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Behind the Barn with Farmer John

Published: September 13, 2010 6:50 AM


Dear Farmer John, I have two pumpkin tips for you and your wonderful readers. I have never written but thought it was time to do so. First, I keep pumpkins from fall till spring and here are a few tips to keep your pumpkins longer. Smaller ones keep up to 8 months and this year, I still have one from last fall. It is still sound with no bad spots. I have never heard of one kept almost a year have you? Anyway the tips: Keep 4-6 inch stems on the ones you store and never pick one up by stem nor keep one that has been dropped or that has a soft skin. I pack cotton pillow cases with dry straw and store pumpkins on these in a cool room (mine is an unheated bedroom). 

Pumpkins touched by frost or pumpkins fertilized during growing season will not keep as well. I also let my pumpkins cure for a day in the fall after they are cut from vine, then wipe with a damp cloth of a solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach to a pint of water. Dry and store. It works for me and I hope others find it helpful for them. The pumpkins that are not right for storage we can or carve for Halloween. One of the carvings my children like is to carve their name in the pumpkin and use a flashlight in it instead of a candle to make it last longer. Enjoy your column. Mary In Sugarcreek

Dear Mary, Thank you so much for writing and sharing some great tips … No, I can honestly say I have never heard of a pumpkin keeping a year … but I have heard of squash and gourds keeping that long. 


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Dear Farmer John, I wonder if you could give me the dimensions of a bird house just for wrens? I don’t want sparrows but just wrens, so I would like the hole size I need for the entrance. Thank you, we never miss your column. TF, Cambridge

Dear TF, The distance of the entrance from the ground is also important for wrens. 

The inside of the house should be four and a half inches by five and a half. It should have an inch hole for the entrance, and the entrance should be eight feet or more off the ground. The house should be tall enough to allow the entrance hole to be 7-9 inches from the inside floor. Good luck and if you get hooked on making birdhouses a chickadee house is similar, just make interior three and a half by four and a half and entrance hole one and an eighth inch … rest is the same. 


From a Reader Friend in Barnesville … Tips for losing fat

Eating healthy may let you lose up to twice as much as if you were on a deprivation diet.

Steam or bake those veggies or lean protein instead of frying …

When you get stressed the body produces a hormone that tells the body to store fat cells, so dampen appetite, cravings and increase metabolism by eating 2 to 3 ounces of egg, fish, poultry, meat, tofu or nuts every three hours … and avoid stress ….

Also, cuddling, hand holding and hugs will cut down the stress hormones.

When your body hollers feed me … jump up and do some odd jobs for 10-15 minutes … it will help cut down appetite … then drink a glass of water.

(Hey, I love the cuddling and hand holding part, thank you for sharing … FJ)


Dear Farmer John, I hope this note finds you well and staying cool in this hot weather. Here is a cookie recipe for people who have a partial cake or some unwanted cookies left in the pantry. 

I call the recipe the Re-useable Cookie: Crumble up two cups of left over cookies or cake, beat an egg and add to 1/2 cup of milk. Then pour over the crumbs, then cream a 1/4 cup vegetable oil, a 1/3 cup peanut butter, and a 1/2 cup brown sugar. 

Sift 1 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder and a 1/8 teaspoon soda and mix all ingredients together. If you like raisins or nuts, you can add some before dropping on a greased cookie sheet and baking at 350 till done. I assure you these won’t have leftovers. A friend in Fostoria

Dear Friend, Thank you and I will try your recipe. They sound delicious. 


Dear Farmer John, I enjoy your advice in the paper and usually read it as soon as we get it. I have a question, when is time to dig potatoes before the plants are completely dead or wait till they are all dried up? M from Millersburg

Dear Reader M, I always miss hills when I let them dry up too much, some like to wait to get every bit of growth possible, but the amazing fact is once potato vine leaves dry, there is very little growth. 

So do it while vines are still green, but most leaves are dried.


Dear Farmer John, I have four elm trees on my property. One was a 12-inch diameter tree. It just up and died. Do you know what caused it to die and how do I protect the other three trees. Thanks CN of Senecaville

Dear CN, It is likely elm disease/blight, and not much you can do for others. They may last 10 more years, or die suddenly. It is going the path of the American Chestnut and now the Ash tree, even some areas are having a problem with the walnut trees. I would replace with heartier shade trees or fruit trees if you have a favorite you would like. One fast growing shade tree is the ornamental pear. Sorry I couldn’t have better news for you.


Easy rice pudding from DW of Martins Ferry

Just take a baking casserole dish, put 1-1/2 pints milk, 1/2 teacup rice, sugar, nutmeg and salt to taste. Bake in oven at 250 degrees for four hours or till rice tender. My husband likes it with a little cinnamon too, and with cold milk when cool.


Dear Farmer John, I have lived in Barberton all my life, raised three wonderful children, baked and cooked all my life, and I know in hot weather we must watch potato salad or it will turn bad and make us sick, but what in it turns bad? I get a letter from my sister in law each week with your column, as does my other sister. I always look forward to that letter. God Bless you and your readers! Kerri, Barberton, Ohio

Dear Kerri, Well God bless your sister in law and you sisters too. It is the eggs. A reader I know got ill because they left out the eggs and thought the salad would not turn bad, but eggs were in the salad dressing or mayonnaise they used … so several got upset tummies. Fortunately not worse. With the egg scare now, I remember eating mom’s raw pumpkin pie filling with raw eggs, never got sick once … I really don’t understand how they screw up the eggs now, but no more raw pumpkin pie filling for me. 


Have a great week, and if you have some recipe or tip to share with us, a question or need a hand, please write me: Farmer John, P.O. Box 234, Groveport, OH 43125 ... feel good about yourself!


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