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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.



The Orr Center Homesteading and Sustainable Living Expo was a great success

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

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Will and I attended the Expo on Saturday and Sunday, taking our Seed Treasures booth, seeds, and vegetables and promoting Backwoods Home and Self-Reliance magazines, of course. I gave the keynote address each day, one on canning, the other on gardening and seed saving. Both were well attended by excited and very interested people.

After the workshops, we had a chance to visit with many of these people at our booth and answer even more questions. Needless to say, both Will and I were pretty tired last night.

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The gardens are doing extremely well. Friday evening I picked two ears of Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn for us to try. Oh my! It was SO good I almost went back for a dozen ears more! The ears were nearly eight inches long, had 14 rows of delectable, nicely sweet, tender corn. And Will checked out the Bill Bean tomatoes and found one was ¼-inch short of being the same size as a 5-quart ice cream pail. And it’s still green, not ripe! We think it’s going to be over 4 pounds easily.

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And BEANS! We’re simply blown away by the production on the various bean vines. Some of our new ones are stupendous. And I can’t pick a favorite. There’s a dozen or more we simply love. Like pretty Gold Marie Vining and Purple Dove. And Magpie, Iroquois, and Folsom Indian Ruin and… It’s so great to be doing what you love every day! — Jackie

Will and I will be attending the Homesteading and Sustainable Lifestyles Expo in Orr this weekend

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »

Will and I will be manning our Seed Treasures booth, showing some of the various crops we grow and answering questions as we pass out catalogs on august 20th and 21st. I’ll also have some of my books available for those who wish to purchase autographed copies. I’ll be speaking on gardening at 2 PM on Saturday and speaking about canning at 4 PM on Sunday. We’re expecting a great show as there are many workshops as well as vendors. The Orr Center is housed in the old school in Orr Minnesota, about 40 miles straight north, up Hwy 53, from Virginia, Minnesota. Check out the Orr Center’s website for more information at www.orrcenter.com. I hope to visit with you there!

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Yesterday I picked a bucket of Norland apples to can up. They were starting to fall off the tree they were so ripe. Norland is a very productive fall apple. It’s tasty, early to produce and very hardy, but it doesn’t keep. So after giving my friend a pail full, I picked one for us and canned ’em up. I did keep out enough for a pie, of course. I wasn’t so sure how it’d work as it is a soft apple and might not make a nice pie. I was wrong! Although it was soft, it more than made up for it by being very tasty.

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You should see our Hopi Pale Grey squash vines. They have entirely taken up the narrow bed they were planted in and are now climbing trees, the fence and the bank next to them. What vigorous vines! And I know they’re loaded with squash, too, as usual. — Jackie

Well … We had ¾ inch of rain yesterday

Monday, August 15th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

And because the weather radio had our rain chances at 20% yesterday and it was sunny, Will cut hay. He quit when it started raining two hours later. And by the time he’d gotten home and in the house it rained again. No, make that POURED! Luckily, today (so far) has been sunny and breezy so he’s going out to rake the hay so it can dry the rest of this afternoon and tomorrow until he attempts to bale it. What a year it’s been.

Fortunately, the garden and pastures have loved all this rain! I’ve never in my life seen such crops. I have some beans a foot long and Will’s pride and joy, Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (which the cows ate last summer), has nine-inch cobs that are very fat. And LOTS of them. Our new sweet corn, Yukon Supreme, has shorter cobs, about five to six inches, but is very fat and tasty. We ate some last night to try it. It isn’t super sweet but does have nice old-fashioned corn flavor. It appears the variety needs a bit of stabilizing as we got both bi-colored ears and yellow. But when a sweet corn produces five ears per seed (it stools out with about four tillers, each having nice cobs!) and matures at 50 days, we sure aren’t complaining!

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In our big hoop house, the peppers are going nuts. One variety that is super nice is Mt. Etna, an Italian sweet pepper. One plant has twelve big peppers with more coming. And the beans? I can’t walk through the hoop house because of the beans EVERYWHERE on the south end — up poles, clinging to the hoops. Very nice.

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Will has been whacking tall grass so he can turn on the electric fence on the east pasture for the cows. He wanted them out of the north pasture so there was NO chance of them breaking into our north garden like they did last year. He’d even put electric fencing around the 6-foot-tall welded wire fence but didn’t trust them. Besides, the pasture was getting a little eaten down. So first we drove them to the small north east pasture, which is fenced with barbed wire. But it’s only about five acres and they ate the three-foot-tall grass down in a week’s time.

