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Ask Jackie headline

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

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Archive for December, 2008

Jackie Clay

I’m cleaning the old wood stove

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Jackie Clay

It may be Christmas, but I’m drooling over seed catalogs already

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Seed Catalogs

This year, I’ve been getting seed catalogs for nearly a month now. So Will and I have been discussing different varieties that we’d like to try. We’ve already ordered 9 new apple trees, a pear, cherries, and a plum from Fedco. Oh, the plans we have! What fun! We’re going to move the berries out of the main garden and up by the old mobile home, in their own berry patch. This frees our big garden of obstacles for tilling and hauling manure and compost, making it easier to turn around on both ends. And it gives us about 1/4 more garden space for vegetables!

Now we only have to decide on the varieties we want to plant this spring. Because there’ll be two of us this spring, we’ll probably try a few longer season tomatoes and get them into the Wallo’ Water plant protectors quite early. I grew some Climbing Triple Crop tomatoes last summer and they made fruit, even though they are a 85 day tomato, and that was without the Walls. We’ll see how much we can push our “window” of growing season this year!

I want to start my pepper plants mid February, so we are getting serious about ordering a few new varieties to try. Of course, I already have a lot of seed saved up, but there’s always something new (or old, as in heritage varieties!) to try. Both Will and I love saving seeds, so we are heading more and more toward all open pollinated vegetables.

If you haven’t gotten a Baker Creek Heritage Seed catalog, you ought to check it out. Wow what a choice in veggies! And gorgeous pictures, too. Ahhhh spring is just around the corner…A few blizzards away.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning store-bought ham

I know you have talked about canning store-bought ham in the past, but I can’t find any instructions from you about how to do it. With the holidays upon us, hams are relatively inexpensive, and I’d like to try to can some ham.

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

The way I do ham is to heat the ham in a roasting pan until warm throughout. Then I cut the ham into 1″ slices, chunks or dices and pack hot into hot jars, leaving 1″ of head space. I make a ham broth or just pour boiling water over the ham, leaving 1″ of head space. Wipe the rim of the jar clean, place a hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process half pints and pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. (altitude adjustments possible over 1,000 feet; consult your canning manual)

This ham is great and I use it every week! I’m buying it on sale right now, too. I think you’ll see the price of meat skyrocketing pretty soon. Good move! — Jackie

Buying #10 cans of food and re canning them

As I was stocking up on some items at the grocery store before the next snow storm, I noticed that many canned goods such as mushrooms have gone way up in price. Is it possible to buy the really large (institutional size) can of mushrooms and recan them into smaller jars? If so how long do you process them? I would put them 1/2 pint jars. How do you know how long to process re canned items such as the spaghetti sauce you made out of the huge cans of tomato products that your friend brought you a few weeks back? I would also be interested in re canning 1/2 pint jars of tomato paste. I am noticing that the huge cans of mushrooms, paste, olives etc are over 1/2 the price in savings of the little ones (if you bought the same number of ounces). That’s a huge savings for me.

I want to thank you for telling another person how to can celery a few times back. I found celery really cheap at one store and canned it! Thanks for the savings!!

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

If you’ve got the jars and don’t have to buy them to re-can the #10 cans, it does save a bunch. Anything you re-can must be processed the same as if it was done from raw products. For instance, when canning fresh mushrooms, you process them (after boiling 5 minutes) for 45 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. When re-canning canned mushrooms, you also process them for 45 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

Be a little cautious about canning tomato paste. It is a dense product and you could run into problems with the heat not penetrating the centers of the jars. What I do is to thin the paste with sauce, making a thick sauce and can that instead of ultra thick paste. It works the same in recipes but is not so thick that heat won’t penetrate to the center of the jars. You will be processing pints for 35 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (altitude adjustments possible) — Jackie

Getting back to basics

My husband, 3 teens and I live on a 37 acre farm. I have just retired and would like to go “back to the basics.” How to start is my first question. We have 125 head of beef cattle, 1 horse, 3 cats, and we raise hay for sale and our own use. I used to raise a garden, but stopped a couple of years ago. We live in an underground house. Sounds like we already do basics, but not anymore. Seems we got away from it as the children got older and we became a “little” materialistic. How to start over and how to convince 3 teens the value of simple, frugal living. Where to start and how to continue to become self sufficient is my question?

