We are in the process of buying our little homestead. It was previously used for haying. I think the ground has been somewhat depleted and I want to turn a lot of it into good rich grass pasture. What is the quickest/cheapest way to accomplish this? I would love to bring in compost etc. but 20 acres of compost would break the bank.
Name withheld Seattle, Washington
Sometimes just plowing and seeding a previous hayfield does a lot as the grasses get sod-bound over time. And by planting legumes mixed with grass, such as clover/orchard grass or another such mixture that does well in your area (ask your local feed dealer), you’ll help it out even more as the legumes fix nitrogen into the soil. Then if you get animals on your place, you can stockpile all that manure. Sure you’ll use some on your garden but any extra can be spread on your pasture. Be sure to harrow it in well so the animals don’t turn their noses up at manured crops. If you can’t do this work yourself, you can usually find a neighbor with the equipment who you can pay a reasonable fee for this custom work. It really pays in the end. Enjoy your new homestead! — Jackie
Thanks for video
Just wanted to say thanks for the new video! I always enjoyed those before and was sorry when you had to stop. All of us are always interested in what you’re up to! Yesterday while you all were clearing that meadow I was preparing my lettuce beds!
Jeanne Allie Storrs, Connecticut
I’m glad you liked the new video. Lettuce! Wow, I’m just planting some in the house. This time of year we get to craving greens — really craving them! I think it’s a sign of spring. — Jackie
How do you can butter, and is it safe? I have read that FDA doesn’t recommend it, but I don’t trust their judgement much. What is your experience with canning butter? I just bought 30 pounds on sale and I would love to try it.
As a side note, is it true that you have never used a pressure cooker to cook meat? You should invest in an electric pressure cooker. I love mine! A frozen roast to fork tender in less than 1½ hours. It is one of my favorite kitchen tools. Even one just on the stove top would work great.
Julie Ann Gale Ruby Valley, Nevada
Yes, I can butter and have for several years, as have many of my friends. It is not an “approved” practice, however. To can butter, melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Heat it enough to simmer out any remaining buttermilk. Sterilize your wide mouth half pint jars in boiling water, holding them in simmering water until just before you will fill them so they are sterile and very hot. Simmer your butter for 10 minutes, very gently, to drive off any remaining moisture. Stir often to prevent solids from scorching. Remove jars from heat and invert to drain thoroughly. Then turn them over and carefully ladle the hot butter into the jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar, place a hot, previously-simmered lid on the jar and screw the ring down firmly tight. Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 60 minutes.
You can keep the moisture from settling to the bottom of the jars by waiting until the jars have cooled some after processing, then shaking them gently to redistribute the moisture. Repeat this every 5 minutes or so as the jars cool completely. Carefully check your seals as the shaking could cause a seal to fail. Refrigerate any jar that doesn’t seal and use soon or reprocess the butter from the melting, onward, all over again with a new lid.
No, I really haven’t ever cooked meat in a pressure cooker and probably will never. Living off grid, I really won’t use an electric one, as I’d have to start the generator just to use it; our battery bank would never handle that load. I’m really, really happy with the way I cook my meat right now, in my wood stove oven. If I’m in a hurry, I just open a jar of canned meat. — Jackie
I Need a few tips on canning beans. The dried kind, soaked, then placed in jars and pressure processed. I did some, but had to guess at the amount of beans and liquid per quart jar. Do you have specific amounts that you might share?
Interlaken, New York
There isn’t really a specific amount. You cover your dry beans with cold water by at least 2″ and let stand in a cool place overnight. Then add more water if necessary and bring to a boil; boil 30 minutes then pack in your jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. After the beans have soaked up the water from overnight soaking, they are about as big as they’ll get. You only need enough water in the jars to provide heat for processing, so the product isn’t too dense. Just make sure there is enough boiling water or cooking liquid to cover the beans completely, leaving 1″ of headspace. — Jackie
Using old lard for soap
On the subject of lard… I was given 40 lbs. of old lard last week. It really doesn’t smell bad and most of it is a pale yellow color not white. Can I use this “as is” for making lye soap? Or would I need to maybe temper it? I have only made lye soap once before and I used fresh lard for that batch.
