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An entry in The Household Economy

A few months back, I read a Sharon Astyk post in which she wrote about a new cookbook of sorts, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese. In the book, Reese engages in a wide variety of food-centered homesteading activities, like making butter and baking bread, making her own prosciutto and camembert. As she tries these different tasks, she documents the process and makes recommendations for which to take the time to do yourself and which to go on purchasing from others, trying to figure out where one's limited time is best invested.

I haven't read the book but found the concept fascinating. About the same time I read about the book, I found myself thinking about this series of posts on homesteading, The Household Economy, and how exactly I wanted to approach the writing of it. While I've made clear that the intent of the series is to focus on the various ways in which I engage my own household economy in pursuit of my broader goals of voluntary poverty, self-reliance and a modest life built on minimal money and energy, I wondered in what exact way it made sense for me to write about these activities. A series of posts as little more than step-by-step guides didn't seem logical to me, mainly for the reason that such guides already are abundant on the internet for most of the activities I'll be engaging in. Indeed, many of my activities will be carried out with the help of online guides, as well as with certain books I own. Simply duplicating that information makes little sense.

These considerations at some point dovetailed with thoughts about Reese's book and the idea of making the bread but simply buying the butter, assuming you didn't have time to do both. Since I had surmised butter-making would be one of my regular homesteading activities this year, I wondered if the effort really made sense. The difference in taste between store bought butter and homemade butter did seem somewhat negligible and making butter--while not particularly hard--was a bit of a messy affair, and did require quite a bit of cream (at least to create the supply of butter I tend to use, with it standing in as my cooking fat most of the time.) Perhaps making my own butter didn't make sense, after all.

Despite these uncertainties, I made my own butter anyway. I wanted to at least try it, if nothing else. The first time I made it was with cream bought at a co-op in Portland, from a small scale Oregon dairy. The process proved extremely simple, though I did make a mess of a number of dishes and it did require a bit more time than I expected. But despite the clean up, I wanted to make butter again.

Time passed before that happened, but I finally made a new batch of butter a few weeks ago. The cream for this butter came from my weekly supply of raw milk, skimmed off the top after sitting in the fridge for a few days. For some reason--perhaps due to some difference created during the pasteurization or perhaps because the skimmed cream was a lower fat content than the store bought cream--the process of making the butter took longer. However, since the agitation was done in a food processor, that proved to be the most minimal of inconveniences. It was more a curious occurrence than a problem.

The final product was quite tasty and I enjoyed eating the butter smeared on bread. I couldn't say it was an order of magnitude better than store bought butter, though. Better, yes, but not to the same degree as, say, eating fresh baked bread right from the oven in comparison to bread from the store. Furthermore, for my gallon or so of raw milk, I skimmed off a little over a pint of cream and ended up with around a quarter pound of butter. The next week's process proved more successful, with a better skimming of about a pint and a half and around six ounces of butter, but I still realized that it takes a lot of milk to produce a modest amount of butter.

I considered all these factors as I debated with myself as to whether or not to make butter regularly. The more I thought about it, the more variables I considered, until I finally managed to turn my consideration of butter into something of a philosophy of homesteading to be used for this series of posts. The philosophy is rooted in many of the same themes and considerations that have been and will continue permeating my How To Be Poor series on voluntary poverty, as well as the thoughts and ideas behind my blog in general. As such, the major underlying tenets that I'll be using for this series are that I'll be taking into account my own personal context, I'll be looking to educate and demystify with these posts, and I'll be focusing on patterns and systems. All of those tenets need further explanation, so if you don't mind, I'll now break out the bold.

Personal Context
The matter of butter illuminates this tenet well. I'm already receiving a gallon of raw milk each week. Raw milk, for those who may not be familiar with it, is simply milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. My milk comes from a local farm, it has a fat content higher than whole milk in the store, and it's delicious. It comes in a steel milk pail that I return each week and which has a wide mouth lid on it. That means that each week, I can bring home my milk and leave it alone for a few days in the fridge until a good amount of the cream rises to the top, then I can skim off that cream and use it to make butter.

