Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns
Archive for March, 2008
Saturday, March 29th, 2008
Okay, after months of doing this and that to my computer, having a repairman out, talking to the BHM’s computer guru and getting nowhere, we finally had the Hughes Net guy out and he put me on a different sattelite because the computer was so slow that the photos wouldn’t attach to my blog in less than 15 minutes…if at all. What a pain!!! But tonight I did three photos in less than 2 minutes! Horray!
AND two days ago, our four year old doe, Velvet, kidded. I was hoping for a doe kid because I lost a doe last year and really need more milking does. Our old Nubian/Boer doe has a poor udder and fights with mastitis every year, so I need to have youngsters in the wings for when she is done producing for us.
It was warm at chore time and I have Velvet in the new birthing stall. I watered her and she wouldn’t drink. Oh oh, I thought, she’s going to kid tonight…and it was going to get real cold; zero! Without electricity, I have no heat lamp and was worried. But by the time I got her grain and hay, there was a little brown and white kid lying on the straw! Now I’m talking about maybe three minutes here and she wasn’t even straining! That’s fast.
And in less time than it takes to type it, she delivered two more kids, a brown and black one and another huge multi-colored tyke. As I quickly dried them all off, I checked their sex (of course!). The first was a doe! Wow, the second was a doe, too. Holy mackerel, the third was a doe, too!!! Now to keep them alive over the cold night. So after they were cleaned up, I carried all three into the house and put them on towels in the bathtub…my not so fancy goat kid pen. Hey, it works!
As newborn kids often won’t nurse a bottle, I tube fed all three with warm colostrum. In the morning all three were baaing for breakfast. So I took them out to Velvet, hoping she’d recognize and take care of them. She did. All ate well. It warmed up, so I left them out there all day with her. But I brought them back in at night because it was again going near zero.
But now, two days later, the weather’s warmed up a lot and they’re doing fine. And David and I can again use the shower.
We’re spending a lot of time in the barn these days, playing with our new goats and the other critters too, especially our little Friesian, Ladyhawk. Oh, she’s already trained to ride; a rooster flew off the rafters and landed on her back. He spent ten minutes sitting there while she walked around, unconcerned, looking at the new kids next door. We just laughed and wished we had the camera!
When do I plant Hopi Pale Grey squash?
I need to know when and how to plant hopi pale grey squash.And can I plant them as a early and late crop here in the southeast where we have very long growing seasons?I realy like your blog.I hope you get to enjoy lady hawk.She is a beauty in the picture.Thanks for all the advice.
Varnville, South Carolina
Plant your Hopi Pale Grey squash at the same time you’d plant any other winter squash; they are about a 100 day squash, but if you have a longer season, they’ll continue to pump out the squash for a long time. In New Mexico, we’d get a wheelbarrow full of sqush from every plant and the plants would run 20′ or more, clear into our blue corn patch and we’d have squash hanging from the stalks, come frost.
I’m already in love with Ladyhawk. She is simply the sweetest, smartest horse I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had a whole lot of them. — Jackie
Do not can meat in vacuum bags!!
Can you "can" meats in these new vacume sealed bags. I’m planning a very long hike and I would like to take meat that has been cooked and preserved in its own juice. I have seen pot roast dinners by "Hormel" in what appear to be aluminum pouches. I prefer to use my own meat. and limit salt and other chemicals used by main stream meat producers.
Sorry, but no. You cannot "can" meat or anything else requiring processing, in vaccum bags. You probably don’t want to know what the big companies do to get the food to stay edible in the on-the-shelf foods….. Your best bet is to dehydrate vegetables and buy some freeze dried meat to add to dry foods along the way. While you can dehydrate meat yourself, the freeze dried meat is really better tasting and worth the money in the long run; you don’t use much. — Jackie
Stove won’t bring canner up to tempeature
Your new filly is adorable – congratulations on both of the new babies.
I’ve followed your columns for years and finally was able to buy my handy dandy All American Pressure Canner – just before Christmas my electric stove blew up and my son bought me a new one (with the flat glass top) – herein is the problem. Tried to use the canner on top of it and it won’t even come up to pressure. After reading all the directions I now find out that it isn’t recommended to use the glass top stoves. Swell. Now what? Too late to trade the stove back and I live in a townhouse and am really eager to try all your great recipes. Have my pantry pretty well stocked with canned goods, but really want ‘mine’.
Here’s an easy and pretty cheap remedy; buy a two-burner propane stove. These are advertised in catalogs such as Harbor Freight and Northern Tool, as well as sold in many sporting departments. I’m not talking about a Coleman camp stove but a sturdier, more substantial stovetop you can sit on a counter, picnic table or whatever. It is fueled by a small propane tank like you use for a grill. My grandmother used to can on one in our basement, and one of my first memories was of Mom and Grandma canning peaches down in the cool basement on that old propane stove. — Jackie
Canner brand preference?
First and foremost, I want you to know that I have such a deep respect and admiration for you and everything you have accomplished. I check almost everyday to see if you’ve put something in your blog. Love your advise and knowledge. Thank you for sharing, when I know how busy you are. That being said, I recently inherited a 30+ acre farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s my family farm and my 2 brothers & their families live on the other 70 acres. I am not living there full time yet, but will soon. I am saving for a new pressure canner and have been looking at the Lehman’s brand. The prices are usually consistent .. about $200 for the size I want at Lehman’s and other sites. Do you have a preference for a brand name? Since I will be "very new" to canning, I’ve decided to buy new, rather than try to find something used. I’ll soon be turning 61, so I’m getting a late start, but with your
great advise and Backwoods Home articles, I’m feeling pretty good about t!he move. In advance, thank you so much for a suggestion on the canner. I look forward to many more enjoyable articles from you and others at Backwoods Home. God bless you and your family. (P.S. Good luck with the new man in your life!)