Audrey Thompson
Abingdon, Virginia

It sounds like you have the base for a great start at getting back to basics. And this doesn’t need to mean farming without any gas powered equipment, either. The best way to go “back” is the same way you went “worldly,” a little at a time. Too sudden a change is hard on everyone. Find your way to the good life, one step at a time, with a definite goal in mind. Don’t expect your teens to embrace your choice at first and don’t put too many restrictions on them or they’ll buck. The best way to teach any life skill is by example.

When your kids see how much you enjoy what you’re doing, it’ll seem like fun and they’ll join in. If not, remember that they’re individuals too, and may not make the choices that you do. But you’ll be surprised, even then, when later on, down life’s road, to find them returning to their roots. My oldest son, Bill, is now growing a garden and is building a chicken coop after years of saying “No way!”

A good way to start is to downsize as much as you are comfortable with at the time. Maybe in a few years, you’ll downsize again so that you’re enjoying yourselves even more. I, at one time, milked 100 goats. It was enjoyable, but a whole lot of work. Now I am milking 2 and look forward to going out there every day. It’s much more fun!

In the same vein, I used to hay 12 places, and was on a tractor seat a lot of hours, every single day until it snowed. Now we are building up two 7 acre fields, planning on eventually haying that and probably renting a small field for more hay. But no big haying for me; I am enjoying being little!

Maybe you might start with growing a garden again. It is a definite good idea, considering the depression we’re headed into. Your teens probably will really enjoy eating home raised vegetables and may show interest in helping out.

Talk to them about your ideas and choices, and ask for their suggestions and ideas. When I’ve done this, I’ve always been surprised at how grown up some of their ideas are. And when the teens are let put some of their ideas into practice, they feel more “grown up” and a part of the whole process, instead of just a forced work crew. The best of luck! — Jackie

Canning bacon, butter, and turkey

I am wanting to can some bacon and homemade butter. I read your column on canning meats and bacon wasn’t mentioned. I would really appreciate knowing how to do this as soon as possible.

Another question I have is concerning our turkey that we canned in a pressure cooker. I know in a water bath that you only screw on the lid till it meets first resistance, or so I have been told. But what about in a pressure cooker. When we pressured the turkey, a lot of the broth oozed out of the jars. Did I not get the lids tight enough? And also, I was canning at 12 lbs pressure because we live at 2000 feet, and sometimes it went up to 13. What happens if we can a little higher pressure, does it hurt the food and can we have too much pressure?

Thank you so much for answering my questions. I haven’t pressured food for 20 years and have forgotten a lot of it, even though we had the gauge checked at the extension office.

Linda Monfort
Cusick, Washington

I recently talked about canning bacon on my blog, but here’s the basics, in case you missed it. I can mostly home smoked sides of bacon; they’re firmer and not as fatty. You can also can “store” bacon, but the pieces that are not sliced can up much nicer than regular sliced bacon. At any rate, try to get bacon that is as lean as possible. I put my bacon in a roasting pan, in the oven, and roast at 250 degrees until it shrinks some, heating throughout. Then I cut it into jar-sized pieces and pack hot into hot wide mouth jars. I add no liquid. Bacon is processed for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure. (Yes, you need to adjust for your altitude.)

You got your jar lids on tight enough. Liquid blowing out of the jar happens during canning. It does not affect the quality of the food. It can happen from filling the jar too full, opening the canner before the pressure is totally down to zero or having the pressure fluctuating suddenly. I don’t think going up to 13 pounds had anything to do with it. But in any case, don’t worry, as long as the jars sealed.
No it doesn’t hurt to have the pressure a little higher, but just right is best as the food doesn’t overcook. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s cut the tree time on the homestead

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

When Will and I were investigating our hillside last fall, we found this nearly perfect little fir tree. It was bushy, fat and shining; the perfect Christmas tree! I filed it in my memory where it stayed until today. With the 18″ of new snow, and more on the way, David and I decided we’d better get the tree cut, even though we won’t be putting it up for several days. We usually put our tree up two weeks before Christmas, but because we’re anxiously awaiting Will’s coming home on January 9th, we want to have a second Christmas then…complete with a decorated, homegrown tree.

