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Ask Jackie headline

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Archive for April, 2009

Jackie Clay

We’re getting the garden and berry patch ready for growing and we’re fencing the new goat pasture

Monday, April 27th, 2009


Spring is here big time, with balmy days in the fifties. So every day is a work day. We borrowed a big breaking plow from my son, Bill, and Will hooked it to our little Ford 8N tractor and plowed both our garden and the new berry patch. The garden went fine, thoroughly mixing in the sandy, gravelly loam with the black compost we’d spread on it over the years. But the berry patch was brutal. It was woods two weeks ago and after the trees were cut and most of the stumps bulldozed, it was still full of very large rocks and tree roots…not to mention a few big old stumps.

While Will was plowing up there, I was transplanting tomatoes, planting squash, and melons. But then we got to pick rocks and roots. Big time! That night, both of us were whipped!

So we took a “break” from that and began fencing in the three acres of new goat pasture. First we set in our corners, consisting of old power poles, dug in the ground three feet, with three posts on each corner, with a notched 4″x4″ brace between. Then we strung a string and pounded steel T posts every 12′ between them, so we kept straight. Next we’ll make wire Xs on each corner/brace post unit and tighten them, making the corner very stable and strong so we can stretch and staple on heavy duty woven wire stock fence. We faced the posts toward the pasture (bumpy side in), so we can also add stand-off electric fence insulators to keep the goats away from the fence. Goats don’t break through a fence, they lean through it! With the electric fence, they won’t touch the fence so they won’t weaken it.


Readers’ Questions:

Dehydrating meat

I would like to dehydrate chicken and beef in my dehydrator, but all the directions I’ve found call for marinading the meat in some sort of teriyaki base. My family is not wild about the teriyaki flavor and I was wondering if I can just make it plain. Also, do I cook the meat first or put it in the dehydrator raw?

Becky Pendergrass
Clover, South Carolina

Yes, you can make your chicken and beef plain. The different flavors are for taste, not to make it “keep”. No, you don’t have to cook the meat first; you can just slice it and put it in the dehydrator. If you cut the meat across the grain, it will be less tough and also dry faster. Enjoy your dehydrated meats! — Jackie

Color of goats teats

I have my first 2 buck kids, sold the two doe kids to the does original owner. My question is about the color of my big Nubian does teats. Is it normal to be bruised looking, I’m guessing from the kids punishment. She seems to be flourishing in every other way. No signs of mastitis or bad milk. And also what method of castration do you prefer for buck kids and at what age?

Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington

Are they bruised or does she just have blotchy or black skin on her udder? My one doe has black teats and another has pink and black spotted skin on her udder and teats. If they are bruised, it may be from the kids; they can get very aggressive when they gain strength. I prefer to wait until the kids are two or three months old, then use a Burdizzo type emasculatome, which pinches the cords instead of cutting. This results in the testicles slowly shrinking and being absorbed; no blood, no flies. Many breeders use the rubber banding method, which slips a strong, round rubber circle around the entire scrotum, next to the body. This causes the blood supply to be cut off and the testicles to slowly die and fall off. It has caused tetanus, so if you decide to use this method, be sure to also give a shot of tetanus antitoxin at the same time. — Jackie


Do you have a generator to use for backup? If so, gas powered or propane powered? Any details would be helpful, we’re shopping around on craigslist, etc.

Joanna Wilcox
Boone, North Carolina

We have a couple gas generators. Neither was terribly expensive, under $600 each. I would like a propane generator, for the convenience of not having to haul gas so much, but they are more expensive, too. I really, really like our latest generator that has a Honda engine. We have had so much less trouble with it than previous ones with Briggs and Stratton engines. (Sorry Briggs!) And it starts even in very cold weather, where the Briggs must be warmed up first or you can’t physically pull the starter rope. With generators, you usually get what you pay for; the better generators cost more dough. Remember, if you are planning on hooking your generator to your grid box, you MUST have an electrician install a transfer switch so you don’t accidently fry an electric company repairman working on the line to fix the outage…expecting to be working on dead lines!

An option is to use extension cords to your most needed appliances, such as freezer, well or furnace and just shut off your main power switch until the power comes back on. — Jackie

Canning salt or table salt?

I was reading one of the post on the first page about canning mushrooms and would like to know if you use canning salt or just table salt on this recipe:

To can mushrooms, soak them in lightly salted ice water for 10 minutes. This not only helps clean them, but rinses out any hidden insects. Trim the dirty and tough parts of the stems, then rinse in cold water. You may leave small ones whole and cut large ones into convenient pieces. Boil three minutes in water. Pack into hot jars. Add a tsp. of salt to each quart or 1/2 tsp. to each pint, if desired. Fill to within 1/2 inch of top of jar with water mushrooms were boiled in. Put hot, previously simmered lid on jar and tighten down ring firmly tight. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary; consult your canning manual for instructions) for 25 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts.

Tammy Barton
Clarkson, Kentucky

I use plain, non-iodized table salt in all of my canning except for pickles. With pickles, the table salt sometimes has adverse affects on the pickles. — Jackie

Canning jars

I am trying to increase my canning jar collection. Scouring the local papers and internet sites, I have found older jars (in a barn, covered with hay), without lids, for a great price. Should I be concerned about new rings/lids fitting? They are Ball and Atlas jars. Also, what would be the proper procedure for sterilizing them?

Sewickley, Pennsylvania

Wow! Good for you! Your lids and rings will fit, as long as the openings are the same as modern jars. Most are, but a few are considerably smaller. I would just wash them out well with hot soapy water, then put them in your water bath canner and cover with water. Boil them for 15 minutes and remove and air dry. They are then as good as new; maybe better! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have 6 new baby goats and a new spring catchment basin

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009


During the past 2 weeks, we’ve had three sets of twins, including 3 bucklings and 3 doelings to go along with our new baby donkey. Everybody is healthy and growing like weeds. It’s so much fun to just stand and watch them all bounce around and play king of the hill on the milking stand.

Will is enlarging our spring catchment basin so we will have a huge storage of water to irrigate our new, larger garden, orchard, and berry patch. Today, he plowed the new 100’x50′ berry patch, which last week was wooded and covered with old logging debris. It was a brutal job, as there were plenty of stumps, big rocks, and tree roots. I was glad I was discing our garden, which also was plowed for the first time. But it had been rototilled, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as the berry patch!


