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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Archive for June, 2014
Monday, June 30th, 2014
In the recent BHM magazine (March/April 2014, Issue #146), you mentioned canning olives from a 10# can. How long did you process them?
New Castle, Pennsylvania
I processed them for 90 minutes (in half-pint jars) at 12 pounds pressure (for our altitude), according to the University of California’s recommendations. For altitudes 1,000 feet and below, you’d use 10 pounds pressure. They re-canned very nicely. — Jackie
I have a concern with some of my pickled eggs and would like your advice. I canned quart jars of pickled eggs two years ago and while in the sealed jars they look great, but when I open them and remove them from the jar they develop brown spots on them that make me wonder if they are still safe to eat — I used a standard pickling recipe. So do you think they are safe to eat?
I’ve never had this happen, so I can’t say. It’s possible that the spots are a result of the spices you used. Do the eggs smell okay after coming out of the jar? Usually if pickled eggs go bad they stink and the jar looks cloudy. Since I don’t know what recipe you used, I can’t tell you more. Sorry. — Jackie
Saturday, June 28th, 2014
Shelf life of yeast
I have been searching to find out the shelf life of yeast. I have one jar that is for bread machines. Is it possible to use it to make a regular loaf of bread? I also have active dry yeast but I’m not sure how long is it good for after the expiration date. I grew up on farms. Had my own until circumstances made me go into apartments. I do try to “keep things simple” but do not have a garden. I have learned self-sufficiency for apartment living quite nicely. I had fear of losing my job the last 5 years to perfect this new life style. Now that I have made it to retirement I am going thru my collection of foods. I enjoy all the Jackie Clay emails, Q&A’s and books. Keep up the extremely important work you do. It’s been joy & tears as I’ve watched all your life changes.
I’m happy that you’re still homesteading, even though you’re in an apartment. Will was living in an apartment when we met via mail but he still was growing container gardens in his windows, including oak trees and pole beans!
Yes, you can make regular bread from bread machine yeast. It’s the same “animal.” Yeast is usually good when stored at room temperature, for about a year. When frozen, it remains good much longer. I usually have a pound of yeast on the pantry shelf to use daily and another in the freezer. I’m glad you made it to retirement without losing your job. That happens too often today, where one works for years at a “good” job, then is let go when nearing retirement age. Not fair! — Jackie
Chicken coop door
We need a new door on our chicken coop. One with a handle on both sides since we accidentally locked ourselves in it this winter! Thank goodness for neighbors that need a good laugh when they come and let you out! We live in central Wisconsin and had the winter of all winters with lots of cold air this year. (I am sure you know what we are talking about) Our door right now is a piece of plywood. So what kind of door do you have on your chicken coop? I cannot find a picture of it on this blog. Can you suggest how to make one? Do you think plywood with 2x4s will be sturdy enough? Even with a plain plywood door all of these years the ladies have kept themselves warm.
The Bill Bean tomato plants are doing just wonderful from the seed that we bought from you. Can’t wait to try one. Thank you for posting the beaver report. So far I think we have a lot more rain than the beavers planned on. But we do need to make it through July!!
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
Our current chicken coop door is made of one-inch rough sawn lumber and 2x4s. I have a hook inside and out so I can’t lock myself in. Although in our chick raising coop, the door kind of drags on the bottom and once it stuck shut with me inside and I had to yell for Will to come let me out, so I know how foolish you felt! When we build our new cordwood, insulated chicken coop we’ll have an insulated door made of 1″ lumber and 2x4s with insulation board sandwiched between layers of 1″ boards for added insulation. And we’ll have a hook inside and out!
I’m glad your Bill Bean tomatoes are doing good. Ours are too. My biggest one is over 3½ feet tall already!
Yeah, those beavers. But, like you say, we still have a lot of summer left over so we’ll see. Right now, we’re having way too much rain. — Jackie
I am confused about canning pears. My neighbor’s tree is loaded (unknown type) and he says I can have all I want. Are they supposed to be fully ripe to can? Did I read that canning pears are picked firm and if so then how do you know when to pick them?
Newport News, Virginia
I can ripe pears. But I do like to eat them when they’re a bit crunchy. You can can them either way. Just eat one to see if it is ripe enough. A ripe pear tastes sweet and juicy. A green one tastes BLECYUCKY. Lucky you, Sheryl! Just think of what you can do with all those pears. — Jackie
Friday, June 27th, 2014
I’ve come to the realization that I have root worm in my cauliflower and broccoli plants! I’ve been treating with Diatomaceous earth. The plants are in milk crates. Do I need to dump the dirt, remove the landscapers fabric, scrub then reline and refill with new soil? The plants started out looking so good but now, not so much.
