Last night it was -26 degrees, clear and cold, cold.  But the greenhouse stayed 55 degrees all night and this morning when I went out there for kindling for the wood stove, I noticed a tiny green pair of leaves poking up in the big square pot where two weeks ago I planted several bush cucumber seeds.  After they hadn’t germinated in a week, I planted four in a styrofoam cup, just for added insurance.  Those germinated right away so I figured the greenhouse wasn’t warm enough for the seeds in the pot to germinate and that they’d probably rotted by now.  Not so!  Wow!  Those little round leaves look so nice.  Just like spring in the garden.

But because it was still -15, I figured I’d better spend the afternoon making firewood.  The sun was out and it warmed up quickly to 10 degrees.  But with no wind, the sun made it feel even warmer.  So sawing firewood wasn’t such a chore.  Our huge pile is getting steadily smaller as we drag lengths out to cut and split.  When David got home from school, he said his cold was a lot better and he would split for me.  It’s easier to split wood when one person sets the wood up on the chopping block and then throws the pieces into the wheelbarrow.  It goes quicker and is less back strain on the one doing the chopping.  David chopped and I carried and set up. It took no time at all to bring three brimming wheelbarrows full into the house.  One filled the wood box and the other two added to the stack on the porch.
I tried a new bread recipe I saw in a farm magazine yesterday.  I’ll have to say it’s one of the worst I’ve ever made!  The poor loaves were so dense.  I figured the recipe should have had more liquid, but followed it anyway.  Big mistake!  Oh well, it tastes okay and I’ll eat it, but it sure wouldn’t win any compliments from anyone at my table.  You win some; you lose some.
I just got back from tossing wood into the kitchen range and I took a peek at the cucumber seedling.  The leaves are all the way open now, and another green bump is starting to show in the pot!  Yep, definitely spring!


  1. My husband somehow found a page of your canning suggestions, pointed them out to me, and now I am spending a bit of time each day going through the older “Ask Jackie” answers. How wonderful! I have been canning for a few years and enjoy it. I have six children, all girls, we only have one income, by choice, and are looking for more ways to live well while being frugal. It isn’t easy, but as I read your comments, as well as those who asked the questions, it is sounding better and better. I am learning so much, and am in great awe of all you know and do. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Jackie: I love your column and so look forward to reading it in each issue I receive of BWH. Before moving back to New Jersey my husband and I lived on a 30 acre farm where we raised some animals for pets and food. We had it all including a home entirely warmed by a centrally located woodstove, s spring for water, ten acres of woods for the stove, very fertile ground and lots of food that could be foraged. Back then I canned up to 900 quarts of food and juice a year for my large family.

    Since moving back to New Jersey for financial reasons, I am now divorced, close to retirement age and going to move to Utah this summer to a place in the mountains 4400 feet above sea-level. I have read your column and articles about having to can according to the altitude one lives in and will find out the exact altitude when I move out there from the extension center.

    I want to be more self-sufficient, but will be living on four-tenths of an acre. I will price out a well for a source of water, may look into keeping a few chickens if the neighbors won’t complain and will raise a good-sized garden, fruit trees, and bushes. I am really looking forward to it.

    I have already read the BWH Mar/Apr. issue and especially loved your article on canning whole meals. Please, please, please publish more of these kinds of recipes. There aren’t many recipes in books on canning beyond a stew or two and some recipes for a few soups. I am timid when it comes to combining vegetables and meats and don’t want to make any mistakes that would cause sickness or worse.

    Congratulations on meeting a wonderful man. You and David deserve the best.

  3. Hi! I found your website while searching for information on canning – you are such a wondering resource. Today I canned for the first time – made some baked beans with turkey bacon. Not only tasty – but all my cans sealed. I’m ridiculously proud of myself.

  4. Jackie: How happy you look hauling in the wood. Busy hands are happy hands. I’ve followed your column in Backwoods Home for quite some time. I love the practicality of all your responses. I was so sorry for you when your husband died, and yet overjoyed to see you plow on. What a joy David must be to you. We have a helpful son who just got back from Iraq and it is so nice to see our children maturing nicely. I also enjoyed your latest column on seed saving and your replies in the latest issue of BHM. I was quite surprised to see the matter-of-fact way you dealt with the comment on the homesteader who asked how to work with one hand and how your adopted son pitched right in. What a great person you are to share. Our children are adopted special needs and I know the bond between people who have walked a similar road. I also love the realistic way you deal with your advice and saying you MUST use a pressure cooker to process your “convenience foods” that contain meat. What a wonderful source of common sense you add to Dave Duffy’s magazine. He is most fortunate to have you as a regular writer. As “neighboring Wisconsintes” and backwoods people, it is so interesting to listen to your life tales. Thanks for all your hard work. Yes, spring is on the way. Your seed catalog experiences match many of ours also. Yours is the wise voice of restraint. I’m so happy to find you have a blog site, which I just discovered yesterday. Happy days ahead! Thanks.

  5. Hey Jackie, congrats! Glad the seedlings made it. And I’m glad you’re enjoying your new greenhouse! (I love mine. Just wish it was attached, or, say, that i had another one that was attached…) I’d love it if you’d show some photos of the greenhouse on the blog–I want to see it!

  6. Good looking cucumber sprouts! There is nothing, nothing like seeing those new cotyledons popping up out of the soil. My comment is actually in response to your seeds article in the latest BHM issue (#110). Tomatoes do not cross pollinate nearly as easily as peppers or plants in the cucurbit family, for example. Most tomato blossoms are self pollinated before the blossom even opens up (tomatoes are inbreeding plants). Estimates are that 3-5% cross-pollination occurs when plants are close to each other (one reason for the cross pollination might be insects burrowing through the side of the blossom). I regularly plant 30-40 varieties on 5-6 ft. centers and save seed. So far, I haven’t run across crossed seed. (P.S. A wonderful tomato site on the web is Lots of tomato (and other veggies) discussion.)

    I also recommend Sand Hill Preservation for heirloom seeds and poultry. Glen Drowns has an astounding number of seeds and poultry varieties available at dirt cheap prices. (His day job is teaching high school and he does the seeds and poultry the other 48 hours of the day.) His web site is http://www.sandhillpreservationcom.

    Enjoy your articles, blogs, and photos. Stay warm!

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