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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for March, 2012

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Squash bugs and antibiotics

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Squash bugs and cucumber beetles

We had such a hard time with squash bugs and cucumber beetles last year that we thought about lightweight fabric covers this year. The problem was so bad last year that we just dug them up and burnt them. Never had this big an issue before and never used the row covers before.

Can you tell me how this would effect the pollination of the plants? Would they bear fruit or would the fruit be greatly reduced?

We are planting this year in a different garden on the 5 acres so they are not in the same area as last year.

Nana From Texas

Squash bugs and cucumber beetles can sure make a gardener sick. Yes, a floating row cover will help a great deal and no, it doesn’t usually affect pollination at all. Other treatments can include picking and squashing all visible bugs and eggs under the leaves early in the year and spraying with neem oil and/or Surround. By burning your plants last year, you will probably not have as great an invasion as you did last. But it pays to be vigilant anyway! Good luck. — Jackie


You mention “antibiotics” a couple of times, but how is one supposed to get these meds when they are so tightly controlled? I have access to animal-grade antibiotics, but are these safe for humans?

Bob Harris
Barnesville, Minnesota

Many doctors will give you a prescription for antibiotics if you tell them you will be traveling to a remote area and would like some on hand in case of a serious cold that turns into a bacterial infection or some such plausible reason. Others will not. Antibiotics are antibiotics, regardless if they are labeled for veterinary or human use. My late husband, while in vet school, went to several drug manufacturing companies and watched the assembly line divide with some bottles receiving a human label and others, a veterinary label. Of course, doctors would be horrified to hear you’re considering taking “veterinary” antibiotics! But they’re sure better than NO antibiotics in a life or death situation. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Spindly seedlings and dehydrating onion blades

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Spindly seedlings

Could you please take a photo each week or so of how your seedlings look in the house? Mine start out fine, but end up spindly and anemic-looking.

Sandra Agostini
Nixa, Missouri

I’ll post a few photos of our seedlings’ progress. Meanwhile, seedlings usually end up spindly because there’s not enough light. If your window isn’t providing enough light, pick up a 4-foot shop light and hang it over them, only a few inches above the tallest leaves. That does nearly as good as a more expensive Grow Light. As the seedlings grow taller, raise the light a bit, keeping it quite close to the plants. That’ll do the trick for you. I have lights above my plants even in the south-facing greenhouse windows to use on real cloudy weeks. — Jackie

Dehydrating onion blades

Once again, I need to ask Jackie, What to do with lots of onion blades? My winter onions are so pretty, because of lack of space, I pull them up in spring, dry them, set them back out in fall, won’t be long I’ll be pulling them up, the blades are so green and pretty, and they are not dried up, and not wanting to throw away good stuff, I just thought you might have the answer, You have been so very helpful, I have canned things the last 2 years that I never knew you could. Four of your “Growing and Canning Your Own Food” books are in the hands of my family,

Estes Mills
Texarkana, Texas

I would cut off the leaves about two inches above the bulb, before you pull them, then chop them into rings and dehydrate them. I use a lot of these like you would chives, in soups, casseroles, etc. I, too, hate to waste anything! I even hate to thin carrots! But I do it anyway, sweating, and grinding my teeth.

I’m glad you like Growing and Canning Your Own Food. (Have you seen Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook yet? It’s full of down-home good recipes for using all of your garden and pantry food. And not one weird ingredient in the whole bunch!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Plugging along and storing canned foods

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Plugging along

Speaking about “We were a “little” upset to hear that Obama declared Peacetime Martial Law, but life on the homestead goes on. Wow, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard you comment politically before. Glad to hear you give an opinion (with which I completely agree).

