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Archive for May, 2009

Jackie Clay

I love my $50 hot tub!

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

We’ve been working hard on finishing up our new goat pasture, which is now inhabited by our goats. But now we’re building a 10×12-foot summer goat cottage (sounds better than goat shed, doesn’t it?). Goats hate rain, getting wet, and even hot summer sun. So to shelter them from the elements, Will’s come up with a great little building, using mostly small, cut off 2x4s, power poles (sawn in half) and $50 worth of on-sale OSB. The gussets that stiffen the rafters are even made of really small scraps of OSB, left over from our house addition and the storage building. I love that! Only tiny, tiny scraps are left from the scraps. Wow! Use EVERYTHING!

The walls are now up and the goats are inspecting it and asking how soon they can use it. Our sweet white doe, Buffy, is VERY pregnant and it looks like we’ll soon increase our little goat herd. Luckily, though, we have had good response to an ad in the Duluth Craig’s List and hope to sell most of our babies to good homes shortly. It doesn’t pay to keep ALL those cute babies or wonderful young does. Soon you’re goat poor and wondering where all the fun of owning goats went.


Of course, after all that work, we end up sore and stiff. I’ve been wishing for a hot tub to soak in, but couldn’t find one I could afford…a fixer upper, of course. But Bill, my oldest son, found one for me and called last fall. The tub is HUGE, but had its plumbing frozen and seriously cracked. But the price was within my budget, for sure…$50. Wow. We hauled it home and stored it under cover all winter. Last week Will and I loaded it on our little trailer and brought it up into the yard where Will had hauled fill in to level a raised spot for it next to the deck. And Saturday night, we filled it with hot water. Well, we did until we found more leaks than Will had fixed! But we didn’t want to waste the hot water, so we jumped in and hunkered down in the bottom to soak. Wonderful! Now all we have to do is a whole lot more plumbing. Eventually, it’ll have wood-fired heat and be filled to the top. How wonderful on our poor old strained backs!


Readers’ questions:

Preserving squash

What is the best method for putting squash up? Freezing, canning, or is there another method?

Daniel Gisler
Moody, Texas

I like canning squash chunks and dehydrating slices. Both methods result in great squash; dehydrating it saves canning jars, plus I also make a powder of it to add to stews and also multi-grain breads. (Don’t tell my family!) — Jackie

Winter feed for chickens

I loved your article on chickens, but I have a question. In the winter, I’ve been told that I have to feed them a “winter mash.” I’ve tried looking it up online and found the ingredients but it’s things I can’t get. What do you do? Do you have to feed them a special processed feed or can I make one at home myself?

Sera Waters
Blountstown, Florida

In the winter I feed the same feed as in the summer, but I also soak some alfalfa leaves or pellets in hot water overnight until it absorbs all the water, then dish it out to the girls. I also give them squash seeds & strings, potato peels, apple peels, carrot pieces, and other root cellar & kitchen scraps. And they do just fine on this “winter mash.” — Jackie

Standard canning jars

I am going to start canning this season and have been buying up jars. I have found large differences in prices and wonder if all jars are equal? The cheaper ones have “Mason” imprinted on them.

Kathie Beard
Durham, North Carolina

Actually, most modern canning jars are about equal (sorry Ball/Kerr). I’ve used about every brand available, and have never had problems with any standard canning jar. Of course, I always look for bargains! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have plenty of irons in the fire

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Most people have a spring project or two going right now. We have a dozen! Eeeek! Let’s see, our garden is being planted. I have just planted 50 tomato plants, in their Wall’o Waters, of course. I set in about half a dozen, then go back and set their cozy little tipis around them. Without these gardener friendly helpers, I couldn’t safely plant tomatoes and peppers outdoors until June 15th, or thereabouts. This way I gain three weeks of growing season in a very short-season climate.


Of course, we’re still working on our new horse pasture. I seeded in another two acres yesterday and need to take the truck down there and pick up pieces of tree roots, branches, and other wood debris left over from Will cleaning it with the dozer.

Ah the dozer… Sigh. Well it’s broken down again. This time, it’s the clutch, which is driven by eight fiber discs. To fix it, we need to remove the track, the drive wheel (can you say huge, very stubborn bolts?), then the final drive casing, then the clutch. The problem is that the final drive casing has been cracked for years, so if we’re going to do this, we need to replace that. And because the clutch housing has three bolts that hold the rail that are broken/tapped and not so hot, Will wants to replace that too as it’s such a huge job. $$$$$ and oh so much work. AND our 1010 John Deere crawler is a sixties model and parts aren’t too available. So I cried a little when Old Yeller was parked for awhile. That yeller bulldozer sort of grows on you.

Anyway, we stretched the goat pasture woven wire, using two 2x4s, screwed together over the end, with a chain from one end to the other, pulling from the center with a comealong hooked to our stationary truck or convenient tree. The fence stretched nice and tight and I spent an afternoon clipping it onto the posts with fence clips. Then I spent an afternoon putting stand-off electric fence insulators on so we can run an electric wire inside the fence to keep our nosy goats from climbing on or reaching through the fence. This SERIOUSLY shortens the life of a woven wire fence.


While I was doing that, Will was working on the first section of our storage and equipment building. He got the rafters all up, then has started putting the OSB on both the roof and today the walls. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to screw down steel roofing over that for a weather-tight, fire resistant roof. Then on to the second of four sections! (And we’ll be able to haul in pallets to stack our firewood on tomorrow.) We can stack two years’ worth of firewood in this first section, which will be our woodshed. How nice!


Oh yes, we also have to hang the fence on the berry patch, build a goat summer barn in the new pasture, plant the rest of the garden, etc. etc. But right now, I’m going to BED!!! Night folks!

