Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

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.

Order from Amazon. Order from the publisher, save 10%, and get FREE shipping.

Archive for March, 2009

Jackie Clay

I’ve been canning…and shooting photos for the new book

Monday, March 30th, 2009

While all the major writing has been done on the new Backwoods Home book on growing and canning your own food, I still had two photo shoots to do, showing the steps of both canning using the boiling water bath method and a pressure canner. So yesterday I canned up a batch of Pink Lady apples that Will bought me and today it was a nice big ham. And we got to eat a pie made from those great apples afterward, along with a ham dinner tonight. Gee how we suffer!!

The book was fun to write, but I’m honestly glad I’m done with my part. Sort of like being on deadline! Whew! Now I can get back to doing what I was writing about and helping Will on the addition.


Readers’ Questions:

Making soap

I made soap recently and used Backwoods Home Magazine issue #84 the article by Grace Brockway titled “The joys of making soap” and used her basic lard soap recipe. This was my first time making soap and it didn’t set up. I let it set about 3 days and it was really runny and felt a little oily to the touch. I then went to the first anthology (the first two years) and found an article about soap making. It said to pour the soap back into my bath canner with water and heated it up until it gets real creamy looking. Then to poured it out into the mold again. And that is what I did. That time it did set up. But it is really soft even after two weeks or so. I can still cut it with a knife and on the inside it is real sticky. After it has been exposed to air it will form a soft shell so it is not sticky, but it is still soft. Is there something that I did wrong or could do differently?

Jarad Brinkerhoff
Glendale, Utah

Often when we are learning a new skill, we don’t get it right the first time. It takes practice. Soap is no exception. The trick is knowing when to pour the soap out into the mold. If you pour too soon, it will stay soft, like yours did; too long and it gets hard and brittle. You might reclaim the soap by once again heating it with minimal water, even if you have to chop or grate it. Then whip the tar out of it with a wooden spoon, while it heats. Pour it our into fresh molds and put them in a warmish place to set. (Not in a cold basement; cold sometimes prevents soap from setting up.)

I’m sure your next attempt will be less frustrating. — Jackie

Good laying chickens

Could you please tell me what type of chicken is a really good layer and setter I have Dominique and Buff Orpingtons. But they are to fat, sassy and busy to set, they are pets to me I love and enjoy them so much, but would like to have some that are good setters. Any suggestions?

Penney Schmitzerle
Leitchfield, Kentucky

Your chickens should be good setters, as the breeds are known for that. I’ve had Buff Orpington hens that would hatch a golf ball. How old are your hens? Young hens often don’t get the hang of sitting on eggs; it takes a little age. You can also try any of the Cochins; they are really good mamas. Good hatching! — Jackie

Rinsing grain and woodstove baking

You said not to buy wheat (or corn) from the feed store for food purposes because it is not cleaned well. Well, would it work to wash the grain, dry it well, and then use it?

I have a wood stove but not a wood cook stove–so no oven (darn). I am trying to figure out how to bake (like bread or cakes) on it. I have tried heating the pressure canner (dry) on it and putting the bread pans inside but that did not work very well. I have tried putting the bread pans on a rack on the stove covered by an inverted roasting pan but that did not work very well. Got any more ideas I could try?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

I’m sure you could rinse your grain to rid it of bug parts, dust, etc. Just be sure it is very dry, inside and out (don’t soak it!) before storage, as it will mold if it is not.

Pick up a camping oven. They are basically a tin or aluminum box that you sit on top of your stove, with a rack in it to elevate your baking off the stove top’s heat. They work pretty well, but don’t bake a large loaf of bread. Usually you do rolls, biscuits, or small loaves in them. — Jackie

Floor insulation

We are in the process of adding an addition onto our house for our handicap daughter and our master bedroom. What do you consider to be the best way to insulate the floor for the addition will be on concrete pillars and have a crawl space of about 10 inches. The builder wants to use regular insulation (the pink stuff) but I am concerned about moisture and little critters looking for a place to

