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Archive for October, 2007

Jackie Clay

It’s amazing what you can do when it’s sunny!

Monday, October 29th, 2007

Yes, it’s fall; the temperatures are doing well to get into the high forties. After all, deer season opens this coming Saturday. There was ice on our small beaver pond this morning and half an inch on the goat and chicken water. But the sun, the glorious sun, was out in all it’s splendor this morning. It made me want to leap out of bed and get doing things. (Well almost. I kind of crawled out, really.)

David went with our friends, Jim and Jerry, yesterday to haul our first load of square bales home. We have been getting them from the same man for three years now and it’s nice hay at a very fair price. Especially when it’s been stored in the barn since early summer harvest. Jim and Jerry got a load on their truck and trailer and David loaded 40 bales on our truck. They told us that their very strong son, John, was coming up to help them haul another big load today and that David could go along with our truck, if he wanted to.

So he did. And three hours later (he also helped the Bonnettes load their truck and trailers), a very hungry young man arrived to gobble up two BLTs and ask what was for lunch. He had topped my record and brought home 60 bales on our truck! And he only lost one on the 20 mile drive; on our rough trail in from the county road. I’m impressed!

David brings up the truck load of hay he loaded today; we’ll unload it tomorrow because he wanted to do some dozing before dark.

While he was loading hay, I kept on working on our new pheasant coop behind and attached to the goat barn; it’s opposite the chicken coop, so the barn looks balanced again. Without it, the barn looked kind of lopsided. Friends of ours are going out of the fancy pheasant business and asked if David might like some of their birds as they know he really likes poultry. He’s getting Silvers, Goldens and Red Goldens. Pretty nice of them. Yesterday David and I dug in two treated 4″x4″s, 8′ long which supported a 2″x6″ ledger beam. And nailed between the existing rafter tails and it were the rafters of the 6′ wide coop. Today I carried the new coop’s framework out another five feet so the third pen of birds will have a bad weather shelter inside.

There’ll be 4’x4′ inside pens for each breed with a 2′ walkway and outside, the pens will be about 18’x6′ each.

What’s cool about this coop is that, like the chicken coop, we’re using material salvaged at the dump or left over from various other building projects. It might not be glamorous, but it’s sturdy, square and level. I’m also hoping to make it kind of cute, too. In a backwoods sort of way.

Our huskie’s dog yard is 40’x40′, divided by four chain link kennel panels. But our dogs didn’t like to be separate. No, they weren’t friendly, the two young boys wanted to fight. Brothers, but still boys and the same size and age. Both thought they were the top dog. I finally got fed up with them snarling and barking back and forth along the fence and opened the gate. Of course they immediately tangled, snarling and a ball of flashing teeth. But because of their dense coat, it was mostly noise; not a drop of blood flowed. Throughout the day, there were periodic nasty noises as one male challenged the other.

The next day, they were playing. They’d figured out who was “boss”. Once in awhile, there is a brief encounter, but it’s bloodless and they’ve been together for two years now and are happy in the big yard. Their dad, a wolfy looking big guy, is with them and he’s definitely the Big Boss and only has to look at them attentively and they both immediately lay down.

So I’ve got these four 10′ chain link kennel panels doing nothing. Not for long. They’re going to be reused in the new pheasant pen to enclose the outside of the pen to protect the birds from predators. I’ll separate the breeds with 2″x4″ welded wire, 6′ high (with a wire top, too to protect them from owls). I’ve been told that the roosters of the different breeds will seriously fight and we don’t want that.

After David got home with the hay, he jumped right away on our new bulldozer and scraped out the donkey’s corral; it was getting pretty stinky from the 10″ of rain on 8″ of manure and old hay. While he worked, I held the stock panel wire back open for him and watched the donkeys peer under their barn door. I’ll swear they were going “PeeeeUUUUU!!!”

Now it’s nice and clean and dry. Amazing. Love that dozer!!!!

Then he ran it down by the horse pasture. After finding a nice sand ridge on the left side of the trail down, I asked David if he’d like to clear a spot 55’x100′ on the other side for a training ring. I’ve been a horse person all my life and have been without a training area for many years. While it is possible to train a horse without a ring, it’s definitely much, much easier if you have a flat, dry, enclosed place to work one with no distractions, obstacles or dangerous things in the area.

After only half an hour, the spot was definitely taking shape. There isn’t a rock in the whole spot! There were a whole lot of stumps, but the good old dozer dug ’em up easily. While David was rooting around, I looked up and there were six deer calmly eating grass in the horse pasture, less than 100′ away! We thought it was pretty funny. Especially when deer hunters all over the state will be putting on scent mask, special clothing and silent boots next Saturday to sneak up on the timid deer. Ha ha ha! Get a dozer and crash around the woods. Works for us.

Readers’ questions:

Frozen deer meat

Jackie, about a year ago, a friend gave my husband and I a frozen side of deer leg, and possibly part of the hind quarter. It’s not been cut up in steaks or strips, it’s a frozen leg of deer. I’m not really sure how to proceed with defrosting and cooking it. I’ve had deer before, and I know it’svery lean animal meat. I’d probably like to defrost and can it up for chili or stew. Is it still safe after a year??? What would you suggest?

P.S. I will be recanning my pickled peppers that you said were not safe to eat because of added apple cider and lack of vinegar. Shame on me. I should know better, your my canning guru!

