Four 800-pound steers eat a lot of grass! A month ago, we moved them into the newly fenced pasture, but they ate the grass down all too quickly. But luckily, the new seeding next to the pasture that we cleared and planted this spring had grown very fast and vigorously. It has oats as a nurse crop and they are headed out nicely. So we ran a two-strand electric fence (powered by our solar charger) around it on steel T-posts. We used the more expensive, and stronger, T-posts because we are going to put permanent barbed wire on the fence later on, and can use the T-posts again, then.

Because cattle can bloat on lush pasture, we only let the “boys” on the new seeding for an hour the first day, then two the next. By day three, they were on it all afternoon. We don’t trust an electric fence; deer can crash it down and it can easily be shorted out by a falling tree branch or whatever, rendering it useless, so we put them in the permanent pasture at night or when we’re going to be away from home. Now the grass is growing back in their old pasture, and the new seeding still looks lush.

Meanwhile, we’ve been playing catch up with our weeds! Every day, we’ve been in the garden, hand weeding row upon row. It IS getting better, slowly. Today, I pulled grass away from the grapes in the berry patch. We’d mulched with partially composted strawy manure. Lots of grass seeds there — with huge, white roots everywhere! EEEK! But the grapes do look good…after the grass has been thrown over the fence, OUT of the garden. We’ll get the vines up on wire trellis soon.

I’ve also been weeding my neglected flower beds in the yard. They were also weedy, but the flowers are awesome. But I keep seeing this one or that one, and thinking I’ll have to tell Mom about it. That’ll take a lot of getting used to, not having her to share my flower and gardening discoveries.

Readers’ Questions:

Converting an electric pump to a hand pump

We have a well with an electric pump and want to convert it to a hand pump. Can’t seem to find any info about this online. We have called our local well man but he is so busy he has never returned our calls. Help! Money is limited so we would like to do this ourselves.

Harold & Clarice Prescott
Hamburg, Arkansas

Why don’t you call Lehman’s Hardware (888-438-5346); those folks are really helpful in this respect. I don’t know how deep your well is, if you’re wanting a supplemental pump, like a Bison pump to use in emergencies, along with your electric well pump. If you have a shallower well, say under 25′, installing a hand pump is very easy. A deep well requires more work and more cash. — Jackie

Hard jelly

Please tell me why my jalapeno jelly turned out hard and sticky. They sealed. Can I reprocess them?

Tina Mitchell
Weatherford, Texas

This usually happens if the measurements were not correct, or, most commonly, the jelly was processed too long. Soft jelly is easy to re-process, but I think I’d just use the firm jelly, sliced with a damp knife, and cut up on crackers or other uses. I used some firm jelly, heated up to liquid and brushed over a pork roast. WOW! A new recipe. It was a huge hit! Be creative and better luck next time. This happens to all of us at one time or another. — Jackie

Older canning lids and peeling fresh figs

I have two questions:
1) Is there a time limit on using canning jar lids? I like to have plenty stored but a cooperative extension person said to buy only what you need in a year. Is using older lids unsafe?

2) Most recipes for fresh figs don’t indicate whether they should be peeled or not. I assume you should peel but many recipes say “chopped figs.” How do you chop them if they’re peeled?

Sam Allen
Bessemer City, North Carolina

Using older lids is perfectly okay, as long as the sealing compound is not hard and cracking or the lids are not showing signs of rust. A lot of “experts” today push new, new, new. I routinely can with my oldest lids in order to rotate them; I always have at least two cases on hand at all times.

Most folks peel their fresh figs with a paring knife. They are tender and peel easily. Then you can cut them into slices, then chop the slices. In recipes using finely chopped figs, you can use an onion chopper. Where you want coarser pieces, dicing them with a knife is sufficient. — Jackie

Canning hot peppers

I am a beginner in canning and what I want to know is how to can hot peppers.

Jessica Lovell
Ethridge, Tennessee

Jessica, if you’ll check out the previous blog, you’ll see information on canning peppers. You don’t have to roast hot peppers to can them, but they do taste great if you do! Also, you can just cut slits in whole peppers, leaving the seeds in, and pickle them whole, using the same recipes. I prefer to pickle my peppers because they are much firmer than ones pressure canned with water and salt. I use mine (like sliced hot Hungarian and jalapenos) on nachos, pizza, in salads, and other recipes. You might check out my new canning book, which has recipes for both canning peppers and pickling them…as well as a whole lot more, of course. — Jackie

Measuring tomatoes

Just received your latest canning book,I must say I love it, In your tomato recipes you call for a gallon of tomatoes. How go you measure a gallon compared to a bushel or 1/2 bushel?

Janet Ousley
Leesburg, Indiana

Just find a big container, such as a mixing bowl, then pour in four quarts of water or a gallon jar of it. See how much it is, then you have your question answered! Remember that it is only a “guestimate,” as different sized tomatoes measure differently. You want “about” a gallon of tomatoes. — Jackie

Canning peaches

I’ve just gotta say that your picture with the gigantic rhubarb leaf reminds me of one of those fan-dancer ladies we’d see in old black-and-white movies back in the day.