We planted several new apple, pear, and cherry trees this spring, in the orchard, and today I spread old horse manure around each one. They look so nice. I can hardly wait for them to bloom and leaf out! I remember when my “orchard” was so rocky, full of brush and old logs! And that was only last spring! Wow, look what a bunch of work will do!

Readers’ Questions:

Freezing corn on the cob

I want to start freezing corn on the cob this summer and looking for a way to freeze it that will let it stay nice and crisp like it does when fresh picked. I’ve tried some corn on the cob frozen and after heating it ,it gets mushy with the crispy gone. Is there any freezing method that will leave the kernel crisp like fresh corn?

Fred Hutson
Lakeland, Florida

Sorry, but frozen corn on the cob just isn’t like fresh corn. I much prefer my corn cut off the cob and canned, but you can freeze it that way, too and you’ll like it better. I know my canned corn tastes just like it was picked this morning! — Jackie

Canning dairy-based sauces

What is the best way to can dairy-based sauces?

Sam Makram
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

I’m not sure what sauces you mean. I haven’t had any luck canning a basic white sauce such as you would use for cream of mushroom soup, etc.. But I routinely can processed cheese sauce I buy in #10 cans. This I heat up and pack in half pint and pint jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace, then water bath process it for 60 minutes. This is “experimental” canning, as the experts have no information on it, they advise against it. — Jackie

Growing all of your own food

Considering you grow/raise just about all your own food, can you provide a list of grocery items you still purchase from the store?

Liberty Lake, Washington

It kind of depends on the time of year and situation; for instance, right now we have 3 doe goats fresh, but are feeding the kids on the milk, as there are 3 sets of twins, so I’m buying butter, cottage cheese, and yogurt. Soon I won’t, when they are sold or weaned.

I buy some pasta, a little fresh meat (we sometimes get tired of canned everything and fresh is nice from time to time). I buy a little fresh fruit if it’s from the U.S., a few “goodies,” especially for Mom, to spark her appetite, fruit juice, a little pop, sugar, some unbleached flour, yeast, pet food, toilet paper, dish detergent, and bleach. I’m sure there are a few more things, but our grocery list is pretty short and I don’t spend long in the store for sure! — Jackie

Freezing dried beef

I know I can freeze dried beef and I swear I saw somewhere that it can be canned — but my question is — can you can it without any liquid in it? I buy mine by the pound at the Amish Market here and would really like to stock up on it for that good ole SOS.

Wanda Towles
Laurel, Maryland

I have canned both dried beef and my jerky, without liquid, of course. It is not an “approved” canning method, but it works for me. I simply fill the jars…not packing it too densely, then put on a hot, previously simmered lid and process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes for pints unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions. — Jackie

Keeping lard

Can lard (hog fat) be kept on a shelf for long periods of time? Will it work in place of shortening?

Jenny Tooman
Hiram, Missouri

Lard will go rancid, kept on a shelf, uncanned, for a long period of time. Yes, it will certainly work in place of shortening; that’s what people used before shortening was invented. That and butter. Lard is best frozen or canned and stored in a cool dark place until used. — Jackie

Storing yeast

You mentioned in the recent issue of BHM that it was possible to store flour. What about yeast? Does anything happen to the taste? What kind of container should be used? What temperatures are acceptable? Summers are incredibly hot down here, and the temperature skyrockets in my pantry off the garage.

Gloria Garretson
Sumrall, Mississippi

You can store yeast, but for a lesser time than many other foods. I’ve had frozen, vacuum-packed bags of yeast last for more than 3 years in the freezer, two years, unopened on the shelf, and opened for a year, in a canning jar (uncanned) on the kitchen shelf. Of course, the cooler the better. Perhaps you might keep your unfrozen yeast in the fridge to help it last longer. — Jackie

Storing rice

I have two questions. First, when storing parboiled white rice like what can be bought from Sam’s Club, do you have to store it in an oxygen-free environment to keep larva from hatching or can it be stored in regular Rubbermaid containers for long periods of time? Secondly, will your new canning guide have cheese, butter, and the other experimental canning you do in it?

Challis Moffitt
Ramseur, North Carolina

Yes, you can keep pre-cooked white rice in a regular food grade plastic (or glass) container, as long as it is airtight and insect proof. Being pre-boiled, any insect eggs have been killed. You just need to prevent any future infestations by keeping insects out.

Yes, the new canning book will have “experimental” canning, including milk, cheese, butter, etc. in it. I debated on it, as it is a red flag to many experts out there, but Dave decided heartily to have it included. So it is. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had a baby girl!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Beauty had her foal this morning before we were up and what a pretty little girl she is, too! She is even a very different color, being a light red roan with a blaze face from two black parents. I’ve been in with her, getting her used to me already; and she is totally fearless. This afternoon, she was climbing up on her daddy Moose’s back while he was napping. He was interested, but didn’t move. We are really proud grandparents.

Readers Questions:

Canning coffee

I am trying to find out if it is possible to can your own coffee? I think you would be able to do it like you would peanuts? But would the temp and time be different?

Regina White
Marion, Ohio

I really don’t know. You might experiment; you won’t poison yourself with coffee. The worst it would do is go rancid. Any readers out there with more information for Regina? — Jackie

Blackberry syrup

I was getting ready to make and can some blackberry syrup from some frozen blackberries I have. The recipe calls for 6 1/2 cups blackberries, 6 3/4 cups sugar, and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice. I believe I only have about 3 1/2 cups of blackberries. Can I cut the other ingredients in half and process for the same time with less jars? Thanks for all your help!

Leslie Glenn
Lancaster, Ohio

Yes, you can do just that. Enjoy your syrup. It’s awfully good on ice cream, cheesecakes, and on pancakes! — Jackie

Buying a horse

I am purchasing a horse for my young granddaughters who are 6 and 9 years old. Can you recommend some of the basics I need to consider before I go looking? I have a barn and fenced-in pasture but have never owned a horse. What size, breeds, age, habits, etc. do I need to consider? Also, could you tell me what books you think would be most helpful in learning to care for the animal once we purchase it?

Deborah Motylinski
Brachsville, Ohio

I would look for a middle-aged horse with a very calm and patient disposition. Other than ease of mounting and care, any size horse will do, but obviously a smaller horse will make things easier for youngsters; perhaps a horse around 14 hands high. I would definitely have the girls take some riding lessons and have you go along to watch and learn so you can help them at home. Maybe you could even volunteer at the stable to care for horses so you can learn the ropes there. I totally love horses and really want people to have good experiences with them. Hands-on experience is a lot better than reading, although there are a lot of very good books on horse care and riding out there. — Jackie

Getting rid of fleas

I was wondering if you know of an inexpensive way to get rid of fleas? I need a way to get rid of fleas without breaking the bank. We have such short winters here in Louisiana that it doesn’t kill bugs like in other parts of the US. I have tried just about everything on the market but nothing seems to work I just spend a lot of money.

