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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for March, 2011

Jackie Clay

Will made his last trip over the creek; it’s flowing under the ice bridge

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

As spring progresses here in the Northwoods, Will made his last voyage over the snow-packed ice bridge, over the creek to the ash flats on the other side of the beaver pond. He brought back another huge load of that wonderful hard dead ash firewood with the dozer and our $75 firewood dray. But after he crossed the creek that morning, the weather warmed up and when he brought the wood home, the ice bridge over the creek had sunk down considerably in the center! Oh oh! So he throttled it to full and said a few prayers. Luckily, the sled pulled across the creek without trouble. But he decided not to tempt fate by hauling more. We already have more than enough for next winter, and that wood will still be there.

Meanwhile, I’ve been writing and transplanting the first of my pepper plants into styrofoam cups. They are the nicest peppers we’ve ever grown. And the tomatoes aren’t far behind. They like our warm, sunny greenhouse windows and the lights we have over them. I can’t wait to get them out into the garden. I can actually SEE some spots of garden out there. Dirt! Yeah! Dirt. It’s so great. Sigh. I’m dirt-deprived! Happy spring!

Readers’ Questions:

Ants and bees

…I live in deep east Texas, and ants are prolific here. Every year, my stepfather has ants in his okra, and this year, I already have ants in my own garden. I don’t want to put any chemicals in the garden, as I’d prefer to keep the soil as natural and chemical-free as humanly possible. Is there any way to eradicate them from my garden, safely and preferably, naturally?

Also, can you offer any advice on beekeeping? I’m not sure where or how to find a reliable source for bees, and have no idea how to get started.

Toni McDonald
Jasper, Texas

Are you talking about fire ants or other species? Fire ants are often well controlled by pouring boiling water into their mounds. Other ant controls include diatomaceous earth sprinkled as a boundary to the garden area, dry grits as a bait (must remain dry), and spinosad bait, sold as Green Light and others. Ants can be frustrating; good luck!

Bees are fun to raise. I’ve had them and enjoyed taking care of them, and, of course, all that honey! Will is terribly allergic to bee stings, so we aren’t keeping bees now, but hope his allergy is getting better, as it seems to be. (He had to carry an epi-pen and head for the ER, it was so bad!) Why don’t you talk to local hobbyist beekeepers; they’re usually more than happy to share their interest and help you get started. Also, there is a very good beekeeping article by Charles Sanders in the BHM 15th year anthology that might help you get started. It’s not rocket science, and you should do well. — Jackie

Canning tea concentrate

I recently got a fantastic deal on boxes of herbal tea. (they were free!) I would like to can them up as a concentrate as I’m not a big one cup at a time tea drinker but I plow thru iced tea in the summer. Some of the boxes were open as the person tried a couple to sample each box, so I’d like to get it in jars to preserve as much of the flavor as I can before it fades. (they came from a trusted friend so I’m ok with them being opened.) My problem is I cant find anything on canning tea concentrate. Any ideas?

Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania

Personally, I’d just pack your tea bags in glass gallon jugs with a sealed lid. They will stay fine for years. Then when you want iced tea, just make up a gallon at a time, by using several bags in a gallon of water. You’ll have plenty of tea without having to make the cup of tea at a time thing. Lucky you! Great score. — Jackie

What kind of generator?

Your place is gorgeous. Sure enjoyed the photos and congrats on finding love. It is a precious thing!

We are on the grid here on our parcel of land, but would like to have a generator for back up. I have no idea how to go about choosing one. Can you recommend what to look for? Propane or gas? Brands/features? I was thinking to buy a portable one, since the price is so much less and we won’t be using it as the primary power source.

Manor, Texas

We love our house, too and feel so blessed to not only have the great house we’ve worked so hard on, but a wonderful relationship.

For a backup generator that won’t break the budget, I’d get a large enough gas generator to run your well and necessary appliances: freezer, furnace blower, etc. Usually you can easily get by with a 5,000 watt model. I would strongly recommend one with a Honda engine, as I’ve had others (Briggs, Tecumseh) that didn’t hold up nearly as well and were only a little cheaper to buy. Be sure to have a switch to be able to switch off the main power line so you don’t kill workers trying to fix your power outage! — Jackie

Food-grade storage buckets

I have been searching online and various places about storage buckets and am confused with all the back and forth information I am finding. I have seen buckets at the Home Depot. (the orange ones) On the bottom of the buckets it has the number 2 with arrows going around it. I is my understanding this is food grade but when I search it online to see if it is I find information that says you can use them and then other sights that say steer clear. Do you know if they can be used for long term storage? They are more in my budget then most I have found. Also what about the tops that can be purchased with them?

Elizabeth Welcher
Indianapolis, Indiana

I talked to a man in the plastics industry and he said that the number 2 with the arrows is a recycling mark and indicates that the plastic in the bucket is HDPE, which is the same plastic they use in milk jugs. He also said there aren’t any larger (3 and 5-gallon buckets) that are not food grade plastic. Same with the tops. I buy my buckets at Wal-mart and Super One bakery departments for $1 each, with gasketed lids. It’s cheaper still than Home Depot buckets! And we KNOW they’re food grade, too. — Jackie

Canning leftover soup

Many years ago my Grandmother taught me to save all leftovers and freeze them in freezer bags to make soup out of at a later date. These bags of “leftovers” make the best soup ever.

Do you think I could can the “leftover bags” even tho’ the meat and veg’s have been cooked once and then frozen. I think the meat will turn out fine but will the veg’s turn to mush during the canning process?

Joyce Shelby
Rosiclare, Illinois

Your soup leftovers should can up pretty good. Potatoes are the worst as far as getting mushy from being twice cooked. The rest hold up pretty well. You’ll just have to make up a batch, heat it and can up a few jars to see just how your particular soup does and then do future batches taking that into consideration. — Jackie

Pressure canner

We want to buy a pressure canner. Would you please give a recommendation. We have looked at several and think the All American is convenient because it does not have a gasket to go bad. Also the proper size would be appreciated.

C.R. & Jami Kirkpatrick
Three Rivers, Texas

I like the All American; my new one is an All American. I’d advise you buying the largest one you can afford and handle. This lets you get more canning done quicker. I still have my huge old canner, which is also gasketless, but sometimes I just have several pints or a few quarts to can up and the smaller one gets the job done much faster, as it gets exhausted faster and up to pressure faster than the huge one. It is MUCH lighter, too! But when I have a lot of canning to get done, I pull out the old one and get her done fast. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring’s here and I’m relocating red squirrels

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

This last week has been sunny and above freezing (except for nights, which have been sub-zero to low single digits). Much of our snow has melted, and I’ve started live trapping some of our bountiful red squirrels. Two years ago, I trapped 22, last year, 17 and so far, this year, 12. Although I do like the little buggers, they do cause garden damage, get into our birdhouses, and eat a whole lot of bird seed that we buy to feed the birds. So instead of killing them, I bought a live trap and am relocating them several miles from our place. (I first tried just moving them half a mile away, but they came back. One squirrel had only half a tail and he was back the next day after I’d trapped him the first time!) I relocate them when the weather’s nice, before they begin to breed (I don’t want babies to starve!). And I relocate them in different areas, way away from human habitation.

This morning, when I went out to do chores, I glanced down at my flower bed by the driveway. And was I shocked to see some daffodils and a few tulip noses poking up out of the soil! I couldn’t believe it. I figured the ground was still too frozen for that. And two days ago, there was snow over them. Oh, and I saw my first robin yesterday! Spring is on the way for sure!

