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

Jackie Clay

When everything goes wrong, bake a pie

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Yesterday, Will was clearing an old pile of rotted logging debris out in the brush, up by the mobile home for a farm implement/assorted stuff parking area. We wanted it out of sight as when parked all together, it looked junky when you came into the yard. Things went swell until he was done and was shoving two very large, flat rocks out into the yard for me to use in the future near my fish pond. All of a sudden, the left clutch didn’t work at all. In fact, it took him two hours to get the bulldozer 500 feet and parked in our shop. Giant “OH CRAP!” This winter, he had totally redone the right final drive and clutch pack.

So, today, while he started jacking the dozer up and taking things apart, I baked my “Famous Jackie Apple Pie.” Everyone raves over this simple pie, and I’ll tell you my secret. It’s in the crust. I DO use lard (and only bake one once in awhile!), and when I top off the pie, I rub butter on the crust, then liberally sprinkle brown sugar on it, then sprinkle cinnamon over that. Bake at 350 degrees until done and it is to die for; nice and bubbly, crunchy on top, and oh so pretty.

I also had to admire our ripening tomatoes in the greenhouse! I had raised two plants over winter, in the heated greenhouse/sun room. And late this winter, they started to bloom and now tomatoes are getting ripe. Wow, how fun! Just wait until next winter…

Readers’ Questions:

Pumping water without electricity

I have been reading a lot about EMP (electromagnetic pulse). If this were to happen and all motors were to stop (or anything mechanical), how would I be able to bring our water up from our well. We live in the county in a subdivision on approx 1 acre of land, and have well and septic. Is there a way of hand pumping the water up and out of our 200 foot well.

Meredith Wendt
Rockford, Illinois

Yes, you can install an auxiliary hand pump. There are several brands, from the older deep well pitcher pump, as sold by Lehman’s Hardware. You might also check out Bison Pumps, as they sell a “modern” version for that same application. Good thinking! — Jackie

Bulldozer parts

If you are having trouble with your “Old Yeller” Go to J.D. They have or can direct you to everything you wanted to know or need for older John Deere crawlers. Main man is Lavoy Wilcox. Good luck.

James Bruce
Petersburg, Michigan

Thanks Jim! We’ve already “met” Lavoy and he IS very helpful. Chances are we’ll be talking real soon as Will just blew the bearings in the left final drive and when he took it apart today, even the bull gear was shot. Who knows how long those bearings were partially gone…probably for years! — Jackie

Canning BBQ sauce

The following is our favorite BBQ sauce recipe, can I can this in boiling water bath or does it need to be pressure canned? If so, how long should it be processed?

28 oz ketchup
2 cups water
1 large onion
2 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar

Brown onion in butter, add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil then simmer one hour. Brown meat, pour sauce over and bake at 350 for one hour. This sauce is so good we use it for gravy on mashed potatoes when we have ribs.

Maynard, Arkansas

Well, Debbie, I wouldn’t be afraid to water bath this recipe, as the catsup already has vinegar in it, as well as sugars. I would process it for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner (pints). — Jackie

Canning ham and using the right  grain mill

After baking a ham, we decided to try canning some instead of freezing it as usual. We used instructions in your canning book that said 75 min. for 1/2 pint and pint at 10 lbs. pressure. Should we not have baked the ham as long as we usually do for eating? The resulting meat looked more like beef after canning — very dark. It was very tender and tasted ok, but didn’t taste like ham.

Second, we purchased a little Back to Basics hand grain mill as you recommended. It works great for wheat, although a little slow. Can we use it for corn also or should we buy something specifically for dried corn? We’ve seen a Victoria mill advertised for grinding corn.

Gail Allen
Bessemer City, North Carolina

I often can up the leftover ham/turkey after a large family meal. And, yes, the ham does often darken, due to the seasonings and smoke of each different product. If you want it to taste more “like ham,” either simmer it to warm it thoroughly, cut up into convenient pieces, or bake the ham until only partly done, then quickly cut it up and pack, adding boiling broth to cover before sealing the jars and processing.

I have used my little grain mill to grind corn. Yes, it is a little slow, but then you don’t use much cornmeal at a crack and it’s best to use whole grain fresh cornmeal while it IS fresh, as it can get rancid fairly quickly, compared to processed “store” cornmeal. Like everything, in a grain mill you get what you pay for. I’d sure like one of those great $300 plus mills, but maybe some day. Meanwhile, I’ll keep using my little hand mill. — Jackie

Canning stew meat

I was pressure canning stew meat for the first time today and somehow got it into my fool head that I only needed a 1/2 inch of headspace instead of an inch of headspace for the pints. Needless to say, I knew I was in trouble when the whole kitchen started smelling like delicious roast about 45 minutes in!

