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Ask Jackie headline

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

Jackie Clay

Our homestead in now 40 acres larger

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Last Thursday we closed on our property deal, buying the 40 acres of wild land, adjoining our homestead. Why in the heck do we need 40 acres, in addition to the 80 we had before? Let me explain. First of all, our driveway goes through that 40 acres. If it were sold to someone, the only place “buildable” is the ridge our driveway is on. Therefore, if someone were to build, we would be driving right by their house or cabin every time we went in or out. We did not want to live in the wilderness for that. And then there’s always the question of what kind of neighbors we might end up with. We wouldn’t want someone who was partying at all hours, let their dogs run to kill our chickens and livestock, shoot toward our home or animals, or otherwise be a bad neighbor. And we needed more pasture in order to be more self reliant. Now we have about 20 acres in pasture, but more animals on it than there should be. Therefore, we have to feed hay sometimes during the summer and fall. When we get that 40 fenced, we’ll have all the pasture we will need, eliminating any hay feeding until winter. We will also gain some big woods for firewood and lumber, always a plus in the north country. And we enlarge on our own private wilderness.

We worked hard and saved money even harder for more than a year in order to be able to make our down payment. Yes, we did have to buy it through the bank. But we should be able to pay it off within four years and felt the trade-off was worth being in short-term debt.

Oh, and I should mention that the ridge on which our driveway runs has the very best blueberry patch around! I’m pretty happy about that! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q&A: Breaking in a new canner and Canning potatoes

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Breaking in a new canner

I Just got an All-American 930 canner and I read that it needs to be “broken in” a few times for it to seal properly. I bought it used but it was only used once. It works fine, but there is a popping sound once or twice as it heats up. Is this normal? I used a slight amount of Vaseline, as directed, on the mating surfaces.

Dan Norgard
Prescott Valley, Arizona

Yes, that is normal. The canner lid is just seating firmly to the bottom with a tunk. — Jackie

Canning potatoes

I’ve got a question about your Q&A on 4-18, you talk about raw packing potatoes and onions, I’ve been using your book page 154, and boiling my potatoes for 10 minutes, then pressure canning as stated. My potatoes are more like potato soup, they lack texture. Is the raw pack something new? Will this method help my potatoes have better texture, I’ll be sure to pencil this in you think it will help?

Pamela Riggle
Madison, Alabama

Actually, raw packing potatoes and other vegetables is not a new thing, but the old way we used to do them. However, the new recommendations are that we pre-heat our potatoes before packing them. Some varieties of potatoes, chiefly those high in starch, do sometimes break down when packed as slices or small dices. I can not recommend that a person raw pack vegetables, although that’s what I do myself, because of the new recommendations by experts. Raw packing does produce canned potatoes that are more consistently firm. I am always sure to use boiling water to cover the raw potatoes and exhaust my canner well before closing the petcocks and beginning to build up pressure. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q&A: Canning ham and Grinding hamburger

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Canning ham

Hams should be on sale this week and I am thinking about picking a couple up to can. Your book says to use fat free ham. What happens if you purchase a cheaper ham with fat to can up?

Shirley Wikstrom
Stevenson, Washington

Just trim as much fat as you can reasonably trim off the meat before slicing or dicing to can. You’ll be fine. Easter is always a good time to find on sale hams. I’m looking right now! — Jackie

Grinding hamburger

Last fall I messed up and froze all the meat scraps from our beef before we ground it into burger. When we thaw it to grind does it have to be cooked before we re-freeze it or can we just thaw it, grind it and put it back into the freezer?

Bruce Moriarty
Spokane Valley, Washington

No sweat. Just thaw it until it is only partly frozen, containing some ice crystals. It’ll grind better then. Then just re-freeze it. It’ll be fine. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q&A: Veterinary Guide history and Peeling logs

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Veterinary Guide history

I noticed that the first veterinarian guide that you authored with C.E. Spaulding listed you as Jackie Spaulding. Can you tell us about that period in your life? How did you gain the information for the first book? As a devoted fan of yours, I love to hear about your life and history.

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

I was married to C.E. Spaulding for 18 years. We were then divorced. I had worked for another veterinarian as a veterinary technician after completing school, then worked with C.E. Spaulding for 15 years after we were married, before writing the book with him. We worked on both pets and extensive large animals and I went on most calls with him to assist in the treatment and restraint of them. I learned a whole lot! And, of course, I always had my own homestead animals. Thank you for your interest. — Jackie

Peeling logs

Looking at Will peeling the logs with a draw knife. Here in Louisiana we peel our pine logs with a “piling peeler”, do you have those up there? If you would like to try one I’ll send you mine and when you finish you can send it back. I live in a log house and I peeled the logs . And built the house! And have enjoyed it for thirty or so years

Katie Evans Daffin
Evans, Louisiana

Thank you so much. But Will is finished peeling posts! Yes! Now it’s on to other projects! It seems that log peelers are called different things in different locales. Here we call them peeling spuds, as they do in the western states. So you’re a fellow loggie? Great! Aren’t log homes great? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q&A: Homesteading in Minnesota and Homesteading seminars

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Homesteading in Minnesota

I have enjoyed reading your writings over the years and following your homesteading adventures.
Was just wondering if you would share why you chose to move to Minnesota. I was thinking some of the more western states are more freedom loving. And Minnesota is COLD! As well as so dark in the winter. Of course I have not lived out west, so not sure if where you were wasn’t just as bad…

Deb Gates
Seymour, Wisconsin

We moved to Minnesota because I had lived here before, I have a son here, we knew the area, and land was quite reasonably priced. There are also very few building restrictions in the area we chose. We found most areas of the west not so “freedom loving” as imagined.