Readers’ Questions:

Honey butter

Can this honey butter recipe be processed? If so how long?

1 cup honey
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Boil all except butter and vanilla, pour over butter whip and put in jars.

Eileen Bartschenfeld
Prairie Farm, Wisconsin

This one would probably be best made one batch at a time. While I’ve canned both milk and butter, cream’s another thing and may darken quite a bit or take on a curdled appearance. — Jackie

Canning chicken strips

My in-laws generously purchased several bags of precooked, hormone-free chicken strips. The only issue is they were pre-cooked. My question is: can they be pressure canned?

Mandi Kemp
Dover, Delaware

Yes. Just heat, adding broth and any seasonings you wish (or not), and can as if they were fresh. Lucky you! — Jackie

Vegetable broth

I have the hardest time making my own vegetable broth. I react to MSG so I am forced to make it myself, but every recipe that I have tried never turns out. Do you have a tried and true recipe?

Pamela Lawstuen
Alma, Wisconsin

This is the recipe I use:

1 lb. carrots, peeled and grated
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped
3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ small head cabbage, shredded
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or minced
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. basil, crushed
7 quarts water

Combine all ingredients in large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Uncover and continue cooking until flavor is as you wish (about an hour). Strain through jelly bag or other cloth. Discard vegetables and seasonings. You may either use, refrigerate to use or can. If you want to can it, process pints for 30 minutes or quarts for 35 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 to suit your altitude, if necessary. I hope this one works well for you. — Jackie

Amish coleslaw

Oh, your house is sooooooo beautiful! Your canned Amish coleslaw sounds wonderful. Do you have a recipe for it?

Nana in Texas

We love our house, too! After living in a small 24×30-foot house, under construction for three years, getting the additions and finally some finishing, it seems SO wonderful.

I love the Amish canned coleslaw, BUT it is NOT an approved recipe. (It is basically pickled sweet cabbage, so I’m not too worried. I can’t tell you to try it, only that generations of Amish have used it and so have I for a few years now.) Here’s the recipe:

1½ cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. salt
1 large head cabbage
1 cup diced celery
½ cup diced onions
2 cups shredded carrots

Mix vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. Mix with vegetables. Stir very well. Pack into sterile jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude.) — Jackie

Generator conversion and hawks picking off chickens

What do you think about the conversion kits to convert a gasoline generator into a propane generator. We just purchased a gasoline generator and most people in our rural area convert to propane and have no issues at all. Is there anything we should know other than we void the warranty on the generator?

Also we have been having a bad time in our area with hawks picking off chickens last year and this winter, any suggestions? Some one suggested getting guineas to help warn the chickens of an impending aerial assault? What do you think?

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

Some generators are easy and fairly inexpensively converted to propane from gasoline. Ours is not one of them; we checked into it and the cost would be prohibitive. I’d check with your service shop to get their ideas and a cost. We’re just going to run ours until it needs replacing, then replace it with a propane unit.

If hawks are such a problem, I’d suggest putting a netting wire up over the chicken run. If they are let out to range free, this is not an option. If they were mine, I’d pen them up at least until the hunting hawks move on to someone else’s chickens! I don’t think guineas will do much to reduce your losses; hawks get guineas, too. — Jackie

Pickled sausage

Do you or any readers have a recipe for canning pickled sausage? I can get a good deal on hotdogs/sausages and would like to try to pickle some.

D. Kaufman
Seymour, Missouri

I would can pickled sausage for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (pints), regardless of the recipe. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.) — Jackie

Canning yields

My problem in canning is figuring out the number of jars I need for the volume of food I will can. (Being in an urban area, I often can smaller quantities.) I’ve found butter is most like a liquid – 4 lbs made 8 half pints. But when I recently re-canned some green beans, 3 50-oz cans made up 10 pints. I now want to can some dried beans. How many pounds of navy or black beans should I prepare (roughly) to can up into no more than 17 pints?

Jeanne Herman
Springfield, Virginia

Three pounds of navy or black beans will roughly make 16 pints, depending on how much liquid you add. It is fairly hard to come up with precise yields in canning as a lot depends on the certain food, the recipe used, and the total liquid used. I usually just prepare a goodly bunch of jars and can up what I end up with. Not very scientific, but it works for me. — Jackie

Composting manure

It’s spring and I am cleaning out the donkey pen and the chicken house. I would like use the manure on my garden. Is it ok to spread it now and plant my garden in May or will it get too hot? Does it need to compost first? What are the best vegetables to grow in this kind of manure? I also have an endless supply of cow manure. How long should I compost it and what can I add to it to make it more nutritious for my garden?

Amy Arthur
Mineral Point, Wisconsin

You can spread it out and till it in. By May, it should be fine for crops such as corn, bean, and peas. For other crops, I’d recommend piling it and composting it until fall or next spring. As manure is high in nitrogen, it will make huge tomatoes, peppers, and melon plants….but not much actual fruit. It’s great that you can get lots of cow manure! Free fertilizer is a wonderful thing. I would just stack it in a deep pile and let it compost. While you can “hurry” things by turning the pile a couple of times during the summer, it will compost just fine without turning it. I would water the pile from time to time if you don’t get much rain. I don’t add anything to my compost piles but manure, straw, sawdust (the bedding part), and elbow grease. To be certain, you can do soil tests on several parts of your garden to see if your soil is light in any one nutrient. — Jackie

Storing seeds

Is there a method for storing seeds for an extended period of time?

Stephen DeLuca
Bethel, Connecticut

Your best bet for extra long term seed storage is to package them in an airtight container and keep them in your freezer. Even then, some seeds, such as onions, only remain viable for a couple of years at best. I store my seeds in large plastic tubs in our cool basement. That way, most seeds remain good for many years. Like foods, it is necessary to rotate your seeds as you use them so that none get extremely old and lose all viability.

The so-called “emergency” seeds that are in sealed cans will stay viable longer than ones just kept in a drawer in your kitchen, but even these must be rotated periodically to maintain your emergency seed supply. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Here’s a glimpse of our house

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

I just thought you’d like to see it, as it is, right now. A lot’s happened since two years ago!

Readers’ Questions:

TV in the woods

I don’t see archived any articles regarding TV Antennas. Since the Gov mandated the discontinuance of analog signals, we were forced to purchase EXPENSIVE satellite service… and we are sick of it. Any tips on what types and manufacture to use in a heavily wooded area 80 miles from the transmitting stations?

Patrick Tanner
Stephens, Georgia

We have a basic Hughes Net, as we are 2 miles away from landline phone service. This could probably get us many extra stations on the TV, but because we only watch two shows per week, we don’t want to bother. For an antenna, we just have a small “rabbit ears” round booster antenna in the house. We also live in the woods, far from stations, yet still receive four stations very well, plus others periodically. In the past, we only had a TV in order to watch VHS movies a couple times a week and never missed it a bit…and got more done. TV kind of sucks you in. You don’t plan on watching for hours, but it happens. We feel our time is better spent doing constructive things — even if it’s just sitting in the quiet, enjoying each others company. — Jackie

Planting Hopi Pale Grey squash

This year I have decided to try the Hopi Pale Grey Squash that you write about. I understand that I shouldn’t plant any other squash in the garden if I want to save some seeds, which I do. My question is can I still plant a pumpkin patch? I think pumpkin is in the squash family. Is there a “safe distance” that one can plant other squash?

