Ask Jackie by Jackie Clay Issue 94

Ask Jackie
By Jackie Clay

Issue 94
Jackie Clay

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

A gray sourdough film and my “falling” bread

Why is a gray film forming on top of my sourdough pot? I’ve had them for years, and this is a new problem. Is it mildew? Is the seal on the lid of the pot not tight enough? Is it because I am now trying white winter wheat? Is it because I have a plastic bowl? Those are the only things that I am doing differently. What’s going on?

Also, I had a loaf of rye bread fall in the oven. I looked it up, and the book said if it falls it’s because it rose too fast. Another book said not to let it rise too fast or it would fall. How am I supposed to keep it from rising too fast? Speak to it harshly?

Thanks for your words on Alaska. It is incredibly beautiful, a land of fire and earthquake, volcanoes and glaciers, boom and bust. It is not for the faint hearted. I came here 39 years ago, at the age of 35, with a small girl and all my bridges burned behind me. I’ve been through a lot, but never regretted coming here.

Evalyn Preblich
Anchorage, AK

I’d guess that the gray film is probably a type of mold. Like good things, like the yeast we capture for our sourdough, mold spores can float around and begin a colony in nearly any warm damp spot. Unfortunately, the best solution is to dump that batch of sourdough (hoping you don’t have personal attachements to it), and start anew with a sterile bowl or pot.

Now you have a good talk to that bread! The way to keep it from rising too fast is to let it rise in a slightly cooler spot than you did before. I’ve had bread fall because I was canning that day and the kitchen was warmer than it usually is when I bake bread. No big problem. "Jackie

Breeding ducks

I have a wonderful flock of Muscovy ducks that I started raising last year. My question is about breeding. Is it a good idea to introduce “new blood” to prevent inbreeding. Or is it a problem? Should I obtain new birds from outside the flock occasionally?


Yes, it is a good idea to introduce a new male from outside the flock from time to time. This goes for almost any breed of bird. The easiest ways are to simply trade males with a neighbor or give your drake to someone and buy a younger male from a different bloodline. " Jackie

Potatoes in containers

Can you grow sweet potatoes or regular potatoes on a deck/balcony in a bag or trash can?

wolf and cat

Yes. Not only will they produce well, but they look attractive as well. For your sweet potatoes, you can either choose a bush sweet potato or vining type. On a deck you might perhaps prefer a bush plant, where sweet potato vines could trail beautifully down from a balcony. The leaves on both of these varieties are attractive.

Simply drill a few holes in the bottom of a large container, such as your plastic trash can, for adequate drainage, then fill with good rotted compost or garden soil. Even commercial potting mix will work, but will cost more of course. Snug your plant in the center of the soil and cover it with about two inches of the dirt. Then water well but don’t drench the container.

Irish potatoes are even more fun. To grow these, fill your container 1/2 full, then place the seed potato chunk with at least three eyes with the eyes up in the soil. Cover it by two inches and water. When the plant is a few inches tall, again bury it with soil. Keep this up until your container is full. Irish potatoes grow tubers along the stems, not from the roots. So the more you encourage stem growth and cover the stems, the more potatoes you will harvest. This is one reason you need to hill your potatoes in the garden. The more times you hill them, the better your harvest will be.

While your plants are growing, keep them watered, but never have the soil soggy or you can rot your plants. "Jackie

Butchering 12 pigs in high heat a bad idea

We slaughtered 12 pigs yesterday morning and hung them overnight. This morning we will be doing the cutting and wrapping. Yesterday’s temp reached almost 79 degrees but pretty windy. We hung the split sides in our pole barn to firm up overnight. The temps overnight stayed in the mid 60s. Is their any concern that the meat may be compromised due to the temps? We are located in rural Kansas.

Chris Needham

Why did you butcher 12 hogs when it was going to be so warm is the question that comes to my mind first off. I much prefer to wait until a very cool day, even freezing. And I never butcher more than one or two animals at once, as I don’t have the help to get them taken care of and cut up in a timely manner.

Freshly butchered meat needs to be cooled down pronto. This can be done by rinsing well with cold water or even wiping out with snow if water is unavailable. In warmer weather, filling the body cavity with ice and covering the carcass to hold in the cold helps keep it cool.

