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The sun’s out and the birds are singing

Monday, February 13th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

February is half over! Groundhog or not, we’re thinking spring around here. Today it was nearly 40 degrees above with the sun out. What a nice day. So Will decided he’d set out a few round bales of hay and then go work on the new barn. It’s been so cold he hasn’t gotten much done but hopes to stay on it for awhile now that it’s warmed up. So while he went up and down the hill, getting round bales with the Oliver, I stayed at the pasture gate, opening and shutting it to let him through. As the critters always have hay, they aren’t particularly hungry and will zip out the open gate if given half a chance, just for an “adventure.”

Today he hauled two bales out while I got a chance to pet the horses and donkeys. Crystal and Moose, our donkey “herd,” always leave the hay to come get some attention. I noticed Crystal, the tan one, is shedding. Wow! Another clue spring is not far away. And I did see some pussywillows in bloom yesterday on the way to town.

Yesterday I put away my last batch of chili. All in all, I now have 74 quarts and a pint of “new” chili on the pantry shelves! We ate the two which didn’t seal. (Real hard on us … lol)

Tomorrow I’ll get out the seed trays and some peat pellets then decide which peppers I want to grow this year. My friends, Mike and Dara, were here yesterday and we all discussed various varieties we’ll be wanting to plant. It was fun and exciting too. — Jackie

Time to can some meat!

Monday, February 6th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »

I’ve been canning up a storm trying to gain some freezer space. Since Will brought home about 200 pounds of hamburger from a steer we had butchered, I have extra motivation for canning more meat and meat recipes.

Friday I thawed out a shank portion ham that I got on sale. Over the weekend I first cut ham chunks from it, then dices, and canned these prime pieces. When there was still considerable meat left on the bone, I put it into a large stockpot with water and boiled it for an hour or so. Then I cooled the pot and later skimmed off the excess fat and took out the bone. Then I cut even more pieces from it, adding them to the broth, along with grated carrot and chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Bringing this up to a boil, I added the dry beans I’d soaked overnight. When the pot again came to a boil, I ladled 1/3 of a jar full of beans/veggies and filled it to within an inch of the top with broth. This gave me 10 jars of ham chunks and 27 jars of ham and bean soup. Again the bone went into the stock pot with half a pot of water. I simmered it for a couple of hours, then fished out the spent bone. Adding split peas, grated carrots, chopped onion, and garlic, along with salt and pepper to taste, I again filled jars — only 10 pints, this time.

When all was finished, I had 47 meal ingredients/meals from one half a ham. Not bad! Today I’ve got 10 pounds of hamburger thawed out and a kettle brimming with soaked beans. So this afternoon, it’s going to be another batch of chili. We use a lot of this, especially in the winter with a nice batch of cornbread to go with it.

We are excited that we just got our Seed Treasures catalogs from the printer. They look great and I’ll start sending them to customers who’ve requested them. Past customers will receive theirs, mailed bulk mail from the printer. Wow, suddenly spring seems a lot closer! — Jackie

We’re back to sub-zero temps

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

What do we do when it’s so cold? Play catch-up on those chores we’ve been putting off before spring comes and we don’t have time. Today, Will brought in his chainsaw chain sharpener on the stand he’d put together from assorted “junk” and started sharpening. He has more than seven chains and now they’re all ready for the woods.

I cut up and canned a ham. And next I’m boiling the bone and will make bean soup to can. Out of that one half ham I’ll end up with about 35 meals, all totalled. Not bad for one piece of meat!

Mittens and the dogs just laid around in the sun and slept. Of course, Hondo, being a comfort creature, just hopped on the (forbidden) good sofa, put his head on a pillow and went to sleep, perhaps dreaming of chasing rabbits or coyotes.

For all you Jess Hazzard fans out there (Jess is the main character in my Western novels), I thought you might like to see the real country where he lived; the Upper Green River Valley and the Green Lakes region in Wyoming. We’ve travelled there several times and enjoyed the Bridger-Teton Wilderness. It’s one of the most beautiful sections of the U.S.

