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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.

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: boiled cider, Hopi Pale Grey squash not producing, and larger hoop house

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

Boiled cider

Apple harvest time is here and I’ve recently discovered some great sounding doughnut recipes that call for “boiled cider” as one of the ingredients. Boiled apple cider is quite expensive to buy so I thought I’d make my own. I know it takes a lot of apple cider to produce just a small amount of the boiled stuff (sort of like making maple syrup) and that’s okay. My question is this: After I’ve boiled it down and I’ve put it into sterilized jars, do I have to keep it refrigerated, or can I can it so it has a longer shelf-life? I’m thinking the acidity and sweetness should help to preserve it after canning, or am I incorrect about this?

Julie Covieo
Bay City, Michigan

Yes, you can can it if you have enough. You will process it the same as if it were apple juice. I’d probably can it in half-pints for convenience as it IS time consuming to make and you wouldn’t want to lose some sitting in the fridge after opening. — Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey squash not producing

We have missed your daily emails! Hope you are recovering well from your gall bladder surgery. We were disappointed that our Hopi squash did not do well at all this year! Last year they were huge and delicious. I don’t know what we did different but the vines just seemed to dry up before the squash had any size at all and had no vine to grow from. Please make sure I am still on your daily email list as I haven’t seen any for over a month or so.

Beverly Scherer
Anna, Illinois

I’ve been blogging right along Beverly. You should contact our regarding the email situation. It’s too bad your squash didn’t do well this year. Our solution to most any problem around here is “Mo’ poo poo!” (More manure!). Squash is a very heavy feeder and benefits from lots of rotted manure around and under the plants. Not only does this feed the plants, making them tremendously strong, but it keeps the roots from drying out in hot, dry weather. Try again next year as Hopi Pale Greys are VERY hardy and are usually VERY rampant! — Jackie

Larger hoop house

I thought about you a lot this past weekend as I knew you were getting freezing temps and probably would lose much of your garden. I remember you mentioned you were building a large hoop house. Did that ever get off the ground? If so, what is inside and did it survive? Any pictures of the project? May you heal quickly and have a great fall.

Deb Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

Will got the first larger hoop house framed but we had 17 inches of rain, plus more on and off all spring so he never got the “skin” on. I don’t think it would have helped unless we heated it as we had temps down to 27 degrees all night. Stuff froze under plastic. BUT we still have tomatoes that were protected by their plants that didn’t get frozen so we’re still harvesting. I’m slow as I can’t (not supposed to) lift anything heavier than a gallon jug of milk for a month. (8 pounds!) We’re pecking away at what’s left and there’s still a lot: carrots, potatoes, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, some corn and a lot of tomatoes, plus squash and pumpkins. So we’re fine. I will shoot you a photo of the hoop house frame. We decided to wait to cover it till next spring to “save” the plastic. It’s guaranteed for 4 years. And as we went from rain, rain, rain to dry and hot this spring, the covering just didn’t happen.

I’m healing quickly and feel better every day. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: meat bones, weed killer with soap, worming goats, and re-canning corn

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Meat bones and weed killer with soap

First. If you take deer bones after cutting deer up, cut up bones and boil you will be surprised how much more meat from the bones that can be used and such good broth to can.

Second. I have honey bees and all I read says soap of any kind will kill bees. The weed killer with soap may not be a good thing.
Macon, Georgia.

Thanks for the tips, PC. Some folks don’t like the broth made from deer bones but those who do can sure pack away a lot of tasty broth and use a lot more of the deer that way to stock their pantries! — Jackie

Worming goats

How do you give the Hoegger’s herbal worm remedy to your goats? Have read several comments that the goats don’t like it!

Mary Morgan
Semmes, Alabama

We feed a sweet feed with molasses. By mixing the worm remedy with it, the goats don’t even know they got it! If you only have a couple of goats, a dab of Vicks on their noses before feeding will quickly mask any taste but most goats don’t mind at all. — Jackie

Re-canning corn

Glad to hear you’re on the mend. Busy time to be having surgery. My question: I have several cases of corn bought from store. I noticed tops of a few cans pop when touched. Threw these out. Can I re-can other cans? Dates I know doesn’t mean a lot but these are only 2010-2011.

Robin Putman
Coolville, Ohio

Yes, you can re-can canned foods. But do remember to treat them as if they were fresh using the same times and pressure required for foods you just prepared from your garden.

