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Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

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Archive for December, 2009

Jackie Clay

Our family Christmas get together happened Sunday

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

We had quite a Christmas snow storm. We missed most of it up here, but further south, where my sister Sue and son Bill and his family live, the snow stacked up pretty high for Christmas. So we delayed “Christmas” and our family dinner until Sunday, when everyone could be here and the roads were safer. There’s no sense to charging out in a blizzard for a dinner! We all enjoyed having it on Sunday, regardless that Christmas was past.

My grandson, Mason, loved having two Christmases. He got to see what Santa brought at home, as well as presents from the relatives down there, then on Sunday, he had more presents waiting. And he got a big bang out of helping Great Grandma open her presents, too!

We ate a huge dinner of mostly homemade, home-grown foods, including a green tomato mincemeat pie, Will’s cheesecake, an apple pie, a pumpkin pie, and Mom’s old time favorite pie, “sugar pie” (a depression era pie that only needs sugar, flour, eggs, water, spices, and a single pie crust). We gorged ourselves on mashed Yukon gold potatoes, green bean casserole, watermelon and bread and butter pickles, as well as a 23 pound turkey that I got on sale for 38 cents a pound. All the vegetables and fruits were either fresh from the cellar or home canned. What a nice feeling that was! As well as gathering around the table, having everyone happy, healthy, and full of holiday good spirits. May this season bring these all to you and yours.


Readers’ Questions:

Making cottage cheese

My question is homemade cottage cheese and cream cheeses. I read your past articles on it, but have a question. I shop for milk in town. Price wise a gallon is cheaper, but I can’t use a full gallon before it expires. If is is near or even a day or two past expiration could the remainder be used to make the cottage cheese? Same with heavy cream, can it be used or added to the milk for processing with the vinegar?

S. Launer
Cheyenne, Wyoming

Good news! Yes, you can use store milk to make cottage cheese, soft cheeses, and yogurt. You can even make hard cheeses, such as colby and mozzarella. Sometimes folks can get slightly outdated milk from stores or a dairy company at a very good price. So you don’t have to wait until you have your homestead to start making your own home made cheese. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Despite what the weather forecasters are calling “THE STORM OF THE DECADE” we are expecting a very wonderful and peaceful Christmas. Our wood is up, the critters are all up to their ears in hay, and they have warm shelters, we have plenty of food in the pantry, each other, and a nice comfy fire in the stoves. We’re healthy and happy. I feel truly blessed out here in the backwoods.

Readers’ Questions:

Aphids

I have aphids on one of my houseplants, a purple passion plant. Not sure if you are familiar, but they have fuzzy leaves. This plant was on a shelf over my kitchen sink and I think I brought in some dill for making pickles and didn’t realize it was infested with aphids, and they must have gotten on my houseplant. So far they haven’t spread, but I haven’t been able to get rid of them.

I don’t want to try something nuclear, but washing the plant with a blast of water or swishing all the leaves/stems in soapy water only seems to set them back. I don’t see any aphids for 2-3 weeks, then suddenly they are back again. I’m thinking I must not be killing the eggs or something. Can you recommend an organic pesticide or at least something fairly non-toxic I could try? The plant is holding up pretty well, and I don’t want to toss it. But I don’t want aphids on any of my other plants either!

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

Aphids are terrible! So tenacious! I’ve had great luck using Safer. This is a spray containing organic soaps and pyrethrins for quick kill, yet quite non-glow-in-the-dark. The trick with getting rid of aphids is to treat the undersides of your leaves every few days to break the life cycle of the beasts. Train yourself to closely examine your plant every few days and spray if you see “new growth” or living aphids. I also use the yellow sticky strips, which catch the adult flies. These look like little fruit flies and you’ll often see them on the soil of your plant. Keep after them and you will get rid of them. Also examine your other plants, especially under the leaves and on tender new growth and treat any affected areas. Aphids have certain plants they love and don’t bother the others unless they are totally out of control. Some they love are tomatoes, peppers, citrus, and hibiscus. Good luck. — Jackie

Electric pressure cookers

I have seen several brands of electric pressure cookers in catalogs. None of them refer to or mention canning. Can you tell me if you know anything about them and if you can safely can with them. Thank you,

Sally Baker
Kamiah, Idaho

I have never heard of an electric pressure cooker. The only ones I’m familiar with sit on the stovetop with a locking top and pressure gauge. You regulate the pressure by regulating the stove’s heat. There IS no electric pressure canner. You’ll need one that sits on your stovetop. — Jackie

Canning catsup

When it comes to canning catsup, I cook the sauce for hours and hours and it still remains somewhat thin and runny. Do I have to continue cooking it down for hours more, or is homemade catsup naturally thinner?

