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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fresh eggs floating, saving bean and pea seeds, and beaver forecast

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Fresh eggs floating

I’d like to know your opinion on this or any insight you might have. A person who buys eggs from us complained that some of them floated when she immersed them in water. I apologized and looked this up on the internet and found various sites that suggested such eggs are no longer viable for eating because they’re spoiled and should be thrown away. Since that time, I’ve been floating our eggs in deep water, and even some of the freshest eggs (less than a week old and kept in the fridge) ‘float’–they don’t lie totally horizontally on the sink bottom but rather pivot on their tip in the water. Some of the eggs less than three weeks old float above the bottom a little, others a bit more. I’m puzzled by this situation. In the summer I gather the eggs two or three times a day, and they immediately go into the fridge. They couldn’t get any fresher.

In summary, even some of the freshest eggs float a little bit, or quite a bit in some cases. I thought farm-fresh eggs were supposed to be viable for many weeks if kept in the fridge.

We wash our eggs about once a week and put them back in the fridge for keeping. I wonder if washing the protective coating off the eggs allows more air to enter through the shell, causing them to float. This shouldn’t render them spoiled, should it? We’ve always eaten even the floating ones, as I know they’re good, having only been in the fridge for less than a month or six weeks at the very longest. We’ve never been sickened by those eggs, and neither have any of our friends. I just can’t imagine that fresh eggs kept in the fridge no more than six weeks maximum, but which float, are not fit to eat.

Do you have any insight into this? How can home-produced eggs float after a week or two or three, when store bought ones apparently don’t?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

The “floating egg” method of telling good from bad eggs is kind of misleading. Eggs that pop right up to the top are usually bad. But even eggs right out of the chicken will float to an upright position often as there is a space of air in the eggs which allows room for the embryo of the developing chick to grow and fit into the shell. Obviously, that air space will cause the egg to float a bit. Some float a bit more as all air spaces are not exactly the same and all eggs are not the same size, either.
We don’t wash any eggs at all except the dirty ones. Washing once is fine but I wouldn’t re-wash them as washing does remove the protective coating from the eggs. Store eggs are often sold as “fresh” and are a month or more old. I, personally, have used our own eggs that were over three months old and only kept in a cool (45 degree) pantry due to lack of refrigerator room and being isolated on a mountain over winter.

Few people check to see if store bought “fresh” eggs float; they just assume store bought anything is just great. Not me. — Jackie

Saving bean and pea seeds

I have been trying to save seeds from peas and green beans. By the time the pods are dry, they pop open and the seeds spill out. Can I pull the beans and/or peas off the plant and let dry or even dehydrate them? Along with that, I planted Blue Lake Bush, Phaseolus vulgaris. The seeds that I planted were white. The seeds in the dry pods are red. Will they grow true to what I planted?

Ankeny, Iowa

To harvest bean and pea seeds, wait just until the pods are tan and feel pretty dry then either pick the pods or pull the entire vines gently. You can lay the pods/vines on a tarp or child’s wading pool to finish drying in a protected location such as a garage or porch floor. When the pods are very dry, you can then pop the contents out into a bowl or pail. If you have a lot, just walk on the vines on the tarp with very clean shoes to thresh out the seeds. Then gently shake and lift the vines off, once the seeds have all come free. Winnow the seeds, pouring from one bowl to another, on a breezy day. The wind will blow off the chaff leaving clean seeds.

Blue Lake bush beans do have white seeds; it’s possible yours got crossed somewhere in the process. No, they won’t come true to what you’ve planted. But who knows? Maybe you’ve just created your own yummy hybrid! If you want true Blue Lakes, you’ll have to buy new seeds. Beans generally are self-pollinating and you can keep pure seeds by separating the varieties by about 50 feet or so. Garden beans are all pretty much Phaseolus vulgaris and will happily cross if planted together, including wax and pole beans. — Jackie

Beaver forecast

I know it’s very early but I was wondering if the beavers are giving you an indication of this year’s winter snow pack? It’s been dreadfully hot and dry here in Montana, and I can’t help but think ahead to the coolness of fall and winter’s months. Is it too early to give a slight prediction of what the winter of 2015-16 might hold for us?

Elizabeth Seymour
Whitefish, Montana

It’s too early yet. Ask again in early September and I’ll keep you posted. Right now they’re just happily doing summer beaver things: raising families, swimming about, and patching their dams. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: picking green beans and feeding bad food to chickens

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Picking green beans

When picking beans, do you pick them with the stem attached or with the stem removed? I know when cleaning them I take them off. I just don’t want to hurt my plants.

