The Homestead Cookbook

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"Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Photo by ripperda


Introduction to Aquaponics

Water Conservation, Sustainability, and Ecological Harmony in Your Own Backyard

By Devin Kelly


     "Hydroponics had become a popular plant-growing system in areas of the world afflicted with poor soil fertility or limited access to acreage, and though it had proven prolific, it came at the expense of using often expensive, sometimes unsafe chemical fertilizers.  Aquaculture, too, was not without its drawbacks.  Waste removal posed a labor-intensive problem, and often came in conjunction with excessive water use.  The “waste” in aquaculture systems was nutrient-rich fish castings, a wealth of the very same fertilizing components, in their natural form, used in hydroponics systems.  In a sense, aquaponics is the organic alternative to hydroponics.

    Aquaponics is a circular system.  It requires a fish tank, from which water and fertile fish-castings flow into plant-growing beds, providing the plants with both water and nutrients.  In the grow beds, the plant roots act as natural filters, absorbing the saturated levels of potassium, nitrogen, and phosphorous, purifying and oxygenating the water to be pumped back into the fish tank.  Aquaponics is therefore a closed system.  It is the ultimate in symbiosis; each component of the system benefits from the others, mimicking the natural balance of an ecosystem.

     Because aquaponics is a closed system, the efficiency of water usage is increased ten-fold.  Ideally, the only water lost will be due to evaporation and transpiration, and that can easily be replaced with a savvy rainwater catchment system.  Therefore, these systems use about a tenth of the water required in other agricultural and gardening methods.  Considering the global implications of a food-growing system that produces higher yields on less land using far less water, aquaponics could become revolutionary." 


Jessica's New Homestead Cookbook

Borscht: Just Like Babushka Used to Make

By Jessica Shelton


    "This traditional Russian soup is inexpensive, hearty, yet low-cal, and will warm you up on a cold winter's day.  Made with your homegrown veggies, or, just as simply, made from store-bought ingredients, it's a big hit in the Shelton family."



Are Bees for Me?

By Dr. Andrew Botham


     "Bees are interesting.  They just are.  Not to say that I have spent my whole life on my hands and knees over a clover patch with a magnifying glass.  I can’t say I ever really gave them much thought until this year.  To set the scene, about 5 years ago my wife and I moved to a small village in the country.  Probably for all the reasons people move to small villages in the country: space, house prices, community, child-friendly environment, etc.  One shop, one pub, one church, a part-time post-office, and LOTS of space!  

     This enabled us to have vegetable patches which are an avenue we have pursued with enthusiasm if not success.  We grow vegetables and fruit; make jams, chutney, and wine.  All of which make excellent presents (when we are willing to part with them), and have more recently made a foray into pigs. 

     This year, I began to consider the idea of beekeeping.  I thought this was an excellent complementary activity that would fit very well with our lifestyle, as well as providing something else that could be put in jars.  However, my father-in-law—already a beekeeper—makes it seem like hard work.  He is always fiddling with something, worrying about something else, or needing something more.  It also looked quite expensive to get going.  He has now been at it four years and has been extremely prolific, but has only just received a return on the initial investment he put in.  I found this quite worrying as what if I didn’t like it once I had started?  What if it didn’t work?  It is certainly a lot of money to have wasted on a whim."



Writing Right for Money

Get Your Home Business Off the Ground and Get Out of the Grind

By Barbara Bamberger Scott


     "I developed a website called A Woman’s Write, a yearly book competition that has built up an excellent reputation with winners going on to publication.  As its chief editor, I read and critique most of the entries.  This, plus my reviews, my latest website called The Book MD, and independent editing jobs, means that I not only read but edit, critique, and meditate on up to 200 new books a year.

     In other words, I see a lot of others’ words.  I still have a part-time day job and have even worked full-time off and on.  But 'my' books, 'my' writers, comprise a secret life that is more emotionally satisfying than my day job, and usually more economically rewarding.  For me, editing and reviewing are a kind of 'sweat lodge' experience, in which I put on the skin of the writer, and live inside his or her book.

     So someone asked me recently, what are you looking for in the work that people you send you for editing or review?  Is there a magic formula for successful writing?  Well, I believe there is a formula, though not magic, for writing and for work in general.  

     But before we hand out the mystic goodies, let’s get down to basics.

     Can you write?  If you’re reading, you may assume you can.  Not so fast!  Writing is a skill, with rules and the need for practice.  Editors, publishers, website hosts, contest judges, agents—anyone who is going to look at your work with an eye to paying you for it—has the right to criticize it, or simply toss it in the legendary Round File."



Successful Transplants

Uprooting Your Urban Offspring

By Sheri Dixon


     "Giddily and even a little tearily, you call your beloved brood of loin-fruit to the tender circle of your parental embrace and announce, 'Kids, pack your stuff.  We're moving to the country!'  

      There are cheers.  There is palpable excitement.  There is one child not jumping up and down and with a distinct cloud over her head.  'What ever is the matter, my dear?!' you exclaim in dismay.

     The child in question does not move and seems for all the world to be carved in granite.  Only her eyes turn their full attention to you, burning a hole in yours for a full minute before she utters three words slowly, clearly and unblinkingly: 'I'm not going.'

