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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

Heirloom Seeds now available

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »
The list of seeds we have for sale this year is ready.We only listed seeds that we grow and love. Some of them are very rare and thus in short supply. When we’re out, we’re out; we can either refund your money or put you on the list for your seeds to come late this fall after harvest to plant next year. All are naturally grown with NO GMOs! They are also all heirloom, open pollinated seeds so you can save your own seeds.

Click Here to download the list of available seeds and ordering instructions. (PDF) ~Jackie

Jackie’s Fall Homesteading Seminar

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »
We’re planning our fall homesteading seminar and are ready to take deposits.This seminar should be a great one, covering such topics as bringing in the harvest, using a pressure canner, canning meats and vegetables, seed saving, long-term food storage, and much more.The seminar will be September 12-14th, 2014 here at our homestead. We’d love to have you come!

Click here to see our brochure. (PDF) –Jackie

Hey guys, guess what? I have a new book out!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 12 Comments »

Well, it’s official, my new book is ready for pre-order at a great 25% reduced price. It’s titled Homesteading Simplified: Living the good life without losing your mind and it details all the different ways a person can make homesteading easier and more enjoyable whether they live in town or on a large acreage … or anywhere in between. I’ve written about livestock, watering systems, gardening, tools, and much more. Because I’ve fielded a lot of questions about how to avoid homesteader burnout, I wrote this book to help homesteaders, new and experienced, make their life easier while enjoying it more.

I hope you like it. — Jackie

Homesteading-book  Our watchdogs, Hondo and Spencer, on watch for the new book.

Food time at Jackie and Will’s homestead

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »


It just dawned on me this morning — our entire homestead is about food right now! Will is hauling in the last of our round bales of hay for the animals. We are madly harvesting the last of our corn before it becomes too starchy to eat and can (right now I’m canning some of Will’s wonderful Seneca Sunrise open pollinated sweet corn). Every day I’m canning something or somethings. Yesterday it was Mexican corn, which is a mixture of sweet corn, onions, and red and green sweet peppers and more enchilada sauce. I’m bringing in baskets of different varieties of tomatoes to harvest the seeds from each day.


The dried seeds are accumulating slowly, drying on ice cream bucket lids marked with each variety. On the front porch, I have set up a bench and chairs so I can work outside on nice days. It’s a lot easier to wash away the tomato juice and dropped seeds from the porch deck than from my living room floor!

I have two dehydrators set up in the dining room and they are full of broccoli. Yesterday I harvested the first Winter Luxury pumpkin for seed saving. Boy, is it wonderful. It has glowing yellow flesh two inches thick. Today I’m baking it whole, after taking a bounty of seeds. Then I’ll make it into a pumpkin pie. They have the reputation for being the very best pie pumpkin in the world. We’ll see; Will and I really like our pumpkin pie made from Hopi Pale Grey squash.

When I get off the computer, I’m pulling all of our onions so they can dry before being brought in to store. And there’s three big rows of nice fat carrots plus potatoes to harvest. Mmmmm. Food. Food. Food!

NOTICE: ALL OF THE WILD PLUM PITS HAVE BEEN SOLD. We had no idea that so many folks would want them! Next crop we’ll harvest many more. I’m so sorry for those who got disappointed and I’ll substitute with another pack of one of our favorite crops.


Our fall colors are simply gorgeous right now. I never realized how many maples have come up on our land until this fall as they’re turning color! In a few years our driveway will be flaming reds and oranges, come fall. But we cringe as we know full well that it’s only a few weeks until the pretty leaves have fallen and that white stuff starts. Stack that wood, Will! — Jackie

Q and A: canning enchilada sauce, tornado clucker plucker, using a steam juicer, bringing plants inside for the winter

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Canning enchilada sauce

You mentioned canning enchilada sauce in your blog today. I searched the archives and found a recipe you posted in 2009. Could you post it again with any updates? I’ll be processing 60 one-gallon bags of frozen tomatoes and would love to make enchilada sauce (and the pizza sauce that you’ve already told us how to make).

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

I think the recipe you refer to is this:

18 dried red chilies
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. boiling water
10½ cups chopped tomatoes
6 cups chopped onion
12 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp. oil
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar

It’s processed at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts.