I let the jars cool down to lukewarm on the counter and put them in the fridge. All of them pinged and appear to have sealed, but did they seal really? Did I just get lucky? Or should I just open these cans up and freeze what I have and call it a learning experience?

John (or Peggy?) Wilson
Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Chances are that you lucked out. The reason for the full 1″ of headspace in the jars is to allow for any expansion of the food and to make sure the liquid boils around it during processing. As stew meat is cut up in relatively small pieces and there was liquid to start with, and your jars sealed, I’d feel comfortable in putting them in your pantry. As always, check your seals before each and every use — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The potatoes and onions are doing very well in storage

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Generally, our potatoes and onions are looking a little tired by the end of March. You know–sprouts, wrinkles, softening. The whole ball of wax. But not this year! This past winter, we stored all of our potatoes in large plastic totes, with the covers on, and the onions, as usual, in net bags, hanging from the pantry shelves. I think our “luck” came from the fact that this winter we did not heat our basement, where we always have before. It was not warm, warm, but in the 60s. This winter we only ran the propane heater once, when it was -35 and the basement was 35 above…too close to freezing/chilling for comfort. Through the entire winter, but for that cold spell, our basement remained a steady 40 degrees and our potatoes and onions loved it! I also think that having the potatoes in the tubs kept in the natural moisture. I did have to take the lids off a couple of times, as condensation was forming on them and that worried me.

Another tip: my dahlia roots haven’t been keeping as nicely as I’d like. So this fall, I topped off my potato bins with dahlia roots. And they are storing as nicely as the potatoes! Now with the new flower beds and the nice roots, we’ll have great flowers in only a few months. Sigh.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning potatoes

The question I have concerns canning white potatoes. My first attempt resulted in the liquid being absorbed. The book says this is common BUT is it safe to consume? My second attempt was award winning. Is there a secret in type of potato? quality?

Jan Wilde

Generally, nice hard potatoes can up best. If they’ve been all winter in storage and are getting a little soft, they sometimes do this. I think it’s because they’ve started to dehydrate during storage. Yes, they’re safe to eat because the liquid IS in the jars during processing; it’s absorbed as the pressure returns to zero. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

A bulldozer is a wonderful thing…when it doesn’t break down

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

The weather was great over the weekend, so Will fired up Old Yeller, our trusty crawler, and went to play in the dirt. Our spring catchment basin had turned out great last year, both for wildlife watering and for watering our gardens and orchard. So, as we had the room (old gravel pit), we decided to double the size, then have our friend, Dale Rinne, come over with his backhoe and dig it deeper, too. In preparation for Dale’s work, Will had cleared the area north of the existing basin, so Saturday, he set about to scrape and dig as much of the gravel away from the area as he could.

Our culvert, which is the overflow to the pond, is still frozen, so the water level is quite high right now. But Will wanted it all ready for Dale, and we knew the culvert would thaw soon. All went great until “POP” a rock got in the track and dumped it in a pile next to the dozer!

Now a 1010 track weighs about 500 pounds, and will pinch your fingers off in a heartbeat if you aren’t careful…and sometimes even if you ARE careful. As the track tensioner is powered by grease, you open a relief screw and the grease is supposed to squirt out, releasing the tension, making the track much easier to fit back on. But it was stuck! Even shoving against it with the tractor bucket wouldn’t work. To make a long story short, David, Will, and I worked for nearly 6 hours on it, when it FINALLY broke loose, shooting the grease in a heap under the dozer. We got the track back on and in a few minutes, Old Yeller was back in working order. But it was nearly dark. Oh well, another day. So today, Will went back, leveled off the temporary bank, and tidied up the surrounding area to wait for Dale.

When we finish digging out the pond, we plan on naturalizing the whole area, complete with wild fruiting trees like elderberry and mountain ash, wild flowers, and clover for the deer. The southern edge will have a gentle slope so the birds can bathe and frogs can sit in the sun. We’ll put in a small dock on the east side so we can station our water pump for the gardens. It’s going to be a thing of beauty, as well as function. Much better than an old, overgrown, rock-strewn gravel pit! (Oh yes, we will be using those piles of large rocks for a foundation wall on the sloping south side of the house, as well as retaining walls and other projects. Waste not, want not!)

