While our friend Dale Rinne was here digging our pond, he also dug holes for the pilings for our new bridge over the creek. And last week, Will hauled some 8′ pieces of heavy, used power poles down and carefully sunk them into the holes. Teetering on 2″x6″s, he pounded stakes to hold them in place, then nailed on braces to keep them plumb while the holes were filled in with gravel. When solid, we’ll add a railroad tie across the top to support the doubled mobile home frame that will be the bridge frame. Wow, won’t it be great to be able to drive our four wheeler across the creek and into the woods!

David has been working for another neighbor this winter, along with working for Jerry Yourczek, who he hays for. This neighbor has a barn that was formerly a dairy barn. They want to use it for horses and goats, so they had David tear out all the stanchions, stall partitions, and watering cups. We were hoping to get a stanchion for our future milk cow (when the barn is done!), and here we have a whole truck load, including pipe stall fronts and dividers. We may not be able to use the watering cups, due to our lack of power/water pressure in the winter. But if our barn turns out warm enough, we MAY be able to use a raised watering tank and gravity feed the cups. At least for most of the year… What a haul!

Readers’ Questions:

Raising beef without pasture

I have a question about raising beef. We live in the forest with about 2 acres around our house that is for gardens etc. How would we raise a beef without pasture? Would it be economical to even try this without our own grass? There is that tough grass in the forest areas that are sparse on trees but that is about it.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

If you can find an economical source of hay, you could raise a beef steer in a corral, feeding him hay and grain (as needed), instead of pasture. Of course it would be cheaper to pasture your steer, but feeding hay is definitely an option. We’ve raised our four calves on hay, with only a little pasture, for 9 months, and the biggest weighs more than 700 pounds. We’re madly fencing our new pasture now, as the grass is greening up, but could sure finish them off in the goat pasture, on hay, if needed. The meat would be so much better, and cheaper, than store bought meat! — Jackie

Tasteless dill pickles

I have two canning questions for you. Last year I froze a bunch of blueberries and we didn’t eat them all yet. Is it possible to make them into blueberry pie filling and can it?

Last year I also made some dill pickles and I guess I didn’t use enough dill, because they are quite tasteless. Can I re-can them into relish or sweet pickles of something along those lines? We just don’t like them the way they are and they are not getting eaten.

Julie Hamilton
Lititz, Pennsylvania

Yes, but to keep them from getting softer with re-heating and canning, you could just open a pint, add more dill, then put it in your fridge for a couple of weeks. The dill will strengthen the dill taste in the pickles during refrigeration. And, you can grind the pickles to make relish, adding more dill, but the relish may be a little “soft.” Treat it as if you were making fresh relish, regarding processing time, etc. — Jackie

Canning on a ceramic stove top

I have a ceramic top stove and have read in some places you shouldn’t use it for canning. I do both waterbath and pressure. Is this true and if so would you know why? Would I be able to make any modifications to be able to utilize the stove top? I would hate not to be able to put up garden produce this year.

Leona (Lee) Johnson
Wrightstown, New Jersey

Stove manufacturers don’t recommend canning on a ceramic or glass top stove because the weight of a canner could crack the stove top. Several readers have written in that they successfully can on theirs, where other folks have bought an inexpensive propane two burner “camp” stove, available through Harbor Freight and Northern Tool, for canning. From personal experience, I do know these stoves work well and are sturdier than Coleman camp stoves. — Jackie

Baby goat problems

I was given a baby goat (billy) he is a week old. He is having very runny stools that look almost like blood. He was on Mom but was taken off; she did not want anything to do with him and I put him on a bottle which he has not taken to very well. He has a twin sister who is doing great. I am using goat milk from one of my other does. Any suggestions?

Mary Ingold
Kalispell, Montana

Ideally, you could take a stool sample in to your vet and have them check for coccidiosis, a parasite that is quite common in baby goats. It causes runny, often bloody diarrhea. Treatment consists of oral liquid, usually a sulfa drug (also available at most ranch stores). You’ll also need to control the diarrhea by discontinuing milk feeding, replacing it with an electrolyte solution. This is also available through your vet and the ranch store (usually sold as “calf” electrolytes.) The water-electrolyte mix is the same, but feed by bottle the amount you are feeding milk. Hopefully, after a short treatment period, the diarrhea will stop and you can again resume feeding milk again. — Jackie

Dehydrating mushrooms

I have bought several #10 cans of mushrooms and I want to dehydrate them with my Excalibur 3900 system, Do you by chance know what temperature to do them on and for how long? I did it at 125 degrees for 12 hours and boy oh boy that was way too long. I am new to this and just learning.