Ralph Armstrong
Marana, Arizona

I’m glad you’re giving Hopi Pale Grey squash a try. I doubt that you’ll be disappointed! It is one great squash. You can still plant a pumpkin patch, if you choose a pumpkin that is a C. pepo, not a C. maxima, which is the species Hopi Pale Grey belongs to. I raise several different squash each year, but only one C. maxima. This lets me grow summer squash (C. pepo), pumpkins, butternut squash (C moschata, and others). But I only grow Hopi Pale Greys until I definitely have enough seed. Right now I have two quart jars full, so we’re lookin’ good! A mile is the distance they need to be separated, so that doesn’t work well in most gardens. — Jackie

Canning cake

A friend of ours “cans” cake. She cooks it in the oven in jars and then applies the seal and ring to form a vacuum. Have you ever done this? Is it safe? We pressure can a lot, however, I am hesitant to try this. She found the how-to article in Countryside Magazine.

Becky in Alabama.

I used to do this all the time. However experts tell us that it is not safe, because of possible botulism. So I’ve quit because it’s not really a case of a survival food. Instead, I just store the dry ingredients. — Jackie

Dehydrating soup

I read your article “Sitting Pretty” in #127 (Jan/Feb 2011) and started to write you then, but quit because I thought it was stupid, well things in the world and here at home are getting worse by the day. So I read your article again and thought I would leave it up to you if it is stupid or not. I found a way to make split pea soup that is close to instant…

…What I have been doing for the last number of months now is dehydrating split pea soup. When I make it for supper I use ham or a hock, onion, carrots, celery, and seasonings. I don’t do that when I make it for dehydrating (long term storage) maybe I should call it survival soup. This is what I do:

1 gallon water
6 cups split peas (sorted by my Mom)
Ham base to taste (optional) I like it
Salt, pepper to taste (I don’t use these, the ham base is enough)

Boil the water, then add peas. Cover and bring back to boil. Stir, cut heat to simmer and cover. Stir every 20 to 30 minutes or so. I use a STAR WIRE under the pot to help keep it from sticking.

I cook it very slow (some times 3 hours), as I am doing my other work, I walk by and stir. I like it well done. When it is nicely done, let it cool till it is cool enough to put in frig. As it is dehydrating it will form a skin if you don’t cool it first. The skin does not rehydrate as easy like the rest of the soup and just doesn’t taste as good. I usually try to make a pot every day, having one in the dehydrator, one in frig, and one on stove.

I use 9 x 13 x 5/8- inch lip metal trays. I don’t like the plastic sheets for this because as it gets dry it blows out. Stir the soup, Divide it between the trays, it should fill 8 trays, smooth it out. Set your temps and start it up. After 3 to 5 hrs, break and mix it up, I use my hands for this, I rotate the trays once or twice also.

When it is dry let it cool completely, then put in a blender and make it into a powder. To rehydrate add about 1/4 cup powder to 1 cup hot water – its soup again.

The best way to store it is to use a vacuum sealer for extended storage or in an airtight container for shorter storage.

My 86 year old Mom and I have worked together all my life, she taught me to bake when I was a little girl, we still work together today, she does sort all the peas, that saves me so much time. We also share what we make. If you can find a helper — family, friend, or neighbor, the work goes faster and you both benefit…

Connie Mellott
Brunswick, Ohio

There is absolutely no dumb question! I’ve never dehydrated split pea soup, but sure don’t find anything wrong with what you’re doing. A person could also make their own dehydrated onion soup by mixing their own dehydrated onion pieces with beef soup stock and bagging that. You’ve given me good ideas here! Thanks. — Jackie

Railroad ties

I know you have answered this question a dozen times but rail road ties — can they or should they be used for raised beds for things like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

Yes, it’s possible; I’ve got raised beds in the front yard made from them. And, yes, there’s a possibility that they might leak chemicals into the soil, but I feel that this is very unlikely. After all, there’s a possibility that a meteor might strike us any morning. But I still go outside to greet each day. — Jackie

Planting potatoes and cabbage

I have been planting potatoes the last couple of years (different varieties) without much problems. However, this year, my potatoes started to sprout in early -mid Feb. I had russets and white potatoes stored together, would that cause the early sprouting? I separated them, and snapped the eyes off, and then used some for making mashed potatoes, but all the same they are already sprouting, and probably won’t make it until May when I can plant them. Should I store them separately, or leave them in the ground longer? Or was it a fluke? The temperature where I store them is around 50 degrees F. Second question is about cabbage. Do you grow that? If so, how long will it store for or do you just can it up? I love sauerkraut, but don’t know if I can eat all that much! Just trying to decide if it is worth the garden space or just to buy it on sale at the store?

I live in the St. Paul area, so even though we gotten some warm weather, it is probably going to be early May before anything goes in, with the winter we have had. I have just started my peppers along with some of my flowers, so they should be ready.

Lisa Basso,
St. Paul, Minnesota

Potatoes begin sprouting because of a combination of warmth and light. Of course, the later you dig your potato crop, the later they will sprout, also. So if you don’t rush to plant your potatoes in the early spring, as most folks do, you will still harvest lots of large potatoes before freezing in the fall. We’ve found that our potatoes really like being stored in dark colored large plastic storage bins or coolers. The humidity remains good, so the potatoes keep very crisp for nearly a year. If the humidity gets too high, I just prop up the lid for a day. Potatoes are sensitive to light and can get light from a light bulb in the basement, even through white or clear lids, so it’s important to block out even this light. Mixing potato varieties does not make a difference.

Yes, we do grow cabbage. It stores for us until about late January. I can up quite a bit and we really like it in mixed vegetable dishes or alone. (Dump the canning liquid, rinse the cabbage, and heat it in fresh water or milk.) I also make Amish canned coleslaw (cabbage, sugar, vinegar, and spices). And, of course, there’s sauerkraut, which can be canned. Cabbage doesn’t take much room and can be crowded together to prevent weeds. I like to make coleslaw during the summer with a few heads, as well! — Jackie

Feeding baby poultry

When I raised game birds (quails and pheasants) several years ago, I learned that they could be fed chicken feed if it were supplemented by high levels of protein, such as boiled eggs. They seemed to thrive on chicken feed and boiled eggs, rather than the more expensive game bird/turkey starter. Do you think turkey poults could also be raised on this kind of diet? How are your young turkeys doing?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

Yes, baby poultry of all kinds can successfully be raised on ground grains with added protein such as chopped eggs or milk. With today’s escalating grain prices, especially soy, it makes a lot of sense. After all, in the old days, folks didn’t have access to — nor could afford — processed, commercial feeds. It is important for the young birds to be able to be outdoors whenever the weather is nice. — Jackie

A work in progress

Thank you for the updates and pictures of your log home. It is really cozy and homey. I was wondering if you could do a video with a walk through of your home, room by room. We see bits and pieces but it would be a real treat to see the whole home. I understand that it is a work in progress but for all of us who are just getting started it would be a great lesson of how much a family can do with elbow grease.

Deb Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

We can’t do videos anymore, but the photos in this blog will give you some idea of what we’re doing with our house. I hope you like them. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got farm gas in our new (old) tank

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Yesterday, the big fuel truck came out to deliver 150 gallons of bulk fuel to our new fuel tank. Will had installed a hose, filter, and nozzle so we were ready. By buying bulk farm fuel for our generator, tractor, and bulldozer (also chainsaw, rototiller, on-farm ATV) we save 27 cents a gallon! And with the increasing price of gas, that’s considerable. I just wish we’d done it sooner! Most of that savings is in state road tax. Because farm vehicles don’t get used on the road, we don’t have to pay this tax. But we have been for years by buying it in town in 5 gallon containers. Bad us!