Lynne White
Lacombe, Louisiana

Where are your fleas? On your pets? In your home? In the yard? Let me know and we’ll go from there. — Jackie

Canning Italian sausages

Can a person can Italian sausages and Brats? I cant find any information at all on this.

Diana Bowers
Grand Junction, Colorado

Yes, it’s possible, but I haven’t been satisfied with these types of sausages; they end up tasting overcooked. — Jackie

Canning pickled eggs

I was wondering if you could CAN pickled eggs? I thought I saw you write about it sometime but I can’t find it. If so what would be the procedure and times for quarts?

Richard burns Jr.
Keyser, West Virginia

Yes, you can home can pickled eggs. It is a good way to can up all those surplus eggs we have every spring. You can use these pickled eggs simply as-is or make deviled eggs or egg salad sandwiches with them. To can them, hard boil and peel as usual. If they are fresh, boil them, then toss them around in the dry pan afterward, while hot, till the shells crack up. Then immediately put several changes of cold water on them until they cool down, then soak in cold water for an hour in the fridge. They peel much easier than when you use other methods. My fresh hardboiled eggs used to look like chipmunks had been chewing on them.

Okay, now you have a big batch of cooled hardboiled eggs. Pack them into wide-mouthed quart jars to within an inch of the top. In a large saucepan, for each quart of eggs you have, add the following: 3 cups vinegar, 1 small dry red pepper, 1 Tbsp. mixed pickling spice, and 2 tsp. salt. You may tie the spices in a spice bag, if you prefer, then bring to a boil. Pour boiling liquid over eggs, covering them completely. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your time to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual).

Remember that with eggs, a low acid food, there is always a chance of botulism in improperly canned pickled eggs. Use perfect, uncracked, fresh eggs and handle them with very clean utensils and bowls. Be sure to cover them entirely with the pickling solution. — Jackie

Tomato powder

I have another dehydrating question. Do you know a way to make tomato powder in a home dehydrator? I don’t like the tomato leather, it’s hard to store and I would think powder would be easier to work with.

Connie Mellott
Brunswick, Ohio

To make tomato powder, just dehydrate peeled tomatoes, then when they are dry, dry, whiz them in your blender, a few at a time. I then dry this powder a second time to make sure it is absolutely dry before I store it. I’ve also dehydrated a thin layer of tomato puree very dry, and done the same thing with it. This is a very useful product and I’ll bet you’ll love it. — Jackie

Outdoor wood burner

Love your latest article in the current magazine. My question is about your outdoor wood burner that you are going to install. I am thinking about doing that for an addition that we are building on our house. Does it need to be hooked into electric to power a fan, and I don’t want to use it for hot water at this time. How would it be installed then. All of the sites that I read say that it has to be hooked up to water for the heat is water based. You answered a question of mine and said that your son didn’t use the hot water part of the furnace at the present. By the way, you got a great price on your outdoor burner.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

Yes, a wood fired outdoor furnace has to be powered by electricity, both for the pump and blower, if you have one. For this, we’ll have to double our battery bank, so we’ll also be hooking up to either a wind generator or solar panels to help with the extra charging. The water that circulates (antifreeze is better, because there are no freezing accidents) is in a continuous loop, heating and cooling. In some systems, there is a series of loops of line under the floor. In others, there are radiators to provide heat. With some systems, there is a heat exchanger with a blower distributing the heat. We are still learning and hope to have the stove here this week…but not hooked up for awhile yet.

Purchasing canning lids

I know this is early in the season but have you seen the price of canning lids? I have bought mine at Fleet Farm on sale in the past. Well, now this year they are $1.59/box of 12 regular size lids. That is quite an increase. Right now they are 15% off which makes them $1.35/box of 12 lids. Is there anywhere else to get lids at a cheaper price? I guess we better stock up on these now!

Your house is looking great and I bet you can’t wait to finish it! How are your plants for the garden coming along? I can’t wait to see your new book too.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

I get my regular lids from a local Family Dollar store…for $1 a box. I buy cases when they have them and don’t can too many foods in wide mouth jars because of the cost of the lids. These I buy on sale at the local L and M Supply (farm store), in quantity.

Yes, I’ll be glad when we get the house finished, but now it’s quite livable, we’re holding off, as spring is here and we are oh-so-busy outside. — Jackie

Pole barn and travel trailer

I currently live in the Twin Cities, and hubby and I are thinking of starting a homestead in 3 years or so…we have next to no money and our present plans are this: try and buy 5 to 10 acres, put up a pole barn, park our travel trailer in it, insulate around it, and make that our home. The question we have is just how hard is it to do something like that as far as the authorities allowing it? Most of the rural areas we drive through in MN have signs to the effect of building codes enforced. So I’m guessing we wouldn’t be allowed to do the above–plan is live in the RV, have a compost toilet or outhouse, drill a well for water, maybe hook up to the grid if it is nearby, otherwise try and get a few solar panels or a wind turbine.

I understand you live in MN so are perhaps familiar with what we could get away with. We would like to be in the north–Grand Rapids, Hibbing area perhaps. Do you know of people who have done what we suggest and not have any problems with the local officials?

Sharon LeMay
East Bethel, Minnesota

Here, 30 miles north of Hibbing, we only had to have our septic system inspected; no electric, plumbing, building inspections. We did have to have permits for our well and “land use” (building permit), but they were not stressful.

I would not advise putting an RV in a pole barn; I’ve known people who did and not only was the RV cold and dark in the long winter, but it was damp, as well. Instead, you might consider building a 2 car garage on a slab and using that as a starter home, which you could easily add on to as finances became available. My son, Bill, did this as he was building his log home and they got by very well.

I hope your homesteading plans bear fruit. The north is a great place to live. — Jackie

Automatic chicken coop door opener

How can you rig up an automatic chicken coop door opener/closer? Also, you might note that an old metal kids swing set is a great metal a frame with hooks for hanging sheep, goats, and deer while butchering.

