We’ve only had one sunny (kind of) day in a week. It’s weather for ducks and geese. This makes getting anything done around here a nasty job — squish, squish, squish. We were thrilled this morning though when we looked out our living room window to see a pair of swans and three juveniles swimming on our beaver pond. Wow, so pretty.

I’m racing to get the tomatoes all seeded and canned up before they go bad as a few are trying to do (and succeeding). Yesterday I put up 12 quarts of spaghetti sauce, 8 pints of pizza sauce, and 10 pints of taco sauce; and saved seeds from eight more tomato varieties. Whew, only eight more crates and 20 more varieties to go! And the weather’s getting cold. We had 32° F for a low three nights in a row and we’re holding our breath that it doesn’t go too much lower as we still have crops to bring in.

Here’s my latest canning — taco, pizza, and spaghetti sauces.

Our friend, Tom Roncheti brought a borrowed pickup over and finished cleaning out my goat pen. We took down the goat fence and Will managed to get the loader in the outside yard and loaded the truck with all that lovely composted manure. What a win-win situation — they needed lots more manure, and I sure needed that pen cleaned out for winter. Now we are both happy. Tom brought his rescue dog, Recess, and she and Hondo had a good time playing while the folks worked. When they left, Hondo sat up on the back of Will’s chair and looked out the window, hoping they’d come back.

Will loading goat manure
Hondo wishes Recess would come back and play with him.

Every evening I’ve been shelling more dry beans. Last night I finished up a big bucket full of Early Warwick. These red and white speckled beans are so good in chili, soup, and stews. We like them used as a pinto bean. (We can’t grow pintos reliably as they are a pretty long-season bean and we live in northern Minnesota.) Tonight I have a wash tub full of Strike green bean pods to shell. We now rank these with Provider as a very dependable, hugely productive green bean for canning and fresh eating. We simply love them!

Our living room and barn are bursting with squash and pumpkins. Such a good harvest this year. We are already eating Hopi Pale Greys, even though you really should wait a month after harvesting to let them cure as they get sweeter. But who can wait? We’ve also discovered a few new ones, which we are waiting to let cure before trying. Two of our favorites this year are Borchardt’s Wonder, which looks like a pink Hopi Pale Grey, and Theron’s Winter, a huge, gorgeous, very different-looking squash with a kind of turban end and gorgeous light green and white coloring. Then there’s Lakota, a smaller, flame-orange gem with dark green stripes that’s very good. We grew some last year and we really liked them. (If you’d like to learn more about raising squash, check out my article in Issue 135 of BHM or the Twenty-Third Year Anthology.) My son, Bill, and his family are headed for Yellowstone Park on Wednesday and they invited me to join them and be a tour guide. We used to live about 90 miles from the Park and went often while David was young, so I know all the “sweet spots.” This is a bad time of the year for me to be gone for four days, but I’m so excited to go West again and will just rush around and try to get ready. Will is going to man the fort with David. David couldn’t go because he has training on some new big equipment for two days during that time. Even homesteaders need a small vacation sometimes! — Jackie


  1. Jackie,
    I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t wait to see photos of your loaded pantry shelves after harvest season! I’ve loved full pantries and freezers ever since I experienced a rush of excitement reading Laura’s descriptions of winter stores in the Little House books.

    Thank you for generously sharing with all of us. I’ve learned so much from you.

    • And thank you, Teri! Hey, I still re-read all the Little House books, probably way too often. (When I’m feeling lazy and grumpy about canning even more, I re-read The Long Winter and it fires me right up again!) I’ve been hungry and don’t ever want that again for any of my family.

  2. The year we moved back to Alaska from New York 1988 we planed to stop at Yellow Stone but that was the year the park had lots of wild fire so we took the prairy rout instead. We had 13 last night and havent been above freezing for four days. We got everything in. Ripening the last of the tomatoes in bozes in the back room. Wish we could grow winter squash. We got one 85day squash out of three plants in the hoop house. Have fun on your trip.

    • Thank you Howard. We had an unusual trip; snow/ice, etc. But it was nice anyway, using plans B and C! Now I’m back and madly harvesting/canning/seed saving. I sure wish I could ship you some of our squash; you can hardly walk through the house without tripping on them.

  3. Have a terrific vacation! Thanks for the updates on what’s been happening around your homestead!

  4. Have a great time “out west”! Looking at all your tomato products…wow, I really need to put in more plants. Feeling very lazy compared to you. Take care, cutie

    • Amen, Ginger! The tomatoes are still here, although I need to hurry and get them processed before more rot.

  5. You have a good time and rest a bit while going out west! I can’t wait to see your new catalog this year with all of your new varieties!

    Someday when you have nothing to do (wink, wink) will you write down all the things you can , just a list. It would be interesting to see what you do have. But no problem if you can’t!

    Thank you for sharing all that you do!!

  6. Have a great trip. Even a short time away seems to reset, refresh and renews one’s spirit. Living as you do is daily “work” but the kind we enjoy. Being away allows for some reflection and appreciation. Here my garden is nearly done with rutabagas and brussel sprouts to harvest. Winter another season like one’s life. Do you have any heat for the chickens/and winter lights? The canning picture looks great and a lot of work. Now that there is only 2 in our family I sometimes think we are putting too much food aside but it is a good feeling. Safe travels

    • You are so right. We love our life but sometimes a little resetting sure helps. No, we don’t have heat or winter lights. This gives our hens a break over winter. So we start storing up eggs when they begin slowing down. In the unheated basement, the eggs usually stay good till nearly spring. (I do break each into a cup, just to be sure!) You can never put up too much food but you can sure not put up enough, especially if some sort of emergency hits.

  7. There is always the option to toss those tomatoes into a freezer and can up when you get back. No optimal for seed saving if freezing “as is” but perhaps you can seed and freeze?
    And yes, some time away is good for the soul (and body). Bonus that time away is with family so please enjoy.

  8. Enjoy your small vacation. Everybody needs them from time to time. God bless Will for holding down the fort while your gone. The tomatoes you canned look awesome and l can appreciate all the hard work that goes into it. Glad to hear that the squashes did so well this year.

    • I was glad to get home and find it still standing and the critters all fine. I do appreciate having a husband who will encourage me to take a break once in awhile. Of course I sure don’t abuse that either.

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