Have you ever canned peaches by putting x-amount of sugar in a jar, filling it with peaches, covering them with boiling water, putting on the lid and processing in a boiling water bath? This has worked well for me and no messy syrup to mix up. Do you know of any reason why this is a bad idea?

Julie Hamilton
Lititz, Pennsylvania

No, I don’t know why it wouldn’t work, but remember that it is not an “approved” canning method, although you are using boiling water over the peaches. I think I’ll stick with the syrup method…just to be sure. — Jackie

Blight in garden soil

How do you get rid of blight after it has gotten into your garden soil?

Ed Vanek
Rice Lake, Wisconsin

You don’t. For awhile, at least. It’s best to totally remove and burn any affected plants, including their roots. If this is done before all your plants are affected, you may be able to use this area for blight resistant varieties of tomatoes. You might try hosing down the area, then laying a layer of black plastic over it for the remainder of the summer to see if you can “cook” the spores in the soil. Some folks have had luck with this where others only had so-so results. (I do wonder if they had the plastic down for several months or only a couple of weeks, though…) If you have the room, plant your tomatoes and potatoes in a different garden spot. Both can be affected by the same blight. — Jackie

Making mozzarella cheese

I am trying to learn to make cheese. Now that I have made a few batches of mozzarella, I have a question. When you stretch the cheese during the last step, how stringy should it be when it is warm enough to stretch? And, how much time should be spent stretching it? The cheese I have made has great taste. The texture is firm and the cheese will “tear” into strings.

Carla Garrett
Leflore, Oklahoma

It sounds like you’re doing it fine, already. There is no set time for how long you need to stretch it as there are variables, as well as your own personal preference as to how “stringy” you like your cheese. (David likes it really stringy, where I like it more solid to grate. He likes “string cheese,” but that is harder for me to grate.) Isn’t making cheese fun? I’m getting ready to do a batch real soon and can’t wait! — Jackie

Powdery mildew

I have noticed that there is a type of grey mold forming on my zucchini leaves and some of the leaves are dying. The fruit is just now setting on. Someone suggested that I make a mixture of baking soda and water and spray the leaves but I don’t know how much. Could you help a feller out on this?

Tonya Bowles
Paoli, Indiana

I think your squash has powdery mildew, which is a fungal infection. In strong plants, it often goes away by itself. But sometimes it does need treatment. Two organic remedies are mixing 1 Tbsp baking soda with a gallon of water and a little dish soap to make it stick better and spraying the leaves every few days. Or you can mix 1 part reconstituted dry nonfat powdered milk with 9 parts water and spray that on. Both are quite effective. Try to spray on sunny days and re-spray following a rain, as that will rinse it off. Good luck and enjoy plenty of zucchini! — Jackie


  1. Nancy,

    We’re planning on making our fences so we can turn in various stock, including our goats to clear out brush, which is their very favorite browse. Ours will pass up clover and trefoil to wolf down raspberries and hazelbrush.

    We just don’t have facilities for pigs right now, but are sure planning on having hogs. We have bears in our woods and THEIR favorite meat is pork, too!

    It’s like we plan on having a milk cow, but don’t have a barn big and snug enough for a dairy cow. But maybe next year! (I hope, I hope.)


  2. your pasture is so pretty. Mine has piles of brush where we have had it dozed. I want to make my fences hog, dog, and goat tight and then use boer goats to keep the brush down. We also have holstein steers but I think I am going to talk to a dairy farmer we know about having two of his cows AI’ed with a beef bull and then take the calves to raise for meat. More meat and less time. Our oldest is around two years old. I want him gone. Also I never hear you talk about hogs. Do you ever raise them? My favorite meat is pork.

  3. Your beautiful gardens and the lifestyle that you’ve encouraged countless people to strive toward are both honoring your mom in the best ways possible. I am continually inspired by your perseverance, ingenuity and sense of humor. Hang in there, Jackie! We’re all sending prayers and positive thoughts your way.

  4. My dad, who died in 1994, and I always shared a love for fishing, even though we lived many states away from each other. To this day when I catch or see a good one my first thought/comment is always directed toward Daddy. ‘Check this one out pops’ or ‘hah, gotcha on this one’. Our shared interests don’t stop simply because one of us has ‘changed our address’ as I like to view it.
    Hang in there girl and always remember, mom’s proud of you.

  5. Bless you Jackie! I am an adult orphan also. Although Mama passed in August of 2006, I still find times I wish to call her and tell her something and have even reached for the phone to do so! I do so pray you have some siblings or ‘near siblings’ to tell your news to, as telling a person outside of your home does help.

  6. Jackie I still think I should call my Mom to tell her something or ask her something and she has been gone for 5 years. Guess we never stop the good thoughts

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