— Jackie

We spent Sunday delivering beef to customers

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Ever have to be in two places at once? Not uncommon for us. For instance, we had two steers butchered and yesterday was the day we’d arranged to meet various customers who bought quarters of beef. But it was also the same day our son, Javid, was going skiing! Luckily David and his girlfriend, Ashley, drove Javid to the Giant’s Ridge Ski hill while we delivered beef.

Javid used to ski in Montana, using adaptive equipment and he has sure missed it here. He joined a special program here and yesterday he had a ball on the slopes. I asked David if they put him on the bunny hill. David laughed and said, “No, it was a pretty good hill!” And because David snowboards, I took his word. So we got it all done and everyone was happy.

Today it’s snowing pretty good and I’m getting ready to can up a big batch of baked beans. Like our beef, our pork is getting a little old so I need to use up the hams and bacon we have left. And we all love baked beans! So the beans are soaking and I’ll get at it soon. Mmmm!

We’ve finally set our program for the fall seminar so if any of you are interested, just click on the Seed Treasures link and check out what we’ll be offering in August. We’ve already got four people signed up so if you’re interested, I’d suggest getting signed up. We can only accept 14 people so everyone can get a good, hands-on experience.

It’s hard to believe we’ll be planting seeds soon! Especially when it’s snowing outside. But we’re real excited and are already discussing the wheres and hows of our 2017 gardens. And with the political unrest, we will be planting even more. Just in case … — Jackie

Are any of you suffering from lack of sun?

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

We were until I came upon some of my photos taken in June! My gosh, the colors just knock us out after a winter of drab and white. Now I really can’t wait till spring.

We’re planning and ordering some interesting new seeds. As always, we look for beautiful, tasty and often Native heirloom varieties we can grow here in Zone 3. Already we’ve found some new-to-us old beans, squash, corn, and others. David’s girlfriend, Ashley, can’t wait to help out in the garden as she’s never had the chance to garden before and just loves all things “homesteady.” We have a lot of fun together.

Our warm weather has cooled and is heading back to normal for January. As long as I’ve lived in Minnesota — more than thirty years, in all — I’ve never seen a January thaw before. What a nice surprise that was! And it lasted nearly two weeks in what is usually the very coldest time of the year. Spring seems a lot closer even though I know we’ve still got a lot of winter ahead of us. (But, hey, we get to plant our peppers and petunias next month!)

I’ll be canning up some ground beef next; dozens and dozens of pints. It’s so easy to put up and so very handy to have around. I season some for tacos and leave other plain for a variety of mixed recipes. We just love having that pre-cooked burger handy for quick, homemade meals. — Jackie

I’ve been canning up a storm

Monday, January 23rd, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Since we have a freezer half full of nearly year-old hamburger, and Will just took in two steers to butcher, I’ve been canning like crazy. No more putting it off for me! So far, I’ve put up 36 quarts of chili. But I’ve got a little warning for you. I learned something in the process. I had nearly run out of quart jars so at WalMart, I saw Anchor Hocking quarts, with lids and rings for more than a dollar cheaper than Kerr jars. Being cheap, and have used “alternative” brands for years, I bought two dozen jars.

Okay, fast forward. Two jars’ rings let loose during processing, blowing chili everywhere! One in one batch, one in the second. Not good! Will checked the rings and found that if jiggled a bit loose, they would pop right off! So I threw away ALL of the shiny gold new rings and finished the batches with old Kerr rings. Yep, all sealed fine. Surprise! I figured Anchor Hocking had been around for decades and the jars would be okay; but I didn’t think about rings. Lesson learned! Just a warning to all you who can. Don’t use the rings that come with Anchor Hocking jars!

I have to correct a statement in the last blog; we did not buy a battery from DB Electrical, but a starter. Love the company!

We had one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen the other evening. I grabbed my camera and tore off around the house, trying to find where I could get a shot. Nearly killed myself, dashing under the deck! But I did get a few good photos and it was all worth it.

I bought a used rocker-recliner from Goodwill years ago but it was getting pretty shaky. So over the weekend, Will took it apart and re-glued and added a few screws to it to strengthen it further. Now it’s in great shape. It’s amazing what a good man, some glue and screws can do!