It IS a busy time for having a surgery but I figured it’s preparedness as you never know when a gallbladder will blow up in the middle of a nasty storm, on Sunday night in the middle of nowhere. Better to do it when it’s calm and the weather’s fine. Done is done and I still will get a whole lot of garden canned up. — Jackie


Heirloom Seeds now available

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
The list of seeds we have for sale this year is ready.We only listed seeds that we grow and love. Some of them are very rare and thus in short supply. When we’re out, we’re out; we can either refund your money or put you on the list for your seeds to come late this fall after harvest to plant next year. All are naturally grown with NO GMOs! They are also all heirloom, open pollinated seeds so you can save your own seeds.

Click Here to download the list of available seeds and ordering instructions. (PDF) ~Jackie

Jackie Clay


Monday, September 15th, 2014

Well, it finally happened — Thursday night it froze. David came over in the afternoon after his college course was finished and helped Will cover what we could, hoping to save at least a portion of our tomatoes and peppers. At six p.m. it was 42 degrees. By nine, it had dropped to 38 and the clouds had moved out, leaving it as clear as a bell. Not good!


We woke early to 28 degrees and heavy frost. Too cold to even run the sprinklers to offset frost. Bummer. And even covering the crops did not completely save them, as many plants were limp and dark.

The squash and pumpkin vines were limp and dead and even the sweet corn stalks were toast.

I feel especially bad because I’m recovering from my gallbladder surgery a week ago, and couldn’t even get out to pick what I could to ripen later in the house, as I always do. (One more reason to have at least two years’ worth of food canned in your pantry.)

Friday I pecked away at it a bit at a time (can’t lift much and sure get tired quickly).

Will pitted our last 19 pounds of wild plums as several people have asked if they could buy pits. Then he put the flesh in the Mehu Liisa and juiced it. We ended up with a gallon and half of plum juice which I’ll can up to make jelly later on, when I get time. While he was doing that, I made a big batch of enchilada sauce with the tomato puree Will cranked out with our Victorio tomato strainer. We were almost out of enchilada sauce so now we’re stocked up much better with 15 pints.

Even though a lot of our tomatoes were killed, the heavy leaves on many of the plants did protect some tomatoes so we’ll be able to harvest quite a few to finish saucing and saving seeds. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Yep, I’m still alive and kickin’

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

I am back at home after my gallbladder surgery last Thursday. Luckily it was the minimally invasive type and I only had three “holes” in my tummy. The pain wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t hack the pain meds as they made me sick to my stomach. No good! So I quit them after two doses. My only restrictions are to not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for a month and “take it easy.” Hey, I’m trying!

But the garden is out there laughing at me. Everything is coming in heavily. Luckily, Will is helping me pick tomatoes and turn the Victorio tomato strainer. Boy, do we ever have a wonderful variety in the garden this year. Besides our favorites, like the Bill Bean tomatoes, we have some new “favorites” like Indigo Blue Beauty, which is kind of dark blue/purple on top and a brilliant orange below. Besides being gorgeous, it’s open pollinated so we can save seeds and is HUGELY productive with medium large tomatoes with wonderful flavor. And then there’s Indigo Kumquat, unfortunately a hybrid, but it is also gorgeous in salads and has great tomato flavor.

We have a few truly free-range chickens (escapees). Will’s favorite breed, Black Sex Links lay abundantly but are also escape artists. One hen (we call her Peg) got a feed sack string wrapped tightly around her leg and by the time we noticed, it had cut the circulation off in her lower leg. We caught her and cut the string off but she lost the lower portion of her leg. Being soft hearted, we did not butcher her. Fortunately, she healed up fine and is so handy on that leg that you hardly notice that she’s missing her foot. After she had healed, I put her into the chicken coop where I thought she’d have an easier time. Wrong! The other chickens nearly pecked her to death in one morning! So out of the coop she went. Well, she healed from that and is now a permanent free-range girl. And she free ranges right into the garden if we leave the gate open, helping herself to our tomatoes. Oh well, we sure have plenty!

We checked our Howden pumpkins in the pig pasture and I’ll bet we have a truckload! And they are HUGE. I couldn’t reach around some and they aren’t even orange yet. They sure like the manure!

The weather radio is calling for low temperatures Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights with a possibility of frost/freezing. Eeek! I hope not. Pray for a bit of warmth for us, okay? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our weather feels like fall now

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

And I have a beaver report. The beavers in our pond say we’ll have a pretty “normal” winter with plenty of cold and snow, although not as bad as last winter. We’ll see how the “little guys” forecast turns out this year.

