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
 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 ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Painted Mountain corn and canning grape juice

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Painted Mountain corn

We can grow Painted Mountain corn in our short growing season here, too. It’s one of the only breeds of corn I can dependably grow here every summer. The animals like it but I have a hard time selling the taste to my family as corn bread. How do you and Will use your Painted Mountain?
Whitefish, Montana

We use our Painted Mountain as cornmeal. As it is a low-sugar variety, you may want to add a little more honey or sugar to your cornbread as we modern people have become more used to a lot more sweetening than older corns provide. We love its nutty, rich flavor just as it is but we realize that tastes differ a lot. — Jackie

Canning grape juice

I have been making muscadine grape jelly and will have some juice left over. I want to water bath it and save it for next year. Do I need to do anything special to it?
Thanks and sure hope you are feeling better!

Newport News, Virginia

Thanks Sheryl. I AM feeling a lot better and am really glad to have gotten rid of that crummy gallbladder!

No, you don’t have to do anything special to your grape juice. Just water bath it as usual. I’ve done a ton of juices this year so I can make more jelly in the future. As I’m now using my Mehu Liisa (Thank you, thank you!) I have so much MORE juice than I did before so I can make jelly at my leisure or on years when we don’t have a fruit crop. Just bring the juice up to a very warm temperature (not boiling) and ladle into hot jars. Then process as usual. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning dense foods and black cherries

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Canning dense foods

I put up many different things for our family. My rule of thumb is always process for the ingredient which has the longest time associated with it, such meat in pasta sauce 90 minutes vs 30 for plain based on the recipe. With that in mind, I have looked endlessly for many types of recipes to make store bought items at home. For instance, chocolate fudge sauce. All the references I could find said no-go for the home canner because commercial items are often done at higher pressures and that is why you can buy certain things, like pumpkin puree or refried beans, in the store but cannot do them at home. I have tried to find some reference for the “higher pressure” in commercially processed foods… haven’t found anything. Can you explain why we can find dense products to buy, but “experts” say they cannot be safely canned at home?

Angie Riggsby
Buckley, Washington

I don’t believe store foods are canned at a higher pressure but are pre-heated to certain temps before being packed. And in a factory, they are packed by machine, instantly, then move on down to the canner. At home we can’t work so precisely and some folks are pretty slow. So they make the recommendations for them, including us, too. I’ve never heard of a person getting botulism from home canned pureed pumpkin or refried beans. BUT I suppose it is possible, especially if they really cooled down prior or during packing then someone closed up their canner to build pressure BEFORE it had exhausted steam sufficiently, building up heat BEFORE pressuring up. Experts are trying to keep us safe from ourselves in every way possible, including home canning. — Jackie

Black cherries

I ordered some shrubs from my Conservation District since you are out of stock. They are called Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) are they the same thing? Boy I hope so I got 10 of them. Just wonder if it’s the same.

Brandy Gunderson

Sorry, but no. Black Cherry are not Hansens Bush Cherries but a tree that can eventually grow to 100 feet. Hansens Bush Cherries are a shrub topping out at about 6′ and about 8′ wide and bushy. It is known as the Western Sand Cherry or Prunus besseyi. We don’t sell any trees, shrubs or plants but we may be selling Hansens Bush Cherry pits next year, depending on the harvest as we’ve grown many from seed. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The pumpkin and squash harvest is finished

Monday, September 29th, 2014


Saturday was sunny and nice, above normal temps right into the high seventies. Wow, was it a perfect Indian summer day! Robert, a young man Will had met while getting a piece of sheet metal bent to form at a local metal fabrication shop, said he’d love to pick up some extra work at our place as he loves everything “farm.” So he came out and helped Will lug a very bountiful crop of pumpkins and squash in out of the garden and old pig pasture. And when I say “bountiful” I mean it in every sense of the word. There were several tractor bucket-loads of squash and pumpkins. We brought some into the house to store and the rest went to the new barn. We’ll bring a few at a time up to harvest seed and bury the rest in a cave of square bales to protect them from freezing.


We had one Howden pumpkin that weighed in at 58 pounds! Wow, were they ever productive. We’ll harvest seeds from them and then feed them to our goats and cattle. Of course, I’m going to make pumpkin pies from a couple of the Winter Luxury pumpkins — that’s what they’re famous for.


I’m really tickled at our Canada Crookneck squash as I’ve never grown them before. They are an ancestor of modern butternuts but have a very long neck, which is all meat and no seeds. They were very productive and made an excellent crop, direct seeded, here in Northern Minnesota. They also store very well, so I’m already planning on baking a few.

I got the onions pulled but I’ve got to finish digging potatoes. I’m doing a little bit at a time to keep my post-surgery belly happy. But daily, it is getting less sore and I’m feeling better and better.

