Ask Jackie by Jackie Clay Issue 88

Ask Jackie
By Jackie Clay

Issue 88
Jackie Clay

To Ask Jackie a question, please Click Here to visit her blog.

Repacking pickle relish

We buy pickle relish fairly cheap at the local Sam’s Club in one-gallon plastic containers. I was wondering about repacking it in pint jars. Would any certain procedure have to be followed or could I just fill the jars, put the lids and rings on and store them?

Steve Dunn

Well, you could repack the relish in, say, sterilized pint jars and put a sterile lid on it and keep them in the fridge until all were used up. But I wouldn’t just store them on the pantry shelf because they may go bad. There’s no way to satisfactorily seal pickles of any type that have already been processed because in order to reseal them, you’d have to bring them to boiling and waterbath process them to seal the jars. This would make the relish very mushy. If I had room in the fridge, I’d keep repacked smaller jars in there, which would probably keep the relish nicer, longer. Of course, I’d rather make my own relish, as you’d guess. You miss half the fun if you don’t put up your own food.


Hydroponic gardening

I was wondering if you have any information on hydroponic gardening. My current gardening efforts are with container gardening (am handicapped and cannot plant in the ground). So far the insects have enjoyed more of the fruits of my labor than I, so I thought I would try hydroponics.

Linda Stone

I have never gardened with hydroponics. I guess I’m just too old fashioned. Many handicapped gardeners, especially those in wheelchairs, have great success with extra high raised beds. Our adopted son from India, Javid, is in a wheelchair, and really liked our big greenhouse with benches that his chair fit under, like huge tables. On these, I had several long, large boxes (2’x4’x12″ deep), in which we planted patio tomatoes, hot peppers, which are his favorite vegetable, and other plants. These worked great, both for the plants and the boy.

In his book, Square foot gardenming, Mel Bartholomew talks about gardening for handicapped folks on a similar raised table-bed, including drawings. You might enjoy reading about this method in more detail.

Remember, bugs can eat hydroponic gardens just as easily as they can those grown in dirt.


How can I be more self-sustaining?

My situation/questions are how can I be more self-sustaining with what I have as I cannot afford any more?

Now the background; I run 10 cows plus their calves and a bull on eight acres. I farm the other acre. Currently we can many types of veggies and are self-sufficient in water, beef, chickens/eggs, and veggies. But not the commodity grains.

We use the co-op for large amounts of wheat, corn, oats, beans, etc. As it is easier to use the co-op, I am really wondering if it would be possible to do this on a limited space as we have. I am very good at square foot gardening; but this would be intense. I have learned to get more out of my gardening: For instance, planting corn every 3 inches on all sides. This keeps the weeds out and as long as it gets plenty of water it works good. Since I live in Texas, it is hard to store potatoes and things in the ground as the ants get to them or it rots due to the high temps in the summer.

I guess the biggest problem is that I have a real job that takes most of my time.

So I guess my question is two fold. How can food be stored at the higher Texas temperatures over the summers and how can I increase/estimate yields beforehand to cut my food bill even more.

Kevin Bradway

First, I have a question for you, Kevin. Do your 10 cows bring you in enough income to justify having 10 head on eight acres? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had cattle nearly all my life, but when we went down to 20 acres (which isn’t much cattle grazing in Montana), I went down to one cow. Otherwise we were buying too much feed, as we couldn’t raise enough on such limited and marginally productive acreage.

I realize that in Texas, you probably get much more rainfall and have much better pasture than we did up in the mountains, but just think about it.

Yes, you can raise all of your family’s grain needs, including that used for a modest-sized flock of chickens on very little land, using the intensive methods you are already familiar with. We have raised wheat, rye, beans, and corn for cornmeal and masa harina (corn flour) on less than a quarter of an acre. What we did, which helped build our storage pantry, was to concentrate on two crops a year, raising and saving surplus grain. For instance, one year I raised rye, wheat, and two types of beans. The next year it was wheat and corn. That little patch kept us in dry grains for a long time. This included nearly all of the grain we fed our twenty hens. Of course, we free-ranged them and fed them garden products, such as weeds, damaged veggies, and canning left-overs as well as their own squash, pumpkins, and other easy and bountiful crops.

