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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for January, 2013

Jackie Clay

Our California goats are doing fine in the barn

Thursday, January 31st, 2013


After jumping out of their indoor greenhouse pen three times in half an hour, we decided to try putting them back in the goat barn. The temperature was warmer (30 above) and it was sunny. Instead of putting them in their old pen, David and I built a hay house inside the center pen so they could be by themselves for more pampering. After bedding it well we brought them out and they seemed happy to be outside. They went right in their hay house and now they cuddle together when they aren’t eating or exploring. Hopefully they’ll continue to do well. I will put coats on them tomorrow night. It’s supposed to be -27. Brrrr.

We had another 8 inches of snow yesterday and Will plowed the mile-long driveway and cleaned out our house yard. It’s much better than fighting the snow.


Because of the cold, we’ve been working inside, doing finish work on the house. The shake roof is nearly done with only the new pine fascia trim to go. I think it looks real nice. We’re even thinking of splitting shakes for our new chicken coop-to-be. Now Will’s putting up trim around the windows indoors. He started in my office and has plans to move around and do the bathroom and kitchen windows too. Boy, does that look great. He has one office window finished and is working on the second one now.


Around the homestead there’s always something to do. We never get bored! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: livestock crops, scorched stew, and pressure canning meat

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Livestock crops

John and I want to plant as many crops for the animals as we can this year. What do you recommend for fresh eating and storage foods?
Frazier Park, California

It depends chiefly on how much tillable/irrigated land you have available. Traditional livestock crops like field or silage corn are high producing but need quite a bit of acreage. (We don’t have it so we don’t grow field corn or silage corn which you can also manually harvest to feed green on the stalk.)  So we grow plenty of extra pumpkins, squash, and rutabagas. All take relatively little land and give us lots of both people and animal feed. Other useful crops are comfrey, which we harvest all summer and fall as a cut-and-come-again crop for the cattle, goats, pigs, and chickens. It is rampant and perennial, requiring little care and having no pests.  It is also invasive so be careful where you put it if you decide to grow it! We planted ours behind our training ring, way down by the new barn so it can’t get into our garden. It’s also handy there to cut. We also cut our sweet corn stalks while they are still green to feed the critters after we harvest the ears on the stalks to eat or can.  Every little bit helps. — Jackie

Scorched stew

I made a 10 qt. pot of Brunswick stew and it scorched. What can I do to get rid of the smell and taste?
Shirley Kendrick
Hampstead, North Carolina

Sometimes you can get rid of scorched smell and taste by gently removing all the stew and NOT disturbing the burned-on bottom layer, and then pouring it into another clean pot. Then peel a large potato and add to it along with 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Slowly simmer the soup for about 45 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t scorch again. Remove the potato, take a sniff, and taste.  Sometimes this works; sometimes it is too badly scorched for the taste to be removed. Stuff happens sometimes. I sure hate for this to happen to me but it has. — Jackie

Pressure canning meat

Recently I have begun pressure canning our own meat. I did ground beef for the first time (cooked it, drained off the fat, packed in hot jars, covered it with stock, 1 inch headspace, processed pints for 55 minutes at 15 pounds per the canner’s manual) and now I’m not sure if the meat is good. The seals pinged, but most of the liquid is not in the jars any longer and the jars themselves were greasy feeling when they came out of the canner. The meat looks fine, but looks can be deceiving. So is the meat safe to eat?

Bound Brook, New Jersey

Your canner said to process at 15 pounds for 55 minutes?  The normal recommended processing pressure is 10 pounds unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and the time is 75 minutes for pints of meat. The liquid may have blown out of the jars because of the higher pressure. This, in itself, is not usually anything to be worried about, but I would be concerned about only processing the jars for 55 minutes which is 20 minutes less than the recommended time. Personally, I’d refrigerate the jars and use them as soon as it is convenient. And I’d pick up a canning book (you could pick up mine by clicking right here on the blog) for future use. Just wash the jars off with hot, soapy water to remove the grease on the outsides of the jars. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

What’s it like at -35?

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

We got a recent reminder of what it’s like at -35 a couple days ago. When it’s that cold, we need to stuff wood in the fire every hour or two; I sleep on the sofa and do that. The vehicles don’t want to start. We wait until it “warms up” to -15 before trying that. Then usually one will fire up and we go around jumping batteries as needed to get the rest started. If we don’t need them, we don’t start them. Unfortunately, we did need the truck with the snowplow on it because we had 6 inches of new snow.


I water the goats, pigs, and small calves with warm water from the house. So we haul from the bathtub to the different pens most of the (frigid) morning and afternoon. All the animals need lots of extra bedding to stay warm. Even then, two of our new goats (who were sickly) were too cold and we needed to bring them into the house the night the temperature dived or I’m sure they would have died. We got them a week ago from a friend of a friend who had moved here from southern California to homestead. She’d had enough of frigid Minnesota and was moving back to California and wanted someone to take her three goats.