Brandy Gunderson

I hold my bean plants with one hand and pull the beans with the other. The stem usually breaks off, being attached to the bean. Then when I cut the beans, I trim off both the stem and blossom end for eating or canning. By holding the tender bean plants, you reduce the damage you’ll do to the plants otherwise. In this way you can harvest many times from those same plants. — Jackie

Feeding bad food to chickens

Recently I was given a box of dented cans. Some are quite good but some are bulged which I know are not good people food. But, is it safe to feed to the chickens?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

If they are bulging that indicates spoilage. As you don’t know what bacteria are involved, I wouldn’t feed the contents to anything; bury it so nothing gets into it, just to be safe. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got our hay in just before the rain

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015

We knew a storm was coming and we had 85 bales of hay on the field. So even though it was 85 degrees with high humidity, we went at it and picked up the bales with our small flatbed trailer, brought them up to the storage barn, and ran them up into the barn. Quite a job when it was so hot! But it got done and now it’s stacked neatly in the mow, all ready for winter. Not a whole lot of bales but it’s a good start and the hay is perfect.

The garden is coming on gangbusters. We have heads of Goliath broccoli that measure more than a foot in diameter. The carrots and onions look fantastic. The pumpkins and squash are running like crazy and I have to go out twice a day to turn back vines that are headed for the tomato rows. They don’t like to take “no” for an answer, I guess. The peppers in the big hoop house are taking off like crazy. The Hungarian Wax (Hot Banana) peppers are setting handfuls on each plant, and are nearly ready to pick for pepper rings.

While I was down at the Mayo Clinic with our friend, Will and Krystal went to Dara and Mikes for a barbecue and picked up our new buck goat, Odin. He took a few days to adjust, but now he’s one of the herd. Our doelings are growing very nicely and we’ll be keeping all three as they are from excellent breeding and their moms have wonderful udders.

Our melons in the small hoop house are starting to bloom and set tiny melons. Some volunteer tomatoes popped up from seed in there but we didn’t have the heart to kill them. So we have various tomatoes keeping the melons company.

Today Will and Krystal are out starting to fence the pumpkin/corn patch. The darned deer are starting to “nibble.” They munched off the tops of my Titan sunflowers and some potato tops. Luckily, I’d hilled them and there wasn’t much sticking up for them to browse.

I was sure tickled to read Massad Ayoob and Claire Wolfe’s blogs to find wonderful reviews on my new book, Autumn of the Loons, the second in the Jess Hazzard series of Westerns. If you haven’t seen the reviews already, why not click on over to their blogs to see what they have to say? Thank you very much, Mas and Claire!

My publisher is wondering when I’ll have the next Jess Hazzard series book, Winter of the Wolves finished, so I’ve been working on that in my “spare” time. It is fun, though, kind of a break from gardening and my “regular” writing.

Enjoy your summer; winter will come all too soon! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Haying season has begun

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

I just got back from a two-day trip to Mayo Clinic with a friend who is having heart issues. What a place! People from all over the world and every culture you can imagine walk through those doors. We got back yesterday, tired but glad it’s over and things are seeming okay.

As we’ve been having so much rain, Will hasn’t been able to get started haying but today we have a cloudy but supposedly rain-free four days in a row. So he started haying on our place, cutting the clover on our new forty acres that he cleared four years ago. Wow, you wouldn’t recognize the field. Where it used to be scattered grass, weeds, and wild strawberries, now it’s hip-high, lush clover. And where there used to be only willow brush, a few scattered small poplar trees, and swamp, there is now a five-acre patch of oats/clover/grasses planted and laying down for hay. It’s simply amazing; just clearing that land dried it out. And adding manure last year made it rich enough to support a nice hay field. Another win for “mo’ poo poo,” our farm’s motto!

I want to thank everyone who responded for Javid’s need for a tablet or laptop. A nice fellow is sending a used but usable laptop to Javid and another lady generously sent a check for us to buy him a new one. (We’ll hold it until the first one shows up … just in case it doesn’t happen, then return it to her with our profuse thanks.) We’re really overwhelmed by all of your generosity! We thank each and every one of you. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

So far, perfect summer

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

I can’t believe how nice our summer has been so far and boy is the garden happy! Will is just finishing mulching the whole main garden, all 150×150 feet plus a side L of Hopi Pale Grey squash. That’ll be it for the weeding. I just have to finish thinning about 10 feet of carrot rows and then he’ll be mulching that. Wow, does it look good and the plants are so happy.

All of my honeyberry jam set and we were thrilled with how good it tasted. (Of course I had to pour some out in a cup for us to sample.) Yum — a new favorite!

Yesterday all three of us went out to the big “pumpkin/corn patch” on the new 40 and weeded seriously. Krystal drove the tractor with the tiller to till up a spot we couldn’t get to because it was way too wet before, as well as the sides of the pumpkin and squash rows. Will and I took turns with the Troybilt and we all took turns with the Mantis, getting between plants and spots the big Horse missed.