Dan Norgard
Prescott Valley, Arizona

I don’t often get into the political/religious sidelines, but that one shook us up. But like I said, there’s not much we can do about it and we’re old enough not to beat ourselves into a frenzy about “what if?” so we just keep plugging along our path to self-reliance, no matter what’s going on in the world. We may not (and often DO NOT) like it, but we’re smart enough to realize we can’t fix everything. — Jackie

Storing canned foods

I am a woman who lives in a rented trailer and it gets very hot here in Oklahoma. Can you suggest a place in my rented home to store my canned foods so they do not get overheated?

Hawk Lessard
Wagoner, Oklahoma

When we live in less than “ideal” conditions, we have to make do. If you have an extra room, even a bathroom, you can add extra rigid insulation board temporarily to the ceiling and walls, leaving the vents for your swamp cooler or air conditioner open to cool the room. Block off the window(s), too. You can either use movable shelving or even store your canned foods in boxes, stacked against the walls, if necessary. This usually works quite well. If this won’t work, you can also stack boxes of canned goods on top of rigid insulation board in a corner or on a wall of a room, with additional insulation board against the wall and on top of the top boxes. It helps a lot. Even in less than ideal conditions, home canned food is still good for years. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring is sort of coming and going

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

One day it’s 65 degrees, and the next it’s snowing! But that’s springtime in northern Minnesota. On the warm days, Will’s been removing the black dirt next to the house and under the new porch-to-be and replacing it with gravel from our gravel pit. That way any moisture will drain down and away from the house. With the black dirt it would not have drained off and could have possibly affected our block basement wall.

There was still frost in the shaded corner of the yard and Will had to hack it into blocks and hand-chuck it into the tractor bucket.

Meanwhile, I’ve been transplanting peppers and pickling our surplus eggs. Eggs are real easy to pickle and store in the pantry until I need them to make deviled eggs or egg salad during the winter when eggs are not so abundant. We like them with a little “spunk,” so I add a couple of tablespoons full of hot pepper ring juice (vinegar/spices) too. I’m doing about two dozen eggs a day and they’re starting to add up. How nice!

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning green beans, refried beans, and marinated pork chops

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Canning green beans

Is it ok to pressure can green beans with a beef bouillon base and slices of bacon. It would be so much easier to just open a can and have it ready rather than having to add it when cooking.

Jacqueline Wieser
Sidney, Nebraska

You could if you processed pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes, as required for meat because you’re using beef broth as a base and meat (bacon) as an ingredient. This time is a lot longer than required for green beans alone and you may find them too soft for your liking. I’ve canned beef stew, etc. like this and they came through fine. Try a batch and see how you like the result. — Jackie

Canning refried beans

Can I re-can refried beans? I got a killer deal on dented #10 cans of a popular brand of refried beans. When I open a can I was wanting to re-can the remaining beans into pint jars. Can this be done? Would you process them in a pressure canner just as if you were canning pintos or other home cooked beans?

Lynette McPherson
Brookings, Oregon

Sorry, but you can’t safely re-can refried beans…or even homemade refried beans. The way I do it is to can up pintos with seasonings and onions/garlic, then when I heat them in a frying pan, I mash them and cook ’em down. It only takes about 5 minutes and they’re done. You’d best freeze them or you could spread them out in a 1/8″ thick layer on your fruit leather trays in your dehydrator and dehydrate them to crispy-dry. Refried beans are a very dense product and it is not thought safe to can them as it is not certain if the centers of the jars heat thoroughly enough for safe canning during the processing time given for beans. The same thing goes for foods with thick gravy, pureed squash and pumpkin, to mention a few. — Jackie

Canning marinated pork chops

1/4 + 1/8 cup honey
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
6 cloves garlic (minced or cut fine)
6 boneless pork chops

Mix honey, soy sauce, and garlic…marinade chops, then toss on a hot grill.

My question: This sounds delicious, but I would like to can them. What would you do to the mixture, so it would not be so strong after canning, and, what would you add for liquids so as to bring the liquid lever to 1 inch from the top?

