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Friday, May 3rd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »
I haven’t had any problems with varmints in the 37 years living in the countryside, except in the last 2 years we lost our dog, we have a plague. We had to relocate 5 raccoons last year, chase away 3 coons, 3 possums, and 4 skunks and now a fox in broad daylight killed 2 of our chickens, so we are down to just 4. We have 4 indoor/outdoor cats as pets and was wondering if there was any repellents we can use against the varmints that won’t hurt our cats. We lost our dog 2 years ago and was thinking if we got a new dog, it would take care of the varmints. Any thoughts on our plague Jackie?
Lisa From Michigan
Things like this seem to run in cycles and I’m not always sure why. Sometimes it’s the weather – too dry, too much snow, etc. making hungry wild critters look for easier pickings. Other times it’s reproduction cycles in local wildlife; sometimes there just are more babies, maybe again due to weather being extra nice some years with more survival.
No, there aren’t any repellents that I’ve seen or used that work. A good, large, homestead dog is a great asset to the place. But he must be trained, not just allowed to run at will. He needs to learn to stay home and protect “his” family, animals, and poultry. Cats also can become prey to wildlife. Owls, coyotes, and even foxes will sometimes take an adult cat.
Live trapping certainly helps, but be sure to take the critters at least 5 miles off to release them, totally away from other homesteads or farms. They will come home if you don’t. As for the fox, you may have to shoot him/her if it continues to show up during the day; that’s getting pretty bold! Chasing wildlife away seldom helps matters if they have killed poultry; they’ll just come back when you aren’t looking. I’d definitely recommend getting another dog. It’s probable that your late dog kept the wildlife where it belongs, in the woods. Hopefully your new guy will do the same for you. Please have the new dog neutered so as not to contribute to the overpopulation of puppies that often grow up to have a very miserable life. Neutering will also help keep the dog at home, not out running looking for love. — Jackie
I have about four or five boxes of Sure-Jell Certo Premium Liquid Fruit Pectin for homemade jams and jellies. The use-before date is 16 Jan 2010. Is it still useful for jam or jelly? Can I put it to another use? I overbought and then had health problems that caused me not to make jams or jellies for a few years. Thanks for the help.
Usually, older Certo and Sure-Jell will work fine for jams and jellies. I’d give a package a try and see how it sets up. If it behaves itself, I’d just go ahead and use up the whole batch this year…just to be sure. I’m sure you won’t have trouble making four or five batches of preserves! — Jackie
Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »
Two days ago, not only did I see one robin, but hundreds and thousands of them! We’re taking care of a friend’s house while she’s in Florida for the winter and in her hayfield were tons of robins. And not only are the robins back, but they flew with flickers, kestrels, killdeer, sandhill cranes, and blue herons. Everyone arrived the same day!
And, because it was 70 degrees out, the “boys” were working in the drive. David had the day off and he was working on his “new” car, a 1978 Firebird. He drives a GEO but just had to have a cool project car. It is nice and in pretty good shape — no rust. But the hood needed sanding, welding, and painting. So he and his friend Ian worked all afternoon on it. Then behind them, Will was working on building a roll over protection canopy for the bulldozer. (He’s had a few close calls as trees fell or broke off and nearly came down on his head while working in the woods!) I thought it was kind of cute; here’s the first really warm spring day and the “boys” were all busy with their projects, one next to the other with rock and roll on the radio in the background. It put a smile on my face. Boys will be boys… — Jackie
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 13 Comments »
With temperatures in the high sixties and not freezing at night, our three feet of snow has been melting fast. And yesterday for the first time this spring, I walked in our orchard. How nice that was! All of our trees look great with no winter kill that I can see. But there were vole tunnels made of dead grass that used to be underneath the snow. We never saw a vole all winter, but they were down there anyway. Luckily, we had wrapped screen around all of our fruit trees so they didn’t eat the bark on one of them. Whew!
