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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for January, 2010

Jackie Clay

While its snowing, David and Will work inside

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

For a shop project, David is making a slide-in-trailer receiver cargo rack.  At school, he cut and assembled the rack.  But tonight he brought it home and he and Will measured and drilled holes for bungee cords to secure the load and the holes where the hitch pin slides through.  I was so glad David is getting some very useful training at school for some real-world work that can come in very handy in his future.  Will also helps him with his welding and shop work, here at home.  No one ever knows what the future will hold and the more marketable skills a person has, the better his chances are for a brighter future…no matter what the economy or world is doing at the time.

Readers’ Questions:

Baking in a bread machine

We recently purchased a NutriMill and have been grinding hard white wheat into flour.  We also have hard red wheat but haven’t tried that yet.  We’ve been baking 2 pound loafs with a bread machine on the whole wheat setting.  We’ve been using a 100% whole wheat recipe from the machine’s manual; flour from the mill, water, butter, salt, gluten flour, brown sugar, skim milk powder, and yeast.  Each loaf has been delicious and very consistent but each time the top “collapses” so the loaf’s top looks weird.  Otherwise it’s great bread.  We reduced the water for a few loaves but it didn’t have much effect.  Can you recommend a recipe for using a machine to make bread from flour right out of the mill?  It would be especially helpful if it used eggs since we’ve got plenty of them.

Holly A.
Shevlin, Minnesota

I’m sorry, but I have never used a bread machine.  Mom used to have one, but I’ve always made bread the old-fashioned way.  Maybe Ilene Duffy could help you.  She’s a whiz with a bread machine.  Let’s ask her! — Jackie

I can’t exactly say I’m an expert either at using a bread machine since I let the machine run its course just through the dough cycle and then take the dough out, shape it, let it rise again for an hour, and then bake it in the oven. But here are some ideas to try to see if you can get some nice loaves right out of the bread machine.

First of all, I’d try a 1 1/2 pound recipe instead of a 2 pound. Most bread books have recipes for both of these sizes of loaves. It could be that your bread machine can make a 2 pound loaf, but for this particular recipe that you’re using it just is too much dough for the machine to handle.

Another thing to try is to adjust the liquid to flour ratio as you’ve already done, but write down exactly how you’re making your adjustments so you can better tell in the future what’s working and what isn’t. You might try lessening by just one or two teaspoons the amount of liquid and with the same loaf add an extra tablespoon or two of flour, which will give you a denser bread.

Egg bread is great and I use up eggs too when I have an abundance. (Nice problem to have!) I’ve found my homemade egg breads to be more dense than loaves made with just milk and/or water. They make wonderful sweet breads when you add a teaspoon of cinnamon to the dry ingredients and later add a handful of raisins during the first mix cycle. You can also add the raisins to the dry ingredients which works fine too.

You’ve inspired me to make a nice loaf of whole wheat bread this weekend! — Lenie

Sweet limewater

Your book and articles have inspired me to try grinding my own corn for cornmeal and hominy flour.  I know you like the Native American corns, but which one would you use for your hominy?  Also, you said the you soak the corn in sweet limewater.  What is sweet limewater?  I’m looking forward to trying parched and dried corn as well.   Thanks for all your insights and help.  Whenever I wonder how to do something with crops or canning or something, my husband always asks “What does Jackie say?”

Carol Bandy
Hightown, Virginia

The lime you want is slaked lime (calcium hydroxide), although pickling lime will work.  You can often find slaked lime at Mexican groceries, or in the ethnic section of larger stores.

My favorite corns for hominy are Cherokee White Flour corn from Seed Dreams ( and Santo Domingo Blue from Native Seeds/SEARCH.  Of course you can use just about any larger seeded dry, mature corn.  Have fun!  Your own cornmeal, hominy, and corn flour is SO much tastier than store-bought!  (Like everything else.) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

You can teach an old dog new tricks!

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Will is still working on developing our new pasture, clearing corners, expanding the size, etc. Yesterday, I couldn’t stand it any more. I HAD to learn to run “Old Yeller.” Of course, I have spent a lifetime driving various tractors and a skid steer loader and have watched David and Will run our old 1010 crawler, so I felt relatively sane.

I got a few last-minute tips from Will and climbed aboard. Oh boy, was THAT FUN! It didn’t take long before I was shoving stumps and logs into a pile and even pushing down smaller trees. Of course I couldn’t stay down in the field long because I needed to keep a watch on Mom, but I really enjoyed learning to run a bulldozer. I’ll definitely be back aboard, soon! It makes hard work oh-so-simple.

We’re already deciding on where the corners, gates, and fences will go and what to plant. Just wait till spring!

Readers’ Questions:

Mold on outside of bean pods

So happy to read that you will be writing an article on seed saving. I have tried with little success. Please address the “rust” issue on beans. I had a few spots on the bean sides which I did not consider good enough to eat. Then I had some beans with the rust in a small circle line around the part of the bean where it sprouts. I wasn’t sure those were good enough to plant, but kept them. Then there is always the weather. We had a very wet Summer and Fall and it was hard to let the beans dry on the vine in the garden. When I got to them, the pods were moldy and grey/black although some of the beans inside looked good. ANY help with the seed-saving thing will be most appreciated.

Also, I finally found popcorn at a Sam’s Club in another area…not in a 5 lb. bucket, but in a 50# bag. It was for a popcorn machine. How should I store this?

Jan Eylar
Savannah, Missouri

I’ve also kept beans and peas that had mold on the outside of dry pods, but not inside. They germinated perfectly fine. Some years you just get certain problems; this year was so wet, we had the mold problem, too.

I also buy 50 pound bags of popcorn at Sam’s Club. I store it in a 35 gallon, new garbage can and just take out some if I want cornmeal or popcorn for “Saturday Nite at the Movies” when we watch a video at home. So far, it’s not only stored well (past 2 years now), but still pops great.

Be watching for the seed saving article for more answers. — Jackie


I would like to know. If you get a rhubarb root from someone out of their garden can you get fruit off of that same root that year or not and why?

Linda Walters
Mineral City, Ohio

No. If you take the stalks from your newly divided rhubarb root, you’ll weaken the plant, as it is desperately trying to establish itself in its new home. You may even kill the plant. Much better to be patient and wait till next spring, when the plant is well established and healthy! — Jackie

Canning cheddar cheese

I followed your recipe for canning cheese from your book “Growing and Canning Your Own Food.” My cheddar cheese turned out to be permeated with holes when I opened it. Did I do something wrong or does cheese always do that?

Also when I used it in a casserole, it seemed dry. Is it advisable to increase the butter/oil in the recipe to compensate?

