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Archive for December, 2012

Jackie Clay

We wish all of you a very happy New Year!

Monday, December 31st, 2012

From our homestead to yours, whether it’s your forever homestead or the place you are for now, we truly wish you a wonderfully happy New Year! It doesn’t take parties, drinking, and staying up ’till midnight to make a happy New Year. Will and I are just going to sit by the fire, eat cookies, and enjoy the evening. (We may even get wild and crazy and sit in our very used, two-person hot tub in our bedroom that we bought last year.) Meanwhile, I’m working on an article for the magazine while he’s out working on the hydraulic pump of the tractor. He’s been hauling lots of large logs from trees blown down by the wind out of the woods and up to the sawmill. There’s getting to be quite a pile! All of the barn lumber is right there in the logs with plenty left over. Now that’s exciting! He wants to get as many logs hauled as possible before the snow gets too deep to navigate with the tractor.

I can’t tell you what a happy year it’s been for us. Sure we have had broke times where we struggled mightily with finances as we tried to do everything possible to advance our homestead as quickly as we can. But through it all, we’ve been fine and are now looking forward to the New Year and all we can get accomplished. We look back on the old year and are extremely happy with all we’ve gotten done. We have no resolutions; we’ll just keep on doing what we do and try to do the best we can with what we have and ask a little help from God along the way.


This photo is at one of the meals from our August seminar. (Oh, by the way, just a hint to let you know, we’re planning our next seminar for August 2013 and several of our past attendees are already saying they’re coming. I’ll put a flyer together soon so you who wish to come can have plenty of time to plan. We’re covering plenty of canning, seed saving, chicken raising, cheesemaking, and more.) Again, the photo’s old, but Dave said he was sending back my camera.


Jackie Clay

There’s hope for all of you who are snowed in

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

If you, like us, are looking out on a world of white and cold, it’s a good thing to remember that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve already passed the shortest day of the year and it’s only a “few weeks” until the snow melts. We’re all getting new seed and nursery catalogs in the mail, aren’t we? At least it gives us more time to plan for spring. Will and I have already found several things we want to add to our homestead next year!

I scrolled down my photos from this last year and was surprised at how green everything was! So maybe seeing all that green will encourage those of you who are sick of snow and cold. I think God gives us winter so we can rest up for spring and summer!



We had a great Christmas here. My sister and her son came up and we feasted on a pork loin roast basted with sweet Italian dressing, potatoes, and green beans from our garden, tons of pickles from the pantry, homemade pies and cheesecake along with plenty of snacking foods. My oldest son, Bill, and his family will be up this coming weekend for a late Christmas so we get to do it all over again. How fun. Even more so because our grandchildren, Mason and Ava, will be here for us to spoil. (We’re giving them Giant Pumpkin seeds for Christmas, among other things, so they can grow their own Giant for Halloween next year.) Oh, Will bought me an electric meat grinder for Christmas after seeing how much I loved Jeri’s! What a wonderful gift. Sigh. Who needs jewelry?

This morning, Will caught sight of something out on the beaver pond in front of the house. He grabbed the handy binoculars and called me to the window. It was a pair of wolves! They were hunting mice around the pond and playing with each other. The female went out into the middle of the ice and sat down, then ran back to play with the male. Then she went back onto the ice again. We think she was flirting with him. Breeding season’s rolling around in a couple of months. We got to watch them for about fifteen minutes before they meandered off into the woods up the creek. Awesome! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

To all my Backwoods Home family all over the world

Monday, December 24th, 2012


I hope you have a very warm and happy Christmas. Each and every one of you has become special to us. You encourage us on our tough days and bring smiles very often. I just want you to know how much YOU mean to us. Each of my books you buy helps add just a little more to our homestead and we think of you with thanks. Every question you send helps bring more meaning to what I do. As the New Year approaches, may each of you plan for the best on your homestead, with your life, and for your family. I love you all a whole lot! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Like everyone we’re trying to get ready for Christmas on our homestead

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Like most homesteaders we know, we struggle with cash this time of the year. Grain prices have been horrible. Hay, which we buy from a neighbor in big round bales, is expensive and we use a lot of it with so many steers (which we hope to be able to sell as sides and quarters of beef). Even mailing homemade Christmas gifts is expensive today. But we make do and try to keep the focus of Christmas on its true meaning, not on money. It helps a lot at this time of the (frantic) year to count our many blessings when the world seems so crazy.

We have our health. We have each other. We have a wonderful family and lots of great friends. I work with a great bunch at Backwoods Home Magazine. We have made tremendous strides on our homestead. We actually live in a Christmas card! (Our pretty log cabin sitting in the piney woods on a hill overlooking a beaver pond.) Our livestock is fat and happy. We have a gorgeous, decorated tree in our living room. Our pantry is bulging with lots of home-raised food. We have cords and cords of firewood and logs for lumber to saw later on so not only will we be warm but we will be able to build more animal shelter from home-sawn lumber. Our garden and orchard are doing well. I could go on for hours. You see what I mean.

It’s too easy to get down, being broke, hearing the news of the Newtown school shooting and other horrible happenings worldwide. So when I start to droop, I start counting our blessings and it always gets better right away. I hope it’s the same for you as you prepare for the holiday season. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning nuts and canning meat

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Canning nuts

I read everything I could about canning nuts and brown rice, including what I found in an older Stocking Up book I have. I heated the rice in the oven and put it in hot dry jars, put on lids, and placed them in the pressure canner with a couple inches of water. Then I put the lid on, turned up the burner just above half way (electric stove), put the rocker on, and let the pressure go up to 8 lbs.(I’m at 3000 feet) I reduced the heat, but it still hit 9 lbs. After 10 minutes, I removed the canner from the burner and let the pressure go to 0. A couple of minutes later, I removed the lid and removed the jars. I found that there were droplets of moisture inside the jars. That doesn’t seem to me to be a good sign. What did I do wrong and what can I do to keep moisture out of the jars? I did not do the exhaust step (wasn’t mentioned in anything I read). I won’t try any more rice or nuts until I figure this out.

