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Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
We’re under an Arctic blast with HIGHS in the below zero readings and lows … well, we really don’t want to go there. So we do chores in steps, warming up between, then do things inside that have been let slide for awhile. Will’s again working on the rock wall behind our wood stove in the living room. It’s slow work getting it just right, but he’s definitely making progress. I’m excited to see the way it’s turning out. And impatient to see how it looks finished with the rustic wood shelves in it, too! My grandfather collected Indian relics from his fields where he farmed and I have a couple of old wooden crates with ax heads, spear points, and arrowheads in them and we’d love to display them on those shelves. The last time some were displayed was back in the forties in a Canadian museum! And with our family’s Native heritage, those pieces speak volumes to us.
I’m getting ready to can up the frozen Thanksgiving turkey and rearranging things in the house to get rid of the clutter that happens on a busy homestead.
Brrr. I just looked at the thermometer. It’s noon and -8 degrees. I guess those beavers sure knew what was coming! — Jackie
Friday, December 6th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »
Broken egg yolks
In the last few months most of our eggs have broken yolks when cracked to fry. Nothing else is wrong with the eggs. We have not changed chicken food or anything else. Any ideas?
The two most common causes of this are older laying hens (5 years plus) and insufficient protein in the diet. I’d try switching your chicken feed and see if this helps. Or try giving your hens a handful of cheap dry cat food daily. This is high in protein and in several amino acids that often aid chickens’ egg-laying problems. Be sure they have some greens too, whether it is kitchen scraps, sprouted grain, or even alfalfa meal soaked in boiling water. That really helps. — Jackie
Wrinkled bean seeds
We always save our Kentucky Wonder bean seeds for our next year’s crop, & sharing/trading. This year I noted that most of the seeds have a wrinkled finish, some more than others. Usually I’m pretty sloppy about seed saving, just leaving a few on the plants to dry after the killing frost, then throwing them in a box to shuck later. This year, after the frost, I got motivated & strung the beans inside, (no direct sun, cool & dry) to let them dry. In your estimation, will these seeds be ok? I mean, I got wrinkles & I still work…
Mason, New Hampshire
Hey Deb, so do I! But usually wrinkled beans are beans that weren’t quite mature when pulled and dried, but they usually aren’t good. To make sure, just take several beans and wrap them in a washcloth or several folds of paper towel, dampen it with warm water (don’t get it soaky drippy wet), and place in a bowl. Put the bowl in a warm place and keep the towel damp. You will either get sprouts within a week or so or they won’t germinate. That way you’ll know for sure if your seeds are good or not. Here’s hoping! — Jackie
Thursday, December 5th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 15 Comments »
They said it was going to snow pretty bad so we got ready, moving things we hadn’t gotten out of the way, putting the snowplow on the truck, making sure the animals had plenty of bedding and feed. Then it started snowing — inches per hour. And it snowed all day. Later in the afternoon, David plowed the driveway so he could get out to school (they still hadn’t cancelled it!) and Will started snowblowing the trails around the buildings.
If you’ve never had a snowblower and live in “winter country,” let me tell you how much work they save! Now we would never be without one.
Yeah, both Will and I have shoveled hundreds of feet of driveway and paths on the homestead. But Will’s grandfather also dropped dead shoveling snow, as do many people every single snow storm. Not only is the snowblower easier on you but it blows the snow in any direction you wish and leaves the edges of the clean areas smooth with no big berm that gets bigger as winter progresses…and also causes snow drifts to form.
We ended up with about two feet of new snow out of this storm and the temps are dropping to HIGHS of around zero all of this week. I guess it is lucky we got the snow first as it’ll help keep things such as septic tanks and water lines from freezing. But BRrrrrrrrrrrr! Hey Will, throw another log on the fire. — Jackie
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »
Although we have had a great fall with little snowfall until now and relatively decent temperatures for northern Minnesota, winter’s definitely here. I’m just recovering from a real nasty bug and poor Will’s been trying to get things done outside to get ready for the big snowfall that’s starting to hit us. We’re getting 2 inches today, another 2 inches tonight, 2-4 inches tomorrow …
Since Will has the roof done on the barn, he’s trying to get enough lumber cut on the sawmill to put up temporary walls to keep out the snow so he can work this winter on the hay loft floor. (And so we can kind of use parts of the barn.) And then there’s the unfinished front porch roof … We’d like to get it covered before too much snow hits us. So while I’m working on an article today, he’s cutting boards in the snow. Luckily, it’s not too cold but we’re heading for sub-zero HIGHS later in the week. Yuck! — Jackie
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 14 Comments »
Our Thanksgiving will be small and quiet with only David, Will, and me around the table. Of course our house pets, Mittens, Spencer, and Hondo, will share our bounty with us and the livestock will get special treats to celebrate our bountiful year.
