Healthy Backyard Geese We have all heard about backyard chickens. One of the great investments of life if you do not have them yet. There is also an argument about having ducks instead of chickens. I do love some fresh duck eggs. What is news to me, however, is this article about backyard geese. I …
A True Homesteader! Host: Bobby “MHP Gardner There is a lot of interest in being self-sufficient these days. People are looking for information on how to grow and store their own food, provide their own meats, go off-grid with solar setups… get out of the system so to speak. We see a lot of these … Continue reading A True Homesteader!
Most homesteaders have to deal with some kinds of invasive plants. On our farm in upstate New York, the main culprit is multiflora rose. People planted it as deer feed back in the 1960s and now, it’s everywhere, taking over hayfields and pastures with its sprawling big-thorned fast-growing stems. Multiflora rose removal was one of my least favorite chores: heavy, prickly and never-ending. Then we discovered that our goats enjoyed eating multiflora rose. And then we learned that it was actually good for them.
I still spend time every summer hacking down multiflora roses in the orchard and pasture, but my attitude has changed. Instead of endlessly beating back a useless nuisance, I’m harvesting a forage crop.
Deciding What’s Safe To Feed
I’ll discuss some specific nutritious invasives below. I likely won’t include all the invasives in your area, so you’ll need to do some of your own research. This may be complicated by the fact that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. Some plants, for example, appear both on lists of safe food for rabbits and lists of plants toxic to rabbits. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as you decide what to feed your animals:
Many plants are safe when fed as a small portion of the overall diet, but become problematic in heavy concentrations. It’s generally not a good idea to offer only one or two types of forage to your animals, or to feed huge quantities the first time they’re introduced to a new food. Offered free choice, as part of a varied diet, many weeds can be safe and healthy. Some, like mountain laurel or locoweed, are truly poisonous and should be completely avoided. But if you find a lot of recommendations and some cautions around a particular plant, you might try offering your animals a small amount of it and seeing what happens.
Toxicity and nutrition may vary depending on your location and soil type. Try asking local farmers and/or your local Cooperative Extension about the effects of plants grown in your area.
Some plants are healthy at one stage, problematic at another. For instance, we feed young leaves of burdock and curly dock to our rabbits, but after the plants have flowered we stop feeding; older plants may accumulate nitrates to the point of mild toxicity. If you keep cutting plants off before they go to seed, you can harvest young leaves over a long season.
Plants that are safe in themselves may be unpalatable or unsafe if they’re diseased. Clover is generally a safe and healthy feed, but in my region in wet summers it can develop white mold; we take care not to feed any of this to our rabbits, since rabbits are highly mold-sensitive.
Many different plants may share the same common name. Use Latin names in your research to be sure you have the right plant.
A Gallery Of Gourmet Weeds
1. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora), the thorny invader previously described, contains 10-13 percent protein, and it can help ruminants to expel worms. Goats, sheep, cows and horses can eat it. Our goats don’t mind the thorns. After the rose has flowered, our goats may get diarrhea from eating too many of the hips at once. I’ve seen one report of a horse injuring its eye on the thorns.
2. Kudzu (Pueraria montana). Farmers south of us have reported great success with feeding kudzu to cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses. It’s high in protein, and apparently highly appealing to many animals. Given its legendary growth rate, it’s a nearly inexhaustible food supply.
3. White mulberry (Morus alba) is an invasive tree in many states. Its protein-rich leaves and stems are a valuable feed for cows, goats, sheep and rabbits; pigs and chickens will eat its fruit.
4. Burdock (Arctium spp.) is a nuisance in pastures. Its flat leaves spread widely, killing everything else; its burrs tangle in animals’ hair. But young burdock leaves, cut before the plant flowers, are rich in protein and minerals. We feed tender small burdock leaves to our rabbits, who tolerate them, and larger leaves to our goats, who relish them. Chickens and cows also will eat burdock leaves, up to a point. Older leaves may accumulate excessive nitrates, so don’t feed them heavily.
5. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) does just what its name suggests. I was very displeased when it started taking over a corner of our pasture. Then I learned that it’s rich in protein, iron, calcium and vitamins. Once it’s dried, it no longer stings. We give our dried nettle to nursing mother rabbits in the early spring before other rich foods are readily available. Chickens, pigs, cows, horses, sheep and goats also can benefit from eating dried stinging nettle.
6. Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) self-seeds copiously and comes up in dense mats. Since it starts to grow earlier than many other annuals, its leaves can provide an early treat and a vitamin boost for chickens, rabbits, goats, cows and sheep. Later in the year it may be less palatable—and any way you’ll want to cut it or graze it before it goes to seed. Some sources say it shouldn’t be given to horses.
7. Redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus) takes over garden beds and farm fields. It’s widely agreed that young plants which haven’t yet set seed are safe and nutritious feed for chickens, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and goats. We’ve fed seeded redroot pigweed to our rabbits with no ill-effect.
What are a few of your favorite weeds to feed livestock? Share your tips in the section below:
I have not always been a homesteader. Most of my adulthood has been spent living a lifestyle far closer to what is generally considered mainstream — suburban home, food from the supermarket and central heat.
Nine years ago, my husband and I embarked upon the steepest learning curves in our lives. Even though our previous lives had involved a great deal of outdoor activities and total immersion in the natural world, our new roles as homesteaders taught us so many new things so intensely that we often felt as if we were on a curve so steep we might fall over backwards.
If I could roll back the calendar and give myself a few pieces of advice, I would be sure to include the following five major tips.
1. Infrastructure is everything.
Fencing, gates, bridges, corrals, barns, woodsheds, run-ins, calf pens, kidding stalls, hay feeders, chicken coops, raised bed gardens, cold frames, high tunnels, arbors, traditional garden beds, greenhouses — the list of structures that need to be in place for purposes specific to homesteading are mind-bogglingly endless. The property we purchased had very little infrastructure in place and needed a lot of building, repairing and retrofitting in order to suit our needs. But we didn’t let that stop us — we forged ahead, sending for garden seeds without having enough garden space ready and acquiring animals before having adequate year-round housing in place.
We were far more optimistic and energetic than we had any business being, which ended up being both a blessing and a curse. On the downside, viewing situations through rose-colored glasses in those early homesteading days caused us to cast aside far too many real concerns with casual nonchalance. We were sure “we could always build that permanent fence later” and “there was plenty of time to repair the woodshed roof before winter.” We ended up backing ourselves up against the wall in many cases when “later” steamrolled right over us and winter didn’t wait for the completion of roof repair.
It is far too easy to underestimate the time, energy, cost and potential roadblocks that often accompany infrastructure development. And when construction or repair takes place during the 11th hour — or even later — it can cause a lot of tension, and can even allow the roots of long-term discontent to take hold on the homestead.
On the other hand, optimism and energy are like superpowers. They carried us over rough patches, provided extra strength and courage when we needed it most, and helped us accomplish far more than we ever could have without them.
My advice to myself regarding infrastructure would be this: Stay ahead of it. If you get behind your infrastructure needs, you might never catch up.
2. Homesteading is so much work!
It won’t matter, we thought. The volume of work will be eclipsed by the fact that it is so rewarding and so personal and meaningful, we thought. The truth is, doing work you love and truly believe in really does make all the difference. And in our case, it made us able to do it. But at the end of the day, work is still work. If a homesteader works an off-farm job and then comes home to another 40 hours of work, it takes its toll on even the strongest and most resilient people.
Holidays, vacations or even sick days are hard to come by. Dairy cows have to be milked on Christmas morning, and tobacco hornworms will not take a break from destroying your tomatoes while you recover from knee surgery.
Here is my note to self: Do not underestimate the work required for homesteading. It will require very long hours of grueling, back-breaking, tedious, unrelenting hard labor. It will be worth it, but make no mistake. It will be tough.