Already receiving that milk is my context--with that context being that I already have available to me a weekly source of high quality, locally-produced cream and it even comes in a container that makes it easy for me to skim off and separate that cream. Since I have that source available to me, it makes sense that I make use of it to provide myself with butter. If I didn't have this available to me, then making my own butter at home might involve simply going to the store and buying cream, bringing it home and then using that to make my own butter. While there's nothing wrong with that, I'm not really creating the benefit of cutting out the middle man since I'm still buying the cream from the store, I'm probably not creating butter much different than what I could buy at the store, and I'm probably spending more money on it. What I'm doing instead, to a large degree, is simply introducing an extra step into my life for minimal benefit.

Now, that doesn't mean it might not be a great step to introduce. If I simply really enjoy the process of making the butter, than that's great. Homesteading is fun outside of moral, ethical or financial concerns, without question. But while that fun is going to be present in this series, I also am intent on rooting it in context, in what makes sense, in the sort of activities that my life already is arranged for. I want to take into account my context and work within that context, rather than creating habits without concern for the rest of my life.

In fact, this strikes me as the root of many of our problems in our society, and it contributes greatly to the unsustainability of our lives. I've written about this before and will write about it again, but it's the fact that we don't take into account our context and our personal situation when making so many of our decisions that brings us trouble. While personal debt, for instance, can arise out of situations out of our control, a good portion of it arises out of decisions made while ignoring our context, our personal reality. I know that has been the case for me before and there's no question that our society and economy encourages this type of behavior. Our economy, in fact, is based on debt and expansion, regardless of the availability of resources for that expansion.

If we find ourselves with so much stuff that our living space is overflowing, we too often look for a bigger living space rather than getting rid of some of our stuff. We consistently, in this society and economy, default to bigger and more expensive, to growth and physical abundance, when we could just as easily default to smaller, more limited, constrained, and cheap (in the monetary sense, not the quality sense.) We've lost touch with thrift and have dismissed the idea of limits. When we have a problem, we as often as not look for solutions rooted in technology, energy and money rather than in solutions rooted in limitation and behavioral change. We look at the life we want and then do whatever we can to try to gain it, often to our detriment. We rarely look for the best life we are capable of having and then achieve it within the limits of our reality.

I don't want to engage in every cool sounding homesteading activity just for the sake of doing it. I want it to arise naturally out of basic needs and my life's circumstances. I want to make my butter not just because it's fun--which, again, is a legitimate piece of this--but more importantly because it makes sense within the realities of my life. It flows from my circumstance and maximizes my resources. As such, it feeds my current goals rather than working against them. That's important.

Education and Demystification
One of the critical goals that I think can be achieved through homesteading is the slow build of skills and knowledge used to make one's own living. Every time we find ourselves purchasing something we need at the store, provided by someone whom we likely don't know or care about and who doesn't know or care about us, we make ourselves vulnerable. We reduce the sovereignty we have over ourselves and our livelihood, and we endanger our family and community. We put ourselves at the mercy of others--most often, at the mercy of massive and amoral corporations and too-often-corrupt bureaucracies. Meanwhile, these same corporations and bureaucracies are finding their supporting infrastructure weakened and at risk of collapse. The necessary resources for these massive entities are becoming more limited, more scarce, and in many cases are nearing full scale disappearance. Our state of dependence is an incredible danger, a huge vulnerability for most of us.

I've written plenty of times on my blog about our need to reduce that state of dependence. Dramatically reducing the money, energy and resources we need is a big piece of limiting that dependence. Learning how to make, produce, or trade for many of our necessities is another huge piece and that's the piece that I'll be most focused on with this series. To successfully provide ourselves many of our own needs, though, we need a range of skills and education that many of us simply don't have anymore. In just a few generations, we've lost a massive amount of knowledge and ability and now we need to relearn it as a culture as quickly as possible.

