We’ve been hugely busy now that the snow’s gone (for now anyway!) and the weather has warmed up. We had saved up over winter and bought a trailer load of livestock panels and pipe gates. We needed more livestock panels for the new gardens we’re going to put in and the gates will be added to replace the flimsy wire gates going into the North pasture, North garden, and the Wolf road pasture

Here’s our trailer load of livestock panels and pipe gates, ready to use.

Last fall Will worked hard on fencing the Wolf Forty to pasture the cattle on. Then we had it partially logged as he was going to clear it anyway (part of it) and we thought we could get money from the logging to pay on the land. Well, we did and the loggers made a horrid mess of the job! They only took the cream of the crop, leaving smashed over smaller trees, logs, and piles everywhere. And I do mean everywhere.

The loggers made a huge mess on the part of the Wolf Forty they “logged.” There’s more debris than they took logs.

David and his friends have been cutting and carrying poplar poles to David’s cabin for firewood and Will has also brought home dozens of loads. Most is from the area we plan on making our new garden this year. Now Will’s busy with the crawler/loader and big Oliver tractor, shoving piles of debris and digging out stumps. Luckily, most of the ground is sandy loam so it isn’t too hard to do.

Will is working with both the crawler/loader and Oliver tractor to dig stumps and pile debris to compost.
lowly, the Wolf garden is taking shape.

My oldest son, Bill, and his wife, Kelly, came up to pick up their tomato plants I started for them. We usually do the big Byrns Greenhouse Mother’s Day get together with lunch afterward at Wilbert’s Cafe in Cotton. But, of course, this year is different. They stopped at the greenhouse and bought some plants and hanging baskets and brought me a pretty petunia basket for my Mother’s Day gift. How nice! We sat in the front yard, Kelly and Bill masked up and visited, keeping social distance. No hugs this trip. And no grandkids either. Boo hoo! Then, yesterday, Will and I did the Byrns greenhouse trip and got more hanging baskets and a few other plants as I’ve been way too busy with the seed business to plant flowers this year. I do have some dahlia and canna roots to plant in pots as if I wait to put them in the garden after the last frost, I’ll only get flowers for about a week before fall frost. I want them much earlier. — Jackie


  1. I have talked for years about putting up a frame to hang tomatoes on to grow upside down. My husband finally got the material to set it up for me. A friend may garden with me so I will have a much larger garden then I had planned but she has a very large family. I will be able to hang about 35 or 40 plants on it with a pepper in the top of the bucket. I am so excited and I found some pole yellow beans.

  2. Looking forward to getting in the garden. If it would ever dry up. But have you noticed the ball lids now say guaranteed to stay sealed 18 months? What’s up with that? A friend called company and they said they have not changed their product. It was for liability reasons.

  3. Hi Jackie,
    I am having trouble finding how to can pork fat. I’d like to have some lard on hand, and my searching isn’t working. I believe you have discussed this in the past; would you have time to tell me again, or lead me to the article where it’s written?
    Thanks for all your guidance!

    • This is how I do it:
      I grind the fat and then put in a roasting pan and turn oven to less than 200. The fat melts out of the connective tissue. Ladle it out and strain. I use coffee filters in a canning funnel for this and use those clip things for papers to hold it in the funnel. I go into a pot on the stove. It might take hours to get the fat out. Just keep periodically ladling. When you are done, wash and dry your jars and lids. Heat the lard in the pot to above water boiling but below smoke point. Ladle into clean dry jars and put on a towel to protect from thermal shock. This is HOT!!! Don’t use plastic, use metal and don’t burn yourself. Put on lids and rings and let cool.

      This isn’t “canning” but it does seal. The fat is much hotter than 250* (which kills botulism) and botulism requires moisture to grow anyway, which you just boiled out, so I feel it is safe.

      Of course, this isn’t taught by the canning boards, so please use your own judgement.

      • Thank you, Chrissy! I have a hog being processed soon, and sure wanted the lard. Appreciate your wonderful directions. Erin

  4. I figured from the silence on the blog you must be working hard. I hope things feel safe enough for you to meet your grandkids soon. My children hadn’t seen my mom for over two months and they miss her.

