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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category
Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
My head’s kind of spinning after our road trip to Montana. But I have to laugh. Most people pick up souvenirs like mugs or plates from their trips. I brought home a flat rock for Will and two 50-pound sacks of wheat from Wheat Montana, my favorite company that grows and sells wheat. Their deli/store is at the Three Forks, Montana exit off of the freeway and what a huge, awesome place it is! Not only do they sell wheat and other grains, flours, and cereal, but they also have a wonderful deli where they sell sandwiches, sweet rolls (the size of Texas!), and cookies as well as a huge variety of on-site-baked breads featuring their grain. Wow, I’m impressed!
Meanwhile, it’s back to seed saving. I checked out the Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds I harvested the day before I left. They’re drying very nicely but those huge, fat seeds need quite a long drying time, indeed.
Will’s still working hard on getting the concrete/rock work done on the new barn. We know cold weather’s fast approaching and soon it will be too cold to do this work. Today it’s cloudy, windy, and pretty darned nippy out. Brrrr… Welcome home? — Jackie
Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
After a day’s worth of cold, nasty weather, we were real happy to see the sun this morning. It was gorgeous, seeing the fog lifting from the creek, ponds, and the plowed field. Will’s been working alternately on the barn’s stonework and getting ready to do more under our house where our future walkout will be. He’s been digging and digging, as we have great plans for that (usually) boring walkout.
We’re putting in stepped flower beds with mixed slipform rockwork and landscaping blocks under the house which will hold back the side hills. On the outside it’ll be the same with nice flower beds. When done, the effect will be a combination Northwoods and Italian vineyard as I’m planting grapes next to the house that will climb trellises and cross over the entrance to the walkout and go up to climb on the railing of our upper deck.
Of course, the under-the-house flower beds will be quite shady, even if facing south. But I’m going to try hostas and see how that works. With a drip irrigation system runnning off our big irrigation system, it should be pretty and quite labor-free. It will be a nice, shady place to sit in the afternoons and we can look out onto the beaver pond. And we will be able to walk in and out of the basement easily. No more carrying buckets of potatoes, carrots, and onions down the basement stairs! (Of course, we won’t get the door cut in till maybe next year…)
We carried in more squash, pumpkins, and Painted Mountain corn, depositing it on the inside floor of our greenhouse/sunroom. It’s SO pretty I hate to use any of it!
I’m leaving for Montana so pray we have a good trip! And that Will has no problems here on the homestead without his wonderful donkey-catcher wife home to help. — Jackie
Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
I recently saw an ad for dehydrated oatmeal. Is oatmeal that I purchase from the grocery requiring a dehydration process to long-term store them? I had vacuum sealed some but left others in the store package. Any advice?
OMG, another marketing ploy! Plain old oatmeal is fine for long term storage. Oatmeal is dry or “dehydrated” already, needing no more treatment to store. And it stores for years and years! — Jackie
Canning sweet chili sauce
Here I am asking for help once again. I found this Chili recipe for sweet Thai chili sauce and it is so easy to make and good I would like to can it.
2 fresno chilis
2 Thai chilis
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup water
1/4 rice wine vinegar or white vinegar
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup sugar (I used splenda)
After cooking this to thickening use 1 Tbsp. cornstarch 2 tbsp water mix then add to sauce. I got this from userealbutter.com
Boy, that sounds good! But search as I might, I can’t find anything similar in the “recommended” for canning archives. It’s so different. I would think that it would water bath for 15 minutes okay, but I sure can’t recommend doing so (and in this case I would use sugar, not Splenda for its preserving qualities) since you add 3/4 cup of water to the vinegar and you do have cornstarch, although not enough to make such a thick sauce as would be unsafe for canning. Sorry. — Jackie
Canning spaghetti sauce
Your spaghetti sauce with meat recipe calls for 30 lbs of tomatoes. I know it is sacrilege to ask, but since we do not have the space to grow enough tomatoes and store bought are running $1 a pound, can a quality precanned sauce be substituted? I can get #10 cans for approx $2.50 each and would substitute at one quart sauce for every 5 lbs of tomatoes. Would it also be possible to substitute Italian sausage for the ground beef? We are trying as many different recipes to cut cost in preparation for retirement.
