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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Jackie Clay

I had a terrible spring cold

Monday, May 1st, 2017

I hope I haven’t worried any of you but I just wasn’t up to blogging last week. I got a terrible spring cold — runny nose and coughing 24/7. Yep, I took zinc, vitamin C, etc. But it still hung on. Finally, yesterday, it started letting up and today I feel much better. Whew, I’m glad that’s over! Luckily, our spring weather was cold and rainy so I didn’t get too crazy waiting to get outside and do something.

David and girlfriend Ashley collected a big truckload of pallets from our local lumber yard (with permission, of course). Then they set about building … a duck house? Okay, a few weeks back, Ashley bought four ducklings from our local farm store. They’ve been housed in a plastic tote in the bedroom. But ducklings grow really fast and are hugely messy, playing in water more than drinking it. They had to go somewhere safe. When they asked where would be a good spot to build a duck house, I envisioned something like a dog house with a fence. So I walked them down to the garden edge where there’s a nice spot with some young poplar and chokecherry trees in it for shade. Well, they started building the floor. Holy buckets, it’s 8′ x 10′ square!

They sheeted the pallet floor with OSB and leveled it nicely, then started screwing pallets together for the walls, which were then sheeted on the outside with OSB. A trip to the lumber yard brought back enough 2x4s to do the rafters and upper side walls. Unfortunately, they ran out of cash about then. David brought home some used cedar 5/4 decking from a deck the company he works for was replacing and used that for purlins for the roof. They plan on buying sheet metal for the roof but for the time being, it’s covered by a plastic tarp until a paycheck rolls around.

Yesterday was gorgeous and I walked around outside, enjoying the sun, looking at the garden, orchard, and flower beds. Will is taking apart our house garden’s raised beds as we decided to re-do it as a regular row-crop type garden, which fits our needs more right now. And the raised beds were in sad need of either fixing or replacing.

We’d heard we were in for a nasty start to May; up to 8 inches of snow! SNOW on May 1st? Hey, it’s northern Minnesota, after all. So we did extra chores like setting out round bales for the cattle and horses, picking up miscellaneous tools, and putting out extra bedding for the goats. And it paid off.

At 7 this morning, it was raining off and on. But in an hour the snow began. And now it’s snowing like a blizzard. Tomorrow they’re forecasting fifty degrees! Wow … — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Sunny, warm fall weather lets us get lots done

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Finally, finally, the rain has stopped. We’ve had four wonderful, sunny fall days. The leaves have turned and are all gold and red. Beautiful! Last Friday we had a pair of Whistling Swans stop for the morning on our beaver pond. We watched them glide around, enjoying their rest from their migration southward.


Meanwhile, I’ve been (surprise!) canning like mad. I just got a batch of thick pizza sauce finished, two batches of sweet corn, spaghetti sauce with meat, and Mexican corn (sweet corn with diced green and red sweet peppers and onions). Our late apples are ripe now so I need to switch gears and get lots of apple stuff canned up. We really love our Chestnut crab with its large, sweet, juicy apples and the Frostbite apple with cracking crisp, unusually good flavor. Both are hugely productive also!


I’m busy harvesting seeds from beans and tomatoes too. We are tremendously impressed with the Folsom Indian Ruin beans which are the biggest beans anyone has ever seen and also very productive. And yesterday I picked a batch of Enormous Plum paste tomatoes. Boy, oh boy, are they ever huge! We are focusing on more paste tomatoes this year as they can up so nice and folks need more of a choice than plain Romas. We’ve found several really great ones, including G. Chalmers Large Paste, Mia’s Italian Paste, Andes, Ten Fingers of Naples, and Speckled Roman.


The blankety blank cows got into our north garden and gobbled up most of the crops out there. What a bummer! It took days to get over that one. But we did and you can bet that won’t happen again! But they didn’t get into our pig pasture garden and I’m canning Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn. (Yes, we had a bountiful harvest for seed so I’m allowed to can up the pig pasture corn!


Oh, by the way, Will’s head is healing well although he does have a monster head cold … unrelated. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and he gave me his blessing to put off the surgery until later this spring so I can be sure to attend the Self Reliance Expo in Irving, Texas this May. Hooray! Now I can help Will get all our spring planting done before surgery. And before fall harvest/canning season rolls around. Whew. He said according to the colonoscopy the pockets were numerous in one area but not in danger of rupturing — a big relief. Now I can concentrate on good things! Thank you all for prayers. See, they do work.

Will has started working on our new barn again, putting up ¼-inch plywood (we got it for free) on the gable ends of the barn to ensure absolutely no drafts will be coming through the board and batten siding once it’s up. Since we have a lot of insulation board left, we’ll be insulating behind the plywood both on the bottom and gable ends of the barn as well. It should be a nice comfy barn when it’s done.