We took the goats and felt sorry for the almost-homesteader. But the goats were still wearing their summer coats and even with sweatshirts, they were cold. They had diarrhea and snotty noses, and just didn’t feel well. So we hauled them into our house and put them in the greenhouse addition. I built a small pen in the corner and every time I went into the kitchen, I tempted them with goodies ranging from salt, brown sugar, and apple slices to some of our dried sweet corn seed and squash guts. I’d already wormed them, given oral sulfas and IM antibiotics.


After two full days, they began to eat and baa at me. This morning I woke up to goat feet pitter-patting through the house. They’d jumped out of their pen!

Because it’s 32 above today, David and I built a hay-bale goat house inside the goat barn and bedded that heavily with straw. We’ll keep a close watch on them and if they get too cold, back inside they’ll come. But I have to tell you that goats really don’t make good housepets! I’m hoping they’ll adjust just fine. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will and Jackie’s August 2013 homesteading seminar

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Will and Jackie’s 2013 homesteading seminar will take place beginning Friday August 23rd, through Sunday August 25th, on their homestead about 80 miles north of Duluth, Minnesota. If you are interested in a hands-on learning experience about the practical aspects of homesteading, please click here for more information.

Please scroll down for Jackie’s current posts.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: getting a steer ready to butcher, storing ketchup, hulless seeds

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Getting a steer ready to butcher

We are raising our first grass-fed steer. It is a White Face Hereford. We fed it pasture all last summer and hay thru the winter months since there is just snow here. It is about 20 months old. We are thinking of letting it graze on pasture this spring maybe thru end of June and sending to butcher. Do you think this will be too long? We are afraid of getting tough meat. Also, do you give it any corn or grain at all in the end for marbling? Someone told us they put theirs in a stall the last month to tender the meat… Not sure what is best…

Jackie Schillinger
Pleasantville, Pennsylvania

No, this won’t be too long. Some folks like to feed grain for 60 days prior to butchering as it does put more fat into the meat (called “marbling”). We’ve done that as well as just butchering a steer right off of the pasture. I really couldn’t tell any difference regarding tenderness. The straight grass-fed steer’s meat was leaner. And the flavor of a strictly grass-fed steer is more “beefier” than one who finishes on grain/grass. It’s up to you and there really is no “right” answer, in my opinion. — Jackie

Storing ketchup

I just received cases of Heinz ketchup in the large squeeze bottles. They are just at or past the expiration date on the bottles. Is there any benefit in recanning this stuff in jars? I am not sure if they would store longer/better in canning jars than in the plastic squeeze bottles. If I do re-can I assume I heat the ketchup in a pot and then water bath can it for 10 minutes?

Kevin Sakuta
Jesup, Georgia

I wouldn’t go to the extra work of re-canning the ketchup. The expiration date is simply a marketing ploy. Ketchup doesn’t “go bad” after the expiration date. Period. I’ve stored ketchup for years past the expiration date and the only difference is a slight darkening of the color.

If you do chose to re-can it, you simply heat it up then process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes as you would with “fresh” ketchup. — Jackie

Hulless seeds

I have grown those little hull less pumpkins. Can I pressure can the hull less seeds without drying them?

Pat Rizzi
Swanton, Ohio

You treat the hulless seeds as if they were nutmeats; toast them on a cookie sheet on low heat (you can sprinkle with salt first if you wish) until thoroughly toasted, then pack in hot jars and process dry for 10 minutes at 5 pounds pressure. They stay nice that way for years. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning frosting, squash vine borers, and canning brown rice

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Canning frosting

I am an avid canner. And I love your advice and wisdom in canning and homesteading. I was recently given a bulk 12lb container of chocolate frosting. Is it possible to can this frosting? I know I can freeze it, but I love to have canned foods especially when the electricity goes out.

Shirley Toney
Liberty, Mississippi

I’ve never canned frosting and would think that the shortening/margarine in it would separate out and change texture with the 60 minute water bath processing time — that’s what I’ve done with chocolate ice cream topping recently. You might try a pint and see what happens, using that time. I may be wrong. Let us know! — Jackie

Squash vine borers

I just received the Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds you sent me, THANK YOU SO MUCH! I can’t wait ’til spring to get them planted! My question is about squash vine borers. I seem to have problems with them every year, would floating row covers help? I read in a previous post that you said the row covers would not affect pollination that much either. I use row covers on my squash plants but only until they start blooming and then that’s when the bugs hit, so I think I will try leaving them on longer if they will still set fruit. Also are there any preventative applications to deter borers?

Whitewater, Colorado

You are welcome! The most important thing to get rid of borers is to completely gather and burn all squash/pumpkin vines in the fall to get rid of over-wintering insects/eggs. If you just till them in come spring, you make your infestation worse. They also over-winter in the soil so rotating the spot where you grow pumpkins and squash with other non-susceptible crops helps. You can also take an old pantyhose and lightly wrap it around the lower stem of the plant. It prevents the borer from boring into the stem at the base of the plant where they often first appear. — Jackie

Canning brown rice

I read in a recent issue of your Ask Jackie questions that you can your brown rice to keep it from going rancid as quickly. How long does brown rice keep if you can it?