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

What we did when we built our addition with a crawl space was to tack strips of 1″x2″ along the bottom sides of the floor joists and laying OSB down on them, sealing off the access to the fiberglass insulation to the “critters” who love it for nests. Because your crawl space is so low, you might consider using treated plywood in place of OSB because of the possible moisture issue. The fiberglass is added above the panels. — Jackie

Storing honey

I’ve been given a plastic jar of honey — perhaps 3/4 of a gallon — that my father harvested 40 years ago. I know honey lasts forever, but I’ve also heard that botulism grows on honey. I hate to process it by boiling it, but would prefer that to creating a health risk. How can I make sure my family is safe in eating it?

Roman and Kelly Balaban
Wilmington, California

I have no information regarding ADULTS or older children getting botulism from eating honey. The risk is for infants under the age of 12 months of age. If you have no infants in your family, I, personally, wouldn’t worry. I have some of my own honey that is over 15 years old and I am still using it. It tastes fine and we are all alive. — Jackie

Canning lemon juice

I was hoping you might be able to help me. I just received three big bags of lemons and was hoping you might have some ideas on how to preserve them. I read in your archives how to dry them (which I will try), but would also like to make and can them as lemonade? Is this

Tami Wagner
Manning, Oregon

Glad to hear you scored on the lemons. You can juice them and can the lemon juice but I’m not so sure about the lemonade as you’re adding a lot of water which dilutes the acid in the lemonade. Why not juice the lemons, then can up the juice; it only takes a minute to make your fresh lemonade by adding the juice to water and then adding sugar to taste. To can the juice, heat the strained juice to 165 degrees; do not boil. Then ladle it into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Process the pints or quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (If you live at an altitude over 1,000′, consult your canning manual for directions on changing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary.) Enjoy your bounty! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Insulating and working on the addition

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Jackie Clay

Disturbing National Animal Identification talk now spreading to vegetables in your garden

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Because of lots of public outcry, the NAIS, a government “wonderchild,” sponsored largely by large agribusiness type animal/poultry growers, apparently shriveled and came to a standstill last year. The NAIS is basically an animal/poultry identification system, wherein each and every homestead and individual that houses even one or two animals or chickens, will be required to register and identify each and every animal on their place. It gets even worse. What if you sell, show or give an animal away? You have to document each movement (at your expense, of course). And what if the animal dies (they do, you know!). It’s looking like they are wanting an autopsy at your expense to prove what the animal died from.

This Franken-bill is, in my opinion, only the start. The government has learned not to cause public outcry by taking giant steps. So it nibbles away at our freedoms in tiny bits that are “for our safety and own good.” They say things like “mad cow,” “bird flu” and people agree to anything.

Now they’re talking about tracking the vegetables farmers grow and sell (or give away) because of “bacterial contamination,” etc. For crying out loud!

For more information on this, check out:

and on the NAIS: and

Most of you readers know me pretty well and know I’m not highly political or radical. This stuff scares the crap out of me. First it’s your animals and vegetables and pretty soon it’ll be your children. We need to keep informed and active on this one or we’ll lose yet another freedom that will about kill self-reliant living! Gee…could that be what this is really all about?

Oh, by the way, we have our radiator fixed and a new, used fan on the way. Wow, it was hard to find parts!

Readers’ Questions:

New book

I was wondering when you are going to publish your own cookbook? I know one person asked and you said sometime next year, just wondering when next year was. I can’t wait to get one of them!

Teresa Ro
New Freedom, Pennsylvania

I have just finished the new book and we’re working to put in photos, etc., along with all the finishing editing, etc. But it’s a book on growing and canning your own food, not a cookbook (although it does have a lot of recipes on how to use your home canned foods). It won’t be too long before it is available. — Jackie

Buying wheat from the feed store

Can a person buy their wheat that they are going to bake with and eat from the local feed store?

