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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]

We finally finished haying

Friday, September 4th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Yesterday, Will and I went out and picked up the very last square bales from the last hayfield. It was so good to be done haying finally and know that our animals will have all the hay they can eat and all the bedding they need. And we have stacked 100 bales of reed canary grass hay separately to use as mulch in our gardens next year.

I made another batch of Cowboy Candy (candied jalapeños) yesterday, using the leftover syrup to do two half-pints of red bell pepper pieces in the syrup. As the syrup is spicy hot from the boiling jalapeños, it perks up the sweet peppers very nicely. And I don’t waste the syrup! Waste not; want not.
One of the red sweet peppers I sliced up was a beautiful Lipstick from our house garden. We grew these in isolation so we can save seeds. (Lipstick peppers only have about two dozen seeds per pepper, at most!) These are such a tasty, pretty pepper. We sure love them.
Our son, David, now works at Voyageur Log Homes, and brought home a section of log railing from a remodel job that had been destined for the burn pile. For now I put it in front of our house, by the flower bed. Mittens just loves it. She thinks we put it there just for her to play on. She spends lots of time laying down, running around, and sleeping on it!
We’ve got some big Gila Cliff Dweller squash down in our barn isolation plot. We’ve never grown them before and they promise to be a great addition. They are big, white- and green-striped, and real pretty. It’s fun to try new, rare varieties. I picked a few ears of Bear Island Chippewa flint corn yesterday because the blue jays were starting to eat it. It’s a real nice, colored corn with large ears that have 12-14 rows of large kernels. And it’s quite early, too. We grew it several years back and were impressed with the quality of the cornmeal from it. And, as it’s very rare, we’re happy to add it to our growing list of seeds! — Jackie

Q and A: How much is enough and corn relish

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

How much is enough?

I have been canning steadily and now have 45 jars of peach jam, 2 dozen canned peach slices, and 48 jars of salsa, not to speak of all the other food I canned last year and this year. How many jars of any one item do you usually call “enough”? We’ve given away lots of fresh and canned foods to friends, family and neighbors but still the cupboards are full. Mind you, we are not complaining just wondering if we are going overboard cause there is always next year’s harvest too.

Draza Knezevich
Miramonte, California

I never say “enough” until my pantry shelves are absolutely bulging. Why? Because next year there may be no harvest! Hail, drought, a wind storm, or late frost can turn your bounty “next” year into zero. It’s happened to us many times. In fact this spring we got a very late freeze and it killed all the tiny fruit on our trees as well as all wild fruit in our area. When you consider that if you can 52 jars of, say, peaches, that will give you one jar each week for a year. Very few folks stop and consider this and may run out before next year’s crop is in — if there is a crop. We can up all we can for you never know what the future holds. For instance, friends of ours planned well. She had a hip replacement and her husband was going to do her chores and help out. Unfortunately, he broke his leg! So the two of them were unable to do much at all. If it had been harvest time, there would have been no canning for them. It sure pays to plan, plan, plan and can, can, can! — Jackie

Corn relish

First off …thanks for sharing all your know how. Is it possible to use previously frozen corn for your corn relish recipe? Should I thaw then cook or just start the cooking process?

Deb Clark
Pine River, Wisconsin

I’d thaw the corn first, then start as if it was fresh corn. I’m very happy to share with others any time! — Jackie

Did you see the red full moon?

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Because of the smoke from the western fires, both our sun and moon have been red. It was sure stunning when the full moon came up. I couldn’t resist a photo.
Our Dragon Tongue beans have started ripening and I picked another big basket of them on Friday. I have the whole countertop full of pints of canned beans. We sure love them. Unfortunately, they lose their pretty purple stripes when boiled but they taste wonderful. Years ago, I canned some and when we ate them, they were awesome — very sweet and tender with a beany flavor, but it took years to figure out what variety they were. I tried canning Yellow Roma, and others, but they weren’t as good. Then after I again planted and canned Dragon Tongue, I found they were the ones I’d been looking for! I won’t make that mistake again.
Will has been busy plowing. He finished plowing the neighbor’s first hayfield, which was getting sod-bound and producing pretty thin hay. But when he was nearly done, POW, a rear tractor tire split. Now, those big tractor tires are expensive! He called around, looking for a decent used one. Finally he did find one, down by my oldest son, Bill’s. So we went to Tietz Implement yesterday and picked up a tire. I helped Will get it on the tractor this morning and it’s finally standing on four wheels again. Whew!
We have our last hayfield cut and as I’m writing, Will’s raking it in preparation for baling this afternoon. It’ll be good to be done haying.

