Will found a used transfer case for our Ford plow truck, which had blown one at a salvage yard in Duluth. As it is 80 miles to Duluth from our homestead, he had them ship it to us, figuring we couldn’t drive down there for the shipping. Wrong; they quoted $40 for shipping and it was $75! Then when it arrived promptly, it was the WRONG ONE!

Now we have a mile plus driveway, and it’s the middle of the winter, when a blizzard could roar down on us at any time, so we were a little anxious to get the plow truck back in operation. So we took off Monday morning for Duluth, with both transfer cases in the car. Luckily, after much searching, they located the right transfer case and exchanged it. We were still out the shipping, plus the extra gas money, but at least we were back in the right ball park.

With snow on the ground, Will spent three hours under the truck installing the new transfer case. You don’t know how grateful I am to have a man who can work on vehicles! Wow, it’s like a miracle! And it saved us about $500 over what the local garage would have charged us.

After hooking it all up, he took it for a test run out our drive and back, plus plowing a little in the yard. Everything worked fine and we are very relieved. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

While he was doing all that, I was packaging the book I just finished revising for Skyhorse Press, Complete Care of Orphaned and Abandoned Baby Animals. This had been previously published by Rodale Press, then when they quit publishing livestock and self-reliant living books, it went out of print. I’m excited that it will once again be in print and available to help many people raise their baby goats, lambs, pigs, pups, kittens, and just about any other kind of baby animal there is. It went out in the mail today, so I’d better get busy writing some articles for Backwoods Home!
(If you are interested in ordering this book, BHM will carry it soon. Please give us time to get it ordered and watch for it on our website and in future issues of the magazine. We’ll also announce on this blog when it’s ready to order. We will not be taking any pre-orders. — Editors)

Readers’ Questions:

Affordable seed

I am looking for a seed company that is affordable with good seed. The economy is making me look at different choices this year; have you any experience in this so far?

Pyper Thole
Sandy, Utah

Two companies I buy from, that have reasonable seed prices, are Pinetree Garden Seeds and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The seed packet prices are reasonable, the quality is good; and the shipping won’t eat you up, either. Consider saving some of your own seeds this year: maybe squash, melons, and tomatoes…they are all easy to save and next year you won’t have to buy ANY of these seeds. Once you start, you find it’s so much fun you won’t stop there and will soon be saving a lot of your own seeds. This makes raising a garden cheaper and gives you a sense of self-reliance, too. — Jackie

When to start seeds

Wow…how blessed you are with home raised beef…Store bought meat leaves a lot to be desired; hard to get the grease out when canning. Your area has really gotten hammered with snow this year…makes things harder to do. Please let us know when you start your seeds inside. I’m so ready for Spring!

J from Missouri

Yes, we HAVE had a lot of snow, but that’s okay; our berry bushes and trees should come through the winter much better with snow cover. (There’s always something good that comes out of something not so good!) We’re waiting with excitement for our boxes of meat; we figure we’ll have roughly 250 pounds of great beef to bring home; my oldest son, Bill and his wife will be getting the other 250 pounds. And we are so tickled to have a great big steer ready to go when all that meat is canned and eaten up!

I’ll be starting my pepper seeds (the first to go) in early February. As we have such a cool-night summer here, it takes peppers longer to get going than it does elsewhere. Our tomatoes will be started in the end of March. I got a little too excited last year and my plants were pretty big when I set them out…but we were still buried in tomatoes! Squash and melons are started three weeks before we set them out. If they get root bound, they never seem to produce well. So, as our last frost date is usually about June 15th, I start them the last week in May or a bit sooner, depending on the weather we’re seeming to have. I can always cover plants that have been set out with plastic row covers, if it threatens to get too cold or frost late in the season. I can’t wait! — Jackie

Processing meat

We have a “processing plant” up the road from us. You were saying, “packaging plant.” Are they different? Cole’s Meat Processing, 178 Cole Drive, Vilas, NC 28692-9586. The deer hunters I work with tell me that they have to have the deer “dressed out” prior to taking deer to the Cole’s.

We raise Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats and we would like to try the meat from a buckling every now and then, but we don’t know how and don’t want to have to do the dressing part anyway. What do you suggest? Have you eaten dairy buck/buckling meat?

