Just before going to Wisconsin to attend the MREA Fair and man the booth for the magazine, Will and I quickly planted our corn, beans, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, and two rows of glads. While we were gone, we had ideal growing conditions, rain and heat. So it’s small wonder that the day after we got home, the corn had not only germinated but grown four inches high and had two sets of leaves.


All the rest of the garden was equally astounding. Wow! I’ve never seen bigger squash and cucumber leaves! Yep, we were late planting this year and we had no “spring;” it went from winter to summer overnight it seemed. But because we planted late, the soil was warm and the seeds germinated with a bang. (Not like when you plant too early into cool soil and have seeds that take weeks to come up erratically. And some not at all, rotting in the ground.)


Our potatoes are shooting out of the ground, as are our glads. And the tomatoes are already several inches out of the Wall O’ Waters. I guess I know what we’ll be doing when I get back from the Self-Reliance Festival in Des Moines!

Then, this morning, one of our yearling does began kidding. Just minutes ago, she had a beautiful, nice big doeling. Will she have twins? I don’t think so as she’s not “fat,” but they’ll fool you sometimes. Shadow has a beautiful udder and we have high hopes for her as a milker. We bred her late since she was a small doe and we wanted her to get more size before breeding her.


Just a reminder: Anyone who wants to spend an informational day learning more about self-reliance should come to Des Moines, Iowa, Friday-Sunday. I’ll be speaking at the Midwest Self Reliance Festival, as will some other BHM favorites such as Jack Spirko and Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy. And I’m sure there’ll be plenty of vendors selling helpful equipment and supplies. Be sure to stop by the Backwoods Home booth and say hi to me! The show is going to be held at the Val Air Ballroom. — Jackie


  1. Ellendra,

    We really like Amish Paste and our favorite, Punta Banda, a wild Mexican tomato. Punta Bandas produce tons of tomato sauce and are a little bigger than a cherry tomato. They never have blemishes so they are Will’s favorites to toss into the Victorio tomato strainer to squeeze for sauce. We got our first years ago from Native Seeds/SEARCH in Arizona. This fall we will be selling several heirloom seeds at a reasonable price, including Punta Banda tomatoes and Hopi Pale Grey squash seed.

  2. Stephanie,

    You usually can’t grow apricots in zone 3, BUT our tree is an Adirondack Gold, a variety of Manchurian apricot sold by St. Lawrence Nurseries. Hey, if you can’t grow “regular” apricots, Manchurians are a great second best!!! “Regular” Manchurians bloom pretty early in the spring so the late frosts often nip them but Adirondack Golds bloom later and you actually can get fruit!

  3. Awesome advice Zelda! I have never before considered buying local grown heirlooms as a source of seeds. It makes perfect sense.

  4. sorry I hit the Send button, Super Marzano, Marzano Gigante or Grande. Check the descriptions of each and what they have to offer you. They have always produced heavily and well into frost and freeze with an Agribon cover no matter what the season threw at them or how much I neglected them. Opalka is a close second to San Marzano. I’ve grown Striped or Speckled Roman twice but they had ripening issues. Amish Paste has not done much of anything the years I’ve grown it – small plants and small crops – but I don’t know why and keep trying it. The most important thing I’ve found is to not buy seeds from a store rack – deal with the tomato seed specialty companies or the catalog seed companies (Bountiful Gardens, Johnny’s, Territorial, Seeds of Change, etc.). (I don’t can, so gallons of my paste tomatoes are frozen whole for use during winter and one of my priorities is a paste tomato that doesn’t thaw with a lot of juice in the pan.) If you want a reliable, good flavored determinate paste tomato try Margherita or Principe Borghese, they’ve both done well for me. Another way to find a good tasting, reliable paste tomato for your climate is to call your local Extension service and ask if they know any old time gardeners who have seed, go to your Farmer’s Market and see if anyone is selling a family heirloom paste tomato, or look for growers in your area who are on Dave’s Garden Forum or Gardenweb and ask for seeds from a local person. And once you get something that does well for you, you can start your own breeding improvement program.

  5. Ellendra, I garden in a climate like yours and Jackie’s, but my original soil is an ongoing challenge. My faithful go to paste variety has been one of the San Marzanos, first the original and now it plus one or more of the improved Marzano varieties like

  6. Sure is exciting watching everything flourish. We have expanded and put more garden boxes in this year. Kalan is our little gardener. He drives his four wheeler down to the pond and brings back water for the garden. We have planted ourselves a crab apple tree that I just adore. I love all the baby animals you have been so very blessed with. It will be fun to get together and exchange some stories soon.

  7. I’ve been meaning to ask, do you have any recommendations for a resiliant, indeterminate, open-pollinated paste tomato? The ones I’ve tried have been kind of pathetic, no vigor at all.

    (I’m in Wisconsin, so my climate and weather patterns tend to be pretty similar to yours)

  8. I live in York, ND and believe us to both be in zone 3. I did not know one could get apricots to grow here. Do you do anything special to them in the winter or is it the same as an apple tree?

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