We loved the west, but land that is homesteading friendly is generally hard to find in a small enough affordable piece. We would love a big ranch by the mountains, but don’t have $2,500,000! Smaller parcels, such as 40 acres, are usually in subdivided areas that used to be big ranches, bought up by a developer. We like people but don’t want neighbors. We love wilderness living. Having six or eight people in the nearby vicinity doesn’t appeal to us. That’s why we live 1.3 miles from a road, way back in the woods.

You never get everything you want in a homestead, but you need what will make you happy. Everyone is different in their likes and desires. It’s what makes us individuals. Visit the west a few times and look at what property is available with a realistic eye for potential homesteading. Maybe it’s just what you want. We needed more wilderness and more land to become more self-reliant. In fact, today, we just closed on buying the 40 acres next to our homestead. We bought it so we could have more pasture for our livestock and more protection on any future “neighbors.” We walked the land a few hours ago, doing a “victory lap” and are very thrilled to have saved so diligently for so long and are finally being able to add to our homestead. — Jackie

Homesteading seminars

I was thinking about you and your wonderfully fulfilling life that I and many others like to share through your blog. I know money is always tight for you and I thought of a way that you could make some extra cash and your loyal readers could get to see you and be taught by you. How about offering a two or three day seminar at your farm where you could instruct and encourage a group of ten or twenty folks who would pay you for your knowledge and experience. We could camp out or stay in a local motel. I know that I would be thrilled to meet you and learn from you firsthand.

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

Actually, Will and I have been talking about doing this sometime in the future. We aren’t set up right now, but when we are less “rushed” with projects so that we can devote sufficient time to folks who come, we quite probably will be having a couple of homesteading seminars each spring, summer, and fall. We’ll be sure to keep all of our BHM readers posted. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The eagles have landed

Monday, April 25th, 2011

One of the things we love about living on our wild homestead in the big woods is that we often see wildlife. Right out of our living room window, in many cases. Yesterday, the pair of Bald Eagles that nest in the woods across the creek brought their immature family of three with them over to our little beaver pond in front of the house. We enjoyed watching the family all morning, right out the window!

After they left, I walked down to see what had brought the eagles over. Last spring, we had seen a deer that had been struck by a car limping badly, and then it was gone. I found a deer carcass with a broken leg. I felt bad for the deer but was glad we got to see the eagles. What magnificent birds! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q&A: Freezing yeast and Restoring hard garlic and onion powder

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Freezing yeast

Can you freeze the bags of yeast that you can get at Costco? If so, for how long?

Jim Schmautz
Lolo, Montana

Yes! In fact it’s the best way to keep it for a long time, even a couple of years. On the shelf, yeast will only stay fresh for about 6 months or so. Refrigerated, you can easily double that. But in the freezer, it stays good for years! I always have one, divided, part on the shelf in the pantry and part in the fridge. But I also always have a pound in the freezer of my fridge…just in case. Then I rotate that after a couple of years and add a fresh one, just as I rotate my long-term storage and canned foods. — Jackie

Restoring hard onion and garlic powder

We have large cans of onion and garlic powders from Sam’s that were kept in the basement before we had a dehumidifier. They are rock hard. How do we restore them to their powder form so to use’m in everyday shaker bottles

Monty Digby
Ropesville, Texas

I’d take the contents out and put them on a cutting board. Depending on just how hard the powders are, I’d chop the block with either a cleaver or butcher knife until you have pieces small enough to fit into a blender. Whiz a piece or two at a time (make them half dollar size or smaller) until they are again powder. Repeat until all are fixed. If you don’t have a blender, I’ve used a rolling pin, corralling the powder with a cookie sheet. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q&A: Making jelly and Growing wheat

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

Making jelly

For years I have enjoyed Jackie’s articles, recently bought her canning book and I have a question. In the past I’ve put my strawberries through my Victorio Strainer and would like to make jam/jelly out of the puree but haven’t been able to figure out the proportions of berry puree/sugar/and packs of SureJell and was wondering if Jackie ever made jam/jelly out of fruit puree.

Penny Haber
Cape May Court House, New Jersey

Just make your jam as if you were using the “crushed strawberries” in most jam recipes. That would work out to 5 cups crushed strawberries, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 7 cups sugar, and 1 pkg. powdered pectin. Use your instructions or check out the canning book (mine is great if I do say so myself; I use it too!). — Jackie

Growing wheat

I have been gardening for years, but have been thinking about raising wheat. I live in NW Arkansas and was wanting to know what kind of wheat I could plant now and if harvesting can be done fairly simply. We raised corn last year for cornmeal and am thinking about trying the wheat to make my own flour. And how much would I need to plant?

BA from the Ozarks.

Wheat’s a great idea. You should probably plant a good hard spring wheat for fall harvest. While a 50×10-foot plot will usually supply a family with wheat for a year, you can sure start smaller than that and still harvest considerable grain. To harvest it, you can easily cut it with a scythe or even pruning shears. I cut ours with a cordless hedge trimmer! Be sure it is very dry and golden so it is ripe throughout. Take your dry wheat sheaves and place them in a shallow child’s wading pool or on a clean plastic tarp. Then either whack the sheaves and heads with a plastic baseball bat, a clean stick or even walk on it with clean tennies. The grain falls out of the husks and it is easy to fork away the straw. The grain that is left can be winnowed by pouring it from one bowl to a lower one on a windy day. No wind? Use a box fan! You’ll love growing wheat! And eating the resulting breads. — Jackie


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