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Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

I think my cold’s on the run — finally

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Yesterday was my last day on antibiotics (again) and today, I feel a lot better. I hope this tenacious thing is finally on the run. It’s in the nineties today with 100% humidity so we’re really panting! Will’s over at one of our hayfields with the tractor and disc, getting ready to plant oats and clover on a small, previously rough spot. It’s late because of all of the rain earlier this spring and summer, but it’s supposed to rain this evening and it would be good to get the seed in ahead of it. He planted our little new hayfield yesterday on our new forty, so for a change we’re waiting anxiously for rain. Hopefully not 12 inches though!

The garden is great, with the corn starting to tassel out and tons of tomatoes already set. We are having to water as it’s pretty darned dry. But that’s okay as the hayfields are still kind of wet in spots and they need to dry out so we can continue haying.

Mamba, our new milk cow, is doing great! The calf runs with her and she still gives us two and a half gallons of milk a day with no kicking or swatting of her tail. I do spray her for flies before I milk as I don’t hold still myself when they are biting me. I just put her feed in a bucket, wash her udder, and milk away. She isn’t tied or even in a stanchion. Pretty good for a half Angus when that breed is known as kickers!


Our orchard sure took a hit from the past record cold winter. Many of our trees have dying branches, but the wild pin cherries on the edge of the orchard are producing fantastically. The branches are weighted down with larger than usual cherries. This morning Will went out and picked a bucket full and when I get done blogging I’ll pick as many as I can. Then the Mehu Liisa will get busy, extracting juice from them. They sure make great jelly! Our favorite is pin cherry/jalapeño jelly (with just a little almond extract added at the last minute).


I checked our Provider beans and many are about two inches long already so I’ll be canning beans pretty soon, too. The plants look astounding and are full of blooms. Those beans are our favorite bush beans and have never disappointed us yet. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning okra and treating for flies

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Canning okra

I have smothered okra with onion and tomatoes before putting in the freezer. I would like to smother the okra and then can it instead of freezing it. How would I be able to do this? Water bath or pressure cooker? My husband bought your book for me and my life has never been the same. I am grateful for you and your books.

Penny Thibodeaux
Arnaudvlle, Louisiana

I’m so glad you like my book! To can up some okra in tomatoes and onions, remove the stem and blossom ends and slice it. Peel and chop your onions and tomatoes and put into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add okra and any spices you wish. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Ladle hot into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to pints and 1 tsp. to quarts. Remove air bubbles. Process pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude.) — Jackie

Treating for flies

We recently found our dream farm and bought it, a certified organic farm around lacrosse that had up till now only been used for dairy. What is your best organic method for treating flies? There are tons around here, and while we will keep organic, we do want to keep our food prep areas as clean as possible.

Mike Seidel
Downers Grove, Illinois

Congratulations on your dream farm! What an adventure you have in store for you! I’m sure you’ll find that when the cows have left, your fly problem will disappear next year. Just moving our milk cow, from our goat barn near the house down to the training ring, about 500 feet down hill from our house totally eliminated our fly problem. Fly predators, which are tiny wasps that lay eggs in fly larvae will do much to help you out quite quickly. Parasitic wasps can be purchased from several suppliers. These parasites, applied periodically in the old manure piles (composting the old manure piles) and adding several jar-type fly traps around the buildings will do a whole lot to help, too. Good luck with your new homestead. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

My surgery was cancelled again; my cold came back

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

I was unbelievably depressed Saturday when I started coughing. It felt just like when I had my two-week-long cold that got my gallbladder surgery postponed. Oh no, couldn’t be! Oh yeah? Well, I coughed all night Saturday and called the hospital on Sunday morning, feeling sicker. Then I crawled back into bed feeling sorry for myself. After all that pre-op stuff: physical, blood tests, EKG, making sure all the laundry and dishes were caught up, helping Will hurry up and mulch most of the garden, etc. Big bummer. (It takes a while to psych up for a surgery, for me at least…) Now I’ve got to do it all over again when I get better. Oh well, there probably was a reason for it. Or stuff just happens. I want to thank all of you for your care and prayers for my upcoming surgery. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, I really do appreciate it.