Livermore, California

No, cheese often does this because you never get it melted quite perfectly, and there are air spaces in the melted cheese. If your cheese seems dry, add a little milk to your recipe and you’ll have a great, creamy cheese sauce. — Jackie

Canning potatoes

I found a good deal or russet potato so I canned some up using the method from your new book. Problem is the water turned milky cloudy color is this normal? It also thickened like a medium syrup, is this normal?

Keyser, West Virginia

Yes, this is normal. It is only the starch from the cut potatoes. You can use the potato water to make the best bread you ever ate! The yeast LOVES potato water! Otherwise, the potatoes are great in soups, stews, and roasts. Of course, you can also use them for “cheesy” potatoes, mashed potatoes, or refried potatoes, too. — Jackie

Canned tomatoes for salad

My husband and I were hungry for salad this week and thought we would treat ourselves. At the grocery store there are only tomatoes grown in MEXICO. What is this about? What happened to the California ones? There are also some beef steaks and other beef MEAT products from Mexico. Do we not grow beef in this country anymore?

Needless to say I walked away empty handed. We are very uncomfortable eating even a tomato from Mexico much less meat. Is it possible to use tomatoes from our canning jars on a salad or are they too mushy? Could you use the tomato juice that is left to make a salad dressing or for something else?

I’ll just warn anyone reading this that the signs are very small that say “A product of Mexico.” You have to search for them sometimes. Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think this is right when there is produce in this country! Now I’m wondering where the tomatoes etc. come from that restaurants use?

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

Let me say “AMEN” to your comments! I’ve gotten so I not only read every little sign in the grocery store, but ask to see the box out-of-season produce has come in. I, also, will NOT buy foods from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, etc.

YES, whole tomatoes that you’ve canned are great in salads. I save the juice to use in soups, chili, etc. I also use my fresh-tasting canned salsa in salads, on burgers, and as a relish. Not only does your own product TASTE better, but you feel oh-so-good, eating something you had control of during its growing and processing. — Jackie

Bugs in oatmeal

Can you please give me an effective, safe way to store rolled oats? I have been keeping them in a plastic storage container with the tight sealed lid. I have been using out of them fairly regularly, but when I got them out today, there were little bugs or weevils crawling all over them. I have never had this problem before. I purchase them in bulk from a local Amish store, so I would like a long term storage solution.

Rebekah Robbins
Richmond, Indiana

Unfortunately, this sometimes happens. Usually it’s because there were eggs in the product (flour, cornmeal, or other “cereal”). To avoid the possibility of this happening, many people put the bags/containers of food in the freezer for a few days. This will kill any eggs, making a “surprise” like you had much less apt to happen.

If you find bugs in any other of your pantry foods (usually a cereal or flour product), I’d recommend that you pick up some pantry moth traps and use them to catch any of the little flying moths that may be hanging around in your pantry or kitchen. They are small and can squeeze into many storage containers, although I doubt that they could have gotten into your plastic container unless the lid got left partially unfastened at some point. — Jackie

Canning water in beer bottles

For a canning question, (which I am just learning because of your recommendation), Can I can in my used beer bottles? I’ve been thinking it might be a good idea to can water against emergency needs. As an occasional brewer I tend to save them around, and have a capper for them. Would they be capped before pressure heating, (since water has no acid), But I wondered if the caps should be crimped after heating? How long should they be processed? I imagine the caps should have plastic rather than cork seals.

Glenn Willis
Redondo Beach, California

Sorry, Glenn, but I’ve never canned water for long-term storage; I have canned it to test lids, etc., but never for potable water. Have any of our readers ever found information regarding canning water in bottles with crimp-on lids? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

So it’s January? We’re thinking of spring already

Monday, January 18th, 2010

While I was canning up a bunch of hamburger, Will was clearing another patch of logged-over ground for a new pasture. This one is below the goat pasture, and when fenced, will give us about another 20 acres of horse/cattle pasture, in addition to the other 15 acres we’d done last year.

The new pasture has a flat piece of lower ground that was logged off and had grown back to scattered young poplar trees and willow brush. As our bulldozer “Old Yeller” is again working, Will first shoved all the old logs, stumps, and trees off the patch. Then, today, he worked over the same ground with the Ford tractor bucket and back-blade, scraping the smaller stuff into windrows, which were shoved along the woods. Here we’ll keep at it, flattening it out to help it rot away and make new soil.

Tonight, we walked over the ground and were amazed at how wonderfully flat it looks — no stumps, no rotten logs, no brush piles, just beautiful frozen soil, just waiting to be planted into orchard grass, clovers, and trefoil this spring. We can’t wait.

Oh, just an update on the old hay wagon we’re rebuilding. It now has not only new (take-off) tires that are round, 3″x12″ stringers, but also flattened, bolted-on cross pieces. It’s now ready for a deck. But that’s got to wait until we get a little more cash. How nice it looks, already! As with our whole place, it’s built as cash and time allow. We’re content to wait; there’s always something else to do to improve our lives.

Readers’ Questions:

Buying and storing non-hybrid seeds

I am researching non-hybrid seeds. I know nothing about gardening. This is a new venture and we feel a necessary one due to the current crisis in the U.S., which is likely to worsen. After reading about all the different survival seed companies I feel lost. It seems that the type of seeds and how they are packed are both important. Plus, I am finding it hard to determine which are reputable companies. Can you please give us a name, or a couple of names of companies you have used that have good non-hybrid seeds that are packaged for proper storage life? We love your articles in Backwoods Home, thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge.

John and Suzanne Fenlason
Clyde, North Carolina

I really prefer to choose and store my own varieties, not someone else’s, from a different climate. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, and Fedco Seeds all have dependable open pollinated seeds and plenty of tips for growing. Choose your own seeds, then keep them in an airtight jar, or better yet, in your freezer, in an airtight container. Most seeds will remain great for years. Onions and leeks are one exception — only a year, or a little more, if you’re lucky. Like my storage pantry, I rotate my seeds, planting the oldest ones, and replacing them with new. Watch the magazine; I’m working on a seed saving article right now that should help clear up a lot of the mystery of seed selection and seed saving/storage. — Jackie