Thank you for the kind words! And congratulations on your new farm!!! No, I don’t have a preference, as to a canner brand, although I do like the ones that are steel on steel, with no gasket, simply because sooner or later you’ll have to replace the rubber gasket when it gets hard and brittle. But that’s really not such a big deal, as they last for years and years. Whatever one you choose, you’ll be happy with it. I promise. There’s no such thing as a late start! Some people NEVER start, and that’s sad. All the best on your move, and let me know if you have any questions along the way. — Jackie
Lots of extra milk
I’m able to get my hands on extra gallons of milk from my grocery store, since I receive WIC coupons. Since milk is so outrageous in price, and I’d hate not to get use out of my WIC benefit, I’d rather recan the store milk for other uses. Since my family can’t drink it that fast, and my freezer is at maximum, could you please let me know how to reprocess it for canning, with pressure and time.
Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Sure thing, but have you considered making cheese, cottage cheese, ice cream or yogurt from this extra milk? All of these things are easy to make and real tasty to boot.
To can milk, simply heat it gently, then pour into hot, sterilized quart jars. You can water bath process it for 60 minutes or pressure can it at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions) for 10 minutes. That’s it!
Canned milk isn’t like fresh milk, rather more like evaporated milk, but it’s great for all types of cooking and can sure be whipped up to drink, especially if you add chocolate mix to it! — Jackie
Peeling hard boiled eggs
Why can’t I peel my hard boiled eggs? We have five hens and enjoy hard boiled eggs ocasionaly but our shells come off in small pieces and tear the white. I have let them age in the referigator for up to three weeks with no better result’s. What is different about store
You can’t peel your hard boiled eggs because they are too fresh! Store eggs are over a month old before you even see them. The best way I’ve found to boil fresh eggs is to put a tablespoon full of vinegar into your sauce pan and bring it to a boil. Then slip in the eggs. When they are done, pour off the water. Then toss them a bit, like popcorn, cracking the shells. Pour cold water on them, drain and repeat until the eggs are cool, then let them sit in the cold water for an hour. Then they’ll peel quite well. — Jackie
I just discoverd the Backwoods Magazine last week and I really like your articles. I just did my fist test batch of canning today, hamburger, steak, and the left over broth. We’ll see in a week or so. So far everything looks good. I was surprised to see you moved to Minnesota the stories I had read only mentioned your Canada ordeal and living in Montana. I live in a small town in southern Minnesota called Ellendale (pop. 600). I’m sorry to here of your loss. But happy that you may have found someone new. My wife and I are trying gardening this year in pots, beans, carrots, cuc’s, and tomatoes. All to can. We are almost debt free (- house payment and truck). We would like a homestaed but lack the funds at present, both work at Mystic Lake Casino ( and I like my job security supervisor). So I am trying to do the best were we are. One of the reason for the canning and garden are because of the high gas prices (we spend 1200.00$ a month on gas for the cars and the last 2 months the gas bill for the house was over 400.00$). I would Love to see your homestead. Any suggestion for homesteading in a small town you have for me would be great.an.
Ellendale , Minnesota
You can "homestead" wherever you are, even if you don’t really have a homestead. Well, kind of. You can grow and can up your own food. Even if you can’t grow all of it, or even most of it, you can find alternatives. Local growers, farmers markets and even sales at local stores will give you plenty of food to can up for your pantry. This not only saves you a ton of money but allows you to have a say in what is in your food. I only put spices and salt in my canned goods (sometimes!), not chemicals you can’t even pronounce!
Working toward being debt free is a huge step down the homesteading path. You can’t be self reliant if a mega giant is hovering over your head, ready to snatch away your security.
The term "homesteading" has come to mean being as self reliant as possible, not living on a remote rugged piece of land. Of course you CAN also homestead on that rugged piece of land!
The best of luck. — Jackie
Wednesday, March 26th, 2008
Take a look at our tom turkey! He’s been strutting up a storm, thruming his wings so he makes a roaring sound as he dances for the hens. Even the ducks are nodding and bowing, getting ready to breed and nest. We have a lot of fun watching all that activity in the barnyard right now. Our old Tom is half wild turkey and can fly like his wild parent. Where the hens roost on the straw in the barn, Tom flies up to the rafters, eight feet high. But you don’t want to be standing in his landing strip when he comes off the roost in the morning! One day I opened the barn doors and he flew down, hitting me in the chest. I ended up on my back, wondering why I keep turkeys. He weighs over 20 pounds and with all that momentum, he really hits hard. I learned to open the doors then go do something else until he is on the GROUND.
Today I canned up the leftover Canadian bacon I had roasted for Easter dinner, complete with the pineapple and cherries. I just baked it again until it was very hot, then quickly cut it to fit into hot wide mouth jars, poured hot juice over it and processed for 90 minutes because I did two quarts and three pints. All sealed and look oh so good. That’s at least five more meals out of the two two pound pieces of Canadian bacon I got for $1.99 a pound. No fat, no gristle and no waste. Best of all, we had a lucious dinner and plenty of leftovers.
I’m canning all the meat I can because in a few months I predict that the price of meat will go sky high. Both grain prices and fuel prices are outrageous and that will soon affect the prices of ALL agricultural products. We’re trying to figure out housing for a couple butcher pigs and a steer calf; they’re cheap now, but that’s only relatively temporary. Then they’ll go way high for quite awhile.
We hope to raise a batch of young turkeys this year, along with the 25 meat chickens I ordered with my friend, Jeri. Now if our turkeys will just cooperate!
Vegetable garden fencing
We are preparing our vegetable garden out here in the Colorado plains. It’s 50′ x 150′ divided up into 3 long strips similar to John Silveira’s dad’s garden in the chickens book. The coop is not yet built, that’s next years project. I want to fence it in to keep out the numerous gophers and rabbits around here. I know to concrete in my corner posts, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get the fencing to extend below the ground, to keep out burrowers like I’ve read in my gardening books. They say to fence 18" below the ground. Unless I submerge my concrete below the ground that much too, how do I stop the burrowers?
IF it is reasonably possible, it’s best to bury 1" chicken wire 18" below ground to keep out diggers. The best way to do this in a large garden is to rent or borrow a trencher and use that to dig your trench for the wire. A DitchWitch type trencher is quick and easy to use, UNLESS you have lots of rocks. You CAN do it by hand, but I’ve never found that it was worth it. I’ve lived where there were lots and lots of rabbits and gophers, and really didn’t have trouble with them digging under the fence. I used chicken wire all the way to the ground, then made sure it was turned toward the outside of the garden a few inches. This "skirt" I buried with soil and rocks. I didn’t have anyone dig underneath.