You’d be better using sauce in #10 cans rather than store tomatoes as store tomatoes taste awful and it doesn’t improve in sauce. Not to mention the COST! Use the sauce as if it were freshly made when canning, using the correct time and pressure. Yes, you can substitute Italian sausage for the ground beef but you might use a little less due to the seasoning. You are very wise to prepare so well for retirement. And you’ll eat pretty darned good too! — Jackie
Sweet Dumpling squash
Do you think I could store not-quite-ripe Sweet Dumpling squash? I cooked a couple the other night and they aren’t quite ready but I’m nervous about leaving them too much longer in the garden.
Yes, you can store them, but Sweet Dumplings really aren’t a long-term storage squash. They will store best at room temperature, not in a root cellar or basement where it’s cooler. Leave them out until temps fall into the 30 degree range at night as they’ll continue to ripen even when the leaves have been frosted. — Jackie
Monday, October 13th, 2014
After several nice, sunny days with temps in the high fifties and even sixty yesterday, we woke up to rain. Yuck. But we had a nice week, last week. We even got to visit two different friends. The first visit was to Mike and Dara’s homestead. They are as dedicated homesteaders as we are, also having several large gardens. We took “the tour” and saw all they had been doing this fall, then sipped coffee and cocoa and talked seeds and crops. Dara gave me some of her Painted Mountain corn which she’d hung in ropes to dry as a room divider. It’s gorgeous! We both love Painted Mountain as it not only is beautiful and makes tasty cornmeal, but actually dries down in northern Minnesota. Their carrots didn’t do so well this year but their rutabagas sure did. So we traded two buckets of our carrots for some rutabagas, which I didn’t plant this year. Dara also gave us a Marina Di Chioggia squash and a beautiful squash that was a cross between Marina Di Chioggia and Hopi Pale Grey. It’s unusual because it’s orange, smooth skinned with ribs lined in green, and the Marina “turban” on the blossom end. If it tastes good, we’re going to save seed and see if we can breed a stabilized version of it that will reproduce true. How fun!
Saturday, we were invited to another friend’s family farm near Cook, Minnesota (Jan) to help her and her sister (Bette) start to develop a plan to rehabilitate the farm which had been mainly empty for several years. We discovered a row of asparagus in the overgrown garden, found rhubarb and wild plums in several spots, and figured out how we could help the historical place. Jan and Bette fed us a wonderful meal, which we didn’t expect, and we got to look at old family farm photos and tour the solid buildings finding history in each one. Jan had found some of her grandfather’s ears of corn in a box which she thought were sweet corn he’d grown at the farm. She gave us a dozen kernels which we brought home to see if I could germinate. It’d be great if the corn was still viable and we could develop a population of that old corn!
Yesterday morning, one of our doe goats had triplets. Unfortunately, she totally ignores them and won’t let them nurse. Eeek! I’m leaving on Wednesday to go with my oldest son, Bill, and his family, in their motorhome, to pick up my adopted son, Javid, in Montana. I sure hate to leave Will with three bottle babies, but that’s the way it looks. I bought a fifty-pound sack of doe milk replacer this morning. (I WON’T tell you what I paid!) But kid goats don’t do well on calf milk replacer and Homestead Mills didn’t have any lamb milk replacer.
Our front porch looks like, well, what it is: a seed saving area. It’s full of squash, pumpkins, baskets of tomatoes, etc. On nice days I work out there as it’s a messy job and I’d rather squirt tomato “guts” on the porch floor instead of our kitchen floor! The rain washes it away. Will was working there yesterday while I cut up Hopi Pale Grey squash for their seeds. He was husking our Painted Mountain corn so we could bring it inside to finish drying. We were happy with the harvest from our new cornfield/pumpkin patch. With all its problems (infertile soil, 17 inches of rain at one time, white clay, etc.), it still produced and the deer didn’t eat it.
