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Q and A: pickled beets, enchilada sauce, and rabbits

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Pickled beets

I bought and froze 25lb of red beets last year and I pickled another 25 lb. I am now out of the pickled beets, can I make pickled beets with the already frozen beets?

Maida Marksheffel
Ketchikan, Alaska

Usually you can get away with pickling pre-frozen beets but I would do a smaller batch first to make sure your variety will hold up without getting soft. Thaw them slowly in the fridge, then pickle as soon as they thaw. — Jackie

Enchilada sauce

Jackie, you mentioned that you make enchilada sauce. I would love to have your recipe since I make them a lot at our homestead. I hate using the store bought but have so far have not found a recipe that we like.

Merrie Knightly
LaGrange, Maine

Here’s the enchilada sauce recipe I use most often:

2 gallons tomato puree
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup minced onion
4 minced chipotle peppers (if you can’t find them, add 1 Tbsp. or more to taste of chipotle barbecue sauce)
2 Tbsp. (or more to suit your taste) chili powder, as hot or mild as you wish
1 Tbsp. salt

Mix all ingredients well in stock pot and slowly bring to a simmer. Ladle hot into warm pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes. — Jackie


My question is about rabbits. If I’m right, you don’t raise rabbits but maybe some knowledgeable person can help me. I want to know what protein level to give them. One hardware store says 16% and another says 18%, I have 2 bucks, 4 does, and always babies at some level of growth. They are mostly for meat. They are Flemish crossed with Californians and/or satin and/or other mixed breed, but all big for meat.

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

While we don’t currently raise rabbits, I have done so for many years in the past. A 16% pellet is all your rabbits require at all life stages. We also feed a good quality hay, fed free choice in wire feeders hung at the side of the cages and assorted “treats” from the garden such as carrots, sunflower seeds, cobs of dried corn, etc. (Never feed greens to young rabbits as it can kill them!) — Jackie

Hondo is a sitter!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »

I suppose I started it all by letting Hondo sit on my lap when he was a puppy. I did that with Spencer too. The trouble is that when I “explained” to Spencer that I still loved him but he was too big to sit on my lap, he understood. Not Hondo! He sits on everyone; Spencer, me, our visiting Lab, Buddy, and Will. Last night it was -12 when Will came in from chores. He sat down to warm up before he took off his chore clothes. Hondo was feeling needy and probably his feet were cold. So he popped right up and sat on Will’s shoulder. I couldn’t resist a picture!


Like all of you, I’ve been paging through all my seed catalogs like mad. Sure, I’ve decided on some new open pollinated and heirloom varieties to try this year. But I’ve also noticed that a whole lot of plants and seeds are now Plant Variety Protection and trademarked! Not just a few as in the past but a whole lot — pages of them! What this means is that you can buy the seeds or plants, but without “permission” (and paying a fee), you can’t propagate, distribute, or sell the seeds/plants you have grown. For decades, I’ve grown and given away billions of seeds. Now we have our little seed business so we can afford to help keep dozens of open pollinated and heirloom varieties alive and well. But now companies and commercial plant breeders are now “protecting” varieties, creating a monopoly on them. We’re tickled to have folks grow our varieties. And if they want to share them or even sell the seeds, great! (But then, we aren’t trying to get rich on our “own” special varieties!)

I’ve been pulling seeds out of our squash and pumpkins daily now. Most of the pumpkins are done; they don’t last much past the first of the year. Luckily, our squash are better storage candidates. We’ve eaten a lot of two year old Hopi Pale Grey squash that were still awesome. They’re still our very favorite squash. When I open one, we eat part for a meal, then I either can up the rest or make pumpkin pies. We quit growing acorn squash because it is basically bland and doesn’t store well at all. This year we grew both Canada Crookneck and Waltham Butternut as well as a new-to-us squash, Geraumon Martinique. This spotted dark green squash is wonderful! We’ve had raves from friends who we shared with and we’ve sure eaten our share. Very sweet and a wonderful aroma!


Our goats are also squash addicts. When they see me coming with an armful, they start yelling so much I’m afraid the neighbors two miles away will call the Humane Society on us! They eat everything: the guts, seeds (immature ones), meat, and skin. With their orange mouths, they bleat for more. And it’s good for them too.