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, SC

Your leg of deer is safe to eat after a year. My only question is, is it freezer burned? Look it over well after your unwrap it. There shouldn’t be any whitish areas. I’m not talking about frost or ice but white ugly spots on the meat itself when it’s thawed. Kind of dried looking white. Then sniff the meat. It should smell like fresh meat. If it has a un-meaty smell that turns you off, it’s freezer burned. Some folks say that if you simmer the meat in milk and toss the milk it removes freezer burn smell/taste. I haven’t tried it yet. To defrost the leg, just put it in a paper bag and place it in a cold but not freezing area. An unheated porch or the refrigerator will work fine. Just keep it around 40 degrees until it thaws out.

And don’t let the dog get it! I speak from experience here.

If you’re still uncertain about the freezer burn, slice a small piece up in a pan and sautee it. Then taste it. If it tasted fine, it’s good to go. With all venison, bone the meat for the best taste and remove any fat or dried tissue. I dice a whole lot of my venison up for chunky chili, stew or barbecue, cutting pieces about 1″ square.

Good luck. And sorry about the peppers! — Jackie

Choosing a pressure canner

Thanks for all the great information over the years. My wife and I have been canning with a waterbath canner for years. We want to add pressure cooker canner items to our stocks. What brand or features should we look for in a pressure cooker canner?
Jack Radion

There are really very few brands of pressure canners available today; maybe four that come to mind.  And really, all are very good.  DO NOT buy a smaller “pressure cooker/canner”.  They do not process enough food and are not really reliable to can in, to begin with.  Personally, I prefer a canner that has a beveled lid fitting tightly against a bevel in the body of the canner.  These require no gasket to remain air-tight.  Sooner or later the gasket will become old, brittle and begin to let steam seep out under pressure.  But this takes years and years to happen, and you then just buy a new gasket, so it isn’t a major problem.  Two of mine have gaskets, and two do not.

I prefer a canner that has a dial gauge instead of the jiggle weights so you can immediately tell what your heat is doing and adjust it to your needs.  But then, again, the dial gauge should be checked yearly for accuracy where the weight is good forever.  It’s just a matter of convenience.  All modern canners are safe and very easy to learn to use; all come with a safety plug or valve so there is no chance of your canner “blowing up” in the kitchen.

I think your decision is a very wise one and you’ll soon be very happy you made it.  There are just so many different foods you can put up with a pressure canner!  Good canning. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

OOps! Gee is it Friday already?????

Saturday, October 27th, 2007

We’ve been having nice weather here, with the sun out for a change and we’re really getting a lot done. So one day has melted into another. David had a super football season, playing defense for the Cook Gophers. He was also their kicker this year. I think everyone in the area was rooting for him, especially knowing he was coming back after his bout with flesh eating bacteria in his arm. Seeking him breaking through an opposing team’s tough line to go on and tackle their quarterback almost brought tears to my eyes. We are so grateful he made a quick and complete recovery.

Tom was over working on our new greenhouse/porch this week and I asked him if he’d rip off the crappy OSB “temporary” roofing on the east side of our goat barn. David and I had sheeted the west side with nice green metal roofing but the east side, we just slapped something on ahead of a early winter blizzard two years ago and it was pretty disgusting.

So he agreed, and in an hour, the old stuff was off and I started bringing out old greenhouse Filon roofing (that wavy clear fiberglass). The goat barn was kind of dark because goats will stand on their hind feet and knock out windows up six feet high. So the only windows were in the very peak of the gable ends and in the two doors in front. Now the sunshine beats into the goat pens and makes the whole barn light and cheerful. And the roof won’t leak any more! Horray!!!!

This is our new greenhouse/garden room after I got it stained two days ago.  We think it looks great.

It’s always nice to recycle….even if it’s your own stuff, re-used in a different application. I didn’t want that Filon laying in a pile all winter to get ruined. Now it’s being used in a good way.

I got so into it that I’m going to order the last 3 pieces of sheet metal roofing for our horse lean-to in the pasture and we’ll finish off that, too. I got the rest of the roofing at the dump, but came up short the 3 pieces and we never “got round to it”.

We get nuts this time of the year, because we know winter’s just around the corner, so it’s this project, that project, finish this, pick up that. You never get it all, but every year we’re further ahead, and that’s encouraging.

David bought his own car today. He did the whole deal; found the car, talked to the salesman, went to the bank, filled out credit applications, went to the insurance company; the whole ball of wax. It’s a Lincoln Continental (1994), and only cost him $1,600. $500 came out of his savings, and he had to borrow $1,200, paying $56 a month.

He turns 17 next week, paid the $500 from his haying money and will pay the car off when he sells his old trusty Taurus (Grandpa’s car). But he now knows the ropes of doing business in the “real world”, and I think that’s a good thing. The Lincoln is a bit “fancy” for my tastes, but it’s a smaller car, gets 25 + mpg and has been well maintained. I’m crossing my fingers!

Readers’ questions:

“Gaugeless” pressure canners


Thanks for the advice on the use of tomatoes… sadly here in NW Washington it has been a cooler summer and very few of them have ripened… but the bushes still have not died, so even in October they will stay on as long as possible. My question today is about pressure canners. My mother bought 2 of those ingenious “gaugeless” canners with a 3-piece weight set that allows you to arbitrarily set the canning pressure at 5, 10, or 15#. I have an old Presto 21-B that has a gauge, and I have been told by 2 out of 3 people that presto’s 3-piece weight set will work on mine. It would be very helpful, especially when I am doing marathon 90 minute venison canning sessions. Your opinion would on this matter be greatly valued. Your column is so helpful; My wife and I really enjoy it. Keep up the good work.

