Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
Backwoods Home Magazine, self-reliance, homesteading, off-grid

 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues
 Print Display Ads
 Print Classifieds
 Free Stuff
 Home Energy

General Store
 Ordering Info
 Kindle Subscriptions
 Back Issues
 Help Yourself
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

BHM Blogs
 Ask Jackie Clay
 Massad Ayoob
 Claire Wolfe
 Where We Live
 Dave on Twitter
Retired Blogs
 Behind The Scenes
 Oliver Del Signore
 David Lee
 Energy Questions

Quick Links
 Home Energy Info
 Jackie Clay
 Ask Jackie Online
 Dave Duffy
 Massad Ayoob
 John Silveira
 Claire Wolfe

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Enter Forum
 Lost Password

More Features
 Meet The Staff
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address
 Write For BHM
 Disclaimer and
 Privacy Policy

Retired Features
 Country Moments
 Radio Show

Link to BHM

Ask Jackie headline

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns

Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

Jackie Clay

Another cold snap lets me work inside this week

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Our temperature dived way down to a low of 7 degrees! Not fun to work outside so I did a lot of transplanting; seven flats worth of tomatoes and four flats of peppers. Boy, does that get my back but in just a few days the tomatoes have shot up and gotten nice and stocky.

I received my order from Sand Hill Preservation Center and planted more tomatoes, which are just coming up. They’ll be a little later but they’ll still be ready to set out in late May (in Wall o’ Waters). And I’ll have more than 27 seed varieties to offer next year.

Singing-tomatoes Sand-Hill-seeds

Will put new chains on the big round baler. He kept breaking chains last summer during haying and that was a huge pain. They’re heavy and hard to thread. (They’re the big chains that drive the bars that make the bales in the bale chamber.) He later found out that someone had replaced the heavier links of the 851 baler chain with those of an 850, which are much lighter weight. Once that was done, he took the weed burner and burned our asparagus patches to get rid of the long dead grass and weeds. It looks so much better already!

Today I went out and refastened the chicken wire to the cattle panels next to the old cow corral. My chickens were escaping and running free. Soon they’ll be in my flower beds scratching dust wallows, then they’ll get in the garden and start pecking at peas, etc. I’ll catch them off their roosts in the goat barn tonight and clip the feathers on their wings, just in case I have some flyers in the bunch.

Will disassembled our three hoop houses. He’s going to build two 12′ x 32′ houses instead of the three 12′ x 16′ ones we have now, putting 6 mil greenhouse plastic on, which is guaranteed for four years. We had ripping during bad winds last year. That’ll be fun having more hoop house space!

I wish each of you a very blessed and joyous Easter! And don’t forget to can up that leftover ham and make bean soup from the bone. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: making cheese, introducing new chickens to the flock, and canning sausage

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Making cheese

Upon moving to the country and starting up our farmstead, I went ahead and purchased some cheese making equipment and a book. Problem is, the book is a big manual, and it gets very technical. I finally have goat milk, but I am too intimidated by the manual, and many of the recipes call for many gallons of milk. Can you recommend a good book for me that has simple recipes to follow for making cheeses with goats’ milk (small quantities – 1-2 gallons at most, easy to follow, not too many fancy utensils)?

Carrie Timlin
Scott Township, Pennsylvania

Cheese making is very easy and fun to learn. Two very beginner-friendly books I’ve used for years are Ricki Carroll’s book, Home Cheesemaking, which is available through Backwoods Home Magazine and Goats Produce Too by Mary Jane Toth which is also available through Backwoods Home Magazine). I have both and use them often. — Jackie

Introducing new chicken to the flock

I sprayed my fruit trees with Surround today and hope it helps. Thank you for your advice. I intend to spray again after flowering.

I have another question regarding my chickens. I have 4 one-year-old hens and 26 two-week-old chicks. How and when do I introduce the 26 chicks to the hens? Right now the four hens are in the 10 x 14 coop and the chicks are in the basement. There is a 16 x16 fenced-in area adjacent to the coop that the four hens use during the day.

Deborah Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

I’d shut the hens in their run during the day and pen the chicks in a smaller portable run next to them all day so they get used to each other. Then in the evening, bring the hens in and then introduce the chicks in the coop with them. There should be a little squawking and pecking but nothing serious. Monitor them for awhile, just to be sure. Usually, come morning, everything is fine. — Jackie

Canning sausage

Would I be able to can the small pre-cooked breakfast sausages from the store? They are my husband’s favorites.