Now that the sun is out, we are nuts to get started with all we have to do. Early this morning, Will set in another layer of rock on the wall behind the wood stove. It’s nearly up as high as it’ll go and we’re getting excited. I think it looks great. Once it’s done all the way up, he just has to go back and fill in the spaces between the rocks with mortar and finish it off.
Then this afternoon, our friend Erik came over and he and Will started laying up more sheets of metal on the barn roof. We had seven long sheets, left over from fall when the snow had halted their work. So up they went! They did have to trim two inches off the sheets so Will now knows the exact measurement for the next order. When we get the cash…
But the barn’s looking good! And because the snow’s melting and the ground’s drying, pretty soon we’ll be able to start cutting boards with our little Hud-Son portable bandsaw mill. We still have some to cut for the hay loft floor, then more for the side walls. We’ll have enough boards for the front porch roof too. The only cost now will be more decking for the floor, and then the shingles and water shield for the roof. And we do have two bundles of shingles left over from the addition. I’m getting pretty excited to have it getting that far toward DONE.
Ahhh, isn’t spring great? (Oh, I do have to have surgery on my knee, but it is supposed to be minor and heal quickly to a pain-free normal knee. I can’t wait to get that over with and get on with gardening.) — Jackie
Friday, April 26th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
If I can my fish in a pressure cooker as directed will the bones become digestible like canned salmon so I can make fish cakes from them? We grow tilapia in a stock tank in our back yard so we have so many fish that we need some new ways to prepare them. Thank you for all the help you have been in teaching me to can our food. It is just too bad that it took me until I was 70 years old to learn all these neat things that you write about. It has been fun and my husband and I enjoy your Growing and Canning Your Own Food book and your Pantry cookbook. I just wish we had known you sooner. If you are ever around Phoenix Arizona give us a call. We have a 2 bedroom guest house if you would like to spend some time in the area.
Usually fish bones will become soft when pressure canned with the meat, just like store-bought salmon. Some larger fish such as tuna have larger bones that don’t get as soft and must be removed before canning. I’m so glad you’re canning. And like Dad used to say, “Better late than never!” He was still learning new skills at 90. Thank you very much for the invitation. Maybe one day we’ll meet and I’ll take you up on it! I’d love to come down for the Festival of the West some year soon. — Jackie
I raise registered Nubian goats and have made cheese (soft and hard) (also had a separator before the fire and made a lot of butter) in the past. Can’t manage to get any of it to melt like store bought cheese melts, however. I have used mainly the book “Goats Produce Too” in the past. Any suggestions? I’ve tried to can some and yuck…it still won’t melt. Is melting of Mozzarella, cheddars, and so forth just something that we have become used to thanks to the big producers? I have enough canned milk. I am over run with kefir (even strained kefir to soft cheese point, frozen to then make hard cheese…sigh…). I need to consider making cheese again before it gets hot (we have no A/C and are in Texas — triple digits are coming too soon).
Also…For folks wanting to raise two types of the same family of squash: They should consider getting the book “Seed to Seed“. This book explains methods of raising pure seed including hand pollinating; which can be a decent idea if neighbors also have gardens.
Also…You have recommended Seed Savers. Seed Savers also has a WONDERFUL membership that includes a WONDERFUL book each year of folks that exchange seeds. This one source alone can be a wonderful educational tool as to what squash is of what family/species. This is my Sears catalog each year!
For a quick mozzarella that melts wonderfully, use the cottage cheese recipe on page 48 of Goats Produce Too except that once finally drained and salted, put it in a saucepan over low heat, and melt, stirring as you go. It gets stretchy. Work out the whey by stretching, then just put it into your hands and make a ball. Done! We really love this and it’s so much faster than regular mozzarella. I’ve never had any trouble with the cheddar and Colby melting. How about your soft cheeses like French Chevre? I use it just like cream cheese and we use it a lot. I’d just give it another go. Try different recipes; it’s like cooking, what works best for someone doesn’t do the job for others. Cheesemaking is a developed art, a skill, and sometimes it just takes time to get “right.” Hang in there!
