The weather was great over the weekend, so Will fired up Old Yeller, our trusty crawler, and went to play in the dirt. Our spring catchment basin had turned out great last year, both for wildlife watering and for watering our gardens and orchard. So, as we had the room (old gravel pit), we decided to double the size, then have our friend, Dale Rinne, come over with his backhoe and dig it deeper, too. In preparation for Dale’s work, Will had cleared the area north of the existing basin, so Saturday, he set about to scrape and dig as much of the gravel away from the area as he could.

Our culvert, which is the overflow to the pond, is still frozen, so the water level is quite high right now. But Will wanted it all ready for Dale, and we knew the culvert would thaw soon. All went great until “POP” a rock got in the track and dumped it in a pile next to the dozer!

Now a 1010 track weighs about 500 pounds, and will pinch your fingers off in a heartbeat if you aren’t careful…and sometimes even if you ARE careful. As the track tensioner is powered by grease, you open a relief screw and the grease is supposed to squirt out, releasing the tension, making the track much easier to fit back on. But it was stuck! Even shoving against it with the tractor bucket wouldn’t work. To make a long story short, David, Will, and I worked for nearly 6 hours on it, when it FINALLY broke loose, shooting the grease in a heap under the dozer. We got the track back on and in a few minutes, Old Yeller was back in working order. But it was nearly dark. Oh well, another day. So today, Will went back, leveled off the temporary bank, and tidied up the surrounding area to wait for Dale.

When we finish digging out the pond, we plan on naturalizing the whole area, complete with wild fruiting trees like elderberry and mountain ash, wild flowers, and clover for the deer. The southern edge will have a gentle slope so the birds can bathe and frogs can sit in the sun. We’ll put in a small dock on the east side so we can station our water pump for the gardens. It’s going to be a thing of beauty, as well as function. Much better than an old, overgrown, rock-strewn gravel pit! (Oh yes, we will be using those piles of large rocks for a foundation wall on the sloping south side of the house, as well as retaining walls and other projects. Waste not, want not!)

Readers’ Questions:

Bulk canning lids, freezing celery, and chicken litter

A response and two questions: When looking for bulk canning lids, it doesn’t hurt to ask if a local retailer will give you a price break for buying in bulk. I asked at our hardware store last year and bought a case for $.20 less per dozen than the individual price. I wasn’t able to find any deals online since you always have to pay shipping and the lids are heavy.

I’m enjoying reading your new canning book. I was a little disappointed to discover it doesn’t have an index, but it’s been pretty easy to find things in it since it is in alphabetical order. I’m going to try growing celery for the first time this year. Can you blanch and freeze celery? I can’t imagine I’d use that much at a time that I’d want to can it, but if I could freeze it like I do with green peppers, I could add just a little bit to a recipe when I need it.

Also, last year I tried to save some money by getting wood shavings from a local lumberyard to use as chicken litter. It was cheaper than the bagged wood shavings, but the pieces were much smaller and seemed to pack down and get wet much faster than the commercial shavings. I also worried about using small pieces when brooding chicks, so I waited until they were older. Do you buy the commercial shavings, use your own wood chips, or have another idea to save some money on chicken litter?

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

Yes, that’s a good idea, asking your local merchant. I’ve done that with success, also saving about a quarter a box, buying a case, which was special ordered before canning season.

Yes, you can blanch and freeze celery. It works very nicely. I can up a whole lot, too. I put it in both pints (for stews and cream of celery soup) and half pints, to use in casseroles, stuffing, etc. I do use a lot!

Sometimes I’ve bought commercial wood shavings for poultry bedding, but I also use a lot of our own chips, made with our little chipper. I only use chips for the chickens made from dry branches and small dead trees, however, as the green chips don’t absorb enough moisture. Baby chicks will eat sawdust bedding and sawdust is often pretty dusty for an enclosed winter coop, so I don’t use that. — Jackie

Need recipe for hot pickled sausage

Have any recipes to pickle hot sausage?

Centerview, Missouri

Honestly, Ron, I’ve never pickled hot sausage. Any readers out there with great recipes for Ron? — Jackie


  1. I second the recommend on dehydrating celery. It works wonderfully and maintains the flavor. I often dehydrate the leafy tops from store bought celery and keep those handy. Toss / crinkle some in soups / stews / chowders etc. A bit of dry celery leaf adds amazing celery flavor even if you don’t have any celery handy…. I must admit to even taking it on backpacking trips to add to trail meals. its light and adds a flavor wallop to otherwise boring ‘add water’ type foods.

  2. May I suggest that Ron try dehydrating celery instead of freezing it. It can be used in soups, stews and casseroles, and takes up much less space in storage. It can be dried in an oven if he doesn’t have a dehydrator.

    The dried celery can also be pulverized into a powder by a food blender, and be used in place of salt for those on low-salt diets. (That idea was obtained from “Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Book”.) It really is delicious on a number of different foods, including scrambled eggs and corn on the cob.

  3. Dear Jackie, I was brought up on JD1010s we still have 5 of them a Quick tidbit on tracks get 4 or 5 1/4 inch chains with a hook on 1 end about 18 20 in long get your track on front line up on rear take little chains put through hole in sprocket and in link of track run ahead slow put another small chain on next link until the first chain comes to top unhook that chain and continue if your grease release is stuck it will let go with this pressure in no time the track will pop on good luck!

  4. Your future pond sounds gorgeous, Jackie! And that photo of your house from the pond looks spectacular. After all your hard work, you have a house that anyone would be thrilled to own. Congratulations!!!

  5. Carmen,
    I grew celery last year for the first time, everyone thought I was nuts as I don’t know anyone around where I live that has ever thought to grow it. I canned most of it in those tiny, cute little quarter pint jars and some in pint jars as well. I only use it maybe for potato soup and casseroles. Love having it so handy and easy to use. I would buy a stalk at the store and end up throwing half of it out. Thanks Jackie for giving me the idea of growing and canning my own!

  6. I have been freezing celery for many years to use in casseroles and stuffing. I take my cutting board and knife to the garden and chop up lots of celery with leaves and put it in freezer bags. It’s nice to be able to be as messy as I want right in the garden, and usually the celery is clean enough to not need washing…it’s just nice clean dirt anyway. I find I don not need to blanch the celery.

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