We nearly always get an April blizzard so when we passed through much of April with warm temperatures, we figured it missed us this year. Well… kind of. We didn’t get a blizzard but for the last several days we’ve been having wet, nasty snow.
I’ve been getting a lot done inside because of it. All of our tomatoes are now transplanted and I’m working on our peppers. I should finish them today and start the petunias which will hang off our front porch in hanging baskets, tomorrow.
Will’s off to a farm auction today with truck and trailer so I’m wondering what new equipment will come wandering home. Well, not new equipment — rusty old equipment actually. But usable… sometimes with a little work (or a lot). But that’s how we manage to equip our homestead and still be able to afford it. Ah, homesteading! — Jackie
What do you think about scrambling eggs with sausage, mushrooms and green and red peppers and canning them. Trying to get away from freezer and when I get my chickens and quit selling almonds then I will have lots of eggs and don’t like them pickled.
Dallas City, Illinois
Sorry, Nancy, but there’s just NO research that’s been done on canning eggs, other than pickling them and that’s minimal! Keep those hens producing. You can add a light during the fall and winter to keep ‘em laying even, during darker days. Having a warmer coop also helps — no drafts and plenty of shavings for bedding. — Jackie
Canning cherry pie filling
I purchased several jars of tart cherries a couple years ago. I didn’t want them to spoil and the jars were still sealed and looked like when I purchased them. So I made cherry pie filling and recanned them in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes. After doing it, I wondered if that was the right thing to do?
Personally, I would have left them in the original jars. But if you used an approved recipe for your pie filling, you should be just fine. I say “an approved” recipe as some folks try to thicken their pie filling to can with flour or cornstarch, which aren’t approved anymore. — Jackie
So we got busy! Last fall Will plowed a six-acre spot between our new small hayfield and the pumpkin/corn patch. It was a soggy spot, covered with alder, willow brush, and a few small popple trees — a very unusable spot. Even grass didn’t want to grow on it. We were surprised that it even plowed!
We’ve been having a warm, dry spring. And with temperatures in the low seventies we knew it wouldn’t last. After all, this is northern Minnesota and it’s April. So when the weather radio forecasted a week of rain mixed with snow, Will quickly decided he’d try to plant some oats on that new spot. So off he went, with a spin-seeder on the back of the tractor and a harrow behind it. Hondo went with him but finally got tired of following the tractor around and around. I went out with the ATV and watched for a while. And when I went home, so did Hondo.
I’ve been transplanting tomatoes like mad and still have half of another flat to go. Then there are the peppers and the petunias … I’m running out of south-facing windows! But the plants look so happy after being transplanted into their Styrofoam cups!
Will’s been working on “my” new Mule RTV. He’d found a motor for it for $300 but true to his Scotch blood, he also found a Briggs motor on an old generator of ours (with an electric start) that would fit. He’s spent the better part of two afternoons on it and he thinks it’ll be ready to run this afternoon. Wow, that’ll be so nice. With the dump box, I can pick rocks out of the garden and pumpkin patch, and haul mulch and compost around (instead of a trailer or wheelbarrow) so easily. I can hardly wait! — Jackie
Canning beans, meat, and soup
I have a question about canning beans. How do you know when the beans are ready for canning and wouldn’t swell in the jar anymore? I canned kidney beans and pork and beans for the 1st time. The beans swelled. Should I soak them overnight? Then when I put them in the jar maybe stop at the shoulder of the jar with the beans then add fluid?
I also like to can meat. What does it mean to lightly brown? Do you not have any pink showing or is there a little pink showing and it will finish cooking while in the canner?
Also when you can soup such as beef vegetable, will it turn to mush while canning for 75 minutes? This is soup we ate a few meals of then want to save the rest. But you time the canner for the food item that has the longest canning time right? Even if it is cooked already?
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
Either rinse and hold beans overnight in a large pot of plenty of water or else add beans and water to large pot, bring to a boil, boil for 2 minutes, then let sit, covered, for two hours. This lets the beans swell to nearly full size. I never pack the beans up to 1 inch headspace but add about 2-3 inches of liquid over them to allow for more swelling during canning.