Cathy Adams
New Vienna, Ohio

I cook my catsup, tomato sauces, and barbecue sauces down in my oven until they are nearly thick enough, then bring them out onto my stovetop. YES you have to cook it a long time to thicken it. Some folks run their tomato puree through a jelly bag or settle it out in gallon jars to remove the watery liquid before cooking it down. This cuts down the cooking time a whole lot. — Jackie

Removing snow from the roof

How do you remove heavy and deep snow off of roof?

Clinton Hoffman
Dunbar, West Virginia

A lot of times, depending on the slope of the roof, of course, you can use a long-handled “snow rake” to pull the snow off the lower part of the roof. This allows the higher snow to slip and slide off like an avalanche in a day or two. If this doesn’t work or your roof is too flat, about the only thing I can suggest is to get on the roof with an aluminum scoop shovel and shovel it off. Wear a safety rope and take care NOT to shovel up-slope, which will damage shingles or roofing. On dormers or valleys, sometimes you can use a shovel on the lower parts and a snow rake to reach steeper and higher portions. Be very careful, as many people are seriously hurt or injured every year, cleaning off roofs. That frozen snow on a slope is VERY slippery! — Jackie

Grass burrs

My brother has grass burrs in a patch of his property. He is wanting to put a small garden in that area as it is sandy in comparison to the rest of the property. He is thinking about putting something like round-up on it but is not sure how long that is retained in the soil. Our garden season starts here at the end of March. Would it have worked out of the soil enough that he could plant something there?

Nanna Cantwell
Celina, Texas

There are a lot of mixed and very passionate responses to using Roundup on garden soil. I really prefer not to, and will do about anything to avoid it. He might try burning the patch with a propane weed torch. This burns any living plants and dry seed heads. Then till the plot well, hand-picking any roots he can find. I’d suggest planting only larger plants this year: tomatoes, peppers, corn, potatoes, etc. Not carrots, turnips, etc. that remain small for quite a while. Then cultivate while the plants are small and mulch just as soon as they get large enough — about four to six inches high. Be sure to pull any sprouting burrs as he mulches. If he is vigorous and observant, he should be able to rid his garden plot of these nasty buggers in a year or two. Without Roundup! — Jackie

Canning soy milk

I’ve searched all over the Web, and still am curious to know: is canning homemade soymilk possible? I’ve got a soymilk machine, and I love it, but it just isn’t always possible to whip it out and crank out a batch of fresh soymilk when it is needed. Someone asked you the same question in 2007, and you threw the question out to the audience for feedback–did you ever find someone who had the answer?

Victoria Weaver
Concho, Arizona

Sorry, but no one must have had a recipe. How about it readers? Can any of you help? — Jackie

Keeping seeds in the freezer

I have been given some seeds that have been kept in the freezer. Will keeping the seeds in the freezer hurt them?

Mike McIntosh
Rudy, Arkansas

No. In fact, this is one of the safest ways to ensure that the seeds stay good over a long time, provided that they were packaged in an airtight container. The seeds just are sleeping happily, thinking that it sure is a long winter. — Jackie

Seasoning cast iron

I have many cast iron pots and skillets and understand about seasoning them. I have two large (20 gal) pots that I will cook beans over a campfire for larger get togethers. How do I get them seasoned? I’ve had them sand blasted and the first two batches of beans came out almost black.

Jeff Gaskin
South Point , Ohio

Like cast iron frying pans, you’ll need to first clean your pots, then heat them gently and rub shortening or lard into the inside surface. Again heat them for an hour or so. I do my big Dutch ovens on top of my wood range, away from the heat so they don’t get TOO hot. You want steady, GENTLE heat. If they’ll fit in your oven, use that. Otherwise, use a coals-only, gentle outside firepit. You don’t want your pots to start smoking; the grease is too hot, then.

I’d suggest making a couple of smaller batches of something easier and smaller; perhaps a roasted pork loin or beef roast or brisket. Either of these has adequate grease to help further season your pots before you toss serious cooking their way.

