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Ask Jackie headline

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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New Listing of Heirloom Seeds on Jackie & Will’s new website

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Jackie | 11 Comments »
Our homestead seed business is up and going for 2014-2015. We are raising most of our own historical, open-pollinated, definitely non-GMO seeds right here at home in Northern Minnesota. We have many more varieties to offer this year.Our seeds are from beautiful, often rare, wonderful varieties that we love for their production, shining colors, and taste. Some, such as one of our favorites, Hopi Pale Grey squash, is so rare it was teetering on the brink of extinction.
Our prices are right, as is our shipping, so please come take a look at (If you can’t access our website, just e-mail us for the listing!) seedtreasures[at]

Q and A: overpressure plug on canner and lime water

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Overpressure plug on canner

How often should you realistically replace the overpressure plug on an All American canner? The manual suggests replacing it at least every 12 months. My canner is 3-4 years old and I’ve never replaced it. The rubber still seems to be in great shape. What do you do?
DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

Personally, I feel that if the plug rubber is soft and doesn’t leak excessive steam, it’s fine. Today with everyone so sue-happy, manufacturers have to cover their butts. I’ve never replaced mine after eleven years of use. If it wears out or becomes brittle, replace it. The worst that could happen is that the plug blows out and may ruin a batch of canning. It’s not like the canner would blow up. — Jackie

Lime water

I grow my own dent corn, and have been making corn flour for years, but I have never been able to find the ratio of wood ashes to water to make lime water. I would like to be able to make corn chips etc. from scratch. Have you had any experience with this process? I live in Massachusetts and burn mostly oak or maple for heat, would the type of wood ashes matter? Nobody in this area has any idea what I’m talking about when I ask about soaking corn or even slaked lime. Do you have any advice?

South Hadley, Massachusetts

You don’t use wood ashes to make lime water. Soaked wood ashes make lye, which also can be used to make hominy which is then dried to make masa harina from which such things as tortillas and tamales can be made. I prefer using lime water; it’s less dangerous and quick to find and use. Here’s how:

You need 2 lbs of field corn (removed from cob) and two tablespoons slaked lime (pickling lime). Clean the shelled corn by placing in a colander and rising with cold water.

Add two quarts of water into a four-quart non-corrosive pan (stainless steel, or enameled pot). Put the pan on high heat and stir in the slaked lime until it dissolves.

Bring the slaked lime water to a boil and add the corn stirring gently. Using a slotted spoon remove any kernels that float to the top. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and let the corn soak for about one hour.

Put the corn into a colander and rinse very well with cold water. Rub the corn between your hands to loosen any hulls still attached to the kernels. Continue this until the corn is all white (except the little tips). Allow the corn to drain.

The corn is now ready for your favorite pozole or hominy recipe. Or you can dry the hominy well, then grind it to make masa harina. — Jackie

Rain, sun, rain

Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Boy, the weather can’t seem to make up its mind lately. We get a big thunderstorm and the next day the sun’s out. Then it rains again! But this rainy weather is pretty common for June in our country. And it makes the garden and flowers grow. I went out yesterday and took pictures of our big patch of lady slipper orchids, our state flower. They’re in full bloom and just gorgeous this year. Huge too! Some are the size of the palm of my hand.

This morning, between storms, we went to the berry patch and put up a stock panel for the pole beans we’re growing there this year. They’re already sending out long runners. Our friend, Dara, grew Neckargold last year and they were fantastic for her. So we thought we’d try them this year. They’re a bright yellow snap bean that simply covered her vines, making them appear gold from a distance. So far, ours are very lusty and we have high hopes. We’re also growing one of my old favorite flour corns, Bear Island Chippewa, which is getting extremely rare. It’s multi-colored and short seasoned, making it a great corn for those of us with challenging climates. And this is Chippewa country so we thought it appropriate!

Our peppers and melons in the hoop houses are doing great. Some of Will’s Hot Banana peppers already have peppers set on them. I’ve been thinning carrots and tucking tomato vines back inside tomato cages. Boy, are they growing fast! Some of the vines have wandered 18 inches out of the sides of the cages in a week’s time. Wow!

Everything in the pumpkin patch is doing very well and Will wants to get started fencing it as the deer are already wandering through “shopping.” So far, only a few nibbles on the potatoes. But we’re getting big thunderstorms today and it’s dangerous to be out when there’s lightning. A neighbor was killed by it getting into his car a couple years back and we’re very careful.