The goats are happily munching the squash and pumpkins that were too immature to store and the few that I’ve already seeded. I’m still picking tomatoes, which are continuing to ripen despite the frost. Luckily, many were not damaged by the frost which was a surprise as it was a pretty cold one. Our back porch is full of ice cream pail lids of drying tomato seeds and cookie sheets full of Hopi Pale Grey squash and Winter Luxury seeds and I’m still canning madly before it starts to turn winter. I feel like a chipmunk! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re still madly harvesting (and having fun)

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

We’re still hauling in our garden treats and enjoying it so much. I still can’t get over the productivity of our garden squash patch. I counted over 37 BIG Hopi Pale Grey squash and that’s from only six hills! And both the Winter Luxury pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) and Canadian Crooknecks (C. moschata) have produced very well. I haven’t counted them yet, but there are a lot.


Will harvested a couple of buckets of ears of our Painted Mountain flour corn and for the bad situation in that new patch (17 inches of rain on white clay, minimal manure, and weeds from hell) we were real happy with what we got. There are still more ears to harvest, too. We’ve got the Painted Mountain out on a table in the living room to finish drying and Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn on a long table in our enclosed porch to finish up.


I’m still harvesting tomato seeds every day and we are talking about some new varieties of tomatoes to add next year (and maybe a corn).

This afternoon, I’m pulling in our onions. They weren’t as good as last year but we are happy with them anyway. The carrots are huge and, boy, do we have lots. The goats are loving all those carrot tops! They see a white bucket and come running with no calling needed. Yesterday I took a machete and chopped off the spent cauliflower leaves and the goats thought that was REAL nice. Munch, munch, munch!

We’re expecting kids this fall with four does getting fatter and making nice bags. It’s nice to have some fall kids as then we have winter milk.

I’ve got to go cut another head of broccoli to dry. See you in a few days! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: converted woodstove and wild plum pits

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Converted woodstove

We have a woodstove that the prior owners turned into a gas “fireplace” type of stove. They put a hole in the bottom for the gas line, etc. Is it possible to change it back to a wood burning stove? If so, is there a resource to help us through the process? The stove is a Wonder Warm stove (dunham lehr inc./Richmond, Indiana serial #7452). There is no fire brick. It is flat on the bottom — no grates. The stovepipe is still in place — needs to be updated and cleaned! We are in the process of getting the gas line pulled and the gas source capped.
Kristi Phipps
Holdrege, Nebraska

You can have a welder weld a patch on the stove where the gas lines passed through. I would probably add firebrick to the bottom as it’ll help keep it from warping or burning through. You can get firebrick at most big box lumber stores such as Lowes. Be sure the stove is far enough from the back (36″ is usually recommended) and any side walls (36″ is recommended), with a fireproof backing and hearth underneath. You can use patio blocks under the stove and a larger stove board behind it. And, as you said, clean out and/or replace the stovepipe if necessary. Do be sure that it’s installed properly as more house fires in the winter are caused by improperly installed and maintained wood stoves than you really want to know. — Jackie

Wild plum pits

I mailed my check today for some of your plum pits. I’m very excited to get them!
Can you post a few pictures of your plum trees? I would be interested in knowing how high they get, how wide they spread, how big the fruit is, how long from planting until the first fruit, etc. As well as some planting instructions/tips.
Lowman, New York

I’m sorry to tell you that we’ve about run out of plum pits! We had no idea of the HUGE response we’d have for this listing. Next harvest, we’ll be sure to save many more pits! We’re substituting a pack of our more requested seeds for the plum pits and hope this is okay. If not, we’ll refund payment.

These plums are about the size of a peach tree at full growth, maybe 20 feet tall at most (you can prune them shorter) and perhaps as wide. The fruit is about the size of a half dollar, sweet and yellow flesh inside and a tart red skin. You plant in the fall, water well, and protect from squirrels and chipmunks who will dig up the pits for themselves. In the spring they will sprout. They begin to fruit at about 3-4 years with good care. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Food time at Jackie and Will’s homestead

Monday, September 22nd, 2014


It just dawned on me this morning — our entire homestead is about food right now! Will is hauling in the last of our round bales of hay for the animals. We are madly harvesting the last of our corn before it becomes too starchy to eat and can (right now I’m canning some of Will’s wonderful Seneca Sunrise open pollinated sweet corn). Every day I’m canning something or somethings. Yesterday it was Mexican corn, which is a mixture of sweet corn, onions, and red and green sweet peppers and more enchilada sauce. I’m bringing in baskets of different varieties of tomatoes to harvest the seeds from each day.


The dried seeds are accumulating slowly, drying on ice cream bucket lids marked with each variety. On the front porch, I have set up a bench and chairs so I can work outside on nice days. It’s a lot easier to wash away the tomato juice and dropped seeds from the porch deck than from my living room floor!