Readers’ Questions:

Bulk canning lids, freezing celery, and chicken litter

A response and two questions: When looking for bulk canning lids, it doesn’t hurt to ask if a local retailer will give you a price break for buying in bulk. I asked at our hardware store last year and bought a case for $.20 less per dozen than the individual price. I wasn’t able to find any deals online since you always have to pay shipping and the lids are heavy.

I’m enjoying reading your new canning book. I was a little disappointed to discover it doesn’t have an index, but it’s been pretty easy to find things in it since it is in alphabetical order. I’m going to try growing celery for the first time this year. Can you blanch and freeze celery? I can’t imagine I’d use that much at a time that I’d want to can it, but if I could freeze it like I do with green peppers, I could add just a little bit to a recipe when I need it.

Also, last year I tried to save some money by getting wood shavings from a local lumberyard to use as chicken litter. It was cheaper than the bagged wood shavings, but the pieces were much smaller and seemed to pack down and get wet much faster than the commercial shavings. I also worried about using small pieces when brooding chicks, so I waited until they were older. Do you buy the commercial shavings, use your own wood chips, or have another idea to save some money on chicken litter?

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

Yes, that’s a good idea, asking your local merchant. I’ve done that with success, also saving about a quarter a box, buying a case, which was special ordered before canning season.

Yes, you can blanch and freeze celery. It works very nicely. I can up a whole lot, too. I put it in both pints (for stews and cream of celery soup) and half pints, to use in casseroles, stuffing, etc. I do use a lot!

Sometimes I’ve bought commercial wood shavings for poultry bedding, but I also use a lot of our own chips, made with our little chipper. I only use chips for the chickens made from dry branches and small dead trees, however, as the green chips don’t absorb enough moisture. Baby chicks will eat sawdust bedding and sawdust is often pretty dusty for an enclosed winter coop, so I don’t use that. — Jackie

Need recipe for hot pickled sausage

Have any recipes to pickle hot sausage?

Centerview, Missouri

Honestly, Ron, I’ve never pickled hot sausage. Any readers out there with great recipes for Ron? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

With unseasonable springtime weather, we’re hard at work

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

We’ve had sunny weather in the 50s and even a 60 or two. So we have this huge case of spring fever. (MUST dig! Must dig!!!) Will had finished his “new” furrower/breaking plow, built of scrap and a neighbor’s thrown-out old horse plow. All that was left of the plow was the share and moldboard; the wood had rotted away years ago. But after tinkering and welding for a few days, we have a heavy-duty, neat plow. So yesterday, Will asked me where he could try it out. (I had tried it out the day before down in the area that is to be our horse-training ring.) We’d been talking about removing the gravel and rock from two flower bed areas by the house garden and replacing it with good rotted compost, so I pointed to those spots.

A grin lit up Will’s face and he climbed up on the tractor. After first seeing the plow did (indeed plow), he made several furrows, then turned around and scooped the rock and gravel out of the beds. He put this “waste” on our driveway, in front of the house and the house garden, filling in several low spots and adding a foot of new gravel over our water line. Now, not only do we have new beds, waiting for compost, but our driveway looks so nice and level!

Today, Will started bulldozing down by our spring catchment basin and I hauled many tractor bucket loads of sandy loam from down there, up to level out the spot in our berry patch where our new strawberries and asparagus will go. We were very happy to note that the soil there is already rich and black from all that composted manure we put on last year! Wow. The frost is going, so I should be able to till very soon. Hurray!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning salsa

Thanks for your advice on the pressure canning. I think I was guesstimating too much on headspace, so I got out a ruler and also processed just a little above 10lb pressure and they all came out perfectly!! Thank you. I got your canning book and loving it. I have one question: salsa…I love fresh salsa with just tomato, garlic, lime juice, onion, jalapeno, and lots of cilantro. I’d love to can this, but having a hard time finding recipes without bell pepper and vinegar and from what I’ve read, I don’t want to play with this recipe too much since it combines acid/low-acid foods. My kids & husband requested that I not give them botulism. :) Could I pressure can it or use just bottled lemon or lime juice in place of the vinegar and water bath can it? My ten year old daughter said, “You’d better ask Jackie Clay- she knows everything!”

