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Jackie Clay

A new garden joins our homestead

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008

On the east side of our house, beyond where we will be building the new entryway/laundry room/green room, there was a humpy bumpy, rocky area. Ugly! There were stumps, logs and other nasty stuff. Not the best of views. So Sunday we dedicated the day to cleaning it up and leveling it off for the new house garden. This will be half strawberry bed, half raised beds with a small selection of house crops such as tomatoes, onions, lettuce, spinach, cukes, peppers and herbs.

On the north side, I’m planting a hedge of bush cherries, with semi-dwarf cherries and even a peach tree (Reliance), hopefully protected by the house, close by. We’ll see. On the east and south side, I’m planting more small fruit trees and hedges of blueberries and currants, which are low enough to not shade the garden. Of course around the edges, as well as “here and there” in the garden, will be flowers, along with a flower bed beside the wall of the new addition….when it gets done.

David ran the bulldozer for an hour over the site, removing stumps and logs, then grading the soil level. We had about four yards of black dirt left over from our raised beds in the front yard. So he finished up by shoving that over the strawberry area, covering it by about six inches. The strawberry area will receive a good application of rotted manure, be tilled well, then several times this summer. It will remain fallow all year to let me completely KILL all weeds, grass and brush that might sprout. They are the biggest enemy of strawberries and I do not want to fight them. The raised beds, I’ll plant this spring. Wow! It’s SO beautiful out there, already! Just wait.

Of course I’ve got to allow for the deer. We’re fencing from the main garden, below the house, up in front of the new house garden, to the house, then swinging the existing garden fence across the bottom of the backyard and up to meet the new fence on the west side of our front yard. I got 2″x4″ 6′ high welded wire fencing on sale last week, so I bought enough to do the job. Bambi beware! No more midnight garden raids for you.

Readers’ questions:

Basic bread recipe

I’m looking for a basic bread recipe. Something to use for sandwiches.

Connie Blakey
Russell Springs, Kentucky

Here’s a basic white bread recipe; there’s hundreds of different breads, types of bread and recipes for them so it’s hard to know just what you need. Richard Blunt is writing a two-part series on making wholesome bread beginng with BHM’s next issue. He’ll discuss making bread from scratch, grinding your own grain, etc.

BASIC WHITE BREAD

  • 1 c milk, scalded
  • 6 Tbsp margarine
  • 3 c warm water
  • 2 pkg.yeast or 2 Tablespoons
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5plus c white flour

Barely scald milk; do not boil. Add margarine, sugar and salt. Set aside to cool and let the margarine melt. Put 3 C warm water in a large bowl and add yeast and mix well. Add to milk mix. Stir well. Begin stiring in flour. Add more flour to make an elastic, soft, yet non-sticky dough. Knead well. Grease top and place in a greased, warm bowl to raise. Cover with a warm, damp kitchen towel. When nearly doubled, punch down. Grease your bread pans and divide dough. Cover and let rise again till doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 350 degrees for about another 20 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap the top with your finger. Wipe top with butter for a nice soft crust. Cool slightly and remove from pan to finish cooling on a baking rack. — Jackie

Pricing blackberry jam

I am trying to find out how to price a pint of blackberry jam. A co-worker would like to buy some and last year, I undersold them A LOT. I have 9 cups of blackberries crushed and 6 cups of sugar.

Melissa Aguilar
Carthage, Texas

Did you buy your blackberries or pick them? I feel that you should get at least a 100% markup on materials to make any kind of profit. Remember that you also have the cost of the jar, lid and heat to make that jam. With the price of sugar going up, like all groceries, you’d better consider the cost of replacing the sugar you use, too!

To figure your cost, add how much your blackberries cost (or a fair price if you grow them or wild pick), plus your jar and the sugar. That’ll give you a good idea of what your cost is. Go from there. — Jackie

Heavy canners, composting toilets

I can’t believe what a strong woman you are, in every way!!!!!! Couple of questions, you can a lot and I was wondering, do you drain and put away your canner at the end of each day during the busy season? I wonder because I have health problems, plus a dbl.masectomy and not much strength in my arms. Is there perhaps an easier way of doing this? I want to buy a pressure canner but know they are very heavy. Also we have a small cabin on the Snake River in Mn. no indoor plumbing ,we have running water,it just comes in a hose hooked up to our neighbors outside spigot,and hanging on a big old nail on the back steps,darn handy in summer. we have an outhouse(one holer, never did figure out who you’d want to sit next to out there) but as the years creep up on us the trip out there is not always convenient. I was wondering about composting toilets,can’t seem to ever find anyone who has one or had one. are they smelly,inconveient,really work?? Any info would be appreciated. I so wish you and I were neighbors, I feel as though I know you and we think so much alike. bet you have great humor too.

Marlene Kevelin
Lino Lakes, Minnesota

No, Marlene, I don’t always dump and put away my canners when I’m done for the day. It kind of depends on my schedule and what I’ve been canning. But if the water in them is not clean (goop blew out between the lid and rim of the jar), I usually DO. Bits of food or even juice and quickly sour the water. And in a pressure canner, bits of food can clog the exhaust vent; not a good thing! My pressure canner is HUGE, and when I was canning while taking chemo and radiation, I often tipped the canner instead of lifting it. With the water bath canner, you can also bail it out with an ice cream pail or sauce pan into a mop bucket.