Bonnie Plasse
Rolla, Missouri

In a survival situation, that wheat would sure be okay. But it isn’t cleaned like wheat is that is destined for your table. It has more dust, small bits of chaff, bug parts, etc. If you want cleaner wheat, buy it from a bulk foods store or bread wheat outlet. — Jackie


After reading “Jackie’s Childhood” in the March/April 2009 “Ask Jackie” column, my mom and I wish you would write your autobiography pre-“Starting Over”. You are an interesting person and we enjoy your writing.

Pam Ayala
Arlington, Washington

Me interesting? You should just ask my kids. They agree I’m pretty boring. I will mention this to Dave and see what he thinks. — Jackie

Canning pasta, shredded zucchini, and pickled squirrel

I recently received a free issue of BHM and was so impressed I ordered a 4 year subscription and all available back issues. I love the straight forwardness and the canning issues, I am learning a lot. Now my questions are: May a person can spaghetti, made with burger, noodles, and ingredients? And how would you can fresh shredded zucchini? And have you ever heard of a recipe for pickled squirrel? Myself and my wife love to can and when I come up with something useful I will send it in.

Conel Rogers
Makanda, Illinois

While you can home can pasta and rice recipes, such as chicken rice or chicken noodle soup, spaghetti, when canned, is a quite dense product, as you have much more pasta in it. So I wouldn’t recommend canning it. Can your seasoned sauce, complete with favorites, such as mushrooms, meat balls, sweet red peppers, or roasted tomatoes. Then just boil up your spaghetti pasta and you’re in business.

Shredded zucchini doesn’t can up very well; it gets mushy. It’s better frozen or dehydrated. Or best used fresh from the garden, of course.

I’ve never heard of pickled squirrel, but I’m sure someone, somewhere has done it. Any recipes out there? — Jackie

Growing grass for chickens

We would like to know what type of grasses chickens prefer to eat. We know chickens will eat anything, but we wanted to know if there was a type of grass or ground cover that chickens like better. We were thinking of clover, maybe vetch, or alfalfa. Also which would be the most nutritious?

Robert & Gloria Leustek
Gladstone, New Jersey

You’re right, thinking that legumes like clover, vetch, or alfalfa are both highly nutritious and loved by chickens. We are planning on turning our chickens out into our new orchard where it was planted in clover, along with the wheat and oats we harvested last fall. They will be “free ranging,” and also fenced in at the same time, being able to scratch, eat clover, bugs, and weeds at will. And they’ll stay out of my other gardens! — Jackie

Canning meatloaf

I found where you told how to can meatloaf in Aug 14, ’07 blog. Can it be roasted or baked in a wide mouth glass jar or does it have to be cut up and put in a glass jar after it is baked?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I used to just pack the meatloaf mixture into wide mouth quart jars, raw and process it that way. But now canning experts don’t recommend raw packing a dense product like meatloaf. So, instead, I make mini-loaves, just a little larger than my jars to allow for shrinkage during baking, then put them in a roasting pan, side by side and bake them just long enough to thoroughly heat them inside and shrink them down. I pack them hot, into hot jars and make a broth from the pan drippings and tomato sauce and pour over the meatloaf, leaving 1″ of headspace. These are processed (qts) at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult a canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Canning cream soups

I was wondering if you could tell me the recipe AND how to pressure can cream of chicken (or mushroom, or whatever) soup? I’m convinced that what I can make at home will be much healthier than what I buy in the store. And I use it a lot as a base for recipes.

Sarah Axsom
Natchitoches, Louisiana

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work at home. If you make a condensed version like store bought soup, it’s too dense to home can (the center of the jar doesn’t always heat enough to kill bad bacteria), and if you use a homemade cream of whatever soup, with milk, it tends to curdle and look yucky. What I do is to can up small jars of chicken bits in broth or diced mushrooms in water, then when I want cream of… soup, I make a simple white sauce (2 Tbsp margarine, 2 Tbsp flour heated together, milk added to make a thicker soup and add the chicken or mushrooms.) It takes only a couple minutes and is much better, and more healthy than store soup. — Jackie

Growing enough to can

My question is concerning how to figure out how much of each vegetable to can and to eat fresh. Our garden was too small last year to do what I wanted. I know you wrote about this but can’t remember where to find it. I have your first CD and have been subscribing for 2 or 3 years.