Denyse Rhodes
Sandston, Virginia

If your mushrooms are sliced about 1/4″ thick, dry them at 125 degrees until light and very dry. Depending on conditions, this can take as little as 5 hours or as long as 10 hours. Halved mushrooms take even longer. Be sure to drain your mushrooms well, then lay them out on your trays in a single layer. After a few hours drying, check them and see how things are coming. If necessary, move the trays around so they are drying evenly. Your mushrooms should be very dry, but not browning when they are done. Once dehydrated, they’ll be good for years, stored in an airtight jar. — Jackie

Growing cauliflower

My first year planting cauliflower, is there anything to look out for and is there any secrets for good results? Also is there a way to can cabbage (sauerkraut) without using a crock method?

Richard Burns Jr.
Keyser, West Virginia

One of the most important things about cauliflower is NOT to plant older, root-bound plants, such as often found in big-box stores. You want young, smaller plants that are NOT showing any signs of getting heads. Once a cauliflower plant starts to head, the plant does not grow large, the head stays small, and that’s that. It’s known as “button heading.” Cauliflower likes cool weather to grow in, so does well in the spring and fall, taking some frosts quite well.

Be sure your plants get lots of water, but don’t let them stand in mushy ground, either. Watch for white “butterflies,” or cabbage moths. These lay eggs on the plants which hatch into little green worms called cabbage loopers. These eat your plant and make eating the cauliflower unappetizing. You can cover your plants with floating row cover to prevent the adults from laying eggs on the plants or spray the plants with bT, which is a bacteria that is harmless to helpful insects, birds, and humans, but kills the worms.

As the plants get large and start to form heads, gather the long leaves and tie them up over the heads with yarn, string, or rubber bands. This keeps the white heads very white and pretty. Harvest the entire head before it starts to separate into individual floweretts. Unlike broccoli, it won’t form new side shoots or another head. Feed the plant to your goats or chickens after harvesting. — Jackie


I’m pretty new to gardening of any type but I’ve planted some flowers and they’re doing quite well. In light of that my sister asked me to plant some dahlias for her. Well, the only dahlias available near here are…I don’t know what to call them, they’re not seeds and they’re not tubers. They look like a glob of dirt with sticks poking out of it. Anyway, I was wondering how you would plant those (and what they would be called). The package doesn’t seem to have any instructions on it.

Michele Samons
Jackson, Michigan

I’m really not sure what you’re dealing with. Are they seedlings in four or six packs? These have dirt on the bottom, roots instead of tubers, but hopefully plants (not sticks) coming out of them. Dahlia roots SHOULD have finger-like tubers, with a hollow “stick” poking up where the plant last summer was cut off in the fall. I’d be a little skeptical about what you’ve got there. — Jackie

Planting potatoes

I’m getting ready to plant the garden and wondered what to do with the potatoes that had already sprouted. Talking 6″ inches. Should I break those off, shorten them up, or leave them and bury them all the way? (For the record, these were potatoes I bought thinking they were already cut.) Thanks,

Zortman, Montana

Don’t break them off or shorten them. Instead, plant the entire potato with sprouts under the soil. You’ll get potatoes all along the sprouts. It’s better to have fat, shorter sprouts, rather than long white ones, but you’ll find that you will get decent potatoes from those less-than-perfect seed potatoes. — Jackie

Growing grains

I was wondering if you know of a good book or resource about growing grains on a homestead? I’m looking for information on planting times, what grains do well in what zones, the process of plowing, planting and harvesting (on the small scale). I read your article in a previous BHM on growing grains, and it inspired me. I just bought 17 acres and the homestead is getting started this year. I’m anxious to start growing more of my own food.

Dave Rose
Buena Vista, Colorado

The book SMALL SCALE GRAIN RAISING by Gene Logsdon is quite good. You can find it online and at many used bookstores. BHM sells HOMEGROWN WHOLE GRAINS by Sara Pitzer which is also geared toward the small-scale grain grower. You can also get information through your county extension service. Although much of their information on small grains is geared to farmers, some is also useful to small producers, as well. Grain is basically planted like lawn seed; it’s really easy to do. A lot of fun, too! — Jackie


  1. It is always best to can them as from Vine to Brine . Although sieotemms something comes up that slows the canning and you want to can them the next day. Yes, I think the refrigerator sounds fine as long as they stay moist and cold. It also depends on if you’re canning baby dills, sweets and the size cucumbers. I’ve canned many quarts and pints of pickles and had to change my canning time to the next day with good results. The best result being of the same day of coarse, but not much difference. Enjoy crunchy pickles!

  2. Looks like things are staying busy for you! You certainly are getting things looking great on the homestead.

    I tried canning on my ceramic top with NO success. Once it got hot the stove would turn off. I ended up finishing on my outdoor Cache cooker.

  3. Ceramic stove tops may not provide even heat for pressure canners. Like many modern electric stovetops, they cycle on & off by themselves – which could play havoc with a pressure canner and not provide consistent pressure.

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