Holly Schmadeka
Lebanon, Oregon

I’m sure you could, but I don’t know how. Any readers out there with help for Holly? Good idea for the old swing set! — Jackie

Amount of water in canner

When canning in a pressure canner do the jars need to be covered completely or will half way do? I checked in the Ball Blue Book but could not find anything on my question. I know when canning in a water bath the jars need to be covered with 1 or 2 inches above the jar. I want to do some canning and found a pressure canner at a yard sale but don’t know exactly how to use it. We love your articles and look forward to reading them. Its nice to know there are still some down to earth people out here. Thanks again for the wonderful articles and the time you spend to answer my question as I know how busy you must be with spring here.

Teresa Ward
Yellville, Arkansas

No. When canning with a pressure canner, you only need about 2 inches of water in the bottom of the canner to produce the steam in which the jars are bathed. With a water bath canner, you need water covering the jars to thoroughly heat them. — Jackie

Skimming cream from goat’s milk

With each issue, I read your pages first. In May/June 2009 (issue 117) you said in “Ask Jackie” that the cream from goat’s milk can be skimmed by using a covered 9×12 cake tin. How is this done?

I am just starting to milk Oberhaslis and have one that gives 1/2 gallon of the finest milk, daily and another registered Obi that will be breed for the first time soon. Water is just now receding from the Satilla River flood that was approximately 12 feet over flood stage and just a couple of inches shy from the 100 year flood record. The goats got flooded out of their pasture and barn but are happy in the garage. Honey hasn’t missed a beat in milk production and enjoys being milked on the carport.

I have two more does and a buck reserved from quality Obi breeders when they are born this Spring.

I want to get into cheese making and have searched the internet for various recipes. I trust your wisdom and experience but have never found any published goat cheese recipes by you. Are there any?

John Williams
Hortense, Georgia

To skim cream from goat milk, you pour your fresh milk into covered cake pans and refrigerate them for a day or two. The cream will eventually rise to the top to some extent, allowing you to carefully skim it off with a large spoon.

I really don’t have any “personal” goat cheese recipes; most are universal and I use these, as do most cheesemakers. There are a lot of simple, good cheesemaking recipes in GOATS PRODUCE TOO, which is available through Hoegger’s Goat Supply. They also have a lot of goat supplies and cheesemaking stuff.

Goats in the garage sounds reasonable, given your circumstances. I’ve had horses (colts) in the house! — Jackie

Round hay bales

Here is another question regarding round bales. My daughter just got a horse and there seems to be a controversy over what type of hay is the best — round or square. What do you think. Some say that you have to remove the first 2 inches of the round before giving to the horse and others say no. What are your thoughts since if I remember correctly from reading past articles you use round bales.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

We use both round and square bales, for the convenience of both. For in and around the barn, squares work best. In the pastures, the round bales mean much less work for me. If the hay has been put up well cured, round bales are great for horses; no dust or mold. We do not remove the cap or outside covering. The horses won’t eat it unless starving…which mine certainly are not. They eat the center first, then enlarge it. The bale will finally collapse and they’ll polish off all the good hay, leaving the yucky weathered cap and strings. We then gather up the strings and burn them in a pile of stumps and other wood debris in the pasture.

I have had moldy, dusty square bales and moldy, dusty round bales in my horse keeping past. You just have to know your farmer and keep watch of what you are feeding. — Jackie

Making wheat crackers

With the price of groceries going through the roof, and my disdain for most processed foods, I’m always trying to make my own versions of the processed foods I like. One of these foods is wheat crackers. It doesn’t matter if they are multigrain club crackers or the famous wheat crackers that are “thin” I like crackers. What I haven’t been able to find is a recipe for any wheat or rye crackers. So, just how would I go about making a whole grain cracker.

Joshua Schrader
Middleburg, Pennsylvania

Here’s a recipe for you. You can adapt it, using rye flour in place of whole wheat, if you wish.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
melted butter or margarine

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients well. Stir in buttermilk and oil. Make into 6 balls. Roll each one into a 9″ square on a floured surface. Cut into 2 1/4″ squares. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with coarse salt and/or poppy or sesame seeds, if you wish. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy. Enjoy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Time to transplant those little seedlings

Monday, April 13th, 2009


It’s hard to believe that those little seedlings are already big enough to transplant! But that’s the way they grow. Just like kids. I’m beginning to transplant from the flats they grew in to 4″ pots and deep, oversized six and nine packs. Today, besides doing Easter dinner, I transplanted tomatoes and peppers. But because I’ve planted over 14 different tomato varieties and 12 different peppers this year, this job has only just begun. We made our own potting soil this year. We haven’t been happy with Miracle Grow, so we made potting soil the old-fashioned way, mixing 1/3 rotted compost, 1/3 black soil, and 1/3 sand-clay mixture. To avoid weed seeds and bacterial contamination, we cooked a roasting pan full of each one in the oven, then turned them into a wash tub to mix. The result was a fine, loose mixture that should grow tremendous plants.

I’ll be doing this every day for about a week, as we not only have tomatoes and peppers, but celery, petunias, dahlias, blanket flowers, lupines, and other flowers, as well. Then it’ll be time to start the squash, pumpkins, and melons! What a garden we hope to have this year. I can hardly wait.

Readers’ Questions:

A day in the life of Jackie

What does a day in the life of Jackie Clay look like? When do you arise and lay your head down at night? How do you fit everything into 24 hours? Do you see your life changing as you age or have you been able to keep to the pace you set ten years ago?

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

Wow, that’s a tough one, as every day is different. But I’ll try an honest answer here. I get up about 7 AM or so, get David up so he can get off to school. Start the wood cookstove, feed the house critters–goldfish, cat, and our dog, Spencer. Check the greenhouse plants, watering as needed. Visit with Will for a few minutes while his coffee perks. We plan our day’s must-dos, want-to-dos and future plans for awhile while watching the geese come flying down the creek and the eagles flying out of the big woods for their morning hunting.

I go out and feed the baby goats, turn the chickens out, feed the goats, donkeys, and horses, then it’s back to the house to get Mom up, get her breakfast, meds, etc.

Today I got David up and off to church, transplanted tomatoes and peppers into 4″ pots, fed the bottle baby goats lunch, swept the dried mud from our floors (you can’t help tracking in this time of year!), gathered eggs, cooked Easter dinner, washed a few loads of clothes, helped Will load our 8N tractor on the trailer, checked on the rhubarb, which is poking up through the mulch, planted some wildflower roots in our woods by the beaver pond, then it was chore time again and I fed, watered, and played with the donkeys, goats, and horses. Fed and watered our huskies (and played with them too). Transplanted a few more peppers, got Mom ready for bed, did her meds, and now, at 9:37 PM the blog. I’ll probably get to bed about 10:30 and oh how nice that’ll feel. But it was a good day!

