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Archive for August, 2007

Jackie Clay

Why start it? It’s too much work. You’ll never get it done!

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

You know, I’ve heard that all my life. Well meaning (I guess, I hope!) people seem all too happy to crush someone’s dreams with those words. I remember when my oldest son, Bill, was starting his log home, coming home after working a full day to straddle huge logs he’d hauled out of the woods, peeling the bark off them until well after dark. And oh so many people told him basically that he was nuts for even thinking of building a big log home by himself. “Why start it? It’s too much work. You’ll never get it done.”

under-construction.jpgWas it a lot of work. You darn betcha. It’s taken him over five years and it’s not “finished” yet. He still has to rock up the outside chimney and do a few finishing touches inside. But he and his wife, Kelly (who helped him with a lot of the work for the last four years, since they’ve been married) are living in a home that looks like something out of the pages of Log Home Living.

Would they do it again? Probably not. But do they regret doing it? No, not a bit. There’s a sense of pride in sticking to a hard job and seeing it through to the end. The nay-sayers don’t have a clue about that.

When we started our log home, I sure had my fill of these well-meaning dream killers. Yes, my husband had died. Yes, I’d been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing treatment. Yes, I was taking care of my elderly parents. Yes a log home would be a lot of work. And yes, it would cost a lot of money.

BUT I started it anyway. First there was a hole in the ground. A big hole. This was to be the basement and my pantry. Our start was that hole. I was started. And slowly we got it done. It’s been a long haul, but I get done what I can afford and wait to earn more money, then go on. Luckily our friend Tom Richardson, a carpenter from the nearest town of Cook, is willing to work with me, at my pace. No mortgage, no building loans. Just pay as I go and be satisfied with what we’ve built so far.

This is what I’ve learned; to be SATISFIED with what I’m doing. I know someone else could do it better, faster, neater or whatever. But I know I’m doing what I want to, as well as I can at the time. And it is enough.

Is it done? No. But we are happily living in our new log home. I’m canning, working in the garden, and planning for our next steps along the road to finished. And it’s a good trail!

I’ve posted readers’ questions with my answers below:

Fresh goat milk yogurt

I enjoy your blog. I really need some help with making fresh goat milk yogurt. I tried your recipe, but, it is still so very runny. How much gelatin could I use without affecting the taste. I added 2 Tbl. of strawberry jello and it didn’t seem to help any. I do have a yogurt maker.

Bobbie Branson
Henderson, Kentucky

My guess is that you are either not processing your yogurt long enough for it to become firm or that your temperature is too cool or too warm for proper incubation. Homemade yogurt is not as firm as store-bought yogurt but it shouldn’t be runny, either. To add Jello, be sure to dissolve the Jello in boiling water first, then let it cool to lukewarm, THEN mix it with your warm, albiet runny yogurt. If your yogut TASTES fine, you can add sugar or honey, fruit, and make a smoothie out of it or freeze it, then whip it and have a frozen smoothie; we love them! — Jackie

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Jackie Clay

We love our stock panels!

Monday, August 27th, 2007

Do you have things around the homestead that are super versatile? Very useful? And pretty cheap? One of my favorites is the boring-looking welded stock panel. It’s about 52″ high (a horse or goat won’t jump over it), 16′ long and very sturdy. There are medium sized squares in the fence panel that a dehorned goat can reach through….but not fit through.

goat-eating.jpgBecause they’re so sturdy, they need little support. Therefore, you can use them with only steel T posts, for a pen or corral. It’s fast (no corner braces). Pound in the T posts every 8′ and hang the panels. You can even use one for the gate. But I like to re-enforce it with a wood frame that is cross braced. After all, the gate does take a beating.

I bought two weanling donkeys that were pretty wild, having run with their mothers in a pasture, and were not handled at all. To tame them down, I needed a quick, strong pen close to the house where I could work with them several times a day. So I added a corral off the side of the goat barn, made a door into a large pen inside, and added a gate. I was in business!