Many times you can get rid of root worm by using beneficial nematodes available through such places as Gardens Alive!. You just mix the powder with water and soak in the soil around your plants. The nematodes only attack harmful worms, not earthworms. And they are not harmful to you, either. Other than that, starting over as you suggested may be the only cure. I’d either sterilize the soil you fill your crates with by baking it in the oven at 250° F for 20 minutes or use commercial potting soil so you don’t start out with the same problem. If you used garden soil, I’d advise using beneficial nematodes in your garden or where you access your soil for your containers to avoid future problems. The nematodes multiply and stay around as long as there is “prey.” — Jackie
Using a bread bucket
After the article about bread buckets, I purchased one. All went well until the part about leaving the dough in the bucket to rise. Most recipes I’m familiar with say to lightly grease the dough and bowl it will rise in. Is this step necessary, I took my dough out of the bucket , placed it in a greased bowl, lightly greasing the top of the dough,and proceeded as usual. Will it be ok to skip this step? I was too chicken to try it minus the light greasing.
Branchville, South Carolina
Sure you can skip letting the dough rise in the bucket and use a bowl. I’ve never been lucky enough to own a bread bucket, myself. Lucky you! — Jackie
Thursday, June 26th, 2014
Despite more than seven inches of rain, the seeds we hurriedly planted on our pumpkin patch/corn field are sprouting! We figured they’d all rot since the patch is not on high ground and is basically clay loam. But now you can actually see rows of corn and hills of squash and pumpkins.
While I was gone to Montana, Will fenced the patch with electric tape, powered by a 12-volt fence charger hooked to an old truck battery. It’s mainly to keep the cattle from wandering in there, but we hope it will also slow down the deer. The battery-charged fence charger puts out a much stronger poke than does our solar fence.
I just finished planting peppers yesterday. We still don’t have the plastic on the hoop houses as both of us are sick with a nasty cough/cold. We will get it on as soon as we feel better. Things don’t always go as planned, but the peppers look great and with the hot weather we’ve been having, they will keep growing quickly until we do get the plastic on. Our tomatoes also look great as does the rest of the garden (except for the weeds…).
I’ve been busy working at trying to find my adopted son, Javid, an apartment. I’ve got a good lead but need to turn in an application. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get a hold of his case manager to find out the answers to some of the questions on the application. Voice-mail doesn’t seem to get a response. I feel pressured as there aren’t many handicap-accessible apartments in nearby towns and I’m worried that the one that may be available will be rented before we can get the application filled out. Oh well, things will work out for the best, I’m sure.
We recently found out that we have a nesting pair of bluebirds in the berry patch! After years of trying to attract them, here they are, all set up in housekeeping. We’re really excited about that. There are not many better insect eaters than bluebirds and they really like cabbage moths. Unlike me! — Jackie
Thursday, June 26th, 2014
Using excess grapes
We bought land 2 years ago which has a very large grape arbor. The grapes were beautiful last year and very covered. When I tried one I was shocked to find they were wine grapes. The fruit under the skin was a pale pink and the taste was very sweet and distinctive. I put up some juice the old way. A cup of grapes and half a cup of sugar in a pint jar processed for a few minutes. But sad to say I lost 99 percent of the grapes and had to watch them rot. Is there a simple way to make wine? No fancy methods just an easy way. They are covered again this year.
Sorry, but we don’t use alcohol so I’ve never made wine. But I’m sure some of our readers do and can give you some tips. But like canning, there isn’t a quick and easy way to make wine — just best ways. Can you readers help out Janice? — Jackie
Because we have both limited outdoor growing space and a large deer population, we have decided to try growing vegetables in our sunroom. So far the tomatoes, carrots, beans, lettuce, and peppers are doing fairly well. The lettuce is a bit “leggy,” but is growing, and we have some little tomatoes. The problem is that we have an infestation of gnats! We do not want to use chemicals on the plants, but have had no luck getting rid of the gnats with insecticidal soap or pyrethrum. Also, the Safer pyrethrum spray burned the leaves on the green beans. Do you have any suggestions of how to get rid of the gnats without damaging the vegetables?
