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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for July, 2009

Jackie Clay

The summer with no summer

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

We are approaching the end of one of the coldest summers in recent Minnesota history. Friends who have lived here for 40 years cannot remember such a cold summer. Nighttime temperatures have struggled to get above 40s and 50s. Not your corn and bean growing weather, for sure! We have planted our corn and beans three (count ’em…3!) times and still have struggling crops. But finally everything is seeming to be getting there. Our corn sure wasn’t knee high by the Fourth of July…some wasn’t even planted! But now we have our best corn starting to tassel out. Strangely enough (or not!) it is the old Native American corns, such as Santo Domingo Blue, Abenaki Calais Flint, and Bear Island Chippewa that braved the cold, germinated the FIRST time, and are growing decently. Hooray for those old corns! It may be my only canning corn, although they are cornmeal corns. One has to be flexible on the homestead and, after all, Native Peoples ate these corns “green” or as sweet corn is eaten today. Why can’t we? Of course we can; we have before and they were great.


Our tomato plants are loaded with ripening tomatoes; they are a bit late because of the cold, but they are doing well and today I mulched them with a nice layer of straw to hold down the moisture from the rains and soaker hoses.

The cold weather crops are great! We are eating broccoli, Swiss chard, onions, baby carrots, and kohlrabi. The cabbage is heading well and the cauliflower is starting. Our storage onions are already the size of your fist and we have another month or more of growing left. Wow!

You’ll remember that we planted a second crop of potatoes as our first ones came up poorly. Well, they’re doing absolutely great and are even starting to bloom. We WILL have potatoes, after all! Of course, we’re babying them like crazy, just like our corn. I’m SO glad we replanted. Now if we’ll just have a late fall…One can hope…

Readers’ Questions:

Rotel-style tomatoes

We are canning heirloom tomatoes and want to put up some Rotel. The only recipes I can find call for Roma tomatoes and contain sugar and vinegar. Is this because of the low acid in Roma tomatoes? I guess the real question here is…Can we just can our heirloom tomatoes with bell peppers, onions, and hot peppers and have Rotel? Do you have a recipe for Rotel with Heirloom tomatoes?

Cliff` West
Cabot, Arkansas

No, you can’t can tomatoes with onions and peppers (as you have in Rotel) without using the vinegar and sugar. The vinegar, in effect, raises the acidity of a low acid food (peppers and onions) and the sugar cuts the acid bite. You’ll also see this in salsa recipes, which are similar to Rotel. The recipes call for roma tomatoes because they are more meaty and the Rotel is less watery than if you used a juicy tomato, heirloom or not. There are lots of heirloom paste tomatoes. — Jackie

Jackie Clay autobiography?

I just finished reading “Starting Over” and just LOVED IT…I couldn’t put it down. When is your new book going to be available for purchase? I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Also – why don’t you write your autobiography? I for one would love to read all about you and your life.

Rusty McHale
Las Cruces, New Mexico

I’m glad you liked Starting Over. Gee, it seems so long ago that the events in that book happened! The new book on growing and canning your food is done and should be available very soon. An autobiography? Me? My kids all tell me I’m BORING! — Jackie

Canning kimchi

We have been looking for the proper steps to can kimchi after it has fermented. But no one has any answers as to how, but plenty of people are asking this same question. Should we just can it the same way as sauerkraut? Both are fermented cabbage so shouldn’t the canning process be the same? Should we use a water bath or pressure canner?

The answer we usually find is to put it in the refrigerator, but that defeats the purpose of finding a shelf stable way of storing it. When my husband was stationed in Korea he saw that most people kept it buried near their homes or stored it in jars on the roof. Neither of those options seem to be a practical way for us to store kimchi here.

Randy and Jamie Howk
New Ulm, Minnesota

I would assume that you could can kimchi like you do sauerkraut, as both are fermented, high acid products. BUT I could find no information for you on safe water bath processing times specifically for kimchi, so I can’t recommend it to you. This is not the first time someone wanted to can kimchi, and I sure wish I could help you. — Jackie

Fruit from a Prairiefire Crabapple tree

I have a Prairiefire Crabapple tree in my yard and it is always overloaded with fruit. I have always been curious if I can use the fruit for jams, etc. but as of yet have not been able to find out if this is safe for human consumption. So my question is can I use the fruit? If I can’t it’s going to go away in favor of a cherry or pear tree.

James Loomis
Burton, Michigan

All crabapples are edible and safe. Some are more tart than others and some make better jelly. I think you’ll be happy with Prairiefire. Make a batch of jelly and do a taste test. Maybe you want to plant a cherry tree next to it! — Jackie

Long-term food storage items

My parents recently got my family a subscription to BHM, and lent us their book of Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide. Where we live everyone has a garden to help make it through the winter, but we are looking into longer term storage items after reading that book. Do you have a list or chart that tells exactly how long foods are good for that includes frozen, canned, home canned, and dried goods? We would appreciate anyone who can help us with that. Thank you for all your time and effort in helping people become self-reliant.

Melody Cloer
Bryson City, North Carolina

There are charts to this effect, but they are just general guidelines. Storage time depends a lot on several factors; how the food is packaged, how it’s stored (the freezer keeps food tasty for much less time than does canning or dehydrating) and the storage conditions. Generally, I look on the freezer as a temporary food storage, with canning providing nearly “forever” storage and dehydrated food falling in-between (generally 5 years or more). Frozen food will only stay good, in most cases, for a few months to a year before it becomes freezer burned and nearly inedible. AND if the power goes out, you’re in a position to lose all your food if it stays out for a lengthy time. — Jackie

Making jam with Jello instead of pectin

Thank you for all the great advice and recipes you share. My question is about making jam with Jello, in place of the traditional commercial pectin. I’ve seen recipes for this that always are for jam to be refrigerated, not processed. In a couple of your columns you have advised people to add a tablespoon or two of powdered Jello to a jar of “runny” jam to thicken it, and then refrigerate it. Why can’t jam made with Jello be water bath processed for longer shelf life?