3. Community is crucial.
I read a lot of books about homesteading before I started, from memoirs to manuals. One concept I ran across more than once in my reading was the impact of isolation upon homesteaders. I believed it, but I did not really get it. Not until I lived it myself. Spending long hours with nobody to talk to except cows and tomato seedlings sounds idyllic, and sometimes it is. But being completely on one’s own when a porcupine is entangled in the electric mesh fence or standing alone in a sweltering kitchen watching milk pasteurize for what feels like hours on end can make even the stoutest of homesteaders want to throw in the towel — and the canners and dung forks and milk buckets — and head back to the city.
It is loneliness, but it is more than just loneliness. It is the fact that there might not be many visitors — anyone who is willing to touch a homestead with a 10-foot pitchfork probably stays busy with a place of their own. It is the fact that while the rest of the world is weighing the merits of the latest hand-held device, you will be busy weighing the tiny newborn goat kid every day in hopes it will thrive. It is knowing that you are on your own, engaged in a lifestyle that most people cannot understand, with what sometimes feels like very little support from the outside world.
Age, accidents, sickness and disabilities are not friends of the homesteader. Neither is bad weather, predators and equipment breakdowns. My advice to my novice self is this: You will need real friends as a homesteader more than you ever needed them before. Relatives, neighbors, people from church, folks in the goat club — wherever they come from, make sure you and they are ready for the long haul.
4. Homesteading is not cheap.
Raising one’s own food rarely saves money. Sure, there are instances here and there where homesteaders save big. For example, I have paid a grand total of maybe $20 for garlic over a period of three or four years. I plant it every fall, purchase a few new varieties every once in a while, and use last year’s bulbs for seeds. And the eggs from my free-range chickens cost me almost nothing in summer.
But goat milk? Oh boy. When the occasional veterinarian visit and medications are factored in, and even a rare-but-crucial farm-sitting expense that allows us to show up at family weddings and funerals — and not to mention the time spent milking and sanitizing and feeding and shoveling if I paid myself even minimum wage! — that feta and chevre is worth its weight in gold.
Meat is expensive, too. Feed and upkeep cost a lot, especially in a northern climate where an animal’s grazing and foraging opportunities are limited for much of the year. And then there is the cost of processing, which can more than double the actual cost of raising the animal.
Even vegetables can be costly. By the time one buys seedlings or heats a greenhouse to start their own, builds raised beds, buys ground cover, invests in tools, and amends the soil, they might have done better to just go buy sweet peppers at the market.
If I could offer myself advice, I would say to go ahead and endeavor to raise as much of my own food as I could. Knowing it is organic, locally sourced, and humanely raised is everything. Just know this: It will probably cost almost as much to raise your own as it would to buy it at a big box store.
5. There’s no room for softies!
Keeping livestock is not for the faint of heart. Eating meat is harder when that steak or pork chop once had a face — a face you petted and fed every day for months. Even if you do not raise meat animals, there are still difficult decisions. Disbudding. Castrating. Medical intervention. Lying awake at night worrying about whether the animals will be safe in the hurricane or adequately protected from predators. And even selling is hard — waving goodbye to a beautiful goat kid and covering your ears while his mother and twin wail in anguish is rough on those of us with marshmallow hearts.
My advice to myself nine years ago would be this: Know that along with the love and tenderness that comes with sharing your life with farm animals, there will be bits of agony.
Nothing about homesteading is easy, but for many of us, it is worth it. My advice to myself or anyone is simply this: Know that you are doing the right thing, but go in with your eyes wide open, both feet on the ground, and bracing yourself for the ride of your life.
If you homestead, what advice would you have given yourself?
Autumn is filled with tons of chores for homesteaders: raking leaves, preparing the livestock for winter, and, of course, canning.
Canning is the time-tested method used by our great-grandparents and grandparents to extend the shelf life of food, and – if done properly – can form the core of an emergency stockpile. But if the right steps aren’t followed, the results can be disastrous … even deadly.
On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we examine seven common canning mistakes that nearly everyone makes. Our guest is Kendra Lynne, a homesteader and canning expert whose DVD, “At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond,” is one of the more popular tutorials for beginning canners.
Kendra, who also leads classes on canning, tells us:
- Which mistake is the most common – and also perhaps the most dangerous.
- Which types of foods should never, ever be canned.
- Which vegetables should be used with a water bath canner, and which ones with a pressure canner.