Pork, being so fatty, tends to sour quickly when not cooled properly. I sure hate to tell you to throw away 12 pigs’ worth of meat, but I really wouldn’t want to come to a roast pork dinner when you were serving one of them.

Keeping homemade pickles crispy

Is there any way to keep your homemade pickles crispy. My mother makes mustard pickles but they sometimes don’t stay crispy like the ones in the store.

Sherry Sigler

The best way to keep pickles crisp is not to boil them too long before you waterbath them. A very old time pickle maker told me this secret, and since I really watch my timing, my pickles are always nice and crisp. No, I do not add alum or lime to my pickles to make them crisp. They are just naturally crisp by themselves.

Another thing that will help you make crisp pickles is to pick your produce in the cool morning and immediately wash and process your pickles. And when it says to soak the cukes or beans in ice water, it means just that. Keep those veggies cold and crisp as long as possible. But don’t over-chill them, either, by putting them in the freezer for awhile or pouring ice over them. These things will result in limp pickles too.

Buy a big enough canner

I am purchasing a pressure canner for my son for a birthday present at his request. He said I should write to you and ask that you recommend a few brands. I did see a Presto on the net but did not wish to get it if it is not going to last. Price was about $90. Can you give me some help?


Presto is a good brand of canner. Many are in use that are over 50 years old. Personally, I prefer a gasketless canner so that you do not have to change gaskets through the years. Unfortunately, these canners cost a little more to purchase. I believe Mirro makes a line of these canners. It really doesn’t matter which brand you choose, but be sure you get a large enough canner. Some folks have been fooled into buying a small “pressure cooker/canner,” which doesn’t even hold quart jars and makes home canning a nightmare. Get your son a larger canner that will hold at least five quart jars and he will be eternally grateful.

Searching for Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds

It seems that I’ve been looking forever for Hopi Pale Grey Squash seeds. I tried the sources you listed but they don’t have them either. I even tried a seed exchange.

Joe Herzog

It seems that the wonderful Hopi Pale Grey squash is on the verge of extinction, when just two years ago several seed houses carried plentiful seed for it. This just goes to show you how quickly you can lose an old open pollinated variety that has been around for centuries. Over a hundred disappeared just this last year. Forever. That’s scary to me. Diversity is the framework of our food. And that is folding very, very fast. Just look at the seeds on your local seed racks. I’ve been watching, and nearly every rack, regardless of the company, has about the same varieties. To make matters more depressing, these are not the best of the best. Many are mediocre.

This year, I cannot find one good American source of Hopi Pale Grey squash. My good friend, Shane Murphy, in Santa Cruz, CA, is growing out a crop this year and should have seeds to sell next year. I will also be growing HPGs this year, but Shane has a much better growing season and his crop might be more reliable. Shane grows for Seed Dreams and you might contact Tessa Gowans, Curator, P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368 or e-mail to find out how things are going and to get on a list for seeds this fall.

Canning milk

We will be getting a milk cow soon and are excited to use the milk for butter, cheese, etc. I would also like to can some. But I just can’t find out how long to process it. Because of the acidity, I believe the only way to successfully can it would be in a pressure canner. Could you please help me?


Milk is easy to can, but it does not come out like raw milk. It is fine to cook with, but it sort of caramelizes and gets thicker. Milk is higher in acid than one might think, containing lactic acid. So you can either pressure can it or process it in a water bath canner. To pressure can the milk, cool your fresh, strained milk, then pour it into clean jars. Leave half an inch of room at the top of the jar. Place a hot, previously boiled lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process in a pressure canner for 10 minutes, at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude, requiring adjustment; see your canning manual for directions).

To water bath process your milk, simply place the jars in your hot water bath canner and process for 60 minutes, counting from the time the kettle comes to a rolling boil.

Low maintenance, edible landscaping

I am 61 years old. I live in a small town in SD. I have 3 lots. I have tried to find some one on with no luck. So I am asking you if you could give me some advice as to how to do the landscaping and gardening that would take the least care. I would like to do as much landscaping as edible as possible. The lowest maintenance as possible. Now that I have asked the impossible, thank you for any help you can give.