Lightly browning meat means to brown the outside lightly. There is still pink showing in the center and, yes, the meat fully cooks during the processing.
No, your vegetables don’t turn to mush. Campbell’s soup has veggies and beef, right? And it’s also processed. But if you fully cook the soup before canning, the vegetables do tend to get soft. So what I do is mix up the recipe, heat it to boiling, and then pack the jars without fully cooking the soup/stew. You can certainly can up leftover soup or stew but you could end up with softer veggies. They sure taste great though. And, yes, you do process the food for the length of time required for the food needing the longest processing time — usually meat.
Chili is one of our favorite meals in a jar. Like the soup, though, I soak my beans then add the sauce, meat, and spices, tasting as it heats and adding more spices, as needed. (The beans are still pretty firm so don’t eat them!).
Good luck stocking your pantry shelves with easy-to-fix meals! — Jackie
Planting sprouted potatoes
I have potatoes from my last year’s garden that I want to plant. Over the winter these potatoes have grown long sprouts, up to 12-18 inches long. Should I remove these sprouts before cutting the potato and planting?
While it’s better to have shorter sprouts on your potatoes, you certainly can plant those with long sprouts. Plant the sprouts down as deep as you do the “mother” potato, running lengthwise in the row so you can hill the plants later on. Leave space between the end of one sprout and the start of the next one so your potatoes will be further apart than the “recommended” 12 inches or so. If you remove the long sprouts it takes time and energy for the potato to make new ones which often results in a smaller crop, come fall, unless you have a long growing season. — Jackie
At your recommendation, 3 years ago I planted several Nanking Cherry bushes on our new TN farmstead. This year looks like I am going to have a bumper crop! I want to process them but they look like they could be a little tedious. Could I use my Victorio strainer and if so, what size sieve should I use? I was thinking maybe the one designed for grapes. Also any tips for hand pitting them?
I’ve never used my Victorio for this, so if you do, please let us know how that works. I make jam with them by heating the cherries until soft then cooling and hand-pressing them through a sieve, grating off the meat from the cherries. They do not pit well, either by hand or with a pitter as the cherries are fairly small and the pits fairly large. They are advertised as a pie cherry, but I wouldn’t want to be the pitter! I’m glad your Nankings are doing so well. You’ll love them! — Jackie
On Monday, we traveled five hours to pick up a big load of used foam board insulation that our friend Mike found for us in a roofer’s “trash.” We had a great road trip with Old Blue, our ’85 Chev pickup and stock trailer. Old Blue hadn’t been driven on the road for a few years so we were hoping all would go well. It did and we were even home before dark, tired but happy.
Then yesterday we drove to Superior, Wisconsin, to pick up a Kawasaki Mule (a UTV) that Will had found on Craiglist. We got it cheap ($200) but it has no motor so we’re looking. Anyone know of one around anywhere? I’m confident somewhere, sometime, we’ll get the Mule up and running and it’ll be a big help to me traveling from one place to another, hauling garden stuff, mulch, rocks, dirt, etc. — and letting my bad knee rest up. On our way back, Will also picked up a very-used grain gravity box (wagon) so we can eventually haul and store bulk grain. We got it from our friend, Wally, down near Cloquet. (We did have a flat tire with Old Blue but luckily, had a spare, good floor jack, etc. and got it changed in a few minutes.)
I’m real happy with the reviews on my new book, Summer of the Eagles, on Amazon. Take a look at a few:
• “The author keeps you voraciously tearing through the pages and at the end, you find yourself calculating the months and impatiently waiting for the release of “Autumn of the Loons.”
• “I don’t usually read Westerns. I started the book as I was heading to sleep on a Saturday night around 9:30pm. Next thing I knew it was 2am and I was wishing the second book was already available. It is well-written, fast-moving, and very engaging. I loved the characters, the setting, and the imagery. I was totally drawn back in time to the wilderness of Wyoming.”