- Which mistakes can be easily corrected without buying any new equipment.
Finally, Kendra answers a much-debated question: How long will canned food really last? She also shares her best tips for storing canned foods.
If you’re a homesteader or just someone who enjoys canning, then this is one show you need to hear!
If you’re a homesteader, hunter or survivalist, then you may have seen videos or read how-to books about making a food plot in the woods – all requiring purchases that can run in the hundreds of dollars.
In this story, I’m going to tell you how to make your own food patch for free, nothing out of pocket.
For those of you just tuning into the subject of food plots, let’s talk about what exactly a food plot is. You might be thinking, “Don’t you mean garden?” Well, the answer is both yes and no. Food plots are meant as a lure to draw in certain game. From squirrels to game birds, a well-made food plot (depending on what you’ve planted or allowed to grow there) can make trapping and hunting a far easier endeavor.
However, study up on your local baiting and luring regulations to stay inside the law and avoid a monstrously hefty fine or possible jail time. Finding these regulations is as simple as searching “baiting and luring regulations for (your home state).”
There are three reasons that you would want a food plot.
- Luring – Luring simply means you either plant the seeds of plants and foliage that attract big and or small game, and in doing so you do away with the need to track in the future.
- Feeding — Feeding large game is a way to ensure that their numbers don’t drop suddenly.
- Wildlife watching — This is a great option if you have children or don’t have to worry about food, and simply want the enjoyment of wildlife.
Once you have the legal information on luring and/or feeding in your home state, then the next step is to get your food plot set up. Let’s line up the items that you will need.
- A clearing in a wooded area where large and/or small game are known to congregate.
- A strong or at least hole-free pair of working gloves. Get ready to get your hands dirty.
- Homemade compost. Foliage, potato peelings, orange peels, carrot tops, etc. (preferably non-acidic compost, as what you want to grow doesn’t like acidic soil).
Now you will need to clean up the area in which you plan to make your food patch. Make sure that your patch doesn’t have mushrooms growing in it, as this is a sign of acidic qualities.
Our goal is to create a food patch with red clover and chicory — two plants that many animals, including deer, simply love.
Remove any dead foliage littering the ground, such as leaves and the like. Once you’ve given it a good once-over, it’s time to dawn our gloves. Anything that is currently growing in your patch outside of red clover or chicory should be removed by the roots to prevent them from coming back any sooner than normal. Once you are positive that all plants and weeds inside of your food plot are removed, we can move on to the fun part — turning the soil. To encourage natural growth of the plants we want such as chicory or red clover (or any variations) you will need to disturb the soil.
If you prefer to do this part with your hands, then all the power to you! Personally, I find that a garden hoe works best. Remember not to go too crazy and slap into the soil, as most of the dormant seeds of red clover and chicory won’t lie further than 3-4 inches below the surface. Once your entire plot is nice and fluffed up, you can add to the effectiveness of this free method by adding a small layer of your compost over the soil and mixing it in.
If you are one of the fortunate individuals who knows where a patch of red clover or chicory grow naturally, then it would be in your best interest to wait for it to go to seed, grab yourself a few plastic sandwich bags, and collect as much as you possibly can. Spread the seeds out as evenly as you can in your food plot; this gives your soil a little nudge in the right direction and can save you some wait time.
You will need to return often to ensure no invasive species of weeds has moved into your beloved food plot.
Once your food patch is working well, you can return and begin setting snares for your small game along the edge of your patch, or if you’re abiding by the regulations on luring and feeding in your state, you can wait for a buck to stumble into the wonderful meal you’ve laid out for him.
Enjoy your food patch!
What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
Homesteaders and off-gridders often look to the past for wisdom, studying how those who came before us – that is, our ancestors — survived tough times without modern conveniences.
Many of them had no cars, computers, electricity or even running water, and yet they seemed to thrive when life got hard.
On this week’s edition of Off The Grid Radio we look to the past as we discuss six things our great-grandparents simply did better than us – six things that could make our modern-day lives better. Our guest is homesteading expert and writer Melissa K. Norris, the author of The Made From Scratch Life (Harvest House).
