Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

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.

Order from Amazon. Order from the publisher, save 10%, and get FREE shipping.

Archive for March, 2016

Jackie Clay

Will’s at it again!

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Previously, I’d taken in two front tractor tires to the Tire Shop in Cook to see if they could boot the splits in the sidewalls. No dice, the splits were too big and the guys said the boots might not work over time. So when I brought them home, Will started working on an idea for repairing them. New tires are several hundred dollars each. He figured, what the heck…


So, he began drilling holes on each side of the splits and threading wire through and through, effectively “sewing” the gaping split together. Once tight, he then coated both inside and out with a liberal coating of black Shoe Goo (silicone sealer) to reduce roughness and protect the outside from catching on field debris. Now he’s going to put two boots, one smaller and the next, (larger over the first, inside). Then it’ll be ready for a tube and back on the tractor. You can hardly see the spot where the ugly split used to be — no big lump, no roughness at all.



Of course, it remains to be seen if it’ll work, long term, but he has very little invested except for time and energy. And he thinks it will work, just like his homemade cement tractor wheel weights he made a couple of years ago. Cool, I love coloring outside the lines!

Meanwhile, I planted several more varieties of tomatoes and the first I planted are already coming up. That’s three days! The first peppers are almost big enough to transplant so that’ll be a next weekend job.

Yesterday I heard a killdeer and red-winged blackbirds singing! AND I saw a robin. This morning red-winged blackbirds were in the tree by the chicken yard. Spring’s here for sure! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

An upgrade on the homestead

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

We’ve been limping by on about 100 watts of solar panels and a small windcharger for the past few years. Yep, it worked, kind of. But we did have to use the generator more than we’d like. So since our seed business is busy right now with orders we’re real thankful for, we decided it was time to buy some larger solar panels and charge controller.

Will called a local manufacturer of solar panels and luckily they had two discontinued panels we could afford. Wow! I hopped in the car and in a little over an hour I was back with the two panels that would take us from 100 watts to 480 watts! Wow, are we happy! And guess what? The sun is shining brightly today and it’s 56 degrees out.


On Saturday I got our tomatoes planted. All 380 plants. Guess we’ll be busy this spring, planting and mulching, huh? Of course every seed won’t germinate and I’ll be giving some plants to kids and friends. (Think I over-did it again this year?) But we found some way-cool varieties of tomatoes and some customers donated some of their heirloom seed to us, so off we went.

Will heard a red-winged blackbird this morning but I still haven’t heard one, even though I went down by the beaver pond and listened and listened. No dice. But soon! I did see a pair of trumpeter swans flying south on Friday. Boy, was I excited. Spring IS coming — my favorite time of the year. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: planting seedlings and non-electric range

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Planting seedlings

I read your post this morning and in answer to using peat pots you included some information new to me. If your seedling is leggy you plant it deeper when moving to a larger pot or garden. I had beans that sat too long in starter cups (having had the flu for days!) When I set them out into the garden it was very windy the next day and several were broken. Does this hold true for all veggies, and how deep can I place them? Hope that you are feeling better.

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

I, personally, haven’t done it with beans … yet. But I really can see no reason it wouldn’t work. In New Mexico, I’d put a tin can with both ends cut out over young veggie starts that were tender so the wind wouldn’t break them off and damage the leaves. I chose cans that were just a tiny bit taller than the plants — that worked well. Yes, I’m definitely feeling better and raring to go! — Jackie

Non-electric kitchen range

We live in a conventional, grid-tied house and have really been enjoying our small homestead for over four years now. I try to do a lot of canning, and we have a large family of 10 children. We have a kitchen that is in need of remodeling, and that is where I am hoping you can help me. I am trying to think of things that would be really helpful in canning or other types of food processing. I will have a large kitchen, which is helpful when you have a big family. I intend to get a new range as my current range is powered by electricity. As we don’t have natural gas where I live, I am planning to use propane. I am even considering making sure I have more than just a standard 4-burner range (maybe 2 ranges) as there have been many times that I find myself trying to can something using both large burners and would also like to have a pot of soup going for dinner. I never seem to have enough stove room when I am canning. Anyway, do you have any thoughts as to a good range for use with propane or what I should be looking for. Unfortunately, I am not at a time in my life where I feel like I could use a wood stove for cooking. I would like to be able to rely on my stovetop at least during a power outage, but if I could use the oven too, that would be a big bonus. Any other thoughts you have in regards to designing a kitchen that is great for canning would be appreciated!

