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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

March 26, 2006
Jackie Clay
Jackie Clay answers questions on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Click Here to learn how to Ask Jackie a question.

Hopi Pale Grey squash seed source

Dear Jackie:

My husband and I just subscribed to Backwoods Home after enjoying it at our library for a couple of years. I appreciate your common sense approach to life. We live on four wooded acres in NW Wisconsin, where we settled after retirement. I was born in Cloquet, lived in Northern Minnesota much of my life, and have relatives in Hibbing, somewhere.

After reading your comments on the Hopi Pale Grey squash, I would like to try it. I just spent about half an hour on the net and couldn't come up with a single seed source that was accessible. (The one that showed up had a bad URL or something and didn't appear.) Do you know of a source or are you still offering seeds to readers? I would be happy to pay for them or exchange for something else. I have some Black Futsu squash seeds, also lots of tropical seeds that are fun to grow in pots, like Datura. I have double purple and double yellow. I also grow and collect heirloom tomato and pepper seeds and have quite a supply of those. I have purple serano and purple and red cayenne pepper, for example.

So sorry about the loss of your husband. We lost our 21 year old grandson last May. No one knows the pain until they experience it. The Lord has been our comfort.

Blessings and thanks for any info you can give me.

B. Joyce Wilcox
Minong, WI

Finally, after a year's wait, I have a source of precious Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds!! I promise. I just got off the phone with my friend, Shane Murphy, who founded and raises seeds for SEED DREAMS. He had a successful crop of Hopi Pale Grey squash and best yet, has seed to sell. And his packets are full and fat, and HE pays the postage. There is a $20 minimum order and all seed packs are $4 each. You just have to see the seed listing to believe it. So many old, heirloom, open pollinated vegetables! I know I wouldn't have any trouble at ALL in meeting so low a minimum order! The SEED DREAMS curator is Tessa Gowans, P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368 or gowantoseed@yahoo.com --Jackie

Morning glory removal & soil conditioning

We broke out a new patch of pasture last year to make a garden. It had a huge patch of morning glory in it. I have never had good luck removing this obnoxious, very prolific weed. Do you have any suggestions.

Also any suggestions for getting the soil better conditioned. I didn't have much luck with my garden last year. We have very heavy clay soil. We have a pile of old hay that is going to waste. Is it safe to put that in the garden? We also have some manure from an old corral that hasn't had any cattle in for over a year. Can I put that in it or will it "burn" the garden? We still have a foot of snow here in southern Idaho but I am getting anxious for spring.

Thanks for your wonderful column. I have found a lot of very helpful advice.

Karla Moss
krm2551 @ yahoo.com

If I had your new garden plot, I'd till up the whole works, spread a lot of that old rotted manure on it, then cover half of it (if you can spare the area) with large pieces of old carpeting or, lacking that, heavy black plastic, well weighted down with stones and boards around the edge, especially. By covering the morning glory, you will pretty much kill it out in a year. The next year, you could do the other half and plant the previously covered half. I did this in New Mexico, where we had tons of bindweed, a wild morning glory with deep, tenacious roots. And when we left, the garden was nearly free of it.

No the old, rotted manure won't burn your garden. Use lots, as it will loosen up the clay. Besides the manure, I'd work in any compost or organic material, such as leaves, grass clippings (from unsprayed lawns only!) and straw. I'd stack the old hay in a pile and water it well so it will rot and compost. If you put that on your garden, chances are that there will be a lot of grass seed in the hay, which will turn your garden into a hayfield! I know. I did just that. Big mistake and it took three years to get rid of the grass.

Hay is fine in a garden IF it has been cut early, before it or any weeds in the field have had a chance to go to seed. This is why you often hear deep mulch authors speak of salt or marsh hay. This is usually cut before it goes to seed and there are very few garden weeds on the edges of marshes. --Jackie

Vinegar

I canned some pickled beets last fall (haven't eaten any yet). After doing so I was wondering if the vinegar I used was safe. I've had it around for 5 or 6 years and wasn't sure the acidity in it was still okay for canning.

I've been holding off on eating the beets until I could get some info on the subject. As of yet, I've not been able to find anything out. I have a couple gallons of old vinegar and hope to use it in salsa canning this summer, but I'd really like to know if I should just purchase new. Also if I should eat the beets or give them a toss.

Thanks for any advice you can give.

Sharon Spangenberg
Prospect, Virginia

The acidity of vinegar can change over the years, but all I've read indicates that the vinegar gets stronger with age instead of losing its strength. I've never really given it much thought, and I know I've pickled with vinegar that was over 2 years old and everything came out well. To be absolutely sure, you could test your vinegar with litmus paper (check your drug store). --Jackie

Canning chicken

I am a suburban girl with a heart for independence and I try new skills for self-reliance as often as I can find them. I have been reading your advice about home canning for a couple of years now. Your enthusiasm is so contagious and I was more than delighted to finally purchase a pressure canner of my own off the Internet. I read about canning chicken and decided to try it. Chicken quarters were VERY cheap at our supermarket this week. I baked the chicken and put it into pint jars in its own broth, leaving an inch of headspace. My book said to process chicken in pint jars for 75 minutes at 11 lbs of pressure. I did so according to all directions, and was excited to hear the pop of the seal. Oh, it was fun. But I am looking at the jars and something is bothering me. In all the pictures I see of canning, the food has completely filled the jars. But my food still has space between the food and the jar. What did I do wrong? I am very sorry to lose all this chicken and don't want to make the mistake again.

Thanks very much for the advice and the inspiration.

Rachel Bostwick
New Cumberland, PA

You really didn't do anything wrong. But I'll bet you canned bone-in chicken. When you bake bone in chicken, the broth you add before processing the jars often absorbs into the spaces left between the bone and meat, leaving "space" in the jar. This meat is perfectly okay to eat and the taste will not be affected. Instead of baking my chicken before I put it up, I boil it in seasoned water (like you'd make chicken soup), just until the pink is gone out of the meat (not until completely done or the meat will fall off the bone). Then I pack the hot chicken quarters or breasts in hot jars and fill up to one inch from the top with its own hot broth.

You can also de-bone the chicken and discard the skin, bones and miscellaneous yucky parts, add the meat to the jars, then fill to within an inch of the top with its own broth. The processing time is 75 minutes for pints, boned and 65 minutes for bone-in chicken.

Congratulations in your first successful canning! I'm so proud of you. óJackie




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