Four of our doe goats all kidded within three days, this year. What a surprise! Usually it’s a bit more drawn out. And to make it even more unusual, our two does that were kept out of the triplets both kidded within an hour of each other! We were hoping for a nice buck, as we lost our beautiful big Boer buck, Thor, due to a stomach impaction. And we got 5 bucks! What a choice. We can’t pick from two, one from Jewel — one of the triplet does — and one from Buffy — our white, HUGE milker. So we’re keeping both of them, at least for awhile, for further evaluation.

As Mom’s 94th birthday and Easter fell so close together, we decided to combine our family celebration for both days, and big homestead feast, this Sunday, bringing Mom home from the nursing home for the day. We all had a great time, including my grandson, Mason, who got to play with Clown, one of our baby goats. Mom also loved Clown and doesn’t want us to sell her. We won’t.

Will and I have been busily working on getting ready for strawberries and 100 asparagus plants, which will be coming next week. He used his new plow to plow furrows in the berry patch for them, so we don’t have to dig deep holes for each of the plants. With a good lining of black composted manure, they should set in nicely. We’ve also been working on building our new training ring for the horses. All the posts are now set 3′ in the ground, plumbed and tamped in, carefully avoiding the fox den at the end of the ring. Mama fox has a litter down in the den and we’re excitedly waiting for babies to come out. Yes, foxes eat chickens, but ours get shut in the coop every night and Spencer watches the yard all day, so we hope Foxy will keep hunting voles, as she’s done with her family for three years now. We try hard to live happily with our wild neighbors. After all, we moved in on their land!

Readers’ Questions:

Killing algae

I would like to put in a semi buried, preformed, fish pond which has filtered water (no fish) for my dog, goat, and chickens drinking water. Will apple cider vinegar kill any algae etc., or do I need to put in bleach?

Suzanne Laird
Franklinton, North Carolina

While this may work, it may not be satisfactory. I’ve had chickens drown in such a pond, trying to drink, falling in, and not being able to get out. Our wonder dog, Spencer, loves to wade in our goat watering tank, and they don’t love that! Goats are very fussy about their food and water, and don’t like drinking doggy water. So I end up dumping out the tank and re-filling it again. Your dog may not be such a water dog, so it may work for you. But watch the chickens.

Vinegar won’t keep away algae. Bleach won’t either. But if you locate your pond in a shaded area, the algae will probably not grow. — Jackie

Saving tomato seeds

I am container gardening this year and was wonder about the tomato plants I bought. I purchased some heirloom Pick Brandywine and Rutger because I wanted to try and save the seeds. Didn’t realize I also bought some Better Boy Hybrid. Will it hurt for these to be all on the porch together, or should I separate them? Have you ever had either of these heirlooms?

Huntsville, Alabama

P.S. Love your Cookbook! Well, all your books!

I’ve grown both Brandywine and Rutgers. Rutgers is a high producing, dependable tomato, where Brandywine is one of THE best tasting of all tomato-world! I’m sure you’ll love both of them. If you can separate the varieties, at least by some distance, it’ll be best to keep them pure. Tomatoes are pretty much self-pollinating, but insects and wind do play a part, too. I’m sure you’ll be able to save your seeds quite well. Enjoy your tomatoes!

P.S. There’s a NEW, new book in the works, full of scrumptious homestead recipes for pantry and garden foods. All will be easy, quick, and family favorites. — Jackie

Superthrive fertilizer

I was wondering if Superthrive with Vitamins-Hormones can be used on an organic vegetable garden? Have you had any experience using this product? Will this product alter the bio-diversity of my soil?

Ginny Woliver
Santa Barbara, California

I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar with Superthrive. Any readers out there who can help Ginny? — Jackie

Making sauerkraut

I have a question about sauerkraut. I have two 5-gallon buckets (food grade) with kraut in them. One gets moldy and tastes like dirt. the other has no mold and is getting pretty sour. Why the difference? I did both at the same time and same thing. This is the 4th week for them.

New Freedom Pennsylvania

The “usual” reason for bad sauerkraut is that the kraut doesn’t get totally covered with brine. Even a tiny bit will cause molding and “bad” bacteria to begin growing, giving a bad taste. I’d dump the nasty kraut and stick with the good batch. Be sure to always keep a plate with a clean rock or plastic bag filled with water on top of the kraut to keep it weighted down under the brine and skim off any scum daily. — Jackie

Difficult goat

The reason I am writing is I have a Nubian female goat I bought when she was about 4 or 5 months old. She is a big problem I have had her since spring time last year. I have tried everything from treats, tricking her, to even chasing her. She will not let you catch her to pet, groom, milk, or cut hooves and has always been very leery of people. I figured it was just because it is a new place. This seems not to be the case as she has never gotten over it. If I can trap her in her house she is very easy to deal with but catching her is becoming even more of a major pain. She is so jumpy she won’t even nurse her kid…she just jumps, and then walks off from the kid unless she has been confined to her house. However this could be because she is a new mother also. She did nurse for about a week, then it was only if she had grain in her feeder and was locked in her house, but now the last few days unless you fill up the 4ft. feeder with grain, hide around the corner of the goat house for anywhere from 10-20 minutes, and hurry and close the door (after she has ran in and out about ten times because she knows your going to lock her up). Then finally locking her in the house when she gets distracted by the grain. Once you go through all that she nurses fine, stands perfect to be milked, even to groom her hooves. Do you have any suggestions to help change this behavior? It is really aggravating she is the only goat I have like that. Everyday now I go thru this episode with her to lock her up in the evening so I can love on her, and be sure she is nursing her young. The kid tries to nurse her several times a day and she just walks off. Since she had the baby two weeks ago I leave her locked up all night once I trick her; and in the morning I go down, let myself in without her escaping and love on her some more, and feed her treats so I can be sure she is nursing her kid before I go to work. She nurses like she should without interference from me!…but I don’t understand why she won’t nurse while she is loose in the large pen. I never have to coax her to nurse, just sit in there on my rock and feed her treats periodically. But more than anything I just need to be able to fool around with her without all this aggravation. I thought maybe it would help her get over her fear, be more catchable and less scared of people. But it is not. The kid is now two weeks old tomorrow and it does not seem to be working. Because she started with the running in and out two days ago. I love to drink goats milk, but it is not worth continuing to do this with her. If I can not get this behavior to stop or calm down a bit I am going to have to just let her dry up.

