest continues

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

We’ve been getting some real cold nights along with rainy days, so we’ve been continuing our harvest. I’ve been shelling the last of our new beans and the star is a dry bean, Monachelle di Trevio. I bought ten bean seeds for this productive pole bean and ended up harvesting two pounds of seed! It isn’t enough to offer this year in our seed catalog, but it is enough that I can plant tons next year. Besides being beautiful red and white, this round bean is easy to shell, and quite early to dry down. We’ll be tasting a few too, but being from Italy, I’m sure it’s very good.


I picked nearly all of our peppers as the plants in our hoop house got frozen a couple of nights ago. Besides taking the seeds from the mature peppers, I’ve been making big batches of Cowgirl Candy. I’m even thinking of how good it would taste as a topping for cheesecake — sweet with a pop of hot.


Will got busy and picked the last of our apples, Keepsake, Frostbite and Chestnut crabs, which are two inches in diameter and very good eating apples. Now I’ve got to get busy and can ’em up as none besides Keepsake really will keep long. Boy, have we ever been munching on them with buckets full on the front porch. Nothing beats an icy, juicy, sweet, crisp apple!


We’ve also been splitting up more firewood. The last pile will fill the wood shed but I’m sure Will is going to go down and get more to pile up on our enclosed back porch. It’s great to have plenty of wood to cook with and keep us toasty warm. Wonderful!


— Jackie

Jackie Clay

We escaped the frost!

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016


But I’m sure there is more frost to come. We shut up our big hoop house, still full of peppers and pole beans and said prayers. And they worked! When we woke up it was 40 degrees.


Even though we’ve been having real nice, warm, sunny days, we’re still working like mad harvesting what we can. We picked tons of tomatoes, and I sent a crate to Bill and Kelly as David was going down for a weekend visit. I also picked a crate of peppers for the seed and not wanting to waste them, I made a big batch of cowgirl candy (candied jalapeño flavored sweet peppers which are spicy but not firey hot). I’ll be making another big batch as soon as I harvest more ripe peppers. Boy, do we like our cowboy and cowgirl candy. To make cowboy candy I first double the syrup then put up the cowboy candy. Using the extra syrup, I add cut up sweet peppers, boil 4 minutes, then with a slotted spoon, I take the hot peppers out, pack into jars and ladle boiling syrup over them. They are processed 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Very good!


I’ve been picking beans every day since we know frost and freezing temperatures are coming. Some of the more rare beans are amazing and I’ll have plenty of seed so I can plant lots next year. Yes, we are starting to plan for our next year’s planting! Hey, we’re always optimistic. By the way, Will’s injuries are all much better.


Some of you have asked when you can buy some of our new seed varieties. As soon as I get done harvesting, I’ll be updating the Seed Treasures website so you can take a look. You’ll be surprised at how many new offerings we’ll have. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our beautiful fall weather will come to an end with frost

Thursday, October 6th, 2016


We’re supposed to get frost and possibly snow flurries tonight through Saturday evening, and we’ve still got veggies in the gardens. I’ve been picking beans and corn for weeks and now we’ve switched into high gear as our crops won’t take much more freezing or frost. But the fall colors are pretty; our driveway looks like a giant postcard.


We’ve also still got onions, shallots, leeks, and potatoes to get into the cellar, but they should be able to take a little frost just fine, so we’re concentrating on other crops that can’t. Luckily, we’ve got more rare beans in the protection of our large hoop house as well as our entire pepper crop, so they should be fine.


Will’s hauling our big round bales home, a load at a time. Our transport is an old bus frame on bus wheels. It hauls about eight round bales at a time. So far he’s got about fifty bales home with a lot more out there in various fields. He’s also been doing rockwork on the interior walls of our new barn. One interior side is now finished. You wouldn’t believe how many rocks he’s used so far!

Well, I’ve got to go pick more tomatoes. See you next week! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I hope to see some of you at the Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

I’ll be away from home from September 8th to the 13th, giving a couple of talks at the Lakeland, Florida Self Reliance Expo. Any of you who can attend, please stop by and visit the Backwoods Home Magazine booth, where I’ll be helping Ilene Duffy. I truly look forward to meeting my great BHM family on these road trips. Since it’s a first-time trip to Florida for me, and just a few miles north of Sanibel Island, which is on my bucket list, Ilene and I will be taking a short vacation and hopefully pick up some beautiful seashells and see wildlife we’ve never experienced before.

Will is going to man the homestead and (hopefully) keep the garden’s produce from freezing. So as soon as I get back, I’ll once again hit the harvesting and canning in earnest.

