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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

Click here for Summer of the Eagles Click here for Autumn of the Loons


Q and A: sealing cedar for raised beds and squash not germinating

Friday, June 12th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Sealing cedar for raised beds

We just got some cedar raised garden boxes. Do we need to seal them from moisture? We would like to seal them and also give them a little color with wood stain but fear that we will be putting harmful chemicals right where we are growing our food. Do you have any definitive information about this situation?

Deborah McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

It is recommended that we do not seal our cedar raised beds for the best quality garden soil. Untreated, cedar boards should last for decades, leaving the soil pure. — Jackie

Squash not germinating

I bought some of your Hopi Pale Grey Squash seeds and planted them about a month ago (approx. early May). So far nothing shows. All the other seeds like Provider Beans and Pumpkin seeds have germinated and are about 2-3 inches tall. Is Hopi a slow germinator or did I put the seeds in too early? Will they still sprout after a month of watering? Your insights are much appreciated. Thanks for all the great articles and blog!

Draza Knezevich
Miramonte, California

No, Hopi Pale Greys are very fast germinators. They should certainly be up by now. I’d dig in a hill you planted and see if the seeds are still there. If they are and look rotted they may gotten dry while trying to germinate. If they are gone, a squirrel, chipmunk, or bird may have made off with them. If you have more seeds, go ahead and replant. I sure hope you have better luck. As you know, Hopi Pale Greys are one of our favorites! — Jackie

It’s finally drying out

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

After all the rain, making the fields and garden soppy, it finally quit pouring. Yesterday, Will and Krystal went out to the new corn/pumpkin field and hand planted several trial varieties of corn. If they do well for us, we’ll choose one to grow out next year and save pure seed. But planting was awful, with them sticking in the mud, hoisting heavy boots and struggling with the planting. Will wouldn’t let me help because of my bad knee and I kind of felt left out.

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Luckily, when Krystal and I planted the pumpkins and squash on the pumpkin side, it was dry and very easy planting! Now we’re waiting for them to come up.

Today Will and Krystal went out again to plant more corn, and it went much better due to warmer temperatures and a good breeze that dried things out a lot. Now over half of the field is planted but we’ll have to wait to do the rest as it’s too wet for the tractor to till. We’ll see how that goes…

Every Wednesday we’ve had a baby doe goat born. And today we had another! Willow, our best doe, had a huge, long-legged doeling that we’re calling “Wednesday.” We’re thrilled at how pretty she is.

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Does anyone happen to have an old, working tablet or laptop they would donate to my adopted son, Javid, who lives in assisted living? He has a desktop computer but is restricted in the time he can be up in his wheelchair as he is still healing from pressure sores. So he spends a lot of time in bed (boring!) and would sure like to be online instead of watching daytime TV. Right now we can’t afford to buy him a new one so thought I’d ask around.

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We are amazed that our Hopi Pale Grey squash are popping up so strong. Most are as big as your hand when they come out of the ground. This year we are trying two new pumpkin/squash varieties,  San Filipe (Native pumpkin) and Apache Giant squash. We are hoping they’ll do as well for us. — Jackie

It never rains but it pours

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Our area was so very dry earlier this spring, with the rivers and lakes down alarmingly. Then it started to rain! So far, we’ve had four inches in two days, another inch, then an inch and 7/8 with lighter rains in-between. It’s very lucky that we were able to plant what we did.

Yesterday it was only cloudy and Will and Krystal took the tractor out to try and plant Painted Mountain and some other trial corns. No dice; the field is way too wet. So I planted potatoes in a furrow he’d made (by accident) and we called it good. Today it’s so wet out there that he can’t even drive the four wheeler on it! We’re hoping for a late fall!

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We’ve had two single goat births, both cute doelings that are doing very well and are really fun to watch as they bounce and play in the grass.

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Our first planted crops are coming up: pumpkins, squash, Bear Island Chippewa corn, and the melons in the hoop house. The Kuroda carrots were three inches tall when they emerged from the soil! Stunning.

I’ve got asparagus coming out my ears and have to pick three patches this afternoon. After Will tossed four inches of rotted manure on the beds, the stalks have doubled and more in diameter. Many are thicker than my thumb. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some canned up real soon.

