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
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
It seems like our beavers’ forecast is coming true. We haven’t had a speck of rain for 10 days. But we’re not complaining. We’ve been getting a lot of hay up after such a slow, rainy start. And the warm sunny weather has made our garden boom. Our sweet corn has lots of ears set, the squash are loaded with baby squash (the Hopi Pale Grey squash vines are HUGE), the beans are begging to be picked, and, boy-oh-boy, are there ever tomatoes! Our favorite Bill Bean tomatoes are so loaded with one-pound-plus tomatoes that they look like green pumpkins under and on the vines. You’ll remember that last year we harvested one that weighed 3 pounds on a scale.
Will baled 130 more square bales yesterday. Our poor round baler blew a bearing (we thought). Will started taking things apart and found that not one bearing is shot but five! Parts ordered and should be here tomorrow. So we’ve got more square bales to put up in the storage barn.
Our favorite milk cow, Lace, was in heat Sunday so our friends, the Zups, came over Sunday night to A.I. her. Lace is SO hard to catch in heat but this time, it was a full-blown one where she was even trying to jump up on ME. I hope she took. We’ll know September 1st, when she has a blood test taken.
We had a mother turkey sneak off into the woods to lay eggs and she came off the nest with 8 babies! Then she tried to run away with them. As we have lots of foxes, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, fishers, and wolves, we herded her into the chicken run/orchard where they’d stay safer. Did you ever try to herd a mother turkey and babies? It’s like herding minnows! — Jackie
Thursday, July 24th, 2014
It’s been very hot and muggy and I told Will we were primed for a bad storm. So when the weather radio called for thunderstorms Monday night we weren’t surprised. In fact, we were pretty happy to see lightning on the Western horizon that night as it was 85 degrees with extreme humidity (and being off grid we sure don’t have an air conditioner). Well, it finally rained around 11:30 p.m. and it did cool off.
But it wasn’t until yesterday that we heard how severe the storm front was to the North and South of us, with straight line winds more than 75 mph and inches of rain. Campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness had been pinned under big fallen pines, others injured. And many folks on the Iron Range, just south of us had trees blown down on their houses and garages or roofs torn off, etc. We feel very grateful we escaped this part of the storm and are praying for those affected. More than 15,000 people were without power as well but, of course, we never noticed.
The garden continues to astound us. I’ll be canning green beans in a couple days and have hundreds of inch-long Homemade Pickle cucumbers set on rampant vines. And this year, our dill is amazing. (I’ve even had to buy wilted, old store-bought dill on some other years — for $3.49 a bunch.)
But the star of our gardens this year is the Glass Gem popcorn. We planted it for its beauty but the plants are stupendous. They are near shoulder-high to Will and me and each plant has stooled out, having more than five lusty stalks per plant. We can’t wait to see how it turns out and how many ears we get per plant. Usually popcorn has shorter plants but Glass Gem hasn’t even thought of tasseling out at shoulder-height! Our Espresso sweet corn is tasseling out down in our main garden but not our Glass Gem. Wow!
We are still working at mulching our main garden; it takes a lot of work and hay to mulch an acre! But we work on it every day and it is looking good. My cold seems to have left me but I am still waiting awhile before I call my surgeon’s office to reschedule my gallbladder surgery. I do not want to have to postpone it again! — Jackie
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
The rains have seemed to quit and we’re getting more caught up (or is it less behind?). Yesterday and today Will poured cement and laid up rock in the lower barn wall’s slipforms. Today, he’s out cutting our first hayfield. It’s only a small patch (4 acres or so). It’s the cleared spot down below the goat pasture that used to be log trash, willow brush, and potholes. Now it’s orchard grass, clover, and birdsfoot trefoil, some six feet tall. We’re not supposed to get rain for a few days so we’ll see…
Meanwhile, I planted our late cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower and weeded the berry patch. The whole garden looks great! For the first time, we will have sweet corn that’s “knee high by the Fourth of July” here in northern Minnesota. Wow, usually, we’re lucky if it’s six inches high.
We’re anxiously waiting for Mamba (our very-much-a-pet Angus-Holstein heifer that we bred to an All Jersey last summer) to have her calf. She’s a few days late but that’s kind of normal for heifers. Since Lace, our hard-to-breed Shorthorn didn’t get bred last summer, we’ll (hopefully) use Mamba for our milk cow. We’ve been taking extra care to handle her udder and teats and she isn’t too kicky, so we have hopes…
My flowers in the front beds are gorgeous. I have a dozen different peonies all blooming and the delphiniums are just starting. Luckily, they’re so vigorous that they don’t let weeds come in or ignore them when they do pop up.