We weaned our calves yesterday so we didn’t get much sleep last night with them and their moms mooing all night. But the calves are six months old and need to be weaned — even if they don’t like it much.


I’m getting ready to plant tomatoes this week. We put them out extra early in Wall ‘O Waters and it’s time to plant. Happy, happy, happy. We’re so excited for all the new varieties we’ll be planting this year. I counted more than 23 pole beans so far. Some are from Russia, some from China, and some good Native American beans, just to mention a few. And a dozen varieties of corn, fifteen different squash and pumpkins, thirty new tomatoes. Talk about fun! Thank you to everyone who sent us some of their family heirloom seeds. Be assured we’ll plant ’em all and are so thankful to have received them. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve hit 50 degrees

Monday, March 7th, 2016

And boy, oh boy, does it feel good in the sunshine! I was outside yesterday in my T-shirt gathering eggs and playing with the goats. Nice sunshine, too!

Will is busy converting one of our two old pull-type corn planters to work on the three-point of our tractor. (In the north garden there isn’t room enough to keep turning tractor and corn planter around on the ends.) So he’s taking advantage of the warm weather by doing that and getting ready to install the rebuilt fuel pump for our Oliver tractor, which could come today.


I took the four-wheeler for a ride yesterday, down the mile long driveway and by driving very slowly, I could check out the tracks to see who had been there and what they were doing. I saw the big tracks of a male wolf who was sauntering along, marking his territory and advertising his availability to females as it’s their breeding season. There were also grouse, rabbit, and deer tracks. It felt so good to get out and be warm.


It’s looking like I’ll be headed for surgery to remove a section of my colon. If I have to have it done, I want to get it over soon so I’ll be healed up for spring. Not looking forward to it but if it’ll stop the diverticulitis attacks, it’ll be worth it.

I was real excited yesterday when I checked on my first flat of peppers. They were coming up nice and strong. The second flat is starting to pop too and will be moved in the little plastic greenhouse in the south-facing window soon. I can’t wait to get to planting tomatoes! Another week or so, now.


By the way, any of you who have read the Jess Hazzard Westerns and haven’t posted a review on Amazon, this is a reminder that those reviews greatly help the sale of the books and that, in turn, helps us. Thanks, in advance! (And if you haven’t read them, check out the reviews on Amazon; you’re missing a good read! Even if you don’t normally read Westerns.) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our first petunias are up

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

Hooray! I planted them on Sunday — that was fast! I really like the way we’re doing the planting these days, keeping them next to the wood stove up on a shelf and covering the containers with plastic bags. It makes a huge difference in the germination rate. And it looks like every seed has germinated, too. Now we’re anxiously waiting for the peppers. Maybe tomorrow we’ll see some.


Speaking of tomorrow, I’ll be having an unpleasant procedure — colonoscopy and upper GI. For sure, it’s not fun to prep for. But my doctor wants to find out why I’m having so many bouts with diverticulitis as I am careful of what I eat. Of course, I’m scared. After having a bout with cancer 10 years back, you always worry about every single unusual pain anywhere. So I’m praying everything will turn out okay and I won’t have to have surgery. After all, spring is coming and I have big plans.

I canned up 20 pints of ham and bean soup the other day and boy does it look great sitting down in the pantry! Next is another half ham and split pea soup. Can’t wait.

Will and I said we wouldn’t be planting 50 different new-to-us tomatoes this year again. But guess what? After waltzing through catalogs and websites, we ended up picking about 30 new ones to try. Hey, what can I say; we’re addicts — plant addicts, that is. (Hey Will, get out the bulldozer and clear more land!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: good seeds and city sewers

Saturday, February 20th, 2016

Good seeds

I do not have a question, just wanted to tell everyone how wonderful your seeds are! I bought many kinds from you last year. The “Dragon’s Tongue” bush beans were fantastic — so tender, beautiful on the bush and boy do they ever out the beans! Your “Provider” beans were the same — I canned over 63 jars of just the Providers, ate many fresh, gave some away and still had many left over for seed.

Carol Seldomridge
Rigby, Idaho

Thank you so much Carol! It’s always great to hear from folks who have liked our seeds. We try to only offer ones we grow and love ourselves. — Jackie

City sewers

I live in Mesa, Arizona, about 65 miles east of Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant. We don’t have earthquakes or other natural disasters, other than 115 degree (or more) summers. I figure the power plant would be the most likely emergency if attacked by terrorists. Without that plant, the drain on the electric grid would cause blackouts.