Good news on the second book in the Jess Hazzard series, Autumn of the Loons. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order and delivery on the 15th here: http://amzn.to/1JApFX2

The print edition order page on Amazon will be ready by the 15th according to Amazon, but folks can order Autumn of the Loons and save 15% or order Summer of the Eagles and Autumn together and save 20% on both if you go to the publisher’s order page here: http://bit.ly/1KOniP3 . And you’ll get complimentary bookmarks with your order, too!

If you’re looking for more Jess Hazzard, here it is! And if you haven’t read Summer of the Eagles, you’re missing a lot of good reading. Okay, so I’m prejudiced but readers seem to agree! — Jackie

Q and A: dehydrating celery and jelly not setting up

Monday, June 8th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Dehydrating celery

My first attempt at drying celery proved disappointing. I used a brand new dehydrator (Presto). The process took twice as long as suggested: the pieces turned brownish and the rehydrated pieces were flavorless and texture resembled wet cardboard. What did I do wrong?

Margaret Jensen
Branchville, South Carolina

I cut my celery into fairly thin slices, across the grain. Be sure to lay them out in a single layer, not touching each other. I don’t fill the whole dehydrator, just four trays as celery is quite “wet.” When the pieces are starting to dry, change the trays around making the top ones the bottom ones as the bottom ones often dry first. Once dehydrated, your celery should be crisp-dry and retain its color quite well. I also include the tops and leaves in the dehydrating as they make great additions to soups and casseroles. — Jackie

Jelly not setting up

Holly and I spent the day yesterday making pin cherry jelly. We just can’t seem to get it to set properly. I used the recommended amount of sugar (¾ cup sugar per cup of juice), lemon juice, and temp of 220 degrees. After overnight it still wasn’t set, I re-boiled it all and tried again and it still won’t gel. It is the consistency of syrup. Any ideas or thoughts?

Chris Shanahan & Holly Langevin
Clifton, Colorado

Did you use any pectin? You didn’t mention it and it is sometimes easy to forget. The jelly won’t set without it. I use a bulk powdered pectin, available online but you can run to the store and get some powdered Sure-Jel, which works well. — Jackie

All work and some play

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

We’ve been working hard, so Krystal and I took an evening off to drive up to the Vince Shute Bear Sancturary west of Orr, Minnesota. There were few bears around, but we were lucky enough to see a momma bear with four cubs! She brought them out right after we got there and they were just coming down when we left, three hours later.

Quadruplets_8944
I’ve seen quite a few bear cubs but never four at once so that was a huge treat. It was neat to be close enough (and safe enough, up on a viewing platform) to actually hear her “tell” the cubs to come down with quiet grunts.

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We are so lucky to live in such a wild place where seeing such things are possible. It makes up for the sub-zero winters! — Jackie

Q and A: making corn meal and growing Hopi Pale Grey Squash

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Making corn meal

My question is regarding homemade corn meal. We have a hand crank corn sheller and it works great. We also have a grist mill, and it makes corn meal just fine. The problem is the cob dust (the red part of the corn cob, which stays on the end of the kernel of corn). Is there a way to get that cob dust so it does not end up in the corn meal? (It floats to the top of the corn bread, and looks and tastes terrible).

Brian in Minnesota

Usually if you grind a dent corn this can happen. I like flint corn as you don’t end up with this problem. To reduce the red dust, take your shelled corn and handful by handful, rub it between your hands and then drop it into another bowl. Take it outside in a breeze and slowly pour the corn from one bowl to another. This lets the chaff blow away, leaving clean corn. — Jackie

Growing Hopi Pale Grey Squash

Does the Hopi Pale Grey Squash have a strong enough stem/vine to be grown on a trellis? I’m doing spaghetti squash, butternut squash, your cucumbers, and pumpkins as well, and I know all of those except pumpkins will grow nicely on a sturdy A-frame made of hog panels. I was hoping the Hopi would as well.