Starting plants by a window

As you’re the master gardener, and I admire the greenhouse you’ve attached to your home, I have a question regarding gardening. I’ve tried for several years to start tomatoes, peppers, and other hot-weather plants in the house in a window. Of course they always bolt for the light and become stringy and weak. Even after I tried to harden them by taking them outside for an hour or two each day to get used to sun and wind, they always ended up dying. To try something else, I bought a portable greenhouse a few years ago and started some plants in it in December (our last frost date is March 15 here in Phoenix). One night the outside temperature got to 19 degrees and killed all of my seedlings, even though they had a light on them. Anyway, I basically gave up. This year, I am trying it again in the greenhouse with a portable heater for the coldest nights. Everything is coming up well, but I’m afraid that when I put the veggies out in the garden in March, they’ll die because they’ve been in a protected greenhouse, away from the wind and other elements. Can you explain how you move your tomatoes, etc, from your greenhouse to the outdoors (even in wall-o-waters) without them dying? What am I doing wrong?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

When you use the Wall’o Waters, you don’t need to harden the plants. But when you’re going to set plants out, you DO need to harden them off or you will lose them. To do this, they need to be gently exposed to the wind and sun. The key here is gently. I set my flats of plants out mid-morning, in a protected area, out of the wind and direct sun. This is usually on the west side of the house, on our deck. If the wind is blowing from the west, I’ll switch and use the north side of the house, but put the plants close enough to the house for protection. Only leave them out for an hour at first, temperature permitting. Then, after a week, gradually lengthen this to two, three, four, and half a day. DO NOT let the flats or pots dry out during this hardening off period. They will need more water, so check them frequently. The more soil around the roots, the slower they’ll dry out. For instance, if they’re in a four-inch pot, they’ll dry out slower than if they are in a flat that is 1 1/2″ deep. With your portable greenhouse, simple roll/carry it out and gradually leave the front and sides more open to the elements. As before, keep careful watch of the dryness of the soil.

Also, be sure that they are not in the direct sun outdoors, in your covered greenhouse, when the temp gets warmer or they’ll cook!

You definitely CAN grow your own plants, but like everything else, it takes practice. Keep me posted and I’ll help all I can. — Jackie

Three sisters growing method

This past growing season I tried to grow the 3 sisters to give my tomato patch a break from tomatoes. The corn did well. The beans were slow and stunted from being shaded by the corn and the squash was very slow and even later because of being shaded by the corn. I planted to thick. The squash variety I planted was Hopi Pale Grey. I got my seeds from one of the seed handlers that you have mentioned in your articles located in my area. There were 4 plants that developed to set on squash but only two squash made to what I would call maturity. One is shaped like a squat pumpkin with a coffee cup sized belly button on the bottom. The other is football shaped only shorter than a football and bigger around the girth. Having never raised Hopi Pale Grey I have no idea what they are really supposed to look like. Which squash should I save the seed from and which one should I roast the seeds and eat them?

John Peine
Springfield, Missouri

It’s too bad your three sisters garden wasn’t more productive. You really don’t want to plant it too thickly, for the reason you gave. I plant my beans when the corn is up about four inches, and the squash about the same time. Did you plant pole beans? They climb the corn stalks as they grow and find sunlight, where bush beans stay on the ground and get puny. Some varieties of beans do better on corn than others. I’ve had good luck with Kentucky Wonder and Cherokee Cornfield beans.

Hopi Pale Grey squash come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all have the “belly button” bulge on the blossom end and are some shade of blue gray. When choosing squash to save seed from, I usually choose either the largest or the best tasting one. You can eat one, save the seed, then later on try the other one, saving that seed. Hopi Pale Greys don’t make real good eating seeds because the shell on the seed is pretty hard. You CAN toast the seeds, then shell them, like sunflower seeds, then put them back in the oven, salt them and roast them a little more, with a very light coat of oil. — Jackie

Gardening in the woods

I wanted to ask you about gardening in the woods. Three years ago we moved our family out of California’s Bay Area and into the woods. We are at 3,500 feet in a somewhat densely wooded area. Whereas before I could grow anything I stuck in the ground, now my plants are lush and healthy, but bear almost no fruit. I know you are at a much higher elevation, so do you think the suspect is lack of sun? I have experimented with 2 different areas with no improvement. I also grow everything in containers, so I’m wondering if that could be part of the problem.

Sonora, California

Actually, here in Minnesota, we are only at 1,500 feet, whereas in Montana, we lived at 7,500 feet. Usually when you have a lack of sun, your plants will get leggy and pale. I’d suspect that maybe you worked in lots of nice rotted manure into your containers; it sounds like the plants got too much nitrogen. That makes lush plants, but no fruit. It’s especially evident on tomatoes and peppers. Usually, if you use the same soil again, the nitrogen level has gone down. You can test your soil with a cheap garden soil test and see if that is, in fact, the case. You do want your plants to receive at least 6 hours of sunlight a day for best growth and production. — Jackie

Canning tuna

I have a friend who goes to Newport, Oregon every year to pick up some tuna to can. I was going through my canning books and was wondering why I cannot find directions for canning tuna, in fact my book says “fish, except tuna.” What do you know about canning tuna?

Shirley Wikstrom
Stevenson, Washington

You don’t have MY canning book! On page 183-184, there are directions on canning tuna. It definitely is possible. Here is one easy way:

Hot pack: Place cleaned tuna pieces that will fit into a large roasting pan in an oven and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. If a meat thermometer is used, the internal temperature of the meat should be 165-170 degrees. Cool and refrigerate meat overnight. Remove skin and lightly scrape flesh to remove blood vessels and dark meat. Cut fish into quarters and remove all bones. Discard all dark meat. Pack tuna into half-pint and pint jars only, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1 Tbsp water or vegetable oil to each half pint jar and 1 tsp salt and 2 Tbsp water or vegetable oil to each pint jar. Remove air bubbles. Process pints and half pints for 100 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure, if necessary. Enjoy your tuna! — Jackie

Getting started with chickens

Can you please tell me what are the steps I need to follow to start my first chickens? I live in eastern Washington state. So it gets very cold in winter and very hot in summer. And what is a good bird for eggs and cooking?

Kennewick, Washington

For an easy primer on chickens, why not pick up the handbook “CHICKENS, A Beginner’s Handbook” available from Backwoods Home Magazine? It’s cheap and will answer all your questions along your path to chicken raising. There are many different dual purpose breeds, which will not only give you plenty of eggs, but are heavy enough to provide lots of meat, too. White Rocks are a real nice breed, and easy to pull the feathers off of too. Check out the handbook, and enter the wonderful world of chicken ownership! — Jackie

Homemade noodles

My husband and I are planning on selling items at a farmers market. He loves to make homemade noodles. We are thinking of drying them by using the dehydrator. Is there any chance of the noodles would not be a good idea to sell. How do we keep them fresh before selling them? Can we put them in ziplock bags or do we need to keep them in the freezer? Can noodles produce bacteria that would cause problems selling them to the public?

