It’s so nice, having a helpful, fun loving guy around the place. Especially when he’s so handy at everything homestead! While I’ve been madly canning up a storm as the tomatoes, corn and other veggies ripen, Will has been busy taking up the slack around the homestead, getting ready for winter. The goat barn is now weather-tight, the driveway has been moved off the buried water line, and today, he brought a big round bale over by the well casing (which froze two years in a row). With the chainsaw, he cut out a hole in the very center of the bale. By alternating between cutting and pulling out the hay, he got a nice deep hole…just right for the well casing.

To tip the bale up onto the casing, he used “Old Yeller”, our trusty bulldozer. (If we didn’t have the dozer, we would have used a chain and the pickup to tip it up.) It took only one try, and the bale slid right onto the steel casing. Last year, we had no freeze-up on the well because we had lots of snow and because I had piled straw bales around the casing. The big round bale is bigger, tighter and warmer. And with a cap of tarp to keep water from oozing down into the hay and letting frost work in, we should be great for winter this year.

In the meanwhile, I have been busy canning salsa from the last batch of tomatoes out of the garden. We are still having them ripen out there, as we haven’t had more freezing weather. Wow! After last year’s hauling them all in green to ripen inside, it’s a treat!

Readers’ Questions:

Hot pickled mixed vegetables

I love your article on canning meats. I have never done anything like it before and following your instructions in BHM., made it easy, and a success! Also, have made your recipe for Sweet Sweet Watermelon Rind Pickles, they are to die for!

My question is, do you have a recipe for Hot Pickled Mixed Vegetables?

Dani Iliff
Evening Shade, Arkansas

I use the recipe from the Ball Blue Book, as it’s pretty much a standard for hot mixed vegetable pickles. Here it is, in case you don’t have a Blue Book.

1 1/4 pounds 3-4 inch cucumbers, cut into 1 inch slices
2 cups 1 1/2 inch sliced carrots
2 cups 1 1/2 inch sliced celery
2 cups peeled pearl onions
2 sweet red peppers cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 cups cauliflowerets
2 hot red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch rings
1 cup canning salt
4 quarts water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup mustard seed
2 Tbsp. celery seed
6 1/2 cups vinegar

Combine vegetables in a large bowl. Dissolve salt in cold water; pour over vegetables. Let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly. Combine sugar, spices and vinegar in a large sauce pot; boil 3 minutes. Add vegetables; simmer 5 minutes. Pack hot pickles and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned. — Jackie

Green pumpkin apple pie

Have you ever made pies out of your green pumpkins? You can make one that taste like apple only better. All you do is cut up your pumpkin in thin slices as you do apples. Then when you mix up your spices for apple pie and mix with the pumpkin slices and sugar add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and mix well. Add to your pie crust and bake as you would apple pies. That way you don’t lose all those green pumpkins. And we really like this pie better than apple pie.

Brenda Jarrell
Varnville, South Carolina

Yes, I have. They’re great. I also make “apple” pie out of small, hard green tomatoes. That’s awful good, too. (You treat the tomatoes as if they were apples; no vinegar.) It’s amazing at what good things you can make out of what you have. Our apple trees only gave us one apple this year. But that’s a start! — Jackie

Growing potatoes in tires

I read your article about growing potatoes in old tires. I have read that this in not an organic practice as the roots will absorb chemicals from the tires. I look forward to your response.

Susan Hogue
Iberia, Missouri

There is a lot of debate on this one, as there is about making raised beds out of railroad ties, treated lumber, etc. I haven’t seen any reliable research that indicates that potatoes absorb chemicals from tires. If I find any, I would be less inclined toward the practice, of course. There are a whole lot of people out there that garden entirely (no pun!) in used tires, as raised beds. Does anyone have more information on this from reliable sources? — Jackie

Apple butter

I would like to make and can apple butter using the Crockpot for the cooking. What is the best way to do this?

Linda Shanley
Fontana, California

I haven’t made apple butter using a Crockpot, but I’d imagine it would work fine. Just put your puree into the pot, following your recipe, and turn it on. Leaving the lid off would let it cook down faster, but don’t fill it too full;you don’t want it to “blub” out onto your counter. I cook mine down in a big roasting pan in my oven, set at 250 degrees, as I live off grid and don’t have a Crockpot. — Jackie

Mineral deposits and rust stains

I recently got about 5 dozen quart canning jars given to me and they were a mess from being stored in a cellar for many years. I was able to clean them up except a few of them look like they have a cloudy white film in the glass that won’t come off. Also, there are what appears to be some rust(?) stains that I can’t get removed either. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t think it will hurt anything to use them, but foods look so much more appetizing in sparkling clear jars.

