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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: lettuce, beans, peas, onions, and garlic and canning curried goat

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Lettuce, beans, peas, onions, and garlic

Does leaf lettuce and stinging nettle cross pollinate? I found both red and green leaf lettuce with stickers on the back of the leaves today. One is starting to bolt so I will need to pull it if it is a weed. How far apart do beans and peas need to be from onions and garlic? I have found out if they are too close the beans do not always grow.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

No, lettuce does not cross with nettles. However there is a weed called prickly lettuce that isn’t a lettuce but looks like a lettuce with prickers on the leaves. But because you have both red and green lettuce plants with prickers, I’d just let the “normal” plants go on to use and save seeds from. A few varieties of lettuce do have kind of soft stickers on the first leaves but they never get thorny or inedible.

Generally, there is no optimum distance between onions/garlic and peas and beans. They usually co-habit quite well. I just plant my bean rows about 2 feet from my onion rows and everyone is quite happy. Beans need plenty of moisture to germinate (but not soggy ground) and they like warm soil. In cold soil they usually rot in the ground instead of coming up. — Jackie

Canning curried goat

I would like to can some curried goat in pint jars. Can you explain to me how to go about this?

Ann Hazelett
Litchfield Park, Arizona

Mix up your recipe, bring it to simmering then pack in hot pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Place a new, hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. I would advise holding down the heat of your spices as sometimes during long-term storage, the heat intensifies. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: making sauerkraut and feral cat

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Making sauerkraut

I started some sauerkraut just after St. Patrick’s Day. I followed the recipe in your canning book, and put it in a fermentation crock, setting it in the corner of our kitchen. It does not seem to be fermenting, but is not rotting either. I tasted it, and it is still green, slightly crunchy, and somewhat salty. What am I doing wrong?

Jean Wenger
Fairbury, Illinois

Sometimes sauerkraut takes longer than usual, often due to too much salt being added to the batch. Did your kraut bubble? This indicates that fermentation has begun. Sometimes it takes 14-16 weeks, depending on room temperature and the amount of salt you put in your batch. As long as it is not rotting (usually due to very little salt), let it continue to ripen. Taste every week and see how it’s coming. When it’s right for your taste, either can it or refrigerate it if you have a small batch. Making sauerkraut is another of those homestead skills like breadmaking that takes a little getting used to. — Jackie

Feral cat

We have one female feral cat we cannot capture. She has evaded traps, got out of a trap, broke a cat door evading us. Animal control simply wants to set traps, this will not work. She’s producing many kittens. We have had some 20 cats fixed, this one is different. Is there something we can do to dart or sedate her, so we can get her into a carrier to get her fixed?

Doug MacPherson
Roxboro, North Carolina

My advice is to get a large live trap. Many cats won’t go into a small “cat” sized trap or, like “your” cat, get out of a small one. However, if you use a larger, say fox or coyote sized trap, she won’t be so cautious going into the large door and sure won’t get out of it, once it has been sprung. Bait it with either chopped raw liver or canned liver cat food — cats can’t resist it. Once in the trap, transport her directly to your vet without trying to get her into a carrier. Your vet can handle things from there. Good for you for trying to reduce the feral cat population! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

With a cow that gives five gallons of milk a day, we have plenty of dairy products!

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Besides feeding her big calf, Will and Christian are bringing in buckets of milk every morning and evening. About five gallons, total! So I’ve been busy making soft cheeses, cottage cheese, and butter. Lots of butter! Because we can’t possibly drink all that milk, I put the extra in my stock pots and skim the thick cream off every 12 hours. With the skimmed milk, I’m making cheeses and, of course, we drink all we want and use plenty in cooking. I’ve been making at least one type of cheese or cottage cheese every day plus about a pound of butter. And everything is SO good!

I’m cheating with the butter making as I have a hand churn that takes a long time before butter comes and my arm kind of gives out after awhile. So I use my electric hand mixer and whip the cream with that first. Then I pour the whipped cream into my churn and in about five minutes I’ve got beautiful butter. What a time-saver that is!




