And so are our goats! We just had two more “litters” of baby goats, twins from two does — two bucklings and two doelings. They must not have wanted to wait and see if more cold weather was in the future. All babies are doing very well.
So is Sir, the baby who nearly died due to exposure after being born outside in the cold rain. He’s up and playing. This morning he discovered his ears. He spent a lot of time twitching his head to see them flap. And he’s starting to bounce and jump too. He won’t stay in his box during the day so I’m putting him down with his mom. He can play, nibble on grass, and when he’s tired, he finds a sunny spot to nap in. One of his favorites is on a half log near the gate. His mom watches over him but won’t let him nurse, yet. But she is a good milker and gives a gallon a day. Because Sir only eats three pints so far, I see a batch of yogurt in our future.
I’m busy transplanting tomatoes. Whew, are there a lot! And because I strained my shoulder last week, I can only do it for a little while then need to give it a rest. But like the tortoise, it’s getting done, although slower than I’d like.
Will helped me fix up our front flower bed for those fancy daylilies I ordered over winter, a little at a time. We added composted manure, put ID stakes by the plants that were already there then fenced the whole thing with 2-foot-high fence as I was tired of the chickens “fluffing” in deep holes they dig there, which isn’t good for the plants. Now the hens are confused and I’m sure depressed. Hey, they are our “wild” chickens; they can go down in the brush to dig! — Jackie
I know you mostly handle questions about growing, canning, and eating plants, but I need to know how to get rid of them for more than a few weeks. I have a gravel drive about 250 feet long that has big grass patches that look better than my lawn. I have tried everything to get rid of them. Vinegar, salt, combination of the two, pulling. Nothing seems to work. Any ideas?
New Deal, Texas
Unsightly weeds and grass can sure look ugly where they’re not wanted. And using strong chemicals such as Roundup are to be avoided if at all possible due to the effects it can have on your soil, leaching into adjoining soil and water. Vinegar would work IF it were strong enough. Unfortunately, table vinegar is not acidic enough to kill stubborn grass and if you put enough salt on it to kill it, the adjoining soil would be damaged and your drive would have ugly patches of bare ground along it.
There are several natural compounds that do work, however. One I’ve used with good results is BurnOut. I bought mine through ARBICO Organics. One thing I’ve found is that once you’ve used any natural treatment, you have to keep watch on the area for regrowth. When it starts, immediately treat again. A few thorough treatments and your problem is gone for good. — Jackie
I have an abundance of ramps this spring. I found recipes for pickling them, but it is only for refrigeration. Can I pickle and water bath them to preserve some? What about freezing? Love your articles and knowledge!
Ramps (wild leeks) are a wonderful wild food many folks collect each spring. Yes, you can pickle them. Simply bring your pickling brine up to boiling, add the ramps (bulb only), and bring back to just boiling. Place ramps in hot jars leaving ½” of headspace. Ladle on boiling brine, leaving ½” of headspace. Water bath for 10 minutes.
Ramps also freeze well but only freeze the bulbs with the roots snipped off. They also dehydrate very well by just snipping off the leaves and roots, then slicing the white bulb in narrow rings. Dry until they feel like paper and store in an airtight container.
Be sure to leave many ramp plants in the area you harvest as you don’t want to cause them to go extinct from over-harvesting. Luckily, ramps are, well … kind of rampant and often form large beds. — Jackie
We’ve had rain, rain and more rain. Four inches in several days’ time. Luckily, Will managed to get our main garden tilled just before the first rain hit. It tilled up very nicely and now I’m itchy to get in and get the onions and peas planted.
Our little buck goat is doing great. For a while there it was kind of come and go but suddenly he decided he’d live. We still have him on the bottle as his mom didn’t bond with him. She’s not mean to him but won’t let him nurse. We’ll keep trying. We called him Rocks. His grandfather was our Boer buck, Rocky, and unfortunately this buckling is as dumb as a box of rocks … Real cute, though.
The past weekend, we attended a gathering of Itasca Co. Master Gardeners, bringing a small booth to set up for Seed Treasures, our little seed business. We met a lot of nice people and were so happy to hear so many people concerned with planting only non-GMO seeds! We brought several bins of different beans and colored corn as well as a Hopi Pale Grey squash and some dry corn on the cob (Painted Mountain) which was very colorful.
