Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Archive for May, 2014
Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Freezing then canning beans
We garden in five 4×8 raised beds in our small backyard and this year we are trying bush beans in one bed. The problem is getting enough beans at one time to make it viable to can. About every three days we pick enough beans to fill about a pint, we have been blanching and freezing these but wonder if once we have enough frozen could we then defrost and can them all at once?
It’s been a great spring so far as we have canned 35 pints of your Amish coleslaw recipe from the 5 head of cabbage that we grew. We froze about a half gallon of snap peas before they gave out, 8 pints of beets were canned, and so far we are up to 25 pints of pickles with no end in sight. The bell peppers are already full the 3 Roma’s are starting to fill up along with the 1 Cherokee purple, and the 4 jalapeño have produced over 60 good sized peppers so far.
Yes, you can freeze the beans and then quickly thaw and can them up all at one batch. They won’t be quite as good as if canned fresh, but sure better than store beans. It sounds like you’ve been busy! We’re barely in the PLANTING mode up here and it’s hard to believe you’re already harvesting. — Jackie
Hickory King corn
We have canned white Hickory King corn for hominy in the past (a long while back) and want to carry on a old family tradition, but cannot seem to find any Hickory King corn to can. Yellow Dent is just not the same. Do you know of any place we can buy it? We live in north Texas, and would like to buy at least a 50 lb. bag or bucket of it. It needs to be for human consumption.
Shumway’s sells White Hickory seed corn. I don’t know if it is treated but I’d call and ask. Maybe they’d let you know their seed source so you could buy some to can, cheaper than seed corn? Their phone number is: 1-800-342-9461. Any readers out there know where they can get some more-local White Hickory corn? — Jackie
Duck manure fertilizer
We keep a small pool for our ducks which we drain by a side valve and hose. Is it safe to put this soiled water directly in our vegetable garden? I worry it could make us sick but it seems like such a waste not to use for fertilizer.
Duck manure in the water makes excellent fertilizer. I wouldn’t put it on leaf crops or where rain may splash it up onto pepper, tomatoes, etc. But it’s fine for crops like corn or squash. Bucket away! — Jackie
Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Well, here it is, the official, non-official beaver weather forecast. My furry buddies out on the pond are saying that it is going to be another hot, dry summer. We’ll see how that turns out as the human weather forecasters are calling for a cold, wet summer. Hmm, man or beast?
We’ve been planting tomatoes like crazy! So far, we have 26 different open-pollinated tomatoes in the garden and more looking at me from the greenhouse. I wish I were triplets and that it would drop below seventy and sunny. Sweat drops right off my nose and burns my eyes! Yuck! As hot as it is (days in the 80’s!) I feel a rush to direct seed squash. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming.
Will’s been working at setting concrete footings for the rock walls of the barn and has 30 feet finished, so far. But he hurt his shoulder (he wouldn’t have over-done it, would he?) so he had to slow down on that. Now he’s building a tub-style chicken plucker (Will’s famous TORNADO CLUCKER PLUCKER) in his “spare” time. And he’s hauling manure. And grading our mile long driveway. And building two 12’x32′ hoop houses … I’ll bet he wishes HE were triplets too.
Hondo is becoming quite a herd dog. He even herds our chickens and turkeys. We have a few escapees and he thinks it’s his job to herd them back into their pen. He gives them the “eye” and walks them right back to the gate of their pen. Pretty smart dog!
Our asparagus came up like lightning bolts. One day, tips … the next it seemed to shoot up to 18 inches tall. I picked two big baskets full. We had a huge batch for supper and I canned up six pints. I could eat it every single day!
I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend and remembered the men and women who died keeping us free. Remember too, the men and women who died as a result of illnesses and injuries following their service and caused by it, as did my late husband, Bob, who died as a result of Agent Orange in Vietnam. — Jackie
Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Can you dry-can peaches? I have never heard of this before, but saw it mentioned in an article. I have canned them in a syrup only.
Wish I could be there for the seminar! Awfully far from Tampa.
Boy, that’s a new one on me! I’d rather stick to the tried and true canning peaches in syrup. I can’t imagine dry canning peaches at all.
I wish you could come, too. We still have several spots open. — Jackie
Substitution for fresh dill
I make dilly asparagus using the dilly bean recipe. It calls for 1 head of dill per jar, I usually freeze dill from the year before as it is not available at this time of year. I did not freeze any last year, so could you tell me if anything can be substituted with similar results.
You can substitute dill seed at about 1½ tsp. dill seed per head called for in a recipe. Of course, fresh dill is best (or frozen) but dill seed comes in a close second and is available all year long. — Jackie
Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
With Old Yeller up and running, Will made ditches with the tractor and breaking plow then cleaned them up with the dozer. (I won’t mention that he threw a track yesterday, and he waded in muck to get the track back on.) But before that, he cleaned out the old cow yard and goat pen up by the house, then carried all the manure out onto the orchard. That was the easy part! Today, after putting the track back on the dozer, he’s started at spreading (by hand) all of that poo poo around the fruit trees. It’s heavy work and he only does several trees at a time, moving on to another less-physical project to rest up his sore shoulder.