If you get a moderate sized canner, they really aren’t that heavy, as they are made of aluminum.

As for the composting toilet; YES they do work and NO they aren’t smelly, IF you install and maintain them right. My best friend, Gloria, in Montana had one and when you entered their small house, there was never, never the slightest bit of odor from it. Theirs was a non-electric model, as they had no electricity, save from a generator and windcharger.

We would have installed one here, but in St.Louis county, when you run water into your house, you must install a septic system! So we did. Boo for St. Louis County! — Jackie

Any danger from tires in garden?

Hi…Love your blog and articles! In this month’s issue, you talk about raising potatoes in stacked tires. Is there any danger from chemicals leaking into the potatoes? I know it’s not safe to plant vegies in boards that are treated with chemicals, so just wondered if there was a similar problem with tires?

Ruth Dixon
Gold Beach, Oregon

I’ve never heard about any problems regarding using tires as garden containers. I’ve had several friends who used them for years with great results. I DO worry about folks using the old arsenic treated pressure treated landscape timbers and lumber for raised beds. THAT has been proven to leach into the soil. — Jackie

Size of canner

I am looking at a 21 qt. pressure canner. The website also carries 25qt and larger. It appears they all can 7 quarts or 19 pints. I know you advise buying the largest you can afford but would there be any benefit to the huge sizes? I am only planning to use it for canning. I am really learning a lot from your blog about canning.

Wayne Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

The reason I have a huge canner is that I can stack quarts on the bottom and pints on top, or two layers of pints, doing all at the same time. The 30 quart canner that I have IS heavy! But it is all business on canning day. Most people do just fine with the 21 quart canner. In fact, I bought one as a “spare” because my old canner IS so darned heavy. — Jackie

Is canning pork safe?

Is canning wild pork safe?

Billy Curry
St. Cloud, Florida

Definitely. Provided that you use recommended canning methods and times for pork. Pressure canning (the only safe method of canning meat and vegetables) heats the meat to kill any possible parasites or bacteria. Go for it! — Jackie

Is water level in canning important?

The wife & I are going to try our hands at canning this year. We have an old (1947) “National #7″ pressure canner which I have brought back to life. We do not have a manual for this unit, so have been using our hard copy BHM magazine library, the website, & the WWW as references. I’ve tried searching the BHM website & have had no luck in finding answers.

First question. Is the water level of any real importance in this process? It seems to me that a few inches of water to provide steam & the requisite temperature is what we’re looking for; is that correct?

Second, our canner has a pressure gauge, & I recognize the need to get to ~11psi for the process (we are at 750′ asl), but would a higher pressure have an ill effect? My head tells me that as the killing of the wee beasties that cause spoilage is complete at 240^F, the increased temperature that would accompany an increase in pressure would just be overkill. In other words, if the canner was run in the 15-20 psi range, would that present a problem of which I am not aware?

Jack & Deb Horan
Mason, New Hampshire

Yes, the water is to provide steam for the pressure; generally, only an inch or so is necessary. You just don’t want the water to boil dry during the canning time.

Don’t can at too high a pressure. This can blow liquid and sometimes force food out of the jars between the lid and rim. Then the jars will not seal. — Jackie

Hand-operated washing machine

Don’t know if this question belongs to you or an other staffer, but I will start with you. I am looking for information on hand operated washing machines. Got any resources you can send me to?

Bob Taylor
Poulsbo, Washington

Lehmans Hardware has a sturdy hand operated washing machine for sale; it isn’t cheap but it does the job if you’ve got the time and muscle. — Jackie

Growing tomatoes in Egypt

I have 1 1/2 acre, limestone soil, West Alexandria. Hot weather. How can I grow bushy tomatoes at end of this month. Previous crop alfalfa.

Abdelghaffar Jouda
Alexandria, Egypt

I wish I was more familiar with your climate. Here in northern Minnesota, we had snow yesterday! I would suggest working in some organic material, such as rotted manure or straw, then setting out some started plants that have been hardened off (exposed for short periods to the weather in a protected location at first). A drip irrigation system or ditch irrigation will be valuable to be sure your plants receive plenty of water, as needed.

A partial shade may be necessary in the day to protect the plants from sun scald. You might check out some local U.S. varieties for hot weather, as they will produce more for you. Good luck with your tomatoes! — Jackie

Ready to live off-grid

Ready to live off the grid, I have 80 A. in Tennessee. Love it, can you tell me where I can get info on building a solar cabin, and any other info.

Sam Perry
Mandeville, Louisiana

You might check out kansaswindpower.net and backwoodssolar.com for a start. Then I’d go to the library and see what they or inter-library loan have available on solar living/building. There’s tons of information available out there, including BHM’s own Jeff Yago and his past articles on the subject. — Jackie

One Response to “A new garden joins our homestead”

  1. gen Says:

    As to using tires to garden in, when the US sold LEADED gasoline, tires could absorb the lead from the roadway and car exhaust. Now that lead is not an ingredient in our gas, that is no longer a consideration. Those cute little horse swings made from old car tires were at one time dangerously unhealthy for the children who loved ‘riding’ them. It is fine to use them as planters, and keeps them out of the landfills, extending their use is great.

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