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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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Jackie and Will’s Fall Seminar

Monday, April 27th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »


Attend Will and Jackie’s 2015 Fall Homestead seminar. Workshops will include canning, growing open-pollinated crops, seed saving, emergency preparedness, self-reliant living, and more. Limited to 20 people.

For more information, click here (PDF brochure), or check out Jackie and Will’s website ( and click on the “seminars” button on the top or e-mail Jackie at jackie [at]

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

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Jackie | 9 Comments »
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 (If you can’t access our website, just e-mail us for the listing!) seedtreasures[at]

Q and A: shelf life of canned foods and electronic pressure cooker

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Shelf life of canned foods

I have recently cleaned and rearranged our pantry and found several store bought cans with the expiration date of 2013 and 2014, are they still good and how long can I keep store bought cans?

Claudine Norwood
Wagoner, Oklahoma

Like your home-canned foods, store-bought foods remain good until the can rusts out. I’ve found that the expiration date is a suggestion that makes people throw out “outdated” food. Don’t throw away perfectly good food and go buy more that is “fresh.” Use that food instead! — Jackie

Electronic pressure cooker

You are so on top of things that I have a question for you. You may have already addressed this question and if so, I apologize for asking it again. Have you used the new electronic pressure cooker? It’s called “The original Power Pressure Cooker XL.” Its website is: They advertise that it can be used for pressure canning. Since it is electric and electronic, I am a little bit skeptical.

Pati Sandstrom
Olympia, Washington

A lot of pressure cookers are advertised as being able to be used as a canner, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. Get a canner for canning. I’ve gotten in the habit of either fixing quick meals from my “meals in a jar” in the pantry, which are already cooked and canned or else doing things the old-fashioned way using the oven or stove top. — Jackie

Spring’s early so we’re planting

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

But we know it might still freeze, so everything is being planted with that in mind. We got the greenhouse plastic up on the big hoop house (12’x32′) and Will and Krystal got the 6-mil plastic up on the small hoop house while I was in Montana. I’ve planted Blacktail watermelon and Sugar Salmon muskmelon in the small house (Will wanted some started inside, also, so that’s done, as well.) I’m hauling peppers out to the big hoop house where one end will be peppers and I’ll be planting some of the 1,500-year-old beans I brought back from New Mexico. I sure hope they’ll germinate; I haven’t grown them for years. They are a long-season pole bean resembling a runner or lima. I have about 100 beans so we’ll see.

I managed to get the broccoli, cauliflower, and some cabbage planted as well as teach Krystal how to cut up potato sets. We let them sit in the air for a few days so they can heal the wet cuts and start to get green sprouts instead of white ones — they make better and more potatoes that way.

I’ve also planted Hopi Pale Grey squash and some new Native squash and pumpkins — direct seeded into the garden. I hope they don’t freeze! They will take about 10-12 days to emerge so we’ll cross our fingers.

Will got about half of the siding on the new barn’s west side. It looks great. He also cleaned out the irrigation system for the garden, yard, berry patch, and orchard. What a job! Lots of fine little gravel in the faucets, plugging them up, even though we have a filter on it on the intake end. This happens about every year when we first start up.

On Sunday, I roasted a big chicken and we had a wonderful dinner. But there was tons of meat left so I picked it off the bones then boiled the carcass. Yesterday I canned up seven pints and three quarts of chicken, chicken and broth, and plain broth. That’s a whole lot of meals from one chicken!

Tomatoes, more squash, and pumpkins are next, so I’d better get to work. — Jackie

There’s no place like home

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »

Well, we’re back from another whirlwind trip to Montana and back! Whew! We drove straight out there in 22 hours (obeying the speed limit). Got a motel and a good night’s sleep. In the morning, we went 20 miles to get Javid’s handicap van. It sat all winter and we were wondering if it had four flat tires and if it would start. Luckily, it had four round tires and with the help of David’s battery jumper pack, it started right up, even with old gas in the tank. It drove right up the ramp and in 15 minutes, David had it strapped down and ready to haul.

David’s girlfriend, Hannah, had never been out west and had never seen a mountain and he wanted to show her Yellowstone Park. Since we were “only” 150 miles away, we set out immediately as the van had loaded so easily. We unhitched the trailer with the van on it to pick up later.

We had been to the park many times and knew the routes we wanted her to see. Boy, in all our trips through the park, I’d never seen so many animals of all different kinds. We saw bighorn sheep close up, elk, buffalo, coyote, and a wolf. And we saw two different grizzly bears! One was far off and with the telephoto, we could just make it out good enough to take some so-so photos. But the second bear was only about 120 yards away, digging roots. We were so excited! Both David and I got some decent photos. Then my batteries died! And I’d left my spares in my duffle in the motel.

Hannah was thrilled to not only go right up in the mountains but to see snow in late May (one road was still closed due to snow) and all those animals.