So this year, we are waiting to put it up so it won’t dry up and shed needles. David and I went out on the hill and made short work of the new Christmas tree. Now it’s leaning up against the end of the house, where it’ll stay nice and fresh until we bring it inside. Last night we had two flying squirrels on the bird feeder, and I’ll just bet they will be in our Christmas tree tonight; it’s a short hop from that to the deck railing. Or should I say a short glide. They climb the big fir trees next to the gravel pit, glide to the porch railing, run up that and glide to the bird feeder. Plop! Plop! Incoming squirrels. They’re lots of fun to watch! Cheap entertainment, too.

Readers Questions:

Water bath canning

I started canning two years ago and so far I have only canned Salsa with a hot water bath. I want to can more items but I do not want to use a pressure canner or cooker. I have purchased several canning books but they all suggest a pressure form of canning. Is there a source for recipes that rely on canning with water baths only?

John Barber
Trussville, Alabama

WHY don’t you want to use a pressure canner? If it’s the cost, ask around and I’ll about guarantee you can find a working pressure canner for little cash from someone who just doesn’t can anymore…usually due to old age. If you’ve been told they are hard to use and dangerous, not so. All halfway modern canners have safety release valves so they can’t blow up…the steam pressure releases with a hiss.

You MUST use a pressure canner for all vegetables, poultry and meat and combinations containing them, to be safe. Yes, some Amish use water bath canners for these things, as did our grandparents. But unless you are totally certain to boil each and every food for 20 minutes on opening each and every jar to kill any botulism spore toxins possibly in the food, it is deadly dangerous to do so. Also, food water bathed so long, then boiled on use, not only tastes over-cooked, but IS over-cooked. Please, consider a pressure canner? I PROMISE you’ll love it after your first use. — Jackie

Building and zoning issues

I live in Michigan. Every time I want to start my homestead we run into building and zoning issues. Such as: no animals on parcels less than 5 acres. Can’t build an earth and tire shelter home; building code issues. I just read you book “Starting Over.” Any advice? How did you handle the local officials? Do I need to move to another state?

Rob Dawe
Fremont, Michigan

Well, we did move to an area with less strict zoning laws. But we also have 80 acres, way back in the woods. Yes, we did have to get a “land use” permit (building permit), but don’t have such things as building inspectors, etc.

Some states, and some locales in those states, have stricter zoning than others, by far. Check around to see if another area, not too far from you would be better. Unless you’re up for a bigger move. Personally, I don’t like all the restrictions, either! — Jackie

Canning bacon

In Issue 93 a reader asked if bacon can be canned. You wrote that you have canned it, but you did not explain how to do it. Could you please tell me how it’s done? With the world disintegrating, I’m very worried about using my freezer as much as I do. I can’t afford to discard meat since it’s so costly. Can you help me? I have used a pressure canner for years, so I know how to do it.

Beverly Robbins
Tallmadge, Ohio

I can my bacon in whole chunks, not sliced, as sliced bacon kind of falls apart as the fat cooks. I put the bacon in a roasting pan, in the oven and slowly heat it at low temperatures (250 degrees) until it is hot throughout, but not cooked. Then I quickly cut it into jar-sized pieces and pack it into hot jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. I do not add liquid. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

You can also process “store” bacon, handled the same way, but side bacon works better and is much less fatty, resulting in a better product. — Jackie

Canning turkey

I found some frozen turkey breast on sale after Thanksgiving and I was wondering does it hurt to can it? If not should I just raw pack it into jars and process or heat through first and top off with hot broth?

Challis Moffitt
Ramseur, North Carolina

Good for you, Challis! No. It’s great to can. I make broth, then put the rinsed breasts in it and simmer until the meat is done, but not over-cooked so it falls off the bone. Then I cut convenient pieces that will fit into my wide mouth jars, pack the hot meat in, leaving 1″ of headspace, fill the jars with boiling broth, leaving 1″ of headspace, then remove any air bubbles, wipe the rim clean, put a hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process half pints and pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes (boned) or if you leave the bones in, process pints for 65 minutes and quarts for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, in a pressure canner.