Our weather’s turned real cold. Last night it was -22 with a high yesterday of -6. I’ll sure be glad when the next few days have passed and it warms up to the 20s. Above zero! — Jackie

Waste not, want not

Friday, January 15th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 12 Comments »

This was one of Dad’s favorite sayings, one we use often today. I made a tasty baked chicken with wild rice stuffing along with a big stir fry. We ate and ate, but there was still some meat left over, of course. So I took out all the leftover stuffing and tossed the chicken in a stock pot with water and set it on the old wood stove to simmer. Yesterday afternoon, I strained off the broth, let the carcass cool down on a cookie sheet, then picked off and cut up the meat. (I found a lot!) I then dumped the meat back in the stock pot with the broth, added herbs, diced onions, shallots, and spices along with a pint of drained carrots and a half-pint of mixed corn and peas. I let that simmer for about half an hour then tossed in a couple of handfuls of thick noodles. When they were very tender, we started in eating. Sigh. Wonderful. And I have enough left over for lunch today.


Will and I are busy writing down all the new varieties we will plant and trial this year. A few folks have sent us some of their old family heirloom seeds and we are especially anxious to try these. How exciting! We’ve found some very rare, wonderful new-to-us vegetables and flowers. (By the way, if any of you do have family heirloom seeds we’d just love to give them a try and see if we can pass them on to others if they do well for us. We simply hate to have so many great varieties go extinct every day.) — Jackie

Q and A: emergency escape vehicle, canning hamburger, cold hardy apricot tree

Thursday, January 14th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Emergency planning escape vehicle

Great ideas in Issue #157, January/February 2016 Emergency planning beyond the bug-out bag. Got me wondering what would make the best “escape” vehicle. I am thinking a diesel. Gasoline would start to deteriorate in a year. Storing a large amount would be dangerous. You could store a large amount of diesel and be good to go. Newer diesel trucks use electronic fuel injection and if there was an EMP you would be dead on the road. Older Dodge Rams had mechanical fuel injection that did not need electronics from the truck. Prices on these trucks are somewhat reasonable although a lot of people are realizing the worth of these engines. High mileage shouldn’t be a problem if they were well serviced. Do have any thoughts on alternative escape vehicles?

Duncan Murrow
Valdese, North Carolina

Good points for using an older Diesel vehicle, but I feel that depending on where you are planning on going with your vehicle, about any vehicle that has a large fuel tank and gets reasonable mileage will do the trick. Having an older vehicle without the electronic controls would also be a factor, should an EMP happen. I think keeping the vehicle trustworthy, the fuel tank full, and a few cans of fuel around is the most important factor: preparedness, again. With gas, just use the “stored” gas within a month and keep rotating it through the vehicle or other gasoline equipment so that the “stored” gas is always fresh. That’s much better than using additives. We like a pickup for an escape vehicle as you can also use it to pull a trailer of decent size where a car cannot. Also, our pickups are four-wheel-drive so will get us in to real wild places. Of course, it depends a lot on just where you are planning to bug out to: Uncle Jack’s farm or your remote fishing camp in the wilderness. — Jackie

Canning hamburger

I found a “recipe” for canning hamburger logs by rolling the meat into a solid log shape to fit into a canning jar. Leave 1″ head space & pressure can. Later you may slice this into hamburger patties. This seems to be one of those “too thick to be safe” ideas. Sure sounds easy! Your advice?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Well, in “the olden days” I used to just pack hamburger into wide mouth jars and can. But the resultant product looked like … well … dog food. Yuck! This is why I first brown my ground meat before packing it into jars, whether crumbled or made into patties. The patties done this way don’t taste like hamburgers … more like meatloaf. I put them on a cookie sheet, pour barbecue sauce on top and heat in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. I’m thinking the log thing would be too dense for safety and would also come out like my dog food canned hamburger from the past. I’d skip it. — Jackie

Cold hardy apricot tree

This year the last apricot tree died. Every year in spring it warms up, the trees bud then it freezes so I don’t get any apricots. I looked at the St Lawrence nursery but right now they’re just selling apple trees. Can you recommend a cold hard apricot tree that buds later? I had Moongold and Sungold but they just don’t like the cold.