I make mine by mixing tomato puree (turkey roasting pan full) with ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 cup chopped sweet peppers, 2 Tbsp. oregano, 2 Tbsp. cilantro, 2 Tbsp. cumin, about 5 cloves mashed garlic, 1 Tbsp. salt, and 4 Tbsp. chile powder (hot or not, depending on your taste). This is pressure canned the same as above.

Most “traditional” enchilada sauce is made without tomatoes, using chiles, onions, chicken broth, and tomatillos so there’s a wide variety of enchilada sauces! — Jackie

Tornado clucker plucker

Will you be sharing instructions on how to make the ” tornado clucker plucker”? Sure would like to make one.

Dawn Fowler
Rosebud, Missouri

Sure, Dawn. I’m working on an article about this right now. — Jackie

Using a steam juicer

I recently purchased a strainer/juicer at a yard sale — it has three parts: one for water, one to hold the juice and the top one in which to put the grapes. I used it the other day to make grape juice. It seemed to take an inordinately long time before the grapes looked dry and I thought all the juice was extracted. It took approximately 8 hours to do a bushel of grapes. It seemed as though there was a burst of juice and then it just dripped before finally quitting. Is this normal? Or am I letting them cook too long? Also, can I make apple juice using this strainer/juicer?
Alice Clapper
New Castle, Pennsylvania

It does take a long time to extract most of the juice from fruit. But the good news is that you get a LOT of juice from the same amount of fruit that you used to get a modest amount from. Be sure to keep the bottom full of water. It will boil dry after several hours and that can ruin your juicer. I would be happy to do a bushel of grapes in 8 hours. You don’t mention a lid, which I’m thinking it has…and needs.

After your juicer pretty much quits, grab the handles with pot holders and gently tip the unit toward you. You’ll be amazed at how much extra juice will flow out. Do be careful of the steam, however.

You can make apple juice or just about any type of juice with it. Tomatoes will produce a “broth” or watery yellowish juice, not “normal” tomato juice which has much more puree. But after taking off two quarts of broth from a batch of whole tomatoes, you can run the shriveled tomatoes through a Victorio tomato strainer and harvest thicker tomato puree that requires very little cooking down. Same thing with apples. You can harvest apple juice then run the apples through a tomato strainer and harvest applesauce that is nice and thick. — Jackie

Bringing plants inside for the winter

I want to bring several garden plants inside for the winter but every time I have done that I end up with bugs, namely aphids that cover the plants. How can I eliminate the problem before bringing them inside?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

What I’d advise is to spray the plants well with a garden hose. Let them dry. Then spray thoroughly with a natural bug spray such as spinosad. Let dry and bring inside a couple of days later. Spray again and then watch plants very closely for a week or so. It’s very easy to bring in pesty bugs as there aren’t any natural predators in your home to keep them in check. I, too, have had trouble doing this. You’re not alone! — Jackie

Q and A: boiled cider, Hopi Pale Grey squash not producing, and larger hoop house

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Boiled cider

Apple harvest time is here and I’ve recently discovered some great sounding doughnut recipes that call for “boiled cider” as one of the ingredients. Boiled apple cider is quite expensive to buy so I thought I’d make my own. I know it takes a lot of apple cider to produce just a small amount of the boiled stuff (sort of like making maple syrup) and that’s okay. My question is this: After I’ve boiled it down and I’ve put it into sterilized jars, do I have to keep it refrigerated, or can I can it so it has a longer shelf-life? I’m thinking the acidity and sweetness should help to preserve it after canning, or am I incorrect about this?

Julie Covieo
Bay City, Michigan

Yes, you can can it if you have enough. You will process it the same as if it were apple juice. I’d probably can it in half-pints for convenience as it IS time consuming to make and you wouldn’t want to lose some sitting in the fridge after opening. — Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey squash not producing

We have missed your daily emails! Hope you are recovering well from your gall bladder surgery. We were disappointed that our Hopi squash did not do well at all this year! Last year they were huge and delicious. I don’t know what we did different but the vines just seemed to dry up before the squash had any size at all and had no vine to grow from. Please make sure I am still on your daily email list as I haven’t seen any for over a month or so.