No, my life’s not changing much, over 10 years ago. I’m taking a few more breaks during my work and maybe not doing it as fast as I did, but about the only thing that is different is that I appreciate everything more than I did back then. — Jackie

Cottage cheese from sour milk

After searching all over the BHM website anthologies and back issues, hard as I have tried I cannot find a recipe for making cottage cheese from sour milk. I’m pretty sure this is the way it was done before cultured cottage cheese came onto the scene. Do you have a recipe or can you direct me where to look for a recipe to make cottage cheese using sour milk?

Cheryl Ochenkowski
Eastpointe, Michigan

Yes, you can make cottage cheese from sour milk. The only trouble is that sometimes the results are not dependable; some is more acid than others because of the degree of souring of the milk and whether it is store milk or raw milk. The process is very easy. Just heat half a gallon (or so) of sour milk in a double boiler gently until a soft curd forms. Then pour it out into a colander lined with a doubled cheesecloth or clean piece of white sheet and drain it for an hour. Add salt, pepper, or herbs as you wish and refrigerate, covered. — Jackie

Spoiled pickles

Looking forward to the garden again, and to restarting my apple and cherry trees. We lost several to the rabbits; they totally stripped bark and cambium up to 3 feet from the ground. Looking forward to canning some rabbit.

Question: I bought 10 pounds of real nice Kirby cukes and tried pickling them. Have done this several times (brine method) and have had varying success with them. The last two times they just sat there and spoiled — no fermentation, as far as I can tell. No scum or bubbles to skim off, just flat-out spoiled. I use a clear plastic (food-grade) tub for this, not a stoneware crock. Everything is sterilized beforehand, and I keep it in an unheated room, with a cheesecloth cover over it. Any thoughts on what might be wrong?

Howard Tuckey
Lisle, New York

Just a few thoughts as I can’t oversee your pickling process to tell for sure what is going wrong; is the brine too weak (could you be putting the salt on top of the cukes where it doesn’t mix with the old brine when adding more?), could a part of one or more cukes be poking up out of the brine? Even one little piece sticking out of the brine will cause spoilage. Be sure to have a sterile weighted plate or food grade plastic bag full of the same brine on top of the cukes and brine to completely submerge them. Are you washing them well before pickling? Clinging field dirt can cause spoilage, and it doesn’t have to be much. Are you holding your brining pickles in a cool, dark place, such as a corner of your unheated basement or root cellar? Too much heat will sometimes cause fermentation of pickles to stop.

I hope this helps because I sure want you to have great success with your pickling! And darned those rabbits! They ate a few of my black raspberry canes, too. But fortunately I still have a whole bunch. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring means new baby goats

Thursday, April 9th, 2009


We’ve been pretty busy the last two days. We planned on having our two does, Velvet (the mother of the triplet does last year) and Luna bred to kid about the same time in April, while the other two does, Buffy and Fawn, will kid in June. This ensures milk all year long and will let us raise all the babies on the milk from one doe of each pair…even if I have to bottle feed. That gives us plenty of house milk, too. A win-win situation!

Well, Saturday morning Luna acted like she was going to kid so I watched her. Sure enough, her hermit-like behavior soon turned to birthing. And she gave easy birth to twin bucklings, one white with black and tan and another red roan in front and red behind. Both are happy and healthy.

And yesterday, Velvet decided to repeat the performance, producing a nice red and white doeling and a huge solid red buck. I’m excited over her udder this year; it’s huge and so perfect! It’s like a basketball with teats sticking off the front. Wow!

Now all I have to do is find new owners for the three bucklings. They sure have some milking mamas.

Readers’ Questions:

Sodium in water supply

Love all your advice to all us newbies and to people of experience too. Seems you’ve done just about everything in the realm of homesteading.

My question has to do with sodium in our water supply. We live in Texas and our only source of water is a well. We had our garden soil tested and it showed high amounts of sodium, so we tested the water to find the source and sure enough that is where it is coming from. What should we do about it? I’ve been told that that can lock up nutrients in the soil that our plants can use.

James Gilliland
Mansfield, Texas

You can help your garden withstand the sodium in your water by working in a lot of well-rotted compost. The addition of gypsum to your soil (available at your local feed mill) will help tie up the sodium in the soil, making your plants much happier. You might consider catching rainwater to help out watering in the garden. It’s amazing at how much water is “wasted” on house and outbuilding roofs during even a moderate rain, which could be harvested and used to water the gardens! It’s something we are working out for the future. — Jackie

Canning hot dogs

I know you must be sick of hearing from me, but if only your book were published, I might be less trouble. At any rate, could you give me instructions as how to can hot dogs? I have a surplus of venison hot dogs that were given to me. I would like to get them out of the freezer, as my husband and I are planning our homestead move this fall (yes, I’m aware it’s not the best time to move, but it’s when it happened). Thanks so much. Oh, one more thing, is there a way to preorder your book?

Mandi Kemp
Felton, Delaware

Hot dogs really don’t can up too awfully well, but they do come out edible! I’ve started to pre-brown mine; I put them up heated through in boiling water and during canning, they swelled so much they didn’t look nice. Now I pre-brown them by lightly frying in a bit of oil to just heat through. Then they are packed into wide mouth pint jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. I process them without added liquid for 75 minutes.

A bad time to make a move to a homestead? I suppose it’s not ideal, but hey, we moved here to a raw homestead in FEBRUARY, when it was -20 degrees with three feet of snow on the ground! And we lived to tell the tale.

Sorry, so far I don’t know of a way to pre-order the book, but have hope. It should be available pretty soon now! — Jackie

Pickled eggs

Years ago, mom used to have “pickled eggs” in a gallon jar in her small store for sale. When the jar was empty see made more. I have searched everywhere for a recipe for it. No luck. My grandmother made these and has been dead many years; mom was never into canning, so she doesn’t remember. I went on internet, found some but weren’t what we had. They didn’t keep at all. In fact in two days they had turned black, ugh. Any help would be appreciated.

Brenda Starling
Warm Springs, Arkansas

Here’s a recipe for you to try; it’s best to keep pickled eggs refrigerated as there is a possibility of picking up bacterial contamination if left at room temperature; sometimes a part of an egg can poke above the surface of the vinegar brine.