Sylvia Gist
Polson, Montana

Every time you use your pressure canner, you need to exhaust steam which drives air out of the canner before you shut it down to build up pressure. Did you use previously simmered, yet dry lids? Sometimes you need to let them sit a minute so the moisture on them heat-dries before putting on the jars. I’ve never found droplets of water inside my jars of dried food like nuts and rice so I’d just give it another try. If there were only a couple droplets, I’d just keep an eagle eye on the jars; they’ll probably be fine. If the droplets don’t go away, you’d better open the jars and try again to prevent mold from forming. I hope you have better luck next time. (I don’t think the pressure going to 9 pounds had anything to do with the moisture problem.) — Jackie

Canning meat

I am newly returning to canning for my self but have the benefit of helping can for my family while growing up on a ranch. I currently have about 200 # of meat in my freezer that we have been using since late 2010. We butchered a beef and I then got an elk so had more meat than my family could eat in that time. I am wondering if I could can that meat (mostly burger now) still and then keep it for safe for eating for another year. The meat tastes fine, smells fine, and only occasionally has a small spot of freezer burn.

Troy Long
Arvada, Colorado

If the meat smells and tastes fine, you sure can put it up by canning it. Be sure to cut off any parts that show freezer burn because it gives foods an off taste that you can’t get rid of. I can up a lot of plain burger and also taco-seasoned burger and find it is very handy to have around. Canned meat also frees up freezer space. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning pickled eggs and Amish coleslaw

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Canning pickled eggs

I have pickled eggs in a vinegar solution and then sealed them using the water bath method. They are all sealed. Can I put them in the pantry for later use or do they still need to be refrigerated even if the seals have not been opened? I know you have to refrigerated AFTER opening as that has been made clear by your articles. I have asked this question to many canners but have yet to get a satisfactory answer. My fridge will only hold so many jars and I don’t want to pickle any more till I get an answer to this question. I have always thought if you pickled anything and left it sealed that it was safe to put on the shelf. Am I wrong? I don’t want to bet my life on it!

Cheryl Yankey
Columbia, Tennessee

Yes, you can put canned, pickled eggs on your pantry shelves. Mine are bulging with them! Once opened, you must refrigerate them for safety. You are right! — Jackie

Amish coleslaw

I just made a small batch of your Amish Coleslaw from the Sept/Oct issue #137. I might have made 5 pints if I could have stopped eating it! But I made four. My question is: Once processed, how long shall I store it before using it? I know some pickled things can take 12 weeks to be ready. I sure hope I don’t have to wait that long!

Cynthia Crowninshield
Sagamore, Massachusetts

The good news is that you don’t have to wait a day to begin eating it. But it doesn’t last long that way! Of course, you can just make more. A big head of cabbage makes lots. I’m glad you like it too. I even use the left-over juice as a light salad dressing. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We don’t really have ripe tomatoes yet; just thought I’d get your attention!

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012


My camera is back in Oregon, at the magazine, getting outfitted so I can shoot the videos Dave wants me to shoot. So I’m out of photos, temporarily. I looked through my old ones and was so shocked to see bright red tomatoes. It sure cheers me up when I look outside into a Christmas card-like scene — all clinging white. It’s sometimes nice to know that it will go away and spring will come again and with it will come bright colors, ripe vegetables, and the smell of damp earth.

I’ve been grinding the fat from the pig we had butchered and rendering it, one turkey roasting pan at a time, in the oven. Yesterday I got four quarts and a half pint. I’ll be grinding/rendering again tomorrow again. I should have at least three batches. And the lard is beautiful, snowy white, all sealed and ready to go in the pantry. Just think of all those pie crusts and fried potatoes. No, I don’t overdo eating lard; we have just pretty much quit using margarine and cooking oil/shortening and are opting for good old natural fat. Now the experts are even telling us it’s good for us. My, how the worm turns!

Jackie Clay

Winter brings new challenges to the homestead

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Although a foot of snow is beautiful here in the woods, the cold along with it brings new challenges. Our nighttime temperatures have been zero or below with the daytime temps only in the teens. Thus watering our abundant livestock gets to be a challenge. Will’s fabulous wood fired stock heaters work great for keeping the ice out of the horses; cows; and yearling steers’ water tanks. But we still don’t have our water line buried all the way down to the barn, about 500 feet from the house. Luckily, Will installed roof-type heat tapes inside the 1½-inch black poly water line so we only have to deal with the hoses to and from that line. But if we aren’t very careful to get them entirely drained after every use, they can freeze. And our big steers’ water tank doesn’t have a heater yet. We have to run about 200 feet of hose from our frost-free hydrant in the yard to their tank. With that much hose, we have frequent freezes. The only way to thaw that much hose is to drag it to the house and lay it out in the entryway and living room. I’m very thankful we don’t have carpeting! But the hoses do thaw and we do get the critters all watered.

Some folks just let their animals eat snow in the winter. Yeah, they’ll live. Usually. But the old farmers say, “water is your cheapest feed” and animals not only are much happier with drinking water but they stay in better shape over winter. So we drag hoses until we get the next steps toward easy homesteading completed. It takes a lot of time and is annoying and messy. But it costs nothing and when the animals come to get a drink I can see them smiling. Happy animals makes us homesteaders content. Even when dragging hoses at below zero!


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