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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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Jackie Clay

Q and A: senior homesteading, leftover pickle brine, and canning cranberry sauce

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Senior homesteading

I’m 55, and my husband is 62. It’s just the two of us on five acres with garden beds, dogs, chickens, and the hope of more on our little homestead (a couple of cows, some pigs, and a small herd of goats). And there’s always work to do: food prep, canning, cleaning, repairs, the well, roof, etc. We are severely restricted by finances, and we do a lot by hand because we don’t have big equipment. Sometimes the amount of work overwhelms us, and we can’t seem to catch up with everything that needs to be done.

My questions for you: I know you’re an older couple like us, and I wonder how do you manage to get all the work done? Is it just you and Will on your homestead? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of work? I’d just like to hear how you manage to do it all.


Of course we sometimes feel overwhelmed! Hey, we’re human, after all. Yes, it’s pretty much Will and I on our homestead. My son, David, is usually away at work or with his girlfriend, so we don’t see him much anymore. We, too, are quite restricted by finances, but we’ve learned to really suck it up so we can save for a piece of more expensive (to us!) equipment each year. We try to prioritize these as to which we really need most. And often, you can make one piece of equipment do the work of two or more. I started out with an older riding lawnmower and used that with a small trailer to haul rocks, hay, buckets of water, and feed. It also cut the grass. Then I bought a used four wheeler. It does everything but cut the grass and also discs our garden, harrows the garden and pastures, pulls in firewood, and cuts down on our walking a whole lot. The next big equipment was an older Ford tractor, complete with a three point wood splitter. Both the tractor and wood splitter sure save our backs and we can get so much more done in a day. Without the wood splitter, we split wood nearly every day, all summer, doing a little at a time so we didn’t have a tiring marathon come fall.

You need to realize that you’ll never get it all done and come to a certain peace in that. Every day we try to do the most important jobs after chores; sometimes we get them done and often they just get a little more done than they were in the morning. We just keep plugging away. And eventually it does get done. Another hint is not to assume that every single project must be done before starting another one. Often we work at one project until we either run out of money, our backs start hurting, or we run out of steam. Then we switch to another that needs no cash, needs no back straining work, or is easier, period.

Sometimes you can trade work with a friend or neighbor, like they did in the old days. You help them can and they come over and help you can. It’s more fun and the old saying “many hands make light work” is sure true. Or maybe a younger neighbor would like to learn to homestead and would be willing to come help you in exchange for learning. Or maybe a neighbor would trade some help for a cut of your garden produce, milk, cheese, chickens, or whatever. Sort of like a no-cash CSA (community supported agriculture).

I hope some of these hints will help you. Know you’re not alone and that the homestead life is worth every single aching muscle in your body! — Jackie

Leftover pickle brine

Last year I had some left over brine when I made pickles. I canned it along with the pickles. Can I now use that to make some refrigerator pickles?

Sheryl Napier
Newport News, Virginia

While you shouldn’t re-use pickle brine to make regular pickles, I don’t see why you couldn’t use it to make refrigerator pickles as they’re not processed for long-term storage. — Jackie

Canning cranberry sauce

Can I double/triple the recipe for canning cranberry sauce?

Sam Stevens
Aiken, South Carolina

No, I wouldn’t double/triple the recipe for canning cranberry sauce. Often when you do that with jellied type products, either the food scorches due to the longer boiling time required or the food doesn’t set up right. Better to make several smaller batches. — Jackie

One Response to “Q and A: senior homesteading, leftover pickle brine, and canning cranberry sauce”

  1. Sheryl Says:

    Thanks Jackie, I was hoping i could use it for ridge pickles. I just thought it would be nice to have “fresh” pickles in February!

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