Despite the clinging cold spell we’ve been up against for the last two weeks, the homestead is rolling along fairly smoothly. On the “warmer” days when it’s barely above zero, Will starts the diesel tractor and hauls out big round bales to the cattle and horses. When we’re expecting very cold temperatures or wind, he builds a windbreak for them, which they eventually eat up. But the deep old hay beneath them provides a nice warm bed and they appreciate it a lot.

Our goats don’t mind coming outside when it’s below zero for hay, grain, and treats. They always go in at night to snuggle in the straw.

Watering has gone well again this year with the new well. But it is cold, waiting until the tanks fill up! Then Will blows out the hose with the air compressor so it doesn’t freeze. Just picking it up and draining it by hand never seems to work and there’s usually at least one spot which freezes. With the air, the hose is usually ice free which means you spend much less time outside in the freezing weather.

Even our poultry ranges in below zero weather. Here’s our resident wild turkey hen heading for the grain.

Our 2018 Seed Treasures catalog is finished and is at the printers. We can’t wait until they come out as they’ve turned out so nice this year. (Thanks Lenie Duffy!) Today, Will’s busy packing tomato seeds into their envelopes while I’m working on a couple of new articles for Self-Reliance and the Kindle version of Backwoods Home. By the way, folks, don’t forget to get your Ask Jackie questions in to the magazine, either by clicking on the Want to Ask Jackie a Question thingy at the top of the blog or e-mailing ( or writing them in to the magazine (PO Box 712, Gold Beach, OR 97444). Remember, if I don’t get questions, the Ask Jackie column will go away.

Tomorrow, I’ll get at canning the Christmas ham. It’s always amazing to me how many meals I get out of one “leftover” ham! (If you’d like to do the same, you can check out my article in the Winter 2017 issue of Self-Reliance). Or take a look at individual recipes for canning using ham in my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food. There’s bean soup, split pea with ham soup, baked beans with ham, ham dices, ham slices and chunks. Mmmm, I can hardly wait! Thank God for winter! — Jackie


  1. Hi Miss Jackie, I have a question about the Fedco catalog. I just picked one up and I am finding it difficult and not fun to wade through. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement. I plan to buy a bunch of seeds from you but wanted to supplement with Fedco. Are there any other “northern” short season catalogs you could recommend? I am also wanting to order fruit trees suitable for Maine. Any thoughts? Thanks a bunch for everything you do! Sheryl

    • Oops, Sheryl, Will told me I missed your post. Bad me! Yeah, I’m not to happy with the Fedco catalog this year; the flipping over part, especially. You might try Pinetree but they don’t offer too many varieties just for the north. Fedco Trees is a good tree source but so is St. Lawrence Nurseries. We buy from both of them and are real happy with the selection and quality of trees. Watch out though. Fedco is offering a bunch of semi-dwarf trees which will not live in challenging Northern climates. Stick with standards and you’ll be happier.

  2. Every time I’m outside feeding or watering the animals, and fussing about the below zero temps and the wind, I think about the weather you are living in. Whew, am I lucky. With your Growing and Canning Book handy I just finished canning ham chunks and soups, etc. I really enjoyed the Self Reliance article about that. I’ll be rendering lard this weekend in the oven. Your books are the backbone of my kitchen.
    Even before this cold weather set in my chickens had stopped laying eggs for at least 2 weeks. So I tried your dry cat food trick. It’s crazy but I’m now getting several eggs a day!!
    Thanks for all your tips and help. I sure do appreciate all the effort you put into your blog, seeds, etc.
    Wishing you and Will a great year.

  3. Whew! Looking forward to above zero temps. For us(North Mississippi), that is way too cold. Our worst was just over, 90 hours below freezing. We have done okay but really didn’t like walking the puppy in wind chills of 11.

    One thing we have is a freeze proof sillcock. It is an outside faucet that has a pipe that goes into your building. In our case, it goes into our well house. Anyhow, the pipe is 8″ into the building and insulation and when it is turned off, the water in the 8″ drains out so that your faucet doesn’t freeze up. Nice to have a faucet that you don’t have to cover up every time you use it.

    As for using the air hose to clear the hoses..we do that with the pipes in our outdoor kitchen to keep them from freezing.

    • We love our frost free hydrants which drain out down 8′ in the ground after using them to prevent freezing. Isn’t that air hose trick wonderful? It sure saves us a lot of extra work.

