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Archive for April, 2008
Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
Our new black lab pup, Spencer, is the smartest dog I’ve ever raised. He learned to sit at six weeks of age, and was potty trained shortly thereafter. In the winter! Of course all puppies like to chew on wood, so when I split firewood, Spencer was right there to grab a chunk and chew on it. So AH HA, I thought. Why not teach him to bring in firewood????
So first I’d just encourage him to bring in his little piece of wood. Then I’d pick up a small, handy sized piece and give it to him and praise him when he’d carry it awhile toward the house. Then I’d encourage him to carry it while I carried in an armload of wood, always giving him a dog biscuit when he made it all the way into the house. Now he picks up his own wood!
When I do horse chores, he roams the pasture and picks up a chunk to bring home. Or when I split wood, he grabs a nice piece and trots right up to the door and waits for me to open it. Now if I can just teach him to put it into the stove!!! Oh well, I’m happy with his progress so far. I’ll bet before long I can open the door, point to the wood pile and tell him to get firewood. Won’t be much longer, I think. It’s so much fun to teach him and he enjoys the learning. He always has a big smile on his face.
Seed company stories
Love your column and blog. Thought I’d share a similar experience I had with nursery plants from a seed company. Last year, Shumway sent our strawberry plants waaaaay too early for No. Mn. and most rotted before it was time to plant. They were true to their word and gave me a credit for all the plants that failed. This year when I called in my order for seeds and the replacement plants, they told me the planned ship date for the strawberries. I explained that the date would be much to early and that that was why I was using a credit. The nice lady asked, ” okay, when *would* you like us to ship?” Funny. All these years we struggled with keeping nursery stock alive until it was time to plant and all I had to do was ask! Maybe Gurney’s will be just as helpful for you next time. Keep up the great work!
Mary Ann Wycoff
I’m glad you had good luck with Shumways; I have, too. But Gurneys? No. Since they got bought out their quality, prices AND service are way down. Check the web site, Dave’s Garden; Watchdog and you’ll see what I mean. And I always give companies the benefit of the doubt. On my order, I asked for a late April shipment because we live in northern Minnesota. I don’t think the first week in April quite qualifies. Sorry. No more Gurneys for me. But Fedco, on the other hand, I can’t praise high enough. — Jackie
Pressure canner for beginner
What brand and size pressure canner do you recommend to a beginner? I want to can meat and chicken and turkey very soon. Are european jars more economical over time or are Ball or Kerr jars most economical. You are awesome. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Enjoyed your article in #111 – especially the statement “smart, huh?”. you are so real and down to earth.
Dolly (Nellie) Jenkins
Balch Springs, Texas
I would get the biggest canner, within reason, that you can afford. They are more economical to can with because you can put up more food at a time with the same energy expended. Personally, I like the canner that Lehmans carries; no gasket to eventually replace. But any of the new pressure canners work just fine. Don’t waste your money on a pressure “cooker/canner”; they are too small and don’t can worth a darned. I use American canning jars; Ball,Kerr and Golden Harvest…as well as any other reused jars that a lid and ring will screw down firmly on. There are a few that appear to be the same but the ring with a lid in it will just spin and spin, never tightening down. The European jars are pretty, but too expensive. I’m using jars that are 50 years old and still perfect. Pretty
good track record, considering how many cannings they’ve seen. Congratulations on starting canning. I promise you’ll LOVE it! — Jackie
Fleas out of control
It is barely spring and aleady the fleas are out of control. I have been using DE and it helped until they invaded the chicken coop. There are now thousands and there seems to be no end to their increase. I’ve read everything on the internet but still have so many especially after I go to gather eggs. Your best suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you, Nita Holstine
Here’s what I’d do; I would completely clean out the chicken coop, removing ALL old litter, nest box filler, manure…everything. Then hose down the coop with bleach water; pressure wash it if you have a pressure washer…or can borrow or rent one. Let the coop dry well, then dust the nests, as well as the floor, with rotenone powder. Also dust the chickens as they roost that night, holding them upside down by the feet so you get their “arm pits” and into their feathers. Repeat the dusting in one week and you’ll see a dramatic decrease in your little buggers. — Jackie
Soil testing kit
I want to add limestone (pulverized) to my raised beds to help prevent blossom end rot. I have 2 beds each is 4 ft x 10 feet. the bag I bought only gives amounts for huge gardens. How much should I add? Can too much be bad?
Amherst, New York
Buy yourself a cheap soil testing kit. Then sprinkle your limestone on the surface of your beds. Work it in and then check your pH; you want it between 6.8 and 7. Work more in, if needed, working it into at least the top 6 inches of your beds. I’ve had luck by tossing a handful of crushed egg shells into each planting hole, covered with an inch of dirt, then planting the tomato plant. The roots absorb the calcium and the egg shells\ also help give the plant good drainage. — Jackie
Upside-down tomato planters
Really enjoyed all your articles in the recent “Economic Squeeze” edition.
Have you ever tried the upside-down tomato planters? Example link below. Do they really work that well? I thought plants produced better fruit if you kept them going upward. Will an upside-down
tomato plant produce big tomato’s?
Boone, North Carolina
Yes, these planters really do work, whether it’s the commercial planters or just a 5 gallon bucket with a few holes cut in it. The key is to use good soil, fertilize regularly, either with manure tea or a chemical fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro. And WATER, WATER, WATER…they tend to dry out when the weather’s hot. And, Yes, they do grow big tomatoes! — Jackie
Shelf life of canned poultry
How long is the shelf life for canned poultry, beef and other meat? Thanks
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
These foods have a very long shelf life;practically forever! As long as they are stored in decent conditions so the jar lids don’t get moisture on them and rust, and the seal remains good, those jars will remain full of good tasting, nutritious food, for years and years. This is why I LOVE to can! Talk about your food security! — Jackie
Ready to make the move
Well, the time has come. After years of planning, saving and investigation – we are ready to move out West to a family agreed upon place. Actually, we are one job interview away from going this
Having grown up on a farm and having moved around a bit, one would think that I would not have a bit of trepidation. However, I am concerned about the much higher cost of living (compared to here we live now), the high elevation and being only zone 4 (even though I am an experienced gardener and avid reader/researcher), relocation costs (even though we’ve been saving for them – they lways end up being excessive), and moving the teenagers. I have read all of your advice for years and have followed much of the advance preparation parts. I would like to see if you have any last minute tips for our family? We are not taking any livestock as we are moving from a town lifestyle.