Goats are terrible hay wasters. They pull hay apart, then walk on it with their poopy feet. Then when they get hungry, they turn their little noses up at the “dirty” hay they just ruined! So to stop that, I feed my goats their hay and grain OUTSIDE the stock panel pen. That way they have to reach through the fence to eat.They don’t ruin any hay. It saves money, prevents parasites, is much neater and they can’t fight over the feed. (This does NOT work with horned goats; they can sometimes get their heads through the fence, but nearly always get stuck in the fence and can choke to death. Another reason to disbud those kids young!)

I’m using stock panels as the bottom tier on my dog yard. They’re big sled dogs and even they have never chewed on or bent the fence…..unlike the chain link that makes up the dividing fence between the two parts of the yard. On top, I added 3 feet of welded wire 2″x4″ fence to prevent any attempts at climbing the fence….which they would do without it.

Then in the garden, I use it for bean and cucumber trellises. Next year I plan on using two rows of stock panels, one on each side of tomato row. It’s easy to pick through and strong enough to keep the lush tomato vines upright, even in the strongest wind. Much faster than staking, caging, and tying, too!

I’ve used stock panels, bent in a U shape, for a garden trellis for climbing flowers and even as a lean-to greenhouse support, tacking one end to a south-facing shed wall and the other to the top of a horizontal piece of panel making up the side wall. You do have to be careful you don’t have sharp ends sticking out that will poke through your greenhouse plastic though. I used duct tape to protect the ends.

Around here, stock panels are available at local farm stores for about $14 on sale (of course!). They last nearly forever. I bought a cheap set of bolt cutters to cut the panels to fit any application. For instance, my labrador retriever thought my tulip bed was neat for digging in. So I cut a stock panel in two, leaving straight spikes on both pieces. These I shoved into the ground and wow! instant flower bed fencing that the big dog wouldn’t just step over.

Getting those 16′ long panels home can be a challenge, though, unless you’re in the know. Obviously, you can haul them in a trailer. We’ve hauled them in our 16′ stock trailer. But you can haul them safely in a pickup, too. To haul five or fewer, lay them in the truck bed (with the spare tire out), shoved all the way forward. Then with helpers, push hard, bowing the panels up like a covered wagon top and shut the tailgate securely. Don’t stand behind it in case it springs open. Been there. Done that. Ouch!!! Then use two ratchet straps and ratchet the load down securely.

If you haven’t already discovered these versatile pieces of handy homestead material, check ’em out! We just love ours and have used them for years.

I’ve posted readers’ questions with my answers below:

Using moldy manure

I picked up a load of manure last weekend and didn’t get around to uncovering it until today. After sitting for a week with not much if any air it is covered by a white cotton candy like fungus or mold. I
was going to mix this manure with dirt to build a new garden bed and let it decompose all winter. I’m not sure what this growth is — should I still use the manure, mold and all?

Jeanne & Kevin Walker
Homer, Alaska

I wouldn’t worry about this mold; it’s quite common and I’ve never had a problem when using “moldy” manure. Work it in well and water your beds until a freeze. This will help it to get started decomposing so it doesn’t sit “hot” in your bed all winter. You do want it to decompose nicely. — Jackie

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Jackie Clay

All on the homestead is not about work

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Visiting the donkeysThis time of the year is the beginning of serious food preservation for me. Unfortunately, a lot of folks get the mistaken idea that I just work, work, work. Well, yes and no. Of course I work; if you don’t, you don’t have anything or get anywhere. But I’ve learned to work in cycles and take breaks (even five or ten minutes at a whack) fairly often. And in those breaks, I take time to enjoy my flower beds, the secluded spot where my late husband Bob’s memorial garden is, or just sit by the creek. One of my favorite mini-breaks is walking across our new grass in the front yard, over to the little fish pond that David and I established on the end of one of the flower beds this spring. It’s just one of those cheap plastic, preformed ponds (on sale, of course!), but it came with a pump for a fountain, now re-routed to my on sale beaver spitter and it was quick to put in.

I added some plants, an old stump, rocks and bingo! Instant relaxation. Of course my beaver doesn’t spit when the generator isn’t running, but what the heck.

Even when I work in the garden, I work, then take time to sit on the on-sale bench down there, get up, work some more, sit some more, etc. I get the job done and have a few quiet minutes to enjoy the woods around us. From that bench I’ve seen deer, wild geese only a few feet up, flying to the pond, a wolf hunting mice, red fox, song birds and baby snowshoe rabbits. It’s nice gardening in a nature preserve! And I wouldn’t have seen all that if I didn’t take those few minute breaks in between the work.