Ben Skelton
Sedro Woolley, WA

Hang in there with those tomatoes. When it threatens to get too cold or the tomatoes just quit putting on size, pick them and put them in shallow boxes, buckets, bins or tubs and bring them into the warm house. No need for a “sunny window sill”, just plunk them down somewhere out of the way where you can watch and sort them. They will ripen a bunch at a time, beginning in about 3 days.

Boy, you’ve got me with your weight question. Personally, I’d stick with the gauge. I like them a whole lot better than the little weights. You see right away when your pressure is beginning to climb and can adjust the heat to keep it even. Usually, and I DO say “usually”, you’ll hit a sweet spot and the canner will hang pretty much in the right pressure without too much fooling around. But you still need to watch it closely. The little demons in the kitchen always bump the heat up or down when you’re not looking! We’ll soon be canning venison too. Luck with the hunt. — Jackie

Gift salsa

I make salsa using canned whole tomatoes and would like to bottle the salsa to give as Christmas gifts. Is this possible without having to cook (can)? My fear is someone becoming ill if not properly bottled. I make fresh daily and distribute the following day and let them know to keep refrigerated and should remain fresh for 2 weeks. Also do I need to add vinegar? I add chicken broth to my recipe.
Fena Cuadra
Phoenix, Arizona

This a little “iffy”. Especially with the added chicken broth. Chicken broth is very prone to going bad if not constantly refrigerated….and even sometimes when it is for your 2 week period. Without the chicken broth, you could probably get by, IF it was ALWAYS held in refrigerated conditions, i.e. no wrapped under the tree, set on a table for people to admire, carried home in a bag in the back seat, etc.

I’m a whole lot more confident when I give home canned salsas. It is so easy to can it, only taking 15 minutes in a water bath canner to make it safe to store at room temperatures. Yes, unless you can salsas with tomatoes that you KNOW are an acid variety, you should either add lemon, lime juice or vinegar to make the recipe safely acidic enough to water bath process. — Jackie

Yellow jacket elimination

I have eliminated a yellow jacket nest by leaving my shop-vac hose next to the entrance and turning it on for a couple hours. They attack the hose and away they go. My shop-vac is small enough to run off of my inverter so the electricity was free.

After turning it off I waited a day before opening it up to dump the dead pests.

The shop-vac also worked well to pick up a rat living in the kindling box. I “grabbed” it from the back, put it in an old wide-mouthed jar, grabbed my shovel, and took it outside.

Steve Ahrendt
Petaluma, CA

Talk about ingenious! Way to go, Steve! I’ve used my shop vac for a whole lot (don’t own a regular vacuum cleaner), but never for getting rid of a yellow jacket nest. Good thinking. — Jackie

Lemon juice

I need to know how to can lemon juice from fresh lemons.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

Cut the lemons in half, remove seeds, ream juice out with a cone-shaped citrus extractor to prevent bitter white peel from getting into juice. Strain if you wish or else pick out bits of floating seed, membrane, etc. Heat juice to simmering and pour into hot, sterilized jars. Water bath process for 20 minutes unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet. If so, consult a canning manual for directions on increasing your time to suit your altitude, if necessary. It’s neat you have enough lemons to can the juice. It is very good! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

When it’s chilly, I can chili

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

We’re having more typical fall weather.  Finally!  It only rains every other day now, but the temps are falling with the leaves.  And because it’s been cooler in the new greenhouse, the tomatoes slowed down in their ripening.  But now we’ve got the insulation in and most of the log siding, so it’s quickly warmed up out there.

making chili

And BANG!  Boy do I ever have ripe tomatoes.  Yesterday, I spent two hours peeling and quartering a five gallon bucket of ripe tomatoes.  My last batch of chili turned out so good I just had to make more.  It’s so handy to just dump out a jar and have a tasty lunch.  I know the chili was good because one jar didn’t seal and I had to refrigerate it.  So we just HAD to eat it up.  Gee whiz.

I simmered the tomatoes in my big roasting pan, plus another smaller one, all night in the oven to cook it down some.  Those tomatoes were really juicy for picked-green ones.

I also set five cups of red kidney beans on to soak for the night.

This morning, I dumped the tomatoes into my second largest stew kettle, diced some green peppers, onions and a couple medium hot chiles into the mix, drained the beans and added them, then some brown sugar to taste, a few more spices and let it simmer until it was just right.  I taste as I go; if it needs this or that, I just add it.  I am NOT a recipe cook.  It drives my mother nuts because everything she used to make was by the book.   I see her cringe every time I make something, dumping in this and that.  Oh well, I’ve always been her wild child.

When it was well cooked together and as tasty as it should be, I ladled it up into quart jars and canned it at 11 pounds (we’re at 1,400 feet above sea level and I need to increase my pressure to match the altitude) for 90 minutes.  I had a nice canner full and they all canned up nicely.

Tomorrow I’ll check the seals again, wash the jars (which usually get a little gooky during processing), remove the rings and store them down in my lovely getting-full pantry.  Wow!  it’s so good to have so many things down there to choose from.

Now, on to the apples!  Isn’t life great this time of the year????  We love the colors, the crisp wind and the FOOD!!

Readers’ questions: 

Goat milk lotion

Dear Jackie,
We make most of the soap we use for ourselves and laundry from goat’s milk. I was wondering if you had a recipe for goat milk lotion? Also, do you need to freeze the milk for that as you do for soap? Thanks.