Chrissy Mullender
Luray, Kansas
 
Yes, the Hopi Pale Greys will grow on a trellis. I had some that climbed a tree and hung from it, come fall. The vines are not only strong but extremely rampant! Most pumpkins will, too, except the giant ones like Big Max or Atlantic Giant. Mom had a big pumpkin grow up an apple tree and come fall, there were orange pumpkins hanging out of her tree. What a sight! — Jackie

We have been busy with more planting

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Krystal and I planted three rows of Howden pumpkins (C. pepo) and two rows of Atlantic Giant pumpkins (C. maxima) in the old pig pasture. Then we went out in the new “garden” and planted three 250-foot rows of assorted pumpkins and squash that we are not going to keep seed from — sort of a trial patch to see what we like and how well it grows (and tastes).

We had a couple of cold days with frost warnings. One night was so cold that we closed up the big hoop house where we planted our peppers, and lit the propane heater — just in case. It turns out that it didn’t freeze here but our friends two miles away had 27 degrees on their deck!

hoop-house-peppers_9006
This morning, we all hit the garden and got two long rows of tomatoes set safely in their Wall O’ Waters. Not only do these protect against freezing but also against strong winds which damage tender plants. As I write, Will and Krystal are setting out to plant two varieties of corn in our old pig pasture, between the pumpkin varieties. One is Will’s own Seneca Sunrise (a 75 day sweet corn) and the other is Glen Drowns’ Yukon Supreme, which he’s had mature in 45 days! We’re anxious to give it a try.

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Some of our goats are kidding and some are getting very close. Ghost had a single doeling that’s mostly white with a beige head and neck that we named Demi. Willow has such a huge udder that we think it’ll pop! She is a gallon milker but gee…We’ve been thinking for days now that surely she will drop those kids within an hour. Maybe today? — Jackie

Q and A: canning meat and canning lard

Friday, May 29th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Canning meat

How do you can meat? I have never tried to do it, but my mom did it when I was very young.

Bettye Bryan
Water Valley, Mississippi

Meat is very easy to can and it’s so useful, once in the pantry. I’d strongly suggest getting a copy of my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, for detailed instructions on canning all kinds of meat and meat based recipes.

To can meat, first gently brown it; it doesn’t need to be completely cooked as it will cook during processing. Cut the meat into convenient chunks or slices to fit easily into jars. Use the pan drippings to make a broth, mixing them with water. Pour this boiling broth over the meat, ending up with an inch of headspace (or room) at the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar off to remove any particles or grease. Place a previously simmered, hot new lid on the jar and tighten the ring down firmly tight. In your pressure canner, pour two inches of water. Insert the rack to keep jars off the bottom of the canner. Fill canner with jars and clamp the lid on and turn on the heat. Leave the weight off or the petcock open so air and steam can exhaust. When the steam shoots out in a steady stream for 5 minutes or the time recommended by your canner’s manual, place weight on or shut petcock to build up pressure. Process pints at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes and quarts at 10 pounds pressure for 90 minutes in a pressure canner. When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the canner sit until the pressure has returned to zero and remained for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and, using a jar lifter, lift out each jar and place on a folded towel in a draft-free spot to cool. When cool, check to make sure the centers of the lids are indented, which indicates that they are sealed. Remove the ring and wash the jar in warm, soapy water to remove any grease or minerals on the jar. Dry and store in your pantry. Do not put the rings back on, as they do nothing to ensure the seal and only trap moisture, resulting in rusty lids.

Again, I’d strongly recommend getting Growing and Canning for a whole lot more information. — Jackie

Canning lard

What process is best for canning lard? Some say to pressure can it; some say to heat it and pour into hot jars then add the lid and ring and let the cooling lard create a seal; some say to water bath it. I’m looking for a safe way to store it unrefrigerated.

Michelle Schwarzin
Crane, Oregon

I’ve always canned my lard by ladling the hot lard into hot jars, wiping the rim to remove any grease then adding a hot lid and screwing down the ring firmly tight.

I don’t feel it necessary to pressure can it (pressure canning can actually blow some liquid lard out under the lids, resulting in a bad seal). Water bathing would do nothing but ensure a seal. Any type of canning is unnecessary. The enemy of lard is air and once sealed, air cannot get to the lard to turn it rancid. The hot lard, hot jar method has worked for me for more than 50 years. — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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