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Letters and email from readers about Backwoods Home Magazine and the BHM website


Archive for the ‘Jackie Clay’ Category


Jackie Clay-Atkinson

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I have just discovered Backwoods Home and am thoroughly sold on this magazine. The articles by Jackie Clay-Atkinson are wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about them. They are clear, concise, down-to-earth, sensible solutions and information for those of us with some experience and newbies alike! I have gained more usable information from them than many books contain.

I will be subscribing to your magazine and plan on giving 2 gift subscriptions…one to our public library and one to my daughter.

Thanks so much!



Calf-raising article

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012
Your article about calf raising was very helpful.
Thank you so much.


Thursday, November 10th, 2011

RE: Put your garden to bed for the winter By Jackie Clay

I planted my first (personal) garden this year. (I grew up with a family garden). And I was a bit unsure how to proceed at the end of the growing season.

I just read the above listed article and it was very enlightening, a good, fun, easy read, and very helpful.

Thank you for posting it. And, if possible, please thank the author, Ms. Clay.

Many thanks!

Briana Rae


Jackie Clay’s canning article

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Hello and thank you for the wonderful article Canning 101. I agree with everything you have written in this article.

My wife and I have been canning for 45 years now and passed this procedure along to both our children (boy & girl).  We also can year round, venison or moose (when I’m lucky) chili, and stew.  One of my favorites is canning venison with just 1 teaspoon of salt nothing else added.  This makes a great meal over rice, noodles or bread as the canned venison turns out like it is in gravy.

Thanks again.

Jerry Lynch


Canning 101

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

Dear Editor,

Truly appreciated Jackie Clay’s article on canning.

The article was informative, personable, approachable and inspiring.

All in all  fun to read.

Thanks to both you and Jackie


Koa Lavery


Articles in the recently issued magazine

Friday, March 4th, 2011


Thank you for the articles on the Morels and Propagating Plants. The scope and details (including pictures) in these articles is exactly what was on my “to do” search list.

Please consider an article on how to find ginseng? Other people, who have since moved on, have had our permission to harvest morels and ginseng on our property. With full retirement around the corner, we are interested in both activities.

Again, thanks.

Alice Riffle
A subscriber for many years



Monday, January 31st, 2011

I first ran across BHM’s website several years ago when, sick to death of the city, I started dreaming of just running away. Needless to say, it didn’t happen (but then, military deserting isn’t my style). But, I went on and on about the magazine, and I confess my husband did think me quite daffy… until I made him read it. We’ve been hooked ever since; I even take along an anthology or two on car trips, because if I’m not driving, I’m reading them aloud (and my 2-year-old always wants “another one”, so rest assured you’re getting an early start on him!). Both of our families have done their share of living off the land, and we’ve been “studying up” to do some of it ourselves.

Now, we’re just 3 weeks from moving “back home” to rural AL, purchasing property from my grandmother that my family has owned for generations, and all of the BHM anthologies (and the subsequent self-reliance library that I’ve grown from the recommendations thereof) have their own boxes, which are in the “pack last / open first” group. The more I read, the more impatient I am to get to it!

I do want to thank you all, though, for making this more than a self-reliance magazine. I’ve read through several (most of which I learned of through you, anyway), but they’re cut and dried… Your staff has a personality (and a large dose of sarcasm seems to be a prerequisite) that makes the articles both informative and entertaining–now you’re doing double duty! Still, the more I read, the more I get to know all of you, and the more I want to read more. Though we’re definitely cutting back lately, this subscription is in no danger of getting dropped, ever.


(p.s. Tell Jackie that since I’ve learned to can from her, she should finish up the next book so I have more ideas for how to use it!)


Praise for Jackie Clay’s books

Thursday, January 13th, 2011


I must write to tell you how much I have enjoyed Jackie Clay’s books.

I just finished reading “Starting Over.” It is a wonderful read, very entertaining but also very educational. On every other page or so, I learned something new. She didn’t just write that some project was accomplished, she explained how it was done, in detail! I expected to enjoy reading about her life and how her homestead unfolded. I never expected to learn so much or be so encouraged by her words.

I also just finished reading the Self Reliance book “Recession Proof Your Pantry“. I thought I knew about all there was to know on the subject, and still learned more. The same with “Growing and Canning Your Own Food.”  I would recommend all of these books to anyone interested in homesteading and self reliance.

“Starting Over” should be required reading for any woman attempting to homestead (or farm) on her own.

