The Homestead Cookbook

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"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety." ~ Aesop

Photo courtesy Jay & Melissa Malouin


Are You Cut Out for the "Simple Life"?

By Laura Negron-Valentin


     "Being a staying-at-home woman, who works as a teacher for her children, as a maid for her house, and as a farmer for her homestead, I can tell you… is not for the faint of heart.  The often called 'simple life' can be rather intense and demanding.  However, for me, it has all the necessary ingredients to make the best career possible.  Who knows, it may for you, as well.

     Is it really the 'simple life'?  Well, yes and no.  It can be emotionally simple, but pretty challenging in many other aspects, as well.  Of course, this is compared to what most women my age choose to do or have to live like in our culture.  It all depends on what you like, what your needs are, and what fulfills you.

     Immediately after pondering this idea, reality steps back in and financial, logistical, and personal issues arise.  Here comes an exercise that is inescapable if we are to make some life adjustments and potential changes.  Some questions must be answered.  What are those things I am willing to give up?  What do I need or want to gain?  What things must not be changed?  Why am I considering this?

     Answers to those questions will have unique characteristics.  The more unique, probably the more customized to our own reality.  This is not a copy-paste exercise and is good to know it beforehand.  If anything can describe changing to a simpler (back-to-basics) lifestyle in any degree is that it is a work in progress."


Jessica's New Homestead Cookbook

Southwest-style Brown Rice

By Jessica Shelton


     "Here's a fresh, tasty dish that can be served warm on a cold winter's day or chilled at a summer fiesta.  Spiced up or mellowed out, packed with fiber-filled frijoles  and whole-grain goodness, this is a healthy dish that delivers on flavor and satisfaction.  Hearty brown rice, savory black beans, sweet corn, and fresh greens combine for a colorful combination that's sure to please.  Top with jalapeño for a little heat, avocado to cool it down, and/or a squeeze of lime to brighten up the flavor."



Bees for Free

By Dr. Andrew Botham



     "A swarm isn’t just a group of bees, it is the reproductive unit of a hive.  In spring, when the food is coming in, and the bee population is swelling, the hive may collectively make the decision to swarm.  Swarm season is usually from April to June, depending on the weather, but can extend out into late July.  Eggs are selected to be made into new queens and, when they are capped and ready to go, a large portion of the bees along with the current queen up and leave en mass.

     This is the 'prime swarm'.  They gorge themselves on honey before they go which leaves them able to rapidly build new comb when they arrive at their new home.  The queen is already able to lay, so things progress pretty rapidly.  
     Meanwhile, in the old hive, depending on how many new queens manage to hatch, one or more 'cast swarms' may result, where a unmated or 'virgin' queen along with a few more bees leave to find a new home.  A cast swarm takes more time to establish as there are considerably less bees, and the queen cannot lay any eggs until she has mated.  If she fails to mate, the colony fails.  
     Bee swarms in my opinion are the best way of starting a hive.  These bees have made the decision as a colony to setup a new home.  They are motivated and pre-programmed to provide you exactly what you want to start a new colony, in a new hive, in a new place.  All you have to do now is catch one!"



The Summer Kitchen

Why It's Still a Good Idea

By Bonnie Lavigne


     "The first summer kitchen we’d ever seen was at a local pioneer village. In the doctor’s house—a lovely Victorian rambler—the large kitchen at the back opened onto a smaller functional summer kitchen. This is where the weekly laundering took place, where the children were bathed, and where all cooking was done during the heat of summer.
     Casks crowded the space beneath a long heavy wooden work table. As in any pioneer kitchen, the wood stove in the corner dominated the room, and a double dry-sink stood beneath a set of large open windows. It seemed this room was handy as a storage area, too. Corn brooms, clean rags, and utensils hung on the walls and dried flowers and herbs festooned the ceiling near the stove. Two sets of windows on either side of the room and a door to the outside created a cross-draft.
     I dream about this kitchen. I am determined to have one very much like it. I may not launder or wash children out there, but, to my mind, no homestead is complete without one. It’s an essential workroom. If you have a range hood to draw out heat, steam, and smells, you may not benefit quite so much from a summer kitchen, but I believe the reduced reliance on electricity that a summer kitchen offers can only be good. The extra storage and cooking space, working in the fresh air, and honoring tradition are all richly rewarding."



Homestead Truck Turned Mobile Workshop

By Tony Colella


     "I needed a mobile workshop, one that was large enough to carry my materials, supplies and tools, but small enough to maneuver in and out of the mountain rental properties I owned and repaired. I also needed enough room to move appliances and to be able to do so by myself. I had spent years twisting my back into a pretzel trying to slide a refrigerator over the tailgate and under the ladder rack on the old Dodge. A used refrigerator simply wasn’t worth the risk to my back, but, neither could I afford to buy new refrigerators and have them delivered each time one went out.
     I looked into pulling a utility trailer, but, again ran into the time it took to run across town to get the trailer and then pickup appliances and other large items, move them and then return the trailer, all the while exposing them to the elements and possible damage or theft if left unattended while I worked on some other repair.  
     I looked into buying a cargo-style van that would allow me to store tools and repair supplies more safely but found that I still did not have the room to house the building materials, such as plywood and lumber, that I routinely required. This would mean I would still have to travel across town to buy or pickup these items and transport them to the jobsite. Larger appliances would still require the use of a utility trailer.  
     I dreamed of a tool shed on wheels. I wanted something that would allow me to keep what I needed on hand to fix nearly all the problems I could encounter in a day of repair calls as well as a vehicle that could move appliances easily so as to save my back.