Donna Leach

I don’t make lotion; it seems that there’s never enough time.  I do have a recipe for you to try.  Let me know how you like it.  No.  You don’t need to freeze the milk first.

1/8 tsp borax
1/4 cup cold goat’s milk
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp beeswax
1/2 cup aloe vera gel
1 tsp vitamin E oil

Bring borax and milk to scalding.  Remove from heat.  Melt coconut oil and beeswax together and slowly add to the borax/milk and mix with a whisk.  Add vitamin E oil and cool to room temperature.  Add aloe vera to the cooled lotion and whiskll one final time. — Jackie

Clearing land 

Hi Jackie;
I recently paid off 50 acres of property in North East Itasca county MN. I am planning to move there. Im 53 and a pipefitter, so I work in different states frequently. Not being able to get there as often as i would like, its a never ending battle to try and get it cleared. Im using a chain saw and a bush axe. I dont really want Blandin paper coming in and tearing everything up. Was wondering if you thought a bulldozier would be best or if you know a way I could do this myself? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks,

Matt Treusch
Walkerton, IN

I hear you Matt; we want to do so much and sometimes it IS a struggle when we have so little time.  I think the thing that’s the most important is to realize that it’s going to be  process, not something that happens right away.  What we did was to first clear off a building site with enough room around it to make it easier to get equipment and supplies in.  We didn’t clear cut it but still made enough of a “hole” for ease of working.

We did this with a truck, chain, chainsaw and axe.  Later on, we used my son and his father in-law’s help with their bulldozers to grade and backfill the basement.

Yes, a bulldozer will be a lot of help, but there are a few disadvantages, too, as there is with anything.  First, they tend to leave heaps of roots/dirt/rock/logs if you aren’t real careful.  We work any clearing carefully, back and forth, knocking out the dirt, crushing the rotten wood into the ground and leaving only dry stumps, brush and rotten logs in smaller piles in the open to burn when it’s safe to do so.  A good operator will do this for you, but a poor one will only shove dirt and all into huge piles that will not burn entirely and you[‘ll be left with “ugly” for a long time.

We pull a lot of smaller trees with the tractor, truck or the dozer we just bought.  Then there isn’t a stump to contend with or roots left to send up suckers later on.

What we have done is to clear small areas completely, then run trails here and there to make hauling logs and firewood easier as we can get in with the pickup then.  And from the trails, we gradually widen them and in the future, they’ll meet up.

I want toleave the big woods a big woods, only making a few small trails to get in and cut dead and down trees.  We are careful to leave a few dead standing trees as wildlife habitat; the small critters and birds need homes too.

My son, David, and I are in the process of clearing the small poppler out of our 10 acre horse pasture so the grass will fill in.  they need the grazing and the grass doesn’t do well in the shade.  As we pull/cut trees, we take out everything that can be used for firewood and cut that up.  When we work in the big woods, we cut first the sizeable saw logs, then make firewood of the rest of the tree.  The logs, we’ll be stacking up to cut for lumber later on; it’s amazing how much of your own lumber you can have in that small stand of woods!

We have a lot of blow-down that’s uprooted and is still very good for lumber, so that’s actually a bonus on our homestead with very few outbuildings (yet!).

It’ taken us 3 years to get a little bit cleared but we’re not working at it all the time; there are other priorities.  But it’s better all the time and I’m always amazed at how far we’ve come.

Keep pecking away at it; it’ll get better when you can spend some concentrated time on your land.  Good luck with your homestead! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Be careful what you wish for!

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Because we were in drought all summer and had been since LAST summer, everyone I knew was wishing desperately for rain. “Oh, if it would JUST rain!!!” Last fall, we went into the winter with our creek bed dry and cracked. In fact, David and I had run the four wheeler and trailer up and
down, sawing up the downed trees across and in the creek, to clean it up for canoe travel and to let it flow with less plugging up.

A few weeks ago, it started raining. We rejoiced! And then it didn’t stop. Because winter’s just around the corner, we’ve got a whole lot of
pre-winter projects to get done; firewood split and hauled (dry!) onto the new porch, goat square bales hauled and stacked, manure hauled and tilled into the garden soil, lumber sorted and stacked, sand hauled onto our pot holes on the mile long drive. You get the picture. All of these require a few days of dry weather.

And we haven’t had it. Rain, rain, and more rain. This morning early it started raining again, and it rained hard all day. The rain gauge read
51/2 inches at five o’clock tonight, then it started raining very hard. We’re supposed to get another 5 inches tonight! Unbelievable. All the
rivers are over their banks, our little creek is big and the beaver ponds are running over the dams. The goats pout when they have to come outside to eat their grain in the yucky muck of their yard. The donkeys wrinkle their noses at the pouring rain and the horses have quit playing and rolling in the mud. It’s not fun any more. The only ones that are enjoying the rain are the ducks.

Check out this rain gauge!

But the good thing is that I’m getting caught up on my canning. Our carpenter friend Tom has been over and our new greenhouse porch is now insulated and mostly paneled with log siding. So it’s warm in there and the tomatoes are ripening like gangbusters. A few have rotted, but that’s part of the game. Most are nicely red and not going bad, so I’ll make a few more big batches of tomato sauce and chili and that’ll be that for this year.