Readers’ Questions:

Dehydrated potatoes

I was trying to dehydrate some potatoes for a stew, but they turned almost black. Are they still usable? Is there something I should have put on them before drying?

Bruce Robb
Lowell, Arkansas

Sorry, your potatoes are toast. You should have blanched the slices for 5 minutes, then rinsed them well in cold water to remove the excess starch. This prevents the blackening when they are exposed to air as they are when you dehydrate them. It’s just one of those life lessons we all have to learn. — Jackie

Honeysuckle jelly

Do you have a receipt for honeysuckle jelly? I can’t seem to find one anywhere. Have you ever made this? Is it any good? I am trying to make use of anything I can get for free and I sure have plenty of honeysuckle.

Kathy M.
Cedar Bluff, Alabama

I answered a question on honeysuckle jelly in my blog awhile back. I have made it, but really can’t say it was all that great. Personally, I’d save my sugar and pectin for something else. — Jackie

Garden seed row planter

I was wondering if you or anyone you know have ever used a “garden seed row planter.” I have thought about buying one this year but to spend $129.00 is a lot. We have been building a house out of pocket on one paycheck and my wife is not sure that one of these thing will be worth the money. I said I will ask someone who will know. Any help would be great.

Ron K.
Blaine, Minnesota

Yes, I have owned one, and if you have a large garden with smooth soil (not rocky or lumpy), they do cut down on the seeding of many long rows. I now have a very large garden, but have rocky soil; they don’t work well if the soil is uneven, so I won’t buy one again. If your garden isn’t large, they probably aren’t worth the cost if money is dear. — Jackie

Onion jam

Help Jackie, I can’t seem to find your recipe for onion jam; I was sure I saw it in one of your old articles. The only recipes I can find online calls for a lot of sugar and wine. From what I have read over the years I don’t think yours would have alcohol in the recipe,Yes I know it cooks out but I don’t need it in the house or in my food. I told my son I would put up a few jars for him to take home next time he visits. I try a lot of your canning recipes on him, he always goes home with bags of goodies. We can’t let the kids down.

Sherry Englehart (Layne)
Lancaster, California

Here is an onion jam recipe:

3 tablespoons butter
4 large onions, sliced
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup brown malt vinegar

Heat butter in large pan, add onions, cook gently for 20 to 30 minutes until onions are very soft and lightly browned. Add sugar, stir to melt sugar, simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until mixture is thick and caramelized. Add vinegar and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes until thickened slightly. Ladle hot into sterile pint jars.

This recipe is untested for canning and should be refrigerated, but it is very good! — Jackie

Epsom salts for tomato plants

My Dad said I should add a handful of epsom salts to my tomato plants when planting them… have you heard of this? If so, what is the benefit?

Sharry Gillesse
Nenana, Alaska

Many people add epsom salts to their plantings of tomatoes and peppers. Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and many soils are low or average in magnesium and calcium and the epsom salts give the plants a boost at planting and blossom time. Of course it’s always best to test your soil before applying this or any other soil amendment, as too much of a good thing can harm plants. — Jackie

Homemade gravy mix

I bought a package of “country gravy” mix. You just add it to boiling water and it makes a nice thick gravy that is great with turkey over homemade biscuits. The problem is that I would like to make my own mix but I cannot find a recipe anywhere. The package has lot of unwanted additives and preservatives. Any suggestions?

Beth Stoneking
Diamond, Ohio

Most of the cheaper gravy mix bases also have lots of additives and preservatives, so it’s hard to make your own dry gravy mix. I can plenty of turkey, chicken, and beef broth and simply mix a little in with flour to make a paste, then stir it into my broth, giving an “instant” preservative and additive free gravy. — Jackie

Stored peaches and chickens eating eggs

My question is about some peaches I canned two years ago. I had them packed in a box and they seemed to have gotten mold on the outside of the jar. The peaches look good but the outside looks like maybe we shouldn’t eat them. The seals are also still good.

Also, our barred Rock chickens have picked up the habit of eating their eggs. I keep gathering them about four times a day but we still seem to have problems. I’m incubating some more peeps to try to remedy this problem.

Nicole Bramm
Narvon, Pennsylvania

Mold on the outside of canning jars is generally only a cosmetic problem. Wash the jars well in warm, soapy water and dry them well before storing them again. (Of course mold inside the jars indicates a failed seal or improper canning.)

Some remedies for egg eating include providing a pan of oystershell so they can eat free choice. This builds up their calcium, making thicker egg shells, and sometimes stops egg eating. Leaving ceramic or plastic nest eggs in the nests will also sometimes help; they can’t break them and finally quit trying. Giving the hens free range or plenty of greens to pick through helps keep them busy and keeps their minds on other things. Egg eating can be frustrating and sometimes the only sure remedy is found on the chopping block. Sorry. — Jackie

Jam not setting up

I made some strawberry jam, using Sure Jell, but I didn’t follow the directions correctly, and added the sugar before I added the Sure Jell. So, I just brought the crushed strawberries and sugar to a boil and then added the Sure Jell. I brought it to a rolling boil (stirring constantly)for one minute. It didn’t jell. It made syrup consistency, but we don’t eat waffles, etc. If I dump it all back in the pot and bring to another boil until it begins to thicken, will it make jam?

Bettye Hill
Idabel, Oklahoma

To remake “oops” jams and jellies, follow these directions:

Measure the jam that needs to be remade. Measure for each cup of unset jam, 1 1/2 tsp powdered pectin, 1 Tbsp water and 2 Tbsp sugar. Now mix pectin and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Add unset jam and sugar, stirring to mix well. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1/2 minute, then remove from heat. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered NEW lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. — Jackie

Making Jerky

I am trying to build up food storage. I want to try making jerky. The jerky that my brother ate when we were kids and I see in stores you eat straight from a bag, as is. All the recipes that I can find involve using uncooked meat. Is this safe? If so, do I need to hydrate and then cook the meat prior to use? I’ve got some recipes when I can throw it into soup and chili, but can it just be eaten straight as a snack?