I just thought you’d like to see a couple of neat things we did. Three years ago, when I went to visit Will in Washington, we picked up these neat cast iron fruit and vegetable hooks. We needed a place for visitors to hang their coats instead of throwing them on a chair. So Will and I made this coat rack. And no, we didn’t kill the bear. It’s an antique I picked up years ago.

The Indian came from New Mexico, from an old general store. Will found this beaver-cut black ash tree when he was cutting firewood and brought it in the house as it was neat. The two go together real nice, don’t you think?

Readers’ Questions:

Canning bacon

I have just bought 10 pounds of bacon. Would like to cut up into bits and use pint jars. Do you know steps in processing in pressure canner? Went to one site and it was suggested to cook till soft but about ready to eat then place in sterile jars pour fat 1/2 full in jar then processed. Do you have steps for bacon pieces and do you know how long shelf life is if bacon kept in cool dry basement area?


The way I do bacon pieces is to dice up the bacon, then spread it on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 250 degrees just until heated well and the meat shrinks some. Then pack into a half-pint or pint jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Do not add liquid or fat. Process for 75 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 to suit your altitude, if necessary. This bacon will keep for many years in a cool, dry basement, just like any other meat. — Jackie

Canning on a glass top stove

I just canned some dried pinto beans in a tomato juice mix. My stove is one of those glass tops with a thermostat to keep the temperature even. No matter how much I try to stay at 10 lb pressure the best I can get it is at 10.5 lb. pressure and that’s set on low. Do I can less than 65 minutes for the pints or do I cut down on the time? Just want to make sure they don’t come out as mush.

Covington, Georgia

Just can your beans at 10.5 pounds. That half pound won’t hurt a thing! NEVER cut down on your processing time if you process at a higher temperature by accident. They’ll be fine.

Remember that glass top stoves’ manufacturers don’t recommend canning on them, although many homesteaders do just that. They do crack, on occasion. — Jackie

Canning ham

When you answered the question about canning ham, you didn’t say whether you cook the ham first. We cooked ours first but that seems to be overcooking. If you don’t cook it, does it still need to be heated before putting it in jars?

Sam Allen
Bessemer City, North Carolina

I cut my ham into convenient pieces, then just lightly brown it in a little oil. Just enough to heat it. Pack into jars, then make a broth with pan drippings and water. This way it stays tender and juicy. — Jackie

Goat milk

I am interested in having a dairy goat for milk, But, I don’t really like the musky flavor. And my family is to small for a dairy cow. What breed of goat would have less of the musky taste?

By the way congratulations to you and your man. Do you have a date for the upcoming nuptials?

Greg Ringele
Newblaine, Arkansas

Goat milk should not taste musky or goaty. There are reasons it does — heredity, poor cleanliness, having a buck in the does pen, having a dirty pen/yard or not clipping the doe’s belly and udder. Not one of our does has milk that tastes the least bit “off.” All breeds and crossbreeds produce good tasting milk, but the best way to pick a doe with good milk is to sample her milk before you buy her. Or choose a doeling from a good milker you have sampled milk from, then keeping her clipped, well cared for, and away from bucks. There was an article on goat milk in the current issue of BHM (March/April 2011).

Thank you for your congratulations. Will hasn’t set a date yet. (I think he’s chicken!) LOL — Jackie

Growing onions

I have never grown onions and would like to know if they can be grown like the daffodils? Put them in the ground and let them take care of themselves and multiply or must they be dug up?

Jim G.
Mount Vernon, Ohio

You plant either onion sets (little onion bulbs) or small onion plants in the spring in your garden. They are only planted about an inch deep in the soil. They do not multiply, but get much larger, making nice sized storage onions by fall. All summer you can use the extra ones as green onions. You can buy multiplier or potato onions. These, you can leave in one place (multiplier) or dig and replant the small ones to continue your “patch.” Both of these also produce small bulbs on a “seed” stalk, which you can pickle or use as whole small onions in recipes. — Jackie

Making pine tar

I’m not sure where to turn for this information. I’m trying to find out how to make pine tar at home. I saw a video by British Bushcraft Expert Ray Mears in Sweden, and the guy he was with had a neat little setup for making pine tar. I can’t find any hard data or guidelines on how to do it myself though. It’d be great to be able to make a natural preservative like that at home for fence posts and such!

Rick Dobert
lifetime subscriber

I have never made pine tar, but I have collected pine pitch globs, then heated them in a used tin can in order to patch small holes in my canoe. I looked online and found some information though, so if you’ll type “how to make pine tar” in your browser, you’ll find quite a bit of varied information. But it looks like making enough pine tar at home to use as fence post preservative may not be labor-wise. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring’s on the way so we’re finishing indoor projects fast

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

With snow melting outdoors and little pepper plants happily growing in our greenhouse, we’re trying to finish up a few indoor projects because we probably won’t be getting at them, come warm weather. Will got the log wall sanded in the new addition, so I climbed up on my trusty ladder and stained the whole works. I do not like ladders! But the look is great. Today, he’s finishing putting up the last of the trim around the doors. It looks so good! Now I only have to paint the front door, stain the laundry room door, and… It never really is done, is it? But I’m totally happy with the progress we’ve already made.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning cauliflower

Can I can cauliflower? If so, please give me instructions.

Brenda Presson
Rector, Arkansas

Place cauliflower in a large pot and cover with boiling water. Simmer for 3 minutes. Drain. Pack hot, into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to each pint and 1 tsp. to each quart, if desired. Pour boiling water over cauliflower, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean; place hot, previously-simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints for 30 minutes and quarts for 35 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie

Potting soil

What kind or brand of potting soil do you use?

Richard Burns
Keyser, West Virginia

I use Pro Mix, which is available through our local greenhouse. I just buy ahead a couple of large sacks. It contains peat, perlite, and vermiculite and is finely milled. I use this for seed starting and planting my transplants. I fill my hanging baskets with a mix of this and a cheaper potting soil, along with our own compost. — Jackie

Shelf life of herbs

What is the shelf life of dry-packed mixed herbs in jars?

Teresa Moye
Fayetteville, Georgia

Practically forever. Chefs, of course, will disagree with me, saying that old herbs lose their flavor after about a year. I really haven’t seen that to be a problem with homestead cooking. I taste my recipes as they cook and if they seem to need more herbs, I just add ’em. — Jackie

Recipe for beenie-weenies

Do you have a recipe for beenie-weenies?

D. Kaufman
Seymour, Missouri

You can make your own beenie-weenie substitute by slicing good quality hotdogs and mixing them in with your own baked bean recipe, then canning the mixture just like you would baked beans with ham or bacon. You should process pints for 80 minutes and quarts for 95 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. You process them longer than a meat product because they tend to be a thicker product, because of the beans and because they contain meat. — Jackie

Storing granola

I make granola in bulk and prefer not to rely on the freezer for long-time storage. Do you think canning it would help keep the oil taking on a rancid flavor as it is kept in the basement? Could I fill jars with finished granola, put them in the oven for awhile and put lids on as they are removed to let them seal as they cool?

Jo MacDonald
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

Sorry, but this is something that won’t can. No, putting them in the oven won’t dependably seal or process the food. — Jackie

Canning ham

I am thinking of buying extra hams when they are on sale for Easter. I like the bone-in type. I was wondering if you can slice it and can it somehow for later use rather than freeze. I know you can can bacon but don’t know how to can ham.