     Now, this child may be 16, or she may be 6, but the one thing you absolutely positively must NOT do at this point is laugh.  OK, two things-you must also not get angry.
     Whatever the age of the offspring in question, their feelings about such a huge change in their life must be considered."


Fermented Food

Beneficial Bacteria for the Health-conscious Homesteader

By Karyn Sweet


     "Antibacterial soap, use-anywhere bleach spray, chlorinated water, antibiotics, not to mention the horror we express if the baby eats some dirt... we are obviously a germophobic society.  So you may ask why we would possibly want to eat fermented foods—foods alive with, yes, bacteria.

     Fermented food has been enjoyed for thousands of years.  There is evidence of wine-making dating back to eight thousand years ago in the Caucasus area of Georgia and seven-thousand-year-old old wine jars have been discovered in Iran.  The Babylonians were fermenting beverages 7,000 years ago, the Egyptians 5,200 years ago, the ancient Mexicans 4,000 years ago, and the Sudanese 3,500 years ago.  Furthermore, some of these cultures were fermenting bread and milk.  So this way of eating is not a new thing.

     Our culture is working hard to sterilize our environment as much as possible—we spray bleach and chlorine all over our houses, we keep our children indoors for much of their time, we cover our bodies with harsh, bacteria-killing beauty supplies, our first defense in sickness is to 'kill off everything' and we sterilize our food through irradiation, heating, pasteurizing, packaging, and chemicals.  But what about the 'good guy bacteria'—can we live without it?"



Chive Talkin'

By Gay Ingram


     "When the colonists arrived on the shores of America, among the kitchen and medicinal herbs that crossed the ocean with them were chives.  Down through thousands of years, chives have been cultivated and developed.  As long ago as 3,000 B.C., onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum) were found growing in the gardens of China.  The great Emperor Charlemagne, in A.D. 812, listed the already familiar chives among the more than seventy other herbs in his famous garden.

     Dodoens gives the French name for it in his days: 'Petit poureau,' relating to its rush-like appearance.  In present day it’s common French name is 'Ail civitte'.  The Latin name of this species means 'Rush-leek'.  The well-known herbalist of England’s sixteenth century, Parkinson, also cultivated this familiar herb.

     Chives are the smallest, though one of the finest-flavored of the onion tribe and belongs to the botanical group of plants listed as Alliums. The variety, A. Schoenoprasum 'Ruby Gem', has gray foliage and pink-ruby flowers.  Allium schoenoprasum 'Forcaste' grows slightly larger than the usual chives.  Another important allium species in China and Japan is the Welsh onion which provides a continuous supply of bunching onions and leaves throughout the year.  Though said to be a native of Britain, Allium schoenoprasum can be found growing throughout temperate and northern Europe but rarely is it found in an uncultivated state.  In the Southern gardens of the U.S., this hardy perennial is frequently seen delicately edging a garden bed because it makes such an attractive border plant."



Rose Mallow

Southern Belle Knocks Your Socks Off in August

By Neil Shelton


    "I have a perversion.

     When I go for a walk around my place, it may appear that I’m enjoying my time in nature, but the truth is, I admit it, that I’m always thinking about how to 'improve' on nature. 

     Normal folks plant flower-beds, but perverts such as myself try to make creations that give the illusion of natural groupings.  We like to improve on perfection.

     That’s how I got started building a group of Rose Mallow, Hibiscus moscheutos about eight years ago.  I had a marshy area that I imagined would look great covered with pink Rose Mallow.

     A few miles from here is a collection of a white version that went wild decades ago that now covers an area around an old pond with a couple of acres of  blooms in the late summer.

      Maybe you’ve seen Rose Mallow growing near you, it’s a native in most of the south and in California, but it’s commonly cultivated all over the east and Midwest."



Black Gold: Make Your Own Natural Charcoal

By Martina Kuhnert


     "We haven’t set the mountain on fire... yet.  But it is always a possibility, of which we are acutely aware, every time we practice our bit of hillbilly alchemy.  Most of our neighbors are used to seeing the plume of smoke.  But occasionally, one who is not aware of our endeavors comes up to make sure it’s not our cabin that is on fire.  They usually give us that look when we explain what we are doing.  It’s the look that says, 'You all are so weird.'  I smile when I hand them a bag of our wares and say, 'Once you try this, you’ll never want to use that other stuff again.'  They may look dubious, but I know they’ll be back when they run out.  They always come back for black gold.
     We started out making the black gold for our own use.  But since people have found out what we are manufacturing, they have come to us.  They have come for their grills, for their livestock, for their gardens, for their health, and for cosmetic ingredients.  They have done this because we have found how to take trees and turn them into the black gold known as charcoal.
     Like most people, my previous experience with charcoal was buying a small bag at the store in order to produce hamburgers, hot dogs, or chicken that tasted slightly reminiscent of lighter fluid.  It was only after my family began making natural charcoal for our own use that I learned of its versatility and surprising historical significance.

     We have always been outdoor cooking enthusiasts, burning hardwood for over an hour to get the hot coals necessary to prepare food in the colonial hearth-cooking tradition.  Nothing can beat the flavor of food cooked with wood...

      Our experience with charcoal making has been life changing for us.  We have thoroughly enjoyed the many and varied benefits that this black gold has brought to us and our neighbors.  Now that we know how to make it, I don’t think we’ll ever want to be without it." 


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