Franci Osborne
Ignacio, Colorado

I’d wait until the new guy at St. Lawrence gets going. I’m hoping they’ll soon be back in full swing. Meanwhile, Fedco Trees has Debbie’s Gold, Westcot, and Brookcot, all from Manchurian Apricot breeding. They do bloom later and are Zone 3 hardy, having smaller apricots. But if you’re like us, ANY apricot that tastes good is a WIN! — Jackie

Q and A: crossbreeding corn, building soil, canning cake, and 20 most important homesteading items

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Crossbreeding corn

This year I am going to try and crossbreed two different varieties of corn and I know nothing about de-tasseling. One variety (Painted Mountain) has a shorter length of growing time (75-80 days), while the other, Seneca Round Nose has a full 100 days to maturity. Painted Mountain is much shorter than Seneca Roundnose also. I am planning on growing them every other row. I want to improve the Painted Mountain, taking qualities from the Seneca that I find desirable, (like strong stalk strength and good ear protection and larger ears). Both are flour corns. Which one do I de-tassel? The reason I ask is that I am afraid that the silks from the PM will be brown and done by the time the SN is in full tassel.

Crossing two varieties of corn with different maturity dates is often kind of tricky, although sometimes the two will pollinate at the same time. Go figure! But all is not lost, if that doesn’t happen. Instead of planting every other row, plant your Painted Mountain on the up-wind side of a patch a week and a half AFTER you plant your Seneca Roundnose. In that way they’ll both be ready for crossing at the same time; i.e. tasseled and silks produced on your Seneca Roundnose. To make sure you get a good pollination rate, instead of depending on just the wind, de-tassel the Seneca Roundnose as the immature tassels form without pollen. Then place a paper bag over the tassels of your Painted Mountain and bang on the bag to collect the pollen. Repeat with different bags (to avoid dumping out your collected pollen) until you have enough. When you have collected enough pollen, take a good pinch of pollen from one bag and sprinkle it liberally on the silk of a Seneca Roundnose plant. Repeat with as many ears as you wish. Be sure to spread the pollen well as each strand of silk needs to be pollinated to make one kernel of corn. It may take some years to achieve your goal but hang in there. Each year choose the ears that demonstrate the qualities you are looking for the best to use as seed the next year. Corn breeding is a lot of fun! — Jackie

Improving soil

Last year I went to the feed mill and bought alfalfa meal and blood meal to use in the garden. The blood meal stunk to high heaven. But I took and added both of these to nothing but pure gravel with egg shells ground up at each spot of squash and tomatoes and got a good crop off of everything I did this with. Is there anything I could put into these “growing holes” to make them even better? I just guessed at the amounts to put in the holes too, maybe I should have a better recipe.

As you know, our favorite soil amendment is “Mo’ poo poo” or rotted manure. Without a soil test, I can’t give specifics on how much alfalfa meal and blood meal you should add; if you add too much, you’ll have too much nitrogen and the tomatoes will have terrific vines and little fruit, although the squash would leap for joy. Rotted manure is less of a gamble. By the time it’s rotted, the nitrogen level is less apt to cause problems with such crops as potatoes, carrots, peppers, or tomatoes. And rotted manure is cheaper and a lot of commercial alfalfa meal is made from GMO alfalfa these days. — Jackie

Canning cakes

I recently had a friend tell me about canning cake. I have another friend that does it also. How safe is that? Eggs, oil, flour, canned? Seems risky.

I used to can cakes and they were good and handy too. BUT now there’s a lot of warnings by experts that there is a possibility of botulism from canned breads and cakes so I stopped, figuring that I didn’t want to take a chance with our family’s health if there was truth to their cautions. There is so much more to can up I just didn’t want to take a chance. — Jackie

20 most important items for a homestead

What are the twenty most important things you have on hand that get the most use and you simply couldn’t live without for homesteading?

Oh boy, 20? Okay, I’ll try. First is Will, my husband, and my supportive family and friends. Definitely number one! Then there is my Troy-Bilt horse tiller; chainsaw to help build, fence and cut our winter’s wood; my pressure canners; hundreds (thousands?) of canning jars and lids; tomato cages and steel stakes; tools such as shovel, pitchfork, fence stretcher, rake, hoe, hammer, saws, square, level, tape measure, crowbar, etc. (are each one of the 20?); our ATV; fencing material … okay, that’s 10 … kind of!