I have great interest in gardening for animals, or in other words, square foot gardening on a larger scale. Rotating pastures, hand harvesting small, daily amounts of clover, comfrey, and even weeds, and growing extra vegetable crops for livestock is done in many foreign countries as a daily part of living. Why is it so seldom practiced here in the U.S?

Even here, on our new Minnesota homestead, we are supplementing the diets of our goats and sheep with small brush we are hand cutting from fence lines and trails. They love it and it is a natural part of their diet. Of course we are always careful never to harvest any toxic plants for them.

As for your food storage: When Mom and Dad were living next to us in New Mexico, Dad had a well drilled. And, to prevent the pressure tank from freezing, he had the well driller install a steel tank, which was eight feet deep and about six feet in diameter. It had a welded lid on top with a door and ladder down into the pit where the pressure tank sat. It made a good tornado shelter and also was cool during the hottest weeks of the summer. You might consider hunting up an old large culvert, water storage tank, or whatever and having a backhoe dig it in the ground. Eight feet seemed to be just about right, temperature wise. If that was not cool enough, you could add insulation on the top, to keep out even more heat. Remember to ventilate your pit root cellar to prevent excess humidity from causing vegetables to rot.

Another possibility would be to run one-inch black water line around and around on the inside of such a well pit, before it flows out to the livestock water system. This would further cool the pit. I did this on a smaller scale to give us refrigeration. The spring line was run around and around a buried garbage can, which was used to keep our food icy in the hottest days.

One of the things I love about homesteading is all the challenges we face and the fun we have trying to figure ways to make things better. Good luck. It sounds like you’re well on your way.


Poisoned compost pile

I have just been told that it is not safe to put household dog and cat feces in the garden compost because of something that is poisonous to us. Is this true? I would like to know if I have poisoned my compost pile before I put it on the garden in May.

Stephen Tracy

No, the dog and cat feces do not have something that is poisonous to humans. But it is not safe to put composted pet manure in your garden’s compost pile. The reason is that dogs, cats, and humans share some of the same internal parasites and diseases. And these problems can be passed from one to another via fecal material. In an ideal compost pile, where internal temperatures are high enough, the feces are heated enough to kill these parasites and disease organisms. As we can never be absolutely sure of our compost piles internal temperature from day to day even under the best conditions, it is safest never to use composted (or raw) pet feces in the garden. You shouldn’t even use them in a flower garden, as you could, conceivably come in contact with this material, later, while weeding by hand.

But have heart; you can dig this “contaminated” compost in around each of your fruit trees, making a nice ring all the way to the drip line (where the branches end) of each tree. By digging the compost into the ground, you would be safe from any contamination, and your trees will thank you for the boost. The trees will not absorb anything toxic from the feces.

In the future make a separate compost pile for your vegetable garden. We simply dig a “doggy outhouse” hole and chuck the little land mines in the hole, covering each day’s delivery with a can of sawdust to keep down flies and the smell. When the hole is full up to about six inches from the top, we fill it in and dig a new one in a different area, not near the garden area.


Growing yeast

Do you know of any way to “grow” my own bread yeast from the active dry yeast I buy at the store? My husband and I don’t like sourdough, but yeast can get expensive when making all my own bread.

Amy Kelly
Jonestown, PA

I think that perhaps the easiest way out of your problem with expensive yeast is to buy your yeast like I do, in one pound vacuum sealed bags. You can buy such bulk yeast in many food co-ops, Sam’s Club, and most restaurant supply stores. (Look in your local phone book or ask your local café.) Or order in through the mail from Emergency Essentials. Right now, a one pound bag of yeast costs me about three dollars and lasts a year with all the baking I do, including pizza crusts for a pizza or two every week. If you have a good grocery store you can also talk the owner into ordering this large-sized bag of yeast for you. I did that in New Mexico and the store owner was happy to note that several customers praised him for carrying bulk yeast.

