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Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for November, 2007

Jackie Clay

Reader’s Question: Mother of vinegar and goat milk

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Hi Jackie. Two more questions that I am sure you know the answer to. 1. when I get to the bottom of my cider vinegar, the “mother” is there waiting for something, but I don’t know what. Is there some use for it? or do I just throw it away? 2. the receipe for pumkin pie calls for evapo milk. I am running over with goats milk and hate to go buy inferiour canned stuff. Can I just use whole milk , maybe with part cream instead of evapo ? Thanks a bunch.

Gail Erman
Palisade, CO

There are many various health claims about how beneficial nibbling on bits of the mother of vinegar is for you; I really don’t buy into that.  Not that I think it’s bad for you, but a lot of claims are over-rated.  To sell a product, usually.  Unless you’re going to make your own vinegar, I’d just add the mother to the compost pile.  If you want to try making your own cider vinegar, you can use a bit of the mother to “start” your new vinegar because it contains the correct yeasts and bacteria to acidify your “hard cider”, making it turn into vinegar.

Yes, you can use goat milk in place of evaporated milk.  I just use a little less or add one more egg to ensure that the filling sets up nice and firm; you don’t want soup!  I hardly ever use evaporated milk, but most folks don’t have their own dairy animals.  Unfortunately.  There’s something about eating a Thanksgiving meal where where nearly everything on the feast table has been raised on your own homestead.  You can’t buy that.  For any price!

Jackie Clay

We made another giant step yesterday

Monday, November 26th, 2007

First of all, I hope you all had as good a Thanksgiving as we did.  The weather was perfect, sunny and not windy.  While my sister, Sue and her son, Sean didn’t get to come up north for the holiday because she had the flu, my son Bill and his wife, Kelly were here to help us celebrate in style.
As usual, I cooked too much and we all ate way plenty; so much that we had to wait two hours for pie!  Groan.

But I got a huge surprise.  While I was putting the finishing touches on dinner, Bill went out and came back in lugging tools and wire.  He wanted to hook up our battery bank.  WOW!  With David to help him, Bill set about mounting a switch to change use from the battery bank to the generator when it came on, automatically, then making cables to hook the four big deep cycle batteries together.  It was so exciting.  I couldn’t help, as I was doing dinner, but I kept listening to the work downstairs through our floor register.

Our new battery bank, inverter; old 12 volt water pump on wall to left, next to storage tank

As it used to be, when we wanted to use anything electric; lights, the computer, watch a movie or run the fish tank filters, the generator had to be on.  It didn’t use to be such a problem, but with the price of gas continuing to spiral out of control and with me taking care of Mom, we use MORE lights.  It isn’t very self reliant when you spend $300 a month for gas for electricity!

Eventually, we will run total solar and wind power, but we can’t afford it at one whack, so to cut down on the cost, we’re starting small; with four batteries, a 2,500 watt inverter (changes battery 12 volt power to household current), the power switch and soon to be hooked up, our two small solar panels.

When we got through last night, we were running our lights, David’s TV & video games and the water pump from our storage tank in the basement totally on the batteries.  It seemed so strange to NOT hear the generator run and still have the lights on!!!

We’re still kind of working the bugs out of the system; we’d gotten lazy about things like turning off the lights (with the generator on, what the heck?), phantom loads (unpluging the TV when you’re finished, not just pushing the off button, cause it’s still ON!), etc.  But we’re all very excited about taking this huge step toward self reliance.  It will cut our generator useage by at least half, probably more and it sure spurs us on to think of more ways to save money and depend on gas even less.

Thankful?  You betcha!  Oh yeah!  Now if we can find some really cheap solar panels……Mmmmmm.

Jackie Clay

Reader’s Question: Why Minnesota?

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Just wondering why you decided on Minnesota to homestead in? Thanks! Appreciate your wisdom & learn MUCH from your writings… Thanks!

Jul Amidon
Brimson, Minnesota

There were lots of reasons we decided on Minnesota when we were looking for a new homestead. First of all, two of my adult children live here, one down by Sturgeon Lake, and another by Hager City, Wisconsin, just across the border. My sister, Sue, also lives in Hermantown, near Duluth. Then I had lived here before and both my late husband, Bob, and I liked the state. We also loved Montana, but land there had gotten WAY beyond our prices! WAY BEYOND, for any amount of good homesteading land.

When we looked here, land was much cheaper, a lot of it with water on it.

In addition, we love the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Area, just northeast of us, as well as the thousands of other lakes and rivers that are canoe-friendly.

We wanted wild land with remoteness and critters. Here we have deer, bear, wolves, fishers, otter, beaver and even an occasional moose or cougar.

So we found 80 acres with a creek and two beaver ponds, big woods and 25 acres that had been clear cut about 15 years ago, growing up to popple and pines.  It had a gravel ridge to build on, and also some benches that made gardens and horse pastures.  All in all, it’s working out very nicely.  Glad we’re here.

Jackie Clay

Reader’s Question: Green chicken meat

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Hi Jackie!
Love your column! Here’s my question: Have you ever found GREEN meat in your roast chicken? If so – do you throw the whole bird out – or just pick out the green meat. I understand that the bones can make the meat dark or brown – but what’s up with green? I’ve had it happen twice in homegrown organic birds and two of my friends have had it happen.


