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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 October, 2015

Jackie Clay

Q and A: parsley stems and Homesteading Simplified book

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

Parsley stems

After being ill for over 2 years I am so glad to be getting back to a little bit of gardening and putting food by, smiles. Question: I find myself disliking the fact that I discard all my parsley stems before freezing. Can they be blanched and frozen (at least the thinner stems?) Thanks so much for your answer and as always. I’m so appreciative of your blog!

Lettie Cain
Inkster, Michigan

I’m glad to hear that you’re feeling better. Being under the weather sure sucks! You don’t have to discard any of your parsley stems unless they are woody. You can either chop and dehydrate them or freeze for later use in a multitude of recipes. “Waste not, want not…” — Jackie

Homesteading Simplified book

I am seeing the BHM blurbs about your newest book. But I have more questions before I order. How many pages are there in your book? Are there photographs, line drawing or illustrations in it? What is the size of your book? Book price? Shipping and handling price for a 49450 zip? Do you talk about the issue of homesteading and aging? I did click, “See More” for the details of what topics are included but I still had questions.

Donna Allgaier-Lamberti
Pullman, Michigan

Let’s see if I can answer your questions. First of all, the book, Homesteading Simplified, is 8½ x 11 inches, having 180 pages. It is $19.95 plus S&H. Although during the holiday season it is on special for just $12 plus S&H. There are color photographs throughout the book. It does not cover aging specifically, but does give plenty of hints and tools for making your everyday chores easier for everyone. (There are a lot of younger folks with bad backs, injuries, etc.!) And it does tell you the easiest ways we’ve found to get things done on a variety of sized homesteads, from urban to larger acreages. I really think you’ll find it very useful, whether you’re a beginning or well-seasoned homesteader. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Glass Gem corn and recanning bottled fruit juice drinks

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Glass Gem corn

Is that Glass Gem corn edible or just beautiful?

Carolyn Simpson

Glass Gem popcorn is definitely edible. Not only can you make popcorn with it but you can also grind it for cornmeal. A totally win-win for this pretty corn. — Jackie

Recanning bottled fruit juice drinks

I would like to add bottled fruit drinks to my storage supplies, but they have short shelf lives. Could I re-can these to extend this time? I would like to have this on hand for my 5 grandchildren if the need occurred. They would be a source of additional vitamins, plus being a “treat” for them to have. I have several expired bottles that seem to have developed some sediment in the bottom. I am unsure if this shows it is no longer safe to use.

Will’s latest project of insulating pipes seems overwhelming to me!! Glad I am in Florida. Best to you both.

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Although canned fruit juices would be a better (healthier) choice for drinks for everyone, canning store-bought juice drinks, which don’t usually contain much juice; thus the name “drink”, wouldn’t really help much. A better choice would be to pick up some packs of Kool Aid or another powdered drink such as Tang, etc. They will stay good indefinitely. Then in emergency situations, you can just mix with water and everyone can enjoy a treat.
I doubt that the sediment in the bottom of your expired bottles of fruit drink means they are no longer good; it’s just probably the solids settling out after a long time on the shelf.

The insulating job is finally DONE and the driveway looks great. Whew! It was a big job…and well done if I do say so myself. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve had a real wet spell

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

After so many nice sunny fall days, suddenly the rains are upon us. I finally got the last of the carrots canned up and, boy, do they look great in the jars. Yesterday I gathered up all of the onions that have been curing on the enclosed back porch and bucketed them down to the bins in the basement, next to the potato bins. The potatoes are in covered plastic bins as they need humidity to store well. But the onions are in slotted crates so they get lots of air circulation, which prevents rot. Both the onions and potatoes did very well this year.
It was supposed to snow last night so we were real happy that it rained instead but there’s mud everywhere!
We finished the final edits on my third Western novel, Winter of the Wolves, and it should be out about December 1st, a little later than we first anticipated. (For those of you who don’t typically read Westerns, you might want to give the first book in the series, Summer of the Eagles, a try. There are a whole lot of Amazon reviews that say things like “I couldn’t put it down!” and “I don’t read Westerns but this one hooked me from the first page.” No extreme violence, sex, or rotten language. Your pastor or grandkids could read it with no gasps. But it does move right along. The books are available through Amazon and are also available as Kindle reads.
I had a jar crack during processing my carrots. This is the first broken jar for years and years. (I use old mayonnaise jars and antique odd shaped jars…anything a canning lid and ring fit on, as opposed to what “experts” recommend. Hey it seems like they say I’ll go to hell for using mayo jars! But it wasn’t one of those “alternative” jars that broke; it was a relatively new Kerr. The side cracked enough to let the water drain out but didn’t totally break. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We are harvesting a bounty of carrots

