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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
I have your cookbook and want to try canning some milk. Have you ever done it in smaller quantities than quarts? I was thinking I’d like to do half-pints. I think that’s a quantity that would be more useful and less wasteful for me. If so, what adjustments to the time and pressure do you make?
I would process the half-pints for the same length of time (10 minutes) and pressure (10 pounds) as quarts. I’ve done pints like this and they turned out fine. I’ve not done half-pints though. Let us know how they do. — Jackie
All male blossoms on squash
I have grown winter squash in the past, including Hopi Pale Gray. This year I planted banana squash. It is growing well with lots of blossoms already. However, it appears that all the blossoms are male. I have had this problem before. Last time I planted winter squash, I didn’t get a single squash, although there were lots of blossoms (all male, of course). The plants look healthy, but they don’t seem to be setting female blossoms. I planted this year in a different garden than in the past…it has quite fertile soil. The temperature here in the Phoenix area has not yet been that hot. Today it’s 96 degrees, and it hasn’t yet been over 103. Any suggestions? Is there something I can do force the plant into producing female blossoms. I’m at a loss with this one, and I’d love to have some winter squash this year. Could it be my seeds? The last time I planted with no female blossoms was also banana squash.
Squash vines respond to stress by producing only male flowers. This stress may be heat, drought, or infertility. Crowding is another cause often seen when folks buy squash plants from a nursery that are too large. Squash seeds should only be planted in a pot four or five weeks before being set into the ground outside. Most nurseries like to sell much larger, even blooming, plants. And these large plants are rootbound, which causes stress. Some things you can do to encourage your squash to set female blossoms (so you get fruit!) are to surround the plant with several inches of rotted manure. Then be sure to water your plants every two days, making sure they get an inch of water each time. Soaker hoses are a big help here. It’s amazing how much squash likes water while actively growing.
It’s not your seeds. Hopefully, these tips will correct your problem. In the meantime, pick a few young male blossoms, dip them in batter, and fry them. They’re delicious and reducing the number of male flowers encourages the vine to produce female blossoms. Don’t overdo it to be sure you have enough male blossoms to pollinate the female flowers. — Jackie
Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
We’ve been having a real rainy mid-May with flash flood warnings on the weather radio nearly every day. Luckily when we picked out our homestead land it was on high ground with absolutely no flood danger. And our gravelly garden drains so well that even after an inch of rain, we can let it dry out a day and till it. If the tiller’s not broken!
Luckily, Will got the parts he needed for our Troy-Bilt Horse Tiller and spent a dry day putting it back together. Then in the evening he took it out and gave her a try. It worked perfectly!! Then it rained. And rained again. Still raining!
With my knee healing but not so hot yet, I went down to Duluth to my sister’s house to pick up some of the Soil and Water Conservation trees she had ordered to split with us and my son, Bill. We got Hansen Bush Cherries, Wild Plums, Highbush Cranberries, and a few Mountain Ash for the birds. On the way down and back, I stopped at Byrn’s Greenhouse in Zim (way out in the boonies!) and bought some plants too! It’s a wonderful place with beautiful plants and great prices. (Okay, I filled the back of the Subaru!) I got two honeyberries for Will. My daughter sent me $20 for Mother’s Day to buy plants with so I bought a hardy pink rose. Then I bought a few perennials and some pansies for the flower bed. I could have brought the whole place home if I’d have won Powerball! When it quits raining, we’ll get ‘em all planted.
Our beautiful milk cow, Lace, just calved today. Unfortunately it was another big bull calf — white with just a little red roan on the edges of his ears. We so wanted it to be a heifer. Oh well, at least he is healthy.
We had a couple cancel for our Homesteading Seminar in August because of health problems, so there are two more spots available if any of you would like to attend. Just e-mail me at email@example.com and I’ll send you a flyer. — Jackie
Monday, May 20th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »
Christian had been planning on attending our seminar. But when he was suddenly faced with a housing screw-up, we invited him to join us for however long he wished to stay. Will and I had been talking about the possibility of taking an apprentice for a few weeks during the summer but had not reached a decision; we don’t have time to babysit a person who doesn’t know how to work or want to bother to learn. But Will had previously shared an apartment with Christian while both worked out in teaching positions, so he knew him well and the decision was easily and quickly made. We’re so fortunate to have this energetic, pleasant young man here on the homestead. Today he and Will are hauling rotted manure onto our orchard where they are spreading it around all of the trees and bush cherries while I do less interesting but knee-healing appropriate stuff indoors. (Bah! Humbug!) The knee still hurts like crazy but is getting better every day. I can even sleep at night with little pain.