Good luck with your cast iron pots. Once you get the hang of them, you’ll simply love them and their slow, steady heat distribution. One other tip: cook your beans with a slow heat; never use a fire with flames. Hot coals work much better and even then, be gentle with the hot coals. I use the edge of my fire and shove coals under my pot when they need more heat. Sometimes burying the pot partway in medium-hot coals works, as does piling coals on the lid, as well. — Jackie

Keeping pickles crisp

I’ve read your explanation regarding keeping Bread and Butter pickles crisp. (Boiling the syrup then putting in the cukes) I was wondering if that same process will apply to Watermelon Rind preserves and also to dill pickles to keep them crisp?

Johnny Thompson
Midland, Texas

Yes, it does. But you DO have to boil the watermelon rind before you pickle it or it will end up tough. Pickling is an art, and you spend years getting them just right! — Jackie

Pickling fish

During gun season my brother asked me about pickling fish–and canning it. I’m thinking Northern? Anyways, I’m wondering if you have any recipes or ideas. I sure wouldn’t mind trying that. I canned my venison this year, along with bulk trays of chicken breast and hamburger and the pheasant my husband got out west. It sure is nice to have it thawed and precooked like that. With my goofy work hours it is very handy to have this on hand.

Tracey Coleman
Holmen, Wisconsin

You can certainly pickle some northern pike; it’s one of the best fish to pickle, in fact. But I’ve never been able to find a safe recipe to can the pickled fish. If you try, using either pressure canning or boiling water bath, you’ll end up with an unappetizing mushy-type product. Instead, do up a batch at a time (you can even pickle frozen and thawed fish, so you can make more anytime), holding the pickled fish in the refrigerator. Here’s a recipe from the University of Minnesota Extension office that you might give a try:

General Method for Precooked Pickled Fish: Soak fish in a weak brine (1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water) for one hour. Drain the fish, pack in heavy glass, crock, enamel, or plastic container in a strong brine (2 1/2 cups salt to 1 gallon of water) for 12 hours at refrigerator temperatures (40° to 45° F). Rinse the fish in cold water. Combine the following ingredients in a large pan or kettle. This makes enough for 10 pounds of fish.
1/4 oz. bay leaves
2 Tbsp. allspice
2 Tbsp. mustard seed
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. pepper, ground
1-2 Tbsp. hot, ground dried pepper
1/2 lb. onions, sliced
2 qt. distilled vinegar
5 cups water (avoid hard water of high mineral content)

Bring to a boil, add fish, and simmer for 10 minutes until fish is easily pierced with a fork. Remove fish from liquid, place on a single layer on a flat pan. Refrigerate and cool quickly to prevent spoilage. Pack cold fish in clean glass jars, adding a few whole spices, a bay leaf, freshly sliced onions, and a slice of lemon. Strain the vinegar solution, bring to a boil, and pour into jars until fish is covered. Seal the jar immediately with two-part sealing lid, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Pickled fish must be stored in the refrigerator as stated in general directions.
Always keep any pickled fish refrigerated for safety. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

As an early Christmas present, I got an intestinal flu!

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Last week, just when things were gearing up for Christmas, my gut felt ishy. Then all heck broke loose. You get the picture. David had the same thing, which he brought home from school a month ago. So when I should have been baking and packing cookies and goodies, I lay on the couch where the bathroom was REAL close. This went on for nearly five days! Not fun! I was so sick that Will felt sorry for me and went out into the woods and cut our Christmas tree to cheer me up. It worked. And the next day I did feel better. And I’m finally over it, but boy what a bug this one was! Whew.

We put the beautiful tall spruce up in the new living room yesterday to warm up and hopefully, tomorrow evening, we will decorate it. In the meantime, I’m writing Christmas cards like mad trying to catch up.

Readers’ Questions:

Root cellar in hot and humid area

I live in the prairie lands in one of the SW states, Texas. I plan to retire soon and will have plenty of time for gardening. I enjoy gardening and putting up the harvest. I was wondering if root cellaring in this part of the country is one practical method of storing my harvest. I am not sure if the right temperatures can be achieved in a hot and humid state most of the year. What do you think?

Kenneth Whitmire
Aledo, Texas

If you have the room, a root cellar is a good thing, no matter where you live, PROVIDED that your water table is not too high. We lived on the high prairie, in NE New Mexico. The old lady who had homesteaded on our place had a much-used root cellar. While a root cellar in the south won’t be as cool as one in the north, it will definitely help you keep your fruits and vegetables longer than if they were just kept in the warm house. By leaving the floor dirt or gravel, and maintaining humidity, this helps keep most produce even longer. A root cellar is also a good thing when you are in tornado or hurricane prone areas too, for family preservation. And you have plenty of food available right at your fingertips!

