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Archive for the ‘Self-sufficiency’ Category
Thursday, June 20th, 2013
Growing corn for cornmeal
I am growing dent corn to make corn meal. I am not sure when to harvest and how to prepare the corn for grinding.
Cullowhee, North Carolina
Leave the ears on the stalks until the husks are golden and rustle like paper. The corn itself will be hard and dented. At this point, pick the ears and move them in to an area protected against birds and rodents. Be sure to give them air to further dry, if necessary. Then shell the ears by either using a hand-cranked sheller or by hand. I use my thumb to work the kernels off the cob or you can rub two cobs together over a bucket. If you have trouble with maize moths or pantry moths, freeze your shelled corn for a week. Then you can grind your corn for cornmeal. Whole cornmeal contains the germ so will go rancid faster than store bought cornmeal does so either freeze the cornmeal or else grind a few pounds at a time so you’ll use it before it goes rancid. — Jackie
Layering jars in canner
Can you water bath two layers of jars with a rack in between as you do in pressure canning? I was thinking jam in half-pint jars.
Wentworth, New Hampshire
Yes, you can but you don’t often have that many jars of jam at a single time. You shouldn’t double or triple your batches of jam because often it will not set. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
My husband makes cheese from goats milk and the whey is great in the garden. My question I like cooking with the whey, can I can a batch of it up to have in my pantry when the goat dries up? The whey makes the biscuits so fluffy.
Coos Bay, Oregon
To tell the truth, I’ve never tried to can whey. I can milk, cheese, and butter so I don’t know why you couldn’t can whey, using the same process as you do with milk. If you give it a try, let us know how it turns out. — Jackie
Holes in apple tree
I have an older Jonathon apple tree that has drill holes all around the trunk and some on the limb. Is there something I can paint on the tree to stop this. I think its a bird that is doing this the other two trees are fine so far. Glad to hear your knee is doing better.
SouthWest City, Missouri
Thank you,. Every day my knee feels better. It sounds like you have a sap sucker working over your apple tree. They drill rows of holes in the bark to encourage the flow of sap. They then lick up the sap with their tongues. This practice can weaken trees so it’s best to discourage your bird(s). Usually wrapping the trunk with aluminum window screen or even burlap will effect a move to another tree, hopefully out of your yard. Treating the tapped area with a sticky substance such as Tanglefoot that is used on apple maggot traps also discourages tapping. You also might try hanging the balloon-like “bird eye” bird repellents from the tree. — Jackie
Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
We were busy erecting and planting our hoop houses, complaining how late we were getting that done this year due to my knee surgery and the goofy spring (a foot of snow on the ground three weeks ago!). But then we got a call from David. He was leaving work, rushing into town because his girlfriend, Deb, had called to say the apartment building she lived in was on fire.
We left to go to town also to see if there was anything we could do to help. The fire department was working valiantly but the fire was too hot and too far advanced before anyone saw it as it was after businesses had closed for the evening. Luckily, they could prevent its spread to the post office next door and the businesses on the other side. No one was hurt in the fire but the building and contents were a total loss.
There were several apartments so last night we stood around hugging people who were friends, standing there watching everything they owned go up in flames and smoke. Two women got out with bare feet and T shirts and shorts.
Deb was lucky. She at least had her purse. And the clothes on her back. But small towns are great. Already, a Red Cross representative was on hand and the local Thrift Store ladies rallied and opened the store for an hour so those who had burned out could come get clothes to see them through.
It was a shocking and sad experience for all. Tears and hugs flowed freely. It will be a long time for those folks to regroup and get over their losses.
Unfortunately, in the small town of Cook (population 600), there are few apartments and rentals available so I pray everyone will be able to find new homes soon. How quickly our lives can change at times! Deb had just lost her mother last week so this month has been especially hard for her. We’ll do what we can to make things easier for her and the others. Appreciate everything you have today!