Thank you to Backwoods Home and to Jackie Clay,

Mary Hartsock


Grain insects

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Dear Backwoods Home,

I’m not writing to be critical, I just want to correct some misinformation provided in Jackie Clay’s “Ask Jackie” section in the Jan/Feb 2011 Backwoods Home magazine.

Jackie refers to grain weevils as “pantry moths” and suggests putting out pantry moth traps as a control method. Weevils are beetles. Moth traps are based on a sex pheromone and no moth pheromone is going to attract a beetle.

There are at least three weevils, five other beetles, and two moth species that infest grain and pheromones are species specific (that’s their purpose — to attract a mate). Putting out a pheromone trap for Indian meal moths is not going to catch any Angoumois grain moths, for instance. Also, pheromone traps only attract and capture male moths (and they are not 100% effective), and one male can mate with more than one female, so trapping males will not stop egg laying but is a useful monitoring tool.

If someone has an insect infestation in their grain, they can take specimens to their local cooperative extension agent who can identify them and give control advice specific for that species. The advice will probably involve sanitation, tight fitting screw top lids, and freezing.

I’m not faulting Jackie; it’s unclear to me how she does all she does and still finds time to contribute so much to Backwoods Home. Maybe she doesn’t need any sleep!!!


Juli Gould

Interesting knowledge! There’s always something new to learn, no matter how “much you do know”!!! I’ve always had luck with the pantry moth traps, and of course, cleaning up all infested cereal and flour products. And I’ve been lucky, I guess, not to have had any “bugs” in my stored food, other than weevils or pantry moth larvae. Pre-freezing stored flours and grains is always a good idea and is especially good if you have had a problem.

And, yes, I DO sleep. That’s what I do in my spare time.



Jackie Clay – food storage

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I enjoyed Jackie Clay’s article about long-term storage of food. One  small suggestion I’d like to add: we live in an area with the  possibility of earthquake. My husband nailed strips of 1 x 2″ “rails”  about 2 or 3″ above the bottom of about half of our shelves (the ones  with my bottles of canned fruits/vegetables) to keep them more secure if  an earthquake hits. There is still room above the “rail” to access the  bottles, but will hopefully keep them from crashing off the shelves. Thanks.



Bottle-raise a calf, by Jackie Clay

Friday, October 29th, 2010

I am a new subscriber & with my subscription I received a copy of the November/December 2009 issue. I was glad to see an article, Bottle-raise a calf, by Jackie Clay to help those that might be interested in owning a family milk cow & raising it from a calf. There are a lot of benefits to this act. But I really think that this article is “old school” & would be what some county extension services would tell you too. It just doesn’t take into account the new genetics we have today in our cattle and the research done by the dairy industry & universities on raising calves to reach their full potential. Our own local extension service still thinks sexed semen for artificial insemination is brand new, but it’s been available since the late 1990’s. Some of the information in the article is wrong or just left out. That’s why I felt that it is important to get this information to your readers for them to draw from.

My parents began dairy farming when I was 8 years old. We started our farm by buying 30 registered Holstein baby heifer calves & some weaned calves too. Being the oldest child, feeding the calves became my before & after school job. A year later, I started showing some of our Holsteins at several fairs a year. When I went to college, the job followed me. I was raising the babies & weaned calves for the college owned dairy farm. I am now 36 years old & still raising the baby calves.

First, the Jersey breed is great, but the article left out some very critical information; Jersey baby calves require either Jersey cow milk or milk replacer formulated for Jersey calves. They require higher butterfat milk & protein than the other breeds. Feed any other milk replacer and they will develop diarrhea & dehydration from starvation, which no medicine will take care of & eventually the calf or calves will die an unneeded death.

Second, a Jersey cow can produce as much milk as a Holstein (100 lbs. per day), so be prepared to make butter, cheese, give it away, sell it, or get another calf or two to feed the leftover milk. Most of the time this will take up to the 2nd or 3rd lactation for any breed to reach that much in milk production.

When buying a heifer for a family milk cow, you should go directly to the farm to buy your calves & not the auction. You’re asking for trouble if you go to the auction barn to purchase something this important. The farmer is your greatest source of information to help you choose a calf. He will know when the calf was born, out of which cow, & bull; plus know their pedigrees & traits, so you don’t end up with a calf out of a long line of cows with ADHD. Trust me it’s possible. How the calf is built is important too. The calf should walk squarely, have a wide rump, & should seem to be walking high up on its hooves. This will ensure longevity in your cow & ease of calving.

