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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

Jackie Clay

We count our blessings as Christmas nears

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

We’re really grateful for so many different things. We are grateful for each other and for this wonderful homestead that just keeps getting better every day.

When I think of moving here in 2003, in February, when there was nothing but small trees, old logs and stumps with big woods all around and all we’ve accomplished it doesn’t seem possible: the log house, huge storage building, big gardens, berry patch, orchard, tons of fencing, fenced pig pastures or extra garden (whichever is needed), a training ring and adjacent barn, clearing two pastures, then the third huge one on the new forty acres we bought three years ago, plowing and planting many acres, buying haying equipment, and building the new barn.

Stocking up the pantry after nearly depleting it after our move here is beyond belief. We’re eating our own home-raised pork, chicken, eggs, milk, and beef along with some canned venison from last year as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables from our homestead.

The bread we bake is from flour we grind and after that bout with diverticulitis, I’m SO happy to be able to eat whole wheat bread again! It’s like a celebration, pulling a loaf out of the oven. We never take things for granted but appreciate every single day. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

So far we’ve had an on-and-off-again winter

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Our temps started out real cold; down to -25 and windy. Brrr. But lately we’ve been having much more moderate temps and we’re maybe going to hit 40 above this weekend. Translated, that means we’re getting more done around here because we can stand to work outside.

Will’s been cutting more lumber on the sawmill. He has almost enough to frame the top walls on the whole barn. (He has two sections finished now.) We’ve been using some of the slab wood every day for firewood as the temperatures have been so warm we don’t need the wood to last a long time in the stove. Waste not, want not! As Will cuts it so carefully, we don’t have building-quality slabs but they’re thick on the butt end and run out to thin on the top. But it does make nice (free) firewood.


Meanwhile, because I sure don’t feel up to helping him yet (I’m still kind of weak from the diverticulitis, which seems to have left), I boned our Thanksgiving turkey, cut it up, and boiled the carcass. Then I canned it up. It ended up to be nine pints and a quart of broth. One jar didn’t seal so I made turkey and potato chowder from it — a pint of turkey with broth, diced potatoes, carrots, and onions. Boy, was that good!

Well, we’ve got to go set out round bales so I’ll see you soon! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

David is now a movie star

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Well, sort of. This summer, our son, David, was in town and was stopped in a parking lot by a couple that he didn’t recognize. They told him they were part of a movie crew that was getting ready to film on nearby Lake Vermiilion. And his truck was the exact truck the main character drove. Could they rent his truck?

To make a long story shorter, they did rent the truck and he not only got to visit the set but landed a part in the movie. The movie is THE BLOOD STRIPE, telling the story of a female Marine Corps veteran who returns from overseas with PTSD. David portrayed a local whom she thought was “out to get her.” David was having a ball and the money he was paid for his acting and truck rental helped him out when he started college again this fall.

Now the movie is being put together and will soon be headed for film festivals. If you’d like to take a peek, check out the link, ( It’s pretty cool for a homesteader boy!

Meanwhile, Will and I have been sticking to winterizing the homestead. He blew a brake line on our pickup and today, as it was nearly 30 degrees above zero and sunny, he replaced it. He’s been using the truck without much brakes to haul our small poplar wood up from down by the barn where he’s been cutting it on his “mini-cordwood saw,” the table saw he added a Briggs engine to, making it much more portable on the homestead.

We’ve been stacking our “small wood” in the wood shed as well as using it in the house for nice hot fires in both the living room and kitchen range. We try to not waste much around here. We’re burning “waste” wood that was cut on a throw-away table saw with a motor from the scrap pile. I love it!

By the way, we’re sure glad we ducked that six feet of snow in Buffalo! Anyone who got caught by that storm, know that I’m praying for you. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just missed the big snow!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

We listened to the weather radio yesterday morning, cringing when they talked about significant snowfall for our area and south of us. Eek! Luckily, we only got a dusting but Duluth and parts south and east got hammered with 12 to 18 inches of snow.

We knew it was coming and Will and I have been working like mad to get things done ahead of winter. I pulled the last ears of our Glass Gem popcorn and was really happy with the ears (and colors!) we got. We didn’t get a full crop as it was quite late-maturing. Next year I’m planting it farther apart so the stalks get more sunlight. I discovered that the rows on the outside matured faster than those on the inner rows because it’s such a thick-growing corn. But the colors — Wow! Colors I’ve never seen in corn: light blue, pink, mauve, and pastels. We’ll definitely plant it again!