Today I canned green beans, put up my favorite bread and butter pickles, took Mom to the thrift store in town, helped David get the four wheeler back running, shoveled out the aisle in the goat barn and worked with David down in the horse pasture, bulldozing a trail for the truck down to the creek. But I also sat on the milking bench and visited with the chickens and goats, went into the donkey’s pen and worked with them some more, teaching them to pick up their feet and stood and talked to David while he took a turn at shoveling the hay dirt out of the aisle.

A nice mixture of work and “play” makes sense. Too much work will just burn a person out so they can’t enjoy anything. We’ve all met them. They’re crabby with their spouse and children, never have a smile on their face and are always in too much of a hurry. Been there done that. Sure, I could get more done in a day. But I like me better the way I am. — Jackie

I’ve put readers’ questions with my answers below:

Canning spaghetti sauce safely

Just found you and love you already — I was looking for some help concerning some spaghetti sauce I made and canned last week. I used a recipe given to me by a friend. I did not have a
pressure canner at the time. The sauce looks great in the jars presently—-but my concern is this: I cooked the tomatoes, peppers, onions for 1 hour, using a blue canner (since I had no pan large enough for all the sauce) I stirred but found out later the scorching on the bottom of the pan actually ate away at the metal!!!!!!!!! Anyway after adding all the spices and seasoning I cooked another 1 hour, then filled hot jars with the sauce and sealed the jars. Now the recipe did not call for putting the jars in hot water and boiling. I am very concerned with two things, one: did the scorching contaminate the sauce? and two: did I need to boil the filled jars in the canner?? If you could answer please, and give me a alternative to these canned jars, (12 jars in all) is it too late to boil the jars at
this time, after 1 week??? I have since purchased a pressure canner and will purchase a new canner to boil the filled jars in the future.

Katy Cole
Woodsfield, Ohio

Did you taste the sauce before you put it in the jars? This will tell you if your sauce is bad from being scorched. Your big problem is that you did not water bath your spaghetti sauce, which is necessary for safe storage. After a week, it is kind of scary as to whether it is okay to eat or not. I hate to have you waste all that sauce. I really, really do, but honey it just isn’t safe to keep.

Next time, keep stirring that kettle when it is thickening. (What I do is put it into a roasting pan like you use for roasting a turkey and put my sauce in the oven overnight on the lowest setting. In the morning it is just about right to can up. No scorching!) Then when the jars are filled, water bath process them for 40 minutes and you’ll have sauce that is tasty and safe to eat. — Jackie

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Jackie Clay

Oh those green beans!!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

Green beans I suppose one always has those “favorite” garden vegetables to can. One at the top my list is green beans. They are so fun to plant (large seeds), grow quickly, look nice in the garden and usually produce well from summer to frost. The key to having them keep producing is to keep them well picked. Once they begin setting lumpy seeds in the bean pods, the plant shifts from flowering and making more beans to putting all its energy into making seeds. And that’s the end of your green beans for the year; there’s no going back.

I had great green beans last year, so when I planted the garden this spring, I decided not to plant so many. Well, I put in a row and that looked SO lonely. So I put in another, then some fillet beans to can whole for a change. But then I broke some more brushy ground and decided “Oh what the heck, if green beans won’t make it here, nothing will.” And I planted two more big rows. The trouble is that all of them did very well.

Shrug. Oh well. Now I am picking a big basket full every other day and canning them up. My pantry shelves are bulging with jars of green beans. But it’s oh so fun, too. They’re so easy to put up; just cut the ends off, cut them into convenient pieces, pack the jars, add salt and pour boiling water over the beans. To top it all off, they only need half an hour’s processing for big quart jars! That’s double sweet!

One reason I enjoy putting up beans is that they are large and quickly readied for canning. Some foods, such as peas, take much more dinking around with for a smaller yield. I can pick a basketful in half an hour, cut them in 15 minutes and they’re ready to go. And I’ll get about 10 pints and 7 quarts out of that basketful, too. All good eating.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the thrill when I pull a bean bush over to access the bottom and find dozens upon dozens of nice long, tender, well filled out juicy green pods. And I’ll always probably plant too many. Just because we love them so much.