Today Will is cutting our last hayfield away from home. Yesterday he cut two other fields. All we have left is one small field of second crop clover here at home and we’ll be done. Hooray! We’re supposed to be having 4½ days without rain. We’ll see. We’ve heard that before…


I harvested a basket of Bill Bean tomatoes. The biggest one weighed 4 pounds 3 ounces. And that’s not the biggest one out there! I can’t wait to see how much the big guy weighs. It’s bigger than an ice cream bucket! These are such flavorful tomatoes and so meaty they don’t make your bread soggy when you use them on a sandwich. Mmm, I’ve got half a loaf of whole wheat bread, mayo and…


— Jackie

Jackie Clay

Well … We had ¾ inch of rain yesterday

Monday, August 15th, 2016

And because the weather radio had our rain chances at 20% yesterday and it was sunny, Will cut hay. He quit when it started raining two hours later. And by the time he’d gotten home and in the house it rained again. No, make that POURED! Luckily, today (so far) has been sunny and breezy so he’s going out to rake the hay so it can dry the rest of this afternoon and tomorrow until he attempts to bale it. What a year it’s been.

Fortunately, the garden and pastures have loved all this rain! I’ve never in my life seen such crops. I have some beans a foot long and Will’s pride and joy, Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (which the cows ate last summer), has nine-inch cobs that are very fat. And LOTS of them. Our new sweet corn, Yukon Supreme, has shorter cobs, about five to six inches, but is very fat and tasty. We ate some last night to try it. It isn’t super sweet but does have nice old-fashioned corn flavor. It appears the variety needs a bit of stabilizing as we got both bi-colored ears and yellow. But when a sweet corn produces five ears per seed (it stools out with about four tillers, each having nice cobs!) and matures at 50 days, we sure aren’t complaining!


In our big hoop house, the peppers are going nuts. One variety that is super nice is Mt. Etna, an Italian sweet pepper. One plant has twelve big peppers with more coming. And the beans? I can’t walk through the hoop house because of the beans EVERYWHERE on the south end — up poles, clinging to the hoops. Very nice.


Will has been whacking tall grass so he can turn on the electric fence on the east pasture for the cows. He wanted them out of the north pasture so there was NO chance of them breaking into our north garden like they did last year. He’d even put electric fencing around the 6-foot-tall welded wire fence but didn’t trust them. Besides, the pasture was getting a little eaten down. So first we drove them to the small north east pasture, which is fenced with barbed wire. But it’s only about five acres and they ate the three-foot-tall grass down in a week’s time.


Today he got the fence working and I turned the cows out onto the east pasture. I didn’t have to call them twice! Mamba, one of our milk cows, saw me open the gate and started trotting right toward me. She knows the routine and LOVES it when we rotate pastures. She’s always the first out the gate. Smart cow. It used to be Lace, our “wedding cow”, but early this spring, we lost her. She wasn’t a young cow when we bought her five years ago and she had a real bad case of mastitis in all four quarters when she calved last fall. With the help of friends, we treated her for weeks and finally stopped the mastitis. But I’m sure it stressed her body. We were sure sad when she died and I think of her every time I go check cows. She was the best cow I’ve ever had. — Jackie

Pictures of our homemade backhoe for Reg

This is the backhoe we bought for $300 from our friend, Tom. The front is an Allis Chalmers tractor with a trailer hitch in place of the front tires. The seat is on backwards for the hoe operator. The hydraulics run off of the “tractor.” Instead of two big rear tractor tires, there are four heavy-duty truck tires to lower the backhoe and support the weight while digging. The hoe has outriggers run by the hydraulics to help steady the rig while digging.




It ain’t fancy, but hey, it works! I’m sure if you have any questions, Will would be happy to help. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got that hay up!

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

By the grace of God, we got another 18 big round bales up before the rain. That brings our total this year up to just under sixty bales. Now if we can just get the rest up…


I made a huge batch of mustard bean pickles out of the last bucket of Provider beans. Boy, did they ever turn out great. And since I overestimated how much vinegar/spices/sugar I’d need I canned up the leftover sweet and sour sauce in half-pint jars. My “mistake” let me have all this ready-on-hand sauce to dip chicken, pork, and fish in as well as to pour over chicken and pork roast as a glaze. (It really isn’t too mustardy … rather like hot mustard sauce without the “hot.”) We love it.


