Okay, so my photo leaves something to be desired.  I was excited and obviously I wasn’t too steady for the long exposure.  But WOW!  There was a bell-clear sky and a huge, nearly full moon.  It took over an hour from the very beginning, when you could just see a "smudge" on the moon’s bottom, to when it was again clear.  But checking on it from time to time, I was able to see it go full cycle.  It’s the first time I’ve seen it for years and years.  In the past, it was either too cloudy, the moon was in the wrong place for us to see the eclipse or something was happening that made me forget to look outside.

David was at youth group, at church, and called me.  All the group was outside watching it, although it was below zero.  He wanted to make sure I hadn’t forgotten the eclipse.  We were so excited as it progressed.

It made such an awesome presentation, with all the stars in the sky standing out watching, too.  I’m so glad we live where the sky IS clear and you can keep watching those gorgeous heavenly bodies.  I feel sorry for people in the city that never really get to see the stars or watch the moon.


Readers’ questions:

Replenishing land

We purchased land that was strip mined before reclamation was made law. Russian olive and dogwood have taken root but the land seems to have almost no topsoil so it is a struggle to get anything to grow during the heat of summer. Do you have any ideas to help us improve the soil? Is there a green manure that will grow on this type of soil the locals call "spoil"? Our land is located in Appalachia near WHeeling, W.V. Thank you. Deborah

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

I believe the best bet for you would be to first add as much organic material as humanly possible to your garden area.  You won’t be able to do the whole place at once in this manner, so start with your food area first.  If you have animals and chickens, you have a ready-made source of fertilizer and bedding.  I would work as much manure, straw, leaves and even sawdust into your garden area as you can.  I’m talking about a foot or more here!

If you don’t have this much, offer to clean a neighbor’s barn or chicken coop or haul away that huge manure pile outside their barn in exchange for the manure.  They may even have a tractor to load your truck or trailer.

Once you have the garden soil beginning to improve, move your effort onto another section.  Fence it if necessary to keep livestock off it while you’re working it up.  Like your garden, haul as much organic material onto it as possible.  Work it in, even if it just means discing it or dragging a pallet over it to level it off fairly well.

 Then try seeding it in to clover (talk to the folks at the local feed store to see what they recommend for your area).  Sweet yellow clover isn’t the best, but it will sure grow where not much else will….and it fixes quite a bit of nitrogen in the soil, too.  You can also cut it several times during the growing season and later work that into the soil to help improve the tilth.

This isn’t a quick fix for a serious situation.  But you can get ahead of it if you keep at it. — Jackie

Feed for a pig

I would like to grow a pig or two for some home grown pork. I want to do this without having to buy all or most of the feed needed to raise them. Are there any crops that can be grown in a garden that would fill this need?

Jonathan Jude
Dorena, Oregon

A pig is a great idea.  I’ve always tried to pick up a weaned piglet or two about the time I put in the garden.  That way, you’ll have to buy some feed when the piggy is little, but as it grows, you can add weeds, thinings, extra vegetables, such as zuchinni and summer squash, pea pods, more weeds, fresh corn cobs, then later on, root crops, as well.  I just grow a little more of the "pig friendly" food in the garden, such as sweet corn, turnips and rutabagas.  I also whack grass and clover from the side of our driveway and dump any extra goat milk and eggs into the pig trough.  It’s truly amazing how much home grown pig food you have on hand if you just take the time to harvest it!

You can also sometimes find extra "damaged" produce at the local super markets.  Smaller ones are best because they’re more apt to let you have it, where some bigger ones are so afraid of lawsuits they’d rather throw it into the dumpster than have someone use it.

I’ve also gleaned corn fields in the fall, pulled split cabbages in market fields and hauled week old bread for my pigs.  But most of all, we feed our pigs what we raise….along with some ground grain.  Right now is a good time to pick up a pig, as grain prices are leaping up and pig raisers are dumping their hogs because they just can’t afford to feed them. — Jackie

Meals in a jar

I was reading your section in my latest Backwoods Home (#110) and I was wondering if for the Salami recipe could you use turkey? And if so would you need to change anything? Also I would like to make a request. Also in this issue you had an article about canning meals in a jar. I loved it. However there is a lack of recipes to be found to do this with. I looked at the backwoods home web site and I ordered the cook book. And I looked with Google at many sites on the web but most were for fruits and veggies. I would love to see a cook book with only recipies like in the article" Meals in jars". You can get a Ball Blue Book to cover all fruits and veggies. But not so much on the crack open a jar and reheat meals.