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Yes, you can. But I’d advise doing a small batch then trying them to see if you and your husband like the result. That’s a good idea with any new recipe you try to can. Some folks love them; others not so much. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our warming trend continues

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

And gee, are we losing snow fast! With the sun out and temps in the high forties and even fifties, our three feet of snow is down to six inches in the orchard and the backyard is nearly snow-free! Hooray!

Yesterday I put out two oriole feeders and a hummingbird feeder. Yes, it is early but those birds send out scouts (usually males) to find good spots and if they don’t find food, they buzz right on to our neighbors who DID put out feeders. One oriole feeder has pegs for orange halves, dishes for grape jelly, and a reservoir for orange nectar. Hey, I’d eat there, myself! Will saw two robins so far and heard a sandhill crane. I saw a pair of eagles and several migratory hawks. And we both saw several geese. So nice!

Meanwhile, Will and I have been picking up “junk” as it becomes uncovered: wood slats that were stickers between layers of lumber, odd chunks of firewood here and there, bags that blew around during the winter, hay strings, etc.

He’s been busy taking out the old chain that makes round bales in our baler as it was very worn. We bought new chains for it and it’s quite a process changing chains without dumping the whole (heavy!) thing in a pile.

I’ve been transplanting tomato seedlings into styrofoam cups in our greenhouse. I love doing it but it is tedious work and gets my back after awhile. I’ve done five flats so far and have another two to go then it’s on to peppers and petunias. Guess what? I found some new flats that were actually made in the U.S.! They were at L & M Supply. While my one oriole feeder was made in China, the other was also made in the U.S. We really pay attention to where things are from these days and will pay more, if necessary, to keep jobs in America. Luckily, the flats were on sale so we got them cheap. Win-win.



Just a note to let you know that we are still selling seeds. There wasn’t room for the new book, our seminar, and the seeds at the top of the blog so one had to go. I know some of you intended to order seeds but just didn’t get around to it yet. If you do, you can e-mail me
( and I’ll send you a seed listing.

Enjoy spring! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

With warmer weather here, Will’s back at work on our barn

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


Because there’s still too much snow to get to the sawmill and/or logs, Will’s been busy using some of the lumber he cut last summer to frame up both upper ends of our new barn. Once the snow melts quite a bit more, we’ll fire up the sawmill and start sawing barn siding to nail over it. We’re going to use board and batten siding and stain it before putting it up. And to keep the wind out, Will’s going to put sheets of our free 1/4-inch plywood under it to prevent drafts in case some of the battens warp a bit. At our age, we want this to be our last, best barn.

We wanted to attract more birds to our homestead and had talked about building some more bird houses for wrens and bluebirds (hard to get up here). Even if we don’t end up with bluebirds, we do get swallows. All kinds eat a ton of insects, especially cabbage moths, so we love the birdies!

Luckily, Will had cut some big cedar logs into lumber last summer. They were out of a few cords we’d bought for fence posts and were just too large to use even for corner posts. So he cut them into one-inch lumber figuring we could always use some nice cedar lumber. Yesterday, he went down to the barn and came back up with several lengths of cedar.


I’d researched and drawn pictures with measurements on them, including hole sizes for the birds we want to attract. Will cut the lumber to size and brought the piles into the house for me to assemble. I screwed them together and drilled holes. Now we have six new bird houses ready to hang. And Will is going to cut more lumber so we can build some wood duck houses to hang next to our small beaver pond. I especially want those where we can watch with binoculars because it’s so amazing to see those little baby wood ducks just jump out of their nest holes, way up high, falling to the ground with a bounce that would kill you or me, then get up, wag their tail, and head for Mama and the pond. What brave little guys!


Today I’m clearing the deck to start transplanting tomato and pepper seedlings. They’re growing so well we can hardly believe it! And I can actually see grass in our south-facing back yard! They’re calling for 60 on Wednesday so we’re really excited. The snow is going fast. Hooray! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: raising meat rabbits and canning chicken

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Raising meat rabbits

Do you have recommendation(s) for meat rabbit raising books/resources?

