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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for January, 2014

Jackie Clay

Q and A: trouble with Ball lids and purchasing #10 cans

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Trouble with Ball lids

Regarding ask Jackie letter, Trouble with Ball lids in Jan/Feb magazine. I had the same reliability problems with Ball lids. Ordered bulk lids from Lehman’s. These are made in USA, come in paper sleeves aprox. 288 per sleeve. Have used 600 plus in past three years. Have had less than a dozen failures to seal, most likely my fault. The rubber on the lids is thicker as is the coating. Have used regular and wide mouth with same results. Hope this helps.

John Hauk
Locust Grove, Georgia

Thanks for your input, John. Lehman’s does have many homesteader-friendly products! — Jackie

Purchasing #10 cans

I want to can some dry food in #10 cans. I cannot find a place to buy cans that do not require a purchase of thousands of cans. We need only a hundred or so to start with. We are buying a sealer with some friends to share.

Raleigh, North Carolina

Two sources of #10 cans are: House of Cans ( and Container Supply Company ( I hope one of these companies will work for you. Good luck with your project! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Have you seen the Glass Gem Corn?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

It takes quite a bit to WOW me after all these years. But I recently saw a mention of it in Farm Show and had to check it out. My-oh-my, what a beautiful and unusual popcorn it is! Although it is open pollinated and not a “new” corn, it has not been commercially available until very recently. I HAD to order some. But it’s not cheap. Native Seeds/SEARCH has it for $7.89 for 50 seeds. With shipping it came to more than ten dollars. But I figured, “What the heck?” I was kind of disappointed when I got my pack and opened it, there were nearly all pastel blues and whites in the pack and often with colored corn, you mainly get what you plant, in coloration. So I ordered another pack. Only one red seed and one pink seed in the pack. Oh well, I’m going to plant it anyway and hope for more brilliant colors.


It’s going up in our berry patch, which is better than 1,000 feet away from our garden corn and separated by woods and hills. So far, corn has not cross pollinated when we planted it this way. I’m real excited!

Will’s got the new bathroom vanity hooked up. When you turn the faucet on, water comes out! I think it looks absolutely gorgeous with the cherry and birds’ eye maple top drawers and lower skirt.


At the cost of propane right now, we’ve cut our use to the bare bones to make the 150 gallons we do have left over from fall last. Right now it’s $4.50 a gallon around here! So we turned down our water heater, turned off the wall heater in my office (I put on a sweater when writing!), only cook on the wood kitchen range, and we’re limiting our showers and baths a bit. We should get by until spring this way and hopefully, the price will come back to normal.

I am very worried for folks who are heating with propane and are living on a fixed or low income. I know that most of their energy assistance money has already been used up and they must be terribly worried. Please pray for them all; I am. It’s another reason to become more self-reliant! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning teriyaki sauce and canning sweet potatoes

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Canning teriyaki sauce

I’m wanting to can my homemade teriyaki sauce. I’m not sure if I will need to pressure can or water bath it? Or if I can can it at all. The ingredients are as follows.
soy sauce
garlic, minced
ginger shredded
Dawn Sedlacek
Dallas, Oregon

I’m sorry I can’t help you with a canning method for your homemade teriyaki sauce. If it was just the soy sauce and sugar, probably, but when you add fresh minced garlic and ginger (vegetables) that changes things especially when I don’t know how much of each is added. I sure don’t want to guess and get you sick! — Jackie

Canning sweet potatoes

I’ve spend this entire week pressure canning recipes from your book, “Growing and Canning Your Own Food”! I’ve made black currant jam and syrup, raspberry jam, venison taco filling, venison chili, turkey, goose and chicken stocks, canned pinto, chickpea, black and navy beans, and turkey pot pie filling. (That last was my own creation, cobbled together based off of your recommendations for other recipes.) Anywho, I have a quick question on canning sweet potatoes- how long would you pressure can diced sweet potatoes in 1/4 pint jars? I want to can my own small portion jars for convenient baby food, but I couldn’t find times for that small of a jar. (Your book, “Growing and Canning Your Own Food” only has instructions for pints/quarts) Also, I am curious if you have ever heard of Weck canning jars and if so, what your thoughts were on them?