And by the weekend, I’ll start canning up the apples my sister brought from Michigan. All those apple pies, strudels, coffee cakes and other goodies make a few days’ work very worth it! Apples are so easy to can; you just peel, slice, pack and waterbath.

Yes, I appreciate the in-house time. But I’ve quit wishing it would rain!

Readers’ questions:

How do I harvest pine nuts?

James B Wright
Wyandotte, MI

I hope you are planning on a trip to the southwest.  The only pine nuts I’m familiar with are the ones from the pinyon pine, which only grows there and in California.  The pines you have in Michigan do not produce large seeds or “nuts”, nor do they taste good…..unless you are a bird or pine squirrel!

To harvest pine nuts or “pinyons”, most folks spread tarps or sheets under the tree when the cones are open, but still holding the nuts.  Then with poles, you whack the cones and shake the nuts out, which fall to the ground and land on your collection sheets.  Full cones usually cling to the tree, but if some fall you can toss them up and down in a wide basket, shaking out the nuts.

The nuts are cleaned of debris and roasted gently.  You can do this in your oven at a low temperature, spread out on a cookie sheet. — Jackie

Sulfur bug repellent and water purification 

I just read your column in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue, and have two comments in response to questions you addressed. First, I enjoy your column and it is the second I read in every issue. My wife reads it first, but I read Jeff Yago’s first, sorry. Regarding using sulphur, floured sulphur, as an insect repellent. When I was young we lived in Southern Arizona and Southern Texas, and were plagued by ticks and fleas. Our dogs were medium sized, about 50-65 lbs., and we gave them about 1`/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of floured sulphur THOROUGHLY mixed into their food once a day. Our dogs never had fleas nor ticks. Experiment to get right dose for your dog. Too much makes them and their droppings smell terrible, so reduce it enough that the ticks stay off, but they don’t smell too bad. I don’t know if just rubbing sulphur flour on would help or not, seems it would fall/wash off. Hope this helps. Secondly, regarding storage of water and food in vehicles in “72 hour kits”. In my experience milk jugs deteriorate very quickly, especially in high heat or wide temperature fluctuations. It is much better to use the two litre sodapop bottles, they are stronger and last much longer. But why have a “72 hour kit”? The experiences of recent events, such as Gulf coast hurricanes, our forest fires here and as highlighted in the “Lessons Learned in an Ice Storm” article, clearly show that 72 hours is just not enough. People should store at a minimum two weeks of emergency supplies, and one month is better. Water is going to be the bulkiest and heaviest item to store. Investing in a quality backpacker style water filter is cheap in a crises. Really, the difference between 72 hrs. and one month is not very much in terms of space taken up or expense, and becomes invaluable if/when it actually has to be relied upon in an emergency. Even if people evacuate to relatives or friends homes! during a crises, it’s so nice to be able to provide something toward your own support, it’s a huge morale boost at a time when it’s most needed.

Edward D. Dowdle
Show Low, AZ

Regarding the sulfer question; the reader wanted the repellent for himself, not his pets, so I don’t know about the dosage here.  But maybe he can figure it our from your amount for your dogs.  (what size dogs did you have?)

Yes, milk jugs do deteriorate, but I’ve kept them in my vehicles during the hottest summer (although not Arizona, but New Mexico’s high plains) and they’ve lasted a couple of years.  When they get beat up and flimsy I get new ones.  A couple of gallons of water will be better than a couple of liters because like I said, I’ve often had to use them for overheated radiators in a pinch, like when I’ve blown a hose, taped it up with duct tape and am limping to “civilization” and a garage.  I really haven’t had them go bad quickly, but maybe my jugs were “better”?

Yes, more emergency supplies are better, but most folks do well to have a 72 hour grab and git kit, just for “immediate” use.  Hopefully, they have more supplies at home.  I try to keep a two year supply on hand of most things and really, really hope that readers are still trying to keep at least a year’s worth on hand.  From these, you can run home, load up what you need and head out in a matter of a half an hour and get REALLY prepared for evacuation out of the area in case of fire, hurricane or whatever.

A 72 hour kit is meant to fit in a large backpack, and much more is just too heavy and bulky for most folks to lug over a great distance.

I totally agree on the water filter.  It is a very good addition to anyone’s emergency supplies.  But don’t forget that simply filtering water through a cloth and boiling it will render water drinkable too.  But a water filter is quicker and more handy. — Jackie

What to do with turnips? 

Jackie, I’m a long time fan. I’ve read your articles in BHM (and other publications) for years. I need some advice. I’ve got a BUMPER crop of purple top turnips and I have no idea what to do with them. Can you help? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thank You,

John Vansant
Kansas City, Missouri

Lucky you!  It seems to be a good year for root crops.  Turnips are easily stored in a cool corner of a dark basement.  Just pull them, cut off all but an inch of the tops and bring them inside.  (If you have a root cellar, better yet!)  Pile them in shallow piles, not over a few layers deep.  If they are mounded high, the bottom and center ones may try to heat and spoil, something like your compost pile.  Don’t wash them or cut off the roots.  They usually will store all winter and then some.

You can also can or dehydrate them with good success if you want to keep them even longer.  Despite the advice to the contrary in canning manuals, which refer to them as “strong tasting” when canned, I’ve found that they are perfectly fine.  I just don’t use the canning water to reheat them for eating, but instead use fresh water.  Turnips are preboiled 3 minutes, then packed into pint or half pint jars to within an inch of the top.  Ladle the cooking liquid over them to within an inch of the top of the jar and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure for 30 minutes.  Check your canning manual if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet for directions on adjusting your pressure.

