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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.

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

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Jackie | 3 Comments »
JACKIE AND WILL’S SEEDS
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 www.seedtreasures.com. (If you can’t access our website, just e-mail us for the listing!) seedtreasures[at]yahoo.com.

Q and A: canning beans, meat and soup, planting sprouted potatoes, and Nanking cherries

Friday, April 17th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

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?

Cindy Hills
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?

Kathy Kinn
Findlay, Ohio

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

Nanking cherries

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?

Cindy Baugh
Dandridge, Tennessee

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

We’ve had a few busy days

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »

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.)

Insulation-board
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.

SeedlingsA-few-tomatoes

In the meantime, I’ve been busy transplanting tomatoes and peppers. Boy, did we plant a lot of tomatoes this year! — Jackie

Ah, Spring!

Monday, April 13th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

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!

Will-plywood
I canned up bean soup last night after putting away 17 pints of baked beans first. Wow, that sure looks great in the pantry!

Baked-beans
This morning we went to our friends’ house to disbud our new Nubian/Boer buckling.

Nubian_Boer-kid

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

Q and A: enamel-lined Dutch oven with a chip and planting asparagus

Friday, April 10th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

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.

Cindy Dobbs
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

Planting asparagus

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?

Lisa Basso
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

Spring is busy, busy, busy

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

Sunset

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!

Beans-and-ham
The peppers, petunias, and tomatoes are growing nicely and I need to get them transplanted soon. Boy, some days I wish I were twins.

Peppers-growing
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

Q and A: canning pumpkin and canning cheese

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Canning pumpkin

My question is about canning pumpkin. I know we are supposed to cube the pumpkin. When filling up the jars with the pumpkin can I add the spices that I would normally use to make pumpkin butter or pumpkin pie? Then when I open the jars I could blend the mixture, and be a little ahead of the game.

Joyce
Coos Bay, Oregon

I tried that, Joyce, but found sometimes the spices got too strong that way. It takes me 2 minutes to measure and dump spices into pie filling so it really didn’t save me that much fussing around and I always get the spices right by adding them later after opening a jar of pumpkin. — Jackie

Canning cheese

When you can your cheddar cheese, how do you get it out of the jar? Cut in half, spoon it out or what?

Kaye Winn

I put the jar into a saucepan full of boiling water for a few minutes. Then I open the jar and run a thin knife around the outside of the cheese and dump the jar upside down on a plate or cutting board. It usually slides right out, like Jello does. — Jackie

Can the French Chevre cheese you made be preserved somehow?

Wanda Devers

Well, I would think so as cream cheese can be successfully canned. But we all ate it on crackers on Easter. Then my son, Bill, asked for some hot pepper rings and tried them on the cheese on his cracker. Oh YES! So we started eating it that way. I’ve got about a pound of plain cheese left in the fridge and it keeps for at least a week, covered in the fridge. I’m going to use it in a cheesecake and I’m sure we’ll finish up the rest with hot pepper rings on crackers for snacks. What a wonderful find! — Jackie

We had a busy but blessed Easter

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

I made plans to do all my cleaning/baking/pre-cooking on the Saturday before Easter but you know how plans go… We had company all day Saturday! Company that we really enjoyed. But boy, did that ever set me behind for Easter. But I got up early Sunday and got ‘er kind of done — enough anyway. Our guests were: my sister Sue from near Duluth, Javid from Orr, David, and Bill and his family from Kerrick. We had an all-homegrown feast of baked ham, garlic-whipped mashed potatoes (with sour cream and cream cheese, of course), carrots, green beans, rolls, etc. I even had some sweetened French soft cheese set out that we enjoyed with hot pepper rings and crackers. So nobody left the table hungry.

Easter was complicated as David had to arrive early so he and I could drive to Orr to pick up Javid. Since Javid he is disabled, he needs to be lifted from his wheelchair to the car and back out again at home. (Will’s back is better but not painless yet.) Then David had to work so I had to fix his dinner first so he could eat and run. The rest popped in about noon and I re-heated dinner for them. Hey, it all worked out great. We all took a walk down to the barn to show everyone how nicely the new barn is coming and to visit the cows and horses. Javid enjoyed visiting with Ladyhawk, our Friesian mare. She absolutely loved him and bent over to lip his jacket and face. And of course granddaughter, Ava, had a great visit with the cows, horses, and her favorite, Spencer. Our grandson, Mason, brought the radio-controlled helicopter we’d given him for Christmas and he amazed us all by flying it around inside the house. Wow — Our own drone!

Ava-Easter
Now it’s back at it again. I’m going to take the meat off the ham bone and add navy beans and can up a big batch of baked beans. Then the bone will be added to more beans for another batch of bean soup. Love those quick, meals in a jar! — Jackie

We have a spell of warmer weather

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

I just made a big batch of soft French Chevre cheese from some outdated milk I was given by a local store (instead of them pouring it down the drain). It was simple to make and I finished it up in minutes, adding a bit of powdered sugar to some of it to make an awesome lightly-sweetened veggie and cracker dip. Wow, is that good! All it took was three drops of liquid rennet diluted in 1/3 cup of cool water, then 2 Tbsp. of that, 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and 2 gallons of milk brought up to 80 degrees and held at a warm temp overnight. I poured the curds into a cloth-lined colander to drain. How easy is that?

Cheese-curds
Meanwhile back on the farm, our friends’ teenage son James came over to clean out our goat barn for us. Will and I drove the tractor to the door, then James forked the manure out into the bucket. I carried a few loads to a squash isolation patch, then another load to another patch. Will carried loads out to our orchard, dropping one by each fruit tree to later scatter around them for fertilizer and mulch. (The chickens think it’s just wonderful and they’re already fighting over choice piles.)

Manure-to-trees

Hurry-Will
You should see Hondo in the mornings. Will starts to get dressed for outside chores and he goes nuts. He gets in Will’s face and barks at him to hurry. If he doesn’t (or moves too slow) Hondo grabs his arms, his pants, or shirt sleeve and pulls on him like Lassie trying to get Timmy to follow her. Hondo REALLY likes being a homestead dog!

Happy Easter to you all! — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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