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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

Jackie Clay

Another gray, gloomy, snowy day

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

We’re wondering what happened to the sun. Honestly, Minnesota is usually bright and sunny, even in the winter. Lately, not so much. Today is warmer, in the low thirties, but it’s very dark and cloudy, spitting snow. Again.

Son, Bill, came up to hunt Saturday afternoon and although he didn’t bag a buck, he did help Will set up our new fridge. Boy, was I excited as they got it moved into its final position and hooked up the LP and 12 volt wires, running downstairs to our old battery bank that still works but is just not enough to power the whole house’s needs. By the time Bill left Sunday evening, the freezer had gotten frost on the back.


While the guys were working on the fridge, I canned up 10 pints of small rutabagas. They do store well, but I always like to can up some anyway just so we are sure we have some later on. Once canned, they never get wrinkled and soft!


Unfortunately, this morning I opened the doors to find the refrigerator warm. No flame to the burner and the LED lights were flashing “no-co.” (We still don’t know what that means!) I texted Bill, who is an RV technician licensed in LP appliances, and he texted Will back how to re-start it. So he did and so far — cross your fingers and say a few prayers — it’s still working. I was disappointed but do know that some “free” things require a little work to get them up and running permanently.

In that vein, Will finally got the clutch apart for the Mule RTV so he could adjust it. He’s been working on that for months now, even taking it to our neighbor’s shop to use a press. But finally, as he was tinkering with it in his easy chair, it opened! So it looks like we just may have the Mule operational before too much longer.

In case the Wednesday blog doesn’t get up in time, I’m wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving and do take a moment to give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s still raining

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Boy is it hard to get things done outside when it’s raining all day, every day. Grump, grump, grump! I pulled our last carrots and found that the deer had gotten in the open gate and munched off all the tops and pulled about a third of the row. So I quickly pulled the rest … including some the deer had eaten a little of the top. I DO cut off the deer munched parts!


Meanwhile, Will has been working inside. He re-manufactured one of our new top kitchen cabinets to fit under the new refrigerator. We wanted it moved up some as the fridge part was just too low. In the RV, it sat up on a little step so now it sits on a 12-inch cabinet that I can use to store some miscellaneous stuff. More storage is always good. He has all of the gas fittings so now he has to get it hooked up and we’ll (hopefully) be in business. He is also continuing to install insulation in the enclosed back porch so it (and the house) will be warmer. Eventually, we’ll be heating that porch, which will give us additional greenhouse space, come spring. As the firewood is used, that will free up growing bench space. Pretty cool.


I’m still harvesting pumpkin, squash, and bean seeds for our little seed business. I really love those crops. The seeds are so cheerful, too; nice and plump, ready to grow. And as the first germination tests have indicated, they ARE ready to grow!

All this rain has Spencer and Mittens depressed. They don’t go out much at all. In fact, Mittens goes out more than Spencer. That dog hates rain! Go figure; he loves to swim but hates the rain. Mittens goes outside and gets wet and doesn’t seem to mind. But even Mittens is spending more time stretched out on the back of Will’s new overstuffed chair. I know the feeling.


Oh, by the way, it’s been suggested that I ask all of you for your favorite family traditional recipes for the holiday meals. I thought that was a terrific idea so are any of you willing to share? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Where the heck’s the sun?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015


We got hammered a few days ago with a sloppy, wet snow. True, it wasn’t cold but we didn’t want to see white. Luckily, after a day’s time, it slowly warmed up and the snow went away. But as we listen to the weather radio every morning, we heard that we were going to have a nice sunny, warm two days, then it would start raining again and then turn to more snow. When the snow went away, Will went into “get the trucks fixed” mode. First off was our plow truck. The brake rotor had exploded when he came up our driveway a few weeks ago, falling out onto the dirt in pieces. After a few false starts getting the wrong parts, he got that fixed in a day’s time.


Then it was on to “Old Blue,” our Chevy pickup; its clutch quit working when Will got home from trailering our neighbor’s bull here to romance our cows. As I’m the official go-fer, I spent a lot of those nice days running for parts. But both jobs got done with no major hitches.

In the meantime, I got busy and put vole protection around our fruit trees and honeyberry bushes. We had no voles last winter but Mittens caught a nice fat one yesterday so they’re around and can do SO much damage under the snow. I wrapped tree trunks with hardware cloth and window screen then cut the bottoms out of some two-gallon nursery pots to use as protection around our smaller honeyberry bushes we just planted this year. I’ve still got one more tree to do because our Bali cherry tree grew so much that the protective wrap we used for a couple of years no longer covers the entire trunk. It’d be just my luck to have the little buggers eat all of the bark up that crack. If it stops raining I’ll get screen around that tree too.