Olivia Benthin
Jones, Michigan

I don’t know why you couldn’t use turkey in the salami recipe.  I’d try a small batch and see how you like the end product. Yeah, I know there aren’t many book recipes for meals in a jar.  You just have to make your own recipe and then process it for the longest time/method necessary for the ingredient in the recipe that requires it.  This is usually meat, potatoes or corn.  If you take your time, you can figure it out.  But I agree with you; a book would be nice. — Jackie

A healthy snack

Do you have a recipe, or can you come up with one, to make a healty snack using dark hocolate/cocoa, oatmeal, almonds and honey? My husband has a major sweet tooth and as healthy as he eats he stills craves a little something after dinner. We know the health benefits of regular oats (not quick) dark chocolate and almonds. We have bees and like to consume a little honey daily for the nutritional/immunity benefits.We like the no bake oatmeal cookies but, that’s alot of butter/margarine and peanut butter. I’m thinking a cookie bar but, I’m not sure how to bind it together without a lot of fat. What are your ideas? I’m excited to see what you come up with. We have subscribed to Backwood’s Home for years and really enjoy it. We don’t grow as much as we’d like. We have anapple/peach/plum orchard and sell at a couple of farmer’s markets. We buy local vegetables9or sometimes trade). I love to can and put up as much as possible every year. Your columns have been a very helpful resource.

Linda Stewart
Virgie, Kentucky

Okay, how about this: Substitute applesauce for the "fat" in your bar recipe, so it would go something like this:

1 c rolled oats
1 c flour
1/2 c applesauce
1/3 c honey
1/2 c chopped almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla

 Mix well (add a little more flour if sticky), then roll into balls.  Roll in powdered sugar, then drizzle melted dark chocolate over the top in a zig zag pattern.  Refrigerate until set.  Enjoy!  I used to make something like this and my kids never left any scraps.

Let me know how you like it. — Jackie

Vaccinations, worming

I just bought my first 2 nubian dairy goats but I have questions. 1 doe is 1.5 years old and due to kid in May. The other is a 9 month old kid. My question is about vaccinations. When and what is necessary? I’m getting mixed mesages from people and books. Intertoxemia should be given at 2 weeks. And tetnas before de-horning?

Also what do you suggest for worming? With my sheep I worm twice, alternating between an ivermecton product and a horse paste called panacure. Dairy goats are an all new critter to me.

Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington

Enterotoxemia vaccine is usually recommended at birth, then a repeat dose at 2 weeks.  If the doe has been vaccinated, she will usually pass some immunity to the newborn kids through the colostrum, but to be safest, vaccinate the newborns anyway.

With the tetanus vaccination, the doe is generally vaccinated a few weeks prior to her delivery date.  This not only gives her protection (for the whole year), but also protects the kids as immunity is passed to them.  This usually protects them if they are disbudded at 3-4 days old.  Then they should receive a tetanus toxoid vaccination at around 2 weeks, to ensure that their immunity remains strong.  There is a combination tetanus toxoid/entrotoxemia vaccine available for those 2 week old kids that is convenient.

You should check with your veterinarian and take in a stool sample from your goats so you can have a starting point for your worming program.  In that way you’ll know IF your goats have any parasites and WHAT, exactly, they are.  Then you can formulate an effective worming program for them at that point.  Without having a fecal exam, you are groping in the dark, hoping to keep your animals worm free.  The exam is quick, easy and cheap, too.

A good source of goat health (and other) information can be found at Hoegger’s Goat Supply (free catalog).  Check out www.hoeggersgoatsupply.com.  There’s lots of cheesemaking supplies, goat equipment and health products & they know their goats, too. — Jackie


Thank you for the seed catalog list – I’m planning to peruse the websites as soon as I finish this. I just wanted to share with you a favorite of mine. Dixon Dale Farms http://www.dixondalefarms.com/ is THE place to go for onions plants. I have been using them for a decade or so and have almost a 100% success rate with their plants. They have a nice selection for all varieties and the more you order, the cheaper they are. It’s the only place I use for onions.

Now – can you recommend a company for potato sets?

Lisa Lightfoot
Descanso, California

Yes!  I used to use Dixondale onion plants when we grew a market garden.  I ordered hundreds of them every spring and I, too, had great success with them.

I’ve had good luck with Ronniger’s Potato Farm (www.Ronnigers.com).  They have a whole lot of great varieties to try, some unavailable elsewhere.  For my "common" varieties, I buy locally for less than .50 a pound and no shipping.  Good growing! — Jackie