Most folks think of canning as only something you do in the fall when harvest is in. Sure, I do a lot more canning then, as I’m bringing in tons (literally) of ripe tomatoes, green beans, and other crops. But I really do can all year long. By spreading it out over the year, it not only lessens the rush of work, but it also lets me can things that come on sale seasonally. Yes, we raise our own meat. But when I can buy a turkey for 73 cents a pound or ham for 79 cents a pound, I certainly can up more than I would otherwise. For our “second Christmas dinner” we had ham. It was a big ham and even after we snacked on leftovers, there was a lot left. So I started canning it up. First I canned ham dices, then I boiled the bone and clinging meat and made bean soup, which is Will’s favorite. Being frugal, we not only fed the family a nice ham dinner but I got to can up ten half-pints of diced ham and 22 pints of bean soup. (Jump over to the Winter 2017 issue of Self-Reliance to check out my article “Turning a half ham into 47 canned meals.”) Not bad I think, and it filled a few empty spots in the pantry. It is cool that here it is January, and there are still very few empty spots in the pantry. (By the way, you can find recipes for canning the bean soup in my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, available through BHM.)

Isn’t this diced ham I canned up nice? So useful in lots of recipes too.

Will and I took Javid’s Christmas presents down to him on Saturday. I’d tried, earlier in the week, to go down alone, but ran into terrible roads with black ice and cars and trucks in the ditch. I turned around and went home, not wanting to risk an accident on Duluth’s famous steep hills, which were covered with ice. We had a nice visit with Javid, who especially loved his bag of homemade jerky and a pack of frozen steaks. We also visited with a young man and woman who worked at the place. They were very interested in gardening, seed saving, and canning. The man thought if you home canned meat you added preservatives, and that canning was very difficult. Of course, I quickly set him straight on that! Now he wants to give it a try. Yea!

We’ve had snow and more snow. So Will has gotten the Ford 660 out and is putting tire chains on it. We use this tractor to scoop up snow banks and pile them out of the way. So far, he’s been able to plow the snow with the pickup and snowplow. But in some spots the driveway is getting narrower, due to the snow berms from plowing. Pretty soon, there’ll be no more room to push the snow. He’ll scoop it up and dump it in a convenient spot. The tire chains give a two wheel drive tractor a whole lot more power in snow.

Will dug out our tractor’s tire chains. They are thawing out in the sun before he puts them on.

The Pileated Woodpeckers have been coming to the suet I’ve been putting out on the feeding shelf on the back of the house. The snow has gotten so deep in the front yard I can’t get through to the bird feeder there. Those woodpeckers are sure shy birds. I’m trying to get more photos of them as they’re so pretty. But it’s hard to get photos as they sure don’t want anything to do with me.

Our Pileated Woodpeckers are back at the feeder. This year they’re really shy about being photographed.

Here it is the second week in January and already I’m plotting and planning our new gardens. This year I’m moving the tomatoes to the sand garden. The sand garden is bigger, and we have had way too many tomatoes in the main garden — there’s hardly room for anything else. We raise crops for seed, so we’re very careful to plant so nothing crosses, and that involves intensive planning, let me tell you. But by planting time, it’ll all be figured out … I hope! — Jackie


  1. I know they do. My sister, living near Duluth, has a pair that have come for years. They, too, demand their suet and she’s gotten some terrific photos of them. Mine are still pretty shy but they’ll get used to me, I’m sure.

  2. Garden planning here in SW CO as well, super excited to get things going in the greenhouse next month. In what form do you put out suet for the birds? I have some in the freezer that I’d like to put out. Love canning meat in the winter, I always clean out the freezer this time of year and can up any meat that hasn’t been used in a year, can’t argue with recipe ready meat!

  3. The woodpeckers are so pretty to see and watch!! You are so blessed to have them!

    Is your seed treasures site up to date now? I too am making lists for gardens. There are some new things you had that I would love to try. I would like to start ordering seeds.

    • Hi Cindy! So far we have four species of woodpeckers I’ve seen here and I keep looking for more.
      Yes, the website is up to date. Our catalogs should go out on the 17th of this month but you can always shop from the website and just jot down your purchases.

  4. And the heat and humidity in the house is so much more welcome in January than in August! I am more likely to can meat in the winter. I stock pile it in the freezer until I have time and the weather cools down.

  5. I remember years ago my son asking when I would be done canning. I told him after the fall and he told me it seems like I am always canning. Well he was right I am canning all year long. Right now I am canning up some pears and next will be some applesauce with apples from the fall. Have to make sure the grandbabies have some nice applesauce. I find I like canning this time of year the best, it’s not so hot and I can use my wood cookstove and save on my propane. Well I am off to check on my jersey girl Sunshine. She had a calf and last night had milk fever, but Praise God after we gave her some calcium through the IV she is up and about. By the way we love the Bean soup recipe and I have made many jars of it. As a matter of fact after the fruit is done I will be canning bean soup. Might even take some frozen fruit out of freezer for jam to can.

    • Boy, isn’t milk fever scary? I once had a Guernsey cow walking into the barn and she just dropped, unconscious! I ran for the house and luckily had an IV and calcium. Ten minutes after I started it going, she stood up and by the time it was finished, she walked right over to her stall like nothing had happened. Whew!
      Yep, I’ve got plum juice to make more jelly and then there are pinto beans I’m going to can up so I can make quick refried beans……

  6. Oh, but those Pileated become much more amenable when food is scarce and you are feeding them. They watch from a distance and know exactly who is feeding them. We had a pair for years who came for the suet. Got to the point that they would sound off if it was empty. ?
    I would go out suet can in hand and they would get very excited moving from tree to tree. Sometimes quite close to me. So BIG!!
    I think, tho not positive that they nest around Feb. Nesting females need to eat too.
    I just loved them.

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