Shellie Gades
Evansville, Minnesota

My favorite rabbit book is Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits, available through Backwoods Home Magazine. And Bass Equipment has lots of good rabbitry supplies/equipment. Their website is: — Jackie

Canning chicken

I canned chicken according to your instructions last week (2 and 4 days ago) but just realized today that I used instructions for bone-in chicken (65 minutes) instead of boneless (75 minutes). I usually go a minute or 2 longer than specified. Do you think my chicken is ok? Is it too late to re-can? I hate to throw out 16 pints of chicken.

Sam Allen
Bessemer City, North Carolina

I would open each jar, and if it looks and smells fine then I’d dump the jars into a large pot and bring to a boil. Then pack back into washed jars and re-can the chicken for the correct time. Your chicken will then be fine. I, too, would sure hate to throw away 16 pints of chicken but I’d rather re-can it instead of just hoping it’ll be okay. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our snow is finally starting to go

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014


Will trimmed off the log rafters from the new front porch roof yesterday and was going to pick up the sawn off ends of the two-inch boards he’d roofed the porch with. I knew they were headed for firewood, which we don’t need. All of a sudden, I pictured rustic planters! So I ask him to saw them to size (whatever worked) for me while I went to get the cordless drill. With a square bit installed I screwed together five nice heavy planters of various sizes, using three-inch deck screws. Once finished, I drilled a few holes in the bottoms for good drainage. I know they’ll rot after a few years but until then, they’ll look great on the new front porch, brimming with bright flowers. We don’t waste much around here.


Just a reminder to all of you who said you’d like to come to our June homesteading seminar — time’s getting short and if you are planning on coming, let us know. There’s a lot of planning involved and we want to make every seminar truly great.

Our chickens are now starting to lay like crazy and yesterday I even got our first turkey egg. Wow! And with all those eggs, I made a quiche with mushrooms, onions, broccoli, ham dices, and cheese. For dessert I whipped up a lemon meringue pie, using an extra three egg whites for the meringue. Boy, did that taste good. We homesteaders really look forward to spring’s bounty, starting with eggs!

We still have plenty of seeds left so any of you who would like to order from our little seed business, feel free. There are plenty of Bill Bean tomato and Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds left! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: raising poultry, when to harvest horseradish, and recanning sliced olives

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Raising poultry

I have my meat rabbits moving along now and have started on birds. I have about 20 mixed hens and a rooster — getting a consistent dozen eggs + per day. I just bought 4 Pekin ducklings, 10 cornish X, and 4 turkeys. I plan on the birds being a mainstay of my prepping for both meat and eggs. I live in a warm climate in SE Ga. My questions are:
1. Our turkeys so far have been broad breasted but I want to get turkeys that will reproduce on their own. I am thinking midget whites. Any thoughts or suggestions here?
2. I plan to buy an incubator. Any suggestions? Or is letting the birds do their thing naturally the right approach?
3. I am planning to build a small brooder building for the small birds until I can let them out etc. Is this overkill? Any ideas to offer when planning this building?
4. Any suggestions on geese or game birds?
5. I tried guinea hens which were fun but almost immediately took off never to be seen again when I finally let them out. Any tricks to train them to hang around?
6. Does it make sense to separate my chickens with a group of hens and no rooster just for eggs and separate section with rooster and hens to have meat chickens? If I have separate meat chicken area and want them to hatch and raise their chicks naturally is there anything I need to consider when setting it up?
I am fencing about 3/4 acre area for the birds to roam and put them in at night. Having some predator problems. I think I should break fenced area into sections so I can rotate them around so there can be new growth for them to eat etc.? When I get this project done some fellow prepper friends will be giving me goats to get started with next.

Kevin Sakuta

Broad-breasted turkeys very seldom can reproduce without artificial insemination due to their great size. So if you are going to raise turkeys for preparedness or self-reliance, I’d suggest any of the heritage breeds which can do their breeding by themselves. Midget Whites are great. We also like Bourbon Reds and Narragansetts. It’s pretty much a personal preference although the Midgets will eat less feed.