If you still want to make your own yeast, here is a recipe: hunt up a source for dried hops (health food co-op or brewers’ supply), then boil a good handful in 4 cups of water for half an hour. Strain off the hops. Mix in 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and let cool till lukewarm. Add 3 Tbsp. dried yeast and mix in well. Let rise until very light. Thicken with cornmeal until a stiff dough. Roll thin. Cut into three-inch squares. Dry in the oven with only the pilot light on or another safe location out of the direct sun. Do not get hot or you will kill the yeast. Turn often during drying. When dry, store in a mesh bag in a cool, dry place. To use, soak each square in 2 cups warm water. You’ll have to experiment with the homemade yeast as to strength. Good luck.


Okra seeds

When I slice my okra, the seeds are sometimes brown, some seeds bordering on black, and some okra have white seeds. I am used to eating the okra with white seeds and am very comforted by that. When I see the brown seeds, I get a little upset. Is it safe to eat okra like this and why are the seeds different colors?

Ruby Olisemeka
Larchmont, NY

I wouldn’t worry about the color of your okra seeds, Ruby. Very young okra usually has white seeds, as does watermelon. Some okra seeds turn brown or black when it is getting more mature (like watermelon), where other varieties stay lighter colored. The color has nothing to do with the edibility of the okra, although more mature okra pods tend to get tougher with age.


Hopi Pale Grey seeds

In your article on squash, you mentioned a Native American winter squash called the Hopi Pale Grey. I was interested in purchasing some from Abundant Life Seed Foundation, which was listed as a source in your article. I went to their e-mail address and found out that their whole business went up in flames in August of 2003. They are not currently selling seeds or mailing catalogs. Could you sell me some seeds from your own supply? I only need about 12 seeds.

Virginia Lowe
Falcon, MO

No wonder I didn’t get a spring catalog. Funny thing, too. The very day I received your letter, I had sent $2 and a request for a catalog to Abundant Life, figuring that my change of address got lost somewhere in our move from Montana. I called them and found out that you were right. Their whole business suffered a devastating fire in August. The good news is that they are continuing with their business as they rebuild. (Donations are very gratefully accepted.)

I don’t want to disappoint any of my reader family, so I hunted high and low for a commercial source of Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds. And I found one and one only source. It is Aurora Farm in British Columbia, Canada. They have a seed list for $1 (U.S. funds will work.). And they carry Hopi Pale Grey squash seed. You talk about a rare squash. I never guessed they were so hard to find. How about it readers. You want to help me save the squash? Let’s all grow a big crop this year and save the seed to help keep it from becoming extinct.

Aurora Farm also sells many other organic, open pollinated vegetable, flower and herb seeds. Their address is 3492 Phillips Rd., Creston, B.C. , Canada VOB 1G2 and their web site is Tell Barbara I sent you. Nice folks.


Tomato drink recipe

Just a note about walnut stain: If you grab a tomato and use it just as you would soap, you will remove the stain from your hands. No fresh tomatoes? I have used some of the contents from a commercial can of stewed tomatoes and found that it worked just as well.

Now my question: I like to drink Bloody Mary mix in place of tomato juice. I especially like Mr. and Mrs. T’s mix which states that it has a blend of 22 spices and ingredients. It also costs close to five dollars for 64 ozs. Do you have a recipe for blending and preserving this drink? (Non alcoholic)

Mary Rhiner

To tell the truth, I don’t know if my tomato drink recipe is just what you’re looking for, as I haven’t had the brand you mentioned. But here is a recipe my mother found in an Amish cookbook that might work for you (at least as a starting point).

Tomato drink:

2 quarts chopped raw celery
2 red beets
6 carrots
4 onions
2 gallons tomato juice
3 lemons, sliced
salt to taste
Louisiana hot sauce to taste

Chop the vegetables and cook them separately until real soft. Mash them until real fine. Strain, add the tomato juice, and add 3 sliced lemons, rinds and all. Add salt and hot sauce to taste. Bring juice to a boil and pour into hot sterilized pint jars, wipe rim of jar clean and place a hot, previously boiled lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Good luck and let me know how you make out.