Now Will’s hauling tons of composted cow and horse manure out to that two-acre patch, which he plowed. So far he figures he’s put around 200 tons on it. Wow, now that’s “Mo’ poo poo!” But we know it’ll really produce next year. Over winter we’ll be buying a roll of 6′ 2″x4″ welded wire, which comes in 50′ rolls, so when spring comes, we can fence it (at least mostly), to keep the deer out. This year they ate all our pumpkins and squash. Oh well, we did get to keep our corn! — Jackie
Thursday, October 9th, 2014
We had ice on the animals’ watering tanks this morning. Brrrrr.
Will’s been trimming dead trees that hang over the driveway and will cause trouble this winter when we plow snow. Luckily, a lot of it is birch which makes great firewood. Yesterday he cut up a trailer load and this morning while it was still very crisp out, he began stacking it in our wood shed. The dogs must have been cold too because they started picking up wood and following him in the shed! Unasked. But after awhile, Spencer started picking up wood and heading for the house. I opened the door and he dropped it in the woodbox and headed back outside. He repeated this four times, until Will had stopped carrying wood (or Spencer got tired). Who says animals are dumb? They know wood makes fire and fire makes doggies toasty warm when they lie in front of it!
I’m jumping through hoops, trying to get things arranged to get my adopted son, Javid, back to Minnesota from Montana. Because he’s physically handicapped, he is on SSI and MA in Montana. And to come here, they can’t simply transfer his MA. He has to reapply here in Minnesota. After he’s been in the state 24 hrs. Then it takes up to a month (or so) to be approved. Then he has to apply for a CADI waiver so the state will help with his housing/care expenses. That takes another (long) period to wait. And he can’t go into an assisted living apartment until he is approved for both. The only out is to transfer him from the nursing home he’s currently in, recovering from surgery on a pressure sore, to another nursing home in Minnesota. But I had one heck of a time even arranging that! Seems that some nursing homes require $5,000 up front for the first month’s rent in case the person is not approved for state help. $5,000 a month!
However, I think I’ve found a small facility fairly close (25 miles) that hopefully will take him, temporarily, until the paperwork is done. And they have an opening. (Seems like most nursing homes in our area are full!) Whew! All this makes me tired!
We’re trying to get this done so we can get Javid moved here before we have to travel across North Dakota in a blizzard.
Meanwhile, while I’m waiting for phone calls, I’m continuing seeding tomatoes, pumpkins, and squash. (If you’ve ordered seeds recently, which include Hopi Pale Grey squash, I know your order is late but I want to be sure your seeds are dry as they are very “fresh”! I don’t want them to mold.) — Jackie
Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Uses for citrus peels
Is there any use for citrus peels such as oranges, grapefruit, or lemons? That is other than zest. I have a large family so often have large amounts at a given time. Any animals like them or plants?
Sure. I don’t like to waste either. I often cut ½-inch strips of cleaned peel and dehydrate it. Then I whiz it in the blender, reducing the dried peel to a powder. This is great in many recipes. I add a pinch of it to stir frys, to my pies and cakes as a flavor booster, or sprinkle over meat as it cooks. Or you can make you own candied fruit peel for holiday baking. Here’s how:
• Cut off the ends of the fruit with a paring knife. Remove the peel from the fruit, avoiding as much of the flesh as possible.
• Slice the peel into ½-inch-wide strips and place them in a saucepan. Cover the peel with several inches of cold water. Heat the water to a boil and let it cook for 15 minutes.
• Drain the water and rinse the peel in the colander. Return the peel to the saucepan and cover it with water. Boil again for 15 minutes. Repeat the process of rinsing and cooking one more time.
• Drain the water and let the peel cool. Remove any remaining citrus flesh with a spoon.
• Combine 1 cup of water with 2 cups sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the peel slices to the boiling mixture. Reduce the heat to low.
• Stir the peel occasionally. Cook until the liquid absorbs into the peel, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
• Place waxed paper under the wire racks and place them on a countertop. Cool the candied fruit peel on the wire racks. Store the peel in an airtight container in a cool location.
