With the rain we’ve had, along with the hot weather, our whole homestead is booming. Yesterday, I went out to the orchard to cut the goats an armload of oats and clover from the south end. The oats have been headed out for three days and I’m cutting them for the goats to help our feed costs. If you haven’t NOTICED, grain prices have been climbing about $1 a week for awhile, making our goat feed double what it was at this time last year. Ouch!

I looked to the north, toward where our wheat is planted and lo! There were heads of wheat sticking happily up from the stalks. Wow! It’s so exciting. Where last year, we had brush, rocks, logs and ugly, this year we have growing fruit trees and a lovely wheat patch!

Then I went down to the garden to check on things. It rained, but not very much. Did I need to water or not? I ran my fingers around beneath a potato plant and found tennis ball sized red potatoes. Wow! And frost should be another month away. We’ll have to build big potato crates this year! And yes, I did need to water. The soil beneath the potato plants was kind of dry and I don’t want to stop the growth or end up with hollow heart in my potatoes from irregular watering.

On the way back up to the faucet, I stopped to browse the black raspberry bushes. The are loaded with berries, and now they are getting black. I couldn’t resist them. I ate a whole handful on my way back up the hill. Mmmmmm. My reward for all that mulching this spring. It definitely paid off. Munch, munch, smack……

Readers’ Questions:

Historical food preservation

I’m doing some research on historical food preservation techniques. Information is a bit scarce, but I have some workable theories and need to test them. How do I go about finding a food lab willing to help for free? (I don’t have much money to spare for this project.)

Melanie Rehbein
Fitchburg, Wisconsin

I don’t have an answer for you, Melanie. Any readers out there have any ideas? For some information on old, traditional techniques, read the Foxfire books. There is a lot of “old timey” food preservation methods in them you might find interesting. — Jackie

Drying sweet corn

Everything is so beautiful around your home so I know you work hard. I have a lot of sweet corn that was given to me this year and my son thought he was helping me while I was sick and put it all in the freezer in the shucks, only it was too hard and I was wondering if there is any way to take it out of the freezer and dry it? I had planned to dry it and was going to sun dry it if possible. It is close to 100 here all week and I think that would be hot enough to dry corn if it is okay to dry it for corn meal.

Brenda Jarrell
Varnville South Carolina

Yes, you can thaw the corn and cut it off the cobs to either dehydrate it or can it. Before you do, I’d try a couple of ears, then eat the corn, just to make sure it tastes fine, which it probably does. Putting corn in the freezer, shuck and all, isn’t a recommended method of freezing, but hopefully it hasn’t been in there too long for it to affect the flavor. I usually make my cornmeal out of mature, dry corn, not dehydrted “green” corn. I have known people who have ground dehydrated corn, though, and used it for cornmeal. I, personally, haven’t done it yet. Our corn is up to my shoulders now, and just barely thinking about tasseling out. We’re so excited! — Jackie

Canning giardineria

Can You Can Italian Giardineria?

Bruce Ansell
Midlothian, Virginia

Yes, you can home can your own giardineria. It’s basically an “end of the garden pickle,” including vegetables, such as carrots, peppers, onions, cauliflower, etc., put up in a vinegar/sugar brine. If you use olive oil, as some recipes do, go lightly with it as oil sometimes causes lid seals to fail.

A basic recipe would be 3 cups wine vinegar, 1 cup sugar, 1 cauliflower, 2 cups pickling or sliced onions, 2 cups carrots, 1 cup sweet red peppers, seeded 1/2 cup sliced fennel. Prepare vegetables and soak overnight in a brine of 1 cup pickling salt to 1 gallon of ice water. Drain, rinse, drain, then put vegetables on to simmer until just barely tender. While doing this, sterilize and keep hot your canning jars and bring your pickling solution of vinegar and sugar to a boil. When vegetables are barely tender, drain and add to boiling pickling solution. Boil 1 minute and ladle out into hot jars, filling them to 1/2″ of the top. Fill the jar to within 1/2″ of the top with pickling brine. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. You may substitute vegetables, but keep the pickling solution the same for safe canning. Good luck with your recipe! — Jackie

Keeping chickens in

I have 15 white rock chickens, first ones I’ve had since I was a kid. Two roosters, 13 hens. I have one hen who is insistent on getting out of my fenced lot (1.5 acre).