Gwen Koskinen
Celina, Texas

Brown rice, like nut meats, keeps for years without going rancid if processed for 10 minutes at 5 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. Before processing, just spread it on a cookie sheet and gently bring it up to a very warm temperature; you don’t want to “cook” it in the oven. Then quickly pack in hot, dry jars with a new, previously simmered lid that has heat dried, then process. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: green potatoes, planting corn and pumpkins together, and Brunswick stew

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Green potatoes

When I dug my potatoes last fall they were nice and brown. I put them on tables in my garage and they turned green — dark green. I have used some; peeling all the green away but was wondering why they turned green and if I can use the rest for seeding this year.

Joline Fleming
Rossiter, Pennsylvania

Potatoes turn green due to light. It can be light from a window or even light from a light fixture. You can use them to reseed, but you’re doing right by peeling all the green away as it can be toxic. — Jackie

Planting corn and pumpkins together

My 16 year old daughter wants to plant pumpkins and try to sell them from our house. I want to plant popcorn. We have one plot. I know the Native Americans used to do this, but how? Do I plant both at the same time? How do I space them? Do the squash seeds go in the rows or in between rows? Do I have to constantly go in and pull the vines down off the corn? Any suggestions for what type of pumpkin she should plant?

Also, sometime back you said you would mail Hopi Pale Gray squash seed. I would like to try these, but not sure how to get my information to you.

Becky McKim
Ankeny, Iowa

Yes, Native Americans did — and many still do — plant corn and pumpkins together, often adding pole beans to climb on the cornstalks. The trick is to plant only corn that is to be used as dry corn (such as corn for cornmeal or in your case, popcorn). No, you don’t plant them at the same time. Wait until the corn is up about 4 inches then plant your pumpkin seeds. It works best to plant the pumpkin seeds between the corn seeds in the row. I usually leave a few spaces down the rows for the pumpkin seeds. In this way you can cultivate the rows until the pumpkin vines start to run. No, you don’t have to pull the vines off the corn — just let them ramble. I usually kind of “aim” the running vines down the rows so they don’t try to climb the corn right away. And plant a tall variety of popcorn, not a dwarf kind like Tom Thumb, as the vines will climb on the cornstalks somewhat and the stalks need to be strong enough to support them.

If folks want some of my Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, the best way is to send a padded SASE to the magazine and they’ll forward groups of envelopes on to me and I’ll mail them on to you. But, as I now have your address, I’ll go ahead and send some right to you. (You have to understand that I can’t always do this because of the cost of the envelopes and stamps.) I do get a lot of requests!

If you want to grow the Hopi Pale Grey squash, please choose a pumpkin that is a C. pepo so they won’t cross. If you plant two C. maximas, like HPGs and a pumpkin that is a C. maxima, they will cross and your seed won’t remain pure.

A couple of good pumpkins that are C. pepos are Howden, Connecticut Field, and Long Island Cheese. Smaller pumpkins that sell well are Sugar Pie and Wee-Be-Little.

Have fun and enjoy your garden! — Jackie

Brunswick stew

I love your canning book! I about used it out this fall. My question is do you think it would be possible to replace the chicken in your Brunswick stew recipe with rabbit? Would there be any adjustments? Do you have any other favorite rabbit recipes?

Malisa Niles
Woonsocket, South Dakota

Yes, you can substitute rabbit for the chicken in the Brunswick stew recipe with no adjustments or changes in processing. In fact, I often substitute rabbit or grouse for chicken in nearly all recipes. No, I don’t have a favorite, but using boned rabbit in stir fry recipes is right up at the top. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

When it’s -25 we do indoor stuff

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Although we work outdoors much of the winter, when a severe cold snap hits, we find plenty to do indoors. And this week we’ll be  doing a lot of indoor work! For five days, the HIGH is going to be between -12 and -9 degrees F. And the lows at least -20 to -35 and that’s NOT with the wind chill. That’s the plain old temperature. Brrr… throw another log on the fire!


Of course, we still have to do chores and those chores include hauling extra bedding for all the animals and chickens, so our normal chores take longer to do. And because it’s so cold, nothing wants to start. No ATV to haul hay and grain buckets. The vehicles are stubborn and the generator is really stiff pulling. I sleep on the sofa so I can toss wood into the living room stove and kitchen stove every hour all night until about 4:00 when I finally go to bed. Of course I don’t get up at the crack of dawn after that, either!

Will shelled our tubs of sweet corn that was left over on the stalk after I had canned all I could before it went tough. We picked it all and brought it into the enclosed porch to finish drying after the blue jays started eating lots of it when it was still on the stalk. All totaled, he got 33 pounds of perfect, dry corn. That’s not counting small seeds or those that were shriveled. Those went to the chickens.


We will be using some of it for cornmeal and maybe even trying to plant some to see what happens. It IS a hybrid; Seneca Horizon, so it won’t breed true. But who knows? I bred hybrid tomatoes back to open pollinated and now save seeds from these wonderful used-to-be Early Cascade and are now Early Firefall. Early Cascade was “discontinued” when Monsanto bought out Seminis Seed Company years back.

Well, I’ve got to go do chores! Not looking forward to that but the critters sure are. — Jackie


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