Barbie Cahill
Richmond, Virginia

Yes, jerky is made from raw meat. The drying/low heat over a long period of time “cooks” the meat as well. This is safe and has been used for centuries. Yes. You can cut jerky up and use it in recipes where it rehydrates and becomes seasoned meat chunks. Just match the flavor (or lack of flavor) with your intended recipe. “Plain” jerky works well with everything, but spicy hot jerky, for instance, may not make the best beef stew. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Of donkeys and tomatoes

Thursday, May 14th, 2009


Since her birth, I’ve been working with Crystal, our little red baby burro. She thinks she’s a people or I’m a donkey…I’m not sure which. But she is totally fearless. And she’s already trained to lead, pick up all four feet and come when called. (Hey, that’s better than a lot of kids I know!) I’ll be teaching her to wear something light on her back soon too. When you work with a youngster from the start like this, they become trained so they never even know it happened.

Our Friesian filly, Ladyhawk, is also very much handled. She isn’t the slightest bit afraid of bulldozers, “helping” Will work in our fields. We have to shoo her out of the area. Nor is she spooky around chainsaws, tractors, or ATVs. That’s a good thing when you’re riding or driving on a roadside.

Besides working with our equines, I’ve been starting to set tomatoes out in the garden, in their Wallo Waters. Wow have our tomatoes every grown this year. Most are 10″ to 12″ tall already…with no sign of blossoms, which is a good thing. I’m planting them deep so they can grow roots along their stems. This will help them produce more tomatoes for us. Now if we just don’t get a freeze in July or hail, or…


Readers’ Questions:

Growing flowers and vegetables together

Due to limited garden space I am utilizing every piece of front, back and side yard to grow as many vegetables as I can interspersed with flowers. Do you know of any particular flower species not to grow with tomatoes and/or vegetables such as beans and peas? (i.e. hazardous).

Secondly due to my fault in buying a stove with a ceramic stove top, and not being able to pressure can on it, I went out and got a single unit electric burner. Do you have any hints on the best pressure canner to use on a single electric burner unit?

To support the local farmers we bought a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) share this summer and I want to be able to pressure can all the wonderful vegetables that we might not be able to eat week to week.

M. Blaney
NE Ontario

You can plant just about any flowers in among your vegetables. I probably would steer away from castor beans, as they are toxic and could possibly transmit a bit of this to your vegetables (although I doubt it). Mixed flowers and vegetables are a real big thing right now. Enjoy your mixed beds!

I’m not sure a hot plate will work for pressure canning, regardless of the type or brand of canner. I would buy a canner of your choice, then make a dry run ( empty jars filled with water) on it and see if it will get to pressure and stay there. If it does, great. Let me know! If not, you could pick up a propane table top burner unit (Harbor Freight and Northern Tool has them for under $35…I’m sure some local stores do too). This is not a camping, Coleman type stove, but a heavier very plain burner top that can sit on a picnic table, etc. These do work very well for canning.

It sounds like you’ll be busy this summer. Have fun! — Jackie

Dying chicks

My daughter-in-law and I bought chicks at the same time. Mine have been outside for about 3 weeks, she just put hers outside this past weekend. Hers are bigger than mine and look fine. When she put them outside some have died. What’s up with this? None died inside, I lost some inside because they got cold and smothered some of the little ones. Why are hers dying now? Its not cold out.

Donna Higgins
Webster, Kentucky

How old are these chicks? Even if they are feathered out, chicks can need a heat lamp, especially at night. Where yours are “hardened off” by being outdoors earlier in life, hers may be “hothouse” babies, used to warmth and a very protected environment. Have her add a heat lamp to the inside coop so they can access it if they become chilled. (Remember that when they are used to 90 degrees, even 72 feels cold.) Also be sure that the chicks have plenty of dry bedding in their coop as cool, damp earth could also be chilling them. Hopefully after a few days they should be toughened up to the “real” world. — Jackie

Canning sausage

When canning sausage (bulk sausage) do you add liquid? Do you not can bulk sausage? Or just put it in the jars and can?

Belvidere, New Jersey

I can bulk sausage (pork breakfast-type sausage) by lightly frying it until it shrinks and browns slightly, then stacking the patties in a wide mouth pint jar. You can pour off any excess grease from the frying pan, then add water to the pan drippings. I have dry-packed my sausage, but it is now recommended that you add a broth made up of pan drippings and water, filling the jars to within an inch of the top. Pints are processed for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and have to adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; see your canning manual for directions. — Jackie

Having trouble starting brassicas from seed

My goal it to start all of my own seeds rather than buy from the nursery. I am having very good results except anything in the brassica family. They germinate, but grow spindly and do not develop. They do not dampen off; they look healthy; I use the same starter mix as for all of my seeds. What should I be doing differently?

Eileen Turner
Dodson, Montana

Usually when plants grow spindly they more light and possibly fertilizer. Try putting your brassicas in a sunny spot as soon as they begin germinating, but be sure to mist the flats often as the sun will dry the soil out quickly. A dose of liquid fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro or manure tea will also give them a boost when they are trying to start leaves. Good luck. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Planting trees

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

Reader’s Questions:

Canning dried beans

I Need a few tips on canning beans. The dried kind, soaked, then placed in jars and pressure processed. I did some, but had to guess at the amount of beans and liquid per quart jar. Do you have specific amounts that you might share?