I am freezing the extra butter until I get time to can it up. I just opened a jar of three-year-old canned butter and it was perfect. It’s so nice to have it for those months when we don’t have all this milk.

I make a lot of plain fresh soft cheese which I use like creamed cheese. I add seasonings (taco yesterday) and (strawberry) with strawberry jam today. It’s great on freshly baked bread.

We’re so thankful to have all that milk! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: where to put washer and canning potatoes

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Where to put washer

My automatic washer died and I have a chance at buying a working Montgomery Ward wringer washer plus the covered metal washtub set for $75. My question is should I put it in my utility room where my current hookups are, or am I better off putting them on the back porch where I have more room but may have to run a hose to the machine? (I am a newbie to this and I haven’t looked carefully yet to see how you run the water into it.) It doesn’t have to be in the same place as before because I don’t own a dryer. When my washer died I had a clamp-on hand crank wringer and I washed clothes in the bathtub. But putting jeans through the hand crank is killer on my wrist!

Michelle Plamondon
Kaleva, Michigan

Good buy Michelle! Even as I write, I’m doing the wash in my old Maytag wringer washer. I’d ask a couple of questions; do you have a pump in your new washer to empty the washer? If so, you could put it in the spot your old washer stood and use the same drain and fill hose (or a little longer one). If it has a pump but you’d rather have more room, you can certainly put it on your porch and simply pump the dirty water out onto your lawn or flower bed by fastening a garden hose onto the washer hose via a simple male garden hose/barbed or regular pipe thread connector. I’m sure you can figure it out. Then you could use a longer hose to fill your washer. I’ve done that plenty of times, often just using cold water to wash in. Those old hand crank wringers are hard to use on jeans and heavy blankets! — Jackie

Canning potatoes

Is there any special way to can potatoes? Precooked or raw? Whole or cut? Peeled or unpeeled?

I was brought up in an old world family, where cooking and canning was left to the woman (sorry if it sounds sexist, but that was the times), I am now trying to catchup after 26 years in the military. I still remember Green Eggs and Ham C-rations.

I love your blog, it gives me alternative ideas on the homestead. My home, barn, and trainers were built in 1900; fourteen years after Great Peshtigo Fire (most will remember it as the Chicago Fire).

Brian Stujenske
Peshtigo, Wisconsin

You can put up either whole small, quartered larger, or diced potatoes with equal ease. When you put up small, unpeeled potatoes as new potatoes, the skin easily slips off if you wish when you open the jars to use them. With quartered or diced potatoes, I peel them. While you can put them in the jars heated (not really cooked), which is what most books recommend, you can also dice them and put them in raw and pour boiling water over them and seal, then process. The potatoes stay a lot more solid and don’t get as soft that way.

You sure aren’t the only guy who cans! Will’s dad did all the family canning and our carpenter friend, Tom, cans up a storm. And from this blog, there are a whole lot of other guys out there who can tons of food. Join the club! I think it’s great! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Potato diseases and making jerky

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Potato diseases

I’m having a new problem with my potato crop this year. They seem to be contracting blackleg or soft rot. They are more than a foot tall, and so far 8 to 9 vines have had this happen. When I found them earlier today when I was weeding, I immediately removed them and will burn them soon. Other than doing that is there anything else I can do to keep the disease from spreading? The afflicted plants were grown from my harvest last year, but at the same time were in the wettest part of the garden. That part of the garden also receives a little more shade. I’m mainly worried that this will potentially greatly reduce my harvest if not contained.
Rogers, Kentucky

Both diseases are caused by bacteria and both are common during damp conditions. I would advise against planting your own seed potatoes. Yes, they will grow, but it is a common way of introducing and spreading diseases on your potato ground. Blackleg symptoms usually include blackening stems from the ground up and later the plant dies and often becomes slimy. Soft rot usually shows in the seed tuber getting rotten and black and the plant turning yellow and limp, dying. There is no cure but you can often hold it at bay by trying to dry out the ground where your potatoes are growing by trenches between the vines and lessening the watering. Can’t do much about the rain! When you harvest, be sure to rake and burn all potato vines. Pick up every potato, even the little ones. If you can, grow next year’s potatoes on different ground to prevent the possible continuation of this disease. And buy certified seed potatoes for safety’s sake. I hope this takes care of it for you. — Jackie

Making jerky

When making jerky is it better to slice the meat with the grain or against the grain?