Donna Herlihy
Wentworth, New Hampshire

It can. I have several recipes which use Jello instead of pectin. You do need to have recipes using Jello as you can’t just exchange Jello for pectin. My friend, Jeri, just gave me a recipe for a great cherry-rhubarb jam that uses Jello and cherry pie filling. She says it’s the best jam they’ve ever eaten and she cans a lot.. So I HAVE to try it! — Jackie

Beet pickles

I moved on my dad’s farm after his passing 3 years ago and have been trying to remember things as a kid, and living in the city for many years has not helped. I have planted a garden; I have a great love for beet pickles. Do you have a recipe for these? Can you cold pack them or do you need to use a pressure canner, which I do not have. I am trying to fix things up, buildings house etc.I live on my own and am on a very tight budget.Your items have helped me alot. I just wish I could build things like you do. How in the world have you learned all of these things? You are a great inspiration.

Sandra Wendt
O’Neill, Nebraska

Beet pickles are very easy to make and great tasting, too. Here’s a simple recipe:

24 small beets
2 cups sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 Tbsp. whole allspice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

Cut tops off beets; leave 2 inches of stems and roots. Cook beets, remove stems and roots and peel. Combine all ingredients but for beets in a large saucepan. Bring pickling mixture to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes under a low heat. Remove cinnamon sticks. Pack beets into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid over beets, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean and place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult a canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary.)

How did I learn to build? My dad showed me a lot when I was young, and I’ve read a lot since then. AND I just build to the best of my ability. As with anything, the more you do, the better you get at it. Grab a hammer, level, saw, and square and you’ll soon be building stuff too! — Jackie

Flavoring canned turkey

My husband and I are approaching the self-reliant way of life; currently we are property hunting. My question is about canning meat. I canned turkey last year and it was yummy but I would like a recipe and how-to instructions for flavoring the meat with marinade, gravy, spices, and even stews all for pressure canning.

Joan Young
North Rose, New York

There are no special recipes for seasoning meats to can. Do what you’d do when you plan on roasting/cooking your meat. Go a little lighter on the seasonings, though, as sometimes during prolonged storage, spices get stronger flavored. You can always add more; you can’t take it away later on! Don’t use a thicker gravy; it can prevent adequate heat penetration to the center of the jar during processing. Instead, use a barely thickened gravy or better yet, a broth. You’ll find all your meats can up very nicely.

Good luck in finding your dream property! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have a new buck!

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009


As several of our does and doelings are related to our Boer buck, Rocky, we decided to buy a new purebred Boer buck this summer. Well, we looked and looked and we couldn’t find anything we liked or that was even as good as our own stock here on the homestead. We want to improve our little herd. I cross Nubian dairy goats with Boer meat goats to get a heavier, stronger body, yet retain the milking ability of the dairy goats. So far it’s worked very well. I have two does that milk over a gallon a day and have produced stocky daughters and sons, too.

We were getting very frustrated after days of looking and having this and that herd not work for us. It finally looked as though we’d have to go to the Iowa/Minnesota border for a good buck when I spotted this GORGEOUS buck on the Internet. And he was only two and a half hours away, too! Let me tell you, it didn’t take too long for us to get driving! Minutes after I talked to the owner, Will was building a stock rack for our pickup. That was yesterday. My friend, Jeri, took care of Mom and off we went to McGregor.

The goat belonged to a young man, Beau Sorenson, who has a nice small herd of Boers that he shows in 4-H. We love to support youngsters in their animal endeavors, so it didn’t take long for us to strike a deal. We also bought one of this buck’s doelings from this year.

We’re so excited about this BIG, thick buck and all he can do for our herd. I could do without the horns, but most Boers come with them, so we’ll just have to live with them. But all his kids will be disbudded for ease of handling and their own safety. Oh, yesterday was my birthday, so WHAT a birthday present, huh? Wow!


Readers’ Questions:

Potato/tomato blight

I hope your weather is warming up for your garden. All of your projects seem to be coming along great. Enjoy watching your progress. I have a question about potato/tomato blight. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has been experiencing this blight for several weeks. Do you have any suggestions for protecting the plants from this destructive disease? Several of my neighbors have lost their entire crops of tomatoes/potatoes already. I am looking for something homemade, if possible. Thank you for any advice you can give. Also, do you have a date yet for the release of your new book? I am really looking forward to getting it. I am “hoping” to give it as Christmas gifts.

Rosemarie Wesolek
Mahaffey, Pennsylvania

This is a highly destructive form of late blight, which was also seen in the Irish Potato Famine in the 1800s. It kills the plants, causing the fruit to rot in or on the ground.

It seems to have been spread this time by the sale of infected tomato plants. It can be wind-borne, settling out on various host plants, chiefly tomatoes and potatoes, causing outbreaks.

It is caused by a fungus-like organism and is susceptible to fungicides. The recommended combination is chlorothalonil and copper, with copper alone working in some cases; the combination is much better. It is recommended to treat gardens and commercial plants in the “danger zone,” chiefly Pennsylvania, before any signs show in your plants, to protect them.

Annie Tuttle is madly at work finishing the last bits and pieces of editing and formatting the book so it can go off to the printers. (It may have already left; it’s that close!) So it should be available quite soon. — Jackie

Canning coleslaw

I can everything under the sun. I want to make the best use of my cabbage which is having a great year due to the cool summer. I want to can coleslaw, but I am concerned about the amount of oil in it. Also how long would you can it for? I use 1 head cabbage, 1 green pepper, 1 onion, 1 carrot, 3/4 cup vinegar, 3/4 cup oil, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. celery seed. Do you have a better recipe?

Patricia Harmon
Spencer, New York

Instead of coleslaw, why don’t you try pickled cabbage, which is a sweet, pickled, shredded cabbage that is quite crisp. I then drain it, add mayonnaise and have a good “canned” slaw base. You’re right; too much oil. — Jackie

Problem with gas stove burner

You responded to my question in the end of June, and I just got back from a trip and just now read it. You may remember that I was having trouble keeping the pressure regulated in my canner, that the pressure was too high with the burner all the way turned down. You asked if my stove was electric. No, it’s not. It’s gas. Turned down as low as it will go, it will scorch anything through the thickest cast iron I have, unless I keep half the pot off the burner, and continually turn it. I don’t have a propane stove like you mentioned, however I do have a few Coleman stoves, so maybe I will try it on one of those. It’s so frustrating for cooking, as well as now trying to pressure can on it.