Jackie Schillinger
Pleasantville, Pennsylvania

I often pick up several on-sale hams around Easter to can. It cans up great and is very handy for quick meals; much faster than thawing out frozen ham. And no possibility of freezer burn, either. I can my ham mostly in pints and half-pints. The half-pints contain smaller dices that I use in casseroles, quiches, and other mixed dishes. The pints contain larger slices and pieces to use as a main dish ingredient. You can also can larger ham slices, which you can later bake or fry, as you wish. Process your ham just like any beef or pork, covering it with boiling broth and processing pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 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.) Good canning! — Jackie

Feeding chickens

I’ve been following the conversation about how to feed chickens less expensively in the winter. Love the idea of feeding hay (never even thought of that) to our flock; we will definitely try that. I’ve also read suggestions to add worms to the girl’s winter diet for a protein supplement. The article I read suggested a grow-your-own worm bin which has the added benefits of composting some garbage and giving you worm casings for the garden. I was wondering if you have experience with worm bins and could offer any advice?

Brenda Palmer
Marblemount, Washington

I have raised worms indoors, as fishing bait, although you could sure feed the larger ones that are “extras,” to your chickens. My worm bin was 12 inches deep and 2×2-feet, made of boards with a plywood bottom. I drilled a few 1/2-inch holes in the bottom for drainage and covered them with screen before filling the box. I filled my box with a mixture of garden compost and sphagnum moss. The worms I grew were just plain red worms from a bait shop. I kept the box in my basement for years and the worms did great. I fed them a mixture of food scraps, coffee grounds, and a little cornmeal, scratched into the top of the soil. When I wanted worms, I just carefully dug into the box with a trowel and harvested what I needed. When we moved, I freed my worms in the garden.
Although chickens routinely eat worms outside, it is possible, although not probable, that they may pick up parasites, such as tapeworm, from them. I’ve never seen it a problem, but it is possible. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re fighting back

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Because we use a lot of gas on our homestead for the bulldozer, generator, and tractor, not to mention the tiller, ATV, and gravel truck, we are really reeling from the hefty gas prices. All year we’ve been talking about getting a farm fuel tank so we can legally avoid paying road taxes on gas for vehicles/equipment that never leaves the homestead. So we’ve been looking and looking for a fuel tank. The only ones we could find on Craigslist were all the way to Minneapolis or North Dakota…both a hefty 4 hour one way trip!

Last week, the neighbor David works for part-time had a chainsaw that didn’t want to run. So David brought it home for Will to work on. He did, finding the air filter plugged, the carb dirty and out of adjustment. After an hour’s work, it worked perfectly. (David just cut 6 cords of wood with it for this man!)

We took it back to him right away, as we figured he wanted to cut wood. While we were there, visiting, Will mentioned that we were looking for a fuel tank. Dale brightened up and said he had an old one out in the snowbank behind the garage! If we wanted it, come get it! Were we ever happy. It was kind of “ugly” and a little dented, but Will thought it would do the job. So he hauled it home.

On opening it up, he drained out 6 gallons of diesel fuel, perfectly clean! And on looking inside with a flashlight, there was NO rust at all. GREAT!

So, to get it to deliver gravity flow gas, he had to build a stand for it. We have 8 cords of great, solid black ash from the beaver swamp, so he found four nice logs and added some used 2″x6″s and a couple of economy 2x4s we had bought on sale. A few screws, and we now are ready to add a hose, nozzle, and filter, which we’ll pick up tomorrow. Will talked to the oil company that delivers fuel to our farm neighbor, Jerry Yourczek , and they will be happy to deliver to us. So soon, before gas goes higher, we should have a tank part way full. Can’t afford to fill it! (500 gallons!)

Will plans on plumbing it directly to the generator so we don’t have to keep dumping 5-gallon cans in it. That’ll be a labor saver, of course. And it’ll be safer because sometimes you do spill a little (never fill it running or hot!).

So it just goes to show you –if you need something in the country, just keep asking people. Sooner or later someone will have what you need or will know where to get it. Love the backwoods!

Readers’ Questions:

Saving seeds

I am going to be planting several different kinds of pepper plants, tomato plants, and squash plants. I was wondering what is a good way to isolate some of them so that I will be able to collect the seed.

Heyburn, Idaho

I wrote an article on seed saving that will be coming up in the May/June issue of BHM. Distance or caging are the only two viable methods for home gardeners. Tomatoes and peppers can “usually” be separated by about 50 feet to get “fairly” pure seed. To get truly pure seed, you have to make cages to keep insects from cross-pollinating the different varieties, then either introduce “resident” pollinators into each cage permanently or else hand-pollinate the blossoms with a paint brush. With squash, I only plant one variety of each species. That eliminates cross-pollination, yet lets me grow several different kinds of squash every year. You might consider that in your garden. — Jackie

Damping off

I start several seed trays a year of various plants and I was wondering if there is a way to prevent “damping off” in the starter trays. I’ve noticed a few days after planting them they grow a fuzzy white fungus over many of the pots.

Angie L.
Mcdonough, Georgia

Be sure you are starting with sterile seed-starting soil. If you use commercial mix, it probably is sterile already, but if you’re using your own soil mix, bake it in the oven in a roasting pan, at 200 degrees for 30 minutes. It does stink! Let it thoroughly cool, then fill your trays. Dampness encourages damping off. While your containers should be covered with plastic before germination, poke holes in it or remove the cover for a few hours every day if it becomes too damp. These measures should stop your damping off problem and fungus/mold growth on the top of the soil. If you reuse your containers, be sure to soak them in a bleach-water solution and rinse them before reuse to avoid reinfection. — Jackie

New to canning

I bought your new book on canning and preparing your pantry for recession and I must say I feel pretty overwhelmed. I work 40 + hours and week and so does my husband, at least right now, we are both state workers and most likely going to get more time off (not by choice). To start slow with my new pressure cooker, what would be the easiest thing to try?

Chris Caldwell
Equality, Alabama

Green beans and carrots are both very easy to can and don’t require a lot of processing time. Also, believe it or not, many meats, such as chicken and beef canned in broth are very easy to can, too. I know it seems kind of overwhelming when you are just starting, but when you just keep pecking away at stocking your pantry, all of a sudden, it’s pretty full! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! I know my sweetie, Will, loves helping prep foods for canning…and walking through the pantry to see all the jars. — Jackie

Raising turkeys

What do you feed your baby turkeys? Is commercial chick starter ok to use? When do you switch them to a grower? I love your articles and especially the canning book. I can hardly wait for that cookbook!

Kathryn Harris
Fresno, California

I feed my baby turkeys chick starter, then switch them to grower when they are feathered out. Of course, in the old days folks just fed scratch feed. But the turkeys didn’t grow as fast or get as big, either.

I think you’ll like the cookbook. It’s got tons of my favorite family recipes in it too. — Jackie

Fruit trees

I just ordered my new fruit trees (apple,pear,peach,cherry,plum,all dwarfs) for our new Urban homestead (yeah we finally did it!), and was wondering if you could provide any tips for getting them off to a good start, since it will be several more weeks before they get shipped to me.

I want to use as few chemicals as possible, preferably staying as organic as possible to go along with the rest of my gardening. The majority of fruit growers around here do not use organic methods, so finding good local information had been difficult.

Congratulations on the engagement! It’s wonderful news!

Lee Robertson
Webberville, Michigan

Thank you. I think it’s great news, myself!