And I’m watching our cow, Lace, as she is building a huge bag prior to calving. I wonder if I could talk her into lying on her back to milk her? What a beautiful cow! We are so glad we finally got her bred! Hopefully next time won’t be so trying.
We’re wanting to get onions in the garden but the tiller broke down a couple days ago. The wheels turned but the tines wouldn’t and it seemed bound up. Will tore it apart. The gear and bearings that turn the tines were worn, shot, and torn up. Luckily, we found a place online that had parts (Partstree.com) and we quickly ordered them. They’re on the way so we’re waiting and doing other things while we wait. That’s homesteading! — Jackie
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 14 Comments »
Okay I’m a bum, but, hey, I had knee surgery on Thursday. I overdid it on Friday, moving tomatoes and peppers out onto our enclosed porch. So Friday was a pain (literally!). And I did follow Doctor’s orders; he gave me no restrictions, just do what my knee would let me. I had two tears in my meniscus, so I guess the repair took a bit more than we talked about prior to the surgery. Luckily we castrated baby pigs and disbudded the goats before the surgery! At any rate, I’m real lucky to have a homesteader husband who took over all the chores with no grousing. So he’s been extra busy! Today, my knee feels some better so I have hopes that in a few days I can get back at it again. I don’t do “sitting around” real well!
All of a sudden, everything is turning green. Our garlic and chives are up and pretty. Even the yard looks green again. Our flower bulbs are popping up and some are even blooming. Boy, does that cheer us up after all that snow.
We’re starting to get trees and shrubs that we ordered this spring: Evans Bali pie cherries, Crimson Jewel bush cherries, Hansen bush cherries, two plums, and a pear to start off with. Our orchard looks great and the trees are swelling with buds. I can hardly wait for blooms. But last night it was 22 degrees so I hope they wait awhile so we get fruit this year! — Jackie
Thursday, May 9th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 13 Comments »
And a few days after arrival, we face the not-so-nice job of disbudding all of those cute kids. As horns are SO dangerous to both the goats and people (due to accidental bumps), we never leave horns on any of our goats. And it’s really paid off. Yes, it’s a stinky job with burning hair and not fun as the babies holler. But in minutes, they are nursing and in an hour they are playing like nothing unusual ever happened.
I’m always glad that job’s over. But we still have another unpleasant one — castrating the baby pigs. If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be doing that in a few minutes. Again, unpleasant but necessary. (Boar meat often has a nasty smell on cooking as well as a bad taste called “boar taint.”) Buyers don’t want to buy baby boar pigs.
I’m running around today doing all those odd jobs I won’t be able to do once I have my surgery tomorrow. Whew! — Jackie
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
Can I pressure can a casserole into pint jars for individual servings? I’ve searched BHM archives, as well as the Internet, and there is precious little regarding casseroles. Any advice or sources would be greatly appreciated. Also interested in pressure canning desserts… any advice?
Mission Viejo, California
Unfortunately, most casseroles contain noodles, macaroni, or rice and when you can recipes with these as ain ingredients, they clump up and swell when pressure canned (which is necessary). When canned this way, they become one of those dense foods which are not recommended for canning due to the fact that sufficient heat may not reach the center of the jar long enough to kill possible bacteria. The casserole would also become pasty and not pretty. So we skip canning them; freezing is a better option.
Same with most desserts; sorry.
I can up the main ingredients of both and then quickly combine them and bake. It doesn’t take all that long and makes a much nicer food on the table. — Jackie
Hopi Pale Grey seeds
I got some of the Hopi Pale Grey Squash seeds and I have taken only 3 of them to try to get them to sprout, using the wet paper towel method — all they are doing is molding. What in the world am I doing wrong? Perhaps I should have just straight away planted them in dirt — I’m hoarding the others until I get it right.
By the way, tell Will — great going on the rock backing behind the stove/heater. Looks wonderful.
When seeds mold in the wet paper towels, you have the towel too wet. You just want it damp, not wet. I’d just wait until it’s time and plant the seeds outside. I’ve done germination tests on my seeds before I sent them out and they all germinated well. All the best of luck with your squash!
Will says “thanks.” It’s been a job but it should be done soon. — Jackie
Treated lumber for raised beds
My mother made a raised flower bed many years ago, probably 25-35 years ago. She used treated lumber to line the bed. This lumber is very old and falling apart and the garden bed needs some nitrogen. In your opinion would it be safe to plant tomatoes and peppers in that spot? Have enough years gone by to get rid of any bad chemicals in the soil? We plan on using cedar posts where the lumber was.
