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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Jackie Clay

We’re battening down the hatches for a major spring snow storm

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!

Readers’ questions:

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?

Brenda Palmer
Marblemount, Washington

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

Canning onions

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.

Nancy Hanson
Washburn, Wisconsin

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.
Ann Milam
Foreman, Arkansas

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.

Kevin Johnson
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


One Response to “We’re battening down the hatches for a major spring snow storm”

  1. Aaron Neal Says:

    I feel for you Jackie – down here in Texas, it’s hurry-up time again to get the warm-weather plants (tomatoes and peppers, etc) in, and the biggest weather worry is whether it will rain vs be hot (my wife got a bit too warm working in the flower garden today).

    Good luck with the yucky white stuff – I can’t stand snow; one of the reasons I live in Texas :)

    I have a couple of questions – my (nearly) 10-month old son had his first taste of “beanie weenies” tonight. He loved them; it’s “big-boy” food that needs a little chewing. I think I can probably reproduce what the store-bought cans have in quantity for cheap. White beans, chopped-up hot dogs, a very thin tomato paste-based sauce, and just enough sugar to give it a very slightly sweet taste.

    Does that sound right to you? Not sure yet if I’ll freeze small portions or can them (still working on getting a pressure canner). I suppose if I can them I need to look up what’s in the hot dogs, and can to the longest time for either those ingredients or the beans (whichever proves to require the longest time)?

    Also, last year I went to a “pick your own” strawberry farm and picked about 10 lbs of strawberries to make preserves with – turned out GREAT. Kind of expensive ($2.50/lb), but I got to pick the ones I wanted so they were perfect. Made excellent, and relatively inexpensive Christmas gifts, and my wife loved the preserves also :)

    It looks like this year (thanks to volunteer plants I’m taming) I’ll probably wind up with several gallons of blackberries. Do you know a way to make a good preserve by combining strawberries and blackberries, or should I keep them separate?

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