I’ve been stocking up on all the usual emergency supplies but there are some things I can’t figure out how to prepare for. If the electricity is out throughout the area for weeks (or more) are the city sewers going to back up? That was mentioned in something I read. I know they won’t work, but am I going to have to deal with backed up toilets? Also, how do I keep cool without electricity or running water? People here die from the heat. Even at night, it can be in the high 90s. My immediate area once lost electricity for over 8 hours in August. I wore my swim suit and hosed down periodically. But that wouldn’t be possible with total loss of electricity in a much larger area for weeks or longer, as the water won’t be running. A wading pool would be too warm within a couple of hours. A generator isn’t the answer, as the houses are close and everyone would be on my doorstep. I can’t provide for thousands of people. I’m 73, retired, and on a fixed income.


Most sewage systems rely chiefly on gravity which will allow them to function during a relatively short power outage. However if it is long-lasting, many have grinders and lift stations where the sewer pipes must go uphill for a short distance. These are run by power. Most plants have emergency backup generators which will help for awhile … until there isn’t any more gasoline or diesel available. It won’t cause your toilet to back up but it won’t flush down the stuff you put in it. THAT would cause it to back up, provided you have enough water to flush it in the first place. You can use a five-gallon bucket with a toilet seat and lid. Place a plastic bag in the bucket and add three inches of wood shavings. Use that bucket for “solids” and another one for urine only. (You can simply pour out the urine around your trees during the evening — discretely, of course.) After each use put a couple of handfuls of shavings on top. When the bag is full, tie it shut and stack it out of sight. This gives you a non-water, cheap solution to the potty problem. I’ve used it and it works great. Tip: Use a paper bag inside a wastebasket for toilet paper. It slows down the fill on the bucket and you can place the full bags inside a plastic bag, tying it shut.

Think about how you’ll store sufficient water to get you by for quite awhile. If you have a garage, you could install one or two 300-gallon vertical poly water storage tanks and keep them full. (Nobody knows when an emergency will happen!) A simple wash basin in the house and a washcloth will do wonders to help keep you cool in the summer and yet not use much water. The same with a few gallons in the bathtub (not warmed by the sun). Don’t change the water every time you cool off; you’ll use too much water.

If possible, install more insulation in your home. When we lived in New Mexico, our old house had zero insulation and was hotter than blazes in the summer (we had no air conditioning either). We also froze in the winter. But just adding plenty of insulation in the attic made a huge difference. But, of course, summer was still hot. We spent afternoons taking it easy — siesta time. Work was done early in the morning and later in the afternoon/evening. Don’t discount the wading pool but have a deeper one. I used to sit in our retired stock tank in the afternoons that were real hot. It sure helped me feel cooler. (That tank was two feet deep and about 10 feet in diameter, on the north side of the barn where it got some shade in the afternoon.) Just use common sense and don’t over-do when it’s hot. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: elderberry syrup, candied dill pickles, and growing sweet potatoes

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Elderberry syrup

I have a questions about elderberry syrup for the flu. All the recipes I have found on line start with either fresh or dried berries. I have a ton of juice I steamed and canned. Do you make syrup and if so, can you advise me about how to make it with juice? Sure hope all is well and you are staying warm. Loved the picture of Hondo on Will’s shoulder.

Sheryl Napier
Newport News, Virginia

Sure! Elderberry syrup is easy to make from your juice. Just pour the juice into a stainless steel pot and add cinnamon, cloves and ginger to taste, and as much raw honey as you wish.

You’ll just have to add some and then taste. If you use ginger root, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, chop the ginger root and put the other whole spices in a spice bag then heat to simmering and hold for a few minutes, tasting as you go, adding honey to taste. Some folks like lots of spices and not so much honey; others the reverse.

Once you reach your desired flavor, remove the spice bag and pour boiling syrup into hot jars. I’d recommend half-pints or pints. Water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a seal. Now you’re good to go when you feel a cold or the flu coming on.

Yep, we’re nice and cozy warm. Our winter has been so good so far, unlike parts of the East Coast. — Jackie

Candied dill pickles

Do you have a recipe for Candied Dill Pickles?