Bruce Clark
Interlaken, New York

There isn’t really a specific amount. You cover your dry beans with cold water by at least 2″ and let stand in a cool place overnight. Then add more water if necessary and bring to a boil; boil 30 minutes then pack in your jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. After the beans have soaked up the water from overnight soaking, they are about as big as they’ll get. You only need enough water in the jars to provide heat for processing, so the product isn’t too dense. Just make sure there is enough boiling water or cooking liquid to cover the beans completely, leaving 1″ of headspace. — Jackie

Using old lard for soap

On the subject of lard… I was given 40 lbs. of old lard last week. It really doesn’t smell bad and most of it is a pale yellow color not white. Can I use this “as is” for making lye soap? Or would I need to maybe temper it? I have only made lye soap once before and I used fresh lard for that batch.

Marcia Speltslambert
Clay City, Indiana

You can use the lard “as is” for your soap. It will be fine. — Jackie

Acidic tomatoes

How can I lessen the acid in my tomato sauce. I have tried different types of tomatoes, tried roasting tomatoes and then making sauce, added a little sugar, but always seems to be acidic.

Debra Purdy
Yuma, Arizona

Try adding brown sugar to your tomato sauce to YOUR taste. Some people are sensitive to the acid in tomatoes more than others. The brown sugar helps mellow out the acid for your taste buds. — Jackie

Gelding a horse

Here is a question regarding a horse that we adopted… He will be 2 in June and we just discovered that to geld him will be around $600 and a trip to the vet for he has not dropped either testicle. I was very upset to say the least for I know that this lady knew this for the vet told me that they usually are born dropped or shortly their after. What is your take on this? He will be two in June, how long should I wait to see if he will drop? I feel so stupid because now we are attached and money is an issue. How long can I wait to see if he will drop?

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

I’ve seen a lot of colts that didn’t have their testicles drop until they were two or older. True it’s not as common to have a colt wait that long, but it’s not that rare, either. Usually the hot days of the summer seem to help this condition along. I’d give him a little more time and see if you’re not relieved of this worry. — Jackie

Growing roses from seed

I have a flower question. I pulled a ziplock back full of seed pods from my mothers antique Yellow rose bush. How do I start them to get my own? It is such a beautiful bush with awesome sunrise yellow roses that fade to creamy white as they age. Each of the pods seem to have smaller seeds inside.

Jennifer Joyner
St. Marys, Georgia

The easiest way to get another rose from your mother’s yellow rose bush is to cut off a sprout from the mother bush. If you look, you can usually spot a small vigorous stem coming up from the ground near the original rose. If you shove a spade between the big bush and the sprout, you will cut the root and be able to remove the sprout with it’s own roots intact. Then simply plant this mini-bush at home.

To start a rose from your seeds, remove them from the hip “pod,” place between sheets of damp paper towels and put them in a jar, in the fridge for 90 days. Then plant the seeds in pots or trays. Keep moist but not wet and you’ll soon see tiny roses coming up. Have fun! — Jackie

Broody hens

One of my Buff Orpington hens has gone broody. There was no other space, so she stayed in the coop with all the others. Another hen (or two) is not broody but wants to lie around in the nesting box, too. Every few days, there are ten, or so, eggs on the floor outside the box. I discard them because, frankly, I don’t know if any of them have been under the setting hen and might be spoiled. Is it likely that the setting hen would let the others roll some of her eggs out of the box?

Deborah McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

Yes, another hen may be kicking the eggs out. Or the squabble over the nest box might roll eggs out. It’s common for other hens to try to lay eggs in the broody hen’s nest. To stop this, tack a piece of chicken wire over that nest box. You’ll have to offer the broody hen water and feed in the box, but with the wire over the opening, the other hens won’t compete for that box and ruin the eggs. Or you can simply move the setting hen into another nest box in another location. Do this at night, carefully first moving the eggs, then the hen. Lock her in the new box with the eggs for a couple of days until she is firmly setting. — Jackie

Keeping goats

Can you please tell me what you feed them and how much of the feed you grow yourself? I know the needs are different at different times. Have you had any difficult births and have you ever had to have a vet come to your place to assist in the delivery? If you have a breech birth do you assist in turning the kid and if so, how hard is it to do for a woman? At what age do you wean your kids?

Deborah Motylnski
Brecksville, Ohio

Right now we feed good quality hay and 14% sweet feed with a mineral salt lick. In the summer, we feed a whole lot of hand-cut forage, garden excess and canning waste, like corn cobs, husks, etc. As we improve our homestead, we will be raising more and more of all of our own feed. Each year we do better.

I have had a couple of difficult births during the many years I’ve had goats, but none that traumatic for me or the goat-mom. Kids often come back legs first, which calls for a little assist, just gently pulling the kid out so it doesn’t inhale birth fluid when the cord breaks. Most difficult births are due to two kids trying to enter the birth canal at the same time. You just have to go in and “sort” kids, guiding the right legs and head into the birth canal so it is in position for birth.

No this is not difficult for a woman; actually it’s easier because many women have smaller hands than men so they can give aid easier. It is not a “strength” thing at all.

I wean my kids when they are eating grain very well, growing nicely and weigh around 25 pounds. This is usually at about 2 1/2 months or so. Some grow slower, so I keep them on milk longer. If I have some kids I really want to be nice, I leave them on the mother until she weans them. I did this with Velvet’s triplet does last year and they are all rugged, strong and very nice. Being triplets, they were a little small at birth and grew slower, so I wanted them to have a good start in life. Sacrificing the milk was worth it! — Jackie

Canning on a flat-top stove

We are going to grow a garden this year and I would like to know if it will be ok to hot water can on a flat top stove?