Keep your cellar well insulated, with closing vents, to keep out the very hot summer temperatures. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with your cellar. — Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds

Jackie, not really a question but information, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds have Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds on their seed list…I can’t explain just how many hours of pleasure the magazine and your blog have given me. Wonderful treat to find the magazine in my mailbox during the rainy season.

Joan Orr
Lopez Island, Washington

Yes, I’ve seen that they have the Hopi Pale Grey seeds on their online catalog. I looked because it wasn’t listed again this year in their print catalog and I freaked out! JUST when someone was starting to carry it again. Thanks for the kind words. — Jackie

Tough chicken

My wife, Evelyn, and I love your blog! We have learned so much from “Ask Jackie” online and in the magazine. We are slowly working our way into raising our own food, and I have a question I hope you can answer.

We just butchered our first batch of chickens. We hatched a batch of mixed eggs in a brooder and then raised the birds. This was a great learning experience for our three homeschooled children! We are keeping the hens for eggs and just recently butchered the cockerels.

The cockerels were just starting to crow at 7 months of age. The birds were a mix of breeds including Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, and a Buff Brahma. They had been raised in a runner 4’x16′, and fed a grain mixture raised and processed by a local farmer.

I placed them in a killing cone, bled them out, skinned them and aged them for 3 days in ice water. The white meat was delicious, but the dark meat turned out tough and stringy. I grew up hunting and have butchered a lot of game birds without having any turn out this tough. Can you give me an idea of why the dark meat is so stringy and tough?

Carl Umphlett
Columbus North Carolina

Next time, quick-cool the meat in ice water to remove body heat, then remove it, and place it in dry refrigeration (wrapped or covered, of course) for a day longer. Your young roosters should not be tough, but home raised chickens of mixed breeds are not as tender as the chicken from the store, which is very young Cornish rock hybrids, butchered from 6-7 weeks, on average. They’ve never scratched or run about; only stood in a pen and ate. If you want a guaranteed tender bird next time, buy some Cornish meat chicks to raise, then raise them as you would any farm chicken, butchering them between 7-10 weeks for very large fryers/smaller roasters. — Jackie

How to process venison

I was given a front and hind quarter of venison (I know, lucky me!) but… They thought they were doing me a favor by deboning it for me. What I received was hunks of meat that I’m not sure what is what and a LOT of the silver skin on it. Is there any way to salvage steaks from this or is it all destined to be put in the stew or stock pot or canned? I love a good medium rare grilled steak and my mouth is watering at the thought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for the meat but would really love to find some steaks out of this somewhere.

Michele Gerdes
Rhinelander, Wisconsin

You can cut steaks out of just about any large chunks of venison. By cutting them thicker, you can then cut them each nearly in two again, making a butterfly steak. The stuff with the silver skin is the smaller, long muscles on the lower part of the quarter, going down the legs. This can be either ground or cut apart, removing the silver skin, for stew meat. This is a bit tedious, but well worth the effort. I “skin” it as if I were filleting a fish; by sliding the knife along, just above the tough membrane and below the meat. With practice, you do get quite efficient. Enjoy your venison! — Jackie
Long-term food storage in a hot climate

We are newbies to the self-reliant lifestyle, but are trying hard to get moved up to our new homestead in North Florida as soon as possible. We won’t have the concerns related to “too cold” weather, but are concerned about it being too hot (particularly if we lose electricity) for successful long-term storage of canned goods and “root-cellaring,” etc. Do you (or any readers with knowledge of deep south homesteading) have any advice for us?

Jackie Keselowsky
Lutz, Florida

You’ll find that a good root cellar will definitely help you keep your food longer, regardless of where you live. In the deep south, you won’t have “ideal” cellar temps of between 35-40 degrees. Heck, I don’t have that in mine, come fall and summer. But you do have a lot longer storage of your foods, with even a slight reduction in temperature, over what is in your house. You really don’t need THAT cool a temperature for storage of your home canned and other canned/dry foods to keep them good for years. With lots of dirt and insulation bermed up over the top of an outside root cellar or good insulation over an in-the-corner of the basement cellar, you’ll be more than satisfied. Remember to consider your water table at all seasons before constructing your cellar; you do not want to build one that could become flooded, very damp and moldy. If the water table occasionally gets high, build an above ground cellar in a hillside or even BUILD a small hill, burying your cellar in it and double insulating your door. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Old Yeller rides again!!!