Mindy Wickham
Richville, NY

I can’t say that I’ve every had green meat on my roast chicken.  It’s probably only a chemical reaction of some kind, natural in nature, sort of like how ham slices get a fluorescent sheen to them sometime.  I wouldn’t throw out the roast chicken, but just pick the green out.  I’m sure you know what the bird had eaten and it wasn’t a chemical picked up in the feed.  One tip:  sometimes overcooking poultry makes ugly colors next to the bones; try roasting a little shorter time and see if that helps. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Winter’s coming and we’re working like mad of the pheasant pen

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Today was lovely; sunny, breezy and nearly 45 degrees outside.  So after splitting up a wheelbarrow load of firewood and carrying that in and hauling another load of donkey/goat manure out onto the garden, I resumed working on our new pheasant pen for David’s new fancy pheasants our friends are giving him.  It’s taking a long time because we needed a tight, strong outer fence (old kennel panels from the dog yard), a tight shelter, which is their shed, and three separate pens, one for each breed of pheasant.  The rooster pheasants will fight and sometimes kill each other, so they need to be in different pens.

Not only can pheasants fly, but owls will swoop down at night and pluck any pheasants roosting outside up and eat them.  So the pens also need tops!  Then there are the inside individual pens and gates…..lots of gates.  And a door from the goat barn into the pheasant barn.  Whew!  Lots of building for three pairs of birds!

Luckily, I was able to recycle the last clear Filon left over from our old greenhouse for the roof, 2″x4″s and windows from the dump and a few treated timbers from our old greenhouse.  The building is only 6’x13′, but it’s been kind of a fussy thing to put together.

David leveling the new pheasant yard

Tonight after David got out of school, he hopped on the bulldozer and graded their yard before we fenced it.  There was a huge old stump in it, and a bunch of big rocks.  He dug up the stump and shoved it over the hill and buried it.  Then he filled the hole with rocks and graded the whole pen area nice and flat.  Tomorrow I’ll hook all the fence together and pound down the posts we’ll need for the cross fencing.  It’s going to get cold soon, and the ground will be freezing.

Up here in the north, you have to think of these things, for once the ground freezes, you won’t be pounding or digging posts in any more till spring.

We’re also hauling wood in like mad, carefully protecting the floor and log wall in our new porch from the beating dumping firewood on it can give.  Luckily there’s enough old OSB pieces lying around to do the job.  After all that work staining I do not want my beautiful floor and wall dinged up!  Oh no!  This time of the year I feel like having David play hooky from school to help get in the wood, but of course, I won’t.  But one can’t help feel a bit pressured this time of the year, here in the northern backwoods.

Jackie Clay

Reader’s Question: Storing Cream of Wheat

Monday, November 19th, 2007

cream of wheat… can you put in in jars to keep it longer than the experation date? or a plastic container? or will it go wormy? how long does it last?

suzette stuter
reedsville, pa

Yes, you can store Cream of Wheat in jars and it will keep a long time.  I don’t like plastic because some plastics will leach odor and taste into foods.  Also, mice can and will chew through plastic to get at the food inside.  I’ve had that happen and I wasn’t very happy about it!  I’ve had it last for longer than 2 years.  Usually the only thing that will make it go “bad” is if it gets rancid.  This doesn’t hurt you but it will smell and taste bad. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Reader’s Question: Jams and jellies

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

I am 56 years old and started canning for about a year. And I like to can jams and jellies do you have any good ones?

Russell Miller
Belmont, OH

Boy Russell, that’s a tough one.  I can up a whole lot of different jams and jellies, as well as preserves and conserves.  (Preserves usually have a lot more fruit in them and conserves often have nuts and raisins added.)  I really don’t have a favorite, although my new cherry/chipotle/almond jelly is sure good.

To make that one, you just follow the cherry jelly (or jam!) recipe, but when you boil the juice, you throw in a few halved, seeded jalepeno peppers or dry smoked jalepenos (chipotles) to flavor the juice as hot as you wish.  Then just before you ladle the jelly into the jars, add a teaspoon of almond extract.  This is awfully good.  And different too.

Most of my jellies and jams are made from recipes inside the Sure-Jell box or are from the Ball Blue Book.  I do “tweak” them, mixing fruits and juices.  But you do have to watch it there because some fruits have more natural pectin in them and you have to choose mixtures with like pectin to ensure that they will set well.

Of course you can make jams and jellies without added pectin, but with the pectin, you will end up with more jelly per batch and have much less cooking down involved. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Is it manure, or is it garden gold?

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

We got our goat pens cleaned down to gravel earlier this fall, after not being cleaned out since a year ago. But our donkey pen/old birthing pen/buck pen hadn’t been cleaned out yet and there was this mountain on the east end. It’s been snowing and getting colder at night; down to the teens. We know that pretty soon even the rotted manure in the barn will freeze and we’ll all be stuck with it all winter. Not a nice thought.

But having David in school all day, then with sports and activities, he is not able to help much. And Mom, being 91 and in a wheelchair, requires me inside most of the day; I can’t leave her alone for over 15 minutes, so I’m back and forth, back and forth on my bad knee.

The donkeys don’t know what to think with a clean pen.

Last night I had this great idea. We have a light in the goat/donkey barn, so maybe after Mom is in bed, I could go out and shovel manure. It’s a little wierd hauling manure by ATV light, but hey, it’s working! I hauled three loads out last night and another two tonight, after having David to help me a little before that.

The mountain is down, nearly to gravel and best yet, the manure is pretty nicely spread on the garden. We haul it in a garden trailer that has a removable tailgate and dumps. So I drive it out onto the section I’m going to spread manure on, remove the tailgate and pull the dump lever. The I hop on the ATV and give it a sudden start, which initiates the manure falling out onto the ground. With luck, it continues spreading pretty evenly until it’s empty.

The manure is mostly well rotted bedding/manure mixed and will be a great addition to our new garden. (Remember how I had two foot high corn because of lack of fertility on one side?) That won’t happen again!

So if you’re flying over and see an erratic light moving about in our garden at night, it’s not drug runners. It’s just me spreading manure when I can. Sort of the reverse of “make hay while the sun shines…..”.


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