The dill I planted last year did so well that it self-seeded and is coming up all in that end of the berry patch. Cool! We love dill.

The red raspberries Will and Krystal transplanted are doing very well as are the blueberry row and the new Mac Black black raspberries we bought this year (supposed to be Zone 3). The rain and heat helps a lot.

Because he’s not able to put up fence today, Will is working on the forms for the interior slip form concrete and stone walls inside the barn. Not only will there be outer walls but interior walls as well; no rotten wood next to the manure. Ever. Nice but a lot of work! — Jackie

One of our hen turkeys hatched out … chicks

Thursday, June 25th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Yep, that’s right, chicks, not poults (baby turkeys). It seems Mama turkey found a nest of chicken eggs and decided to sit on them instead of making her own nest. Oh well, she IS a good mother and it’s the second time a turkey has raised chicks on our ranch and last time she raised the whole batch.

Will got most of our tomatoes not only staked but mulched and caged, too. We’ve got to buy another roll of concrete reinforcing wire to do the last 30 or so tomatoes. Boy, there are a LOT of tomatoes in the garden this year! We’re out of money so in the meantime, we’re busy tilling, weeding, and mulching the rest of the crops. Today Krystal and Will are working on the isolation patches of squash.

I’ve been kind of under the weather with another bout of diverticulitis and finally had to go to the doctor for antibiotics. Whew! After three days the meds are working and there’s much less gut pain. Boy, how I hate that. So today I’m kind of easing back into the swing of things gently. No, I won’t overdo.

Our adopted son, Javid, is still in need of a donated used laptop or tablet to use while he’s forced to lie in bed to keep healing his previous pressure sore. So if you have one around you’d part with, please let me know, okay?

Our rhubarb is HUGE again this year. The stalks are the size of baseball bats and the leaves are higher than my head. Wow! One plant would make a million pies! I need to get busy and can up some sauce. My friend, Jeri, found that if she extracted a couple of pints of juice from cut-up rhubarb with her Mehu Liisa juicer, then canned up the rhubarb as well as the juice, the rhubarb was just right for sauce, not being watery like regular canned rhubarb. Great for rhubarb crisp, too. Yum.

The broccoli and cauliflower is doing great this year, as it did last year. All mulched and weeded, they’re shooting up. Can’t wait. — Jackie

In between rains, work continues

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately, with a few sunny days stuck between them, thank goodness. Will pounded 104 T-posts in the garden to stake up the tomatoes we have growing in there. Our big tomatoes would break off wooden stakes in the wind! Then he weeded and mulched them with our seed-free reed canary grass hay. Once mulched, they’ll need no more weeding.

Yesterday, he finished putting wire cages over most of the tomatoes but he had to start making more cages as we’re growing so many more tomatoes this year in the garden. The ones I planted on the new forty acres won’t be mulched or caged; it’s just too much work for us.

Today the sun’s out and Will’s busy making more cages and also side dressing our small household patch of corn in the garden with rotted manure. The corn sure jumps once that’s done and it already looks pretty good. On the end of the sweet corn is a small patch of Glass Gem popcorn.

Unfortunately the chickens got in the garden (we do have a few “wild” escapees) and scratched around in that patch. And ate some corn. But they are ousted from the garden and most of it has come up anyway.

The pumpkin patch/corn patch is doing well as is the pig-pasture corn and pumpkins. So we’ll pray for warm sunshine and alternate days of rain to keep it going. Lookin’ good so far… — Jackie

Q and A: free-ranging pigs, canned pinto beans, and sunless strawberries

Friday, June 19th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Free-ranging pigs

I remember you telling about a pig that spent the winter free and that it did very well. I wonder what kind of pigs you raise and do you think I could raise them without grain?

Sandie Heatherington
Siberia, Indiana

Well, Sandie, you remembered my story a bit wrong. There were two weaned pigs and they did escape and spend the summer and fall roaming 160 acres of fields and woods, eating all sorts of wild foods from roots and grasses to acorns in the fall. And they were very nice when we finally found and captured them. But they did not winter out “wild.” In Minnesota, they would never have wintered as food would have been nearly impossible for them to find. You can certainly let pigs roam free in a very large acreage to feed without grain as the old-timers did. But you can’t just fence a pig into an acre or two and expect him to do well with no grain; there’s just not enough food for him to choose and pick from. — Jackie

Canned pinto beans

I canned some pinto beans last fall and was going to use a jar and a few beans had some grayish spots on them. Almost like mold but the seal is perfect. Are they bad?