Leona Martel
South Dakota

No, Leona, you have not! I totally love the idea of edible landscaping. I fell in love with it when my grandmother landscaped her Detroit double lot with food. I grazed through those trees, vines, and shrubs all summer long.

Most folks have shrubs and trees in their yard for shade and beauty. Why not plant shrubs and trees that also give you food? Instead of a plain old hedge for privacy or a windbreak, why not plant a hedge of food? Hansens bush cherries and hazelnuts make a great hedge and will give you more than beauty. Likewise, instead of planting a flowering crab in the front yard, why not plant a North Star pie cherry? This wonderful, hardy pie cherry has beautiful blossoms in the early spring, and gorgeous red cherries later on.

Clematis vines are pretty to look at, with their colorful flowers, but how about planting a clematis and a grape vine next to each other so that you have food for your soul and your pantry as well?

Foundation plantings are often green shrubs intermixed with flowers. Why not plant several bushes that bear food in there, instead? There are pretty blueberry bushes, dwarf fruit trees, current bushes, highbush cranberries, and more that have not only flowers but food on them as well.

And don’t forget ground covers. Today you can buy bog cranberries that don’t need a bog. These creepers do well in a partially shaded flower bed edge. Next Thanksgiving you could be eating your own cranberry sauce.

Then there are hardy kiwis, plums (shrubby tree), quinces, semi-dwarf apples, nuts, strawberries and so many more. It is surprising how many foods you can grow right in your yard, replacing unproductive landscaping for a very full harvest.

Preserving bread, growing lentils, and plastic eating squirrels

One of the local specialty bakeries gives away day-old bread for free once a week at the college I attend. It’s good bread, no preservatives, baked fresh every morning. Is there any way of preserving bread, other than freezing it? Is it worth the trouble? I can get all I can carry for free, but I won’t be attending this school much longer, and I’d like to take advantage of this bounty while I can.

Secondly, I’ve never seen lentils advertised in any seed catalogs. What kind of plant are they? How are they grown? Are they difficult to grow and harvest?

Thirdly, have you had any experience with plastic-eating squirrels in your area? The ones around here eat anything that isn’t moving, and seem especially fond of plastic and fiberglass. They’ve chewed on tires, plastic flower pots, milk crates, etc. They ate an entire hose reel. They even got under the hood of my dad’s truck and ate his distributor cap. Is this something that’s been happening for decades, and we just noticed it, or is this new? Any idea what causes this behavior? Or how widespread it might be?

Thank you for your time and help!

Melanie Rehbein

There really isn’t any practical way to preserve bread, other than to freeze it.

Lentils aren’t commonly grown in the garden as they are small and “too much trouble” for most gardeners to harvest. They have small pods with only a couple of seeds in each one. But they are easy to grow, and if you’d like to try them, Native Seeds/SEARCH has seed for you to try. Their Address is 526 N. Fourth Ave., Tucson AZ 85705 or

Yes, I know squirrels chew plastic. I’m not sure that they actually eat the plastic. Chewing is just what squirrels do. And there is just more plastic around today for them to chew on. Years back, hose reels were made of metal, flower pots of clay and distributor caps bakelite or some such material. The more plastic, the more squirrels, the more chewing.

Our squirrels have enough natural predators to keep them in check, so the chewing doesn’t become obnoxious. Get rid of the predators, and the squirrels run amok. Sort of like people, huh?

Smelly coffee grounds

I spread out used coffee grounds in a container and dried them and when they were dry I put them in a larger container…and now it all smells moldy. I know they were dry when I put them in, but anyway my questions are:

1. Are the coffee grounds that smell moldy of no use anymore?

2. Is there any way to reverse the smell of the mold?

3. If they get moldy, how could they help in a garden?

4. How do I prevent this in the future?

What a waste of all that I have collected.

Yes, you can use those moldy, smelling coffee grounds. Just work them into your compost pile and soon they’ll be nice black garden gold. And the smell will be magically gone, just like the smell of garbage you composted.