Clay City, Indiana
You can use the lard “as is” for your soap. It will be fine. — Jackie
How can I lessen the acid in my tomato sauce. I have tried different types of tomatoes, tried roasting tomatoes and then making sauce, added a little sugar, but always seems to be acidic.
Try adding brown sugar to your tomato sauce to YOUR taste. Some people are sensitive to the acid in tomatoes more than others. The brown sugar helps mellow out the acid for your taste buds. — Jackie
Gelding a horse
Here is a question regarding a horse that we adopted… He will be 2 in June and we just discovered that to geld him will be around $600 and a trip to the vet for he has not dropped either testicle. I was very upset to say the least for I know that this lady knew this for the vet told me that they usually are born dropped or shortly their after. What is your take on this? He will be two in June, how long should I wait to see if he will drop? I feel so stupid because now we are attached and money is an issue. How long can I wait to see if he will drop?
I’ve seen a lot of colts that didn’t have their testicles drop until they were two or older. True it’s not as common to have a colt wait that long, but it’s not that rare, either. Usually the hot days of the summer seem to help this condition along. I’d give him a little more time and see if you’re not relieved of this worry. — Jackie
Growing roses from seed
I have a flower question. I pulled a ziplock back full of seed pods from my mothers antique Yellow rose bush. How do I start them to get my own? It is such a beautiful bush with awesome sunrise yellow roses that fade to creamy white as they age. Each of the pods seem to have smaller seeds inside.
St. Marys, Georgia
The easiest way to get another rose from your mother’s yellow rose bush is to cut off a sprout from the mother bush. If you look, you can usually spot a small vigorous stem coming up from the ground near the original rose. If you shove a spade between the big bush and the sprout, you will cut the root and be able to remove the sprout with it’s own roots intact. Then simply plant this mini-bush at home.
To start a rose from your seeds, remove them from the hip “pod,” place between sheets of damp paper towels and put them in a jar, in the fridge for 90 days. Then plant the seeds in pots or trays. Keep moist but not wet and you’ll soon see tiny roses coming up. Have fun! — Jackie
One of my Buff Orpington hens has gone broody. There was no other space, so she stayed in the coop with all the others. Another hen (or two) is not broody but wants to lie around in the nesting box, too. Every few days, there are ten, or so, eggs on the floor outside the box. I discard them because, frankly, I don’t know if any of them have been under the setting hen and might be spoiled. Is it likely that the setting hen would let the others roll some of her eggs out of the box?
Priest River, Idaho
Yes, another hen may be kicking the eggs out. Or the squabble over the nest box might roll eggs out. It’s common for other hens to try to lay eggs in the broody hen’s nest. To stop this, tack a piece of chicken wire over that nest box. You’ll have to offer the broody hen water and feed in the box, but with the wire over the opening, the other hens won’t compete for that box and ruin the eggs. Or you can simply move the setting hen into another nest box in another location. Do this at night, carefully first moving the eggs, then the hen. Lock her in the new box with the eggs for a couple of days until she is firmly setting. — Jackie
Can you please tell me what you feed them and how much of the feed you grow yourself? I know the needs are different at different times. Have you had any difficult births and have you ever had to have a vet come to your place to assist in the delivery? If you have a breech birth do you assist in turning the kid and if so, how hard is it to do for a woman? At what age do you wean your kids?
Right now we feed good quality hay and 14% sweet feed with a mineral salt lick. In the summer, we feed a whole lot of hand-cut forage, garden excess and canning waste, like corn cobs, husks, etc. As we improve our homestead, we will be raising more and more of all of our own feed. Each year we do better.
I have had a couple of difficult births during the many years I’ve had goats, but none that traumatic for me or the goat-mom. Kids often come back legs first, which calls for a little assist, just gently pulling the kid out so it doesn’t inhale birth fluid when the cord breaks. Most difficult births are due to two kids trying to enter the birth canal at the same time. You just have to go in and “sort” kids, guiding the right legs and head into the birth canal so it is in position for birth.