Diana Scandridge
Sully, Iowa

I really think I’d skip selling the noodles at your farmers’ market. The reason for this is the eggs in the noodle dough could possibly introduce salmonella into your noodles; hardly likely, but possible. I’ve never heard of a person getting sick from salmonella from eating homemade noodles, but with today’s sue-happy public, it’s best to be cautious. — Jackie

Buggy apples

Just had to tell you how much I appreciate your recipes. I tried the boiled vegetables with the canned pork and Italian dressing and it was a big hit. I used a little more salad dressing than you did but it was really good. I just started this year to can meats and they have turned out really good, but I wasn’t sure on how to fix them. I also canned your beans in mustard sauce and when I was finished with the beans I put the remaining mustard sauce on chicken and baked it and oh was it good. My husband only liked meat and potatoes with salt and pepper so I never was able to try different things and now at 75 I’m learning a new way to cook with different spices and all. Even hot peppers which my son is happy about. So thanks for the inspiration you give everyone. Now I need help with my apple trees. I have fourteen and I can’t get any apples to eat because of the bugs. I tried the red spheres one year and got a lot but still no edible apples. I don’t want to spray with regular spray because then I won’t want to eat them. I thought my neighbor said once he used Fels Naptha soap in a spray. He has since passed and I wondered if you thought this might work. Sure would like to taste some of my apples. Do you have the same problem as far north as you are?

Joan Toothman
New Carlisle, Indiana

Luckily, it’s so cold here that we don’t have a bad apple bug problem. (One of the perks!) Here are a few tips: Keep all area around the trees clear of “apple debris,” fallen branches, fallen apples, etc. Do use the sticky apple spheres, but you’ll need about 3-4 for every larger tree and put them out pretty early; don’t wait until you have apples hanging on the trees…that’s too late. Hang them from the time your tree is budding out, prior to blossom drop. It also helps to hang large sticky yellow traps, which catch immature female apple maggot flies. You CAN eat apples from your trees; in some areas, organic growers just need to fight harder! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Roses in the middle of a Minnesota winter?

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Yep. You see, my son, David, got me three rose bushes for Mother’s Day this year. Unfortunately, they were Zone 5 tea roses and wouldn’t survive here in northern Minnesota, in Zone 3, even with winter mulch. So I planted them in two-gallon nursery pots and they bloomed nicely all summer. I didn’t know what to do, once they went dormant, after freezing weather hit. Maybe I could put them in the dark basement, where it stays about 50 degrees or less all winter? So I carried them down there.

In about a month, I saw little, very pale leaves growing from the stems! Oh oh. Not good. So back upstairs they came, into the greenhouse. I felt sorry for them and started watering them. And now they are blooming! Wow! Rose scent in the whole house. Naturally. Who would have thought? It really perks us all up. Aren’t they gorgeous?

Readers’ Questions:

Canning walnuts

Can walnuts be (dry) canned in jars?

Carole Woodcock
Dora, Missouri

Definitely YES! This year I got a bunch of pound bags really cheap and will be canning them up myself real soon. Canned, they last for years without going rancid. And they’re so easy to can. They say you can water bath can them, but every time I tried, the jars, being full of air, floated! I used to oven can them long time ago, but now I pressure can them to be safer. To do this, toast the walnuts on a cookie sheet in your oven, set at 250 degrees, stirring them to keep them from scorching. Toast until dry but not browned. Pack hot into hot, dry, sterilized jars (pint or half pint), leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Process dry, with NO added liquid, at 5 (FIVE) pounds pressure, for 10 minutes, in a pressure canner. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for instructions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. You’ll love the results! — Jackie

Are hybrids sterile?

I think that Jackie was talking in her last blog about breeding back the Early Cascade to a hybrid. How do you do that? And isn’t a hybrid sterile?

Helena, Montana

NO. Hybrids are definitely NOT sterile! Hybrids will produce plants, but they may or may not resemble the variety from which you saved the seeds. What I do is to plant my Early Cascade hybrid tomato seeds, raise a crop, saving the nicest tomatoes to save seeds from. Then the next year, I plant a small flat of those. I choose the nicest plants, raise them, then select the tomatoes from the plant whose fruit most closely resembles Early Cascade. I save the seed from those, then next year plant again. In the case of my Early Cascades, I got very stable open pollinated Cascades after only three years. Some varieties and crops take longer and more work, but it CAN be done. And I’m no plant biologist! — Jackie

Raising grandchildren and homesteading

Three of my grandchildren have come to live with me. I consider it a great honor to love and raise them, especially since I can now show them the delights of homesteading life. The problem…I am already exhausted all the time, and it’s only January! Since I wasn’t living like this when my own children were young, I need some time-management tips. The answers are probably so obvious that I will be embarrassed when you mention them. But Thinking is part of what shuts down when there is no sleep!

Deborah McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

I think you’ll find that once spring hits, and things get more settled, you’ll also find more energy. I know that works for me. I don’t know how long you’ve had your grandkids, but I do know that each time I adopted new children, the whole family went through a trying and tiring period of adjustment which was, at times, exhausting. Top that off with the mid-winter blahs, which also makes ME tired all the time, and I feel for you wholeheartedly.

My best tips are to try to get into a routine. For instance, kids put their dirty clothes in a basket and put away clean ones, help out with chores, carry firewood, have a time for a movie, reading or working a puzzle together with you. Go for walks, go swimming, pet the goats, cook meals together often. I promise it’ll get better! But also set bounds. You can’t be a parent/grandparent and also a “buddy.” All the best of the best in life! — Jackie

Green tomato pickles

I have a recipe for Green Tomato Pickles, which I inherited from my Mother. In the south, we have lots of Catfish Houses and they serve these pickles with the catfish and hushpuppies.

My son called me late last summer, wanted to know if I had a recipe for the green tomato pickles. I sent him the recipe. My daughter-in-law made the pickles and entered them in the Four States Fair in Texarkana, USA. She won a blue ribbon! Here’s the recipe:

Green Tomato Pickles

6 quarts green tomatoes, cored, cut in half crosswise, then cut each tomato half into quarters. Measure after cutting up.
1 cup red bell pepper, cored, seeds and white membrane removed. Diced or chopped coarsely
1 cup jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed, chopped (wear rubber gloves)
8 cups diced or coarsely chopped onions
3/4 cup pickling salt

6 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 gallon white vinegar

1. Place tomatoes, onions, red bell pepper, jalapeno peppers in a large bowl. (Stainless steel, glass or plastic)
2. sprinkle salt over vegetables, mix lightly with hands. Let sit overnight; drain well.
3. bring to a boil the sugar, mustard and celery seeds and vinegar.
4. Add vegetables to boiling liquid; cook until tomatoes just change color.
5. put into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space remove air bubbles and cap with hot simmered lids. Place in water bath canner, containing boiling water. When water returns to a rolling boil, process pints for 5 minutes and quarts for 10 minutes. Adjust for your altitude.
Makes 13-14 pints.

