Saving pumpkin seeds
I would like to save seeds from Amish Pie Pumpkins we plan to grow this summer. I bought a packet this year (at a big box hardware store) and it has only 2 seeds in it! (so $1 and 10½ cents per seed, ouch!) Anyway, what can I do to keep them from crossing with all the other cucurbits we grow? (zucchini/yellow squash/pickle cukes/Jack o Lantern and Cinderella pumpkins/Jack Be Littles plus mixed gourds) Is it hopeless to get save-able seeds that just might grow true? I know people use baggies and whatnot on corn, but being insect pollinated, what can I do about pumpkins?
East Bethany, New York
Pumpkins and squash will not cross with cucumbers. However the three commonly grown species of squash and pumpkins will cross. The three commonly grown species of squash/pumpkins are: C. pepo (often summer squash, some pumpkins, and some squash), C. maxima (often winter squash and larger pumpkins/Jack O’ Lanterns) and C. moschata (some winter squash such as butternut.) If you plant two or more of the same species, they will cross unless you prevent it by either growing only one of each species or hand-pollinating some of the blossoms and marking those blossoms so you can save seed from only the hand-pollinated ones. Amish Pie Pumpkins are C. maximas so they won’t cross with summer squash, gourds, or other Cucurbitas of other species. Hand-pollinating squash/pumpkins is not hard. Early in the morning, take a male flower that is just opening, tear off the petals, then rub the pollen onto the stigma, the raised orange portion of the female blossom. It is important to be able to tell the male from female blossoms. The male blossoms have a long stem and only a flower. The female flowers have a tiny squash or pumpkin just beneath the blossom. Pollinate only freshly-opened female flowers to ensure no insects have been there before you. Then tie the blossom closed to keep insects out; they could possibly carry pollen into the flower. Hand-pollinate several blossoms and loosely tie a marker to each stem so you’ll know which pumpkins/squash are purebred and not crossed. The crossed squash/pumpkins will still look like the seed you bought but will not produce true next year, where the hand-pollinated fruits are pure and will be good candidates for seed saving. — Jackie
Burning garden debris
Is it too late to burn the garden debris on the garden? We have had such wet weather and HIGH winds that we have not been able to burn. Should we just haul it off this year?
Yes, I’d just haul it off this year but if you have an insect or disease problem I’d make sure it gets buried or burned off of the garden to reduce possible problems this year. — Jackie
Runny egg whites
We have 6 red sexlink chickens for eggs and they are great layers. The problem is: When we boil the eggs the whites are not nice and firm, but mushy and the texture is not suitable for deviled eggs which we like to make for company. We are feeding them oyster shells, layer pellets and chicken scratch. What might we be doing wrong?
Earl & Diane Weber
Sometimes this is caused by a winter lack of protein in the diet. Why don’t you try just feeding the layer pellets or adding a cheap dry cat food to their feed to substitute for the bugs they would be eating if it were summer instead of winter. Do the egg whites set up if you fry them? If so, why not try adding a tablespoon of salt to the water before boiling the eggs? I’ve heard that people correct the mushy whites that way as the salt raises the boiling water temperature and causes the whites to set up better. Any readers with other ideas? — Jackie
Have you ever canned posole (or pozole)? I like it, especially when its cold outside, but you just can’t make a small amount. My recipe includes pork loin, red chili, oregano, bay, soaked dry hominy, onions and garlic. I can’t find instructions so I’m hoping you know. What I’ve figured out so far is to make it as usual, chill to remove excess fat, bring it to a boil and fill jars to within 1 inch of the top with plenty of broth so its not too thick and processing it 90 min for quarts at 14lbs pressure. (I’m at 7000′ so need the extra pressure) Any advice will be appreciated.
Yes, I have canned posole. And you’re right, it’s really good! Just make up a big batch, but don’t cook it as long as you would if you were making it for dinner. Chill and remove excess fat, then reheat to boiling and fill your jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 14 pounds pressure, as you would any meat recipe, because of your altitude. You can even use previously canned hominy as it doesn’t get mushy when re-canned by itself or in other recipes. — Jackie
Reading over the years about your petunias, I am encouraged to try growing my own from seed. I have the same little greenhouse you do, although it sits by an East window and doesn’t get as much sun. Can you suggest best places to purchase petunia seeds (preferably pelleted)?
I’ve gotten nice pelleted petunia seeds from Veseys Seeds, 800-363-7333. Jung Seed (800-297-3123) also has a wide variety of petunia seeds. Petunia seeds are like dust so you’re wise to get pelleted seed if you want to grow the more expensive Wave Series petunias. As you can imagine, the baby petunia plants are tiny, too and they do require plenty of light so they don’t get leggy. You may get by with the east window greenhouse or you may end up having to put some light directly over them. Good luck. They are quite easily home-raised but you’ll want to get them started pretty soon as they take longer than you’d think to bloom. — Jackie
I noticed our “wild” roosters (the ones who refuse to live in the chicken coop) sitting out in the sun in front of the storage barn on hay piled there. They were taking full advantage of the warm sun on a single digit day. So pretty! Especially the one crossbred rooster my son, Bill, brought up.