There’s always a BEST way to do something, then there’s reality. Of course the more you do the best way, the less headaches you’ll have later on down the road. But sometimes it just isn’t real to do it the way folks do where the soil is nice and loose; easy digging. — Jackie
Should I move to the wilderness?
I’m a single mom of 2 children and I’m tired of living in town. I’ve alway wanted to live a wilderness life style and my question is "Is it unrealalistic for me to want to take my children and move to the wildrness when I don’t really know anything about the wildrness?" I feel a conection when I’m in the woods or when no ones around. I really want that conection with the wilderness and I want my
children to have that same kind of conection as well!
I guess it all depends on the level of "wilderness" you’re talking about. I would hesitate to recommend that ANYONE who is totally unfamiliar with wilderness skills and living to pull up stakes and move to, say, interior Alaska, to a fly-in-only wilderness homestead. It has certainly been done with success, but the chances of a dream come true experience are much less than if the person had a lot of experience doing for themselves.
How about a compromise? Or perhaps your idea of "wilderness" is less wild than mine, which it could certainly be? You can find some pretty wild country that is still accessible by four wheel drive, on a maintained dirt road. Whether you choose on or off grid could still be quite flexible here. We live in the middle of big woods, hear wolves howling at night and regurlarly see lynx, bears, wolves, fishers, deer and an occasional moose. You see the stars at night, the northern lights and huge moonrises. There are no traffic sounds, sirens, neighbors or a paved road past our house…or any road, for that matter.
But in reality, it is not my idea of "wilderness". We have a mile + long two track dirt trail for a driveway. However when we get out that, there is a blacktop road. People live a mile from us. Not wilderness wilderness, but we knew we would probably be taking care of Mom and Dad and knew we had to have a place accessible to them for medical reasons. So it is wild enough to satisfy the need for wilderness, but it is also realistically do-able in our situation.
Perhaps something like this would work for you and your children. Wild country calls to a lot of us, and there is definitely a good life out there! The very best of luck in finding it.
In the meantime, how about learning some wilderness skills? Wood gathering, splitting, gardening, driving in backroad/off road conditions, building a wood fire, maintaining a chain saw, raising chickens, digging fence posts, etc. If you are in town, offer your labor in exchange for the learning experiences in an add in a local shopper that reaches rural areas. Read all you can and build up a library of how-to books.
Read and subscribe to Countryside Magazine, as a companion to Backwoods Home Magazine. It tells of real-life stories from many people who have done just what you are talking about; their successes and failures and what could have been done differently. It will inspire your dream. — Jackie
Forget the caponizing
I am ordering some Jumbo Cornish X Rocks from McMurray. I love having chicken in my freezer! Anyway, it says I should have the males "caponized" at 2-3 weeks.
Can I do this myself? I’m pretty tough as long as it’s not my OWN blood I’m looking at. Is it hard? How do I do it? I see a caponizing kit they sell, is it worth it? Or should I just let them go like all the other roosters I’ve had and not worry about it?
Thanks and have a wonderful spring! Your new filly is lovely.
Forget the caponizing. It just isn’t worth it. It’s not that hard to do, but those Cornish Rock meat birds get plenty big enough without it. Too much fooling around and there always IS a chance of losing one or two. Caponizing was popular in "the old days" when chickens just didn’t get as big and meaty as the current hybrids do. Heck, mine were as big as small turkeys, especially in the breast department! Save your time and energy…not to mention money.
I’m really, really enjoying my new filly! She is SO level-headed and people oriented. And today she was able to go into the donkey yard with them all day. Yesterday my young jack, Moose, kept trying to pin her in a corner and kick her. Today she kicked back and that was that. Not buddies yet, but they tolerate each other! — Jackie
Friday, March 21st, 2008
Well, today our friend and neighbor, Jerry Yourczeck, drove his truck and trailer down to my son, Bill’s place with me, to pick up the Friesian filly I’ve been paying on all winter. I was excited; it was the first time I’ve bought a horse in over 18 years. And Ladyhawk was kind of "you’ve survived cancer" treat to myself.
Her breeder and her husband drove her up from Gays Mills, Wisconsin and we met at Bill and Kelly’s so neither of us had to drive overly far.
It was love at first sight. Her pictures weren’t lying. She’s gorgeous! And on her lower legs were the start of the fine wavy feathering that is the trademark of the Friesian horse.
She was calm and cooperative, hauled well and we got her home in fine shape. You should have seen our donkeys, Moose and Beauty! They wondered what the heck I’d brought home. They were afraid of her, even though she’s smaller than they are. But in a few days they’ll all be buddies.
I even got to visit my newest grandson, Mason, while I was there. He’s growing so fast and is oh too cute! What a smile! I had a great day, even though it was over too fast.
Now I’ve got a new baby in our barn to play with. Not as cute as Mason, but gorgeous nevertheless!!
Finding bush berries
You have mentioned in your writings about bush cherries. I am having a hard time finding a
source to buy them .Can you reccomend one?
West Plains, Missouri
Several mail order nurseries carry Hansen’s bush cherries and Nanking cherries. Jungs has the Hansen’s bush cherries. These are very good for jams and jellies and not too bad to eat out of hand, but they are stretching it when they say "good for pies". I’m sure not going to pit all those small cherries!!!! The bushes are very beautiful in full bloom in the spring, so they also make a great edible landscaping shrub. — Jackie
Starting with food storage
I have been digging through the Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide, and it is the
best, realistic book on this topic that I have found. The sections on food preparation are excellent, and it is apparent that as you are preparing for an emergency, you are also eating better, healthier food! Where is the best place to start with food storage? Should I try canning first, or food dehydrating? Any thoughts on the best place to start? I hope that within the next year I can do some of both!
The best place to start is anywhere, anything. The best time? NOW! Pick up foods that are good storage candidates, when they come on sale every time you grocery shop. Just a few extras every time, and you’ll soon be on your way to a fat pantry. Then, as you get the time, begin canning and dehydrating the "easy" foods, fruits, green beans, etc. Once you find out how easy and fun it is….not to mention how good the foods are….you’ll get hooked. It happens to most everyone who tries it! I often can AND dehydrate the same foods I’m processing. I’ll do up a big batch of green beans, for instance, canning what will fit into my canner, then dehydrate the rest. That way I have lots of each. I promise you’ll love it and the secure feeling it gives you! — Jackie
I’ve spent several days looking through your blog and Canning 101. I love the articles you write for BHM! I’m excited about canning some of the dry beans I have from this past issue. The question I have is dill pickles. I love them, but mine are terrible! Mushy and yucky. All the canning books say that you have to boiling water bath them, that seems ridiculous since they sit in vinegar. Are yours processed this way? Any suggestions?
