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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Jackie Clay

We just dodged a terrific storm

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

It’s been very hot and muggy and I told Will we were primed for a bad storm. So when the weather radio called for thunderstorms Monday night we weren’t surprised. In fact, we were pretty happy to see lightning on the Western horizon that night as it was 85 degrees with extreme humidity (and being off grid we sure don’t have an air conditioner). Well, it finally rained around 11:30 p.m. and it did cool off.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that we heard how severe the storm front was to the North and South of us, with straight line winds more than 75 mph and inches of rain. Campers in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness had been pinned under big fallen pines, others injured. And many folks on the Iron Range, just south of us had trees blown down on their houses and garages or roofs torn off, etc. We feel very grateful we escaped this part of the storm and are praying for those affected. More than 15,000 people were without power as well but, of course, we never noticed.

The garden continues to astound us. I’ll be canning green beans in a couple days and have hundreds of inch-long Homemade Pickle cucumbers set on rampant vines. And this year, our dill is amazing. (I’ve even had to buy wilted, old store-bought dill on some other years — for $3.49 a bunch.)


But the star of our gardens this year is the Glass Gem popcorn. We planted it for its beauty but the plants are stupendous. They are near shoulder-high to Will and me and each plant has stooled out, having more than five lusty stalks per plant. We can’t wait to see how it turns out and how many ears we get per plant. Usually popcorn has shorter plants but Glass Gem hasn’t even thought of tasseling out at shoulder-height! Our Espresso sweet corn is tasseling out down in our main garden but not our Glass Gem. Wow!


We are still working at mulching our main garden; it takes a lot of work and hay to mulch an acre! But we work on it every day and it is looking good. My cold seems to have left me but I am still waiting awhile before I call my surgeon’s office to reschedule my gallbladder surgery. I do not want to have to postpone it again! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fruit trees and watermelon dying and red cabbage for Amish coleslaw

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Fruit trees and watermelon dying

We planted fruit trees this spring. We have had a very dry summer, nevertheless we have watered the trees three times a week. Now the leaves of all the fruit trees are curling up, turning brown and falling off. I am not so sure that some are not already dead. The trunks of the trees look different. Some spots are green and look healthy, while other spots are a very dark brown. Do you have any idea what this could be? I realize it is difficult to say exactly without seeing, thought you might have some idea.

This is the first year after five tries that I was able to grow watermelon. Now the vine is wilted and the stem is brown. Could this be a fungus? There are two small fruits set and lots of bloom, still open. Can I save this? Thanks for all your time and information that you provide to all of us.

Mary Ann Nelson
Franklin, West Virginia

Newly-planted fruit trees should receive at least a five-gallon bucket of water at a watering twice a week, provided that they are mulched. Often folks don’t realize this and use sprinklers in the orchard which don’t wet the soil deep enough to keep the baby tree roots from drying out and dying. I’d keep watering them and severely prune the trees, removing most of the branches and cutting the ones you leave off at half-length. Maybe they’ll either start leafing out again or send new shoots from lower down and above the grafts.

While it could be a fungus on your watermelon, it is also possible that it just didn’t get enough water. Your garden should receive at least 1 inch of water every week, more during very hot weather. You can make sure they are getting this by sitting a few cups out in the garden while you water. After you finish, measure the amount of water in the cups. There should be at least 1 inch in each one. Sometimes our sprinklers just don’t reach certain spots very well, leaving them pretty dry. Mulch is also very important in the garden to keep the plants’ roots evenly moist. — Jackie

Red cabbage for Amish coleslaw

I’m really sorry you had to postpone the surgery; what a letdown. Your garden looks great — too bad you can’t send some of that rain our way. We are dry. The Provider beans are just getting into full swing and the single Hopi plant I grew has at least 17 squash on it! Wow, those are powerful seeds you grew! Would it help the plant if I took some of them off? Also, I grew red cabbage and green, this year, and the red are heading way before the others. Have you found that the red cabbages work as well for Amish Slaw and other cabbage recipes? I hope you’ll have good hay making season. I’ll bet the animals are counting every bale.

Carol Bandy
Hightown, Virginia

I think I’m finally getting over that darned cold. I think… Wow, 17 squash on one plant! If you want really big squash, you can pick off some of the littlest ones and use as you would summer squash. Otherwise, Hopi Pale Grey is a very strong-growing squash and can handle that big a load as long as it gets plenty of water.

Yes, you can sure use your red cabbages in Amish coleslaw. The color would really pop.

The haying is going well so far and we pray it continues the same. We stock up the haymow with the same feelings we do our pantry. What a great feeling when it’s full to bulging! — 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

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

Q and A: pepper plants and Amish canner

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Pepper plants

I’m hoping you can help me with my pepper plants. I’ve planted several sweet bell peppers and jalapeños this year. Normally I have no trouble and would have been loaded with peppers by now. This year the plants look pitiful. They have lost leaves and just look sickly. Some of the leaves that are left are brown on the edges. I have not seen any bugs eating on them They do look like they are coming back a little but still no little peppers. I’ve searched the internet but can’t find anything that seems to match up. Do you have any idea what is causing my pepper problems? My tomatoes and other plants all look great!

