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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.

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns

Click here for Summer of the Eagles Click here for Autumn of the Loons

New Listing of Heirloom Seeds on Jackie & Will’s new website

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Jackie | 15 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]

The pumpkin/corn patch is now fenced

Monday, July 27th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Will, Krystal, and I finished hanging the last two sections of the 6-foot-high fencing on the new pumpkin/corn patch. We had decided to wait for a more doable cash flow but the deer were starting to eat, not nibble, on plants in there, including many of our pumpkin vine leaves. If we were going to get a decent crop, we had to do something. So we bit the bullet and bought the rest of the fence. It’s all up now and that was a job well done! The plants can grow without harm.
Our garden is doing great! We’ve been eating snow peas, broccoli, and asparagus right along and the first of Will’s Hungarian Wax (Hot Banana) peppers are ready to use. I’ll be putting up a whole lot of his favorite hot pepper rings soon. And the rest of the peppers are following to suit. Boy, there are a lot of baby peppers in that big hoop house!
It was supposed to be rain-free until Friday, so Will cut two hayfields. Last night we got a little rain and today it’s sprinkling on and off. Yikes! I hope it doesn’t pour! And I hope we get some sunshine to get that hay dry!

We were excited Friday as we got a big box of my latest Jess Hazzard Western, Autumn of the Loons. I’ve been having people who want autographed copies, so now they’re here! (By the way, you lovely folks who have read either book, Summer of the Eagles or Autumn of the Loons, would you please take time to do a review on Amazon? It would be much appreciated by me. Thanks! — Jackie

Q and A: picking green beans and feeding bad food to chickens

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Picking green beans

When picking beans, do you pick them with the stem attached or with the stem removed? I know when cleaning them I take them off. I just don’t want to hurt my plants.

Brandy Gunderson

I hold my bean plants with one hand and pull the beans with the other. The stem usually breaks off, being attached to the bean. Then when I cut the beans, I trim off both the stem and blossom end for eating or canning. By holding the tender bean plants, you reduce the damage you’ll do to the plants otherwise. In this way you can harvest many times from those same plants. — Jackie

Feeding bad food to chickens

Recently I was given a box of dented cans. Some are quite good but some are bulged which I know are not good people food. But, is it safe to feed to the chickens?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

If they are bulging that indicates spoilage. As you don’t know what bacteria are involved, I wouldn’t feed the contents to anything; bury it so nothing gets into it, just to be safe. — Jackie

My garden is growing very well this year

Friday, July 17th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »

My good old rhubarb, a Victoria old-fashioned rhubarb is now over my head. Check out the photo of it next to the hoop house. The stalks are as big around as my wrist. We’re saving seeds from it this year.

I measured one head of broccoli and it’s 16 inches across. Wow, it lived up to its name “Goliath!”

The tomatoes are starting to set and the vines are shooting upward in their cages. Will finished the cages for the rest of the tomatoes. We now have more than 107 caged tomatoes in the garden, and a bunch uncaged, out in the pumpkin/corn patch. Crystal and Will have been working at fencing that big field and have six foot high fence up on two sides with another pile of fencing waiting to go up on the posts they’ve already driven. Another big job nearly done!

Tomorrow Will and I have to go to the VA Hospital in Minneapolis to have the spots on his lungs checked out. It’s been a year since they were discovered when he had a CAT scan for his kidney stones. They wanted to wait a year so they could compare the size, etc. I’m pretty nervous about it but have been praying constantly, hoping all will work out well. On the way back, we’ll stop at my oldest son, Bill’s, and pick up Javid’s van. Bill, a mechanic, among other skills, has gone through the van and made sure any issues were taken care of. Now we’ll be able to easily transport Javid to both doctor’s appointments and home for visits in his power wheelchair. It’ll be much easier on Will’s back as he previously had to lift him in and out of the car. Javid’s really happy to be having wheels again and a laptop computer to “play” on while he is forced to lay down during the day.