I put readers questions with my answers below:

Canning bruschetta topping

I’ve had a very good yr with my garden – lots of tomatoes. I’ve already canned salsa and marinara sauce. Do you have a recipe for canning a bruschetta topping? I quite often make this fresh during
the yr and it would be so much more convenient to just open a jar and since I have so many tomatoes . . .

Nancy Sturgul
Tomahawk, Wisconsin

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Jackie Clay

What do you do with broccoli???

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

broccoliThis summer has been hot and dry, dry, dry. Not your usual “ideal” broccoli growing year. But my broccoli plants must not have read the books. Not only do I have broccoli ready for the table, but I have the biggest plants I’ve ever had. They are absolutely HUGE. Each head is the size of a large dinner plate. And, best yet, they are “little green worm” free. The white cabbage moths are just now starting to appear in the garden. Too late; we’re already eating broccoli.

But what does one do with wheelbarrow loads of broccoli? No, we don’t have a freezer. We’re off grid, remember? Yes, I know there are propane and 12-volt freezers available, but I just haven’t been able to afford one yet. Unfortunately, broccoli is one thing that really doesn’t can well. Frankly, it stinks.

Luckily, though, it does dry very well. And this dried broccoli makes a terrific addition to soups, casseroles, and other mixed dishes. So I’m busy with our first big harvest. After soaking the heads in a tub of salted ice water to drive off any possible insects (or little green worms!), I cut the floweret into large pieces and blanch them for 3 minutes. Again the broccoli goes into fresh ice water, both to cool it AND to pick over it well. (Remember those little green worms…..)  Luckily, I haven’t had any yet.

Then the pieces are cut into smaller pieces, none thicker than half an inch, and they are laid in a single layer on my dehydrating trays. A whole dehydrator full of broccoli will dry in a single day. Luckily, I have two. I found one at a thrift store for $3!

I start my trays in the evening when we run the generator so I can work on the computer and wash clothes. By bedtime, it is getting fairly dry and continues to dry until the next evening when I finish it off.

I’ve also done a lot in the oven, with only the pilot light on, laying the broccoli on cookie sheets. Done like this, I have to stir it around a couple of times to ensure complete drying.

When it’s done, it should be absolutely crisp and look like tiny dark green little trees. It’s amazing how fast a wheelbarrow full of broccoli will dry down and fit into a few quart canning jars! And the best part of it is that now the naked plants are beginning to grow several side shoots on each one. In a week or two, I’ll be cutting more broccoli, right up until hard freezes. My kind of plant!

I’ve printed readers’ questions with my answers below. We’re a bit behind posting questions and answers, as Dave, who posts my blog for me, went camping, so I didn’t get any questions for a few days. (Dave is handling my blog until Annie completes her move to North Carolina and gets her internet up again. Then Annie will take over and even Dave admits things will run a bit smoother.) So be patient.

Canning okra

Once when I was quite small I saw okra canned. It looked just  like someone had washed the okra, cut it up and coated it with cornmeal and then just put it in a quart jar without any liquid and had canned it. I’ve searched high and low and cannot find anyone who has ever canned okra in this fashion and am fast running out of freezer space. Do you know of anyone who might have a canning recipe for canning okra in this fashion?

Marcia Bearden

I have heard of people doing this with both okra and green tomatoes for frying. But it’s not an approved method as there isn’t liquid to bring the temperature of the packed food up to processing temperatures for long enough for safe canning, either with pressure canning (okra) or water bath processing (green tomatoes). To can okra for frying, canning it whole works best, then slice it when you’re ready to bread and fry it. Slicing it works well for uses in gumbo and soup. Both methods require the addition of boiling liquid, however. — Jackie

Sun-dried tomato jam

I would appreciate any help you can give me as to canning the receipts for “Sun-Dried Tomato Jam” in the November issue of “Cooking Light Magazine”. It does not give instruction on how or if this receipt can be canned? Thank you for your help.

Carmella D Nickl
Olive Branch, Mississippi

Sorry Carmella, but I’ve never canned sun-dried tomato jam. If you’ll e-mail the recipe, maybe I can figure it out for you. Sounds good, though! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The wild plums are ripe!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Jackie picking plumsThe wild plums are ripe!
(but plum pickin’ ain’t what it used to be!)