Dave Williams
Edon, Ohio

It is not recommended that you use a glass top stove for canning, due to the concentration of both heat on the top and weight of the canner. However, I’ve had responses to this topic from readers who have successfully canned with one. (See the comments on recent blogs.) Personally, I’d use a small propane cooktop, just for canning. — Jackie

Planting potatoes

In cutting seed potatoes for planting, I have several with hollow heart. Is it okay to use them for seed potatoes? I did not find anything in your blogs or archives addressing this. They are
Yukon Golds and were purchased at the local farm and garden store.

Sherry Reynolds
Schoharie, New York

Yes, you can use the potatoes with hollow heart for seed. I usually cut out the hollow part, though. It is usually caused by irregular watering. Yukon Golds seem a little more susceptible to hollow heart than others, but I’ve had potatoes of several varieties with it…usually when watering has been difficult on a homestead. — Jackie

Planting vegetables in a shaded area

Our land is not very flat so we have had to improvise raised beds etc. for vegetables etc. My wonderful husband is just finishing a series of three retaining walls down the last slope to give us better access to the lower yard and for more planting area. The two smaller areas will be used for dwarf fruit trees (maybe three columnar apple trees) plus flowers etc. The lowest area which comes near evergreen trees is a lot bigger. I have three lilac bushes planted there already and would like to keep them there. The area does not get a lot of sun esp. in the afternoon. I would love to plant veggies in the area, but don’t know what to plant here because of low sun and possible deer munching. It would be perfect for zucchini because they could grow over the rock wall but I suspect there’s not enough sun. Any ideas for other plants or berries?

Donna Clements
Hoquiam, Washington

You’ll have to experiment. Many green vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage will tolerate less sun than corn, tomatoes or squash. Zuchinni is a bush squash, so it won’t drape over your rock. A vining winter squash, such as delicata would, and remain less invasive than a lush grower like hubbard or Hopi Pale Grey. Deer are a problem everywhere. In Montana, though, our many deer really didn’t bother our garden. Why, I’ll never know. That too, you’ll have to just see. We had a doe that napped in our squash patch! — Jackie

Sagging house

…I have read that you have rented or lived in a few different homes, some of which were difficult to make livable. I am not physically able to do a lot of heavy work and am raising my 2 year old grandson and a teenage daughter, whew (at this age a toddler is very hard to contain). My husband works full time and has our only source of income. Our home was non professionally built by my great grandparents and we have almost 50 acres around it. The land is beautiful and something I had prayed for since I was young (God really does hear and answer prayers).

The house: Almost 100 years old, needs to be re leveled cause its sagging and leaning, needs a new roof, needs new back and front porches because the existing ones have been patched on and are in bad shape, needs new back wall, rewireing, some wire is newer but my grandpa,the make do handyman, helped with the wiring, re plumbing, the bathroom sink drains right out at floor level onto the ground underneath the house, septic tank, insulation ( there is not one spot of it)and then there are some termite damage and I don’t know how much. There are rotten boards that need replacing.

I guess my question is how do you know when to refix the existing house versus building a new one? And do you know anything about jacking up an old house and replacing seals and leveling it off? Oh,, how do you potty train a boy? I had three girls two of which are grown so raising a boy is sooo different but such a blessing (when he’s not crawling under the house with the puppies, its forbidden but he runs off fast)

Sonja Neatherland
Dodson, Louisiana

I hear you about having a little one; I had my youngest son, David, when I was 44, so I know how much running it takes out of you! We potty trained him by sitting his little potty in front of the “big” one. When we went, he came with us and sat there having great discussions…and also sometimes going potty. Of course, being a little boy, he also went pee out in the yard, in the woods or wherever he was. It took awhile before he figured it was not socially correct to take a whiz in public. But we all lived through it. The BIG incentive to be totally potty trained was wearing big-boy underwear. That did it!

As for the house problem. It sounds like you have a big job ahead of you. It might be cheaper and easier to rebuild a small, easy-to-add onto house on a solid foundation. A lot of folks have started with a two car garage sized house, then added on as the cash allowed. I don’t know your situation, so you may need to fix the existing home, instead. Start with the basics, the foundation, the plumbing that drains under the house…which probably isn’t doing the structure any good. Yes, I’ve jacked up sagging buildings. I used 6″x6″ timbers, running under the floor joists and sills, then used a bottle jack under that to slowly and carefully raise the house/shed. Sometimes they’ll improve; sometimes the damage is too great. But it’s worth a try.

The building is sagging for a reason. Try and find it. Are sills rotted out? Floor joists? Is the footing crumbled? Often you can replace the rotten area or build block and concrete support footings for the floor, which in turn, holds the house straight once you’ve jacked it up.

Of course, a professional will do a better job, but many of us have never been able to afford one so we’ve made do. And it’s amazing at what a person can fix if need be.

Always be very careful when jacking up a building; never get under it without sturdy support. That house is heavy! — Jackie

Making lemonade

Do you have a recipe for lemonade made from dried lemon peel? I have searched the web but find nothing. I would think you could but nothing is out there.

Liz Welcher
Indianapolis, Indiana

You probably can’t make lemonade from dried lemon peel; you’d have to use dehydrated lemon without the peel as the peel contains oils that would make the lemonade taste bitter, not sour. You can remove the peel from lemons, slice them crosswise, remove any seeds, then dehydrate them. By rehydrating them, then adding to water with sweetener, you would have a nice lemonade. Without the bitterness of the peel. — Jackie

Pond not holding water

We recently purchased a home with a “pond,” however it does not hold water very well. Actually, it has held a small amount in the bottom (aprox.1 foot) pretty well, but we have had great rainfall this past winter and spring which filled the pond up twice, but within 1 week the pond was back to it’s 1 foot level again. We were advised to broadcast bentonite with the last filling, but it didn’t seem to help. Do you know any tricks? The previous owner said that the pond had been “properly raked.” I
would greatly appreciate any help you might have.