They are also good with pinto beans, ham and cornbread!

I appreciate you and your help, so much! Although I have canned and kept a huge pantry for many years, it’s so nice to have someone to ask questions of, when I’m not sure about something! One is never too old to learn!

I too, am shocked about the prices of garden seeds this year. You may want to check out one I order some of my seeds from. They carry most of the old standards, but their prices are fair. I order most of my corn and beans from them. It’s Wilhite Seeds in Poolville, Texas. They’ve been around for a long time. They have a website.

Carolyn Barr
Green Forest, Arkansas

Thanks for the recipe! I’m sure I’ll try it. I have ordered seeds from Wilhite Seeds. Unfortunately, they have more 90 day plus varieties that grow wonderfully further south. I’m really lucky to get an 80 day tomato to ripen, even with using my Wall’ o Waters! — Jackie

Canning whole milk

I just love your Growing and Canning Your Own Food Book. I have learned alot and was wondering on the canning of milk. Can I can whole milk that I purchase at the store?

Brenda Wells
Montpelier, Ohio

Yes you can. (Of course we homesteaders think our homegrown, canned milk tastes better…) Just remember that canned milk is really not a milk you’d want to drink. It’s more for cooking and baking. — Jackie

Saving seeds

Happy New Year! I have been looking at the seed catalogs too and have noticed the increase in prices also. Some are not affordable! So how do I begin to save seeds? I have never done that before. I am assuming that you save the seeds when you scoop them out of squash, pumpkins, etc. What about a tomato? Then how do you dry these seeds? Do you let bean and pea pods dry on the vine? Then pop out the seeds? If you can give a novice some direction that would be greatly appreciated.

My husband loves acorn squash but it doesn’t taste well after canning or freezing. Is there a good tasting squash that you are able to can?

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

You know, Cindy, you’ve given me a great idea for an article! Look for in depth information real soon in the magazine. Briefly, you just choose a squash or pumpkin that is ripe, cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, “squish” the seeds out of the strings onto a pie plate or cookie sheet, and put in a warm, dry place. Stir them with your hand every couple of days to prevent molding. When they are very dry, scoop them up and place in a clean jar and keep in a dry place; they’ll keep good for years.

Bean and peas are dried on the vine, like you figured. Keep watching the vines, as they’ll pop out of the pods and fall on the ground when the pods are very dry, before you get to harvest them!

Tomatoes are easy, too. For one or two tomatoes, just let them ripen well, then squish out the seeds onto a piece of wax paper. Again, put in a warm dry place and stir around every couple days to prevent mold and them sticking down.

For more tomatoes, put the jel and seeds in a jar, add warm water and ferment for a couple of days. It helps separate the seeds from the “goo.”

A few great tasting squash for you to try are Delicata, Sunshine, Hopi Pale Grey, and Mayo Blusher (rare, from Native Seeds/SEARCH). They all keep well and are very sweet.

Watch for a seed saving article soon. — Jackie

Growing rice

I love brown rice and was hoping to find seeds for it somewhere. Also any growing tips for it would be much appreciated.

Katrina Ancel
Auburn, Washington

Rice is really not a homestead crop for most folks. You need a specialized wet area and planting/care/harvesting are quite a bit beyond us “regular” folk. Concentrate on more traditional crops. I sell a few veggies and buy those foods I can’t grow handily. — Jackie

Re-canning syrup and BBQ sauce

I was wondering if you can re-can store bought sugar free syrup. What about store bought BBQ sauce?

New Free, Pennsylvania

The sugar-free syrup, not really. However, the BBQ sauce can just be heated, then processed as if you made it up from fresh. Just use the time for BBQ sauce in your canning book (water bathing), which is usually 20 minutes. Be sure you take altitude adjustments into consideration if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet. — Jackie

All-American canner

What are your thoughts on an All-American Canner? We’re looking at a 941

Prescott Valley, Arizona

They’re a good unit. I have one, myself. You’ll be happy with it, I’m sure. — Jackie

Dehydrating lemons

I plan to dehydrate some lemons and then grind them to a powder, as you described in your column once or twice. You mentioned how great this powder is in baking, etc., and I’d love to have one or two of your recipes using the lemon powder, and your advice on how much powder you might use for a recipe calling for, say, 2 cups of flour.

Lene Colbert
Springville, Iowa

I don’t have space for a bunch of recipes here, but I’ll tell you a few things I use the powder in: sugar cookies, white cake (becomes lemon cake!), simple vanilla or tapioca pudding (becomes lemon and a great between-cake-layers filling!), and quick breads (lemon bread) — I also mix a bit with sugar and sprinkle it on top while it’s hot. Tangy! I also use it sprinkled in some salsa, mixed with pepper and salt on sweet corn, in salads, and oh so much more. For cakes and cookies, I use about 1 tsp. You’ll have to taste; you may need more, depending on your taste and the lemons. Remember to scrub the lemons well, as they are often grown in foreign countries and who knows what sprays have been used on them. — Jackie

Hauling water

At one of your earlier homesteads you didn’t have a well and you hauled drinking water from a car wash. What were the best ways to make that work?

Steve near Philadelphia

We hauled water from a water dispenser at a fire hall and also a car wash in Montana. In that area, many ranchers had cattle on ranges that had little or no water and needed to haul water, in bulk. For 25 cents or 50 cents, we got 350 gallons or more of spring water, dispensed from a huge holding tank, via a three inch fire hose hanging down from it. If you think that didn’t gush!

We sometimes also hauled water from one of our friend’s ranches nearby, as his water was from a spring, and it didn’t cost them any electricity to let us fill from his pipe.

We had two large poly water tanks and could use one in the back of our truck to haul the water. One was 300 gallons and the other, 350 gallons. The smaller one was used to haul water from a nearby spring-fed creek in the early summer, to our garden, before our own seasonal spring would start flowing. We have a small, gasoline water pump that will fill a 300 gallon water tank in about 20 minutes. We used either gravity to dump the tank, once we got home, onto our gardens, into our stock tank, or with the potable water, into a buried 400 gallon tank, above our house. From there, a buried water line carried the water to our house, giving us water pressure. So we could have a propane water heater, running water, and even a bath. Not enough pressure for a shower, though.