  5. Hi, Jackie: I had some logging done on my property a few years ago and my loggers were so neat and did not leave a mess. I’m so sorry to see what happened on your land. All of us grandparents are missing our grandchildren and the grandchildren are missing us and what grandparents bring to their lives. I hope and pray this ends soon on a positive note for us all. My best to you.

  6. Happy to see the progress that you make each day/week, and glad that the snow is gone at least for now. (We may see some here in lower Michigan tonight with record low temperatures. Darn!) Thanks for the update on your homestead happenings. You guys continue to inspire all of us.

    • We’ve got very cold weather in our forecast with the possibility of snow too. But today the sun is shining and it’s not TOO cold. Yet…..

  7. Spring as been unusually cold for me. Tonight zone 5a probable hard frost. I don’t have my usual help –grandchildren and I miss them dearly. No one to watch the fire cooking down maple sap, no one to help plant trees, no one learning the art of gardening. They are suffering as much as me. On a positive note my wood is cut for next year (maybe I can get ahead-Hah). I applaud your work in clearing the land. It is a huge undertaking. I too have had woods logged and have been discouraged by the mess left behind- ie fences down, ruts, debri, etc. I’m in the state wood lot program so I have to comply. It takes time for the woods to heal up again. I hope you rest periodically as all that work is a beating on the body–but a good tired. PS I planted Fife wheat never could get Prairie Gold -maybe next year.

    • Yep, I do rest; there’s always something you can do sitting down that’s not stressful. Having grandchildren to help is a huge plus! Mine live too far away to come often, even before COVID-19. We just keep pecking away at the clearing project and don’t figure on having the whole 10 acres done this year. There’s always next year….. Cows can walk over debris.

  8. Jackie, your energy and spirit encourage me so!

    I’ll likely be 60 by the time I’ve got land and can begin my adventure. I’ve been on my own since 1998 and the grandkids I’m raising will both still be under 12. I’ll likely stick to chickens and goats for that reason. Your sharing of information has been a huge help as I plan for this transition.

    Glad you got some flowers to add cheery bursts of color to your days!


    • Even if you’re 60 when you get to begin your adventure, you and your grandkids will love it! Hang on to that dream!

  9. Hello Jackie & Will! It’s good to hear you’re out of the snow (for now) ! It does look like the loggers did a job on your property there. It’s a good thing to have a solid tractor to do the clean up. I do hope you were able to glean some of the smaller limbs and trees for heat later on. Also, I’m glad that you are doing well, and able to at least visit from afar with Bill & Kelly! I’m sure they will enjoy growing their tomatoes y’all started for them. Best of Everything for you!

    • Oh yes, we are constantly picking up and saving all we can use for firewood. David and his friends brought up several cords and Will has been out nearly every day, bringing in a load or three. Bill and Kelly are all gung ho with gardening this year. Bill got their home-built greenhouse sheeted with plastic and Kelly already has lots of plants in there. They got a big load of rotted manure from a dairy down the road spread and tilled in so they’ll be all set to go, come warmer weather.

  10. So excited to see the ground again. My Mother’s Day gift was a small greenhouse which I am really excited to start using. Probably too late for us in zone 5, but will be experimenting with some herbs and flowers. Can’t wait to start my own vegetables in the future. Good luck with your plans for the year.

    • I know what you mean about seeing the ground. The high point of my spring is being able to WALK in my backyard and main garden. YES!!! You’re sure going to enjoy your small greenhouse for years to come. Wow, what a wonderful gift.

  11. Hi Jackie, I haven’t seen my children and grandchildren in almost two months. I miss them terribly, but we’re all trying to do the right thing. Bummer about the mess the loggers left, at least you get the wood for your winter heat. Would love an update on the cabin.

    • I know that you mean about having to social distance family. It is hard. But we need to do it to slow this virus down.
      Right now, the cabin is sitting, waiting for the sheet metal roofing and windows David is going to order, using his tax return and stimulus check he’s saved. He just got word he’ll be laid off on Friday but he isn’t sad; he will then have time to work on the cabin!

    • Hi Jackie, got your seeds in the mail. First time ordering heirloom seeds. Only planted peas and beans right now (we live in California desert so have plenty of time I’m thinking) and I can’t believe how they have taken right off! It was mainly kind of an experiment because I planted from seed before and nothing came up, thus my hesitance. But I’m jumping right in with the rest now! Thank you so much!

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