Today Will’s busy insulating the enclosed, unheated back porch to help keep it warmer, which will also help keep the house warmer. We’re all for that. We started off bringing in firewood and then he decided that before we filled it up we’d better get that insulation in. First things first. At least working on that job is NOT out in the rain and mud.

Our rain’s going to turn to snow as the temps drop to normal and if the amount of rain we’ve been getting is any indication, we’ll have plenty of snow this winter. But that’s what the beavers said. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re into the “gettin’ ready for winter” mode

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

Although we have the woodshed stuffed full, which is about two years’ worth, we are now filling our enclosed back porch with small wood. (This is the popple sapling poles that Will saves when he clears or thins a patch of woods.) This small wood is often just piled and burned by those less frugal. But we find it such good kindling and kitchen stove wood we just can’t do that. We usually pile about a cord and half on the enclosed porch plus a little bigger split wood for nasty days or when we are sick and don’t feel like bringing in wood from the wood shed.


Of course, Hondo and Spencer help by carrying in wood. They love it and the small wood is a light burden for them. Mittens is there too, supervising from a spot above the noisy, panting dogs, just to make sure it’s stacked just right and that no mice get in while the door’s open.


My oldest son, Bill, works for Oak Lake Campground and RV, a quite large RV dealership. A while back, a man with a big motor home bought a new high-end double door propane/DC refrigerator as his older one had issues when he wintered in the South. In the North it worked just fine. As we live in the North, Bill thought of us and when David went down to visit, he brought the fridge up. Wow! After living years and years with a small propane fridge, a BIG, two-door refrigerator with a double-door freezer looks like heaven to me!


Will is putting it together and working on how to best fit it into our kitchen. We’ll keep the small one too but I’m thrilled to soon be able to have plenty of refrigeration without having to stack things precariously. Thank you Bill! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We are harvesting a bounty of carrots

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

As our nighttime temperatures are drifting into the very low twenties, I figured I’d better get at it and pull the remaining carrots and parsnips. Wow! They have gotten huge. Even our Scarlet Nantes are reaching a foot long and weighing in at over a pound. That’s a lot of carrot. And they’re so tender and crisp that when I gently toss them into a five-gallon bucket, some instantly snap in half or crack with a pop. I’ve got one five-gallon bucket all canned up and will get at the next one this morning. Boy, are they ever nice.
While I’ve been canning carrots, Will is busy pulling all of the tomato stakes, cages, and variety name stakes. He piled all the vines in huge piles to burn in the garden if it ever stops raining, then he raked all of the tangled squash and pumpkin vines into a row along the side of the garden, also to burn. By burning them we help prevent disease and keep insects from over wintering in the vines. Also, the ash adds a little fertilizer (potash) to the soil. Will wants to get the whole garden tilled before the soil freezes.
My parsnips grew funny this year. Instead of being long and thin as usual, they’re short and fat, almost like a beet! But they taste great and will be easy to peel and cook without waste. We’ll add them to the bins of potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas in the basement.

Monday we went down to my son, Bill’s, and helped him finish the sheet metal he’s laying on the old garage roof to match the new addition. The weather was supposed to be sunny and nice. Well… we hit rain in Cloquet, twenty some miles from his house and it continued until we got there. Bill was already on the roof, screwing down one-inch boards over the old shingles, on which to screw the sheet metal. Did I mention the temperature was forty degrees?

Luckily, Kelly’s two uncles, Mel and Vern, had already shown up so that made a good crew. They finished up after dark and Bill’s last screw was driven by the tiny light on Will’s Dewalt cordless driver. It was that dark. Luckily, the rain quit just as we got there so the guys weren’t too miserable all day, but the temperature never got over 45 degrees. But the job’s done, including the trim and ridge cap and it looks really nice. Now Bill can go deer hunting without that job hanging over his head. We got home just after eleven after being stopped on the highway by the State Patrol. We couldn’t figure out what he stopped us for as Will wasn’t speeding in our old ’85 Chev truck. It was a headlight that was out. We hadn’t even noticed! Will raised the hood and wiggled the wire. The headlight popped back on. The patrolman was nice and we were back on the road with two headlights! Seeing blue and red flashing lights up behind you sure makes your heart race. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The waterline is buried and we are on to other projects