To get your fruit trees off to the best start, be sure to make a huge hole for each one. I think, of all things, this is the most important. All too often, fruit trees have their roots crammed into a small hole and dirt and sod just thrown back in and packed down. If you take your time to “dig a $100 hole for a $10 tree,” soon you’ll have a $1,000 tree! Dig a very deep hole that is plenty wide for the roots to spread out naturally. Then put a foot or more of nice, rotted compost in the bottom of the hole. Plant the tree, then fill in around the roots with good topsoil, without sod. As you plant, water the tree so there aren’t any air pockets among the roots; that stunts or even kills roots. Leave a nice dish around the tree, about two feet or more in diameter, to hold water when the tree is watered. And be sure to water it every day for at least two months, while it gets started. (Of course, if your soil is clay and it’s been raining a lot, disregard this!)

Add a nice mulch around the tree; we use rotted manure to add fertilizer as well, right out to the drip line of each tree. In the fall, pull this back from the trunk a few inches and be sure to protect the trunks with aluminum window screen, up at least 3 feet to keep mice, voles, and rabbits from eating the bark. That kills young trees. If deer are a problem in your area, be sure to fence your yard or orchard with 6-foot high fencing or they will eat your trees. Young trees really don’t need much pruning after planting unless branches have died or have been broken. Leave the tree alone to grow. Enjoy your new trees! — Jackie

Canning with lemon juice

I just juiced 25 lbs of Lisbon lemons and froze it into ice cubes. Now I’m thinking about using it when canning my tomato sauce this summer. Can I use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled juice? If so, is there a difference in the amount. I use 1 T. per quart and 1 t. per pint when I use the bottled juice. I tried canning bacon-wow, that was fun and tasty!

Nancy Murray
Lexington, Tennessee

Wow, lucky you! Yes, you can use fresh lemon juice. Use it the same as if it were the bottled juice. Canned bacon IS really good! — Jackie

Eradicating poison oak

Well it is very hard to tell which one of happy couple is the luckier of the two. You guys are truly blessed to have found each other.

My question is about poison oak. We have some growing in two trees of a lovely few acres we will be moving to. How do we safely get rid of it?

Gwen Cantrell
Celina, Texas

You can cut all the vines and shrubbery, wearing rubber gloves and other protection, then bag the vines. Don’t burn them. A neighbor of ours did that and got a severe reaction from the smoke! Take the bagged vines to the landfill. Then cover the “stumps” with heavy black plastic, pieces of plywood, or old carpeting to smother the newly emerging shoots. Another remedy is to spray the vines with Roundup, up as high as possible. Don’t get it on the tree leaves; it’ll kill the tree. Use Roundup for shrubs and vines; it’s stronger. I do not like to use Roundup, but will use it for “emergencies” where I can’t kill a stubborn weed pest with normal methods. Be sure to wash your work clothes and gloves in hot water immediately after to remove the poison oak oil from them.

Actually, I think Will and I consider ourselves equally blessed. And we’re very happy with our relationship. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our peppers are up and growing; I’ll plant tomatoes tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I planted 16 different varieties of peppers two weeks and three days ago. Today, 90% of them are up and growing, as well as my petunias. I want both of these to be quite large when I set them out. The petunias will be blooming in the hanging baskets in the front of the house and the peppers will be going into our new hoop house, as well as in our house garden and flower beds. Since we’re growing several different varieties, I plan on isolating a couple of the open-pollinated varieties and saving seed. Seed is getting very expensive and that’ll only get worse as the economy does.

And tomorrow, I start planting tomatoes! We’ve sorted out and decided on about 16 different varieties this year, so to hold our crop down, I’ll only be planting 2 to 12 seeds of each variety. Sigh…

Today we went and talked to a neighboring logger. Will has been fine-tuning our barn plans and decided to use logs for hayloft floor joists, as he did in our storage building. We don’t have enough larger diameter trees, so after talking to a friend, we made connections with a logger who is cutting about 20 miles from us. It was exciting today, going out into the woods, seeing the trees he was cutting — perfect for our barn! And the price was VERY reasonable, too. So Will’s readying our new-used equipment trailer so he can begin hauling the logs home as the logger cuts. It just goes to show you that if you need something and tell a lot of people, sooner or later you will find it…and reasonably priced, too.

Our barn is slowly taking shape as we are gathering materials. Already, the used power poles are stacked in a pile, under the snow, and the site is nearly leveled. We are so very excited about this barn, as we will be able to raise and store more of our own food: hay above, grain in a large bin, a milk cow, and tons of room for calves, goats, and other critters. We can hardly wait till spring!

Readers’ Questions:

Feeding chickens

My question is concerning feeding chickens. I just read what you feed your chickens and will plant extra squash to feed them next winter. But, as for the leafy trefoil or alfalfa hay, this is not an option for us. We have a hopper in our coop that we fill with bought chicken pellets; this gives the chickens free range of all the food they want. Very expensive, I might add. They have a large yard to glean from and we feed them table scraps too. Should we be allowing them to have free range of chicken pellets and what else can we do to cut the cost? We will be purchasing more chicks soon. I hope to end up with about 15 to 20 chickens.

Lanette Renda
Sheridan, Oregon

Why can’t you give your chickens a slab of leafy hay? Even when you have to buy your hay, it is cheaper than chicken feed…and it does help provide them with lots of exercise and nutrition, in addition to chicken feed. If it’s just the hopper thing, just put a slab of hay on the ground, inside or out, and they’ll dig through it and there will be very little left over.

I also switched my poultry from all chicken feed to 1/2 and 1/2 chicken feed (not egg mash) and 1/2 chop (ground corn and oats, mixed). They are still laying very well and it cut my monthly feed bill by about $25. With the price of feed climbing, we all need to do what we can to make our livestock and poultry work yet be affordable and healthy for them. Chicks DO need higher protein when young and growing, so chick starter is still the best option for them. — Jackie

Purchasing heirloom vegetable plants

I garden and can each year but have used hybrid seeds and plants. My friends have convinced me to start using heirloom seeds and plants so I can dry and reuse my own each year. Is there a website where I can order plants or purchase them in Georgia. I know of websites for seeds but not plants.

Vicki Cox
Rex, Georgia

I haven’t been able to locate a company in Georgia that sells heirloom vegetables, but as this is becoming very popular, I would think that you should be able to find many more popular heirloom vegetable plants right in your local nursery. Of course, you can also plant vegetables right in the garden, from seed, so you probably will only need tomatoes, peppers, and maybe eggplant. These are usually pretty easy to find locally, AND much cheaper than mail-order plants. Good seed saving. It’s such fun! — Jackie

Canning beef

I have just canned several jars of fully cooked ground beef and I did not add any additional liquid to them. They all sealed properly, but now I am concerned because I cannot determine if my not adding additional water or broth will result in a spoiled food. Do you know whether or not the beef should be okay? If it is okay, then what difference does it make between dry and wet?

Name withheld

That used to be the approved way of canning ground beef. I’ve done it just that way for years and it always turns out perfectly. Today, the experts have decided to keep us safer from ourselves and any possible “mistakes” in processing by having us add liquid to our cooked ground beef. It turns out fine that way, too. — Jackie

Trapping a beaver

I remember you saying that you have a beaver on your property and yesterday we discovered that a beaver has moved onto our pond, built a large home and has been cutting down many of the trees surrounding the woodland pond. I counted 24 trees that have been felled. We do not wish to have the trees cut down and I was wondering how one goes about catching a beaver and moving him or killing him?