Manor, Texas

Ha! Ha! Tell your daughter to ask MY kids if I know everything! You can substitute jalapenos for bell peppers, or just leave them out. Yes, you can also substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, but I, personally, like the vinegar-salsa better than the lemon one, but try them both and see what you folks like best. You CAN pressure can the salsa, but I prefer it water bathed as the tomatoes get more “mushy” in the pressure canner. I like my canned salsa more like fresh…with the chunks and texture. — Jackie

Wounded turkey

I’m having a “what would Jackie do?” moment. Just noticed my mama turkey was limping. On further inspection, discovered something seems to have torn at her side–she has a good sized open wound under her wing. I really don’t have a clue of what to do for her. She seems ok, considering. She is eating and her fresh droppings looked ok. I suppose I will put her down if she seems to be going downhill. I have a hard time getting a goat vet around here, let alone a poultry one. She had been laying eggs as of late. I left her some and put some in the chicken coop for a hen to hopefully set on, in case she doesn’t make it. If this isn’t too vague, I was wondering what your thoughts were.

Rena Erickson
Easley, South Carolina

I’d guess that your turkey will probably be okay. I had a hen turkey, back in Montana, that was attacked by a coyote. Luckily, our milk cow attacked the coyote and he dropped the turkey to save his life. But when I brought the turkey home, she had a huge, gaping hole in her side. I figured she was a goner, but she was a pet, so I sprayed antibiotic powder on the wound and brought her into the goat barn to (hopefully) heal. She did great and in a month, you couldn’t even see where the wound had been. I hope your turkey does the same! — Jackie

Strawberries and keeping chickens out of raised beds

Sorry to hear about your mom going to a nursing home but based on personal experience you need to take care of yourself too. Chest pains are not to be taken lightly!!

Isn’t this unexpected warmer weather just wonderful? I read you are going to plant 250 strawberry plants. May I ask what are you going to do with that many berries? I only know about freezing them and making jam. Suggestions? I know what I would do if I had your 100 asparagus plants! Yum yum.

We are thinking about putting in some raised beds or small beds around the house of flowers and veggies. We will have to fence some of them since we have free range chickens. What do you put between your raised beds so that it isn’t so muddy? Actually our “lawn” isn’t good. Hubby wants more grass and I want something more useful! Any suggestions?

Thank you so much for sharing. I love looking at your plants! They look so good.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

I’m HOPING I’ll have so many strawberries I’ll have to think up ways to use them all! I’ll be making jam, preserves, and marmalade, of course, then dehydrating a whole bunch to use in various baking and other recipes. I’ll also can up the remainder. True, canned strawberries don’t look as nice as frozen ones do, but they sure taste great! I’m sure I’ll also be sharing them with family and friends, as well. We have grass along our raised flower beds in the front yard (which also are a home to various herbs, peppers, and tomatoes, too). In the house garden, we opted for wood chips, made from left-over prunings and small trees removed from the garden and pasture. The chips need to be renewed every few years as they compost themselves, but it’s not a big chore as we always have new chips from various projects. We’re really happy with our seedling plants this year. Last year we had horrible luck, using Miracle Gro; won’t make that mistake again. Lots of gardeners are telling me the same thing, so it wasn’t just us! — Jackie

Bulk canning lids

Hi Jackie. LOVE your blog and your articles in BHM. You have been a wealth of information for me. Thank you. Just wanted to give you a source for bulk canning lids. Check out the Lehmans catalog or They have both regular and wide mouth lids in bulk.

Janice Donaway
Bloxom, Virginia

Thanks for the tip. However, NO sources of bulk lids come close to beating the prices I get locally, unfortunately. It seems that SOMEWHERE you could buy a case of, say, regular lids for less than the $1.00 a dozen that I get at the local dollar store! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

After three days of a family cold, we’re back at it again

Monday, March 15th, 2010

All three of us came down with a “spring cold” at the same time. Will and I had  severe headaches and the blahs, while David had the headache along with a sore throat, fever, and runny nose/cough. For three days, we barely limped along, but today all of us woke up feeling much better. David’s fever was gone too, and he felt great. And it sure helped that the sun was out after a week of rainy, cloudy yuck. It was over 60 degrees, too! Wow! Talk about your perfect spring day.