12 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and rinsed.
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. mixed pickling spices

Pack hot hard boiled eggs into a wide mouth canning jar. Boil 1 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt with 1 tsp. mixed pickling spices. Pour over eggs, covering them entirely. Place lid on jar and refrigerate for a week or two to let flavor develop. Keep refrigerated for safety and enjoy! — Jackie

Canning book

I am waiting for you to write a book on canning and preserving food. I wait for every issue just for your article. You such good recipes on food, I have already purchased the cookbook and love it. keep up the great articles.

Delma Pearce
Oakland, Illinois

The good news is that I just finished a book for Backwoods Home on growing and canning your own food. The last touches are being done and it should go to the printer pretty soon. Keep watching the blog and magazine and you’ll see the announcement of its arrival. — Jackie

Storing food in metal containers

I read in a back to basics book that you shouldn’t store dried food in metal containers. I really like your idea about using the cookie tins for food storage and it has been working out just fine. Question is: The tin is just the right size for storage of my dried bananas, am I going to poison someone?

Edna Hawks
Boise, Idaho

I never heard that one before. I do and I’m still alive. I suppose that condensation could possibly cause dampness on a metal can. But on the other hand, the tin will sure keep dry foods dry. I keep some of my dry foods in the popcorn tins, others in gallon and half gallon jars. The main thing is to keep moisture away from the foods and keep them bug and rodent-safe. — Jackie

Asiago cheese recipe

You recently stated you make Asiago cheese from your goat milk. Would you be willing to share this recipe? Haven’t been able to find one.

Brad and Rhona Barrie
Strong, Maine

Asiago cheese is a little more fussy than many, but definitely do-able. Here’s the recipe I use:

1 gal milk
1/4 tsp Thermophilic DVI type C culture
1 Junket rennet tablet
cheese salt

1. Let fresh milk warm to room temperature
2. Slowly heat to 90-92 degrees, over 20 minutes
3. Add starter and let stand 30-45 minutes
4. Crush rennet tablet in small amount of milk and add to warmed milk
5. Wait about an hour till curds break clean over your finger
6. Cut curds into 1/2″ pieces
7. Slowly heat curds and whey about 20 minutes while stirring, until they reach 104 degrees
8. Hold at 104 degrees for 15-20 minutes until curds no longer stick together
9 Slowly heat to 116-118 degrees (during 20 minutes time)
10 Cook at 116-118 degrees until curd is firm and easy to rub apart
11 Let curds settle to bottom of pot for 20 minutes
12 Drain through a doubled cheesecloth a few minutes
13 Place in cheese press and press firmly for 1 hour, until wheels are formed
14 Take out of press, remove cloth. Replace with clean cloth that has been dipped in a mild salt brine. Press again.
15 Turn wheels of cheese 2 times and leave in press overnight at room temperature
16 The next morning, remove from press and brine at 50-55 degrees. After 24 hours, brine the wheels for 4-5 hours per pound of cheese, longer.
17 Turn cheeses in brine once per day. Sprinkle dry salt on tops. Remove from brine.

Age at 55-59 degrees and 85 relative humidity with moderate ventilation (I put mine in a screened box on a pantry shelf with the window outside the pantry slightly open in the warmer months.)
Rub salt on rind every 3-4 days, turning cheeses each time. I age my cheeses on a dowel rack so they can get air both under and around the wheels. The turning ensures that they don’t get too damp inside on the bottom half of the cheese. This can lead to spoilage.

Good luck with your cheesemaking! — Jackie

Donkeys on the homestead

Love seeing the photo of Moose and Beauty, can you relay the benefits of donkeys on the homestead?

Joanna Wilcox
Boone, North Carolina

Well, they’re cuddly, have personality plus…Okay, that’s not usefulness, is it? Well, yes and no. But seriously, they make good guardians for sheep or goats and will attack predators. They can be trained to drive and pack; we will be using ours to pull small logs out of our woods; they fit where larger horses won’t. Their manure is a huge bonus. We never get enough manure it seems! We are going to train ours to drive singly and double, to use on a small wagon and cart. If gas prices zoom back up, we just might be using them to drive to town for supplies. What a political statement! — Jackie

Starting Over

I just finished reading your book “Starting Over” and I thought it was fantastic. Is there going to be another one someday? I would really like to be as self-reliant as you are, but until we can get our own land, we’re doing the best we can with growing our veggies and some fruit trees and bushes. I’m going to have to re-read your book because I want to try a couple of the recipes. Anyway, you are a great inspiration.

Georgia Trathen
Glasgow, Montana

Thanks for the praise. I’m not sure if there will be another Starting Over; you’d have to talk to Dave about that. He’s the guy who makes those decisions. It’s great that you are being as self-reliant as you can; few people can make it ALL the way, but I figure that the more we CAN do for ourselves, the further down the road we are. Congratulations! — Jackie

Dairy goats

I am new at raising dairy goats and have a question about taming them for milking (I have your excellent book on dairy goats, but it doesn’t mention this aspect). My La Mancha doe kidded about four weeks ago and is producing sufficient milk for her kids–they’re healthy and happy. The previous owners said she was a 4H goat; she’s very tame and sweet, but she won’t let me touch her udder. She freaks out when I try to milk her or even get her used to me by my touching her udder. She has never been milked before, as she’s only 18 months old, and this is her first freshening. I am planning to build or buy a milking stand in the next couple of weeks, but I’m afraid she will be so upset by my trying to milk her that it’s going to be a very difficult task and she’ll jump around and hurt herself in the stanchion.

I’m very anxious to begin milking her for cheese and milk, but I’m not sure how to start with a first-time freshened doe. Can you advise on how to get her used to being milked?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

A lot of first fresheners are antsy about being milked. Get your milking stanchion built as soon as possible and locate it next to a solid wall. At first, just feed her in it. Then brush her several times in it until she relaxes. Slowly switch brushing to stroking her sides, hips and belly; udder (not teats) if you can. If she still is kicky, shove your head into her flank with her firmly fastened in the stanchion and grab her teats gently but firmly and begin milking. By holding your head into her flank, and NOT letting go of her teats, she will slowly figure out that you ARE going to milk her and she will stop thrashing around.

By letting go when she jumps and kicks, she is training you to leave her alone! You won’t hurt her by being persistent, and you’ll soon have her standing well. Be sure to always have feed for her while she is being milked to distract her. When the feed is gone you’ll have more trouble. I know this behavior is frustrating, but with patience and persistence, you can overcome it.

