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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: livestock feeder and canning baked beans

Friday, November 14th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Livestock feeder

We recently purchased two 4 month old heifer calves. One is a Holstein and one a Jersey/Milking shorthorn cross. We are new to this cow thing and are learning as we go. Our plans are to have these cows be our family milking cows when they are older and we are currently working on halter training and getting to know each other. My question for you and the readers out there is regarding building some sort of hay feeder for these animals. I don’t want to feed them on the ground due to the amount that it wastes. We don’t need a huge hay feeder just for two animals either. We will be feeding standard bales of hay, not the round bales. And for that number of animals we would not even be feeding full bales at a time. Is there any recommendations for building a hay feeder for a small number of cows? It could either be free standing or attach to the side of the barn wall. Being new to this we just don’t know what the best thing to do would be. We were hoping to find an easy and affordable plan for constructing a feeder.

Brandie Penningroth
Auburn, Washington

You can easily build a wooden hay feeder, either free standing or fastened to the side of your barn. I have built several myself. I use 2x6s as a frame and 2x4s as the bars. You can either build a feeder that lets only the cows’ muzzles reach the hay or one where their whole head goes into an open stanchion. Obviously, a horned cow/heifer will need the bars farther apart than a dehorned or polled animal if you decide to let the whole head enter the feeder. The feeder should have a solid bottom. I place my 2″ boards about half an inch apart to make sure no water remains trapped in the bottom of the feeder. I also include a roof over the feeder, high enough above it so the cattle’s heads don’t trash it. The roof protects the hay from rain and snow. If you make a free-standing feeder, you’ll want to build four legs out of pressure treated 2×6 lumber so the legs don’t rot in the wet. For the free-standing feeder, think a tall, sturdy “baby crib” with a roof where the cattle reach through to eat the hay you drop in from above. It should be tall enough that they can’t easily reach over the top to grab hay and toss it out onto the ground but short enough you can throw a bale of hay (or part of a bale) into it. After you throw a bale into the feeder, cut the strings or wire and remove it. Hopefully this will give you some ideas. — Jackie

Canning baked beans

I wanted to can some baked beans but wanted to use a tasty recipe. I have the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving,” which has one recipe for Boston Baked beans. I was wondering if you have any good recipes for baked beans that can be canned and what canning process you use. Also, what do I need to be concerned with when trying to determine if a baked bean recipe can be canned?

Robert Parris
Olympia, Washington

Basically about any baked bean recipe can be canned, using the times and pressures recommended for baked beans, but to be safest, make sure your recipe is not REAL thick. It is not recommended to can thick foods such as pureed pumpkin or refried beans as it is possible that the food in the centers of the jars might not get hot enough, long enough, for safe canning. Therefore, if your recipe turns out very thick, thin it a little with water. You would pressure can baked beans at 10 pounds pressure for 80 minutes for pints or 95 minutes for quarts. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. — Jackie

Snow, snow, snow

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Luckily, Will and I have about gotten everything wrapped up for winter. He did finally get the stone and concrete slip-form wall poured under the house, next to our walk-out-to-be basement and also the stepped footings for the wall he intends to build next spring, under the south side of our pole-type addition. Even though he has a nasty cold, he worked hard to get that done because after listening to our trusty weather radio, he figured it was his last chance at good, warmer weather.

So he poured. And luckily he did because a couple of days later, our weather turned cold. And is getting colder. By later this week, the lows are going down to the single numbers. Ish!

Yesterday, we woke up to snow. Not as much snow as the folks south of us have been getting, but our first significant snowfall of the year. Brrrr. — Jackie

We just missed the big snow!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 9 Comments »

We listened to the weather radio yesterday morning, cringing when they talked about significant snowfall for our area and south of us. Eek! Luckily, we only got a dusting but Duluth and parts south and east got hammered with 12 to 18 inches of snow.

We knew it was coming and Will and I have been working like mad to get things done ahead of winter. I pulled the last ears of our Glass Gem popcorn and was really happy with the ears (and colors!) we got. We didn’t get a full crop as it was quite late-maturing. Next year I’m planting it farther apart so the stalks get more sunlight. I discovered that the rows on the outside matured faster than those on the inner rows because it’s such a thick-growing corn. But the colors — Wow! Colors I’ve never seen in corn: light blue, pink, mauve, and pastels. We’ll definitely plant it again!