Also, I feel like such a dork! I made a comment to you on line that you should write a book on dairy goats. I’d ordered the little book Starting With Dairy Goats and WOW you wrote it. I feel fairly confident with our upcoming kidding the first week of April. Now if I can just get the girls comfortable on the milk stand all is well.

Good luck with that radiator problem. My husband has a portable mill. When big equipment goes down it can be an economical killer to get it up and running smooth again.

Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington

What we do is to eat all we want fresh and can the extra. Very soon you discover what you really need to grow more of in your garden so you have enough to do both. I used to alternate some foods so I had more room. Herbs, especially, I grew on alternate years, saving the room for more carrots or beans that we ALWAYS ran out of by the next summer. Of course, I expanded the garden every year until I had enough room for everything I needed and even a little room to try “exotics” we weren’t used to having in the garden.

We finally found a local radiator guy to fix the radiator; we couldn’t find a used or even after market NEW one anywhere in the country; I spent 3 days on the internet and phone. And just yesterday, we found a fan for it. (When the fan bites a chunk out of the bottom tank of the radiator, it really, really damages it!) So in a few days, Will should have the dozer back working again. Thank GOD! — Jackie

Turning jars upside down after processing

Are you suppose to turn processed jars upside down for 15 minutes or so after removing from the canner to insure them sealing?

I’ve been canning for years and have never heard much less done this. I’ve not had a problem with jars not sealing either. My friend tells me that it must be done that way.

Nancy Hanson
Washburn, Wisconsin

No, don’t turn your jars upside down to seal them. In fact, this can cause jars NOT to seal. Check all your canning books and manuals. None say to turn them upside down. Old recipes for jams, jellies and preserves that weren’t water bath processed used to say that and I suppose it did help them seal because the whole contents of the jar remained hot that way. But it’s much better to be sure your jars seal by water bathing them instead of inverting them. — Jackie

Canning butter

I tried canning butter for the first time. I noticed on the bottom of the jars the butter is liquid, the body of the jar is solid looking and the lid is sealed tight. Is it normal for the butter to be liquid on the bottom and the rest solid? Is it safe?

Colleen Lebo
Jonestown, Pennsylvania

Yes, that is normal. Mine has it in the pantry, right now. To prevent this, you can heat your butter while melting it, stirring as you do, to drive off the excess moisture in the butter. Some folks shake it as it cools to mix in the liquid so it doesn’t settle. I don’t. As canning butter is “experimental”, I can’t tell you that it is safe. I can tell you that I’ve used it for years with no problems, as have many, many other people. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Oh having a bulldozer is wonderful…until it throws a track

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Finally I’ve gotten rid of the terrible head cold and cough. I still have a residual headache from sinus yuck, but with a couple aspirin, that’s bearable. In fact, two days ago, I climbed the scaffold and stained the whole 13′ high knotty pine ceiling in the new living room. I did find a shortcut that helped a bunch. (And when you’re as scared of heights as I am, ANY time not up high is great!) I used a roller to roll the stain on, then smoothed it out nicely with a brush. It worked well, and sure cut down the time.


Our weather turned suddenly Spring, with temperatures in the high 40s and even 50s today. Will got the outdoor bug and jumped on the bulldozer to see if he could enlarge and deepen our spring catchment basin. Last spring he made a two foot deep, one pass basin and that stayed full nearly all summer. As he plans on using spring water, drawn by a gas pump, to water our gardens via a black poly water line, he decided he wanted more available water on hand at any one time. So he spent a couple hours scraping away snow, ice and frozen ground to expose unfrozen gravel underneath. Soon, the basin was more than 30′ wide and 40′ long, still about 2′ deep all over.


But as he started scraping it deeper, there was a POP and the dozer stopped. He had hit a small stump on the side of the track and it popped off. Now a bulldozer track weighs about 500 pounds, and couple that with deep snow, slippery mud and no place to work and you get an idea of what we did for more than three hours yesterday. Working with a come-along, three pry bars and a bottle jack, we released the grease in the track tensioner to get more slack, pried, jacked, pulled and generally dinked around. But slowly the track went back into place.