Anyway, the weather’s turned nice and Will’s stopped working on the barn stonework (which I think looks GREAT) and is cutting hay like mad. We’ve had so much rain, it was impossible to get any hay dry prior to this and they’re calling for a whole week of sunny, warm weather. Hooray!


Our garden is doing absolutely wonderful with corn up beyond my waist and big squash starting to run all over the place. Luckily we got it well mulched. Even our pumpkin/corn patch on the new forty looks good. The weeds were trying to get a hold on our pig pasture corn/pumpkin patch so Will went down, first with the Mantis and, when that wasn’t enough, the big Troy-Bilt. Yesterday he started side dressing the plants with rotted manure and they”ll just shoot up. We know this from years of experience.


Oh, I forgot to mention we had a hen turkey come off her nest with 12 babies. The problem is that there wasn’t a turkey poult in the bunch! They were all chicks. She’s evidently found a chicken nest and started sitting on it. Oh well, they don’t care and after losing one weak one the first day, they’re all doing great and feathering out already. We also got 15 Cornish cross, five Black Sex Links and five Americauna pullets which we’re raising in the small chicken coop until they feather out and grow a bit. One of our other turkey hens has a nest out in the bushes somewhere. She pops up from time to time to eat and drink but I haven’t been able to catch her going back to her nest. I sure hope there are a turkey eggs in that nest! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

In between rains we’ve been working in the garden

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Rain, rain, rain, UGH! I’ve had enough, already. But, hey, it’s been good for the garden. We now have thigh high sweet corn, squash and cucumbers that are starting to run, and very nice potatoes, carrots, and onions, not to mention huge tomato plants that are starting to set tomatoes already. The peppers are so-so, but we haven’t (still) gotten the plastic on our new hoop house. So much to do, so little time between rainstorms!)


We’ve been weeding our squash for the last time and mulching them heavily with partially rotted manure. Will also mulched both sides of our sweet corn rows in the garden. I’m afraid to look at it tomorrow. It will probably be seven feet tall! Corn and squash are both heavy feeders and really benefit from plenty of manure.


I’ve been milking our heifer, Mamba, and aside from two short rear teats, it’s been going fine. (We never got around to teaching her to lead or stand tied, so I just feed her a bucket of grain and milk.) I saved the first milk this morning. It’s going to be so nice to drink plenty of ice cold raw milk again and start making butter and cheese!

I saw the surgeon yesterday and she put the hurry up on my surgery so I could get it over with. Monday morning I’ll be in the hospital getting my gallbladder out — laparoscopically. I read the patient information sheet and was relieved to read that my gallbladder would be disposed of “in a respectful manner.” Oh please! I mentioned that statement to the surgeon and she did a double-take. Then she read it and we both laughed.

Anyway, I’m sure I won’t post on Monday and maybe not until Wednesday so don’t worry. I’m in good hands and am as strong as a horse. (Okay, maybe a Shetland pony…) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: feeding birds jelly and canning peaches

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Feeding birds jelly

Not exactly a question but wanted to tell you about an oops that turned out ok. A couple of years ago I had way too many yellow tomatoes. I refuse to waste anything I can use so I made tomato marmalade with them. As you say, it was “blecyucky”. I started to throw it away but stingy me, there is a lot of sugar in it. This spring a whole flock of Hooded Orioles and Black Headed Grosbeaks showed up. They love sweets so I tried giving them some of the marmalade. They love it. So funny to watch them get their feet sticky and fuss getting them cleaned. I had chopped the tomatoes so there are chunks that they seem to like. One odd thing I’ve noticed, their colors are brighter every week. I used to have canaries and sometimes gave them special food to make their colors brighter. It seems that the tomatoes are brightening the colors on the birds too. One of the Orioles looks like he has a battery in his pocket, a brilliant burnt orange. So now I know what to do with the jelly/jam I find I don’t care for. Thought you would find this interesting.