Pickled red beet eggs

Can you please tell me how to can red beet eggs?

Lana S.

I think what you’re looking for is a recipe for pickled red beet dyed hard boiled eggs. Here is a recipe.

Pickled red beet eggs:

6 cups strongly colored beet juice made from boiling sliced beets in water
3 cups sugar
6 cups vinegar
1 tsp. salt
36 peeled hard boiled eggs

Mix the first four ingredients and bring to a boil and hold there for five minutes, stirring constantly. Pour over 36 peeled, hard boiled eggs and refrigerate, tightly covered for 24 hours. Dip out the eggs and pack into sterilized jars. Bring the vinegar solution to a boil and pour over the eggs to within 1/2 an inch of the jar’s top. Wipe rim of jar clean and place a hot, previously boiled lid on, screwing the ring down firmly tight. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes.


Failed sauerkraut

In the January/February issue you described a recipe called the Florida quick method for making small amounts of sauerkraut. I followed the instructions to the letter but thought there should have been some brine added to the jars before leaving the ‘kraut to ferment. What do I know? I wanted sauerkraut and did not want to fail in this endeavor. I put the jars in the basement with loose lids, forgot about them for a week, and then checked on them. My cabbage was black and smelled like the compost pile!

What went wrong. In order to recover from this culinary failure and assuage my bruised ego, I made pickled garlic from the March/April issue, which was a roaring success. I still have a hankering for homemade sauerkraut though.

Dan Ranger

Gee Dan, I’m sorry your ‘kraut went belly up. But in any endeavor, this kind of thing happens while you’re learning. I’ll never forget my first attempt at cement work.

I think what happened is that you didn’t pack the salted cabbage into the jars. In most canning instructions, “packing” simply means putting a food into the jars. With sauerkraut, “packing” means just that. You must just about pound the cabbage down into the container. This releases air pockets and also helps make the juice flow that mixes with the salt to become the brine in which the cabbage ferments. Another thing to watch for is to make sure that all the cabbage is packed below the juice/brine.


Companion planting

Peppers and tomatoes not compatible? Why? Is it an insect thing?

Sarah in the woods

I guess I’ll have to take exception to that. Gee, I grow my peppers on the sunny side of my tomato rows and have always had terrific crops of both. I lot has been said and written about companion planting and which vegetables don’t get along well with others, but in truth, I can’t say that I agree. (Except that you shouldn’t plant your garden within the drip line of a big black walnut tree, as that can cause a poor garden.) I guess the thinking behind the peppers-tomato thing is that they can both get the same plant diseases and could pass them back and forth between species. But if your garden is well enriched with compost and you take care of it, your chances of having any diseases are quite small.


Canning catsup

I am looking for a tomato catsup recipe that I may use fresh or can. I find only fancy recipes that my husband wouldn’t care for, or catsup made from cukes. I know that you have a good answer to my question. I want you to know that I have been using a canning guide that was published in the mid ’80s and after seeing you mention “a new or recent canning guide, like Ball’s Blue Book” I went to their web site and found out that canning guidelines changed in 1989, and if your book is older than that you may be using an unsafe technique or timing, so I sent for a copy. Had you not mentioned it so frequently, I would not have had any reason to check their site. You may have helped avert a canning mishap. Thank you.


Here’s a plain old fashioned catsup recipe that should work for you. It will be very good, but remember that commercial catsup is sweetened with corn syrup, not sugar, so the consistency is smoother and shinier than sugar sweetened catsup. But homemade catsup is really great and easy to do, too.

Homemade catsup:

1 gallon of tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 Tbsp. pickling spices
2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar

Peel and chop the tomatoes and onion. You may put the tomatoes through a Victorio food mill. Put into a large enameled or stainless steel pot. Add the pickling spices, tied in a bag. Simmer until soft. Put through strainer to remove seeds and tough pulp. Remove the pickling spices. Place in jelly bag and hang over a bowl until the pulp is the right consistency. Add the salt, sugar, and vinegar. Boil 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid scorching. When the right thickness, pour into hot clean pint jars, wipe the rims clean, and place hot, previously boiled lid on and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes.