Well, I’ve got to go — I’m going to plant some summer squash, Swiss chard, kale, and rutabagas out on the pumpkin patch where some old corn seed failed to germinate. — Jackie

Q and A: storing cheese and growing apricots

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Storing cheese

Does coating cheese with red wax allow for it to be stored in a pantry? I purchased some red waxed cheese from the grocery store — would this be shelf safe?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Probably not. If you have a very cool pantry (45-50 degrees), it would probably store pretty well. If not I’d refrigerate or freeze it unless you want to can it for longer storage. — Jackie

Growing apricots

It’s too late for this season but I need some advice about my apricots. I had a good crop but the fruit is ugly with black blotches on each one. They are also small compared to what is in the grocery stores. I didn’t get any spraying done this year and we’ve had lots of rain. Any ideas how I might be able to prevent these blotches and improve the size of my fruit?

Adell Struble
Aledo, Illinois

My best guess is that your apricots got attacked by the insect pest, plum curculio.The plum curculio is a small beetle with a mottled camo-colored back and a long, curving snout. The adult feeds on blossoms and developing fruit. It bites a half-circle shaped wound in the developing fruit of not only plums but also apricots, apples, and peaches, then lays eggs in the wound. The egg hatches out into a tiny grub which goes on to burrow into the center of the fruit to eat and grow. All this creates blackish blotches in the fruit which stunts its growth and usually causes the young fruit to drop off of the tree. Here the cycle begins again. This is why it’s important that all dropped fruit is raked up and burned — it will significantly reduce the number of beetles next year. Organic gardeners have had good luck treating their trees with a natural kaolin clay product called Surround.

Surround provides substantial control of plum curculio on apples. Surround forms a thin clay barrier around the fruit that repels adults and prevents them from depositing eggs in the fruit. Begin spraying Surround on the trees at petal fall and continue applications until one week before harvest. The heavy, consistent coating of Surround provides the highest level of control.

Good luck with your apricots. You can get rid of these pests! — Jackie

We got our hay in just before the rain

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

We knew a storm was coming and we had 85 bales of hay on the field. So even though it was 85 degrees with high humidity, we went at it and picked up the bales with our small flatbed trailer, brought them up to the storage barn, and ran them up into the barn. Quite a job when it was so hot! But it got done and now it’s stacked neatly in the mow, all ready for winter. Not a whole lot of bales but it’s a good start and the hay is perfect.

The garden is coming on gangbusters. We have heads of Goliath broccoli that measure more than a foot in diameter. The carrots and onions look fantastic. The pumpkins and squash are running like crazy and I have to go out twice a day to turn back vines that are headed for the tomato rows. They don’t like to take “no” for an answer, I guess. The peppers in the big hoop house are taking off like crazy. The Hungarian Wax (Hot Banana) peppers are setting handfuls on each plant, and are nearly ready to pick for pepper rings.

While I was down at the Mayo Clinic with our friend, Will and Krystal went to Dara and Mikes for a barbecue and picked up our new buck goat, Odin. He took a few days to adjust, but now he’s one of the herd. Our doelings are growing very nicely and we’ll be keeping all three as they are from excellent breeding and their moms have wonderful udders.

Our melons in the small hoop house are starting to bloom and set tiny melons. Some volunteer tomatoes popped up from seed in there but we didn’t have the heart to kill them. So we have various tomatoes keeping the melons company.

Today Will and Krystal are out starting to fence the pumpkin/corn patch. The darned deer are starting to “nibble.” They munched off the tops of my Titan sunflowers and some potato tops. Luckily, I’d hilled them and there wasn’t much sticking up for them to browse.

I was sure tickled to read Massad Ayoob and Claire Wolfe’s blogs to find wonderful reviews on my new book, Autumn of the Loons, the second in the Jess Hazzard series of Westerns. If you haven’t seen the reviews already, why not click on over to their blogs to see what they have to say? Thank you very much, Mas and Claire!

My publisher is wondering when I’ll have the next Jess Hazzard series book, Winter of the Wolves finished, so I’ve been working on that in my “spare” time. It is fun, though, kind of a break from gardening and my “regular” writing.