I went back to the house to wash up and Will, elated, jumped aboard to continue digging out our spring. But I was just home when there was this awful screech and the dozer shut off. A fan blade had bent and dug right into the radiator! I got there, just in time to see Will finish twisting it off so it wouldn’t do more damage. Then he jumped aboard and drove “Old Yeller” for home, amid clouds of radiator steam. Not good! Luckily, he got it parked before the engine heated up too bad.

So today, he’s pulled off the cast iron “nose,” the hood, and taken off the damaged radiator and fan. Last night I shopped around online, and was horrified at the $500 plus cost of a new aftermarket one…IF you can find one. Eeeek. Maybe it can be fixed? We’ve got a couple of calls in and are waiting. Meanwhile, anyone have a good used radiator for a John Deere 1010 crawler? Bulldozers are SO wonderful until they break down! Thank God for Will and his mechanical abilities. I’d be lost.

Readers Questions:

Electric fencing for horses

We are in the process of acquiring a horse for my daughter and this horse is not use to electric fencing. What would you suggest to do to get the yearling to appreciate the power of the electric fence and how long would you suggest for him to be in the barn before we let him out in the field for we don’t want to be chasing a horse cross country if they run.

Thanks and hope you are feeling better.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

Thank you, I am feeling much better. I really, really wish you were going to fence your yearling in with more fence than an electric fence. While I use one for dividing our pastures and for enforcing our wire fence, I wouldn’t want to depend on one totally for keeping a horse contained. I know that lots of people do, but I’m just not at all convinced that it will always keep the horse at home, especially when it becomes frightened and doesn’t see the fence before it hits it.

If you must use only the electric fence, use the wide white tape electric wire, and use three strands of it. The white tape is much more visible and stronger than a single wire.

To get the horse used to the electric fence, first make sure it’s working strongly. Then fence off a smaller area, say 50’x50′ next to the barn. Put the horse in the enclosure and tempt it by putting some feed right next to the fence, outside the enclosure. You want it to touch the fence with its nose, which will usually happen then. I would have a lead on the horse, in case it leaps forward, through the fence, instead of backing away. After a couple tries, the horse becomes a believer. Let it free in the enclosure during the day to experiment further.

Once it is used to the electric fence, bring it out into the larger pasture and lead it completely around the fence so it learns the boundaries. Horses remember better than most people give them credit for. By showing the boundary, you will drastically cut down the running-into-the-fence accidents. Then free the horse, but stay close by with a bucket of feed and a lead rope…just in case. Always put the new horse in the new fence in the morning so it has all day to get used to the fence. Then put it in the barn for the night for a few days’ trial. If all goes well, you should be fine. Good luck. — Jackie

Goat with a stillborn fetus

I just had a disaster in the goat barn. My French Alpine (first freshening) had a breech, stillborn fetus. The little doeling was carried to full term. I do not know what caused this, but perhaps due to a slip and fall she had about a month ago? The fetus’ skin had begun to break down and even the umbilicus was no longer attached.

I am milking my doe about every 3 hours and am giving her Bio-mycin injections (4 cc’s, sub-Q, every other day for three treatments). I am trying to make sure that all the necrotized placenta makes its way outside of her body! There isn’t much milk at all (have to throw it out right now anyway).

What are my chances that she will stay in milk? Or will I have to rebreed her? Oh, and there are no vets in my area that will deal with goats. I am on my own.

S. R. Foster
Lockwood, California

You might try asking one of the vets in your area for injectable oxytocin. You give this in the muscle of the top of her butt. This natural hormone both causes the uterus to contract (helping expel afterbirth pieces/fluids) and helps encourage milk letdown/production. If you could insert a uterine bolus into her uterus (if you don’t have a vet that will do it for you), that would also help expel putrid fluids and pieces of afterbirth and kill dangerous bacteria lurking in there.