We headed back to the motel at dark and got in kind of late. In the morning, we hooked up the trailer and headed east. And drove. And drove. And drove. We spent the night in Dickenson, North Dakota, and drove on the next morning. We left Javid’s van off at son, Bill’s (he’ll check it over for mechanical issues) then headed north. After leaving off the trailer at the U-haul dealer, we headed home. It was snowing hard! Then David came around a corner and there, right across the road, were two big trees! Luckily, David is always prepared. He carries his chainsaw and lots of tools at all times. He hopped out and started sawing the trees up. We hauled off branches and in a few minutes we were on the road again.

Boy, our bed felt good! This morning, I took the tour. Will had rain all the time we were gone but he and Krystal managed to get the plastic on the small hoop house and plant black raspberries as well as countless other chores. I’m glad to be home. — Jackie

Q and A: raising beef and orioles

Friday, May 15th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Raising beef

I’ve been looking for information on raising my own calf or two for beef. Do you have some suggestions on what I need to do? I’ve raised my own chickens and turkeys but want to raise my own beef now. I know you buy calves at auction, what should I look for? So many questions.

Jennifer Grahovac

Several issues past (Issue #120, November/December 2009) I wrote a lengthy article on raising calves on a bottle. I’d suggest you read the article. You can buy calves at the auction barn but it’s much better to buy them from a local farmer. At an auction, calves trade “germs” readily and you often bring home calves already exposed to diseases such as scours (severe diarrhea) or pneumonia. When feeding your calves, always buy the best milk replacer available, which is also the most expensive. Cheaper replacers contain soy instead of milk-based protein and are not as digestible and will often cause calves to scour, which can be deadly. When calves scour, which bottle-raised calves often do, immediately take them off of milk replacer and instead give a bottle of mixed calf electrolytes (I like the one with gel as it soothes the calf’s digestive tract at the same time.) Only give the electrolytes until the calf’s stool is almost normal. At that point you can begin mixing milk with electrolytes and get the calf back onto milk. Again, read the article; it’ll help you out a bunch. — Jackie


Saw my first Orioles today! Do you have your grape jelly out? Seems kind of cool for them to be here.(SE Minnesota, around Rochester)

Carol Applen
Eyota, Minnesota

Yes, I do, plus three feeders with “oriole juice,” too. I love the orioles and they have such a pretty song too! — Jackie

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Rain, rain, rain

We’ve had nearly two inches of rain in two days and guess what? It’s raining again today. But at least it isn’t snowing. Monday we had heavy snow and rain — but we did need it. The creeks and beaver ponds were very low — like they are late August. Now they’re getting higher.

The cover of my newest book, Autumn of the Loons, is in the finishing stages; the painting has been sent to the publisher and I’ve got it back. Guess what? You readers can decide on the print of the cover title. The publisher and I can’t make up our minds which color print we like best so he suggested we let readers vote and help us make the decision. If you’d like to help, too, and go to the Jess Hazzard Series Facebook page ( and you can cast your vote so it’ll get done. Then it’s off to the printers and we’ll have it finished. The blog photo is of the cover painting to give you some idea of what we have. Please check out the Facebook page!

Friday, I’m heading for Montana again. Another fast trip to pick up our adopted son Javid’s handicap accessible van which has been in storage over winter. He sure misses having “wheels.” It hasn’t run for a year so we’re hauling it back on a car hauler behind David’s pickup truck. David is now building log homes for Voyageur Log Homes of Orr, Minnesota and can only take two days off work. So it’ll be a hurry out in one 22-hour day and night, get the van on the trailer, and then head home. Whew, I’m getting too old to do that!

Will and our new apprentice, Krystal, will man the homestead while I’m gone. I’m hoping we have a relatively easy trip without any break-downs. I’ll be glad to have it done so I can get back to homesteading and planting! We’ll be taking the van down to my oldest son Bill’s for him to go over and fix any problems before we drive it up for Javid to use. He doesn’t drive but friends often drive for him on shopping or fun trips. He misses that.

If I miss my blog post on Monday, we’re still on the road. I’ll post as soon as we’re home! I promise. — Jackie

Great weekend — got a lot done

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

We had a little rain on Saturday, but not much. So this weekend we got a lot done. Will and Krystal moved the big hoop house off of the garden so he could till the spot well with the tractor mounted-tiller. That was a huge job because it was really heavy and 32 feet long. They slipped 2x4s and 2x6s under it to skid it on and pried it with a long bar. They’d tried to lift and slide it but the center came apart — too much torque.

Once off the garden, Will tilled again, this time getting the entire garden. He removed the short section of the fence from the goat gate to the garden gate, moved a whole bunch of fence posts and other stuff, then Saturday tilled the end, including that spot that hadn’t gotten manured or tilled for a couple of years. Now it looks great and is fluffy, deep soil. The tiller did turn up a ton of rocks, long buried, so Krystal got plenty of experience picking rocks. Poor Krystal!