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

I would check with a gas repair person in your area. This is NOT normal and your burner may need an adjustment. I can just imagine how horrible it is to cook on it! — Jackie

Canning eggplant casserole

For the first time ever I’m growing eggplant (I’d never eaten it either). So I’ve been hunting recipes for it. I’ve finally found one. Now I want to know if there is any way I can can the ingredients. My major concern with this recipe is there’s very little liquid.
Here’s the recipe:

Eggplant Supreme
1 lg. eggplant
1 sm. bell pepper
2 celery ribs
1 lg. onion
1/2 stick of butter
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 dash Hot Sauce
1 C. Grated Cheese
crackers or fine bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375. Peel and cube eggplant. Cook in a little salted water on medium-low heat until tender. In separate pan, saute celery, onion, and bell pepper in butter. Add cooked and drained eggplant, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper to sauteed mixture. Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese and bread or cracker crumbs on top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

Of course if I was canning this I would leave off the crumbs and cheese until I was ready to eat it. Any help you can give on this is greatly appreciated.

Porsche Roth
Norfolk, Virginia

You’re right; there is very little liquid and also the butter and green pepper. I think I’d pass on canning this recipe. If you have a freezer, why not make batches up and freeze it? Or can the eggplant alone and make your recipe as you wish? — Jackie

Ceramic laundry discs

Have you ever used the T Wave Ceramic Laundry Discs by Tsunami Wave or any other laundry discs and are they as good as they say they are? They sound like a great alternative to laundry soap.

Ken Smith
Shenandoah, Iowa

No, I haven’t. Have any readers used this product? I’d like to know too. — Jackie

Using salt in asparagus beds

I have a 50-foot row of asparagus and it’s a pain to keep weeded. A friend told me that his grandmother used to salt her asparagus bed to keep the weeds down. Does this work? What kind of salt and how much do I use?

Betsy Palmer
Saybrook, Illinois

I tried the salt and it really didn’t help. Instead, I switched to a heavy mulch and that made a huge difference. Any weeds that do show up are easily pulled. You can use straw, pine needles, or wood chips. Then in the fall, after you weed it, spread a couple of inches of good rotted manure over that. The manure contains abundant nitrogen to feed the plants for next spring’s growth. — Jackie

10 acres of wheat

My husband and I have recently purchased a home on 10 acres currently planted in wheat. We do not have the equipment nor are we interested in growing wheat in the future. We are only looking to transform 1-2 acres into a garden for our vegetables but plan on planting several fruit trees on some of the other land. The rest we will leave as is. Will the unused portion of land need to be cleared or will it eventually “grow over?” We both work full time now but in the future when we retire (10 years) we may use the land for future gardens and/or animals and would like to do what we can now to prepare. What would you suggest – we would be happy to let someone harvest the already-planted wheat at no charge but what after that?

Jacqueline Chivleatto
Troy, Idaho

If it were my land, I’d probably plant it to a pasture crop, such as alfalfa, clover, etc. mixed with orchard grass, timothy, or another grass that does well in your area. Ask a feed dealer in your area. This will help keep the weeds down, which will help your future homestead garden, and will provide a nice pasture for any animals you decide to buy later on. Just leaving it wild will work, but you’ll end up with a lot of undesirables, weeds and other growth that you may have to deal with later on.
— Jackie

Canning green beans in the oven

Have you ever canned green beans in the oven? My mother use to can in her oven when I was little; she’s gone now, and I have been trying to can. I can’t remember how hot or how long you leave them in the oven.

Joyce Johnson
Inwood, West Virginia

PLEASE DON’T CAN YOUR GREEN BEANS IN THE OVEN OR IN A BOILING WATER BATH CANNER. I know in the past folks did these things, but it is not safe enough to continue doing now, especially the oven canning. Green beans must be pressure canned to kill the possible botulism spores that produce deadly toxin. — Jackie

Can pressure canning cause mushy food

Several of your recipes call for fully cooking foods before canning the food. Then during pressure canning the temperature is raised again and held at that high temperature. Does this not create mushy food?

Mary O’Brien
Nashville, Tennessee

No. If it did, I sure wouldn’t do it. Some foods are not changed by “double heating,” so to speak, where others do get mushy. Generally, the ones that do get soft are only simmered for about 5 minutes to heat them thoroughly before processing, but always check the directions on the food you plan on canning. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Finally, after a week of cold rain, the sun comes out

Monday, July 20th, 2009

We have had a summer with no summer. A friend I talked to today said yesterday it was 33 degrees early in the morning! And we’ve had highs of 50 for a week. Even for Minnesota, THAT’S chilly! But, surprisingly, our garden will give us plenty of food and produce to can.

Of course, we were happy that the sun came out this morning and it warmed up. So Will started work, once again, on our new storage building. The first quarter is now stacked nearly half full with cut, split firewood and that’s a gorgeous sight. (But we had a wood fire burning two days in a row. Just yesterday!)


I was a little nervous when he climbed up our long extension ladder with the chain saw, to cut off the tops of the two tallest poles. No, I was a LOT nervous. But he was very careful and the tops came off under control. Whew. Now tomorrow, we start nailing framing lumber on.

Readers’ Questions:

Smoking fish

I love fishing (especially trout) and I want to try smoking and then canning the big ones with the nice orange meat…Sure could use some info on both.

Carole-Anne Hopkins
Riverton, Wyoming

To smoke your trout, clean very fresh-caught fish, then soak in a brine made of 1 1/2 cups pickling salt and 1 gallon of fresh, cold water. Totally cover the fish; use a weighted clean plate to hold them under the brine. Leave in the brine overnight. In the morning, rinse and pat dry. Place fish in smoker or smoke house, hanging from wire hooks with the belly held open by dowels or clean, green twigs. You want to smoke, not hotter than 160 degrees, for two hours. (This lightly smoked fish to can is NOT cooked and shouldn’t be tasted!) Use hardwood, such as apple, thorn apple, or alder. Or you can use commercial chips such as mesquite, if you wish. My “smoker” was simply an old dryer case and I smoked using an electric hot plate, an old cast iron frying pan, and chips in it to create the smoke.

After the fish is smoked, you can cut it into 1-inch thick pieces and pack gently into wide mouth pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints (don’t use quarts) for 110 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. (Consider altitude adjustments in pressure if you live at an altitude over 1,000; consult your canning book for directions.)

Enjoy your fish! Smoked trout is GREAT! — Jackie

Canning collard greens

This year we have lots of collard greens and can’t eat them fast enough. I have looked through my canning books, but cannot find anything on canning collard greens. Pressure canner or water bath, cooked or uncooked, please help!