Franci Osborne
Ignacio, Colorado

How cool! I’m still feeding Baltimore Orioles my grape jam and yesterday I found out why my jam was disappearing so fast; a red squirrel was lapping it up. Who’d have thought? Now that you’ve shared your experience I’m going to try some other jams as I really don’t have a lot of grape left. It’s interesting about the color in their feathers too. — Jackie

Canning peaches

It’s almost peach season again and I have a question for you. How do I keep my canned peaches from being soft/mushy? I have tried canning several different varieties, canning them while hard, while still very firm, and just make jam from the ripe ones. I raw pack, water bath pints 25 minutes and get soft peaches. I generally cut each peach into 6 slices. I also use a very light syrup, as my hubby is diabetic. Can I add something to help keep the peaches firmer? I also have the same problem with pears and can them while they are still hard.

Lee Galloway
Grants Pass, Oregon

Try hot packing your peaches as they tend to stay firmer. You wouldn’t think that but when you hot pack your peaches, you only heat them in syrup until they are thoroughly hot — you don’t boil them. Then working quickly, get them into hot jars and in the water bath canner while they are still hot. Doing it this way the peaches don’t have to stay in the hot water so long waiting to come to a boil — they don’t “cook” as much. You only process pints for 20 minutes when hot packing them too. Less cooking means firmer fruit. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have babies!

Monday, July 7th, 2014

And boy, do we! Billions of tadpoles have morphed into tiny baby toads and are coming up to high ground from the ponds, creek, and our spring basin. You have to be so careful not to step on them as they are everywhere. I’ve even quit driving the four wheeler as you can’t avoid running them over. Hopefully these tiny bug-eaters will soon find nice secure homes for themselves so we aren’t paranoid about walking and driving on them.


We also became the proud “grandparents” of a new calf Saturday afternoon. Mamba, Will’s pet angus/holstein, bred AI to a Jersey bull gave birth to a beautiful seal-brown bull calf with no difficulty. As we knew I’d be milking her, both Will and I have been taking great pains to handle her daily for months, including her udder. When she had her calf, Will rubbed the wet calf and let Mamba lick him too. Then he milked each of her teats with her loose in the barn. No problem. She thinks we’re her calves too.


Although she has short teats in the rear and it takes a long time to strip the milk out with two fingers (that’s all I can get on them at once), she calmly eats her grain and lets me sit on a bucket and milk away. Seal, the baby, watches and noses me while I milk. Because he was handled from birth, he’s imprinted on us and is very friendly.

Mamba is only giving about 3 quarts at a milking, plus feeding Seal. But that’s plenty for us right now, especially with those short rear teats. I have a feeling that she’ll up her milk production as she has a beautiful udder. And I’m sure her rear teats will get a bit longer too. I hope… — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Things are finally getting back to normal

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The rains have seemed to quit and we’re getting more caught up (or is it less behind?). Yesterday and today Will poured cement and laid up rock in the lower barn wall’s slipforms. Today, he’s out cutting our first hayfield. It’s only a small patch (4 acres or so). It’s the cleared spot down below the goat pasture that used to be log trash, willow brush, and potholes. Now it’s orchard grass, clover, and birdsfoot trefoil, some six feet tall. We’re not supposed to get rain for a few days so we’ll see…

Meanwhile, I planted our late cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower and weeded the berry patch. The whole garden looks great! For the first time, we will have sweet corn that’s “knee high by the Fourth of July” here in northern Minnesota. Wow, usually, we’re lucky if it’s six inches high.

We’re anxiously waiting for Mamba (our very-much-a-pet Angus-Holstein heifer that we bred to an All Jersey last summer) to have her calf. She’s a few days late but that’s kind of normal for heifers. Since Lace, our hard-to-breed Shorthorn didn’t get bred last summer, we’ll (hopefully) use Mamba for our milk cow. We’ve been taking extra care to handle her udder and teats and she isn’t too kicky, so we have hopes…


My flowers in the front beds are gorgeous. I have a dozen different peonies all blooming and the delphiniums are just starting. Luckily, they’re so vigorous that they don’t let weeds come in or ignore them when they do pop up.

