New garden area

We are in the process of buying our little homestead. It was previously used for haying. I think the ground has been somewhat depleted and I want to turn a lot of it into good rich grass pasture. What is the quickest/cheapest way to accomplish this? I would love to bring in compost etc. but 20 acres of compost would break the bank.

Name withheld
Seattle, Washington

Sometimes just plowing and seeding a previous hayfield does a lot as the grasses get sod-bound over time. And by planting legumes mixed with grass, such as clover/orchard grass or another such mixture that does well in your area (ask your local feed dealer), you’ll help it out even more as the legumes fix nitrogen into the soil. Then if you get animals on your place, you can stockpile all that manure. Sure you’ll use some on your garden but any extra can be spread on your pasture. Be sure to harrow it in well so the animals don’t turn their noses up at manured crops. If you can’t do this work yourself, you can usually find a neighbor with the equipment who you can pay a reasonable fee for this custom work. It really pays in the end. Enjoy your new homestead! — Jackie

Thanks for video

Just wanted to say thanks for the new video! I always enjoyed those before and was sorry when you had to stop. All of us are always interested in what you’re up to! Yesterday while you all were clearing that meadow I was preparing my lettuce beds!

Jeanne Allie
Storrs, Connecticut

I’m glad you liked the new video. Lettuce! Wow, I’m just planting some in the house. This time of year we get to craving greens — really craving them! I think it’s a sign of spring. — Jackie

Canning butter

How do you can butter, and is it safe? I have read that FDA doesn’t recommend it, but I don’t trust their judgement much. What is your experience with canning butter? I just bought 30 pounds on sale and I would love to try it.

As a side note, is it true that you have never used a pressure cooker to cook meat? You should invest in an electric pressure cooker. I love mine! A frozen roast to fork tender in less than 1½ hours. It is one of my favorite kitchen tools. Even one just on the stove top would work great.

Julie Ann Gale
Ruby Valley, Nevada

Yes, I can butter and have for several years, as have many of my friends. It is not an “approved” practice, however. To can butter, melt it in a saucepan over low heat. Heat it enough to simmer out any remaining buttermilk. Sterilize your wide mouth half pint jars in boiling water, holding them in simmering water until just before you will fill them so they are sterile and very hot. Simmer your butter for 10 minutes, very gently, to drive off any remaining moisture. Stir often to prevent solids from scorching. Remove jars from heat and invert to drain thoroughly. Then turn them over and carefully ladle the hot butter into the jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jar, place a hot, previously-simmered lid on the jar and screw the ring down firmly tight. Process the jars in a boiling water bath canner for 60 minutes.

You can keep the moisture from settling to the bottom of the jars by waiting until the jars have cooled some after processing, then shaking them gently to redistribute the moisture. Repeat this every 5 minutes or so as the jars cool completely. Carefully check your seals as the shaking could cause a seal to fail. Refrigerate any jar that doesn’t seal and use soon or reprocess the butter from the melting, onward, all over again with a new lid.

No, I really haven’t ever cooked meat in a pressure cooker and probably will never. Living off grid, I really won’t use an electric one, as I’d have to start the generator just to use it; our battery bank would never handle that load. I’m really, really happy with the way I cook my meat right now, in my wood stove oven. If I’m in a hurry, I just open a jar of canned meat. — Jackie