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
 James Kash
 Where We Live
 Behind The Scenes
 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
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address
 Write For BHM
 Meet The Staff
 Meet The Authors
 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 ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sweet potatoes and chicken feed

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Sweet potatoes

I left some sweet potatoes in the garden, thinking since they were under ground, I could just harvest them as I needed them, regardless of freezing. Wrong! I didn’t put any straw on them, so the top 2 inches or so froze, but anything lower than that is fine. What should I do with them now? The part that froze gets mushy when I bring them in and wash them. Are they ok to eat?

Chrissy Mullender
Luray, Kansas

It depends. Did they freeze and stay frozen? If so, just wash them and cook them. But if they froze, thawed, froze, etc. I’d add them to your compost pile and chalk it up to a lesson learned. Sweet potatoes can’t take any freezing so next time, dig them earlier and be safe. — Jackie

Chicken feed

In your recent article “Saving money on the homestead” you mentioned not buying packaged chicken feed. You buy grain in bulk. What homemade chicken feed recipe do you use? I’ve looked at many, but they have SOOO much hard to find and expensive things in them. You seem like a down to earth kinda girl, so I’m guessing your recipe is simple and to the point. I have noticed a lot of recipes have fish emulsion in them. Its very expensive, but the amount used is so small, I don’t think it would add up to being expensive in the long run. Anyways, I would like to know your recipe for happy healthy chickens! This year we hatched 100 chicks, and are going broke feeding them to butcher size. I need a cheaper route for next year!

Roxann Bagley
Williston, North Dakota

You’re right; I don’t buy packaged chicken feed — the kind that comes in nice paper sacks, made by name brand feed companies either in 50 pounds or 25 pounds. Our local grain elevator, Homestead Mills, carries their own mix which is sold under the generic name of 18% poultry and 14% feed. What I usually do is use the 18% poultry for our egg layers and as a general growing mix for young birds. Then I switch our meat birds to the cheaper 14% ground feed at about five weeks. If we keep them longer than eight weeks, they get plain corn screenings. The 18% poultry grain is half the cost as those cute paper bags; I can buy 100 pounds for the same money as the 50 pound sacks bought elsewhere. You often buy the name brand and pretty picture instead of the feed.
Mixing your own poultry feed is pretty easy but it is extra work. Here’s a sample for a grower feed:

50 pounds cracked corn, barley, or wheat (or a mix of any of these)
18 pounds rough mill feed or screenings
16.5 pounds soybean, meat, or fish meal
5 pounds alfalfa meal — when the birds are not on pasture
vitamin supplement added as per package directions
1/2 pound trace mineral salt
Mix well and store in a tight container

We substitute our own homegrown pumpkins and squash in the winter, fed daily, for the alfalfa meal. The chickens love it and we cut down on feed costs. I hope this helps. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Austrian Winter Peas and canning corn chowder

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Austrian Winter Peas

I just read an article in Mother Earth about Austrian Winter Peas. They sound like a great thing. The article says the shoots make a great salad, make great fodder, and are beneficial to the soil. I don’t know that you could grow them in your climate, though they are hardy. But I thought others might like to try them. I know I’m going to.

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

Nope. Austrian Winter Peas won’t over-winter here. Instead, we grow Field Peas, which are just plain old peas that we plant to improve the soil, use as fodder, and even pick to use as “people peas” to can, dehydrate, or dry for soup. We plant them early in the spring, harvest some pods for us, cut some fodder for the critters, then mow and turn under the rest as green manure. It’s one of the top legumes for many homesteaders, especially those of us in the north. — Jackie

Canning corn chowder

I have made several batches of corn chowder and canned the excess for use this winter. I processed in my pressure canner for 100 minutes at 13 psi (I am at 4,255 feet) and most of the jars were pints, 6 were quarts. Now here is where I messed up. I use bacon, milk, and flour in my chowder. Things I never once thought I shouldn’t can. Is it safe to eat? I have 7 pints in the canner now!