Yes, I water bath my dill pickles. BUT I do it for only 10 minutes, usually, and DO NOT boil them before I pack them into the jars. The more you boil a cucumber, the softer it gets. DUH! With my sliced pickles, I only bring them TO a boil, then quickly pack them and water bath them for 10 minutes, working very quickly so they don’t sit in hot juice or a hot water bath for overly long.
And when you do your pickles, always use very fresh cucumbers and soak them in a very cold salt brine to crisp them up before you pickle them.
If you don’t water bath process pickles, you’ll end up with part of the pickle sticking up above the brine, which will then spoil and mold. Yucky stuff! — Jackie
My wife wants to pressure can spagetti meat sauce and pasta (together) for the kids to use on camping trips. Can this be done safely?One of your recent articles cautions against this. However store processed products exist so there must be a way. I am cautious about home canning as the potential for botulism is terrifying to me. Especially to think I could be lax or ignorant in food preparation and harm my children. Any info would be appreciated as my wife and I are divided over this issue.
We have a camping trip the first week of April and my wife spent all day yesterday canning for the event. Because of this impending date could you respond via e-mail if possible.
Ponce de Leon, Florida
You CAN add pasta to your spaghetti/meat sauce. Just don’t over-do it so that the end product is very thick. This can cause the very center of the food in the jar to remain too cool to process safely. What I do is to make up my sauce, then add the spaghetti, and just barely get it limp enough to fit into the jars easily. Remember that spaghetti, like all pasta, swells quite a bit during canning, so allow for that, not packing too much into the jar. Simply process for the time required for the spaghetti with meat sauce.
Don’t worry so much about the botulism thing; it’s really quite rare, more of a "possibility", rather than a common occurrence. — Jackie
Monday, March 17th, 2008
On Thursday, I’ll be getting my new Friesian filly, Ladyhawk. The only trouble is that I didn’t have a place to put her. I can’t turn her out with my other horses (older geldings); that can be dangerous to a new horse, especially a young weanling. I will be putting her with our donkeys, but when I bring her home, it’ll be nearly dark and I want her to be able to get used to them and them her and not have her run into the fence or chased around the pen.
So I tore out the inside of the goat barn and re-did it so that I have a birthing stall for the goats (one of my does is getting pretty close to freshening), an inside pen for the other goats, a smallish stall for the new filly and the big donkey stall. The donkeys will be next to the filly, but can’t reach her to bite or scare her. She’ll be inside so she can get used to them a little at a time, as well as the goats, which she’s never seen before.
In order to do this, I had to make three gates, one for the birthing stall, dividing the 8’x12′ goat pen into one smaller stall and a bigger one. Two gates divide the center aisle into a short indoor aisle, accessing the goats and donkeys, leaving the whole back part of the aisle a weanling stall. This will work temporarily until the "youngsters" learn to get along and the weather gets better. Then they’ll (hopefully!) all go together into a bigger outside pen, sharing the big inside stall when they want to come indoors.
The best place to work was the new 3 season porch, next to the greenhouse. I have power there for the saw, a flat surface to work on and plenty of light. (I just had to watch out that I didn’t break one of the windows that will go in soon!) I found six short pieces of 2"x4", two longer ones that protected the new patio door on the porch, during shipping, one off the roof and another that was nailed to something in the past. After removing a few nails, I measured and cut them up. Tomorrow I’ve got to pick up a set of hinges; I couldn’t find more of the right size in the generator shed. Then the stalls are all done and I’m ready to enjoy my new baby!
Canning lemon juice
Can lemon juice be canned? I bought a gallon of lemon juice, at a good price. I would like to get more if there is a way to store it, because in the summer we like lemonade, plus I use it in canning.
Yes, you can home can lemon juice, just like you can any other kind of juice. Simply dump it into a stainless steel or enameled kettle (lemon juice is acid and reacts with aluminum and iron), heat it till it just simmers, then ladle it out into hot, sterilized jars.
Fill to within 1/2" of the top and process pints and quarts in a boiling water bath canner for
15 minutes (either pints or quarts). — Jackie
Chickens stopped laying
We are trying to raise chickens and this last year about August our chickens stopped laying. It is middle of March and they still aren’t laying. We feed lay pellets and scratch. We had geese in with the chickens we took them out to free range because I felt they were stressing the chickens out. This has been over a month and they still aren’t laying. We had heat lamp in the chicken house to help from such a hard winter this year. I would say that our oldest chickens are 3 years old we have 8 that are 1 year old as of March and they haven’t ever laid. We have tried many things but nothing seems to be working. Do you have any ideas of what else we can try to get these girls to get busy and lay eggs.
This is quite common in homestead chickens. In the early fall, they go into a molt, changing their feathers for the coming winter. This causes them to stop laying. Then as the daylight hours get shorter and shorter, they remain egg-less until spring and the daylight hours once again get longer. You’ll find you’ll soon get tons of eggs. I promise.