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Will finished burying the waterline after insulating it well. But even our heavy duty backblade just kicked rocks up when he tried to grade it nicely. However, his friend has a landscape rake that goes on the back of a tractor and Will called him. In an hour’s time, the rake was hooked to our tractor and Will started raking. Wow, what a difference! Not only did the rake gather the big rocks but it also leveled out the driveway like a landing field. Will shoved the rocks over a bank next to the driveway and continued raking. Now it looks ready to blacktop (just kidding).
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing the big job of taking the seeds out of our last tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins for our seed business, Seed Treasures. Besides canning, that sure makes harvest time L O N G! But I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as most of the tomatoes are done and so is the tomato product canning. Whew! But the pantry shelves are really full and there are getting to be lots of containers full of different seeds.

Hunting season starts here the first weekend in November so we have moved the horses and cattle out of the north forty pasture as it’s the “wildest” of our land and stray hunters could mistake a calf for a deer. Hey, it happens; I have, in the past, had two horses shot by deer hunters. We want to play it safe.

We’re continuing getting ready for winter. Will is going to pull the irrigation pump, which he’s already drained, so it doesn’t freeze in the spring basin. Once pulled, we’ll then drain the entire line so it’ll be ready to go, come spring. (Boy, that seems like a long way off, doesn’t it?) I’ve got to replace the hinges on two gates and a goat shed door so we can move our goats up from the pasture for breeding season and for winter. It’s nicer to have them closer so when it snows bad we don’t have to wade through deepening snow to feed and water them. Lots of little projects and the days are getting shorter. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re making good use of our spell of good weather

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Because we know the “other season” is roaring down on us like a freight train, Will’s still busy working on the water line insulation. And because last year our neighbor ran over our frost-free hydrant next to the driveway and bent it over flat, Will decided to dig it up and move it further away from the driveway. We were able to straighten up the hydrant and we used it for a year afterwards, but when Will dug down, he discovered that the pipe was bent like an S! So instead of buying a new hydrant (the top and bottom along with the inside rod were okay) I ran to Menards for a 10-foot length of pipe. It was pre-threaded on both ends.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. The 10-foot frost-free hydrant was 10 feet long overall. So Will had to cut the pipe and we don’t have a die. So I took the pipe to town to get it threaded. Still not the end! When I got it home again, Will discovered that he had made an error in measuring. So I ended up taking it back to town after running to the neighbor’s first (he has a machine shop, but no pipe dies!). Now it’s back together and has passed its inspection by Mittens. She closely follows everything we do.
Whew! Hopefully now that it’s back together, we can soon bury everything with plenty of insulation over all and no more frozen water.
Yesterday I harvested the last of our Glass Gem popcorn. It’s just beautiful. And because each plant stooled out and made multiple tillers, each plant produced up to five ears each on 10-foot tall stalks. Amazing, and truly beautiful as there are colors you seldom see on Indian Corn: pink, baby blue, lavender, and mauve. I love it! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

More snow and below-zero temps

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015


As we’re crawling towards spring, we’ve been stuck in a cold arctic spell. Last night it was -18 and today at noon, it warmed up to zero. With a wind. Plus we just got four inches of new snow. So Will and the “boys” set out to plow the driveway.

Hondo used to hate going in the truck. He got sick, drooled, and shook. But Will worked with him all winter, putting him in the truck and only driving around the circle in the yard, parking the truck with Hondo and Spencer in it. And it worked. Just lately, Hondo decided that he loves to ride! Now when Will says “load up boys,” Hondo is the first one to the truck door and the first inside. He sits right up and watches with interest as the snow flies, observing the birds, squirrels, and other wildlife he spots on the driveway. To Spencer, it’s old hat; he’s ridden shotgun in the pickup all his life and has always loved to go. It got so we even had to spell the word “go.” Then he learned to spell. Go figure…

While the boys were plowing, I started soaking my peat pellets so I can get my peppers and petunias planted. I’ve found that when I use hot water to soak them, they swell up faster and the warm, damp pellets encourage very fast germination of the seeds. I cram several pellets into a variety of trays I’ve saved for this purpose, plant two seeds per pellet, then slip the whole works into a plastic shopping bag. The containers then go on the shelves of my cheapo little plastic-covered greenhouse that I’ve got on the side of the wood stove. So they stay nice and warm, out of the way of Mittens; and seedlings pop up very fast.

They say it’s supposed to be 40° F or even higher, come Sunday. And let me say we’re REALLY looking forward to that! — Jackie



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