So we started in on projects. David and Will began working on the furrower, cutting and welding bracing, drilling holes for bolts and grinding rough edges. I rolled oil sealer on the 2″x6″s for the back board of the hay rack. And, later, working all together, we assembled the back board and actually FINISHED the hay wagon! Wow, it looks great. And it didn’t cost one penny, either. The screws and bolts were salvaged from the dump. The 2″x6″s were salvaged from the nasty old mobile home that is now almost a bridge. The tires were also salvaged. What a neat makeover!

While I did chores and made supper, Will and David worked on repairing the back blade on our tractor, which had cracked and broken from hitting rocks in our driveway and stumps in the pasture. (Now where would they have been?) Unfortunately, when you use equipment, you also break it, so we spend time, here and there, fixing stuff to use again in the future. Only if you don’t work, you don’t break things; the mantra of the homesteader in the backwoods!

Readers’ Questions:

Elderberry extract

Question: Elderberry Extract — July/Aug 2009 Page 64… #1. Says to weigh out berries and put in jar. #2. Fill jar with 80 proof Vodka. Quote: “This means liquid will be 40% alcohol & 60% water.” O.K. If I FILL the jar with vodka, then, where does the 40/60 ratio come in? I’m confused…please help me out here. I don’t want to waste the berries by doing something wrong. Would it be different if I used Everclear instead?…


The simplest way to make elderberry extract is to put 1/4 lb of dried elderberries in a quart jar, then fill it up with vodka. Let it sit, capped, in a cool, dark place for about a month. Strain off the berries, and you have elderberry extract. Use 1 tsp four or five times daily for illnesses such as the flu. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring on the homestead continues

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Strangely, suddenly, it’s spring, even though it’s only March in northern Minnesota. I’m sure we’ll have more snow and blustery weather, but it’s in the high 40s, not 20s, and nearly all our snow and ice is gone. So while I’ve been in the house transplanting hundreds of little (and not so little!) tomatoes, peppers, and petunias, Will has been busy outside.

Today he uncovered our strawberry bed, taking the wet straw down to the garden’s edge, piling it near the plum and cherry trees. After we clean up the rocks, we’ll use the used mulch that kept the strawberries cozy all winter around the base of the trees to keep down weeds. Now he’s busy building a furrower out of a junk plow from a neighbor’s scrap pile, some steel, and rod. The furrower will go on our tractor’s 3-point hitch so we can quickly make furrows for our new 250 strawberry and 100 asparagus plants. That would be a lot of holes to dig by hand, and a furrow would make quick work of it. We’re excited over the prospect, and I’ll keep you posted.

Readers’ Questions:

Deer Fencing

I hope you are getting some much needed rest. Taking care of an ill loved one is challenging and exhausting. I am a nurse who worked in a nursing home and understand your concerns about placing your mom in a facility and not continuing to care for her at home. Life is a challenge and my heart goes out to you.

My question concerns deer fencing. I know you installed it at your homestead. We are moving to our 40 acres in Appalachia and I would like to put the fence up right the first time. Did you use wood posts or purchase metal posts? We are ordering the heavy duty deer fencing on the internet. Do you have a company you would recommend? Did you attach the fencing to the posts with the ties they recommend? Did you electrify it with a solar unit? Are your fences 8 ft. high? And did you put chicken wire underground to deter dirt-digging rodents? Finally, what did you use for a gate? Did you build one or buy one?

Deb Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

We used 8′ long steel T posts with 6′ 2″x4″ welded wire fastened to it. We figured that IF the deer jumped that, we’d wire poles to that, with chicken wire up another three feet. It has never been necessary, as we’ve not had one deer in the garden, even though we have tons of deer in the area. Oh, yes, I did; I left the gate open one afternoon, and in went a young doe! She went OUT much faster!

Our fence is not electrified. And we did not put wire underground. I deter rodents with our dog, Spencer, and a .22 rifle. Both work very well.

Right now, our “gates” consist of wire that we pull open and hook closed. We will be building pole and wire gates this year that are both easier to handle, and look much nicer.

I’ve found that deer really aren’t as bad as one hears, providing that the garden/orchard are fenced well with “real” fence, instead of “alternative methods” of deer control, such as sprays, short fences, electric wire, etc. I’ve used ’em all and still had deer in the garden. Once we fenced with 6′ high welded wire, that was that and life is SO much easier! — Jackie

Dehydrating cooked rice

I’m experimenting with dehydrating cooked rice. I’ve never heard of making your own “converted” rice, but it seems to be working. I cooked a batch of Jasmine rice, rinsed it well in cool water, drained it and put it on dehydrator sheets. Have you ever tried doing this or heard of a recipe?

