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 ‘Winter’ Category
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
Wednesday, February 25th, 2015
On Saturday we were hauling hay to the horses and cattle. On the very last big round bale, the Oliver ran out of fuel ten feet short of the gate into the training ring. Luckily, the cattle did have some hay left, they were just getting more. We had to wait until we went to town to get diesel fuel.
After getting fuel, Will filled up the tractor and primed the injectors. Then he gave it a shot of starting fluid and cranked it over. But because it was still below zero, no dice.
He waited instead of grinding the battery down since it was supposed to warm up. Once it warmed up a little he put the propane heater under the tractor for an hour or so, then repeated the sequence. It fired up and before I could get down the hill, Will had delivered the bale of hay and parked the tractor in its spot by the storage barn. Now when I say “warmed up,” that means that it was above zero today — ten degrees to be exact. But with a 30 mph wind, it was still COLD. Only the dogs like the weather.
We’ve got another weasel hanging around. Yesterday I saw his tracks coming from the orchard to the side of the chicken coop, around to the door where he stood with his feet up on the door sill. We’re hoping he’s thinking about MICE, as there is no better mouser in the world, not even Mittens. But after having my purebred rabbits and pheasants wiped out entirely by a weasel in one night years ago, it gives me the shivers. I’m glad we shut the birds in every night!
I’m waiting for my petunia seeds to come in the mail so I can get them started. They stay small so long and this year I want to get my hanging baskets planted with petunias early enough that when I set them out they’re flowering nicely.
Peppers go in tomorrow! Springtime when it’s 20 below! It’s a start, anyway. It’s sure nice that the days are getting so much longer. Darkness can get depressing. Even a couple more hours of daylight is SO welcome. — Jackie
Saturday, February 21st, 2015
I know we are all getting pretty darned sick of winter. We’ve decided that the weather forecasters are always predicting warmer weather at the end of the week, yet it never comes! So we decided that summer photos are simply a cabin fever solution to give folks some hope to cling to as the snow blows and the temperature falls. Again.
I decided to look back at September 6th photos of our place and share the COLOR with you. We are SO color-deprived in the winter! When you look at bright summer photos, your eyes can’t absorb what they’re seeing!
I’m starting petunias and peppers next week and have already dug out my potting soil and containers. That should help. Hang in there, guys, spring IS coming! — Jackie
Thursday, February 19th, 2015
With our new mini-business, Seed Treasures (www.seedtreasures.com), we keep hustling, sorting, and packaging seeds. Will does that while I package envelopes and fill the orders. We used to be kind of bored this time of the year, but not anymore.
It’s such fun, too, as we get letters from a lot of different people all over the country and they share bits of their lives and gardens with us. I can’t wait to hear how some of our crops perform for them.
I got back from Duluth and Federal Court jury selection late Tuesday and all day yesterday I played catch-up. I wasn’t too sad to find out that the case finally settled out of court, allowing us jurors to get back to our lives. My bed never felt better than it did last night!
Are any of you rabbit breeders? I’m working on a “secret” project and would like to hear from you. I especially need photos of your rabbits, hutches, etc. As we’re not raising rabbits now, I don’t have access to these and hardly anyone raises rabbits, other than a couple of pets, up in our area.
Thanks! — Jackie
Thursday, February 12th, 2015
But we’re not complaining. We know you folks back East are suffering record-breaking snowfalls with nowhere to put it all. Been there. We know where you’re coming from. Luckily, our winter has been great, although light on the snow. We only have about a foot on the ground. Honest. And it’s not been too cold, either. So when we hit a week of sub-zero weather, it feels cold now. But we know spring is coming fast. In fact, in two weeks I’ll be starting my petunias and peppers. Yeah, green things!
We keep opening pumpkins and squash as we use them, saving all the good seeds to sell in our Seed Treasures seed business, which is doing well. I’m glad to report that we’ve sent seeds to every state in the union now, from Florida to Alaska. (By the way, any of you who bought seeds, I’d LOVE to see pictures of your garden this summer/fall!)
Just a note to let you know Spencer is 100% back to normal again and sure loves getting his pills 3 times a day. Why? Because I bought small cans of turkey cat food. I put a pill in the center of a tablespoon of food and he gobbles everything right up. Yum! We will be back at the vet’s to get him started on other antibiotics to treat his Lyme disease as well as getting Hondo tested and vaccinated if he comes up clear.
Our critters are all doing fine. The goats are doing well back up the hill in the old goat barn for the winter, having free choice hay outside the stock panels and grain being fed in a heavy duty plastic sled I bought on sale a week ago. The sleds work great to feed grain as they are SO easy to clean out before new feed is dumped in. In the summer, I can even scrub them out, if needed.
I’m happy to report that my Western novel, Summer of the Eagles, is selling well and has several 5 star reviews on Amazon. Would any of you who purchased the book, either on Kindle or as a paperback, give a review, also? I’m told that it really helps not only sell the book but place it higher in Amazon’s promotion list, which is important. Thanks! — Jackie
Wednesday, February 4th, 2015
I just thought you might like to see some shots of our garden in the SUMMER! I know we’re getting kind of tired of drab, naked trees and snow. I ran across these photos and thought I’d share them with you! See, summer IS coming!
For those of you who have been waiting to get my new book, Summer of the Eagles, good news! It’s been released sooner than we thought.
My publisher gave me some links for you. They are: Kindle version: http://amzn.to/1w9IJRt Print version: http://bit.ly/1yv83c3 (my Amazon store) OR http://amzn.to/1I1Yc22 (Amazon’s order page).
You can read the beginning of the book on the publisher’s website here: http://bit.ly/1tZCDcr
And signed copies will be available through me for $18.90 ($12.95 for the book + $5.95 Priority Mailing). You can e-mail me for a form at firstname.lastname@example.org or download the form after you read the excerpt at the link above.
Are any of the rest of you getting crazy, trying to plot out your gardens for this year? Even with an extra acre and a half of “garden,” I’m kind of running out of space for it all. Maybe it’s the full moon? — Jackie
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