In the magazine, wish you would write about different types of meat to raise and and eat on the farm, suggestions for the processing part, and recipes.

Joanna Wilcox
Boone, North Carolina

A “processing plant” is the same as a “packing plant” or “slaughterhouse.” It’s a regional thing. And it is convenient to take a large animal there to have slaughtered and cut up into meat; you take the live animal there and bring home white-paper-wrapped frozen meat. Why don’t you stop by the processing plant and talk to the folks there? They are usually very helpful. If they don’t take live animals to slaughter, I’ll bet they can tell you of another nearby place that will do just that.

With small animals, such as your Nigerian bucks, it may not be economically feasible to have them custom-slaughtered; the cost would be more than the meat would be “worth.” However, it is a good starting point for new homesteaders and would help get you started and eating your own, wholesome meat.

Yes we’ve eaten plenty of bucks and bucklings, although we usually castrate every buckling that is not good enough to be kept a breeding buck, which is most of them at our place (I’m pretty fussy!). The taste is great and you’ll love it.

I’ll talk to Dave and Annie about a meat article in the future; it IS a good idea for an article. — Jackie

Hatch chile powder

What chile seeds could I grow that would taste like the Hatch chile powder from New Mexico, and where can I buy them. At 8.99 for 8oz of chile powder, plus shipping its time to grow my own. That’s with your help.

Sherry Englehart
Lancaster, California

An Anaheim or New Mexico chile will yield a chile powder like Hatch. The best Hatch chile powder is made from dehydrated, roasted red chiles, so if you grow some peppers, you have to try that! It’s so robust and flavorful with a wonderful smell, too! — Jackie

Canning soups with noodles or potatoes

When I can potatoes or chicken noodle soup, I end up with soft noodles and potatoes. This occasionally happens with beans. Am I cooking them to long before putting them in the canner? Should I not add the noodles to the soup after it is canned? Your old post about crunchy pickles makes me wonder if I should just put the potatoes in and cover them with boiling water.

Michelle Vaught
Fallbrook, California

At most, potatoes should be simmered 10 minutes before packing them into the jars (whole potatoes) or 2 minutes (diced potatoes). In the past, we DID pour boiling water over raw packed potatoes; however, experts now say we should only hot pack potatoes for safe canning. Obviously, the longer you boil potatoes and noodles, the softer they will become. When I add noodles to my chicken noodle soup, I add them just before sealing the jars, uncooked. I also only use dry, thick, homemade or home-style noodles as the thinner noodles will become very soft. Yes, you can certainly add noodles while you simmer your canned soup, after storage and before use. — Jackie

Canning walnuts

I just canned some walnuts and forgot to toast them in the oven. Are they going to be any good?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I’d open the jars, then toast them. The reason you toast them in the oven it to drive out any remaining moisture that could cause them to become rancid. The canning time is very brief, under low pressure, so it doesn’t “cook” the nutmeats and they could become rancid, even though sealed in a jar. Use new lids, too. — Jackie

Homeschooling while homesteading

Love all the articles and just bought your recent book. Full of information and I just love it. I had a question for you and your readers. We have a 33 acre place where we are trying to get it up to be our homestead hopefully one day. My question is we still have two children that are in elementary school. What do homesteaders do for school? Homeschool? I don’t think I can homeschool. I have a hard time with their school work now! There are no schools that are close. About 45 minutes away. We are not there full time but would like to be in the future its just the school situation is really holding us back.

Tammy B.
Redwood City, California

While many homesteaders homeschool (I homeschooled my youngest son, David for three years.), many choose not to for one reason or another. Many rural children ride a school bus for many miles. When my oldest children were in school, some of them had a bus ride of an hour and forty minutes and seemed to survive just fine. We were not that remote, the school just had fewer buses and had a lot of country miles to cover each morning and afternoon.

I surely would not let the lack of a nearby school hamper your homesteading plans. I feel that homestead life is the very best life for children and that it makes them into strong, self-reliant adults. I’d talk to a few folks in the area with school-age children and also talk to the school itself and see what they do to get a better handle on what your own children would be doing. All the very best luck in starting up your own new homestead! — Jackie

Storing full canning jars

Can you store full canning jars on their sides, or must they always be upright?