We have a small rigid foam incubator with an egg turner. The combination costs less than $100 and we’ve had about a 75% hatch. With the incubator you’ll hatch more birds per year but it will require both power to run (we run it off our battery bank in the basement; it doesn’t draw too much juice) and some sort of fuel to incubate the babies. We used propane but that does get expensive; it’s cheaper if you have electricity available. Of course in a survival situation, you’ll have neither so you’ll have to let nature take its course. Even this way, you can increase your hatch by buying a few good setting hens. Banties, full-sized Cochins, and Orpingtons are all good setters. And you can often set eggs under a broody hen that has few or no eggs under her, increasing your yearly hatch. No, I don’t think a small brooding shed is a bad idea at all. I would make absolutely sure your shed has a floor and is built very tight so predators such as weasels and snakes cannot get in or they’ll put you out of business pretty quickly! Include good ventilation via screened upper windows with a fan to use if it gets too hot.

To get guineas to stay home, it’s best to raise them with your chicks. By sort of bonding with them, they’ll have less inclination to fly away. With older birds, usually if you pen them up for a few weeks, going inside to feed and water them, they’ll soon feel more at home and get into the habit of being fed at certain times.

We don’t do geese because they are extremely messy birds and we don’t have facilities on our homestead for them. If you let them free range, they’ll be on your doorstep and deck, complete with lots of poop. Game birds are great if you have facilities to raise them. Back in the seventies, I raised several bunches of wild turkeys and turned them loose. So did several of our neighbors. Now, in that area there are large flocks and everyone is happy. We didn’t have many turks back then and didn’t know if they’d survive. Happily, they did. I like the idea of establishing a wild population so they can pretty much forage for themselves (you don’t have to buy feed!). Then, in season, you can hunt and harvest your meat.

We don’t separate our chickens except to separate growing chicks we’ve hatched in the house. Hens will lay just fine with the rooster around. Don’t plan on keeping Cornish Rock crosses to breed for future meat. We’ve tried several times and they’ve just died. Instead use a good old all-arounder like White Rocks for meat. They don’t make as much meat, as fast, but they will breed, lay lots of eggs, set and hatch them, AND they’ll live!

What has worked well for us is to use chicken tractors (small coops with mobile runs) for our breeding chickens, usually a couple of hens and a rooster. Have a nest for each hen and after she is setting on eggs, screen off the opening so the other hen can not lay eggs in that nest. When her nest is full of eggs and she is setting, remove the rooster. If you use 1-inch chicken wire for the run, when the chicks hatch, the hens can run with them and teach them the ropes. (If you have weasels or snakes around, use 1/4-inch hardware cloth instead!) We have our poultry fenced into our acre orchard with no divisions. They have so much feed that they never run it down. I have to mow it every so often to keep it under control! I think your birds will do fine without the division. But if they seem to keep it pecked down, go ahead and install one — good thinking!

When you are getting your goats, get your fences in good shape first; goats are very hard to successfully fence in. We use welded wire cattle panels for smaller pens and woven wire stock fencing with two stand-off electric wires inside the pasture to keep them off of the fence. Fences last much longer if you pick out goats without horns. Not only are the horns kind of dangerous to the goats themselves and you but they’re awfully bad about shoving their head through the fence and not being able to get out. And if you pick goats that have good milking backgrounds you’ll be able to not only drink plenty of tasty milk but also make cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and other foods right at home. Good luck with your homestead! — Jackie

When to harvest horseradish

Thank you for the horseradish recipe. My mom always made it and simply put vinegar to cover and stored it in the refrigerator. I remember wearing a swim mask and snorkel once to process it. Definitely an outdoor job. When is a good time to harvest horseradish? We made some last year in the middle of summer and I think that was the wrong time of year as it pretty much just tasted like vinegar.

Becky McKim
Ankeny, Iowa

We harvest our horseradish roots in the late fall, before the ground freezes. I think it tastes best after a hard freeze or two. Yeah, horseradish is pretty potent. I have an old blender that I use just for that and hot peppers as I’ve never been able to get the taste out of it! I’ve soaked it in baking soda water, boiled it, and set it in the sun for days. Now it’s a designated blender. — Jackie

Recanning sliced olives

I read where you re-canned sliced olives, and want to do the same. Clarification: The University of California web site seems to discourage canning sliced olives, but I am pretty sure they are talking about curing and canning fresh olives. Bottom line question: Is it safe to re-can “sliced” black olives?