Also, a question about canned salmon: do you have to boil it for 10 minutes (or more) when it’s prepared according to the recipe in “Self-Reliance,” page 80? I’ve wondered also about home canned meats that are baked, do they need boiling first before using in a recipe?

I’m considering trying to dry cheese, just to see how well it would work for something like a camping trip–I understand the fat would make it turn rancid over a long period.

Flora Marie Stone
Greenfield, Indiana

Yes, you can dehydrate cooked rice, just like you are doing.

Home canned foods just need to be brought and held to “boiling temperature” for 10 minutes before eating. This can be boiling, steaming, roasting, or baking in a casserole, etc.

I’ve never talked to anyone who had luck dehydrating cheese at home; the fat beads the shreads and they get greasy, then go rancid. I’ve tried it myself, with yucky results. Sorry. I DO love my cheeses! — Jackie

Canning chicken noodle soup and milk

These two questions are about canning. I tried canning chicken noodle soup the other day and added a half a handful of noodles as it said in your book. But when they came out they were weird… the noodles were a semi-solid blob of mush at the bottom of the jar. The whole jars are cloudy and murky looking with mush at the bottom. What did I do wrong?

The other question is about canning milk. It’s been a year now since I first tried it, but it was a disaster, so I’ve not tried it again. I canned quart jars in a water bath canner. When they came out, all the lids appeared to be sealed, and I packed them away in the pantry. Within a month or so, I noticed them looking curdled, and had seen where you said canned milk would be thicker, so thought maybe they were ok and left them, but then they curdled all the way, and as they spoiled, the jars came unsealed! Ended up with a clear liquid on top with a mass of what looked like cottage cheese on the bottom. What went wrong here?

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

Some noodles do that. I’d advise using the thicker “homemade-type” ones, instead of regular store noodles. But even the “yucky” looking noodles, when stirred up gently, make a tasty soup.

Not having been with you when you canned your milk, I don’t know what went wrong, but a lot of people routinely can up milk and have it turn out fine. I’d just give it another try, following directions. Who knows, you may have mis-read them or something. That happens to all of us one time or another. — Jackie

Bulk canning lids

Do you know of a good source for buying bulk canning lids?

Dorris, California

Unfortunately, no. I buy mine at our local dollar store for $1.00 a dozen (regular lids), and our local farm store on sale, for the wide mouth lids. I usually get the wide mouth lids for about $1.89 a dozen, which is cheaper than most other places. But I DO watch for the sale! Any readers have a better idea? — Jackie

Antibiotics for the first aid kit

…I was wondering about what we can use for antibiotics for our first aid kit that we have been making. If a situation happens, and one is unable to see a doctor, can one use animal antibiotics and if so how do you determine the dose?

Meredith Wendt
Rockford, Illinois

I’ll probably get hate mail for this, but yes, in a dire emergency, one can use “animal” antibiotics, such as penicillin, for human use. Most “animal” antibiotics are simply “human” antibiotics with a veterinary label. As dosage for animal use varies by body weight, so you would choose your dose for human use, by body weight. Again, only use this in a dire emergency situation, where no doctor is available. It’s also a good idea to have a vial of injectable epinephrine available, in case of rare, but possibly fatal, shock. — Jackie

Storing pecans

I have 12 pecan trees on my property and most years I get more pecans than I need. I crack and shell as much as I can and put them in the freezer where they will keep for a long time. But what about unshelled pecans? Can they be kept for a long time? I don’t want to put them in the freezer. Where should they be kept and how long will they keep?

Tom Hutyra
West, Texas

Unshelled nuts will usually keep for several months in cool, dry storage. But they won’t keep a long time before the nut meat shrivels and gets hard. How about doing your big batch, then slowly pecking away at the leftovers and canning them up? My friend Junita Saunders, down in New Mexico, and I used to get together and shell and can pecans all winter. It was fun, we weren’t “under the gun” to get ’em done, and we got to visit a whole bunch. I’m still eating pecans from six years back! — Jackie

Canning pork and beans with franks

Can you, and if so, how do you can pork and beans with franks?

Also, I loved your book Starting Over, it gives me a boost whenever I start feeling like quitting my dream. Is there anywhere that a good overall supply list for equipment and supplies to help me start preparing a homestead of my own in South Georgia or North Florida?