Clint Schoepp
Wainwright, AB Canada

It is not recommended that you store full canning jars on their sides. The liquid in the jars, in constant contact with the sealing compound on the lids, may cause the seal to fail. — Jackie

Lemon oil

My neighbor has brought me literally dozens of Meyer lemons, with a promise to “shake the tree again next week” and bring them to me…nobody else uses them!

I have been trying to find a home process for extracting the pure oil from the lemons as opposed to infusing a carrier oil with lemon zest. How can this be accomplished at home? I’ve read the commercial processing involves “cold pressing.” Can that be done on a small scale?

Oviedo, Florida

I know of no way to extract appreciable oil from lemons at home. Maybe another of our BHM family has some information for us? I would sure can up some juice (even in half-pint jars!), as well as grate the peel to dehydrate. I do that when I can get real cheap or discarded lemons, and can find a lot of uses for both products. — Jackie


  1. Hatch chile seeds: Have you looked at the seeds for sale at http://www.nmchili.com/new_mexico__hatch__growing_seed.htm
    They have dried chiles too. You may not get the same taste growing them yourself – if you believe that the Hatch chile taste comes from the water and the soils in that area. If you go to the Hatch chile festival you could buy enough dried pods and seeds to last for years and have a lovely vacation too.

  2. Affordable seeds: I’ve ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which Jackie mentioned. My most recent order had a $3 charge for shipping, which was $1.73 in actual first class postage. Some of their seeds are less expensive than other places I order from. Most packet prices are $2 to $3. The other place I’d recommend for reasonable prices for good seeds is Fisher’s Seeds, PO Box 236, Belgrade MT 59714. I have the Pintree Garden catalog Jackie mentioned, and their prices certainly are lower than most, shipping for the first $20 in seeds is $3.75 but so far for most individual varieties I haven’t found information about how many seeds or how many ounces of seed each packet has. Good seeds well taken care of will keep for years (except onion seeds, which typically don’t show good germination after the first year), so think of your seeds as an investment. My local hardware stores and garden shops put their leftover seed on sale in the fall, often as much as two-thirds off the regular price. Seed like radish, beet, corn, tomato, melon, pea, eggplant, squash, herbs and pepper bought then will be fine for growing the next spring. If you do decide to save seeds, read about cross pollination issues first so you can protect your seed sources. Preventing cross pollination can be very labor intensive.

  3. Extracting lemon oil: Lehman’s has a hand crank home oil press made in Holland for $189. I have no experience with it, would call Lehman’s and ask if they think it will work for you. Horizon Herbs has 2 sizes of presses but the smallest is $780.

  4. There should be a universal “Homestead Law” (like Murphy’s law only more refined) that says “whatever project you are going to do, figure it will take two times longer and have x amount of other peoples’ screw ups get in the way before it’s finished”….

    Or maybe there is one already LOL….

    It probably took longer to deal with the wrong one that it did to actually put it in….Nice thing about diy is that you know it’s done right with no shortcuts or questionable parts involved…..and it’s a great feeling to be “back in business” until the next thing comes along (and it always will)…

  5. I agree with Judy. I used Bob Jones Curriculum for 9 yrs. then switched to Alpha Omega for the last 3 yrs. and we loved it….. I homeschooled our son the whole 12 yrs. and he now proudly serves in the United States Air Force working on the electronics and radar systems of the AC130’s. He says ‘thank you’ for homeschooling him even though sometimes he thought I was ‘too mean’, which translates into ‘I didn’t let him slide the way public school teachers would have’. I did say no when he thought he wanted to go to public high school….
    Yes, homeschooling is hard; but what isn’t hard when it comes to raising kids right???

  6. On homeschooling, there are several systems out there that all the parent has to do is ‘supervise’ the time the children spend studying. We found the Alpha-Omega system to be very self-contained with excellent teacher manuals as just one example. But do understand it is bible-based. Most of the other better self-contained systems are also bible-based. We really enjoyed homeschooling our children for the length of time they wanted to be home schooled. Most children at some point want to try or go to public school. Our middle son wishes we had said no, because most public schools practice ‘no child left behind’ or ‘dumbing down the curriculum’ and he was bored.

Comments are closed.