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

You can usually find a trapper who will live trap or kill beaver. In some areas, the DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) will trap and remove beaver that are causing damage to surrounding areas. I like beaver and was very happy when ours raised a family and are keeping their dam intact. We also have 80 acres, so we can easily co-exist with the beavers, luckily. — Jackie

Planting potatoes

I bought some organic yellow potatoes and did not use all of them before they sprouted (little white nubs all over). Can these be planted and how would I prepare them for planting? I have never tried growing potatoes before but I have good luck with other vegetables. Artichokes were great last year. I live in zone 9a. I enjoy your column and articles, the book Starting Over was great.

Harriet DeMoia
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Since your potatoes are sprouting, I would simply cut the big ones into pieces with at least 2 eyes each and plant the smaller ones whole. As it is kind of late in Zone 9, I’d get the potatoes in the ground as soon as possible so they can get their growing done before hot weather hits. Potatoes like warm weather, but hot weather shortens their growing season. You’ll get more potatoes per vine and help them survive the hot weather by hilling them at least twice (pulling dirt up over the growing vines, leaving only a few inches of “green” growing above the dirt each time)

I’m glad you liked Starting Over! — Jackie

Leggy tomato plants

I have been planting tomato seeds for several years, but this year, the Early Goliath SHOT up overnight to about 3-4″. They were planted in the bottom of an 8 oz. styro cup in seed starter (per usual) but I have never seen them get so leggy, so quickly! I put more starter in the cup to cover as much of the stem as I could, but they look so spindly, still sticking out 2″ above the top of the cup, I’m afraid they won’t make it. Can I re-plant to a bigger styro cup or should I put them in something else? If something else, what would you suggest? I can’t plant outside in this area till April, so now what can I do to save them?

J in Missouri

If you only planted a few seeds, I’d discard the leggy ones and plant again. Usually they spring up so tall because they are looking for light. I had some once that I planted in cups that I hadn’t filled completely, so even in the window, they didn’t find enough light right away and got really tall, looking for it. Be sure to fill your cups nearly to the brim. If you really want to save those plants, replant them in a taller container, burying all but the top 3/4″ or so and leaves. They will eventually root all down the stem and do fine. — Jackie

Canning maple syrup and butter

We enjoy a syrup recipe which is real maple syrup mixed with real butter in equal measure. Can I can this and what method do I need to use?

Alisyn Friederich
Duluth, Minnesota

This is a recipe that experts wouldn’t want you to can, because of the butter in it. However, I would not hesitate to try a small batch, just to see how it goes, as I’ve canned butter for years, alone, in half pint jars. Once you melt your butter with the boiling syrup, I’d ladle it into hot pint jars and process it in a boiling water bath canner for 60 minutes. The butter may settle out of the syrup on cooling, so you’d have to heat the syrup before use. Again, this is not “recommended” canning and would be only used as such. — Jackie

Canning pasta

My family likes canned ravioli, but I would like to can my own, so that I don’t have to keep buying cans of it, and having the disposal of the tin cans. Is it possible to make my own fresh pasta with a thin sauce and can it? I know that you are not supposed to can a lot of pasta, but I think fresh pasta is closer to the real size and you can judge how much to put in the jars better than dry pasta. I would like to make large amounts of homemade ravioli and can it up, to have ready to eat meals that can just be heated up. What times would you suggest for pressure canning this?

Would it be possible to do this with other types of fresh pasta and thin sauces? I like to make my own pasta and don’t have time to always do it when I want it.

Rose Wolfe
Fairbanks, Alaska

None of the experts recommend canning pasta products. Personally, I would use a little more thinner sauce than you would in regular ravioli and put more sauce in than usual, in each jar. Leave 1″ of headspace and be sure to put in hot sauce over your ravioli. I would process the jars for 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts, and would opt for pints so the ravioli didn’t overcook. (This is assuming your filling would contain meat.)

I have tried spaghetti, but didn’t like the way it turned out; too “mushy” for us. Noodles and macaroni did better, by far and I think shells would, as well.

But, again, experts don’t recommend canning pasta products (although store pasta products are very common…) — Jackie

Deer and elk in the garden

Where would I purchase dehydrated shortening?

Also I’m having trouble with deer and elk in my trees and garden,I’m thinking of using cougar urine that they use to train dogs as a deterrent has any one done this before? If so does it work? There are reasons beyond my control as to why we can’t hunt the buggers, and dogs are not a deterrent.

Kathy Suhr
Sedro Woolley, Washington

I buy my powdered shortening from Emergency Essentials ( or 653 North 1500 West, Orem, UT 84057.

Forget the cougar urine; doesn’t work a bit. I have a wolf hybrid (husky/wolf) and the deer used to chase him in our garden! So much for the “afraid of predator thing!” A fence is the only way I’ve been able to keep deer, elk, and moose out of our various gardens. A real fence, 6 feet high, with a possibility of adding more wire above if they ever jumped in. They never have…so far. — Jackie

Turkeys and hoop house

How exciting for your first turkey egg! I have never raised turkeys and have always wanted to try. I do not have a mother hen as you did last year. How do you start turkeys from chicks? The same as chickens or is there a difference? Who would you recommend for a reputable hatchery? Do homegrown turkeys taste a lot better than store bought? I have never tasted one. How long does it take to raise a turkey from chick to full grown?

Concerning your hoop house. Is this a permanent structure like a greenhouse or is it something you can build over your peppers in August?

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

Basically, you raise baby turkeys (poults) the same as you raise baby chicks, using a heat lamp above a sturdy container, such as a small stock tank or even large cardboard box. Just be sure they are eating and drinking right off the bat as sometimes poults aren’t very smart, compared to baby chicks. I’ve had very good luck with Murray McMurray Hatchery and Whelp Hatchery. There are also feed mills, probably close by, that in the spring, sell poults. If you only plan on raising turkeys to butcher, any of the common breeds, such as Broad Breasted Whites will work. If you would like to keep raising your own turkeys, choose a heritage breed, which can reproduce and raise their young on their own. Such breeds as Bourbon Red, Spanish Black, Slate, and Narragansetts all can do this, which is why we are raising them.

Home raised turkeys do taste better, as does everything home raised or home made! If you buy turkey poults early in the spring, you can butcher them in the late fall, just in time for the holiday dinners!

Our hoop house will be semi-permanent. It will be 7 feet high in the center and 12×16 feet. We will leave it up all growing season, then dismantle it in the fall to reuse the next year. We will eventually build a more permanent one to leave up, using sturdier (and more expensive) material. — Jackie

Moving a pantry

We are having to move our pantry goods to another state. Do you have any tips to ensure the safe transit of this type of material? (My husband is in the kitchen now, canning up beans.)

PJ Benet-Davis
Alturas, California

What I’ve done to ensure my home canning didn’t become damaged in transit is to go to liquor stores and grocery stores and ask them to save me sturdy boxes with dividers in them. Then I packed my jars in these, sometimes cutting the boxes down so the jars fit securely and allowed us to stack boxes without them crushing out of shape. With a wad of newspaper on top of each jar and these dividers, I’ve only lost a jar or two among each of six long distance moves. If you’re traveling over mountains, altitude changes don’t affect the jars. I hope your move is a happy one! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will proposed!

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Wow! I was amazed when my Marine Corps veteran got down on his knees and asked me to marry him! We’ve had a very neat partnership for the last two years that is unique, to say the least. All so often, we are thinking the same thing, want to try the same thing, or decide on the same thing without the other knowing about it. Then we have a laugh and go about accomplishing it, from our orchard to the peppers we want to grow, to our future life together. Needless to say, I’m very happy and am now sporting an engagement ring that’s garden-tough but etched beautifully with the words “Always and Forever,” along with a small diamond inside a heart. Very touching!

