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Archive for November, 2013

Jackie Clay

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

Our Thanksgiving will be small and quiet with only David, Will, and me around the table. Of course our house pets, Mittens, Spencer, and Hondo, will share our bounty with us and the livestock will get special treats to celebrate our bountiful year.

Hondo is getting huge for a “puppy” only three months old! And he’s so smart, already being potty trained, going to the door when he needs outside, sitting on command with military precision (if you don’t praise him right away he does a “double sit,” sitting on his tail with his legs sticking right out under him), and he already is bringing in firewood with Spencer! He also has learned that Will’s comfortable old chair is doggy friendly. Sometimes he shares it with Spencer and sometimes he gets it before Spencer does! When Will comes in, he has to evict the dogs to sit down. Hondo is the last one out, giving Will the “do you really, really mean “get down”? Or is it just a suggestion” look.



Such a fun addition to our homestead. He already “guards” the gate to the goat pasture while I go in to feed grain. But I don’t know what would happen if one of the goats challenged him. Right now, they just play the game and stay away from the gate.

Again, have a real Happy Thanksgiving and count your blessings! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Another deer season, another canning lesson

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

My oldest son, Bill, shot a nice seven-point buck the first weekend of season this year. And he called to ask if he could come and spend some “quality time” with me and, of course, cut up the meat. He learned to can with a pressure canner last year and came to our seminar this summer. His mother-in-law had bought a used canner at a yard sale and had never used it. It is a Presto, 1970’s vintage with weights and no gauge. So I showed him how to use it. Simple, huh Bill? We canned up all of the stew meat in short order. He cut steaks from the best parts and we tossed all of the other meat into a grind bowl as he wanted to try sausage this year. We had fun and made short work of that buck.


I’d never made sausage with a sausage stuffer and Bill brought up seasonings and casing. As Will had bought me an electric meat grinder with sausage stuffing attachments, I learned along with Bill. And guess what? We made great summer sausage! I fried up a patty with the leftover meat in the grinder’s auger and it was real tasty. I’m sure we’ll both be making more sausage in the future. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning in a small space and canning lids

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

Canning in a small space

I am now living in a fifth wheel and want to continue canning, both water bath and pressure, do you have any suggestions on how to keep the moisture from building up in my trailer from the steam?

Lois Lara
Corbett, Oregon

Usually running the vent fan will do the trick. You’ll have more steam when water bathing than pressure canning so be sure to use a lid on your water bath canner. (It’ll come to a boil faster, too!) Additional tips may include opening a nearby window and using a small fan to exhaust the steam through it while the jars are in the canner. Do be sure to close the window and shut off the fan while jars are being taken out of the canner and while they are cooling to avoid jar breakage. — Jackie

Canning lids

Sometimes, I’m not sure how many jars I will be able to fill so I go ahead and put a few extra lids into the pot to heat on the stove. If I do not use all of them, are they safe to heat again and use during another canning session?

Sheila Clark
Simpsonville, South Carolina

You bet they are; I do it all the time. Just be sure the lids don’t boil dry, then wipe them off after your canning is done and put them away for next time so they don’t rust. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning little smokies and canning taco soup

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Canning little smokie sausages

Can I can little smokie sausages? If so how?

Karen Jackson
Marianna, Florida

Yes you can. I would pack them in half-pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace with no water or broth. Then process them at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. I’d do a small batch at first to see if you like the result. Some sausages swell during canning, especially hot dogs, leaving them not-so-appetizing-looking. I don’t think your little smokies will, however. — Jackie

Canning taco soup

I have a recipe for Taco Soup that uses already canned beans. I use browned turkey and add 5 different types canned beans and spices. I would like to can this. Could I just brown meat, mix with canned beans and instead of cooking together for four hours as recipe calls for, just mix it together and can pints for 75 min at 10 lb pressure?

Marcia Smith
Huntington, West Virginia

Yes, but I’d take the step to mix the ingredients, then bring to a boil before packing the jars to ensure that the soup/beans are heated thoroughly before putting in to can. (Always remember that if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet you must consult your canning book for instructions in increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: chicken broth and salty soil

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Chicken broth

My daughter works in a restaurant that prepares rotisserie chicken every day. She asked them to save the bones for her, and brought a bunch home last night. We are going to make broth and pressure can it. My question for you is: how long can I keep the bones in the fridge before I have to deal with them? I won’t have time to do all that for three more days. Could I freeze the bones until I have time to prepare and can the broth? There is a fair amount of meat on them. Also, is there a formula for ratio of bones to water?