I planted 14 tomatoes in the garden and then Will and I set up and filled Wall-O-Waters around each one. He moved on to another project while I tilled the next rows with the Troy-Bilt. I’ll get the next 14 tomatoes planted this afternoon, and then keep on until all we plan on planting have been set in. We’re planting two of each variety we’re planning on saving seed from, but more of some varieties that are very special.
Our muddy pumpkin patch and hog-pen corn “field” are drying out nicely and I can see us planting in a couple of weeks. I hope.
David’s friend Ian came today as I told him I’d hire him to clean out the goat barn. (I’ve been having trouble with my left shoulder which turned out to be a bone spur and torn muscle. So I really need to schedule a minor surgery to have that taken care of. But we’re so busy…)
Will and I went to a presentation at a local greenhouse on raising berries given by a fellow who has a U-pick berry patch. It was interesting to hear how he did things on a larger scale than we have and we picked up a few tips, too, as we always do, listening to others with experience. We also came home with a Pembina plum which we’ve been looking for quite a while after tasting one at Jeff and Sue’s homestead near Hibbing.
Well, I’ve got to go set out tomatoes! See you next week. — Jackie
Thursday, May 22nd, 2014
Canned sweet peppers
Last summer I wanted to preserve some roasted sweet peppers by canning. I followed the method where you roast them, remove the skins and seeds, and then water bath canned them in a vinegar/water solution with salt and a little oil. I just opened a jar the other day and they taste blah. A acrid weird taste that just makes them inedible. Was it the oil, water bath canning, or roasting that did that? What is the right way to preserve roasted peppers? Freezing or canning?
Roasted peppers are great frozen. But they are also very good canned. I don’t pickle my sweet peppers as it sounds like you tried to do. I’m wondering if your canning method was incorrect. Did you follow an approved method or another you picked up somewhere? None of mine have oil as an added ingredient.
I can my roasted peppers by first roasting and seeding the peppers, peeling the skins off. Then I pack them in half-pint jars (or pints if you use a lot at a time), leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/4 tsp. salt (if you wish) and 1/2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice (improves flavor). Wipe rim of jar clean; place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints and half-pints at 10 pounds pressure for 35 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 be leery of eating those peppers you canned, especially if you did not follow an approved method. — Jackie
Mold in houseplants
I have trouble with indoor plants and mold. Be they potted plants or seeds started indoors, I always seem to grow a fuzzy white mold along with my plants. I have considered that they may be overwatered, and gone to great lengths to avoid this, sometimes allowing things to dry out completely and regularly if the houseplant can withstand, but to no avail. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s dirt, potting soil, premixed growing medium — they always get that fuzzy white mold. Do you have any tips to avoid this? Is it really all that bad anyway?
Frenchtown, New Jersey
I’ve found that this white mold is usually a pretty harmless fungus. It’s usually caused by keeping the pots/flats too moist or having high humidity in your house. But it’s often coming in on commercial potting soil. It’s supposed to be sterile, but I sure got a bunch this year, using Miracle Gro potting soil for my transplants. It doesn’t harm anything, but does look ugly. You can gently scrape the top layer of soil off, removing the mold, then sit the pots/flats in the sun and watch the watering. Mine goes away after doing this. — Jackie
Our asparagus is doing great this year. However I have missed some of the sprouts and they have ferned. Should I leave them or snap them off and compost them? I know I let them go at the end of harvest but didn’t know what to do now!
Clear Spring, Maryland
If they are small in diameter, just leave them. But if the stems are larger, cut them off below the soil with a sharp knife so that the plant will continue to produce asparagus. If too many ferns are allowed to develop, the plant figures it’s done its job and will quit sending up spears. If there are just a couple ferns that are small in diameter it won’t stop the plant from producing more spears. — Jackie
Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
Two days ago snow and hard freeze overnight, and now 70 degrees! I am growing rhubarb for the first time ever, and I see how the leaves grow but does it ever flower? I have a different type of stalk coming up. What do I do with this? Also- do I need to not cut it this first year – like asparagus?
And on the freezing weather — I have flowers in pots on my patio — if we are going to get a cold night, is it better to leave the pots dry or water them well during the day (in addition to covering the pots at night)? We had lows in the 50s two weeks ago and in the 20s this week. My plants are confused!
Love your column and the green chile is growing!