Oneonta, New York
Of course you have concerns! Anyone with half a brain will, when changing homes so drastically. But we did it, and so can you. Keep your family communications open and ask that everyone help in the tightening up, when needed, and pitching in to make your new home a great one. (So your kids want to have a game room that looks like a jail! Do it. Or they want a round garden of their own.) Treat them like adults and they’ll surprise you.
As for the elevation; no problems for most people. We moved from 1,200 feet to 7,400 feet and the only differences I could see were that I huffed and puffed while climing steep hills more and my potatoes took longer to get soft when I boiled them. No biggie. Of course I had to can my foods at a higher pressure than when we lived on the “flat”.
Zone 4? Don’t I wish!!! We live in zone 3 and still grow a terrific garden with plenty of flowers. There are, of course, less options in zone 4, as opposed to zone 6, but we still have lots of choices. You just have to use a few season extenders; it’s totally do-able! Enjoy your adventure! — Jackie
Canning bean soup
I am making navy bean soup using a ham bone. How can I can the rest? I do not have freezer space.
Stratford, South Dakota
Piece of cake, Leona. Just pick as much of the meat off the ham bone that you can, stir it into the soup, heat it again, then ladle it into hot jars, to within an inch of the top. You’ll be processing it at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must consult your canning manual for directions in increasing your pressure to suit your altitude) for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. Enjoy your “instant meals”! — Jackie
Problem with deer
We live in northern Wisconsin near a large national forest. We also garden and grow most of our own veggies to can. However, not only do we have snow in April, but we also have a problem with the neighborhood deer. Our gardens are carved out of an area between large pines and maples – this makes the sunny areas not contiguous and difficult to fence conventionally. We’ve used net fencing and deer spray, put up strands of fishing line for the deer to run into, tried having the dogs do their thing on the perimeter of our land, but nothing has helped. This year we’re going to put conventional fencing around at least 3 sides of our two largest gardens, but that still leaves an opening. This year the lilacs are showing buds and the deer have already sampled them. Last year they at least waited until they leafed out. I’ve found some new stuff that has cloves, garlic, dried blood and meat meal to spread around the perimeter, but that’s really expensive. (The dogs think it tastes just fine!) Any ideas?
Eagle River, Wisconsin
About the best “spray” product against deer is Liquid Fence, but it’s not 100% effective. I’m sorry, but the only safe anti deer protection is to totally fence in your garden area. For us that means fencing in not only our garden, but our orchard and our entire house yard. I’ve been buying fence all year, and finally have enough to do it. It’s NOT cheap, but it does keep them out. You’ll need 6′ high welded 2″x4″ 14 gauge wire fencing and 8′ T posts. Luckily, my last 3 rolls I got on a half-price sale at our local L&M Supply. No more “Where did the flowers go? Oh no. Not the green beans!!!”.
Horray!!!! — Jackie
I am getting plenty of eggs this year and want to know is there any other way to can them besides pickeling?
Sorry, none that I know of. Any readers have a great idea? — Jackie
Sunday, April 27th, 2008
I’ve ordered lots of trees and bramble fruits for our orchard this year; I keep seeing these things bringing higher and higher outrageous prices and decided THIS year I’d get the orchard booted up. Okay, but every day now, I’m getting a box or plastic bag full of trees and plants! The best have come from Starks and Fedco, although I did get some AWESOME Hanson’s bush cherries from Exciting Gardens, which I didn’t expect. The worst were from Gurneys, arriving four weeks ahead of decent planting time here in northern Minnesota, when we had two feet of snow on the ground…and another two feet three days later. I’m sure those folks have internet access and could see weather patterns across the country. But evidently, they don’t care. So no more Gurneys orders for me!
I’ve got almost everything in, the day it came or as soon as we had DIRT showing. So far, so good. I always soak the trees/plants a couple of hours before I plant them, in case they’re partially dehydrated, so I’ve got a mop bucket in the tub full of fresh water…and trees! I’m so excited and our weather’s helping out with nice warm days and rain periodically. Wish us luck!
I was looking at another homestead blog and the topic of health insurance was mentioned. Do you have health insurance? Through the state or paid for by yourself? This other blog stated thay were a homesteader and used the state health insurance program. Is this really self reliance? Depending on the government and fellow tax payers to pay thier insurance? My opinion is no, this is not self reliance, it is using your neighbors to pay your way. I am a very conservative person and do not believe in anyone paying my way. I work hard for a living and don’t think my hard earned money should be given to someone else. Just curious as to what your thinking was on this issue.
In a way, David and I are lucky. As my late husband, Bob, had a 100% service connected disability through the VA (agent orange), David and I receive survivors’ benefits which include CHAMP VA insurance. I don’t feel this is putting our health care on our neighbors, as Bob died as a result of his service in the Marine Corps, in Vietnam. It’s lucky we DID have the insurance, as my cancer surgery and treatment, and last summer, David’s bout with flesh eating bacteria would have really, really hurt us financially.
There is a Christian share-pay type of medical help, where thousands of people are banding together to help share the burden of each others’ medical care. If we did not have health insurance, I would seriously consider joining this group. www.medi-share.org It is not an insurance company, but a co-op of sorts.
There IS no perfect answer for homesteaders. Some opt for just letting nature take its course, but I couldn’t have done this when David was suffering so badly with the flesh eating bacteria, knowing that he would die without treatment. End of story. — Jackie
Thanks for the articles
I just wanted you to know how much your articles mean to me and how much help they have been since we have got our own 10 acre with pigs goats and chickens and horses.