Julie Hamilton
Lititz, Pennsylvania

I would recommend freezing the bones to ensure great flavor in the broth. Holding them in the fridge would probably work if they were used within three or four days, but freezing would be safer. There is no formula for a ratio of bones to water. Just use your common sense. For more flavor, simmer the bones for at least an hour, adding salt, pepper, or other spices to taste. — Jackie

Salty soil

Last spring I had our garden soil tested and there was too much salt in both gardens. The only way that I can fertilize the soil is horse manure, which is the worst for salt. I can’t seem to find cow manure. That is all being used. First of all how do I get the salt out of my soil, and then how do I re-do the soil for nutrients? We are not sure if we want goats, etc.

Debby Rich
Helena, Montana

In most cases of salt in soils in the west is a result of a flat garden having poor drainage. This allows the salt to sit in one spot until the moisture evaporates, leaving the salt behind. The best way to combat this is to grade your garden so the moisture (rain, watering) drains off reasonably quick. You can slowly do this by working in your rotted manure chiefly on one end or side of the garden, in effect, creating your own slope without using equipment to grade your ground. One thought; are you watering your garden from your house and do you have a water softener? This can quickly add salt to your soil you wouldn’t have otherwise. A quick fix is to plumb in an outside faucet between your well/city water line and the water softener so your outdoor water does not pass through the salts in the water softener. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got a bit of warmer weather

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

And Will got nearly all the big sheets of metal barn roofing on. We finished all but the very last big sheet last night. Luckily his cordless driver has a light! Today it’s in the forties with some sun so we’re running around playing catchup because it’s supposed to dive into the single digits pretty soon. Brrrr. I’m planting my daffodils in a few minutes. They should have gone in a few weeks ago, but better late than never! Oh well, there’s always something left undone … or pretty much done at the very last minute! Homesteading life.


Our tom turkeys are strutting in the orchard. Real pretty. No, we’re not going to eat them; they’re our breeders for next spring. I’m trying to get all of the orchard trees’ trunks wrapped with plastic spirals or window screen to protect them against vole damage during the winter. I’ve got ’em all done but two plus our new cherry trees and honeyberry bushes. Hopefully I can get that done on Friday.


We’re hauling a load of cattle to the sale barn tomorrow so that day will be pretty much shot as it’s a hundred mile drive one way. Luckily David and the dogs will be around the homestead to keep an eye on everything! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s a small, small world!

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

We decided to sell five of our black Angus cross heifers that we bottle raised as Will and I hate to butcher good heifers. So I advertised them on Craigslist and a lady called and we worked out a deal.

Sunday, Will and I loaded Shy Girl (she hopped right in the trailer!) and we hauled her 95 miles to a farm near Swatara, Minnesota. What a surprise when I got out of the truck to discover that the couple are Backwoods Home subscribers! We had a real nice visit with Cindy and Darryl and got a tour of their pretty homestead.

Will had been real busy for two solid days, working frantically to get the sheet metal on the barn roof before real winter hit and he was ready for the break. Before hauling the cow, he had all of one side done and two thirds of the other. Hopefully there’ll be nice weather tomorrow so he can get the last five big sheets on then do the smaller pieces along the bottom and the trim.



Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to can up all sorts of cabbage; the last batch was pickled cabbage and carrots. (Maybe I won’t plant SO much cabbage next year!)

Jackie Clay

It has warmed up!

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

There’s so much fall work to do that Will is feeling like nothing is getting done on the barn. The sheet metal is all here but the weather first was terribly rainy and windy, then VERY cold with five inches of snow. But finally we’ve caught a break. Yesterday it turned milder with sunshine and Will got up and knocked off as much of the snow and ice as he could from the rafters. And now it’s in the low forties with sunshine! So today, he’s down screwing on the flashing in preparation to putting up more (or hopefully all) of the sheet metal so the new barn will be under cover. Yes, he’s being careful but he doesn’t have to climb on the metal roof, only on the ladder and the ladder-like dry purlins.


Meanwhile, I’m watering stock and trying to get the house a bit cleaner and get more onions dehydrated. (I dehydrate my onions by cutting slices then dehydrating them. When dry I put them in my blender and whiz them into coarse powder. It works great in a ton of recipes.) When you have a three-month-old puppy, it seems like you spend the day cleaning up after him and saying “Hondo! No!” But he’s pretty much potty trained and is learning to mind (usually!). And grow? Wow, how he’s taking off — all legs and body. He’s going to be a big boy. We were told he was Australian Cattle Dog, but on closer look, he looks more Australian Shepherd as he has a fuzzy coat and floppy ears and a more “collie” look to him. Who knows? But we sure do like him a lot. Especially when he’s sleeping! — Jackie


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