No this is not difficult for a woman; actually it’s easier because many women have smaller hands than men so they can give aid easier. It is not a “strength” thing at all.
I wean my kids when they are eating grain very well, growing nicely and weigh around 25 pounds. This is usually at about 2 1/2 months or so. Some grow slower, so I keep them on milk longer. If I have some kids I really want to be nice, I leave them on the mother until she weans them. I did this with Velvet’s triplet does last year and they are all rugged, strong and very nice. Being triplets, they were a little small at birth and grew slower, so I wanted them to have a good start in life. Sacrificing the milk was worth it! — Jackie
Canning on a flat-top stove
We are going to grow a garden this year and I would like to know if it will be ok to hot water can on a flat top stove?
It is not recommended that you use a glass top stove for canning, due to the concentration of both heat on the top and weight of the canner. However, I’ve had responses to this topic from readers who have successfully canned with one. (See the comments on recent blogs.) Personally, I’d use a small propane cooktop, just for canning. — Jackie
In cutting seed potatoes for planting, I have several with hollow heart. Is it okay to use them for seed potatoes? I did not find anything in your blogs or archives addressing this. They are
Yukon Golds and were purchased at the local farm and garden store.
Schoharie, New York
Yes, you can use the potatoes with hollow heart for seed. I usually cut out the hollow part, though. It is usually caused by irregular watering. Yukon Golds seem a little more susceptible to hollow heart than others, but I’ve had potatoes of several varieties with it…usually when watering has been difficult on a homestead. — Jackie
Planting vegetables in a shaded area
Our land is not very flat so we have had to improvise raised beds etc. for vegetables etc. My wonderful husband is just finishing a series of three retaining walls down the last slope to give us better access to the lower yard and for more planting area. The two smaller areas will be used for dwarf fruit trees (maybe three columnar apple trees) plus flowers etc. The lowest area which comes near evergreen trees is a lot bigger. I have three lilac bushes planted there already and would like to keep them there. The area does not get a lot of sun esp. in the afternoon. I would love to plant veggies in the area, but don’t know what to plant here because of low sun and possible deer munching. It would be perfect for zucchini because they could grow over the rock wall but I suspect there’s not enough sun. Any ideas for other plants or berries?
You’ll have to experiment. Many green vegetables, such as lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage will tolerate less sun than corn, tomatoes or squash. Zuchinni is a bush squash, so it won’t drape over your rock. A vining winter squash, such as delicata would, and remain less invasive than a lush grower like hubbard or Hopi Pale Grey. Deer are a problem everywhere. In Montana, though, our many deer really didn’t bother our garden. Why, I’ll never know. That too, you’ll have to just see. We had a doe that napped in our squash patch! — Jackie
…I have read that you have rented or lived in a few different homes, some of which were difficult to make livable. I am not physically able to do a lot of heavy work and am raising my 2 year old grandson and a teenage daughter, whew (at this age a toddler is very hard to contain). My husband works full time and has our only source of income. Our home was non professionally built by my great grandparents and we have almost 50 acres around it. The land is beautiful and something I had prayed for since I was young (God really does hear and answer prayers).
The house: Almost 100 years old, needs to be re leveled cause its sagging and leaning, needs a new roof, needs new back and front porches because the existing ones have been patched on and are in bad shape, needs new back wall, rewireing, some wire is newer but my grandpa,the make do handyman, helped with the wiring, re plumbing, the bathroom sink drains right out at floor level onto the ground underneath the house, septic tank, insulation ( there is not one spot of it)and then there are some termite damage and I don’t know how much. There are rotten boards that need replacing.
I guess my question is how do you know when to refix the existing house versus building a new one? And do you know anything about jacking up an old house and replacing seals and leveling it off? Oh,, how do you potty train a boy? I had three girls two of which are grown so raising a boy is sooo different but such a blessing (when he’s not crawling under the house with the puppies, its forbidden but he runs off fast)
I hear you about having a little one; I had my youngest son, David, when I was 44, so I know how much running it takes out of you! We potty trained him by sitting his little potty in front of the “big” one. When we went, he came with us and sat there having great discussions…and also sometimes going potty. Of course, being a little boy, he also went pee out in the yard, in the woods or wherever he was. It took awhile before he figured it was not socially correct to take a whiz in public. But we all lived through it. The BIG incentive to be totally potty trained was wearing big-boy underwear. That did it!
