This last week has been sunny and above freezing (except for nights, which have been sub-zero to low single digits). Much of our snow has melted, and I’ve started live trapping some of our bountiful red squirrels. Two years ago, I trapped 22, last year, 17 and so far, this year, 12. Although I do like the little buggers, they do cause garden damage, get into our birdhouses, and eat a whole lot of bird seed that we buy to feed the birds. So instead of killing them, I bought a live trap and am relocating them several miles from our place. (I first tried just moving them half a mile away, but they came back. One squirrel had only half a tail and he was back the next day after I’d trapped him the first time!) I relocate them when the weather’s nice, before they begin to breed (I don’t want babies to starve!). And I relocate them in different areas, way away from human habitation.

This morning, when I went out to do chores, I glanced down at my flower bed by the driveway. And was I shocked to see some daffodils and a few tulip noses poking up out of the soil! I couldn’t believe it. I figured the ground was still too frozen for that. And two days ago, there was snow over them. Oh, and I saw my first robin yesterday! Spring is on the way for sure!

Readers’ Questions:

Honey butter

Can this honey butter recipe be processed? If so how long?

1 cup honey
1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Boil all except butter and vanilla, pour over butter whip and put in jars.

Eileen Bartschenfeld
Prairie Farm, Wisconsin

This one would probably be best made one batch at a time. While I’ve canned both milk and butter, cream’s another thing and may darken quite a bit or take on a curdled appearance. — Jackie

Canning chicken strips

My in-laws generously purchased several bags of precooked, hormone-free chicken strips. The only issue is they were pre-cooked. My question is: can they be pressure canned?

Mandi Kemp
Dover, Delaware

Yes. Just heat, adding broth and any seasonings you wish (or not), and can as if they were fresh. Lucky you! — Jackie

Vegetable broth

I have the hardest time making my own vegetable broth. I react to MSG so I am forced to make it myself, but every recipe that I have tried never turns out. Do you have a tried and true recipe?

Pamela Lawstuen
Alma, Wisconsin

This is the recipe I use:

1 lb. carrots, peeled and grated
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 medium onions, peeled and sliced
3 sweet red peppers, seeded and chopped
3 large tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ small head cabbage, shredded
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or minced
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. thyme
½ tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. basil, crushed
7 quarts water

Combine all ingredients in large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours. Uncover and continue cooking until flavor is as you wish (about an hour). Strain through jelly bag or other cloth. Discard vegetables and seasonings. You may either use, refrigerate to use or can. If you want to can it, process pints for 30 minutes or quarts for 35 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. I hope this one works well for you. — Jackie

Amish coleslaw

Oh, your house is sooooooo beautiful! Your canned Amish coleslaw sounds wonderful. Do you have a recipe for it?

Nana in Texas

We love our house, too! After living in a small 24×30-foot house, under construction for three years, getting the additions and finally some finishing, it seems SO wonderful.

I love the Amish canned coleslaw, BUT it is NOT an approved recipe. (It is basically pickled sweet cabbage, so I’m not too worried. I can’t tell you to try it, only that generations of Amish have used it and so have I for a few years now.) Here’s the recipe:

1½ cups vinegar
2 cups sugar
½ tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. mustard seed
2 tsp. salt
1 large head cabbage
1 cup diced celery
½ cup diced onions
2 cups shredded carrots

Mix vinegar, sugar, and seasonings. Mix with vegetables. Stir very well. Pack into sterile jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude.) — Jackie

Generator conversion and hawks picking off chickens

What do you think about the conversion kits to convert a gasoline generator into a propane generator. We just purchased a gasoline generator and most people in our rural area convert to propane and have no issues at all. Is there anything we should know other than we void the warranty on the generator?

Also we have been having a bad time in our area with hawks picking off chickens last year and this winter, any suggestions? Some one suggested getting guineas to help warn the chickens of an impending aerial assault? What do you think?

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

Some generators are easy and fairly inexpensively converted to propane from gasoline. Ours is not one of them; we checked into it and the cost would be prohibitive. I’d check with your service shop to get their ideas and a cost. We’re just going to run ours until it needs replacing, then replace it with a propane unit.

If hawks are such a problem, I’d suggest putting a netting wire up over the chicken run. If they are let out to range free, this is not an option. If they were mine, I’d pen them up at least until the hunting hawks move on to someone else’s chickens! I don’t think guineas will do much to reduce your losses; hawks get guineas, too. — Jackie

Pickled sausage

Do you or any readers have a recipe for canning pickled sausage? I can get a good deal on hotdogs/sausages and would like to try to pickle some.

D. Kaufman
Seymour, Missouri

I would can pickled sausage for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (pints), regardless of the recipe. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.) — Jackie

Canning yields

My problem in canning is figuring out the number of jars I need for the volume of food I will can. (Being in an urban area, I often can smaller quantities.) I’ve found butter is most like a liquid – 4 lbs made 8 half pints. But when I recently re-canned some green beans, 3 50-oz cans made up 10 pints. I now want to can some dried beans. How many pounds of navy or black beans should I prepare (roughly) to can up into no more than 17 pints?

Jeanne Herman
Springfield, Virginia

Three pounds of navy or black beans will roughly make 16 pints, depending on how much liquid you add. It is fairly hard to come up with precise yields in canning as a lot depends on the certain food, the recipe used, and the total liquid used. I usually just prepare a goodly bunch of jars and can up what I end up with. Not very scientific, but it works for me. — Jackie

Composting manure

It’s spring and I am cleaning out the donkey pen and the chicken house. I would like use the manure on my garden. Is it ok to spread it now and plant my garden in May or will it get too hot? Does it need to compost first? What are the best vegetables to grow in this kind of manure? I also have an endless supply of cow manure. How long should I compost it and what can I add to it to make it more nutritious for my garden?

Amy Arthur
Mineral Point, Wisconsin

You can spread it out and till it in. By May, it should be fine for crops such as corn, bean, and peas. For other crops, I’d recommend piling it and composting it until fall or next spring. As manure is high in nitrogen, it will make huge tomatoes, peppers, and melon plants….but not much actual fruit. It’s great that you can get lots of cow manure! Free fertilizer is a wonderful thing. I would just stack it in a deep pile and let it compost. While you can “hurry” things by turning the pile a couple of times during the summer, it will compost just fine without turning it. I would water the pile from time to time if you don’t get much rain. I don’t add anything to my compost piles but manure, straw, sawdust (the bedding part), and elbow grease. To be certain, you can do soil tests on several parts of your garden to see if your soil is light in any one nutrient. — Jackie

Storing seeds

Is there a method for storing seeds for an extended period of time?

Stephen DeLuca
Bethel, Connecticut

Your best bet for extra long term seed storage is to package them in an airtight container and keep them in your freezer. Even then, some seeds, such as onions, only remain viable for a couple of years at best. I store my seeds in large plastic tubs in our cool basement. That way, most seeds remain good for many years. Like foods, it is necessary to rotate your seeds as you use them so that none get extremely old and lose all viability.

The so-called “emergency” seeds that are in sealed cans will stay viable longer than ones just kept in a drawer in your kitchen, but even these must be rotated periodically to maintain your emergency seed supply. — Jackie


  1. Sorry that is 1lb of butter not 1 cup. Thanks for the help. HOney last forever so I will make it as needed then.

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