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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category
Friday, December 6th, 2013
Broken egg yolks
In the last few months most of our eggs have broken yolks when cracked to fry. Nothing else is wrong with the eggs. We have not changed chicken food or anything else. Any ideas?
The two most common causes of this are older laying hens (5 years plus) and insufficient protein in the diet. I’d try switching your chicken feed and see if this helps. Or try giving your hens a handful of cheap dry cat food daily. This is high in protein and in several amino acids that often aid chickens’ egg-laying problems. Be sure they have some greens too, whether it is kitchen scraps, sprouted grain, or even alfalfa meal soaked in boiling water. That really helps. — Jackie
Wrinkled bean seeds
We always save our Kentucky Wonder bean seeds for our next year’s crop, & sharing/trading. This year I noted that most of the seeds have a wrinkled finish, some more than others. Usually I’m pretty sloppy about seed saving, just leaving a few on the plants to dry after the killing frost, then throwing them in a box to shuck later. This year, after the frost, I got motivated & strung the beans inside, (no direct sun, cool & dry) to let them dry. In your estimation, will these seeds be ok? I mean, I got wrinkles & I still work…
Mason, New Hampshire
Hey Deb, so do I! But usually wrinkled beans are beans that weren’t quite mature when pulled and dried, but they usually aren’t good. To make sure, just take several beans and wrap them in a washcloth or several folds of paper towel, dampen it with warm water (don’t get it soaky drippy wet), and place in a bowl. Put the bowl in a warm place and keep the towel damp. You will either get sprouts within a week or so or they won’t germinate. That way you’ll know for sure if your seeds are good or not. Here’s hoping! — Jackie
Thursday, November 21st, 2013
My daughter works in a restaurant that prepares rotisserie chicken every day. She asked them to save the bones for her, and brought a bunch home last night. We are going to make broth and pressure can it. My question for you is: how long can I keep the bones in the fridge before I have to deal with them? I won’t have time to do all that for three more days. Could I freeze the bones until I have time to prepare and can the broth? There is a fair amount of meat on them. Also, is there a formula for ratio of bones to water?
I would recommend freezing the bones to ensure great flavor in the broth. Holding them in the fridge would probably work if they were used within three or four days, but freezing would be safer. There is no formula for a ratio of bones to water. Just use your common sense. For more flavor, simmer the bones for at least an hour, adding salt, pepper, or other spices to taste. — Jackie
Last spring I had our garden soil tested and there was too much salt in both gardens. The only way that I can fertilize the soil is horse manure, which is the worst for salt. I can’t seem to find cow manure. That is all being used. First of all how do I get the salt out of my soil, and then how do I re-do the soil for nutrients? We are not sure if we want goats, etc.
In most cases of salt in soils in the west is a result of a flat garden having poor drainage. This allows the salt to sit in one spot until the moisture evaporates, leaving the salt behind. The best way to combat this is to grade your garden so the moisture (rain, watering) drains off reasonably quick. You can slowly do this by working in your rotted manure chiefly on one end or side of the garden, in effect, creating your own slope without using equipment to grade your ground. One thought; are you watering your garden from your house and do you have a water softener? This can quickly add salt to your soil you wouldn’t have otherwise. A quick fix is to plumb in an outside faucet between your well/city water line and the water softener so your outdoor water does not pass through the salts in the water softener. — Jackie
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013
And Will got nearly all the big sheets of metal barn roofing on. We finished all but the very last big sheet last night. Luckily his cordless driver has a light! Today it’s in the forties with some sun so we’re running around playing catchup because it’s supposed to dive into the single digits pretty soon. Brrrr. I’m planting my daffodils in a few minutes. They should have gone in a few weeks ago, but better late than never! Oh well, there’s always something left undone … or pretty much done at the very last minute! Homesteading life.
Our tom turkeys are strutting in the orchard. Real pretty. No, we’re not going to eat them; they’re our breeders for next spring. I’m trying to get all of the orchard trees’ trunks wrapped with plastic spirals or window screen to protect them against vole damage during the winter. I’ve got ‘em all done but two plus our new cherry trees and honeyberry bushes. Hopefully I can get that done on Friday.