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

A few things come to mind from my own experiences through the years. First off, have you been having unusual weather? Too much heat, drought, and rain will cause peppers to really set back as yours have done. I’d mulch them well and then use a fish emulsion foliar feeding every two weeks for a month and see if that doesn’t perk them up. Don’t go with heavy fertilizer as you may end up with huge plants with no peppers. — Jackie

Amish canner

I’m considering purchasing the large Amish-Made Stovetop Water Bath Canner ( that Lehman’s sells. The height would allow better boiling water coverage of quart jars and keep the boiling water inside the canner rather than all over my stovetop and would allow me to process larger numbers of jars at a time.

However, since the canner sits over two burners, the configuration of my gas stove will only allow me to sit it over a high-output burner and a small burner on one side or a medium and small on the other. Will there be cold spots in the canner that would leave some of the jars underprocessed?

DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

No, you won’t get cold spots in your canner. Once the water comes to a boil, it will all be the same temperature inside the canner. The large canner that Lehman’s sells reminds me of the first canner my mom and grandma used in our basement back in Detroit when I was very little. It was a copper clothes boiler with a top. Mom and Grandma canned quarts and quarts of food in it using a small gas stove down in our basement. One thing that puzzles me is you saying that you get water all over your stovetop from a regular water bath canner. I’ve canned on electric, gas, and wood stoves and have never had water (other than a few small drips) get on my stovetops. Are you over-filling your canner? You only need to cover your jars by an inch of water. If you fill it too full, you will get boiling over. — 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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: storing lemon juice and growing potatoes

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

Storing lemon juice

How would you go about canning store-bought lemon juice? I assume due to the acidity that Tattler lids would come in handy here. Or is it fine to just store it in the plastic bottles it comes in?

Lowman, New York

You can easily re-can store-bought lemon juice but you can also just store it in the bottles it comes in. If you find that the larger bottles are more than you usually use in a month or so, you can certainly re-can it into smaller containers. To re-can it, simply heat the juice to 165° F. Don’t boil it. Ladle into hot half-pint or pint jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time. — Jackie

Growing potatoes

I don’t know if you have answered this before but I have a couple questions about potato’s. First: if you pinch off the flowers will you get more or bigger potatoes? I am currently raising mine in tires.
Second: how do you make Potato Flour?

Kennewick, Washington

No, you won’t get more or larger potatoes by pinching off the flowers. To get more or bigger potatoes, be sure to hill your potatoes at least twice during the growing season, once when the plants are about eight inches tall and again when they grow another eight inches. Potatoes are formed along the lower stems of the plant — the more stems that are covered by soil, the more potatoes you’ll harvest. Because hilling also eliminates competing weeds, the potatoes get larger than if the plants are left unhilled. Hilling also keeps those potatoes well covered by soil so they don’t heave up and get exposed to the sun which turns them green. The green part should be cut off of potatoes before eating them as it is mildly toxic.

There are two ways to make potato flour. The first is most common. Peel your raw potatoes, then boil them and make “mashed potatoes” without adding butter or other ingredients. Then spoon them out onto fruit leather dehydrator trays about 1/4 inch thick. Dehydrate at about 125° F until crisp. Break into chunks and put into your blender and blend until powder-like. Pour through a sieve to remove any larger pieces. Re-blend the larger pieces. Store in an airtight container.

To make raw potato flour, grate peeled, raw potatoes and put in a bowl of ice water for several hours or overnight. Drain well and pat dry between two layers of kitchen towel. Lay out on regular dehydrator trays and dehydrate until crisp. Follow the rest of above directions.

Potato flour is useful in soups, as a thickener for gravies or stews, in many bread recipes, and in some gluten-free recipes. (Like many powdered dehydrated foods, it takes a LOT of potatoes to get a few cups of potato flour. A whole bushel of my onions dehydrated down to a full quart of onion powder!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: bean seeds not sprouting and re-canning black olives

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Bean seeds not sprouting

I am having my green beans to sprout. I have planted them 2 times and still not popping. The are new seeds from a name brand company this year. I planted them in new top soil. I had the same problem last year, that’s why I put in new top soil.

Brandy Gunderson
Wyoming, Michigan

Usually when beans fail to come up they have either been too cold, too wet or too dry. Or, a critter might be helping itself to your seeds. To check, dig in your row with your fingers to find your seeds. If they have rotted, you won’t find nice beans but mushy ones. If you find nothing, look for little dips in the dirt, indicating that they’ve been dug up and eaten/carried away. In warm soil that is kept nicely moist but not soggy wet, your beans should pop up within 10 days. — Jackie

Re-canning black olives

I have checked your blog/articles for directions for re-canning black olives. In one article it gives a time of 60 min., in the other 90 min. for pints and half pints. Which is correct? I love your books, use them all the time, never dared to can meat until I read your articles and books.

Thanks for all your wonderful information. I finally was able to subscribe to BHM — just love it. Even though I’m a city dweller, I have a large garden and try to “homestead” in any way I can.

Rae Pelletier
Salem, Missouri

Sixty minutes is the recommended time for processing olives in pints and half pints. Sorry for the mistake.

I’m glad you like my books and are now canning meat. It’s so easy and SO handy! — Jackie



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