To avoid the mold, dry the grounds on a cookie sheet in the oven with just the pilot on or in a sunny window. Be sure to stir them once or twice during the process so they are totally dry. Even the slightest bit of moisture will result in mold.

But if you’re having trouble drying them or storing them in an airtight container to avoid moisture, why not just spread out your grounds in your compost pile in the garden, as you collect them? It only takes a few seconds to work them in and you’re done. Even in the winter, you can simply pour them into a spot to be worked up when the area thaws in the spring.

Pressure canning stock

I just got through making 30 quarts of vegetable stock that I use as a green supplement. It’s made from kale, carrots, garlic, onions, celery, seaweed, and pure water.

I combine 1/2 cup vegetable stock with 1/2 cup chicken stock and drink daily. It really helps with bone aches, arthritis, and muscular aches. When I combine it with the chicken stock it’s like taking a one a day vitamin. It energizes me for the day. And no more bone aches for this gal.

To preserve the stock I either freeze it or pour the boiling stock into quart jars and seal, then I store the quarts of stock in the fridge until needed. But it takes up a lot of space in my refrigerator.

Would it destroy a lot of the useful nutrients if I chose to pressure cook my vegetable stocks? I’ve always heard bad things about pressure canning and how destructive pressure canning can be. Is this true? Do I need to pressure can my stock or just give it a hot water bath?

I would like to have my refrigerator space back.


If I felt that pressure canning was destructive in any way, I wouldn’t spend so much time and energy doing it. When you use fresh ingredients and follow the directions for the time and pressure, you retain most of the nutrients available.

No, you cannot water bath process any vegetable or meat product. These are low acid foods and to do so is very dangerous. I realize many people have and will do this, but it is still dangerous. I would try pressure canning a few jars of your stock and see if you like the results. "Jackie

Loosening up clay soil

I was just reading your response to a gardener in Texas about adding sand to loosen up clay soil. Unfortunately for me I found out the hard way several years ago that adding sand to clay makes something akin to concrete. The spaces between the sand particles become filled with the finer clay particles and produce something very hard and impenetrable. I should have known better as I am a second generation greenhouse operator and learned all about that in freshman soil science class. Please advise your readers to add organic matter, any organic matter to clay soils to improve drainage and help retain moisture during dry conditions.

Bill Lefebvre

I must say that I can’t remember telling a Texan gardener to add sand to loosen up clay soil, and if I did I must have had a “senior moment.” Our last Minnesota homestead was 120 acres of solid red clay, at least seven feet down. My first garden there was a joke. I had to plow the garden to get the carrots and rutabagas out of the ground. Even moist, the clay was so hard that I couldn’t dig them up, much less pull them.

But when I left there many years later, that same garden soil was black, loose, and wonderful. And I did it by not adding sand, but by dumping immense amounts of rotted manure, fall leaves from town, grass clippings, and straw onto the garden and working it in every single fall. There is absolutely nothing better to loosen soil than copious amounts of organic material.

Another clay garden of mine responded to dump truck loads of grain screenings from the local grain elevator. These were bulldozed flat, then deeply plowed under. In one year, the soil went from unproductive clay to black wonder soil. This soil was so good that earthworms flourished so well that I could dig a whole can full with a stick in about two minutes. This is God’s truth.

In addition to adding the organic matter to the soil, it is a good idea to apply a heavy organic mulch after planting in the spring. Not only will this conserve moisture and hold the soil in place, preventing erosion, but it will rot and further add to the soil.

Brussel sprouts and radish greens

In our attempt at a garden last year, we decided to try and grow Brussel Sprouts. As I hate to waste anything, are the “sprouts” the only thing worth eating? Can you cook the leaves and/or use the fresh leaves, like the tops, in a salad? Our BS plants actually survived the winter here, but the “sprouts” are spreading out and leafy. I have the same question about radish greens. My wife greatly enjoys radishes and we are going to have a “mess” this year. Can you prepare radish greens the same as any other greens?

Robert Wall, Jr.
Dewey, OK

Yes, you can experiment, picking a few leaves to cook. If you like them raw, you can also add to your salad, although they are a bit tough for many people’s taste. Personally, I find radish greens about inedible. Instead, I much prefer to let a few run to seed and add the tender new, crisp seed pods to salads.