Our beans are producing like CRAZY lately. I planted more than 27 different beans this year on three gardens. Some are yellow, some green, some dry, and others snap. Many are multi-purpose. All are doing excellent both in plants and the beans they’re making. We’re especially excited about a pole bean, Folsom Indian Ruin, which I was given while living in New Mexico. A neighbor knew we loved heirloom seeds and brought me a sample he’d found in a clay jar in his cow pasture, in the rocks of an Indian ruin. They’d been sealed with pine pitch and his son, who went to school at the University of New Mexico, took one and they carbon dated it back to 1,500 years! Some of those beans actually germinated!


These are a huge bean. The pods are like Kevlar so you couldn’t eat them as snap beans but the young beans are tender and make great shelly beans. As a dry bean, they are also tasty and swell up nearly the size of a ping-pong ball! (You have to mash them or slice them to eat them.) We’re so tickled to be able to pass them on this year as our row of beans are simply going crazy with both blossoms and pods. Actually, I’ve NEVER had so many blossoms on a bean in my life! Talk about production. No wonder those ancient Native Americans took the trouble to store them so well — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s still wet here, but boy is the garden ever producing!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Haying has been difficult. We’ve been having significant rain every three days or so. Not half an inch or less, it’s been 2 inches, 3½ inches (and more) at a time. The hayfields never dry out well. But just lately we have had four days with no rain so Will is out raking hay today. We’re praying the standing water in the field has gone away and that it doesn’t rain before he can get the hay dried and baled.


But all this rain has made our garden boom. This year I only planted one double row of Provider green beans, our standby canning bean. Yesterday I picked a five-gallon bucket full from one side of that fifteen-foot row! And the same today. So yesterday I canned up green beans and today it’ll be mustard bean pickles, our favorite pickle of all.


For our seed business, we planted 26 different rows of beans. Some are pole beans; some bush. Wow, are they producing too!

Three of our favorites this year are a yellow pole bean, Monte Gusto; a yellow Romano-type pole bean, Gold Marie Vining; and a green multi-purpose bush bean, Magpie.

Monte Gusto is covered with ten-inch-plus long, narrow, round beans. I can’t wait to try some tonight for supper.


Gold Marie Vining is so beautiful. It’s also very productive and the long, flat beans are super pretty and tender; I ate a few raw. Very sweet and crisp.


Magpie simply blows us out of the water with its productivity! It is covered with refined green beans and blossoms, and I do mean covered. We’ll also eat a few to try out the fresh eating potential, which I think will be wonderful. But Magpie also makes a beautiful, tasty dry bean. It’s refined and has gorgeously marked black and white beans.

The first tomatoes are ripe so I’m thinking bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches tonight. Mmm, can’t wait. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

This is an insane year, weather wise

Monday, August 1st, 2016

We still haven’t seen three days in a row without rain! We listen to the weather radio several times a day, plus watch the local weather on the news, hoping for the window of dry weather to make hay in. We were supposed to have that window so Will hurried out two days ago and cut a field of hay. Well, yesterday they changed their minds and called for rain this afternoon. Okay, we’d bale this morning after the dew was off. We woke up to not only dew but also a bank of black clouds. Will went over anyway and decided to bale out of the windrow to save time because rain was definitely on the way. You could smell it coming. He got one bale done then it started to sprinkle. He quickly got another when the bottom fell out of those clouds. Yep, it poured. It’s kind of finished but they’re calling for more rain for the next few days. We’ll get ‘er done one way or another.

I’ve got to tell you about a wonderful canning tool I’m using. At the Dallas Self-Reliance Expo, Cecilia Chavez stopped by the BHM booth to show me the beautiful canning funnels she makes out of pottery. A lot of people, me included, don’t really like using aluminum or plastic canning funnels but up until now there has been no choice. I brought home one of the amazingly beautiful funnels and have been using it ever since. Mine fits wide mouth jars and is so pretty it doesn’t sit in a drawer until I use it. It hangs up with my baskets so everyone can see it. If you’d like to check them out, contact Cecilia at


Our gardens are doing fantastic and I have Provider and some other snap beans ready to eat and can up. Our young cherry trees are starting to bear this year. Both Carmine Jewel and Evans Bali cherries are giving us plenty of snacking cherries but not enough yet to can up. Although they’re “tart” cherries, we find them pretty darned good to eat.


My lilies and daylilies are blooming their heads off and we enjoy walking through the yard each morning to see “who” is blooming today. As you can see, Hondo doesn’t share our enthusiasm for flowers! I especially love the Wonder Of It All from Dancing Daylily my favorite daylily site to go toonline. ( Becky and her husband have tons and tons of exceptional daylilies at a reasonable price. I’m so excited when a new variety blooms. (And daylilies ARE edible for those of you who spurn “flowers”! If you could bear to eat one…)



— Jackie


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