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Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »
At 5 a.m. I went outside and saw heavy frost on the roof and on the windshield of our Subaru. And this was on top of the ridge; our garden is down below where frost will settle. But our tomatoes were fine because Will and I worked all day yesterday covering our them. A dear friend had given me some larger plastic nursery pots and we had a few others so we used 50 to cover tomatoes. Then I had a bright idea. Gina, a friend of ours, has a greenhouse in Cook and I remembered seeing piles of used pots along their fence.
I drove in and sure enough, Gina quickly helped me load 50 more pots into the car. (I told her I’d return them today.) When I got home, Will and I finished covering the plants then set a cap of hay on each one as they do have holes and we didn’t want frost seeping inside. We had a little corn and beans up, so I quickly hoed a little dirt over each plant.
This morning I walked down and uncovered a few tomatoes. They are in perfect shape! Will is uncovering the rest right now as our temperatures are swiftly climbing and no cold nights in the forecast. Whew! — Jackie
Monday, June 6th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »
While it looked like a hot, dry summer weeks ago, when temps were in the high 80s, the last two weeks have brought rain. Lately, it’s been every day. Boy, is it hard to get stuff planted, especially out on the new north garden, where the soil is minimally improved white clay. It sticks to our feet when we walk and soon our boots are carrying pounds that refuse to be shaken or scraped off! Luckily, just before the rains got serious, Will got in with the tractor and planted 3 different varieties of pumpkins and squash; 12 rows each, with 30-foot spaces between, 100 feet long. I’ve hand-planted dozens of hills of pumpkins and squash so far but still have many more to go and it’s almost getting too late to plant. After all, we often get our fall frosts mid-September … or earlier.
In the house, I’ve started many different rare and heirloom beans (folks have sent some to us and we have bought some from various places across the country) that are long-season maturing beans. Some will go in the hoop house while others will be planted outside on each end, hopefully absorbing some heat from the structure. Others will go on our stock panel trellises in the garden.
Meanwhile, Will built a rack for our new solar array and while friends Mike and Dara were here to help, we put it up. We’re really excited as it will increase our charging capability from 100 watts to over 1,000 watts. Huge improvement. We’re waiting now for the combiner box and the cables Will ordered. I can’t wait to have the thing hooked up to our battery bank!
The weather radio forecasted scattered frosts after midnight for tomorrow night. And we have 107 unprotected tomato plants out in the garden. They’re too big for hot caps and too tender to throw plastic over. So we’re going to use thin slices of hay off square bales to make tipis over each one. After the frost danger has passed, we’ll use the hay as mulch around the plants. We harvest our own reed canary grass which is seed- and weed-free so we don’t plant a hayfield in our garden. Been there; done that! Luckily, none of our other crops are up yet except for some onions which don’t mind frost. Homesteading is never easy but the challenges make it exciting for sure. — Jackie
Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »
Planting, planting, planting … between the rains
We’ve been getting very little sunshine between the rains. When it’s nice, we’ve been planting like crazy. So far we’ve got in tons of different corns in various isolation gardens around the 120 acres, lots of beans from all over the world from Maine to China! We also have 107 tomatoes, including 68 varieties, this year. I also got 11 hills of Atlantic Giant pumpkins planted yesterday. We planted all of this just before the rain hit this morning. It looks like it will continue for a couple of days.
Inside, we’ve started several pumpkins, squash and long-season beans to set out when the weather is warmed up for good. And on these rainy days, we keep busy inside. Will is painting polyurethane on the home-sawn oak planks that will be the mantel shelves behind our wood stove. So far they look great! What a wonderful addition they’ll make.
For those of you who are wondering how Sir, our wonder goat kid, is doing, he’s growing like a weed! He’s still very friendly and follows me all over the pasture when I go out to check the electric wires on the fence.
Wednesday, May 25th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »
We know summer hasn’t really arrived — there’s still a good chance of frost around the corner. So while the apple trees are blooming like mad, I’m continuing to plant crops like late-season pumpkins, squash, pole beans, and melons inside. Yesterday, I sprayed our apricot and plum trees with Surround, a kaolin clay compound which confuses and repels our nemesis, the plum curculio. This insect bites a tiny piece of immature fruit, lays eggs in it and goes away. Then the fruit drops off the tree.
The Surround makes the tree leaves and tiny fruitlets look white, coated with white clay. And we hope it will work as the trees are loaded with fruit this year.
On our driveway there’s a big wild clematis vine and it blooms very early, even before the trees are leafed out. It’s so pretty and we look forward to it each year. When we see it, we know spring is here for sure. It started blooming two weeks ago and is still in full bloom!