Thanks a lot, Mary. I really enjoy the interaction with fellow homesteaders in the magazine and blog. I’ll bet you’re having the time of your life on your new homestead! — Jackie
Buying hypodermic needles
Where can I buy hypodermic needles for my medical kit, like you suggest?
You can buy them at any farm and ranch store, on the internet from such sources as Nasco or Hoeggers Goat Supply. Or the next time you are at your vet’s, ask him/her for a few. Just explain why you want ’em or you MIGHT get a few raised eyebrows. Stores just sell them without a problem. Farmers and ranchers use them by the box with vaccinations, antibiotics, etc. — Jackie
I will be cooking for a crowd and making a large quantity of chili, which will include pre-canned kidney beans. I would like to can the leftovers. Do I still process the chili for the longest time for pints and quarts? I have the same question for soups with meat, meat pasta sauces, stews, etc. Usually, I freeze these, but now that I finally have a pressure canner, I would really like to use this method.
Yes, you can certainly can up your leftovers. And yes, you still need to process them for the full 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts, regardless if they have been precooked or not. — Jackie
No yolk in chicken egg
In the past week, I’ve had 2 chickens lay tiny eggs, almost like a bird’s egg. We broke one open to discover there was no yolk, just the white. Do you know what might be the cause of this? One chicken was a bantam, and the other an Australorp. Both are around 7 years old, but still lay pretty regularly.
This isn’t as uncommon as it might seem, nor is it anything to be concerned about. Sometimes a tiny bit of tissue sloughs off from the ovary or oviduct and an egg begins to form around it…with no yolk. It is “strange”, in that you had two hens recently that did this. Nothing to worry about. — Jackie
Storing rice long-term
Jackie, my wife and i love your articles and we have been advid readers since American Survival Guide went belly up and then switched to BHM. My question is what is the best way to prepare rice for long term storage. We are an Asian house and want to store approx 500 pounds for emergencies.
The best way I’ve found to store large amounts of wheat, corn and rice for long term storage is to go to a bakery or large grocery store with an in-house bakery. They usually have three to six gallon food grade pails with locking lids that they sell very cheaply or even give away. Because you want to store it long term, it would be a good idea to freeze each bag or pail for about two days, just to kill any possible insect eggs in the rice before you store it. Then just pour it into clean, dry pails and lock down the lids. For extra protection, you can run a band of duct tape around the edge of the lid. Then mark on the pail what you have in it and when\you put it into your pantry. Rice is good for years and years that way; I’m eating rice out of a bucket I put up in 1989!!! And the rice is perfect, too! — Jackie
To answer the question about canned bacon, of all the places to look try www.canned-bacon.com/. It seems it will soon be in production in Ohio. Thanks for all the knowledge you share.
Thanks for the information! There’s been a lot of interest in the canned bacon. Readers will love you! — Jackie
Comments on vet antibiotics
Not really a question, but a comment on your article on first aid/medical supplies in the latest BWH magazine. You suggested keeping a supply of antibiotics on hand and that your doctor might write a prescription for you to do that. No need to see your doctor!
Many antibiotics that are prescription for humans are OTC for some veterinary uses. Not only can you save a trip to the doc and a bill from the doc, but the antibiotics used in veterinary practice are often purer than those used for human practice. Many of the antibiotics are OTC for fish, and fish are very sensitive to some of the additives and binders that are commonly used for human drugs.
You can get a bottle of 100 100 mg Doxycycline for birds for $29.99 at:
Penicillin, Ampicillin, Tetracycline, Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, Erythromycin can all be purchased for anywhere from $14.99 – $35.99 per 100 (per 60 for erythro) at:
I’ve used Foster & Smith and can personally vouch for them, but you might be able to find them even cheaper from different sources.
I’m not a doctor and don’t even play one on tv, so I’m not going to recommend that anyone use a drug for anything other than its intended on-label use. But you can do with the information what you will.
Thanks Bill. I’ve used these sources also. But in my position, I can’t “advise” readers to do so. LAWSUIT! But as you said, animal/fish/bird antibiotics are just as good as human. My husband, who was a veterinarian, told me when he was in vet school, they visited several drug companies and watched the manufacture and packaging of antibiotics and other meds. The conveyor ran pills down to a Y; the left side got a veterinary label; the right, a human label! (Now we know why dog anitbiotic syrup is cherry flavored!) — Jackie
Canning store-bought butter
This may be a wacky question, but can you can butter from storebought butter? I normally freeze mine, but was curious if it could be done. If so, would love to have the processing time and directions.
Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Yes! All you have to do is to gently heat the butter to melt it; a double boiler works well for this. Then ladle into hot, sterilized jars to within half an inch of the top of the jar, wipe the rim of the jar clean and put a hot, previously simmered lid on and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. The butter tastes fresh when you open a jar, although it does separate a little. Better than NO butter, for sure!!! — Jackie
Sunday, April 20th, 2008
Our last snow’s just about gone and the temperatures are up into the high fifties. Yes, we’re going nuts with joy! I started the big TroyBilt yesterday and tilled a few passes in the garden to get ready for the 25 red raspberry bushes that are due any day now and to plant the 6 Nanking cherries that came three weeks ago when we had two feet of snow on the ground. Yeah. Gurneys. Boooo. The soil was so nice, after tilling in all that rotted compost from last fall. Wow. No more roots, sticks, stumps and junk, just nice black fluffy soil!
Then our carpenter friend, Tom, came to saw a big hole in the west wall of my kitchen. Well, actually, I asked him to. You see my kitchen was awfully dark, especially after we put that porch on the south side, shading the one kitchen window. After the greenhouse was built, I had a $500 window where I didn’t need a window anymore, between the greenhouse and living room. So I decided to move the window into the kitchen. Good move! Boy does it ever let in the light!!!! I’m really happy I made that change.
And today, David and I, with a lot of tips from Tom, built a support wall for the floor joists, for the next addition onto the house. This will be an entryway, small laundry room and living room. Our house is pretty small, and the kitchen table takes up a lot of the kitchen, making it pretty tight. So on the east end of the greenhouse, we’re building a sunroom/living room, with a wood stove (more wood heat!) and moving the kitchen table into the old small living room. It will then be a dining room. Cool. Then someone won’t have to get up so I can open the refrigerator door for milk!
