It’s hard to believe that those little seedlings are already big enough to transplant! But that’s the way they grow. Just like kids. I’m beginning to transplant from the flats they grew in to 4″ pots and deep, oversized six and nine packs. Today, besides doing Easter dinner, I transplanted tomatoes and peppers. But because I’ve planted over 14 different tomato varieties and 12 different peppers this year, this job has only just begun. We made our own potting soil this year. We haven’t been happy with Miracle Grow, so we made potting soil the old-fashioned way, mixing 1/3 rotted compost, 1/3 black soil, and 1/3 sand-clay mixture. To avoid weed seeds and bacterial contamination, we cooked a roasting pan full of each one in the oven, then turned them into a wash tub to mix. The result was a fine, loose mixture that should grow tremendous plants.

I’ll be doing this every day for about a week, as we not only have tomatoes and peppers, but celery, petunias, dahlias, blanket flowers, lupines, and other flowers, as well. Then it’ll be time to start the squash, pumpkins, and melons! What a garden we hope to have this year. I can hardly wait.

Readers’ Questions:

A day in the life of Jackie

What does a day in the life of Jackie Clay look like? When do you arise and lay your head down at night? How do you fit everything into 24 hours? Do you see your life changing as you age or have you been able to keep to the pace you set ten years ago?

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

Wow, that’s a tough one, as every day is different. But I’ll try an honest answer here. I get up about 7 AM or so, get David up so he can get off to school. Start the wood cookstove, feed the house critters–goldfish, cat, and our dog, Spencer. Check the greenhouse plants, watering as needed. Visit with Will for a few minutes while his coffee perks. We plan our day’s must-dos, want-to-dos and future plans for awhile while watching the geese come flying down the creek and the eagles flying out of the big woods for their morning hunting.

I go out and feed the baby goats, turn the chickens out, feed the goats, donkeys, and horses, then it’s back to the house to get Mom up, get her breakfast, meds, etc.

Today I got David up and off to church, transplanted tomatoes and peppers into 4″ pots, fed the bottle baby goats lunch, swept the dried mud from our floors (you can’t help tracking in this time of year!), gathered eggs, cooked Easter dinner, washed a few loads of clothes, helped Will load our 8N tractor on the trailer, checked on the rhubarb, which is poking up through the mulch, planted some wildflower roots in our woods by the beaver pond, then it was chore time again and I fed, watered, and played with the donkeys, goats, and horses. Fed and watered our huskies (and played with them too). Transplanted a few more peppers, got Mom ready for bed, did her meds, and now, at 9:37 PM the blog. I’ll probably get to bed about 10:30 and oh how nice that’ll feel. But it was a good day!

No, my life’s not changing much, over 10 years ago. I’m taking a few more breaks during my work and maybe not doing it as fast as I did, but about the only thing that is different is that I appreciate everything more than I did back then. — Jackie

Cottage cheese from sour milk

After searching all over the BHM website anthologies and back issues, hard as I have tried I cannot find a recipe for making cottage cheese from sour milk. I’m pretty sure this is the way it was done before cultured cottage cheese came onto the scene. Do you have a recipe or can you direct me where to look for a recipe to make cottage cheese using sour milk?

Cheryl Ochenkowski
Eastpointe, Michigan

Yes, you can make cottage cheese from sour milk. The only trouble is that sometimes the results are not dependable; some is more acid than others because of the degree of souring of the milk and whether it is store milk or raw milk. The process is very easy. Just heat half a gallon (or so) of sour milk in a double boiler gently until a soft curd forms. Then pour it out into a colander lined with a doubled cheesecloth or clean piece of white sheet and drain it for an hour. Add salt, pepper, or herbs as you wish and refrigerate, covered. — Jackie

Spoiled pickles

Looking forward to the garden again, and to restarting my apple and cherry trees. We lost several to the rabbits; they totally stripped bark and cambium up to 3 feet from the ground. Looking forward to canning some rabbit.

Question: I bought 10 pounds of real nice Kirby cukes and tried pickling them. Have done this several times (brine method) and have had varying success with them. The last two times they just sat there and spoiled — no fermentation, as far as I can tell. No scum or bubbles to skim off, just flat-out spoiled. I use a clear plastic (food-grade) tub for this, not a stoneware crock. Everything is sterilized beforehand, and I keep it in an unheated room, with a cheesecloth cover over it. Any thoughts on what might be wrong?

Howard Tuckey
Lisle, New York

Just a few thoughts as I can’t oversee your pickling process to tell for sure what is going wrong; is the brine too weak (could you be putting the salt on top of the cukes where it doesn’t mix with the old brine when adding more?), could a part of one or more cukes be poking up out of the brine? Even one little piece sticking out of the brine will cause spoilage. Be sure to have a sterile weighted plate or food grade plastic bag full of the same brine on top of the cukes and brine to completely submerge them. Are you washing them well before pickling? Clinging field dirt can cause spoilage, and it doesn’t have to be much. Are you holding your brining pickles in a cool, dark place, such as a corner of your unheated basement or root cellar? Too much heat will sometimes cause fermentation of pickles to stop.

I hope this helps because I sure want you to have great success with your pickling! And darned those rabbits! They ate a few of my black raspberry canes, too. But fortunately I still have a whole bunch. — Jackie


  1. Jackie, Responding to Spoiled Pickles; they can use black plastic drain pipe, 4″ or 6″ split down the length of the pipe to wrap around the trunk of their fruit trees. This will protect them from rabits, cats, as well as squirrels. They need to put it as far up the pipe as necessary to keep this from happening usually 4-5 feet. If it is a dwarf tree place the pipe up to where the braches start descending out from the trunk.

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