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Today he got the fence working and I turned the cows out onto the east pasture. I didn’t have to call them twice! Mamba, one of our milk cows, saw me open the gate and started trotting right toward me. She knows the routine and LOVES it when we rotate pastures. She’s always the first out the gate. Smart cow. It used to be Lace, our “wedding cow”, but early this spring, we lost her. She wasn’t a young cow when we bought her five years ago and she had a real bad case of mastitis in all four quarters when she calved last fall. With the help of friends, we treated her for weeks and finally stopped the mastitis. But I’m sure it stressed her body. We were sure sad when she died and I think of her every time I go check cows. She was the best cow I’ve ever had. — Jackie

Pictures of our homemade backhoe for Reg

This is the backhoe we bought for $300 from our friend, Tom. The front is an Allis Chalmers tractor with a trailer hitch in place of the front tires. The seat is on backwards for the hoe operator. The hydraulics run off of the “tractor.” Instead of two big rear tractor tires, there are four heavy-duty truck tires to lower the backhoe and support the weight while digging. The hoe has outriggers run by the hydraulics to help steady the rig while digging.

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It ain’t fancy, but hey, it works! I’m sure if you have any questions, Will would be happy to help. — Jackie

We got that hay up!

Thursday, August 11th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 11 Comments »

By the grace of God, we got another 18 big round bales up before the rain. That brings our total this year up to just under sixty bales. Now if we can just get the rest up…

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I made a huge batch of mustard bean pickles out of the last bucket of Provider beans. Boy, did they ever turn out great. And since I overestimated how much vinegar/spices/sugar I’d need I canned up the leftover sweet and sour sauce in half-pint jars. My “mistake” let me have all this ready-on-hand sauce to dip chicken, pork, and fish in as well as to pour over chicken and pork roast as a glaze. (It really isn’t too mustardy … rather like hot mustard sauce without the “hot.”) We love it.

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Our beans are producing like CRAZY lately. I planted more than 27 different beans this year on three gardens. Some are yellow, some green, some dry, and others snap. Many are multi-purpose. All are doing excellent both in plants and the beans they’re making. We’re especially excited about a pole bean, Folsom Indian Ruin, which I was given while living in New Mexico. A neighbor knew we loved heirloom seeds and brought me a sample he’d found in a clay jar in his cow pasture, in the rocks of an Indian ruin. They’d been sealed with pine pitch and his son, who went to school at the University of New Mexico, took one and they carbon dated it back to 1,500 years! Some of those beans actually germinated!

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These are a huge bean. The pods are like Kevlar so you couldn’t eat them as snap beans but the young beans are tender and make great shelly beans. As a dry bean, they are also tasty and swell up nearly the size of a ping-pong ball! (You have to mash them or slice them to eat them.) We’re so tickled to be able to pass them on this year as our row of beans are simply going crazy with both blossoms and pods. Actually, I’ve NEVER had so many blossoms on a bean in my life! Talk about production. No wonder those ancient Native Americans took the trouble to store them so well — Jackie

Despite the rain, we’re still getting lots done

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 12 Comments »

Okay, you’ve seen our main garden by the house, all mulched and pretty. I think it’s only fair to show you the new north garden, which is a mixture of pure white clay and 200 tons of rotted manure. (It needs at least that much more!) With all the rain, we haven’t been able to walk in it let alone till and weed it. So there are lots of weeds and grass in that garden. Fortunately, the vegetables are doing pretty well, even so.

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Will just finished another big project. He wanted another well to supply the barn. So he built a point on a 6 inch discarded well casing, dug that into the side of our spring basin with our $300 home-built backhoe then welded on another 9-foot length. It took several hours of pounding down with our tractor mounted post pounder, but it was finally down 18 feet in all. He stuck a tape measure into the casing and hit solid silt at 13 feet. The silt had filtered in through the slits in the point and packed the lower part of the casing solid.

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We tried to pump it out with our irrigation pump. No dice. So we rented a 2-inch trash pump and used that. Boy, what an improvement! But it wasn’t all a bed of roses; the discharge hose and pump clogged up with silt several times and the whole thing had to be cleaned out. By plodding on, it was finally all cleaned out right down to the point. Then Will set the intake hose down into the new well and turned on the pump once again. First the water was kind of muddy. But soon it cleared up. And boy was it flowing! Will measured after letting the pump run for awhile. It was putting out more than 20 gallons per minute. Heck, our house well only gives us 10 gallons per minute. The project was a big success! Happy, happy, HAPPY!

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Now he just has to put the pump in the casing and dig in the water line up to the barn. He isn’t going to put a check valve in the line so it will drain out after each use so the line won’t freeze in the winter. — Jackie

It’s still wet here, but boy is the garden ever producing!

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »

Haying has been difficult. We’ve been having significant rain every three days or so. Not half an inch or less, it’s been 2 inches, 3½ inches (and more) at a time. The hayfields never dry out well. But just lately we have had four days with no rain so Will is out raking hay today. We’re praying the standing water in the field has gone away and that it doesn’t rain before he can get the hay dried and baled.

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But all this rain has made our garden boom. This year I only planted one double row of Provider green beans, our standby canning bean. Yesterday I picked a five-gallon bucket full from one side of that fifteen-foot row! And the same today. So yesterday I canned up green beans and today it’ll be mustard bean pickles, our favorite pickle of all.

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For our seed business, we planted 26 different rows of beans. Some are pole beans; some bush. Wow, are they producing too!