When you get the calf at home, you should know when the calf was last fed. Feedings should be every 12 hours. If you had to travel a great distance & the calf is about 1-2 weeks old, you may want to feed it 3/4 of a 2-quart bottle then a full bottle 12 hours after then & on. If the calf is older, feed it normally. If they are newborns, feed 1 quart every 8 hours for 2 days. If you only went a short distance, you can feed it normally. Also make sure that they have feed available as soon as you get them at their new home. Hay or grass is not necessary until they reach 3-4 weeks old.

A calf should never act like they are starving or you will end up with problems, like diarrhea & dehydration. I have had a few calves that had a high metabolism and needed extra feedings because they were not getting enough in the 4 quarts of milk a day.

At 1 week of age they were getting 6 quarts of milk a day spread out into 3 feedings to keep their blood sugars up. Before doing this they would be lethargic within 2 hours of their feeding time. After tests were run we found that their blood sugars were very low. It’s important to watch the calves feces after bring them home & when increasing their milk intake. All calves should be eating grain between 3-7 days of age & hay or grass shouldn’t be introduced until the calf has been eating grain for 2-3 weeks. Some will develop a liking to hay & quit eating their grain. Hay alone can damage the lining of a young calf’s stomach if introduced too early or too much, which leads to a bad case of diarrhea that takes a long time to heal. Do not offer water until the calf is 2 weeks of age unless the outside temperatures are 90 degrees or higher, if they are older have water available all the time. Keep Pepto on hand at all times to soothe any signs of loose stool caused by upset stomach. Just add it to their milk or water with electrolytes. Do not jump to giving injectable antibiotics unless coughing or a temperature of 103.5 or above is accruing or the diarrhea has had no change in 3-4 days. (Normal temperature is 101.5 – 102). There are some great oral antibiotics, just ask your vet. The ones from feed stores are not the greatest & are more expensive. There are also stool thickeners that are awesome; an example is Deliver. I have all calves drinking their milk (2 quarts per feeding) from a bucket at 5-10 days old. This makes feeding easier; they will eat feed better, easier to sanitize their bucket between feedings, makes it easier to feed a larger volume of milk & less likely to have problems with them trying to nurse each other when weaned. I increase their milk intake to 5 quarts a day at about 3-4 weeks if no problems have incurred. By the time they are 6-7 weeks they are getting 6 quarts a day.

Weaning for heifer calves shouldn’t be before 16 weeks of age. Any sooner and you’ll delay the growth of the heifer. At 15 weeks of age, I give them 1 feeding of milk and extra fresh water at the other normal feeding time. Sixteen weeks of age is not set in stone. We have fed a calf up to 20 weeks or till the weather was nicer before turning them out into the open field. Weaning a heifer at 16 weeks old means you will have a larger calf then those weaned at 7 weeks. Take into consideration when beef farmers wean the calves off the cow. It’s a lot longer than even 18 weeks. The growth is so noticeable that at 13 to 14 months of age you can go ahead and breed that heifer. She will then calve at 2 years of age & give you 1 full year of milk before the early weaned heifer listed in your article has even been bred. You may have fed her another bag or two of milk replacer but you have gotten that bigger bodied heifer that will milk a year earlier; see the benefit. And let me stress, a calf should never act like it is starving! Yes, it should be acting like it’s hungry close to its feeding time, but the remaining time it should be content & happy.

It might seem that I have really nit-picked your article, but this is something that I am passionate about & want other people to succeed. I know you  do too or you wouldn’t have started this magazine & published so many books. I really enjoy the magazine & it serves a great need. So keep up the good work!

Michelle Patterson
Fair Grove, Missouri


Glad to hear you’re a new subscriber and that you have so much information on raising calves. Let me tell you about my calf-raising experience, so you’ll know where I’m coming from. First, I’m a veterinary field technician, with over 20 years work with veterinarians, largely on dairy farms. Second, I milked a herd of Jersey, Guernsey, and Milking Shorthorns myself for over 10 years, raising all the baby calves by hand. I also have been buying, raising, and selling calves for over 40 years, both dairy breeds and beef crosses. Sometimes I only have four or five; at other times, I’ve had twenty or more at one time.

Okay, to your comments: I’ve raised a lot of Jersey calves on both goat milk and good quality calf milk replacer. I’ve had no problem with scouring because they weren’t fed Jersey milk replacer. But then, up until recently, there WAS no Cow’s Match by Land O’Lakes, only regular milk replacer. I NEVER buy the cheap milk replacer with soy base–you’re asking for scours.