Rose Wolfe
Fairbanks, Alaska

Collard greens are grouped in canning books under “greens.” This includes Swiss chard, kale, mustard, spinach, turnip, beet tops, poke, lamb’s quarter, and other wild greens. Briefly (but check your canning book for more information), wilt your greens, then pack hot into hot jars. Leave 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to each pint and 1 tsp. to each quart, then fill jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace, with boiling water or cooking liquid. Process pints 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 book) for 70 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Just got a present — new clothesline poles!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009


We’ve been here on our new homestead for 5 years and I’ve been washing with my old Maytag wringer washer since we had the house built, but I have had to use a propane dryer because we had NO place for a clothesline. All the ground around the house was either gravel and rocks or trees and brush. This spring, Will started our new equipment/hay/wood shed and suddenly, off to one side, there appeared a break in the brush; just the right size for a clothesline.


Then he and David went to a neighbor’s house for a load of scrap aluminum and steel they wanted to get rid of. Will LOVES to pick up scrap steel, as he is a great welder and has already made a ton of things for the homestead from nothing that turned out great and saved us a lot of money. The “junk” steel and aluminum go the the scrap yard; it pays for our gas to go to town, anyway.

But on the truck, when they returned, were two very sturdy clothesline poles! Wow, was I excited! They had cement around the bases, but Will broke it off with a sledge and they were now ours. We dug holes 3 1/2 feet deep the very next day. And yesterday, we mixed cement and set them into the ground. Today I painted the poles, sprucing them up, and hopefully in a day or two we’ll string the new lines we picked up. Very soon our clothes will smell like pines and the wind…not some laundry soap. How very little seems so much sometimes.

Readers’ Questions:

Chia seed

Have you heard of Salvia hispanica (Chia)? if so, do you know where to find seed? My Hopi Pale Gray Squash have taken over the yard (less to mow) hoping for a big harvest.

Audrey Bennett
Belvidere, Tennessee

Many health food stores carry chia seed, and as it can be sprouted, it can also be grown in your garden. (Remember Chia Pets?) Several seed catalogs carry it also. I’m glad your Hopi Pale Grey Squash is taking off. Here’s to a great harvest! — Jackie

Canning meat

I bought on sale 10 pounds of chicken breast and 8 pounds of sausage along with 6 pounds of chopped meat. I want to can most of this but as you can imagine preparing all of this food in one day and then spending hours under pressure of 90 minutes to can it I don’t have the time to make all of it in one day. Pressure canning 2 bottles of prepared food and then doing the same thing tomorrow makes little economic sense to me.

Can I prepare/cook the chicken and ready the jars today, then tomorrow cook and ready the jars of sausage, then the following day cook and ready the jars of chopped meat? Then when they are all ready shove all 9 jars in the pressure canner and cook for 90 minutes? Is this OK as long as I refrigerate the prepared jars? Do I start the process of canning with cold water and then bring all of them up to temp?

All above bad ideas…take the hit and do each item hot and in one evening each?

Bob Burbage
Belvidere, New Jersey

If I was in your position, I’d can up the chicken breasts in one sitting, then do the next meat until I was done. It’s too time consuming to refrigerate the prepared meats and then re-heat them prior to canning, as you should do. I’ve done “marathon” canning, and it sure isn’t any fun! I just bought three hams at a very good sale, cut all the meat from two, then made bean soup with the bones and scraps to can. Boy was I tired, doing it all in one afternoon. But it’s sure nice to wash off all the jars, then put them on my pantry shelves the next morning! — Jackie

Peach pie filling

I have searched for a recipe for canning peach pie filling. Do you have one?

Mary Ann Helwig
Red Lion, Pennsylvania

Quantities of ingredients needed for 1 quart (multiply as needed):

3-1/2 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon ClearJel powder (see below)
3/4 cup cold water
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice

ClearJel is a refined cornstarch used to thicken pie fillings that are canned. Cornstarch shouldn’t be used because it thickens it so that the heat may not penetrate the jel. You can find ClearJel on the Internet or at many stores that sell canning supplies, especially in Amish communities. — Jackie

Getting rid of ferns

We have an area of an acre or so that we cut the trees off a few years ago. It’s now covered with low and some high bush blueberries. In fact we picked about 20+ qts last year. My question is the area is covered with ferns which makes raking the berrys nye on to impossible. We pulled them all, we burnt over a 60′ x 60′ area this spring and I’ve tried Alum Sulfide. Any ideas how to get rid of them?

Bill Bryson
Milton, New Hampshire

Sorry, but I don’t have a great idea on ridding a big spot of ferns, other than chemicals, which wouldn’t be a good idea. We have them in our garden, and I just keep pulling them up as they appear, but in our own wild blueberry patch, we also have a lot of ferns, and I just pick by hand. And am glad I have the berries, even though I have the ferns too. — Jackie

Soaking pickles

Is it necessary to water bath cucumbers overnight in the cold salt water for pickling? We love the flavor of my pickles (sweet and dill), but my pickles come out so soggy, no crunch. I’m guessing it’s because of the salt water. Can they just sit for an hour or two? I always thought the vinegar and sugar from the brine helped out enough with the preserving? I’d appreciate any tips on keeping my pickles crunchy, as we are ready to make a summer batch.

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

No, you don’t HAVE to soak your cukes in a cold salt brine overnight. But no, it’s not because of the salt water, which draws excess moisture and bitterness from the cucumbers. You can just brine them for a few hours, but make sure the water is ice water, not just cool water from the tap. To get crisp pickles, don’t cook them. Find recipes that don’t have you boil them for 20 minutes, for instance. And look for recipes with lower boiling water bath processing times, too. Also, pickle your cukes right after you pick them. If they sit in the fridge or in a basket in the kitchen, they won’t make crisp pickles. — Jackie

Canning beans with pork or chicken broth

As I started canning green beans and wax beans this year, I began wondering — since wife and daughter dislike the bland taste of green beans that haven’t been seasoned and cooked with salt pork or chicken broth, I decided to try adding ham bouillon or chicken bouillon to the boiled water that I pour over the blanched beans. We ate the one failed seal (out of 38 jars) and it was terrific — beans maintained their integrity better than simmering and the flavor was great.

Have you tried this? Do you see any potential problems with this process?

