Here’s Some Excerpts From


Crystals in Canned Grape Juice

On occasion when opening a jar of home canned grape juice or grape jelly you will find small sharp crystals inside the jar or in the actual food product. These crystals are tartrate crystals and are formed by the naturally occurring tartaric acid in the grape juice. The crystals are perfectly harmless and in no way affect the safety of the food product.
Tartrate crystals in grape products are formed by sediment in grape juice or other grape based products like wine or jelly. Many canners and jelly makers don’t like them and often novice canners are upset to see them sitting in the bottom of a jar of grape juice.
The way that tartrate crystals can be prevented in home canning is by allowing the grape juice to rest or sit overnight in a refrigerator so that all of the sediment can collect at the bottom of the container. In the morning, carefully pour off only the clear juice and try not to disturb the sediment. By keeping the grape sediment out of the juice before it is canned, clear grape juice without little crunchy things floating around is almost guaranteed; and a beautiful, sparkling blue ribbon jelly is within reach.

In nature, grapes are the richest source of tartaric acid. The kitchen aid known as Cream of Tartar is obtained from grape sediment and is made from by products that are left over from wine making…


Tiny Chicken Eggs – A Natural Phenomenon with a Spooky History

I went to collect eggs yesterday and found a dwarf egg sitting in the nest boxes along with the regular size eggs. I thought to throw it over the house but instead decided to tempt Fate and I brought it indoors.
Tiny or miniature size eggs in standard size hens are the natural result when a small bit of reproductive tissue or other small foreign mass enters the hen’s oviduct, and triggers the regular formation of an egg. Inside the hen’s body the bit of tissue or foreign mass is treated exactly like a normal yolk. It is swathed and enveloped in albumen, membranes, and a shell, and is eventually passed from the hen’s body. When it is laid it looks just like a regular chicken egg except that it is extremely little and teeny. These types of malformed eggs have been known for centuries as a ‘Cock Egg’. Most often these little eggs contain only the white of the egg and no yolk. Usually the shells are harder to break than that of a normal egg. Cock Egg is a synonymous term for any type of abnormal egg.

In folk tradition, a cock egg was understood to have been laid by a rooster or cock and not a hen, and it was a cause for grave concern. Cock eggs according to different folklore beliefs bring bad luck or illness if they are brought into the house. That’s because a cock egg is believed to have malefic and magical powers. They are reputed to be of value to sorcerers and magicians for mixing magical potions and casting spells. The way the story goes, is that if a toad, serpent, or witch, at the behest of Satan incubates a cock egg, the resulting hatchling will be a cockatrice or a basilisk. A cockatrice or basilisk is an ancient winged monster with a serpent’s body and a rooster’s head that can kill and destroy by its breath and glance.
During the middle ages it was self-evident to most intelligent people, that a cock egg was the work of the devil. Animals as well as people could be in league with Satan. And in 1474 a chicken passing for a rooster in Basle, Switzerland was put on trial and condemned to be burned at the stake for “the heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg”….


Hypothermic Lambs and Kid Goats

Lambs and kid goats can take quite a bit of cold as long as they are well started, stay dry, and get plenty of nourishing milk from their mothers. But sometimes a new-born lamb or kid will suffer hypothermia because of inadequate mothering, a lack of regular feeding; or simply because the lamb over slept and forgot to eat in extremely cold weather.
Hypothermia is the leading cause of pre-weaning lamb and kid goat losses in this country. Hypothermic lambs and kids will die if not attended to immediately. Many deaths can be prevented with a few simple tools and a basic understanding of how hypothermia kills.
Hypothermia is a condition where the core body temperature drops and the body’s vital signs begin to weaken. Heart rate and respiration decreases and the metabolism slow down. Past a certain point the digestive system cannot help a lamb or kid overcome hypothermia. Without energy delivered properly and directly into the core of the body in the form of glucose, brain function is impaired, and results in continuing weakness, confusion, drowsiness, coma, and the eventual death of the kid or lamb.
What follows is information you may need to know to save a little life. If you are a new shepherd or goat keeper what I’m going to recommend may scare you. I encourage you to put your fear and apprehensions behind you. Do what you must do. Because if you don’t your hypothermic lamb or kid goat probably will die….