Pickled walnuts & canning mushrooms

I find the majority of people think home canned food is unsafe and something to be cautious of. You couldn’t imagine the looks I get when I mention the baby food I’ve canned for my grandchild. I hope you continue to work with BHM for a long time to come.

I am in need of a pickled walnut recipe. My family’s “1800” Worcestershire Sauce recipe calls for “pickled walnuts” and I’ve had to leave it out all these years because it can’t be found. In your #86 issue on preparing black walnuts, to can them do you cover the nuts with water, vinegar, or nothing at all?

Also, in the Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide, you have a picture of canned wild mushrooms. I would be pleased with that recipe.

Linda Kindlesparger
Thompsonville, IL

You’re right. People would rather eat genetically modified, commercially grown and canned food, which is handled brutally at the canning plant (I’ve seen it with my own eyes; a catsup plant with dump trucks dumping tomatoes onto a cement slab, where men with scoop shovels and waders herded the questionable tomatoes into an auger). But that’s okay. They just close their minds and eyes and buy away, scoffing at we who can. My food is grown at home, organically. Most seed is organic, untreated and definitely not genetically modified. I pick it fresh and can it that day in my own kitchen, where I am very picky about food. I’m sure most home canners are, too. I can’t figure it out.

Now for your pickled walnuts. I do not have a recipe, but you can pickle just about anything by simply immersing it in vinegar. If it were me, I’d simply toss a handful of walnuts into a half pint jar and cover them with vinegar. Put on the lid and store in the fridge for a week or two. That will give you “pickled walnuts.”

Canning mushrooms is easy, but the experts now warn not to can wild mushrooms, because some people picked poisonous mushrooms by mistake and canned them up. I don’t often listen to “experts” who are trying to keep us safe from ourselves. Of course every mushroom hunter should only hunt mushrooms they can positively identify. That makes sense. And if you’re going to eat ‘em, why not can ‘em? I do. Frequently.

Be very careful in your picking, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. Here’s how I can them:

Sort the mushrooms and soak in salted ice water for 10 minutes to remove any sand or insects. Morels often harbor both of these and are one of the best mushrooms. Can small mushrooms whole, removing any large, tough stems. Larger mushrooms may be sliced. Place in a pot and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes. Pack hot into pint or half pint jars. Add salt (1 teaspoon to pints), if desired. Cover the mushrooms with boiling water to within half an inch of the top of the jar. Wipe rim of jar clean and place hot, previously boiled lid on jar, screwing ring down firmly tight. Pressure can only at 10 pounds pressure (adjusting pressure upward for higher altitude; check your canning manual for directions) for 45 minutes.

I use these wild mushrooms in a lot of recipes, from pizza to stews. They’re great.


Rough cast iron pans

Have you noticed that new cast iron pans don’t have the smooth finish the older ones have? It’s more like a sand blasted surface, at least for the Lodge brand. I called their 800 number and was told they stopped grinding them smooth a few years ago because the demand for Teflon really ate into their business. In any event, I’ve found the new rough finish is totally useless for making eggs over easy. I could grind my new one smooth, but that seems like it would be a real pain or an expense for a machinist. Any ideas on acquiring an older version (tried garage sales, hard-to-find older ones)?

Bob Riley
North Charleston, SC

Yes, I have noticed that many cast iron pans are rougher. And many are also lighter weight, too. You might try a pan from Lehman’s as the folks who buy from them actually use cast iron pots and pans every day and demand quality.

I have bought several great old cast iron pans at Goodwill and Salvation Army stores as well as junk and cheaper antique flea markets. If this doesn’t work, you might place a small ad in the local shopper paper or on bulletin boards in strategic places. I’m sure you’ll get replies.


Homemade chicken feed

How can I make my own chicken feed? I have three laying hens and I have no idea what is in that junk I buy at the feed store. I would like to make my own, in 50-100 lb. batches and then scoop it out and put it through the food processor as needed. The easier the recipe and fewer the ingredients, the better.