Cal Hollis
Houston, Delaware

This has been done throughout canning history, but I’ve always been leery of doing it because you are using a meat product (salt pork, ham, bacon, or broth). With the chicken broth/bouillon, the processing times would be the same; 20 minutes for pints, either green beans or broth, but with meat, such as ham, salt pork, etc., the processing time for meat is 75 minutes, so you could possibly run into problems…even though you are using it as a seasoning. I’d steer away from the meat in the green beans and use the chicken bouillon, if you wish. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We are now enjoying fresh goat milk again

Thursday, July 9th, 2009


I sold two of my adult milking does, Luna and Velvet, so we haven’t had goat milk on the table. Fawn, a yearling, freshened just before Buffy. We sold Fawn’s twin does, as they were from a first freshener and we had no idea of how she’d milk. A quart a day? A gallon? And boy was she wild! I’ve NEVER had a goat so wild, and I’ve had lots and lots. It took two of us to corral her to catch her, then getting her on the milking stand was a rodeo. She kicked over my head and soundly kicked me in the chest! But finally I’ve got her tamed down.

Then our sweetheart, Buffy, gave us a buck and doe, so they’ve been hogging all her milk. But now they’re eating grain and have had a great start, so I’m locking them away from her over night so I can steal her milk in the morning. She gives me just a little less than a gallon every morning! What a goat! And she loves people, too. No rodeo. She is happy to be milked.

So now we have fresh milk. Mom even asks for goat milk now! She found out it tastes better than store milk. Maybe if I have time, I can make some easy, fast cheeses. I know some ice cream is just around the corner.

All that milk makes up for the disappointing gardening year. We have had such cool weather that a lot of crops are real sad. But who knows? Maybe things will pick up this month. If you quit, you’re done. So we keep tending the plants and praying for a good harvest.

Readers’ Questions:

Rabbit problems

I am having a big problems in the garden with rabbits. They are everywhere this year. They are eating up my garden like crazy. I have a green plastic fence up like the highway dept, but they are eating holes through it. Is there anything I can do to keep them out? I have a have-a-heart trap set but can’t catch them. They are bold and not afraid of people. I can get so close I can almost catch them. Are they afraid of pie plates hanging, an owl in the garden on a pole or anything else?
Please help. I am going to replace the fence with metal as soon as I can afford a section at a time.

Carol Womelsdorf
Oakville, Connecticut

Get some three foot high chicken wire and replace the plastic with that. It will keep the too tame bunnies out. Be sure to bury the bottom in the soil or they’ll dig under. We had to do that in New Mexico to even HAVE a garden! Also, having a dog helps, as it takes the “tame” out of the bunnies and they’ll often move on if they are chased a few times. No, the owl and pie pans are jokes to the rabbits. And they don’t repel well with sprays, either, although I did have some luck mixing eggs with water and spraying that on the plants; they didn’t seem to like the smell/taste. But the wire will do the trick. And chicken wire is pretty inexpensive, yet. — Jackie

Aggressive Nubian buck

I answered an ad for a free full blooded Nubian buck (probably my first mistake). He’s everything I wanted in a dairy buck anatomically, although we’ve made the discovery that he’s horribly tempered and was taught that people are targets. We are fairly experienced with goats and I should have known better. His health is great and there are no obvious triggers for his behavior. His previous owners kept him penned off but stated to me that he’s never butted anyone (I find that hard to believe). We were very surprised and had I allowed my 8 year old to visit him in the pasture alone, instead of my torn clothes and bruises he would have had broken bones. It’s a real shame that he hadn’t been disbudded.

Is there a way to “humanely” break him of this dangerous behavior (I’m voting for the cattle prod at this point, which I don’t even own yet because I’ve never needed one) or is he destined to become sausage? All of our previous bucks have been gentle or at least respectful.

Nicole Gibson
Seligman, Missouri

Once a buck becomes really aggressive like this one, there is little you can do to make him dependably gentle. You could have him dehorned (a big job for your vet, as mature bucks have very large horn bases), which would help a lot, but may not cure the problem. Because you have an eight year old, I’d recommend the sausage route, unfortunately. Selling him may just get someone else hurt. I’ve never, never had an aggressive buck. But mine have been disbudded and NEVER played with. Grabbing a buck by the horns and wrestling with them is, unfortunately, quite common and some people think it’s funny to see the buck rear back and fight. Until they get hurt. By then the buck has learned bad behavior and it’s usually to late to rehabilitate them. Sorry. — Jackie

Flat tasting canned food

I have opened up two jars of different food items I had pressure canned during the winter, one was chicken in broth and the other chili, each one has a flat taste to it, like the smell of the canner once its been depressurized and you take the top off, not sure how to describe it. What could this be? The food is definitely not gone bad, it just has a taste that is off.

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

There are a lot pf possibilities on this problem and I don’t have much information to go on. Was all of the chicken in broth and chili like that or only those two jars? One possibility is flat/sour, resulting in a flat or “off” taste. This is caused by a heat-resistant bacteria and usually results in hurried up canning that doesn’t follow all the directions. The other is that possibly your pressure gauge is off and the foods are processing at a too-high pressure. I hope you find out the cause and have great canning this year! — Jackie

Worming for coccidia

I am wondering about worming for coccidia. I bought a buck kid from a dairy farm with papers that show an ancestry of good milk production and got his runt sister for free ( I know… there ain’t no free lunch or free goat). Any way the gal said I should treat them for it. I think they are growing fine and look good. I’m wondering if it is really necessary.

Also I’m wondering about liver flukes. One of my friends says they are common around swampy areas and she feels her goats need to be treated for them. What would be the signs that liver fluke was a problem in your goats.

Will a fecal exam let you know about coccidia or liver flukes?

Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington

I would suggest a fecal exam to check for coccidiosis. Evidently the breeder had a problem (possibly slight and she is concerned) and wants to make sure your goats are clear.

Liver fluke is “fairly common” in some swampy areas; the intermediate host is a small snail. But we’ve always lived in low areas and have never had it in a goat or cow. Signs are unthriftiness, diarrhea and death. I’d talk to your vet when you take in the fecal sample and follow his/her advice as they know how common this problem really is in YOUR area. — Jackie

Canning onions

I just received a “boatload” of onions. Big Spanish onions. I have turned into a canning nut since becoming familiar with your site. I love it. Is there a way to can onions that I can possibly quarter or dice to use in cooking later?