Margaret Galloway
Springville, Alabama

This type of seasonal pond usually will only stay filled higher than its natural level if you pump it out (or wait for a dry summer) and install a pond liner. This is a heavy poly or rubber sheet that does not let the water escape. Many people have had great luck improving a pond on their place this way. However it is expensive to buy and install. I wish I had a magic cure for your pond! I love my water too! — Jackie

Growing vegetables in the shade

I have a section of my main vegetable garden that doesn’t get much sun during the growing season. I think it must get a couple hours of direct sun a day. The only thing that’s ever grown well there is the strawberry patch. What are some other things I could grow there? We live in northern Connecticut.

Jeanne Allie
Strorrs, Connecticut

You may have good luck growing salad veggies such as lettuce, mesclun mixes, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. These often have a greater shade tolerance than other garden vegetables. Good growing. — Jackie

Canning problems

Hello, I have 2 minor canning problems. The butter I just canned turned out ok but it has a somewhat gritty texture and a slightly different taste from fresh. Is this normal? Also I canned some smoked sausage but it got very mushy and had a bad texture. Anyway to solve this?

Jeff Schanks
Barnesville, Ohio

Did you refrigerate your butter before trying it? Canned, room temperature butter can have a gritty texture, like some room temperature stick margarine does. Or did you “cook” it quite a while to evaporate the water in the butter? This also can sometimes result in a different texture/taste. Neither is harmful.

Was your smoked sausage in casing or patties? I’ve never had good luck canning smoked sausage, like summer sausage, because of the change in texture and taste. With the patties, I lightly fry them, then stack them in a wide mouth jar to process, without liquid. With liquid, they do get mushy. — Jackie

Homemade noodles

I believe in the last issue there was an article on making homemade noodles and drying them. I have always made them, dried them and then froze in freezer. My question is,” When dried can they be stored in cans on the shelf?” I know dried noodles at the grocery stores are stored on the shelf but I am worried about Salmonella poisoning.

Rose Cafin
Robinson, Illinois

To store dry noodles on the shelf, they must, of course be very dry; in effect, dehydrated. To be absolutely safe, continue to use your noodles fresh or frozen. There is a minute risk of picking up a bacterial infection from home dried noodles, but it IS a possibility. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The horse pasture gets a renovation

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009


You’ll remember that last fall when Will was here for a two week visit, he took our bulldozer and rough-cleared 2/3 of our horse pasture (which had been young poplar woods before that). During the winter, we burned much of the wood and yesterday we went down to the pasture to clean it up in preparation for planting it. Will took the bulldozer and I went around tossing chunks of wood into the piles in front of it. He worked it down into a low spot, then mashed it down and buried the wood with the dirt left over from the large roots. It now looks very clean and nice. We are impressed!

But to get the grass and clover started well, we are also fencing the pasture in two parts. The smaller part will contain the horses, where we will continue to feed big round bales of hay while the new seeding takes hold and grows. So we’ve also been doing fencing, drilling in holes for corners, gates, and braces. Our new fence-in-progress also looks very nice.

In his spare time, Will is working on our new equipment/wood/storage shed and I’m transplanting berries from our garden up into our new larger berry patch. And getting the spring planting in the garden under way. So far, I’ve planted 580 onion sets. Wow! Yep. We like our onions!

For a treat, my oldest son, Bill and his wife, Kelly, came up for an early Mother’s Day. Of course they brought their son, Mason, so we all got to play with him. One of his favorite toys is an old-timey one — a wooden spoon and shiny pan he can bang on. We had a long walk in the woods and as Mason recently learned to walk, he enjoyed himself too.


Readers’ Questions:


A friend made me some bread that was wonderful, she said she uses Brosoft, which brings me to the question; What is Brosoft made of, and how do I use it in bread baking?

Eileen Bartschenfeld
Prairie Farm, Wisconsin

It is a dough enhancer made by Brolite. You can contact them at for more information. — Jackie

Using mayonnaise jars for canning

The former owner of our new place left several produce boxes full of old jars. They look like mayonnaise jars. My canning rings fit them, one even said “ball” on the bottom of it. I was wondering if you’ve ever used mayo jars for boiling water bath canning and did they hold up? These are all quart size, mainly regular size openings, a few are large mouth. I figure I won’t try them for pressure canning–correct?

Mary Thompson
Charlotte, North Carolina

Contrary to popular belief, including many experts, I have successfully used mayonnaise jars for both water bath and pressure canning and have had absolutely no more breakage with them than “regular” mason jars. As long as the jars are uncracked and the lid and ring fit, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them. — Jackie

Early rhubarb, controlling sowbugs, and sources for wheat and beans in bulk

I have several questions. My rhubarb has only just come up but already has several large flower stalks which I cut off. Isn’t this a bit early? I froze a gallon bag of it chopped, awaiting strawberries to get ripe (6 weeks or so). Do you have any good recipes to share to preserve it? Also,what do you use to control sowbugs and earwigs on food crops?

Do you know of any sources for wheat and beans in bags? I can only find 25 lb. bags of rice and pinto beans. NO problem finding in pails. I did find a #10 can on Hershey’s cocoa today so rapidly ordered!

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Yes, it is a little early for rhubarb to be sending out flower stalks. Is your rhubarb larger? If the stalks are under 1 inch, you might try adding a heavy mulch of rotted manure; the plants may be slightly stressed from lack of nutrition; they are a heavy feeder. I had this trouble with two large rows and ended it by dumping a whole manure spreader load of rotted manure on the rows, a foot deep, early in the spring. The neighbor said I’d killed my rhubarb. But it came up and had stalks two inches in diameter! And it was much, much later in sending out flowering stalks.

