Despite heavy, and frequent, rains, which often spell doom to baby turkeys, our mama turkey still has nine babies in our orchard. They’re feathering out now and getting adventurous, which drives their mother nuts. They can fit through the 2″x4″ fence wire and hunt bugs outside the orchard, while she putts distractedly back and forth along the fence. We also have a mother fox with four half-grown babies which range from our horse pasture over the hill to the steer pasture. We’re just hoping they’re content with field mice and ground squirrels and don’t expand to turkey! So far, in six years, we haven’t lost any poultry or animals to wildlife, and we’re hoping our luck lasts.

Meanwhile, we got a load of sheet metal for the first, and highest, two sections of our roof on the storage building. It wintered well, covered with free lumber tarps. But the wind is working on them, and they are leaking into our hay loft. Before we stack hay in there, we’ve got to get the roof water-tight. So today, Will’s busy tearing off the tarps. I’ll clean up the debris when I get done blogging, and help him handle the 14′ sheets. HOPEFULLY, the wind will stay quiet! Oh how they pull on you when it’s windy!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning with flour

I am new to pressure canning and I have a question. On one of your responses to readers you said that it was not a good idea to use flour in the recipe for gumbo. Yet, in another response, you said it was ok to can chicken and dumplings. Dumplings at my house are made with Bisquick which is mostly flour. So, now you have confused someone who is already confused! Why is it not ok to use flour?

Neil Garvis
Spring, Texas

You don’t use much flour in canning recipes, such as gravies, because a too-thick food (like condensed cream of mushroom soup, for instance), may not heat thoroughly enough in the canning process to kill certain harmful bacteria, their spores, and toxins. When you can, say, chicken and dumplings, with just a moderate amount of dumplings or noodles, the boiling broth circulates around the dumplings or noodles, thoroughly heating them internally. Just don’t make your dumplings or noodles very thick, and don’t use so many in a jar that they make the broth thicken. — Jackie

Sweet pea vine

I think I’ve heard you say that you eat the peas from the sweet pea vine. My mom just told me that she’s eaten them, also. But, I looked online and a number of sites say that they’re poisonous! I have 2 perennial vines and don’t want to waste the peas if they’re edible. What do you think?

Gen Rogers
Winthrop Harbor, Illinois

NO! I’ve never eaten peas from the sweet pea (flower) vine. They ARE poisonous! Unfortunately, many people call garden, or English peas “sweet peas.” In the stores, you’ll also see cans of “sweet peas,” but they are NOT the flower, sweet pea. They are pretty, but don’t eat ’em. — Jackie

Garlic powder, mustard beans, and search function

The garlic has done REALLY well this year. Do you make garlic powder with yours?

The Kentucky Wonder beans got away from me and are big. Will they work for the Mustard Bean Pickles (wow, those pickles are good!)

Could someone in the BHM office catalog your archive so we could type in a key word and find your invaluable information? (I know, I don’t have time, either.) Just a thought.

Sandra Agostini
Nixa, Missouri

Yes, I do make garlic powder. I just cut the peeled cloves in half, lay them out in my dehydrator until they are dry-dry, then give them a few whizzes in a blender, then put the powder on a cookie sheet. I put this in my oven, with only the pilot light on to further dry, stirring it up a few times with a spoon. When it’s dry (don’t let it get brown!), I put it in a glass jar to store. You’ll never believe how many times I reach for that jar, either!

Once beans set lumpy seeds, they really aren’t that great for Mustard Bean pickles. I use them like shell beans to use them up. Some folks just toss them on the compost pile, where others LOVE them cooked in the pod. The point is to get them off the vine or the vine will “think” it’s done its job, setting seed, and quit producing flowers and beans.

There is a search function on my blog; it is in the upper right corner. Type in a key word and it will show the blog posts that include that word. — Jackie

Canning shorted jars

A canning question please — sometimes at the end of a pot of whatever, I “run out” and can fill the last jar only 1/2 or 3/4 full. I’ve always avoided canning these “shorted” jars and used them right away. Is it ok to process them half full? Is the answer the same for water bath and pressure canning, as I do both?

Michele Zipf
Amelia, Ohio

Better than processing half full jars, why not use pints or half-pints? Long ago, I never used half-pints, but have since found that they often come in very handy for some mixed recipes where, say, a pint of corn or carrots is just too much and I don’t want leftovers. I have processed 3/4 full jars with success but really prefer to use smaller jars. When I’m setting up to can, I always have my chosen sized jars on hand, along with a few “odd” sized jars, such as half-pints. Just in case. — Jackie

Blossom end rot

My tomatoes are really suffering from blossom end rot. I have several that have small fruits that are not yet affected. If I put a fertilizer with calcium on them now, do you think the unaffected fruits will be spared, or is it too late for them?