Kevin Sakuta
Jesup, Georgia

While I dehydrate most of my onions, which is very easy (simply slice them in 1/2″ slices and lay them on your trays), I do add chopped or quartered onions to my stew vegetable mixes. Onions themselves are not recommended for canning unless they are cut into chunks 1″ square (relatively) or less. Cover the pieces with boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes to heat thoroughly. Pack into jars with cooking liquid, leaving 1/2 inch of headroom. If you do this, the processing time is 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning book for directions). In stew mixtures, such as carrots, onions, potatoes, and corn, for instance, process the mix for the time required for the vegetable requiring the longest processing time.

Enjoy your onions! I use my dehydrated onions nearly every day in soups, casseroles, stews and hamburgers. — Jackie

Canning strawberries, preserves in pint jars, and dilly beans

I used your recipe for canning strawberries, but my berries have white centers and are hollow. According to the Ball Preserving book (to the left of the Strawberries in Syrup recipe) I cannot can this variety, but they have no information on why. So I cut my berries (no hollow centers now) and then followed your recipe. Do you think this is OK? One last thing about these berries, they do float and so I can see them nearer the top of the jars with the syrup at the bottom.

Secondly, when making preserves all the recipes are for half-pint jars. That is too small for us. Could I can using pint sized jars? Should I increase the processing time?

And lastly, I have a family recipe for dilly beans. This recipe says to wash beans and cut off the stem end. Fit beans in the jar allowing one half inch headspace. Water, vinegar, and salt mixture is heated to a boil and poured over the beans (and garlic and dill). Most recipes I’ve seen say to heat the beans with the vinegar mixture. Is that necessary? It is much easier to fit the uncooked, cold beans in the jar.

Susan Bates
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Don’t worry about the strawberries. Just slice ’em and can them. Some varieties DO have a white center and it’s a cosmetic thing, not a safety or taste issue. Strawberries tend to float in the jar, as do many fruits, especially those raw packed. Also, no worries.

YES, you can put up your jams, jellies, and preserves in pint jars. When I had 8 kids home, I sure didn’t use half pints! No, you use the same processing time for half pints and pints.

As for the dilly beans, my recipe also has you pack raw, washed, trimmed beans in the jar and pour the pickling solution over the beans, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. They are then boiling water bath processed for 10 minutes. Happy canning! — Jackie

Personal garbage dump

I am planning for the coming economic collapse which I see as inevitable. I suspect that one of the first services to go will be rural garbage collection. Look as I might I cannot find any guidance about a personal garbage/waste dump. I am sure the old pioneers and farmers had a system. What would you recommend?

Nevin Smith
Alexandria, Minnesota

The reason early pioneers and farmers got along so well is that they didn’t have much waste. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Consider this; when you have home canned foods, use a jar, you don’t have a tin can to throw away, only a thin lid. If you don’t buy any prepackaged foods, you don’t have the container to dispose of. If you don’t buy sodas and other drinks, you also don’t have a container to get rid of. We burn all of our paper products (envelopes, newspapers, cardboard, etc.) in our wood stove to start fires that keep us warm.

In the old days, folks simply dug a deep hole to receive any “trash” such as broken glass, jar lids, etc. I’m certain that would still work if you had no other way to dispose of it. Remember, the less you buy, the less you have to get rid of, so more homegrown foods are a definite plus!

We feed all our kitchen scraps to the goats and chickens except meat bones and meat products. The bones, we burn and the meat goes to the dogs. If we didn’t have goats and chickens, we would add the kitchen scraps to the compost pile. I can’t think of more “garbage/trash” to get rid of. — Jackie

Saving tomato seeds

Can you tell me how to save tomato seeds? Do I just dry them and seal them in a jar? If I plant a second crop of tomatoes this year can I use these seeds? This is the first time I have grown heirloom seeds and the tomatoes are so good.

Kathleen Minkkinen
Cedar Bluff, Alabama

Tomato seeds are real easy to save. Just add the seeds to water in a small jar and let them ferment on the counter for about 3 days. The gel disappears and the seeds are left. Rinse them well in a sieve then put them on a wax paper to dry. As they dry, stir them to dry them evenly. When they are very dry, store them in an airtight jar. You can save seeds from any very ripe tomato. I’m glad you found out how good some of those heirloom tomatoes are. That’s why they’ve been around so long! Enjoy! — Jackie

Storing homemade bread

I was wondering about storing homemade bread. I have recently starting making most of the bread for our family by hand. We love it but it only keeps for a couple days. Is there anything I’m not doing that I should be to keep it a little longer?

Tracy Doldan
Kenmore, New York

Because homemade bread IS so good and has no chemicals added, like preservatives, it is harder to keep than store bought bread that lasts for a week or more. To keep it longer, you can either freeze a loaf in an airtight bag or refrigerate it. Both will make it last much longer. But around here, when I bake bread, we usually eat up the first loaf when it is still hot, making most of a meal from it and the second loaf quickly follows. Keep making the bread and your family’s eating habits will change; most families aren’t used to having GOOD bread (the staff of life!) on the table to enjoy and it takes awhile to get in the habit. Remember that homemade bread makes terrific toast and French toast for breakfast, too! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve started on the second section of the equipment shed

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

With the first 12×24-foot section of our new storage shed fairly finished and stacked a quarter full of firewood already, we’ve moved on to the next and highest section. The center section will be 26 feet high, having two lower bays, each 12×24-feet, with a hayloft over that. The lower bays will provide indoor storage for our bulldozer, tractor, or whatever we need inside. But to get the hayloft, the center poles (used utility poles) have to be 26-feet long, going 4 feet in the ground. A daunting height!

Two days ago, David wasn’t working, so he, Will and I hauled the three longest poles down to the site with the ATV, chained them a little lower than half way down, to the bucket of our little Ford 8N tractor and carefully, a little at a time, set them down into the holes we had waiting for them. (And if you don’t think you’re a little nervous with a 30-foot, 500-pound pole towering over your head…)

But, one by one, they went into place and were securely braced all ways, without accident or incident. Now all we have to do is frame the roof. Way up there…


We did take a day off last Sunday and go down to my oldest son, Bill and his wife, Kelly’s house for a family get together. My adopted daughter (from India) and her family came out for a visit from their home in Rhode Island so the rest of the family who lived in the area came. I hadn’t seen my stepdaughter, Tricia and her family for quite awhile either, so it was real enjoyable to visit for even that short time. Mom, being 93, doesn’t like to go anywhere, so she wanted to leave for home much before any of the rest of us did, but it was still a great day.