  4. Hi Jackie! Even the deep south is having FRIGID WINTER WEATHER this week so we are having to do a lot of the same things you are doing to keep the livestock fed, watered & WARM. Every day I have to change out my rabbit water bottles because they have frozen overnight or even during the day a few times. This cold is for the BIRDS and definitely not for us southern folks that only know a windbreaker or hoodie as a winter coat!
    I am glad to read how to get my JACKIE CLAY FIX as I CRAVE your info and look forward to getting these blogs to at least HEAR SOMETHING from you. I had no clue that you were in a new magazine (I have never heard of Self-Reliance & have not seen it in our small town magazine rack sales) so is it available by subscription? If so, how can I get in touch with them to order? I did not know that Backwoods Home was on Kindle! I have a Kindle and when I can get satellite internet here in MY BACKWOODS of southern AL, I do read my books there. I will check out the Backwoods Home Kindle Editions to keep up to date with what is going on in the self-reliant, self-sufficient living “WORLD”! I have truly missed the magazine and especially JACKIE CLAY!! You are the INSPIRATION that led me to HOMESTEADING many years ago and I will be forever grateful to you for all the info I have gotten from you, your ASK JACKIE column in Backwoods Home as well as your articles written and ALL YOUR BOOKS/CD’s that I’ve got.
    As we age, I keep saying to myself, IF JACKIE CAN KEEP AT IT, THEN SO CAN I so I keep on even when I feel I can’t go any longer.
    STAY WARM, STAY SAFE AND HAVE A SUPER FANTASTIC NEW YEAR ON YOUR HOMESTEAD!! I look forward to getting your seed catalog this year as I plan to expand my gardening and wish to try several of the varieties of veggies you speak of here!

    • Yes, Self-Reliance is available through subscription. You can just click on the Self-Reliance bar on the right of the blogs and it’ll take you right there. Or you can call the office at (541) 247-8900 and the girls there will take good care of you. I’m tickled I’ve been a help to you in your own self-reliant path. I hope your cold spell snapped.

  5. Jackie, yes, cold weather doesn’t end daily outside chores. I can remember the cold winter days when cows needed milking and all the live stock needed feed and water. Automatic watering can’t be used in the Winter so it’s actually more work in the Winter than in the summer. Homestead life is a rugged life but also very rewarding. I always had intentions to live on a country acreage but it just didn’t work out. I garden vacant lots to satisfy the desire to dig in the dirt. It’s actually worked out well for me. The vacant lots were foreclosed properties purchased from the city at a cheap price. One is just a city lot but the other where my big garden is has .63 acres. That’s pretty good size for being right in the heart of the inner city.

    My understanding about the magazine was that the magazine would end print copy but continue in digital form. I could be wrong about that but I’m sure Jackie will unwind the confusion for us.

    Have a great day on the homestead.

    Nebraska Dave

    • Good for you Dave! Grandma had a huge garden on her double lot in Detroit of all places. And it got me started gardening.

      Yep, Backwoods Home Magazine has now ended printing but is still very much alive via Kindle. Anyone who has a Kindle can easily subscribe by clicking on the yellow box at the top of this blog. Hope this helps the confusion.

      • Kindle used to have a reader software for computers as well. I know I have an app for it on my Android cell phone and my iPad tablet.

  6. I love winter for canning meals in jar, too! I just tried your Swiss steak in mushroom sauce and your Hungarian goulash and love them. I actually can them in 8 or 12 oz jars for my work lunches, and this way I can maintain my low carb diet. I can keep backup meals in my desk drawer and I’m prepared for bad weather or late nights.

    I recently re-read about your new well because this summer I want to put one in out by my garden. At least I’ll only have to winterize mine once a year, since I don’t have livestock to water!

    • Aren’t home canned meals wonderfully convenient…and TASTY too; without all the junk they add to store=bought canned and frozen foods. Yea!!!

  7. I am confused. Which magazine will your Ask Jackie column be published in? I thought I was notified that the Backwoods Home magazine has ended.

    • Gee, I’m sorry. My Ask Jackie column will be published partly in Self-Reliance Magazine, Backwoods Home Magazine’s sister magazine published by Dave and Ilene Duffy’s adult children, Sammy and Annie, and also the Kindle edition of Backwoods Home. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Self-Reliance, do yourself a big favor and do so; it has many of the same writers (including me) as Backwoods Home and is beautifully done too. I love it.

  8. Hi Jackie. I haven’t commented on your blog before, but as a relatively new follower, I’m enjoying it very much. We live in Northcentral Montana, east of the Rocky Mountain Front. Our coldest temp so far was negative 32 last Sunday morning. Now temps are in the 30s and it feels so warm! Happy new year to you.

Comments are closed.