Melissa tells us:
- Where people during the Great Depression shopped – and why we need to rediscover this lost art.
- How our ancestors obtained material for clothes when they ran out of cloth.
- What our great-grandparents ate when times got tough – a lesson that our society desperately needs to learn.
- How the idea of “neighbor helping neighbor” kept people alive at the very moment they wanted to give up and quit.
Melissa also shares with us a few stories from her book, including the one about an heirloom seed strand that has lasted more than 100 years in her family! Don’t miss this week’s episode if you want to learn from our ancestors how to survive hard times!
If you are considering becoming a homesteader, you know the prospect can be pretty daunting. Among all the other questions and considerations which must be asked and evaluated—such as how it will impact employment, children, extended family, social involvement and finances—the concern about suitability for such a demanding lifestyle looms large.
Do I have what it takes to become a homesteader?
If you are asking yourself that question and wondering whether you and your resources and skill are a good fit for living a sustainable and independent lifestyle, read on for the five homesteader attributes I have found to be most important.
1. Intentionality. Homesteaders need to do what we do with a sense of purpose. It is not a lifestyle which one might just tumble into, and with the exception of being raised in that environment it is not likely to happen without intentionality.
Self-reliance may have been the default way of life in generations past, but society has shifted to a place where a person or family must step off the beaten track to follow the path of homesteading.
In order to make it work, homesteaders need to make a deliberate, focused choice. We need to do it like we mean it.
2. Commitment. A full-scale homesteading operation is not something you dabble in, like trying out audiobooks or a different brand of cordless drill. My dictionary lists synonyms for the word “commitment” as “dedicated, devotion and loyal.” Those are good words to keep in mind when entering into homesteading.
This is not to say that it is not possible to try before you buy. There are many ways to try out homesteading activities beforehand, from container crops on your back deck in the city to volunteering on existing farms.
I once knew a young woman who was in love with the idea of homesteading and accepted an apprenticeship on her dream farm. It was all she had thought it would be, but her loyalty lay elsewhere. She soon realized that she was more dedicated and committed to friends and fun in town than to raising crops and tending animals, and was not ready for the commitment that homesteading demands. Fortunately for all involved, the young woman who turned out to be in love with her social life was able to walk away with no hardship on anyone.
But when you do go into homesteading for real, go all in.
3. Optimism. When your livelihood is dependent upon the natural world, optimism is an absolute necessity. There is always next season to look forward to—more rain, a later fall frost, or the maple sap running better. Homesteaders live in perpetual surety that things would have been perfect, and will be next time, without that one unfortunate anomaly.
Homesteaders need to carry an eternal sense of optimism that makes us plant greens when there is still danger of snow, try our hand at cordwood masonry without any prior knowledge of the craft, and let the six-year-old milk the cow. And we need to pick ourselves up and keep moving forward when things don’t work out quite as planned.
Without this glass-half-full outlook on life, the looming possibilities of hurricanes, Japanese beetles, sick lambs, Lyme disease, broken fences and chimney fires would be too much, and we would decide to move back to the city at the first sign of trouble.
4. Courage. Things can get scary on occasion. Most of us were raised in a very different way—food came from the grocery store and farmers’ market, heat materialized from the nudge of the thermostat, lights popped on and off with the flip of a switch, and water ran hot and cold out of the faucet. Sources for some or all of these amenities are different on the homestead, and many come with at least some level of inherent risk, either real or perceived.
Kids in the city don’t have to sneak past the butty goat buck on the path to their favorite fishing hole, and urban moms don’t leave their bread-making to go shoo cows out of the flower garden or deal with snakes between them and morning chores. Homesteaders handle it all, from inclement weather to grouchy 1,100-pound animals to long walks down a wilderness road to rats in the grain bin.
5. Support. Homesteading is tough single-handed. A single person or couple will face a lot of challenges on their own. Extended family, friends, like-minded neighbors, church community or farm partners make all the difference. Let me say that again for emphasis: all the difference. I will not go so far as to say one or two individuals cannot thrive in a completely isolated homesteading endeavor, and I am certain it has been accomplished many times over. But I will say that it is a hard row to hoe, and lack of support will make it all that much more difficult to create and maintain the first four characteristics.