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

After more than two months of hard, sometimes frustrating work, Will finally got the last bolt fastened on Old Yeller, climbed up onto the seat, and started it up. After a head re-build, our trusty John Deere 1010 purred like new. And with a big smile, Will pulled back on the reverser and Old Yeller backed out of the storage building, onto the driveway, under its own power. Hooray!

Will-OldYeller

Will did “test” doughnuts, and the steering clutches both worked perfectly. Now we have crop signs in the snow on the driveway! Wait till the next helicopter flies overhead. What a relief to have that huge, and I mean HUGE, project finished.

Oh, I thought you might like to see MY project. I’ve become a mule owner! Our neighbor, Jerry Yourczek, who David works for, had a gorgeous filly foal from his quarter horse/mustang mare and his mammoth spotted jack donkey. It had been an unplanned event. From the start, I WANTED that foal. She looked like a racehorse, only with stripes and appaloosa spots! I told Jerry I wanted to buy her, but I guess he didn’t take me serious and sold her to another woman. But a month ago, the buyer backed out and the mule was mine. He brought her over, along with a little jenny burro. Both had never been handled a bit and were as wild as deer. I’ve been working with both of them every day, and finally, the burro will let me pet her butt, sides, and neck. The mule is more high spirited and says “NO WAY,” but she will eat out of the pan at my feet and take feed from my hands. I’m working on it!

We hope to make a saddle/driving mule out of Shadow, as we’ve called her. She’s going to be tall and well built. Now if I can just get her tamed down… Moose and Beauty were as wild, but now they come running when they see me and won’t eat until they get petted. So I have great hopes. Did you EVER see such a color before?

burro-mule

Readers’ Questions:

Canning venison ribs

I noticed in your new book that you mention canning venison ribs. When I tried to cook ribs, I roasted them in the oven. Taking the first bite, they tasted delicious, but we quickly noticed that the fat started coating our mouths. It was like drinking a candle! At any rate, do you do something special to make them palatable? I saved the rest of the ribs, just in case, but I would like some room in my freezer.

In addition, can the fat be rendered and used for anything?

Amanda Kemp
Dover, Delaware

I, personally, don’t like venison fat; I bone all my meat. Some folks do like it however. I don’t can bone-in venison or chevon (goat meat). For those who DO like the taste, the recipe in the book works.

In the old days, pioneers used venison tallow in candles, small lamps, and as a waterproofing for their shoes/moccasins. If you wish to give it a try, heat the simmering meat/bones, then cool the pot. Gently spoon off the hardened fat for later use. — Jackie

Pickled corn

My husband and I love pickled corn but I can not find a canning recipe. I have looked in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and I also have your canning book. Do you can pickled corn? If so will you share your recipe? I have also canned several of your meals-in-a-jar, we love them.

Robin Putman
Coolville, Ohio

No, I haven’t canned pickled corn; the closest I’ve come was corn relish or corn salsa (pg. 97 of my new gardening/canning book). If you’re talking about pickled baby corn, you could use the same recipe for the seasoned brine for the corn relish and substitute the tiny ears of baby corn instead of using corn cut off the cobs. Should work just fine. — Jackie

Making butter

Do you need a dazey turner to make butter I have seen these online and they are pretty expensive, I am looking for a non electric kind. I have checked local flea markets and have not found any. But was just wondering if you could make butter from just mixing it with a paddle in a bowl.

Scott
Georgia

No, you can’t just mix it in a bowl with a paddle; you’d be there forever! Instead, I’ve whipped my cream stiff with a hand mixer, then spooned it into a 1/2-gallon large mouth canning jar. Then you just roll it around and shake it until your butter comes. Of course, it is easier to use a butter churn. Hoeggers Goat Supply carries a new hand crank churn for $129. It’s a bit pricey, but should last generations. — Jackie

Tin measuring cup

My mother has a tin 1 cup measuring cup that she has wore out and would like another one; but I can’t seem to find them anywhere. It looks like a cup with a handle on it, except it’s made of tin. Do you know of anywhere that I could find them now?