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Sounds like you have weird weather too. The different type of stalk coming up out of your rhubarb is the flowering stalk. It’s got an oval, whitish, pointed “ball” at the end of a hollow stalk. Cut this off to provide more strength to the plant. Don’t harvest any this year but next year you can begin lightly harvesting stalks. Again, keep those flowering stalks cut off so the plant doesn’t figure it’s done and quit producing edible stalks. Once the plant reaches summer, let it produce flowers and seeds. (You can raise rhubarb from those seeds but it does take three to four years before you’ll begin getting a decent harvest.)
As to your patio plants, just keep them watered as needed; it really doesn’t affect chilling on cold nights. Just be sure they’re well covered or brought inside if the temps dip below 30 degrees. They can freeze even if covered, should it get cold enough and you can’t trust the weather forecast. Bad surprises happen.
Mmm green chile! — Jackie
Zone 3 apricots
I noticed you found zone 3 apricots. I planted apricots that were sold for my zone, but never get anything as they bloom too early and the weather gets them before they set fruit. What were your tree’s name?
Our new apricots are Scout (a Manchurian selection with larger fruit) and Brookcot (from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). Scout does bloom fairly early but Brookcot later on. You might try Adirondack Gold, sold by St. Lawrence Nurseries as this Manchurian selection blooms later in the spring and will often produce fruit in Zone 3. We now have three of them and harvested our first few apricots last summer. — Jackie
Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
After weeks of waiting, we were finally rewarded by seeing a Baltimore Oriole in a birch tree off of our deck. He tried to drink from our hummingbird feeder with no results. He flew off a ways and I quickly took grape jelly out and spooned out some on the railing of our porch and moved one of the nectar feeders for orioles onto a shepherd’s hook near the hummingbird feeder.
It was only a few minutes later when he came back and immediately hopped to the jelly and started eating. Then, later, he was at the oriole feeder in the back yard and ate grape jelly from that one, too. We’re hoping that he’ll bring a lady friend back to nest nearby.
One thing that was interesting is that chickadees were drinking/eating the grape jelly and rose breasted grosbeaks were eating the oranges we put out for the orioles! Strange, but what the heck.
It’s been real busy around here now that the “rainy season” seems to have let off some. Will finally got Old Yeller back together. It seemed like for the last week or so it was, “oops, one more part to order. Oops, another one!” Then, yesterday, Bill and our grandson, Mason, brought his tractor and 3-point rototiller up and tilled not only our garden but a few isolated spots for squash and corn AND most of the pig pasture. The tiller digs quite a bit deeper than does our Troy-Bilt Horse tiller. We’re butchering our two pigs soon so Will plans on planting the sweet corn he’s breeding back from hybrid to open pollinated in the old pig pasture. This is the third generation and last year’s corn was very nice and we’re hoping to be able to save some seed to sell this fall.
As Bill was coming with the tiller, I had to move one of our big rhubarb plants. After digging it up, I ended up with a dozen big roots. I gave two to my friend, Carolyn and two to Bill, then transplanted the rest into various new spots around the homestead. Some of those roots were huge. In fact, Bill saw the remaining old roots and thought it was a tree stump!
Because the goats had eaten bark from the small popple trees in their pasture and the trees died, Will pushed them over a week ago and has been working at tossing them over the fence in a pile. We’ll saw them up for kitchen wood with the table saw he calls his “mini-cordwood” saw with its Briggs engine. With the dead trees gone it looks much nicer and the grass and clover will grow a lot better.
Will staked out the spots for our two larger, better hoop houses and this afternoon I’ll be out planting onion sets past the east hoop house spot. This time of the year, it’s run, run, run! So much to do. And our June seminar is only three weeks away! (If anyone is interested, we still do have some spots for you, if you’d like to come.) — Jackie
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
I wonder if that’s why I haven’t seen any orioles? My friend, Jeri, has had them for three days now and she lives 2½ miles north of us. I freshened up my oranges, mixed new “juice,” but no orange birds. Boo hoo. Maybe tomorrow? We do have rose-breasted grosbeaks and goldfinches though and that’s a plus. I even saw a hummingbird zip by today.
I’m sure when our weather breaks it will be suddenly summer with hot temperatures to contend with. It’s the way it usually goes.
Will’s been working on the barn and digging a ditch for a drainage pipe from our washer and rinse tub to go underground so the graywater won’t flow against our rock wall and under the house. Yesterday I got the wrong fittings and had to go back this morning for 45 degree elbows … not 90s. Oops! We dug the ditch with the handy furrow plow that Will made last year. I man the four wheeler, pulling the plow, and Will holds it in place. Our four wheeler is old and has no brakes and runs roughly. So it’s a picnic trying to go fast enough downhill to dig yet slow enough that I don’t run away with him. And we had to make many trips down the strip, making the furrow deeper and deeper. It’s a wonder we’re still talking!
Just a reminder: We still are running our little seed business and still have everything listed. If you need a list, just e-mail me and I’ll send it to you. — Jackie