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Haying season has begun

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

I just got back from a two-day trip to Mayo Clinic with a friend who is having heart issues. What a place! People from all over the world and every culture you can imagine walk through those doors. We got back yesterday, tired but glad it’s over and things are seeming okay.

As we’ve been having so much rain, Will hasn’t been able to get started haying but today we have a cloudy but supposedly rain-free four days in a row. So he started haying on our place, cutting the clover on our new forty acres that he cleared four years ago. Wow, you wouldn’t recognize the field. Where it used to be scattered grass, weeds, and wild strawberries, now it’s hip-high, lush clover. And where there used to be only willow brush, a few scattered small poplar trees, and swamp, there is now a five-acre patch of oats/clover/grasses planted and laying down for hay. It’s simply amazing; just clearing that land dried it out. And adding manure last year made it rich enough to support a nice hay field. Another win for “mo’ poo poo,” our farm’s motto!

I want to thank everyone who responded for Javid’s need for a tablet or laptop. A nice fellow is sending a used but usable laptop to Javid and another lady generously sent a check for us to buy him a new one. (We’ll hold it until the first one shows up … just in case it doesn’t happen, then return it to her with our profuse thanks.) We’re really overwhelmed by all of your generosity! We thank each and every one of you. — Jackie

Q and A: Seed Treasures and processing stored garlic

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Seed Treasures

Just visited Loved the site. Will your seeds also do well in my just south of Atlanta gardens?

Burt Crews
Hampton, Georgia

Most of them will do very well in your garden. So far, we’ve sold to nearly every state and have had glowing reports coming in from all over. Glad you liked our website. We love to help gardeners succeed! — Jackie

Processing stored garlic

I had a bunch of garlic given to me still on the stalks. I put it in a glass with the bulbs up and some of it has been there for about a year. What do I do to preserve it or is it too late?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I’d peel couple of cloves. If they are still soft enough to pierce with your fingernail, they should be okay to dehydrate or plant this fall. If not, see if they are normal looking even if hard; they may have dehydrated on the stalk. If they are shriveled or shrunken, you’ll have to give ’em a toss. — Jackie

So far, perfect summer

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

I can’t believe how nice our summer has been so far and boy is the garden happy! Will is just finishing mulching the whole main garden, all 150×150 feet plus a side L of Hopi Pale Grey squash. That’ll be it for the weeding. I just have to finish thinning about 10 feet of carrot rows and then he’ll be mulching that. Wow, does it look good and the plants are so happy.

All of my honeyberry jam set and we were thrilled with how good it tasted. (Of course I had to pour some out in a cup for us to sample.) Yum — a new favorite!

Yesterday all three of us went out to the big “pumpkin/corn patch” on the new 40 and weeded seriously. Krystal drove the tractor with the tiller to till up a spot we couldn’t get to because it was way too wet before, as well as the sides of the pumpkin and squash rows. Will and I took turns with the Troybilt and we all took turns with the Mantis, getting between plants and spots the big Horse missed.

Will and Krystal have been setting in fence posts around the patch so we can get it fenced. The deer have munched here and there, but so far no serious damage. It does help that the patch is surrounded by knee high clover and oats on the north side!

I hilled a long row of potatoes out there. They don’t look as nice as the small patch in the garden but they’ve not been in as long and do look healthy and happy (with a few deer munches out of them).

While we were working, three deer came out of the woods and started grazing on the clover by the edge of the oat field. They didn’t seem too worried about us and we enjoyed watching them. Luckily, Hondo didn’t try to chase them off. He’s getting much better about that. We’re happy he doesn’t even LOOK at the baby chicks. Of course, mama hens have encouraged good behavior by fluffing up and chasing him with murder in their eyes!

Yesterday was HOT and after working, Will, Krystal, and I put on swimsuits and headed for Lake Leander, five miles away. That cool water sure felt good after we were brave enough to get in all the way. — Jackie

Most of our road trips involve food

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

I bought honeyberries and bush cherries from Honeyberry USA, in Bagley, Minnesota several years ago. (I had met Bernis and Jim Ingvaldson, the owners, at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference in January, held in Aberdeen, SD, where I gave several workshops.) They are very nice folks and they invited Will and me to come visit their farm. As Will wanted to pick some honeyberries for me to make jam with, we waited until their website indicated that it was pickin’ time.