Enjoy your summer; winter will come all too soon! — Jackie

Haying season has begun

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

I just got back from a two-day trip to Mayo Clinic with a friend who is having heart issues. What a place! People from all over the world and every culture you can imagine walk through those doors. We got back yesterday, tired but glad it’s over and things are seeming okay.

As we’ve been having so much rain, Will hasn’t been able to get started haying but today we have a cloudy but supposedly rain-free four days in a row. So he started haying on our place, cutting the clover on our new forty acres that he cleared four years ago. Wow, you wouldn’t recognize the field. Where it used to be scattered grass, weeds, and wild strawberries, now it’s hip-high, lush clover. And where there used to be only willow brush, a few scattered small poplar trees, and swamp, there is now a five-acre patch of oats/clover/grasses planted and laying down for hay. It’s simply amazing; just clearing that land dried it out. And adding manure last year made it rich enough to support a nice hay field. Another win for “mo’ poo poo,” our farm’s motto!

I want to thank everyone who responded for Javid’s need for a tablet or laptop. A nice fellow is sending a used but usable laptop to Javid and another lady generously sent a check for us to buy him a new one. (We’ll hold it until the first one shows up … just in case it doesn’t happen, then return it to her with our profuse thanks.) We’re really overwhelmed by all of your generosity! We thank each and every one of you. — Jackie

Q and A: Seed Treasures and processing stored garlic

Thursday, July 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Seed Treasures

Just visited Loved the site. Will your seeds also do well in my just south of Atlanta gardens?

Burt Crews
Hampton, Georgia

Most of them will do very well in your garden. So far, we’ve sold to nearly every state and have had glowing reports coming in from all over. Glad you liked our website. We love to help gardeners succeed! — Jackie

Processing stored garlic

I had a bunch of garlic given to me still on the stalks. I put it in a glass with the bulbs up and some of it has been there for about a year. What do I do to preserve it or is it too late?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I’d peel couple of cloves. If they are still soft enough to pierce with your fingernail, they should be okay to dehydrate or plant this fall. If not, see if they are normal looking even if hard; they may have dehydrated on the stalk. If they are shriveled or shrunken, you’ll have to give ’em a toss. — Jackie

So far, perfect summer

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

I can’t believe how nice our summer has been so far and boy is the garden happy! Will is just finishing mulching the whole main garden, all 150×150 feet plus a side L of Hopi Pale Grey squash. That’ll be it for the weeding. I just have to finish thinning about 10 feet of carrot rows and then he’ll be mulching that. Wow, does it look good and the plants are so happy.

All of my honeyberry jam set and we were thrilled with how good it tasted. (Of course I had to pour some out in a cup for us to sample.) Yum — a new favorite!

Yesterday all three of us went out to the big “pumpkin/corn patch” on the new 40 and weeded seriously. Krystal drove the tractor with the tiller to till up a spot we couldn’t get to because it was way too wet before, as well as the sides of the pumpkin and squash rows. Will and I took turns with the Troybilt and we all took turns with the Mantis, getting between plants and spots the big Horse missed.

Will and Krystal have been setting in fence posts around the patch so we can get it fenced. The deer have munched here and there, but so far no serious damage. It does help that the patch is surrounded by knee high clover and oats on the north side!

I hilled a long row of potatoes out there. They don’t look as nice as the small patch in the garden but they’ve not been in as long and do look healthy and happy (with a few deer munches out of them).

While we were working, three deer came out of the woods and started grazing on the clover by the edge of the oat field. They didn’t seem too worried about us and we enjoyed watching them. Luckily, Hondo didn’t try to chase them off. He’s getting much better about that. We’re happy he doesn’t even LOOK at the baby chicks. Of course, mama hens have encouraged good behavior by fluffing up and chasing him with murder in their eyes!

Yesterday was HOT and after working, Will, Krystal, and I put on swimsuits and headed for Lake Leander, five miles away. That cool water sure felt good after we were brave enough to get in all the way. — Jackie



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