As the leaves are turning and the night time temps are getting to feel sharp and cool, it’s putting pressure on us to harvest like crazy. I’m still making jelly from the wild plums, with another batch in the Mehu Liisa tonight.


Tomorrow at 6:45 we have to be at the hospital and by the time you read this blog I will be gallbladder-less. Finally! I hope…

Will and I went down to his corn and pumpkin patch in the old pig pasture. We have ripe Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (the corn Will has bred back from hybrid to open pollinated). It looks great and I can’t wait to give it a taste. We also checked out the Howden pumpkins we planted down there and found dozens of BIG, round green pumpkins! Wow, how productive they are! We raised them for seed for our little seed business but we’ll have lots for the animals and chickens, too.

Our Hopi Pale Grey squash are also very productive (like that’s a surprise!) and getting big. Next to them, we planted Winter Luxury pumpkins, a medium-sized beautifully-netted pie pumpkin (C. pepo), and Canadian Crookneck which looks like a long-necked butternut that’s early, large, and very tasty (C. moschata).

The Glass Gem popcorn is still growing. It’s like Jackie and the beanstalk! Most stalks have at least four ears, many five and six. And the tillers that have stooled out from the mother plant also often have ears. The funny thing is that on the mother plant, newer ears are popping out between the stalk and the older ear! No, it’s not GMO corn!


Our Early Firefall tomatoes that are of our own breeding are now producing like mad. They are a medium-sized plum tomato that I use for tomato sauce — very meaty and flavorful. They also have a point on the blossom end and are pretty, hanging in groups. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fertilizing fruit trees, canning peach juice, growing Bill Bean tomatoes, and using Aronia berries

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Fertilizing fruit trees

 We moved to a new homestead in Alabama this January. It is in Zone 8. I’ve planted peach, plum, apple, and pear trees. All are doing well and are 4-6 feet tall. I water them every other day and wonder if they need to be fertilized before winter. The ground here is sandy but I planted them in $1000 holes with a lot of composted hay/horse manure. I don’t know how to label the horse manure; what number to give it. Thanks for your pictures and advice, I look forward to your emails and articles.

Alecia Lee
Salem, Alabama

No, don’t fertilize this fall. You’ve already given those trees a good start. Just keep ‘em watered and they’ll be fine. In the spring, mulch well with rotted manure right out to the drip line or more. That will fertilize them, keep the grass/weeds down, and help hold moisture in the soil around the roots. Be sure to wrap your tree trunks with screen or hardware cloth to prevent voles or rabbits from eating the tender bark of the trunk. — Jackie

Canning peach juice

Have you ever canned peach juice? If so, could you pass on the recipe/guidelines?
Lynda King
Bolton, Massachusetts

Not lately, as we don’t have enough peaches available; they are $37 a lug here! But back when I was a newer homesteader in Michigan, I did. And it’s easier today as we have steam juicers, such as my Mehu Liisa. With a steam juicer, just cut the peaches in quarters, removing the pit. Then fill the fruit container and add water to the lower unit. Turn on the heat and extract the juice. If you don’t have or can’t borrow a juicer, pit the peaches and dice them. Put in a large pot with minimal water and mash them with a potato masher. Heat under medium heat, stirring frequently so they don’t stick and scorch. When the fruit is very soft, dump into a jelly bag and let drip until finished.

To can the juice, place in a kettle and slowly heat, adding sugar or other sweetener if desired to taste (optional). Ladle out into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts). — Jackie

Growing Bill Bean tomatoes

Do you think that Bill Bean tomato will grow in south Carolina? A very impressive tomato!

Sam Stevens
Aiken, South Carolina

Heck yes! And they taste SO good, too! — Jackie

Using Aronia berries

Regular reader of your blog and always look forward to it. Would like to know if you have any suggestions for using Aronia Berries other than juice and jelly. Have an overabundance of them this year and hate to see them go to waste.

Craig Lough
Hawks, Michigan

Our motto here is “Waste Not, Want Not.” So here are a few suggestions for using your berries. Can them up in half pints using the same directions as for blueberries. Then you can use them in recipes calling for blueberries or any other fruit, such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes, etc. Or dry them as they re-hydrate nicely and you can save room by dehydrating and storing many in a very small container. Just lay them out on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate until small and hard. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment, early Fall weather, and freezing eggplant

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment

I heard that they don’t make a refrigerator/freezer that can be used in a cabin that is allowed to get cooler than 55 degrees. We have been turning our thermostat down to 50 degrees when we leave so it might get that cool for a week or more. Sometimes the freezer section gets above freezing when we do that — the fridge part stays at 35 degrees okay, but it doesn’t run long enough to get the freezer cold (I guess this is a common problem). All kinds of people keep fridges in garages and on back porches — I don’t think most people know how to operate a fridge/freezer properly or safely. Most of the information I have found on the Internet on this subject has been very lame. What to do?