My Japanese morning glories are roaring up. Holy mackerel, you can actually SEE them pop out of the soil like beans do. They were very big seeds and the leaves are huge. I can hardly wait to see the blossoms! I’m starting to transplant tomatoes and, boy, did they germinate great this year. I put two seeds in each peat pellet and many had two plants (or more!) come up. I hate waste so I’m carefully transplanting each one so as not to waste. The extras I’m giving to my friends Diane and Gina to sell at their greenhouse. I don’t need 388 tomatoes! … plus the extras too.
Will has the old, small hoop house down and taken apart so he can till the soil there. I’m not sure what his plans are — whether to put it back up or build a larger one in its place. Stay tuned and we’ll all see. — Jackie
Pressure canner or cooker
We bought an electric pressure cooker/canner (Power) with the understanding we could use it for canning vegetables. Now online we are being told not to use it. Please help us out. Can we use it for canning or not. If not, why?
Sorry, but electric pressure cookers are not meant to can food even though the manufacturer indicates they are. They just aren’t exact enough to maintain correct processing pressure throughout the time required for canning; they tend to go up and down a little….too much for safe canning. It’s necessary to buy a pressure canner (which can also be used to pressure cook many foods). Not only are they safer but they are also much larger than the electric pressure cookers, allowing you to do more foods at once. If you can afford an All American, that’s the best but a Presto, which is much cheaper, will certainly do the job for you. — Jackie
I canned 14 half pints of homemade strawberry preserves yesterday. Opened one jar this morning to have with breakfast and it is too thick to spread on bread. Can my preserve be saved? If so how. I’ve made it many times in the past 5 years and this is the first time it’s come out too thick.
Chino Valley, Arizona
When jams and preserves are too thick, a quick “fix” is to just put the jar in a small saucepan, on top of a used old jar lid, then fill the pan up most of the way on the jar. Heat the preserves and they’ll soften so you can spoon them on your toast. Or if you let it soften more, you can pour it over waffles or pancakes. Don’t despair, goof-ups like this happen to us all. But, luckily, they’re mostly all edible! — Jackie
One of our old Rhode Island Reds isn’t able to get on her feet since yesterday. She never even made it in the coop last night. She ate some mealworms and had a couple sips of water this morning but can’t seem to stand on her legs. She was old when someone gave her to us 5 years ago. She hardly laid an egg even then but she was a sweet garden buddy. We don’t want her to suffer. If this is something she won’t recover from, how do we humanely dispatch her? Remember, we are vegetarians, not used to “dispatching”.
You might try giving her oral tetracycline in water. While she’s probably on her way out naturally, this may help her recover at least for awhile longer. She may have picked up a bacterial infection which is harder on old birds. You can get tetracycline powder at your local feed store. Unfortunately, it’s meant for big flocks and it’s hard to figure out just how much to mix up for one chicken. We use one heaping teaspoonful in a quart of water. Mix well and give to her in an eyedropper several times a day. Keep her where it’s warm and dry meanwhile. Hopefully she’ll either recover or pass on so you’ll be spared having to dispatch her. — Jackie
Jars not sealing
I put up 9 pints of peas/carrots/potatoes and had 7 seal quickly. About 2 hrs. later one of the jars pinged closed. The 9th jar did not seal. My question concerns the unsealed jars of foods. I have read that the jars should be left undisturbed for 24 hrs. If at the end of that time is the jar that remains unsealed safe to eat? I have in the past put them in the refrigerator or freezer. I have concerns that food, especially something like chili, would pose health issues after being on the counter that long. What are the safe guidelines you follow for this?
I only let my jars stand until cool to the touch. If they’re not sealed by then, they won’t seal. At that time, you can put any which are unsealed in the fridge or go ahead and re-can them. With an unsealed jar left at room temperature, you usually wouldn’t have health concerns as the food was processed for the correct time. However, at room temperature, it would later go bad as you would guess. As with all canned foods, it’s safest to bring the food to boiling temperature (whether in a casserole, boiled, or fried) for 10-15 minutes before eating. — Jackie
Although it’s not sunny and warm, the temps are still hovering in the low 50s although it has been rainy and cloudy off and on. It puts a damper on spring fever. Especially when one of our doe goats delivered twins outside in the cold rain. She had not shown any signs of kidding prior to that, either. One kid was born dead and the other, a buck, was chilled and weak, unable to nurse or even stand up. I rushed him into the house and put him in a box next to the wood stove. Then I tore back outside and got the mother on the milking stand and quickly milked a quart of colostrum from her.