On a happier note, Will and I will be leaving Thursday morning for Custer, Wisconsin, to attend and man the Backwoods Home Magazine booth at the MREA Fair. Joining us will be our carpenter friend, Tom, who has helped at the booth for the last three years. If you can make it, please look us up and come say hi. I always enjoy meeting readers; it’s the high point of each show. — Jackie
Saturday, June 15th, 2013
Most of our wild and tame fruits have flowered without a freeze this year and as I closely examined several trees/bushes, I can see little swollen bumps that show that they are forming fruit. Even our honeyberries are sporting berries; our very first.
We’ve got several three- to four-year-old Hansen bush cherries around the place, both in the orchard and in our house garden. And boy-oh-boy did they ever flower this year! Take a look at the picture of the one in our house yard. It’s huge and has flowers on every single branch. Now if it just pollinates … It’s quite a ways from the others and so far, no cherries. This spring we planted two along the same fence so it will soon have partners in pollination. But we sure hope some far-flying bees brought pollen to it. If so, we’ll get gallons from that one bush as they form cherries all along the branches, top to bottom.
The wild blueberries are also quite good this year, as are the plums and pin cherries. We have high hopes!
Christian has graduated to milking the entire cow all by himself. As she still has a big udder, his hands do get tired toward the end, but milking makes strong hands!
Since I’m behind in the garden, I’m madly planting today, trying to get caught up. Unfortunately, in our short-season climate, you can’t afford to get too behind. But maybe we’ll have a warm summer, plenty of rain, and late fall frosts? A homesteader can only hope.
The knee is much better every day so I’m able to get more done, too. — Jackie
Friday, June 14th, 2013
Tomato leaves turning white
About a week ago I set out my 50 tomato plants. By the next day the leaves were turning white and falling off. (Same with the peppers.) I’m assuming it’s from spray drift from the neighboring farm as it happened last year and the leaves grew back after a week or two. Is there some way I can protect the soil next year before planting or plant differently? Maybe black plastic over the whole garden area? The 12 tomato plants that are in WOW’s in another garden are fine. Thank you for any suggestions or insights you can give on this problem.
Hornell, New York
No, I don’t think it was spray drift. It sure sounds like wind/sun burn to me. I’ll bet you didn’t harden off your plants by gradually exposing them to the wind and sun, an hour or so a day at first in a relatively protected location, then gradually increasing both the time and exposure. In Wall O’ Waters, they are still in a “greenhouse,” protected against these damaging elements. I don’t have to harden off my plants because I use Wall O’ Waters myself. Yours is a problem easily fixed. Thank goodness! — Jackie
Adding calcium to tomato plants
I have already planted the tomato plants in the ground. I know that I will need to add calcium to the soil. At this point what is a good way of doing that?
You don’t need to add calcium unless you have had a lot of trouble with blossom end rot, which is caused by a combination of a lack of calcium and intermittent watering. (Usually if you step up your watering and mulch your plants, the problem disappears.) You can either work in a calcium compound such as bonemeal or lime (unless your soil is already alkaline) shallowly around the plants. However, this takes a while to be absorbed. Some folks spray the foliage and blooms with a blossom end rot spray to get quicker results. Improving the soil and watering retention/frequency is a better long-term option. — Jackie
Thursday, June 13th, 2013
Water bath canning
Do I need to buy a water bath canner or can I water bath in my pressure canner? It does not have baskets so I am worried that the jars will crash together and break.
Good news; you can certainly water bath in a pressure canner. Just set the lid on the canner don’t lock the lid down or add the weight (or shut the petcock). No basket; no problem. I can all the time in my big blue canner without the basket but I DO use a wire grid under it to keep the jars up off of the bottom of the canner. (If they sit on the bottom, you can count on broken bottoms out of many of the jars!) My wire grate is only a Dollar Store grill rack. — Jackie
I have canned butter in 24 4oz. jars. The 1st batch was melted, poured into hot jars, and water bathed. All sealed of course, and firmed up nicely. The 2nd batch was simmered (low boil) for 12 minutes on the stovetop, poured into hot sterile jars. All sealed, firmed up. I think I must dispose of all of this butter. I have found your directions for butter — pressure canning required. Is this all lost? I am very confused. Have 3 dozen more jars and don’t want to improperly can any more. (Glad to know you’re healing well — beautiful fruit blossoms!)