Bill Church
Normantown, West Virginia

Lehmans Hardware carries a tin cup that might be about what your Mom used. I have a couple of old ones and mine are a 1 cup measure; I’m not sure about the new ones, though. You could ask. They are not guaranteed to be watertight…but probably are tight enough to use as a measuring cup. — Jackie

Dehydrating food

My church is very involved in a mission in Nicaragua and makes several trips a year doing different services. We have done many medical trips, the last trip was to teach the women to sew and the men some building skills in order to give them a trade to earn money with. They built a chicken coop that is much nicer than the houses they live in. The village has a huge garden now and is using it to teach the young adults agricultural skills. In order for them to be able to participate, they have to go to school and it is a huge honor to be a part of this program. They want us to come and teach them how to can their produce. I don’t think it is possible to use a pressure canner safely and keep the pressure steady enough, or long enough over a stone oven. They have very little electricity and do all their cooking over fire in an open clay or stone oven. I can’t think of any vegetable other than tomato (with lemon juice) that could safely be water bathed, so I am thinking they will need to dehydrate most of the vegetables. They don’t know how to do this either and I will need to figure out how to teach them this w/o electricity. Do you have any suggestions at all? How do you feel about a trip to Nicaragua this spring? We could sure use your expertise and it is truly life changing for us and them.

Jo Riddle
Vienna, West Virginia

Dehydration probably makes more sense than canning, as getting jars would probably be a problem to villagers. If they were available at a reasonable (donated?) cost, perhaps your church or someone else would be willing to foot the bill for a large tank of propane and basic “canning” stove located in the school to use as a community canning project?

It should be warm enough to simply use “solar” dehydration, as is done in Mexico, Italy, and many other countries. By just slicing small tomatoes and peppers in half and putting them on basic screen or wooden racks, or cutting others into half inch thick slices, keeping them dry and in the sun, protected from insects, you quickly have nicely dehydrated vegetables. I’ve even used the car with the windows rolled up as a “solar dehydrator.”

I’d love to go with you to Nicaragua! But, right now, I’ve got a full time, plus, job taking care of my 93 year old Mom. Maybe another time? — Jackie

Keeping a goose with chickens

We had 3 geese and were dog sitting a lab who broke the kennel wire, got out and killed 2 of them. We have the one that was injured in the basement and it is finally eating and doing better. My question is could we put the goose in with the chickens? Would they get along and would our rooster accept it? Are there any diseases that might be spread to each other? We may have located a goose to put with our injured one so it is not alone. We understand they are social animals. I bought a book on geese, however it doesn’t answer thoughts like these in times of trouble.

Debra Brown
Littlefork, Minnesota

Usually you can get by, putting waterfowl, in limited numbers, with chickens. You’ll just have to see how they interact. One reason I don’t like to have waterfowl in my chicken coop is that geese and ducks LOVE water and quickly bathe in the drinking water. This is fine if you are a goose, but it sure makes the chicken coop wet. And a damp coop isn’t good for chickens. I wouldn’t worry about disease transmission, but DO try to keep the coop as dry as possible. Maybe you might have to water twice a day and not leave water available at all times for the goose to play in. Your single goose might like another goose for company, but if it was me, I’d wait till spring so you don’t have two geese to flap water around in your chicken coop. Your single goose won’t pine away from loneliness before spring and you’ll probably join your chickens in being much happier, waiting. — Jackie

Heart rot in potatoes

Every year I harvest potatoes that appear to have some sort of “heart rot.” Frequently it will just be a void in the middle surrounded by brown flesh; in others I have found a decayed or what appears to be a rotten spot. I have planted both Kennebec’s and Yukon Gold and the Yukon Gold appear to suffer more from the problem. Can you identify the cause and any possible solutions?

Jim Winski
Jane Lew, West Virginia

This is hollow heart and usually is seen after periods of wet weather or irregular watering. Some varieties, including Yukon Gold, seem more susceptible to this problem. Monitor your watering carefully, especially after potato bloom, when the potatoes are developing quickly, to make sure they are receiving adequate, regular watering, but not TOO much. Potatoes with hollow heart are edible; just cut away the brownish hollow center and eat the rest. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The truck and Old Yeller are back together!

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

We had quite a day. David has been working hard on his truck, which needed a $900 transmission rebuild, rather than a “cheap part.” Luckily, he and his girlfriend, aided by Will, pulled the transmission, and David and friends, Niles and Ian, helped him put it back in. Both jobs were tedious and cold, as it’s now 19 degrees F…on a warm day! Tonight, the truck rolled off the ramps under its own power. Whew!