I put up a whole lot of rhubarb as rhubarb sauce, simply a cooked rhubarb in a medium syrup, as in the Ball Blue Book, or as rhubarb conserve, both in that same book and in my new book. Enjoy your rhubarb. I love it!

I buy my bulk beans and wheat locally, from our feed mill. They also sell human foods, in addition to animal feed. They are Homestead Mill, Cook, MN (218) 666-5233. I’m sure shipping would be costly on bulk items, but maybe one of your local mills or food buying clubs could help you out. — Jackie

Making yogurt from canned milk

I love that you are so full of wonderful information and freely pass it on to all. I have learned tons from your columns and articles and have become fearless to try most anything. My question is that I would like to make yogurt out of previously canned milk. It’s just regular store bought milk that I canned for a prep. We are having more snow today and I have the flu (hopefully not the kind in the news) and we’re out of milk except for my canned and I want some yogurt. What do you think? I hate to waste the stored milk if it won’t work.

Barbara Harrington
Arvada, Colorado

Good luck with your non-“hopefully!” swine flu. Your canned milk would probably work for yogurt if you had a little active culture yogurt or buttermilk to provide culture to get it going. Let me know how it turns out if you decide to give it a go.

Get well soon. — Jackie

“Three Sisters” planting

I have recently stumbled across the “three sisters” method of planting corn, beans, and squash together in a mound. I wondered if you have tried this method and if you would recommend it. I was given some Hickory King corn and since it grows tall and strong had planned on planting some pole beans alongside. Now that I’ve read about the three sisters, I am considering planting my squash alongside as well.

Also, might I ask how you first began collecting the old utility poles? Was it just a matter of asking the electric company?

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

Yes, I have planted corn, beans, and squash together. While it does work for large, dry corn, it makes harvesting corn or green beans hard as the squash vines quickly become rampant and tangle your feet while you walk through what used to be the rows. It works very well when you will be harvesting primarily winter squash, dry corn for meal or hominy, and dry beans for storage, as the Native families did.

To plant this way, first plant your corn; rows actually work best. Then about every ten feet each way, plant a hill or squash. When the corn is about six inches tall, plant your pole beans next to and in the row with the corn, one bean for every three corn plants. That’s it; Mother Nature handles the rest. Both the squash and beans will climb on the cornstalks for support. It’s a fun way to plant a patch and you’ll get a triple harvest. — Jackie

Salting blueberries

In one of your back issues you had a recipe for preserving blueberries by putting them in a fruit jar and adding either 1tsp. or 1 Tbsp. of salt. What is the correct answer?

Carol Ann McNeese
Albia, Iowa

I think you are referring to an old article written by Anne Westbrook Dominick, not me. The recipe was to put firm dry blueberries in a quart jar leaving one inch of head room and adding one teaspoon of salt and agitate gently to work the salt down through. Put on a lid and put in a dark spot for storage. The berries will create a small amount of juice but remain firm. If you have extreme changes in temperature in the storage area such as when the stove goes out and it gets real cold in the wintertime pressure can build in the jars so open carefully and slowly until you hear the hiss of air. The salt does not flavor the berries and extra sugar is not needed when using them.
I have not used this method, and probably wouldn’t; I can’t see how it would prevent the blueberries from fermenting or molding. — Jackie

Frozen peanut butter

I am new at food storage. Help, I froze my natural peanut butter. I read that it should just be refrigerated. Is there anyway to salvage it?

Rene and Edwina Stover
Ellijay, Georgia

Usually you can just thaw your frozen peanut butter, then stir up the oil. If it won’t mix well, simply warm it up till it softens, then stir it to mix it. You should quickly be back in business. — Jackie

Canning red potatoes

I have been given a large quantity of new red potatoes. They are all small in size. I am uncertain as to whether I have to peel them first, before pressure canning. I have seen directions for peeled and unpeeled. I want your advice on this as I trust what you have to say.

Kenneth Greene
Leesburg, Georgia

With small potatoes, I usually just scrub them and can them up. It’s easier and we don’t mind the very thin peels. It seems a waste to peel the little guys! And besides it’s lots of work. The larger potatoes, I often either scrub or peel and quarter. Enjoy your bounty! — Jackie

Canning tomatoes at a high altitude

I grow a lot of tomatoes in my garden each year but, as I live at 2500 feet above sea level, I am afraid to can them. I bought a pressure canner, but am afraid to use it due to all the warnings about acidic foods canned at altitude. Can you tell me a safe way to can tomatoes at my home and is there a chemical test (think litmus) to see if already canned food is safe to eat ie: w/o botulism?

Elizabeth MacLeod
Grass Valley, California

You don’t have to pressure can tomatoes. A simple water bath canner is plenty good and safe too. If you don’t have a water bath canner, you can just use your pressure canner without shutting the lid and putting on the weight or shutting the petcock. I canned tons of tomatoes at altitudes from 6,000 feet in New Mexico to 7,400 feet in Montana with absolutely no problems.

Your canned tomatoes are perfectly good to eat if you followed directions and the jars are sealed. If they look fine, smell fine, they will be fine. As you gain experience, you’ll soon laugh at your old fears and begin to get excited about home canning as so many others have. Have fun! — Jackie

Recanning hot fudge sauce

I have some restaurant size cans of hot fudge. Can this be recanned? How would I do it?

