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I had a great time at the Self Reliance Expo in Irving, Texas

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

I was so happy to get to meet so many of my extended BHM family at this show! Thank you, all of you, for stopping by and saying hi, giving me a hug and telling me how much you enjoy what I do. It really means a lot to me. I spoke two days on gardening and canning, to a “full house” although I did have competition from a nearby group demonstrating their noisy attack dogs with BIG voices! (I much prefer our “attack” dogs, Spencer and Hondo, who, I’m sure would attack a “bad guy” if necessary but are gentle and saps for petting from “good guys”… and are MUCH quieter!)

BHMFam_0233

Expo_0237

While I was gone, I kept in touch with Will at home, who said we had a quarter-inch of snow on the ground and temps in the high 20s-30s. Luckily, he took in my tender plants and Mother’s Day hanging baskets!

Flowers_0243

Now, it’s back to homesteading. This afternoon I’m going to set out my onion sets and plant the peas; I’d meant to get that done earlier but somehow it always got shoved back to a lower priority. That happens on the homestead! Now I’ve got to play catch-up. Sort of like disbudding our goat kids. They’re way overdue so this afternoon we’ll get that done. (God willing and the crick don’t rise!)

Speaking of the creek, our pair of Canada geese came off the nest this morning with five (we think) babies. So cool. They nest on our small beaver pond every spring. But, unfortunately, they move the babies on to the large pond as soon as they hatch so we don’t get to see much of them after hatching. — Jackie

We enjoyed a sunny Mother’s Day

Monday, May 9th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

On Mother’s Day it’s become a family tradition, for my son, Bill, and his family to meet us at Byrns Greenhouse out in the country, near Zim, for our annual grab’n git festival. (That’s grab plenty of flowers and git home to plant ’em!)

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This year, the greenhouse added a Bigfoot corner which appealed to young and old alike. We spent nearly two hours filling up plant shopping carts, Mason and Ava helping us choose plants. I ended up with three big hanging baskets, hostas (a great bargain!), daylilies (of course!), a hardy rose I didn’t have, and a couple more perennials. I don’t have time for annuals this year! — way too busy!

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After this, we drove to a nearby cafe, across a six-mile section of road marked “Road Closed.” But it was Sunday and the road crew wasn’t working so we chanced it, hoping a culvert wasn’t taken out five miles down the road! Luckily it wasn’t and we sat down to a nice meal and good conversation. It’s always so nice to visit with family.

Speaking of family, don’t forget I’m going to be at the Self-Reliance Expo in Irvine, Texas this weekend, speaking on both Friday and Saturday. I’ll also be at the Backwoods Home Magazine’s booth and will be more than happy to visit with you there. — Jackie

We planted fruit trees … again

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

In Northern Minnesota, nothing much is easy. We had a couple dozen apple trees plus cherry and pear trees in our little acre of orchard. And they were doing great. But two winters ago, we had record-breaking winter temperatures: 90 days below zero. We lost about six apple trees and the rest took hits from mild to extreme. This spring we pruned them all, Will sawed out the dead trunks, and some were beyond help. So we ordered trees to replace them. The old saying “plant till you’re planted” sure rang true! So we re-planted trees.

newtrees_5527

Luckily, all the survivors are looking very good as are the cherries, apricots, and plums in our other little orchard in the “back yard.”

I’ve got to start canning up hamburger as we’ve got a lot that needs canning before hot weather. It’s so very handy all canned up and ready to heat and eat! We love it. I just lightly brown and crumble the burger, spoon it in jars, leaving 1 inch of headroom, and process it — no liquid added. It turns out great every time.

By the way, our baby goat Sir is getting smarter; he follows me like a dog for his baba. And he’s doing great. Who’d have thought? — Jackie

Boy, are we happy to see the sun!

Friday, April 29th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

And so are our goats! We just had two more “litters” of baby goats, twins from two does — two bucklings and two doelings. They must not have wanted to wait and see if more cold weather was in the future. All babies are doing very well.