Turnips are very versatile.  You can even grate them in salads; they taste kind of like cabbage.  You can eat them sliced or diced and boiled.  Or even mash them; think “potatoes”.  I use them in stews, pasties, soups, casseroles and other mixed dishes.  And I like them peeled, sliced raw.  They’re better than radishes!

Good luck with your bounty. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Ah! Evening and the work’s all done… (well kind of…)

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Even though our killing frost happened a couple of weeks ago, I’m still busy canning.  Some days, it’s a bit too busy.  For instance, two days ago I canned up spaghetti sauce, chili with dry kidney beans, carrots and left over canned from dry kidney beans.  Whew!  By the time I’d gotten Mom to bed, waited for the last batch of jars to cool down to zero in the canner, it was late late.

I’m not a night person, but sometimes, in the heat of canning season, they get that way.  And I’m kind of under pressure right now because I have all these baskets of tomatoes sitting on the floor of the new greenhouse ripening away pretty fast.  Every two days I’m doing a big batch of some tomato product, along with whatever else I need to get canned as well.

You remember the deer eaten rutabagas?  I canned those the same day I made another batch of spaghetti sauce.  Then my friends often call or drop by with their extras from the garden and I’m certainly not going to let their gifts go to waste.

And today, my sister Deb came to visit from Michigan bringing four big sacks of apples!  As our orchard is not yet bearing, I don’t have home raised apples, so I’ll be canning up these as well….besides what we eat fresh, of course!

But sometimes at late night, I’ll finally finish my last jars, throw a stick of wood into the kitchen stove and just stand there looking around the kitchen.  It’s usually messy, not finished (lacking cupboards yet), but cozy.  Restful.  A very satisfying feeling to carry off to bed.

The kitchen at night.

Readers’ questions:

Re-canning canned goods

We were recently given several # 10 cans of fruit and vegetables. Being a small family we would like to can the remainder after opening a can. Please tell us how to do this. Do we use the full time required to can the vegetables in the pressure canner, as if they were fresh? Thank you.

Pam Foster
Richfield, Minnesota

You can certainly re-can most #10 cans into smaller jars; I do it all the time when I can get them on a big sale.  For instance, I’ve bought  several for less than $1 each at surplus and fire damaged sales and re-canned them into more convenient sizes.  You can also dehydrate these cans, too.  This leaves the food less over-processed as a few foods tend to get when we re-can them.

Yes.  You do need to use the original time and directions for each food, as if you were canning fresh food.  Most often, you only need to reheat the food and pack it into hot jars, then seal and process.  You can also make convenience foods out of #`10 can contents, such as spahgetti sauce from tomato sauce/paste/puree, stew from mixed vegetables (along with meat or other fresh vegetables, as desired), and so on. Good eating! — Jackie

Curing bacon 

In a previous issue you answered a question from someone whose “bacon” tasted like fried pork. If curing the bacon is what gives it its distinctive taste, does that mean that other cuts of pork could
be cured to taste like bacon?
(I love lean bacon, but I’m not too fond of ham or pork. And there’s a feral pig I’d like to try my rifle on, but I don’t want to shoot it if I’m not going to eat it.)Thank you so much for your advice over the years! Thanks in part to your inspiration, this spring I finally took the plunge and bought 5 acres, complete with wild black raspberries, and my own trout stream!

Melanie Rehbein
Madison, WI

Congratulations on your new place!  That’s SO exciting!!!

Trust me: your own pork, even from a feral pig, smoked either at home or by a local small processor will taste SO MUCH better than store bought smoked pork that you won’t believe it.  When my oldest
stepdaughter got married, we butchered and smoked a whole hog and served that at the wedding reception.  The meat was awesome.

With home smoked (or meat smoked by a small processor) pork, it all tastes like lean bacon; hams, shoulders, the works.  Its drier than store ham, sweeter and a little more salty than the runny squishy
things they sell in most markets.

Go for it!  Just shoot the hog on a cool day and take care of the meat right away.  (But for heaven’s sake, make sure that pig IS feral and doesn’t belong to some neighbor.  Feuds have started with less than shooting someone else’s “wild” animal!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

One teeny tiny ball bearing (or the lack of it) can stop a bulldozer

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Perhaps you’ve heard the old rhyme that goes something like this:

“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of the horse, the man was lost. For want of the man, the battle was lost. All for the want of a nail.”

Well, in our case, it was a tiny 3/8″ steel ball bearing. And when we lost it awhile back, our bulldozer track couldn’t be tightened up and our new dozer came to be a temporary yard decoration.

The ball that stopped the bulldozer.

David’s been a busy guy lately, with football practice every night, games on Tuesdays and Thursdays, youth group at church on Wednesday (after football practice!). He’s even missed his first two fall
sessions of karate lessons. So between that and the rain, we didn’t get a chance to put in the tiny ball bearing until two days ago, between rain storms. It was simple; take off the cap screw, drop the ball in the hole, then pump grease into the tightening fitting. It WORKED!!!! Yeah. All right! So David just had to go use it. He went down and moved the big pile of sand and light gravel from a sand pit he’d discovered down by our horse pasture.

The sand and light gravel was a bonus; he was just clearing a flat spot for us to row up 16 big round bales to have handy for winter feeding for our horses. Now we have a small mountain of fill for some of the rocky potholes down our driveway. It was so much fun to watch that crawler working again! Thank you again, Nortrax of Duluth, for sending the bearing!!!!