Phil Jones
Middleton, Idaho

I’ve done the re-canning of #10 cans of sliced black olives for years. Be sure to process them for the recommended time, 60 minutes for pints or half-pints (I use half-pints for convenience.) at 10 pounds pressure (weighted gauge) or 11 pounds (dial gauge). Be sure to consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: turkey hen laying early, moving to the country, and using canned strawberries

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Turkey hen laying early

I have been trying to raise some Jersey Buff turkeys for a few years now. We got a tom and a hen a few years ago and this past summer was our first successful batch. She hatched 5 poults and I incubated eggs and got 2 more. We have the issue of the hen starting to lay too early, like now, and it is still too cold. The eggs don’t hatch when it gets below freezing at night. I tried one year to take them away hoping she would continue to lay and then I could let her set once the weather warmed a bit more. She stopped laying after she laid about 12 eggs. Then she started laying them in the weeds and a critter got them. Finally last summer she actually hatched some eggs. They are about 7 months old now. My questions are how long until the young ones start to lay? How cold is too cold to have viable eggs? She is laying in their “house”, but it is not insulated. I guess if I take the eggs now she will start laying again a little later, hopefully in her house. And how do you go about catching them, any easy tips? I would like to butcher a few and sell a few but I don’t know how to catch them without someone getting hurt.

Eugene, Missouri

What we do is take the turkey eggs away when it is too cold and substitute chicken eggs (less valuable). They freeze during cold nights but that doesn’t matter. Keep taking the freshly laid turkey eggs away and replacing with either chicken eggs or wood/ceramic nest eggs. You can then hatch these early eggs in the house. When it is warm enough, let her accumulate a clutch by daily removing one chicken egg and letting her continue (hopefully!) laying. “Usually” once it has stopped freezing, the eggs will be viable in the nest. Most turkeys will begin laying at 9-12 months; some earlier.

We either catch our turkeys off the roost (we clip both sides of their wing feathers so they can’t fly up high) or use a stout fishing net with heavy webbing. Just slip the net down over them and then quietly go over and push down on their wings and hold the bird, net and all firmly. To butcher them, a killing cone works very well to prevent injuries. (David is VERY good at catching turkeys. He just “sneaks” up on them and gently puts his hands down over their wings, holding those flappers tight against the body.) They CAN hurt you. One nearly gave Will a black eye when he tried to “save” it after it got into the cow yard. He got flapped. — Jackie

Moving to the country

I have really enjoyed reading about your journey to buy land and build your own home. You are an inspiration to us all and we are so fortunate to have access to your experiences and wisdom! We are preparing to take the first step in a journey we have been dreaming of and working towards for many years. With the cash from the sale of our home, we are planning to buy a few acres in either MN or MI and place an old mobile home on it while we build a home. We are looking forward to living in the country again and growing more of our own food. Having made this journey yourself, in looking back what would you have done differently or what would be your best advice for us?

Bridget Cole
Thomas, Oklahoma

In truth, I wouldn’t have done a thing differently. It worked great for us although there were a few scary moments like when we arrived at the end of our mile-long driveway in February with three to four feet of snow, wondering how we would be able to GET to our land! Choose the land you are going to buy wisely; does it have good high ground? Is it land that you can grow a good garden on (with work to get the soil perfect)? What about neighbors? (We have always tried to buy land with no neighbors because you cannot choose who they are or their values/morals.) What about the availability of drinking water? Check to find out how deep wells are commonly drilled in the area where you are thinking of buying land. Check out building regulations in the area you are considering to make sure your plans will work with their regulations.

Actually, I’ve just finished a book on homesteading (Homesteading Simplified: Living the Good Life Without Losing Your Mind) It should go to the printers fairly soon. Keep an eye out for the announcement in the magazine and on the blog. It’d be a good one for you to begin your journey. All the very best of luck on your new homestead! — Jackie

Using canned strawberries

We canned a bunch of strawberries in pint jars and we have mixed reviews on whether we like them. Some of us like them on shortcake while others don’t. Since they have been canned with sugar added, do you have any ideas on recipes I can use them in instead of just eating them out of the jar. They are great for making milkshakes but we will have to live to 200 years old to use them only in milkshakes.

Kevin Sakuta

I use a lot of my canned strawberries in my homemade yogurt and baked goods such as coffee cakes, muffins, and for fillings of strudels, layer cakes, etc. Once you start using them in many other ways, they’ll disappear a lot quicker than you’d like! (One hint: When using them in muffins and other recipes, I often dice them or kind of slice them so they’re smaller bites.) — Jackie



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