Rebecca Whisonant
Chester, South Carolina

There are several high-end ranges that are out of my price range with commercial ovens and extra burners. For me, I want heavy burner grates next time. The ones on my stove are lightweight and wiggle around too much, making sliding heavy pots difficult. I also like a range with standing pilots, which are hard to find now. Ones with electronic pilots are fine if they have back-up battery operation but most do not. In a power outage, you can still light the burners but the oven usually won’t work. You might consider one range and a built-in counter cooktop. A lot of folks use them in island installations and I really like that because they are usually lower, making canning much nicer for shorter or older folks. Lots of counter space is always a plus as is a single deep sink instead of the usual double sink. Large pots and cookie sheets fit flat in my sink and I LOVE that! Lots of drawers are also a plus as you can keep all your canning supplies, lids, jar lifters, lid lifters, funnels, etc. in one drawer and rings in another. The best of luck with your remodel! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: feeding chickens, canner rack, and canning milk

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Feeding chickens

Now that winter’s about over and I’ve muddled through it with chickens I have several questions. These chickens are free range but much less is available in the winter. (They also said there was no way they were coming out of the coop with that funny white stuff on the ground!) We give them our food scraps but we don’t leave many. What would be a basic grain mix to feed in the winter? What can I substitute for the lack of bugs? What about chopped organ meats usually discarded at slaughter time? Are there things I can grow for them besides corn? I believe you keep your flock in the orchard. Do you bush hog it to keep the growth down? Whew, enough questions. The hens are laying like mad now that the weather is warmer. I hope you have a great spring and all your seeds germinate.

Carol Bandy
Hightown, Virginia

Thanks Carol. Our seeds are popping up like mad and the chickens are cranking out plenty of eggs. I’m even selling some in town, which pays for their feed.

A basic mix is cracked corn, wheat, and soybean meal. We feed a locally mixed 18% poultry ration fed free choice. But to keep the girls happy and cut costs I also feed a whole lot of home-grown feeds in the winter such as pumpkins and squash, and veggie scraps such as potato peels, carrot scraps, etc. Yes, you can feed raw, chopped organ or other meat to the chickens. Just make sure it stays fresh. We keep our chickens in our orchard where they scratch and eat bugs and any fallen fruit. There is clover and grass between the trees and they never keep it down. So I run our riding lawnmower over the orchard any time it gets out of control. The cut grass and clover helps feed the plants and fruit trees as well as the tractor bucket load of rotted manure we spread around each tree in the spring. By fall it’s gone! It just sinks into the ground and is scattered about by the chickens. You can grow extra garden crops such as pumpkins, squash, or sunflowers or grow a chicken garden with millet, which they love. Many homesteaders have two chicken runs and till and plant one in the spring, putting in millet, turnips, and greens. At about 8 weeks, the planted run is a jungle and they turn their birds in that and plant the old run. By early fall, the second planting is ready and the birds love cleaning it up before snowfall. Lots of options with chickens! — Jackie

Canner rack

This is not a question, but a suggestion. Jackie had a question about a new rack for a water bath canner. I find them at yard sales and antique shops for $5.00 all the time. If I needed more than two I would buy them, but I see no need for 5,6, etc. so I haven’t purchased any more. Saw one in Rome, Ga Sunday for $5.00 . I love Jackie, she is my mentor and hero.