Ault, Colorado

You would process your diced sweet potatoes in the 1/4-pint jars for 65 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. (Of course if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet you’ll be adjusting your pressure to suit your altitude. As always consult your canning book.) Good for you with all your recent canning! I’m so proud of you. I canned all of my sons’ baby food myself and not only saved a ton of money but was assured that they were getting pure, nutritious food with no chemicals or additives. At the time there were no 1/4-pint jars so I canned in 1/2-pint jars, refrigerating the opened jars in between feedings. Anything that commercial companies put up as baby food can sure be done at home! And as our home canned food tastes so much better, the kiddos sure learn to eat their veggies!

Yes, I’ve heard of Weck jars. They are very attractive versions of the old glass lid, bail clamp jars of our grandmothers’ time. They can certainly be used to can fruits, juices, pickles, and high acid foods. But they are only usable in a boiling water bath canner, not a pressure canner. That and the fact that they are very expensive has prohibited me from buying any. I much prefer standard jars and Tattler reusable canning jar lids. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

There’s beauty outside even when the high is -18 degrees

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Sure it’s cold, but the sun’s out and it looks beautiful today. We had 40 mph winds with snow yesterday and there’s lots of drifts. I noticed how pretty they were when I drove out of the driveway this morning to go to the post office to ship two big bags of seeds. The graceful sculpturing the wind had done to the snow was simply amazing. It was like an artist had spent the night on our driveway. I hate to think of how it looks now, after Will plowed it.


I’m getting used to washing my hands in the new bathroom sink. How wonderful it looks! Now Will is going to begin work on the other larger antique dresser we bought on Do-Bit, which pretty much matches the one he just finished. That one is going on the other wall, making a corner of vanities. This vanity/dresser with large mirror will be used to store towels, washcloths, and other things.

I’ve been busy with our little seed business. Since I nearly ran out of Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds, I cut another three big squash and squished out the seeds to dry. I’m going to can up the squash so we can have “pumpkin” pie during the summer. Of course some of the squash will still be left so I can always use fresh squash (it’s stored more than two years for us!) but it’s nice to have extra canned squash. The goats and chickens appreciate the “guts” and any squash I can spare for them.


Our new kitchen is great for packaging seeds as I can sit next to the end of the island and package them easily. Will’s helping by packaging the tomato seeds, which are quite small. Then I only have to grab bags out of individual bowls to fill orders. We’re getting into a groove here.

I’m sure that all of you across the country are looking forward to getting in the dirt again. I know I sure am! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: buttermilk cheese, turkey gravy, and discouragement in homesteading

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Buttermilk cheese

I made butter and had a lot of rich buttermilk leftover. I poured very hot water into the churn and the solids separated from the rest which was clear water. I collected the solids in cheesecloth and hung it on the back porch for a month. It grew a mold but was very good cheese. What kind of cheese did I make?

Robert Bumpus
Newcastle, California

Boy you’ve got me, Bob. I’ve made a lot of different cheeses but never have I made cheese out of fresh, uncultured buttermilk. Any readers out there have an answer for us? — Jackie

Turkey gravy

How do you can turkey gravy?

Karl Creekmore
Chesapeake, Virginia

Sorry, but gravy is one thing you shouldn’t home can as it can get too thick to be safe for home processing. How about canning turkey broth then making your gravy from that? If you add some of the pan scrapings from the bottom of your roaster to the broth, you’ll have a rich-tasting broth for gravy making. — Jackie