You know, it’s kind of funny; when Bob and I moved to our first remote mountain cabin in Montana, just about everyone we knew warned us that if we lived “way up there”, David, just a few months old,
would grow up to be “shy and backward around people”. Yeah. Right. I’d hate to have him more outgoing; he’s everyone’s friend, involved in so many outside activities that sometimes I have to look at a recent picture to remember what he looks like. (Well, MAYBE that’s an exaggeration…..) So don’t
believe everything well meaning folks tell you about living in the backwoods with your young children!

Readers’ questions:

Re-canning ketchup

I was wondering if there is a way you can make ketchup from going bad with out refridgeration. Can I just add more vinagar to make it acidic, or do I have to re-can ketchup in smaller jars?

Adam Browne
Thunder Bay, Ontario

The best way to save large amounts of ketchup is to gently heat it and ladle it out into hot, sterile jars. Water bath process the pints or half pints for 10 minutes to ensure a seal. I’ve done this when I bought several #10 cans at a fire sale and discount store for $1 a can. That supply lasted us for years, reprocessed as above. — Jackie

Pressure canning shrimp

We are looking for a brine recipe so we can pressure cook shrimp. Any suggestions?

George Benedict
Golden, B.C.

I’m assuming that you’re planning to pressure can the shrimp? In that case, make your brine from 1 C salt, 1C vinegar and 1 gallon of water. Bring the brine to a boil in a large kettle. Boil shrimp in brine for 10 minutes. Dip shrimp out into cold water. Drain, peel, and remove vein. Rinse in cold water. Make a canning brine out of 1 gallon of water and 2 Tbsp salt. Bring brine to a boil. Add shrimp and bring back to a boil. Pack hot shrimp in pint or half pint jars ONLY, to within an inch of the top of the jars. Ladle hot brine over shrimp, leaving 1 inch headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Process jars for 45 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. (Check canning manual to see if your altitude requires any pressure adjustment for your altitude.) –Jackie

Canning peppers mistake

Jackie, as I was in the middle of canning sweet peppers, I ran out of cider vinegar and used some regular drinkable apple cider in its place. Is this an o.k. substitute?? I did add a small amout of white vinegar with it, but since I like my cherry peppers sweet, I figured it was close enough to the real thing. I heated the liquids together, with my peppers, as I normally would, and added a pinch of canning salt. Good idea, or not???

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, SC

NOT, NOT, NOT! No, you can nit substitute apple cider or cider vinegar. Before you go to can a recipe, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients. Sorry, but your peppers are not safe to eat; they are not acidic enough to keep them pickled safely. You would have been better off to refrigerate the peppers until you went out and bought more vinegar. OOPS. — Jackie

Freezer shelf-life for figs

How long do figs last in the freezer?

Jennifer Tilton
East Palatka, Florida

The recommended freezing time for figs is a year. They may last longer than that if very tightly packaged to prevent freezer burn. Freezer burn is from air seeping into the freezer package during storage and makes the food taste and smell nasty. — Jackie

Yellow jacket problem

Dear Jackie, Somehow some nasty yellow jackets have built a nest in my compost bin. They are very vicious and I cannot figure how to get rid of them. Since we have free and endless water supply, I let the garden hose water them for a week, but they are still there! I do not want to spray them with insecticide for fear of contaminating the compost. Any suggestions?

Bruce Clark
Interlaken, New York

You can try trapping them. A simple trap is to take half a can of pop and leave it near your compost pile. They love the sweet taste, go in and drown. This often gets the whole batch. If not, you can sprinkle a good dose of rotenone garden powder on their nest after dark when they aren’t so active. This usually does the trick and won’t hurt you or your garden next year. — Jackie

Thickening soup for canning

I would like to know if you can use instant potato’s to thicken potato soup for canning.

Beverly Gurley
Southfield, Michigan

You could use SOME instant potatoes, but canning manuals caution us not to make any recipe TOO thick as it can affect the time for safe processing of that food. You don’t want it to be like the “concentrates” sold as “cream of potato”, etc. in the stores. But a little bit to make it less watery is fine. Then if you want it thicker later on, you can always add more or else a butter/flour/milk white sauce to thicken it and add additional taste. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Do you ever hear those little voices??

Saturday, October 6th, 2007

No.  I’m not going nuts.  I’m talking about that inner voice….or is it an angel whispering in my ear?  Like two nights ago.  I saw that the wind storm we’d had blew a small tree on the upper part of my garden fence as I dug carrots.  “You’d better fix that fence….”  But I swept that voice away.  Not enough time.  I’m too busy.  The deer won’t jump the fence now that most of the garden has been harvested.  “You’d better fix the fence….”

Yeah, the garden had pretty much been harvested.  Except my huge rutabagas, a row of parsnips and some assorted onions.

I didn’t fix the fence.

Then yesterday I went down to finish up the carrots and there was a partially chewed onion between the two rows of closely planted carrots.  It wasn’t there yesterday….  I glanced at the ground.  It was covered with fresh deer tracks!  Oh crap!
It was about then that rutabagas came to mind and I glanced over to where the row was.  Now the leaves were as tall as my waist and some of the ‘bagies were the size of a soccer ball.  What?  I saw NO leaves.  And I remembered the voice.

I walked over to the rutabaga patch and there were no leaves, only glimmering white….  Yeah.  The white was rutabaga flesh where Bambi had gone down the row and chewed vigorously on each and every one.  There had to be several deer because just one couldn’t have eaten that much!  I should have pulled them a week ago.