I’ve had my eye on the scattered wild plums on our mile long driveway. The trail is so bumpy that you can’t (or wouldn’t want to) drive very fast, so I do a lot of “sightseeing” while I drive to and fro with the ATV, doing mailbox runs or with the truck, hauling supplies.

Our wild plums are smallish, bright red and pretty sweet for wild plums. I look forward to making a batch of plum jam out of them. IF I can beat the bears to them. They also really, really like the wild plums! But right now, the bears are busy with the grove of chokecherries I was going to get today. I went in there and saw evidence of fresh bear activity (broken branches, tracks and a WHOLE lot less cherries than there were yesterday), so decided not to go mano a mano with a bear over chokecherries when I knew where there were more, anyway.

So this morning, I decided that I’d better get with my harvesting or miss out. I grabbed my cell phone (so I could be in contact with Mom, who also has one at home, in case she needed me while I was outside), my picking bucket and jumped on my trusty ATV. The plums are about a half a mile down the drive and I don’t like to leave Mom long, even if Tom IS there working on the new porch’s roof.

A call from MomI parked off the trail and started picking. Oh! They were so ripe they started falling off on the ground if I just moved a branch! Of course I had to pop one in my mouth to see if it was really ripe, you know.

Here I am, way out in the pristine woods, enjoying nature at its best when my %&*)$&)(*_#$(*# cell phone rings!!! And it’s not Mom! It was so unbelievable all I could do was laugh. It was just so strange! Ain’t technology great? Or is it an interruption on a peaceful life? I tend to think the latter.

I’ve posted readers questions with my answers below:

Salted onion tops

My grandmother used to make salted onion tops, we lovingly called the “Zeb” She was very french and I believe that may have been where this recipe originated. Anyway, she has since passed and I
did not get her secret for these lovely salted green onion tops that we put in soups. I have tried, but they came out a slimy mess. Can you help me out? I am sure it isn’t rocket science, but…I seem to
miss something. Love your articles and have learned so much from your positive spirit. Keep up the GREAT work.

Christine Robinson
Presque Isle, Maine

Boy Christine, you’ve got me here. I’ve never even heard of salted onion greens. Does anyone else in our BHM family know about them? We’d sure like to hear from you if you do! — Jackie

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Jackie Clay

In praise of really big trees

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

This majestic white pine is generations old.Did you ever stand at the base of a really big tree and look straight up? It’s truly amazing. We have several small groves of very large pines on our homestead. The largest tree is a generations old white pine that my son, David, and I can barely reach around. He’s got long arms, so that’s a big tree. Especially in this area, where most of the old growth trees have been cut.

Ours survived because of logistics. They are across the big beaver pond and there is no way for a timber company to access that piece of woods without crossing someone else’s land. So our little “secret” grove remains untouched.

Why don’t WE cut those trees? After all, there is probably enough lumber in them to build a new barn, garage AND side the goat barn. And lumber is so expensive these days.

The answer is those trees are worth much more to us just to stand under and look up. They seem wise and calm, sheltering pine martens and bald eagles’ nests. From our new porch, I can sit and look out across the pond and see them standing majestically in the sunset or glowing in the first pale rays of golden sunrise. You can’t buy that even if you can sell it. I can’t imagine sitting there and looking upon their stumps. It would be as if a member of our family had died. Thank God I haven’t gotten that “practical” yet!

I’ve listed readers questions with my answers below. (Please give your full name, city, and state when asking a question; from now on the editor of this site will return questions without this information.)

Jelly jars with one-piece lids

I will be making grape jelly and I was wondering if I can use the pretty jelly jars and lids that don’t have the separate lids, just one ring lids, and do I still have to boil bath for 5 minutes?