I promised photos of the rockwork in the barn, so here’s a glimpse from today to see how it’s coming. When it’s finished, we’ll have to go around and mortar up any holes or open places. For now, I think it looks gorgeous and will last forever. Thanks to all who participated in the first laying of stone!
Have a great Independence day and think about the blessings you’ve received along the trail to your own self-reliance. — Jackie
Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
We’ve had more than 12 inches of rain in the last two weeks. Hey, it’s homesteading, right? But it didn’t help that I found out that I need gallbladder surgery, then after two attacks of severe pain in his left side, Will ended up in the ER Saturday night.
I thought it was probably kidney stones as severe recurring pain in the left side and/or back often indicates that, but you never know. So in we went. (Will doesn’t have health insurance and receives medical care through the VA…which isn’t open on weekends and evenings so we figured it’d be expensive.) After taking his blood pressure and temperature, the nurse handed him a urine cup and screen and pointed through the door to the bathroom. In a minute, Will came out with an amazed look on his face. There in the screen was what the nurse and doctor described as a “huge” kidney stone!
Done deal! Relieved that we were right and that he’d passed the stone, we came home with follow-up instructions to keep screening urine and to contact his primary care VA doctor, which he will do.
It’s amazing how quickly health issues can pop up with no warning at all! Luckily, this was relatively minor and should be resolved. Now Will is making sure to drink plenty of extra water both for prevention and to flush out the big stone’s possible little brothers.
Meanwhile, the electric fence continues to keep the cattle and deer out of the corn/pumpkin patch as it grows nicely. Will’s little 12-volt fence charger hooked to a truck battery is doing the trick. We’ll see if it keeps the deer away when the corn gets taller, though…
Will’s been working on the rock work on the new barn (I promise photos in the next blog!) and it looks real nice. We’ll always remember the spring 2014 seminar every time we look at the first section as the guys pitched in and learned slipform concrete work by building that section. Looks great, guys! — Jackie
Monday, June 9th, 2014
With only seven people attending our spring seminar here at our homestead this past weekend, we had a great time. We had folks from as far away as Alaska (Jessi) and Illinois (John and Geri) and all were lovely, fun people. As there were few, we crammed in as much other-than-planned-for workshops as we could and even canned up meatballs in spaghetti sauce.
The weather was great. The forecast was rain, rain, and rain. Luckily, the sun was out and it was gorgeous all three days. Thank you God!
Most folks said they’d definitely be back for another seminar. We parted sadly on Sunday afternoon and evening, having made many new friends in homesteading. I’m sure we’ll all be in contact.
Now Will and I are playing catch-up, switching gears from “getting ready for the seminar” to getting caught up on projects. It sucked that spring was a month late again this year! We’re kind of behind on a lot of things but keep remembering that it got hot fast and it isn’t all that late. I still have carrots and parsnips to plant along with cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Will thought he had a corn planter all set for us but when he went down to pick it up it turned out to be unusable because of rust so no corn planter. We’re not sure what we’re going to do with that big corn patch now but I’m sure we’ll think of something. One thing we’re good at is switching gears mid-stream! — Jackie
Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014
We listen to the weather radio every morning. And last week they started warning of very heavy rains headed this way. We needed rain, but several inches? Will wanted to get a spot on the neighbor’s hay field plowed and planted this spring into clover and orchard grass and spring plowing in our neck of the woods is difficult as the soil doesn’t dry up well in the spring. As it was kind of dry, he headed out to get that done while I continued planting the garden. I got in 48 hills of potatoes, our Provider bush beans, squash (both in our garden and several other isolated plots) the Glass Gem popcorn, dill, cukes, and assorted herbs. Then I got a phone call. Will was stuck with the tractor and plow.
It only got worse. He came home and got the dozer, and we went back to the field. The dozer pulled the tractor out pretty easily (the plow had already broken and been welded!) and he continued plowing while I went home. Then he ran out of diesel in the tractor and we went to town to fill two cans. He was going to wait until the next day to finish but we turned on the weather radio in the car and found out that the rains were coming a day earlier than expected beginning that next morning! So at 7 p.m. he went back and tried to finish up. I went on home, figuring that when he got done he would call me to pick him up because we don’t like running equipment on the road after dark for safety reasons. An hour later, he came in driving the truck and empty trailer.