The buckling wouldn’t suck so I tube fed him about 2 oz. of warm milk. I repeated every two hours until he finally started sucking on the bottle. But last night he was very bad; I didn’t even know if he was alive but I still tube fed him, finding he was breathing but very, very lethargic. I didn’t expect him to last till morning.
He did. And this morning he not only took the bottle but actually sucked vigorously. Now he’s acting like he just might live, after all. We hope.
Will’s been peeling the long, black ash poles he cut in our woods for the front porch railings. There are three sections needing railings so he cut plenty so we’d be sure to have enough. Luckily, being green, they peel very easily. Now he’s finished and they are stacked with the other logs by the sawmill, drying. Hopefully, we can get the railings sanded, stained, and assembled soon.
I got my morning glories planted this morning after soaking the seeds all night in cups of warm water. That helps them get germinating faster as the seeds have a thick shell. I can’t wait to see them bloom. — Jackie
We had an entire week of sunny, very warm weather and boy, were we busy. (We knew it would not last as it’s too early!) While Will went with our neighbor to pick up some farm equipment he’d bought at an auction last week, I hopped on the tractor and graded the driveway. It went great for two passes. Then the tractor bogged down in a frost boil and stalled out. (For those of you who don’t know what frost boils are, they are patches of soil, usually clay, which froze solid with frost and suddenly thaw out, becoming very soft. Often the ground for yards around is spongy. It’s sort of like standing on a mattress and jumping up and down — it’s all waves and wiggles.)
I tried several times to start the tractor but no dice. That Ford is funny that way, often needing a few hours to “cool” off after hard work before it’ll start. Anyway, I turned off the key and started hiking back — nearly a mile, up and down hill at 75 degrees. Huff, puff.
When I figured it was getting time for Will to show up, I hopped on the four wheeler and ran it back, just in time to see Will pulling up with the Subaru. He jumped on the tractor and it started right up so he drove it out of the hole and I took it home while he ran the four wheeler home. Then we both came back to get the car. Long story short, the driveway graded nicely but that frost boil will need a week of dry weather to go away so we’re not planning on running in and out much! AND today it’s raining as it’s supposed to off and on all week.
Yesterday was so nice, Will worked again on the Kawasaki Mule, getting it ready. The carburetor had gunk in it and needs a fuel filter, which I picked up today. It’s getting close to being usable! I can’t wait. How handy that’ll be and what a cheap vehicle at $200.
I got two flats of peppers transplanted and in just two days they look SO good! I’ll be doing another flat soon as well as starting in our tomatoes. It’s looking like spring in the greenhouse for sure. Today I’ll be starting the Japanese morning glories I got from Baker Creek. They have huge blooms and I can’t wait to see them. Here in northern Minnesota we have to start them inside to get blooms by late summer. It’s a little more work but they’re worth it!
Lots of birds showing up around here. Today I saw a flock of a couple hundred robins in a field on the way home. And our pair of Canadian geese is on the beaver pond by the house. Every year they raise a bunch of cute babies and we feel like they’re family.
The frogs have started singing. The wood frogs were first, sounding like ducks quacking, then the spring peepers started the next night, sounding like far-away sleigh bells. How exciting! — Jackie
Finally, our cold snap has broken. I’m running around outside in a T-shirt. Hooray! I have to laugh at our wild turkey hen. At first she was terribly shy, running off when I got within 200 yards of her. Now she sees me coming and flies to the top of the chicken coop, then lands in the orchard, waiting for fresh feed. I just looked and she was scratching about in the grass (yes, we now have GRASS) with the tame turkeys. I wonder if she’ll lay eggs out in the woods or in the orchard?
Of course, our tom turkeys are strutting full blast now, each trying to look bigger and more gorgeous than the others. They huff up so big they seem like they’ll pop.
Will just got in from pruning our orchard and reported scarcely any winter kill on new twigs. The trees do look good and we are hoping to get a good crop of apples and other fruit this year. Last year, a late spring frost got all our fruit blossoms, including wild blueberries, raspberries, wild plums, and pin cherries. That sure was a bummer!
Little red rhubarb noses are poking up out of the soil — our first real sign of spring. I can’t wait! This afternoon I’m transplanting peppers. I was going to do it days ago but the Pro Mix was frozen solid as I kept it on the front porch outside. Now it’s finally thawed and warmed up — I didn’t want to use icy cold potting mix!
I walked into the big hoop house and it felt like summer. I really, really, really wanted to dig in the dirt. — Jackie