We’ve had sunny weather in the 50s and even a 60 or two. So we have this huge case of spring fever. (MUST dig! Must dig!!!) Will had finished his “new” furrower/breaking plow, built of scrap and a neighbor’s thrown-out old horse plow. All that was left of the plow was the share and moldboard; the wood had rotted away years ago. But after tinkering and welding for a few days, we have a heavy-duty, neat plow. So yesterday, Will asked me where he could try it out. (I had tried it out the day before down in the area that is to be our horse-training ring.) We’d been talking about removing the gravel and rock from two flower bed areas by the house garden and replacing it with good rotted compost, so I pointed to those spots.

A grin lit up Will’s face and he climbed up on the tractor. After first seeing the plow did (indeed plow), he made several furrows, then turned around and scooped the rock and gravel out of the beds. He put this “waste” on our driveway, in front of the house and the house garden, filling in several low spots and adding a foot of new gravel over our water line. Now, not only do we have new beds, waiting for compost, but our driveway looks so nice and level!

Today, Will started bulldozing down by our spring catchment basin and I hauled many tractor bucket loads of sandy loam from down there, up to level out the spot in our berry patch where our new strawberries and asparagus will go. We were very happy to note that the soil there is already rich and black from all that composted manure we put on last year! Wow. The frost is going, so I should be able to till very soon. Hurray!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning salsa

Thanks for your advice on the pressure canning. I think I was guesstimating too much on headspace, so I got out a ruler and also processed just a little above 10lb pressure and they all came out perfectly!! Thank you. I got your canning book and loving it. I have one question: salsa…I love fresh salsa with just tomato, garlic, lime juice, onion, jalapeno, and lots of cilantro. I’d love to can this, but having a hard time finding recipes without bell pepper and vinegar and from what I’ve read, I don’t want to play with this recipe too much since it combines acid/low-acid foods. My kids & husband requested that I not give them botulism. :) Could I pressure can it or use just bottled lemon or lime juice in place of the vinegar and water bath can it? My ten year old daughter said, “You’d better ask Jackie Clay- she knows everything!”

Manor, Texas

Ha! Ha! Tell your daughter to ask MY kids if I know everything! You can substitute jalapenos for bell peppers, or just leave them out. Yes, you can also substitute lemon juice for the vinegar, but I, personally, like the vinegar-salsa better than the lemon one, but try them both and see what you folks like best. You CAN pressure can the salsa, but I prefer it water bathed as the tomatoes get more “mushy” in the pressure canner. I like my canned salsa more like fresh…with the chunks and texture. — Jackie

Wounded turkey

I’m having a “what would Jackie do?” moment. Just noticed my mama turkey was limping. On further inspection, discovered something seems to have torn at her side–she has a good sized open wound under her wing. I really don’t have a clue of what to do for her. She seems ok, considering. She is eating and her fresh droppings looked ok. I suppose I will put her down if she seems to be going downhill. I have a hard time getting a goat vet around here, let alone a poultry one. She had been laying eggs as of late. I left her some and put some in the chicken coop for a hen to hopefully set on, in case she doesn’t make it. If this isn’t too vague, I was wondering what your thoughts were.

Rena Erickson
Easley, South Carolina

I’d guess that your turkey will probably be okay. I had a hen turkey, back in Montana, that was attacked by a coyote. Luckily, our milk cow attacked the coyote and he dropped the turkey to save his life. But when I brought the turkey home, she had a huge, gaping hole in her side. I figured she was a goner, but she was a pet, so I sprayed antibiotic powder on the wound and brought her into the goat barn to (hopefully) heal. She did great and in a month, you couldn’t even see where the wound had been. I hope your turkey does the same! — Jackie

Strawberries and keeping chickens out of raised beds

Sorry to hear about your mom going to a nursing home but based on personal experience you need to take care of yourself too. Chest pains are not to be taken lightly!!

Isn’t this unexpected warmer weather just wonderful? I read you are going to plant 250 strawberry plants. May I ask what are you going to do with that many berries? I only know about freezing them and making jam. Suggestions? I know what I would do if I had your 100 asparagus plants! Yum yum.

We are thinking about putting in some raised beds or small beds around the house of flowers and veggies. We will have to fence some of them since we have free range chickens. What do you put between your raised beds so that it isn’t so muddy? Actually our “lawn” isn’t good. Hubby wants more grass and I want something more useful! Any suggestions?

Thank you so much for sharing. I love looking at your plants! They look so good.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

I’m HOPING I’ll have so many strawberries I’ll have to think up ways to use them all! I’ll be making jam, preserves, and marmalade, of course, then dehydrating a whole bunch to use in various baking and other recipes. I’ll also can up the remainder. True, canned strawberries don’t look as nice as frozen ones do, but they sure taste great! I’m sure I’ll also be sharing them with family and friends, as well. We have grass along our raised flower beds in the front yard (which also are a home to various herbs, peppers, and tomatoes, too). In the house garden, we opted for wood chips, made from left-over prunings and small trees removed from the garden and pasture. The chips need to be renewed every few years as they compost themselves, but it’s not a big chore as we always have new chips from various projects. We’re really happy with our seedling plants this year. Last year we had horrible luck, using Miracle Gro; won’t make that mistake again. Lots of gardeners are telling me the same thing, so it wasn’t just us! — Jackie

Bulk canning lids

Hi Jackie. LOVE your blog and your articles in BHM. You have been a wealth of information for me. Thank you. Just wanted to give you a source for bulk canning lids. Check out the Lehmans catalog or Lehmans.com. They have both regular and wide mouth lids in bulk.

Janice Donaway
Bloxom, Virginia

Thanks for the tip. However, NO sources of bulk lids come close to beating the prices I get locally, unfortunately. It seems that SOMEWHERE you could buy a case of, say, regular lids for less than the $1.00 a dozen that I get at the local dollar store! — Jackie


  1. Hi Jackie – Sorry about my silly comment as to where to find dehydrated elderberries. Found them online at http://www.onlinenuts.com and already have mine soaking in the vodka. Thank you again for all of your wonderful suggestions.

    Cheers – Wanda

  2. Hi Jackie,
    At the very end of our growing season here in the Phoenix area (July), I found Kerr canning lids in the 12-pack at Lowe’s for 89 cents for small and $1.09 for large. I was thrilled and bought up the entire leftover supply (25+ boxes)! Other readers might try looking at their local home improvement stores just past the end of growing season. Our local dollar stores don’t seem to carry canning lids, but I’m going to continue trying.

  3. Hi Jackie, about the canning lids at Lehman’s, I was going to get them since the price was somewhat better than I can get here, even with shipping costs. But then I read closer and it said “imported”. From where? Who knows?

    Since I need to have a comment, here it is: I really enjoy your blog, wouldn’t miss an “episode”, and you are a great example to all of us wannabes.

  4. This winter I found regular canning lids for $0.40/doz at Wal-Mart so I bought several hundred (cases). This morning they were in the really cheap close out isle for $020/doz. It seems kind of nuts to be closing out something that doesn’t go bad just at the beginning of garden season but it was my gain.

    It might be a good idea to check this out.

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