Bob Denbrock
Lansing, Michigan

I slice the meat either across the grain or on a diagonal across it. That way the jerky is less “chewy” than when you slice with the grain. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Storing homemade pasta, canning pickled eggs, and a day in the life of Jackie

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Storing homemade pasta

I recently purchased a pasta machine at my local Goodwill Store. We tried it out this weekend and it made great spaghetti. Much tastier than the store bought stuff. The machine came with 3 versions of the dough: water with eggs, all eggs (we made this one), and water only. Then the question came up…What is the long-term storage time for pasta? Can dried pasta made with eggs be stored long term? (I have a dehydrator which would dry it faster if needed) Or, would it be best to use the water only version. If we get into this I intend to: vacuum pack it once it is dried. Store the vacuum packed pasta in the large metal popcorn tins or large glass jars to keep the bugs and mice out. The pasta would be stored in the pantry in the house where the temperature stays about 75 degrees

Tim and Marti
Surprise, Arizona

Homemade pasta, correctly dried, will stay good for about 6 months in airtight storage. Commercial pasta often contains preservatives which make it last nearly forever. You can use the egg recipe, which is what I do. I find that my homemade pasta never lasts longer than a couple of months. Because we love it so much we eat it up sooner! Just dry it in your dehydrator so you are sure it quickly dries hard and brittle, then store it in airtight containers. If you have the ingredients around, which we always do, you can always quickly make another large batch to use fresh and replenish yours in the pantry. Your storage intentions will work out fine. — Jackie

Canning pickled eggs

I wanted to check with you about canning pickled eggs. Is this still considered safe, or are eggs too “thick”? I have your recipe. And to waterbath for 25 minutes?

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Yes, pickled eggs can up fine because of the vinegar and because there’s lots of liquid in the jar all around the eggs. Can away! — Jackie

A day in the life of Jackie

I am sure you are chomping at the bit to get back outdoors and tackle all the many chores that are waiting for you. I hope that you are good as new within a short time and also free of pain. My question is for all of us older folks who are trying to live the good life on our land. How do you plan your day? What are your tasks that you do everyday and those you can put on hold? How do you prioritize and what does a day in the life of Jackie Clay look like?

I find that I am getting only about 20 percent of my list done each day and wonder if this is just me or if others find that they run out of steam also. My motto is to slow down and enjoy life, not to be constantly rushing, so that I can savor each moment. Life is like a flower in the field. The wind passes over it and it is gone. Then I look around and see so much that is left untouched, unfinished, etc. Does this sound familiar?

I am very excited about the August seminar and look forward to seeing you and Will again.

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

You know, Deb, I’m working on an article on that very same subject! But briefly, what I’ve found out is that often our to-do lists are just too long for reality. Age related problems or not! Sometimes we have to downsize for either physical or financial needs. At one time, I milked 100 goats. Today we have 12 does and we let the babies nurse on most of these. I had 32 milk cows. Now we have one. The priorities are the definite “musts” each day: feeding and watering the animals, harvesting crops when ripe. The other things just have to fit in between. On nice days we work outside mostly, pecking away on things we want to get more done (we don’t always “finish” a project once started, but instead we have several in the works all the time so when our back (or knee!) starts screaming, we switch to a less physical chore. For instance, I’ll plant onions for half an hour then hoe for half an hour. Ouch! So I jump (well, okay, crawl…) on the riding lawnmower and mow the orchard or yard for half an hour, then rest and get back to something else that uses other muscles. (Like eating a buffet dinner!)