Beverly Scherer
Anna, Illinois

I’ve been blogging right along Beverly. You should contact our regarding the email situation. It’s too bad your squash didn’t do well this year. Our solution to most any problem around here is “Mo’ poo poo!” (More manure!). Squash is a very heavy feeder and benefits from lots of rotted manure around and under the plants. Not only does this feed the plants, making them tremendously strong, but it keeps the roots from drying out in hot, dry weather. Try again next year as Hopi Pale Greys are VERY hardy and are usually VERY rampant! — Jackie

Larger hoop house

I thought about you a lot this past weekend as I knew you were getting freezing temps and probably would lose much of your garden. I remember you mentioned you were building a large hoop house. Did that ever get off the ground? If so, what is inside and did it survive? Any pictures of the project? May you heal quickly and have a great fall.

Deb Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

Will got the first larger hoop house framed but we had 17 inches of rain, plus more on and off all spring so he never got the “skin” on. I don’t think it would have helped unless we heated it as we had temps down to 27 degrees all night. Stuff froze under plastic. BUT we still have tomatoes that were protected by their plants that didn’t get frozen so we’re still harvesting. I’m slow as I can’t (not supposed to) lift anything heavier than a gallon jug of milk for a month. (8 pounds!) We’re pecking away at what’s left and there’s still a lot: carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, some corn and a lot of tomatoes, plus squash and pumpkins. So we’re fine. I will shoot you a photo of the hoop house frame. We decided to wait to cover it till next spring to “save” the plastic. It’s guaranteed for 4 years. And as we went from rain, rain, rain to dry and hot this spring, the covering just didn’t happen.

I’m healing quickly and feel better every day. — Jackie

Q and A: meat bones, weed killer with soap, worming goats, and re-canning corn

Friday, September 19th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Meat bones and weed killer with soap

First. If you take deer bones after cutting deer up, cut up bones and boil you will be surprised how much more meat from the bones that can be used and such good broth to can.

Second. I have honey bees and all I read says soap of any kind will kill bees. The weed killer with soap may not be a good thing.
Macon, Georgia.

Thanks for the tips, PC. Some folks don’t like the broth made from deer bones but those who do can sure pack away a lot of tasty broth and use a lot more of the deer that way to stock their pantries! — Jackie

Worming goats

How do you give the Hoegger’s herbal worm remedy to your goats? Have read several comments that the goats don’t like it!

Mary Morgan
Semmes, Alabama

We feed a sweet feed with molasses. By mixing the worm remedy with it, the goats don’t even know they got it! If you only have a couple of goats, a dab of Vicks on their noses before feeding will quickly mask any taste but most goats don’t mind at all. — Jackie

Re-canning corn

Glad to hear you’re on the mend. Busy time to be having surgery. My question: I have several cases of corn bought from store. I noticed tops of a few cans pop when touched. Threw these out. Can I re-can other cans? Dates I know doesn’t mean a lot but these are only 2010-2011.

Robin Putman
Coolville, Ohio

Yes, you can re-can canned foods. But do remember to treat them as if they were fresh using the same times and pressure required for foods you just prepared from your garden.

It IS a busy time for having a surgery but I figured it’s preparedness as you never know when a gallbladder will blow up in the middle of a nasty storm, on Sunday night in the middle of nowhere. Better to do it when it’s calm and the weather’s fine. Done is done and I still will get a whole lot of garden canned up. — Jackie

Q and A: using extra pickling brine, root cellars, and canning diet soup

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Using extra pickling brine

I had extra pickling brine (for bread & butter pickles) from a batch I made 2 days ago. I got called away and had to stop before I did the second batch of cucumbers. Can I reheat it and use it for another batch of pickles today?

Carol Wise
Bourbon, Missouri

You can if you didn’t have cucumbers in it. If you did, make fresh brine. Why? Because cucumbers “weep” juice out into the brine while they’re in it, watering it down some. As we never know how much the brine has been affected, it’s best to make fresh if they’ve been in it, even for a relatively short time. — Jackie

Root cellars

We’ve been receiving the Backwoods Magazine since 2011 and have enjoyed your knowledge and experience on so many topics. Do you have any answers for a quick, easy, and inexpensive root cellar? Carrots and potatoes are needing to be harvested and stored. We live in a pole barn home in the country. There is no convenient hillside or bank high enough for a dug out. Our work/storage pole barn has cement flooring, but mice could be an issue.

