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Ask Jackie headline

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns

Q and A: fertile eggs and planting potatoes

Thursday, December 4th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Fertile eggs and planting potatoes

If I put a rooster and a hen in a small pen together how soon can I be sure that she would be laying fertile eggs inspired by the handsome fella she is cohabitating with?

If I save some nice potatoes to plant in the spring, what do I need to do to them before planting them? Do I need to spray or dust them with something?

Thanks for sharing all your wisdom and experience. I’m sure some of our questions stretch your knowledge but somehow you still have answers. We, your readership, appreciate you. Gail

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

Usually after a rooster mates with a hen, her eggs are fertile about 24 hrs later. Eggs she lays for two weeks following this are also fertile.

Some folks dust their potatoes with sulfur before planting to help ward off disease. But others just cut and “chit” theirs. Chitting is letting the potato sets dry and be exposed to some sun so they begin to produce sturdy green sprouts. Be sure there is no disease in your potatoes before planting your own sets. When in doubt, it’s best to start with boughten seed potatoes that are certified disease-free.

You’re welcome. Glad to help. You all help me learn more and more. It’s fun. — Jackie

Will’s busy working on our new barn

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 10 Comments »

While I’ve been running to the doctor and getting lab work done to get over the acute diverticulitis I’ve sprung up with, Will’s been busy doing most of my chores and working on the stud walls of our new barn.

Previously, he cut lumber with our handy-dandy HudSon bandsaw mill and now he’s putting it together. After he gets the west wall done, I think he plans on sawing one-inch board and batten siding for it. (Yes, the stud walls will have a horizontal member between the sill plate and top plate to fasten the vertical siding to.)

Meanwhile, I’ve learned a lot about diverticulitis, inflammation of little pockets that have formed in the intestine. Yuck! But, luckily, my doctor told me that after all my symptoms are gone, I will be able to eat most of the homestead foods I did before, including veggies and whole wheat bread. I’m still in some pain and kind of nauseous because of the heavy-duty sulfa and other meds. I’m hoping that’ll pass too. I want to get back at canning! — Jackie

Q and A: canning split pea soup and canner went dry

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Canning split pea soup

I have lots of ham left over from thanksgiving and want to make split pea soup. It is about half cooked and I am going to put it into the jars now. Tell me if I am making a mistake. The soup is thin so I don’t think it will become too thick in the jars. I just finished 7 quarts of turkey and have more to do.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

Your soup will be fine. I nearly always make bean and split pea soup from ham bones with a little meat on them. You can safely can it as long as it doesn’t go into the jars with a thick consistency. As it cools it will thicken, but don’t let that worry you. — Jackie

Canner went dry

I was canning up extra turkey (90 minutes…pressure for altitude…etc.). During the last 30 minutes the jiggler didn’t jiggle. I did not turn the heat up or down but let the timer run out to the full 90 minutes. When I later opened the canner there was no water left in it. The jars sealed just fine but I wonder if losing all the water means the turkey isn’t safe to eat because the pressure might have gone down.

Deborah McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

Oh shucks! I hope the dry canner didn’t get a warped bottom out of the deal. If it were me, I would re-can the turkey even though it’s more work for you. (Better safe than sorry.) Your are right, the pressure may not have been high enough without the steam for safe canning. — Jackie

Q and A: canning mole sauce and is wheat genetically modified?

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Canning mole sauce

I am trying to find out how to can a Mexican Mole Sauce and cannot find the directions on how to do so. You can find lots of recipes but nothing on how to can it up for later use. I hope you have an answer for me.

Corbett, Oregon

Sorry Lois, but I can’t help you. Although mole sauce can certainly be canned, because you can buy it in the stores, canned commercially, I can’t find a single approved recipe for you to can. Do any readers have any help for Lois? — Jackie

Is wheat GMO?

Is wheat now gmo or non-gmo? I thought it also is but the feed store man says it is not. What’s your info say?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

Thank God wheat is not now GMO, but of course Monsanto is working on it. The most commonly sold GMO crops are soybeans, corn, canola, some squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and rice. What a shame! — Jackie

Yep, we had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, December 1st, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 14 Comments »

My oldest son, Bill, and his family came up to our homestead along with David and Javid. Together we made a happy feast of all those homestead foods. None of us had room for pie! I made two “pumpkin” pies from part of a Hopi Pale Grey squash (which I always use as it tastes great), an apple pie, and of course Will’s cheesecake.

I guess David hadn’t had any good home cookin’ for awhile as right after dinner he went in the living room, sat in my chair, and fell asleep for two hours — with all of us chatting in the same room!

For the last week I’ve been having severe lower abdomen pain and made two trips to the doctor, finally having a CT scan on Friday. Of course, after surviving cancer that’s always right on your mind. Luckily it was not cancer but diverticulitis, an inflamed pouch in my intestine. Funny — we always try to eat “good” with plenty of fresh vegetables, salads, and whole grains. Now I’m not supposed to have them as it will probably come back if I do. I’m NOT a white bread, processed food kind of gal so I see we have some adjustments to make. At least I got Thanksgiving dinner! — Jackie

Q and A: Scarlet Runner beans and canning cranberries

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Scarlet Runner beans

Two years ago I ordered some beans (edible), red flowers, climbers, only got 5 beans in packet. Saved all the beans for this year. Planted them, had lots, ate some (delicious) kind of sweet. Saved lots for next year. Ended up in hospital, they froze. Brought them in opened them up and let them dry, can I plant them next year? Or are they too far gone? if you think they’re OK, would you like a few to start your patch? Don’t remember where I got them. Are you in need of more hostas?