When my husband badly injured his hand while building raised beds for spring planting, our entire season of homesteading was hugely impacted. Garden beds, getting vegetables in the ground, building and installing trellises and cages, fencing, haying, and firewood processing—not getting it done then meant not having the results later.
My time and focus went to caring for him first, and then having to pick up his tasks on top of my own. At one of our busiest times of the year, it was too much. Without family and friends who came alongside us and freely gave of their time and skills and even money—planting and building and shoveling and mowing and chain-sawing and splitting and cleaning and animal-tending—we could have been done for.
If you are feeling a bit skittish about homesteading after reading this list of important traits, do not worry. Nobody possesses all of these all the time. Nobody. But what we all aspire to have is as many of them as we can, as much as we can, as often as we can.
Attributes can be built and learned, and the five on this list tend to feed off one another. Support builds courage, courage solidifies commitment, and optimism enhances intentionality. The needs for these traits vary greatly. In some situations, homesteaders need all the optimism they can muster and get by with only minimal support. Other times, courage and commitment are the fingers in the dam.
The biggest takeaway is that if you want to build enough of these traits in yourself to succeed at homesteading, you can. You will have to work harder at some on this list than others do, and that is perfectly acceptable and is to be expected.
Homesteading is not for the faint of heart, but it is worth the journey. Develop these five traits along the way, and you will come to realize that you have always had what it takes.
What traits would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:
“You’re like a closet prepper!” an associate exclaimed to me during a recent conversation. After considering her words awhile, I’m ready to admit that, yes, I am a closet prepper.
Those of us who homestead do not necessarily consider ourselves to be preparedness experts, but the natural result of living on a functional homestead means we are more prepared to meet unexpected challenges and crises than a majority of our neighbors. Homesteaders in ages past were the original preparedness experts and following their example, modern-day homesteaders are some of the most prepared.
But first, what is a prepper? A prepper is one who has made preparations to provide for his or her own immediate needs during a crisis situation – whether that be a natural disaster, man-made crisis or a job loss. Clean water, nourishing foods and a secure shelter – those are all a part of the prepper’s plan. Most plans include stockpiling. Preppers also gather other essential goods, such as medicines, fuel for a variety of heat sources and physical money.
Recent terrorist attacks remind us that we are not immune and that disaster could strike at any time and without any warning. The day may come when we face a tragedy that includes the loss of a major portion of the power grid, our transportation system or even our food supplies. We are certainly not exempt from the effects of an ever-turbulent weather forecast. One major volcano, such as happened during the summer of 1816, would disrupt much of the food supply and cause unrest in the general population. Prepping is simply common sense.
So, what type of prepper are you?
1. The closet prepper
Bucking up against those who mock at the preppers, closet preppers quietly begin implementing a plan to prepare themselves for handling a crisis. A closet prepper may have a small stockpile of six weeks to three months’ worth of food stored in portable containers under the bed, or in an out-of-the-way closet, or even stored off-site. Maybe they have a small flock of chickens for fun or for eggs. A few patio containers may contain a handful of herbs grown for use in making herbal teas or poultices. The closet prepper also will find ways to unobtrusively integrate preparedness standards into the landscape, such as decorative barrels for water collection.
2. The backyard prepper
For a majority of people, the backyard prepper is the safe middle ground between ignoring the real need for emergency preparedness and the extreme survivalists shown on reality television shows. Backyard preppers may have a nice stockpile of food, often six months to one year’s worth, in addition to growing a garden or raising poultry for meat and eggs. They also may invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind.
Both potable and non-potable water collection and filtering systems may be seamlessly integrated into the home, giving the homeowners access to clean water no matter the circumstance. For some, this level of preparedness comes naturally through daily living; however, many of today’s young adults are unaccustomed to this way of living and think that the transition to a more self-sufficient lifestyle is wholly unnecessary.