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So is Sir, the baby who nearly died due to exposure after being born outside in the cold rain. He’s up and playing. This morning he discovered his ears. He spent a lot of time twitching his head to see them flap. And he’s starting to bounce and jump too. He won’t stay in his box during the day so I’m putting him down with his mom. He can play, nibble on grass, and when he’s tired, he finds a sunny spot to nap in. One of his favorites is on a half log near the gate. His mom watches over him but won’t let him nurse, yet. But she is a good milker and gives a gallon a day. Because Sir only eats three pints so far, I see a batch of yogurt in our future.

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I’m busy transplanting tomatoes. Whew, are there a lot! And because I strained my shoulder last week, I can only do it for a little while then need to give it a rest. But like the tortoise, it’s getting done, although slower than I’d like.

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Will helped me fix up our front flower bed for those fancy daylilies I ordered over winter, a little at a time. We added composted manure, put ID stakes by the plants that were already there then fenced the whole thing with 2-foot-high fence as I was tired of the chickens “fluffing” in deep holes they dig there, which isn’t good for the plants. Now the hens are confused and I’m sure depressed. Hey, they are our “wild” chickens; they can go down in the brush to dig! — Jackie

Q and A: weeds and ramps

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »

Weeds

I know you mostly handle questions about growing, canning, and eating plants, but I need to know how to get rid of them for more than a few weeks. I have a gravel drive about 250 feet long that has big grass patches that look better than my lawn. I have tried everything to get rid of them. Vinegar, salt, combination of the two, pulling. Nothing seems to work. Any ideas?

Marc
New Deal, Texas

Unsightly weeds and grass can sure look ugly where they’re not wanted. And using strong chemicals such as Roundup are to be avoided if at all possible due to the effects it can have on your soil, leaching into adjoining soil and water. Vinegar would work IF it were strong enough. Unfortunately, table vinegar is not acidic enough to kill stubborn grass and if you put enough salt on it to kill it, the adjoining soil would be damaged and your drive would have ugly patches of bare ground along it.

There are several natural compounds that do work, however. One I’ve used with good results is BurnOut. I bought mine through ARBICO Organics. One thing I’ve found is that once you’ve used any natural treatment, you have to keep watch on the area for regrowth. When it starts, immediately treat again. A few thorough treatments and your problem is gone for good. — Jackie

Ramps

I have an abundance of ramps this spring. I found recipes for pickling them, but it is only for refrigeration. Can I pickle and water bath them to preserve some? What about freezing? Love your articles and knowledge!

Lynette Czehut
Chesterland, Ohio

Ramps (wild leeks) are a wonderful wild food many folks collect each spring. Yes, you can pickle them. Simply bring your pickling brine up to boiling, add the ramps (bulb only), and bring back to just boiling. Place ramps in hot jars leaving ½” of headspace. Ladle on boiling brine, leaving ½” of headspace. Water bath for 10 minutes.

Ramps also freeze well but only freeze the bulbs with the roots snipped off. They also dehydrate very well by just snipping off the leaves and roots, then slicing the white bulb in narrow rings. Dry until they feel like paper and store in an airtight container.

Be sure to leave many ramp plants in the area you harvest as you don’t want to cause them to go extinct from over-harvesting. Luckily, ramps are, well … kind of rampant and often form large beds. — Jackie

I think we’ve grown webs between our toes

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

We’ve had rain, rain and more rain. Four inches in several days’ time. Luckily, Will managed to get our main garden tilled just before the first rain hit. It tilled up very nicely and now I’m itchy to get in and get the onions and peas planted.

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Our little buck goat is doing great. For a while there it was kind of come and go but suddenly he decided he’d live. We still have him on the bottle as his mom didn’t bond with him. She’s not mean to him but won’t let him nurse. We’ll keep trying. We called him Rocks. His grandfather was our Boer buck, Rocky, and unfortunately this buckling is as dumb as a box of rocks … Real cute, though.

The past weekend, we attended a gathering of Itasca Co. Master Gardeners, bringing a small booth to set up for Seed Treasures, our little seed business. We met a lot of nice people and were so happy to hear so many people concerned with planting only non-GMO seeds! We brought several bins of different beans and colored corn as well as a Hopi Pale Grey squash and some dry corn on the cob (Painted Mountain) which was very colorful.

mastergardeners_0189

My Japanese morning glories are roaring up. Holy mackerel, you can actually SEE them pop out of the soil like beans do. They were very big seeds and the leaves are huge. I can hardly wait to see the blossoms! I’m starting to transplant tomatoes and, boy, did they germinate great this year. I put two seeds in each peat pellet and many had two plants (or more!) come up. I hate waste so I’m carefully transplanting each one so as not to waste. The extras I’m giving to my friends Diane and Gina to sell at their greenhouse. I don’t need 388 tomatoes! … plus the extras too.

