The Homestead Cookbook

Homesteaders You Should Know

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"When at last we are sure, You've been properly pilled, Then a few paper forms, Must be properly filled.  So that you and your heirs, May be properly billed." ~Dr. Seuss

The Round House, Ickworth Park, England

Photo by Karen Roe


Homemade Cheese in an Ultra-pasteurized World

By Kimi Ceridon


     "In an era where all things labeled 'do-it-yourself' or 'DIY' are gaining popularity, making cheese at home is having a sort of modern-day renaissance in America.  Stylish cheesemaking kits are available from a variety of outlets ranging from high-end home furnishings stores like Williams-Sonoma to and hip and fashionable online retailers like  These kits offer do-it-yourselfers the supplies and instructions necessary to make homemade cheeses such as ricotta, farmersí cheese, mozzarella, feta, and, even hard cheeses like cheddar.  They promise it is so easy and delicious that you may never buy cheese again.  The cute, little, cardboard boxes with folded handles have everything an aspiring home cheesemaker needs, except the milk.
     Interestingly, it is the milk, not the kit contents, which have the largest influence the flavor and, thus, the deliciousness of a cheese.  It is also the milk that determines the ease for making cheese.  So, how does this critical ingredient make or break an easy, at-home cheesemaking experience?...
     Given only pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk is readily available to the average consumer, I set out to examine how well a few different milks perform with the Farmersí Cheese DIY Cheesemaking Kit from UrbanCheeseCraft.  I prepared four batches of Farmersí cheese in an as identical of a manner as I could according to the UrbanCheeseCraft recipe.  A different milk variety was used for each preparation as follows:



Avoiding Homestead Burnout

By Adrianne Masters


     "I have lived in almost all settings.  Small town, inner-city, suburbs, mountains, plainsÖ you get the picture.  No place has been as satisfying as my current ultra-rural-deep-backwoods farm.  The work is hands-on and hard, everything we do requires planning and care, the animals and food crops need constant tending, the housework is a monster in and of itself.  There is always something to do.  If, for a moment, there is nothing to feed, water, weed, or clean, then surely something needs fixing.  Who could be bored in a lifestyle like this?  The same person that got bored living in a condo in downtown Atlanta, surrounded by culture, shopping, theater, and a million people, thatís who.  Thatís because of what Webster says.  Boredom isnít caused by a lack of to-doís.  Itís the condition of being weary and restless because of dullness.  Having a clean kitchen is gratifying, but washing and drying the dishes three times a day is the epitome of dullness. 

     The antidote to boredom: fun.  The key is that you have to have fun, which means you make the excitement yourself, as opposed to entertainment, which means you sit idle and watch other people have fun.  This is my argument against watching television from the same perch on the sofa every evening.  As a remedy to my own restless nature and to prevent myself from experiencing the expression of boredom on the faces of my loved ones, I have educated myself on all types of homespun recreational activities.  An added bonus to some of these hobbies is that they produce something useful and can be used at home or sold off for extra cash."



Cast Iron

The Last Set of Cookware You'll Ever Need

By April Freeman


     "About a year after my wedding, I had to replace some of my cookware because I worried about the flakes of non-stick coating that were now getting mixed in with our food.  Of course, studies said that the coating was not harmful, but I wasn't so sure.  I just bought new non-stick pans to replace the old ones.  

     And so it went.  Every year or so, I had to replace my non-stick pans.  It didn't matter if I paid more money for higher quality pans.  After awhile, the coating would degrade, and I would have to buy one more.  

     Several years ago, from the back of the cabinet, I dug out pile of old cast-iron pans that I had inherited from my grandmother.  When I thought back, I never remember my grandmother cycling through cookware at the rate that I had.  Although these pans were very heavy and not quite as 'cute' as the painted metal pans that I had been buying, I wondered if maybe they were the solution to my cookware problem. 

     I did a little research and found that cast iron cookware had many more advantages than I had ever imagined.  That was about six or seven years ago.  In that time, I've discarded all of my other non-stick skillets and have been completely won over by the benefits of using cast iron cookware."



Homestead Truck Turned Mobile Workshop

By Tony Colella


     "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.

     I looked at old bread delivery trucks but they never seemed be in very good condition.  I looked at used moving trucks but these were far too long for the type of properties I would need to enter.  I looked at old moving-van-style trucks but these were often in poor shape, although this may have just been my luck in finding them so.  I looked at some small delivery trucks but many of them had air brakes, which I did not like, and many did not have a lift gate that would allow me to load and unload large appliances easily. 

     The more I looked the more I found the prices became more and more expensive.  I talked with repairmen, electricians, handymen and deliverymen (and women) who drove trucks of different styles.  Most that owned their own trucks liked them, but, they also candidly admitted they also had huge payments they did not like.  Many had paid well over $30,000 for these trucks, and then some.   

