Cleaning the wood stove

Was wondering if there is a way to clean out a wood-stove and limit the amount of ash that floats all over my living room? We don’t have an outside clean-out. During the winter months we usually have a light layer of ash all over our living room. This year, was wondering if I could sprinkle anything on the ash or wet it, to limit the amount that floats around?

Donna G.
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sprinkling doesn’t work because when you shovel it out, the ash flies anyway. You can soak it down, but that isn’t really a good idea for your stove’s durability. What I do is turn on the vacuum and lay the hose outlet over the door. Be sure to open the damper as that helps draw some of the flying ash up the stovepipe/chimney. Unfortunately, this is one of the problems with wood stoves and we all have to live with it to some degree. The vacuum does help a lot, though. Also, when you shovel out your ash, move very slowly and dump each shovelful very gently. Hurrying just puffs the ash all over the place. — Jackie

Grain mills

I have a question about grain mills. What type/brand do you feel is the best? Lehman’s offers mills at all different prices, with the most expensive at around $1200. This one is cast iron.

Paulding, Ohio

There is no “best.” It depends on your situation. For daily family use, I like the Country Living mill. It is a larger hand mill. But it is relatively expensive. I have an old, small, but efficient hand mill, the Back to Basics (now Victorio) mill. I bought mine on sale for less than $50 at Emergency Essentials. I’m also thinking about a decent electric mill, with my old mill and a Country Living mill for back-up if TSHTF. My wrists are getting bad, and although my small mill and the Country Living mill with a handle extension both grind quite easily, I may go electric on this one. Generally, you get what you pay for…within reason! If you only grind a bit of flour every few weeks, I sure wouldn’t advise paying $1,200 for a mill. — Jackie

Re-canning peanut butter

My apologies if this has been discussed before, but is there any way to safely “re-can” a large container (commercial size) of peanut butter? I know making your own peanut butter is not very difficult, but I see the question brought from time to time. I seem to recall seeing that it could be waterbath canned for 60 minutes in some much older canning books…but I’m very leery of doing that.

James Jackson
Knoxville, Tennessee

I’m sorry, but as peanut butter is such a dense product, it isn’t advisable to can it, whether canning freshly made or store-bought. Dense foods create a problem in that it is possible that the interior of the jars don’t heat up thoroughly for long enough during processing for safety. — Jackie


  1. I just read that you can put your used coffee filters on your ash in the fire place and then scoop it all out. I guess the damp grounds keep the ash from flying all over. I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine it would work well and the whole mix could go right in your compost.

  2. Thanks for the replies and suggestions/thoughts on “re-canning” peanut butter Jackie & Matt.
    We’ll most probably just keep adding the standard sized jars to our pantry…we may pick up one of the “industrial” sized containers and try the freezer suggestion.
    Much obliged.

  3. Matt,

    Yes, you can freeze peanut butter, handling it on thawing like you indicated helps the texture.
    I agree; it does have to be canned, just like pumpkin pie filling is. It’s just not recommended that we do it at home, as we don’t have the facilities to ensure the internal temperature of the jars during processing. We did it for years, but now the experts are saying it isn’t safe.


  4. On the question of the peanut butter, wouldn’t it be possible to scoop it into vacuum seal bags, seal it and then toss it into the freezer?

    Understand texture might be a little off when it is thawed, but mildly heating and kneading the bag before opening should help.

    Peanut butter has been canned and packed into C-rations or Foil pouches for MRE for decades, must be cannable somehow.

  5. We have the Country Living Mill and love it. My gang hooked it to an old stationary bike and away they go works great. My son gets his workout and I get my flour.

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