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Will and David went out again this weekend and got another huge load of that great black ash firewood. While they were gone, I canned up 16 half-pints of baked beans. I was getting low and thought I’d better get more canned up for summer meals. I’ll be doing another batch tomorrow.

(No, we haven’t set a date yet.)

Readers’ Questions:

Making pectin

I just read your article about making pectin from apples. My question is, Can you make pectin from dried apples? And can you can the pectin? How would you store pectin to use later?

Celia Combest
Troy, Michigan

Pectin is best made from fresh, solid, tart apples that are a little on the green side. Tart crabapples make the best pectin. To make it, slice whole, unpeeled apples into fairly small pieces. Then add water and lemon juice and boil. (You’ll want about 6 pounds of apples to 1/2-gallon of water and 4 Tbsp. lemon juice.) Boil until reduced by half, then strain the juice through a jelly bag. Return to heat and simmer for 20 minutes longer. Pour into hot, sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process as for apple juice in a water bath canner.

The amount you’ll use in a recipe depends on the pectin content of the fruit. For apple jelly, you won’t even need any; for strawberry, you’ll need more, as strawberries are low in pectin. Generally, about 2/3 cup of homemade pectin will set 4 cups of fruit or juice, but you’ll have to experiment and check the set as the mixture boils by taking out a teaspoonful and cooling it. You may need to add more pectin if it doesn’t seem to be setting to your liking. — Jackie

Inexpensive greenhouse

What would be an inexpensive greenhouse that we could put on a 2 city lot property? I would love to have fresh veggies all year round. I live in Montana and the weather can get pretty cold in the winter so it would need to be something that could keep the produce from freezing.

Heather Sand
Fairfield, Montana

You might consider adding a greenhouse onto your home, preferably on the south side. What’s worked out well for us is to use recycled double pane sliding glass doors from patio doors. For nice looks, make sure they don’t leak moisture; they should be clear throughout. Dirt comes off; you can not easily get the moisture and dirt from between the panes of glass. By building the framework of your greenhouse addition out of pressure treated or cedar wood and the roof of double insulated poly (made for greenhouses; rigid, not just plastic sheeting), you can heat mostly with heat from your home, with a little extra help in coldest weather from another heat source. A small propane heater works well in greenhouses.

Our greenhouse attached to our home, long ago at our Minnesota farm, had two feet of rock in a dugout area, as well as a 500-gallon black poly septic tank full of water as heat sinks. I heated the 16×40-foot greenhouse with a fuel-barrel wood stove.

The one we have now is an addition on the south side of our house, with no additional heating required as it’s only about 12 feet from our living room wood stove and right next to our kitchen range.

There are all kinds of options available to you and I’m sure with thought and planning, you can come up with one that will work well for you. — Jackie

Yearly canning list

I am getting geared up for canning this summer. I canned a lot of different things last summer and have really enjoyed eating them this year. I feel like I’m forgetting to can something. For instance, I had to purchase mixed veggies last week so I added that to the list for this summer. Would you post a list of all the things you can each year?

Jennifer B.
Bay Minette, Alabama

Whew! I’m sure I’ll forget something, but here goes:
Asparagus, green and wax beans, sweet corn, corn and carrots (mixed), corn and peas (mixed), mixed vegetables with corn, peas, carrots, potatoes, rutabagas and onions, tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, two or more different salsas, corn and pepper salsa, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauces (with meat, without meat, with olives, with mushrooms, etc.), chili (with and without beans), tomatoes with corn and rice, mushrooms, chicken, chicken broth, turkey, turkey broth, baked beans, pintos, split pea soup, bean soup, chicken with noodle soup, meatballs in mushroom sauce, meatballs in spaghetti sauce, ground meat, ground meat patties, sausage, sausage patties, stewing beef, stewing venison, venison chunks, venison roast, beef roast, beef broth, roast pork loin, celery, peas, potatoes, carrots (chunk and sliced), cabbage, blueberries, apples, applesauce, peaches (when I can find cheap ones in bulk to can!), cauliflower, rutabagas.

Pickles include: mustard bean, dill, sweet dill, bread and butter, dill relish, watermelon rind sweet pickle, pickled hot peppers, pickled hot vegetables, and end of garden mixed pickles.

Jams and jellies include: Chokecherry, red and black raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, wild plum, apple, and hot pepper jelly.

I can some things every year; others I can when I have it or when I’m getting down on. I can pretty much year-around and don’t kill myself with canning marathons. I just keep plugging away, batch at a time, as I have an available food. As I’ve told you, I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots, but this is a list for you. — Jackie

Planting fruit trees and berries

I have bought a house to retire to in Lavergne, Tennessee in about 2 years. What I would like to do is plant now a couple of fruit trees and some fruit plants (berries?) to help them take root in the next 2 years. Do you have any suggestions/recommendations as to what trees and berries to plant?! Thank You for ANY help you can provide. I am a 63 year old Los Angeles city boy!

Bob Dohrman
North Hollywood, California

Congratulations, Bob! My first question is do you have someone to take care of your trees while you’re still living in California? That’s the hardest part of long-distance planting. I thoroughly understand the desire and need to get things going as soon as possible. If you do have a friend, relative, or neighbor who will help you out by weeding and watering your trees and berries, great. If not, I’d say wait until you are there to tend them. They just don’t do well, simply planted, watered, and left on their own.

As you are in a warm zone, the sky’s the limit for choices, as I see it. (We live in cold Zone 3, so we don’t have huge options. You’ll be in Zone 6-7, so you can plant oh-so-many things! You can grow pie and sweet cherries, apples (pick ones suited to your warmer climate), plums, pears, and peaches. Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and black raspberries also will do well for you there.

If you aren’t able to enlist a helper to tend your plantings, you might consider preparing your spots very well by tilling the soil, killing down weeds and grass with black plastic (left in place for a lengthy time), adding compost to the spots, etc. Those two years will fly by and you’ll be ready, immediately, to get those fruits and berries going. And because you’ll be there to tend them, they’ll take off like bullets. — Jackie

Water glass eggs

What do you know about and what are your thoughts on “Water Glass eggs” as a way of preserving fresh eggs? What about safety?

Sandra Passman
Vidalia, Louisiana

Water glassing does preserve fresh eggs from fall to spring. However, after using it once, I quickly decided not to do it again. Diving my bare arm into a crock full of slimy yuck and fishing around for eggs is not at the top of my list! My chickens now lay all winter, where in the past, I went egg-less from about December to early March. I changed this by installing one CFL in the coop which runs when our generator is on. It could also be hooked to a deep cycle battery and run off of that, if necessary. Having a warmer coop helps a lot. Now we have many birds in a 6×8-foot coop with daytime outdoor access. Our new coop will be larger but it will also be insulated. I also give my hens one small flake of leafy trefoil or alfalfa hay every day to scratch through. It’s amazing how much they eat! In addition, I am growing extra squash and I feed them at least one squash with seeds or “squash guts” every few days. Our 24 hens give us 7-12 eggs a day (no commercial egg mash) all winter. I find this much better than using waterglass to hold eggs in my basement. Fresh eggs will remain good for many weeks, simply stored in a cool place. I have kept eggs from December until nearly April, just keeping them in cartons, in our 40 degree pantry, and they remain good. — Jackie


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