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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Jackie Clay

Q and A: removing tree stumps and size of pressure canner

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Removing tree stumps

I have been a huge fan of yours and a subscriber to Backwoods Home for many, many years. In fact, Backwoods is the only magazine I subscribe to — can’t afford any others. I’m 70+ years old and am not able to dig out, blow up, or find some way to “vibrate” (archives) tree stumps. One person in the archives said to use saltpeter. How? Where can I buy that stuff? Also, do you know of any other easy way to get rid of tree stumps? Thanks so much to you and Will for all your good advice.

Bonnie W.
Norfork, Arkansas

You’re welcome, Bonnie. We feel like we’re just helping out family. I’ve dealt with stumps most of my life and there’s no easy way to get rid of them. The best way we’ve found is to set a brush pile on them and burn them if you are able to burn in your area (safely). Other than that, we have cut them off as close to the ground as possible and piled fresh manure over them a foot deep. In a couple of years, they’ll rot. If you have only one or two big ones in your yard or garden, you can either rent a stump grinder and have a friend/relative grind the stumps down below ground level. Then you can level over it with soil and it’s gone and will eventually rot but won’t be in the way for mowing. Some yard care places will even do it for you (for cash, of course).

Saltpeter is potassium nitrate and is getting harder to find; some hardware stores still carry it. It is also one of the main ingredients for the chemical stump removers advertised in a lot of magazines. Unfortunately, if you have a lot of stumps, it can get pricey. And they don’t rot as fast as the ads claim. A backhoe or smaller dozer works wonders and in a hour, they can dig up a lot of stumps, making it cost-effective if you are really in a hurry to get rid of the stumps. — Jackie

What size pressure canner?

We are getting ready to start gardening to supplement our pantry. We have put in fruit trees, and will plant a garden beginning after the first of the year. I want to be able to can some of the produce from the garden. What size pressure canner do you recommend to start with? I do plan on going to some of the local farmers markets and will shop produce on sale until our garden starts to produce enough surplus for us to can. Can you do small quantities in a larger canner such as the 21 quart or should I get a 10 or 15 quart to start?

Marti Ayers
Tonopah, Arizona

Good for you! Once you start canning, you’ll find it so much fun and be so excited about all the great foods you can put up you just won’t believe it. I’d advise buying the largest pressure canner you can afford. Yes, you can fill it or only can one jar at a time if necessary; that’s not a problem, other than work and fuel required for that one, lonely jar. I have a huge one, but it weighs a lot so if I’m doing smaller batches of something, I use my smaller canner for convenience. But I DO use my big canner a lot and you’ll find a larger canner will save you plenty of time in the long run. — Jackie

7 Responses to “Q and A: removing tree stumps and size of pressure canner”

  1. bobster Says:

    if you are really broke AND patient, you can fence around a stump and leave pigs in there. they will get that stump eventually!

  2. Roger Says:

    Another way to deal with tree stumps is to use an old barrel or metal dustbin. Dig a small trench around the stump and fill it with dry waste wood. Light it and once well alight cover it with the barrel(metal of course). Seal any leaks around the edges with soil effectively turning it into a charcoal kiln. Leave it for a couple of days and the stump will literally have turned into charcoal. A much longer description cab be found on Permaculture magazines online pages as I am the first to admit I am pretty poor a describing things. We then crush and soak the charcoal in a barrel of water that has a net bag of sheep manure in.(though you could use nettle or comfrey tea) Leave to soak for about 10 days agitating daily. Scattering the drained charcoal on your veg garden acts as a slow release fertiliser. We have been using it for years with excellent results. Hope this helps. Once again Jackie we love your column and you now have quite a following here in Wales.

  3. Roger Says:

    Should have said on larger stumps you may have to do this a couple of times. And should decide to steep the charcoal to use as a fertiliser do it well away from the house as after 10 days it gets pretty smelly!!

  4. Shotgunner Says:

    A natural method that is effective (albeit tasty) is to inoculate the logs with a suitable mushroom spawn. Then in a year or two and perhaps beyond you will have a flush of yummy gourmet mushrooms and the stump will be made rotten.

    I am not associated with in anyway

  5. Angela Says:

    I don’t have any advice on the tree stumps, but I’d definitely agree with you on the canner — we don’t always do batches that take up all the space in our pressure canner, but when we do things like meat, we’ll often fill up the extra space with beans or something else it’s nice to have pressure canned for convenience.

  6. Ann Says:

    My dad put charcoal on the stump, squirted on starter, lit it then covered the whole with aluminum foil. It burned down slowly over a period of time. Right now with our drought I would not try this, but in a normal wet year it should work. The only problem I’ve heard of from this process is that the roots burned underground and started a fire some distance away from the stump.

  7. Kentucky Kid Says:

    I agree with Jackie on getting the large canner, with a couple of caveats . . .

    First, don’t get one that’s too big to handle on your range. Our older electric range has a microwave built in over the top, and limits how big a canner we can use.

    Also, check the construction of your “burners” to be sure they are adequate to support a fully-loaded canner. They are kinda heavy with a full load of jarred produce.

    Other than that, go big.


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