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Will has the old, small hoop house down and taken apart so he can till the soil there. I’m not sure what his plans are — whether to put it back up or build a larger one in its place. Stay tuned and we’ll all see. — Jackie

Q and A: pressure canner or cooker and thick preserves

Friday, April 22nd, 2016 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Pressure canner or cooker

We bought an electric pressure cooker/canner (Power) with the understanding we could use it for canning vegetables. Now online we are being told not to use it. Please help us out. Can we use it for canning or not. If not, why?

Don Kendrick

Sorry, but electric pressure cookers are not meant to can food even though the manufacturer indicates they are. They just aren’t exact enough to maintain correct processing pressure throughout the time required for canning; they tend to go up and down a little….too much for safe canning. It’s necessary to buy a pressure canner (which can also be used to pressure cook many foods). Not only are they safer but they are also much larger than the electric pressure cookers, allowing you to do more foods at once. If you can afford an All American, that’s the best but a Presto, which is much cheaper, will certainly do the job for you. — Jackie

Thick preserves

I canned 14 half pints of homemade strawberry preserves yesterday. Opened one jar this morning to have with breakfast and it is too thick to spread on bread. Can my preserve be saved? If so how. I’ve made it many times in the past 5 years and this is the first time it’s come out too thick.

Leticia Ausbern
Chino Valley, Arizona

When jams and preserves are too thick, a quick “fix” is to just put the jar in a small saucepan, on top of a used old jar lid, then fill the pan up most of the way on the jar. Heat the preserves and they’ll soften so you can spoon them on your toast. Or if you let it soften more, you can pour it over waffles or pancakes. Don’t despair, goof-ups like this happen to us all. But, luckily, they’re mostly all edible! — Jackie

Q and A: sick chicken and jars not sealing

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Sick chicken

One of our old Rhode Island Reds isn’t able to get on her feet since yesterday. She never even made it in the coop last night. She ate some mealworms and had a couple sips of water this morning but can’t seem to stand on her legs. She was old when someone gave her to us 5 years ago. She hardly laid an egg even then but she was a sweet garden buddy. We don’t want her to suffer. If this is something she won’t recover from, how do we humanely dispatch her? Remember, we are vegetarians, not used to “dispatching”.

Draza Knezevich
Miramonte, California

You might try giving her oral tetracycline in water. While she’s probably on her way out naturally, this may help her recover at least for awhile longer. She may have picked up a bacterial infection which is harder on old birds. You can get tetracycline powder at your local feed store. Unfortunately, it’s meant for big flocks and it’s hard to figure out just how much to mix up for one chicken. We use one heaping teaspoonful in a quart of water. Mix well and give to her in an eyedropper several times a day. Keep her where it’s warm and dry meanwhile. Hopefully she’ll either recover or pass on so you’ll be spared having to dispatch her. — Jackie

Jars not sealing

I put up 9 pints of peas/carrots/potatoes and had 7 seal quickly. About 2 hrs. later one of the jars pinged closed. The 9th jar did not seal. My question concerns the unsealed jars of foods. I have read that the jars should be left undisturbed for 24 hrs. If at the end of that time is the jar that remains unsealed safe to eat? I have in the past put them in the refrigerator or freezer. I have concerns that food, especially something like chili, would pose health issues after being on the counter that long. What are the safe guidelines you follow for this?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

I only let my jars stand until cool to the touch. If they’re not sealed by then, they won’t seal. At that time, you can put any which are unsealed in the fridge or go ahead and re-can them. With an unsealed jar left at room temperature, you usually wouldn’t have health concerns as the food was processed for the correct time. However, at room temperature, it would later go bad as you would guess. As with all canned foods, it’s safest to bring the food to boiling temperature (whether in a casserole, boiled, or fried) for 10-15 minutes before eating. — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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