Bo Suddueth
Jacksonville, Florida

It’s easy. Just make up a big batch of your favorite pork and beans, using chopped franks as the “pork.” Don’t bake it till done, just until thoroughly hot. Then pack it in pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes in a pressure canner. (If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, check your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.)

Two handy, all around catalogs for equipment/supplies are Lehmans Hardware and Northern Tool. I also love Murray McMurray for poultry stuff and Hoeggers for goat supplies. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Homestead doings and Mom

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Thank all of you for your prayers and good wishes for Mom and us too. She is doing a little better, but I had to place her in a nursing home Friday. She just got so weak that I couldn’t handle getting her up, dressing, toileting, etc. She is also very fuzzy mentally, and I was getting high blood pressure and chest pains from the worry and stress of being up nights. It was a very, very hard decision for me. I’m hoping that she will get a little better and be able to come home from time to time to enjoy her flowers and the homestead.

Will has been working on our haying equipment. He finished repairing the wheel rake we got with our old New Holland baler and now has the hay wagon back in the shop, cutting the 2x6s (that we saved from that old mobile home), painting them with oil preservative and getting ready to screw them down to the frame. It’s looking very nice!

Meanwhile, I’m transplanting baby plants in the greenhouse. Since we will plant them out in the garden in late April in Wall o’ Water plant protectors, I start my pepper and tomato seeds earlier than I would if I were setting them out after our last spring frost date…June 16th! This year our plants look great. And so far, I’ve spent two days potting peppers, tomatoes, and petunias into 20 oz. styrofoam cups, with holes poked in the bottom. This lets us only transplant once, planting in the garden directly out of the cups. I reuse the cups and the plants seem to love them. Gee! I’m running out of “sunny windows.”

But boy do those plants look fantastic. And today it was 52 degrees. Our snow is going fast; I wish the MUD was too. I’m getting anxious to at least walk in the garden. And also to see how the orchard trees are doing. Maybe tomorrow after I run in to see Mom.

Readers’ Questions:

Tiny eggs

We have 14 hens of all different breeds. We are getting about a dozen eggs a day right now. The hens will be a year in May. We have 6 hens that I believe are Hamburg Chickens. My question is, we are getting two very tiny eggs from this breed. They are not laying daily, but when they do there is no yolk in these eggs and they are very very tiny, Will these eggs get bigger? So far its been a month and the eggs are NOT getting bigger.

Kinsey, Montana

These no yolk eggs are most often found in pullets who are just beginning to lay. But they can occur in any hen, regardless of age or breed. They are simply a “warp” in the hen’s reproductive process and are nothing to be concerned about. — Jackie

Preserving meat with salt

I would like to know about preserving meat by salting it. Is it safe with any kind of meat? Is there a special kind of salt that you use? How is the meat generally prepared afterwards? How long does it generally take to dry the meat…and how long will it generally last once it is dried?

Joy Goepfert
Alba, Missouri

Although people long ago did preserve meat and fish by salting it down, I don’t recommend it today. First of all, the food, even when soaked to de-salt it before eating, remains very salty. This is just not good for us. Then, there is no way of knowing if the meat is sufficiently salted so that it (or parts of it) doesn’t spoil. My own grandmother salted down Montana whitefish when a flood left them high and dry in their pasture. She worked hard for 24 hours, cleaning and salting down all those fish. And every one spoiled on her! Better to can that meat, rather than salt it. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Mom’s not doing well, but my plants are cheering us up

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging like usual, but Mom’s having a bad time lately. She’s having symptoms of a bladder infection (again), such as hallucinating at night, being confused and disoriented. But so far, nothing showed up on a UA at the lab. So more tests, more worried nights. And she is getting weaker all the time. I’ve not had much sleep and days have been a whirl. But in the greenhouse, our little plants are growing, thriving, and trying to keep us sane through everything. Pretty soon, I’ll have to transplant my first peppers. How exciting!

Last year, we used Miracle Gro potting soil to start the seeds and boy was that a bust! My friend, Jeri, did too and her seeds had poor germination and just didn’t grow at all, just like mine. This year, I bought professional seed starting mix from our local greenhouse and it’s made all the difference in the world. I’ve made my own seed starting soil in the past, but lately I just haven’t had the time. It’s made from good garden soil, well-rotted compost, vermiculite, and perlite. You bake the soil and compost to kill weed seeds and any pathogens present, then mix everything to lighten the soil. It works well and I hope to do it again soon. But for now, our plants are great and I can’t wait to get in the garden!