I wrapped up the last of the fruit trees and bushes yesterday. Will salvaged some heavy aluminum screening from an old TV dish so we could wrap the honeyberries and a couple of bush cherries that were too bushy for a regular screen to fit around. It worked great. We had quite a bit of vole damage to our trees last winter so we wanted to make sure the same wouldn’t happen this year. We have a friend whose big apple tree was killed because the voles had totally girdled the trunk. That’s depressing. Some of our orchard trees have grown so much that the white spiral plastic tree guards won’t fit. I used old aluminum window screen instead. We aren’t taking any chances!


I got a whole pork loin on sale at our local store for $1.99 a pound. I roasted it up for dinner, cut into two chunks to fit my roaster. Then the next day I warmed it up and canned what was left from dinner, using the pan drippings with water added for a broth. We got two meals plus three quarts and a pint to add to our pantry. And I also got busy and readied another batch of carrots to go in the canner after the pork came out. I’ve only got one more batch to go plus some rutabagas.

We aren’t hunting deer this fall because winter killed off about half of our local deer herd. Besides, we are butchering a steer and we already have half a pig left in my son’s, freezer. And canned venison down in our basement from last fall. And the meat chickens… We sure don’t need more meat and we feel sorry for the neighboring deer herd and decided to let them rest with plenty of feed (Will’s oats/clover patch!). There’s always next year if we need one. — Jackie

Q and A: canning butter and freezing beef fat for later use

Monday, November 10th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Canning butter

I was wondering if there is a difference between canning regular butter and light butter? I’d like to can some light butter.

Angela Baker
Fraser, Michigan

Wow, I MUST live in the toolies as I’ve never heard of light butter — light margarine but not butter. I believe I’d stick to canning regular butter as I’ve never had any experience canning light butter. Any readers have any other opinions? Remember that canning butter is classified as “experimental” canning, (not USDA approved) as they haven’t done any testing for home canners. However, canned butter IS available commercially.– Jackie

Freezing beef fat for later use

I have a source to get some beef fat from a recently butchered beef. I would like to make some laundry soap. Can I freeze the fat and make the soap at a later date or would it affect the finished product?

Marcia Clupper
South Whitley, Indiana
Yes, you can certainly freeze your beef fat to use later on for soap. I’ve got about 30 pounds of pork fat in my son’s freezer to make lard with when I have more time. Freezing doesn’t affect fat. — Jackie

We’re working like mad to get ahead of oncoming cold weather

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

We have a few warm days but the long-term forecast is for increasing cold and snow. So we’ve been working like beavers, canning, cutting and splitting the last big batch of firewood, hauling manure, and pulling the last things from the garden.


Will has finished the retaining wall under our enclosed porch, beside the walk-out-to-be of our basement. The stonework on the barn is done. And now he’s got Old Yeller, our faithful bulldozer out in the goat pasture, shoving three-year-old leftover hay and manure into huge piles. Then he carries the best of the composted material out onto our garden by the tractor bucket full. Wow, will we ever have GARDEN next year! And a whole lot of leftover rocks will be buried. (He didn’t spread much on the area where our root crops will be planted as they don’t like excessive manure.) Squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes flourish in well-rotted compost.


We moved the goats up to the old goat barn for winter. Next winter, they’ll be in the new barn for winter and the goat cottage and pasture for summer. How spoiled will they be? Hopefully, next summer we’ll dismantle the old goat barn as it’s sure not a thing of beauty. And when our new cordwood chicken coop gets built we’ll be tickled pink.

I pulled the last of our carrots, which I’ve been canning every other day for better than a week. I planted both Nantes and Tendersweet and both grew nice big, sweet carrots. They are so crisp that when I scrape them in the kitchen sink, some actually POP open in my hands. That’s a funny feeling, for sure. I can the big, fat carrots in quarts, in chunks, for stews and to use with roasted meat. The more slender carrots go into pints to use as a side dish. I’ve already pulled and canned a lot of carrots to use in canned mixed vegetables like sweet corn, potatoes, rutabagas, and onions, etc. We had an excellent crop this year of darned near everything.