And today, Will is nearly finished rebuilding our old yellow John Deere 1010 crawler, Old Yeller. There are just a few adjustments and some tranny fluid and reverser fluid to add, and it should be good as new. Double whew! I’ll be so glad when there isn’t a vehicle parked in the new storage building, propped up by blocks and jacks. (I’ll bet the guys will be too!)

To celebrate tonight, I baked a lemon cake with cream cheese and pie cherry frosting for the crew. (1 plain lemon cake mix, plus 1 8oz. package of cream cheese, softened, mixed with 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. lemon juice and 1 can of on-sale canned cherry pie filling for the icing) I had to laugh when I broke the eggs in a bowl. One was from our chickens, the other is a store egg. Orchard chicken egg= orange yolk, firm white, store egg= pale yellow yolk and runny white. Our chickens had molted and I had to buy a couple dozen eggs. Boy am I glad we don’t have to buy them all the time! I wonder what they feed those poor chickens?

homegrown-vs-store_egg

Readers’ Questions:

Hopi Pale Grey seeds

If you have some extra Hope Pale Grey Squash seed sometime I would like to have a few.

John Oler
Watonga, Oklahoma

Sure, John, I’ll be glad to send you some seeds. Unfortunately, I have found that some crossing with Amish Pie Pumpkin occurred (I thought they were different species! Wrong. Both are C. Maximas). You may get a couple pink squash! By careful culling and breeding you can breed back to pure Hopi Pale Greys in a couple of years. But if you want pure seed, you can get it from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Let me know. — Jackie

Canning ham

I started canning some ham in pint jars. It was hot when I started and they went for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Then it ran out of water. My husband thinks it went long enough but I am worried.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I’m assuming that you were pressure canning your ham. I would probably keep the ham, but be sure to check it well, then bring it to boiling temperature for 15 minutes BEFORE using each jar. Five minutes isn’t a lot, but it’s always safest to process the food for the entire length of time. — Jackie

Good grain mixture for pizza dough

I was wondering if you know of a good grain mixture for high gluten flour for tossing pizzas? To buy this flour is about 8 times the price of regular all purpose. I’m not sure if it’s a mixture or if there is a specific method to removing the starches from the flour.

David Rose
Buena Vista, Colorado

I’ve had very good luck by simply using a good hard wheat flour, and adding a little dough enhancer. I get mine from Emergency Essentials. I also use their very good yeast, which I can buy for less than $4.00 a pound. While I don’t toss my crusts, the dough is certainly elastic and “alive” enough to handle that. I’m just not that coordinated! — Jackie

Using potato water for bread making

In the article “Try Growing the Popular Potato” in the ninth year anthology, author Alice Yeager mentions using a mixture of potato water, flour, salt, and sugar to take the place of yeast in bread making. I can’t find a recipe like this in the BHM recipe index and was wondering if you had a bread recipe that uses this technique. My search of the net only yields bread recipes that call for adding mashed potatoes along with yeast.

Kathy Yount
Elizabeth, Arkansas

I believe what Alice was referring to was the old practice of catching wild yeast in the sugared potato water/flour, which makes sourdough starter. Although this can certainly work in some cases, in others, you end up with something other than a wild yeast…or a poor tasting one. It’s safer to start a sourdough from a tried and true batch and keep it alive, using some and replacing some of the flour, sugar, and water as you use up the starter. In that way, it keeps going indefinitely. — Jackie

Bread pans

I have been making my own bread now for about a year. I am just using metal bread pans, but am reading in other places about stoneware pans and cast iron bread pans. I use cast iron skillets a lot. Just wondered what you used or what you thought was better.

Terri Starrett
Dow, Illinois

I use heavier tin bread pans. I’m sure that stoneware or even cast iron would probably work well, but I sure have no complaints about my plain old bread pans. And they are a lot cheaper, too!

P.S. Let me apologize for being so late answering you. A couple of my e-mails got misplaced. Yours is one. — Jackie

Boiling home canned foods

Have always seen specific instructions to be sure to boil home canned vegetables for a certain number of minutes before using or even tasting them. Is it necessary to boil home canned meats and soup stocks before using them?

Ruth Marvin
Goldendale, Washington

Yes, it is recommended that we bring canned vegetables and meats up to boiling temperature and hold it there for 10-15 minutes…just to be sure that any possible bacteria is killed. This can be oven, stovetop or frying…anything at “boiling temperature,” which is 212 degrees F, below 1,000 feet above sea level or less.