If I knew then what I do now, I would have hooked up a cheap 12-volt water pump onto our water line and we could have had plenty of water pressure, like we do now. Oh well, you live and (hopefully) learn!

The poly water tanks sure beat the heck out of milk jugs, 5 gallon plastic cans, and garbage cans! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It may be mid winter, but it’s garden planning time here!

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

You may think I’m nuts, but I’m planning my next gardens right now, at -14 degrees, with a foot of snow on the ground. As it’s cool in our greenhouse, I have to start my peppers and petunias in February to have big, sturdy plants to set out in early May. Then a few weeks later, the tomatoes and other plants need to be started. In order to have the best choice of seeds, I have to inventory my own saved seeds, then decide which new varieties I want to choose and most important, WHICH companies offer the best values on the varieties I want. Whew, is that a chore today! Do I get 10 seeds for $2.95 or 25 seeds for $3.49? Oops, one company offers free shipping; the other wants $8.99 for orders of $30. My poor head is swimming! We vowed today to gear even more into open pollinated varieties so we can save even more of our own seeds. Garden seed prices are getting NUTS! Some catalogs are asking $5.99 for a package of 20 tomato seeds. EEEkkkk!

In the past, I’ve saved seeds from most of my crops, then things got hectic with a new place, Bob dying, my cancer scare, building the house, etc. But our New Year’s resolution is to get back on track with seed saving before I have to sell my first-born child to be able to afford a garden! Besides, it’s really a lot of fun to do, too. I have even bred back hybrids to open pollinated in a couple of generations. My greatest success was to breed back Early Cascade tomatoes from hybrid. These wonderfully early, tasty smaller tomatoes always make a crop for me, but have been dropped off the face of the earth by big agri-business. I do have a large pack, and will be saving seed again this year. Wish me luck!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning ham

I was so thrilled when our local grocery store had bone-in hams on sale, and I started canning one of them this week. But the one ham I canned (shank ham) I was disappointed in the appearance after I took the jars from the pressure cooker. I processed them at 11-12 lbs pressure, according to my altitude. The jars were a dark brown, and didn’t look too appetizing. I first baked the ham in the oven with lots of water to make a broth to cover the meat. The turkey that I canned looked better, and not so dark. Am I doing something wrong? Why would it turn so dark brown?

Linda Monfort
Cusick, Washington

The color is probably from the sugars in the smoke cure of the ham. Some of my jars of ham and Canadian bacon get dark brown too, kind of like molasses water…which it sort of is. If the jars are sealed and you followed directions, your ham is fine. When you open a jar, give it a sniff and see if it doesn’t smell mouthwatering! — Jackie

Canning baked beans

I am looking for a recipe to can dried pinto beans so they resemble baked beans.

Jody Imme
Webster, Wisconsin

What I do with my pintos is to rinse them, then put them in a large pot and cover them well with water. Bring them to a boil, then remove from heat and let stand overnight. In the morning, drain and cover again with fresh water. I bring this to a boil, then add chopped ham or bacon and a little tomato sauce or juice, if you wish. I also add chopped onion to mine and a little mild chili powder. Pack hot beans into hot jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp salt to pints and 1 tsp to quarts, if desired. Ladle boiling cooking liquid over beans, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.

This makes a very tasty canned pinto. You can either heat them and use them like you would baked beans or do what I do and mash them and lightly fry them, making refried beans that taste MUCH better than store beans.

If you are looking for a “baked bean” taste, you can use a recipe for canning baked navy beans in your canning book and substitute your pintos; they work just as well. — Jackie

Storing dry goods

I was wondering the best way you would suggest keeping flour, sugar, pasta, and your dry goods for a long time storage.

New Freedom, Pennsylvania

I keep my dry goods in their bag/package, packed in new garbage cans or other airtight, insect, and rodent proof containers, in a dark, cool, dry spot in my basement. This has not failed me yet. If you have a problem with pantry moths, I’d suggest freezing your bags for a few days first to kill any possible eggs present. — Jackie

Raising a dairy calf

The picture of your four steer calves in the snow was great. Are they dairy calves? Did you bottle feed them with goat’s milk? I can buy bull calves (Holsteins) here from dairies for about $10-15 each; they have even been on colostrum for 24 hours in some cases, according to the dairy manager. I haven’t raised one yet, but I’d like to do it in the near future, as young beef steers and heifers are so expensive these days. I have a couple of questions related to this. I’ve heard from several people that trying to bottle raise calves is really a game of chance, since many of them end up getting scours and dying. Have you done the dairy bull calf approach, and did you use goat milk in their bottles? Are calves on goat milk less likely to get scours and die than calves on formula?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

The calves in the picture are Holsteins (one is Holstein/? crossed). We bought them at a few days old from a sale barn, which is a bad idea, especially if you don’t have lots of experience doctoring calves. Luckily I do, as I used to be a veterinary technician and also bought calves like this every week to raise at home. Our calves were started on both goat milk and milk replacer. Yes, goat milk is better, but we didn’t have enough milk so we had to resort to the best milk replacer we could buy; cheap milk replacer makes raising calves very hard!

If you buy calves from a dairy, your chances of success are much greater. We did have a problem with scours in our sale barn calves, but pulled them through with electrolytes, oral boluses, and lots of watchful nursing. (I called myself a “fecal monitor,” as I checked their manure several times a day!)

Tips are: read my calf raising article in BHM, buy only one calf at a time and keep him isolated until he is eating grain and hay. Then, if you want, buy another. If you raise several at a time, you really need to keep them in individual stalls and pens so you can very closely monitor their stool and treat them with electrolytes at the very first sign of diarrhea.

We are already planning on our spring batch of baby calves and sure wish we could buy them as cheaply as you can! Our best deal right now is $50 each at a couple of days old. — Jackie

Chickens eating eggs

In a recent issue I read about a person having problems with their chickens eating eggs…. Yes, a sad problem indeed, but did you know that if you blow out an egg (take a needle and poke a small hole into either end, then blow on one end and catch the egg’s contents coming out from the other in a dish ), then take a syringe (no needle necessary) and put Tabasco sauce in it and shoot it into the egg… Place the egg back in the nest. This has worked wonders for me. Usually 1 or 2 times of that takes care of the problem. (until the next batch of chickens comes along, then just repeat as necessary…)

Kat B. of Idaho

Yes, I’ve done that. Unfortunately, mine didn’t seem to mind the Tabasco sauce; of course they were New Mexican chickens, and maybe they liked it hot. This is definitely a good idea and certainly would be worth a try. — Jackie

Canning broccoli and cauliflower

I am in the process of reducing the amount of food that I freeze. I have been canning more and more of my food. I was wondering, do you grow broccoli and cauliflower and if you do, do you can it? I am not sure if these veggies would work canned.

