The Homestead Cookbook

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"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks." ~John Muir

Watusi Cattle

Photo by Jean


Bad Boys on the Homestead

By Betty Taylor


     "It’s autumn and Romeo smells like he just peed all over himself… which he has… for the umpteenth time.  The usually-white hair of his black-and-white coat are yellowed with urine.  For some unfathomable reason in the goat world, this behavior produces a musky scent that is the crack-cocaine of alluring pheromones to female goats, does.  To me, he just smells like the old goat that he is.  What’s worse, he follows me around, rubbing against me, nibbling on my clothing, standing in front of me to prolong my visit to the buck pen, and I come away smelling just like him. 

     Romeo has completed his 'mission' this year, and all the female goats have been bred.  The does preferred him, rebuffing the advances of the younger bucks.  I guess the still sweet-smelling bucklings were no match for Romeo’s rank ripeness.  To make sure he hasn’t missed anyone, Romeo blubbers, curls his lip (the flehmen response), and sniffs the air.  This is the yucky part that I don’t like about breeding goats—putting up with a stinking, blubbering, 150- to 200-pound buck in rut.  One of this winter’s projects will be to move the buck pen to pasture even further from the house. 

     Something I do like about Romeo’s rut season is that it coincides with the campaign season for our local politicians.  They love opening my gate and driving up to ask for my vote.  Letting Romeo out of his paddock is very effective in keeping them at bay.  My drive winds along the pasture where I keep the does, and Romeo will camp out in the drive all day mooning over the girls on the other side of the fence.  All but one campaigner has declined to get out of the car to greet all that stinky badness."




Is It Really So Bad?

By Bonnie Lavigne


     "What has monoculture ever done for us?  Well, it created civilization, that’s what.  Cultivating a few key crops enabled us to turn our minds and energies to things other than basic survival.  Work diversified, allowing activities that did nothing to fill the belly, but that had other value, like creating beauty in music and art; building cities, power, and wealth; exploring human philosophy and examining the universe.  With the cultivation of cereal crops and the domestication of animals, people settled and the evolution of civilization began... 

     We’ve come to associate monoculture with genetic uniformity, deep tillage, as well as pesticide and herbicide use.  We think of it as an artificial system that wouldn’t exist in nature.  This is partially true.  Modern broccoli and kale couldn’t exist, as they are, in the wild.  They’d provide a banquet for insects and disease in very short time.  If lucky, there’d be enough genetic diversity for a few individuals to survive and seed, eventually returning the species to its wild state.  But is that true for all crops?  Why were crops like cereals the first to be widely cultivated?  Why have these plants become our modern dietary staple around the world?

     The second definition of monoculture is quite different.  It may not be obvious, but our modern mono-'culture' goes hand-in-hand with our agricultural practices.  It all boils down to economy of scale and something called Hotelling’s Law."




Raising Earthworms

By Mary Hysong


     "Earthworms may be the easiest and most profitable 'livestock' on your homestead.  I’m not necessarily talking monetary profit, though it is possible to make a living from selling earthworms, that is beyond the scope of this article, and I refer you to the sources listed at the end for more information.

     You see, I don’t count profitability in strictly cash terms when it comes to homestead projects.  I consider a project profitable if it, 1. Saves me from laying out hard earned dollars on goods or services or, 2. Recycles waste products from other projects while giving me something valuable in return.  Earthworms certainly accomplish both of those goals, as you will see.

     Earthworms are most accommodating livestock.  They do not need daily tending; they will thrive with minimal supervision, providing their modest needs are met.  These needs are a sufficient supply of organic matter for food and to be kept moist.  Unless you want to keep your worms indoors, they do not require much by way of equipment, bins or boxes."



The Simplest House of All

The Dacha Series

By Mark Chenail


     "One of the first concerns of new homesteaders is to provide themselves with some sort of shelter.  We have all heard the advice that it’s best to live on your land for a year before you build a permanent house, but most of us don’t care to camp out for a year and many of us don’t find a trailer a viable or attractive solution to the housing question. 

     Admit it, we all feel that nesting instinct as soon as we set foot on our raw land and immediately start to look around for a suitable home-site.  The tool box calls to us with a Siren Song and we can’t pass a lumberyard without going in, 'just to see what’s on special'.  But many homesteaders lament their lack of building and design skills and are afraid of messing things up.  Actually it’s not their lack of skills that’s the problem, it’s that they are thinking too big, too soon.  The solution is to think small and simple.  You don’t really need a full bathroom and all those plumbing skills. 

     Our ancestors made do with an outhouse or a potty chair and  you can still get quite reasonably clean with a bowl and pitcher.  You don’t have to have granite countertops and a refrigerator and that Italian farm sink.  A tin dishpan and a tea kettle of hot water will wash the dishes and the food tastes just as good prepared on a plain pine table top.  And there is nothing cozier than a built in cupboard bed, piled with quilts, and a view out the window on a crisp clear November morning.  So, just as an exercise in building, let’s see what the basic necessities should be and how we can most simply accommodate them."