I’m a little confused here. Are you talking about jelly glasses that don’t have a screw down lid, just a slip on lid? If that is the case, you can’t water bath them; the lid will float off during processing. These are made to use with a layer of hot parafin poured on top of the hot jelly. The lid is to keep mice from chewing through the parafin during storage. There are other jelly jars that have one-piece lids with a sealing compound on top; the top will pull in when sealed like the two piece lids with rings. Yes, you should water bath these jars to seal them. Make sure all of the jars are hot and sterilized by boiling when you pour in the hot jelly. — Jackie

An experiment in canning

I have a great recipe for a Lemon Herb Vinaigrette that I got from my favorite restaurant. It is some work to make and only lasts in the fridge for 5 days. I am new at preserving food and I wondered if you had any advice on preserving this salad dressing! It has lemon juice, red wine vinegar, red onion, garlic, honey, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, fresh parsley, thyme, kosher salt, pepper and EVO….. blended.

Sammi Robinhold

I can’t tell you how to preserve this dressing, but I would mix up a batch, then bring it to a boil and immediately pack into hot, sterilized half pint jars to half an inch from the top. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Remember, this is “experimental” canning. But the ingredients you list are similar to those in most pickle recipes and I would not be afraid to try the above method. Again, I can not tell you that it is an accepted recipe for home canning. — Jackie

Removing skins from tomatoes when canning

Just stumbled upon your website, I could sit here all day! My question, I am canning tomatoes for the first time, I am using plum tomatoes and all of the tomato recipes call for removing the skin from them, however, I would like to leave it on, does it matter? Also, is it OK to use a pressure canner to save time?

Red House, Virginia

You CAN leave the skins on, but tomato skins are pretty tough when canned. I always skin my tomatoes by immersing in boiling water, then plunging them into cold water. The skin slips right off in seconds. Likewise, you can use a pressure canner, but it does not really save time as it takes quite a bit of time for the canner to exhaust, then build up pressure, then return to zero when the processing is done. And all the time you’re processing, you have to watch the pressure carefully. When water bathing, you only have to put the hot jars of tomatoes in the boiling water, bring it to a rolling boil and set the timer. In the meantime, you are free to do other chores until the time is up. So I always use the water bath canner, when possible and safe. — Jackie

Zucchini bread

I just found your web site yesterday and I love it. I have already bought a subscription and orded a book. I was making a batch of zucchini relish and had a thought about zucchini breads. I would like to find or make a recipe for a spice zucchini bread instead of such a sweet bread. Have you ever heard of such a recipe or do you have any thoughts on what a recipe would be.

Shannon Murphy
Hedgesville, West Virginia

You are limited only by your imagination! If you want to try different spice combinations, go ahead. Chances are you’ll come out with something very good, no matter what you choose to use. Some combinations I like are ground cloves, cinnamon, ground ginger and allspice, mixed with your zucchini recipe. A splash of lemon juice also perks it up. Have fun! — Jackie

Hughes Net satellite internet

If you are off grid – how do you have internet access? I ask this because we are looking at dropping DSL – very expensive – andgoing with different options.

Galva, Illinois

Dave, my boss at BHM, set us up with Hughes Net satellite high speed internet. We have a dish on the roof. So far it only works when we have the generator on. In the near future we will have our new battery bank hooked up with the generator and two small solar panels we have and will be able to access the internet as needed without running the generator as often. That’ll be a huge savings!!! — Jackie

Fibrous tomatoes

Since moving out to the country a couple of months ago, my citified friends call me at every turn, assuming that I am now a gardening guru. Thanks to your column, I’m learning, but I have far to go. I was, however, asked a question about tomatoes by a dear friend, and told her I would try to contact you for advice. It seems that, for the second year in a row, her tomatoes are very fibrous and only ripen on the bottom. They are having to throw away over half of every tomato. Any idea what may be causing this? They compost, but do not fertilize with manure or any other product.

Tracey Antognazzi
Findley Lake, New York

A couple of suggestions are to try a different variety of tomato; some tend to be more fibrous than others. Make sure you stake or cage the tomato vines so that the fruits get plenty of sunshine and give those big plants bearing tomatoes plenty of water. A deep watering every 3 days is better than a light watering, especially with an overhead sprinkler. Try a soaker hose or weeping hose for best watering. Mulch all the plants well to conserve moisture. It’s amazing how much moisture the garden plants need while they are making a crop. — Jackie

Ensuring a pickle seal

I recently made dill pickles for the first time. I followed the recipe to a T, but today while I was looking at other dill pickle recipes I notice that they all recommend that the jars be processed for 10 mins or so. The recipe I followed did not mention this, yet everything else is the same. Can I process my pickles a day later?