P.S. I’m sorry for having taken so long to answer your question; yours was another e-mail that had been misplaced. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Winter is finally here

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

We had a terrible summer, but November was pretty wonderful. It was warmer than usual and we had no snow to speak of. So we got a lot of things done in preparation for winter that we probably wouldn’t have if we had a “normal” November. But now the temperatures are quickly going down and we are forecast to have temps in the 18 degrees range for highs. Single digits for lows. Brrrr. So today I had to thaw hoses to water the horses, donkeys, and calves and carry buckets of water to the goats and huskies. While I did that, Will carried straw from a round bale to our strawberry bed in the house garden to tuck them in for winter.

will-strawberrystraw

He was taking a “break” from working on the final drive of our bulldozer in the entryway. Luckily, he could work on it indoors, where there was heat. It was a long, hard job, and he’s about got it done, with new bearings, clutch discs, and lots of bolts. This afternoon, after all was about done, I caught him and his trusty dog, Spencer, grabbing a nap. Well earned, I’d say!

Will-finaldrive

will-spencer

Readers’ Questions:

Crop failures and gardening challenges

I have a couple of questions for you. Somehow, we did manage to get some mature squash in our summer of no summer here in northern Minnesota. Or at least, I thought they were mature. Sure, we had some little green ones and I just threw those in the compost pile. I cured the matures ones (pumpkins, butternuts, buttercups, amber cups, acorn squash) in the garage for a few weeks, then moved them into our storage area. They did not get frost, although we had a few nights where it was below freezing while they were in the garage.

They are all starting to mold and rot already. Did they not get enough time to mature on the vine? Otherwise, I think I’m doing everything I usually do with them and my squash usually store well into January or February. I’ve been forced to cook them up as quickly as possible and freeze them instead, which ties up freezer space.

My other question is: what variety of pickling cucumbers do you grow? I ran out of my tried-and-true seeds two years ago and have tried two different varieties in the last two years, with abysmal crop failures :( Two years ago (“County Fair” cucumbers) I got no pickles at all. The vines only got about two feet long and never produced any cukes. This past summer (“Homemade Pickles” cucumbers) I finally did get enough to make a couple of batches of pickles, but not the bushels and bushels we usually get. Our slicing cukes grew just fine. We probably didn’t get as many as usual due to the cool summer, but we didn’t have none either. Do you have a variety you would recommend for northern Minnesota that makes good pickles?

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

I don’t think it was you. It’s possible freezing weather may have caused the squash to freeze in your garage, or our nasty summer may have taken its toll. Sometimes wiping the squash down with bleach water will help (let them dry well before storing), but some years this just plain happens. Better luck next year!

Our cukes did terrible this year too. I did get a few pickles and slicers, but nothing like usual. Homemade pickles usually do great here. I also grow Sweeter Yet, Japanese Climbing, and Boston Pickler, among others. Usually all cukes do quite well, with plenty of water in dry times. They do like plenty of compost to grow in. — Jackie

Canning turkey soup

I don’t own a pressure cooker. Can I can turkey soup and how long should I give it?

Esther Fernandez
Key Largo, Florida

Sorry, but you can NOT safely can any low acid foods, including turkey, turkey soup, vegetables, or meat products without a pressure canner. The pressure canner raises the temperature of the food above that of boiling water. No matter how long you boil food, the temperature never goes above boiling. This is unsafe for canning low acid foods as it does not kill bacteria which can cause food poisoning (botulism).

I don’t want you to get sick, so try to find a friend or relative that has a good pressure canner that you can borrow. Maybe you can even have them come over for a mini-canning party so they can show you how easy it is to can.

Also, please pick up a good canning book (like my new one!) so you have easy-to-follow directions on canning all your foods. — Jackie

Classes for self-reliant living

Do you ever do classes on self-reliant living, canning, or gardening in the north? We are still trying to figure what does the best in Brainerd after moving here from Alabama.

David and Peggy Brunner
Brainerd, Minnesota

No I haven’t. But we have considered it after we get our new homestead a little more under control (buildings and fences built, etc.!) I’d really like to do this but right now we hardly have time to sleep. I’ll keep you posted when we are to the planning stage. — Jackie

Western bean cutworm moth

I would like to know what kind of moth or fly lays the eggs for the bean cut worm. I have been unable to find any info on it.

Carol Sorrells
Central Point, Oregon

I found this website page from Iowa State University that shows a picture for you, figuring a picture is worth 1,000 words. I hope it helps you. — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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