We’ve been pretty busy the last two days. We planned on having our two does, Velvet (the mother of the triplet does last year) and Luna bred to kid about the same time in April, while the other two does, Buffy and Fawn, will kid in June. This ensures milk all year long and will let us raise all the babies on the milk from one doe of each pair…even if I have to bottle feed. That gives us plenty of house milk, too. A win-win situation!

Well, Saturday morning Luna acted like she was going to kid so I watched her. Sure enough, her hermit-like behavior soon turned to birthing. And she gave easy birth to twin bucklings, one white with black and tan and another red roan in front and red behind. Both are happy and healthy.

And yesterday, Velvet decided to repeat the performance, producing a nice red and white doeling and a huge solid red buck. I’m excited over her udder this year; it’s huge and so perfect! It’s like a basketball with teats sticking off the front. Wow!

Now all I have to do is find new owners for the three bucklings. They sure have some milking mamas.

Readers’ Questions:

Sodium in water supply

Love all your advice to all us newbies and to people of experience too. Seems you’ve done just about everything in the realm of homesteading.

My question has to do with sodium in our water supply. We live in Texas and our only source of water is a well. We had our garden soil tested and it showed high amounts of sodium, so we tested the water to find the source and sure enough that is where it is coming from. What should we do about it? I’ve been told that that can lock up nutrients in the soil that our plants can use.

James Gilliland
Mansfield, Texas

You can help your garden withstand the sodium in your water by working in a lot of well-rotted compost. The addition of gypsum to your soil (available at your local feed mill) will help tie up the sodium in the soil, making your plants much happier. You might consider catching rainwater to help out watering in the garden. It’s amazing at how much water is “wasted” on house and outbuilding roofs during even a moderate rain, which could be harvested and used to water the gardens! It’s something we are working out for the future. — Jackie

Canning hot dogs

I know you must be sick of hearing from me, but if only your book were published, I might be less trouble. At any rate, could you give me instructions as how to can hot dogs? I have a surplus of venison hot dogs that were given to me. I would like to get them out of the freezer, as my husband and I are planning our homestead move this fall (yes, I’m aware it’s not the best time to move, but it’s when it happened). Thanks so much. Oh, one more thing, is there a way to preorder your book?

Mandi Kemp
Felton, Delaware

Hot dogs really don’t can up too awfully well, but they do come out edible! I’ve started to pre-brown mine; I put them up heated through in boiling water and during canning, they swelled so much they didn’t look nice. Now I pre-brown them by lightly frying in a bit of oil to just heat through. Then they are packed into wide mouth pint jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. I process them without added liquid for 75 minutes.

A bad time to make a move to a homestead? I suppose it’s not ideal, but hey, we moved here to a raw homestead in FEBRUARY, when it was -20 degrees with three feet of snow on the ground! And we lived to tell the tale.

Sorry, so far I don’t know of a way to pre-order the book, but have hope. It should be available pretty soon now! — Jackie

Pickled eggs

Years ago, mom used to have “pickled eggs” in a gallon jar in her small store for sale. When the jar was empty see made more. I have searched everywhere for a recipe for it. No luck. My grandmother made these and has been dead many years; mom was never into canning, so she doesn’t remember. I went on internet, found some but weren’t what we had. They didn’t keep at all. In fact in two days they had turned black, ugh. Any help would be appreciated.

Brenda Starling
Warm Springs, Arkansas

Here’s a recipe for you to try; it’s best to keep pickled eggs refrigerated as there is a possibility of picking up bacterial contamination if left at room temperature; sometimes a part of an egg can poke above the surface of the vinegar brine.

12 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and rinsed.
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. mixed pickling spices

Pack hot hard boiled eggs into a wide mouth canning jar. Boil 1 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt with 1 tsp. mixed pickling spices. Pour over eggs, covering them entirely. Place lid on jar and refrigerate for a week or two to let flavor develop. Keep refrigerated for safety and enjoy! — Jackie

Canning book

I am waiting for you to write a book on canning and preserving food. I wait for every issue just for your article. You such good recipes on food, I have already purchased the cookbook and love it. keep up the great articles.

Delma Pearce
Oakland, Illinois

The good news is that I just finished a book for Backwoods Home on growing and canning your own food. The last touches are being done and it should go to the printer pretty soon. Keep watching the blog and magazine and you’ll see the announcement of its arrival. — Jackie

Storing food in metal containers

I read in a back to basics book that you shouldn’t store dried food in metal containers. I really like your idea about using the cookie tins for food storage and it has been working out just fine. Question is: The tin is just the right size for storage of my dried bananas, am I going to poison someone?

Edna Hawks
Boise, Idaho

I never heard that one before. I do and I’m still alive. I suppose that condensation could possibly cause dampness on a metal can. But on the other hand, the tin will sure keep dry foods dry. I keep some of my dry foods in the popcorn tins, others in gallon and half gallon jars. The main thing is to keep moisture away from the foods and keep them bug and rodent-safe. — Jackie

Asiago cheese recipe

You recently stated you make Asiago cheese from your goat milk. Would you be willing to share this recipe? Haven’t been able to find one.