Hondo is getting huge for a “puppy” only three months old! And he’s so smart, already being potty trained, going to the door when he needs outside, sitting on command with military precision (if you don’t praise him right away he does a “double sit,” sitting on his tail with his legs sticking right out under him), and he already is bringing in firewood with Spencer! He also has learned that Will’s comfortable old chair is doggy friendly. Sometimes he shares it with Spencer and sometimes he gets it before Spencer does! When Will comes in, he has to evict the dogs to sit down. Hondo is the last one out, giving Will the “do you really, really mean “get down”? Or is it just a suggestion” look.
Such a fun addition to our homestead. He already “guards” the gate to the goat pasture while I go in to feed grain. But I don’t know what would happen if one of the goats challenged him. Right now, they just play the game and stay away from the gate.
Again, have a real Happy Thanksgiving and count your blessings! — Jackie
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 10 Comments »
My oldest son, Bill, shot a nice seven-point buck the first weekend of season this year. And he called to ask if he could come and spend some “quality time” with me and, of course, cut up the meat. He learned to can with a pressure canner last year and came to our seminar this summer. His mother-in-law had bought a used canner at a yard sale and had never used it. It is a Presto, 1970′s vintage with weights and no gauge. So I showed him how to use it. Simple, huh Bill? We canned up all of the stew meat in short order. He cut steaks from the best parts and we tossed all of the other meat into a grind bowl as he wanted to try sausage this year. We had fun and made short work of that buck.
I’d never made sausage with a sausage stuffer and Bill brought up seasonings and casing. As Will had bought me an electric meat grinder with sausage stuffing attachments, I learned along with Bill. And guess what? We made great summer sausage! I fried up a patty with the leftover meat in the grinder’s auger and it was real tasty. I’m sure we’ll both be making more sausage in the future. — Jackie
Saturday, November 23rd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »
Canning in a small space
I am now living in a fifth wheel and want to continue canning, both water bath and pressure, do you have any suggestions on how to keep the moisture from building up in my trailer from the steam?
Usually running the vent fan will do the trick. You’ll have more steam when water bathing than pressure canning so be sure to use a lid on your water bath canner. (It’ll come to a boil faster, too!) Additional tips may include opening a nearby window and using a small fan to exhaust the steam through it while the jars are in the canner. Do be sure to close the window and shut off the fan while jars are being taken out of the canner and while they are cooling to avoid jar breakage. — Jackie
Sometimes, I’m not sure how many jars I will be able to fill so I go ahead and put a few extra lids into the pot to heat on the stove. If I do not use all of them, are they safe to heat again and use during another canning session?
Simpsonville, South Carolina
You bet they are; I do it all the time. Just be sure the lids don’t boil dry, then wipe them off after your canning is done and put them away for next time so they don’t rust. — Jackie
Friday, November 22nd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
Canning little smokie sausages
Can I can little smokie sausages? If so how?
Yes you can. I would pack them in half-pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace with no water or broth. Then process them at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. I’d do a small batch at first to see if you like the result. Some sausages swell during canning, especially hot dogs, leaving them not-so-appetizing-looking. I don’t think your little smokies will, however. — Jackie
Canning taco soup
I have a recipe for Taco Soup that uses already canned beans. I use browned turkey and add 5 different types canned beans and spices. I would like to can this. Could I just brown meat, mix with canned beans and instead of cooking together for four hours as recipe calls for, just mix it together and can pints for 75 min at 10 lb pressure?
Huntington, West Virginia
Yes, but I’d take the step to mix the ingredients, then bring to a boil before packing the jars to ensure that the soup/beans are heated thoroughly before putting in to can. (Always remember that if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet you must consult your canning book for instructions in increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.) — Jackie