I’m trying to decide; I have, I think, two choices…1. put her in the crock pot before the rest of the flock decides she’s got a good idea 2. let the neighbor’s large Labrador have her (this dog is VERY interested in any chicken that is close to the fence); or, a coyote or fox.

Inside the fence I have three dogs; outside, she has no protection, so I’m thinkin’ it’s just a matter of time. I’ve already scooped her up with a fishing net once this morning; she went right back over before I had the net hung up in the garage. I gave the rest of the flock some feed and put them in the pen while I’m trying to figure out if I should just let nature take its course.

Also, thanks to you for getting me into canning; I had not thought to put in a raised bed, but your discussions got me started.

Elton Wylie
Temple, Texas

I would probably plan on chicken and dumplings for dinner next week. The only option would be to secure your fence. No chicken, no matter how determined, can force through a well built fence. And, white rocks can’t fly worth a darned, either. I’ve had crappy fences in the past and they were a pain in the neck; someone was always getting out and In to places I didn’t want them. Let me tell you, a good fence is a thing of joy! We’re FINALLY getting there, thank God! — Jackie

Cat litter keeps deer out

I was a little confused about your answer on the deer problem. One of my good friends, a horticulturist at Magnolia Gardens in South Carolina, advises everyone what they use to keep the deer out of the gardens – used cat litter! Deer do not know the difference between cat and bobcat scat, and won’t go near a spread of cat dirt. They put litter boxes in the barns for the kitties, and regularly (once or twice a week) dump the used sand all around the outer perimeter of the gardens. They have hundreds of deer in the park – but not one will go near the flowers and veggies. I had a yard full of half-wild cats and no deer ever ate my plants either… the cats also hunted rabbits and snakes. Cats are useful in more ways than as mousers, as long as you don’t make cuddle pets out of them…

Beatrice Jones
Cody, Nebraska

I’ve used recycled cat litter (isn’t that a nice name!) to rid my pasture/lawn of gophers by pouring it down the holes. But it didn’t do ANYTHING for my deer problem. We have three wolf hybrids and let them run in the garden. Yes, they tinkled on the grass and weeds around the fence. NO, the deer didn’t give a rip. In fact, they hopped the fence and chased our mighty “wolves” onto the porch. So much for the predator idea. I also don’t like using used cat litter where people could come in contact with it, as there are several health issues that can arise (parasites and diseases) from this practice. Likewise, I don’t use dog yard leavings in my compost pile or garden, either. Just to be safe. Yes, cats are useful on the homestead. Very much so. But if the deer were afraid of the cat litter smell, it’s a different brand of deer your friend deals with! Hey, if it works, what the heck. It just never worked for me….nor did any other type of “predator urine” deterrant. — Jackie

Pruning tomatoes

Do you prune your tomatoes? I have read several articles online that say you should remove the suckers. Some sites even suggest removing all branches except for the ones that have fruit or flowers. My tomatoes are small and tasteless.

Bethpage, Tennessee

The only time I prune my tomatoes is during the last weeks of fall, just before our final freeze which will kill the plants. Then I whack off the tops and tips of the branches of the plant so that the new flowers and tiny green tomatoes are cut off. This directs all the plant’s energy into making the remaining tomatoes get big and/or ripe quicker. I know some folks are religious tomato pruners; I am not. I just let nature take its course and I get a lot of terrific tomatoes. — Jackie

Goat feed

Are the any home garden vegetables or fruits that are NOT safe to feed my goats.

