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Thursday, April 25th, 2013
But we still have tons of snow on the ground — several feet! And mud and water running everywhere. Will’s been working on the rock wall behind the living room stove every day, knowing nice weather’s just around the corner. So far, he’s used 14 bags of mortar mix, and lots of rocks. I think it looks great. Imagine how much warmth those rocks and the concrete will hold next winter.
Meanwhile, I’ve been transplanting tomatoes and peppers like mad. I do them in Styrofoam cups. So far I’ve gotten three or four years’ worth of use out of the same cups.
But it’s been challenging because my left knee’s been giving me a lot of pain these last few weeks. I finally wimped out and got an X-ray and saw the orthopedic specialists in the nearby town of Virginia. Good news is that my knee won’t ever have to be replaced; it’s in great shape. Bad news is that I may have a torn ligament. Had an MRI this morning so we’ll see. Hopefully, it’s just inflamed and will go ahead and heal. I’ve got LOTS to do this spring and hate gimping around on it. It sure tires one out! If it is a torn ligament, the doctor said it’s a quick, easy fix and will heal fast. Considering the active lifestyle I’ve lived all my life, I guess I can expect a glitch here and there. I’m sure not complaining. — Jackie
Friday, December 21st, 2012
Like most homesteaders we know, we struggle with cash this time of the year. Grain prices have been horrible. Hay, which we buy from a neighbor in big round bales, is expensive and we use a lot of it with so many steers (which we hope to be able to sell as sides and quarters of beef). Even mailing homemade Christmas gifts is expensive today. But we make do and try to keep the focus of Christmas on its true meaning, not on money. It helps a lot at this time of the (frantic) year to count our many blessings when the world seems so crazy.
We have our health. We have each other. We have a wonderful family and lots of great friends. I work with a great bunch at Backwoods Home Magazine. We have made tremendous strides on our homestead. We actually live in a Christmas card! (Our pretty log cabin sitting in the piney woods on a hill overlooking a beaver pond.) Our livestock is fat and happy. We have a gorgeous, decorated tree in our living room. Our pantry is bulging with lots of home-raised food. We have cords and cords of firewood and logs for lumber to saw later on so not only will we be warm but we will be able to build more animal shelter from home-sawn lumber. Our garden and orchard are doing well. I could go on for hours. You see what I mean.
It’s too easy to get down, being broke, hearing the news of the Newtown school shooting and other horrible happenings worldwide. So when I start to droop, I start counting our blessings and it always gets better right away. I hope it’s the same for you as you prepare for the holiday season. — Jackie
Thursday, November 22nd, 2012
I hope the holiday brings joy and plenty of good homestead eats. Thanksgiving should also inspire us to count our many blessings. And even those of you who are having a difficult time right now always have plenty of things to be thankful for. I’ve found that simply starting to count them up when I’m struggling sure cheers me up!
I’m sure some of you were wondering what Will was doing while Bill, David, and I were cutting up Bill’s deer and canning it. He was putting up the windcharger that his son, Don, had found curbside in Alaska. Don worked it over, electrically, and found it did, indeed, charge. So Will built a pipe tower, and got a set of new blades and $160 worth of wire to wire it to our charge controller in the basement. David helped him get the mast up through the brackets Will had made and through the roof. On Sunday, with some help, Will went up on the roof of the storage barn (with a safety harness on!) and wired the charger and bolted it onto the mast. Then later, David helped him raise the mast so it was 40 feet above ground. We all waited for it to turn in the 15 mph breeze. No turning! Then the wind blew harder. No turning! Can you hear us sigh?
So yesterday, the mast was lowered and Will went up on the roof again, disconnected the charger, and lowered it by rope to the ground. Last night he took it apart and found that the bearings did go around but bound when shifted downward as would happen when the blades tried to turn.
Today, I was in Virginia and ordered the two necessary bearings from Motion Industries. They’ll be here Monday or Tuesday, so we’ll again give it a whirl. (No pun intended!)
You see, things don’t always go perfectly for us, just like it doesn’t for you. But we keep on trying and usually we can make things work. We ARE trying to get more “free juice” to our battery bank so we can run our generator less and we don’t have the cash to buy the best — or new. So we make do with what we can get hold of.
Enjoy your family on Thanksgiving and be thankful we all have each other!
Monday, November 5th, 2012
We have been feeding all of our animals lots of our two tons of pumpkins. They love them, from chickens to the pigs, goats, and cattle. But we did save some of the nicest ones. And come Halloween, David couldn’t resist carving one, even though he’s well past “trick or treat” age! And he is quite an artist, too.
He went online and found a pumpkin pattern for this cat because his girlfriend loves cats. And then he spent two hours, delicately carving the pattern in the fat pumpkin. Meanwhile, I carefully saved seeds from it and got a whole cookie sheet full. We’ll try planting pumpkins around the edges of the new pasture in the spring. The deer will probably eat them before they ripen, but who knows? It costs nothing but a little work and could surprise us.