     One day I stopped by a used truck store and found my new girl (well, my new truck that is)."



Learning Curves on Rural Roads

Three Lessons for Every Homesteader

By Diana Boeke


     "Weeding should have been a given.  I mean, everyone knows that to grow a successful crop, you have to keep the weeds down, right?  We choose to grow organically, so herbicides arenít really an option.  Who knew you had to have a license for that stuff, anyway?  We studied books with pretty pictures of tidy raised beds with even tidier straw-filled pathways.  Mind you, these were gardening books... for serious, tidy, type-A gardeners who had as much time as they had money.  They made it look easy.   

      So that first year, we tried our best to create some raised beds and sunken walkways.  We filled the walkways with hardwood mulch.  Within a couple of weeks, the plantain and burdock and dandelions were breaking through the mulch.  Then came the wiregrass on top, underneath, and all around.  We had failed to put down a ground cover beneath the mulch; because the dirt had looked so clean and weed-free when the mulch went down, we put the mulch on so thickly!  By the second season, we had all but abandoned our raised bed approach.

     Why?  Because a nice man with a tractor and a plow had opened up a whole acre of our land for us to plant, and given us an acre of his third-generation-worked land down the road as well.  Rows!  We could plant in big, long rows, just like the big boys!  And as for weeds, well, the tractor would take care of that with some sort of cultivator attachment on the satellite farm, and we could just ride our mower up the wide walkways on our land."



The Importance of Being Surveyed

By Sheri Dixon


     "Ten years ago I was overworked, underpaid, alone in the world and adrift without a home to call my own.  That has all happily been remedied, but none of it has been without a lot of work, and even more luck.

     I still work hard, but enjoy it much more.  My financial reimbursement is more in keeping with the quality work I strive to deliver.  Some people who like me, some who love me and some who are even content to live with me surround me.  And I was fortunate to find this place I call home on a land contract purchase.  It was a happy day when I signed papers to buy this place and an even happier day to receive the deed free and clear from our county tax office.

     Interested, since I had never seen the legal description of my land, I playfully paced out my east lot line (the only one that's a pretty straight shot over pretty level land).  I started at the north corner and counted out paces.  I looked up when I reached what should've been the end.

     Curious... my house was up ahead of me by about 100 feet.

     Confidently, I started at the other end of the east lot line and counted off paces.  I looked up.

     There was my house, teasing me from 100 feet away again.

     This was potentially bad."



Rural Reviews: The Adze-Mattock

By Neil Shelton


     "The adze is among the very oldest of stone-age tools.  It was invented about the first time someone tied a rock to a stick, which you can figure was quite a while back.  

     Imagine our prehistoric ancestor digging with his hands into the dirt, he points his fingers perpendicular to his hand and scoops out a handful of dirt, and along with it maybe a few sharp stones, a thorn or two, or perhaps a splinter slides under a fingernail.  Ouch.  It's obvious that one of the first tools early man would invent was something to dig with that was a bit more finger-friendly.

     Today, the adze is a sharp tool thatís used in rough carpentry.  It has, for the most part been replaced by mechanized woodworking tools.  A short-handled adze is called a hand adze, because you swing it with your hand, and a long-handled adze is referred to as a foot adze because if you arenít using it carefully, youíll chop off your foot."



The Mountain Men

By Catherine Lugo


     "Who were the mountain men?  They were America's original survivalists.  They were the pathfinders of yore, lovers of nature, and fiercely independent.  They lived and roamed the mountains and back-country of America from the 1800s to about the 1860's.  They were the original survivalists, trapping beaver, muskrat, and otter, and living off the land.  Traveling through the countryside dressed from head to toe in his homemade buckskin outfit, the mountain man plied their trade mostly in the Rocky Mountains, and became instrumental in opening the uncharted west to the settlers that would eventually pour in.  Because of the mountain man's fierce independence, bravery, and willingness to follow his bliss in the face of untold danger, the American West was made more accessible to settlers.

     The life of the mountain man was an exciting one and one that makes for great stories even today.  It's fun to imagine how they traveled through unknown territory, depending on their wits and survival know-how.  They trapped beaver and sold the pelts at annual fur rendezvous across the west.  The rendezvous was about the only time a mountain man got to meet up with and get face-to-face contact with other trappers.  The rest of the time, he lived and traveled the back-country completely alone, only occasionally teaming up with other trappers. 

     Those days of roaming free on the land, having no laws, no neighbors and no boundaries are long gone.  The life they lived was solitary and dangerous, but they lived it willingly and became specialists in their field.  We today will never know the courage it took for them to travel their solitary roads knowing that the next Grizzly bear or Indian attack could be just around the corner.  His travels across the uncharted territory, that was then a new and unmapped country, opened the way for future generations of Americans who will never know the struggles of the mountain men."



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