I promised photos of the rockwork in the barn, so here’s a glimpse from today to see how it’s coming. When it’s finished, we’ll have to go around and mortar up any holes or open places. For now, I think it looks gorgeous and will last forever. Thanks to all who participated in the first laying of stone!


Have a great Independence day and think about the blessings you’ve received along the trail to your own self-reliance. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: using an incubator, metal roof, using canned rubarb, and growing asparagus

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

Using an incubator

I searched your site for an in-depth article on using an incubator. The article in the previous issue about improving by adding a fan really helped but it did not have any troubleshooting information. I added a small laptop fan and my hatch of 30 eggs increased a lot, I got 20 out of 30, but I did have some problems. The turkey eggs started hatching a few days early (temp?) and then on the actual hatch day a lot more hatched. Most are fine, but a few have a leg issue. I don’t think it’s splay leg, they are on their sides with both legs out to the same side. A few of them overcame this within a day or two but I still have 4 that I am working with. The last few eggs pipped, but are slow to hatch, and now I believe they have died. I know I need a better thermometer with humidity reading on it, but an in-depth article for this would be great. The internet has such varied information I get confused on what is best.

Gayle Rush
Eugene, Missouri

Check out Gail Damerow’s book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. It has very good information on hatching chicks in an incubator. We have two thermometers in our little incubator. One thing we found out that helped our hatch is to locate your incubator in an area in your house with constant heat. You don’t want it sitting where the temperature fluctuates up and down as the incubator doesn’t always “catch up” and the warmth inside also fluctuates which damages the hatchlings. Don’t give up on those poults with leg problems; David was given a chick with a rigid leg when he was a boy in Montana. He did range of motion exercises every day on that chick and it gained full use of the leg. You can see him with that chick on his head in the BHM handbook on chickens. It was a great pet!

I’ll see what I can come up with for an article on hatching eggs. Keep an eye out. — Jackie

Metal roof

Given you are having good performance from your roofing, who is the manufacturer and what are the specifications for the metal roof ? I am very much enjoying your writings that are such a straight forward relief from the masses available.
John Alderman
Walton County, Georgia

Thank you, John. Our metal roofing on our barn and storage building is Pro-Panel from Lowes. It comes cut to your specific needs and length, right to the inch which was handy for our new barn with several lengths needed, even the short “Dutch eaves” that not only look cute but make the snow fall off of the roof further from the barn walls. Pro-Panel comes in three-foot widths and is quite lightweight and easy to work with. I’ve had some on our goat barn now for eight years and it is wearing very well. — Jackie

Using canned rhubarb and growing asparagus

I canned up all of our extra rhubarb using the directions in your Growing and Canning book. How do I use the rhubarb in recipes since it’s in its own syrup now? Do I treat it like it’s just from the garden in recipes or do I need to account for the sweet syrup factor?
Question 2 is regarding our asparagus patch in its second year. I know you mentioned previously that you can cut the tall stalks below ground to encourage more shoots, but once I’ve harvested all I’ll get this spring, should I cut the tall fronds or just leave them alone through the summer?

Wendy Hause
Gregory, Michigan

I generally drain about half of the juice off of the rhubarb and that seems to work out about right for most recipes. (You can make a tasty drink from the rest by adding sparkling or regular water.)

Leave the asparagus ferns in place once you have harvested all you will. The fronds feed the roots during the summer and make stronger and more productive roots. They also trap snow in the winter, ensuring that the asparagus roots receive plenty of moisture, making more shoots, come spring. In the spring, mow the dead stalks down and wait for new shoots to emerge. In the fall, I apply about three inches of rotted manure all over the asparagus bed to provide both mulch and fertilizer for the plants. Don’t do that in the spring though — when the shoots push up through fresh compost you could possibly get E. coli on your shoots. — Jackie



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