Discouragement in homesteading

I was wondering if you or someone else at Backwoods Home Magazine could do an article or even a regular column where homesteaders share some of their discouraging moments and how they managed to triumph or simply push their way through them?
A quick background on me and my reason for asking…
My family is from the deep South, I grew up in the corn belt Southeast of Chicago, and now live in Pitt, MN (between Baudette & Warroad). I married a 3rd generation + local. It is a second marriage for both us. We’ve been homesteading on his 160 acres (referred to as the Old Paxon Place) for 8 years. I have often referred to your articles for advice.
I’m also learning much from the locals about the culture and fortitude of the Norwegians, Swedes, Germans , etc. that settled in these parts. It’s fertile ground for potential homesteading knowledge, but often it is mockery, discouragement, disdain, & disgust shown to those of us who desire this way of life now.
Perhaps the locals have struggled too much, too long, too recently in history? Perhaps they remember all too well only the pain & negatives of a homesteading lifestyle… They say they “simply” want “better & more” for their kids. It even seems the pervasive “throw it away”, materialism, and “money is everything” attitudes are as strong or stronger here than in any big city. Hence, as a persistent homesteader, I get “hungry” not for good, wholesome food- but rather, encouragement, homesteading knowledge, & mentor-type friendships. Again, I’m grateful for your articles and blog.
When I look out my kitchen window at the remains of the “Old Paxon Place”, I have often wondered about the obstacles that the Paxon family faced: the extreme cold, the mosquitoes and biting flies, the brief gardening season, the wildlife predators, the remote location… We have faced those, too. And after 8 years of work & pondering, I now feel qualified to answer when asked, “What’s the biggest obstacle for a modern day homesteader”? It’s Discouragement. And while I will never know for sure, I will always wonder what part Discouragement played in the Paxons abandoning this homestead here and moving to Washington.
Thanks Jackie for your part in encouraging modern homesteaders!
Shae Grund
Baudette, Minnesota

This constant facing of nay-sayers can be discouraging to homesteaders. It’s a thing that homesteaders from small towns to remote locations face constantly. After all, most modern people just don’t “get” homesteading and equate “success” with money. It’s too bad. Maybe that’s why today we talk about self-reliant living. When your mood depends on how others around you regard your lifestyle, you’re not being self-reliant no matter how much of your own food you grow, etc. We need to feel our joy in our day-to-day accomplishments, the nature around us, and in ourselves and families. It does help to find some like-minded folks in your area. (There ARE some!) We host a few potlucks at our place for local homesteaders to come talk, and share tips and seeds. Each time it grows larger and we all become networked. You might try it yourself. One thing I’ve learned is not to talk homesteding to neighbors who are not interested. You always end up shot down.

Of COURSE discouragement killed many homesteader’s dreams in the old days. Simple starving out was a huge factor. No money, no food, no market for crops produced. It was a tough time. Very few today really understand what our ancestors faced. It makes us, today, seem like wimps!

What about it readers? How about answering Shae’s question from your own experience? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: worms in Jerusalem Artichokes and links for canning supplies

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Worms in Jerusalem Artichokes

This was my 3rd year of raising Jerusalem Artichokes. I keep them in a raised bed to help keep them from spreading across the garden. This year things got busy and I did not harvest them until after the freeze. I was surprised to find worms in them. The bed was next to a Brussels sprout patch that I had cabbage worm trouble with. Do you think the cabbage worms just moved beds to over winter? Should I move the Jerusalem Artichokes to a different location this Spring? Stoked that you are now selling seeds!

Katie Gilbert
Milo, Iowa

No, cabbage worms do not go into the soil. They only eat the leaves of plants, usually cabbage family plants such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower (and, of course, cabbage). I’m thinking that your worms are wire worms which infest many root crops, including Jerusalem artichokes. These can be hard to get rid of in a perennial crop such as Jerusalem artichokes. What I’d do is to dig all the chokes in that bed and sift the soil for the tiny ones that will grow later. Then early this spring I’d till that bed well, water it, and cover with black plastic to heat the soil and kill the remaining wire worms. I would use none of the chokes for seed as they may harbor the pests. The wire worm is the larva of the click beetle which can fly. Usually wire worms are drawn to pastures and nearby clover roots but, as you’ve found, they can and do sometimes infest root crops. After heating your bed for several weeks (the longer the better), you can remove the plastic and till the bed well. This helps kill any remaining wire worms. Cole crops such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are said to be distasteful to wire worms, so you might try planting these in your re-worked bed. I’d skip planting chokes for a couple of years as the life cycle of the click beetle/wire worm can run upwards onto 5 years. You want to starve them out. Permanently. I’ve had good luck mixing wood ashes in the rows where my root crops such as turnips and potatoes are planted then watering with beneficial nematodes to establish a population. You might try it. The best of luck!

We’re having a lot of fun packing seeds for folks and reading their letters. — Jackie

Links for canning supplies

Thought you might find this website useful. Also in reading your blog or the magazine, you mentioned a canner site, now I can not find it. I am needing a gasket for my old canner. This site has clear jel.