Your doe probably will come into some milk production as time passes, but as she is young, this stress may severely diminish it this freshening. Hopefully you can breed her back this fall and have a happy kidding and lots of milk next year. — Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey seeds

I have been researching for a place to buy the Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, you wrote about. Could you please tell me where I could find them.

PS your home is beautiful, I enjoy watching all you are doing.

Patricia Treadwell
Marshall, Michigan

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, as does Seed Dreams ( Thanks. We love how our home is coming along but I will be glad when it gets more finished! — Jackie

Canning Italian sausage

I was interested in canning home made fresh Italian sausage (hot and sweet) but have been unable to find directions on line. I have a new pressure canner which I would use.

Sandy Barber
Deming, New Mexico

I have not had much luck canning sausage in casings but have had great results canning sausage patties. Just lightly brown them until they shrink. Then stack them in a wide mouth pint jar. Make a broth from the pan drippings and ladle that over the patties, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process the pints at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. It’s best to go lightly with seasonings in sausage you plan on canning; some seasonings get stronger and sage sometimes gets bitter. Otherwise, sausages can up real nice. — Jackie

Raising chickens

I have a 12 New Hampshire Red hens that have been laying since October last year. I really want 2 or 3 of them to sit on a clutch and hatch some more chicks to increase the size of our flock. I have 3 roosters that appear to be doing their job from looking at the backs of the hens. Two questions. what do I do to protect the backs of the hens, some of them are starting to show skin? Second, do I just stop collecting eggs for a couple days from 2 or 3 of the nests and see who keeps sitting on them?

Clint Johnson
Kennard, Nebraska

Three roosters may be a bit too many for 12 hens; i.e. naked backs. But your hens are fine, as long as they don’t begin to show scratches and deep cuts from their love affairs. Yes, just stop collecting eggs from a couple of the nests. Chances are that in a few days or a week, one of your girls will get broody and begin sitting. If she has more eggs than she can neatly cover with her feathers, take a few out. Usually a larger hen can set about a dozen eggs, give or take a few. To stop other hens from trying to get into the setting hen’s nest, put a netting over the opening for a few days after the hen is sitting all the time. The others will then leave the nest alone and you should be able to take the netting down so the setting hen can get a drink or eat as she wishes. In the mean time, offer her water and food in the nest. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Yep, I get sick too

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Right smack in the middle of deadline for the magazine, my mother being in the hospital for another bowel blockage (luckily cleared without surgery this time) and building on the new addition, I got the worst head cold I’ve had in years. You know the achy, sneezy, runny nose, coughing thing. Ugh! This is day three, and I sure hope I get past it soon. About all I could do today was wait on Mom, who’s home now, sleep, read a few seed catalogs and sleep. Oh. I mentioned that already, didn’t I? Ha ha ha. So it’s as much rest as I can get, lots of fluids, vitamin C, echinacea and aspirin.



Readers’ Questions:

Floating tomatoes

I canned tomatoes last fall and found when I now use them there is a lot of fluid in bottom of jar. What causes this?

Mary Walker
St. Clair Shores, Michigan

Tomatoes often float to the top of the canning jars during storage, especially those that were packed cold. It is nothing to worry about. As always, just make sure the jars are sealed, the tomatoes look and smell fine before use. — Jackie

Storing honey

I recently purchased some honey in bulk and it came in 5# plastic containers, (like large tubs of margarine comes in). I’m wondering how I should best store it? Should I leave it in the container it came in for long term storage, or would it be best to transfer the honey into glass jars; and if so, would I need to sterilize them first?

Donna Gutierrez
Albuquerque, New Mexico

I would sterilize quart or even pint canning jars, then ladle your honey into them, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Using sterile lids, your honey will stay good for years and years. I had some over 10 years old that was still just as tasty as fresh. If it solidifies, just heat the jars in a pan of hot water; it will liquify as normal. — Jackie

Making instant soup

I have dried many vegetables from our garden and would like to make individual “to go” soups. In each one pint canning jar, then, I’d like to put the right amount of boullion and various vegetables that, when boiling water is added, make a large cup of soup. Have you ever done this? If so, do you have any advice or recipes?