How to Plant Asparagus

Asparagus is a perennial vegetable. That means it will come up every year and you only have to plant it once. Happily it’s also one of the first vegetables to appear in the garden in spring. The stalks of asparagus grow upward from the roots or crowns in mid-spring. By mid-summer asparagus will produce light, wispy ferns that stay on the plant until the fall. After a few hard frosts the tops of asparagus will die back. During the winter asparagus lies dormant in the earth waiting for spring to start the growth cycle again. When properly planted and cared for asparagus will dependably produce every year. A well-tended asparagus bed will last between 4 to 15 years and sometimes much longer. A lot depends upon the variety that is planted, the cultivation practices and the soil conditions. I’ve heard of asparagus beds that were well over 100 years old.
In the home garden most asparagus are grown from crowns and not from seeds. In botany, crowns are the section of a plant where the root of a seed plant joins to the stem section. Planting asparagus from seed is time- consuming due to the special care that the young plants require. When planting from seed, asparagus will not be ready for a minimal harvest for at least 3 or 4 years. The modern hybrid varieties of asparagus are best for most home gardens and small farms. Jersey Knight, Jersey King, and Jersey Supreme are all good dependable hybrids. They produce all male plants and waste no energy producing seed. Asparagus planted from crowns will begin to produce the second year after planting and can be lightly harvested. Some gardeners will wait to harvest until the third year after planting to insure that the plants have fully matured.
A single asparagus crown will produce about ½ /lb. -1 lb. of spears after three or four seasons. For garden planning purposes, 12 to 18 crowns per person for seasonal consumption is considered adequate for most families. A 100 ft. garden row will yield approximately 80 to100 lbs. Plan to plant twice as much if you intend to freeze or can asparagus.
Asparagus should be planted after the garden soil has warmed up to about 50°F. No good comes from planting in wet or soggy soil. Asparagus will not grow until the ground has warmed. Planting in wet, cold conditions increases the chance of crown rot. Ideally asparagus should be planted in its own separate garden bed. If that is not possible, plant them on the west or north side of the main garden so that it will not shade other plants during the summer….


Cook Stove Basics

I use a wood fired cook stove for about 8 months out of the year. A cook stove is a lot of work. But from my point of view it’s also a lot of independence and security too. No matter what the weather brings or what happens with energy prices, I will always be able to heat my home and cook for practically nothing, just as long as I am willing to pick up sticks and split firewood. And when I grow too old to split wood, I can always burn coal if I choose.

My cook stove is a traditional Waterford Stanley. It’s a modern solid fuel stove. A Stanley will burn peat or wood, and with a change of firebox liner it will burn coal. My stove not only cooks but helps to heat my home. The Stanley has a place to plumb a pipe for hot water should want that. All cook stoves have individual differences but basically work the same way.
In general wood cook stoves are similar to other wood fired appliances. They are connected to a chimney and have a firebox. They all have some way to clean out the ash; and air to the fire is controlled by some type of baffle(s) or damper(s) system. Cook stoves, unlike regular wood stoves, have an oven. The oven in a cook stove is simply a box within a box. Some cook stoves have a water reservoir attached to the side for hot water. A water reservoir is handy to have, but needs much more attention than a cook stove without a reservoir. The water reservoir must never be allowed to run dry because it will ruin the silver solder seams and cause the reservoir to leak.

Many cook stoves have a top compartment called a warmer. The warmer is used to keep food or plates warm and for dehydrating food. I use mine to defrost food and warm up my hat and mittens during the winter. The temperature of the warmer depends upon the temperature of the stove pipe and the top of the stove. Most of the time my warmer stays a cozy 130 F. Back before the days of electric or modern solar food dehydrators, the stove warmer was a good place during cool, rainy fall weather to dry apples, pumpkin rings, and other garden produce for winter storage. Using a warmer was a big improvement over previous methods which consisted of drying food in the sun. Or in the case of apples and pumpkins, slicing them into ring shapes, and then stringing them across the kitchen or in an attic to dry.

The top surface of a cook stove is called the hob. There are round plates on the hob called “eyes” that are removable for cleaning out soot and ash. They are not burners. With some cook stoves (not mine) the eyes can be removed while the stove is in operation. Stove eyes are removed to add small pieces of wood directly to the fire. Or to seat a pot into the hole for more heat if you need it to cook faster. The eyes are lifted off with a “lifter.” On a cook stove the entire hob is used for cooking. The part of the hob that is directly over the firebox is the hottest part of the stove. When cooking on most cook stoves, the pots and pans are moved from the left to the right to control the cooking temperature. The left side of the stove is the hottest part. The right side of the stove is the coolest.


The temperature of a wood cook stove is regulated in a few different ways. The temperature is controlled by the type and amount of wood the fire is fed. It’s also regulated by the amount of air that the fire receives and by the size of the fire ….


Pick The Best Day For Hatching Eggs

I’m a great believer in agricultural traditions and folk wisdom. That’s because much of what I learned about homesteading was passed onto me by the two generations of garden farmers that came before me. Heeding their advice enabled much success and fewer homesteading failures.

One bit of advice that was given to me by those far more experienced than myself was regarding the best time for setting or incubating eggs. The most favorable time for setting eggs under a broody hen or in an incubator is 21 days before a waxing moon is in the zodiac sign of Cancer. In order to determine what day that would be you’ll need an almanac for the current year. All good almanacs have tables or charts that map the course of the moon though the zodiac.

If we use chicken eggs as an example here’s how to find the best day. Chicken eggs need 21 days to hatch.
So a quick look in any current almanac will find days that the moon will be in the sign of Cancer and will also be waxing.

Most years there will be a couple of days that this will occur during the light (waxing) of the moon.
All that is necessary is to pick a Cancer day and then count backwards 21 days. Whatever day that happens to be is the day to begin to incubate the clutch of eggs.

That day counts as Day 1.

If for some reason a waxing Cancer day is inconvenient for setting eggs, a day that a waxing moon falls in the signs of Scorpio or Pisces would be a second best choice.
Chicks that are hatched during a waxing Cancer moon tend to hatch with fewer problems and grow faster.