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

As our nighttime temperatures are drifting into the very low twenties, I figured I’d better get at it and pull the remaining carrots and parsnips. Wow! They have gotten huge. Even our Scarlet Nantes are reaching a foot long and weighing in at over a pound. That’s a lot of carrot. And they’re so tender and crisp that when I gently toss them into a five-gallon bucket, some instantly snap in half or crack with a pop. I’ve got one five-gallon bucket all canned up and will get at the next one this morning. Boy, are they ever nice.
While I’ve been canning carrots, Will is busy pulling all of the tomato stakes, cages, and variety name stakes. He piled all the vines in huge piles to burn in the garden if it ever stops raining, then he raked all of the tangled squash and pumpkin vines into a row along the side of the garden, also to burn. By burning them we help prevent disease and keep insects from over wintering in the vines. Also, the ash adds a little fertilizer (potash) to the soil. Will wants to get the whole garden tilled before the soil freezes.
My parsnips grew funny this year. Instead of being long and thin as usual, they’re short and fat, almost like a beet! But they taste great and will be easy to peel and cook without waste. We’ll add them to the bins of potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas in the basement.

Monday we went down to my son, Bill’s, and helped him finish the sheet metal he’s laying on the old garage roof to match the new addition. The weather was supposed to be sunny and nice. Well… we hit rain in Cloquet, twenty some miles from his house and it continued until we got there. Bill was already on the roof, screwing down one-inch boards over the old shingles, on which to screw the sheet metal. Did I mention the temperature was forty degrees?

Luckily, Kelly’s two uncles, Mel and Vern, had already shown up so that made a good crew. They finished up after dark and Bill’s last screw was driven by the tiny light on Will’s Dewalt cordless driver. It was that dark. Luckily, the rain quit just as we got there so the guys weren’t too miserable all day, but the temperature never got over 45 degrees. But the job’s done, including the trim and ridge cap and it looks really nice. Now Bill can go deer hunting without that job hanging over his head. We got home just after eleven after being stopped on the highway by the State Patrol. We couldn’t figure out what he stopped us for as Will wasn’t speeding in our old ’85 Chev truck. It was a headlight that was out. We hadn’t even noticed! Will raised the hood and wiggled the wire. The headlight popped back on. The patrolman was nice and we were back on the road with two headlights! Seeing blue and red flashing lights up behind you sure makes your heart race. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The waterline is buried and we are on to other projects

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

Will finished burying the waterline after insulating it well. But even our heavy duty backblade just kicked rocks up when he tried to grade it nicely. However, his friend has a landscape rake that goes on the back of a tractor and Will called him. In an hour’s time, the rake was hooked to our tractor and Will started raking. Wow, what a difference! Not only did the rake gather the big rocks but it also leveled out the driveway like a landing field. Will shoved the rocks over a bank next to the driveway and continued raking. Now it looks ready to blacktop (just kidding).
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing the big job of taking the seeds out of our last tomatoes, squash, and pumpkins for our seed business, Seed Treasures. Besides canning, that sure makes harvest time L O N G! But I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel as most of the tomatoes are done and so is the tomato product canning. Whew! But the pantry shelves are really full and there are getting to be lots of containers full of different seeds.

Hunting season starts here the first weekend in November so we have moved the horses and cattle out of the north forty pasture as it’s the “wildest” of our land and stray hunters could mistake a calf for a deer. Hey, it happens; I have, in the past, had two horses shot by deer hunters. We want to play it safe.

We’re continuing getting ready for winter. Will is going to pull the irrigation pump, which he’s already drained, so it doesn’t freeze in the spring basin. Once pulled, we’ll then drain the entire line so it’ll be ready to go, come spring. (Boy, that seems like a long way off, doesn’t it?) I’ve got to replace the hinges on two gates and a goat shed door so we can move our goats up from the pasture for breeding season and for winter. It’s nicer to have them closer so when it snows bad we don’t have to wade through deepening snow to feed and water them. Lots of little projects and the days are getting shorter. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: chestnuts, green beans, lima beans, and deformed peppers

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015


How do you use chestnuts? And do you can them as you do pecans or other nuts?

Joyce Pierce
Georgiana, Alabama

You can roast them and eat them for a snack but you can also roast, chop, and add them to any baked goods such as cookies, quick breads, and cakes. Many old-timers also used chopped chestnuts in poultry dressings. Yes, you can toast and can them like other nuts. Be sure to toast them in the oven for a longer time than smaller nuts so the insides get toasted too. — Jackie

Green beans

I canned up some green beans from my garden and they tasted bitter. We ate two pints of them and did not get sick, Would you know why they are bitter?

