Due to a projected heavy snow/winter storm warning, Will and I worked our butts off for two days, getting ready for what was going to be about 8-10 inches of wet, heavy snow. Will had been building temporary 2″x4″ and building tarp coverings and doors for the four bays of our storage barn and closing off the last of the openings here and there in it. But we switched to fast forward when we heard the weather forecast!

We also had a huge pile of split firewood in front of the wood shed, so while I hurried up and canned up the buck deer that David got down at his brother, Bill’s, place, Will made wood racks and hurriedly stacked up wood. As I finished one cutting/canning session, I’d go out and help him stack and haul wood into our enclosed porch to stack there, as well. We’ve got about 2 cords of wood there now for “emergency” wood; for when we get home late, or when we’re sick and don’t want to haul wood, etc.

We’ve also got all of our haying equipment hauled to the little storage lot, up in the woods by the mobile home. Will picked up a lot of old wood mess and hauled that off into the woods to decompose, picked up this and that to put under cover so we can find it in the winter, put the lawnmower and tiller away in the storage barn, and generally got ready for the storm.

Yes, it DID hit. We got snow, but only about 6 inches total, for two days and a night. Most of the storm went south of us, and I can’t say that I’m too sad! Now I’m working on the new recipe book, as I was in the evenings when we were getting ready for the storm. I just sent in the fourth installment, so I’m getting there! I get hungry just writing down all those good recipes!

Readers’ Questions:

Salt for canning

I was wondering if you could use regular salt for canning or do you have to use the salt that is labeled “canning salt”? Also I bought some buckets from a restaurant that had pickles in them, I can’t get the vinegar smell out. I was wondering if the things I want to store in them (flour, corn, salt, sugar) would absorb the smell or not, or how do I get the smell of the vinegar out of the buckets?

Auburn, Alabama

I use plain salt for canning. But I do use pickling salt when I make pickles because the iodine in iodized salt can discolor some pickles.

To get the vinegar smell out of your buckets, fill them up with boiling water with 1/2 cup of baking soda in it. Leave the water in one bucket until cool. You can usually reheat and reuse the water a couple of times. — Jackie

Different types of flour

I have the backwoods cook book. When it calls for flour which flour do you use? Plain, all purpose,self rising?

Carol Apple
Greensboro, North Carolina

Unless a recipe specifies self-rising, use plain or all-purpose flour. — Jackie

Grinding corn

My husband and I just purchased “Our Best Grain Mill” from Lehman’s. We were wondering what you suggest for corn to make masa harina. We tried using regular yellow corn we got from our local co-op but it comes out very coarse. Is there a different kind we should try? And also, is there anything we should do to the corn before grinding?

Tracy Land
Kenmore, New York

Congratulations on your new mill! Masa harina is made from dried hominy, not from mature corn, as is cornmeal. Hominy is mature corn that has been soaked in lime and water to loosen the outer shell. After this has been removed by pounding or rubbing, it is rinsed many times and the corn is drained. It is then either dried and ground or ground while still in the hominy state. Masa harina is much softer and finer than cornmeal and it also has more available niacin and calcium than does cornmeal because of the soaking in lime. — Jackie

Kefir grains

I have another question on kefir grains. I also read about water kefir. What I read is, kefir was first produced several hundred years ago, by accident, by shepherds. Today they say you MUST acquire grains as a starter. But yet those old shepherds that first started it, didn’t have a place to go to get ready grains! Why can you not start your own from scratch? And if you can, how would you? Both dairy and water? Being frugal, self sufficient, we shouldn’t have to buy, trade, or barter correct?


I totally agree with you. Everything we do is leading us toward being more self sufficient. Kefir grains are sort of like sourdough starter. Yes, those ancients DID discover kefir by “accident,” much the same as old time pioneers discovered sourdough, which was then flour/water (often with potato or potato water) which at room temperature “caught” wild yeast plants from the air. Yes, it worked — sometimes — sometimes they caught a terrible tasting yeast, bacteria, or mold instead. The same goes for kefir. Yes, you might “catch” the right start for your kefir beverages, but you also might catch something that won’t work or taste as good. It’s best to start with bartered, or even purchased, kefir grains. Then you can certainly keep your own starter going for years and years, even getting enough to trade off or sell to others in the future. So, in essence, once you get your kefir going, you ARE becoming self sufficient. — Jackie

Using chicken manure in the garden

I’m wondering if its safe to use year-old chicken poop in your garden from chickens that are raised commercially for egg production. Just wondering if the commercial feed has hormones in it and if that would affect the soil and my corn and vegetables and harm us.

Betty Downs
Covington, Georgia

As far as I know, commercial egg mash does not contain hormones. I believe that year-old egg house manure would be fine to use on your garden and from past experience, I know it’ll kick up your soil fertility right away, as it is very high in nitrogen. Don’t put it on thickly in areas where you’ll be raising potatoes, as the high nitrogen in any manure will cause a higher incidence of scab. High nitrogen manure will sometimes cause tomatoes and peppers to make huge plants with little fruit. My own peppers this year suffered from that, but in our quest to rapidly improve our soil, I have no complaints; I got enough for canning and pickles — but not enough for stuffed peppers and dehydrating. — Jackie


  1. so glad you are feeling better.. i wish you could clone Will,he’s one working “machine”.. homesteading can’t be done by just a woman ,alone…Jackie,you are blessed…

  2. Concerning kefir grains – try looking through any local craigslist or similar online sites, or maybe posting a request for free grains yourself. I’m up in British Columbia, and there are people offering kefir online because their own colonies have mulitplied – same with kombucha mothers or other items which they are happy to pass along because they don’t want to see their ‘extras’ go to waste. You may just find someone with knowledge to share. I have used kefir for a couple of years, giving extra ‘whey’ to my chickens, and have even been able to make a kind of soft cheese from the curds, salted and drained, with added herbs. There’s a lot of information on the internet on how to experiment. Sadly, the colony I was given seems content at its current size :)

  3. I found your blog and I have enjoyed it as you are relatively close to Iowa and can relate to your trials. We got 12 inches of snow in the storm but fortunately we got rain last night and 60% of it is gone. Winter is reminding us to get buttoned up!

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