We’re pretty happy with our new batch of pullets. This spring we bought a mixed flock of Cuckoo Marans, White Cochins, Black Sex Links, White Rocks, and Red Laced Cornish. The Cuckoo Marans were because I just thought the chocolate colored eggs were cool. The Cochins are going to be setting hens to hatch eggs from our turkeys and meat chickens. We plan on crossing White Rocks and Cornish to try our own version of Cornish Rock meat chickens. We butchered the few extra roosters we ended up with, so our little flock is now wintering in the chicken coop, housed with our turkeys. (No we have never had blackhead disease because they live together. I suppose it’s a possibility, but nothing in more than 20 years…)

The pullets started laying about two months ago, and the egg size is steadily increasing. They just get an 18% poultry feed (mixed grains), corn screenings, household scraps (potato peels, squash “guts,” etc.), and my old standby, second crop leafy hay. Every day I give the chickens and turkeys a piece of very leafy trefoil/clover hay to pick on and by evening chores, very little is left over! They love it and the eggs prove it’s good for them, too. And at the price of chicken feed, I’m glad to see them eating another homegrown food! I do have a compact fluorescent light in their coop, so they get a few extra hours of light a day, when the generator is running in the evening or when we pump water or use a power tool. I’m happy and they’re happy. And we both can’t wait till spring!

Readers’ Questions:

Salt curing

Can you salt cure meat or can food with the solar salt coarse style that is used for water softener?

Curt Richardson
Eldorado, Ohio

No. Water softener salt often contains chemicals that you wouldn’t want in your food. — Jackie

Dehydrating green chilies

I purchased a 40lb box of Anaheim Green Chilies last year and spent most of an evening roasting them and bagging them for the freezer. I’m not using them as fast as I’d hoped, so I’d like to preserve them for longer storage. I found your instructions to can them, but I am intrigued with dehydrating them. Would it be advisable after they’ve been frozen? Do I slice or dice them beforehand, or can I just dry them like they come, after taking out the tops and seeds? I’d love to be able to make a dried salsa mix out of them.

Jennifer Robbins
New River, Arizona

You can either can them as a chile paste or dehydrate them. To dehydrate them, just remove the stem and seeds, then lay the whole chiles out gently (it helps if they’re still a bit frozen — thawed enough to remove the seeds but frozen enough that they’re not too mushy). Either way, they will turn out fine. — Jackie

Growing black raspberries

I would like to know if it’s possible to grow black raspberries in 5-gallon buckets.

Dewey Timberlake
New Albany, Indiana

You can grow black raspberries in a 5-gallon bucket, but I’m not sure how they would produce over the long term. Black raspberries are lusty, big plants. Nurseries sometimes grow them in 5 gallon, or smaller, containers to sell and I’ve seen them blooming and with berries on them. My question would be how well will they produce over the years? If you want to give it a try, be sure to add a good organic kelp/fish emulsion fertilizer right after blooming each year and pinch back your growing leaders in the early summer, when they reach about three feet. This encourages the formation of fruiting laterals so you will get more berries per bush. — Jackie

Storing food in tins

I noticed in one of your magazines you use the Christmas popcorn tins to store food in. I have been doing the same thing-so I felt good about it when I saw yours. My question is – I just read an article that states that harmful chemicals can be released to your food if you store food like this. If that is the case I will have to redo everything I have done and put the rice, powdered milk, sugar, coffee, etc., in another container. What do you think? Are we ok to leave everything in the tins?

Jacqueline Wieser
Sidney, Nebraska

To my knowledge, no harmful chemicals can be released to your foods, stored in popcorn tins, as there are no chemicals in the tins. I think the information you are referring to was meaning plastic food storage containers. Some of these are NOT food grade plastic and DO contain chemicals that are harmful to people. Remember that POPCORN was stored in these tins and that they were manufactured to hold food. — Jackie

Freezer-burnt meat

I have been a canner for a few years now, and I’ve had some chickens in the freezer for close to nine months to a year now, and was wondering if a person could can some of the possibly freezer burnt meat, some has the freezer burn on the skin (I freeze them all with the skin on and whole to add protection against freezer burn) and some have it on the meat also, was also wondering about freezer burnt venison, pork, and beef also.