Canning dry mixes and breads

Is there a foolproof way of canning dry mixes like cookie mixes and other “just add water” mixtures? I have heard that using oxygen absorbers are good enough in regular canning jars, but the cans just don’t “snapseal” like when canning. Also, do you have a good recipe for Boston brown bread which can be canned in canning jars, and how long do canned “breads” like banana nut last in food storage?

Jered B

I do not can my dry mixes. I simply mix up big batches and keep them in airtight gallon jars until I need some. Of course, these could get rancid after a very long term storage, but mine don’t last that long. I regularly use these mixes and then replace the mix when it runs out with fresh.

Any recipe for Boston brown bread may be canned; just fill wide mouth jars 2/3 full of the batter, allowing for rising during baking. The canned breads seem to stay good indefinitely. I recently ate a Korean War tinned K ration of pound cake and it was fine (and I’m still alive!). I do love to experiment!

Where’s the septic tank?

As I read Jackie Clay’s article about moving their trailer up to their home site, I wonder, she didn’t comment about a septic tank. Where did they hook the sewer line up? It would have taken awhile to dig a septic tank.

As usual, your magazine is excellent.

Lorraine Dotson

I didn’t mention a septic tank as we don’t have one! We have an old deer hunter pit toilet with a new box on it, along with an indoor “regular” toilet, which I line with biodegradable plastic bags. Next to the toilet sits a bucket of pine or cedar shavings. When you deposit solids in the bag, you cover them well with the shavings. Liquids go into a five gallon bucket, which is dumped onto the compost pile for the orchard. There is no odor and the system works. The full bags of shavings/solids go, also, into the orchard compost pile and are buried with strawy barn waste.

Mom is in a wheelchair and Dad walks with a walker, so using a regular toilet is not possible. They use a commode in the bedroom. This is dumped in the outhouse and rinsed with bleach water.

When we get into our new log house, we will install a conventional septic system as it will work fine on our nice high gravel ridge.

Soft and salty dill pickles

I tried for the first time to can dill pickles, and they came out soft and salty. How do I get them to come out crunchy? Is it the water or the processing in water bath? Please help.


Usually when pickles are salty, they have not been rinsed after soaking in salt water. Sometimes soft pickles come from high minerals in the water but most times it is from processing too long in the water bath. If your recipe calls for water bath processing, have your water at boiling when you are ready to place your jars into it. To keep cold jars from cracking, stand them in a sink full of quite warm water long enough for them to feel warm to the touch before placing them in the boiling water. Then get them in quickly and put the lid on. Count your time from when the kettle resumes a rolling boil. When the time is up, immediately remove the jars and place on a dry, folded towel with air circulation between the jars so they cool quickly. Keep out of drafts, though, or they might crack.

Do a small batch, using your recipe. If they turn out okay, great. You can check in a week. The pickles won’t be real good, but you’ll know if they are crisp and less salty. Place the opened jar in the fridge for a month, and let ‘em cure longer so you don’t waste them. If you still don’t like the pickles, choose another recipe. There are dozens; some you like and some you don’t….just like everything else.

Canning green beans

For 60 years I have canned green beans like this:

To each quart of beans I add I tsp salt and top it with 1 tsp vinegar or lemon juice. In water bath I boil quarts for 45 minutes, pints for 1/2 hr. Before serving, I boil 5 minutes more. I never, never had spoiled beans and we have never been ill from eating them.

Hanni Goochee
Gowanda, NY

I’m sure your beans are fine, but it is still not safe to water bath any vegetables or meat. The deadly bacteria that causes food poisoning is not present in most food, homes, or jars. Therefore it does not usually affect boiling water bath processed low acid foods, such as your beans. But it can, and does happen in some instances. It’s sort of like pointing a loaded gun at your family. It will probably never go off. But I’d sure not advise doing it! Adding the vinegar or lemon juice is just not enough acid to make them safe.

One exception to this is when you pickle beans or other vegetables. Then, using a lot of vinegar, they become acid enough to protect them from bacteria which causes food poisoning.