Mother’s Day, we met Bill and his family and David and his girlfriend at Byrns Greenhouse in Zim for our traditional Mother’s Day flower blow-out. We were so thrilled to be in the warm greenhouse with all those plants! They smelled great! Granddaughter, Ava, especially loved smelling the roses and feeling their fallen petals. Of course, I walked too much on my bad knee (couldn’t help it!) and it’s swollen like a bugger. I guess I struck it on my way off the front porch last week.

Yes, I’m feeling much better, except the knee. (One thing I’ve learned is that if you don’t DO anything, you don’t get hurt! Stuff happens.)

We came home with a carload of flowers and so did Bill and Kelly. After we ate a big meal of roasted chicken breast, potato salad, chips, and pumpkin pie (Yum!) we took a walk around the homestead so everyone could see what we’ve been up to. Even I was so impressed with the soil Will had tilled up in the pumpkin/corn patch on the new 40. It looks like a golf course in progress. (No, Dave, you CAN’T come play on it; no grass!) The pig pasture also had been tilled and looks great too. I can’t wait to get to planting.

While everyone was here yesterday, we all got hold of the bottom frame and end braces across the doors and manually picked the big hoop house up and walked it (took one break halfway!) back to its location in the garden, over nicely-tilled soil.

But it’s raining hard today, so no planting. Well … maybe a few perennials I bought yesterday. — Jackie

Our new apprentice, Krystal, arrived

Thursday, May 7th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 13 Comments »

We’ve got a summer apprentice homesteader, Krystal, who arrived yesterday from Georgia. She’s anxious to learn what we can teach her for her own future homestead. I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun this summer together. Welcome to the family, Krys!

Yesterday, Will hooked our new tractor-mounted rototiller up and tilled a little out on the big pumpkin/corn patch on the new 40 to try it out. Then he brought it into the garden where there’s less room to turn around etc. It did a wonderful job of working in the rotted manure that we placed on the garden over winter, leaving a fluffy, deep seed bed. We were really impressed. Today he and Krys are moving some fence posts and PVC pipes off our old small hoop house so he can get in to till that western corner of the garden, which hasn’t been tilled for a couple years.

We are getting some rain today and we need it. The beavers say we’re in a drought and it’ll be a dry summer so we’re getting ready for it with plenty of mulch available. We harvested some asparagus spears yesterday and Will brought a tractor bucket full of nice old, rotted compost down to the garden so they can spread it out on the asparagus bed. It hasn’t had compost for a couple of years and we figured it needed it.

The fruit trees are starting to bloom and the Adirondack Gold apricot is absolutely covered with white blooms! And, boy, are they fragrant.

Tom got the shingles on the new porch roof and it looks great! I had a small accident as Will and I struggled to get a 500-pound porch rafter log stuffed into place (he thought the wide spacing would be okay but the roof was just too springy). I was hurrying to step off of the stepladder on the porch, missed a step and fell, bouncing off the porch onto the ground. Nothing broken but I feel like a truck ran over me, yet. Don’t hurry when doing a job! — Jackie

Q and A: jar sizes in canner and harvesting asparagus

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Jar sizes in canner

I have a question concerning jars. Today I was putting up potatoes in qt. wide mouth jars. Ran short by one jar and used a regular size mouth jar in with the rest. Was this ok? Also had a pint & half size wide mouth one in there too. I processed as though all were wide mouth quarts. Was this ok?

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

You can certainly mix wide-mouth and regular-mouth quarts. And you can also add pints, pint and a half, or even-half pints in with your batch, if you want. I often stack quarts on the bottom and add pints or half-pints above the second rack. You must still process for the time required for the quarts which slightly overcooks the smaller jars. But I’ve never found that a problem and it sure lets me get a whole lot more done faster! — Jackie

Harvesting asparagus

I have an asparagus bed that is 4 years old. Last year was the first year that I harvested from it and I did that very sparingly. My question is now that it is growing well, should I be harvesting all of the spears that come up and how long should I do this? There are a few that are very spindly while most of them are pretty thick.

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

It’s normal for all asparagus to put out some thin spears. You can harvest spears this year without worrying. Harvest all of those over a pencil size. Leave the thin ones. As time goes on, you’ll see that you get fewer and fewer big spears — usually after about a month’s time. This signals the time to stop harvesting and let the ferns go on and grow all summer. At this point the plant is building up roots for next year. In the fall, you can add rotted manure along your rows, right up to the plants. This will protect the plants over winter and give them a good start next spring. Enjoy one of Spring’s best treats! I can hardly wait for ours to pop up. Only a day or two longer! — Jackie



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