As we were under a winter blizzard warning, we had no company for Thanksgiving. But I still cooked up a storm, anyway. And finally, after years of trial and error…mostly error…found out how to peel hard-boiled fresh eggs without having them look like you picked off the shells with a ragged fingernail. Before, all my fresh homestead eggs peeled horribly, no matter what I did. But this time, I added 1/4 cup of vinegar to my boiling water and proceeded as usual. I boiled them, then drained them, rinsed them in cold water a couple of times, then tossed them up and down lightly to crack the shells. I had always done this, and found it did help a lot. Then I soaked them for an hour in cold water and peeled them from the big end. The peels mostly came off in long strips! No gouged egg surfaces! No cursing under my breath. Nice smooth eggs! Hooray! And some of the eggs had been picked that very day, too. Whew! Nice deviled eggs are so much prettier than gouged up ones!

We got our Thanksgiving snow, but thankfully, no blizzard. So while I was cooking, Will and Spencer (the plow dog!) went out and plowed our driveway and yard. Lucky they did, too, as we then got another 8 inches that night! So we have plenty of snow on the ground. But that’s okay, as it’ll help keep the water line unfrozen and the septic tank happy.

I hope you and yours had a very happy Thanksgiving!

Readers’ Questions:

Can jerky be canned?

I dried beef for Jerky and would like to further put it in canner for longer preservation. Is this possible and can I do it without adding liquid?

Cynthia Fox
Des Moines, Iowa

I have canned jerky (without liquid), but didn’t really like it as well as the uncanned version. You can either freeze or refrigerate it for much longer storage…if you can keep it around that long; my jerky steps out pretty darned fast! — Jackie

Solar Panels for your generator shed?

On one of my sleepless nights I had an idea for myself and thought you may like it also. I see you are using solar panels so you don’t have to use your generator as much. Have you considered using them to keep your generator shed and water pump warm? How you say? Here is my plan. Get a thermostat, from a RV or old mobile home and hook it up to 12V DC solar panel system so that it will power a few 12V DC automobile light bulbs. Set the thermostat to 40 degrees or so in the winter and when the temps are below 40 the lights will come on and keep everything from freezing. The sun will re-charge the batteries via the solar panels the next morning and on you go each day. I am going to use deep cycle Marine batteries and 5 – 6 #1156 tail lights. You can get a 45 Watt solar panel set up at Harbor Freight on sale for $150.00.

Scott Shurley
San Antonio, Texas

That may work for you, Scott, but it wouldn’t work for us. Our winters are usually -35 or -40 degrees for quite a spell, and even an electric heater is not enough to keep things from freezing. Our well has a submersible pump, so it doesn’t freeze. Our pressure tank is in the house, in the basement, so that doesn’t freeze either. The generator is just given a winter oil, so you can pull the rope when it’s that cold. And if it gets really cold, we have a propane heater in there to preheat the generator shed before trying to start it.

We can’t afford a lot of solar options right now, so we put what we can towards charging our battery bank to save gas on a daily basis. Hopefully, come spring, we’ll add a couple more panels and put up a wind charger. — Jackie

Seed potatoes

How do you save potatoes to replant as seed potatoes for next year?

Dale Wendt
Rockford, Illinois

I save all of my potatoes in plastic tote bins, with covers or in large coolers I’ve found at the dump. Stored in our unheated, 40 degree basement, they store very well. Without light, they don’t sprout a bit. If you store potatoes where they are warmer or where there is light…even if it is only a light bulb, they will soften and sprout, come spring. But they are still fine to cut and use as seed potatoes. The cooler you keep them, above 38 degrees and the darker you store them, the longer they will last. We had good potatoes in the bins this fall, left over from the year before! They were crisp, juicy, and hardly sprouted. — Jackie

Stove black

I’ve been a subscriber to BHM for several years but do not recall this question ever having been asked. By any chance do you have instructions for making homemade stove black? I wondered if it couldn’t be made with carbon black and oil or grease. I use it to coat the outside of my cast iron woodstove.

Lori Johnson
King William, Virginia

Sorry, but I don’t. What I do with our stoves is to lightly rub vegetable oil or olive oil on the cast iron parts with an old wash cloth, rubbing it well into the pores of the steel. I do this when the stove is warm, but the fire is out. After an hour or so, I start the fire and burn it slowly until the oil is done smoking. Then burn as usual. Some folks use high-temp stove paint on their stoves, but I don’t like that. Obviously, many people do, though. I much prefer to black my stoves once a year or so, then use the oil in between times. Even our grandmothers used store-bought stove black or rubbed a piece of fat over the top, much the same as I rub the oil. — Jackie


  1. angela,

    Yes, we do have a feed mill nearby; that’s where I get my feed! It’s cheaper where you live because you’re in a grain area; we aren’t. No one grows corn within 100 miles of us for sale (there is some for silage). We’re a short growing season, so no field corn. I wish I could get mine cheaper!


  2. Angela, I live in Hancock County. Just south of you. My mailing address is Dallas City but we live about 5 miles from La Harpe. We have about 300 acres here. Are you from Stronghurst? I read things on occasion from some one in Stronghurst.

  3. Jackie, do you have a “feed mill” in your area? Might be worth checking into. I get my chicken food from there, a mix of 2/3 cracked corn and 1/3 layer mash. Sometimes I have them add in oats or oyster shell. The last batch I got I paid about $25 for 150lbs!

    Nancy, where do you live? I’m in west central IL as well, in Henderson co.

  4. I smiled when I read your comment about eggs “picked that day”… That’s what I call it too. People always look at me funny when I tell the their eggs were fresh-picked!

  5. For stove black you can try lard mixed with equal amounts of crushed char. Rub it on and let it burn off, kinda like seasoning a cast iron skillet. My gramma used to rub homemade lye/grease soap on hers and then burn it off, but that left everything all smeary whenever anyone brushed against it.

  6. I envy you. Here in west central Illinois we don’t get much snow. About 4 to 6 inches last winter. Not much. We could be snowed in tho and do well. Plenty of food but now enough for a year. Getting closer. We heat and cook with propane but I found some plans in one of my farm show magazines for making methane gas and there is a large hog confinement one mile away from us where I could get the manure I would need. My #4 son says it will work very well. So I am saving up to get the barrels I need and tractor inner tubes needed. Still trying to talk hubby into a wind mill.

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