We finally got two nice rains. One was only about a tenth of an inch but the next was nearly an inch, and with our gardens, that’s a huge help. We did have a minor scare last night — there was a bad storm that passed about 14 miles north of us, with three sighted tornadoes included. One was spotted at Elbow Lake, fairly near our friend Dara’s house. You can bet we were watching the sky!

A friend who has a greenhouse gave me a flat of over-grown King of the North green bell peppers. We always “trade,” as we give her and her mom crates of tomatoes, come fall. So this morning it was overcast and spitting rain — perfect for setting out plants. These peppers had stems like a pencil and were better than a foot tall with blossoms and young peppers on them already. We love all pepper products, from salsa to pepper relishes, stuffed peppers, plus I use lots of peppers in various tomato sauces I make. So we were sure tickled to get the plants! (If you’d like to read more about peppers, check out my article, “Growing and using peppers” in issue 164 of Backwoods Home Magazine or the 28th Year Anthology.)

Will and I have been real busy weeding and fertilizing our various gardens. He’s rototilling first with the big TroyBilt, then the Mantis, between the rows and hills of squash and pumpkins. Then he spreads rotted manure he’s hauled to the North garden with the tractor and dumped between the rows, around the hills. I follow, a long way behind, hand weeding between the bean and corn plants. He’s much faster than I am! But, slowly, we’re getting it done and all of the gardens look great.

Will busy tilling the North garden Bear Island Chippewa corn.
This is some of the rotted manure Will hauled to put around the pumpkin and squash hills.

David told us that where he works they had a big pile of huge wood crates which were destined to be crushed and put into the industrial sized dumpsters soon. So he talked to the yard boss and got permission (and blessings!) for us to haul them away. So yesterday, Will and I met David after work and David loaded many of these crates onto our equipment trailer. These crates are built from 2×6 lumber and 5/4″ decking so there is a lot of good lumber in them when Will gets them taken apart. He’s using a lot of the 5/4″ decking for the hayloft floor in the new barn and we have plans for using some for board and batten siding on some of our sheds. The 2x6s will finish out the rafters in the new run-in cow shed Will’s building in his “spare” time.

David and Will are busy taking apart the wood crates on our equipment trailer so they can go get another load.

No matter where we’ve lived, we’ve always kept an ear open for “good deals” like this. It’s amazing what you can find this way. We got trailer loads of free cedar fence posts in New Mexico when a neighboring rancher took them out to replace them with steel posts, loads of free truss ends for firewood in Montana, truck loads of small diameter peeled poles to use as garden fencing, and truck loads of potatoes from a grower who was cleaning out bins. Hey, we love free and we love recycling throw-away stuff!

Just a thought that came to me today while I was planting: You know how everyone was busy getting prepared for Y2K? Well, now that the event was a non-event, everyone has slid back to ho-hum, figuring everything will continue going okay. Even I have caught myself slacking off on rotating my oldest stored foods and failing to stock enough fresh to replace it. So I mentally slapped my hands and vowed to change that. After all, true emergencies don’t announce themselves like Y2K did; they just pop up on you. Don’t get caught with your pants down and pantry empty! — Jackie


  1. One resource I always grab when I can is old pulled power poles. Many times towns and counties replace them in a regular basis storms break them ect. Trim to remove rotted bases or broken ends
    Have made several big buildings. Barn and a nice 44×40 shop. Use them like poles on a pole building
    Takes a bit of extra work with them but the price is usually right and you can’t beat the strength

    • Yes, we’ve also used those old power poles. They helped build our training ring barn, the storage barn and our new barn. We’re tickled to reuse them!

    • Yes. You’ll find the recipe in my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, on page 118.

  2. I honestly don’t know how you and Will do it all Jackie! Great team work seems to be one of your tricks! What a great find with the lumber! It appears to be in great condition. Your gardens are looking wonderful. I’m afraid mine aren’t so good this year, unfortunately. A combination of weather and lack of time as I’ve been busy with house renos. Next year the garden will be a priority. I agree that it’s easy to get complacent but emergencies can happen any time and better to be prepared!

    • Some years are better than others. This is why when I get a good crop, I can or dry nearly all of it. Just in case the next year we get hail or ????

  3. Wow the gardens look good. Great haul on the wood. My husband used to get pallets and large equipment crates where he worked. Have a lot of nice things built around here. Supplies free for the price of hauling.

    Good Saying: “true emergencies don’t announce themselves: So true, so true.

    • We love recycling throw-aways that we can turn into valuable homestead additions!!! Yep, you’re right about emergencies. Very few give much advance warning. So we really try to be ready for whatever may come.

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