Lori Hinkle
Dongola, Illinois

You can try boiling the jars, a few at a time, in a mixture of 1 quart of vinegar (cheap-not organic apple cider) and 1 gallon of water. This often removes any mineral film on the glass. The rust stains can usually be scrubbed off with a green nylon scrubbie and dish detergent; get vigorous. If there are a few left on, oh well! I’ve got rust stains on some of my auction-purchased jars. — Jackie

Canning barley soup

We made a large amount of barley Soup for supper and we were wondering if we can water bath and seal for later use or do we have to pressure can.

Kathy Truwe
Amiret, Minnesota

I have not canned barley soup, and I can’t find a recipe for canning it. No. You can’t water bath it as it is a low acid food. If your soup has meat or broth in it, you would have to pressure can it for 90 minutes (quarts) or 75 minutes for pints, as the meat is nearly always the ingredient that requires the longest processing time. — Jackie

Low acid tomatoes

Is there a simple way to tell which heirloom tomatoes are high in acid? When I went to can my tomato sauce this year, the grocery stores were out of lemon juice. I believe the sign said a crop failure? Anyhoo, I’m getting ready to order my seed for next year and would like to avoid the lemon juice issue all together. I’m kinda new at this and the catalogs don’t really specify low acid from high ones. Help please!

Linda Long
Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania

Usually, the low acid tomatoes are relatively “new” varieties and they usually say “low acid”. To be sure, you can use litmus paper, available at many drug stores. Even your high school science department can usually spare a little for you. This is a reliable test for acidity. — Jackie

Failed seeds

I planted all sorts of things this last spring. Everything from pumpkins, watermelon, to green beans and zucchini. Nothing but my tomatoes came up. I was so disappointed. My neighbor told me that we had bugs that ate our plants before they were big enough to sustain themselves. I would like an organic garden, how do i deal with these pests?

Michelle Glover
Ephrata, Washington

I really doubt if it was bugs that caused your failure. Usually “bugs” eat the plants once they’re up. The usual reason for seeds not producing plants is that they were not kept moist enough during and just after germination. (Or they were kept TOO moist and the seeds rotted.) Letting the garden soil dry out, even for a couple of days can effectively kill germinating plants. This often happens in new gardens, were the soil has not been built up well. I had this problem this year with my own rutabagas. Keep at it and get a lot of organic material worked into your soil this fall and winter if you can. Plant your seeds in the improved soil, keep it watered nicely and see if that doesn’t do the trick next spring. Keep at it; you WILL succeed! — Jackie


  1. Yes, it IS great to be in love with a handy guy! But more than that, he’s considerate, fun and communicates. And, yes, we do have a LOT in common, especially what we like and want out of life. So every day is exciting and it’s great to walk around the place in the evening and see what we have accomplished during the day, the week.

    Will is planning to make a permanent move to Minnesota around January 9th….God willing and the crick don’t rise.


  2. My husband and I have been canning apple butter for several years using a crockpot. Our method is to chop up washed, whole fruit and set the crockpot on low with an inch or so of water (or apple juice) in the bottom to prevent scorching. We turn the pot on before bed, and turn it off in the morning, leaving the lid on. When we get home from work that evening, the apples have cooled, and we put them through a food mill to remove pits, stems and peel. Measure your fruit into your pot (we use 6 cups apple puree, 2 cups sugar, and several teaspoons of spices to taste – your recipe may vary depending on the sweetness of your apples). We find we don’t need to strain off any juice, and simply bring the mixture slowly to a boil on the stove before canning. A second stay in the crockpot would thicken puree from apples with more juice before cooking and canning.

  3. We do something similar for the well by the barn, only we do not cut out a hole in the round bale but basically force it down on tha casing usually with the help of the tractor bucket. and it works really well especially since the old machine shed that protected it from most of the snow and wind has now been taken down

  4. I’m so glad you’ve found such a handy guy to have around the place. I too am fortunate to have a fairly handy guy and they’re worth their weight in gold or at least mulch…lol. Love your blog, I keep it on my homepage so I don’t miss a thing.

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