James Mc Ginnis
La Pine, Oregon

Your chowder is safe to eat, assuming your chowder isn’t REAL thick — which most isn’t. However, at 100 minutes at 13 psi, you’ve over-processed your batches. The bacon (the meat ingredient) is processed for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts) and milk for only 10 minutes for quarts. Corn is processed for 55 minutes (pints) and 85 minutes for quarts. I’m not sure how badly that will affect your chowder. The milk may separate or become dark because the sugars in the milk turn brown. I guess you’ll just have to open a jar and see. Sometimes if you just heat a separated product and stir it well, it’ll still be okay to eat. You can use a little flour to thicken some canned foods but never so much that the food becomes quite thick as then it may be too thick to can up safely. I can up chowders without milk, using a broth instead. Then when I want to eat it I’ll make a white sauce and slowly stir in the jar of canned chowder. Done deal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Keeping busy even when it’s cold

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

We haven’t had a break from the Arctic cold and wind we’ve been having lately, with the lows in single digits and the highs in the low teens. Brrr. But we’ve still got lots to do. I’ve been saving seeds from lots of pumpkins (Howden and Winter Luxury) and squash (Hopi Pale Grey, Canada Crookneck, etc.) and shelling Painted Mountain and Glass Gem popcorn. While we save seeds, we’re planning what to plant next spring. And just where we’ll put it to keep our seed pure. Will jokes that he’d better fire up Old Yeller and get out and clear some more land!


Meanwhile, Will’s been out in the woods hauling in dead logs he stockpiled this fall. Yesterday, he brought in about a cord of some big ash and some mixed logs. The weather this weekend is supposed to be mild, so I hope we can get it cut up and split.


Because it’s been so cold, I’ve started using the kitchen range. It’s sure nice to have it fired up again and it really helps keep the house toasty. Since it’s below the upstairs bedrooms, the floor gets nice and warm.

We were having trouble getting our cows AI’d; they kept returning in heat. So Will talked to our neighbor who happened to have a young bull he needed to move out of a pen. We ended up moving him to our pasture for the winter. He was only here a few hours before he bred our Jersey cross heifer. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just missed the big snow!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

We listened to the weather radio yesterday morning, cringing when they talked about significant snowfall for our area and south of us. Eek! Luckily, we only got a dusting but Duluth and parts south and east got hammered with 12 to 18 inches of snow.

We knew it was coming and Will and I have been working like mad to get things done ahead of winter. I pulled the last ears of our Glass Gem popcorn and was really happy with the ears (and colors!) we got. We didn’t get a full crop as it was quite late-maturing. Next year I’m planting it farther apart so the stalks get more sunlight. I discovered that the rows on the outside matured faster than those on the inner rows because it’s such a thick-growing corn. But the colors — Wow! Colors I’ve never seen in corn: light blue, pink, mauve, and pastels. We’ll definitely plant it again!


I wrapped up the last of the fruit trees and bushes yesterday. Will salvaged some heavy aluminum screening from an old TV dish so we could wrap the honeyberries and a couple of bush cherries that were too bushy for a regular screen to fit around. It worked great. We had quite a bit of vole damage to our trees last winter so we wanted to make sure the same wouldn’t happen this year. We have a friend whose big apple tree was killed because the voles had totally girdled the trunk. That’s depressing. Some of our orchard trees have grown so much that the white spiral plastic tree guards won’t fit. I used old aluminum window screen instead. We aren’t taking any chances!


I got a whole pork loin on sale at our local store for $1.99 a pound. I roasted it up for dinner, cut into two chunks to fit my roaster. Then the next day I warmed it up and canned what was left from dinner, using the pan drippings with water added for a broth. We got two meals plus three quarts and a pint to add to our pantry. And I also got busy and readied another batch of carrots to go in the canner after the pork came out. I’ve only got one more batch to go plus some rutabagas.

We aren’t hunting deer this fall because winter killed off about half of our local deer herd. Besides, we are butchering a steer and we already have half a pig left in my son’s, freezer. And canned venison down in our basement from last fall. And the meat chickens… We sure don’t need more meat and we feel sorry for the neighboring deer herd and decided to let them rest with plenty of feed (Will’s oats/clover patch!). There’s always next year if we need one. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re working like mad to get ahead of oncoming cold weather

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

We have a few warm days but the long-term forecast is for increasing cold and snow. So we’ve been working like beavers, canning, cutting and splitting the last big batch of firewood, hauling manure, and pulling the last things from the garden.


Will has finished the retaining wall under our enclosed porch, beside the walk-out-to-be of our basement. The stonework on the barn is done. And now he’s got Old Yeller, our faithful bulldozer out in the goat pasture, shoving three-year-old leftover hay and manure into huge piles. Then he carries the best of the composted material out onto our garden by the tractor bucket full. Wow, will we ever have GARDEN next year! And a whole lot of leftover rocks will be buried. (He didn’t spread much on the area where our root crops will be planted as they don’t like excessive manure.) Squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes flourish in well-rotted compost.


We moved the goats up to the old goat barn for winter. Next winter, they’ll be in the new barn for winter and the goat cottage and pasture for summer. How spoiled will they be? Hopefully, next summer we’ll dismantle the old goat barn as it’s sure not a thing of beauty. And when our new cordwood chicken coop gets built we’ll be tickled pink.

