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Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for April, 2014

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning bone broth, goats treated with penicillin, and canning fish

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Canning bone broth

I have a question about canning bone broth. After making a pot of it I have 6 qts. and was wondering if I have to pressure can it or can I water bath it? And if so for how long for either?

Jan DeBrie

You MUST pressure can any meat or poultry product and all vegetables that are not pickled to be safe from deadly bacteria. To can it, you’ll be processing your quarts for 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude of 1,000 feet or more, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude.– Jackie

Goats treated with penicillin

How long milk withdrawal do you recommend for goats treated with penicillin every other day for one week? By the way, the seeds we got from you all sprouted wonderfully. Looking forward to some new type tomatoes and finally to be able to taste your Hopi squash.

Glen Heck
Natchitoches, Louisiana

It’s great to hear your seeds are off to a good start. I hope you have good gardening weather this year!

The usual recommended withholding time for milk from goats injected with penicillin is five days. — Jackie

Canning fish

I want to try canning fish but it appears (but I could be wrong) that only freshly caught fish can be canned? My question is can fish purchased at a supermarket or fish market be pressure canned if USDA recommended times and pressures are followed?

Michelle Neal
Buffalo, New York

Of course freshly-caught fish will be best but if you can eat store-bought fish, you can certainly can it. As you indicated, you’ll be using approved methods and times so you’ll be fine. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our snow is gone

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

Well … mostly, that is; there still are a few lingering piles, here and there, mostly in the shade of the woods. But our snow’s gone and that’s the most important thing. (Even though we got six inches of new snow a few days back, which quickly melted. Thank God!)


We’re busy as beavers outside right now. I’m cleaning out my poor neglected flower beds this week. And trying to fix another in our side yard where a nice balsam blew over during the winter. It seems like carpenter ants had gotten into the trunk, below ground and eaten their way up into the trunk. When the wind blew, down she came. Under that tree, which Will cut up and I hauled off, there was a depression. This morning, Will hauled three tractor bucket loads of compost into the bed, dumping it fairly close. Now I can shovel it into the depression and level the area out. When done it’ll make a nice bed for some daylilies and hostas.

Will is gearing up to begin sawing logs for lumber on our Hud-Son bandsaw mill. We’ll need plenty for the rest of the haymow floor and barn siding on our new barn. But, gee, the weather could cooperate! It’s forty and VERY windy this week; three days so far and it looks like more of the same for much of the rest of the week. Brrrr, it makes outside work cold!

I bought some begonia bulbs on sale at Menards and have them potted inside to get started for hanging baskets and containers for the shade. It takes them so long to get up and going that here you really need to start them 8 weeks or more before you plant them outside or put them in hanging baskets. I’m determined to make up for the bum knee last spring and summer.


Our plastic greenhouse covering arrived on Friday. Will is taking down our last hoop house in preparation for Bill coming up with his tractor-mounted rototiller on Mother’s Day. (Can you think of a better Mother’s Day gift for a homesteading mom?) I’ve got to move our rhubarb plants; they’re right in the middle of everything as they used to be against the fence … before we enlarged the garden. Once tilled nicely, we’ll put up the new double-length 12′ x 32′ hoop houses, complete with their new plastic. We’re real excited about that. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: peeling eggs and canning tomato sauce

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Peeling eggs

I wanted to pass on my tip for peeling new eggs. After boiling and cracking them just slip a spoon between the shell and egg, run it around the egg. The peel will slide off with no torn whites.

Carolyn Kraus
Cedar Grove, Indiana

Thanks for the tip, Carolyn. I’ll give it a try this afternoon! Peeling fresh eggs is always a challenge. — Jackie

Canning tomato sauce

Last year I tried to make tomato sauce following the directions in your book. The tomato sauce I have used from a can is pretty thick, so I used the roasting pan overnight for one batch and the stove for another.

Both batches the longer I let them cook down the darker they got until they were no longer bright red but a very dark red. They thickened up but I am wondering if the color darkening means I did something wrong. I went ahead and processed them up anyway. Now I am wondering if the darker colored ones are considered paste more than sauce or if they are not any good to use due to the darkened color.

When I went to use a jar from another batch of sauce today it was still fairly liquidy, but more red in color. I had to cook it down for a bit (was making your meat sauce-seasoned) for eating that night. I did 1/4 of a recipe and it turned out great. I have learned in my family to make something first and make sure everyone likes it before I can up a bunch of something to find out later that it isn’t liked!


