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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category
Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Our little half-pint kitty, Mittens, has turned out to be a very efficient homestead varmint catcher. She’s caught hundreds of mice, voles and shrews, several full-sized rabbits and lately, she’s caught three weasels! Now weasels are pretty tough customers, being able to kill full-sized rabbits even though they only weigh a few ounces. We really do like weasels as they are not only pretty but very good mousers in their own right. Unfortunately, they also eat eggs and kill chickens. (Long ago one weasel wiped out my fancy pheasants and six purebred rabbits in one night.)
So when Mittens brings in weasels as well as voles, mice, and shrews, we’re pleased and pretty surprised too.
It’s been cold these past few days with wind chill temperatures down to -50, so we do chores, tuck in our critters and find plenty to do inside! We’re already starting to order a few fruit trees. St. Lawrence Nurseries carries an Ely pear, which is grafted from a pear in nearby Ely that has been standing there for more than 100 years. We really want one for ourselves! But the owners of St. Lawrence Nurseries are retiring and we don’t know if we’ll ever get a chance to get it again, so we’re ordering early.
Although it may seem strange, we’re starting to “think spring.” I’ve got a speaking engagement down in Aberdeen, SD, at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference from Jan 22rd to 24th. So if you’re in the area, I’d love for you to stop by and say hi! I have an all afternoon, pre-conference workshop on the 22nd and others the following two days so I’ll be busy. But there’ll be plenty of time to visit between and after workshops.
Then in February, it’s time to start some peppers and petunias. — Jackie
Monday, January 5th, 2015
The last two days, we’ve stuffed firewood in both the kitchen range and living room stoves all day and several times during the night.
Our HIGH yesterday was -13 and this morning there was a wind with -21, giving us a -50 windchill. Brrrrr. We haul our dry firewood into the house with a wheelbarrow. It takes two wheelbarrows full to last 24 hours when it’s so cold. But Mittens LOVES to ride outside in the empty wheelbarrow. As soon as Will heads for the door, she hops in and rides all the way out to the wood shed. We sure have strange animals!
We made sure all the animals and poultry were warm. The goats and chickens weren’t let outside at all, being fed and watered inside the building. I added a doubled up old quilt on the goats’ door to the outside so there wouldn’t be any drafts and gave them an extra bale of bedding. Will brought all the cattle into the training ring where we had been keeping our beef steers so they could get extra grain prior to butchering. But the other cattle only had a small walk-out shelter and the steers have a barn to go in. So he let all of them come to the training ring and barn for wind protection.
We found plenty to do inside. I packed and filled seed orders all afternoon. It was fun to see our seeds go to so many different states. (Don’t forget we have a new seed listing; check the box at the top of the blog.)
On Friday, we bought a new tractor. We had been making payments on our Oliver and were able to pay it off early by saving some of our meat sales money. Unfortunately, the Oliver was just a little too small to run our big round baler without overworking it. Will was afraid he’d “kill” the tractor by baling. So he started looking for a larger tractor. Luckily, we found a Farmall just several miles from our homestead — at a reasonable price. The guy even offered to deliver it to the end of our driveway! Done deal! The day we went to look at it, it was cold and the tractor started right up. Great! And it has a loader and bale spear so that’ll sure help. We feel like farmers with three tractors! But we haven’t had to buy any hay yet and still have quite a few big round bales rowed up. That’s a great feeling.
I’ve heard that this cold is going all over the country, so stay warm and make your animals cozy. — Jackie
Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
Jackie – can I can fresh cream from my cow? I know that the stuff from the store is super heated and the purchased cow’s milk doesn’t can right – but my own milk does. Can I can cream and have it turn out somewhat ok? I see that people can cream cheese — can I can my own homemade cream cheese?
I really don’t think that cream would can up well. I have not canned homemade cream cheese yet, so I can’t advise about that. Any readers out there that can help Marilyn? — Jackie
I love your hardwood floor, but am wondering how it is holding up to the “snow pacs”? (I can see feet in your picture for the current post!) I spent a winter near Isabella Minnesota 32 years ago and my current locale, while usually a little “warmer” (temp wise), has winds that cut through you. Since you heat with wood I am guessing that pacs are your norm in footwear at this time of the year — indoor and out. I am wondering how the floor is taking it? (I am considering the ceramic “wood” tiles for flooring as the boots that come through my house are similar only with less snow we get a lot of rocks, mud/grit clumps, and hay.) Our temp at the moment is -9, but wind chill is -30F. Brrrr!
Mandan, North Dakota
We love our “fake” wood floor. It’s laminate from Menards and has stood up extremely well to farm conditions and two big, active dogs. We wheelbarrow wood into the house, the dogs play on it, and nobody takes off their boots. The only faint scratches have been when someone dragged a chair without protected legs on it across the floor. Definitely minimal.
We’ve got -12 with a windchill of -26 right now. You’re right; brrrrrrr. But definitely not as bad as last winter so far. — Jackie
Wednesday, December 24th, 2014
I finally got our Christmas tree decorated last night. Just in time! We think it looks pretty and sure perks us up. We’ve been hugely busy lately. I didn’t even get one Christmas card sent out. That’s a record for me! Oh well. S*^& happens. For me it was the diverticulitis from which I’m still playing catch up.
Will’s been working on the new barn, trying to get it enclosed before our first blizzard. He got the west wall enclosed with some of our free plywood so at least the snow won’t blow in. The plywood is to prevent any drafts from getting in through tiny cracks in the board and batten siding that’ll go on next. He also picked up some rigid insulation board on our local online auction for about half of the lumberyard price. That great buy was lessened when 6 sheets slid out of the truck on the way home. By the time he went back to get it, someone else had picked it up. Oh well, maybe they needed it more than we did to keep their family warm…
The insulation board will go on the upper wall of the barn between the outside plywood and inside boards to help keep the barn warmer in winds. Some will be added beneath the floor of our greenhouse/sunporch as we don’t have enough there now to keep stuff on the floor from freezing in prolonged periods of extreme cold like last winter.
I’m getting ready to bake goodies for our Christmas dinner as well as washing clothes while Will is watering the livestock. We used to have a lot of trouble with our water lines freezing. But Will made a short hose with a hose thread on one end and a fitting for an air chuck on the other. So when we’re done watering, we drain the hose as well as we can then he plugs in the compressor and builds up 100 psi. Then he attaches the fitting and blows out water. This is repeated 3 times and seems to work well. What a relief. Watering is so much easier now.
Again, you all have a wonderful Holiday Season! And a warm hug from me. — Jackie
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
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
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, minnesota.cbslocal.com. (https://www.facebook.com/TheBloodStripe) 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
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