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

Broccoli turns to nasty mush when it is canned. Because of that I dehydrate it, instead. It dehydrates very easily and is quickly rehydrated for use in casseroles and soups. Cauliflower does can up nicely. It does get a bit strong flavored, so I dump the canning water and heat it in fresh water. I usually use my canned cauliflower in a cheese or white sauce to further “tame” down the cabbagey flavor. Works good! — Jackie

Planting fruit trees in the chicken run

We have a large area that is fenced in for our chicken run. We would like to plant some fruit trees in the run because of our large deer population on our property. I realize that the trees would need to be protected until they are larger. Will the chickens roost in the trees and eat all the fruit when they are full-grown? Also, could you please comment on what size tree could work. We would like to buy semi-dwarf trees.

Deanna Deiters
Marion, Illinois

This is what we have done. We now have a chicken run with plenty of clover, bugs, and sunshine, plus the orchard gets manure. As for the roosting — few heavy domestic chickens will roost in trees, and if they should, simply cutting the long wing feathers short on ONE wing will quickly stop this problem. Same goes for eating the fruit.

We pile rotted compost around our trees and the chickens do dig in that for bugs. But they have never injured the trees. If you had a problem when the trees were young, you can easily fence around each tree with stakes and chicken wire.

A chicken orchard is a great idea! And we feel it will do a lot to help reduce the insect problem in the orchard naturally….and clean up any wormy or fallen fruit. — Jackie

Hole in the middle of the bread loaf

I have been making homemade bread in my gas oven and have used a few different recipes. Each time, it seems there is a “hole” that goes through the middle of the bread and prevents it from slicing without crumbling into a big mess. Do you have any advice on keeping “holes” out of homemade bread?

Leetonia, Ohio

Be sure that you thoroughly knock down your dough for its second rising. A lot of people are too gentle with this process. I whack it down on the breadboard real hard; it loves to be abused this way, which actually reduces gas bubbles which cause holes. Then place it in a warm place after you divide the dough, but DON’T place it in too warm a place; it wants to rise slowly. Bread dough should take about an hour to do its second rising. Too fast and you also may get a hole in the center.

Check your oven’s true temperature with a removable oven thermometer. I had one that said it was 350 degrees; in reality, it was almost 450! A cooler baking temperature and I had no more giant hole in my bread. — Jackie

Canning on a ceramic stovetop

This isn’t a question, but I wanted to share some information with your readers, as I am an avid fan.

I have been successfully canning on a ceramic stovetop with a presto “weighted gauge” canner for a while now. I started canning things after reading many of your articles.

I wanted to share what I have learned about canning on a ceramic stovetop. I have done much reading of the manual that accompany my stove and online sources. I believe the danger is not in the weight of the canner but in the width of the base being wider than the burner. When the width of the canner or any pot for that matter is wider than the burner portion of the ceramic stovetop it can transfer heat back to the stovetop thereby compromising the integrity or cracking it.

I purchased a Presto Canner that specifically stated it was safe for ceramic stovetops…and it has a wide body but the part that touches the burner is smaller…elevating the rest of the body about a quarter of an inch or less.

I have canned several of your recipes successfully including beef stew and a family favorite of ours now, your Chicken Ala King.

I wish I had a question…I have so many when I’m canning, but at this time I just thought I’d share what I have learned.

Aimee Herndon
Eastover, South Carolina

Thanks for the information; I do know that a lot of people can successfully on glass top and ceramic top kitchen ranges. I just pass on the information from the stove companies, regarding canning on them. I’m sure they don’t want to be sued! — Jackie

Butchering chickens

We have butchered some of our chickens and in one of them some of its dung got on the meat, in another I think the liver burst, we immediately washed it off and the meat did not appear tainted, but are these safe to eat?

Also, what is a good chicken to raise for meat, we have raised batches from Murray hatchery their meat bird cross ready to butcher in 9 weeks, but they eat tons and tons, is there a cheaper way or cheaper chickens to raise?

C. G.
Lonoke, Arkansas

Yes, they are. In commercial chicken processing plants, they cool the birds in large vats of cold water. At night, they shovel over a foot of chicken manure out of them, after draining them. These are your nice plastic wrapped chickens at the store! (Yes, they were rinsed well after removal from the cooling vat.) If you cleaned the bird well, everything will be fine.

We have raised and butchered a whole lot of different chickens, from banties to cheap fryers that are lightweight breeds and mixed heavyweights, not to mention our favorites — Cornish cross meat birds. YES, those birds eat like crazy. They have to to be quickly grown to butchering size. But then you’re done feeding. With other breeds, they eat less, weekly, but you keep them longer to raise up to butcher. And they don’t weigh nearly what the Cornish crosses do. What we do to save a buck or two is to switch them to 18% poultry feed at about five weeks of age. This is cheaper and does slow down their growth a little. But it results in less problems with legs or hearts going bad on them, so you end up with more live birds. — Jackie

Storing cocoa

How long will Hershey’s cocoa last, if it has been kept in the original box and kept cool and dry? Also, I have two boneless, fully cooked hams in my freezer, and would like to pressure can them to free up freezer space. Will they can okay, or will they cook to mush when I pressure can them?

Also, I would like to tell you about an okra you could plant in your short growing season, if you like okra! It’s Cajun Delight Hybrid. I have grown it along with Clemson Spineless, and it out-performed
the Clemson Spineless 2 to 1! It’s 52 days, and starts bearing when plants are still quite small. I planted my seeds in 6 packs then set the plants in my garden when the weather allowed.
It did well, even with our late, cold spring weather!

Carolyn Barr
Green Forest, Arkansas

Your cocoa will keep indefinitely under good storage conditions. I opened a container of mine that was 10 years old for the holidays and we enjoyed both fudge and brownies. It was perfectly fine.

Your hams will definitely can up perfectly. I often freeze different meats and poultry that we either hunt, buy on sale, or home butcher, so that I can process them as I have time later on. The results are always fine. Just thaw out your ham, roast it until nearly done, then cut it up and pop it into jars with broth from the cooking. You’ll love the results!

Thanks for the okra tip. I’ll give Cajun Delight a try this summer. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Yeah it’s -25 but the animals are doing great

Monday, January 4th, 2010

In Northern Minnesota, right after Christmas, we generally have our really cold weather, which lasts for about three weeks. We expect, and usually receive, nighttime temperatures of from -25 to -40 degrees, with daytime highs of sub zero. Yeah, it’s cold. We burn lots of wood, feed extra hay and grain, and use more bedding for the animals (and US!). But it keeps out the riffraff! Remember our baby calves we bottle-raised this summer? Well they’re keeping the buck goats company in the goat pasture. They munch on all the hay they want from a big round bale in the pasture, then cuddle in the straw with the goats in the new goat cottage at night.