I hadn’t had much experience laying block, and that was years ago. David had done it a little while we were building the house. So Tom came and got us started and we went ahead and finished the 20′ long block wall. And if I do say so, it turned out pretty darned nice!
Congrats on your new love. I have a question about pressure canning, I have had a canner for about a year but was very nervous to try it out, well yesterday I bit the bullet and canned up some plit pea soup, I followed all the directions to the letter. My question is when the pressure came down and I took the cans out all the carrots had floated to the top of the jars, and the soup itself was still
boiling. Is that normal?
Hammonton, New Jersey
Yes. Many foods that are pressure canned continue boiling happily quite a while after you take them out of the canner. As for the floating carrots, don’t worry about that, either. When you heat the soup up to eat it, just stir the carrots back into the soup evenly. Congratulations on your first attempt. You’ve just opened the door to a whole lot of good eating and fun, too! — Jackie
Sprouting spinach seed
After I enjoy my spinach crop every year, it bolts and goes to seed. I can’t stand to let it go to waste so I harvest the seed and give it to friends and neighbors. Last year I had a bumper crop and still have a gallon of seed left! I was curious if this can be sprouted for salad and sandwiches? Is it good tasting and what is the safest way to sprout?
Indian Valley, Idaho
I’ve never sprouted spinach seed, but I don’t know why you couldn’t. Just put it in a plastic refrigerator container and wet it thoroughly. Then drain the water off and cover it. Rinse it each day with fresh water and drain it until it sprouts. You’ll just have to experiement. Micro greens, including spinach, are the latest fad. You “plant” the seeds in a container thickly and harvest the leaves when they are still very small. These are used in salads or on sandwiches, much as you’d use sprouts. I have tasted these baby “baby” spinach leaves and they are sweet and good. — Jackie
Hail storm killed my garden
Hope you get out of the cold weather soon!
I’ve had a different weather problem, and I hope you have some advice, or even just some encouraging words. I just finished getting the warm-weather parts of my garden in yesterday (tomatoes, peppers, green beans, etc); the cold-weather parts were in a month ago and growing nicely. Last night we had TREMENDOUS storm come through – 1.5 inches of rain in 20 minutes, hail piling up like snowdrifts, and wind blowing it all horizontal. It scrubbed by garden clean down to the dirt – I’d have done less damage if I just mowed it.
Should I write it off, and plan for my Fall garden (Zone 8 here), plan on replacing the warm-weather plants I just planted, or do you think the roots in the ground will come back and produce ok?
Fort Worth, Texas
I had the same thing happen when we lived in New Mexico; we had three feet of hail in little over half an hour! Yep, my garden was gone. I kind of waited to see if things might sprout again; no go. A few that did were way weak and not worth the effort. I’d plant again, if it was me. You can’t control the weather; we just have to do the best we can with what we get. Good luck. — Jackie
Cooking beans in soaking water
When you soak beans overnight do you drain off that water and add new water to cook or do you keep the soaking water to cook the beans in?
Unless the beans were really dirty or you soak them on the counter in warm weather, You can just cook them in the soaking water. Otherwise, rinse them and use new water to cook them in. I like to keep any nutrients I can, whenever I can. — Jackie
I found some wild blackberries on my property and wanted to move them closer to my home, however my neighbors say that if I do that the plants will die. They say woodland types don’t transplant well. Are they right ?
Edward Jones Jr.
I listen to my neighbors….to a point. Heck, I’d sure transplant the blackberries! What’s to lose? I’ve never had a problem with blackberries; they’re about a weed. Just put them somewhere that you
can control them. I just planted two rows, but I didn’t put them in my garden. I had David bulldoze a new strip between the garden and the house for them. This way they won’t spread into my garden and become a pest. The driveway will contain them the other way. I can hardly wait till they produce. — Jackie
Keeping cats out of the garden
What is the best way to keep cats our of the garden? I have one cat that thinks the raised beds are his litter boxes. Is there a way to keep him out with out going through a whole lot of expense? hanks and we LOVE your magazine and books.
While there are repellant sprays, etc. for pets, the best way I’ve foundis to fence your garden. You can just use chicken wire, which is very inexpensive…or even that plastic garden fence that local stores carry, stapled onto wood stakes; it doesn’t take much to keep cats away from your garden area. You can “lure” the cats away from your raised beds by making one for them. Use sand and let them dig to their hearts content; just keep kids out of the kitty box as some parasites and diseases can spread from cats to kids through fecal contamination. — Jackie
Monday, April 14th, 2008
After a week of back to back blizzards, the sun came out and the temperature climbed to 50 degrees today. It was SO nice. And today my son Bill and his wife, Kelly came up to help Mom celebrate her 92nd birthday. Of course their son, Mason, came with them and both Greatgrandma and Grandma got to play with him and be wowed by his frequent smiles!
He was afraid of the chickens, but it won’t be long before he’s ready for a pony. His daddy was riding his pony, Sprite, while still in diapers. And they had years of history together. They went to lots and lots of horse shows, to compete with not only kids Bill’s age, but also adults on expensive horses. And you know what? They won a lot! We had Sprite until she was 42; she was a member of the family. I hope we can find Mason such a good pony!
Cracked corn for chickens
I only have a handful of chickens and have access to pleny of free field corn. I would like to make my own “cracked corn”. What kind of grinder do I need? And, do you have any suggestions on where to get one?. Thank you SO MUCH for all of your help and articles. You are a treasure trove and I bow to your feet. I also have many other questions- how is it best to ask, snail mail or like this?
If you have field corn, GREAT!!! You don’t need to crack corn for chickens. They digest it fine whole, and really prefer it that way. There really isn’t a home grinder for cracked corn, other than using your grain mill, which is plenty labor intensive for the results given.