We’re hauling a load of cattle to the sale barn tomorrow so that day will be pretty much shot as it’s a hundred mile drive one way. Luckily David and the dogs will be around the homestead to keep an eye on everything! — Jackie
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Canning chicken in half-pints
In your segment on canning chicken in Self Reliance you mention that you have canned half pint jars of chicken. I would like to do that, but you never mention how long to can. Also, you seldom give an estimate of how many pints or quarts of canned product your recipes make.
You can put up nearly anything in half-pints. I find that they are very handy and that way you don’t have leftovers to deal with or that may possibly spoil in the back of the refrigerator. I hate waste! You process half-pints for the same time and same pressure as you do pints. The reason I don’t give estimates of how many jars of end product you will end up with is because there are such huge variables such as how big is that chicken? Three pounds … or ten. How big are those carrots, how much juice is in that peach, etc. I just eyeball the food to be canned and ready a larger number of jars than I think I’ll be needing. If I don’t need them, fine; they’re back on the shelf. And if I do, they’re all ready to fill. — Jackie
Rubber gaskets on canners, fat for soap, and saving carrot seeds
Is there anything that can be done to keep canner rubbers lasting longer? Years ago I know they were made out of real rubber. The new rubbers just do not last for me. They seem to shrink and do not make a good seal. In the past I have tried putting on vegetable oil or Vaseline. That helped the old rubbers from sticking on.
Can all the fat on a pig be put into soap? I wanted to save my leaf lard for cooking and I wanted to put the fat on the back into soap? Do you have anything for recipes for making soap with goat’s milk, pig fat of some kind and/or tallow and lye?
I saved carrot seeds 5 years ago and I have planted them for the last 4 years. There was Queen Ann’s lace growing in the field near by. The first year I had a few off white carrots, the next year I had more. This year most of the carrots are off white, crooked, and very tough. The rabbits love them. Out of 30-40 carrots there may be one orange one. Have you ever heard of this? This was the same seed being planted all 4 years.
The best way to keep canner seals in good shape is right after you can up a bunch of food, remove the seal and wash it in hot soapy water, rinse, and air dry it. Then put it back on the washed, dry canner. Be sparing of oiling or putting petroleum jelly on seals unless needed; that can cause them to crack prematurely.
Yes, any pig fat can be used to make soap. Here’s a recipe by Mary Jane Toth from Goats Produce Too! (available in the BHM bookstore) that I have used with success:
Distilled water, 3 cups
Milk, 2 cups
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) 1¼ cups (12 oz.)
Lard, 10 cups
Coconut oil, 2 cups
Fragrance oil 4 oz.
Note: If you want a plain soap you can leave the fragrance oil out of the milk soap recipe.
1. Have prepared molds ready before you begin.
2. Place the water into a large stainless bowl or pot. Carefully stir the lye into the water. Be careful, it will get very hot. Hold your face away from bowl and do not breathe the fumes. If you can do this part outside it would be best. If doing inside your house make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area. Keep white vinegar on hand in case you splash any on your skin. Vinegar will deactivate lye.
3. Allow the water/lye mixture to cool to 85 degrees. This can take an hour or more. When the mixture is cool add the cold milk, stir. It will heat up a little again, but not as hot. Let cool again to 80 degrees. While its cooling, prepare the fat and oil.
4. Warm the lard and coconut oil together to 90 degrees. Be careful if doing on a stove; it can heat up very quickly. Placing the pot into a sink of hot water can help you maintain the right temperature until used. You can add cool or hot water as needed
5. When the lye mixture is 80 degrees and the fats are 90 degrees you will mix them together.
6. Slowly pour the warm fat/oil mixture into the lye mixture, stirring all the while. It is important to pour the fat in a small steady stream while stirring constantly.
7. Stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of honey. This can take 25-45 minutes. Add the fragrance, slowly stirring in until mixed thoroughly just before pouring into the mold/molds.
8. Pour the soap mixture into prepared molds, cover with a layer of plastic wrap. Then lay some newspapers and a blanket on top to hold in the heat. The soap will get warm and harden. It is important for the soap to hold the heat for a while. After 24-48 hours the soap can be removed from the mold.