Kristen Kraakevik
Scottsdale, Arizona

No, I haven’t. I just grab a jar of broth, throw a few handfuls of dehydrated vegetables in them and simmer with appropriate herbs. But there’s no reason you can’t make your own soup-to-go mixes like you wish. Just figure what boullion is needed for each pint, add your vegetables, and you’re in business. For ideas on combinations, read the labels on dehydrated soups in the store. Take a notebook and make notes, then tweak them to suit your tastes; most have way too much salt. — Jackie

Chicken feed hormones

In Issue 109 there was a letter from someone who wrote to you regarding their reluctance to use commercial chicken feed because it contained hormones. That got me to wondering, so I checked the ingredients label on my feed sacks. There wasn’t anything listed that sounded like a hormone. The next time I bought feed I asked my feed supplier if he put hormones in the feed he sells. He assured me that he didn’t. I pretty much forgot about it after that until recently when I did a Google search on “chicken feed hormones”. Everything the search turned up agreed that hormones have not been used in poultry feed since the 1940s.

There may be valid reasons for not using commercial feeds but apparently hormones are not one of them. Just thought you’d be interested in knowing.

F H Aydelotte
Stevensville, Pennsylvania

Thanks. I haven’t found any evidence of hormones added to commercial chicken feed either. What concerns me is the “mystery ingredients” in our feed, listed as “poultry digest”, “grain by-products” etc. I read labels on everything; people feed, pet food, livestock feed, and toilet even paper. It sometimes makes you do a double take. — Jackie

Canning your own recipes

My wife and I are getting into canning. She made her ham and beans as usual and we canned for 95 minutes at 10 lbs. We are under 1000ft elevation. Is it OK to fully cook your home recipe and then can them? Should one stay with “proven” recipes for canning? I keep reading this on the internet. This weekend we are going to can her chili.

Ron Rogers
Centerview Missouri

Yes, you can make your own recipe and can it, cooking it fully first. (but if you do, some foods may soften due to long cooking/processing times) The reason everything says “stay with proven recipes” is that some people do not process the food long enough for safe processing for the food requiring the longest processing time, often meat or another low-acid vegetable, such as potatoes or corn.

It’s safest, of course, to always use a “proven recipe”, but you can vary your spices to suit your taste, even then. — Jackie

Canning soft cheese

My wife has been making soft goat cheese for a few years. She will often freeze some for later use. She was wondering if she could can it also. Do you have a recipe to share?

Our Nubian doe is due to kid the first part of April so we are looking forward to fresh milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt.

Brad Barrie
Strong, Maine

I haven’t canned soft cheeses yet, so can’t give any information. Sorry. But enjoy your dairy products after your doe freshens. I know I can’t wait until some of my girls freshen. I wonder if I’ll get any surprises like Velvet having triplet does, this year? — Jackie

Organic gardening

I was wondering if you could please tell me where you stand regarding the “Organic” food preference. I try to garden as organically as I can but sometimes wonder if it is worth the added expense and effort. I use fish fertilizer and other organic products but is it necessary to use organic seed and organic potting soil, etc.?

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

I really believe that gardening as organically as possible will give more benefits than just tasty food. No, I don’t always buy “organically grown” seed, use grow-your-own soil and compost. I use organic and biologic insect control. BUT if I was about to lose my crop and couldn’t stop an infestation using organic materials, I might consider a chemical solution. Heavy on the might. I also might just keep using organics and hope for the best. I really, really hate chemicals of any kind. It seems an oxymoron to grow my own food so they are chemical free, then add chemicals to my soil that might be around for a long, long time. — Jackie

Draft-free chicken house

In the latest q&a you discussed a draft-free chicken house with no openings. I had thought that chickens let off a lot of moisture and needed some way for that moisture to escape. When my husband build our quick coop I had him leave a small gap at the top of the wall under the roof line. Was that a mistake? I understand that in Arkansas cold is not nearly the issue as on your place but we still have a few days and I really want to take good care of the girls, it seems like a moral obligation for all their hard work.

