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Jackie Clay

Q and A: excess potatoes, problem with chickens, and cheese from store-bought milk

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Excess potatoes

My dad just received 250 lbs of free potatoes. We have given a lot of them to family and friends but still have way too many. Is there any way to freeze them or is canning better? And is it okay to can them outside using an outside burner, we are in Louisiana so its not too cold here?

Cheyenne Spillers
New Llano, Louisiana

I’d recommend canning them. They must be pressure canned but they can up quickly and well. I always have a bunch on hand because they’re so easy to use when you’re in a hurry. Yes, you can process them outdoors but stay out of the wind as it can affect both the heat of your pressure canner and the jars when you take them out of the canner when you’re finished. A cool wind can cause jars to crack and break when they are hot out of the canner. Enjoy your bounty! What a wonderful gift! — Jackie

Problem with chickens

My friend recently saw me reading BHM and asked me why his chickens were dying. I’ve never had chickens but I’ve read a bit in my mags and a couple books. I can’t figure out what the problem could be. So, I told him I would shoot an email to BHM.

He said that he started with 50 chickens, mostly Rhode Island Reds and Red Stars with a few white meat hens. He is now down to 17 chickens. He said that once in a while he would find a dead chicken that looked perfectly healthy except for the feathers were plucked out of its butt. In a span of one week, he found 4 hens dead. Then a couple months later he’d find one more dead chicken.

I asked if they had sufficient space (4 square feet per hen) and he said he’s pretty sure that was covered. I could only think of cannibalism. The beaks are not clipped. I’m pretty well stumped on this one though. It just seems weird to me.

Ian M. Gochenour
Paulding, Ohio

The chickens weren’t cannabilized. When they are, they are really bloody and often partially eaten. I can’t determine long distance what your friend’s chicken problem is. It is possible that a weasel is getting into his coop. Often there is no outward sign of attack as weasels often only drink the blood and possibly eat a bit of meat. Are there woods around your friend’s house or nearby? I’d have him check for possible entry spots. A weasel can squeeze through a crack your thumb will fit through.

Other than that, I’d be sure they are getting adequate water and a good quality feed, that the coop is not damp or drafty, and that the birds are not suffering diarrhea or snuffy nostrils (signs of possible disease). He might take a recently dead bird to his vet for positive identification of the problem. — Jackie

Cheese from store-bought milk

Do you have any recipes for making cheese using milk from the grocery store.

Judy Cauffman
South Bend, Indiana

Luckily, you can use store bought milk (as long as it isn’t Ultra Pasteurized) for most hard and soft cheese recipes. Two good books on making cheese are: Goats produce too by Mary Jane Toth and Ricki Carrroll’s Home Cheese making. You can use any kind of milk for all of these recipes; I’ve used Goats produce too to make many cheeses from our cow’s milk. Have fun! — Jackie

7 Responses to “Q and A: excess potatoes, problem with chickens, and cheese from store-bought milk”

  1. Min Says:

    For potatoes what I like to do is can about 2/3 of the lot and then thin slice and dehydrate the remainder. I then take the dehydrated product and crush most of them, say 80% into ‘flakes’ and grind the rest into quick mashers or potato flour.

  2. Natalie Says:

    Be careful when getting milk from the grocery store for cheese making that does not say Ultra Pasteurized – after going through every brand here at my local store I called the companies – they don’t “ultra pasteurize” but they pasteurize at a higher temp than normal and it will not make cheese – I found a hint is the date on the carton – if it is three weeks or more out, than it will not make cheese. Good luck, and companies are generally happy to tell you how they treat their milk.

  3. GA Says:

    I know when my birds had mites, it looked like they had been plucked around the vent area. Could it be that?

  4. jackie clay-atkinson Says:


    That’s a good guess. It sure wouldn’t hurt to dust the flock for mites. If they are bad enough they can cause the birds to die of anemia.


  5. R.J. VanVoorhis Says:

    My grandfather always put potatoes and carrots in a sand box in the cellar with all the canned foods.. we ate all winter ..

  6. gen Says:

    I don’t know why it worked, but my grandfather’s chickens never had mites. He would hang the stalks of banana plants in his hen house. What that would do to deter mites, I don’t know. But it worked. Now bananas just come by the bunch, not on the stalks, so I don’t know how a person could get any of them. That man could come up with the most odd ideas, but 90 percent of the time, or better, they worked. He hung them where the chickens couldn’t peck at them. Potassium levels affect mites? My dad and I are totally clueless.

  7. Darrell Says:

    I lost some chickens to lice last spring. They just died and I checked them for lice and they were loaded with them. I sprayed them and the entire house wire an organic spray and it stopped the chickens from dying and they started laying more eggs. I sprayed the house two weeks later and put in a pan full of wood ashes for them to dust in. It worked well.

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