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We’ve got all our tomatoes in the main garden, caged and mulched

Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »

It’s a big job, getting all our tomatoes ready to grow; first we pull the WallO’ Waters off them, then weed each and mulch heavily. Then each gets a steel T-post and heavy duty wire cage. Because we have more than 100 tomatoes in the main garden, that gets to be a BIG job, taking several days. But finally it’s all done and Will is continuing on to mulch the rest of the garden. After that, there’s no more weeding all summer. That’s a huge blessing, for sure!

We have planted the heirloom Native corn, Bear Island Chippewa, in the main garden and Will’s Seneca Sunrise up in the berry patch as well as in the central garden. All are doing very well and will be “knee high by the Fourth of July” for sure.

Talking to a lot of people at different events, I keep hearing about how we’ll starve because of the decline in honeybees. Yes, I’m concerned about just why we’re losing them. (Chemicals? GMO crops? Climate change? Disease? Or a combination?) But I sure don’t worry about starving because of this possible loss. After all, honeybees are not native critters and Indians grew crops well before Europeans with honeybees entered North America. First off, crops such as corn are wind-pollinated, not insect-pollinated. Most importantly, there are hundreds of other insect pollinators besides honeybees. A great example was put before me this morning on my trip to the garden.

I have a big rugosa rose on the edge of our plum/cherry orchard, between the house and garden. The flowers are just opening and in the center of each one was a mass of activity. Mason bees, wasps and small flies clustered in the center of each bloom, busily gathering pollen. Will and I watched one mason bee dancing about for 15 minutes, gathering until its leg sacks were bulging full of pollen. Then he flew to a nearby flower and began again.

And these critters don’t just pollinate roses; we’ve seen them in our fruit trees, squash, pumpkins, and other vegetable crops. So let’s try to save the honeybees but don’t do it out of fear of starvation but for the love of these enterprising critters. — Jackie

We’ve got beautiful wild orchids in bloom

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

We have a “secret” spot along the woods where Showy Lady’s Slipper orchids bloom, the state flower of Minnesota. And they are just now starting to bloom in force. There are dozens and dozens of them, too, so they make quite a show. I love the way they begin to bloom. First there’s a big, pure white puffy “snowdrop”. Then, quite quickly, the drop begins to open, slowly revealing the gorgeous pink and white “slipper. They are so big!

A couple of days ago, we had an unusual (and not happy) happening. Will was in the garden mulching and I was in town buying feed. He heard Spencer and Hondo, our dogs, barking like they do when they have a ground squirrel at bay. He didn’t think much of it until ten minutes later when he ran the four-wheeler and trailer up to get more bales of hay. He stopped, at our older Subaru, jaw dropping. The dogs had yanked both wheel well covers off and the bumper was sagging down several inches!

Obviously, the ground squirrel had run up under the hood and the dogs were bound to get him. Wow does my beautiful trusty Subaru look awful. (Sure can’t turn it in to the insurance; I can see me now: Yes, my car was attacked by wild dogs. Well, they WERE wild, trying to catch that ground squirrel!) David took a look and said he can fix it. I hope so. It’s an older car but very trustworthy.

The garden looks fantastic and we have high hopes for a very productive year. Will went out yesterday and finished putting up a two-strand electric tape all around the north garden as cows have eaten it twice before and we don’t want that to happen again, especially as well as it’s doing this year. The corn, pumpkins, and squash all look great and the “extra” tomatoes and potatoes are coming on strong. — Jackie

We had a good time at the MREA Fair

Monday, June 19th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

My carpenter friend, Tom, and I manned the booth at Custer, Wisconsin, this weekend. We met a lot of old friends and met new ones. It’s just like a family reunion! I got to meet a lot of fans who knew me but I hadn’t had a chance to meet them until the MREA Fair. Such fun! Some were from as far away as Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois.

But after three days, I was ready to head home (a seven and half hour drive). Luckily for me, Tom drove his car so I rode shotgun and could watch the scenery more than he could.

We got home at midnight and I was sure glad to climb into my own bed and snuggle up to my sleeping husband, Will. Our cat, Mittens, soon hopped up onto my legs and purred in my ear. Yep, I was home!

This morning it was raining off and on so I toured our gardens, which we’d hurried to get planted before I left. Lookin’ good! The corn’s coming on very nicely and evenly, as is everything else. Hot weather, coupled with nice rains made everything pop up. I couldn’t believe how much things had grown in just four days. I’ve got peonies and roses blooming as well as lupines starting. Very pretty.

While I was gone, David and Will got the sheet metal roof on the duck house so no more puddles in the house from a leaking tarp.