Raising Animals That May Try to Eat You

By Sue Dick


     "We hooked up the trailer and set out on a three hour drive through the beautiful rolling hills of Cypress River, Manitoba, to pick up our piggies.  

     The fact that the people, despite expecting us, had not rounded up said pigs should have served as a red flag.  With sinking hearts we trudged out to a lush, half-flooded late-Spring pasture whose grasses almost brushed our midsections.           

     'They’re in there,' the farmer jerked his thumb.  Indeed it appeared not only did we have to find these piglets in the grass, but also attempt to catch them in a roughly ten-acre pasture.  Defeated, we both looked at the farmer. 

     'I brought a bucket,' he said helpfully and proceeded to bang on it with a stick and call for the pigs.  Like something out of nightmare, enormous black shapes materialized from the shadows. They were still with their mothers and the sows (roughly the size of our sofa at home) glared at us with belligerent, glittering eyes.

     The ensuing hours were a blur. Given the circumstances, we agreed later, it was amazing it had only taken us one hour per pig caught. The mothers proved not to be as fearsome as they seemed, and while they barked insults at us as we hurled ourselves upon their weaned children, none attacked. Coated in slick grass, mud, and pig excrement we finished. Bruised and battered we drove home in silence. I’m not sure what my husband was thinking, but I was wondering how we were going to handle them (particularly the boar) once they were bigger."



Raising Rabbits

Like Pulling Food Out of a Hat

By Regina Anneler


     "Everyone has a few memories of Elmer Fudd out hunting 'wabbits' during rabbit season. If you raise your own rabbits you never need to worry about when that season is. Many of us dream and work toward a more self sufficient lifestyle, preferring to raise our own food and provide a healthier, more natural diet for our families. Raising rabbits can also be a true family project, as they are small and so easy to care for that they can even be maintained by young children. If you’re interested in providing a healthier meat source for your family than you can normally get at your local grocer, then this article will definitely be of interest to you. Rabbit is one of the meats highest in protein content; it is delicious and nutritious and it is also one of the easiest and least expensive types of livestock to raise and process.  
     The first fact that many people look at when considering raising their own rabbits for meat is what kind of return they will get for their efforts. Basically, it’s rather simple—the average, everyday corner grocers do not normally carry rabbit on their meat counters. If, by chance, they do, then you will find it to be much more expensive than the other meat cuts that are regularly available. Purchasing rabbit meat commercially is so expensive because it’s not as readily obtainable as most other commercial meats in the U.S. When considering today’s health-conscious consumer, rabbit meat is also leaps and bounds above the average hamburger. For example, rabbit meat is very high in protein at about 20%; it’s very lean with only about 10% fat compared to the average chicken meat at 11%. The calorie value in rabbit is approximately 795 calories where chicken has about 810 calories. To top it all off rabbit is all white meat and low in cholesterol to boot. This type of nutritional information is one of the main reasons that many people are checking into the why and how of raising rabbits."



The Complete Sissy-boy's Guide to Pick-Up Trucks

By Neil Shelton


    "When the '70's came along and the back-to-the-land movement was luring young people my age into our rural area, I came to realize that even though I hadn't even been paying attention, just growing up on the farm had taught me quite a number of things that city kids didn't seem to have a clue about.

     In fact, quite a few of these folks seemed completely unaware of how to even exist beyond pavement. 

     I realized that many of them were innocent of things I had learned, despite myself, as a bored, eye-rolling teenager. 

     In fact, compared even with someone as hopeless-appearing as myself, they seemed like complete sissy-boys, even the girls.

     If you have just recognized yourself as a complete sissy-boy (or girl) this page is for you.  If you're not sure, keep reading.

     The complete sissy-boy makes his first mistake before he ever leaves the metro area.  That is, he doesn't trade his car for something more appropriate to the back roads while he still has a job."



Nothing Simplifies Rural Life Like Fencing

By Neil Shelton


     "Some people swear by meditation; others tout the virtues of cutting up your credit cards, or joining a cult, but for me simplifying life is all about fence.

     That’s because fence is all about keeping the critters out of your garden, keeping the neighbor’s critters out of your critters, and keeping your critters off the highway.  However, merely securing the food supply, staying on good terms with folks up the road, and avoiding lawsuits aren’t the only things that fencing can achieve for you.  Fence can mark your property boundaries, and in certain instances even become your boundaries.  Keeping these things in mind, you can see that fencing may well be the most important construction on your property.

     Fence can also cost a lot of money, but it doesn’t have to.  As a rule of thumb, the lower the cost, the more maintenance is required.  If you have a small garden spot you want to protect, then you might not mind doing a bit of routine maintenance to keep the groundhogs out of the greens, but if you have a few hundred yards of livestock fencing adjoining a busy highway, animal, and even human lives, can depend on your ability to keep your animals off the roadway 24/7/365.

     Of course there are about as many kinds of fence as there are fencing materials.  (We’ve even seen a fence made out of old bicycles.) However, I’ve put together a collection of some of the more significant styles of fencing that might be of interest to the small landowner.  The first group is timeless and cheap and the second group your keeps livestock out of traffic about as securely as the current state of the art allows."



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