9. Remove the soap from the molds, cut into bars and lay the bars or stack them in such a way that air can circulate around them. Place them in an out-of-the-way place to age for 4-6 weeks. Turn them a couple of times during the aging process so that they dry evenly.
10. After 4-6 weeks the soap is ready to use and can be packed into storage containers.
As for your wild carrot seed, my best guess is that your nearby Queen Anne’s Lace crossed with your carrots, as they often will. Then, as the carrot seed got older, it became less viable where your seed with a higher percentage of Queen Anne’s Lace remained good. Thus, as time went on, more and more Queen Anne’s Lace characteristics became more prominent. — Jackie
Monday, November 11th, 2013
It’s getting cold. Tonight it’s going to be down around zero. Today, however, was beautiful — sunny and pretty. You may remember that Will carefully saved nearly all of those small trees he bulldozed while clearing part of the new 40-acre pasture. He and our friend, Eric, stacked them in two huge piles outside the horse pasture. That was more than two years ago. Those poles are pretty well dry and if left much longer, they will start to rot. We needed wood for both kindling and the kitchen range. We decided to start cutting them up; at first Will was going to go at it with the chainsaw. But even with a rack built to cut them more easily, it’s hard on his back. I suggested using the table saw he put together for edging the boards off our bandsaw mill.
Basically, it’s a gasoline-powered mini-buzzsaw. He wanted it gas powered so he took a good Briggs and Stratton motor off an old snowblower and rigged it to belt drive the heavy table saw our friend Tom gave me years ago. It works great for edging the boards and is more portable because we don’t have to worry about having a generator to plug it into. And it works great for cutting those small, long poles. Most are about 3 inches at the butt. The larger ones get tossed into a pile for chainsaw work, later on.
Will stands on one side with me on the receiving end. The pickup is parked off my right shoulder. As the poles are sawn, I pick up the pieces and toss them into the pickup. We are VERY CAREFUL around that saw as the blade is unprotected and dangerous. (So is a buzz saw, only the blade is five times larger!) So far, we’ve stacked four pickup loads of this little wood on our enclosed porch, right handy for the kitchen range and nearby for kindling for the living room stove. We’re real happy to get such good use out of a throw-away snowblower, a discarded table saw, and wood most folks would pile on the field and burn as trash. And our house is warmer too!
Yesterday, I went out and dug the last of my gladiolus bulbs from the garden (through four inches of new snow). The blooms were gorgeous this summer and I wanted to save them as they sure don’t over-winter here in Zone 3. I was afraid they would freeze in the ground and that would be the end. I was tickled to see that most bulbs had multiplied to at least two and often three very large corms plus all of the little cormels attached to the bulbs. (Those mini-bulbs are planted in a row, like beans. The first year, they make nothing but leaves. Sometimes the second year they’ll bloom a bit and by the third, you’ve multiplied your flowers by an amazing number.) Now they’re in the greenhouse, laid out in a shallow plastic box to dry before going down into the basement to store over winter. Looking at all those bulbs, I can hardly wait till spring! — Jackie
Saturday, November 9th, 2013
Can goats eat fresh pumpkin seeds? Also I made some fig jam I don’t like and it has figs, pectin and sugar in it. They would love to lick it. They always beg for snacks
Litchfield Park, Arizona
Yes, goats LOVE fresh pumpkin seeds…and whole pumpkins. Pumpkin seeds are thought to be a natural wormer as well. You can also treat your goats with that fig jam you don’t like. Or find a friend who does enjoy your jam. — Jackie
Would like to try Hopi Pale Grey
Do the Hopi Grey Squash grow here in the south (Tampa)? If you think they may, are you offering the seeds for sale? I would like to try them if possible.
Yes, Hopi Pale Grey squash will grow in the south. We’ll be offering seeds for sale this winter. Stay tuned to the blog for further info as we work out details of our mini-seed business. — Jackie
Canning enchilada sauce
Quick questions: Can this be canned and if so, for how long? I figure it will need to be pressure canned. It is a recipe for enchilada sauce: 3T flour, 4T chili powder, 1T cumin, 1T garlic powder, T oil, 16oz tomato sauce, 16oz water. Heat to boil, then simmer for 20m. I plan on putting the sauce in half-pints, but would prefer to can if at all possible. What do you think?