I understand your confusion. I don’t pressure can my own butter; I water bath it for 60 minutes. There are internet sources for putting up butter that are not canned but done like yours, which is how you “can” rendered lard. I would probably open the jars and re-heat the butter then ladle it into hot, sterilized jars, using new lids, and water bath it. The quality of the butter may suffer; it may become more grainy, but will certainly be good enough to use in baking or cooking. Canning butter is classified as “experimental” canning, (not USDA approved) as they haven’t done any testing for home canners. However, canned butter IS available commercially. — Jackie
Wednesday, June 12th, 2013
I need to find a natural way to kill an ant infestation so as not to kill pets.
You can make a simple mixture of 1 cup water, 2 cups sugar, and 2 Tbsp. boric acid and leave in areas in and around your home frequented by ants. With household pets and small children around, place containers in protected locations. You might try placing this mix in small plastic containers with pencil-sized holes punched in it just above the mixture to allow ants to access the mix but not your pets. The ants will carry the mix back to their nest and destroy the rest of the ants there. — Jackie
Gardening in a hot climate
I loved your article about tomatoes, queen of the garden and there was also a question about zucchini in last months issue, but neither addressed some of my problems. I recently moved to the HOT place of Lake Havasu City, Arizona from cool northern Nevada just down from Lake Tahoe, and am having real problems getting this brutal weather to cooperate with my gardening. My tomatoes have split lines in them and the zucchini seem to set fruit but then turn yellow and fall off when they are from 2 to 5 inches long. What am I doing wrong? Everything grew with ease in the northern riverbottem we used to live in. (Except the freezing and short window of growing that you might also have.)
Lake Havasu City, Arizona
It’s the heat! Next year, try growing tomatoes bred specifically for hot climates; you’ll enjoy more success. Mountain Pride and Floramerica are two. We’ve always had great luck with the smaller, but hugely prolific, Punta Banda (a wild Mexican tomato) in hot climates. Mulching around the plants also helps maintain steady and cooler growing for tomatoes in the heat.
Zucchini, as well as many other squash don’t set fruits that last during the heat. Again, try mulching and even adding a shade cloth over your plants. Usually, as the summer’s heat lessens, the bush will start “saving” fruits to go on and use. — Jackie
Tuesday, June 11th, 2013
Okay, he’s cute and snow white. He’s our milk cow Lace’s newest baby (a little steer calf, Snowflake.). At first, we were getting about eight gallons of milk a day. Then seven, then six. Now, when Will goes out to milk, often one or more quarters of Lace’s udder is udderly EMPTY! Which isn’t a big deal except that poor Will has to milk one-handed. If you haven’t tried that, it’s hard because you aren’t in rhythm; squirt squirt. Instead it’s squirt……….squirt……..squirt. And it’s hard on the milker.
Christian is learning to milk so he can milk when we’re away at the MREA Fair in Wisconsin in a couple of weeks. Will does one side and Christian, the other. My knee’s getting much better but I’m letting the guys take over that chore for a while. Just in case.
Will just hauled home three trailer loads of big pine, spruce, and balsam logs from a neighbor, who had sold them to him. Pretty soon, the good old Hud-son bandsaw mill will be humming and we’ll be seeing boards fly off into a pile for our barn and house porch roof. And I get to run it, too! I really like making boards!
Yesterday, we went down to my son Bill’s place where we met folks from the Twin Cities who had ordered pork from us. We did the transfer and had a great visit with everyone. Marlene and John even brought me a hanging basket and a ton of hostas, ferns, and berry bushes! Wow, how nice! Today I get ‘em planted! Thanks guys!
We’ve been having lots of rain, just like last year. I sure hope the beavers are wrong about a hot, dry summer. Last year it dried up in June and we had very little rain until snowfall. — Jackie