Lois Lara
Boring, Oregon

This is my grandmother’s recipe for candied dill pickles. Nearly all candied dills are made from already processed dill pickles. If you add too much sugar right off to cucumber pickles they’ll shrivel badly.
Candied Dill Pickles

1 quart whole dill pickles
2¾ cups sugar
½ cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. pickling spice

Drain the pickles, cut them into ½-inch slices, and place them in a deep glass bowl or ceramic dish. Refrigerate. Mix sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Place the pickling spices in a spice bag and tie it closed with a string. Add the spices to the vinegar/sugar. Let the mixture stand covered at room temperature until sugar is dissolved, approximately 4 hours. Remove spice bag. Pour vinegar mixture over pickles, mixing gently but well. Place in a quart jar, cover and refrigerate. They will be ready to eat in about a week and will remain good in the fridge for a long time. — Jackie

Growing sweet potatoes

I live in Ohio. I read your articles all the time in Backwoods Home Magazine. My wife and I like to grow our food and can it. Every year I like to try something new. This year I would like to grow sweet potatoes and have done research online on how to start them from the potato. The question I have and could not find online is when should I start the potatoes in the water? I don’t want to start too early and then not be able to transplant them outside.

Marcus Howell

Although I have certainly started sweet potatoes in water by inserting four toothpicks into the “waist” of the potato and letting the bottom hang in the water with the toothpicks holding the whole potato from falling down into the water, I’ve begun starting my sweet potato slips by filling ice cream buckets 2/3 full with good potting soil or rotted compost, laying a pair of sweet potatoes on the soil, then covering by an inch or little bit more of soil. Water well (punch a few holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage). Water well and place in a very warm, sunny window location. The sprouts seem stronger via the soil method. When they are nicely grown, cut the bunch of sprouts free, separate them and plant out into warm soil, after all possible danger of frost is past. We have to use hoop houses and black plastic to keep sweet potatoes growing. You can usually start your sweet potatoes about 7 weeks before you plan on setting them out. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: emergency escape vehicle, canning hamburger, cold hardy apricot tree

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Emergency planning escape vehicle

Great ideas in Issue #157, January/February 2016 Emergency planning beyond the bug-out bag. Got me wondering what would make the best “escape” vehicle. I am thinking a diesel. Gasoline would start to deteriorate in a year. Storing a large amount would be dangerous. You could store a large amount of diesel and be good to go. Newer diesel trucks use electronic fuel injection and if there was an EMP you would be dead on the road. Older Dodge Rams had mechanical fuel injection that did not need electronics from the truck. Prices on these trucks are somewhat reasonable although a lot of people are realizing the worth of these engines. High mileage shouldn’t be a problem if they were well serviced. Do have any thoughts on alternative escape vehicles?

Duncan Murrow
Valdese, North Carolina

Good points for using an older Diesel vehicle, but I feel that depending on where you are planning on going with your vehicle, about any vehicle that has a large fuel tank and gets reasonable mileage will do the trick. Having an older vehicle without the electronic controls would also be a factor, should an EMP happen. I think keeping the vehicle trustworthy, the fuel tank full, and a few cans of fuel around is the most important factor: preparedness, again. With gas, just use the “stored” gas within a month and keep rotating it through the vehicle or other gasoline equipment so that the “stored” gas is always fresh. That’s much better than using additives. We like a pickup for an escape vehicle as you can also use it to pull a trailer of decent size where a car cannot. Also, our pickups are four-wheel-drive so will get us in to real wild places. Of course, it depends a lot on just where you are planning to bug out to: Uncle Jack’s farm or your remote fishing camp in the wilderness. — Jackie

Canning hamburger

I found a “recipe” for canning hamburger logs by rolling the meat into a solid log shape to fit into a canning jar. Leave 1″ head space & pressure can. Later you may slice this into hamburger patties. This seems to be one of those “too thick to be safe” ideas. Sure sounds easy! Your advice?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Well, in “the olden days” I used to just pack hamburger into wide mouth jars and can. But the resultant product looked like … well … dog food. Yuck! This is why I first brown my ground meat before packing it into jars, whether crumbled or made into patties. The patties done this way don’t taste like hamburgers … more like meatloaf. I put them on a cookie sheet, pour barbecue sauce on top and heat in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. I’m thinking the log thing would be too dense for safety and would also come out like my dog food canned hamburger from the past. I’d skip it. — Jackie

Cold hardy apricot tree

This year the last apricot tree died. Every year in spring it warms up, the trees bud then it freezes so I don’t get any apricots. I looked at the St Lawrence nursery but right now they’re just selling apple trees. Can you recommend a cold hard apricot tree that buds later? I had Moongold and Sungold but they just don’t like the cold.

Franci Osborne
Ignacio, Colorado

I’d wait until the new guy at St. Lawrence gets going. I’m hoping they’ll soon be back in full swing. Meanwhile, Fedco Trees has Debbie’s Gold, Westcot, and Brookcot, all from Manchurian Apricot breeding. They do bloom later and are Zone 3 hardy, having smaller apricots. But if you’re like us, ANY apricot that tastes good is a WIN! — Jackie


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