You can certainly ask questions either way. Via snail mail shares the answer with a lot more readers. — Jackie
Uses for pig fat/suet
What are some uses for pig fat/suet, besides lard? Is there other uses such as candles or something? Thank you, I enjoy your writings and the knowledge you give out. This means a lot to me and helps out so much.
Canyon City, Oregon
You can make soap from pork fat! Candles don’t work because pork fat has a low melting temperature and the candles won’t handle hot temperatures before melting down. (You could make fat oil lamps in a pinch, but I don’t think you’d like the results, otherwise; it tends to smoke and not put out great light.) Soap is a much better alternative. — Jackie
How does one can bacon?
Kimberly Baxter Packwood
You can home can bacon, but you’ll need “real” bacon, not store bacon, because store bacon is too fat and not “solid” enough to hold up for canning. I canned my own bacon by first smoking it, then cutting it into chunks that would fit into a wide mouth pint or quart jar. You don’t can it sliced. I heat the bacon in a roasting pan, in the oven at 200 degrees until it’s hot all the way through. Then I pack it into hot jars to within 1/2″ of the top. Bacon, as with all meat, is processed for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes at quarts, at 10 pounds pressure.(Check your canning manual if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude.) Bacon is canned without adding liquid.
Important note: As far as I know, there isn’t an approved method of canning bacon, but this has worked well for me. Consider it an “experimental” method. — Jackie
This is a response to the question asked by Pete Gibson in the May/June issue regarding canned bacon. It used to be manufactured by Celebrity Foods Canned Bacon but has not been available for approximately 10 years. According to the company’s web site it will soon be available again produced in Ohio under direct license from MRE wholesalers.com. Thought this might be of interest to the readers of BHM. Their web site shows them opening a can that was 20 years old and the product still good. Great idea for storing in case of an emergency.
Lakewood, New York
Thanks for the info, Bill. There’s been a lot of interest in canned bacon, and for good reason; it’s a great product. I’ll be waiting to see it once again on the market! — Jackie
Freecycle groups, dehydrating
I hope you have plowed yourself out. We are getting snow this weekend in PA, but not like you. Thank goodness!! Recently, I joined a “free to join” group -“freecycle”, which, by the way, you probably would love. It’s an organization where people give others what they no longer need to help keep things out of landfills. The main stipulation for being able to join and participate is that every thing is “free”, absolutely no money exchanged. Today I received a slightly used dehydrator. If it’s been used, I would be really surprised, it’s still in the original box and spanking clean.
I’ve noticed that in several of your answers to questions, you mention your preference for dehydrating. Could you please tell me what you dehydrate and give me some tips for success. Onions are on sale for a really good price this week. I use a lot of onions and wanted to know if you have been successful drying them and how you do it. Also, potatoes. After they are dried … can’t they be used for frying, mashed or only in casseroles? What’s the storage method?
If you are interested in more information about “freecycle”, go to www.freecycle.org then browse the many groups by specific states. There are groups all over the US and possibly in your area, which might help you get things you need for your homestead and also possibly help someone else. Today was the first time I requested one of the offers and have gratefully benefited. Thanks for any advise you have time to offer. Since your advice helps me all the time, I hope I have given you something to help you too.
I’m sure many readers will pick up on your tip about freecycle. I do know about them, but just don’t have the time to go so far out of town; there’s none within 35 miles of us and most of the better stuff
is in Duluth, 80 some miles south. Mom kind of ties me down as to my “going”. I dehydrate a whole lot of foods, as well as canning them. I dehydrate peas, carrots, onions, fruits of all kinds, asparagus, tomatoes, corn, squash, jerky and a whole lot more. Onions are dead easy; I just slice them into whole rounds, then lay them on the dehydrator trays, in a single layer. When they are dry, I either put them in jars that way or whiz them through the blender to make chunks or powder. These, I put on cookie sheets in the oven, with only the pilot light on and stir until they are really dry; they tend to clump without this extra drying.
To do potatoes, I slice them into salt water to keep them from blackening. Then I drain them and drop them into boiling water for a minute. Then I drain them and lay them out onto the dehydrator trays. The boiling keeps them fromdarkening during dehydrating. No, you can’t make French fries out of them, but you can rehydrate them and then make fried potatoes out of them. Or you can make potatoes augratin, scalloped potatoes or the like. Dehydrated foods are very good and take up little room on the shelf. I lovethat! — Jackie
Gooseberries not producing
I ordered & planted some Gooseberrys plants May-2005.They were 2 yr.old plants called (Hinnonmaki ) the red kind.Well they have never produced anything but they grew. Last fall I moved them & replanted to another place as I thought that might help. Why don’t they produce any fruit? What am i doing wrong? Thanks for the great info you give..
Have patience. Most trees and shrubs, including gooseberries need a little time to sink their roots down and get over the shock of transplanting. This can take a year or more; often several years.
Moving them just delayed things. If they’re getting sunlight, a little compost and kept weed free, you will get fruit. — Jackie
Saturday, April 12th, 2008
We just got dug out of the last one with the bulldozer and plow truck (which ended up having to go to the Ford garage in town!!$$$), not to mention lots of mano a mano shovel work. Then we got the news; another two feet was headed our way, complete with 30 mph winds. Hey! This is APRIL…..
Oh well, nothing to do but to get ready for it. Thank God I always listen to the weather radio! So we hauled hay, chopped firewood, got extra gas, grain and a few groceries. We also drove the good old Taurus wagon out near the road and parked it. Just in case we really got snowed in and had to snowmobile the mile out, so we could get to town or wherever. The snow started in earnest last night, giving us about an inch an hour. With wind. There were already drifts forming.
This morning, it was still snowing hard, with good old wind, and we had about two feet of new snow on the ground. Luckily a lot of the “old” snow had melted, leaving only about a foot to get stacked on top of. So David (who didn’t have school; guess why!) and I braved the blizzard to do chores. The animals were all glad to see us and greeted us warmly. Even our kind-of-wild tom turkey gobbled down at us from his roost up in the barn. (Or was he up there because he thought the snow might get that deep????)
