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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 …


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….


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….


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…..


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 ….


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…