Yes, the sauce that you oven cook is darker. But that doesn’t affect the taste. If you truly want a red sauce, you can use a steam juicer to remove much of the juice/water, use a jelly bag to separate your sauce from the liquid (you’ll lose some sauce this way) or freeze the puree. On thawing, the water will separate out and it’s easy to harvest pure puree w/o water. I like the ease of the oven method and figure the dark color just looks richer. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring is finally here

Thursday, April 24th, 2014


Although we’re scheduled for more snow, the ground is pretty much thawed and it feels like spring. And FINALLY our water line from the well is thawed out. Hooray! We’re definitely doing some work to prevent that from happening again even though it was the coldest winter in all Minnesota history.

I’ve been continuing transplanting, now working on my Pink Wave petunias while my late tomatoes continue growing. And in the garden, our cherry trees have swelling buds and the rhubarb is popping up out of the ground with cone-shaped red noses and small crinkled green leaves. It feels SO good! Yesterday I cleaned out one of my front flower beds, digging a few clumps of nettles and grass so at least we’ll start with a clean bed. I also planted several packs of sweet peas. It seems like I always wait until too late and they don’t do so well, becoming overwhelmed by peonies and delphiniums as the weather warms. (Sweet peas should be planted as soon as you can work the soil.) A few years back I had magnificent sweet peas all over the yard, on the pallet fence, across the front of the house, and here and there, climbing on wire and strings. WOW! I want that again.


I’m simmering up ham to can (again) and the pantry will be fatter soon.

Will’s busy repairing our big field disc so when the ground is ready he can disc up our new hay-field-to-be in preparation for seeding it in. We’re also planting a few acres in sweet corn, pumpkins, and squash so he’ll be discing that up too. Then there’s the hay fields we rent that need parts plowed (weather and rain permitting), fertilized, and re-planted. Always so much to do, come real spring.

Yesterday I spoke at the Northern Minnesota Hospital Auxiliary meeting in the city of Virginia, Minnesota. My subject was gardening and that was very well received by a packed auditorium. Of course, there were dozens and dozens of questions following my presentation. I’m tickled that so many folks are once again turning to gardening, some after years of abstinence. It seems like people all over are sick of food from Mexico, China, Brazil, and other foreign countries that still use very toxic agricultural chemicals. These chemicals are perfectly legal there but are banned in the U.S., where they are still made and then sold out of the country.

We ordered a few fruit trees from Fedco and St. Lawrence Nurseries so will soon be planting. I’ll try a shovel in the orchard this afternoon and see how that goes. Sigh. I wish I were twins! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: buying greenhouse products, pickled peppers, and confusing goat birth

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Buying greenhouse products

I read your blog a few nights ago, about buying flats, and wanted to pass on some info on where I buy flats and also the sheets of packs. I at one time had a greenhouse and garden center business, and I bought wholesale from BWI, Inc. Since I sold out and retired almost 10 years ago, and moved to the Ozark Mountains, I had to find a supplier for growing my own plants. I had local greenhouses that ordered for me, but I was paying thru the nose! I found a place recently to order from. It’s Greenhouse Mega Store, and since I was running out of the packs and flats I had saved from my business, I ordered a case of 1020 Daisy Flats–50 flats per bundle or case. I also ordered a case of 100 sheets of 606 deep cell packs, which means 6 packs per sheet and each pack has 6 cells and they are deeper than regular packs. I paid $37.00 for the 50 flats which were 74 cents each, and I paid $65.00 for the 100 sheets of 606 deep cell packs. The Mega Store is located in Danville, IL. When I got my order a week after ordering, I was so pleased with my order! The packs and Flats were made in Clearwater, MN and were so much better than the ones I had bought wholesale for years! The packs were much thicker, and the flats were not at all flimsy! I put my packs in the new flats, filled them with potting medium, and the 1020 daisy flats would fit inside the solid flats to soak up the water. I have several of the solid flats that I use strictly for wetting the planting medium or seed sowing medium.
Now, the manufacturer of the packs and flats is T.O. Plastics, 830 County Rd. 75, Clearwater, MN 55320. I don’t know if this is close to where you live, but you may contact them and see if you can buy directly from them. I had to pay shipping on 46.6 pounds, and the box was shipped UPS. The cost from Danville, IL to me was $16.45, so it did add to the cost, but I was so pleased with the quality, I’ll order again! I just wanted to let you know about this Greenhouse Mega Store, and the quality of their packs and flats. You can order the flats in a bundle of 10, but I know you are using lots of flats, so it’s a better deal to get the 50, and stacked, they take up very little room.
Carolyn Barr