We feed them mixed grain twice a day and carry fresh water down to them in buckets. But they are rewarding us by growing and growing. Right now the biggest one is about 375 pounds! And the smaller ones are not far behind. We’re already looking forward to having real good beef next winter! And you can be sure we’ll be raising more calves next spring!

I hung blankets over the open doorways to the doe goats’ barn door and also the mule and donkey pen door. This cut down on the drafts in the barn and keeps everybody happily bedded down in straw inside on these cold, starry nights.

Luckily, it’s usually still and quiet when it’s so cold. The stars are huge, the moon clear, and you can hear wolves howl like they’re right in the yard. Spooky but oh-so-wonderful! We really love it here in the backwoods….even if it is -25.

Readers’ Questions:

Reusable canning lids

Have you ever tried tattler reusable canning lids?

IF NOT, would you like to try them? I’d love for someone who knows what they’re doing to actually try them and write them up – good or bad. To give you an idea of how serious I am about this, I’ll purchase for you 3 dozen regular and 3 dozen wide mouth lids. (or 6 dozen of one size).  I’m a city dweller at present and am not yet set up to can, I look at you as the Queen Bee of knowledge in this area.

J T Fowler
Austin, Texas

No, I have not even heard about Tattler reusable canning lids. I checked out the site you provided. Interesting! I then reviewed homesteaders’ comments who had used the product, all of them positive. If you’d like to send me some of the lids and rubbers, I will give them a try and let all of you know my humble opinion. I’m always on the lookout for things I can recycle at home. I’m definitely not a throw-away type of person! It even irks me to buy anything in a glass jar that I can’t reuse for SOMETHING at home! — Jackie

How many jars?

I received your gardening and canning cookbook for Christmas. It looks nice except none of the canning recipes have any info on how many jars of what size the recipe makes.

That’s pretty critical info to me. I need to know how many jars of what size to sterilize, how many flats to wash and warm up, how many canner loads it’s going to take, how much time, etc.

Aromas, California

I didn’t include this information because the total yield can really vary a lot. It depends on the water content of the food, the total bulk, variety of vegetable or fruit, how much “juice” you include, etc. What I do is make a rough estimate on the generous side, and ready enough jars and lids for that. If I’m wrong, I just have a few clean jars and simmered lids, which I dry and later reuse. With a bit of experience, you’ll soon get pretty darned accurate. If the book goes to reprinting, I will try to include an estimate of the yield of each recipe to help. — Jackie

Goat losing its cud and growing potatoes

Two questions: what does it mean that a goat “loses its cud” and what do you do about it? Secondly, my potatoes have already sprouted in the basement-some with very long sprouts. So, having nothing to lose, I put one in a bucket of dirt and will see what it will do through the winter in the house. Are the long white sprouts the roots or the emerging leaves? In other words the sprouts were too long to just drop in the hole so I don’t know if I should let the ends stick out above the dirt or completely bury them.

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

A goat really doesn’t lose its cud. When they are ill or otherwise off feed, they don’t digest properly, and thus don’t burp up a cud to chew normally. When the goat is feeling better, the cud will return as digestion returns to normal.

I’d say your basement was cozy and warm, and probably has some light, too, all which encourage potatoes to sprout. (They think spring is here!) The sprouts are neither leaves or roots. The roots will develop from the base of the sprouts, and leaves from “sprouts” off of the sprouts you see. If you plant sprouted potatoes, it’s best to choose ones that you can completely cover with soil. I do doubt that your house potato will make potatoes for you, but you never know. Good luck and give it plenty of light. — Jackie

Raising hogs

I have two wild hogs I got as babies and they are now about 150 pounds each. Male and female. I am guessing they are at least 6 – 9 months old. My questions are:

1. The female is getting pretty fat but how can I tell if she is pregnant and at what age do they start becoming able to have little ones? When she does do I have to separate her from the male?

2. I have been offered some small pigs from a friend who is having a litter. Can I take them and put them in with these ones I already have? Will the larger ones hurt them?

Jesup, Georgia

Your pigs are pretty young to be ready to have babies. Generally, you don’t breed a gilt until she is about 150-200 pounds, or about 10 months of age. You can begin using a boar at about 8 months of age. Their gestation period is about 113 days. Watch your gilt; if her udders begin filling up and the nipples start sticking out, I’d remove the boar to a pen nearby. Some boars are fine with babies and others will try to eat them.

I wouldn’t move new, baby pigs in with your present two until they are older. And even then, I’d move all of them to a new pen to avoid territorial disputes that could get nasty. With all animal introductions, remain with the pigs after you put them together so that you can separate any aggressive ones. — Jackie

Worming cats and dogs

Another question: How do you worm cats and dogs naturally?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

There are several holistic wormers available for cats and dogs. The most simple is feeding a teaspoon full of diatomaceous earth (FOOD grade!) to your pet daily. Others include wormwood tincture, mixtures of different herbs, pumpkin seed extract, and garlic. While these may help, I’m afraid I’m a skeptic. I’ve heard a whole lot of folks say they worm their animals successfully with herbal remedies, yet not one has ever said they followed with a fecal exam by a vet to make sure the worms WERE gone. Many things reduce the worm population in animals (or people), which is good. But there are many very different species of intestinal parasites with different life cycles. Some require an intermediary host, such as a flea, to complete their cycle. One such is the tapeworm.

What I do is have a fecal examination done when I suspect an animal may have internal parasites. This involves taking a small, fresh sample of the animals stool in to a veterinarian. It is examined under a microscope for the presence of eggs or parasites. There may be several…or no parasites at all. When a parasite or egg is identified, I use the mildest, most effective wormer available for that parasite (or combinations of parasites) found. Often it is important to follow this treatment after a period of ten days or two weeks to kill any parasites that hatch from the eggs present, before they begin to reproduce.

It’s very important to try to help prevent internal parasites. Make sure that there is no chance of fecal contamination of food or water. Even changing a kitty litter box often and not letting your pooch “surf the box” helps a whole lot. Wash your dog’s bed cover in very hot water and detergent at least once a month, more often if it is soiled. Try not to let your dog exercise where other dogs have left their “business.” He could pick up worm eggs from their stools.

To be safest, it’s wise to have a fecal exam done on your dog and cat once a year; it’s not expensive and will do a lot to keep your pets happy and healthy. — Jackie


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