Kathy M.
Cedar Bluff, Alabama

I have tried to find recipes for canning hot fudge sauce everywhere and am coming up blank. Many sources say definitely NOT to try canning it and to keep it in the refrigerator, instead. I think if it were me, I’d open a can when you plan on using some, then heat the contents gently and fill hot pint canning jars with it and put on new, hot lids. This will keep in the fridge for months. In this way, you can use it up without waste. — Jackie

Dealing with sandy soil

I have very sandy soil and want your thoughts on a idea I have. I want to remove the top 18 inches of soil and lay down about a 6-inch or more layer of aged sawdust. I would then replace the dirt over the top of the sawdust. My hope is that the sawdust will help hold moisture and nutrients. I have a couple spots in the yard that have wooden sheds buried and the grass is always green over them. I don’t care about growing a lawn but I do want to expand my garden and also plant berries. Do you see any downfalls to this idea?

Alan McFerran
Angora, Minnesota

It seems like an awful lot of work. Instead, why don’t you ask a local farmer for a few truckloads of rotted manure to work into your sand. We have worked a lot of manure in on our sandy/gravel loam and now it’s getting nice and black. And it holds moisture so much better, too.. Besides, it’s a lot easier than removing all that soil. — Jackie

Head lettuce not heading

Can to tell me why my head lettuce is not turning into heads? The plants are big, pretty, and leafy but no heads. Last year I planted cabbage in a different spot and it grew but never headed. I am doing cabbage again this year and hoping that it does well.

Kathy M.
Cedar Bluff, Alabama

I’m guessing that maybe your head lettuce and cabbage got stressed by heat; both are cool weather lovers. I have never had this happen, but I’ve always lived in a cool climate. Try planting them earlier or later in the year, when the weather is cooler and see what happens. Good luck. — Jackie

Canning ham

Just finished canning ham. First try. Pint jars. Should can at 11 lbs. pressure for my altitude at 1,106 Feet. So says the Extension. O.K. Had trouble keeping it at 11 lbs. (Electric stove touchy) Canner was happy at 12 lbs. So, I justified keeping it there (aren’t we gals good at justification?) As long as it was consistent at 12, rather than “jockeying” from 11 to 12. When I removed the jars, 3 of the 5 had a warped looking lid. So figure those are NOT sealed? Correct? Can I re-can those? I used ham broth, and the jars are a dark cherry red color. Is that normal?

Jan Eylar
Savannah, Missouri

I’ve had lids crease, as I’m assuming yours did, usually from getting the pressure too high. But having it happen for one pound over is unusual. Funny though; only my Kerr lids did that! On several different batches throughout a year. As long as the lids are firmly dented down into the jar, they are sealed. If the warp resulted in unsealed lids, you can re-do the batch. Ham broth/ham often has a dark red color. Yes, this is normal. — Jackie

Canning on a hot plate and adding livestock to the homestead

I have 2 questions for you:
1) I have a glasstop electric stove that I am stuck with for the time being. I have been told that I cannot pressure can on it as it will shatter the cooking surface. Have you ever pressure canned on a hot plate? If so, with much luck? Any advice in this area is helpful as this year will be my first try at pressure canning.

2) We are a small family (2 adults and 3 young children) and are wanting to add small livestock to our little farm. We already have chickens, ducks and turkeys, but would like to add something to clear grass and possibly milk. A cow would be too much for us to handle at the moment and I am afraid of the costs for fencing goats. Are they really that tough to keep? Sheep seem reasonable, but I have been turned off by the difficulty in shearing them (is this true?). We only have 1-2 acres of pasture, but could fence 4 different acres of brush possibly for a goat. Also, what are housing requirements? We are in Southern Illinois and don’t dip much under 25 in the winter, but do occasionally have a very cold snap. Please share your recommendations for a beginning family.

Deanna Deiters
Marion, Illinois

A hot plate really doesn’t can well, but you can buy an inexpensive propane cook stove (like you’d use camping) to use. I’ve used them. I’m not talking about a Coleman type stove, but a two or three burner outfit, as sold by Harbor Freight, Northern Tool and others. You can hook one to a 20″ or larger propane tank and can away. A tank lasts a long time and the stove will too!

I heartily recommend dairy goats for anyone with the ability to do a little work for a lot of benefits. Yes, they ARE harder to fence than, say sheep or chickens. They are smarter! But you can easily fence them in with a combination woven field fencing and electric fencing to keep them from pushing on the woven fencing. The main thing is to put in strong corners and stretch the fence tightly, then add a stand-off strand of electric fence inside the fence, about chest high on a medium goat, and another on the top of the woven fence to keep them from reaching over the fence.

With a good milker or two, your grass and brush will look like a park and you’ll have plenty of milk, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products.

Besides, goats are a lot of fun, too. Check out the new handbook on dairy goats for beginners offered in BHM. — Jackie

Canning egg drop soup

Can egg drop soup be canned?

James Thomason
Townsend, Montana

I really have no idea. Any readers out there with information for James? — Jackie

Bowed canner and canning lard

This weekend, while canning venison, I apparently did not put enough water in the pressure canner. Fortunately, it was just as they were finished with their time, so the cans themselves were fine. The unfortunate part is that the bottom of the canner is now bowed out and it wobbles. Is the canner no good now?

Secondly, you mentioned in your last post canning lard. Could you be so kind as to post instructions?

Lastly, will your book include “experimental canning”?

Mandi Kemp
Felton, Delaware

Generally when a canner is so warped, it isn’t useable. Sorry. We learn a whole lot of life lessons the hard way. Unfortunately for us!

To can lard, you first slowly heat it until it is all melted. An easy way to do this is in a large roasting pan in your oven. That way there’s no scorching danger. Then you ladle it out into hot, sterilized canning jars, nearly to the top. Wipe the rim of the jar clean and place a hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw the ring down firmly tight. The lard is not really “canned”, but will stay good nearly indefinitely, when stored in a cool, dark place.

Yes, my book will include some “experimental” canning recipes, such as milk, cheese, and butter. — Jackie


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