Stephanie Arnold
Corning, Arkansas

That was a good idea. I keep forgetting that a lot of people live in warmer climates! If I left a small gap for air, the girls would freeze. I regulate the dampness issue by making sure there are plenty of dry shavings and opening the door to the south on warmer sunny days. — Jackie

Canning leftovers and warm weather food preservation

I love your website. After getting involved as an avid reader of your website, I have purchased a large pressure canner for $300 and the next week my wife bought one for $2 at a sale. I have tried my hand at homemade cheese, butter, sausage, root beer and have canned any and everything I have thought of or read on your site with great results. Thanks, I love it.

I have two questions. Having had a very large family, my wife nor I have any clue how to cook for two (our kids are grown and gone)and we never know when a houseful will just pop in. If we make a large qty of some meal and we can/preserve the excess, won’t it be “mushy” I understand I should can it at the length of time for the longest time ingredient and all that, but if it is cooked once complete, won’t canning it make it soggy? Any tricks here?

Second, I live in SE Georgia. Most everything I read on homesteading and self reliance seems to come from someone who lives in a cold weather climate and experience some level of winter meaning snow/freezing weather. I live in a very hot climate in the summer 105 degrees plus and the winter rarely goes below freezing. Your neighbors are Elk and mine are alligators and wild hogs. Things like root cellars and other food storage methods don’t seem to apply here or do they? Do you know anything about warm/hot weather food preservation or know where a person would find information on self reliance and homesteading techniques in this type of climate. I really find nearly nothing written for hot weather climates. Lots of luck finding cool places to store anything where I live. Hope you can help.

Kevin Sakuta
Jesup, Georgia

Yes, you can home can leftover meals, such as stews, soups and even turkey, roasts and other larger meals. While some ingredients sometimes get a little soft, nearly everything turns out definitely “edible”, with most very good. It’s hard to cook for two after the kiddies have flown the nest. I went from eight kids to one in two years and still have days that a pint of this or that seems oh so small!

I’m sorry that I don’t have much hot climate advice as the warmest place I’ve lived in was northern New Mexico, but that was up on the high plains and while we got hot, we also had definite winter. How about it readers? Any advice to share with Kevin? — Jackie

Canning low-acid tomatoes

I’m going to try growing an ultra-low acid tomato this year for my mother. She developed some stomach problems and can no longer tolerate the acids in many foods, and one thing she misses the most is fresh tomatoes. My question is this: assuming my crop does well enough that there’s enough to can, what time and pressure should I use? I don’t want to add any acids to it, that would ruin the point. Do I process as if they were bell peppers? Toss a sliver of meat in each jar and process for the meat? Some will no doubt wind up as spaghetti sauce anyway.

Melanie Rehbein
Madison, Wisconsin

Good question. I would can the extra tomatoes as stewed tomatoes or tomatoes with celery. Neither requires the addition of lemon juice or other acids. Both are pressure canned. Check your Ball Blue Book for directions. The Tomatoes and Celery are canned at 10 pounds pressure for 30 minutes (pints) and 35 minutes for quarts, where the Stewed tomatoes are processed at 10 pounds for 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts. Of course, making your spaghetti sauce would also help “get rid” of extra tomatoes real fast, with tasty results! — Jackie

Hatching goose eggs

I have two year old geese that have already started laying eggs. I want them to hatch about 6 goslings but before that I want to use the eggs. How many days, or weeks can I take the eggs and still have them lay more to hatch. I don’t want to run out at the end, but they already have about l0 in the nest.

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

It highly depends on the geese and their breed. Lighter breeds, such as Chinese, lay more eggs, even at a young age. Often heavy breeds like Embden lay less eggs, especially when they are young. I’d take a couple of eggs a day until your goose quits laying and begins setting. Sometimes if you break up a clutch by taking all the eggs, the goose refuses to lay more eggs for quite some time. Other times, she will simply lay more eggs. — Jackie


Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.