Seems like he was swatting mosquitoes and sand flies coming out of the swamp at dark and got stuck again. Then when he went to get the dozer to pull the tractor out, it threw a track. By then the skeeters were eating him alive and he ran for the truck and gave up.
And then the rains came. Luckily, we only got an inch, then another half inch the next day, and an inch and half last night. Some places saw four and five inches with flooding. Luckily, we live on a gravel ridge way above the creek. But the beaver pond is full and the dam is running over.
We do have a dry week ahead (hopefully) for our seminar this weekend, so Will should be able to go put Old Yeller back together and pull the tractor out. But there won’t be any plowing for awhile — not without pontoons! The one good thing is that getting so much planted ahead of the rain, my seeds should pop up soon as the soil is very warm due to the above-normal temperatures. — Jackie
Monday, June 2nd, 2014
Our daytime temps are in the eighties and it’s dry. So dry that Will has been able to get out and disc up our new corn and pumpkin patch, raising dust even!
I’ve got the garden nearly all planted, putting in two varieties of sweet corn, Espresso and Miracle, to try this year; Provider bush beans, three varieties of squash, and millions of tomatoes. Okay, maybe not millions but 30 different open pollinated ones, plus a few hybrids such as Sun Sugar, Super Marzano, Indigo Kumquat, and Sweet Million. I’m done with tomatoes! Whew!
But we’re looking at the new corn/pumpkin patch and thoughts of expanding our garden flit through our minds. But it’s a patch about 250′ x 250′ and that’s a lot of whatever we plant!
I’ve got to till the old strawberry spot in the berry patch where I’ll be planting Glass Gem popcorn and some cucumbers. The weeds got bad the year we fell off the barn roof and we finally gave up and plowed our strawberry patch under. This year we’ll keep it tilled and mulched and maybe next year we’ll do strawberries again there. Will saved our patch by the house by digging up all of the strawberries, pulling all of the grass/weeds from the roots, tilling the patch up, then re-planting the clean strawberries in black plastic.
It’s hot today so we’re taking it easy during the heat of the day. Then this afternoon, it’s back to work. Will’s been hauling manure from the area of the cow pasture where he fed round bales all winter. But both yesterday and today he had equipment breakdowns and it’s going kind of slow with only seven loads having been spread on our little hayfield below the goat pasture. By the way, that little field looks wonderful. I think back to five years ago when it was just willow brush, stumps, and rotten logs and am simply amazed! Shows what a little work, a bulldozer, and lots of manure can do. The clover and orchard grass are already eight inches tall and very lush. We’re supposed to get rain this weekend and with that manure on it, it will simply shoot up. — Jackie
Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Well, here it is, the official, non-official beaver weather forecast. My furry buddies out on the pond are saying that it is going to be another hot, dry summer. We’ll see how that turns out as the human weather forecasters are calling for a cold, wet summer. Hmm, man or beast?
We’ve been planting tomatoes like crazy! So far, we have 26 different open-pollinated tomatoes in the garden and more looking at me from the greenhouse. I wish I were triplets and that it would drop below seventy and sunny. Sweat drops right off my nose and burns my eyes! Yuck! As hot as it is (days in the 80′s!) I feel a rush to direct seed squash. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming.
Will’s been working at setting concrete footings for the rock walls of the barn and has 30 feet finished, so far. But he hurt his shoulder (he wouldn’t have over-done it, would he?) so he had to slow down on that. Now he’s building a tub-style chicken plucker (Will’s famous TORNADO CLUCKER PLUCKER) in his “spare” time. And he’s hauling manure. And grading our mile long driveway. And building two 12′x32′ hoop houses … I’ll bet he wishes HE were triplets too.
Hondo is becoming quite a herd dog. He even herds our chickens and turkeys. We have a few escapees and he thinks it’s his job to herd them back into their pen. He gives them the “eye” and walks them right back to the gate of their pen. Pretty smart dog!
Our asparagus came up like lightning bolts. One day, tips … the next it seemed to shoot up to 18 inches tall. I picked two big baskets full. We had a huge batch for supper and I canned up six pints. I could eat it every single day!
I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend and remembered the men and women who died keeping us free. Remember too, the men and women who died as a result of illnesses and injuries following their service and caused by it, as did my late husband, Bob, who died as a result of Agent Orange in Vietnam. — Jackie