3. The bunker prepper
Many of us know one person who is forever speaking about how no one is going to make it when the next catastrophe strikes. Although this attitude is not always held by bunker prepper, this level of detailed preparation does require a commitment of time and resources that is sure to stand out in the crowd of closet and backyard preppers. The bunker prepper not only has a fully stocked pantry, including medicines, physical money and other items of value for bartering with, but even may store this stockpile in various locations to ensure availability. If food becomes scarce, the bunker prepper has field guides to refer to and has also foraging knowledge that allows him or her to glean edibles from the surrounding areas. An alternate location for sheltering off the grid is usually secured for this level of preparedness. This location may have easy access to water and forgeable plant life, while being protected from outside intrusions.
No matter what type of prepper you most identify with, each one has recognized the great need to prepare for whatever we may face tomorrow. Planning for emergencies, whether natural or national, is the best course of action for any one person to take.
What type are you? What would you add to this story? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Knowledge on canning non-acidic foods is invaluable to the modern homesteader. Knowing that these canned items will rest safely on the shelves of your storage room or pantry – and be edible when you need them – can give you peace of mind.
What Is Non-Acidic Food?
Non-acid foods do not contain acids like tomatoes do, and they are not canned with vinegar. As stated by the Ball website, non-acidic foods need to process at a temperature of 240 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that no fungus grows within the jars.
Non-acidic foods also need to be pressure canned. Unlike non-acidic foods, acidic foods only need to be put into boiling water for a set amount of time. Examples of non-acidic foods include meats, soups and vegetables such as carrots, peas or asparagus.
Materials Needed to Can Non-Acidic Foods
Pressure canning non-acidic foods requires you to have a few items:
- Pressure canner.
- (Make sure there aren’t any indents, scratches, rust, etc., on the bands.)
- (Make sure that there aren’t any scratches or tears on the seals.)
- Clean glass jars.
- Jar lifter (optional).
- Head space measurer (optional).
- Long thin spoon.
- Recipe from a safe canning book such as a Ball book.
How to Pressure Can Non-Acidic Foods
1. The first step to pressure canning is ensuring that the glass jars, bands and lids are cleaned with hot soapy water. Also, make sure that they don’t have any nicks or cracks.
2. Put the jars in hot water until needed. This ensures that when you put the food into the jars and put the jars into the water, they don’t crack.
3. Get the pressure canner and add two to three inches of water into it. Bring and keep the water at a simmer until the cans are ready to be put in.
4. Prep the food that you are putting into the jars. This depends on what your recipe says.
5. Remove the jars from the hot water, and add the food. Make sure the correct headspace is achieved as in the recipe you are using. Take out air bubbles with the spoon or headspace tool.
6. Clean the rims of the jars with a clean moist rag to wipe off all of the junk that could prevent a proper seal.
7. Add the seals and then the bands. Tighten until fingertip tight.
8. Put jars in the pressure canner.
9. Lock the pressure canner and open the vent pipe. Leave the heat on medium to high heat and let it blow steam for 10 minutes to ensure that there isn’t any air in the pressure canner.
10. Close the vent pipe by whatever means is appropriate for your own canner. Allow the pressure to build up to where you need it and then keep it at whatever your recipe calls for by adjusting the heat.
11. When it has finished after the amount of time needed for your recipe, take the jars out of the canner using the jar lifter, if you have one.
12. Put them on a towel or on the stove.
13. Leave them alone for a day to ensure proper sealing.
14. Lastly, check the seals to ensure that they have been properly sealed. You should be able to press on the top and it should not move up and down. Also, try to pry off the seal, gently. If you cannot pull it off and it does not move up or down, then you have a perfect seal. If there is a jar that did not seal, then put it in your fridge and eat it soon. As for the sealed jars, put them in a cool and dark place, label them, and leave them there for as long as they stay good (check the jars every year to ensure they are still sealed and suitable for consumption).
Why You Need to Be Careful
It is critical to ensure that the cans of food are properly pressure canned during the processing. Without proper sealing, mold can grow in it, and one could be Clostridium botulinum. This is a very dangerous mold that can paralyze and kill you. Following these directions will ensure that you have a safe and fruitful canning experience each time!
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