I pulled the last of our carrots, which I’ve been canning every other day for better than a week. I planted both Nantes and Tendersweet and both grew nice big, sweet carrots. They are so crisp that when I scrape them in the kitchen sink, some actually POP open in my hands. That’s a funny feeling, for sure. I can the big, fat carrots in quarts, in chunks, for stews and to use with roasted meat. The more slender carrots go into pints to use as a side dish. I’ve already pulled and canned a lot of carrots to use in canned mixed vegetables like sweet corn, potatoes, rutabagas, and onions, etc. We had an excellent crop this year of darned near everything.


I also have been seeding our big, fat cukes and drying the seeds. The cucumbers (Homemade Pickles, our favorite for pickles) still taste sweet and I pop a few pieces into my mouth as I scoop out the seeds with a tablespoon.

Gotta run. There’s SO much we want to get done before serious snow falls! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s rainy, cloudy, and nasty

Friday, October 31st, 2014

We had snow last night but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness! We still have a lot to get done before serious snow hits. We have gotten more firewood in and stacked and Will got the big pile of small popple from the goat pasture all cut up and that’s ready to come in when it dries out. (We don’t like to stack wet wood because it doesn’t ever seem to dry out well.)

But the drive bearing went out on Old Yeller, our 1010 John Deere dozer, and we spent a good part of yesterday driving to get parts and seals. So much for canning carrots! Then today after I’d gone to town to mail seeds to folks who had ordered them, Will called. Oh oh. Another trip 23 miles to the town of Virginia for another seal. As I was already “out,” I drove on to Motion Industries and got his seal. I’ll pull those carrots today anyway. I remember this time of year about two years ago when I went out to pull late carrots and found that the deer had gotten in and eaten them all. (I forgot and left a gate open…) Don’t want a repeat of that!


Our big turkeys, Christmas and Thanksgiving, are strutting like mad. I guess they don’t realize their time is coming. I sure hate to butcher, but I DO like to eat good food that came from animals who lived a happy life without chemicals and hormones added.


I’m still busy pulling seeds out of squash and pumpkins to dry. We had a slight setback: two of our cows got out and helped themselves to our pumpkin pile! But there’s still a lot left so get busy Jackie. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Leaving Montana and garlic and onions

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Leaving Montana

I’m responding to your last entry in your blog regarding your trip to Montana. Sounded like you really loved Montana. Just curious why you left? I would have to agree with you it is a beautiful state.

Olympia, Washington

I really, really LOVE Montana. But we left because land prices have gotten so high that we couldn’t afford to homestead on the scale we wanted to. Land is so much more affordable here in Minnesota and you can buy 40, 100, 120 acres of wild land here where the only wild land in such acreages are in remote “subdivisions” where you will have neighbors … and not always the best of neighbors. Here, we have 120 acres that we could afford and winged and four-footed neighbors. — Jackie

Garlic and onions

We are interested in onions and garlic and would like to see an article of in-depth information for dummies. Last year we planted garlic toes in late October. They sent leaves up and when the freeze came they died.

Jim G.
Mount Vernon, Ohio

I’ll be happy to do an article on onions and garlic. They’re really easy if you do it right. Therein lies the key, as with many “difficult” garden crops such as carrots and parsnips. Planting in the fall is necessary for good garlic but, as you found out, planting too late doesn’t let the cloves send out strong roots and get established before freezing weather. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We actually got some Glass Gem corn

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


After a long summer of touch and go, I discovered yesterday that we actually had some mature Glass Gem popcorn! Some friends stopped by and we were giving the “tour” of our gardens and while in the berry patch, I browsed through some brown stalks of Glass Gem corn with the ears still on. Surprise! I got color. Wow! We didn’t think it had made it but obviously it went on and ripened after the first frosts nipped the plants. Tomorrow I’ll go out and pick all that I can find. But the ears I did find in just a few minutes were simply gorgeous with brilliant, unusual colors on four- to six-inch cobs. We may not have enough to sell next year but at least we can replant with the seed we save and know it’ll make a crop here even though it’s a long-season corn (about 110 days).


Will laid the last of the rock on the new barn foundation yesterday and today he spent hours pulling the tomato cages and stakes in the garden while I spent hours on the phone at the nursing home where Javid is, talking and waiting to talk to a Social Security representative as he is on SSI and needs to get his information changed over from Montana to Minnesota. Why is it that all government agencies make everything so complicated and HARD? Wow, a study in frustration, for sure.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can start canning carrots. They’re so big and juicy they just beg to go in jars! In fact, if you just toss them in a bucket, they split down the side they’re so crisp. Mmmmm. — Jackie



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