Now it’s back to work, as usual. But with nice memories.

Readers’ Questions:

Disbudding goats

Do you have a “fail proof” system of disbudding or do you have to redo it on some of your stock? I’ve yet to get it really correct. I do have some that don’t come in, but that is the majority at the moment. Now we are faced with keeping them down if we don’t catch them soon enough.

Margie Buchwalter
Palmer, Alaska

No one gets 100% clean heads on the first disbudding. But you should get a very high percentage. First of all, try to disbud at 3-4 days; it’s amazing at how fast those horn buds grow. The larger they are, the harder they are to kill. Be sure your disbudding iron is VERY hot. Mine is electric and takes about 5 minutes to heat up thoroughly. Clip the hair around the horn bud; hair is insulating. When you apply the disbudding iron to your goat kids, be firm and press it down, moving it slowly in a circular motion so that none of the skin/horn bud area is left unburned. Leave it on long enough that a white or copper ring is burned all the way around the horn bud. Then with the iron, flip the cap off the horn bud. Replace the hot iron for a shorter time, searing the top of the horn bud. Repeat with the other side.

I put snow or a cold cloth on the kids’ heads immediately after disbudding, more for their comfort than for a good disbudding job.

Check each side of each kid in one week for emerging scurs; they’ll appear as small pea-sized black bumps. If you find one, clip it off and re-burn the area where it was growing. Usually that takes care of any incomplete disbudding.

With practice, you’ll get much better results. — Jackie

I know I am showing my green horns but how did you de-bud the goats? Could you explain the process and the tools used?

Celina, Texas

Read the first question of this blog; it’s all about disbudding kid goats. I use an electric disbudding iron. You can buy one from Hoeggers Goat Supply. It’s not a fun job, but it is very necessary, so I suck it up and repeat “I’m saving your life…I’m saving your life…” all the while I’m disbudding the kids. Having a helper to hold the kid or using a snug disbudding box to restrain it is invaluable. Especially when you’re new to the job and a bit tentative. If possible get an experienced goat breeder to come show you how it’s done the first time. It really helps make it clearer and gives you confidence. — Jackie

Pasteurizing and conditioning dehydrated food

I have a question on drying fruits and vegetables. Do you condition and pasteurize after drying? What type and size of container do you use for conditioning? If you pasteurize, what method do you use and do you use the same container you conditioned the produce in?

I see that you use old gift tin cans for storage. Do you line the tin cans with plastic? Do you break the dried produce into smaller size lots after processing or do you bulk store all in one container? I read that small lot packages should be used to minimize how many times the seal is broken each time some of the dried produce is used.

I am getting ready to dry some fresh picked strawberries. Last year I dried apricots and apples and stored them in quart canning jars with plastic screw on lids. Some ended up with insect hatches. The extension office told me that probably happened because I did not pasteurize the produce after drying and conditioning.

David McDermott
Liberty Lake, Washington

I do not pasteurize my dehydrated foods. I simply dry them at about 125 degrees, which will also kill any insect eggs present. This is done, either on my electric dehydrator, used over a period of two days, because of us being off grid, or in my stove oven with the door open (wood range) or closed on a very low setting (gas range). Some of my dehydrated foods are stored in quart jars, such as many fruits that I don’t dry in a large amount. Others, such as squash and apples, are stored in my tins (which have very tight lids and are insect proof). I have never had trouble with insects, mold, or other problems. I just open a container and take out what I need and reclose it.

No, I don’t line my tins with plastic. I really don’t like plastic; it often causes condensation because it’s too airtight and condensation is the enemy of dehydrated foods. The food in my tins stays dry and useable until it’s gone. I do always make sure that all my dehydrated food is dry, dry…a bit drier than necessary. — Jackie

Freezing vegetables

Last year, we tried freezing our excess veggies (shaved the corn off the cob, and beans went straight in Ziploc bags and then in the freezer). But both veggies are pretty inedible eaten straight. The corn is mushy and mealy, and the beans are limp.

Is there a better way to freeze them? Does the container matter (we used Ziplocs for the most part)? Are there specific species of corn or beans that are better at freezing than others that you can recommend?

Considering canning this year as that seems at least to make them a good kind of mushy.

Marty Brown
Chicago, Illinois

Most vegetables, especially corn and beans, should be blanched before they are frozen. This inactivates the natural enzymes in the food which will often make it taste nasty or get soft during freezer storage.

Personally, I like canned sweet corn, green beans, and many other foods better than frozen. And, once canned, there is no worry about storage, unlike the freezer where you do worry about freezer burn after a longer period of storage. — Jackie

Chicken feed recipe

Could you share the recipe for feeding chickens grain instead of commercial chicken feed? When we read the labels we could not believe the stuff they are putting into their feed. Also, could you include the amounts of grit, oyster shell, vitamins, etc? I mailed you a letter but we will be needing the info before the next issue arrives. Could not find exact ratios in the chicken booklet.

Name withheld

A very easy way to go is to simply buy scratch feed. This contains (depending on the locale) wheat, oats, cracked corn, and soybean meal. Feed them this, along with table scraps, grass, and clover, garden extras like squash, over-sized cukes, tomato seeds/skins, etc., and let them go free ranging, if possible, and they’ll happily lay lots of eggs for you without commercial egg mash. (I don’t even KNOW what some of the ingredients in it are!)

This also provides adequate vitamins and minerals. Give them a free-choice hopper full of oyster shell to help build strong bones and egg shells, access to gravel or dirt (or a hopper of chicken grit) and they’ll do very well for a whole lot cheaper than if you fed them egg mash!

Remember that chickens are easy to feed; they eat about anything and seem to balance their own diet. — Jackie

Rural property

With all the places that you have lived, I was wondering how you decided on where to move? What do you use as a starting point, remoteness, your job, family, price of land? I currently live in Southern CA and would like to look for rural property. We have property in Kansas, but I like mountains and trees and don’t know where to start. What made you move from Montana to where you are now?

Michelle V.
Fallbrook, California

We love the mountains, and Montana, especially. BUT land, homestead-able land is very expensive per acre and there is not much in smaller, affordable acreages there; it’s either remote subdivisions of 20 acres or thereabouts or huge ranches. We lucked out on our first place there and got a mining claim with a small cabin on it very reasonably. But, then again, it was only 20 acres and it just wasn’t enough land to support our horses and gardens.