This will last for years! — Jackie
Meals in a jar
Since all the kids are grown I find I have a lot of leftovers since I had four sons, I have trouble cooking for two. I often can leftovers such as beans, soups, stews etc. I was wondering if you have canned other complete meals such as maybe chicken spaghetti, etc. If so can you tell me how to safely do so. I just hate waste! I have canned for years such things as vegetables, fruits, jams, butter, meat, just about everything but complete meals, other than soups, stews etc. And I hate to depend on the freezer.
Star City, Arkansas
Sure, I can up lots of “whole” meals. I call them my meals-in-a-jar. You can get a lot of ideas in my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food. Some things that don’t can up well are pasta and rice dishes as they are generally too thick for safe canning. I often can up cabbage rolls, tamales, stuffed green peppers, and a whole lot more, just to have the convenience of having a whole lot of different meals-in-jars ready for when I need a quick, tasty, nutritious meal ready on little notice. — Jackie
Immature Hopi Pale Grey squash
Your Hopi Pale Grey Squash seeds grew well and I am harvesting now. I picked the two large mature ones before our first frost, but (surprisingly) ended up with 6 more that are smallish and still tinged w/green. Will they continue to ripen off the vine? Are the seeds of these greenish ones viable? We don’t have any animals to feed them to. Is there anything else the small green ones are good for? I’m thinking I’ll just let the grand kids carve them like pumpkins. Thanks for all your sage advise,
J. in Nevada
I’m glad your Hopi Pale Greys did so well. The smaller ones are a bit immature but will still store and eat well. The seeds may or may not be viable. If they are fat, they probably are fine. Usually the immature ones will be flat and softer. We’ve stored the immature ones for over a year and they still tasted great. Even the real little ones can be used as you’d use any summer squash. You can even slice them and make fake apple pie from them using any apple pie recipe! — Jackie
Monday, October 6th, 2014
After a gorgeous Indian summer, we’re into north country fall rains and the four letter word: SNOW. Yuck! I vote to cancel winter this year — anybody with me? We’re still harvesting; this time it’s cabbages and carrots. Yesterday we got a surprise visit from my oldest son, Bill, and the grandkids. How fun! The kids got to pick out pumpkins from our huge pile in the new barn and then got to pull carrots to take home from our three long rows of HUGE carrots. I never saw such excited kids! I am sure they’d have pulled every one if they had time. We had fun, tossing the tops and split carrots over the fence to the goats, who enjoy harvest time a lot, too.
We had a couple of days of not-so-fun homesteading. Will had been hauling logs out of the woods and had left the woods gate open as the horses and donkeys were shut out of that field. Unfortunately, they got the wire down and got into the field and OUT of the open gate!
The horses came back home during the night but the donkeys got turned around and went the other way, ending up in the neighbor’s woods two miles away as the crow flies. We hunted and tracked while it rained and snowed. We ended up soaked and freezing after hours of donkey-hunting. Then the next morning, we found them and Will ended up leading one while the other one (that we couldn’t catch) followed with me on the four wheeler kind of driving them … three miles through the woods and swamp, then down the road to our driveway home. Boy, were we tired! Homesteading isn’t always all fun, but then there’s always tomorrow.
Today Will’s back at work on the barn’s stonework as it’s starting to get real cold and he wants to get the concrete work finished before it gets too cold to work on it. — Jackie
Friday, October 3rd, 2014
Shelf life of apple juice
If using a Mehu-Liisa to extract apple juice, is draining the hot liquid into a properly cleaned and heated jar with a two piece canning lid all that is needed? What is the shelf life?
Ron in Missouri
It is still recommended that you process the juice in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a safe, long-lasting seal. Once canned, the juice will stay good indefinitely. — Jackie
Canada Crookneck seeds
I was wondering where you got your Canada crookneck squash seeds, and if you will be having these seeds available in your seed catalog?
I got my Canada Crookneck seeds from a friend in northern Minnesota. Yes, we’ll be offering these seeds in our seed listing which we’re putting together as soon as we have harvested and dried enough seeds to begin selling. Keep an eye on the blog. — Jackie