Anyway, we got done then brought one of the triplet doelings in to disbud. I’m kind of late with that, but just didn’t get it done because of the storms. We did her this morning and will do the other two tomorrow morning. I prefer to do them at three days, not two weeks!!! You are much less apt to get scurs. I’ll watch them carefully and if I see any regrowth in spots, you can bet I’ll touch them up for a nice smooth head.
We listened to the radio and all the power outages from the wind and heavy wet snow. Trees were falling, breaking and smashing down power lines. We might be way back in the woods, but at least that’s one problem we DON’T have. We never know when the power is off. I just baked rolls and listened to the wind roar outside.
Oh, the garage called this afternoon and said our truck was finished. Luckily it wasn’t the transmission, like we’d thought. The bill will only be half what we thought it would be. But a thousand dollars is a WHOLE LOT of money! David got the truck home and is now plowing our driveway. Life in the big woods. But I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
I have a question about rhubarb. I only have one plant. It was doing really well this year, but I noticed today that there are six pod looking stalks coming on it. Is it going to seed? Should I cut them out? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. I think the plant will be big enough to divide this year. When do I divide and what’s the best way to do it?
Thank you for all the wonderful advice. Every time I have a gardening question my husband always says ask Jackie. She’ll know. He’s right!!!
These are the flower stalks that will eventually become seeds. Cut them out as soon as you notice them growing upward. If you don’t the plant will stop producing stalks and those remaining will get tough because the plant thinks it’s job is done for the year. You can fool it into producing all spring and early summer by keeping those stalks cut out.
A plant can be divided anytime, provided that it’s large, vigorous and healthy. Usually you can simply look to where more than one plant is coming from the “bunch” (the leaves are often smaller on the offshoots), slip a spade between them and just cut the plant in two. Rhubarb is dead easy to divide and to grow. I love it! — Jackie
Canning beef tongue
I have canned for quite a few years, but had something come up I have never thought of canning. I have cooked and eaten beef tongue for years, but never had a quantity all at once. My youngest daughter was given 7 tongues and wanted me to can them for her. Do I have to skin them raw and process them like I do with my beef and venison with some salt, or do I cook them first and skin them and then process them? They are easier to skin when cooked first and I feel like I am wasting more by skinning them raw, then again I feel like I am going to end up with mush if I cook them first and then pressure can them.
Which do you recommend?
I would cook them just long enough that they skin easily. Because the skin is on the outside, that part cooks quickly; you don’t need to totally cook the tongues. Then slice them or pack them hot in hot jars with broth from cooking them to within 1/2″ of the top of the jars and process at 10 pounds for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts). Use salt if you like. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, be sure to consult your canning manual for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude if necessary. — Jackie
Shelf life of home-canned foods
I’m a new subscriber and have never canned before in my life. I saw your recipes for home canned meals in the most recent issue and have a question: What is the shelf life of canned meals? In particular, I’m interested in doing beef stews and the like. How long will they remain good if kept in a sub-70 degree, dark area?
Good news Mike! Your home canned foods remain good to eat and wholesome for years and years. I’ve eaten some of my “old” foods that were twenty years old and they were nearly as good as fresh.
That’s one of the big pluses of canning. Once you have your foodsin jars, they will keep; no power outage or freezer burn problems.Nor will your carrots and other crops go soft during storage, like they do late in the winter, in a root cellar. — Jackie
Tuesday, April 8th, 2008
You know that storm that was heading for us? Well it got here. And how! Saturday night it started. Then by Sunday morning, we had a foot and the snow was still falling heavily. Just think, Saturday morning I was in my garden, looking at the nice soil, with the frost nearly all gone out of it, thinking that I could begin tilling it the next day. My multiplier onions were starting to poke up, looking nice, green and lush.
David hung the plow back on the Ford truck Sunday, and started plowing our driveway. Unfortunately, it never did get cold and the ground was muddy under the snow. And the snow was heavy and wet. You know how it is when you shovel heavy wet snow? It won’t come off the shovel and each shovel weighs a ton? Same deal with the snow plow. It just didn’t plow worth a darn and the drive was a mire. He didn’t dare drop the plow all the way down or he would have thrown off a whole lot of gravel and dirt with the snow.
Then he was trying to shove snow off the drive in some open spots, to get rid of it; the drive gets awfully narrow when you plow this kind of snow because it doesn’t throw off into the woods. Well in one of those spots was a spring he’d forgotten about and he dropped the front of the truck into it, right down to the plow frame.
Luckily he had his cell phone with him and he called me, asking me to bring the old blue truck to pull him out. To make a long story short, it drive was too icy and he was stuck too badly. No dice.
So back home we went to get the dozer, our last hope. Fortunately, it started and I followed him back to the truck. He lined the dozer’s blade up with the truck’s plow and shoved it back out of the spring. Even with the dozer, it had to snort to push that hard. Whew!
This morning it was still snowing. We now have over 26″ on the ground; all wet, heavy snow over mud. David plowed for neighbors and friends today, as well as doing our drive again. But bad luck dogged us again; he found he has two cracks in the transmission housing! Oh chiching! $$$$$ OUCH. I felt like going to bed and pulling the covers over my head. And it’s still snowing…….
I just became a subscriber to your magazine and I really have learned a lot from your blog. My girlfriend and I have been growing a large garden for two years and we save our own seed (ex. beans okra pumpkin ect…) but my question is how do you save seed from vegetables like carrots, onions, beets, and cabbage? Thanks for you advice.
To save seeds from these vegetables, you just have to overwinter the “mother” plants in a cold, dark root cellar or unheated corner of the basement.
Then in the spring, just plant them outside and watch them grow. They’ll then make seed. But don’t expect the mother plants to look like they did the year before. Carrots look “wild”, beets rank and cabbages strange as the send up a seed stalk. Just let them do their thing and give them good care. You’ll get your seed in abundance. Enjoy! — Jackie
Keeping hens in Winter
I have a question for you about chickens. We raise a mixed flock of turkeys, ducks and meat chickens each summer, but we don’t keep any over the winter for eggs. I’d like to keep a couple of egg layers, but I’m wondering how many is the minimum number to keep each other warm over our northern Minnesota winters. We do have electricty available in our pole barn, but I’d prefer not to have to run a heat lamp all winter long. Also, do you have a suggestion for the best type of coop for just a few hens?