I wrapped up the last of the fruit trees and bushes yesterday. Will salvaged some heavy aluminum screening from an old TV dish so we could wrap the honeyberries and a couple of bush cherries that were too bushy for a regular screen to fit around. It worked great. We had quite a bit of vole damage to our trees last winter so we wanted to make sure the same wouldn’t happen this year. We have a friend whose big apple tree was killed because the voles had totally girdled the trunk. That’s depressing. Some of our orchard trees have grown so much that the white spiral plastic tree guards won’t fit. I used old aluminum window screen instead. We aren’t taking any chances!


I got a whole pork loin on sale at our local store for $1.99 a pound. I roasted it up for dinner, cut into two chunks to fit my roaster. Then the next day I warmed it up and canned what was left from dinner, using the pan drippings with water added for a broth. We got two meals plus three quarts and a pint to add to our pantry. And I also got busy and readied another batch of carrots to go in the canner after the pork came out. I’ve only got one more batch to go plus some rutabagas.

We aren’t hunting deer this fall because winter killed off about half of our local deer herd. Besides, we are butchering a steer and we already have half a pig left in my son’s, freezer. And canned venison down in our basement from last fall. And the meat chickens… We sure don’t need more meat and we feel sorry for the neighboring deer herd and decided to let them rest with plenty of feed (Will’s oats/clover patch!). There’s always next year if we need one. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re working like mad to get ahead of oncoming cold weather

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

We have a few warm days but the long-term forecast is for increasing cold and snow. So we’ve been working like beavers, canning, cutting and splitting the last big batch of firewood, hauling manure, and pulling the last things from the garden.


Will has finished the retaining wall under our enclosed porch, beside the walk-out-to-be of our basement. The stonework on the barn is done. And now he’s got Old Yeller, our faithful bulldozer out in the goat pasture, shoving three-year-old leftover hay and manure into huge piles. Then he carries the best of the composted material out onto our garden by the tractor bucket full. Wow, will we ever have GARDEN next year! And a whole lot of leftover rocks will be buried. (He didn’t spread much on the area where our root crops will be planted as they don’t like excessive manure.) Squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes flourish in well-rotted compost.


We moved the goats up to the old goat barn for winter. Next winter, they’ll be in the new barn for winter and the goat cottage and pasture for summer. How spoiled will they be? Hopefully, next summer we’ll dismantle the old goat barn as it’s sure not a thing of beauty. And when our new cordwood chicken coop gets built we’ll be tickled pink.

I pulled the last of our carrots, which I’ve been canning every other day for better than a week. I planted both Nantes and Tendersweet and both grew nice big, sweet carrots. They are so crisp that when I scrape them in the kitchen sink, some actually POP open in my hands. That’s a funny feeling, for sure. I can the big, fat carrots in quarts, in chunks, for stews and to use with roasted meat. The more slender carrots go into pints to use as a side dish. I’ve already pulled and canned a lot of carrots to use in canned mixed vegetables like sweet corn, potatoes, rutabagas, and onions, etc. We had an excellent crop this year of darned near everything.


I also have been seeding our big, fat cukes and drying the seeds. The cucumbers (Homemade Pickles, our favorite for pickles) still taste sweet and I pop a few pieces into my mouth as I scoop out the seeds with a tablespoon.

Gotta run. There’s SO much we want to get done before serious snow falls! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

After two months with a frozen water line, we have water!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

But our water line is still frozen. How can that be? My inventive husband saw that our spring catchment basin was nearly unfrozen and the water was pristine. Hmmmm. So he had me haul hoses and he connected up our irrigation pump to the intake pipe in the basin. The far end of the hose went into our basement storage tanks. A few pulls on the starter rope and we were in business. We did add bleach to our storage tanks … just to be safe. (I’m still hauling drinking/cooking water from the Idington spring.)

However, we were nearly out of propane after ordering and prepaying for it over a week ago. We dearly wanted a long, hot shower after minimal battery-operated showers and “bird-baths.” I wondered out loud if we couldn’t hook one of our 20# LP tanks to the water heater. Will took it from there and did just that! We each had a wonderful long, hot shower! Ahhhh. Less trips to the spring and being able to flush the toilet more normally. Hooray!

And now we have 600 gallons of spring water in our storage tanks with the ability to refill them on above freezing days. Wow! Waiting for the water line to thaw isn’t so important now.