Patti Hanson
Gold Beach, Oregon

You don’t have to have a buried root cellar. Although it’s traditional, most folks don’t have one available. Ours is our unheated basement that stays 40-55 degrees all year. You can simply wall off a corner (northeast is best but it depends on your situation) of your home or your storage barn by screwing rigid insulation board to plywood and framing in a “room.” You must have it where it will not freeze even if you need to install a minimal heater or even light bulb. Just frame in a large enough “room,” including an insulated ceiling and door, then add shelves with room enough underneath for bins for your produce. I use plastic totes with lids for our potatoes, apples, and carrots. If the lid gets condensation on the bottom, I just prop the lid open an inch or so for a day or two until the condensation goes away. Simple. And I’ve never had a problem with mice. It’s best to store your carrots in sand so they don’t get soft and wrinkled. A layer of sand, a layer of carrots, etc. It helps hold in the moisture. I hope this gives you some ideas. Good harvesting! — Jackie

Canning diet soup

I wrote to you about canning a recipe for a diet soup, but forgot to send the recipe! Sorry about that! It’s a basic soup, with several variations from goulash to Greek fish soup to red beans and rice soup. I don’t know if anyone would want the recipe, but here’s the link:

I plan to make several large batches of it, to customize as desired. Soup/stew is one of my favorite meals! Thank you for your advice on the zucchini and spinach not getting mushy! The more veggies it has, the better.

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

Thanks for the link. I’m sure a lot of readers will head for it real soon. — Jackie

Even though it was small, our seminar was a great success

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »


This fall we only had one person attend our canning/homesteading seminar. But I’m sure Erin had fun and learned a lot. And being the only person, she got our undivided personal attention. We canned chicken stew, harvested tomatoes, extracted seeds from tomatoes to save, rinsed fermented tomato seeds and set them to dry, ground tomatoes through the Victorio tomato squeezer, talked extensively about heirloom vegetables and how to save their seeds, toured the orchard and the rest of the homestead, butchered chickens (included the maiden voyage of Will’s tornado clucker plucker, which worked VERY well!), and we answered a ton of questions. It was fun for us too, even though I was only a week past gallbladder surgery.


As usual, we parted on Sunday afternoon feeling a bit lost like we do when a member of our family goes home.


Now it’s back to homesteading, harvesting tomatoes that weren’t frozen by our cold snap, canning, canning, and canning.

Will’s busy installing insulated plywood panels underneath the walls of our addition. In the spring he’ll be starting to build the rock walls on top of the concrete footings using the plywood with wire attached as a backing for the rockwork. We know it’ll look great and keep the wind from whistling under our floor. — Jackie

Q and A: canning meatloaf and pressure canning tomato paste

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Canning meatloaf

We have a question about canning meatloaf. Or, fancier, canning terrines. We bought a slicer recently, and my wife said, “Why couldn’t we can the terrine fancy meatloaf) in a wide mouth jar and slice it when we pop it open?” I think this is a great idea.
So, we need food safety input of course. Canned hamburger is obviously OK. Adding spices would be the next hurdle. We don’t like high fat stuff, so our terrines are as low fat as they come. Second, do you have any recipes or experience canning meatloaf in a jar? All input welcomed!
Hope your recovery is going well, Jackie.

Tim Inman
Randolph, Iowa

Thank you. I’m slowly gaining on it.

We used to can meatloaf in wide mouth jars. But then the experts decided that it was not really safe as it’s a very dense product and it’s possible that the food in the center of the jars might not be heated high enough, long enough, for safe processing. So now we don’t can dense foods like meatloaf, refried beans, pureed pumpkin, etc. But you CAN make your meatloaf recipe into meatballs and can those with either a tomato sauce or mushroom sauce (not thick!). The steam and boiling liquid in the jars is able to freely circulate around the meatballs, rendering it safe to process. On opening, you can place your meatballs in a casserole dish and bake as you would a meatloaf. The taste is the same. You can find recipes for canning meatballs in my book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. — Jackie

Pressure canning tomato paste

I am curious why I can’t find any recipes for pressure canning tomato paste? I see recipes for pressure canning every other form of tomato, but nothing for paste. I would like to pressure can paste if possible because (I am assuming) it would can up a lot faster than in a bath canner. What are your thoughts?

Cathy Holcombe
Ault, Colorado

While we used to can tomato paste, it is no longer considered safe. Tomato paste falls into the “foods too thick and dense to safely process” category, along with meatloaf, pureed pumpkin, and refried beans. Experts feel that it is possible that the paste in the center of the jars might not get hot enough for long enough for safe processing as it is so thick. So now we can tomato puree and sauces but skip the paste. To get paste, just cook down a relatively thick tomato sauce before using as paste. — Jackie



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