Erica Leake

Well, you could make your own chicken feed, but what I do is buy scratch feed, which is simply cracked corn, wheat, and milo. I do not buy laying mash, because I’ve seen it made. You don’t want to know what’s in it. Scratch feed is not supposed to be a “complete” feed, but my chickens are on free range all day long, and they also eat up household scraps and gardening surplus. I’ve never seen any sort of nutritional deficiency in my poultry, and they lay very well, indeed. You do not have to grind the feed. Chickens with adequate grit (either commercial or simply picked up in the yard) can handle whole grains. The cracked corn simply is easier for them to peck. It’s a good idea to supply your hens with oyster shell, as well to help them build nice thick egg shells.

If your hens are confined, give them daily snacks such as weeds, excess garden and table scraps and they’ll do fine.


Gardening in a cool short season climate

Now to the reader in Tok, Alaska, who wants to know how to garden in such a cool, short season climate. I’m sorry but my husky got into the Ask Jackie questions and destroyed your letter. I swear to God. Luckily, I read the mail before I put it on the desk. Sorry unnamed reader, but I’ll tell you how I’ve handled cold and short seasons. (I’ve gardened over 20 years in northern Minnesota, with temperatures of -55 degrees and Montana’s mountains above 7,400 feet, where it snows every month of the year, so I know what I’m talking about.)

First of all, you know you can grow root crops, such as potatoes and carrots. But you can also grow tomatoes, sweet corn, and squash. B.S.! you say. No way! Would I lie to you?

Here’s how I do it:

First of all, be very careful of what varieties you choose. Few commercially available plants will work for you. I’ve had excellent luck with Early Cascade and Oregon Spring tomatoes, Early Sunglow and Kandy Kwik sweet corn. True Gold sweet corn, which is an open pollinated corn will usually make it, as well. For melons, try Minnesota Midget and Alaska muskmelon and Baby Doll watermelon. Many of the Native American melons also work great in short seasons as they are extremely hardy.

Prepare your soil well, working in much organic material such as compost, rotted manure, and peat moss. Your garden soil should never remain wet. Cold wet garden soil will really slow down seed germination and plant growth. If you have a problem with this, try using raised beds. The extra work constructing them will really pay off in future years.

In the spring, start your own tomatoes, peppers, and melons. The tomatoes and peppers can be started in any deep pan or container. I plant my seeds, then water with very warm water and put the whole shebang in a bread wrapper or other clear plastic bag, shut it, and then place it in a warm place. Keep close watch on the containers because just as soon as the seeds germinate, they must have light. This can be a south window or a common shop light suspended eight inches above the plants. With inadequate light, the plants will become weak and spindly.

The melons should be started six weeks before your last dangerous frost date in peat pots so you can plant pot and all to avoid transplant-shock. I’m not counting light frosts, as they will be protected. The tomatoes and peppers should be started 12 weeks before your last dangerous frost date. No, I am not nuts. (At least I don’t think so…)

Read on.

Now, eight weeks before your last frost date, place a strip of black plastic over the ground where your tomatoes and peppers will be planted. This will drastically warm up the soil. If you have trouble with permafrost or lingering frost in your garden, leave the plastic in place when you plant your plants, as well. Buy enough Wall ‘O Waters to protect your plants. I could barely think about gardening without this product. It makes that much difference to us cold country gardeners. These plastic tipis consist of 18-inch-deep cells, forming a circle around your plant. They are filled with water halfway, at first, effectively making a little greenhouse around your tender plants. (See the article in Jan/Feb 2003, Issue #79 of BHM.) They will not only protect plants at temperatures down to 16 degrees, but will cause them to thrive. Even when it snows and freezes outside their micro-climate. I’ve had a foot of snow and 19 degree temperatures for two days, and finally opened the Walls to find the sturdy tomatoes had actually grown.

Two weeks before that frost date, cut an X in your black plastic where each plant will go to facilitate planting later, then place a 5 gallon bucket upside down over the spot. This holds the Wall ‘O Water upright while you fill the cells with water. The filled Walls will further warm the soil where the plants will be planted; a definite bonus.