We’ve hit another cold spell with highs in the high twenties and low low thirties so we’re still burning wood in the living room and kitchen. (With scarcely any propane, I’m cooking on the wood stove.) Hauling wood in is still a pretty much daily chore. Spencer helps by carrying in wood and lately, Will has gotten Hondo to bring in wood too. Both dogs are so proud to carry “their” own wood in, bouncing and dancing around us for praise. Spencer even drops his in the wood box. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The benefits of our cold winter

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

A whole lot of work inside the house has gotten done this winter. It’s just been too cold for us to do anything outside. Usually Will is out in the woods with Old Yeller, our bulldozer, cutting firewood for future years and then we’re cutting and splitting it up. This year, he just couldn’t do it. The snow is way too deep and it’s brutally cold both for us humans and our trusty equipment. We’ll get at that in a few weeks, while there’s still snow on the ground and it’s a lot warmer, even if it’s still frozen.

This last week, Will finished the rock work behind our living room wood stove. He scrubbed it down with cleaner, which removed the cement stains on the rocks. Then he painted on sealer which gives the rocks a wet look, setting off their colors. He had to do that before he laid the laminate flooring. It looks absolutely gorgeous!

Meanwhile, I was cleaning out cupboards and moving smaller furniture here and there, clearing the floors in the dining room, entryway, and living room so he could work. Then Will went around making sure there were no nail heads sticking up or other “bumps” on the floor. While I was in town, he began laying the laminate. (He sometimes gets to cussing when starting something picky that he hasn’t done before!) But by the time I got back, things were leveling off and he had the knack of it. Actually, it went pretty fast, taking one afternoon, into the evening, then finishing the next morning. I helped by hauling boxes of laminate out of the bedroom and opening them. Then I took empty boxes outside to burn, one or two at a time. (Pretty good gofer, I am!) I’ve learned that with Will, I need to stay out of the way. He doesn’t like much help! Now there’s just the trim to install and the furniture to move back.

As there is a lot of stuff all over the kitchen counter, it’s a good time to get rid of things we just don’t use. Clutter is SO easy to accumulate!

Oh, just a note: there was no odor at all from the installation of the laminate as one reader warned. I just thought I’d mention this so others who are considering installing it wouldn’t avoid using it because of this issue.

Our weather’s in a warming trend and it’s supposed to hit mid-thirties by a week from now. I can’t tell you how happy that makes us! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re looking at frozen water lines as preparedness practice

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Hey, we talk about preparedness day and night it seems, but how prepared ARE we? Water is always one of the biggest deals. Luckily, we feel we have it about covered. After all, even with frozen water lines, we still have more than 500 gallons of potable water in our basement storage tanks (which we are using VERY little of) and more than four feet of snow to melt outside.

We’re melting snow to flush the toilet and wash up with. This morning I washed my hair with some of it, heated on the wood stove to conserve propane, and Will’s coffee was brewed with some water I brought from the Idington spring yesterday, on the way home from town. The animals’ water is mostly melted snow. I’m only going to wash clothes once a week in our water-conserving wringer washer and that water will be mostly melted snow. By the time the snow’s pretty much gone, we’ll be able to get water from our spring as it won’t be wading through four feet of drifted snow to get at.


We feel fortunate to have plenty of firewood, food, and critter food on hand. If we get another couple of big snowstorms we may have to run the snowmobile out to the road. Knowing this is a possibility, we’re really stocking up on critter grub, especially. We have our bounteous pantry for ourselves, of course. A lot of folks we know have already gone through their entire winters’ worth of firewood and have had to buy more. But the firewood they bought is pretty green and really doesn’t burn well or economically. Green wood takes a lot of heat to drive off the steam in it from the sap and that burning eats up a lot of wood. And with propane getting scarcer and selling at $5 a gallon, I don’t know what folks will do. Luckily, we stock 2 years’ worth of firewood in the shed. But we’ve started dipping into our second year’s firewood already. We feel fortunate that it’s split and very dry, AND under cover…not out in the snowbank somewhere!


We’re plotting out what we’re going to grow to harvest for seed to sell in our mini-seed business next year. It’s fun but challenging as some crops such as corn and squash require extreme distancing to avoid cross pollination between varieties. We’ve got it about figured out and should be offering about 20 or more different tomato seeds plus many seeds from our old-faithful garden crops. (We still have plenty of seed for sale; just click on the green box pdf link above.)

Meanwhile, keep warm and tell us about where you live. Hearing about folks tilling their garden and running around in T-shirts gives us hope for spring! — Jackie



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