Extracting oil from lavender plants

My wife grows lavender in our little “victory garden” plots. She (and I) love the smell of it and she uses lavender oil in her bath. We were talking the other day about it and she wondered aloud if there were a way to extract the oil from our lavender for our own use.

Michael Metzger

I don’t have the time to do “nice” things like extracting lavender oil from by herb garden for my bath. I’m real happy to have the time for a bath! But I’ll bet some reader will be able to tell you how to do this.

Honey garlic sausages

My husband and I looked at your website and were impressed at the many recipes you have. We are looking for a recipe for honey garlic sausages for moose/deer meat and can’t find one anywhere. Can you help us find one?

My husband shot a moose this fall and the butcher who cut our meat made delicious sausages (a recipe which he will not sell or trade for anything in the world). He will not even tell us the ingredients he used. So we are at a loss.

They are truly delicious and we would love to know how to make them. If you have any suggestions, we would greatly appreciate them. We searched Google and couldn’t find anything on honey garlic sausages.

Cydrina Ernst

I have one honey garlic sausage recipe:
Mix 5 lbs. beef (or elk, moose or venison) with 10 lbs. pork, 1 ground onion, 1 Tbsp. garlic juice, 1/2 cup salt, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, and 2 Tbsp. black pepper. Mix thoroughly, grinding together several times. Let cure overnight in an open pan in a cool area. Stuff into casings. Smoke with fruit wood or mesquite, as your taste prefers, for 12 hours or until casings are nearly dry and the sausages are firm.

Learning to can foods

I’m starting to try to learn to can stuff; got a water bath canner from Shetler’s and jars and lids. I thought there would be a book of some kind with it, but there wasn’t. I have been retired for 51/2 years and got a fair garden and orchard going. I can’t see things going to waste. Could you give me a few instructions and some times to boil things like peas, green beans, corn and such, especially tomatoes and juice.

Charlie Coss
Williamsfield, OH

Good for you, Charlie! Sounds like you’re off and running. But to keep you going, please don’t try to process vegetables and meat products in your water bath canner. Boiling does not kill deadly bacteria that can invade your jars. To kill them, you must use steam generated by a pressure canner. The foods that you are able to can in your new water bath canner are many: tomatoes, fruit and tomato juice, jams, jellies, pickles, fruit, and even milk.

You can buy a good, inexpensive canning manual, such as the Ball Blue Book, at most stores that carry canning equipment. Even WalMart sells it. In the meantime, you can go to your library and borrow a canning manual or book. If they don’t have one on the shelves, they can get one from interlibrary loan. You can then write down notes to tide you over until you get your manual. Don’t try to can without one. I open one to every food I can, and I’ve been doing it for over 40 years.

You can also look at a few back issues of BHM and pick up times and instructions on many foods from my articles and this column.

Tomato sauce and chocolate chip cookies

What is the best way to remove seeds from tomatoes for sauce? Also, my recipe calls for adding one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per pint, which seems to ruin the rich tomato taste. Is this really necessary if I’m water bath canning sauce made from Romas? I love your articles and column! Looking forward to more “Starting Over.”

P.S. Here is my favorite “best ever” chocolate chip cookie recipe. (I didn’t have enough flour or butter one day and got creative.)

Cathy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups rolled oats
2 – 2 1/2 cups flour mixed with 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 bag chocolate chips

Mix in order and scoop (the size of ping pong balls) on cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 9 minutes.

Cathy Ostrowski
Amherst, NY

The reason that most modern recipes for canning tomatoes and tomato sauce says to add lemon juice or vinegar is that with the development of hybrid low acid tomatoes so that people could handle the acid with touchy stomachs, it also made them too low acid to can without the added acid (lemon juice or vinegar). Yes, you can water bath old fashioned Roma tomatoes without the lemon juice or vinegar. Or any other high acid tomatoes. The reason they say to add the lemon juice or vinegar is that many people don’t understand “acid tomatoes or low acid.” To them, a tomato is a tomato, and this makes sure the home canned tomatoes are acid enough to can safely. I grow only high acid tomatoes and do not add the vinegar or lemon juice. (Now watch the letters from experts nailing me!)