Ruth Ledford
Lafayette, Georgia

Very good idea Ruth! I don’t do many yard sales so this slipped my mind. Thank you for sharing! — Jackie

Canning milk

Last fall, I canned 1%, 2%, and whole milk, following the directions exactly. All of the milk has separated, looking like curds & whey. My question: Is it usable? Are the curds like a cheese? I hate to throw it out but it looks disgusting.

Alice Clapper
New Castle, Pennsylvania

Yes, that’s kind of normal. As I’ve always said, canned milk is not for drinking! But if it smells okay (if it smells spoiled then something went wrong), just whip it up and use in baking or cooking as normal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: planting cole crops and blight resistant tomatoes

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Planting cole crops

For several years I have tried my hand at planting cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts from seeds purchased from Baker Creek. Every year the plants are very small and most never produce. I end up going to a greenhouse to purchase these plants. I try to make a very good environment, not hot, plenty of light and not saturated roots but not dry.

Can you give me some pointers on what I may be doing wrong? Also, this year I am going to try planting herbs for different purposes. Some will need to be potted to keep from year to year. Just wondering what kind of pots, soil and anything else that might be helpful in this endeavor! Thanks for the information you gave me about 1.5 years ago about our milk cow. She was a heifer and I was having a hard time getting milk from her and keeping it in the bucket. With your information I continued to milk her regardless of the fits she threw. After about two months the kinks got worked out. She has calved a second time and I have the best mannered cow I have ever been around. She never moves when I milk her and is as gentle as a lamb. She is a true Blessing to our family. Without your information I think I may have given up.

Mary Ann Nelson
Franklin, West Virginia

I’m so glad to have helped you. We had a doe, Fawn, who was absolutely THE worst bronco I’ve every tried to milk. She kicked, bit, threw herself off the milk stand and even laid down when I tried to milk her. It took Will and me both to even catch and get her ON the stand. But after about a month of all that, suddenly she quit and was absolutely the best goat we’d ever had. Go figure!

Baker Creek has excellent seeds so it isn’t the seeds. First off, I’d be suspicious of your seed starting medium. I’d either use Jiffy 7 peat pellets or a good seed starter such as Pro-Mix. When you start seeds in poor soil, they never do well, staying small and puny looking. They do like cool weather once outside, although they need warmer temperatures when first germinating. They also need plenty of light when indoors. If you don’t have a south-facing window, put a plain shop light just above the seedlings so they grow nice and strong. I hope these tips will help you get nice plants this year. — Jackie

Blight resistant tomatoes

We have been having so much trouble with tomatoes! Can you recommend tomatoes that are blight resistant?

Virginia Grooms
Stout, Ohio

Tomato blight can be a real challenge for many gardeners. A few blight resistant tomatoes include Legend, Manyel, Old Brooks and our own Punta Banda plum tomato. To help keep the blight from spreading, water from soaker hoses and try spraying early on with an organic fungicide such as a copper fungicide. Actinovate is a product that has been found to help before the blight strikes. It contains helpful bacteria. It is recommended that these sprays be used weekly when you have had a serious blight problem.

Destroying all old tomato and potato vines by burning them will also help as it can significantly reduce the over-wintering spores. Better luck this year! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s time to go through our storage bins in the root cellar

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

It’s early spring and I’m going through our onions and potatoes, checking for soft veggies. Luckily, I’ve only found a dozen onions softening up. The Dakota Pearl potatoes are just barely getting sprouts and are still as hard as rocks. So far, we’ve had hard, juicy potatoes all the way till fall when we dig our new crop. Now THAT’S a storage potato. We simply love them.


I’m going to start dehydrating onions soon. They are pretty much all hard and fine — no sprouts. But I know they will not last too much longer and dehydrated onions and onion powder are SO handy in the kitchen. We’ve got four big crates of onions left so I’ll get to dehydrate a lot of them. I’m happy about that!

Will continues to work on the barn as the sun’s out today although it’s a little cold. He has also been reading up on operating the John Deere corn planter he rebuilt. He has an owner’s manual that assumes you know how to use a corn planter — it’s very vague in places!