Yes, while a Jersey cow CAN produce 100 pounds of milk a day, few grade, “common” Jerseys make that (mine milked about 45 pounds a day). Nor would I want a 100 pound Jersey cow on my homestead. They might be fine for commercial dairies, but they are very prone to milk fever and early breakdown because of such a huge milk production. I, personally, don’t need a 100 pound cow on my place. We don’t need that much milk and pulling on teats as long as it takes to get over 12 gallons of milk twice a day would kill me! (Not to mention trying to get a friend to take over milking chores for even a day!)

I agree, and said in my article, that you should buy calves from a farm, if at all possible. But in some instances, it is just not possible, within reality, to FIND a farm with calves to sell. We didn’t think about that when we started buying calves on our new homestead, but after 6 months of asking around, we couldn’t find baby calves ANYWHERE within 150 miles! So we bought four at an auction And, yes, we had scours, which we treated; calves are all now 800 pounds. Finally, we found a farmer only 70 miles away, from whom we now buy our calves.

On page 52, I mentioned asking when the calf was last fed, then go on to give feeding tips. Mine are similar to yours.

I never said a calf should act like it was starving. I mentioned this on page 53, after saying it was while giving only one quart, 3 times a day just when the calf gets home, to get it over stress of hauling, then increase to 2 quarts a feeding, twice a day thereafter. You’d be surprised at how much this tip decreases the chances of that calf scouring. Stress often kills new bottle calves.

I’ve never had a calf eat grain at 3 days old. Maybe they’ll slobber some around when you stick your hand, with grain in it, in their mouth, but eat, eat it? Nope. Sometimes after a week a few will give it a nibble, few calves really eat grain till 2 weeks or even later, even when encouraged. And I’ve NEVER seen a calf that would stop eating grain because he/she was eating hay or grass. If a calf is getting enough milk replacer and grain, it won’t eat much hay at first. (What about beef calves out on pasture? They start eating grass right away with their mothers.) I know it’s “old school,” but I firmly believe that having calves eat grain, hay, and grass early on develops their rumen, making them larger consumers early on, so they’ll go on to grow meat and make milk later on.

I disagree with the Pepto in the milk when there are signs of scouring beginning. I’ve tried that, but found that STOPPING milk right away, substituting oral electrolytes with gel works much better. Giving doses of oral Kaolin-pectin is more effective in between feedings, as you are dosing on an empty stomach and gut.

I also advised talking to your vet if your calf runs a temperature and see what antibiotics they recommend.

I disagree about having calves drink milk replacer from a pail. Sorry. By drinking with their heads elevated in a normal nursing mode, the milk goes more easily into the right stomach and the calf is much less prone to gulping the milk down. The milk replacer also tends to settle out a bit from the time you mix it and get to the barn to feed. With the bottle, you not only can shake it up just before feeding, but as the bottle is held “upside down,” the heavier solids are mixed back up as the calf drinks.

Yes, you can increase the milk as the calf gets older, if you wish. But that’s a personal preference. By that time, the calf should be eating grain well, and the extra milk is not necessary for good growth. And the extra milk IS expensive to the average homesteader. Beef cows nurse their calves all summer, but many beef calves don’t get grain either, on range conditions.

Yes, that 15 weeks of bottle feeding will grow a nice big heifer, but I’m very set against breeding a 13 month old heifer, just to get her milking sooner. I know many commercial dairies do just that, but I’ve helped pull a lot of calves from those 2-year-old heifers. Just because you get another few months of milk from a cow isn’t always the best for her future in the milk string. I’d rather wait awhile and keep them around for a long, long time.

Sorry that you picked up on the word “starving.” Perhaps that was a poor choice of words on my part, but when the calves are butting the bottle while they drink and jumping back and forth, I think they look “starving.” To another person, they would just look “hungry.” All of my animals are fat and shining and none of them is remotely “starving!” If you feed a calf 2 quarts of good milk replacer twice a day, plus a good quality calf grain and fresh legume/grass hay, they will never starve.

Sorry, too, that we disagree on several things. But remember that there is more than one way to accomplish the same thing; some work best for some people–others work for other people. I wrote the article from my own experience and from helping treat hundreds of sick calves for others.



Acorn article ‘Harvesting the Wild’

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Hi there.

I wanted to let you know that I absolutely LOVED the article by Jackie Clay on acorns. It is the most thorough piece I’ve found on acorns! I am now so psyched about my ‘volunteer’ oak tree and can’t wait to leach.  ;)

So happy I happened upon your website. I’m looking forward to exploring it more!