Saint Paul, Minnesota
I’d suggest leaving out the flour as it is not recommended to can recipes containing much of it. However, the rest would can up easily in a boiling water bath. I’d also add 1/2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each 1/2 pint jar, just to be safe. It won’t affect the flavor. Process your pints or half-pints for 35 minutes and you’ll be fine. — Jackie
Storing powdered milk
How long can you store powdered milk? There are so many mixed reviews, it is difficult to distinguish fact from fancy. I would like to get some to keep on hand, but don’t want to risk botulism, or any other creeping crud that might be an issue. I wouldn’t be using it regularly, just if there would be an extended time where I wouldn’t be able to get milk, (i.e. a weather event such as a massive snowstorm, an extended power outage, or a zombie apocalypse.) Any thoughts?
Glenville, West Virginia
Regular store powdered milk will store in its original box for about 5 years with no loss of flavor. After that it may pick up off flavors but still be okay for cooking/baking. For best storage flavor, long-term, you can either routinely rotate your stored milk or buy canned instant milk from such companies as Emergency Essentials. This will stay fresh-tasting for 35 years or longer!
You’re on the right track in picking up some storage foods. The end of the world may never come but I’ll bet you a blizzard, power outage, or other event will make you real happy that you took the common sense approach to being prepared. Grandma never knew about zombies but totally believed in staying “stocked up.” — Jackie
Thursday, November 7th, 2013
It’s cold and cloudy so we’re trying to get the garden finished up and put to bed for winter. Will pulled the tomato cages and dumped the old vines into a couple of piles to burn while I carried the cages over by the fence to stack for winter. Then he and David pulled the steel T-post stakes (which worked wonderfully as the cages didn’t tip over!). We ended up with two large piles of tomato and potato vines. We burn these vines so they don’t harbor insect and disease to infect the garden next year. We don’t want more potato bugs, blight, or septoria leaf spot!
Once finished, Will brought out the propane tank and the weed burner. He grinned to me and said “Pyro, this is for you!” Pyro being the nickname of a sweet lady who attended two of our seminars and was introduced to the weed burner first hand. It gives out a jet plane-like roar that is quite startling if you aren’t expecting it!
Even though it’s been raining, the dead vines burned down very well, leaving only beneficial ash on the garden. We’ve just got to haul away the tarps and plastic we covered plants with before frosts and dig another row of glads and the garden is clean. Whew!
This afternoon I’m back to shredding more cabbage for Amish coleslaw. I use it a lot for so many different things. I canned up quarts and quarts of plain cabbage chunks and the kraut is doing well. What a cabbage crop this year!
My cold is much better and Will is slowly losing his. I hate fall colds! — Jackie
Monday, November 4th, 2013
Of course it doesn’t help to be exhausted and have a cold, to boot! Will’s got the cold worse than I do; he’s coughing and I’m just running at the nose like a fire hose. We had to toss a bunch of tomatoes that had gone “over the edge” while we were gone. But it wasn’t that bad as it seemed that tomatoes just didn’t keep as well, picked green, as they usually do. Maybe they had frost damage that wasn’t obvious.
While we were gone, David cut our cabbage that the deer hadn’t gotten around to eating yet. So I have a wheelbarrow full of cabbage sitting in our entry way waiting to be canned, turned into sauerkraut, and into Amish coleslaw. Hopefully tomorrow will bring more energy and a whole lot of chopped cabbage.
Our trip was interesting, although long. We were amazed at the huge wind farms dotting the Illinois landscape among endless fields of corn and soybeans. The white wind chargers looked majestic, slowly turning in the breeze. It was noteworthy that they actually took up very little space in the fields and the crops were planted right up to the bases.
Then when we came back through Wisconsin we came upon huge cranberry bogs under cultivation. Here we only have wild cranberries, but there we saw acres of cultivated cranberry bogs. It was pretty impressive to say the least. — Jackie