Enjoy your turkey. I do this every time I can buy turkey on sale and we sure use the meat. I can a lot in half pints and find I use that size jar quite a bit when I need flavoring for a casserole, etc. It also makes the turkey go a long way! Also consider canning up any leftover broth with a little meat in it. That’s real handy, too. — Jackie

Buying heirloom seeds

Marjorie and I love your articles, when BHM comes we always grab and read you first. We also live in Minnesota, just south of Bemidji. I am the Chaplain for the Disabled American Veterans and a retired Navy Corpsman. If you are ever in the Bemidji area, we would love to have you come visit and stay overnight. Our home is a free “Bed and Breakfast,” called the “Gospel Trail Ministries.” Our question: where can we get an order for Heritage organic seeds (Non GMO)?

Walter and Marjorie James
LaPorte, Minnesota

Thank you for the invitation. I travel very seldom, especially when taking care of Mom, who’s 92 and in a wheelchair; she doesn’t like to go and I have no one to leave her with if I should travel anywhere.

There are a lot of places that sell good Heirloom seeds. You can shop with Seed Savers Exchange, Baker Creek Seeds, Native Seeds/SEARCH and many others. Try typing heirloom vegetable seeds into your browser and see what pops up! It’s really worth the extra time and it’s fun, too! — Jackie

Dehydrating meat

I can’t do canning anymore (health) but I have discovered dehydrating and I love it. My question is I read that basically any thing can be dried. I would like to roast a turkey and take all the meat and grind it add the juice and dehydrate it at 155 Degrees till DRY. I have a 9 tray Excalibur. I really need to know if you think this is safe and a good idea.

Connie Mellott
Brunswick, Ohio

Yes, you can dehydrate turkey. I would not add the juice, however; it contains a good deal of fat, which is your enemy when dehydrating. I think 150 degrees would give you better results; turkey tends to get hard when dehydrated. To rehydrate it, put some in a plastic container, pour on boiling water, put the lid on and wait until it gets as tender as you’d like. Or simply put some in your casserole that you’ll be baking with liquid, for some time.

Any meat can be dehydrated safely, but for fatty meats like some pork. — Jackie

Preventing the water bucket from freezing

I am putting my chicken house in the garden, like the one shown in the Chickens beginners guide. My question is: the garden is 150 feet away from the electricity. I really don’t want to have to dig a trench to get electricity out there. I’m assuming I can run a solar panel/light combo to put light in the house, but how to I prevent the water from freezing without power? Location, Colorado. Plenty of sunshine, winters here-abouts are around 0F daytime high, -20F nighttime low at it’s very worst so far, but generally sunny and 30’s to 40’s in the day. My dogs water bowl freezes every day, but a heated bucket we have stays liquid when plugged into an outlet.

Kevin Long
Elizabeth, Colorado

Although putting your chickens’ water container in an insulated box will help, I’ve never come up with anything that would keep the water liquid after sub zero nights. I carry a bucket of warm water to my chickens twice a day, knocking out any ice in their rubber tub first.

Where you do have power, I’d suggest either running underground or overhead lines to your coop if the pail-carrying option doesn’t suit you. (You’d also have your lights, too.) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Preparedness hit home today

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Two days ago, the weather radio that I turn on first thing each and every morning started warning us that a major winter storm was heading our way. It was kind of hard to believe, because we had only about 4″ of snow on the ground and the weather was pretty typical of this time of the year. A bit cold, cloudy, spitting snow on and off; nothing too bad. But I know enough to ignore the warning. So yesterday, we got ready. David took off first thing in the morning to haul our last two loads of square hay bales from the farm we bought them from. I got two more “extra” big round bales of hay to see our horses and donkeys happily through the storm, then set to work to tighten up the place. I filled the water tanks in the basement, stuffed extra insulation in the cracks of the chicken coop, gave the goats extra bedding to snuggle down in, watered all the stock extra well, hauled in a wheelbarrow load of kindling, then a big load of large chunks from our storage pile of 9 truckloads, under the porch. We still have about half a cord on the enclosed porch, but these pieces are all hardwood and are bigger. That way they last longer. By evening, it was still. STILL, like just before a huge thunderstorm. It seemed warm, being only 20 degrees with no wind. I made sure the snow shovel was handy on the porch, then waited. This morning it hit! We got over an inch an hour with a 30 mph wind. And it’s going to go on all night. Then the temperature’s going to drop out of sight. They’re talking about a low of -38 tomorrow night, with wind chills of -45 to -50. Brrrrrrr. Yep. I’ve learned to NEVER, never, ignore the warnings. We’ve got plenty of wood, propane, just in case, too. There’s 600 gallons of water in the house tanks, tons of hay, grain for the livestock, a full pantry, a pretty snug little cabin, the snowplow’s on the truck and we’re cozy inside watching the snow blow by. We feel blessed, indeed.