Seeing Potential in the Unlikeliest of Places

By Norah Messier


     "We arrived in our new home with lots of dreams but not much in the way of means.  My husband and I had decided on this particular property for its potential: a small house on more than an acre of land that seemed well suited to raising goats, chickens, and a garden.  It was hardly in a rural location, but it was secluded enough for our purposes and it was not far from work or conveniences like the grocery store and the highway to my Sainted Smudder’s house.  At the time, we, like so many others, were feeling largely disenfranchised from a system that favored those with means over those willing to work for low wages.  We wanted to do more for ourselves and less for that system.

     Having spent a decade in the museum field, working in historic houses that had been built as hives of home productivity, I couldn’t help but compare our new home to those grand temples of domesticity.  We had a pantry: it was a converted hallway with one set of shelves.  We had a cellar: it had cabinets, but it was damp, despite the dehumidifier.  There was no buttery.  The attic was partially insulated, rendering it impractical for freezing anything (especially since our ancient coal-converted boiler meant the house had central heating).  A healthy tree was growing out of the shed’s roof. 

     This place was going to need work if it was going to become my idea of a homestead."




It's Actually Good For Something

By Gay Ingram


     "Don’t despise parsley, that sprig of green that usually sits as a decoration on your dinner plate.  It has much more going for it besides just looking pretty.  Petroselinum hortense originated along the Mediterranean and has been used as a culinary herb for thousands of years.  First cultivated in England in 1548, parsley originated on the island of Sardinia.  It has since become completely naturalized in various parts of England and Scotland.  Gerard declared it delightful to the taste and agreeable to the stomach. 

     The herb is said to have been dedicated to Persephone and to funeral rites by the Greeks.  Ancient Greeks used parsley to form funeral wreaths and when profusely planted, became a green velvety carpet over the mounds of newly-dug graves.  Garlands of parsley were used by the Greeks to crown their heroes.  Greek lovers made wreaths to present to their beloved ones as expressions of true affection. 

     Romans also used garlands to crown their victorious athletes. They prized the herb highly for its aromatic flavor in sauces and other foods.  Sumptuous parsley garlands were used to decorate the banquet tables of the Romans to absorb the fumes of too much imbibing."



Iris Pseudacorus

Exotica on the Cheap

By Neil Shelton


     "I don't know about you, but one of the things I appreciate most in a plant, that is, if I'm going to be expending the effort to plant and cultivate it, is enthusiasm.

     That's why the Yellow Flag Iris, iris pseudacorus is one of my all-time favorites.  In fact, this iris shows so much enthusiasm that it's considered an invasive nuisance in some areas. 

     More on this later, first a little background:

     Yellow Flags are most probably the flower represented by the fleur-de-lis a design that dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, over six thousand years ago.  I say 'probably' because there exists a school of thought that says the fleur-de-lis was, in fact, a lily.  However, even though the design we know today bears little resemblance to either plant, one has to recall that photography was not highly advanced six millenniums past.  A pressed and dried iris pseudacorus, on the other hand, looks quite a lot like a fleur-de-lis in its flattened state.  Further, the fleur-de-lis is most often found in heraldry on a blue background, symbolizing water, where the plant thrives."



The Bear Facts

Teddy's Story

By Barbara Bamberger Scott


     "What began as a friendly chat escalated into a friendly dispute about what constitutes 'humane' hunting, especially as regards to bears, one of the largest and fiercest of land mammals in the Americas.  Never one to disagree too long with womenfolk, Donnie and the museum keepers came to an understanding that satisfied both parties: he reckoned that a 'fair fight' between a bear and a man, that is, a fight in which both had a chance to win, would involve one weapon—a bowie knife, wielded by the man.  One-on-one, mano-a-paw-o!  That would be the true test of man’s equality with a bear in the combat department.  Perhaps it was just such a confrontation that afterwards inspired Daniel Boone to carve into a tree, 'D. Boon Cilled a. Bar on tree in the year 1760.'

     Not many creatures have as adoringly insinuated themselves into human culture as the bear, the black and the brown, beloved especially among English speaking folk as the huggable, winsome-faced 'Teddy.'  Children are encouraged to hold on to their toy bears in times of stress and loneliness.  Winnie the Pooh was one of the first of Western Civilization’s adored literary bears.  Smokey was America’s favorite TV bear (also honored with a carved likeness at the Game Warden Museum) until Yogi, of Jellystone fame, came on the scene.  Loveable, large, lumpish men are often called 'big ole teddy bears.'

     Native Americans revered the bear as a symbol of power, authority, and, not too surprisingly, of motherhood.  There are few animals whose mothers appear so loving, trusting and, well, human, as bears.  Images of a mother bear and her cubs loping about in the wilderness, tussling and rolling in the snow or on the forest floor, penetrate our unconscious need for the closeness of family.  The mother bear makes herself a complete model for her offspring—showing them by example how to hunt, climb, run, hide, and if necessary, fight."



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