Okay, it’s four to six weeks before that late frost date in the spring. It’s warmed up and is spring-like (some days). Some days it snows and freezes. It’s time to plant your tomatoes and peppers.

On nice days, I hope you’ve been carrying your plants outside a bit to harden off. Don’t let them freeze or chill badly. This is not as necessary the way you will be planting, because they will be totally protected from the cold and wind.

Carefully lift your plants and place them in a hole in the center of the X on the black plastic, inside the Wall ‘O Water. Gently firm the soil and water each one with warm water.

Water as needed and you are in business. Your plants will grow much faster and develop a much better root system, which translates as more and better tomatoes.

Your melons can be planted about two weeks before that last dangerous frost. I’ve planted them earlier, with the tomatoes and peppers, but did not have good luck with lusty plants. I’m sure in warmer climates, they would be fine.

Cucumbers and squash can also be started and treated the same way as the melons. Use the black plastic mulch as you did for the tomatoes and peppers.

Sweet corn is a challenge in cold climates. But I’ve always had great corn. What I’ve done is this: Two weeks before planting, lay out black plastic over your corn patch, anchoring it down well. When you are ready to plant, make furrows six inches deep for your corn rows. The night before planting, soak your corn seed in warm water. I place it in an old towel in a roaster pan and sprinkle enough warm water on the corn and towel to make it damp, not wet. In the morning, plant your corn. Then take a strip of clear plastic and anchor it over the row, making a little greenhouse. This dramatically raises the temperature of the soil and enhances quick germination, as does soaking the seed overnight (no longer).

Leave the clear plastic in place until the corn is up and there is absolutely no chance of a killing frost. If this just doesn’t happen, make a post and pole framework over the rows and hang clear plastic down over the frame, making a long tent over the corn row. It’s a little work, but definitely worth it. If you must do this, consider planting your corn in the square foot manner, in 4’x8′ beds with a clear plastic tent over the whole works. I’ve also used this for tomatoes at high altitude in Montana where we had 18 inches of snow on June 27 (Bob went snowmobiling) and a blizzard on the Fourth of July.

I hope these tips will help you out. Don’t believe anyone who says “You can’t grow that here.”

Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve heard that, and have gone on to give those very people batches of fresh garden produce that they told me I just couldn’t grow.


Cold cereal recipe

I was so excited to read that someone was looking for a cold cereal recipe. I love mine and could never find anyone to share it with.

Better than grapenuts cereal:

3 cups coarsely ground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional, use 1/2 cup more of whole wheat if you choose not to add wheat germ)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
2 Tbsp. malted milk powder (optional)

Combine all ingredients. Stir well with a spoon. Dough will be very sticky. Pour onto greased cookie sheet, pressing to 1/2″ thickness with a metal spoon. Dip the spoon in water, or spray with Pam to keep cereal from sticking to spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Will be firm but not crisp. Turn the oven off. Remove pan and cut into strips about 1″x5″ and flip each strip upside down. Return to the warm oven until dried thoroughly. About another 1/2 to ¾ hour. Cool down the strips. Grind each strip in meat grinder using the coarse disc, then place in a wire strainer. Shake to separate the coarse from the fine crumbs. Use the coarse crumbs for cereal, the fine crumbs use as if they were graham cracker crumbs in desserts or even a graham cracker crust.

Honestly, the cereal gets soggy fast, so I add a little at a time to my bowl of milk or I eat it like a normal bowl of cereal and when it gets to the soggy point I heat it up and finish it off as a hot cereal. Great either way.

S. Garthwaite
Aurora, CO

Thank you so much for sharing your recipe with us. It made me so hungry that I’m going to try it in a few minutes. I’ve got a batch of wheat that needs eating up, and this will be a good use for some. I’ll bet it is good and I like the graham cracker crumbs uses for your cereal, too. Most folks don’t know that “graham” flour is simply coarse-ground whole wheat flour and that graham crackers taste sweet because of the brown sugar that’s added.


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