If nothing seems to work, have an experienced goat breeder come over a couple times to milk for you. Often just a time or two will settle her down. And you can watch an expert to see just how it all works. Just think of all the milk, cheese, ice cream, etc. you’ll soon have! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

April fool on us; we got a foot of snow

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009


Just two days ago, we were putting our bulldozer back together. Will found a few other things that needed fixing, and was doing that before the radiator went back on. The hydraulic tank had two broken mounts and was dangling by the hoses and there were four bolts out of the belly pan, which was what made the fan go through the radiator in the first place; the body flexed too much on uneven ground. So he was welding away in sunny fortyish weather. But that weather was not to last.

Yesterday it started snowing. And snowing. And snowing. We had brought our two donkeys, Beauty (who is very pregnant) and her partner, Moose, up to the barn because we knew the storm was coming and didn’t want her foaling in the snow. Here, she has a big stall and no big horses to pester her and possibly hurt the baby.

This morning, we woke up to a foot of snow…and it snowed all day, too. Luckily, it was 35 degrees and the snow packed down so tonight, we only have about six inches. It won’t last, but wow what an April Fools joke on us!


Readers’ Questions:

Saving seeds

This will be my 3rd year planting a nice big garden (and looking for more odd spots to add to it). The 1st year I bought seedlings and cheap Wal-Mart 10 cent seed packs. The second year I grew my own seedlings with the majority of my seeds coming from Wal-Mart, again the 10 cent packs (now up to 20 cents this year). I have ordered the seed catalogs you recommended and have ordered the essentials, heirloom, of course, and look forward to ordering more as funds allow. My question is this: I would love to save my own seeds and want to keep them pure, can I plant my heirloom round tomatoes alongside hybrid paste and cherry and still have a pure round heirloom seed to save? And can this be applied to other veggies as well? I would like to plant a variety of seed and don’t have the acres or miles required to keep things pure. So I was wondering if I only planted one heirloom, of each variety, each season, alongside their hybrid versions will they remain pure? Hope I asked that right.

Dawn Norcross
Orion, Illinois

Some plants, like tomatoes and beans pretty much self-pollinate. That is, they don’t “visit their neighbors” too much, via wind or insects. I still don’t plant them right next to each other when I want to save seeds. You are pretty safe if you plant tomatoes several feet away from another variety. It doesn’t matter if they are hybrid or not, they can cross. Fussier crops are corn, peppers, squash, and melons. To save seeds from these, it’s best to only grow one variety each year. With squash it’s easier, as there are four main species of squash, Cucurbita maxima (like Hopi Pale Grey, hubbard, etc.), C. pepo (many pumpkins and summer squash), C. argyrosperma (cushaws) and moschata (sweet potato squash, some pumpkins). They won’t usually cross so I can grow five different squash, saving the seeds. Corn is more difficult; it’s one variety if you want to save seeds — or get into hand pollination and bagging the ears to prevent cross pollination. Same with peppers and melons (although watermelon won’t cross with muskmelon — different species). It sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Go to the library and pick up a book on seed saving. You’ll have fun! — Jackie

Canning crab

I don’t know if you are familiar with the Maryland blue crab, a heavenly sea creature if there was one, but I was curious if the meat could be canned. I’ve canned the broth from boiling the shells, but was unsure about the meat. Any suggestions?

Amanda Kemp
Felton, Delaware

Yes, you can home can crab. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2 Tbsp. salt to a gallon of boiling water. Keep hot. Remove the shells and rinse the meat with several changes of fresh water. Boil 20 minutes in the hot brine. Drain, remove the meat from body and claws. Rinse in cool brine made of 2 Tbsp. salt, 2 cups lemon juice or distilled vinegar to 1 gallon of cool water. Gently squeeze the meat to remove excess liquid. Pack crab meat into hot half pint or pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. citric acid to each half pint or 1 tsp. to each pint. Cover with boiling water, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw ring down firmly tight. Process half pints and pints for 80 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions). — Jackie

Making cheese from goat milk

Do you make cheese with your extra goat’s milk? If so, what kind? We are in “retirement” and need something to do, so we are putting together a Grade A goat dairy and looking at starting with soft cheeses then building up to the aged ones. We love the chevre and I make cheesecakes with it – YUM. Just was wondering if you do anything with cheese.

Margie Buchwalter
Palmer, Alaska

Yes, I do make cheeses from my goat milk. I make many kinds; mozzarella, cheddar, cottage cheese, asiago, chevre, feta, and others when I have time. Come to think of it, time is my biggest problem…I never have enough! — Jackie

Heating addition

Thank you for answering my insulation question. My next question regards the heating of the addition. It will be a master bedroom and a bedroom for our handicap daughter with a handicap accessible bathroom. I am not bringing the plumbing out into the addition for it is on pillars and I am concerned about frozen pipes so it will be made into a handicap accessible bathroom. I would like your thought about heating. I don’t want to bring the duct work out into the addition (30′ X 24′) because of the difficulty of tying into the existing heating duct work. What would you suggest? I love your tube insulation piece and your fire at the end but my husband said that it would be too dirty for the bedroom. Our coal and wood burner is in the basement and it is a mess down their with the ashes and all. I was thinking of venting gas logs (gas logs that are non vented are not recommended for bedrooms but are allowed in our state in your home) I was also considering the outdoor furnace but have yet to find one that doesn’t heat water also. Help, I am starting to consider my options early, I know, but it will be winter again before you know it. I also wish there was some way that I could make the addition solar. I was thinking it would be possible because there would be nothing with a large load at all except maybe a TV or lap top. What do you think?

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

To keep our plumbing in my new laundry room from freezing, we ran them up the corner of our existing bathroom, behind trim, into the new addition, on the ceiling, where the pipe ran across the ceiling, into a closet, across inside the closet, hidden from view, into the laundry room. No plumbing under the floor or on an outside wall to prevent freezing on -40 nights! To hide the water line across the ceiling, Will cleverly hollowed out a faux log ceiling beam and it fit over the line; you’d never guess! You might consider something like that.

For heat, you can get outdoor wood boilers that do not heat your hot water…but it IS cheap hot water for the house! A bonus, so to speak. My son, Bill, has one that he has had for four years now, and he is just hooking it to the hot water for the house, as he didn’t have time, before. Or you can use your idea of vented gas logs in a “fireplace” for heat. Unvented in a bedroom is NOT a good idea. The gas fireplace is pretty and provides heat. We have a regular vented propane heater in Mom’s bedroom, which also heats the rest of the house, if needed. It isn’t pretty, but it does do the job.