As for the house problem. It sounds like you have a big job ahead of you. It might be cheaper and easier to rebuild a small, easy-to-add onto house on a solid foundation. A lot of folks have started with a two car garage sized house, then added on as the cash allowed. I don’t know your situation, so you may need to fix the existing home, instead. Start with the basics, the foundation, the plumbing that drains under the house…which probably isn’t doing the structure any good. Yes, I’ve jacked up sagging buildings. I used 6″x6″ timbers, running under the floor joists and sills, then used a bottle jack under that to slowly and carefully raise the house/shed. Sometimes they’ll improve; sometimes the damage is too great. But it’s worth a try.
The building is sagging for a reason. Try and find it. Are sills rotted out? Floor joists? Is the footing crumbled? Often you can replace the rotten area or build block and concrete support footings for the floor, which in turn, holds the house straight once you’ve jacked it up.
Of course, a professional will do a better job, but many of us have never been able to afford one so we’ve made do. And it’s amazing at what a person can fix if need be.
Always be very careful when jacking up a building; never get under it without sturdy support. That house is heavy! — Jackie
Do you have a recipe for lemonade made from dried lemon peel? I have searched the web but find nothing. I would think you could but nothing is out there.
You probably can’t make lemonade from dried lemon peel; you’d have to use dehydrated lemon without the peel as the peel contains oils that would make the lemonade taste bitter, not sour. You can remove the peel from lemons, slice them crosswise, remove any seeds, then dehydrate them. By rehydrating them, then adding to water with sweetener, you would have a nice lemonade. Without the bitterness of the peel. — Jackie
Pond not holding water
We recently purchased a home with a “pond,” however it does not hold water very well. Actually, it has held a small amount in the bottom (aprox.1 foot) pretty well, but we have had great rainfall this past winter and spring which filled the pond up twice, but within 1 week the pond was back to it’s 1 foot level again. We were advised to broadcast bentonite with the last filling, but it didn’t seem to help. Do you know any tricks? The previous owner said that the pond had been “properly raked.” I
would greatly appreciate any help you might have.
This type of seasonal pond usually will only stay filled higher than its natural level if you pump it out (or wait for a dry summer) and install a pond liner. This is a heavy poly or rubber sheet that does not let the water escape. Many people have had great luck improving a pond on their place this way. However it is expensive to buy and install. I wish I had a magic cure for your pond! I love my water too! — Jackie
Growing vegetables in the shade
I have a section of my main vegetable garden that doesn’t get much sun during the growing season. I think it must get a couple hours of direct sun a day. The only thing that’s ever grown well there is the strawberry patch. What are some other things I could grow there? We live in northern Connecticut.
You may have good luck growing salad veggies such as lettuce, mesclun mixes, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. These often have a greater shade tolerance than other garden vegetables. Good growing. — Jackie
Hello, I have 2 minor canning problems. The butter I just canned turned out ok but it has a somewhat gritty texture and a slightly different taste from fresh. Is this normal? Also I canned some smoked sausage but it got very mushy and had a bad texture. Anyway to solve this?
Did you refrigerate your butter before trying it? Canned, room temperature butter can have a gritty texture, like some room temperature stick margarine does. Or did you “cook” it quite a while to evaporate the water in the butter? This also can sometimes result in a different texture/taste. Neither is harmful.
Was your smoked sausage in casing or patties? I’ve never had good luck canning smoked sausage, like summer sausage, because of the change in texture and taste. With the patties, I lightly fry them, then stack them in a wide mouth jar to process, without liquid. With liquid, they do get mushy. — Jackie
I believe in the last issue there was an article on making homemade noodles and drying them. I have always made them, dried them and then froze in freezer. My question is,” When dried can they be stored in cans on the shelf?” I know dried noodles at the grocery stores are stored on the shelf but I am worried about Salmonella poisoning.