Brad and Rhona Barrie
Strong, Maine

Asiago cheese is a little more fussy than many, but definitely do-able. Here’s the recipe I use:

1 gal milk
1/4 tsp Thermophilic DVI type C culture
1 Junket rennet tablet
cheese salt

1. Let fresh milk warm to room temperature
2. Slowly heat to 90-92 degrees, over 20 minutes
3. Add starter and let stand 30-45 minutes
4. Crush rennet tablet in small amount of milk and add to warmed milk
5. Wait about an hour till curds break clean over your finger
6. Cut curds into 1/2″ pieces
7. Slowly heat curds and whey about 20 minutes while stirring, until they reach 104 degrees
8. Hold at 104 degrees for 15-20 minutes until curds no longer stick together
9 Slowly heat to 116-118 degrees (during 20 minutes time)
10 Cook at 116-118 degrees until curd is firm and easy to rub apart
11 Let curds settle to bottom of pot for 20 minutes
12 Drain through a doubled cheesecloth a few minutes
13 Place in cheese press and press firmly for 1 hour, until wheels are formed
14 Take out of press, remove cloth. Replace with clean cloth that has been dipped in a mild salt brine. Press again.
15 Turn wheels of cheese 2 times and leave in press overnight at room temperature
16 The next morning, remove from press and brine at 50-55 degrees. After 24 hours, brine the wheels for 4-5 hours per pound of cheese, longer.
17 Turn cheeses in brine once per day. Sprinkle dry salt on tops. Remove from brine.

Age at 55-59 degrees and 85 relative humidity with moderate ventilation (I put mine in a screened box on a pantry shelf with the window outside the pantry slightly open in the warmer months.)
Rub salt on rind every 3-4 days, turning cheeses each time. I age my cheeses on a dowel rack so they can get air both under and around the wheels. The turning ensures that they don’t get too damp inside on the bottom half of the cheese. This can lead to spoilage.

Good luck with your cheesemaking! — Jackie

Donkeys on the homestead

Love seeing the photo of Moose and Beauty, can you relay the benefits of donkeys on the homestead?

Joanna Wilcox
Boone, North Carolina

Well, they’re cuddly, have personality plus…Okay, that’s not usefulness, is it? Well, yes and no. But seriously, they make good guardians for sheep or goats and will attack predators. They can be trained to drive and pack; we will be using ours to pull small logs out of our woods; they fit where larger horses won’t. Their manure is a huge bonus. We never get enough manure it seems! We are going to train ours to drive singly and double, to use on a small wagon and cart. If gas prices zoom back up, we just might be using them to drive to town for supplies. What a political statement! — Jackie

Starting Over

I just finished reading your book “Starting Over” and I thought it was fantastic. Is there going to be another one someday? I would really like to be as self-reliant as you are, but until we can get our own land, we’re doing the best we can with growing our veggies and some fruit trees and bushes. I’m going to have to re-read your book because I want to try a couple of the recipes. Anyway, you are a great inspiration.

Georgia Trathen
Glasgow, Montana

Thanks for the praise. I’m not sure if there will be another Starting Over; you’d have to talk to Dave about that. He’s the guy who makes those decisions. It’s great that you are being as self-reliant as you can; few people can make it ALL the way, but I figure that the more we CAN do for ourselves, the further down the road we are. Congratulations! — Jackie

Dairy goats

I am new at raising dairy goats and have a question about taming them for milking (I have your excellent book on dairy goats, but it doesn’t mention this aspect). My La Mancha doe kidded about four weeks ago and is producing sufficient milk for her kids–they’re healthy and happy. The previous owners said she was a 4H goat; she’s very tame and sweet, but she won’t let me touch her udder. She freaks out when I try to milk her or even get her used to me by my touching her udder. She has never been milked before, as she’s only 18 months old, and this is her first freshening. I am planning to build or buy a milking stand in the next couple of weeks, but I’m afraid she will be so upset by my trying to milk her that it’s going to be a very difficult task and she’ll jump around and hurt herself in the stanchion.

I’m very anxious to begin milking her for cheese and milk, but I’m not sure how to start with a first-time freshened doe. Can you advise on how to get her used to being milked?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

A lot of first fresheners are antsy about being milked. Get your milking stanchion built as soon as possible and locate it next to a solid wall. At first, just feed her in it. Then brush her several times in it until she relaxes. Slowly switch brushing to stroking her sides, hips and belly; udder (not teats) if you can. If she still is kicky, shove your head into her flank with her firmly fastened in the stanchion and grab her teats gently but firmly and begin milking. By holding your head into her flank, and NOT letting go of her teats, she will slowly figure out that you ARE going to milk her and she will stop thrashing around.

By letting go when she jumps and kicks, she is training you to leave her alone! You won’t hurt her by being persistent, and you’ll soon have her standing well. Be sure to always have feed for her while she is being milked to distract her. When the feed is gone you’ll have more trouble. I know this behavior is frustrating, but with patience and persistence, you can overcome it.

If nothing seems to work, have an experienced goat breeder come over a couple times to milk for you. Often just a time or two will settle her down. And you can watch an expert to see just how it all works. Just think of all the milk, cheese, ice cream, etc. you’ll soon have! — Jackie


  1. Congrats on the kids, and thanks much for the advice on training a young nanny to be milked – VERY GOOD info that I intend to use in the not-too distant future. Thank You.

  2. I love the babies! This year, no baby goats in my barn (sadly) as I plan to sell the adults and replace them with registered stock. I can get a bit more for the ones I need to sell that way, and they all cost the same to feed. I sure appreciate the picture you posted, it makes me lonely for a barn full of “kids” like I had last year!!

  3. Congratulations on your beautiful babies! I don’t have babies this year, because our buck died unexpectedly and I haven’t had time to find a replacement. I don’t know about you, but to me there is nothing cuter in the world than a little baby goatie!

  4. When I was young and we had goats, daddy casterated the little boys and we put them in the freezer at about 8 months or so. Goat meat is a little boney for some reason but really tastes good. I no longer have goats but remember how good the meat was.

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