I don’t know if you know it, but I’m a daylily lover. And I’ve been poring through my latest Gilbert H. Wild & Son catalog, marking a few I want to buy this year. I was real disappointed with the results I got from Roots & Rhizomes last year; I ordered a dozen different ones and only got a few of the more common ones. Gilbert H. Wild & Sons has never done that. Guess who gets more of my money this year?
We recently got the Gurney’s “half off” catalog, threatening us with it being the “last” catalog if we didn’t order. In the “olden” days, this was a great company. As a three-year-old, I can still remember Mom and Grandma ordering from the catalog and putting in my own penny for my own mixed pack of seeds. Then the company got bought out. The catalog choices are limited, the merchandise is overpriced, and, in my opinion, the quality isn’t up to par. The shipping costs are high and eat up some of your “savings.” There are better companies to order from. — Jackie
Canning pineapple juice
Is it possible to can pineapple juice?
Sure thing! (Although we don’t have any pineapples growing in our Northern Minnesota orchard.)
Just heat the pineapple juice to 165° F, then ladle into hot jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. — Jackie
I read on line that you can store fresh eggs in salt to keep them for extended storage time. Checking your site I found someone that suggested storing them in dry oatmeal. Is the idea just to keep them out of oxygen? If so, could I push them into clean sand (free in Florida!), flour, or rice?
Eggs will store a whole lot longer than most folks realize. The key is to get FRESH eggs. Store-bought eggs are usually a month or more old before they hit the store shelves. And store-bought eggs have been washed. This is fine, but eggs have a natural coating which protects them. Plain clean, unwashed, homegrown eggs will stay fresh in a cool location (fridge, cool basement, etc.) for months with no extra care or preparation. I kept eggs from the first of December until the middle of May each year when we lived real remote in the mountains of Montana, just sitting them on a lower shelf in my pantry where it stayed about 40 degrees all winter. I have used mineral oil rubbed on as well as waterglass. Honestly, these methods were just not worth the trouble. Keeping eggs in sand, salt, etc. might help prevent oxygen from entering them but I haven’t really seen that it increases the storage-ability enough to make the bother worth it. You can give it a try and see how it works for you. — Jackie
So we decided it was time to work on our living room wood stove. The sun beats in the big south-facing windows, warming up the room (and us!) even on cold days so it was a good time to get this job done.
The old fiberglass gasket on the wood stove was getting worn and had recently ripped in a section, rendering the stove unsafe and inefficient as there was a gap between the door and the stove. This morning we drove to town and picked up a bag of new gasket rope among other needed homestead stuff. When we got home Will set to work fixing the gasket. He pulled the old one off with the aid of a big flat-tipped screwdriver and his pocket knife. Then he scrubbed the whole channel well with a steel brush. Next came the black gooey gasket cement and finally, the new gasket rope was pushed tightly into the slot. Will cut it to fit and the job was done, except for letting it cure.
Meanwhile, we cleaned out the stove and wiped the front door glass clean with a damp rag. Now it’s ready to fire up, all safe, efficient, and beautiful. — Jackie
Yesterday, we drove down to Bill and Kelly’s for our granddaughter Ava’s fourth birthday party. We had been a little nervous as they were calling for a quarter of an inch of ice from freezing rain. Not good for a 110-mile drive! But the storm flew through faster and we didn’t get it. And Saturday the temperature was 36 degrees ABOVE zero! Sunday it got to 40. The roads were dry and we sailed down with no trouble at all.
The highlight of Ava’s party was playing a game called Pie Face where you have a spring-loaded hand filled with whipped cream, put your face into an oval, and spin a spinner to see how many times you have to turn the crank. The pie-throwing arm could go off at any time. It’s sort of like Russian Roulette, only tastier. Of course everyone had to get a turn at getting “creamed,” even Will. But darn, he escaped unscathed!
Today we’re making our final decision about what varieties of vegetables we’re going to plant in the big gardens. When you save so many seeds, it’s a bit complicated. To make things easier, Will has hauled one of the our old two-point corn planters up to the storage building. He’s going to make a three-point corn planter from a pull type so we can more easily get to the fences and turn in the gardens. This will also plant our beans so, hopefully, we won’t have to do it all by hand this spring.
