Combine tons of tomatoes, a family case of a bad cold, and Mom in the hospital, not doing very well and you have the picture of a very tired Jackie. Luckily, I’m recovering from the yuck. No, we didn’t have the swine flu, just the plain old fall, back-to-school crud. And luckily, Will is pitching right in, without being asked, by the way, and helping run tomatoes through the Victorio tomato mill for different tomato sauces. So far we’ve done spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, and pizza sauce, plus plain old tomato sauce. When we’re sick of that, we scald and peel tomatoes and make salsa. Today we did two batches of tomato sauce, which are slowly cooking down (one on the woodstove top and the other in my gas oven) for canning tomorrow. And meanwhile, I made a huge batch of salsa while Will split the worst big gnarled pieces of maple and ash with the tractor wood splitter. (He did the rest of the 12 cords, by hand, a little at a time each day over summer.)


But Mom’s not doing well; her kidneys aren’t functioning too well and she’s very sleepy and hardly wakes up to be fed her meals, which she doesn’t eat. At 93, her body just seems to want to drift off. It’s very hard on all of us and we are hoping for a better day tomorrow.

Readers’ Questions:

Growing herbs

I have been buying herbs for herbal home remedies but I would like to plant them. What is the best time to do this? I will be keeping them inside; I will not be transplanting them outside.

Some of the ones I want to plant are: yarrow, borage, nettle, comfrey, mullein, and catnip, just to name a few.

Dale Culverson
Mountain Pine, Arkansas

Sorry but these plants are large and really don’t do well as indoor plants. Unless you have a home greenhouse, consider growing smaller plants, which you can start from seed anytime during the year. The large herb plants (or other large plants) get extremely leggy, searching for the sun, even with plenty of auxiliary lighting.

Also, use a little caution if growing these herbs outside; many herbs, such as the mints, nettles, yarrow, and comfrey can get VERY invasive. Think about planting them in large containers or separate raised beds so they can’t spread out of bounds. My friend, Jeri, planted comfrey, and it is now in her flower beds, the rhubarb, and even in her greenhouse, after creeping under the footings! — Jackie

Chickens eating eggs

I have a medium sized flock of 25 chickens. They started to lay only after 4-4 1/2 months old! My problem now is they have taken a liking to eating the eggs. We were getting around 15 eggs a day, now sometimes we only get 6 because they ate the rest! The coop is very large, and they have a very large run. We also have more nesting boxes than most say they need, so I don’t think they are

Recently we tried giving them some meat protein (scraps from the two mule deer we harvested this season) and it seemed to slow down the egg eating, only about 1-3 a day. Their diet consists of layer pellets, scrap veggies from a local restaurant (raw lettuce and tomatoes), and left over breads from the local christian mission, plus weeds and such from the garden. I’ve also tried the golf ball solution, but no cigar.

Dave Rose
Buena Vista, Colorado

This is a common problem. Unfortunately, chickens DO like to eat eggs. But to keep more for yourself, collect the eggs as often as you can — up to several times daily until the problem abates. You can also try using ceramic or wooden nest eggs, which work better than golf balls. If they still do it, consider using a new nest box that has roll-outs, so that when a hen lays her egg and gets up, the egg rolls gently out of the nest box to a secure location. Other than these tips, a one-way trip to the chopping block will cure the problem permanently, but it’s an expensive “cure” for all involved! — Jackie

Canning dried beans

I keep hearing about people who can beans dried. That is they add about 1/3 jar dried beans, fill the rest will water and then process in a pressure canner. Does this work well? To me it seems so easy that it can’t possibly work

Jeanine Camp
Lakewood, Colorado

I know folks have used this method, but the way I put up dry beans is safer and just about as easy. Try this:

Hot pack: Rinse dry beans, cover well with boiling water. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let soak, covered, for 2 hours. Heat to boiling and drain, saving liquid. Pack jars 3/4 full with hot beans. Add small pieces of fried lean bacon or ham, if desired. Fill with hot cooking liquid, leaving 1inch of headspace. Process pints for 65 minutes and quarts for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

You can find this recipe plus many others in my new growing and canning book— Jackie

Freezing beans now, canning later

I had an abundance of purple, yellow, and green beans this year, although not all at once. I would pick and freeze them as the beans would come. Is it safe for me to take those frozen beans now and can them? Would they become mush after having been frozen?

Kathy Markes
Kingsland, Georgia

Yes, you can home can previously frozen vegetables and meats with very little change in texture, appearance or taste. I would recommend hot packing them to ensure that they get thoroughly heated before packing in your jars. — Jackie


  1. Re: Storing potatoes in plastic tubs — I found that they keep better if you drill holes in the tubs. Just take a 1/4 inch drill and have at it — top, bottom, and sides. It allows them to breathe, I guess. They keep for me, too, right up to planting time, when I plant them complete with sprouts.

  2. Jackie,
    Thoughts and prayers are sent out to you and the family. Both of my parents are gone now, and it is never easy trying to juggle, life, sickness, and caring for an ailing parent. Hopefully she will respond to whatever the hospital is doing to help her. I do know how exhausting this all is, but God wouldn’t let you live it if he didn’t think you could handle it, and you will, stay strong.
    As a newcomer to BHM, I am buying books as fast as I can, your canning book is next. With a cellar full of food, I am still looking for things to can, the garden is about finished, and now I have taken to buying large quantities of produce at the farmers auction, just so I can have something to can, I think you have created a monster….
    Stay well.

  3. Jackie, sorry to read your mother isn’t doing so well. I will keep you and your family in my prayers. I would suggest that Kathy Markes blanch any veggies before she freeze’s them to retain the vitamins and flavor. I’ve had to do that when I raised more than I could eat fresh, but not enough for a canner load. Judy

  4. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your mom, and your family! What a mercy that Will is there to be a source of strength and a true helpmate in these tough times.

  5. I will keep you all in my prayers, it is very exhausting physically and mentally to love, care and have concern for someone you love. Your mom is very blessed to have your family to care for her. Wish you all a speedy recovery, that crud seems to hang on and on, especially the fatigue. Thanks for still taking time for us, you are truly amazing!

  6. We are also sorry to hear of your mother’s health. Just went through this in February with my Mom. They just get so tired out; and then the next day here they go again, up and at em. Back and forth. Prayers for all of you for better health, happiness and to deal with what God’s plan is for you and your family.

  7. I’m sorry to hear about your mom, Jackie. I hope she rallies. Be sure to take care of yourself.

  8. Jackie,

    Sorry to hear your mother isn’t well and that you all are still fighting the bad colds. We’ll keep the whole family in our prayers.


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