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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

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

Jackie Clay

They’re calling it the “Arctic Vortex” we call it a pain

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Yep, at the risk of sounding same old same old, we got another 14 inches of snow with 40 mph wind. Now the temp’s going down way below zero this whole week! This is getting really tiresome! And to top it off, our water line from the well froze. So we’re out of running water for about 6 weeks. At first it seemed horrible. But, hey, we’ve lived where we never had running water at all. So we sucked it up and started melting snow for flushing the toilet and washing hands. And on trips to town, I come back past a flowing spring and fill water jugs for drinking and cooking water. Heck, it could be worse. We’re warm, have plenty of food, and the critters have plenty of feed. We’ll get by just fine but still hope for an early spring.


Meanwhile, it gives Will and me more time to work inside. We’ve been cleaning and hauling furniture out of the living room, dining room, and entryway in preparation for laying the laminate flooring.


We do chores, shovel, and snow blow to clear paths and clear around equipment, then we come inside to work, taking a “break.” Hey, it’s working. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

There’s beauty outside even when the high is -18 degrees

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Sure it’s cold, but the sun’s out and it looks beautiful today. We had 40 mph winds with snow yesterday and there’s lots of drifts. I noticed how pretty they were when I drove out of the driveway this morning to go to the post office to ship two big bags of seeds. The graceful sculpturing the wind had done to the snow was simply amazing. It was like an artist had spent the night on our driveway. I hate to think of how it looks now, after Will plowed it.


I’m getting used to washing my hands in the new bathroom sink. How wonderful it looks! Now Will is going to begin work on the other larger antique dresser we bought on Do-Bit, which pretty much matches the one he just finished. That one is going on the other wall, making a corner of vanities. This vanity/dresser with large mirror will be used to store towels, washcloths, and other things.

I’ve been busy with our little seed business. Since I nearly ran out of Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, I cut another three big squash and squished out the seeds to dry. I’m going to can up the squash so we can have “pumpkin” pie during the summer. Of course some of the squash will still be left so I can always use fresh squash (it’s stored more than two years for us!) but it’s nice to have extra canned squash. The goats and chickens appreciate the “guts” and any squash I can spare for them.


Our new kitchen is great for packaging seeds as I can sit next to the end of the island and package them easily. Will’s helping by packaging the tomato seeds, which are quite small. Then I only have to grab bags out of individual bowls to fill orders. We’re getting into a groove here.

I’m sure that all of you across the country are looking forward to getting in the dirt again. I know I sure am! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve been fighting bone-numbing sub-zero temps

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014


Not only did we get another 6 inches of snow but we also got frigid temperatures! We’ve been having HIGHS in the 20 below degree range and lows around 35 below and windchill temps of up to -60 degrees! Now that’s hard on animals and homesteaders.

We spend our days carrying warm water and extra bedding, only being able to be outside for about 15 minutes at a time. (Skin will frostbite in about 15 minutes unless it’s covered.) And as the days are still so short, it seems to take all day to get ready for night! Chores, then bringing in firewood for the evening take up most of the day. Those beavers sure knew what they were talking about when they said “lots of snow and cold” last fall.

LUCKILY the weather radio says we’re heading for a warming trend, starting on Thursday with temps well above zero at night and into the high twenties and even thirty during the day. Above zero!

We’ve had such a long spell of this intense cold. Usually it gets real cold for a few days, then we get a reprieve. Not so this winter, starting in November with two feet of snow and intense cold. It’s setting records all over the state.


I have to laugh though. Hondo goes outside to play and potty, then runs back in and jumps up on my lap so he can warm his little feeties. It’s cute but he’s getting pretty big to be a lap dog — I guess he doesn’t know that’s for Pomeranians and Chihuahuas! Keep warm guys; I know our cold has gone all over the country! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

And a partridge in a pear tree…

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Okay, here in northern Minnesota, they call Ruffed Grouse “partridge,” and the one I saw tonight was in our birch tree in the front yard, not a pear tree. But I thought it was cool. The grouse come up and eat the catkins off the birch trees in the winter. And this one didn’t seem to mind me taking his picture. I thought it was seasonal!


So let me take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and holiday season! We have been truly blessed this year with good health, happiness, achieving many of our goals, having a bountiful harvest, and meeting many new friends. May the same be for you and your family at this season and in the new year! I truly appreciate each of you and enjoy helping you through the blog. You’re all family, you know.

It’s been cold here, and tonight they’re saying it may dip down to -30. Brrr. The critters are all snugly bedded down, we have lots of firewood both in the house and in the woodshed, and Will’s working on the new bathroom vanity. As vanities are very expensive and poorly made with staples and particle board, we bought an antique cherry vanity with a beautiful mirror on a local online auction, Do-Bid, for $85. Will had to re-glue some separated laminate. But now he’s stripping off the old varnish. We’ve bought a drop-in sink and he cut the hole in the top of the dresser for it. In a few days we’ll have a beautiful bathroom vanity. And we won’t have to wash our hands in the bathtub any more. Wow! Civilized! Hey, it doesn’t take much to make us happy around here.


Again, let me wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and an exciting New Year! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our winter continues — cold and snowy

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

For us, winter is kind of a rest-up for spring because of the intense cold. Will and I do our daily outside chores but find time for inside stuff that doesn’t happen when we can be outdoors working.

I just baked three loaves of honey whole wheat bread (recipe in my cookbook) and boy was that yummy! What great toast it makes too. Since it’s cooler in the kitchen now than in the summer, the bread doesn’t mold before it gets eaten up. Store-bought bread is so awful and getting so expensive. I figured that my bread cost about 50 cents a loaf to bake. Not bad, huh? And it’s real wheat, real honey, real food.


I just took out my bucket of sauerkraut and skimmed off the yuck on top. Then I tasted it — just right! Tomorrow I’ll be canning it up. I was planning on doing that today but we took two more steers in to butcher and wow, were the roads bad! It was snowing hard, five degrees and the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. Ice built up on them in a heartbeat and we could hardly see to drive. The plows hadn’t been out so there were nearly whiteout conditions. And we had to drive about 22 miles, pulling a 16-foot stock trailer. If we had known it would be that bad, we would have called and taken them later. But we didn’t know it until we were five miles away from home and there was NO turning around. Will drove about 30 miles an hour, finding the road by mailboxes along it and by plow berms. Every so often we would have to stop right in the road (when there was nobody behind us!), let the defrosters heat the wipers and windshield, jump out and pick the ice off the wipers. Whew, were we glad to get to Al’s place with the steers and us in one piece.

We’ve got 3½ steers’ meat sold already and if we don’t sell the other half, we’ll split it between my son, Bill, and ourselves.

Meanwhile, Hondo and Spencer have been having fun playing. Did you ever know dogs that had a toybox? Well they do, full of “babies” (stuffed animals from the thrift store), balls, and chew toys. Every day we pick them up and then they go stand there and pick through their toys to figure out what they want to play with next … until they have a dozen toys out of the box.


Will’s been working on transforming an antique cherry dresser into a bathroom vanity. He first had to glue the laminate back into place, then cut the legs off a few inches to vanity height. Now he’s got the hole marked where the sink will drop in. Next he has to cut down the drawers so the sink and plumbing will fit. Boy, will it be nice not to have to wash our hands in the bathtub! I haven’t said much but it has been nine years without a sink in the bathroom. But, hey, there have always been more pressing places to put money. That’s homesteading! — Jackie



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