I also have been seeding our big, fat cukes and drying the seeds. The cucumbers (Homemade Pickles, our favorite for pickles) still taste sweet and I pop a few pieces into my mouth as I scoop out the seeds with a tablespoon.

Gotta run. There’s SO much we want to get done before serious snow falls! — Jackie

It’s rainy, cloudy, and nasty

Friday, October 31st, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

We had snow last night but it didn’t stick. Thank goodness! We still have a lot to get done before serious snow hits. We have gotten more firewood in and stacked and Will got the big pile of small popple from the goat pasture all cut up and that’s ready to come in when it dries out. (We don’t like to stack wet wood because it doesn’t ever seem to dry out well.)

But the drive bearing went out on Old Yeller, our 1010 John Deere dozer, and we spent a good part of yesterday driving to get parts and seals. So much for canning carrots! Then today after I’d gone to town to mail seeds to folks who had ordered them, Will called. Oh oh. Another trip 23 miles to the town of Virginia for another seal. As I was already “out,” I drove on to Motion Industries and got his seal. I’ll pull those carrots today anyway. I remember this time of year about two years ago when I went out to pull late carrots and found that the deer had gotten in and eaten them all. (I forgot and left a gate open…) Don’t want a repeat of that!


Our big turkeys, Christmas and Thanksgiving, are strutting like mad. I guess they don’t realize their time is coming. I sure hate to butcher, but I DO like to eat good food that came from animals who lived a happy life without chemicals and hormones added.


I’m still busy pulling seeds out of squash and pumpkins to dry. We had a slight setback: two of our cows got out and helped themselves to our pumpkin pile! But there’s still a lot left so get busy Jackie. — Jackie

Q and A: canning times, removing pulp from persimmons, and straightening canners

Thursday, October 30th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Canning times

I know a person that got an All American canner (I am wanting to get one). She said that the instruction book listed times that were about TWICE (or more!) of the Ball Blue Book (or you!) recommend. She said that she had talked with the folks at AA (All American) and that they said that the times were correct for the canner. Have you ever heard of such? I know you have an AA canner and that you use it regularly.


The instruction book that came with my canner has the same times as the Blue Book and I’ve used that for years so I’m not sure what your friend found. Get one! You’ll not be sorry! — Jackie

Removing pulp from persimmons

How do you remove pulp from wild persimmon seeds? Mine are falling now and I need to start using them.

Marcelle Bethany
Tupelo, Mississippi

What I’ve done is to cut them in half and rub the insides against the screen of a sieve. The seeds and skin stay inside and the pulp ends up in a bowl. — Jackie

Straightening canners

My son has straightened the bottoms of the Mirro canners over the years. By using a chunk of 2×4 and a heavy hammer they flatten right back to original. I am surprised you haven’t thought of this. They keep right on working and I wouldn’t trade my Mirro canners for the world.


Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? Of course that would work. Thanks for the tip, Kay. — Jackie

Q and A: Leaving Montana and garlic and onions

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Leaving Montana

I’m responding to your last entry in your blog regarding your trip to Montana. Sounded like you really loved Montana. Just curious why you left? I would have to agree with you it is a beautiful state.

Olympia, Washington

I really, really LOVE Montana. But we left because land prices have gotten so high that we couldn’t afford to homestead on the scale we wanted to. Land is so much more affordable here in Minnesota and you can buy 40, 100, 120 acres of wild land here where the only wild land in such acreages are in remote “subdivisions” where you will have neighbors … and not always the best of neighbors. Here, we have 120 acres that we could afford and winged and four-footed neighbors. — Jackie

Garlic and onions

We are interested in onions and garlic and would like to see an article of in-depth information for dummies. Last year we planted garlic toes in late October. They sent leaves up and when the freeze came they died.

Jim G.
Mount Vernon, Ohio

I’ll be happy to do an article on onions and garlic. They’re really easy if you do it right. Therein lies the key, as with many “difficult” garden crops such as carrots and parsnips. Planting in the fall is necessary for good garlic but, as you found out, planting too late doesn’t let the cloves send out strong roots and get established before freezing weather. — Jackie



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