To store dry noodles on the shelf, they must, of course be very dry; in effect, dehydrated. To be absolutely safe, continue to use your noodles fresh or frozen. There is a minute risk of picking up a bacterial infection from home dried noodles, but it IS a possibility. — Jackie
David got busy the other day and dragged out all our outside Christmas lights. I always shop right after Christmas at the “big” stores and have picked up sets of icicle lights for $2 and others for as low as .50 a set. So we haven’t a lot of cash invested in boxes of great lights. Last year, with the deep, early snow, and everything else that was going on, we just didn’t get around to getting lights up. But this year, we do, and it’s oh so cheerful!
I’ve also been canning up the last of David’s deer. Last night, I marinated the last of the boneless meat and tenderloins and ground up the meat from the neck and shoulders. So today I roasted the pieces of meat to partially cook it and fried up the ground meat with onions from the garden. I added 3 quarts of water with some spices to the roasts, near the end, so when I packed the hot meat in pint jars, I had great seasoned broth to pour over it. The ground meat, I packed hot, without liquid, also in pint jars. Then I processed it all in one big batch in the canner. Boy does it look tasty! But I AM glad that’s finally done. It’s kind of tough when half the deer freezes solid outdoors and you have to chop it and saw it apart with a hatchet and hand saw…Not real “dainty,” for sure!
We have been having real cold and several inches of new snow every day or two. Real cold. As in below zero, cold. Brrrr. But the new snow is helping our plants survive the winter and helping keep the septic tank, which I covered with hay, and water line, from freezing. So that’s a good thing. Besides, the fluffy snow on our beautiful log cabin and those glowing Christmas lights really make it look a lot like a Christmas card.
Hopi Pale Grey seeds
Just a quick note to say thank you for the Pale Grey Hopi seed. You sent plenty of seeds to plant this spring and to hold some back for next year, just in case. Thank You.
Glad you got your seeds okay, Dan. Remember not to plant any C. maxima squash or pumpkins in your garden this year, except for the Hopi Pale Greys. That way you’ll keep pure seed and can pass some along to other neighboring gardeners and friends. — Jackie
Cranberry juice for bladder infection
I just love your blog and of course the magazine. You stated that your Mom suffers from frequent bladder infections. My mom did to but she found that drinking cranberry juice was really helpful in preventing the infections. Maybe it would help your mom.
Thanks for the thought. Mom drinks bottles of cranberry juice every week. The doctor thinks that she may have a pocket of infection that just doesn’t clear up completely. She has an appointment with a urologist January 19th. They had NO earlier appointments! Wow! Kids: consider urology as a career! — Jackie
Do you recommend bread makers? I once had one and wasn’t too impressed but did like it for the temperature. When making bread by hand I always messed up the water temp/yeast factor…I never liked the bricks that came out of the bread maker and would just take the dough out and then make it in the oven. That bread machine died 10 yrs. ago. Have they gotten any better at not making bricks? I saw one at Walmart and the container was so tiny, yet the machine huge. Or do you just say phooey on them and say don’t waste your money?
I’ve never had a bread machine, although Mom had one and really liked it because her hands had such bad arthritis that she could no longer mix and knead bread. Ilene Duffy uses one a lot and her breads turn out great. I’d say that newer bread machines ARE much better than they used to be, but with everything else, often you get what you pay for…the cheaper machines probably won’t work as well as the more pricey ones. I like the old fashioned mix and knead method, myself. It’s relaxing. — Jackie
Canning link sausage
I canned link (chicken) sausage in pint jars (dry, no liquid added) at 10 lbs for 75 min. without cooking the sausage first.They turned out well and every jar sealed.Would it be better to cook the sausage first and then pressure can it or is it sufficient enough to go ahead and can it like I did? I am looking for a basic reasonable long term storage on this item.Thank you for your time and consideration!
I’ve canned sausages like you did, but now I’m gently browning them, then packing them hot, in hot jars. I never had any trouble raw packing them, but they seemed better after I browned them before packing. — Jackie