Thanks so much for the info Carolyn. I’m sure other readers will be tickled with this source just like I am. I know I’ll be ordering for sure! — Jackie

Pickled peppers

I love the crunchy pickled peppers that you can get at a sub shop. I have tried for the last 5 years to can banana peppers and they have turned out mushy each year. This past year I did them by heating up the vinegar and garlic and I did them the old way, no canner. Any ideas, different peppers, different vinegar formula? I look forward to hearing your ideas!

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

The “old way” is the only way you can get crisp pickled peppers. I’ve done it myself. However, the experts say we’re not safe doing it that way but I must say I don’t know of any organisms that can live in vinegar that would harm a person. — Jackie

Confusing goat birth

One of my does had twins this AM–nothing unusual about that, BUT, she had a single birth 7 weeks ago.
Is this at all possible, or have I seriously lost track of my goats and what they are doing. I write each birth on the calender with the momma’s name, and double checked after finding the new kids with her this morning.
Bangs, Texas

While nothing is impossible, I’d say that you got the wrong mom with the first kid. Hey, it happens! I’ve had goats for fifty years and have been a vet tech for 20 years and I’ve never heard of a doe giving birth to a non-premie baby then delivering normal twins seven weeks later. Did you have another doe that kidded 7 weeks ago, maybe with twins? If they were in the same pen, maybe the one twin bonded with the wrong mom or if they were in different pens, could it have gotten out of the one pen and into the other? Was there normal after-birthing discharge on the “mom’s” vulva and tail after the first “delivery?” Sometimes we just don’t notice. Hopefully, all’s well and this may remain a mystery. If the kids are doing well, I wouldn’t worry about it too much. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: storing peanuts, canning ham, and jars still bubbling after canning

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Storing peanuts

I would like to store peanuts for long term use. Should I open the jars and oven can them? If so, using what procedure?
I also had vacuum sealed raisins and prunes that I got on “buy 1, get 1” sale last year. Would it be better to leave them in the store containers? Someone mentioned that these do NOT store for very long.

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

If the peanuts are already in vacuum-packed jars just store them as they are. Otherwise can the peanuts just as you do all nuts. Shell them and lay out on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Toast in the oven until hot, stirring so they don’t scorch a couple of times on your lowest oven setting. Pack into hot, dry jars, place hot, previously simmered lids on jars. I wipe mine off with a clean dish towel to eliminate any moisture, then turn the rings firmly tight. Process at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes. I gave up water bathing my nuts because they float and you have to weight down the jars which is a big pain in the you-know-what.

I have stored both raisins and prunes for several years leaving them in the store bags and packing them in an airtight container in my pantry. — Jackie

Canning ham

I got a couple of Easter hams on sale and canned them. In the past when I canned ham it turned out looking just like pinkish ham. This time they look a dark brown with a brownish liquid. I canned them the same way as in the past. Could you tell me why they are looking so dark and not like ham at all?

Shirley Toney
Liberty, Mississippi

I think it’s the brine the hams were soaked in before smoking. Some have more brown sugar/maple or smoked flavoring, both of which kind of dye the meat. I’ve had this happen too and the meat’s just fine. — Jackie

Jars still bubbling after canning

I just finished washing the jars after canning ham. All 12 pints initially sealed and they were fairly cool to touch. After removing the lids and washing them, I noticed that 4 jars looked like they were boiling/ had air bubbles coming up to the top of the jar. Are they coming unsealed? I had at least 1 inch or more headspace in all the jars and the hams were very lean.

I now have the bones broken in half in quart jars, plus 3 more smaller jars for beans started in the canner. Not too bad after feeding 4 people plus leftovers for the week for both households on $24. I am fairly certain my husband will be making a pot of beans either this week or next too.

Julia C.
Gardnerville, Nevada

I don’t wash my jars until they are cool to the touch. But the boiling is very normal for broth and meat canned in broth. It doesn’t mean the jars are coming unsealed, just that the liquid is still plenty hot.