You’re right in that you’ll need at least half a dozen hens to provide enough body heat to keep them warm enough over winter. And even with that number, you’ll need to provide a relatively small,insulated coop
so that so few chickens will stay warm enough. If you insulate and build a small coop, say five feet by 6 feet and with a low ceiling, they should remain comfortable. In addition, it’d be a good idea to keep a light bulb in the coop. Not a heat lamp, but just a plain incandescent bulb. Not only will it give heat and not kill your pocketbook, but it will fool the hens’ bodies into thinking there are longer days and make them lay eggs despite winter.
You can let the “girls” out of the coop on milder days and just shut them in at night. They seem to do well this way and enjoy a stroll in the sunshine. — Jackie
I have a black angus cow that we just had too butcher. We only had a pocket knife and a sawsall to work with. It was eather kill it or have it run over on the road. We could not keep it in the field. You would think that with close to a hundred achers finced it would not be a problem. Now The meet didn’t hang and it dosn’t taste like beef, is there any way too can it and use it later and have it taste better? I have plenty of jar and 2 large canners with gages so canning is not a problem. thanks
Varnville, South Carolina
Yes, you can sure can up that meat. The best way I’ve found is to partially precook the meat, browning it, either as steaks, roast slices or stewing beef. The ground meat is also browned first. You can add some spices, but beware of adding too much as it gets stronger with processing. I think you’ll find your beef tastes just fine that way and will provide a whole lot of meals for your family.
Precooked meat is processed at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. I add enough broth to just cover the meat, leaving an inch of headroom in the jar. (If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for instructions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. — Jackie
Sunday, April 6th, 2008
The first thing I do every morning is to turn on my weather radio. We’ve lived by it for years and years, as the weather dictates what we will or will NOT be doing today or tomorrow and it gives us a good heads up when bad weather threatens.
This morning dawned sunny and bright, but the weather radio had winter storm warnings posted for tonight and tomorrow. EEEK!!! At first they were talking about 6" to 12" of wet, blowing snow, following freezing rain. Now tonight it’s 12" to 18" inches. How lovely. Just after most of our snow has melted and everything is drying up. The frost is mostly out of my garden and I was even thinking about tilling it to chop up the rotted manure clumps that I’d spread on it last fall. Yeah. Right.
So we regroup! I spent most of today chopping and picking up firewood, hauling hay, picking up lumber, tarping down the big haystack…again, covering the ATV and wondering if just maybe the storm would swing south of us like they often do.
But tonight you could see this big huge black cloud bank swinging in from the west. It gave me cold chills. I would have taken a picture but my digital camera somehow got locked and I couldn’t make it release. My tech guy, David, has gone bowling with his youth group, so my blog is photo-less.
Now we’ll just wait and see! They are predicting power outages and down lines. But, of course that won’t affect us. With our new battery bank, we’re getting three days worth of power out of a five gallon can of gas. A huge improvement, and when we get our two little solar panels hooked up, we should do better yet. As the price of fuel goes up and up and up, we’ll be cutting down our use every way we can.
Wish us luck on the storm!
What about chickens?
We are new to homesteading, and have just moved onto our 70 acres in the Pacific Northwest. We are starting our garden and chicken coop first (using the diagram from John Silveira’s article). My question is, what kind of chicken breed do you recommend for first timers? I’ve read a few articles that discuss meat production vs. egg laying and I confess I am a bit overwhelmed. We would just like a manageable, friendly flock (maybe 15 or so) to lay eggs (brown would be nice) and eventually have some fresh meat. Could you offer any suggestions?
Boy do we have the book for you!! I just finished helping edit the new Backwoods Home chicken manual for beginners. It’s cheap, it’s thorough and I’m sure you’ll find it a great help. There are many, many breeds of chickens suitable for beginners. The heavy breeds are the ones that lay brown eggs. I like Araucanas because they lay blue and green eggs. That’s a lot of fun! Whatever breed you choose, I’m sure you’ll love having chickens!! — Jackie
I just love your blog. Wish I had known about you years ago!! My question is I have gotten a bunch of beautiful big yellow onions and I can’t use them up fast enough. Can you "can" onions alone? I know you can chop them up and freeze them or dry them. I’ve been canning for years but have never thought about onions except in the "meals in jars" that I can.
Yes, you can home can onions, but I personally like them better when they are dehydrated, but they are fine, canned, too. To can onions, slice or dice them, then slip into boiling water and simmer just 5 minutes. Pack hot into hot jars and cover to within 1/2" of the top of the jar with the broth. Add a tsp of salt, if you wish, to pints. Process at 10 pounds (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure; consult your canning manual)) for 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts. These are good in different recipes and also when used for fried or creamed onions. — Jackie
Want to move to the country
I want to move away from the south. I want some place far north away from everything. But I dont know where the best place is or would be to have a garden and farm animals. Also what state does Marjorie Burris live in? I want to live how she does and learn from her as well. I read she would take children in and teach them the old way. I want my children and I to learn the old ways.
I can’t tell you where would be "best", because that’s a very personal decision. You need to sit down and write yourself a list of "must haves" for your new homestead. Do you need power? Availability of a job? X number of acres? Sketch out your "ideal" homestead on paper, then decide what you absolutely CAN NOT tolerate and include that too. This may include neighbors, sub zero weather, poisonous snakes, wind, bears or whatever. Now decide on about what you could possibly scrape together for a downpayment and what you could spend for your homestead.
If you have little resources, you could rent, exchange work for rent or find creative financing from an agreeable owner. Using all of this you can pretty much decide what areas you would like to live in most or what would work for you.