I called Bernis and we set out to their farm the next day, a three hour drive west of us.

We had a wonderful visit and were introduced to dozens of varieties of honeyberries (really a type of honeysuckle — not a blueberry). Some varieties were from Canada, Russia, and places far and near. All had differing tastes and we sampled as we went, trying to pick our favorites.

We were really impressed at their orchards and all the work they’ve done to promote this wonderful berry. Honeyberries grow on medium-sized bushes so they are easy to pick. And, as they are quite large, the picking goes pretty fast once you learn to part the bushes to look for the berries down inside the bushes, instead of on the outside like blueberries.

I really loved walking through the bush cherry orchard, fenced with 8-foot deer fence. The cherries are just starting to bear for them and promise to be a wonderful crop in the future. My mouth just watered as cherries are one of my very favorite fruits of all. We were encouraged about our cherries and honeyberries as they are about a year behind their plants and just barely beginning to bear.

We brought a full ice cream pail home with us as well as a couple potted honeyberry plants of the varieties we liked. And we’ll also be getting some more bush cherries and a Polish pie cherry that is very hardy and productive in our climate. Now we’re excited and ready to get at increasing our own orchard! If you’re interested in honeyberries, bush cherries, and other very hardy small fruits, check out Jim and Bernis’ website, Bernis also does a blog and you can learn a whole lot! I know we sure did on our all-too-short visit. — Jackie

Q and A: overpressure plug on canner and lime water

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Overpressure plug on canner

How often should you realistically replace the overpressure plug on an All American canner? The manual suggests replacing it at least every 12 months. My canner is 3-4 years old and I’ve never replaced it. The rubber still seems to be in great shape. What do you do?
DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

Personally, I feel that if the plug rubber is soft and doesn’t leak excessive steam, it’s fine. Today with everyone so sue-happy, manufacturers have to cover their butts. I’ve never replaced mine after eleven years of use. If it wears out or becomes brittle, replace it. The worst that could happen is that the plug blows out and may ruin a batch of canning. It’s not like the canner would blow up. — Jackie

Lime water

I grow my own dent corn, and have been making corn flour for years, but I have never been able to find the ratio of wood ashes to water to make lime water. I would like to be able to make corn chips etc. from scratch. Have you had any experience with this process? I live in Massachusetts and burn mostly oak or maple for heat, would the type of wood ashes matter? Nobody in this area has any idea what I’m talking about when I ask about soaking corn or even slaked lime. Do you have any advice?

South Hadley, Massachusetts

You don’t use wood ashes to make lime water. Soaked wood ashes make lye, which also can be used to make hominy which is then dried to make masa harina from which such things as tortillas and tamales can be made. I prefer using lime water; it’s less dangerous and quick to find and use. Here’s how:

You need 2 lbs of field corn (removed from cob) and two tablespoons slaked lime (pickling lime). Clean the shelled corn by placing in a colander and rising with cold water.

Add two quarts of water into a four-quart non-corrosive pan (stainless steel, or enameled pot). Put the pan on high heat and stir in the slaked lime until it dissolves.

Bring the slaked lime water to a boil and add the corn stirring gently. Using a slotted spoon remove any kernels that float to the top. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and let the corn soak for about one hour.

Put the corn into a colander and rinse very well with cold water. Rub the corn between your hands to loosen any hulls still attached to the kernels. Continue this until the corn is all white (except the little tips). Allow the corn to drain.

The corn is now ready for your favorite pozole or hominy recipe. Or you can dry the hominy well, then grind it to make masa harina. — Jackie

Rain, sun, rain

Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Boy, the weather can’t seem to make up its mind lately. We get a big thunderstorm and the next day the sun’s out. Then it rains again! But this rainy weather is pretty common for June in our country. And it makes the garden and flowers grow. I went out yesterday and took pictures of our big patch of lady slipper orchids, our state flower. They’re in full bloom and just gorgeous this year. Huge too! Some are the size of the palm of my hand.

This morning, between storms, we went to the berry patch and put up a stock panel for the pole beans we’re growing there this year. They’re already sending out long runners. Our friend, Dara, grew Neckargold last year and they were fantastic for her. So we thought we’d try them this year. They’re a bright yellow snap bean that simply covered her vines, making them appear gold from a distance. So far, ours are very lusty and we have high hopes. We’re also growing one of my old favorite flour corns, Bear Island Chippewa, which is getting extremely rare. It’s multi-colored and short seasoned, making it a great corn for those of us with challenging climates. And this is Chippewa country so we thought it appropriate!

