The Homestead Cookbook

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"In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.  In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of."  ~Confucious

Photo by Rona Proudfoot


Pigeon Preliminaries

 Getting to Know the Magnificent Rock Pigeon

By Armani Tavares


     "I truly believe that our modern day decedents of Columba livia (rock dove/pigeon) are some of the all-time greatest game-bird species, and yet seemingly, they have been overlooked by most poultry and game-bird enthusiasts.  Consider the following attributes which the pigeon masterfully displays: minimal space requirements, extremely simple housing needs, simple and easy to feed, can be allowed to free-range or be kept in total confinement, producer of delicious meat, raises its young up until butchering time (no need to use incubators and brooders), fun and entertaining, intelligent and beautiful, as well as being healthy and hardy.  That’s pretty good, huh?  I can think of a few other species that match these criteria, but I do find that many birds which are much more popular than the humble pigeon come far from reaching them.  I am left to sit and wonder why.

     Requiring no specialized feed, the pigeon can thrive on anything from straight grains and legumes to pellets designed for chickens or turkeys.  Plus, you only need a square foot of space per bird (more is always better, of course), which means they take up a minimal amount of room.  The housing can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish.  Give them a recycled rabbit hutch or a loft that can hold a hundred birds with self-cleaning nests and they’ll be happy and healthy all the same, on solid flooring, or wire for optimal sanitation.  Even better, where city ordinances prohibit the keeping of other poultry, pigeons are most often legal.  So, you can enjoy some birds of your own whether you’re keeping them in a window-box, on a balcony, in the front yard, or amidst hundreds of acres.  Now that’s adaptable!  

     If kept as pets and ornamentals, or an additional source of meat on the homestead, the pigeon fits its place well and is not nearly as popular as it deserves to be.  Let’s look now at some more practical subjects." 



How a Blizzard and a Cow Fed Grampa's Family

By Gail Jackson


     "Every morning, at sunrise Grandpa would go out to the outhouse.  He never used the inside toilet that my dad and uncle had put in the house for them.  I would sit on the back step and wait for him to come out of the outhouse.  Then we’d walk to the barn and milk Lilly, the old red and white cow.  After we’d taken the milk to Grandma, Grandpa and I would head to the chicken house.

     The chicken house was a large one story barn that held all the chickens.  Big, white Leghorn chickens.  Grandpa would put his hand under the chicken and pull out the eggs.  Once, he had me do it, and I got pecked.  I cried and cried and he laughed.  The old coot.

     Grandpa worked in the garden every day.  Every day he had the same breakfast, Wheaties cereal, two pieces of toast, two pieces of bacon, and eggs.  Grandpa made his own wine.  He would let me get in the big metal tub and stomp the grapes.  He’d sit near me and laugh as I was having a ball jumping up and down on those grapes.  I remember getting out of the tub and my feet and halfway up my little legs would be purple.

     Grandpa would tell me stories about when my dad and aunts and uncles were kids.  I loved to hear these stories.  Grandpa would sit on the picnic table and I’d get as close as I possibly could to him.  He’d put his arm around me and tell me some story."



An Illustrated History of Log Cabins

By Doug Smith


     "Just down the road from our house sits a sagging cabin made from hand-hewn logs with a low ceiling and raggedly sturdy stone fireplace standing guard on one end.   Every time I pass that cabin—and I estimate it’s been thousands of times in 46 years—I wonder about the life that once filled its rustic confines. 

     There’s just something intriguing about log cabins… old ones for sure, but even new ones can carry a built-in comfort not found in a brick and mortar home.  Perhaps it’s all those early years playing with my Lincoln Log set as a small boy, I’m not sure but I feel it every time I even see a log cabin.  I suspect as a little kid the draw was that someone had built a real building by stacking sticks together.  Later on I would study log-home construction and eventually deal in real estate for a few years.  That’s when I learned the importance of words such as 'ambiance', 'warmth', and 'feel' … all things you find in a log home. 

While the log cabin seems to be an American icon—think Abraham Lincoln growing up in rural Illinois—in reality building by stacking logs together to form walls reaches as far back as the Roman Empire.  It’s documented that an architect of the time noted buildings formed by stacking logs horizontally and filling any gaps with mud and debris.  Log-cabin construction is widely attributed to northern Europe.  By the time their descendants rode ships across the ocean to the 'New Country', the Europeans had nearly perfected building all sorts of homes and outbuildings from logs."



Too Close for Comfort

One Woman's Misadventures in Pasture Creation

By Sue Dick


     "'We can both fit', Abe said, gesturing to the cab.  I had my doubts, but I knew I could neither lead him the remaining way in front through the bush nor could I continue to follow over the unnavigable terrain, and so I shrugged and climbed up. 

     I felt sorry for Abe as I was filthy, with bits of bark and mud clinging to my sweaty face and clothes as well as boots caked in muck, and once in the cab I saw there was really no place for me to sit.  After some embarrassed shufflings I managed to perch myself in a corner just off his seat, but with no place at all for my legs to go, I had to drape them across his lap.  I was certain it must only be me that felt strange about it, because after all, there was nothing alluring about me after my now eight-hour ordeal in the bush, but it seemed Abe shared the thread of my thought and, holding himself as stiffly away from my legs as possible, we continued on. 

     Awkward position aside, I was so glad to be off the ground in no time I was enjoying myself immensely, my injuries forgotten.  It was really impressive to see how the trees and bush just fell before the blade.  I had a vantage point from the high cab that enabled me to see farther ahead, and we were in terra incognita now, despite the fact this was still our property.  I instructed him to leave tall oaks and poplars alone and as the vegetation began to indicate wetter soils, I bade him steer around a cluster of tamaracks and then we suddenly lurched to a halt. 