I have two dehydrators set up in the dining room and they are full of broccoli. Yesterday I harvested the first Winter Luxury pumpkin for seed saving. Boy, is it wonderful. It has glowing yellow flesh two inches thick. Today I’m baking it whole, after taking a bounty of seeds. Then I’ll make it into a pumpkin pie. They have the reputation for being the very best pie pumpkin in the world. We’ll see; Will and I really like our pumpkin pie made from Hopi Pale Grey squash.

When I get off the computer, I’m pulling all of our onions so they can dry before being brought in to store. And there’s three big rows of nice fat carrots plus potatoes to harvest. Mmmmm. Food. Food. Food!

NOTICE: ALL OF THE WILD PLUM PITS HAVE BEEN SOLD. We had no idea that so many folks would want them! Next crop we’ll harvest many more. I’m so sorry for those who got disappointed and I’ll substitute with another pack of one of our favorite crops.


Our fall colors are simply gorgeous right now. I never realized how many maples have come up on our land until this fall as they’re turning color! In a few years our driveway will be flaming reds and oranges, come fall. But we cringe as we know full well that it’s only a few weeks until the pretty leaves have fallen and that white stuff starts. Stack that wood, Will! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning enchilada sauce, tornado clucker plucker, using a steam juicer, bringing plants inside for the winter

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Canning enchilada sauce

You mentioned canning enchilada sauce in your blog today. I searched the archives and found a recipe you posted in 2009. Could you post it again with any updates? I’ll be processing 60 one-gallon bags of frozen tomatoes and would love to make enchilada sauce (and the pizza sauce that you’ve already told us how to make).

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

I think the recipe you refer to is this:

18 dried red chilies
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. boiling water
10½ cups chopped tomatoes
6 cups chopped onion
12 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp. oil
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar

It’s processed at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts.

I make mine by mixing tomato puree (turkey roasting pan full) with ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 cup chopped sweet peppers, 2 Tbsp. oregano, 2 Tbsp. cilantro, 2 Tbsp. cumin, about 5 cloves mashed garlic, 1 Tbsp. salt, and 4 Tbsp. chile powder (hot or not, depending on your taste). This is pressure canned the same as above.

Most “traditional” enchilada sauce is made without tomatoes, using chiles, onions, chicken broth, and tomatillos so there’s a wide variety of enchilada sauces! — Jackie

Tornado clucker plucker

Will you be sharing instructions on how to make the ” tornado clucker plucker”? Sure would like to make one.

Dawn Fowler
Rosebud, Missouri

Sure, Dawn. I’m working on an article about this right now. — Jackie

Using a steam juicer

I recently purchased a strainer/juicer at a yard sale — it has three parts: one for water, one to hold the juice and the top one in which to put the grapes. I used it the other day to make grape juice. It seemed to take an inordinately long time before the grapes looked dry and I thought all the juice was extracted. It took approximately 8 hours to do a bushel of grapes. It seemed as though there was a burst of juice and then it just dripped before finally quitting. Is this normal? Or am I letting them cook too long? Also, can I make apple juice using this strainer/juicer?
Alice Clapper
New Castle, Pennsylvania

It does take a long time to extract most of the juice from fruit. But the good news is that you get a LOT of juice from the same amount of fruit that you used to get a modest amount from. Be sure to keep the bottom full of water. It will boil dry after several hours and that can ruin your juicer. I would be happy to do a bushel of grapes in 8 hours. You don’t mention a lid, which I’m thinking it has…and needs.

After your juicer pretty much quits, grab the handles with pot holders and gently tip the unit toward you. You’ll be amazed at how much extra juice will flow out. Do be careful of the steam, however.

You can make apple juice or just about any type of juice with it. Tomatoes will produce a “broth” or watery yellowish juice, not “normal” tomato juice which has much more puree. But after taking off two quarts of broth from a batch of whole tomatoes, you can run the shriveled tomatoes through a Victorio tomato strainer and harvest thicker tomato puree that requires very little cooking down. Same thing with apples. You can harvest apple juice then run the apples through a tomato strainer and harvest applesauce that is nice and thick. — Jackie

Bringing plants inside for the winter

I want to bring several garden plants inside for the winter but every time I have done that I end up with bugs, namely aphids that cover the plants. How can I eliminate the problem before bringing them inside?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

What I’d advise is to spray the plants well with a garden hose. Let them dry. Then spray thoroughly with a natural bug spray such as spinosad. Let dry and bring inside a couple of days later. Spray again and then watch plants very closely for a week or so. It’s very easy to bring in pesty bugs as there aren’t any natural predators in your home to keep them in check. I, too, have had trouble doing this. You’re not alone! — Jackie

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



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