I’m canning ham, too. I got two hams for .88 a pound and another that we had for Easter dinner. So I’m canning ham dices and chunks then tomorrow I’ll be canning bean soup and baked beans with ham flavoring. Even though we raise pigs to butcher, I’m a sucker for those on-sale hams and we sure get a lot of meals out of one ham, just like you do. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It was sixty degrees and sunny for Easter

Monday, April 21st, 2014

All we could think was … FINALLY! My sons, Bill (and his family) and David, were here for Easter dinner and we all ate too much. Then we sat out on our new front porch and enjoyed the warm day. After hiking around the place showing all of the new improvements to Bill and Kelly, we again hit the porch visiting and watching David and grandchildren, Ava and Mason, roll balls back and forth on the ramp and blowing bubbles that carried away in the breeze. With all of the gadget toys, it seems like today’s kids still love balls and bubbles.

Will’s busy digging under our addition, preparing to enclose the base with cement and rock, using slip form construction. This will be like the front porch with the rock work just adding a decorative and moderately supportive touch under the walls of our pole-built addition, keeping the brutal winter winds out. Today he’s digging out for footings, carefully saving all large rocks he runs across to add in the walls. He also installed extra insulation board under the floor and is getting ready to lay down a vapor barrier on the soil, raking the area smooth. This will keep any vapor from the ground from transferring to the floor joists of the addition, eventually rotting and weakening them.


Saturday, he dug out next to the foundation on the walk-out, south side of our house and installed two-inch insulation board all the way up to the sill plate with pressure-treated plywood over that. We just have a few more feet of basement wall left to go and the basement will be warmer in the winter. That means less firewood needed to keep the house warmer! Even this last winter, which was the coldest overall on record (90 days straight below zero!), our unheated basement never got below 40 degrees. And our potatoes are solid and juicy as can be with no sprouting, as are our onions. Perfect!

I’m still waiting for hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles. I added new orange halves to the Oriole feeder — just in case. I don’t want to miss those beautiful birds! I’ve got to rake the now-snow-free front yard. We have plenty of doggie “mines” out there. Yuck! But after I get that done, I’m off to can ham. I got two hams on sale for .88 a pound plus the one we had for Easter. That translates into half pints of ham dices, pints of ham chunks, and lots of bean soup and baked beans with ham to be canned up shortly. Mmmmmmm.


Just a note: We still have several spaces left for our June homesteading seminar so if you’d like to come, we do have room. Click on the box above for complete information. We’d love to have you join us! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Another cold snap lets me work inside this week

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Our temperature dived way down to a low of 7 degrees! Not fun to work outside so I did a lot of transplanting; seven flats worth of tomatoes and four flats of peppers. Boy, does that get my back but in just a few days the tomatoes have shot up and gotten nice and stocky.

I received my order from Sand Hill Preservation Center and planted more tomatoes, which are just coming up. They’ll be a little later but they’ll still be ready to set out in late May (in Wall o’ Waters). And I’ll have more than 27 seed varieties to offer next year.

Singing-tomatoes Sand-Hill-seeds

Will put new chains on the big round baler. He kept breaking chains last summer during haying and that was a huge pain. They’re heavy and hard to thread. (They’re the big chains that drive the bars that make the bales in the bale chamber.) He later found out that someone had replaced the heavier links of the 851 baler chain with those of an 850, which are much lighter weight. Once that was done, he took the weed burner and burned our asparagus patches to get rid of the long dead grass and weeds. It looks so much better already!

Today I went out and refastened the chicken wire to the cattle panels next to the old cow corral. My chickens were escaping and running free. Soon they’ll be in my flower beds scratching dust wallows, then they’ll get in the garden and start pecking at peas, etc. I’ll catch them off their roosts in the goat barn tonight and clip the feathers on their wings, just in case I have some flyers in the bunch.

Will disassembled our three hoop houses. He’s going to build two 12′ x 32′ houses instead of the three 12′ x 16′ ones we have now, putting 6 mil greenhouse plastic on, which is guaranteed for four years. We had ripping during bad winds last year. That’ll be fun having more hoop house space!

I wish each of you a very blessed and joyous Easter! And don’t forget to can up that leftover ham and make bean soup from the bone. — Jackie


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