I’m planting tomatoes this afternoon as soon as I get done running seed orders to the post office. We pride ourselves in getting them in the mail the next day after receiving the order, except weekends as we have no post office open on Saturday.

We recently found out that one of our battery chargers in the basement was not working. (We wondered why our batteries would go dead enough to trip the inverter overnight after a sunny, windy day and running the generator for a couple of hours!) Now we know. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and he gave me his blessing to put off the surgery until later this spring so I can be sure to attend the Self Reliance Expo in Irving, Texas this May. Hooray! Now I can help Will get all our spring planting done before surgery. And before fall harvest/canning season rolls around. Whew. He said according to the colonoscopy the pockets were numerous in one area but not in danger of rupturing — a big relief. Now I can concentrate on good things! Thank you all for prayers. See, they do work.

Will has started working on our new barn again, putting up ¼-inch plywood (we got it for free) on the gable ends of the barn to ensure absolutely no drafts will be coming through the board and batten siding once it’s up. Since we have a lot of insulation board left, we’ll be insulating behind the plywood both on the bottom and gable ends of the barn as well. It should be a nice comfy barn when it’s done.


We weaned our calves yesterday so we didn’t get much sleep last night with them and their moms mooing all night. But the calves are six months old and need to be weaned — even if they don’t like it much.


I’m getting ready to plant tomatoes this week. We put them out extra early in Wall ‘O Waters and it’s time to plant. Happy, happy, happy. We’re so excited for all the new varieties we’ll be planting this year. I counted more than 23 pole beans so far. Some are from Russia, some from China, and some good Native American beans, just to mention a few. And a dozen varieties of corn, fifteen different squash and pumpkins, thirty new tomatoes. Talk about fun! Thank you to everyone who sent us some of their family heirloom seeds. Be assured we’ll plant ’em all and are so thankful to have received them. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: goat milk soap and harvesting wild mushrooms

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Goat milk soap

I am wondering if you have ever gotten into soap making with your goat milk. If so, could you share a recipe?

Sheryl (Pyro)
Newport News, Virginia

Sure I’ve made goat milk soap. It is easy and fun and the simple recipe makes a nice batch of wonderful soap. Here it is:

3 cups cool water
2 cups goat milk
12 oz can lye
12 cups lard or other rendered fat. I often use our own tallow for this, rendered in the oven.

Put water into a large stainless steel stockpot. Carefully stir lye into water. It will heat. Let the lye water cool to 85 degrees. Add milk, stirring gently. Stir for 5 min., wearing rubber gloves and long sleeves plus a long-handled wooden spoon. This will get VERY hot.

When the mix has cooled to 75 degrees, warm the lard or fat to 85 degrees. Then in a slow stream, pour the warmed fat into the cooled lye mix, stirring while pouring. Pour the fat in slowly.

Continue stirring until the mixture becomes like thickened honey. It takes about half an hour.

When to this thickness, pour into molds. Cover with plastic wrap. Place several layers of newspapers and a folded towel or two on top, to insulate the new soap. The new soap needs to hold its own heat in order to work. Cure for 4-6 weeks. It’s that easy and you’ll love the results. — Jackie

Harvesting wild mushrooms

Many wild mushrooms grow around our mountain cottage near Prescott, AZ. I know it’s impossible for you to give me a way to distinguish all the good ones from all the bad ones, but are there a few types you can identify which are unfailingly good? BTW, I wish you the very best of success with your surgery and recovery.

William Thompson
Sun City, Arizona

Thank you. Your best bet is to get a couple good mushroom books w/photos and, if possible, link up with a local who is experienced in mushrooming. (Maybe put an ad on a local health food store’s bulletin board or online on Craigslist.) Like everything, being with someone who knows is best but I’ve learned a lot through books too. I have four mushroom books myself and find them invaluable. Some easy to identify mushrooms include inky caps like shaggy mane and morels, which look like a pointed sponge on a stem. But even these have look-alikes so always take care. — Jackie


Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.