I just thought I’d let you in on something. For years, we’ve bought our hardy fruit trees from St. Lawrence Nurseries in Potsdam, NY. Unfortunately, owners Bill and Diana MacKentley are retiring and there was no one to take over the business. We were sad, to put it mildly. But … a young man who worked for them for years decided to go ahead and take over the business and keep it running. To support his new endeavor financially, he is ONLY taking orders for apples and Evans Bali cherries until October 30th. If you’d like a catalog, you can order from St. Lawrence Nurseries, PO Box 957, Potsdam, NY 13676 or call (315) 261-1925. We’re ordering more trees and strongly recommend their company if you want very hardy fruit trees. — Jackie

Q and A: saving seed from corn and water level in canner

Monday, August 31st, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

Saving seed from corn

I planted a small patch of rainbow earth tones dent corn this year. I have it isolated from our sweet corn by over 100 ft, and the house is between the gardens. Can I save seed from it? If I do will it grow (mostly) true next year?

Cathy O.
Amherst, New York

You can sure save seed, but the purity of it is subject to debate. Usually, corn that has crossed will show signs. For instance, your rainbow colors might have all yellow or half yellow if it has crossed with sweet corn. Or your sweet corn may have some colored kernels. Corn is wind pollinated and the wind can carry pollen up to a mile, so sometimes even if your neighbor half a mile away grows corn it can pollinate with yours. In a homestead situation this isn’t a huge problem; just save seed from the corn ears that most closely resemble your Earth Tones dent. — Jackie

Water level in canner

I was just doing some water bath canning of tomatoes and the water level went below the top of one set of jars. They seem to have sealed, but should I/can I reprocess them? Am I missing anything? Do I need replace the lids?

Michael Lowery
Dekalb, Illinois

While it’s definitely best to have at least 2 inches over the tops of the jars during water bath processing, if that dropped for a short time, the tomatoes should be fine. If it was for much longer, I’d reprocess them, using new lids. — Jackie

We had frost last night!

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »

But, many thanks to God, it only was on the roof, not in the garden! You can bet we ran out to the garden first thing this morning after seeing it on the house roof.

I’ve been canning every day. Today it’s more corn but this time mixed with peas. We didn’t grow many peas this year so I cheated and bought some frozen peas (on sale, of course) to mix with the corn. I love doing the mixed corn because it gives us so much more variety in the pantry. I can Mexican corn, corn with peas, corn with peas and carrots, corn with carrots, and just plain corn.

Then there are the Dragon Tongue beans which are just starting to ripen. I think I’ll use them to make more mustard bean pickles — we sure do love them. They’re more like a side dish than a pickle.
This morning my friend, Dara, called and said they’d be picking crab apples in town. They had found a pair of trees that the homeowner never picked and when Dara asked if they’d trade potatoes for apples, the deal was quickly made. So I met Dara and her stepson, James in Cook and we spent a companionable morning yacking and picking buckets of apples. I’ll be making apple jelly, juice and sauce from my share. It’s amazing how many folks have fruit trees in their yards and don’t pick any. It sure pays to knock on the door and ask! Give it a try and you will be pleasantly surprised. — Jackie

Q and A: laundry soap and giving spoiled fruit to livestock

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Laundry soap

Is your laundry soap recipe, found in BHM, safe to wash our baby’s clothes in? We are expecting our first child in October. One of the questions that was raised by grandma was laundry soap for the baby. We current make your recipe for our laundry soap. If it is not safe for babies do you have any suggestions?