North Hollywood, CA


New issue

Monday, June 21st, 2010

I just got my new issue of BHM and I noticed several nasty letters canceling subscriptions because of right wing thinking. Keep up the right wing thinking! If anything, you are not right enough! I have been a subscriber for years, have most of the anthologies, several of your books and all of my back issues. I love Jackie! She is my absolute favorite. My sister, Linda, who is also a subscriber, and I often talk about Jackie’s articles.

My husband and I moved back to our home in Tennessee a little over a year ago, having moved to Illinois approximately 8 years prior for fortune not fame. Unfortunately, there was not much fortune to be had there either. Ha! Ha!

We are trying diligently to get as prepared as we can for whatever is coming without going completely nuts. Most of our friends and family think we are crazy. I am sure there are more of “us” in the area, we just haven’t talked to many yet.


Virginia Weathers


Great Article

Monday, May 24th, 2010


I found your website while taking a break from planting corn.

The article “Grow Open Pollinated Seeds for Self-Reliant Gardening” by Jackie Clay is excellent!!

I’ve read hundreds of pages on the net about gardening and this is probably the most helpful I’ve seen.

I just wanted to let Jackie know and to say thank you very much for posting it. I’ll be reading more of your articles on my next break.

Patty Wisniewski



Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

I enjoyed the piece on grafting very much. It brought back memories long forgotten.

When I was a freshman in high school a part of my curriculum was “Agriculture”, for want of a better term. We had a general class on grafting and which plants were in what family. After this lesson I went home and, without informing anyone, grafted a yellow running rose to one of Mother’s peach trees. Needless to say, it took and everything went smoothly until the graft began to bloom. After the “investigation”, my britches got dusted, but the rose remained until the tree died some years later. Oh, I used twine and candle wax to bind and waterproof my graft.

Use as you see fit.

Johnny H. Frost


Jackie Clay’s New Book

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

I really love Jackie’s new book. As a matter of fact, I’m soaking beans right now to can as ham & bean soup. I am also going to can beans because most of mine are pretty old. Then I can get new ones as soon as we use up the ones we have.

Thank her for me, would you please?



Jackie Clay’s cabin add-on article

Monday, November 30th, 2009

I appreciated Jackie Clay’s Building an Addition Onto Our Log Cabin article [Nov/Dec, 2009] as that is just what my wife and I intend to do next spring.

My main question in the process, however, was not addressed:  How do you attach new framing to an existing log structure?  I mean, lag screws or bolts, sure, but how do you adapt the shape of the wavy log profile to the straight shape of the new framing?  What kind of weatherproofing at that joint?

Thanks for any help.

Joseph Yon
Kila, MT

A slot was cut through the face of the logs’ profile to receive the dimension lumber. We fit the “store” lumber into the slot, caulking on the underside and both sides.  The inside and outside sheathing also slides into that slot.

When we put log siding on the outside, we’ll notch the logs to receive a tenon cut into the log siding end, which will also be caulked well to prevent air infiltration.

Hope this answers your question.

Jackie Clay


Article Correction Needed

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Dear Editor,

In the article, With commonsense planning, you can survive hard times,  under SALT you state that iodized salt is used for canning pickles and meat preservation. NON-IODIZED salt is used. This needs to be corrected immediately before you kill somebody.


Dinah M.
Certified Home Canner


This is a typo and should read “non-iodized salt”. However, using iodized salt will not kill anyone.

The reason you don’t use iodized salt in pickling is that when combined with certain natural occurring minerals in some water, it can darken your pickles.

Most table salt used in the US is iodized and it has been strongly recommended that consumers USE iodized salt as it combats iodine deficiency possible in some areas of the country.

Used in such minute amounts, it certainly won’t poison anyone. I use iodized salt in most of my canning and have for decades.

Jackie (and still alive!)


Jackie Clay’s new book

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

The new gardening and canning book by Jackie Clay is absolutely top-notch!

It’s practical, understandable even by newbies, and very comprehensive.

Thanks SO MUCH!!!

J Millhorn
Plano, Texas


Jackie’s new book

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Dear Jackie:

I want to congratulate you for another wonderful book!

Your gardening/canning book is the best I’ve ever read. It is really nice to be able to go in find the vegetable or fruit, and have recipes and growing information at your fingertips! Also, I loved the little tidbits of family information you tucked in here and there.  It made me feel a part of your family!

Thank you so very much for all the help you have passed on to us, your hungry-for-information-and-future country living people.

God bless you and your family, especially your sick Mother.

I hope she gets well soon.

Donna J Miller
Tucson, AZ



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