And Will got the peppers planted in the hoop house that I didn’t get around to. Now I’ve got about thirty to set in rows out in the garden somewhere! But it’s so nice to be home I can’t wait to get started. — Jackie

We’re nearly done planting

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »

Whew!  By working hard this past weekend, we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel as we plant nearly three acres of gardens.  So far, we’ve planted 175 tomatoes, 18 hundred-foot rows of three varieties of corn (plus assorted smaller isolation plots of rare corn), tons of beans, squash, pumpkin, and a 100-foot row of potatoes (to be added to the three 75-foot rows of “fancy potatoes” in the central garden).  And we got a nice rain and have more in the near forecast.  Perfect.

Now I’m playing catch-up, washing clothes and dishes (we’re running out!) and blogging. On Thursday, I’m heading to the MREA Fair in Custer, WI, for the long weekend.  If you can, please stop by the Self-Reliance/Backwoods Home Magazine booth and say hi.  I’d love to visit with you.  I’m also speaking on canning and growing fruit in unfriendly climates.  It’s a great show with lots going on all the time!

While I was running back and forth between the house and north garden, I noticed a beautiful rare wild orchid near the trail.  After researching it, I can’t find one listed anywhere.  I’m very familiar with our Showy Lady Slipper, and this is different, although perhaps it is an uncommon form?  It has two flat leaves at the base and a single long stem.

Anyone have a clue as to what kind it is?  The plant and flower are different from the Showy Lady Slipper so I’m stumped.

Stuff is popping up all over the gardens; beans, corn, fava beans … and weeds.  I guess I know what my next job will be.  (Of course we never have weeds in our wonderful gardens.)  Do you hear me choking down laughter? — Jackie

We’ve went from winter to summer; no spring!

Monday, June 5th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

From rain and temperatures in the fifties, we swung abruptly to sun and eighties! Wow, is that hard when you’re trying so hard to get things planted. After all, we barely have a 90-day growing season… So we’re madly tilling and planting. We had visitors over the weekend in the form of a pair of pelicans. It seems so crazy to have white pelicans floating around on our beaver ponds when we live in the north woods. But they stop by regularly.

We got another surprise from a pair of residents. We’ve had sandhill cranes along our creek for a few years now, but this year, they brought family! It was very exciting for us to see that they have two chicks.

If you look closely, you can see the sandhill crane chicks in the foreground.

While Will’s been tilling the north garden with the tractor-mounted tiller, working in the manure he spread last week, I’ve been busy planting the last tomatoes in the main garden along with Burro Mountain popcorn ( a very rare ancient corn, said to come from the Anasazi), Bear Island Chippewa flour corn, Folsom Indian Ruin, Dapple Gray, Black Manitoba, Hurricane, and Succotash beans. And last evening I planted our Glass Gem popcorn in an isolation patch. Whew!

Today, I’ll get the Seneca Sunrise sweet corn and the Monte Gusto and Neckargold pole beans in. Hopefully, Will can also plant some corn with our tractor-mounted three-point corn planter in both the central and north gardens.

I’ve got some fence mending to do in the north garden. I used plastic zip ties on the six-foot-high fence and they photo-degraded, so the fence is now drooping in some places. But I’ll re-do it all with better material so we don’t have deer popping in without an invitation. Lots of pumpkins, squash, and corn will be going in there, along with our leftover tomatoes and potatoes.

The main garden is nearly full today.

We’re planting seven varieties of potatoes this year. One is Bliss Triumph, which is the potato my grandfather brought from Florida all the way to Montana, way back in the Depression. Now they’re nearly extinct. I only found one source and ended up paying, with shipping,
$5 per potato! Needless to say, I will be saving my own seed potatoes this fall for planting next spring. I hate to see old-time varieties of anything go away permanently. Bliss Triumph is a blocky red potato with great flavor and keeping ability.

Our flowers are starting to bloom around the house. I’ve got five varieties of lilacs. One of my favorites is Beauty of Moscow, a double white with lavender/pink shades and pointed petals. As two of the bushes are right below our upstairs bedroom window, the fragrance is very lush.

Aren’t Beauty of Moscow lilacs pretty?