Kathy Harris
Fresno, California

The only ones that I can think of are rhubarb leaves, as they are toxic. My goats get just about everything and anything left over or “extra” in the garden, including potato peelings, carrot tops, big zucchinis, immature squash in the fall, after a freeze, melon rinds, extra onion tops, etc. etc. Goats love the garden too! — Jackie

Canning salsa

I am wanting to can salsa using tomatoes, pepper, onions, and garlic. I’m not for sure if I can give them the hot water bath, or if I have to pressure cook them.

Becke Treas
Littlefield, Texas

You have to be a little careful with salsas, in that you have an acid enough product. What you can do is to look at the basic salsa recipes in the Ball Blue Book canning manual, for amounts of tomatoes, peppers, onions, etc., along with any vinegar or lemon juice added for extra acidity. Then just adjust the spices to suit your own tastes. You need to keep the acidity up so you can process your salsas in a water bath canner. This keeps the vegetables tasting “fresh” instead of “cooked”, as they would if you pressure canned them. You can pick up a Ball Blue Book canning handbook at any store that carries canning supplies, including WalMart, for a low cost. Good salsa making! I make several different ones, including a corn and black bean salsa! — Jackie

Sweetening fruit preserves without sugar

I’ve been trying to find a way to make fruit preserves without sugar (or artificial sweeteners) but using agave nectar instead. There’s lots out there for sweetened with Splenda, but I’m looking for something a bit less processed than that. Agave seems to be the answer, however I cannot find a single recipe that uses agave for preserves. Do you have any ideas of how to substitute sugar with agave?

Joy Kohl
Austin, Texas

You can use agave for fruit preserves AND also Splenda (for you other readers who asked). I just stumbled onto Pamona’s Universal Pectin’s website. With this product, you can use any (or NO) added sugar or sweetener. You can usually buy Pamona’s Pectin at health food stores or through the company, itself. Check out www.pamonaspectin.com. for more information. — Jackie


  1. Judy,

    You probably can home can kimchi like sauerkraut, but often kimchi has other ingredients and I’m not SURE about the processing to ensure safe canning. I’m still trying to come up with safe, useable methods.


  2. Hi Jackie,

    I’ve been thinking about canning kim chi. If kim chi is fermented like sauerkraut, why can’t you can it like sauerkraut? I have seen it in the grocery store setting on the shelf that way. Would it not turn out just as crisp as sauerkraut or fermented pickles?

    Thanks for the tip on Pamona’s Pectin. I would like to cut the sugar in my jams and preserves.


  3. Congratulations on all your great stuff producing so well!

    I kinda did a double-take at “frost a month away” – I’ve been making plans for my fall garden; today the remnants of Tropical Storm Eduardo kept the temperature here from quite reaching the 100-degree mark for the first time in like 12 days. Definitely different climates!

    Good first year so far for us; we’ve put up nearly 30 quarts of pickles (the 10 cuke plants I put in went NUTS!) and 5 and a half quarts of tomatoes, as well as a little frozen squash and sweet peas.

    Bigtime learning experience also – I’ll be paying lots more attention to weed control and fire-and-forget watering. The 5-gallon pail drip system in the latest issue looks like a good idea. Hopefully the Fall garden will be producing until we get frost (probably January!).

    Glad everything’s doing so well for you!

  4. Jennifer,

    Yep, they’re black raspberries, called “blackcaps” in some areas. True blackberries are more upright on their little stems and have tiny “hairs” inbetween the “bumps” on the berries. Blackberries are more juicy, but black raspberries have a great taste and I’m so happy to have bearing bushes, at last.


  5. Andrew,

    I kind of doubt that her big white rock hen is flying out of the fence, but I sure wouldn’t rule that out; I should have asked. Yes, I’ve clipped the wing feathers on many a chicken to make them quit flying out; especially those banties. Good idea.


  6. Black raspberries? Never herd of ’em called that. We just call them blackberries. Learn something new everyday!

  7. I look forward to your articles and check on your blog daily to see if there is an update. The lady with the chicken escapeing can trim the feathers on 1 wing being careful not to clip to close as to make it bleed. This was the preferred method used by my father when i was a child.

Comments are closed.