     Cursing in what I supposed was Plattdeutsch we struggled to disentangle ourselves and he climbed down from the cab.  The bulldozer's tracks were mired deep in the mud.  This part of the bush hadn't been included in any earlier reconnaissance and had been included as part of the pasture on paper only."



A Country Girl's Best Friends

By Adrianne Masters


     "They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend.  That may be true for some girls, but this country gal’s best friends are baking soda and vinegar.  Diamonds are lovely, without a doubt, but they do get in the way sometimes and are hardly as useful as my baking soda and vinegar buddies.  These are the comrades that make my life easier.  They help me keep a healthy home, garden, pets, and family; and this is infinitely more valuable to me than glittering knuckles.  Separately, baking soda and vinegar are handy and powerful in and of themselves, but together they make an indomitable cleaning combination.  And cleanliness is next to Godliness, right?  Or, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?  That always makes me think of a clean bathroom and an organized first aid kit/medicine cabinet.  Anyway, that’s enough with the clichés.  Baking soda, vinegar, and I get together and conquer household chores, gardening, pet care, car cleaning, laundry, and even first aid like the most seasoned professionals. 

     Every good homesteader knows that no job is too big when the right tools and a little ingenuity are employed.  Since most of my jobs involve caring for our home and all the living things in and around it, plant and animal (and bird and human) alike, the right tools for me include my big plastic bucket, my gallon jug of vinegar, and my industrial sized bag of baking soda.  Also in my metaphorical tool-shed include my garden hose, borax, sponges, microfiber cloths, dish soap, a squeegee,  baby oil, rubber gloves, clothespins, scissors, masking tape, a sharpie, and safety pins.  If I could just roll a wheelbarrow around with all these things inside it, I might make it through most of my chores without having to stop and waste time going back to the house or the barn for the correct tool. 

     Baking soda can be used in several different ways: directly, dissolved in water, or as a paste.  Vinegar, likewise, can be used directly but is more commonly combined with water to dilute the strength of its acidity."



The Real Dirt on Farmer John

By Barbara Bamberger Scott


     "I saw this film on a rainy day in the Bay Area.  I had no preconceptions about it except that the venue, a charming old theater in the heart of the university district, and my companion, my niece Cindy who has lived most of her life in the Independent Republic of Berkeley, were indicators that the subject matter would be unashamedly liberal.

     Getting to the theater had been fraught with what I discerned was normal for the Bay Area—drivers whose avowals of peacefulness evaporate as soon as they put tire to pavement, and a chronic lack of parking that has caused  the people’s advocates to sabotage parking meters with explosives.  Cindy and I had just spent a contemplative hour in a nearby bead shop.  I can think of no better place for women to meet and catch up on old times than by grazing in a bead shop.  The Real Dirt was to be the capper to our pleasant reunion, despite my shock at the prices—tickets and food together cost more than my usual (rural North Carolina) entertainment budget for an entire month.  Cindy with her nachos n’ cheese and I with my less sophisticated popcorn settled back in comfy seats to glom the big screen.

     The action begins with a pleasant looking chap in overalls tromping through a cultivated field.  He crouches down and nibbles a tidbit of mud, announcing with satisfaction, 'The soil tastes good today.' Then we see the same chap in full female drag including pink boa, in the driver’s perch of a giant combine.  Switch to different drag, different farm equipment, same general idea.  A voice-over tells us blandly how much fun it is to farm.  Thus we are introduced to our hero in his natural habitat."




By Neil Shelton


     "Like most Americans, I find it very relaxing on occasion to take time away from my regular work to do something at which I’m not really competent.

     That’s why I haven’t been in the office too much lately, and why I have been out in the back meadow on a tractor.

     This is an annual ritual.  After it starts to frost regularly each year, I begin bush-hogging the place.  A bush-hog, for those of you from New York, Los Angeles or Jupiter, is the term used for a large mower pulled behind a farm tractor.  With it, you can rid your property of brush and weeds up to the thickness of your forearm. 

     Like most farm equipment, they’re not especially safe, so you can also rid your place of your forearms and other appendages if you’re not careful, but that’s another story all together.

     Generally speaking, bush-hogs are used to keep pastures clear of brush, but here at Exclamation Pointe, I’ve liberated all the open ground from actually doing anything that benefits society."



Making Your Homestead Pay... You First!

 Growing Your Homestead Without Going Into Debt

By Betty Taylor


     "I was taking Joel Salatin’s advice literally.  In his book You Can Farm, he said, 'Don’t worry about the zoning ordinances—they’re just there for when people complain.'  I had a large garden, a small chicken coop with six laying hens, and now a hive of bees all crammed into my backyard!  It would still be three more years and three more beehives before I moved my growing menagerie out into the country on the twelve acres I have now, but even back then, I was already a homesteader.

     You can be too!  Today, right now, you can begin to realize and grow into your dream.  You don’t have to wait until you have the money or the land.  You can begin now to fill up whatever pot you’re currently planted in and bloom furiously until that pot is overflowing and you move on to a bigger pot.  You can begin producing things now to meet your own needs and to reduce the amount of money going out of your household.  Reducing the amount of money going out is critical to increasing the amount of time you have to put into your endeavor and minimizing the amount of time you spend working elsewhere. 

     To ensure that you’re successful, you’ll want to treat homesteading like starting a small business and follow some sound financial principals, including paying yourself first in the goods and services you produce and avoiding the pitfalls of new business startups." 


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