Our peppers and melons in the hoop houses are doing great. Some of Will’s Hot Banana peppers already have peppers set on them. I’ve been thinning carrots and tucking tomato vines back inside tomato cages. Boy, are they growing fast! Some of the vines have wandered 18 inches out of the sides of the cages in a week’s time. Wow!

Everything in the pumpkin patch is doing very well and Will wants to get started fencing it as the deer are already wandering through “shopping.” So far, only a few nibbles on the potatoes. But we’re getting big thunderstorms today and it’s dangerous to be out when there’s lightning. A neighbor was killed by it getting into his car a couple years back and we’re very careful.

The dill I planted last year did so well that it self-seeded and is coming up all in that end of the berry patch. Cool! We love dill.

The red raspberries Will and Krystal transplanted are doing very well as are the blueberry row and the new Mac Black black raspberries we bought this year (supposed to be Zone 3). The rain and heat helps a lot.

Because he’s not able to put up fence today, Will is working on the forms for the interior slip form concrete and stone walls inside the barn. Not only will there be outer walls but interior walls as well; no rotten wood next to the manure. Ever. Nice but a lot of work! — Jackie

One of our hen turkeys hatched out … chicks

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Yep, that’s right, chicks, not poults (baby turkeys). It seems Mama turkey found a nest of chicken eggs and decided to sit on them instead of making her own nest. Oh well, she IS a good mother and it’s the second time a turkey has raised chicks on our ranch and last time she raised the whole batch.

Will got most of our tomatoes not only staked but mulched and caged, too. We’ve got to buy another roll of concrete reinforcing wire to do the last 30 or so tomatoes. Boy, there are a LOT of tomatoes in the garden this year! We’re out of money so in the meantime, we’re busy tilling, weeding, and mulching the rest of the crops. Today Krystal and Will are working on the isolation patches of squash.

I’ve been kind of under the weather with another bout of diverticulitis and finally had to go to the doctor for antibiotics. Whew! After three days the meds are working and there’s much less gut pain. Boy, how I hate that. So today I’m kind of easing back into the swing of things gently. No, I won’t overdo.

Our adopted son, Javid, is still in need of a donated used laptop or tablet to use while he’s forced to lie in bed to keep healing his previous pressure sore. So if you have one around you’d part with, please let me know, okay?

Our rhubarb is HUGE again this year. The stalks are the size of baseball bats and the leaves are higher than my head. Wow! One plant would make a million pies! I need to get busy and can up some sauce. My friend, Jeri, found that if she extracted a couple of pints of juice from cut-up rhubarb with her Mehu Liisa juicer, then canned up the rhubarb as well as the juice, the rhubarb was just right for sauce, not being watery like regular canned rhubarb. Great for rhubarb crisp, too. Yum.

The broccoli and cauliflower is doing great this year, as it did last year. All mulched and weeded, they’re shooting up. Can’t wait. — Jackie

In between rains, work continues

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately, with a few sunny days stuck between them, thank goodness. Will pounded 104 T-posts in the garden to stake up the tomatoes we have growing in there. Our big tomatoes would break off wooden stakes in the wind! Then he weeded and mulched them with our seed-free reed canary grass hay. Once mulched, they’ll need no more weeding.

Yesterday, he finished putting wire cages over most of the tomatoes but he had to start making more cages as we’re growing so many more tomatoes this year in the garden. The ones I planted on the new forty acres won’t be mulched or caged; it’s just too much work for us.

Today the sun’s out and Will’s busy making more cages and also side dressing our small household patch of corn in the garden with rotted manure. The corn sure jumps once that’s done and it already looks pretty good. On the end of the sweet corn is a small patch of Glass Gem popcorn.

Unfortunately the chickens got in the garden (we do have a few “wild” escapees) and scratched around in that patch. And ate some corn. But they are ousted from the garden and most of it has come up anyway.

The pumpkin patch/corn patch is doing well as is the pig-pasture corn and pumpkins. So we’ll pray for warm sunshine and alternate days of rain to keep it going. Lookin’ good so far… — Jackie



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