Then there’s, our water pump and irrigation system that pumps water from our spring basin up to the gardens, orchard and berry patch; our hybrid electric system (solar, wind, and battery bank); also generator (okay, I could live without ’em, but life’s much nicer with them!), our Mehu Liisa steam juicer and Nutrimill grain grinder, the Mantis tiller, livestock panels (for fencing, trellising and much more), the wood-fired livestock water tank heaters, Old Yeller, our trusty bulldozer (could live without it but would hate to as we use it a whole lot); the new barn with hay storage; fence around the gardens, berry patch, orchard, new pumpkin patch and pastures; and our trusty pets Mittens, Hondo, and Spencer.

Well, that’s 20 … kind of. I’m sure I left out something and YES, we could “live” without a lot of it as I have for years in the past. But all are sure nice to have around. Especially Will. — Jackie

All questions in this post were submitted by Dara Finnegan

Winter “catch-up” canning

Monday, January 11th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 11 Comments »

Although we use winter as our resting season, a lot still gets done. This is the time I do my catch-up canning. As we usually have butchered chickens, turkeys, pigs, and beef, I have a lot of meat in the freezer, which we can only run during the colder months. Our wind and solar don’t produce enough electricity to run our greedy freezer, and running the generator is expensive. Then there are always on-sale foods that I buy extra, usually at holiday season. For instance, during Thanksgiving/Christmas, both ham and turkey were on sale, so I bought a few of each and when Easter approaches, the ham will again be on sale.

So with all this cheap meat, I am slowly beginning to can it up. I just finished a turkey and am thawing out a ham. I can the meat and also, in the case of turkeys and chickens, the broth. And with ham, I use the ham bone and bits of meat to can up baked beans and bean and split pea soup.


And every day I’m taking seed out of our stored squash to dry for our seed business, Seed Treasures. I’m able to not only feed the goats and chickens the “guts” but also am canning up lots of squash for future pumpkin baking.

Also, during the rush tomato season, I can up quarts of plain tomato puree. Then, when I have more time, I open jars, cook it down, add peppers, mushrooms, spices, and meat and make lots of spaghetti sauce. I do this to make enchilada sauce and barbecue sauces, too.

It makes winter go by much more pleasantly, with a warm kitchen and no rush at all. You ought to give it a try! — Jackie

Homesteaders always learn new things

Thursday, January 7th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Sometimes we even learn things we don’t want to! Because our fledgling seed business is growing, Will decided he needed a way to keep track of sales, other than his handwritten notebook. Luckily, our friend, Ann, is computer-savy and willing to teach. Recently, she stopped over and gave Will Excel spreadsheet lessons. Wow, not only can he build, plant, harvest, and weld, but now he is more computer savvy than me!


We always try to learn something new every day. If we don’t, we feel like we wasted a day. Some folks apologize for asking “stupid” questions. Never do that! Every question answered advances you along life’s path. So if you’re wondering about something, just ask; if I can’t answer, I’ll try to find someone who can. After all, it’s what keeps “Ask Jackie” going.

Every day we’re getting new seed catalogs and Will and I are sorting out what we want to try this year. And, of course, which of our favorites we’ll be growing again, and where we’ll put them to keep pure seed. We got into a discussion this morning about GMOs and how scary it is that once a crop is contaminated by GMO polllen, it’s contaminated forever. In the future, it’ll be very hard to find such crops as corn, beans, beets (including chard, etc.), and even potatoes and peppers that aren’t contaminated by insect or wind-blown pollen exchanges. I’m glad we’re aware of it and are growing in an area far from any commercial crops.

In a month, I’ll be starting our first seeds, petunias, followed by peppers. Even though our temperatures are falling below zero again, spring seems a whole lot closer. Are all of you getting the itch too? — Jackie

Q and A: Family

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »


Can we catch up on your family? What is David doing these days? We have watched him grow up.

Pamela Standhart
Middleburgh, New York

Sure thing! David is renting a house in town with his friend Ian. He runs heavy equipment at Voyageur Log Homes, the mill where they turn logs into house logs as well as helping to build log homes. So he gets to do what he loves doing and the pay is pretty good too. He also has a girlfriend so we don’t see him as much as I’d like. David wants to save up for a piece of woods to build his own log house on. — Jackie



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