— Jackie

We took time to party

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

On Saturday, we drove down to my son, Bill’s, for granddaughter Ava’s fifth birthday party. The weather was nice and we had a great time visiting with all the family and Bill’s friend, Andy and his family. Again, the kiddos played Pie Face and both Mason and Ava got a face full of whipped cream.

Thank goodness, our severe winter weather has broken. Yesterday it was sunny and 31 degrees and today it almost hit 36! Wow, I can tell you it sure feels great, just being in the sunshine and breathing in warm air. I’m sure we’ll still have plenty of snow and cold but a break is sure welcome, and it’s supposed to last for a whole week!

Let me tell you about a very positive business deal we just had. Four months ago, we bought a battery for our ATV from DB Electrical, online. Two weeks ago, it fried. I got busy and found the order number and Will called, hoping there was some sort of warranty. He was on the phone for exactly two minutes, 22 seconds and the guy said “It’s in the mail.” A replacement, that fast — it seemed unbelievable! No “Well, you must have done something,” or “We don’t warranty electrical products.” Just “It’s in the mail, should get to you on Wednesday.” Wow! So anyone who needs reliable service check out DB Electrical. I know we’re lifelong customers now.

It doesn’t seem possible but in three weeks I’ll be starting my first garden seeds: peppers and petunias. Once seed starting begins, spring seems a whole lot closer, doesn’t it?

Will and I have decided to offer another homesteading seminar here at our place, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 25th, 26th, and 27th, providing there is interest. A lot of people have been asking about another seminar so here is your chance, should you decide you’d like to come. I’ll be posting more information on our website, www.seedtreasures.com, in the near future. — Jackie

Snow, snow, snow

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 10 Comments »

Well, at least the perennial garden plants will have plenty of snow cover this winter. We just got another five inches today. I can’t lie and say I wish winter would stay for months and months. I’m about ready for spring! At least we aren’t suffering like some folks on the East and West Coasts are, though, with flooding and big snowstorms. We just do our chores and throw another log on the fire.

But chores are sometimes challenging. Like today when we had to set big round bales out and water the big livestock. The wind was blowing, snow falling sideways, and although it was 15 above, it felt VERY cold. I’m the official gate-opener so while Will runs up and down the hill with the tractor, I wait for him to come so I can open gates. Brrrrr! And although we now have a great new well downhill from the barn, you still have to warm up the generator, start it, hook up a hundred feet of hose (sometimes a little frozen in spots) and stand around while water fills this tank, then that tank. Then the hose must be drained twice in hopes it won’t be frozen next time we water.

No, living in the North is not easy but we couldn’t think of anywhere else we’d want to live.

For Christmas, my friend Dara gave me a big North Georgia Candy Roaster squash she’d grown. She said it’s one of the best tasting squash she’s ever had so she wanted us to try it. It is beautiful and I hate to cut into it! But, of course, we will so we can try this squash. If we love it too, we’ll be growing it this year so we can offer seed next year in our Seed Treasures catalog.

candy-roaster_1342

Meanwhile, David has been trimming out some spots in his old bedroom after work. (Work right now means taking his snowmobile and sled to Tower, about 30 miles away, unloading the snowmobile, then driving over seven miles across the ice on Lake Vermilion, to where Voyager Log Homes is working on a log house.) By the time David gets off work, it’s dark and the trip back to the truck must be interesting, especially when it’s snowing so much.

david_1337

We’ve been spending a little time working on a couple more puzzles, first a bear, then deer, and just lately, an old farm scene. When you walk past the table, you just have to stop and find a few more pieces! We all really enjoy it. Hey, it doesn’t take much to entertain us homesteaders.

deer-puzzle_1336

I just have to tell you about the huge pile of 20 solar panels we just got from a friend, on a VERY good deal! All totalled, it will boost our charging to double what we have now! Wow, were we glad to get them. Now, come spring, it’s one of the first projects Will has planned. We’ll have to run our generator very little once they’re all hooked up. So very nice! — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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