My porch swing is a little worn.It’s funny what you come to enjoy on the homestead. Some folks have to attend the theater, dine at fine restaurants, go dancing, fly to the South Seas. Me? I’m happy sitting on my good old porch swing for a few minutes — morning, noon or night.

On it, I visit with friends, relaxing with a glass of lemonade while watching the hummingbirds vie for the feeder right in front of us. Or I plan the day, give thanks for the day that is over. Sometimes I just take five minutes or so and just SIT. It’s amazing to just sit and do absolutely nothing. In today’s rush/hurry/must do world, folks have lost the ability to sit down and just enjoy the view.

Sure, I’m as busy as the next person, taking care of Mom, helping David get his day started, gardening, doing homestead chores. But those few stolen minutes just sitting calm me, soothe my soul, and strengthen me for the rest of the day. Or the next one. After all, sitting in the cool breezes of the evening, watching the billions of firey stars line the huge sky, have a way of making the trials of today seem smaller and more bearable.

In times past, nearly every house had a porch. And a porch swing. I got mine in Montana at a ranch store one spring. It was laying out in the gardening area, with blistered varnish and a sad looking, many-times-wet cardboard box. I asked about it and the manager said if I wanted it for $20, it was mine. I was ecstatic! They usually sold for around $100, much out of my range.

So that swing came home and hung on our front porch there in the mountains and saw many friends and neighbors sit and visit, enjoying our fabulous mountain view. When we moved here, it came with us. There’s no way I could part with my much worn old swing. It needs a sanding and new coat of sealer, but friends still sit with me on our new porch and we enjoy our backwoods view and our time together.

Everyone needs a porch swing!

I’ve printed readers questions and my answers below:

Be sure to pressure-can potatoes

I am wanting to can some new potatoes this year. I found the recipe on your site and it was like I had guessed it would be. Just one problem, when I was growing up we did our canning outside
in a tub with a fire. I still follow this method. On your potatoes recipe it is timed for a pressure cooker. Any idea how long to cook them in the jar outside? I use a number 3 tub which holds about 22
quarts with a fire under it.

Randy Ward
Sandstone, West Virginia

Sorry, Randy. Potatoes are a low acid food and they should not be water bath processed. Boiling does not raise the temperature of the food high enough to kill potentially dangerous bacterial toxins that could be present in the jars of food. This is why all low acid foods (all vegetables but tomatoes, meat, and poultry) need to be pressure canned. Yes I know that for generations, folks canned low acid foods in boiling water bath canners, like your tubs. And many still do. It just isn’t safe. And I need all my readers happy and healthy. — Jackie

Old newspapers under raised beds

My husband and I are building raised beds (I am disabled). I have read that one must use landscape fabric under the beds. We were given a huge roll of polyethelene (used to line bags of pet
food). Since we are on a very limited income could we use the plastic instead of the fabric?

Thank you so much for all your knowlege. You are an inspiration to
all who have endured adversity of any kind. Perservance is everything.

Mary Anne Wagoner
Northeast Illinois

Using plastic as a base, over grass or soil isn’t a good idea. It doesn’t breathe or let the water drain down out of the bed. Better still, put many layers of old newspaper down on the ground. This discourages weeds, lets the excess moisture drain from the bed, and will eventually break down naturally. By then, weeds and/or grass should be all killed out and will be no problem for your raised bed.

You’re right about perseverance; if you quit, you lose. As long as you keep going, even if it is minute progress, you’ll win! — Jackie

Canning stuffed peppers

I have a question concerning Pressure Canning. I have made Stuffed Summer Squash and Sweet Bell Peppers stuffed with Ground Turkey, Wild Rice, Celery, Onions and Tomatoe Sauce, Salt and Pepper. I have cooked these in a covered casseole Pan with the Stuffed Veggies surmerged in a Marinara Sauce and Crushed Tomatoes with 2 cups of water. I cooked the Squash for 1 1/2 Hours and the Green Peppers for 45 minutes. Now I would like to Pressure can them in Quart Jars. Can
this be done? Seems like everything I read one is not suppose to use rice when Pressuring. Also there is 1lb. of Ground Turkey, and 3/4 cups of rice along with the other ingredients in some 21 Peppers and Squash combined.