Meghan Futterleib
West Windsor, Vermont

Yes, it is safe for babies. My youngest is now going on 24 and he, as well as my other kids, never had trouble with it at all. Just rinse well and you’ll be fine. — Jackie

Giving spoiled fruit to livestock

We live in fruit country — peaches, cherries, plums, etc. So, we have lots to dump at the end of season or the mush ones before then. Can I safely dump them for the cows? How about goats and pigs? Also have pears and apples which don’t have pits but do have seeds? Of course everything in moderation but it would save a lot on feed or hay if it is safe for them. Actually have already given them some but wondering if I can continue.

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

Due to the toxicity of the pits, I wouldn’t advise dumping stone fruits to the cows, goats or pigs with pits intact. Pears and apples are fine. You can dump stone fruits into your chicken yard and they’ll love the treats and you’ll save money on feed, too. — Jackie

Q and A: Jerusalem artichokes and adding lemon juice to tomatoes

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Jerusalem artichokes

The Jerusalem Artichokes are taller than I am and I’m looking forward to harvesting them. Do I wait until a hard freeze? Do I leave some in the ground so they will come back next year? Do you have any favorite recipe using them? I had a J.A. soup while in Norway that was wonderful.

My husband and I both read Autumn of the Loons and loved it! Can’t wait for the next two books to come out. Don’t know HOW you keep up with everything at home, plus the books, plus the blog but sure am glad you do.

Having been to your seminar last fall, I have seen first-hand all the work you and Will accomplish and am in awe. Thank you for providing the rest of us with such reliable advice.

Des Moines, Iowa

You can harvest them at any time. They don’t keep well, so I’d let them stay in the garden as long as you can. They do freeze pretty well but they do lose their crispness once out of the freezer. Yes, you leave some of the smaller ones in the ground to provide more next year. (It’s about impossible to “get rid” of them, as they usually leave some behind on their own. Love those permanent crops!

I’m glad you liked Autumn of the Loons. (Don’t forget that reviews on Amazon help out the book sales!) Sometimes we do feel under pressure, like now when everything’s coming in from the garden, seemingly at once. But thank God for that! — Jackie

Adding lemon juice to tomatoes

We are water bath canning tomatoes and add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice to make sure the acid level is high enough. Sometimes I stir the lemon juice in and other times I just add it to the jar before putting on the lid. Does it matter? Will the lemon juice work ok even if not stirred in?

Michael Lowery
Dekalb, Illinois

You just have to ladle it into the jar. It gets mixed well during processing as the juice boils hard. No need to stir it in. — Jackie

The corn is in!

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

On top of our fabulous bean harvest this summer, our sweet corn is ripe. This year our garden corn is Espresso, a SU hybrid that we grew last year. Boy, is it ever a nice, very sweet, albeit hybrid, corn. The ears are averaging nine inches long with plenty of tender kernels on each cob. So I’m canning like crazy. Yesterday I did Mexican corn (corn with mixed sweet green and red peppers) and today I’m doing plain old sweet corn to get ‘er done!
Unfortunately, the cows got into the old pig pasture and ate nearly all of Will’s highly prized Seneca Horizon sweet corn. Boy, are we ever disappointed! Talk about a crop failure! We have friends that are also raising this variety so we’ll have to see if we can buy seed from them for our seed business. Tough break.

Our tomatoes are beginning to ripen. The Hanky Red, a small to medium-sized very early tomato beat the pack. We thought Moravsky Div was the winner but then found our Hanky Reds were actually ahead of them. We even have a Bill Bean getting ripe that will weigh about 2 pounds. Pretty early for such a big tomato. We can hardly wait.

We’ve had very cold, rainy weather. Yesterday was 55 degrees and today the HIGH is 52, with rain and wind. Brrrr. Will hauled our last hay home from our second farm and the hay storage area is full. One more farm to go but he lost the brake rotor on our pickup near home so will have to do some repair work first. It’s always something but we just keep plodding along. Then some wonderful thing happens to surprise us and we perk right up. That’s homesteading! — Jackie



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