Marlene Kevelin
Circle Pines, Minnesota

Your beans sound like Scarlet Runner beans. If your beans were mature when they froze they’ll be okay. Check for mold. They should be hard, shiny, and full. I do have Scarlet Runners, thanks. Pass them on to other friends. I’ve run out of room for hostas right now. Maybe in the future? Will is going to convert our spring basin pond into a garden spot sometime in the future, making the pond look natural and pretty instead of a hole in the ground. Thanks for the offer! — Jackie

Canning cranberries

I have some nice bags of frozen cranberries that I want to pressure can. I know this has come up in the past but the answers were not very clear. If left to my own devises, I would use little or no sugar since my hubby is diabetic. I would process with 10 lbs. for as long as it took to bring up to pressure after a 7 minute vent time of the pot. Do you think this is too much or too far from safe procedures? I would love trying to cold pack them raw. I would appreciate knowing what variables you have tried. They were bought fresh and I froze them.

Jeannie Livezey
Richardson, Texas

It’s really easy to can cranberries. Just thaw, rinse, and sort. Then pack cranberries into jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Gently shake the jar to settle the berries. Pour either boiling syrup (light for your husband) or plain boiling water over them leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar, place hot, previously-simmered lid on jar, and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints and half-pints for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Cranberries can up very nicely and are great for baking. Since they are a high-acid fruit, they do not require pressure canning. Enjoy! — Jackie

I’m sure you’ve had “one of those days”

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Last Thursday was one for me. My adopted son, Javid, is still getting his ducks in a row after we moved him here from Montana. To get his Social Security Disability, he had to have a photo identification card. To get that he had to have a certified copy of his birth certificate, which the “helpful” Social Services in Helena had lost. So I tore off to Virginia (the city, not the state, thank God!) and got one for him. $27. Then we reserved a handicap bus to pick him up at the nursing home. That was $77 for a round trip of 10 miles. (OMG, how could they charge that much?) We were on the bus five minutes. We got to the driver’s license bureau and the bus left. Inside, we filled out the form and took it to the window, where the nice lady informed us that the computers in the whole state (motor vehicles/drivers license) were “down.” Couldn’t do a thing, sorry. So I called the bus back. It took half an hour to get it back, in which time the lady tried again to get the computer to work. No go.

So back to the nursing home we went. Of course there was no refund for the $77 for the bus. There was no way I was going to spend another $77 for another bus the next day, so, thank God, David didn’t have school Friday and he came back with me and lifted Javid into the car seat and back out again at the Driver’s License Bureau. (Yes, I did call them Friday morning to make sure the computers were back “up”!) We got that done and Javid will get his card in about 6 weeks.

Then David and I tore off to Hibbing, 23 miles west, so he could apply for a replacement Social Security card after losing his wallet this summer. Got that done for free with no glitches. By then I was more than ready to get HOME!

And back to homesteading. As we had great warmer temps, into the mid thirties, Will and I butchered six big fat meat chickens. With his handy-dandy Tornado Clucker Plucker, it went fast and easy. Today I’ll wrap and freeze the birds to can up after Thanksgiving. (They do need to chill for at least 12 hours in refrigeration before eating, freezing, or canning so they’ll be tender.)


Today Will finished hauling rotted goat manure out onto our garden and buried a bunch of old rotten stumps, logs, and branches, shoved into a dip, with more rotted manure. No, we’re not doing hugelkultur gardening, just getting rid of ugly wood and flattening out a big low spot. One more job well done! — Jackie

Q and A: canning pear butter, storing brown rice, and wood usage

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

Canning pear butter

I made some pear butter this past summer and it is really thick. If it is too thick can it fall in the same category as pureed squash?

Sheryl Napier
Newport News, Virginia

No, because pears are a high acid food and because you add sugar, a thick product is perfectly safe to can and eat. (Pumpkin or squash puree is a low acid food and thick low acid foods are now considered at risk to can.) Eat and enjoy! — Jackie

Storing brown rice

I would like to know if you have any good information on storing brown rice.

Joshua Viens
Kenai, Alaska

Because brown rice is a whole grain, which does contain some oil, it does not store the best long-term. It will become rancid after a few months — or even sometimes a few weeks — once the bag is opened. It’s best stored in either a refrigerator or freezer. In case of emergencies, when the freezer or refrigerator no longer operates, you can then take the brown rice out and it will still remain good for quite awhile. Keeping it either in the original bag or container or in an airtight package, such as vacuum packing, will keep it even longer. Even though we prefer brown rice, we store a lot of long grain white rice as it will store for decades without any problems if you keep it in an airtight container. — Jackie

Wood usage

Approximately how many cords of wood do you use during a winter?

Suzanne Paquette Richards

We use about 8 cords a winter but remember that we burn our wood stove in the living room and our wood kitchen range as well. (And not all of this wood is prime hardwood; we burn any dead wood that we harvest in our woods, including balsam, pine, and poplar, as well as black ash, a hardwood. In burning “lesser” woods, we not only are given heat but it also lets us clean up our woods as well. We even burn a lot of small-diameter poplar. Right now we are cutting up a whole lot of this that Will stacked two years ago, from clearing a good chunk of our new forty acres. Much of this small wood is two to four inches in diameter, wood which most people would shove into a pile and burn. But it’s great in the kitchen range and heats the house very nicely during the daytime. — Jackie



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