Gordon Hoffman
Lewiston, Idaho

You might try an older refrigerator. I know several people who have older fridges in their unheated garages/lightly heated cabins that work, both fridge and freezer. I’ve been told that modern refrigerators’ manufacturers figure that NO modern people would use a fridge in a lightly heated home; they are built for “normal” living conditions. — Jackie

Early Fall weather

I wanted to share with you how well the Bill Bean tomatoes have done this year. We actually got a 3 pound tomato too! We couldn’t believe it! It is a very meaty tomato, and has a great flavor. Have you ever heard of or grown an Italian heirloom (I believe) called Purple Plum? They are a smallish pear shaped tomato with a smoky flavor. If you are interested in trying them, I’ll be happy to send you some seeds. I am also wondering if you have noticed anything unusual with the weather this year. I live in So Indiana, and I feel we are having an early fall this year. And I mean REALLY early. A few of us noticed about 3 weeks ago, lots of leaves on the trees just turning yellow, or completely brown, and then falling off. Other trees are starting to change color. And even though I got a late start in my garden this spring, everything is coming to the end of its life cycle and begging to be harvested. It’s so weird. I’ve never seen such an early fall. All the leaves on my winter squash plants have completely withered away, and the same is happening with the Hopi squash. Should I harvest them now? We are still having 90 degree days here. I will say that it has been a mild summer for us, with a cooler spell mid summer for a couple weeks. But weatherwise, we didn’t seem to experience any stressors. It’s just got me perplexed. I thought you might have some insight.
Lisa Graves
Georgetown, Indiana

No, I haven’t grown Purple Plum tomatoes and would LOVE some seeds to give a try next year. I’m tickled that your Bill Beans are doing so well! I’m harvesting some right now. MMMMmmmmm! Yeah, this year is “different” alright! I know first we got 17 inches of rain, then heat and drought. The rivers are as low as I can remember right now and our leaves are falling, too. Are your Hopi Pale Grey squash bluish gray yet? If not, I think I’d leave them a bit and see if they get enough nutrients through the remaining vines to go ahead and mature. If not, harvest before it frosts hard. They’ll keep over a year even if immature and they still taste good although not as good as if they had matured. I think our weather is just in one of those weird cycles. — Jackie

Freezing eggplant

Is there any way to save/freeze/dry eggplant until the tomatoes are ripe to use in marinara? The tomatoes are just starting to ripen. Not sure how many will actually get to ripen before frost since I am seeing scattered gold on the locust and cottonwoods. A few willows look like they are changing too.

Thank you for all the info on canning & drying squash. I canned 30 quarts on Sunday and Tuesday last week in addition to giving away a lot. I am now resorting to drying. I did try drying broccoli for the first time and green beans. Really a huge space saver. Drying jalapenos, bell pepper and Fresno chilis now as well as 2 racks of squash. Obviously, I have been on “vacation!” I have several quarts of potatoes canned. Can they be sliced and dried or would it be better to wait on fresh potatoes although I am not even seeing blossoms yet. I have gotten finished canning my 1/4 beef and will be getting another 1/4.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Yes, you can freeze your eggplant. Just pick and quickly bring inside, peel and slice about 1/2 inch thick. Blanch for about 4 minutes, then plunge into ice water to quickly cool. Drain very well, pack into freezer containers to exclude as much air as possible, then freeze.

We’re getting leaf color changes too and the birch are losing their leaves. It SO feels like FALL! It sounds like you’re plenty busy now. So are we! Wow, so much food — how great that is.

I’d wait and dehydrate fresh potatoes as your canned potatoes are already “put up.” Sometimes potatoes don’t bloom at all. We’ve had that happen in the past and still harvested great potatoes. You can peek under a hill with your fingers to see what’s going on. Will did that and pulled out a big fat potato.

Oh yes, beef! We’re thinking of that too, having four steers ready to go this fall. We’ll keep a half and sell the other three and a half sides/quarters. The steers look so nice and fat on good pasture. I can hardly wait! — Jackie



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