The amount of rice you are using is not enough to worry about in your recipe. I’ve canned stuffed green peppers quite a bit and they are really good “instant” meals. Put them in the jars while they are hot, then pour your hot tomato sauce over them and process for 90 minutes in quarts at the pressure suited for your elevation, normally 10 pounds. — Jackie

Using “used” lids

First of all let me say you are one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever read. You are truly the reason I can afford to stay home with my children instead of sending them to daycare. I have saved so much money using your tips to make things my family needs I can’t tell you how thankful I am. My question is about re-using canning lids. I recently made a batch of Rhubarb jam and when I was in the middle of it (past the point of no return) I realized that I did not have anymore new lids for my jelly jars. The only thing I could do was use the old ones. All of them seem to have sealed perfectly. Do you think they will be okay or should I get rid of them.

Dan Huting
Iowa City, IA

To tell the truth, I’ve done this very thing, but don’t advertise the fact! I would not use the used lids for any pressure canned foods; that’s too chancy. But for jams, jellies, preserves, or pickles, I’m comfortable using the used lids, as long as they are not dented by prying off of the first-use jars. Sealed is sealed, no matter what lids you use. — Jackie

Doing beans just a little safer

What a neat idea! I have never read anyones blog before yours but it really is a nice way to communicate. So glad to hear that your son is ok. My youngest had spinal menengitis when he was three and boy was that scarey. He is now 12 and just fine. You have given me so many great tips over the years that I am hoping that this tip may be just a small way of my saying thank you. Just wanted to pass this really simple way to can dry beans and well as far as I can tell it seems to be on the up and up. I canned 14 quarts and they all came out beautiful. I got the recipe from the internet and was intrequed by the simplicity. Here is what you do: The night before I wanted to can I took 14 quart jars(or as many as you want to can) and I checked my jars for cracks, washed in hot soapy water, rinsed and then filled each jar with 1 1/4 C of dry beans (pinto or navy) and then filled each jar with water clear to the top and I did that to all of the jars. I put a clean cloth over the top and then went to bed. In the morning I put my big stock pot full of water on to boil and made a cup of tea. When it came to a boil I emptied all of the jars of the water leaving the rehydrated beans in the jars,
rinse if you feel the need and then I put 1 teaspooon of salt and filled each jar with boiling water to 1 inch headspace, took a wooded bamboo skewer and ran it thru the beans to realease any trapped air bubbles, cleaned rims of the jars and then sealed. Processed at recommeded time of 100 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs of pressure. This is by far the easiest way that I have ever canned dry beans. The recipe said that you could do pints with 1/2 C dry beans the same way and process at 80 minutes. My family is so big that pints just aren’t enough. This morning I opened a jar and smashed in a skillet and cooked till it was almost dry and walla with seasoning re-fried beans. The recipe also said that you could add your seasonings directly into the jars with the salt. Haven’t tried that yet, but sounds promising. So what do you think? I would appreciate any feed back especially if it looks like it might be an unhealthy canning method.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno Ohio

I would be happier with your recipe if you had boiled the beans in that morning’s water, then packed the HOT beans in the jars and filled them with the HOT bean water. Beans are kind of dense when canned from dry and take awhile to go from cool to hot enough for processing. I soak mine over night, as you did, then dump the water out and add fresh water to a big kettle, dump in dry beans, then bring to a boil. I boil them for half an hour, then ladle out the HOT beans into jars and fill to within an inch of the top and process. This is really safer than the recipe you found. Not saying yours won’t work, just that the traditional way IS safer. — Jackie