|We’re planning our spring homesteading seminar and are ready to take deposits.
This seminar should be a great one, covering such topics as homestead building (including helping do some slip form concrete and rock work on our new barn), getting more harvest from more difficult garden crops, veterinary care for your animals, and much more.
The seminar will be June 6-8th, 2014 here at our homestead. We’d love to have you come!
Prickly pear cactus
My prickly pear gets a green bud at the bottom and at the top of the bud it is red, about 1½ inches high then turns into a leaf later. Do you know is this an edible prickly pear? It has prickers and oval shaped about 8″- 10″ pads. It is all about 10 feet tall.
I don’t know of a prickly pear that isn’t edible. You can eat the young, tender pads with the fat, new prickers, or the red fruit that forms after the blossoms fade. — Jackie
For canning hard-boiled eggs, can I use some honey in the vinegar for a sweet and sour taste? If so, may I add honey to taste or is there a specific proportion of honey to vinegar to maintain the proper acidity for the canning?
I wouldn’t add honey to your canned hard-boiled eggs. If you want, once the jar is opened, you could pour out the brine and add honey to taste, then pour the brine back on the eggs and keep the jar in the refrigerator until eaten. — Jackie
Is this recipe safe to “oven bake” to seal? Would this be good for storage?
2 cups instant mashed potatoes
1¾ cups powdered milk
2 Tbsp. instant chicken or veg bouillon granules
1½ tsp. seasoning salt
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. dried thyme
In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients well and pour into a 1 quart jar. Seal and attach ring. Place ½ cup of soup mix in a bowl. To prepare add 1 cup boiling water and stir to smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Boy, Judith, I’d wonder about the bouillon granules becoming rancid after a time. Otherwise, it should “oven can” pretty well. You might try a couple of pint jars to see how it does. — Jackie
I was gifted 8 pounds of pecans and walnuts and decided to can them per your instructions. For some mindless reason I used quart jars instead of the pint jars recommended. I pressured them for the 10 minutes called for at 5 pounds of pressure. Will they be okay and how long can I expect them to last? And why is it that you want to only use pint or half-pint jars? Also what should the head space be? In your canning book you recommend leaving 1 inch of head space while in some of your back articles I see 1/2 inch head space. Thanks so very much for taking time to answer these questions. I am learning so very much from you and being retired … it is really helping out a lot!
I’m so glad to be of help, Lettie. Your nuts will be fine and can be expected to stay good for years. I’m still using the pecans I canned while living in New Mexico 15 years ago. The reason you use pint and half-pint jars is that once you open a quart, it is then prone to getting rancid, just like fresh nutmeats. With a pint or half-pint, you usually use the nuts up soon enough before they go bad.
The headspace really doesn’t matter although I use 1 inch to make absolutely sure none are touching the underside of the lids which could possibly cause a chemical reaction, darkening the lids. (The nuts would still be okay.) At the price of nuts today, getting 8 pounds gifted to you is really great! Enjoy them. — Jackie
I have an old bread making bucket that I found at a yard sale. It’s has some rust but is in good shape. Can you share with me how to clean it so it would be safe to use?
Lebanon, New Hampshire
I’d just wash it out well with hot, soapy water and scrub the rust spots with a steel wool pad. Rinse well and you’re all set to go. You got quite a find! — Jackie
Transporting canned goods
I am moving from 2500 ft. in the Sierra Nevada mountains to Idaho via interstate 80 over a pass of 8000 feet. I have many canned jars of food to transport. Will the high elevation blow the lids? Many do not have the rings on them. Would the rings protect the seals more?
I’ve moved several times from low altitude to high and the other way around and have had no problems with my canning jars losing their seals. No, adding rings won’t do anything to prevent jars from coming unsealed but it would keep the mess contained if this would possibly happen. I would make sure to pack the jars well so they don’t jiggle or bounce around as this could cause seals to fail. — Jackie
It’s mid-February (does THAT seem possible?) and pretty soon I’ll be starting my peppers and petunias. They take a long time to get big. After the peppers are about 4 inches tall, I put them in our enclosed porch, next to the greenhouse, where it’s much cooler. Instead of 72 degrees, it’s more like 55-60 degrees. I’ve found that they grow slower and develop stronger roots and stockier stems, and don’t get leggy and bloom too soon. We’ll be putting them into the hoop house in May with night-time heat if frost threatens. I can hardly wait! DIRT! I do use the super-sized Jiffy pellets with biodegradable netting then transplant the pellet and all into large Styrofoam cups when the roots just begin to come through the sides of the pellet. That works great for me and the pepper harvest is terrific. Even here in the North.
Last night I made deep-fried, fresh, homemade tortillas from some of the Maseca (masa harina) that friends from our fall seminar gifted me with. Thanks so much, Teresa and Jose! I’ve got a tortilla press and all you have to do is mix the masa with a bit of salt and water, divide into balls, and press with the tortilla press. I use a piece of waxed paper to prevent the dough from sticking to the press. After pressing, I roll the tortilla thinner with a rolling pin. Then I fry them in about two inches of hot lard. By tilting the pan back and forth, the hot grease rolls over the top of the tortilla making it bubble. This makes a nice crispy tortilla. Served with melted Velveeta cheese mixed with half a pint of my own salsa, these make a meal in themselves!
I just had to share this cute picture with you. As Hondo is really getting too big to sit on my lap (which he still does from time to time), he decided that Spencer would make a good substitute. He’s always sat on him, but lately, more so. He just walks up when Spencer is lying down and backs up and sits down on him. Plop. Spencer doesn’t mind and we think it’s so funny.