Michelle Ortner
Danbury, Iowa

Thaw your meat or poultry. If it is seriously freezer burned, it will smell bad. If it’s just the skin or the outside, you can sure can the meat. But canning or cooking will NOT do away with the taste of freezer burn. My friend, Jeri, has done away with the freezer burn problem by putting her meat/poultry in plastic bags with as much of the air as possible squeezed out. Then she wraps that package in white freezer paper. Since she started doing that, no more freezer burn! What an improvement, huh? Just make sure that the plastic bag can be sealed tightly because some vacuum sealers fail in the freezer; Jeri uses twist ties on bags, then tapes the bag shut with freezer tape. — Jackie

Salt and vinegar chips

Do you have any tricks for dehydrating vinegar to make salt and vinegar seasoning for chips? Love reading about your homestead. I used to live in the mountains, now I live in the city to work in the ER. I live vicariously thru you!!! Miss the Mennonite life that I was brought up with.

Christine Barber
Torrance, California

I’ve never tried dehydrating vinegar and don’t think that would work. Better yet might be trying to mix vinegar and salt, then drying that on a cookie sheet, then whizzing it in the blender so it would return to a powder. Give it a try and then a taste test. I’ll bet it would work! — Jackie

Eastern Redbud seeds

I know that we can eat RedBud tree flowers and the green seeds in the pods, but my question is can we eat the seeds after they are dry? And if we can, how would I prepare them? They look sort of like lentils. Could I prepare them the same way? Would they have the same food value?

Kimbra Alexander
Marble Falls, Arkansas

Yes, you can eat dry, mature Eastern Redbud seeds. They are most often roasted, then added to stews, as you would lentils, to soften and cook. Redbuds are a member of the pea family, so I’d imagine that the seeds would have a similar food value as soup peas; not sure, just a guess. — Jackie

Canning eggs

Can you can boiled eggs besides pickling them?

Shirley Toney
Liberty, Mississippi

No, not that I’m aware of. Hardboiled eggs that are overcooked (such as pressure canned, which would be necessary) have green, unappetizing looking yolks. — Jackie

Caulking a log cabin

What “stretchy caulk” do you use inside your log home? Even though my 20 year old log home had a “tongue and groove” structure sealed with a bead of urethane at construction, I find there are small air leaks and places insects get in. The cracks between logs are small, 1/16 to 3/16 inch, so there isn’t much room to stuff insulation before caulking.

Chris Smith
Dayton, Wyoming

We use Big Stretch, made by Sashco, who also makes Log Jam for log homes. As our home has settled about as much as it’s going to, after being built for more than 5 years, we opted for more readily (in our area) available Big Stretch, although it is not warrantied for use in log homes. It was put over fiberglass insulation, packed in any cracks wide enough to get it into (our cracks were also pretty small, considering), then top-coated with a good layer of caulking. It’s not the best answer. Log Jam would be better, but we had Big Stretch in a color that matched our log stain well. It did make a HUGE difference in air leaks! — Jackie


  1. Hi Jackie!
    Saw that you were planning on crossing your Cornish X’s with White Rocks. I’ve been working on that breeding program for years with some success. (And when it’s successful, the birds are HUGE!) Worst problem I’ve had is the Cornish females only live about a year & a half so it’s not been terribly sustainable. What I’ve had GREAT luck with however is crossing the slow-grow broiler females to White Rock males. I keep only White Rocks for egg-layers & when I cross the black or red broilers to the white males, I can tell as soon as they hatch if they’re broiler or layer stock by their color. They don’t grow any faster than regular birds, but they are large & meaty. Further, after the first generation, I cross one of those male offspring to another batch of slow-grow broilers & now I have a bird that’s 3/4’s broiler. It’s not fool-proof & eventually I’ll have to introduce new blood & start over, but it beats having to order those sickly Cornish X’s several times a year & buying the expensive high-protein feed for them. We’ve eaten a LOT of home-bred broilers the last couple of years!

  2. I am sure you have been told this before…but you are and inspiration to me. We all have purpose in this world and Jackie sweety, I believe that the Good Lord has put you on this earth to help others by educating them on being self sufficient. I am blessed to have come acrossed a video of yours on you tube and in turn brought me to the Backwoods Home Magazine.

    Thank you

  3. We decided to try to raise our own cornish crosses this year too! That is so cool! I can not wait to see how it works out. Please keep us updated on how yours do!

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