Winter actually came about three weeks earlier than usual this year! (Yeah, sure, we were ready … Uh huh.) Where our “normal” high temperature is 50° F, we’ve been very lucky to see 30, with no sun at all. The snow has started, and more is in the forecast. First off, we got five inches and ice. Now another seven inches is headed our way. Ish! So yesterday and today, Will and I were busy protecting our fruit trees against the terrible voles. We had bought several new white plastic tree guards, both large and smaller to suit different sized trees, as well as three-foot-high hardware cloth to circle bushy trees like our bush cherries. We also used some used aluminum window screen to wrap some strange-shaped trees up three and four feet. After all, those darned voles tunneled up through the snow and got down into some shorter screens and girdled trees. (We lost something like seven in all last year.) Of course, we replaced them this spring but still, we don’t want a repeat performance.

We got new plastic tree protectors for our orchard trees to keep the voles away.

Meanwhile, I’ve been canning up a storm. I canned more rutabagas, Amish coleslaw and tomato sauce. As the nights are getting quite cold — down into the teens, the stuff on the porch is freezing so I’ve got to take a few crates out to the deer as I just couldn’t handle any more. After giving away dozens of crates, lots of melons and cantaloupes and more, plus saving seed and canning every day, I am done out there! Of course, there is still tons inside the house, just sitting and calling to me. Will carried the potatoes down into the pantry this morning so that pile is gone. And soon I’ll finish up the last of the rutabagas and more carrots. I’m doing the crops which will go bad quicker first where others like the carrots can wait awhile. Boy is our pantry ever stuffed this year! And with COVID getting worse and worse, it’s a very good feeling.

Here comes winter; weeks early. We won’t see that snow again until May when winter’s snows melt away!

Likewise, we managed to pay off the Wolf forty where David’s cabin is this last week. Now we own 160 acres, free and clear. What a good feeling that is! We are so blessed. — Jackie


  1. Congratulations on being debt free. I too bought adjacent land in the spring of this year. It will take some time to pay it off. There will probably be more “pandemic sales”. Here we are hunkered down for the long haul. The virus is spiking in our area and we live like hermits. Stay safe.

    • You’re talking to the Queen of Hermits! We aren’t debt free yet; we still have to pay off the Pines Forty we bought two years ago. But we’ll work hard on that! This pandemic is serious and I wish more people took it that way. Too many folks are pretending it’s all gone away. Scary!

  2. Congrats on the pay-off! I understand on the canning blitz. Seems to never end… a good problem to have.

    • Although I do admit to being somewhat overwhelmed sometimes I’m sure glad to have a stuffed pantry. Especially in these days of uncertainty.

  3. i canned blueberries and black berries and raspberries this year. But while other people are canning now, I am emptying jars of fruit and veges. from pre 2015. The stuff doesn’t taste very good anymore and turns a dark color. And we just don’t eat it fast enough.
    So I am washing the jars good, I will not have to buy anymore jars. I’ve learned what things we will eat and will just can those from now on. Always learning.

    • I’ve found those old foods can taste good when mixed in recipes such as fruit cobblers, stews, soups, etc. not used as a side dish. I’ve still got pie cherries from 1976 and I open one pint a year, just to keep tabs on their quality. The color has faded but nobody leaves leftover cobbler!

    • Thank you! You can bet we did the happy dance that day. One more forty to go; the Pines Forty and we’ll sure buckle down and get that one paid off too as soon as possible.

  4. Congratulations, its a load off your shoulders to have your land paid off. We paid off our mortgage 3 years ago.
    I gave my large water bath caner to my daughter as she is canning and can use it. I still have a smaller one and my All American caner. Its gotten colder here in MI but no real freeze and its warming up for the next few days.

    • Lucky you! Isn’t a relief not to have a big debt staring you in the face? My balance on my credit card is $44. I’m NOT a fan! I’m glad your daughter is canning. That’s so nice, isn’t it?

  5. Congrats to your land been paid off. My husband in I worked hard to pay our farm off. He build our house. The Lord took him at 66 years old.
    What is the best tomato to plant to eat in can?
    I will order seed from you. Want those in dirt in Jan.
    Have a great week.

    • Golly, Shonda, I’m sorry you lost your husband. I had that happen many years back when Bob was suddenly stricken with a brain bleed in the middle of the night.
      There are SO many different great tomatoes to can. We love Moravsky Div, Tip Top, Bill Bean and Blue Beauty (lots of juice with this one too).

  6. Wonderful to have your land paid for. I’m sure I’ve heard it somewhere, that the harder you work, the “luckier” you get, lol. You certainly deserve all your success. You are my inspiration Jackie, thanks for sharing.

  7. This is the week that Sam and I were hoping to visit you amidst a trip to the North Shore. The storms and COVID stopped that. We don’t own a vehicle that could make it to you in this much early-season snow, and Sam didn’t want to enter your house no matter how thoroughly we’ve been quarantining because – and I quote – “I’m not gonna be the person that accidentally takes out Jackie Clay!” We were hoping to wear masks, do some chores, and visit outside… Mother Nature clearly had other plans. Hopefully we can see you next year. It’s been too long!