One of these days, I’d like to get an English Mastiff puppy. And as Mastiffs grow to weigh 200 pounds or so, I sure hope he doesn’t take Hondo’s lead and plop down on Spencer! — Jackie
When dry canning can you do a product that has yeast? Also, this may be crazy but as another emergency water source could you hot water bath water as a way for long term supply?
I wouldn’t dry can a food that contains yeast. Yeast is a living plant and can be killed by heat.
Yes, a lot of folks can emergency water. Some just add a few jars of water to each partial batch of canning they do, while others just can a batch of plain water. Personally, I would rather just store larger containers of water without canning them, which wastes jars and lids, then just renew the water each year to keep it fresh tasting. Five-gallon containers work well but I really prefer a large, vertical water tank in the basement, if you have one. Ours holds 300 gallons and we have two. (As we are off grid, we only run our generator to power such heavy draws as our water pump which pumps water into those tanks in the basement. Then we have a 12-volt water pump in-line to supply water pressure throughout the house without having to turn on the well.) It’s amazing how much water you use in a day and how fast those quarts of canned water will be used up. — Jackie
I got some Hopi Pale Grey seeds from a Seed Savers Exchange member a few years ago. I have grown them a couple of times and they are always in the 3 to 4 pound range. The description from Baker Creek lists them more like 10.
I was wondering if mine are like the ones you have. I actually like the smaller ones as there isn’t so much to use, but the meat isn’t very thick.
I’m saving the seeds; one squash had large seeds and the next one had lots of smaller seeds. I tested germination and they both did well. I’m mostly wondering about the size of the squash–if they are true to type.
It often has a lot to do with the soil type and how much water the squash receive during the growing season. For instance, mine are usually in the 7-12 pound range but we got ours in quite late last spring and it was very hot. We watered the garden, of course, but as we have sandy loam, I’m sure we should have watered more. Last fall, we only had five over 10 pounds and 85 in the 3-5 pound range. The smaller squash had smaller seeds and also thinner meat. This was quite unusual and it was the same seed I’ve saved over the past 18 years. I’m sure it was the growing conditions. Hope this helps. — Jackie
Yeah, we’re darned sick of below zero temps, night and day with windchill temperatures of -5 to -60 degrees. (Did you know that your skin can freeze within 5 minutes when it’s that cold?) Will found that out the hard way … almost. We were tying our new countertop on top of the Subaru when it was -30 with a stiff wind. He couldn’t tie the ropes with gloves on and took them off. By the time we got the two ropes tied, his hands were REALLY cold. Painfully cold. And we were really glad that they were still pink instead of frostbite white! Close one.
Of course we’ve been getting chores done very quickly, making sure all animals have plenty of bedding and feed to make more calories to fight off the intense cold.
So once chores are done, we have a lot of inside time! I’ve been packaging seed orders; we’ve been planning on crops we plan on growing this year, both for trial, our use and to save seeds from; and working on projects in the house. I bought Will a chainsaw sharpener last year for Christmas and one of his projects was to build a stand for it. He’d picked up an old stand from a drill press at the dump a couple of years back and he added a slightly smaller pipe to fit down inside it and cut a circular plate of steel to fit on top of the pipe, welding it in place. Then he drilled two holes in the plate to match the holes in the chainsaw sharpener base. He added two bolts and he had a portable, handy chainsaw sharpener. So one cold morning, he brought in all ten of his chainsaw chains and sharpened them. Now he’s ready to hit the woods or do more log work on the front porch, barn, or house!
Will also finished the trim around the laundry room door and windows in the addition. A year ago we’d picked up a truckload of knotty pine paneling from the dump that someone tore out of their house. We didn’t know what we’d use it for but just that it could come in handy. It did. Will cut all the trim from that throwaway lumber and it looks great.
This winter, we’ve been accumulating boxes of laminate flooring for the entryway, living room, and dining room. We found a wood grain we liked, Brazilian Koa, at Menards and wanted to get enough in case they discontinued it. (Happens a lot!) Now we have enough to do the job so I’ve noticed Will figuring out the initial work needed. Could happen fairly soon, but first we’ve got to clean up the concrete and rock work behind the wood stove so we don’t make a mess on our new floor. Yes, we would have rather done the floors in real wood but just couldn’t afford it. The laminate will look pretty and has a 30-year warranty. — Jackie
But before we get into that, please let me assure you folks who ordered seed in January and haven’t received them yet that they are being processed. We had a huge number of orders every day and we ran out of several varieties, chiefly the Hopi Pale Grey squash seed. We do have lots of squash, and other seeds that just needed to be cleaned and processed. I waited to make sure they were totally dry before shipping as I sure didn’t want any to mold! I’m finishing up with the orders today and tomorrow so your seeds ARE coming soon. I’m sorry to have worried you. As this is our first year, we didn’t have any idea of what to expect. We’ll do better next year.
On a good note, I do have more Bill Bean tomato seeds ready to sell so if you wanted some, just go ahead and order (click on the green box at the top of the blog). Thank you for your patience!
The very last thing Will needed to do on our new kitchen cabinets was to cut and poly some baseboards. The boughten ones were very expensive and not so pretty. We have a pile of nice, dry ash in the wood shed and he chose some with beautiful grain and cut them to fit. After 5 coats of poly, he installed them yesterday. What a feeling of accomplishment! Done!
Now we just have to save money for the upper cabinets, one or two at a time. But they’re not nearly as expensive and there’s no countertop either. Whew! The bathroom and kitchen look wonderful. We’re sure tickled. — Jackie