This majestic white pine is generations old.Did you ever stand at the base of a really big tree and look straight up? It’s truly amazing. We have several small groves of very large pines on our homestead. The largest tree is a generations old white pine that my son, David, and I can barely reach around. He’s got long arms, so that’s a big tree. Especially in this area, where most of the old growth trees have been cut.

Ours survived because of logistics. They are across the big beaver pond and there is no way for a timber company to access that piece of woods without crossing someone else’s land. So our little “secret” grove remains untouched.

Why don’t WE cut those trees? After all, there is probably enough lumber in them to build a new barn, garage AND side the goat barn. And lumber is so expensive these days.

The answer is those trees are worth much more to us just to stand under and look up. They seem wise and calm, sheltering pine martens and bald eagles’ nests. From our new porch, I can sit and look out across the pond and see them standing majestically in the sunset or glowing in the first pale rays of golden sunrise. You can’t buy that even if you can sell it. I can’t imagine sitting there and looking upon their stumps. It would be as if a member of our family had died. Thank God I haven’t gotten that “practical” yet!

I’ve listed readers questions with my answers below. (Please give your full name, city, and state when asking a question; from now on the editor of this site will return questions without this information.)

Jelly jars with one-piece lids

I will be making grape jelly and I was wondering if I can use the pretty jelly jars and lids that don’t have the separate lids, just one ring lids, and do I still have to boil bath for 5 minutes?


I’m a little confused here. Are you talking about jelly glasses that don’t have a screw down lid, just a slip on lid? If that is the case, you can’t water bath them; the lid will float off during processing. These are made to use with a layer of hot parafin poured on top of the hot jelly. The lid is to keep mice from chewing through the parafin during storage. There are other jelly jars that have one-piece lids with a sealing compound on top; the top will pull in when sealed like the two piece lids with rings. Yes, you should water bath these jars to seal them. Make sure all of the jars are hot and sterilized by boiling when you pour in the hot jelly. — Jackie

An experiment in canning

I have a great recipe for a Lemon Herb Vinaigrette that I got from my favorite restaurant. It is some work to make and only lasts in the fridge for 5 days. I am new at preserving food and I wondered if you had any advice on preserving this salad dressing! It has lemon juice, red wine vinegar, red onion, garlic, honey, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, fresh parsley, thyme, kosher salt, pepper and EVO….. blended.

Sammi Robinhold

I can’t tell you how to preserve this dressing, but I would mix up a batch, then bring it to a boil and immediately pack into hot, sterilized half pint jars to half an inch from the top. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Remember, this is “experimental” canning. But the ingredients you list are similar to those in most pickle recipes and I would not be afraid to try the above method. Again, I can not tell you that it is an accepted recipe for home canning. — Jackie

Removing skins from tomatoes when canning

Just stumbled upon your website, I could sit here all day! My question, I am canning tomatoes for the first time, I am using plum tomatoes and all of the tomato recipes call for removing the skin from them, however, I would like to leave it on, does it matter? Also, is it OK to use a pressure canner to save time?

Red House, Virginia

You CAN leave the skins on, but tomato skins are pretty tough when canned. I always skin my tomatoes by immersing in boiling water, then plunging them into cold water. The skin slips right off in seconds. Likewise, you can use a pressure canner, but it does not really save time as it takes quite a bit of time for the canner to exhaust, then build up pressure, then return to zero when the processing is done. And all the time you’re processing, you have to watch the pressure carefully. When water bathing, you only have to put the hot jars of tomatoes in the boiling water, bring it to a rolling boil and set the timer. In the meantime, you are free to do other chores until the time is up. So I always use the water bath canner, when possible and safe. — Jackie

Zucchini bread

I just found your web site yesterday and I love it. I have already bought a subscription and orded a book. I was making a batch of zucchini relish and had a thought about zucchini breads. I would like to find or make a recipe for a spice zucchini bread instead of such a sweet bread. Have you ever heard of such a recipe or do you have any thoughts on what a recipe would be.

Shannon Murphy
Hedgesville, West Virginia

You are limited only by your imagination! If you want to try different spice combinations, go ahead. Chances are you’ll come out with something very good, no matter what you choose to use. Some combinations I like are ground cloves, cinnamon, ground ginger and allspice, mixed with your zucchini recipe. A splash of lemon juice also perks it up. Have fun! — Jackie

Hughes Net satellite internet

If you are off grid – how do you have internet access? I ask this because we are looking at dropping DSL – very expensive – andgoing with different options.

Galva, Illinois

Dave, my boss at BHM, set us up with Hughes Net satellite high speed internet. We have a dish on the roof. So far it only works when we have the generator on. In the near future we will have our new battery bank hooked up with the generator and two small solar panels we have and will be able to access the internet as needed without running the generator as often. That’ll be a huge savings!!! — Jackie

Fibrous tomatoes

Since moving out to the country a couple of months ago, my citified friends call me at every turn, assuming that I am now a gardening guru. Thanks to your column, I’m learning, but I have far to go. I was, however, asked a question about tomatoes by a dear friend, and told her I would try to contact you for advice. It seems that, for the second year in a row, her tomatoes are very fibrous and only ripen on the bottom. They are having to throw away over half of every tomato. Any idea what may be causing this? They compost, but do not fertilize with manure or any other product.

Tracey Antognazzi
Findley Lake, New York

A couple of suggestions are to try a different variety of tomato; some tend to be more fibrous than others. Make sure you stake or cage the tomato vines so that the fruits get plenty of sunshine and give those big plants bearing tomatoes plenty of water. A deep watering every 3 days is better than a light watering, especially with an overhead sprinkler. Try a soaker hose or weeping hose for best watering. Mulch all the plants well to conserve moisture. It’s amazing how much moisture the garden plants need while they are making a crop. — Jackie

Ensuring a pickle seal

I recently made dill pickles for the first time. I followed the recipe to a T, but today while I was looking at other dill pickle recipes I notice that they all recommend that the jars be processed for 10 mins or so. The recipe I followed did not mention this, yet everything else is the same. Can I process my pickles a day later?

Andrea Johnson
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

If your pickles sealed, you don’t need to re-process them. The extra waterbathing that is now recommended for pickles and jams/jellies is to ensure that the jars seal. — Jackie

Canning meatloaf

I would like to pressure can some meatloaf. Is it safe to do with eggs? If not, do you have a good recipe?

Debra Purdy
Yuma, AZ

Yes, you can home can meatloaf with eggs. I prefer to roast several loaves together in the oven until they are just nicely browning, then pack hot into hot jars and pressure can for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie


  1. Thanks very much for that! My mother recently harvested her garden full of tomatoes before the winter really set in, and I find myself the proud owner of two or four buckets worth! Of course I couldnt eat them all like that, but I did find a website full of tons more tomato recipe there. A website dedicated the topic!! Crazy what you can find on the internetz these days!!

  2. I totally agree with you. I get so much enjoyment out of our large trees; it’s like they’re living history. I’m not a “tree hugger” as we cut firewood and make lumber, but if you’ve never put your cheek up to the trunk of a really big tree, you’re missing a lot in life!

  3. Isn’t it a shame when some people move out on the land, they see big trees as an obstacle to be tackled instead of embraced. When we found our land 18 years ago and found our big beech tree, my husband and I were like two kids. It’s trunk is 6 feet across! Looking at all the initials carved into it really makes you realize how much history has gone on before us. When we put our new driveway in, we asked that it be curved around the tree so as to protect the root zone, even though it added to the bill. Every time a storm comes through, and she loses a limb, it’s like I’ve lost one too! It’ll be a sad, sad day when the old lady finally comes down.

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