Readers Questions:

Researching his own questions

I saw what Dave Duffy wrote on his blog, so I decided to research my own answers to the questions I asked you a couple weeks ago. I always think I don’t have time to do that, or don’t know how, but I surprised myself and found out it wasn’t as hard as I thought. And I discovered all kinds of things about using my computer, plus I found the index of questions to you over the last couple years. Wow! I’m glad you’re there when we really need you, but I’m glad to know where to look for answers for myself, most of which I found had already been asked and were in your past blogs!

Steven Gregersen
Fortine, Montana

I’m just learning the capabilities of my computer, too. It’s amazing! — Jackie

Storing garlic in olive oil

We just moved here to New Mexico from Vermont and brought with us a lot of home grown garlic. We have a lot and would like to store them in Olive oil. Can this be done,and for how long? Some people say it cannot be done because of botulism. I already have peeled the garlic and put them in live oil.

Frank Barber
Deming, New Mexico

Your garlic and oil, when kept refrigerated, will stay good for a long, long time. Just be sure you don’t leave the jar out on the counter.

There’s not really a reliable way to safely can garlic in oil. What a lot of folks do is to FREEZE small amounts of garlic w/oil, in individual containers, like ice cube trays, then dump the cubes out into a freezer bag. Then when you want your olive oil w/garlic, just thaw out a cube or two. You can also pickle garlic, but since you’ve already put yours in oil, that won’t work. I dehydrate a lot of mine, and that works just great! — Jackie

Growing potatoes in tires

Potato tire stack–I tried it this past summer. Did everything like the article said, and come harvest time, I had shoots out the top, they dried off, and when I went to find my treasure, I only got a handful of little new potatoes…the rest of the dirt in the stack was just that–DIRT! Any ideas on what could have gone wrong? I added each tire when the stalks were high enough and only buried them 8″ per time, using very loamy, loose dirt/compost…very puzzled how it could look so good above ground but do NOTHING under the ground! Sure don’t want to do that work again without having any idea why it failed! How do you make sure in a stack that high that there is enough water at the bottom…that’s my only thought!

John Wendling
Berea, Ohio

It sounds like maybe your potatoes didn’t get enough water. One way to cure that problem is to cut a 4′ piece of PVC pipe and drill 1/4″ holes down the length, every 6 inches. Put a bottom cap on it, and when you’ve got all tires in place, gently pound the stake in on one side. Leave the top sticking out of your top layer of tires. When you water, stick your hose in the pipe and just leave running slowly for awhile. The water will ooze out of the pipe and soak the whole depth of the tire bed.

Now, before you try this watering trick, think back. Did you water your potatoes TOO much? That will also result in low production. Or did you fertilize a lot? Was your compost high in manure? High fertility, especially high amounts of nitrogen will result in huge potato vines and few actual potatoes. (Just a couple of ideas for you…)

I’m hoping you’ll have better luck next year. Many of my friends use this method and love it. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s looking a lot like Christmas

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Here is my latest video:

David got busy the other day and dragged out all our outside Christmas lights. I always shop right after Christmas at the “big” stores and have picked up sets of icicle lights for $2 and others for as low as .50 a set. So we haven’t a lot of cash invested in boxes of great lights. Last year, with the deep, early snow, and everything else that was going on, we just didn’t get around to getting lights up. But this year, we do, and it’s oh so cheerful!

I’ve also been canning up the last of David’s deer. Last night, I marinated the last of the boneless meat and tenderloins and ground up the meat from the neck and shoulders. So today I roasted the pieces of meat to partially cook it and fried up the ground meat with onions from the garden. I added 3 quarts of water with some spices to the roasts, near the end, so when I packed the hot meat in pint jars, I had great seasoned broth to pour over it. The ground meat, I packed hot, without liquid, also in pint jars. Then I processed it all in one big batch in the canner. Boy does it look tasty! But I AM glad that’s finally done. It’s kind of tough when half the deer freezes solid outdoors and you have to chop it and saw it apart with a hatchet and hand saw…Not real “dainty,” for sure!