As for the solar, as always, it’s a good idea, but solar does get costly. However, right now there are tax breaks for solar installation that might help. Check out some of Jeff Yago’s past articles for more decision making planning. — Jackie

List of canning times

I have read all the issues we’ve gotten and I haven’t seen this in any of them. I’ve seen some of them covered but not all of them. I need a complete list of pressure canning times and pounds of pressure for all vegetables, beans and meats, for quarts and pints/half pints. I want to start canning my own recipes–soups, stews, etc. and some of the vegetables and beans in your columns have not been covered. I really trust your knowledge, so I would like a list, so I know which vegetable needs the longest time, in my recipes.

Brenda McClure
Rockwood, Tennessee

You can find this information in my new book, to be released soon, or if you need it NOW, you can pick up a Ball Blue Book that has nearly all this information, at most local stores that carry canning supplies. This list would be so long and take so much time, I can’t do it on the blog; sorry. — Jackie

Storing food in paint buckets

Would the plastic 5-gallon paint buckets that you find at Home Depot (the orange ones) with lids be okay to store food in?

Lynne White
Lacombe, Louisiana

I would assume so, and wouldn’t be afraid to use them. However I get my buckets from Super One grocery stores, at the bakery, for $2 each for bucket and lid, and I know they are food safe for sure. — Jackie

Apple trees and acidifying soil

We’re putting in some fruit trees this year. I was wondering, if you could only grow one apple variety for both baking (pies, crisps) and sauce, which variety would you choose. I was considering Granny Smith but wondered if you liked another better.

Also, do you know of any natural ways to improve (acidify) the soil for blueberry plants?

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

Granny Smith is a great choice. But I’m so jealous of you being in a zone where you can have any apple you want! I love Fuji, Pink Lady, Wolf River, and Fireside, too. Decisions, decisions!

You can acidify your soil for your blueberries by adding peat to the soil during planting and as a mulch later on, as the plants grow. — Jackie

Growing peach trees from pits

How can I start peach trees from pits. I have a tree that has the best free stone fruit and would love to have more.

Robert Hale
Germantown, Ohio

Yes, you can start peaches from pits, but as most modern peaches are grafted, you may or may not get a tree exactly like yours. To plant your pits, either plant them in the garden in the fall, then overwinter them in the garden or put them in a damp paper towel, enclosed in a zip-lock bag, in the fridge from December till spring, as they must receive cold treatment in order to germinate. Have fun! — Jackie

Canning French onion soup

Can French onion soup be canned? I have a 50 pound sack of onions, that was “A GOOD BUY.” I am drying some and then what else can you with them. Thank you for your Inspiration.

Linda Fisher
Klamath, California

Yes, you can home can French onion soup. Depending on your recipe, you’ll be processing the onion part for 25 minutes for pints or 30 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure. Most French onion recipes have a beef broth base. Beef broth is processed for 5 minutes less, so you’re okay with the onion times. Don’t pack in too many onions to get rid of them; you don’t want a dense product for safety’s sake.

I’d try to dry a bunch of them. They are so very handy for just about everything. I use the blender and whiz some into flakes, some into chunks and some into powder. And I use the end product nearly every day. What a buy! — Jackie

Goats not eating

I have two nubians a week from kidding. I bought two new bags of wet cob (from the same place I always get it) brought them home and they both refuse to eat it. The little pigs were woofing down a pound and a half a day, two feedings. They don’t show any signs of poor health or discomfort. And they are eating their alfalfa grass hay (third cutting really nice stuff) eagerly. I thought maybe it had more molasses than they were used to, so will try dry cob. What do you think about these little buggers?

Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington

My guess is that there was something about the feed they didn’t like. The extra molasses may have done it, or maybe there is another new ingredient they find unappetizing. My goats refused one bag of feed and later on I found a dog had peed on it! Can I blame them? Try the dry cob. If they still won’t eat grain, you might have your vet out as there are kidding time metabolic problems that could be occurring. — Jackie

Head start homesteading

We adore your writings and your fortitude! Here’s an unusual scenario about which I’d appreciate your sage advice.

Family members have purchased a 40+ acre homestead of fenced field, meadow, and forest. The catch is that they have another four years overseas committed to Uncle Sam. (Fortunately not in the Sandbox.)

Given the timeframe, what should be planted there now to prepare for their arrival in a few years? I want to give their homestead a good head start, but the only things I could think of are the orchards and asparagus.

The homestead is about your latitude and zone. Another twist is that given the 8 hour drive there, I’d like to check on things only once per year. Sounds like “Mission Impossible: Backwoods Edition!”

Brian Heyer
Greenville, Wisconsin

Only tending any garden/orchard once a year is a toughie. New plantings require not only good planting but weed reduction, watering and fertilizing. In most areas, you will also need to fence the plantings against deer, rabbits and other critters. If you are willing to plant, fence and mulch these plantings, maybe you could find a neighbor who would be willing to water for hire for the first summer.

Some of my first-on-the-homestead plantings include cherries, plums, apples, brambles, asparagus, and rhubarb. With good planting, a good soaking at planting, mulching with fertile, well rotted manure or other compost, and fencing from the varmints, all should do well…especially if a neighbor will help out and water periodically, as needed. — Jackie

Water boiling out of jars during canning

We love BHM and especially your articles. Rather than listen to the radio in the car, our first introduction to your articles was my wife reading from your articles as we traveled across the state. It was great! In no time at all we had driven for three hours.

Since then, we have started canning and preserving produce from our small raised bed garden. The raised beds have been very productive and eating our own produce is such a thrill. In the canning process, though, some of our jars have vegetables that are not immersed in the liquid after we remove the jars from the pressure canner. It seems that some of the water in the jars has boiled out in the process. Does this really matter that much? Also, could we be putting too much produce in a jar? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Keep up the good work.
We love the entire magazine and digest each article.

Bob Bundy
Lancaster, South Carolina

I’m tickled that you’re growing great raised beds and canning up extra food. It’s not a serious problem when water/liquid blows out of the jars; the food is still edible. The reasons can be: too much food, not enough headspace (read directions and don’t pack in a “bit” more — I’m sometimes guilty of this one!), varying the pressure up and down during processing, or not letting the gauge return to zero before opening the lid.

Any one or a combination can cause liquid to blow out of the jars. No sweat but your food will look better if you watch these concerns. — Jackie


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