Will and Krystal have been setting in fence posts around the patch so we can get it fenced. The deer have munched here and there, but so far no serious damage. It does help that the patch is surrounded by knee high clover and oats on the north side!

I hilled a long row of potatoes out there. They don’t look as nice as the small patch in the garden but they’ve not been in as long and do look healthy and happy (with a few deer munches out of them).

While we were working, three deer came out of the woods and started grazing on the clover by the edge of the oat field. They didn’t seem too worried about us and we enjoyed watching them. Luckily, Hondo didn’t try to chase them off. He’s getting much better about that. We’re happy he doesn’t even LOOK at the baby chicks. Of course, mama hens have encouraged good behavior by fluffing up and chasing him with murder in their eyes!

Yesterday was HOT and after working, Will, Krystal, and I put on swimsuits and headed for Lake Leander, five miles away. That cool water sure felt good after we were brave enough to get in all the way. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

In between rains, work continues

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

We’ve been having a lot of rain lately, with a few sunny days stuck between them, thank goodness. Will pounded 104 T-posts in the garden to stake up the tomatoes we have growing in there. Our big tomatoes would break off wooden stakes in the wind! Then he weeded and mulched them with our seed-free reed canary grass hay. Once mulched, they’ll need no more weeding.

Yesterday, he finished putting wire cages over most of the tomatoes but he had to start making more cages as we’re growing so many more tomatoes this year in the garden. The ones I planted on the new forty acres won’t be mulched or caged; it’s just too much work for us.

Today the sun’s out and Will’s busy making more cages and also side dressing our small household patch of corn in the garden with rotted manure. The corn sure jumps once that’s done and it already looks pretty good. On the end of the sweet corn is a small patch of Glass Gem popcorn.

Unfortunately the chickens got in the garden (we do have a few “wild” escapees) and scratched around in that patch. And ate some corn. But they are ousted from the garden and most of it has come up anyway.

The pumpkin patch/corn patch is doing well as is the pig-pasture corn and pumpkins. So we’ll pray for warm sunshine and alternate days of rain to keep it going. Lookin’ good so far… — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: free-ranging pigs, canned pinto beans, and sunless strawberries

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Free-ranging pigs

I remember you telling about a pig that spent the winter free and that it did very well. I wonder what kind of pigs you raise and do you think I could raise them without grain?

Sandie Heatherington
Siberia, Indiana

Well, Sandie, you remembered my story a bit wrong. There were two weaned pigs and they did escape and spend the summer and fall roaming 160 acres of fields and woods, eating all sorts of wild foods from roots and grasses to acorns in the fall. And they were very nice when we finally found and captured them. But they did not winter out “wild.” In Minnesota, they would never have wintered as food would have been nearly impossible for them to find. You can certainly let pigs roam free in a very large acreage to feed without grain as the old-timers did. But you can’t just fence a pig into an acre or two and expect him to do well with no grain; there’s just not enough food for him to choose and pick from. — Jackie

Canned pinto beans

I canned some pinto beans last fall and was going to use a jar and a few beans had some grayish spots on them. Almost like mold but the seal is perfect. Are they bad?

Carolyn Allee
Raymond, Washington

If your beans were processed correctly and the seal is still good, open a jar. If they smell okay, they will be fine to eat. As always, heat the beans to boiling temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. — Jackie

Sunless Strawberries

My son-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. My granddaughters really want to grow strawberries, but they live in a high-rise apartment, and they get no direct sunlight, not even on their little balcony. Is there a way we can make their dreams come true? Is there a type of strawberry that will grow well under a grow light? Do you have any ideas on something else they might enjoy growing and eating?
Lisa G.
Cottondale, Florida

Any vegetables and, of course, strawberries, can certainly be grown under grow lights or even four-foot regular shop lights, held only inches above the plants. (Think of all of those marijuana growers!) They could try easy-to-grow things like multi-colored lettuce, radishes, or even bush beans. There are a lot of possibilities so they should have fun! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had sad news

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Our friend, Linda, who helped cook at our homestead seminars passed away recently and suddenly due to undiagnosed cancer. Her service brought tears to many of us who knew her and will certainly miss her every day.

But we go on, planting and believing in the hope of the future. Our hoop houses are bulging and so is the garden. I finally finished planting on the new pumpkin/corn patch yesterday. And already the pumpkins and squash are looking good out there. However, I will have to replant a couple varieties that I had old seed. It didn’t come up. Oh well, it happens.

This morning I got up at 6 AM to cows bawling and donkeys braying. Crystal, our donkey, as well as three calves were out. So I spent awhile herding livestock and enjoying the beautiful morning. There were even deer out browsing on the clover next to the woods. How pretty. Cows in, donkey in. So I came back to the house and made pancakes. I was hungry after playing cowboy! — Jackie



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