On Saturday, I attended our granddaughter, Ava’s, dance recital down in Cloquet. What an event. There were dancers from age three all the way up to adults, many of which were very professional. Of course, the little girls were oh-so-cute!
Well, back to the garden. — Jackie


Will was busy while I was in Irving, Texas

Thursday, June 1st, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

While I was at the Self-Reliance Expo over the weekend, speaking and helping out at the Self-Reliance and Backwoods Home Magazine booth, Will kept busy. Not only did he set out 72 tomatoes inside Wall’O Waters, adding stakes to each with variety names, but he also did my chores. That included milking our newly-freshened doe and feeding her kid as her udder was too full for him to nurse without hurting her. She kept kicking at the kid and moving away. So Will milked to relieve that pressure and fed the kid. (Now the kid nurses on his own as Mom’s udder isn’t so tender.)

Look at what Will got done between rains while I was gone!

At the Expo, I enjoyed visiting with Dave Duffy and Annie Tuttle as well as meeting lots of readers and fans. I really enjoy that at each show.

I enjoyed meeting fans and readers at the Self-Reliance Expo.

Now that I’m back, I’m hitting the deck running as there’s so much to plant.
When I got back, it was rainy and 50 degrees … It felt really cold after the 95-degree weather in Dallas!

And now I’m busy too, getting ready to plant some beans and corn.

But today the sun’s out and it’s 60 already and not yet noon. I
already planted cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce plants as
well as readying another row of stock panel trellis for pole beans.
Hopefully today I can get the Bear Island Chippewa corn planted in the
berry patch and maybe some more tomatoes. (If only the days were
longer!) –Jackie

I hope to see many of you at the Self Reliance Expo in Irving, Texas this Friday and Saturday

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

I’m madly trying to get ready to leave for four days and this is a bad time to do that with all the planting I’m supposed to be doing. But, heck, it’ll get done when I get back, right? David and Ashley’s duck family is now in their new duck house/outside pen, complete with a swimming pool. The inside isn’t finished yet so they have to be herded in through the duck door and lifted up into their plastic tote for the night so they don’t poop on the unpainted walls. But they’re real troopers and hop right inside at sundown. (We have lots of owls so they can’t stay outside at night!)

Two years ago I planted some Johnny Jump-Ups in my front daylily bed and they’ve re-seeded happily. They were blooming through the snow! I’m leaving them as they sure won’t hurt the daylilies and make a nice groundcover. I love all those happy little faces smiling up at me!

Two days ago, our pearl grey mother turkey came off the nest with babies. She has nine. I worry about them as it’s been cold and raining but she won’t take them inside; we tried to herd them. No dice! But today the sun’s out and it’s warm so I’m hoping more warm weather’s in store for us all.

I hope all of you who can will come to the Irving Convention Center for the Self-Reliance Expo this weekend. I’ll be speaking but when I’m not, Ill be helping Dave Duffy and Annie Tuttle man the Self-Reliance/Backwoods Home Magazine booth. I sure do love meeting folks at these events! So don’t be shy; come on by and say hi. — Jackie

We’re getting plenty of spring rain

Monday, May 22nd, 2017 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

Yes, we need it to perk up the pastures and hayfields, but it sure is hard to do outside work when it’s raining off and on all day … all week. But just before this rainy period struck, Will got busy and spread manure on our north garden and the old pig pen garden, which we now call the “central garden” just because it sounds nicer. Luckily, he only had two breakdowns with the old spreader. All those parts he put on last year sure helped. (Last year it broke down nearly every time he spread manure!) And that wasn’t fun as he had to unload what was left by hand.

He had just finished all of that when the rain began. Luckily, he’d also spread some manure on the small garden next to the house and tilled it in. So I began planting. First in were some of the fancy daylilies I’d bought on Daylily Auction during the winter months. They’ll make a border for that garden, facing the house. Then I drove in some steel T-posts and zip-tied 1½ stock panels to them as a trellis for the peas. I planted Alderman (or Tall Telephone) peas, an old variety I always used to plant, which climbs easily to 6 feet. They don’t blow over in rain and windstorms so they last nicely into summer. I also planted some Mammoth Melting sugar peas on an end trellis and will be planting some morning glories on some end trellises. Just because they’re pretty.

We keep our bird feeders full, year around and, boy, are we getting some pretty visitors. We’ve got lots of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Goldfinches, Purple finches, several song sparrows, as well as Orioles and many more common birds. The Grosbeaks are eating some of the grape jelly I put out for the Orioles. But because they’re so pretty, I don’t mind at all.

We got the big hoop house (which Will split in two halves) all fixed up and will be planting peppers in them by Wednesday. (We’re in for a hard frost Tuesday night so we are waiting … just to be safe.) It looks like we’ll be planting our first tomatoes today; when I got home from mailing seeds, Will had rows marked out and was busy digging holes for them. Of course we’ll use Wall O’ Waters to protect them from that darned frost.

Well, gotta run! Talk to you soon, folks. — Jackie


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