Saturday, February 25th, 2012
Can I can beans not using any salt?
Litchfield Park, Arizona
Definitely. The salt is only a flavor enhancer; it does nothing to preserve the vegetables or canned meats. — Jackie
Making peanut butter
Have you ever planted peanuts and made your own peanut butter?
No, I haven’t planted peanuts, our growing season simply won’t let us. But as a child, Mom and I grew some, back in zone 6 and we did make peanut butter. It was kind of crude, as we didn’t have blenders back then, but I remember it was very tasty and I sure cleaned up my part in short order! These days, with blenders, it’s so much easier. If you’re not growing them now, why not try a patch? You’ll love them. — Jackie
Monday, February 13th, 2012
Soap residue in laundry and age of eggs
I have been making my own soap, cleaner, etc. but, one very big problem I have and I hope you can help me. I buy lots of used items that has been washed with perfumed soap. We can not handle the smell! Do you know a way to get it out? I have tried every thing I can think of.
I don’t know if this is of any interest but, on the age of eggs we used to live next door to a gal and her father used to either have an chicken farm or he just dealt in selling eggs to stores but, she said her dad said eggs were a month old by the time they got to the stores.
I am familiar with that smell. So is my family. A long time ago, my sister, Sue, who has a son a year older than my youngest son, David, used to send David her son’s out-grown clothes. David liked getting them but always said “these clothes smell like Aunt Sue!” and wanted me to wash them before he’d wear them. I washed in homemade soap and hung the clothes out to dry on the line. Mine smell like sunshine and wind so I can understand not liking perfumed detergent and dryer sheet smells! What I did was to wash them in my regular soap, then hang them outdoors for 48 hours. They always smelled MUCH better. A repeat washing took away all perfumed smells. My friend, Lisa, at the magazine, says she handles the perfumed smell by washing the clothes in a washer with a couple of Tbsp of TSP (available at hardware stores for cleaning) added. She washes her clothes with Charlie’s Soap (www.charliesoap.com/.
Yep, store eggs are NOT fresh! That’s why they’re so easy to peel for hardboiled eggs! Couple that with knowing the conditions most commercial chicken factories house their hens in sure makes free-range home-raised eggs a blessing! — Jackie
True Gold sweet corn seeds
Where did you get the sweet corn — True Gold/Country — or maybe it was just field corn?
I got my True Gold sweet corn seed from Seed Dreams in California. I Googled online and found additional sources, including Garden Goddess and Peaceful Valley. This is a worthwhile “more modern” open pollinated variety that is becoming harder and harder to find commercially. — Jackie
Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Introducing new chickens
I am thoroughly enjoying my chickens. I have a flock of 11, 10 hens and one rooster. I like them so much and their eggs even more that I would like to get more chicks next spring.
Will I need to keep the next set of chicks separate from my current flock permanently or just until full grown?
Once your chicks are adult sized, they can be introduced into your current flock. Just make sure they have enough space, indoors and out,s so there’s no extreme pecking as they settle in. — Jackie
I am going to can yams. Am I able to can them with brown sugar? I can only find recipes with plain sugar water. Ideally, I would like to open the jar, heat up and add butter (if desired). But I would like them to be somewhat like the canned ones you buy. Thank you ahead of time for your answers. Love your column in Backwoods Home Magazine! I started ordering the magazine just because of your column and the rest was icing on the cake.
I’m glad you like the column. It’s like all of you are my extended homestead family and I love helping you out to succeed in all you do. Yes, you can put your yams up with brown sugar instead of white. I sure would! — Jackie
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
Hopi Pale Grey squash
In previous issues of the magazine it was stated that Hopi Pale Grey Squash Heirloom Seeds are difficult to find. I just received my Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog and to my surprise on page 102 Item# SQ202 are the seeds. They are listed at $3.00/pkt. I hope this helps others who would like to try these large squash.
Thanks for telling readers, William. This IS a great squash and about the longest keeper I know of. I have one right now that weighs 16 pounds and is not from this past fall’s harvest, but the one before that! And it’s still solid and wonderful. — Jackie
Growing and Canning Your Own Food
I purchased your 2 newest books recently (Growing and Canning Your Own Food and Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook) — I love them — just wondering if there are any corrections that I should make for any of the canning/cooking recipes in either of the books. I know sometimes there can be printing errors.
Prairie Grove, Arkansas
Yep there are a couple, but none too serious. The Amish Relish on page 95 needs to have 2 qts of vinegar. The tomato soup recipe on page 196 says to set aside 1 quart of the juice but doesn’t say what to do with it. You should rehydrate the parsley leaves in it, then pour it into your big batch of juice/puree and continue. Also the mustard bean pickle recipe doesn’t say how much salt or what to do with it. You use 1 tsp. salt to add to the water you pre-cook the beans in to make them tender. So far, that’s it. — Jackie