We have been having real cold and several inches of new snow every day or two. Real cold. As in below zero, cold. Brrrr. But the new snow is helping our plants survive the winter and helping keep the septic tank, which I covered with hay, and water line, from freezing. So that’s a good thing. Besides, the fluffy snow on our beautiful log cabin and those glowing Christmas lights really make it look a lot like a Christmas card.

Readers’ Questions:

Hopi Pale Grey seeds

Just a quick note to say thank you for the Pale Grey Hopi seed. You sent plenty of seeds to plant this spring and to hold some back for next year, just in case. Thank You.

Dan Jones
Chickamauga, Georgia

Glad you got your seeds okay, Dan. Remember not to plant any C. maxima squash or pumpkins in your garden this year, except for the Hopi Pale Greys. That way you’ll keep pure seed and can pass some along to other neighboring gardeners and friends. — Jackie

Cranberry juice for bladder infection

I just love your blog and of course the magazine. You stated that your Mom suffers from frequent bladder infections. My mom did to but she found that drinking cranberry juice was really helpful in preventing the infections. Maybe it would help your mom.

Nancy Hanson
Washburn, Wisconsin

Thanks for the thought. Mom drinks bottles of cranberry juice every week. The doctor thinks that she may have a pocket of infection that just doesn’t clear up completely. She has an appointment with a urologist January 19th. They had NO earlier appointments! Wow! Kids: consider urology as a career! — Jackie

Bread machines

Do you recommend bread makers? I once had one and wasn’t too impressed but did like it for the temperature. When making bread by hand I always messed up the water temp/yeast factor…I never liked the bricks that came out of the bread maker and would just take the dough out and then make it in the oven. That bread machine died 10 yrs. ago. Have they gotten any better at not making bricks? I saw one at Walmart and the container was so tiny, yet the machine huge. Or do you just say phooey on them and say don’t waste your money?

Bemidji, Minnesota

I’ve never had a bread machine, although Mom had one and really liked it because her hands had such bad arthritis that she could no longer mix and knead bread. Ilene Duffy uses one a lot and her breads turn out great. I’d say that newer bread machines ARE much better than they used to be, but with everything else, often you get what you pay for…the cheaper machines probably won’t work as well as the more pricey ones. I like the old fashioned mix and knead method, myself. It’s relaxing. — Jackie

Canning link sausage

I canned link (chicken) sausage in pint jars (dry, no liquid added) at 10 lbs for 75 min. without cooking the sausage first.They turned out well and every jar sealed.Would it be better to cook the sausage first and then pressure can it or is it sufficient enough to go ahead and can it like I did? I am looking for a basic reasonable long term storage on this item.Thank you for your time and consideration!

Pam Ayala
Arlington, Washington

I’ve canned sausages like you did, but now I’m gently browning them, then packing them hot, in hot jars. I never had any trouble raw packing them, but they seemed better after I browned them before packing. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Thanksgiving, then making jerky from David’s deer

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

We had a great “vacation.” David had Thursday, Friday, and the weekend off from school. Of course, Thursday, being Thanksgiving, I cooked, cooked, and baked. That’s MY vacation; doing all that baking and cooking, which I really love. Mom eats like a bird; a very small bird. David’s often away doing young man stuff. So I don’t have anyone to cook for. When I get the chance, I go whole hog. (Look out, Will!) We had a whole lot of homegrown food on the table…the rest homemade, anyway. Boy, our garden really shined! Glazed carrots, green bean casserole, mustard bean pickles, dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, blackberry jam, and oh those wonderful Yukon Gold potatoes! Add a blackberry cheesecake, apple pie with caramel drizzles and toasted pecans, half time spoon rolls and we were too stuffed to move!

But the next day we did. David’s deer is frozen under the greenhouse, where it’s hanging, and I sawed off a quarter, brought it in to thaw over night, then cut it up, ground it with the meat grinder, and made three flavors of jerky from it. Another quarter soon followed and I’ve got THAT batch of 8 dehydrator trays finishing up tonight. Wow!