To get the seeds out of your tomatoes for sauce, the very best method is using a Victorio Squeezo type food mill. This is sort of like a hand meat grinder; handle that you turn, it clamps onto your counter and has a bin you put tomatoes into. You do not have to peel the tomatoes, so this is a real labor saver when you are canning bushels of tomatoes. You simply cut the stem and core out, cut in two or more pieces (if you don’t they spray juice everywhere!) and then turn the handle. The seeds and skins come out one place and the puree comes out another. You can even recycle the seeds/skin and get more puree.

This is one gadget I love! But if you can’t afford one, you can use an old Foley mill which has a top hand crank (you need to peel the tomatoes). The puree is forced through holes in the bottom. Even rubbing the softened tomatoes through a screen or kitchen sieve will work, although it is a lot more work.

Thanks for the cookie recipe. I’ll try it tomorrow!

Goats for milking

Very soon I’ll be going back to the land. I plan on having three goats to start with, one male and two females. My question may not be in your field.

1. What is the best breed for long term milking?

2. What month do they start coming into heat?

3. I know they carry the young for five months. I would like to have one bred in August so by January I’ll have milk all winter, and have #2 goat bred in January. Is this at all possible? My goal is to have milk all year with two goats.

Happy homesteading in Minnesota, and thank you for everything you do for BHM.

Edwin Blood
Newark, NJ

I think your questions are in my field, as I’ve raised goats for about 40 years now. In fact, we’ve got a whole pen full right now.

I don’t think there is any one breed that is best for long term milking. It seems to be more of a hereditary factor. Some families of goats have long lactations, where others only milk well for a couple of months and then slack off. Talk to the breeder of your new girls. Most folks will be quite honest in this regard. Do buy a good dairy goat, not just a cheap goat. There is a huge difference. A good dairy goat should produce at least three quarts of great milk for 10 months or longer. A scrub goat may only give enough to feed her kids, then go dry. They eat the same.

Goats can come into heat nearly all year around, usually skipping the hottest months. Yes, you can breed one in late August and the other in January or February. I do this. My first doe freshened in January this year and the next two will freshen in late May. This is reasonable and only good sense.

You probably don’t need a buck at this point. It is much easier to take your does to a good buck, paying a stud fee. In this way, you do not feed or care for him and you can switch bucks, if you would like, to introduce different bloodlines into your little herd. At some point, you may want to buy or trade for a very nice buck, but most new goat owners are better off to use someone else’s buck.

Scrounging lumber at the local dump

I have been following Starting Over Again. A few times, you mention “scrounging lumber at the local dump.” Could you advise what charms you must use? I think of myself an accomplished dumpster diver and all around scrounger. I have never been able to take anything out of a public dump…always been chased away; told salvaging is against the law; insurance won’t allow it; you might get hurt; against public health rules, etc., etc.

It has always pained me to see all the good lumber crushed by bulldozers and buried. So how do you do it?

B. Hathaway
San Jose, CA

Simply, I don’t move to an area where you can’t salvage from a dump. Here in northern Minnesota, not only can you salvage from the dump, but they encourage you. There’s even a free table at the dump for folks to leave their good stuff for others. And there’s a web site for recycling hundreds of items, from cars to lumber.

Just last week, I hauled two dozen good 2x4s, a 2x12x12′, three galvanized buckets and two sheets of waferboard home. I could have gotten more lumber, but I only had my dad’s station wagon.

The only “charms” I use are plain good manners. I am always nice to the folks at the dump, figuring a smile and kind words are appreciated by everyone. This week I received permission from a landowner nearby to salvage poles from his land. They were the tops of spruce trees, harvested by a logger, piled to burn. Now many of them will be put to use on our homestead, instead.

Maybe it’s time for a move? There’s lots of land available out here.

Read More Ask Jackie

Read Articles by Jackie Clay

Read Ask Jackie Online

Comments regarding this article may be addressed to Comments may appear online in “Feedback” or in the “Letters” section of Backwoods Home Magazine. Although every email is read, busy schedules generally do not permit a personal response to each one.

Comments are closed.