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
 Behind The Scenes
 Ask Jackie Clay
 Massad Ayoob
 Claire Wolfe
 Where We Live
 Dave on Twitter
Retired Blogs
 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

You never know when someone’s watching you

Monday, August 18th, 2014


Back here in the big woods, you’re never alone. If you stop and hold still, you’ll most always find one of the “neighbors” watching you. In this case, it was a barred owl. He was perched in a poplar tree on the edge of the woods. And he was checking me out to see what I was up to. He decided I was pretty boring and finally flew off to another tree deeper in the woods. He was waiting for dark, hoping to swoop down on some small rodent out in the open. He saw me instead and was pretty disgusted.

We’ve been haying like mad and are almost caught up now. I just spent six hours on the tractor, raking hay while Will baled another field. He finished before I did and started baling “my” field way behind me. He cut the field three days ago but we had a rain shower and had to let it dry out an extra day before raking it. It was nice and dry today. One more small field and we’re done with our first cutting. We should get a second cutting off of two small fields to finish up before fall. Whew!


Yesterday we moved the cattle from the big pasture to the east pasture that has been ungrazed since last fall. The grass and clover is better than belly high and the cattle were pretty thrilled to be “driven” through the gate to eat it. This morning they were all lying down chewing their cuds, just about hidden in the grass. Cow heaven! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: irrigating an orchard and wheat for chicken feed

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Irrigating an orchard

I’m trying to figure out an easier way to irrigate my little fruit orchard when enough rain doesn’t come along to do it. Until now, I’ve been either running hoses, using buckets, or a combination of both, but with 20 trees in 2 rows, this can get a bit time consuming. They’re a mixture of (eventually) full size and dwarf/semi-dwarf varieties. Unfortunately, I don’t have a pond or spring nearby to tap, just the water faucets from the house (100+ feet away) that are fed from the well. Water pressure is OK for household use, but not all that great.

Keeping in mind I need to not only mow grass inside the fence, and also compost and mulch each tree (creating small berms), what sort of system would you recommend? Trenched? Drip? Pop-ups? I don’t want to keep moving hoses or pipe to mow during the summer if I can avoid it.
Someone suggested putting a few of those big oscillating sprinklers on the corner posts of the fence, but at some point I would think the trees will grow too tall for that method to work, not to mention watering more than just the trees. Perhaps once everything gets well established it won’t be quite as necessary, but between now and then, there will be a LOT of water buckets in my future if I can’t figure something better out!

The easiest way is to install drip irrigation for your trees. We did that with Mom and Dad’s fruit and shelterbelt trees in New Mexico and it worked great. They actually used less water that way than when we used sprinklers and watered the trees much better. It’s best to bury the supply lines as you can mow over them. But we didn’t do that and it still worked great. It’s cheap and only took two days to hook up. And I’m no rocket scientist. It’s sort of like Tinker Toys. Do install a filter just past your faucet to catch any sediment as it will plug up the emitters that water each tree. I put two emitters on each mulched tree that only put out a fast drizzle each. That kept me and the trees real happy, only watering when the soil around the trees was dry down a few inches. You will have to check them every time you water to make sure they are still working. Dripworks has components although we got ours at a local big-box hardware. Hope this helps keep you and your trees happy. — Jackie

Wheat for chicken feed

I have never grown wheat before and wanted to try a small plot. I want to use it as chicken feed. I can’t figure out what to buy….I was going to buy on line but most of what comes up is red wheat which says it’s wheat grass? What type wheat seeds would you recommend?

Johanna Hill
Arcanum, Ohio

Any wheat will make chicken feed. They call it “wheat grass” but that’s just immature wheat plants. It’s too late this year to plant spring wheat though. So either plant a winter wheat or wait until spring to plant your feed patch. Any hard white or red wheat will do fine as chicken feed. You also might consider planting millet as you get a little higher yield per square foot with millet, such as White Proso millet, than you do wheat and chickens love it. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s called homesteading

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

While I’m busy watering gardens, picking and canning beans, Will is out “making hay while the sun shines.” And boy-oh-boy have I been canning beans! Our Providers have sure outdone themselves providing food for us this year. I have to laugh. I only planted one double row that was 20 feet long as we already had a lot of beans left on the pantry shelves from last year and years before. (Now you see why we plant Providers!) But this year they surpassed even our wildest expectations. I’ve been canning beans every four days for weeks. Yesterday I decided to do something different and made Mustard Bean Pickles (see my book Growing and Canning Your Own Food). We really love them and were running out down in the pantry. Now we have six more pints. I think I’ll make another batch then switch to Dilly Beans for awhile as our dill crop is now over my head.


FINALLY our Glass Gem popcorn is starting to tassel, after wondering if it ever would! It’s now eight feet tall and very lusty. My friend, Carolyn, was over today and while we were picking a big batch of cucumbers for her to pickle I spotted the very first corn tassel. Hooray! Now if it hurries up and makes ears…

Will cut another hay field today and noticed a guard on the haybine was loose. He called me and asked me to bring wrenches so I met him on the road and he tightened the bolts on the guard. (If he left it loose it might catch on the sickle sections and break them.) The sun’s shining after nearly an inch of rain yesterday. We were sure glad to get the rain as the ground was SO dry.


Our Seneca Sunrise sweet corn that Will has bred back from a hybrid is now fully tasseled out and even though it’s pretty weedy, the corn looks sturdy and happy. So do the Howden pumpkins along one side of the old pig pasture. We’re hoping for a good seed crop and plenty of feed for the animals.

Another hen came out of her hiding place in the orchard with eight chicks yesterday. We didn’t even know she was setting! It’s been a good hatching year with two hens hatching chicks, the turkey hatching chicks, and another hatching her own poults. And we have another hen turkey setting right now. Our Cornish Rock meat birds are growing like weeds and between them and the extra home-grown roosters we’ll be canning lots of chicken. We also need to butcher a couple of our extra yearling tom turkeys as we have several and they fight in the spring. All that chicken and turkey will can up so nice. Mmmm, I can’t wait. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our weather’s been perfect although dry

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014


It seems like our beavers’ forecast is coming true. We haven’t had a speck of rain for 10 days. But we’re not complaining. We’ve been getting a lot of hay up after such a slow, rainy start. And the warm sunny weather has made our garden boom. Our sweet corn has lots of ears set, the squash are loaded with baby squash (the Hopi Pale Grey squash vines are HUGE), the beans are begging to be picked, and, boy-oh-boy, are there ever tomatoes! Our favorite Bill Bean tomatoes are so loaded with one-pound-plus tomatoes that they look like green pumpkins under and on the vines. You’ll remember that last year we harvested one that weighed 3 pounds on a scale.


Will baled 130 more square bales yesterday. Our poor round baler blew a bearing (we thought). Will started taking things apart and found that not one bearing is shot but five! Parts ordered and should be here tomorrow. So we’ve got more square bales to put up in the storage barn.

Our favorite milk cow, Lace, was in heat Sunday so our friends, the Zups, came over Sunday night to A.I. her. Lace is SO hard to catch in heat but this time, it was a full-blown one where she was even trying to jump up on ME. I hope she took. We’ll know September 1st, when she has a blood test taken.

We had a mother turkey sneak off into the woods to lay eggs and she came off the nest with 8 babies! Then she tried to run away with them. As we have lots of foxes, coyotes, lynx, bobcats, fishers, and wolves, we herded her into the chicken run/orchard where they’d stay safer. Did you ever try to herd a mother turkey and babies? It’s like herding minnows! — Jackie

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



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