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“Strike while the iron is hot”

Monday, April 3rd, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

This is our “second” farm motto! (The first is “Mo’ poo poo.”) The company where David works is starting to cut their own bolts (square logs) that they then use to manufacture milled logs in different diameters and profiles. Last week, David helped saw the first logs on the mill and noticed there were leftover thick slabs. These were “waste” so he brought home as many as his half-ton pickup would haul. On Friday, after work, Will and I took our ¾-ton Chevy truck to the mill with our three axle equipment trailer to get a load. (The slabs are green and VERY heavy.) David was able to load the trailer with the company front end loader.

We drove home carefully as we had a big and heavy load and the roads are extra bumpy due to frost heaves because of winter freezing. Then Will sorted the slabs out; some are thick enough for him to saw lumber from using our portable bandsaw mill. The slabs that can’t be sawn into lumber are still plenty thick on the butt ends. So we’ve been cutting, splitting, and stacking this additional windfall.

Another bonus for us is that a neighbor works in the iron mines. Every couple of years they replace the belts on the conveyors. These belts are about ¼-inch thick and three feet wide and come cut and rolled in 60-foot lengths. He asked Will if we could use them for anything. They’ll make permanent mulch in the berry patch between rows of grapes and raspberries, which always get too weedy. Now we’ll only have to weed between plants — much more manageable! We now have four rolls with more coming.

Over the weekend, David and Ashley helped me put together the vinyl garden arbor that a friend gave me when she moved. We were helping her move things when I spotted it lying in the weeds. “You want that?” she asked. I said I sure did, so we dis-assembled it and took it home. I’ve got just the spot for it this spring and it’s all ready to go now. I could never afford to buy one.

So we strike while the iron is hot, before someone else steps in and beats us to the bounty.

Our migratory birds are arriving daily. Today I saw a red-winged blackbird, a pair of wood ducks, and yesterday we saw the first turkey vulture. Okay, so the vulture wasn’t “pretty” but it was a sign of spring. The ice is about melted off the beaver ponds and my tulips are starting to poke through the dirt. How exciting!

Now I’ve got to get back to transplanting tomatoes, a job I’ll be at for several days. — Jackie

Spring is officially here — we saw robins today

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Will bummed me out this morning. He got up earlier than I did and saw our first robin in the tree in our backyard. But I one-upped him when I drove to town this morning to mail a bunch of seeds; I saw two robins just to the side of our driveway and three more, coming back from town. Then I saw a red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, and eight bald eagles, really close up, feeding on a road-killed deer. Of course, when I got home the chickadees were still gobbling up the suet in the basket on the front porch. Lots of wildlife this morning!

And, when I got out of the car, I took a peek at the daylily bed beside the driveway which had been buried under four feet of plowed snow all winter, not expecting to see anything. There were daffodil noses poking up three inches! How exciting!

I’ve just got a couple more peppers to transplant and I’ll start on the first tomatoes. Those tomato seedlings are pretty leggy as they sprouted in a bag-covered flat much earlier than I’d expected. But I’ll just plant them deeper in the cups, covering most of the stem with potting soil. They’ll grow roots along the stem and will do fine regardless of their leggy start.

We’ve got seven people signed up for our homesteading seminar this August so we have room for seven more. If you’re interested in coming, be sure to get your deposit in. We had to turn away folks from our previous seminar and that made us feel bad. We’ve got lots planned for this one. — Jackie

Hooray, it’s fifty above!

Monday, March 27th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

The sun came out this morning and the temperature shot up. Now almost all of our snow is gone except some slush pack on our mile-long driveway that’s kind of ugly. But, luckily, it’s still freezing at night so it’s passable in two-wheel-drive. I’m in the middle of transplanting our peppers and that’s going nicely. I’ve been “scolded” for using non-sustainable Styrofoam cups for my transplants, which keeps the roots’ temperature even. But as I re-labled the cups, I noticed I’ve used some of them five or six times already! That’s pretty sustainable, in my book! And I should get several more years out of most of them.

The tomatoes are mostly all up now and looking good. I’ll be transplanting some of them as soon as the peppers are all finished. Some of our seeds popped up in three days! They must be as anxious for spring as we are.

We’re still working at cutting and splitting up all that firewood David and Will hauled home. Will and I did a full cord over the weekend, using up the big pile by the storage building. Today, he’s working at the HUGE pile farther up the driveway. And to top it off, as David works for Voyageur Log Homes, he sometimes brings home some log ends and pieces or heavy slab wood for even more firewood! Can’t have too much wood. It’s sort of like having “too much” food in the pantry, isn’t it?


— Jackie

The weather’s nasty so we’re working inside today

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

It’s raining, mixed with sleet and snow. Freezing rain is forecast for later on. Earlier, Will was hard at work cutting up the big pile of firewood in front of the storage barn/wood shed. Yesterday, we worked hard splitting a big pile, which Will stacked in the wood shed. It’s getting full and we have lots of wood left to cut and split. Gee what a problem…

The painting of the living room is finished. Ashley did a great job and didn’t get a drop on anything. I’ve been coating the oak mantle and shelves with more poly and they’re ready to put back up as soon as the last coat dries. They look very good.

Our peppers are ready to be transplanted into their little individual Styrofoam cups so I’ll be doing that tomorrow. The tomatoes are nearly all up and looking good in the little plastic greenhouses in the living room windows. Boy do we ever have a variety this year!

The chickens are pumping out eggs and David is helping me by catching the “wild” chickens, cutting the flying feathers from their wings and putting them in the chicken run. We’re also holding the extra roosters out in the old small chicken coop, getting ready for a butchering day in the near future. We have way too many roosters but after they are all canned up, we’ll have lots of chicken-based meals available right from the pantry. Those “wild” chickens are a pain as they not only get in my flower beds, digging “fluffing” holes, but also run in the garden, scratching newly planted seeds up then later on eating tomatoes. Not this year, guys.