Thanks for the tips for readers. (I didn’t mention hand pollinating because it can get confusing, but it does work and I’ve used it to raise several varieties of squash in the same garden without cross pollinating.) — Jackie
Thursday, April 25th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »
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
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »
I was wondering what type of potting soil that you used, and where do you get it. I just tried Home Depot for Pro-Mix and they do not carry it. Is that the kind that you use? And I was going to put my tomatoes into containers. What would I use for that?
Check a local greenhouse/nursery for Pro-Mix. I used to get mine in Helena at the greenhouse out past the turn to the VA hospital (Ft. Harrison). Can’t remember the name; it’s on the right side; big place. I use it for transplanting seedlings, too. — Jackie
Drying up a cow
Our Jersey cow is pregnant and ready to calve the end of May. We have been trying to dry her up for a month and she just isn’t. Some days we are milking some of the milk out of her, like 2 qts a day just to relieve her some as she gets so full. Is there something I am missing on doing this? What else should I do? She normally gives us about 3 gallons a day, sometimes more but we thought we should dry her up so the baby could develop better since she is due fairly soon. This is only her second calf.
To dry a cow off, just stop milking her. It’s the back-pressure of the milk that causes her to stop producing it. If you keep milking her, even a little, she’ll keep producing. She needs a rest and time to produce colostrum for her next calf. She sounds like a nice cow! — Jackie
Monday, April 22nd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »
We got 18 inches of blowing and drifting snow just recently, and winds up to 40 mph! And that was on top of the foot or so of snow that hadn’t melted. On the first day of the storm, Will brought in two little piggies that weren’t getting enough milk and/or were getting chilled. (We can’t run a heat lamp down in the farrowing shed because we’re off grid and the batteries won’t stand it.) The wood box was cleaned out due to Will working on the rock wall behind the living room stove, so I added a couple of old towels and put the piggies in it. Now I’m giving them a bowl full of calf milk replacer every 2 hours all day then getting up at night a couple times to feed them. At first, they seemed chilled so I filled up a gallon apple juice plastic jug with hot water and gave them a hot water bottle to cuddle up against. Now they’re warmed up and doing fine.
The little black and white boar was real scared and aggressive when I first picked him up to feed him. He’d bark at me and scramble to get away. But he quickly figured out that being picked up meant getting fed. Now he jumps up, right into my hands when it’s time to eat. We called him Jumper, for good reason.
Now we’re set to get another 3-6 inches of snow. Bummer. I got out my copy of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, to read. At least we don’t have it that tough! They were twisting hay to keep warm and ran out of food. We still have firewood and plenty to eat. But winter does get long…
The newscasters are calling this “The Relentless Winter” and it’s the most snowfall in Minnesota’s recorded history for April. — Jackie
Sunday, April 21st, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »
Will velvet beans cross with Louisiana Purple Pod and Rattlesnake pole (green) beans?
Velvet beans are Mucuna pruriens where Louisiana Purple Pods are Phaseolus vulgaris, or common bean like the Rattlesnake bean. So the velvet beans will not cross but your Louisiana Purple Pods and Rattlesnakes might. — Jackie
We will soon be ready to plant this year’s tomato plants. One of the problems that we have each year is that the store-bought inverted-cone tomato towers will not support the healthiest plants. They topple. We are hoping that you may have seen a better design.
Oh yeah! If you check out the current issue of the magazine, there’s a big article on tomatoes and in that article I detail the tomato cages my husband, Will, made for our garden from concrete re-enforcing wire (photo above). Basically they’re cylinders about 18 inches in diameter and the full height of the wire. I stake the tomatoes first with either steel T posts or good sharpened wooden stakes then slip a cage over each tomato plant. As they grow, I tuck the branches out through the squares in the wire. This fully supports the tomato plants. I grow varieties that are 6-7 feet high every year so those wimpy store cones wouldn’t do a thing. — Jackie