Readers’ Questions:

Bay leaves to deter moths

I am preparing a 12 month storage area in my home. I have read that bay leaves can be placed in grain to deter moths. Can bay leaves also be used in flour?

Jean Ann Wenger
Fairbury, Illinois

Yes. Place a few on top of your flour, inside its container, for best results. Don’t mix it up IN the flour. And make sure the container you choose is airtight, rodent proof, and moisture proof. — Jackie

Canning sandwich spread

I make a sandwich spread that of course contains mayonnaise. If I made a large batch of it could it be canned?

Tammie Stiltner
Vancouver, Washington

No. There is no current information on safe canning of mayonnaise or salad dressing. — Jackie

Salsa using canned tomatoes

Do you have a salsa recipe using canned tomatoes? Would I be able to can it?

I have gotten a lot of flack about canning salsa from already canned tomatoes – “not safe,” “will be mush.”

Alison Martin
Waretown, New Jersey

You can use any salsa recipe to use your already canned tomatoes. But it will be less chunky than fresh tomato salsa as tomatoes cook down quickly. It will be safe and tasty, though. — Jackie

Perennial vegetable bed

I talked to you on here before about a gas stove that wouldn’t go down low enough to let me pressure can. Just wanted to let you know we had a guy come and fix it, and now it works wonderful!

I recently ordered some garlic, walking (potato) onions, and horseradish from members of Seedsavers Exchange, and I was wondering about a perennial vegetable bed. I was thinking I would plant these all together, and was wondering if you had any advice on making a perennial garden bed. I’m concerned about it being taken over by weeds. Since all these items would need to be regularly dug up, my normal answer to weeds, semi-permanent mulch like black plastic, won’t work here.

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

I really don’t think I’d plant these together, if it were me. You’ll be digging the garlic and horseradish at different times, in all likelihood, and the walking onions at another time, if you do (you often just use the top bulbs). Horseradish has a way of taking over a garden, so I’d advise against putting it in at all. Put your horseradish far away from your garden and flower beds and you’ll be much happier! My friend, Jeri, now has horseradish in her flowers, rhubarb rows, and along her greenhouse, from a small planting on one end of her flower bed.

The walking onions and garlic could go together in the same bed, but in separate areas for ease of harvest. — Jackie

Goats hair falling out

I have a six year old Nubian doe, about twice a year all of her hair falls out. It isn’t lice or fleas. And it doesn’t ever affect our other goat that is penned with her. Someone said to try brewer yeast in her feed, didn’t help. Someone else said she must be Vitamin A deficient, that didn’t help either. They have a mineral block, get grass alfalfa hay, and a handful of three way grain daily. Neither doe has been bred in several years. When her hair falls out, I mean all of it. Not just patches. And sometimes its in the winter here in Montana so we have to set up heat lamps for her. Any ideas?

Terri Ogle
Kalispell, Montana

Our wether, Oreo, does the same thing. It’s kind of shocking, but the best I can figure out is that it is his body’s way of changing hair coats from winter to spring and vice versa. You might consider making a goat coat for her, similar to a horse blanket, to save on electricity from those heat lamps. — Jackie

Canning on a propane turkey cooker

We have recently moved into a house that has a glass top stove. After watching the stove cook for a while, I have decided that I will need to come up with an alternative way to can. I know you have talked about propane stoves. I have a propane turkey cooker, would that work?

Cindy Adams
Florence, Alabama

I’ve never had or seen a turkey cooker in action, but anything that is sturdy enough to support a full canner and produces sufficient heat should do the job. Any readers have any thoughts here? I’m sure someone has a turkey cooker and could give Cindy some help. — Jackie

Canning pork loin

I canned pork loin on two different occasions months apart using the same instructions for raw pack loin with water. In the first batch the water is clear with no color. In the second batch the water has kind of a brothy color to it. It is still transparent just with a little tint. I’m wondering if the color difference could be due to different brands of pork or different solutions used when packaged back at the plant. I bought the loin at the same store just a few months apart. Should I be concerned with the difference?

Also, I wanted to let you know that we finally bought some chicks and I’ve been following the instructions in the Chickens: A beginner’s handbook. So far everything is going well. I look forward to gathering eggs late in the summer.

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

I wouldn’t worry about the color, provided you followed instructions and the jars are sealed. You’re right; it may be a different pork loin solution or even packing process. Some are packed with a mild brine to keep it moist; others are not. Enjoy it and have fun with your new chickens! — Jackie


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