Julie Borneman
Leesburg, Virginia

It’s never too late to treat blossom end rot. It’s usually seen on your first fruits, kind of as a warning to do something. You can spray them with a calcium solution, but many times increasing the watering will bring about a quick remedy, as blossom end rot is caused by both a lack of calcium and irregular, and often insufficient, watering. You might try soaker hoses along the bottoms of the plants so the roots get plenty of moisture. Too often, we top-water with sprinklers, but the abundant leaves keep the water from the plants’ roots and we end up with blossom end rot. Pick off any affected tomatoes to spare the plant from putting energy into them and you should see a quick end to your problem. — Jackie

Growing onions

Jackie, I have never had any luck raising onions from seed. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. Could you please give some tips, such as how “early” you start them, any special soil?, etc. I would love to try some Copal this next spring.

Kathleen in Illinois

Onions are real easy to raise from seed, with a few “ifs.” First of all, you really need to start them earlier than many seeds; although they sprout quickly, they grow slowly. I start my seeds early, in early March, in indoor flats. Although it does take time, I plant them carefully, in rows, in larger flats. If you just scatter them on the soil and cover them, they will be too thick when they germinate, and will be very hard to thin without damaging the remaining plant roots. Luckily, the seeds are large and easy to handle! Onions like cool temperatures, but when they’re tiny, they do appreciate a warmer location and plenty of light. Give them a south-facing window or a shop light, suspended only a couple of inches above the tops of the plants. While you can certainly start your plants in a mixture of well-rotted compost and good garden soil (baked in your oven to sterilize it), you can also use a good quality seed starting mix, such as Pro-Mix.

Set your plants out just after the last (you hope!) spring frost and water well. Onions aren’t bothered too much by frosts, but little onion plants grow better if they aren’t frosted or frozen badly.

Keep them well watered, but not soggy and keep the weeds pulled and you should have excellent onions. — Jackie

Canning cucumbers without vinegar

I do not care for pickles, but would like to can cucumbers and preserve the fresh flavor. Can this be done without vinegar and just using lime juice, salt or lemon juice as the acid?

Mark Joseph
Decator, Alabama

Sorry, but no. — Jackie

Canning grape leaves

Have you ever canned grape leaves? My vine is doing great, and it dawned on me to save the leaves for dolmas. What would be the best brine and how long should they be processed.

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

No, I haven’t. Do any readers have any help for Andrea? — Jackie

Canning bacon

How do you can bacon?

Carol Kalina
Monroe, Washington

First of all, please forgive me for answering your question so late. It kind of got missed when Mom passed away, along with a couple of other e-mail questions. I’m so sorry!

first of all, to can bacon, choose slab bacon, for ease of canning. You’ll want home-style “real” bacon, not bacon injected with solution, making it sloppy. Unsliced bacon cans easier, but you can use sliced bacon, held back together in jar-sized pieces. I’ve found that heating the bacon in a roasting pan, in the oven, long enough to drive off much of the fat and “shrink” it works best. Then cut the bacon chunks into jar-sized pieces and pack them in hot, wide mouth jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Do not add liquid, as there is more moisture in the bacon. Process the jars at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts). If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on adjusting your pressure to match your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie


  1. I am glad to hear you and Will are doing better! That is scary about the fall. I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for answering the question about sweet peas the flower vs. edible peas. We just moved to a new little homestead and I was overjoyed to find some pea vines with half-grown pea pods on them on our place. I have carefully tended them and was planning on canning up what we could harvest. Then, on my first good walk around, I found TONS and TONS of the vines on the road, all with pretty purple sweet pea flowers on them. Thankfully, your answer to the post was fresh in my mind, and now we won’t die of sweet pea poisoning this winter! THANKS, Jackie!!
    The Still-Living Roberts Family

  2. In regards to ‘canning cukes without vinegar’. You can make your pickles with just salt using lactic acid fermentation and then can them. It takes many weeks but the result are fabulous and they can up very nice. I also make and can my sauerkraut this way. There are some great websites on lactic acid fermentation and besides tasting great the method is extremely healthy and has been used for a very long time.

  3. canning grape leaves is simple and easy just select young tender leaves of the right size,tie them in a bundle to fit in a pint jar, fill with a mild brine and water bath process. my recipe uses 2 qts water to 1/2 cup canning salt and process time is 15 minutes. great for dolmas anmd practically free compared to the expensive store-bought

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