Three of our favorites this year are a yellow pole bean, Monte Gusto; a yellow Romano-type pole bean, Gold Marie Vining; and a green multi-purpose bush bean, Magpie.

Monte Gusto is covered with ten-inch-plus long, narrow, round beans. I can’t wait to try some tonight for supper.

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Gold Marie Vining is so beautiful. It’s also very productive and the long, flat beans are super pretty and tender; I ate a few raw. Very sweet and crisp.

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Magpie simply blows us out of the water with its productivity! It is covered with refined green beans and blossoms, and I do mean covered. We’ll also eat a few to try out the fresh eating potential, which I think will be wonderful. But Magpie also makes a beautiful, tasty dry bean. It’s refined and has gorgeously marked black and white beans.

The first tomatoes are ripe so I’m thinking bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches tonight. Mmm, can’t wait. — Jackie

This is an insane year, weather wise

Monday, August 1st, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »

We still haven’t seen three days in a row without rain! We listen to the weather radio several times a day, plus watch the local weather on the news, hoping for the window of dry weather to make hay in. We were supposed to have that window so Will hurried out two days ago and cut a field of hay. Well, yesterday they changed their minds and called for rain this afternoon. Okay, we’d bale this morning after the dew was off. We woke up to not only dew but also a bank of black clouds. Will went over anyway and decided to bale out of the windrow to save time because rain was definitely on the way. You could smell it coming. He got one bale done then it started to sprinkle. He quickly got another when the bottom fell out of those clouds. Yep, it poured. It’s kind of finished but they’re calling for more rain for the next few days. We’ll get ‘er done one way or another.

I’ve got to tell you about a wonderful canning tool I’m using. At the Dallas Self-Reliance Expo, Cecilia Chavez stopped by the BHM booth to show me the beautiful canning funnels she makes out of pottery. A lot of people, me included, don’t really like using aluminum or plastic canning funnels but up until now there has been no choice. I brought home one of the amazingly beautiful funnels and have been using it ever since. Mine fits wide mouth jars and is so pretty it doesn’t sit in a drawer until I use it. It hangs up with my baskets so everyone can see it. If you’d like to check them out, contact Cecilia at cpcchavez@sbcglobal.net.

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Our gardens are doing fantastic and I have Provider and some other snap beans ready to eat and can up. Our young cherry trees are starting to bear this year. Both Carmine Jewel and Evans Bali cherries are giving us plenty of snacking cherries but not enough yet to can up. Although they’re “tart” cherries, we find them pretty darned good to eat.

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My lilies and daylilies are blooming their heads off and we enjoy walking through the yard each morning to see “who” is blooming today. As you can see, Hondo doesn’t share our enthusiasm for flowers! I especially love the Wonder Of It All from Dancing Daylily my favorite daylily site to go toonline. (www.dancingdaylily.com) Becky and her husband have tons and tons of exceptional daylilies at a reasonable price. I’m so excited when a new variety blooms. (And daylilies ARE edible for those of you who spurn “flowers”! If you could bear to eat one…)

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— Jackie

We’ve finally got a few days without rain

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 11 Comments »

But the bad news is the hayfields have standing water on them and we have two fields down and rained on. Sure, it wasn’t supposed to rain — so the weather radio said. But we got an inch. Will said it’s like haying in a rice paddy. Now we’ve got a few dry days and we HOPE we can get that rained-on hay raked and dried to bale on Saturday. We’ll see…

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Our domestic high-bush blueberries are beginning to produce although they’re only about two feet tall. The deer nibbled the tops off two years in a row because someone left the gate open. Our Patriot blueberries are the size of the end of my thumb! I picked the ripe ones and added them to those given to me for my birthday by my friends Dara and Robin, and canned them all up yesterday. I ended up with eight pints of wonderful blueberries — translates to four big blueberry pies!

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Just a note for you who haven’t yet read my Western novels, Summer of the Eagles, Autumn of the Loons and Winter of the Wolves; there’s a drawing for four copies of Summer of the Eagles, signed by me, on Goodreads. Here is a shortlink that will take people to the giveaway page: http://bit.ly/2azFPYs Here are a few customer comments from Amazon, where Eagles has a 5 star rating out of 91 reviews so far:

“I cannot recall the last book that I read that I just thoroughly ENJOYED anywhere near as much as this one. Great characters, quick pace, plenty of action, a good old fashioned western with a twist.
This is an authentic tale and just a ripping good story. A genuine “western” with good guys and bad guys and the good guys are actually admirable and worth cheering for.” wiseterrion July 14, 2016

“Absolutely wonderful — I read all three and hope there will be more coming … don’t want to give anything away but I love how Jackie views fathers and how important they are and Jess embodies the kind of father we all wish for.” Nancy

“I could not put it down! I was taken from my Iowa town and was riding along, on the horse. I just enjoyed reading the book, and ready to start the next one, as soon as I get the garden planted.” Flip Osan

Thank all of you who have purchased my Westerns and reviewed them on amazon. Those reviews do help! — Jackie

 
 


 
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