When we looked for land, our first priority was a remote area. Then it had to have water on it of some kind. Pasture, a possible large garden spot, trees, firewood access, away from any major city, relaxed building codes, and simply a place that spoke to us were all necessary. And, of course, we needed cheaper land; we aren’t exactly rich!

My advice would be to make a list of your “must haves,” then start looking around. You’ll find that you’ll have to trade a few “must haves” for reality, but try to stick close to what you really want and need. There’s a place out there waiting for you. Have fun finding it! — Jackie

Strawberries and potato bugs

First off I want to thank you for your recommendation for the Mantis tiller. It is a great thing to have once you are used to it!

Is there anything else to do with strawberries besides making jam and freezing them whole? Can you can them or aren’t they very good?

What is the purpose of potato bugs and their larva besides for you to spend hours picking them? Am I the only person who has them? Where do they come from? I think they appear out of thin air and the first one there calls the rest! But is there anything else to get rid of them besides picking and picking and picking? I don’t want to spray anything chemical on the plants either.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

I dehydrate a lot of my strawberries to use in granola, on cereal, in desserts, and just for snacks. And yes, I do can them too. True, they aren’t as good as frozen ones, but they are sure good enough to bother with! I also make several mixed berry preserves and jams with them, as well as fresh use like strawberry cheesecake, shortcake, and just plain STRAWBERRIES!

I don’t have a clue what potato bugs are good for, except bugging you! Like mosquitoes, deer flies, and ticks. Yuck! I pick and squash eggs until they are really bad, then I dust my potatoes with rotenone dust, as it’s as natural and non-toxic to people as possible. That seems to break their numbers seriously. Some years are bad; others much better. We always hope for a “better” year. So far the potato bugs haven’t found our garden, way out in the middle of the wild woods! Yet. — Jackie

Pear mincemeat

Do you have a recipe for pear mincemeat? I have misplaced mine. It called for pears, oranges, lemons, raisins, and several spices. I have a lot of pears on my trees, and want to have my recipe ready for when they ripen.

Dianna Martin
Angleton, Texas

Here’s mine:

7 pounds ripe pears
1 lemon
2 oranges
2 pounds raisins
7 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp. ground allspice
1 cup vinegar

Core and quarter pears. Cut lemon and oranges into quarters, removing seeds. Put pears, lemon, oranges, and raisins through meat grinder with a coarse blade. Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Add chopped fruit. Bring to a boil slowly. Simmer for 40 minutes. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath. — Jackie

Chicken predator

Had something get into my poultry coop last night. I had been leaving the chicken door open so the birds could come and go. Guess that was a mistake. This is the first time in eight years we’ve had this happen. Lost 6 chickens, 2 turkeys, and 1 duck, and one of my Buff Orpingtons is completely missing.

I had all these dead birds, and my husband had to leave for work. Our arrangement is that I take care of their daily needs, and he takes care of the butchering. Then I discovered two more birds inside the coop that weren’t dead but were mortally wounded. Luckily, I have farm-minded neighbors and within 20 minutes I had a husband-wife butchering team here to give me a hand cutting on heads, gutting and skinning. We were able to save meat from 5 of the chickens and the one duck.

I have two questions for you: I tried doing a search for what killed my birds, but I can’t figure it out. Only one bird had been eaten on, one of the chickens. The head and one wing were ripped off, the entrails were mostly eaten and part of the breast was eaten. The other birds suffered slashes to the breast with very little blood or feather loss. I suspect that the predator entered the coop, but most of the birds were dead out in the fenced yard. It happened during the night (we didn’t hear a thing). I know we have some big coons around here. Would a coon kill like that? Fox?

Second, what can I do to repay these wonderful neighbors of mine? Of course they refused any sort of payment for gas money. I don’t want to embarrass them with a gift, but it was a huge favor that they did for me! But they, like me, already grow a big garden, raise their own birds, etc., so I don’t really have anything they don’t produce themselves.

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

My money is on the coon. I had raccoons kill 33 nearly-grown turkeys and several chickens in the past. They even broke the window and dug under the door! I caught one in the act and he didn’t even run away. He went to raccoon heaven via 20 gauge. It’s safest to lock the poultry in at night to avoid temptation. If you have more trouble, either set leg traps or a live trap to catch the culprit before he puts you out of the bird business.

As for your great neighbors, bake ’em a pie, a pan of brownies, or give them some of your homemade jelly. And always BE that kind of neighbor to them and your other neighbors. It’s why we’ve always gotten along well no matter where we lived. — Jackie

Harvesting Hopi Pale Grey Squash

I have Hopi Pale Grey Squash from the seeds you sent! I want to know when to harvest. I have squash about 6″ in diameter now. They are beautiful, but I don’t know when to pick. And if you have the time, a simple recipe for the squash would be much appreciated.

Dan Jones
Chickamauga, Georgia

I’m so glad you are having squash from this great squash! You can harvest your squash this fall when the squash are blueish gray and the skin is hard (resists your fingernail pressing in). The squash are usually about soccer-ball sized but oblong shaped.

I usually just cut them in half, scoop out and SAVE the fat seeds, drying them on a pie pan or cookie sheet left on the bookshelf, scrape out the strings, then smear butter inside and sprinkle liberally with brown sugar and bake at 350 degrees until tender. Or you can brown up some hamburger or sausage, add it to rice and mixed vegetables, stir in some cream of mushroom soup, and stuff the squash with it. That’s real good, too. — Jackie

Transplanting wild asparagus and black raspberries

I have found in our timber, beautiful stands of wild asparagus and big sweet black raspberries. Is there any way that I can transplant or save seeds to plant them in our garden near the house and not so far into the timber?

Lance Schaefer
Guernsey, Iowa

Lucky you! What I would do is to get some orange surveyor’s tape (plastic and cheap) and mark the plants you like. Then, in the spring, before they begin to grow, dig them up, being sure to get enough roots, and transplant them to a place that would be more convenient for you. Remember that asparagus has long, often kind of deep roots; a spading fork works great for digging them. Asparagus roots look like an octopus with many fatter roots hanging down from the crown. The asparagus shoots that we eat come from the crown. Plant the black raspberries fairly shallow, but as deep as they grew, and the asparagus a bit deeper. It’ll take a couple of years for them to get back to full production so just take care of them and they’ll reward you bountifully. — Jackie


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