Monday, May 23rd, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »
After waiting so long for nice weather, we’re making very good use of it! We disbudded all five of our goat kids. That’s one of our least favorite homestead jobs but we feel it’s very necessary for the goats’ sake so they won’t get caught in fences, water pails, each other’s collars, or any other dangers. And we won’t get smacked in the face as they swing around to chase a fly. We also got our donkey, Crystal’s, feet trimmed. She has terrible feet which tend to grow twisted over winter. So we have to keep them well trimmed to prevent that. Poor Will, with his bad back, did the job while I handed him tools. Luckily, Crystal was pretty good throughout the process. I think she knows we’re helping her walk well.
While I finished transplanting our tomatoes and peppers, Will spread lime on our main garden as our soil is pretty acidic. He had also done the new north garden and the old hog pasture. So yesterday, he went ahead and tilled them with our tractor mounted tiller because it’s supposed to rain soon.
He also seeded two more of our hayfields into oats and clover. (He slept very well last night!)
Our orchard is simply wonderful this spring. The trees are in full bloom and as they are getting bigger, the whole orchard looks like a snowstorm. Magnificent!
While I was driving to town, I noticed a Canada goose on a nest, on an old beaver lodge, in a creek. She’s sitting tight and didn’t move when I stopped to take a picture. She’ll be hatching soon and we probably won’t see the family again as they leave the nesting area right away after hatching.
Last night we were all tired. I had to laugh when I came into the living room to find Hondo cuddled around a big Hopi Pale Grey squash Will had brought out to show some visitors. We all like our HPGs!
Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »
I was so happy to get to meet so many of my extended BHM family at this show! Thank you, all of you, for stopping by and saying hi, giving me a hug and telling me how much you enjoy what I do. It really means a lot to me. I spoke two days on gardening and canning, to a “full house” although I did have competition from a nearby group demonstrating their noisy attack dogs with BIG voices! (I much prefer our “attack” dogs, Spencer and Hondo, who, I’m sure would attack a “bad guy” if necessary but are gentle and saps for petting from “good guys”… and are MUCH quieter!)
While I was gone, I kept in touch with Will at home, who said we had a quarter-inch of snow on the ground and temps in the high 20s-30s. Luckily, he took in my tender plants and Mother’s Day hanging baskets!
Now, it’s back to homesteading. This afternoon I’m going to set out my onion sets and plant the peas; I’d meant to get that done earlier but somehow it always got shoved back to a lower priority. That happens on the homestead! Now I’ve got to play catch-up. Sort of like disbudding our goat kids. They’re way overdue so this afternoon we’ll get that done. (God willing and the crick don’t rise!)
Speaking of the creek, our pair of Canada geese came off the nest this morning with five (we think) babies. So cool. They nest on our small beaver pond every spring. But, unfortunately, they move the babies on to the large pond as soon as they hatch so we don’t get to see much of them after hatching. — Jackie
Monday, May 9th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »
On Mother’s Day it’s become a family tradition, for my son, Bill, and his family to meet us at Byrns Greenhouse out in the country, near Zim, for our annual grab’n git festival. (That’s grab plenty of flowers and git home to plant ’em!)
This year, the greenhouse added a Bigfoot corner which appealed to young and old alike. We spent nearly two hours filling up plant shopping carts, Mason and Ava helping us choose plants. I ended up with three big hanging baskets, hostas (a great bargain!), daylilies (of course!), a hardy rose I didn’t have, and a couple more perennials. I don’t have time for annuals this year! — way too busy!
After this, we drove to a nearby cafe, across a six-mile section of road marked “Road Closed.” But it was Sunday and the road crew wasn’t working so we chanced it, hoping a culvert wasn’t taken out five miles down the road! Luckily it wasn’t and we sat down to a nice meal and good conversation. It’s always so nice to visit with family.
Speaking of family, don’t forget I’m going to be at the Self-Reliance Expo in Irvine, Texas this weekend, speaking on both Friday and Saturday. I’ll also be at the Backwoods Home Magazine’s booth and will be more than happy to visit with you there. — Jackie
Monday, May 2nd, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »
In Northern Minnesota, nothing much is easy. We had a couple dozen apple trees plus cherry and pear trees in our little acre of orchard. And they were doing great. But two winters ago, we had record-breaking winter temperatures: 90 days below zero. We lost about six apple trees and the rest took hits from mild to extreme. This spring we pruned them all, Will sawed out the dead trunks, and some were beyond help. So we ordered trees to replace them. The old saying “plant till you’re planted” sure rang true! So we re-planted trees.
Luckily, all the survivors are looking very good as are the cherries, apricots, and plums in our other little orchard in the “back yard.”
I’ve got to start canning up hamburger as we’ve got a lot that needs canning before hot weather. It’s so very handy all canned up and ready to heat and eat! We love it. I just lightly brown and crumble the burger, spoon it in jars, leaving 1 inch of headroom, and process it — no liquid added. It turns out great every time.
By the way, our baby goat Sir is getting smarter; he follows me like a dog for his baba. And he’s doing great. Who’d have thought? — Jackie