I, too, love to enjoy each day; that’s what homesteading is all about! But often we’re caught up in the hurry and “musts” of getting a homestead going that we overburden ourselves.

We’re also excited about the seminar and meeting many of our “old bunch” as well as newcomers whom we know will quickly become family! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The rain has finally quit!

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

This morning it was a little windy, but the rain had stopped. Thank goodness! While we were getting ready to go outside this morning, Will noticed a beautiful swan on our beaver pond. We got a pair last spring that stopped for a day then left. We’ve only seen the one so far and hope it’s mate is nearby and maybe they’ll stop and nest. They’ll probably fly onward, but we are hoping. We’ve usually got geese, mallard, and wood ducks nesting out there as well as blue herons and other swamp-loving birds and critters.


While my knee is healing Will has the job of milking Lace, our cow who just freshened. And with her huge bag, she had tender teats. This morning, she gave five gallons of milk! We’re hoping that she tapers off a little (which she will) soon so it doesn’t take so long to milk her. (Will hasn’t milked cows since he was a boy in school. So his hands aren’t used to it… Yet.)



Christian got his first experience milking this morning and that went well. The milk went in the pail and he didn’t get knocked in the dirt! Like every other homestead skill, milking is a learned skill — no matter how many times you’ve seen it done or read about it.

We’re happy that the grass is coming up. The steers and horses are busily munching here and there, finding plenty of tasty new grass. Spring was long in coming but it’s now decided to get on with it all at once. And we’re sure glad to see it!

Our prayers are with folks who experienced the devastation of the Oklahoma tornado. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning milk and All male blossoms on squash

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Canning milk

I have your cookbook and want to try canning some milk. Have you ever done it in smaller quantities than quarts? I was thinking I’d like to do half-pints. I think that’s a quantity that would be more useful and less wasteful for me. If so, what adjustments to the time and pressure do you make?

Nancy Saucier
Picayune, Mississippi

I would process the half-pints for the same length of time (10 minutes) and pressure (10 pounds) as quarts. I’ve done pints like this and they turned out fine. I’ve not done half-pints though. Let us know how they do. — Jackie

All male blossoms on squash

I have grown winter squash in the past, including Hopi Pale Gray. This year I planted banana squash. It is growing well with lots of blossoms already. However, it appears that all the blossoms are male. I have had this problem before. Last time I planted winter squash, I didn’t get a single squash, although there were lots of blossoms (all male, of course). The plants look healthy, but they don’t seem to be setting female blossoms. I planted this year in a different garden than in the past…it has quite fertile soil. The temperature here in the Phoenix area has not yet been that hot. Today it’s 96 degrees, and it hasn’t yet been over 103. Any suggestions? Is there something I can do force the plant into producing female blossoms. I’m at a loss with this one, and I’d love to have some winter squash this year. Could it be my seeds? The last time I planted with no female blossoms was also banana squash.

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

Squash vines respond to stress by producing only male flowers. This stress may be heat, drought, or infertility. Crowding is another cause often seen when folks buy squash plants from a nursery that are too large. Squash seeds should only be planted in a pot four or five weeks before being set into the ground outside. Most nurseries like to sell much larger, even blooming, plants. And these large plants are rootbound, which causes stress. Some things you can do to encourage your squash to set female blossoms (so you get fruit!) are to surround the plant with several inches of rotted manure. Then be sure to water your plants every two days, making sure they get an inch of water each time. Soaker hoses are a big help here. It’s amazing how much squash likes water while actively growing.

It’s not your seeds. Hopefully, these tips will correct your problem. In the meantime, pick a few young male blossoms, dip them in batter, and fry them. They’re delicious and reducing the number of male flowers encourages the vine to produce female blossoms. Don’t overdo it to be sure you have enough male blossoms to pollinate the female flowers. — Jackie


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