I should have listened to the voice.

Rutabagas eaten by deerThose rutabagas would not store over winter, chewed on like they were.  So to save them, I spent the afternoon canning rutabagas.  Although canning manuals say that rutabagas become strong tasting and darken in storage, I haven’t found them to do this.  I do pour off the canning water when I heat them to use, heating them in fresh water.  But I hadn’t planned on canning them at all.  Oh well.

By the way, I did fix the fence.  I still have a few carrots, that row of parsnips and some onions.  And Bambi and friends would eat every one.  At least I have the satisfaction of knowing we’ll harvest at least one very well fed, rutabaga flavored deer this hunting season!

Readers’ questions:

Spaghetti sauce with romano cheese, vodka, cream

My spaghetti sauce has aged romano cheese in it. Can I can the recipe? And my spaghetti sauce with vodka and heavy cream — may I can it or will I kill my family?

Janet Longo
Round Lake Beach, Illinois

If I were you, I’d just make a plain spaghetti sauce, then add your romano, vodka or cream just before you make your batch of spaghetti.  I have canned cheese, but never a mixture containing cheese.  I have canned different products containing milk or cream and have not been happy with the results; they tend to appear “curdled”, which looks unappetizing to say the least.  Yep, I’d make the plain sauce, then tweak it as you are getting ready to use it.  I think you’ll be happier with the result.  — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Minnesota’s two seasons: winter and getting ready for winter!

Monday, October 1st, 2007

048-copy-jpg.jpg It’s been said that in Minnesota we have just two seasons, winter and getting ready for winter.  We smirk when we hear that, but it’s kind of true, especially for us who live in the backwoods.  When you have livestock, plow a mile + driveway, heat and cook largely with wood, have orchards, plants and fruits to protect, you really need to start preparations way before cold winter hits.

For us, planning starts at spring breakup but the hurry scurry of actually doing a lot of this happens this time of year.  We’ve actually had two snowfalls already, although neither of them stayed on the ground.  But it’s definitely coming.  All too soon.

So the serious business of getting ready is going on daily here.  I’ve got to build an insulated short well house, covering our well casing; we’ve had frozen water because the cold went down the steel, freezing the water line, 8′ down the pipe two years running now.  THIS year we will have an insulated covering over it.  And I’m also planning on pulling the water line and drilling a weep hole in the pipe, below the pitless adapter, which is an L going toward the house through the steel casing.  This will let the water run out of the pipe after the pump has been turned off.  I haven’t done this yet as we’ve needed maximum water pressure to water the gardens, but now the gardens are pretty much done and I really do not want to face another session of frozen water line!

Being off grid and having a buried water line over 100′ long, having a heat tape or leaving the water just trickling all the time won’t work here.  We only turn the well on twice daily in the winter to help prevent freezing, water the livestock and fill our 350 gallon poly tank in the basement.  Here’s hoping!

We’re splitting dry firewood in earnest now, too.  I’ll be filling up the porch part of our new greenhouse/porch with the wood to keep our wood kitchen range nice and cozy all winter and having DRY firewood right out the back door is definitely a plus.  I don’t like wading through deep snow during a blizzard to bring in armfulls of snowy, wet wood.  Oh no.  Been there; done that.  No thank you!!!

And soon we’ll be stacking up winter hay that has already been bought but is sitting high and dry at two farms.  The square bales for the goats will be stacked up and tarped like we did last winter, to use when the snow gets deep.  The big round bales will be rowed up down in the horse pasture for self feeding.  (The deer really like that arrangement!  But oh well, they’re livestock we don’t have to house or shovel poop for.)

I’m bringing in a few flowers for our new winter greenhouse; begonias, a geranium, a planter of fancy hens and chicks and a few of my nice petunia hanging baskets that I just can’t let die….just for color.

Daily, I’m picking up tools and taking them into the generator shed.  If you don’t you won’t see them until April of next year!  The hoses go into the basement; you never know when you’ll need an unfrozen hose for fire fighting or (shudder) running water from the well or the truck water tank if the water line freezes.

The chicken coop is nearly weather tight and insulated, but I’ve got to work on the roof of the donkey/goat shed.  One side is finished; the other is crap.  Have the material; don’t have the time or help.  I can’t leave Mom alone too long and David is not only in school but is playing football, with practice every night and two games a week….then there’s karate and youth group at church on Wed nights….  David?  David who????  Oh well, it’ll get done one of these days.  I’ve learned not to get nuts about these things.  Most of the time….

The geese are calling and we pause to watch flock after flock sail down onto our ponds every evening and fly off again in the morning mist.  They know too and feel the need.  Hurry!  Hurry!  they call.  I feel like calling with them.  I know!  I know!

Readers’ questions:

Kosher pickles turning blue

I’m canning kosher pickles. My garlic is turning a bit blue. I didn’t have enough white vinegar, so I added the rest with cider vinegar. I’ve canned pickles before with just cider vinegar. Do you know why this happened?

Michelle DePietro
Valley Spring, Caliornia

This happens because of natural chemicals in the water, vinegar or garlic itself.  Some folks have remedied this by using distilled water for pickling.  Personally I just don’t worry about it as it doesn’t affect the taste of the pickles.  But if it does bother you or if it gets real bad, you might consider this.  Blue garlic?  Kind of cool, I think!  — Jackie


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