Andrea Johnson
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

If your pickles sealed, you don’t need to re-process them. The extra waterbathing that is now recommended for pickles and jams/jellies is to ensure that the jars seal. — Jackie

Canning meatloaf

I would like to pressure can some meatloaf. Is it safe to do with eggs? If not, do you have a good recipe?

Debra Purdy
Yuma, AZ

Yes, you can home can meatloaf with eggs. I prefer to roast several loaves together in the oven until they are just nicely browning, then pack hot into hot jars and pressure can for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The porch swing — a homestead essential

Friday, August 10th, 2007

My porch swing is a little worn.It’s funny what you come to enjoy on the homestead. Some folks have to attend the theater, dine at fine restaurants, go dancing, fly to the South Seas. Me? I’m happy sitting on my good old porch swing for a few minutes — morning, noon or night.

On it, I visit with friends, relaxing with a glass of lemonade while watching the hummingbirds vie for the feeder right in front of us. Or I plan the day, give thanks for the day that is over. Sometimes I just take five minutes or so and just SIT. It’s amazing to just sit and do absolutely nothing. In today’s rush/hurry/must do world, folks have lost the ability to sit down and just enjoy the view.

Sure, I’m as busy as the next person, taking care of Mom, helping David get his day started, gardening, doing homestead chores. But those few stolen minutes just sitting calm me, soothe my soul, and strengthen me for the rest of the day. Or the next one. After all, sitting in the cool breezes of the evening, watching the billions of firey stars line the huge sky, have a way of making the trials of today seem smaller and more bearable.

In times past, nearly every house had a porch. And a porch swing. I got mine in Montana at a ranch store one spring. It was laying out in the gardening area, with blistered varnish and a sad looking, many-times-wet cardboard box. I asked about it and the manager said if I wanted it for $20, it was mine. I was ecstatic! They usually sold for around $100, much out of my range.

So that swing came home and hung on our front porch there in the mountains and saw many friends and neighbors sit and visit, enjoying our fabulous mountain view. When we moved here, it came with us. There’s no way I could part with my much worn old swing. It needs a sanding and new coat of sealer, but friends still sit with me on our new porch and we enjoy our backwoods view and our time together.

Everyone needs a porch swing!

I’ve printed readers questions and my answers below:

Be sure to pressure-can potatoes

I am wanting to can some new potatoes this year. I found the recipe on your site and it was like I had guessed it would be. Just one problem, when I was growing up we did our canning outside
in a tub with a fire. I still follow this method. On your potatoes recipe it is timed for a pressure cooker. Any idea how long to cook them in the jar outside? I use a number 3 tub which holds about 22
quarts with a fire under it.

Randy Ward
Sandstone, West Virginia

Sorry, Randy. Potatoes are a low acid food and they should not be water bath processed. Boiling does not raise the temperature of the food high enough to kill potentially dangerous bacterial toxins that could be present in the jars of food. This is why all low acid foods (all vegetables but tomatoes, meat, and poultry) need to be pressure canned. Yes I know that for generations, folks canned low acid foods in boiling water bath canners, like your tubs. And many still do. It just isn’t safe. And I need all my readers happy and healthy. — Jackie

Old newspapers under raised beds

My husband and I are building raised beds (I am disabled). I have read that one must use landscape fabric under the beds. We were given a huge roll of polyethelene (used to line bags of pet
food). Since we are on a very limited income could we use the plastic instead of the fabric?

Thank you so much for all your knowlege. You are an inspiration to
all who have endured adversity of any kind. Perservance is everything.

Mary Anne Wagoner
Northeast Illinois

Using plastic as a base, over grass or soil isn’t a good idea. It doesn’t breathe or let the water drain down out of the bed. Better still, put many layers of old newspaper down on the ground. This discourages weeds, lets the excess moisture drain from the bed, and will eventually break down naturally. By then, weeds and/or grass should be all killed out and will be no problem for your raised bed.