Chris Scarborough
Dry Ridge, Kentucky

If you have a pen, not a pasture, you might try tying a lightweight 10′ rope onto her collar, letting it drag behind her. That way, you can just step on the rope to catch her, then lead her to the milking stand. Even if you are not milking her, I’d put her in the stand twice a day, then let the kid nurse while she’s in the stanchion. Feed her while she’s in there, petting and talking to her, too. With the drag rope, she finds out that she can’t escape you, and they will usually stop that behavior. You’ll also be sure the kid is nursing twice a day, too!

Our doe, Fawn, was as wild as a deer when we got her, hence the name. It took two of us to run her down in her pen, trapping her inside. Then she’d dash out over me, even when I had hold of her collar, knocking me upside down at times! We kept putting her on the milk stand, where she promptly would lay down so I couldn’t milk. I was really frustrated at times, to say the least. But for weeks I kept at it and finally she could be caught fairly easily, and stopped jumping over me. Then, after weeks, she stopped lying down! She gave lots and lots of milk, and this year she’s an “automatic” goat; she runs out of the pen, jumps on the stand, and stands to milk! AND she comes to us for treats and petting, just like all the other does. So don’t give up. Those wild ones can be tamed. — Jackie

Canning olives

Our COSTCO store sells delicious green brined olives with pimento inside, but the jars are huge, it takes us forever to use them all.

I’d like to put them up in half-pint jars in the salty brine they come in. Would this be possible? How do you think the texture of the olives would be after pressure canning? The only information I can find online refer to canning fresh olives.

Susan Smith
Westminster, Colorado

I have re-canned black olives in the brine they were in, in #10 cans successfully. There was no change in the taste or texture. I packed the olives to within 1/2″ of the top of the jar, then heated the brine to boiling. Ladle the boiling brine over the olives, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Process at 10 pounds pressure (pressure ONLY) for 60 minutes (pints). If you live at an altitude over 1,000 consult your canning book for directions in adjusting your pressure, if necessary.

The University of California has good information on pickling, canning, and drying olives. — Jackie

Acquiring railroad ties

I see in your newsletter that you were able to get railroad ties from the railroad around here. We live in Littlefork and it drives me nuts to see all the ties just laying there when we have a bunch of projects we could use some for. We live just 3 miles from the tracks.

Deb Brown
Littlefork, Minnesota

What David did was to catch the foreman of the work crew while they were tearing out the ties, and ask about the ties. Other than that, I’m not sure what one would do, unless you know someone who works for the railroad who could give you a contact name. — Jackie

Uses of comfrey

We have comfrey on our property and I believe I was reading that it works great for adding extra potash into your soil, but I am not sure how to do this exactly. Do you cut the leaves and put them on a compost pile? What do you do with it? And what are squills?

Debra Brown
Littlefork, Minnesota

I haven’t read about the added potash, but comfrey does do wonders in a quick compost pile, as the large leaves rot quickly. We will be using some in our own compost, but also feeding it to our chickens, goats, and calves as treats. It’s great to keep a sharp knife down by the comfrey rows and whack off a quick armful to distribute among hungry mouths on the way back to the house.

Squills are a blue, early spring bulb, also known as scilla. They are star-shaped blooms on a strap leaved, short plant that bloom even before grape hyacinths. And they last for quite a long time, too. Mine are ice blue and very pretty. I know I’ll be planting more, along with many, many more spring bulbs, come fall. It really perks you up, seeing all those colorful spring flowers! — Jackie


  1. I planted our first start of comfrey earlier this spring. I ended up placing it by the barn so it wouldn’t be in the way if we expand the garden further. I’m hoping it will take off.

  2. I moved my comfrey plants back by my compost heaps to make it easier to add leaves. It multiplies so fast I thought that would be a good spot for it. :)

  3. You can also put a handful of comfrey in a bucket full of water with a lid– weight down the leaves with a rock. Leave the lid on a few weeks and then go back and check. It will make a black liquid fertilizer, like tar–great for veggies.

  4. Nancy Foster,

    OOOps! So sorry not to have sent you my address. PLEASE forgive me???? Send in your e-mail address and I WILL send you my address. Sometimes I get so busy I forget things and become rude.


  5. A very Happy Birthday to your mom!!! Clown is adorable and so I agree with Mason and your mom….

  6. For the lady with the wild goat, we had to keep our doors shut because out goats would come into the house every chance they got. My mom had lots of house plants and the goats loved them. We moved so often, I went to eight schools, that we never built good fence for them, we just kept them tied out and moved the anchors several times a day and carried water.
    I guess I will mail this box of almonds to the Backwoods Home office along with theirs and have them forward it to you.

  7. Happy Birthday to your mom! I love the bits you put in your columns about her. With all the challenges she’s faced, she gives me hope for my own journey. Through all her difficulties she’s kept her appreciation for simple, beautiful moments, and it seems she’s passed that on to her family. I live in a very urban area, but I read your column for the common sense tone and the food preserving hints — and an example of how one can be happy with good, old-fashioned values, hard work, family and friends. Thank you.

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