If you want to keep them laying longer, or right through winter, keep a light on in the coop right after they molt in the fall. This tricks their bodies into thinking that there is still "daylight" out there and to keep on laying eggs. This is good and bad. Good because you’ll get a steady supply of eggs. Bad because your hens won’t usually last as long as they would if they get a break in the winter to build up their bodies for another egg season. I kind of go inbetween. In the fall, I leave a light on for several hours at night, but then after Christmas baking, I quit and let the girls take a break. It isn’t long before the eggs stop. Two days ago I got my first spring egg; an Aracauna blue. Cool! — Jackie
Some canning confusion
I would like to thank you for all of your articles over the years. I have been an avid reader of BHM and the Ask Jackie section. It’s the first thing I read when the book comes in the mail. After reading about all of the canning that you have done I finally decided to give it a try and bought an All American 925 pressure canner. My first batch was spaghetti sauce, the second batch was turkey. The supermarket had a sale that was just too good to pass up. Both batches worked out fine and the All American unit worked perfectly. However I’m running into what I can only describe as a logistical problem when I was canning the turkey and I was hoping that you could tell me if I am over complicating the process. I was doing the hot pack method so I had a big pot of roasted turkey meat in hot watter, a big pot of hot turkey stock that I made the previous day, a sauce pan for simmering the lids and on the forth burner was the canner with the bottom layer of jars heating up in the water. The instructions with the canner and in my canning books say to keep the empty jars partially filled with hot watter in the canner in 3 inches of water until you are ready to fill them, then once filled they go back into the canner. What gets a little tricky is what do you do with the second layer of jars? Can I just leave the filled jars on a towel on the counter so I can heat up the "second layer of jars" in the bottom of the canner, and then just pack them all into the canner when they are all filled? I cannot help feel that I am missing something really obvious.
You don’t have to be THAT picky about the hot jar thing. If they are all good and hot when you begin packing, they’ll stay hot enough, sitting dry on a towel, waiting to be filled. That’s provided, of course, that you work right along and don’t take a break right then and let the jars cool off completely. Or if you’re uncomfortable with that solution, you could use a water bath canner to heat your jars and then leave the second layer in the water while you’re packing the first layer and putting them into your pressure canner.
I’m glad you’re having such good luck; keep up the good work!!! I’m proud of you. — Jackie
Friday, March 14th, 2008
Well it feels like spring. Today it was 43 degrees and melting snow like crazy. I had transplanted peppers all afternoon in the sunshine, in the greenhouse. When David got home from school, he hooked the plow onto the truck (which just got back from the Ford garage, having a fuel pump put on), and spent half an hour plowing slush off our mile long driveway. But he was having too much fun, and the drive was cleared.
So he hopped on the bulldozer, which had sat idle most of the winter because the starter wouldn’t turn over. Bingo! First crank over and it fired right up. You should have seen that smile! He let it warm up well, then took it down to my new horse training ring-in-progress and started shoving snow off it.
"Yes!" he exclaimed, "my huge Tonka toy!" It was nearly dark when he brought it back up to the parking spot, the snow nicely shoved way off the ring so that the sun will dry it off so we can grade it earlier.
In the meantime, I helped Tom get three patio door windows into the house, where he could take off the rotten frames. We’re using them vertically on the south wall of the enclose porch, next to the greenhouse. That way we’ll have a huge view, plus plenty of solar gain. And I can use the porch later on this spring for additional plant growing room. I’ll sure need it. Boy have I ever got the little plants! But I’ve got the aphids back, too. No more soap for them; I’m dusting with rotenone powder tomorrow. Those little bugs can kill baby tomato and pepper plants in short order. I can’t take a chance; the plants are just too nice to gamble with.
Bologna canning disaster
I made canned bologna using your recipe found here…
I’ve raw packed many meats before, but with the bologna I had my first canning disaster. All but 3 jars sealed. I’m sure it had to do with the not enough head space, but I also did some further digging and found this
http://www.backwoodshome.com/advice/aj90.html about exhausting first in the water bath (I did exhaust the pressure canner correctly.) Any hints to make this go better next time? In the recipe you call for 1 lb of tender quick for 25 lbs of meat. Is that correct? It is a lot more than many of the baked bologna recipes call for. Also I did use any saltpeter and did add some onion powder. The flavor and texture turned out great but a little on the salty side.
When canning meat, especially dense meat, such as bologna, be sure to allow at least 1" of headroom at the top of the jar. You should place your opened jars of meat in a roasting pan filled with enough water to come up to the shoulder of the jars, but not enough to boil into the jars. Then simmer the pan on a stovetop until the center of the meat in the center of the pan is hot all the way through. In this way, when you seal the jars and put them into a hot canner, they will all heat thoroughly during processing. If you do not "exhaust" or pre-heat the meat in the jars, some of the denser meat might not reach a high enough temperarature for long enough to ensure safe processing.
If your recipe was a little too salty for you, you can reduce the Tenderquick to 3/4 of a pound per 25 pounds of meat. You don’t have to add saltpeter to the recipe. Remember that Tenderquick not only contains salt, but also sugar and other ingredients.
This recipe for bologna is an old Amish recipe that I’ve used many times and it’s always worked for me. — Jackie
More on beans
Hi Jackie,Sorry I didn’t give better directions. I cook a pound of beans at a time so I just add a teaspoon of ginger to my beans. So just add a teaspoon for each pound but not over a tablespoon unless you are cooking 5lbs.or more because you will taste the ginger and not the beans. Just add it to the pot or jar as you heat the beans up or when you add a jar to the pan to bake. You only add the ginger as you cook from scrach ann then eat. Or if you are canning only add when you empty the jar to finish cooking. Otherwise the ginger will lose its effect in the jars.
Varnville, South Carolina
Thanks for the information; I’ll sure give it a try. (Who likes the natural effects beans provide?) Besides, ginger is good for you, too! — Jackie
After dehydrating, what next?
I have read the articles in your magazine (and in other books and magazines) regarding dehydrating vegetables and i do understand the concept. As a matter of fact, Cabellas offers several dehydrators
in different sizes. My question is, after vegetables are dehydrated, what next? (i saw that dry tomatoes and onions can be ground up and used as a powder, which i also understand, but what does one do with green beans, potatoes, peas and the like? how does one rehydrate them? How does one cook them or prepare them so they are not raw potatoe chips–or bean chips (in essence) or something?
William C. Bremner III
Glen Ellyn, Illinois
Most vegetables and fruits are simply rehydrated and then eaten or cooked. You can easily rehydrate them by just adding water and letting them plump back up. With vegetables, which are harder, you can pour boiling water over them, then let them stand until they plump back up. Or just dump a handful into a soup or stew; they return to "normal" as they cook. Once the vegetables are normal, you can just simmer them until they are tender. You’ll hardly know they weren’t fresh, to start with.
For instance, I’d much rather eat dehydrated peas than canned ones. They taste much fresher and less "mushy".
Dehydratating is fun, easy, and it gives you a whole different dimension in your food storage. And it takes up so little space to store the food, too! Give it a try; you’ll love it. — Jackie
Egg storage method
I recently stumbled across a depression era method of keeping eggs over a long period of time.