Carol Lay
Salem, Missouri

Here is a link to Ace Hardware’s site. They carry most pressure canner replacement gaskets and many other parts. Thanks for the link to Canning Supply. Yes, they are a good company and carry many useful things for us canners. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: rejected kid goat and gypsum for the garden

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

Rejected kid goat

I have 2 Fainting Goats who kidded on the same day (Jan. 8). They both were first time mothers and both had twins. The first to kid accepted both, the second to kid accepted her first and completely rejected her second. She had been a twin rejected by her mother and bottle fed by the people we bought her from. (Don’t know if that matters, but maybe it does). It was very cold that day, his mother did break the sac and start licking him clean, then just stopped. He was cold and wet, so we got him dry and warm and milked some colostrum from the other goat and fed it to the rejected kid. Since then (1½ weeks) we have bottle fed him, raw goat milk, raw cow milk and organic whole milk, with some black strap molasses occasionally. Not having a milk cow or dairy goat, I’ve been blessed with friends who do, to provide us with some milk, when not available, I’ve fed him the store bought organic whole milk. He is growing, strong and drinking well. I have taken him into the goat pen to try and get him used to or accepted by his mother, siblings, or the other adult goat. They act very weird around them and his mother glares at him and me, turns her back and has even snorted and stomped and acted like she may charge him. Is it because I’ve cared for him when she didn’t, or is something wrong with him and she instinctively knows it?

I don’t know what to do, I can’t keep him in the house much longer since I love my husband and don’t want a divorce! Haha, just kidding, not that bad, but, my husband does keep telling me, not much longer.

Mary Borden
Martinez, Georgia

This just happens sometimes. Seldom will a mother take back her kid once it’s been away from her for awhile. He smells different and she doesn’t recognize him as being hers. To her, he’s just a stranger that you’ve dumped into her territory. I’d suggest penning him next to her in a smaller pen where she can see him but not hurt him and continue feeding him on the bottle. At about two weeks, he’ll start eating grain and if you choose a high protein goat feed, you should be able to gently wean him at about 7 weeks of age providing he’s eating grain and hay as well as drinking water. I would try to stick with one type of milk though as switching him from raw goat milk to store milk and back might cause some digestive upsets leading to scours (diarrhea). — Jackie

Adding gypsum to the garden

Since drywall/sheetrock is made of gypsum, can it be crushed and added to soil for our garden? We have some waste from the house we are building that I would use instead of taking to the dump. My concern is that it may have been treated with chemicals. Our Georgia red clay needs all the help it can get but not at the expense of the garden’s health.
Pam Davis

As far as I know, sheetrock is not treated with chemicals. When we did our addition, we took all of the small pieces of waste sheetrock out to the garden and broke it up, scattering it over our acidic soil. Then I tilled it in a couple of times. By planting time, you couldn’t see a bit of it and I truly think it helped improve our soil. Be sure that your soil is on the acid side, not alkaline as adding the sheetrock will tend to increase the alkalinity. In our case that was good. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our bitter cold continues but, boy, are we getting things done!

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Will has our kitchen just about finished (but for the upper cabinets that we can’t afford yet) and the bathroom vanity is nearly hooked up. Wow! All that cold is worth something, I guess. I can’t remember such a long period of intense cold here in northern Minnesota, even when we lived down by Sturgeon Lake for more than 20 years. But other than the weather being nasty, we homesteaders and all our critters are doing fine.


Meanwhile, we’ve been busily packaging seeds for folks. Our mailbox is stuffed every day with orders. We may be a bit slow (just Will and I are counting and packing seeds) but so far the seeds are holding out pretty well. I can see that we’ll be saving many more seeds this fall!


I’ll be starting peppers in the greenhouse in only three weeks. Doesn’t that make spring seem so much closer? I can hardly wait.

Then there is the new, larger, better worked up pumpkin patch in the new forty. I’m planting just about every kind of pumpkin and squash I can think of. Not to save seeds but just to see how they do. Most will end up as poultry and animal feed but we’ll harvest some to eat, too. The deer didn’t bother our small, late-planted crop last year so we have hopes they’ll go off to the new seeding of clover on the 5 acre patch that Will plowed and worked up last fall. Bait? Mmmm. Whatever works. — Jackie


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