will drawing arch
Really! To make the new dining room and entryway more roomy feeling, we’ve turned the window in the old living room into a half-wall with an archway over it, supported the wall with a vertical post and removed four feet, making the walk-through into the greenhouse seven feet wide. Will made a cardboard pattern from the cut he made on the sweep (the stacked corners overhanging the front of the house), which made a gentle curve, so the archways would all match. Then, carefully, he cut the new arch in the half wall. With lots of work because there were four 12″ hardened steel log screws in the area he was cutting, he finally got the cut made and the logs removed. WOW! It changed the whole look of the interior of the house, from small to huge!

Then we took out the east wall, from the old door, which was removed, eight feet further, again supporting the top two courses of logs with a vertical post. Again, there was a matching arch cut at the top. And again, WOW! The whole area opened up into the new entryway/living room. It’s gorgeous. Of course we still have a lot of work to do finishing the whole thing up, but we sure have encouragement to do it now. And the sunny windows will be perfect to start my new crops of peppers and tomatoes this spring!

Readers’ Questions:

High altitude canning

I live at over 4000 feet. I just bought a pressure cooker/canner and the instructions say to not can over 3000 feet. Is this true? And if it is, what is a good canner for us highlanders?

Carol Sorensen
Sparks, Nevada

I’ve never bought a pressure cooker/canner; if it’s one of the smaller ones. I’ve canned at 7,400 feet, up in Montana, and canning books have directions for up to 10,000 feet. I’d call the company if your directions say that. You may have to exchange it for a larger one. — Jackie

Canning bags

Let me say you are my hero! I so admire what you do and how you live. I would love to visit you sometime if I am ever in the area. But I do have a question with all this admiration! A friend at work said he heard of canning bags that you use instead of glass jars. I can not find anything in the internet about them, but knew if anybody knows about this new product, it would be you.

Audrey Bennett
Belvidere, Tennessee

Would love to have you stop by. No, I’ve never heard of canning bags. There are vacuum sealing bags, but they don’t work in place of canning. They are okay for freezing some foods, but don’t take the place of canning. Jars last forever! — Jackie

Failure to seal

I’m writing to ask a “failure to seal” question. I have a brand spanking new All American Canner used it for the first time yesterday to can beef vegetable soup. I had a time getting it up to pressure, it took an hour or two before I realized it was leaking steam too much to ever pressurize. My husband came in and tightened the wing nuts down even more (I had tightened them until I met good resistance). Finally pressurized, it was a 90 minute canning time and afterward, taking out the jars there was a lot of blow out on the jars and lids, I cooled them overnight and only 2 have sealed, the rest I have poured out (After sitting out all night, I was wary of trying to recan). What happened? The blow out, taking so long to bring them up to pressure? I’ve never had any failure with my old canner.

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

My guess is that your water evaporated due to the long exhausting of steam. It’s just one of those things. Be sure to tighten wing nuts in opposite pairs in order to get the top settled down evenly. If you don’t, it doesn’t seal and you get this problem. It can happen to anyone. Try again and better luck. — Jackie

Failure to seal, part 2

Jackie, I wrote this morning about a “failure to seal problem.” I have a comment to add. I canned 2 more quart widemouth jars this morning, followed ALL directions to a T. The canning went off without a hitch but only 1 jar sealed. Could I have defective lids? (I let the lids simmer in water until I needed them).

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

I really don’t think you have defective lids. In more than forty years of canning, I’ve never had a batch of bad lids; some better than others, but none I’d label defective. The chief cause of jars not sealing is often leaving them in the canner longer than necessary after the pressure returns to zero. Once it does, let off all the remaining steam and remove them at once. Also, don’t “hurry” the process by bumping the steam valves, letting steam exhaust. I’ve done that a time or two in a “hurry” situation and had jars fail to seal. If you’re still having trouble, let me know and we’ll figure this out. — Jackie

Dehydrating cooked rice

I was just wondering if it is safe to dehydrate cooked rice at home. I would like to make some home made backpacking meals for my husband so lightweight is key. I haven’t seen a recipe in any of my food preservation books.

Magi Clark
Leavenworth, Washington

Yes, you can dehydrate cooked rice. Use a bit less water to cook it in, so that the kernels separate after cooking. Then put it in a thin layer on your dehydrator sheets and be sure to stir it around during dehydration to break up any clumps. Better than Uncle-You-Know-Who. — Jackie

Making bean flour

What can you tell me about making and using bean flour, sounds like something I could do.

Patricia Treadwell
Marshall, Mississippi

You can make bean flour by simply grinding any dry beans in a grain mill or even your heavy blender. For fine flour, run it through a sieve to remove any bigger pieces, which can then be re-ground. Bean flour is often used as a thickener for soups and stews, also adding a beany flavor. You can also use it in meat dishes to replace part of the meat, much as you might do by using refried beans in your tacos. Experiment and you’ll have lots of fun, along with lots of healthy eating. — Jackie

Canning Kielbasa

Our local grocery store often has Turkey Kielbasa or other such prepackaged sausages on clearance and I wondered if they would be a good candidate for canning? I was thinking it would be a great addition to kraut or rice for an “in a hurry supper.”

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

While you can home can these sausages, I really can’t say that I like the end product. Mine has tasted over-processed and kind of flat. Try a couple and see what you think. — Jackie

Dairy goats

Seems I read somewhere a goat crossbred Pygmy/Nigerian made good pets and milk producers. Before I buy my goats, what do you think?