"TO KEEP EGGS: To four quarts air-slacked lime, put two tablespoonfuls cream tartar, two of salt, and four quarts cold water. Put fresh eggs into a stone jar, and pour this mixture over them. This will keep nine dozen eggs, and if fresh when laid down, they will keep many months. If the water settles away, so as to leave the upper layer uncovered, add more water. Cover close, and keep in a cool place" My question being, before I try this method have you ever heard storing eggs in this way??
No. To tell the truth, I’ve never heard of this method of storing eggs. Let me know how it turns out! — Jackie
Going to Jackie’s house
This is just a comment I would like to send to Jackie. If there is one place I’d like to visit is, well your house when you’re canning. Why? Cause it would probably beat going to Disney world, I’d learn something valuable and I subscribed to the magazine just to read your articles
Kahnawake, Quebec, Canada
Thanks for the kind words. You’d be welcome at my house too. And I’m canning most every week; it’s an ongoing process that sometimes I don’t even think about. Tomorrow I’m doing up a batch of spit pea soup. — Jackie
Stewing a rooster
I started keeping chickens last year and one of my roosters got nasty with my daughter so we butcherd him. He was 20 months old so I know I need to stew him, but the only recipie I could find that called for stewing chicken was a coqavin recipie that takes 5 days to prepare. Do you have a recipe that perhaps takes only 1 or 2 days?
Holy mackerel! FIVE DAYS???? I’d never eat a stewing chicken again; I’m too lazy. All you’ve got to do is cut up your chicken, put it in a large, heavy pot, add water to cover and spices to your taste, then put the lid on. Simmer it on low temperature until the meat is falling off the bones. A crock pot works well for this, or my Dutch oven, on top of my wood range. Cool the whole thing down until you can handle the meat without getting hot hands. Pick the meat off the bones, discard the bones, skin and yucky stuff. Cut up the meat as you like. Put the meat back in the pot of broth and let cool until the grease rises. Skim as much of it off as you want. Then heat it back up. I usually mix up a batch of biscuit dough and layer biscuits on top of the broth/meat pieces. If you want more "dumplings", put the lid back on and simmer until they’re nice and fluffy/done. If you want "biscuits", bake in the oven with the lid off. Either way it’s darned great eating! — Jackie
Monday, March 10th, 2008
Yesterday I kept at the transplanting in the greenhouse, getting over 100 baby tomatoes transplanted. The weather’s warming up and the sun on the greenhouse is heating the entire house all day now. That’s a pleasant change from burning all that hard-earned wood in my kitchen range. Mom likes to sit out there, absorbing the sun and watching me work with the plants.
It’s not an easy job, taking care of an elderly parent who is also handicapped. Mom can be quite demanding and requires nearly constant attention. So working with the plants is good for us both.
I just got an e-mail from Tessa Gowans, the seed curator at SEED DREAMS (P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368), and they DO have lots of Hopi Pale Grey squash. But she asked that readers please send a little cash to help with their expenses of printing and mailing their seed list. They are a homegrown seed supplier and not a mega corporation. Help ’em out if you can.
We had fantastic northern lights last night. I mean jaw-dropping, knock you dead northern lights. They were weaving ribbons of light, accompanied by huge flashes of light in the clear sky, kind of like heat lightening only more so. They went on and on for hours and it was a truly amazing show. One more reason we love it here in the northern backwoods!
Adding ginger to beans
Did you know that if you add a teaspoon of ginger to your beans you can get rid of the gas they produce.Just add the ginger when you heat the beans.I use powdered ginger so there is no change in taste.
Varnville, South Carolina
Good deal, Brenda. A tsp of powdered ginger to how many beans? I seldom make a meal’s worth but make a big batch and can most of them up. — Jackie
Hopi pale grey seeds
I tryed the email address you said firstname.lastname@example.org. They say they don’t have an account with yahoo so if you have a few extra hopi pale grey seeds left over would you send to me.
Varnville, South Carolina
I e-mailed Tessa Gowans at email@example.com (You had the wrong e-mail address!) and Tessa said they DO have lots of Hopi Pale Grey seeds.
A BIG NOTE TO ALL READERS, SEED DREAMS IS NOT A BIG MEGA COMPANY, BUT A VERY SMALL HOMEGROWN SEED SUPPLIER. IF READERS WOULD LIKE A COPY OF THEIR SEED LIST, PLEASE ENCLOSE A LITTLE CASH TO HELP DEFRAY THE EXPENSE OF PRINTING AND MAILING THIS LIST. Good growing! — Jackie
Canned, dried beef
How do you make that canned dried beef that you buy in the stores — hormel, etc. (thinly sliced, salted, and dried)
While you can certainly make dried beef (like jerky without the seasonings) by thinly slicing across the grain on more tender cuts of beef and canning it (75 minutes pints at 10 pounds pressure), you can’t make "dried beef" like you buy in the stores because it’s processed "mystery meat", i.e. ground, formed, then sliced, with chemicals added. — Jackie
Saturday, March 8th, 2008
Okay, I guess you can figure out that I’m canning dry beans, huh? Well it started out pretty innocently yesterday when I thawed out the two hams I bought for .69 a pound to can. I cut them up, packed them in pint jars, pouring boiling ham broth from the bones and scraps over them to within an inch of the top. But then I had all this nice ham broth and got an idea. I have a LOT of dry beans that are getting older. And when that happens, they don’t like to soften up when you cook them, like they would if they were fresher. But when you can them, they end up perfect.
So I dumped out about 2 pounds of dry Great Northern beans into a bowl, sorted a few rocks and sticks out of them, then rinsed them well. After draining, I put them in a large stock pot and filled it to within three inches of the top with water. After boiling them for 20 minutes, I put the lid on and let them stand for 2 hours while the first batch of ham finished processing. In the meantime, I cut up the second ham.
I was going to just make beans with ham broth, but I changed my mind as my baked beans are running low. So when the beans were soaked, I strained off the water and kept it hot. Then I dumped the beans into my turkey roasting pan and added a quart of tomato sauce, two pounds of crumbled bacon (on sale for .50!),molasses, brown sugar, onion and garlic powder and dry mustard. I mixed it all up, then set it on the wood stove to heat to boiling again, having added bean broth to keep it from scorching.