You’re right about perseverance; if you quit, you lose. As long as you keep going, even if it is minute progress, you’ll win! — Jackie

Canning stuffed peppers

I have a question concerning Pressure Canning. I have made Stuffed Summer Squash and Sweet Bell Peppers stuffed with Ground Turkey, Wild Rice, Celery, Onions and Tomatoe Sauce, Salt and Pepper. I have cooked these in a covered casseole Pan with the Stuffed Veggies surmerged in a Marinara Sauce and Crushed Tomatoes with 2 cups of water. I cooked the Squash for 1 1/2 Hours and the Green Peppers for 45 minutes. Now I would like to Pressure can them in Quart Jars. Can
this be done? Seems like everything I read one is not suppose to use rice when Pressuring. Also there is 1lb. of Ground Turkey, and 3/4 cups of rice along with the other ingredients in some 21 Peppers and Squash combined.


The amount of rice you are using is not enough to worry about in your recipe. I’ve canned stuffed green peppers quite a bit and they are really good “instant” meals. Put them in the jars while they are hot, then pour your hot tomato sauce over them and process for 90 minutes in quarts at the pressure suited for your elevation, normally 10 pounds. — Jackie

Using “used” lids

First of all let me say you are one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever read. You are truly the reason I can afford to stay home with my children instead of sending them to daycare. I have saved so much money using your tips to make things my family needs I can’t tell you how thankful I am. My question is about re-using canning lids. I recently made a batch of Rhubarb jam and when I was in the middle of it (past the point of no return) I realized that I did not have anymore new lids for my jelly jars. The only thing I could do was use the old ones. All of them seem to have sealed perfectly. Do you think they will be okay or should I get rid of them.

Dan Huting
Iowa City, IA

To tell the truth, I’ve done this very thing, but don’t advertise the fact! I would not use the used lids for any pressure canned foods; that’s too chancy. But for jams, jellies, preserves, or pickles, I’m comfortable using the used lids, as long as they are not dented by prying off of the first-use jars. Sealed is sealed, no matter what lids you use. — Jackie

Doing beans just a little safer

What a neat idea! I have never read anyones blog before yours but it really is a nice way to communicate. So glad to hear that your son is ok. My youngest had spinal menengitis when he was three and boy was that scarey. He is now 12 and just fine. You have given me so many great tips over the years that I am hoping that this tip may be just a small way of my saying thank you. Just wanted to pass this really simple way to can dry beans and well as far as I can tell it seems to be on the up and up. I canned 14 quarts and they all came out beautiful. I got the recipe from the internet and was intrequed by the simplicity. Here is what you do: The night before I wanted to can I took 14 quart jars(or as many as you want to can) and I checked my jars for cracks, washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and then filled each jar with 1 1/4 C of dry beans (pinto or navy) and then filled each jar with water clear to the top and I did that to all of the jars. I put a clean cloth over the top and then went to bed. In the morning I put my big stock pot full of water on to boil and made a cup of tea. When it came to a boil I emptied all of the jars of the water leaving the rehydrated beans in the jars,
rinse if you feel the need and then I put 1 teaspooon of salt and filled each jar with boiling water to 1 inch headspace, took a wooded bamboo skewer and ran it thru the beans to realease any trapped air bubbles, cleaned rims of the jars and then sealed. Processed at recommeded time of 100 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs of pressure. This is by far the easiest way that I have ever canned dry beans. The recipe said that you could do pints with 1/2 C dry beans the same way and process at 80 minutes. My family is so big that pints just aren’t enough. This morning I opened a jar and smashed in a skillet and cooked till it was almost dry and walla with seasoning re-fried beans. The recipe also said that you could add your seasonings directly into the jars with the salt. Haven’t tried that yet, but sounds promising. So what do you think? I would appreciate any feed back especially if it looks like it might be an unhealthy canning method.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno Ohio

I would be happier with your recipe if you had boiled the beans in that morning’s water, then packed the HOT beans in the jars and filled them with the HOT bean water. Beans are kind of dense when canned from dry and take awhile to go from cool to hot enough for processing. I soak mine over night, as you did, then dump the water out and add fresh water to a big kettle, dump in dry beans, then bring to a boil. I boil them for half an hour, then ladle out the HOT beans into jars and fill to within an inch of the top and process. This is really safer than the recipe you found. Not saying yours won’t work, just that the traditional way IS safer. — Jackie


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