Two days ago, the weather radio that I turn on first thing each and every morning started warning us that a major winter storm was heading our way. It was kind of hard to believe, because we had only about 4″ of snow on the ground and the weather was pretty typical of this time of the year. A bit cold, cloudy, spitting snow on and off; nothing too bad. But I know enough to ignore the warning. So yesterday, we got ready. David took off first thing in the morning to haul our last two loads of square hay bales from the farm we bought them from. I got two more “extra” big round bales of hay to see our horses and donkeys happily through the storm, then set to work to tighten up the place. I filled the water tanks in the basement, stuffed extra insulation in the cracks of the chicken coop, gave the goats extra bedding to snuggle down in, watered all the stock extra well, hauled in a wheelbarrow load of kindling, then a big load of large chunks from our storage pile of 9 truckloads, under the porch. We still have about half a cord on the enclosed porch, but these pieces are all hardwood and are bigger. That way they last longer. By evening, it was still. STILL, like just before a huge thunderstorm. It seemed warm, being only 20 degrees with no wind. I made sure the snow shovel was handy on the porch, then waited. This morning it hit! We got over an inch an hour with a 30 mph wind. And it’s going to go on all night. Then the temperature’s going to drop out of sight. They’re talking about a low of -38 tomorrow night, with wind chills of -45 to -50. Brrrrrrr. Yep. I’ve learned to NEVER, never, ignore the warnings. We’ve got plenty of wood, propane, just in case, too. There’s 600 gallons of water in the house tanks, tons of hay, grain for the livestock, a full pantry, a pretty snug little cabin, the snowplow’s on the truck and we’re cozy inside watching the snow blow by. We feel blessed, indeed.

Readers Questions:

Researching his own questions

I saw what Dave Duffy wrote on his blog, so I decided to research my own answers to the questions I asked you a couple weeks ago. I always think I don’t have time to do that, or don’t know how, but I surprised myself and found out it wasn’t as hard as I thought. And I discovered all kinds of things about using my computer, plus I found the index of questions to you over the last couple years. Wow! I’m glad you’re there when we really need you, but I’m glad to know where to look for answers for myself, most of which I found had already been asked and were in your past blogs!

Steven Gregersen
Fortine, Montana

I’m just learning the capabilities of my computer, too. It’s amazing! — Jackie

Storing garlic in olive oil

We just moved here to New Mexico from Vermont and brought with us a lot of home grown garlic. We have a lot and would like to store them in Olive oil. Can this be done,and for how long? Some people say it cannot be done because of botulism. I already have peeled the garlic and put them in live oil.

Frank Barber
Deming, New Mexico

Your garlic and oil, when kept refrigerated, will stay good for a long, long time. Just be sure you don’t leave the jar out on the counter.

There’s not really a reliable way to safely can garlic in oil. What a lot of folks do is to FREEZE small amounts of garlic w/oil, in individual containers, like ice cube trays, then dump the cubes out into a freezer bag. Then when you want your olive oil w/garlic, just thaw out a cube or two. You can also pickle garlic, but since you’ve already put yours in oil, that won’t work. I dehydrate a lot of mine, and that works just great! — Jackie

Growing potatoes in tires

Potato tire stack–I tried it this past summer. Did everything like the article said, and come harvest time, I had shoots out the top, they dried off, and when I went to find my treasure, I only got a handful of little new potatoes…the rest of the dirt in the stack was just that–DIRT! Any ideas on what could have gone wrong? I added each tire when the stalks were high enough and only buried them 8″ per time, using very loamy, loose dirt/compost…very puzzled how it could look so good above ground but do NOTHING under the ground! Sure don’t want to do that work again without having any idea why it failed! How do you make sure in a stack that high that there is enough water at the bottom…that’s my only thought!

John Wendling
Berea, Ohio

It sounds like maybe your potatoes didn’t get enough water. One way to cure that problem is to cut a 4′ piece of PVC pipe and drill 1/4″ holes down the length, every 6 inches. Put a bottom cap on it, and when you’ve got all tires in place, gently pound the stake in on one side. Leave the top sticking out of your top layer of tires. When you water, stick your hose in the pipe and just leave running slowly for awhile. The water will ooze out of the pipe and soak the whole depth of the tire bed.

Now, before you try this watering trick, think back. Did you water your potatoes TOO much? That will also result in low production. Or did you fertilize a lot? Was your compost high in manure? High fertility, especially high amounts of nitrogen will result in huge potato vines and few actual potatoes. (Just a couple of ideas for you…)

I’m hoping you’ll have better luck next year. Many of my friends use this method and love it. — Jackie


  1. Wow Jackie! Looks like a beautiful storm and one that you will “weather” nicely. Your preps sounded perfect. No last minute running to the store to buy bread and milk….my oldest lives in Houston and when they have a hurricane warning the store shelves are bare. No bread, milk or water. However there is plenty of flour, sugar and powdered milk.

    You are a great teacher and example.

    Enjoy the storm and being snuggled tight!

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