This I packed 2/3 full into pint jars and filled them to within an inch of the top with the tomato/bean broth.
I ended up with 15 pints of baked beans and 20 jars (pint and half pint) of ham! I was so excited that I did pintos today, seasoned with bacon, chili powder, garlic and onion powder and a pint of tomato sauce. So in two days, I had 28 pints of beans and 20 jars of ham. Oh so cool! Okay you sharp people, you say I should have had 29 pints of beans. Yeah. I would have except that when I was putting them on my pantry shelves, I DROPPED one of the jars on the basement floor. CRASH!!! @#%(*%^#$(#(#(#%&^)$##@#% Oh well, 28 pints….. And I had a mess to clean up. But it was baked beans and oh my how good they smelled!!!
Hopi Pale Grey seeds “out of stock”
Hi Jackie,Just wanted to let you know that Baker Creek is out of the Hopi Pale Grey seeds. I just received my order to day and they told me that they were sorry but they are out. So if you know anywhere else I can find these wonderful seeds please let me know. Thank you so much for the advice on breaking my cow. I am building a pen so I can have fresh milk.
Varnville, South Carolina
EEEEKkkkk! Okay, I took a deep breath. Try SEED DREAMS, P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368 (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) for a quick update on availability. If you can’t find them elsewhere, let me know and I’ll send you some. I think it’s very important to keep this nearly extinct ancient squash growing! By the way, I ordered some Hopi Pale Grey seed from Baker Creek to keep my squash’s genetic diversity balanced. I haven’t gotten my order back, but I’ll bet I’m minus my seed, too. — Jackie
Growing Hopi Pale Grey seeds
A little over a year ago one of your readers was kind enough to send me Hopi Pale Gray squash seeds. I was not able to grow them last summer, but I want to this summer. Is there anything special I need to know about growing these? Also, does it matter if I grow other squash nearby or should I only grow the Hopi this year? I usually grow yellow squash and zucchini.
Hopi Pale Grey is a Cucurbita maxima, so don’t plant any other squash of this species. Summer squash is nearly all C. pepo, so you can grow that, as well as winter squash of the other species, C. mixta, C. argyrosperma or C. moschata. These different species won’t cross.
Hopi Pale Greys are very easy to grow and have rampant, productive vines. Give ’em plenty of water, compost and sunshine, and watch them grow. They don’t like "wet feet" however, so if your garden area tends to be damp, put them in raised hills. Great growing this year! — Jackie
Sandhill Preservation catalogs
Jackie, are you familiar with http://www.sandhillpreservation.com/index.html. They have seeds,
roots, and poultry. I can vouch that their poultry is excellent quality.
Boone, North Carolina
Yes, I am familiar with the Sandhill Preservation catalogs. I haven’t personally bought from them, but am excited by the number of heritage breeds/varieties they have available. I sure will buy from them in the future. — Jackie
Thursday, March 6th, 2008
The last few days have been busy ones. I’ve been transplanting dozens and dozens of tiny tomato plants into styrofoam cups and deep six packs. I fill the container, mark the variety on the side to be SURE I know what the plants are, make a small hole in the center with a teaspoon, use the teaspoon to work the plant loose from the flat, taking care to hold it by the leaf, not the stem, then lowering it into the hole and pushing the soil down on both sides of the plantlet.
Then David has been busy too. So far, he’s made 6 trips home with firewood from the clearcut up north, plus 6 loads that he’s stockpiled at our carpenter friend, Tom’s land near the woods. And some of that ash is HUGE! David can’t reach around some of the trunks. When he loaded it on the truck, the 3/4 ton truck squatted so bad that the springs straightened out!
We’re weird about wood here; we already have almost enough for next winter, plus some saw logs. And David will keep hauling until breakup. In the north, breakup is the end of all wood cutting in low areas because when the frost goes out, you can’t access the wood, even with a four wheel drive or ATV. So right now, it’s a horse race to get as much hauled before spring springs. Much of our lives is ruled by Nature around here in the backwoods. And that’s not such a bad thing at all.
The computer problem still isn’t fixed, but I did manage to attach this photo, after a while meditating in front of a blank monitor.
Raising chicken food
Due to the rising cost of "everything"..what kind of chicken food can I raise in my garden for the chickens to eat during our Maine winters. During the summer they are free-range and doing quite
well. What’s the best kind of corn to grow for chickens and what other crop will be best for them. I currently have 11 hens and will get a rooster (at least for a few months)in the spring.
Luckily chickens are not picky eaters! You can just let several rows of your sweet corn mature. You can later pick it when the leaves are dry and store it in a dry spot away from rodents. But chickens can eat a lot of other extra garden produce. Mine love all the extra squash I can grow. I just bring it into the basement and give them a squash a day or every other day. It’s fun to feed, too. I just whop it down on the ground and the squash pops like a pinata. The chickens come running. They love it. They especially love the seeds, which are high in protein, too.
Of course they’ll also eat your kitchen scraps; potato peels, crushed egg shells, carrot peels, leftover vegetables and fruit, bread that has gone stale (they don’t even mind a little mold!), leftover salads, withered rutabagas and turnips from the cellar; chickens love them all….and they help with the feed bill a whole lot. You can even sprout some seeds for them; like wheat or oats. Of course, the price of wheat is climbing so badly…but you don’t need much to make a whole big pan of four inch high wheatgrass.
Love my chickens and luckily, they’re easy to feed! — Jackie
Raised beds, “making” soil
We are planning to move to Grand Marais, MN, an area of the state with which you are undoubtedly familiar. I want to plant a garden there and as you probably know, there cannot be more than 8-10 inches of topsoil in any area on the Laurentian Shield–any deeper and you hit bedrock. I know my garden will have to be a raised bed because even compost and manure don’t do much for improving solid basalt and granite. Do you have any recommendations for tomatoes, peppers, and squashes (both summer and winter) for zone 4 (maybe 3 if we’re over the hill from the big lake) and what does well in a raised bed.