I’ve studied this problem a lot over the years. And most scientific studies show that the arsenic that was found in treated lumber does leach into the soil…mostly in the first year following installation. But it doesn’t move far from the lumber. And, over the years, the natural leaching due to summer rains and snow melt further lessens the amounts found in the soil. Even when freshly installed, only root crops have been found to take up the arsenic present in the beds. Because of the POSSIBLE toxicity, manufacturers have stopped using arsenic in treated lumber. (It was initially used as an insecticide.) The other chemicals, copper and chromium, are not toxic when ingested in small amounts.
Personally, I wouldn’t worry a bit, although I would remove all of the rotted lumber and the soil right near the edge of the beds that was in contact with the treated lumber. Non-root crops, such as tomatoes and peppers, will do fine and should pose no health risk. — Jackie
Tuesday, May 7th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »
I have a small chicken tractor with just two hens. The roost nest is in the back furthest from the open “run” area. My hens like to get back in there and sleep in the roost box which creates a problem with chicken poop building up if its not changed every other day. My questions are, when would you throw away an egg due to it having manure on it (Say a hen messes once or twice directly on the egg) and the other question is how do I keep them from using the nest box as a sleeping location? They do have a board that they used to roost on until the rooster died that I had in there with them.
No, don’t throw away eggs with manure on them. This is common and eggs are easily washed with plain old warm water. Hens using nesting boxes in a chicken tractor is a very common happening. Usually the only remedy is to make the coop larger and put higher roosts as chickens usually prefer to roost high and will then quit using the nest boxes to sleep in. — Jackie
Canning on a rocket stove
So, I’m getting ready to make my move back home to Canada. Starting to pack up the boxes, etc. The finances are going to be pretty tight until I find a job up home. With finances in mind, I was wondering about alternative heating methods for pressure canning i.e.) wood stove, open fire, etc.; Searching the internet, I found this video on test canning with a rocket stove: http://youtu.be/17tKFDo97Fc
Would using a rocket stove (I’ve built one before) be a do-able source of heat for pressure canning? Along with the question of course, safety and prudence come into play as well — constant monitoring to make sure the correct pressure is maintained, etc. Reading over the comments to the video there were some questions on safety, ruining your pressure canner, etc.
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
While you can home can on a rocket stove, as seen in the video, I’d rather not. It’d be real hard to adjust the heat to vary the temperature when you are canning. You can certainly can on a wood stove with a flat top. I canned on my kitchen range for decades. On a kitchen range you can slide your canner a bit to the side to slow down the rising pressure or slip it back over the heat when you need to give it a boost upward. With the rocket stove, the heat needs to be regulated by the amount and kind of wood you have burning — very difficult. Also there’s the stability issue. A heavy canner can be dangerous on top of a rocket stove. I’d skip it. Or go with a table-top propane two or three burner and just use your small tanks to fire it and re-fill between canning operations. — Jackie
Monday, May 6th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »
All our snow is gone and the ground is drying up nicely. What a relief. We breed our goats to freshen in late April since by then the snow is gone and the weather is nice. Luckily, the “girls” didn’t have their kids until last week so they were born in pleasant weather. Now it’s mid-sixties and they’re out running with their mammas and enjoying the sunshine. One small twin buckling was born weak so I brought him in and put him into the wood box. (The wood box sees more baby animals this time of the year than it does wood!) He’s doing well on the bottle and is starting to run around outdoors. He’s pretty much potty trained; I feed him then take him outdoors where he does his “business.” Our friend and neighbor, Jerry, came over at feeding time (about every 3 hours) and asked to be able to give baby his bottle. Both of them enjoyed it a lot! Jerry used to raise goats and has a soft spot in his heart for them.
Meanwhile, Will’s been working daily on the rock wall behind the wood stove. He’s finally got all the rock up and is starting to grout in between them with mortar. It’s slow and fussy work, but it’s coming together very nicely. He jokes that after reading a stonework book that “he did everything wrong” because he placed the stones too far apart, but we both like the way it looks so we’re still happy with it.
I go in on Thursday for my knee surgery (torn meniscus) and hope it goes as well as the surgeon says it will, complete with quick recovery of the total use of it again. Right now it sure is a pain (pun not intended!). I went to sit down on a plastic bucket to milk a goat and OMG did it hurt! And our cow, Lace, is making a beautiful bag. All I could think of is “how am I ever going to milk a COW?” Hopefully, I’ll be all healed up by the time she freshens. — Jackie