    • Yes, it has! Will and I laughed at Sam’s quote, until tears ran down our cheeks. We’re moaning about the way-early snow too. Bummer on all accounts! We hope you guys can make it up come spring. Love till then.

  8. Being mortgage and debt free is so critical in these uncertain times, so congratulations! You and Will amaze me with what you accomplish. I hope when the seeds and canning are done you can relax in front of the fire until the cycle begins again!

    • Yes, we feel it is too. That’s why we plow with a 1995 Ford truck, do without a fancy cultivator for the gardens and much more. The land and our home is critical to us; stuff, not at all. Unfortunately, with COVID still growing, our seed business and canning are on-going, with little time to relax. But that’s a good thing. It helps us pay off our last forty acres, ensures lots of folks have seeds they will need and the canning keeps us food-secure and then some.

  9. Congratulations on getting your land paid off. That is indeed a wonderful feeling. As is a full pantry. Our garden was almost a fizzle this year due to the weather and illness but somehow we got enough to eat, can a little and give away some.
    Covid-19 is a real concern but is survivable. The secret seems to be eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and very little junk food. My husband had it. He has multiple health concerns and is 77. He stayed at home, drank lots of fluids and slept a lot. It’s taken awhile for him to bounce back but he is really doing great now. No, I did not get it. My diet is a bit better than his. From what I have been reading eating a lot of high-fructose corn syrup can lower your chances of survival. Worth changing your eating habits.

    • I’m so glad your husband survived COVID! We are very careful and stay home most of the time and mask up if we do go out. Hand sanitizer is now in both our vehicles; never was before! This is nothing to mess around with!

  10. Oh boy! Do I understand where you are coming from. So much to do! Just overwhelming!
    Hang in. You are blessed!

    • We truly are. Thank you! Some days it feels overwhelming but then I get a bunch done and it seems to become manageable again. It’s just a cycle.

  11. Congratulations on paying off the land. We have also gotten snow earlier then most years. We cut, split, and stacked 18 cords of wood in 10 days. We knew snow was on the way and didn’t want to be stacking wood in the cold and snow. I also have more canning to do and I will be thankful and glad when it is all done. Stay healthy and what a wonderful example you are to all of us

    • Holy cow! cutting, splitting and stacking 18 cords in 10 days? I feel tired just thinking about it. We still have some wood to get in but it’s all ready to go when (and IF) it dries up outside. We haven’t seen the sun for days and days now.

  12. I am so glad your pantry is over flowing. There may be shortages ahead and you and I are prepared, as I canned more than usual. Thanks to your blog I went out and got enough canning lids for this year and next. I will be watching or ordering 30 boxes of lids to replace this year’s used lids. We all have to stay ahead of everything.

    • I am too, Margie. Guess what? Just today I found a whole case of wide mouth lids I’d bought awhile back and stored them in a kitchen-type trash basket with lid. Today I was straightening up the pantry so I could find more places to stack jars when I found it and opened it. Ta da! Wow what a find! I’m sure I’ve got more regular lids down there. Somewhere…….

  13. Oh Congratulations on Owning that land!!! Good for you all!! How is David’s house coming along?

    I can feel for you canning. I am also trying to finish up things but now found some beans!! I made your chicken soup to can and it’s delicious!! Thanks!!!

    Take a break then go slowly at it again!

    • Thanks Cindy! We had to suck it up to get that done but now it’s such a good feeling! David’s house is kind of at a standstill. His girlfriend is expecting in January and he’s staying with her most of the time. But the sheet metal roof is on and the cabin is weather-tight.
      No break in sight but a lot is getting done.

  14. I also would love to see your stocked pantry. Its an encouragement to me to get off my butt and do more when I read your articles. Do you have any new books coming out in the future?

    • I’ll get some photos on the blog when I get a minute. I’m working on a fifth Western novel, mostly mentally when I’m supposed to be sleeping, but have not had time to work on the computer.

  15. I get wore just reading your blog! I was raised in the city by country folk. I have canned some, using your books! And congrads on paying off YOUR land!!

    • Thank you Pat. (Hey, sometimes I get wore out doing my blog!!) Lol. I’m glad you are getting some canning done. A good food supply makes one feel secure in these insecure times.

  16. I would love to see your stuffed pantry. I’m always amazed at how much you get done. Your supply of jars must be massive from year to year. You have always been my hero for “get it done”.

    Congrats on the land! Home of the FREE!!! and clear.

    • We’d be glad to have you visit and see it in person some time. Someone asked me how many jars of canned food I have or put up a year and I couldn’t possibly count them all.

      Yep, when you owe on your land, you never feel FREE. someone always owns you. Now we own 160 acres, free and clear and are working on the last 40 acres now.

  17. Hi Jackie, we used that spray iodine (thinned out a bit) that we used on the navels of lambs and kids, and sprayed the trunks of our fruit trees. Worked like a charm, nobody wants to be chewing on that!

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