Sorry, but Marjorie has retired. –Jackie
Canning meals in a jar
I have been utilizing the recipes from your "Canning Meals In a Jar" article (Issue #110 March/April 2008) and was hoping that you could direct me to a source that has even more recipes that I can use.
Waxhaw, North Carolina
Sorry Kevin, but there isn’t a source of recipes for "meals in a jar." What I do is just make a big batch of my own favorite recipes, then can up the whole thing. Just remember to process the food for the longest time required for any one ingredient…usually meat. Use a little restraint when adding rice, noodles or macaroni, as they swell and can make a very dense product. — Jackie
Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008
More signs of spring up north. Yesterday I woke up to a musical sound. Wolves? Nooooo… It sounds like geese. It IS geese! I threw open the window and the air was filled with the musical honking of Northbound Canadian geese flying low over the house, heading for the beaver pond. Of course it is still frozen, but they landed, nevertheless. I’m sure they’ll go on to one of the bigger rivers that is open now, but they’ll be back. We have at least three pairs nesting on our creek and ponds. What a wonderful sound!
And when I was walking out in the front yard to inspect the flower beds that have just cleared of snow, I spotted little red pointy noses poking up through the soil. Tulips!!! Unbelievable. Three days ago, there was a foot of snow on that bed. Spring happens pretty quick up here sometimes.
You really notice it on our mile long driveway. The winter ice pack is melting and breaking up in huge chunks. Dirt. Puddle. Eeek HOLE! I think they call it "breakup" because you break up your vehicle on the rough roads. But it makes you go so slow you notice the swelling buds on the popple and birch trees, the catkins on the alder. Gee I’m already wondering when I’ll hear the first frog. Now THAT’S a little premature….
The triplets are doing fine and are starting to bounce around. I’ve got to disbud them tomorrow. I don’t like doing it, but I’ve seen too many injured goats and people from leaving on the horns. The smallest doeling has blue eyes! I have never seen a goat with blue eyes before, and wonder if she’ll keep them. (Now she would be the one to name "Blue Velvet"!)
Moving canned goods to higher altitude
I have canned some strawberry jam where I live during the week, at sea level. I want to bring my jars of jam to my weekend cabin in the mountains at 7,000 ft. Is this ok or will the change in altitude
cause the jars to crack or break?
Big Bear City, California
I don’t think you’ll have any trouble. When we moved from Minnesota to Montana, we moved from 900 feet to 7,200 feet and I took all my canned goods in a stock trailer. I had no problem with jars, whatsoever. The whole bunch, both jams and jellies to meats, sauces, tomatoes and vegetables made it just fine. I wouldn’t worry. — Jackie
Ladyhawk, Moose, and Beauty
LadyHawk is gorgeous. And you’re looking pretty sharp yourself Jackie! What’s your beauty secret? I’m guessing – Lot’s of fresh air, hard work, healthy diet, and luuuuv.
What will be LadyHawk’s job responsibilities on your homestead?
What are the job responsibilities for Moose and Beauty, the donkey’s?
At one time I think you said that all your animals were pets but also served a farm-type purpose.
Boone, North Carolina
Gee, you’re making me blush! Maybe it IS love. Heck, I’m happy to be alive.
Ladyhawk, Moose and Beauty will be used, as well as enjoyed. We’ll eventually be hauling wood from our woods with them and driving them on various farm implements and vehicles. If the price of gas keeps going through the roof, we may be driving them to town, too!!!
Also, they are terrific manure makers. We need lots of manure for not only the garden, but also the flower beds, pastures and orchard! One can never have too much manure!!!
And, yes, our animals are all pets, too. We work harder than they do, so no one could ever accuse us of animal abuse! Ladyhawk is fitting in very well, and she’s a very personable little girl. She loves hugs, petting and attention. — Jackie
Glasstop stove canning problem
Jackie, thanks for the milk re-processing times. I’d love to have your recipes on ice-cream; yogurt and cheeses. I’m game to try anything to save a buck. A lot a people scratch their heads at why I do it, but, living in hurricane country, my family doesn’t want to become a future "Katrina" statistic. We’d rather fend for ourselves. So, all recipes and tips are always welcome.
In regards to the lady in Maryland who can’t get pressure on her glasstop stove, I can constantly on my glasstop, and South Carolina and Maryland are pretty much the same altitudes. I’ve never had a problem, if anything, if I don’t watch the burner carefully, it’ll range up 12lbs of pressure really quick. Perhaps she purchased too big of a canner? My canner holds only 7-8 quarts and 12 pints. If she bought a double-size pressure canner, it could explain why she’s not getting anything out of it. Just thought I’d pass that possibility on.
Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
That is a possibility. But one reason that canning on a glasstop isn’t recommended is that some canners have cracked the glass top on the stove, doing irreparable damage to it. — Jackie
Where can a steel on steel presure canner with no gasket be purpused? Have checked around and no one here has heard of one.
Actually, it’s "aluminum on aluminum", but you can buy several sizes at Lehman’s Hardware on line or through their catalog. I’ve used one for over 30 years and have only had to buy a gauge when water got in mine when we moved and I left it sitting outside where it froze. Not bad, considering the thousands and thousands of jars that I’ve processed through it! — Jackie
Chicks have curled toes
This is my first year as a chicken owner and 2 out of 15 Rhode Island Red chicks have curled toes. They are about 4 wks old. Have you had this problem in any of your chicks? Were you able to fix it or do you put them down? What breeds of chickens do you keep?
Curled toes in chicks is generally thought to be a genetic problem. Sometimes they grow out of it; sometimes they don’t. Sometimes if they don’t it doesn’t seem to bother them; they adjust. Other times it does and they are lame and don’t do well. You can try taping the toes straight, if they will manually straighten out without undue stress. Wrap adhesive tape relatively loosely around each toe to make a soft spling. This often does the trick.
Right now my chickens are mostly Araucanas and banties with a Araucana/Cornish rock rooster. I love the colored eggs and the way the chickens rustle for their own food like wild fowl. We do raise Cornish rock broilers for butchering; you can’t beat them. They’re huge! — Jackie