Poor Hondo! He misses Buddy, who went home to his family yesterday. They wrestled and chewed on each other for the entire three weeks Buddy was here. Bill couldn’t come get him as his father-in-law, Donny, was in the hospital and he had to help out there, plus working too. Spencer isn’t so much fun as he’s older and doesn’t like to wrestle. (But he still plays with his “babies”, the box full of stuffed animals we have for the dogs.) — Jackie
Have you heard the latest news from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP)? Last September, they announced that a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the NCHFP, did a study on steam canners and found that they’re perfectly safe to use. You can read about it here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/steam_canners.html
I bought a dual-purpose canner last year; a Victorio water bath/steam canner. I knew there was a study being done on steam canning, but didn’t know when it was going to be done. I figured I could use the water bath method until I found out that steam canning was deemed safe. But I couldn’t help myself! I had to try the steam canning. Oh boy, that is so much easier, faster, and simpler than water bath canning! I highly recommend it to anyone canning high acid food! And I’m so glad to hear that the NCHFP finally did a study and says it’s safe!
Jamestown, New York
Yes, I did hear that. I know steam canners use much less water, but I can’t imagine “faster” or “simpler.” How about an explanation to help us better understand? — Jackie
We have grown and ground our own cornmeal for years, but we have always kept it in the freezer. Can you dry can the cornmeal? Or is vacuum sealing in a canning jar sufficient? The variety we grow is called Thompson prolific. It was developed by my great great uncle in the 1920’s and was once widely grown across the South.
Vacuum sealing the cornmeal will certainly improve its storage ability but what we do is only grind enough for about a month. After that time, you risk the whole germ, which contains oil, getting rancid, just like whole wheat flour or brown rice. I just store the whole corn kernels in an airtight container and take out a few cups at a time to grind. Unground, the corn will stay good for decades with no special treatment. — Jackie
I have a questions about elderberry syrup for the flu. All the recipes I have found on line start with either fresh or dried berries. I have a ton of juice I steamed and canned. Do you make syrup and if so, can you advise me about how to make it with juice? Sure hope all is well and you are staying warm. Loved the picture of Hondo on Will’s shoulder.
Newport News, Virginia
Sure! Elderberry syrup is easy to make from your juice. Just pour the juice into a stainless steel pot and add cinnamon, cloves and ginger to taste, and as much raw honey as you wish.
You’ll just have to add some and then taste. If you use ginger root, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, chop the ginger root and put the other whole spices in a spice bag then heat to simmering and hold for a few minutes, tasting as you go, adding honey to taste. Some folks like lots of spices and not so much honey; others the reverse.
Once you reach your desired flavor, remove the spice bag and pour boiling syrup into hot jars. I’d recommend half-pints or pints. Water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a seal. Now you’re good to go when you feel a cold or the flu coming on.
Yep, we’re nice and cozy warm. Our winter has been so good so far, unlike parts of the East Coast. — Jackie
Candied dill pickles
Do you have a recipe for Candied Dill Pickles?
This is my grandmother’s recipe for candied dill pickles. Nearly all candied dills are made from already processed dill pickles. If you add too much sugar right off to cucumber pickles they’ll shrivel badly.
Candied Dill Pickles
1 quart whole dill pickles
2¾ cups sugar
½ cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. pickling spice
Drain the pickles, cut them into ½-inch slices, and place them in a deep glass bowl or ceramic dish. Refrigerate. Mix sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Place the pickling spices in a spice bag and tie it closed with a string. Add the spices to the vinegar/sugar. Let the mixture stand covered at room temperature until sugar is dissolved, approximately 4 hours. Remove spice bag. Pour vinegar mixture over pickles, mixing gently but well. Place in a quart jar, cover and refrigerate. They will be ready to eat in about a week and will remain good in the fridge for a long time. — Jackie
Growing sweet potatoes
I live in Ohio. I read your articles all the time in Backwoods Home Magazine. My wife and I like to grow our food and can it. Every year I like to try something new. This year I would like to grow sweet potatoes and have done research online on how to start them from the potato. The question I have and could not find online is when should I start the potatoes in the water? I don’t want to start too early and then not be able to transplant them outside.
Although I have certainly started sweet potatoes in water by inserting four toothpicks into the “waist” of the potato and letting the bottom hang in the water with the toothpicks holding the whole potato from falling down into the water, I’ve begun starting my sweet potato slips by filling ice cream buckets 2/3 full with good potting soil or rotted compost, laying a pair of sweet potatoes on the soil, then covering by an inch or little bit more of soil. Water well (punch a few holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage). Water well and place in a very warm, sunny window location. The sprouts seem stronger via the soil method. When they are nicely grown, cut the bunch of sprouts free, separate them and plant out into warm soil, after all possible danger of frost is past. We have to use hoop houses and black plastic to keep sweet potatoes growing. You can usually start your sweet potatoes about 7 weeks before you plan on setting them out. — Jackie