Chris Barr
Mathias, West Virginia

It sounds like your green beans have a condition called “flat sour.” While the beans are not poisonous, it is a type of food spoilage usually caused when foods aren’t picked and promptly canned up, even if they are held in the refrigerator. Personally, I’d dump the beans because they certainly aren’t tasty. Then next time, make sure you move right along, picking, preparing, and canning them right up. — Jackie

Lima beans and deformed peppers

I missed harvesting my Jackson Wonder Lima Beans while they were still green in their pods. They have all dried on the vine again this year. Can I still can these up as lima beans or should I use them in a chili or stew?

I also wonder if you could tell me why some of my peppers have tan “stretch marks” that deform the shape of them. They also seemed to produce far less this year. The whole garden suffered this year from the extra rain we got in spring. We usually get about 2000lbs and I think we finished at about 600lbs, but the peppers especially produced very little.

Jessica KoKerner
Fort Wayne, Indiana

You can now can up your limas as you would any other dry bean. Then they’ll be cooked and ready to use in any recipe.

I think you can blame the weather on the deformed peppers. Sometimes poor pollination, often weather-related, will cause not only deformed fruits but also less production. Peppers will often abort their flowers if it is too hot, making your total yield much less. Another example of “better luck next year!” Hang in there. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re making good use of our spell of good weather

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Because we know the “other season” is roaring down on us like a freight train, Will’s still busy working on the water line insulation. And because last year our neighbor ran over our frost-free hydrant next to the driveway and bent it over flat, Will decided to dig it up and move it further away from the driveway. We were able to straighten up the hydrant and we used it for a year afterwards, but when Will dug down, he discovered that the pipe was bent like an S! So instead of buying a new hydrant (the top and bottom along with the inside rod were okay) I ran to Menards for a 10-foot length of pipe. It was pre-threaded on both ends.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. The 10-foot frost-free hydrant was 10 feet long overall. So Will had to cut the pipe and we don’t have a die. So I took the pipe to town to get it threaded. Still not the end! When I got it home again, Will discovered that he had made an error in measuring. So I ended up taking it back to town after running to the neighbor’s first (he has a machine shop, but no pipe dies!). Now it’s back together and has passed its inspection by Mittens. She closely follows everything we do.
Whew! Hopefully now that it’s back together, we can soon bury everything with plenty of insulation over all and no more frozen water.
Yesterday I harvested the last of our Glass Gem popcorn. It’s just beautiful. And because each plant stooled out and made multiple tillers, each plant produced up to five ears each on 10-foot tall stalks. Amazing, and truly beautiful as there are colors you seldom see on Indian Corn: pink, baby blue, lavender, and mauve. I love it! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Snow is in the forecast

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

The weather radio is forecasting temps in the twenties tonight and a good possibility of snow flurries. So I’ve moved all our squash that was out on the front porch inside. Boy, do we ever have squash! This year one of our favorites is Gila Cliff Dweller. It’s a C. mixta from the ancient Southwestern tribes and is very productive. It makes two different shaped and colored squash. One is roundish and quite large with smooth skin and pretty green stripes and blotches. The other is a very large neck/bottle shaped fruit. Our heaviest weighs 35 pounds! That’s a LOT of squash! We’re still letting it cure and will cut one open to eat it in a couple weeks and let you know how it tastes.
We had a sad event last night. Our big Bourbon Red turkey tom, Red, free ranged because he was beaten up by the other toms in the run. But he was so heavy he couldn’t fly up to roost so he roosted under the spruce trees in the yard. This morning, we were shocked to see turkey feathers down by the goat pasture. I followed them and unfortunately, I recognized them: Red’s feathers. We figure that either a wolf or coyote got him as a fox could never have handled an active 40-pound bird. I tried to follow the feather trail but it petered out in the cow pasture, then was gone. We’ll miss Red as he was pretty much a pet. But when you homestead, there are good things and bad, just like life. And you learn to roll with the punches.
Will’s busy digging a four-foot-deep trench in our driveway so he can bury foam board insulation over our water line. As it passes along and across the driveway, frost goes down deep and has often frozen our water line. Although Will did install a heat cable inside the water line, we want to worry less and have water all winter in the future. The insulation will surely help that!
He started out with our little backhoe, then is using the bulldozer to dig up the dirt and the Ford 660 to move it out of the trench. Take a good look at the dirt; it’s the same dirt we started out with in the garden so don’t think “well, if we had good soil like Will and Jackie we could grow a good garden too:” Ours started out all rocks, gravel, and sand! With lots of rotted manure and other organic material, it’s much improved over its humble beginnings. — Jackie


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