Port Angeles, Washington
Unfortunately, growing vegetables inside does often mean doing battle with gnats and aphids as there usually aren’t any helpful predators present. We had that problem and I found that using Spinosad worked great. You can often find the brand Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew in larger stores. It is a safe organic spray that only kills bugs, not you, your family or pets. And I haven’t had any leaf damage to plants either. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Cooking beans at a high altitude
We moved to Deming, New Mexico for our retirement. We love it here but are having a very hard time making baked beans from any kind of dried beans. We have tried crock pot, but beans are still hard. I got a power electric pressure cooker but beans still are hard. Am I doing something wrong? I tried on line for recipe for Power electric pressure cooking strictly for beans and am unable to find any, I only find them for pressure cooker for stoves Would you know any thing about the electric cooker or give me a recipe for beans in a high altitude area?
Deming New Mexico
Are your beans fairly fresh? One of the most common problems with older beans is that they take forever to cook soft. I fight this by canning up my older beans from storage. They get nice and soft and are ready to dump out into a casserole to make instant baked beans any time I want. I have never used an electric pressure cooker, so don’t know anything about them. You are soaking your beans overnight, right? If not, they don’t get soft unless you can them. If your beans are fairly fresh, you only need to cook them slowly for a long time, adding more water if necessary to get them soft. I’ve lived at high altitudes several times and didn’t have trouble cooking beans, other than adding more time to the recipe. — Jackie
I have purchased some tattler canning lids. I bought 2 dozen standard mouth and 2 dozen wide mouth. A while back, I canned up 7 quart jars of milk at 60 minutes via HWB method. So far so wonderful. I like! I am at a low elevation (Texas, about 1,000 feet). I have been chatting with some that have followed directions (backed off 1/4 turn or so, then tightened upon removing) and they have had failures. I canned with standard size lids. The one gal did wide mouth, I don’t know what the others used. All were at 8,000 feet to 9,500 elevation. Do you know if elevation affects these? What elevation are you at?
No, elevation does not affect Tattler lids. We are at 1,400 feet elevation. I have friends at high elevations and they have not had trouble with the Tattler lids sealing so I’m not sure what these folks’ problems were. With any canning, you do get failures sometimes but frequent failures means that something is being done wrong and as I can’t be there, I can’t always guess what the problem was. — Jackie
Tuesday, June 24th, 2014
Enough salt to float an egg
When using old time recipes I have run across the term “enough salt to float an egg.” My question is, does the egg need to float to the top of the water or just off the bottom?
I’ve always added enough salt to float it to the top. How about it guys? Any other ways you do it? — Jackie
My zucchini is coming on strong! While I love my zucchini pickles, especially the curried ones, I am looking for a new zucchini approach and need your canning advice.
I plan to cook the zucchini down with onions, olive oil, a bit of balsamic vinegar and spices to the consistency of baba ganoush. I am concerned that, because it will be dense, it may not be safe. I plan to hot pack and pressure can it in half pint jars. How long and at what pressure should I use so that it won’t kill anyone?
You can put up your zucchini that way but I would not cook it down to the consistency of tomato paste, more like tomato puree and you’ll do fine. If you want it thicker on using, just finish cooking it down then. Follow the directions in your canning book for times and pressure for canning your zucchini. Remember that half-pints are canned for the same time and using the same pressure as pints. — Jackie
Monday, June 23rd, 2014
After traveling nearly 3,000 miles round trip, David and I finally arrived home on Saturday evening. We were both pooped as both of us have a nasty summer cold! But we had a great trip and did a lot.
First off, we had several great visits with my adopted son, Javid, and made arrangements to start moving him to our area in Minnesota where he wants to be, instead of in a nursing home. Now all I have to do is find him housing here and get all the paperwork done. Whew.
In between visits, when Javid had to be lying down, David and I visited two of our old homesteads, one near Craig, and the other way up the mountain, north of Jefferson City. (I thought David was insane for driving 7 miles up a 4 x 4 trail littered with granite rocks and washouts — with his Monte Carlo!) But after a few tense moments, we did make it. That area is much the same as it was, glowing with wildflowers among big pine and spruce trees. It felt good but sad to be back.
Our Craig area homestead was easier to get to but we felt bad because the place had fallen into disrepair. No one was living there and it looked lonely. But we did pop in on our best friends up there, Ron and Gloria, and had a wonderful visit that was much too short.
Now that I’m back, I’m trying to get caught up and also trying to find Javid an apartment with personal care assistance. Everything is hard with a nasty head cold, though. Lots of vitamin C and hot showers! The garden looks great but the weeds are coming on strong with all the rain and heat we’ve been having. — Jackie