Carolyn Allee
Raymond, Washington

If your beans were processed correctly and the seal is still good, open a jar. If they smell okay, they will be fine to eat. As always, heat the beans to boiling temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. — Jackie

Sunless Strawberries

My son-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. My granddaughters really want to grow strawberries, but they live in a high-rise apartment, and they get no direct sunlight, not even on their little balcony. Is there a way we can make their dreams come true? Is there a type of strawberry that will grow well under a grow light? Do you have any ideas on something else they might enjoy growing and eating?
Lisa G.
Cottondale, Florida

Any vegetables and, of course, strawberries, can certainly be grown under grow lights or even four-foot regular shop lights, held only inches above the plants. (Think of all of those marijuana growers!) They could try easy-to-grow things like multi-colored lettuce, radishes, or even bush beans. There are a lot of possibilities so they should have fun! — Jackie

We had sad news

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

Our friend, Linda, who helped cook at our homestead seminars passed away recently and suddenly due to undiagnosed cancer. Her service brought tears to many of us who knew her and will certainly miss her every day.

But we go on, planting and believing in the hope of the future. Our hoop houses are bulging and so is the garden. I finally finished planting on the new pumpkin/corn patch yesterday. And already the pumpkins and squash are looking good out there. However, I will have to replant a couple varieties that I had old seed. It didn’t come up. Oh well, it happens.

This morning I got up at 6 AM to cows bawling and donkeys braying. Crystal, our donkey, as well as three calves were out. So I spent awhile herding livestock and enjoying the beautiful morning. There were even deer out browsing on the clover next to the woods. How pretty. Cows in, donkey in. So I came back to the house and made pancakes. I was hungry after playing cowboy! — Jackie

When the weather’s perfect…

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

You get a lot done. We’ve been having nice warm daytime temperatures and last night we had a good soaking rain. It makes seeds germinate quickly and pop up strongly. You can hear our pumpkins and squash growing!

Yesterday morning there were white pelicans on our beaver pond. You don’t usually think of pelicans in Northern Minnesota but we have quite a few. In fact, just a few miles north of us is Pelican Lake, a huge body of water that the pelicans enjoy. I think they are so graceful, soaring in flocks, way up in the sky, before they land. And on the water, they look like swans, all except that pouched bill. They like to swim and fish for minnows on our pond and we enjoy watching them.

I’ve been planting up the rest of the land Will tilled on our new forty acres with the tractor-mounted tiller. He said he’s “all done planting corn!” It was pretty brutal when he and Krystal hand-planted the big patch that they did in the muck. But I can’t stand to waste tilled ground so I’ve been planting more pumpkins between varieties of beans. So far I’ve planted Cherokee Trail of Tears and I’ve got Hopi String and Tongue of Fire to go. Then we’ll see how much land is left…

My favorite rose is blooming near the kitchen garden gate. It’s the old “Yellow Rose of Texas”, which is both hardy and beautiful. Pioneers often carried it West to remind them of home. I’ve always had a yellow rose by my house, no matter where we happened to be, so I really understand how it could be a symbol of “home.”

We’re still searching for a used laptop or tablet for my handicapped son, Javid, so he can be online while being forced to lie down to ensure his pressure sore continues to heal. — Jackie

Q and A: local co-ops in Minnesota and use for small dropped apples

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Local co-ops in Minnesota

We are new to the Iron Range. Also new to self reliance. My question is are there any good locally owned co-ops where we can get started on the range? Any tips or advice for the Virginia and Hibbing area would be greatly appreciated.

Kaila Kvasnicka
Chisholm, Minnesota

Welcome to the North, Kaila! As far as I know, there is only one Co-op: Natural Harvest Food Co-op. Their address is: 505 N. 3rd St., Virginia, MN 55792. Phone number: (218) 741-4663. There are farmers’ markets in the towns of Hibbing, Virginia, and Cook also. — Jackie

Use for small dropped apples

I have a lot of small apples falling from my trees. Is there something I can do with these small apples? Are they too green for spiced apples like pickled crab apples? Thank you for this helpful web site and the articles in Backwoods home Magazine.

Charles P. Britton
Southwest City, Missouri

Sorry, Charles, but these drops are usually way too green to use. If you have pigs or chickens, they will appreciate you tossing them over the fence to them. I would remove the apples from your orchard as they are sometimes stung by apple pests and will increase any insect problem you have in your apples, over time. This is one reason we have our chickens fenced in our orchard. They clean them right up as they fall. — Jackie



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