Sprinkled in with that was the trip to my grandson, Mason’s first birthday party, down at Bill and Kelly’s on Sunday, which was a wonderful day and Mom’s trip to the ER on Friday, which wasn’t so great. She’s having trouble with a recurring bladder infection which, in the elderly, often shows up with hallucinations and disorientation. Very scary for ME! But the doctor put her on a different antibiotic and she was well enough to go to Mason’s birthday party Sunday and today, she continues to improve. But I’m kind of tired.

Will and I are already picking out varieties of strawberry plants for our new bed in the house garden and some more new trees for our orchard. See. Spring is ALMOST here! By the way, Hi Andy!

Readers’ Questions:

Filling Wall o’ waters

Wall o’ water filling tip: This is not a question but we know as do you the back breaking pain it is to fill dozens of wall o waters. My husband came up with this: He used some old black 3/4″ drip line and capped one end. He then made a circle that was about the same circumference of the outside of a 5 gallon bucket, capping one end. He wire tied it and left the uncapped end extending about 1 ft. He then punched 18 holes in it at equal intervals on the circle. He attached 9″ of 1/4″ drip line to each hole. He put a hose connector and then a hose shut off valve on the extended open end. Although this was easiest to use with two people, one to hold it steady while the other puts the “legs” into each hole, it took way less time and effort than the usual. Once the legs were in the wall o water (we had the wall o water already sitting over a bucket) we moved the whole thing on top of the plant and turned the valve. It fills all the channels at the same time and takes less than a minute. I’d guess that it only took about 30% of the time it usually takes, so even though it took two people it still was a time saver. We call it the “spider.” If you’d like a picture let me know. I saw all the rows of wall o’ waters in your book and thought this might ease the pain of filling them as it did for us.

Loved your book!

Lisa and Bob
Reno, Nevada

Glad you liked the book. I just read it and was humbled by how far we’ve come and how much we’ve gotten done with the help of friends and family.

Boy, I LOVE your idea for filling the Wallo’ Waters! YES I’d love a photo, and I’ll bet other readers will too. Why don’t you talk to the makers of Wallo’ Waters and maybe they’d consider buying rights so they could make and sell them! THANKS! I knew there had to be an easier way! — Jackie

Protecting food from weevils

Are plastic zip-lock bags or trash bags with the end tied in a knot sufficient protection from weevils?

It is so much more affordable to purchase rice, beans and corn meal in 40-50 lb bags, so I am seeking a second layer of protection around the one it comes in.

Jason Riggs
Cleveland, Texas

Plastic zip lock bags are generally protection against weevil infestation…unless there are weevil eggs in your grains. The trash bags with a knot tied are not. Better yet, put your bags of rice/grain in plastic garbage cans, plastic totes with tight fitting lids (some aren’t). If you want to use the garbage bags, you can beef ’em up by folding the ends of the bags back over the sacks and taping them securely with duct tape. I’ve done this and it’s worked pretty darned good. Then, in addition, I’ve placed the taped bags in a sturdy cardboard or plastic tote. No problems there. — Jackie

Storing corn

We tried to store 200lbs of field corn in a plastic tub in the basement. Condensation gathered on the lid to the container and dripped on the corn bags, which then swelled and grew bugs. How do you long term store your corn? We bought our corn at the local feed shop and I don’t know what the moisture content was. Thanks and your articles and blog are great. I am a huge fan and so is my dad.

Erin Crouch
Coats, Kansas

Do you have a problem with dampness in your basement, with other things. Like does rust form on paint can lids? I really think that probably your problem was corn with too high a moisture content, and it sounds like you stored it in the bags. I’ve always stored my whole corn and wheat “loose” in plastic garbage cans, and I’ve never had a problem with moisture, at all. I’d try it again with one bag of corn, dumping it in loose so there’s more air circulation within the container. If you still have this problem, buy your next corn in the summer, then dry it yourself by pouring a bag or two out onto a clean plastic tarp out in the yard, right in the sun. Stir it around all day, then cover in the late afternoon if there’s a chance of dew forming over night. In the morning, repeat the drying. Even quite moist corn is usually dry in two days of this treatment. Better luck next time. This definitely can be done! — Jackie


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