• “I must give credit to Jackie Clay for writing Summer of Eagles. This is a story I can share with my mom and feel comfortable discussing the story line with her due to the fact that it does not have, nor does it need the graphic sex found in most modern day writings. I love the way Jackie builds up each person in the book. When I read a story I can usually figure out where the plot is going well in advance of the ending but Jackie tossed in a twist that caught me off guard. I am looking forward to the next book to see if she can do it again. Bring it on Jackie.”
Needless to say, I’m happy to hear those reviews!
I’ve got the cover for the next book finished and it’ll be mailed to the publisher soon so we can get Autumn of the Loons released.
In the meantime, I’ve been busy transplanting tomatoes and peppers. Boy, did we plant a lot of tomatoes this year! — Jackie
Today it’s 65 degrees and sunny without much wind so it sure feels great. Will’s working on the barn, getting ready to put up our home-cut siding. Yesterday he worked on the sawmill all day, cutting ONE log. But that log was a huge spruce log that had to be cut down with a chainsaw to even fit on the sawmill! He’s putting first a layer of our free plywood up over the 2×6 studs, then adding furring strips on which to nail the vertical board and batten siding. The plywood is to prevent any slight drafts from getting through the barn. Inside, we’re going to add some insulation board that a friend found for us. It was a wonderful “deal.” We’ll be off to pick that up soon — a whole trailer load! Thank you, Mike!
He is simply stunning and so gorgeously marked; like a pinto-appaloosa horse. His mother and father were out of a buck and doe we used to have so we know his potential as a producer of great milkers on down the line. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s beautifully marked too! (No, he doesn’t have a roached back. Dara is just holding him still on the stump!) — Jackie
Enamel-lined Dutch oven with a chip
Is it safe to cook in a cast iron enameled-lined Dutch oven that has a chip in the bottom? Where the chip is located you can see the cast iron it is about the size of a nickel.
Prairie Grove, Arkansas
Yes, you can. Of course you can also cook in a full cast iron Dutch oven like I have. I’d just watch carefully to make sure that the remaining enamel is solid; you wouldn’t want it to flake off in your food. Usually, though, it is solid and you can use your Dutch oven for years that way. — Jackie
Gearing up for planting and would like to try my hand with establishing an asparagus plot. I have tried unsuccessfully in the past — I think 2x so far — so I am hoping 3rd time is the charm! Do you recommend any particular plants or vendors for buying the crowns? I am down in the Twin Cities, so somewhat similar conditions — a lot of clay (which last time I added a bunch of sand) and some severe temps. Also, do you prefer canning, freezing, or dehydrating the spears or just eating as you go?
St. Paul, Minnesota
We bought asparagus plants from Nourse Farms and have never seen nicer plants so we really do recommend them. Their website is noursefarms.com. We really had good luck planting them in a furrow with black plastic on either side to control weeds and bring more heat to the soil. HUGE, plentiful first-year spears! We can and dehydrate all of ours that we don’t eat fresh, but it does freeze very well. — Jackie
I’m sure glad that the days are getting longer! I’m like a chicken — when it’s light, I’m active; when it’s dark I get sleepy. And with all we have to do, I’m glad I’m awake more. I’ve been working on the cover for my next Western novel and so far, it’s coming out great.
This morning, I set a pot of beans on to boil and now they’re setting in the pot for a couple more hours then I’m adding ham and bacon and making a huge batch of baked beans to can up. Hopefully, tomorrow I can get the ham bone boiled up and make another big batch of bean soup. I love it when I get lots of meals from one major piece of meat!
Will’s been working on our old ’85 blue 3/4 ton Chevy pickup, getting it road-ready again after sitting for a few years. We have a long haul with the stock trailer on Monday so we’re crossing our fingers that Old Blue runs well.
Slowly, the birds are returning from the South. I’ve seen five more robins, two kestrels, two red-tailed hawks and a turkey vulture. We’ve also seen a few trumpeter swans, and both Canada geese and snow geese flying north. But today is snowy and raw. It sure doesn’t feel much like spring. It is supposed to warm up toward the weekend, though. — Jackie