William and Jane Petty
Wilkesboro, North Carolina

I really prefer larger breeds of dairy goats. They produce more milk for the feed consumed and the excess bucks also can be used for meat, as wethers, whether by you or from sales. There isn’t much market for pet pygmy goats. But this is a personal decision; some people swear by this cross, as well as purebred Nigerians or Pygmies. — Jackie

Storing popcorn and spices

I purchased some popcorn online. Amish Country tiny kernel popping corn as my husband and I love it. We want to store it somehow for longer storage. the corn comes in plastic bags that are sealed at the top. Do you have any recommendations? I thought to place in gallon buckets and add an absorber to it but I don’t know if leaving in the plastic bags before adding to the bucket is a good or bad idea. I don’t want to acquire bugs in my popping corn as this has happened to me once before when the bag was just sitting in my pantry.

Also, can you tell me the best way to store spices (i.e., #2.5 cans, simple bags, etc.). I assume they lose their flavor if not stored in some protective manner for longer storage. I am referring to 5+ years or so.

Elena Wallace
Woodinville, Washington

I often store bagged foods in plastic bags in sealed buckets. This works well and does offer more protection against insects. Popcorn stores very well. I think you’ll be pleased. If it loses pop over time just sprinkle a jar full with a little water, stir it well and put the top on. soon it’ll gain enough humidity to again pop well. (Don’t do this with a big batch or it could mold over time.)

I store my spices in airtight smaller canning jars (unprocessed). They may lose potency over time, but I just use a little more of the old spices. Many of mine are more than 10 years old and still going strong. Probably not good enough for a chef, but plenty good enough for me. — Jackie

Dead soil

The soil in our garden spot seems to be dead. Our land used to be nothing but pine trees grown by a local paper mill for pulp wood. What can we do to our soil to bring back life to it so it will produce the veggies we grow?

Wayne Leamon
Old Fort, Tennessee

The best “one” answer is to work in plenty of rotted compost or rotted manure. This is the quickest fix I can think of. Also invest in a soil tester. There are cheap ones, less than $20, that will tell you the whole story and what you can do to fix your soil. Our own land was just pine trees, too, which were harvested and the acreage left bare over much of it. But now we are growing tremendous crops. All thanks to wonderful compost and manure! — Jackie


  1. Hi Jackie,
    I regards to the long term storage of spices. I too have had spices for years that I continue to use. The only thing I do differently is periodically test them for little critters. Lots of times the unwanted inhabitants look a lot like the spice they are living in. To see if they are there, put a pinch of the spice in water. If anything starts swimming in the water, it is time to toss that spice! I picked up that trick years ago as a Tupperware dealer, believe it or not!

    Thanks for all you do Jackie. I tell everyone about this wonderful blog and this great lady who knows EVERYTHING about gardening and canning. You! LOL

  2. Hi Jackie!

    I’ve been loving “Starting Over.” What a great book! It’s my favorite bedtime reading. And how exciting that you and Will are “starting over” all over again. How romantic, and what a perfect match! Watching your addition coming together and reading your plans for the gardens is so inspiring. Wishing you all a wonderful (and fruitful) spring!!!

  3. I live at 9200 ft. I have been canning for over 30 years here I have never had a problem I do have to increase the pressure according to my altitude but other than that everthing has gone just fine. Have your book “starting over” pride just oozes from the pages. Justly so.

  4. Hi Jackie

    Well I’m just so happy to be able to see your progress on your house–and that you have a new guy/pal.

    I’ve enjoyed your book and it was a great encouragement to me when we decided to buy our place and ‘DIY’ our house. We got a big head start buying ours already half begun, but still it is a tremendous amount of work–but then– why not??

    I mean what have we got to do that is more interesting, fulfilling, and practical than building our own house?? ITs been a great thing for my family. Glad to see yours getting bigger and better all the time!

  5. thank you so much for sharing all the ongoing work on your house, as I am getting ideas and learning so much from all of you!! once again, thank you for your generosity in sharing your lives there….

  6. For Magi Clark: If you want more information about dehydrating for backpacking, there are several books available. Look for “Freezer bag cooking, “A Fork in the Trail,” “LipSmackin’ Backpackin’,” and “Backpack Gourmet.” They all have info on dehydrating grains, vegetables, beans, and meat for the trail–along with directions on the best ways to rehydrate. Also, check out backpacker.com’s forums, which has a lot of info on lightweight food. This is one area where homesteading, preparedness, and recreation intersect :)

  7. Hi Jackie!

    I’ve tried grinding various things into flour, using a number of different mills, but the closest I’ve ever gotten with any grain mill has been a very coarse corn-grits texture, no matter what I tried. Smaller grains like amaranth or quinoa just flowed through my mills unchanged. I even burned out a blender trying to grind in it. But, I figured out a different way: just simmer your grains/legumes/whatever until tender, let cool, whizz in the blender with the cooking water until smooth (you might need to add liquid), then use this as your “sponge” when making your bread, with the rest of the flour store-bought.

    I’m saving up for a good-quality electric mill, since I’ve had such rotten luck with hand mills, and shoulder problems are making them harder to crank. Until then, this trick works for me. I even made a 15-grain batch once, although it only had maybe a tablespoon each of the dry grains.

    Be aware that the bread will poof up more because of the legumes.

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