Beverly Giroux
Oxford, Maine

What I’d do is to marinate the chops then just lightly grill. Pack the hot chops into wide mouth pint jars, then just use boiling water to fill the jar to the 1″ of headspace required. The flavor of the marinade and grilled chops should provide a well-flavored broth in your jars. I wouldn’t adjust the marinade; I don’t think it’ll get too strong after canning. Do a batch and see how you like the results. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I’ve been talked into doing another BHM Radio interview

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

On Saturday I’ll be talking to Colorado Ron and Bubba DaVinci on the BHM Radio show. If you get a chance, check it out. These are always a lot of fun — join us if you can.

Our strange, spring-like weather’s been holding out and yesterday I even disced the garden, weeks ahead of when I usually can actually garden. But this weather may not hold and I wanted to get the rotted manure and straw mixed with the soil in case it starts to rain. But the beavers say it’s going to be a dry summer, so I tend to believe them. (They didn’t lie about it being an open winter, did they?) Nature’s weather forecasters seem to be way ahead of the Farmer’s Almanac and the weather service! Already the robins, red-winged blackbirds, geese, ducks, and killdeer are back — also a couple weeks early. I’m even thinking about planting peas and spinach. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We were a “little” upset to hear that Obama declared Peacetime Martial Law…but life on the homestead goes on

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

There’s some things you just can’t do much about so you keep on doing whatever you can to make your family’s life better and prepare for what may come in the future. Just like the day of 9/11. I was canning tomato sauce at the time and was horrified as I listened to the radio. But I kept on canning tomato sauce.

Today, I’m canning more meat (wow there is a lot of meat in a 1/4 of a beef and a whole hog!), as well as hot pickled cauliflower and carrots, in between batches of meat. I’m NOT a “prepper.” We simply try to live as self-reliant a life as we can. It used to be that “stocking” up was a good thing and what every farm and homestead family did to prevent hard times. Now it’s called “hoarding” and we who stock up are nut cases and weirdos. I don’t think so! And with the current vibes around the country, I’m sure glad we do think ahead.

Will’s still working on the barn and when his back gets too bad, he switch-hits to clearing on the 40. That, by the way, is going very well. Or it was until Old Yeller threw a track yesterday. But the sun was out and the weather was warm, so I got some tools (a pry bar, come-along, and the grease gun for the track tensioner) and Will set about putting it back on — all 250 pounds worth.

It went okay, and soon the dozer was again shoving piles of brush together, making larger areas of nice, clear ground. Soon that will be disced and planted into orchard grass, clover, and bird’s foot trefoil with oats as a nurse crop. It’s looking very nice already. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning pesto and breeding gilts

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

Canning pesto

Can I can pesto? If so, how to do it?

Ann Hazelett
Litchfield Park, Arizona

Sorry, Ann, but pesto is one food that is (so far) not able to be home canned. Although you would be canning it in small jars, the food is still considered too dense a product to be home canned. — Jackie

Breeding gilts

I was wondering what age do you recommend breeding gilts for the first time? We have two Berkshire gilts that are coming on six months old. Our boar is seven months old. We intend to establish a breeding program with them so what is the best age for the long term? How long do breeding pigs live anyway?

One more question, what de-wormer do you use and when do you recommend using it?

Mia Sodaro
Frazier Park, California

We breed gilts for the first time between 8-10 months of age, depending on the growth and apparent maturity of the gilts. Boars should be 8 months of age before being used for the first time. Sows are usually able to stay in the breeding program for about 5 years after their first litter. They live much longer, but usually their litters begin to decline in numbers of births or the sows become so heavy that they begin laying on and killing their babies.

We use Ivermectin injections just behind the ear, just under the skin if you have a way of restraining the pigs. If not, I’ve had good luck using the Ivermectin paste wormer used for horses, given at twice the horse weight dose, with the paste injected into the center of a filled doughnut or a Twinkie-type filled cake. They take this quite well. Follow up with another dose of either, in two weeks to ensure that any parasite eggs that have hatched are killed before being able to reproduce. We worm three weeks before the gilts/sows farrow. — Jackie


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