Nice area! We looked seriously at some raw land about 17 miles southwest of Grand Marais, but it was really, really isolated and we figured we’d end up taking care of my elderly parents….which we did 2 years later, and didn’t think we should get land with only ATV access over 7 miles, then 12 miles on an unplowed forest service road. Actually, there’s more soil than you think, in some areas, depending on where you locate. Up on the hill, it’s shallower; over the hill, deeper.
A whole lot of crops do well in raised beds; most actually. We’ve had good luck with Oregon Spring and Bush Goliath tomatoes, as both of these are relatively well behaved determinate plants that don’t sprawl too much. All peppers do well, as the plants are relatively small and erect. As for squash, you can grow bush squash or make smaller raised "hills" and put vining squash just about anywhere.
You can also "make" soil, over the years by mounding compost up on your garden area, tilling it in, adding more, tilling that in, and so on. It takes awhile, but you can actually build up a productive, large garden "mound" in this way. Mix leaves, sawdust, rotted manure, pine needles, peat moss and straw well together with some soil, and pretty darned soon, you’ll have a big raised area to plant in. And even on the shallow soil, you’ll find that a lot does well up there, due to the moisture from the lake effect. There are a lot of good gardens up north on the Arrowhead! Good luck and welcome to Minnesota! — Jackie
Hopi Pale Grey seeds
I am “still” trying to get some Hopi Pale Grey seeds. Any more suggestions? Would you happen to have 3-4 seeds you are willing to part with?
Also, will you be saving seeds from your "wild" Montana petunias? They sound hardy and anything that’s very fragrant is a big hit with me!
Good news!!! Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com) or 2278 Baker Creek Road, Mansfield, MO 65704 has lots of Hopi Pale Grey seeds this year!!! I’m so relieved that someone is once again carrying this great squash. If you, for some reason, can’t get them there, let me know and I’ll send you some. And Yes, I will be saving my kind-of-wild Montana petunia seeds. I’ll let everyone know, and will have a limited amount (God willing!) to share this fall. Remind me then, okay? — Jackie
Thanks for the inspiration
Not a question, but a thanks: Jackie, you’ve been an inspiration. This week I put a new Briggs &
Stratton engine on the Troy-Bilt tiller my grandfather bought when I was a baby (35 or 36 years ago)
and got the ground tilled for my 1200-sqft garden – the first garden I’ve done since my parents last had one when I was a teenager, 20+ years ago.
I’m looking forward to lots of good veggies for my wife and 8-month old son – keep up the good work, and THANK YOU for the inspiration!
Fort Worth, Texas
Wow! I’m so happy you’re up and running. My old, old TroyBilt, bought in 1976 finally bit the dust a few years ago, after several rebuilds. (We used it a LOT, including a 3 acre market garden.) I loved it so much, we bought another one, and have tilled a lot of ground with it.
I hope your garden is very bountiful, this year and in the years to come. The best of luck! — Jackie
Dealing with milk stone
Recently I was given a beautiful stainless steel milk bucket (to replace a plastic one getting rather worn out.) I was told that milk , after a while, makes something called milk stone, and needs to be cleaned with a special sort of soap. In your experience, is there another way to clean buckets adequately with household ingredients (like soda or something)? I have stainless steel pots that I just wash with regular dish soap. I threw out the dishwasher as I can do a better job than it can so I just use regular soap on all the dishes and am wondering why the bucket wouldn’t fair just as well.
Milk stone is a deposit that adheres to milking equipment that is used very heavily. I have never found it a problem in homestead milking conditions. Yes, you can treat your milk pail like your other stainless steel equipment. Just make sure you rinse your pail well and drain it to dry. Wiping it dry could possibly put bacteria on the clean pail from your dish towel. — Jackie
Jackie on the Oprah show?
I just sent some of your info to the Oprah Show. Please get busy writing your autobiography and be sure to include all your knowledge of some many things that I have read about. I think they should send some Oprah producers (or Oprah and Gayle) to come and spend some time with you. How do you get your snail mail? How long does it take you to get to the nearest town? I’m totally fascinated
with your lifestyle.
Boone, North Carolina
I doubt that Oprah would be interested in our "boring" lifestyle, but hey, we love it! We get our snail mail through our old mailbox, way out on the road, a mile away. It comes through the Angora post office, twelve miles away. But Angora isn’t really a town, town; it has but a few buildings and is a dot on the highway. Our nearest town is Cook (population 600) and it is 16 miles northeast of us. If I drive into town, it usually takes me about 25 minutes; five of those on our driveway, which the top speed is 15 mph because of the humps and bumps. Of course sometimes it takes longer if I see something interesting. So far on our drive we’ve seen wolves, bears, fishers, a lynx, a cougar, lots of deer and smaller woodland creatures. One morning I had to stop and watch a huge bald eagle sitting low in a pine, eating a piece of meat.
We’re actually quite civilized here; we get UPS and even FedEx! Wow! Of course they sure hate to come into our place. I think they’re scared so far off the road. — Jackie
Safe canned Navy beans
I recently canned ten quarts of navy beans. They were dried. I soaked them for 18 hours, boiled them for one hour, and filled the jars. I processed them for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
When the processing was complete, I noticed that all of the jars lost quite a bit of liquid. All jars sealed. Will they be safe to eat, without much liquid?
Interlaken, New York
Yes, the beans will be safe to eat, provided they sealed well. This loss of liquid happens when we fill the jars a bit too full with liquid or when the pressure fluctuates during processing. You know; oops, it’s 14 pounds. I’ll turn it down. Eeek! Now it’s 9 pounds. Back up. It happens. Don’t worry. — Jackie
Making sure the kids get enough to eat
I have new baby goats, among them a set of quads and a set of triplets. They seem to be doing great. They are very active! Would you supplement with bottles or just let the nannys take care of them?
When you have more than twin baby goats, you’ll have to actively make sure they all get enough to eat. You usually have a pig or two in the bunch, and they won’t let the weaker or less agressive kids eat. If you know the doe has enough milk to feed all the kids (be sure of this) you can stand by and play switch the kids so they all have equal turns at the teats. Or you can milk the doe and divide her milk, feeding by bottle twice a day.
If she doesn’t have enough milk, as they demand more while growing, you can supplement her milk with powdered milk replacer. Use either goat milk replacer or lamb. The calf replacer is much cheaper but will give them the scours (diarrhea) and they won’t do well on it. — Jackie