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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.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sunflower seeds for chickens and storing canned items in a dirt-floor basement

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Sunflower seeds for chickens

I feed no chicken food to my hens. The only corn they get is people corn. They have never had any shots or medications. That said, can I feed Pennington’s Oiled Black Sunflower Seeds to them and still maintain my safe, high standard feedings?

Just so you know–they do get fruits in moderation, vegetables, raw greens, cooked chicken, people oatmeal, cooked brown rice, greens and they free range most days.

Practical Parsimony
Cullman, Alabama

I think I’d skip the sunflower seeds. Many commercially grown sunflower seeds are GMO today and sunflower fields are sprayed with herbicides and commercial fertilizers. That said, black oil sunflower seeds are expensive today as many are used for biodiesel, cooking oils, and margarine products. Glad to hear your chickens are being so well cared for. — Jackie

Storing canned items in a dirt-floor basement

I have a question regarding the new house we bought that I thought you might have some insight on. We have an 1880 dirt floor basement there (moving next week). I have 3 big boxes of home canned tomatoes, pickles, beans and whatnot and I am wondering if it’s OK to store canned food in a dirt floor basement. I know there is some moisture down there, no standing water on the floor, but the previous owner did install a sump pump which does have visible water in it. There are no windows, they sealed over them when the foundation was re done. Part of me wants to try it, because it is dark and cool, and I could build some wood shelves and make good use of the area…but then I think my lids are going to rust. We plan to lay 6 mil plastic over the dirt (suggested by the home inspector) to help with moisture evaporating through the floor. Eventually I would like to dig out 4 inches and pour cement. Not sure what to do until then. Would you store canning in a dirt basement?

Cathy Ostrowski
Amherst, New York

I sure would. And I’ve done just that in my first homestead. It had what was called a “Michigan basement,” which was half concrete with half of the basement having a dirt floor. If you seem to get condensation on jars, which causes lids to rust, you can install a dehumidifier to take care of it until you pour cement. Or you could open up the sealed ex-window areas in the new foundation so you can get more ventilation in the basement, which would decrease the humidity. (You can rent a cement saw if the openings have been sealed with cement blocks.) You may later want to pour cement only in part of the basement and leave part dirt (the portion with the sump) for a root cellar. Stored vegetables and fruits love a more humid storage area! Congratulations on your new homestead! — Jackie

One Response to “Q and A: sunflower seeds for chickens and storing canned items in a dirt-floor basement”

  1. barbara Says:

    I grew up in Mich. & never heard the term – Michigan basement. My grandma’s basement was cement with a dirt floor root cellar were her canned goods & veggies were. I thought it was just because she grew up on a farm. Thanks for teaching me something new today!

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