— Jackie

After a wet snow, the sun is back out — Happy Spring!

Monday, March 20th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »

On the first day of spring, we reflect on how grateful we are. Our weather’s turned nice again, into the forties with sun. Will and David managed to haul more than 9 full truckloads of firewood logs home from the logging site before thawing started. Will and I were able to cut up, split, AND stack away a whole cord, plus more into the wood shed. That’s a full cord, mind you (8’x4’x8′). Then it snowed and rained. Today Will’s out cutting up more logs to get ready to split as it’s again dry.

We heard and saw a Canada goose yesterday morning. Yea! Spring’s really coming. No robins yet, though.

I got all of our tomatoes planted. That’s three full flats of 66 plants each, plus three smaller flats. Hmmm, that’s a lot of tomatoes, isn’t it? (Will, get out the bulldozer…)

Our chickens are starting to lay with the warmer weather again. I can’t wait for my first rhubarb pie, topped with four-egg-white meringue.

I checked our fruit trees in the orchard and can’t see much, if any, winter damage or vole activity. We did have a very mild winter for northern Minnesota. We only hit -35 twice for a short time and we had plenty of snow cover.

Yesterday, Ashley and I painted the living room walls. Actually, she did most of the painting and I refreshed the paint roller for her and helped move things out of the way and position the ladder. I did buy a new ladder as the one we were using was totally unsafe and wobbly. So wobbly it scared the you-know-what out of me to step up on it. Now the old ladder is a pole bean support and we have a new, solid, safe ladder! The room looks wonderful. Will has to get busy and re-cut the logs which framed the walls and octagonal ceiling. It’ll look so pretty, all finished. — Jackie

Sometimes it only takes a phone call

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 10 Comments »

We had been noticing a new logging site about 10 miles south of us where there were several large piles of scrap logs left over. Luckily, David noticed a sign with the logger’s name and phone number on it. He called him and asked for permission to go in and take firewood. The man said yes.

So on his way home from Virginia (the town, not state!), David drove in and loaded up a medium-sized load. He didn’t dare load more heavily as his truck’s frame is pretty rusty. He and Will unloaded it.

The next day, Will took our old Chevy truck, “Old Blue,” over there and loaded up a real big load. Then on Sunday, he went back for another load. I helped unload at home and he went back for still another load. And with the sun shining brightly and temps approaching twenty degrees, Will (and Hondo) went back for more wood. We know there won’t be many more days because the temps will warm up on Thursday and the site will become impassable, even with a four-wheel-drive truck. So we’re hurrying as much as Will’s bad back will stand. Yep, we have woods on our land. But by getting this free wood, we’re saving our own wood to use later on.

Some of the poles are tamarack and will make good fence posts so we’ve set them aside for fencing projects this spring. Talk about a wonderful windfall! All it cost was one phone call.

Tomorrow I begin planting tomato seeds! I went through my box of seeds and we have a LOT of varieties of tomatoes. How exciting! We won’t even talk about beans. — Jackie

March winds blow

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

And they blew and blew yesterday and the day before! So hard, in fact, that I was having a hard time sleeping between the huge bursts of wind gusts and our wind charger’s brake screaming, trying to keep the charger from overworking. Luckily, Will had gotten all the big logs out of the woods and decked up temporarily in a cleared spot about a half mile from the house.

So while the wind blew, we quickly did chores and came inside to do other things. Will got caught up on his computer work for our seed business and I planted a few more new peppers. One interesting variety came from a gentleman now living in Georgia, who grows a “wild” hot pepper he used to harvest from the Florida orange orchards. I can’t wait to see … and taste … that one. What fun!

I know some of you are daylily fans — who wouldn’t be as this gorgeous perennial flower is extremely hardy and also edible! A reader turned me on to a website, The Daylily Auction, where you can bid on roots of some extremely beautiful flowers which would cost two or three times more elsewhere. Just thought I’d let you folks know about it too.

My seedling peppers are growing like weeds. They already have two sets of leaves so I’ll be transplanting them next week. And I’ll be starting our first tomatoes, too. (Remember we set them out in Wall O’ Waters, which allows us to plant out extra early.) I counted up and we have at least 76 varieties to plant this year; many are repeats of some of our favorites and quite a few are new ones that sound great. Time will tell! Can’t wait to get in the dirt. — Jackie

It’s mid-forties but cloudy and misty today

Monday, March 6th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Today Will’s out in our north woods, cutting a trail through the trees to a huge white pine he cut two days ago. The pine had been leaning, more and more over the past five years, until it got hung up in a big tamarack fork. Working carefully as such a tree is VERY dangerous, Will got both trees pretty much cut through then drove wedges in. The wind did the rest. While he worked many yards away from the tree, cutting brush, the trees cracked and fell to the ground with a whoosh. The trees will be sawn into boards to use on our new barn. Waste not; want not!

We’re getting excited because the back yard and garden are slowly showing as the snow is receding. I actually walked in the yard for the first time since late last fall. The plum and cherry trees wintered well and I can’t see any vole damage, although there were a few vole tunnels in the grass. There is water on top of the beaver ponds now and the creek is running.

Inside, our peppers are jumping up and looking good. I’m especially excited about a variety a friend sent which she calls Venice Bootleg hot peppers (they were obtained in a cafe in Venice and “smuggled” home to the U.S.). It occurred to me how much gardening brings us all together. Through our seed business, we’ve had letters and seed orders from folks who are Amish, Baptist, Seventh Day Adventists, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and more. And you know what? We’re all excitedly awaiting our seeds springing to life with warm weather. Brothers and Sisters in gardening. I think that’s a lesson for us all. — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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