Assisting that need will be another tenet of this series. I want my posts not just to be how-to guides, but to attempt to break down the underlying ideas and theories that make these homesteading activities beneficial and even revolutionary. For instance, to understand why making butter makes sense for me, I need to know what butter is and where it comes from. Sure, I can decide that I want to make butter, look up a how-to guide on the internet, then go buy some cream and do the deed. But there's still a dependency in that. If I instead have a more complete knowledge that tells me that butter is a mix of butterfat, milk proteins and water; that it's created by agitating cream so as to join together the molecules of butterfat by breaking down their surrounding membranes; that the cream comes from milk; that cream will rise to the top of non-homogenized milk if left alone for a certain length of time; and that the cream can then be skimmed off the top of the milk with a ladle; well, if I know all these things and others, then I have the sort of knowledge that allows me to parse my own context and recognize that with my weekly supply of raw and non-homogenized milk, I also potentially have a weekly supply of cream, which I can then use to make butter.

Now, this may be known knowledge for a good number of people, but some out there don't know it. But even if someone knows about butter, perhaps they don't know anything about an enzyme cleaner, or why it is very effective at getting rid of certain stains and smells, or why it has many benefits over chemical cleaners, or how you make it at home, or the connection between why it gets rid of, say, the lingering smell of cat urine and why you can make it at home with some brown sugar and fruit trimmings. (Yes, I'll be writing about this in a future post.) If you have all that knowledge, though, then you can begin to see and derive the sorts of patterns that effective homesteading make use of.

Patterns and Systems
Which brings me to the third tenet of these posts, which will be the exploration of patterns and systems. Let's engage in one final consideration of my butter-making to better understand this.

If I want to reduce my energy consumption, save money, maximize my resources and better build my own self-sufficiency, I should absolutely make butter utilizing the gallon of milk I already get every week. The milk already exists. A good amount of cream already exists in that milk. I can bring the milk home, wait a couple days, skim the cream, and then make butter. In doing so, I've eliminated the need to buy at least some of my butter, if perhaps not all. That's less butter that needs to be made by machines, brought to me by way of industrial farming. I'm eliminating one of my life's inputs and I'm not creating a new one at all--I'm actually just more effectively utilizing another one. I'm reducing the fat content of my milk, granted, but I'm already operating at a calorie surplus. I can transfer that fat to the form of butter, cut out the imported butter, and not need extra calories to make that up. I've just saved money and energy by making my own butter from an already existing resource and reduced my consumption. In so doing, I've taken another step toward my goals of voluntary poverty, have created greater self-reliance, and am helping build a stronger community and local economy. That right there is the pattern of my behavior. But there's a systemic piece to this, too, that I want to elaborate on.

If I'm anticipating a future in which large corporations and industrialism become less tenable and more expensive, and if I'm therefore looking to adjust my life so that it better fits into a local way of living--rooted in trade and barter, covenantal relationships and the sort of products and tools that can be made on a small scale, in a world of constrained energy and resources--well, then, my making butter fits that far better than my buying it. In such a world, there will almost certainly be a local dairy able to provide me a pail of raw milk each week. In such a world, there's an excellent chance I could even barter or trade for that milk if I should need to, especially with the farming and ranching skills I've been developing. In such a world, I can just as easily skim the cream from my milk and I can even agitate it to make the butter without electricity if I should need to, transitioning from my food processor to a hand cranked mixer or just shaking the cream in a jar. Making butter at home currently uses some electricity, just by way of how I make it. But it doesn't have to. There's flexibility there and the adjustment could be made relatively easy if it needed to.

That sort of flexibility and resiliency doesn't exist for the store bought butter. The butter in the store comes out of industrial systems, dependent on industrial-grade energy and resource feeds. They're dependent on all the supporting infrastructure that comes with our industrial economy--all the infrastructure that would be very vulnerable in an energy- and resource-constrained world. That butter at the store is going to be much harder to barter or trade for, as well, if I should find myself short on money at some point. Nothing about that shelf of butter in the store makes much sense in a future beset by constraints on industrialism and it would be much harder to convert said shelf of butter to a low-energy way of life than it would be for me to switch from an electric food processor to a hand mixer or jar while making my butter. The systems I see us having to deal with in the future are going to be much different than the ones we deal with today. Making my butter at home fits that future system far, far better than buying my butter at the store.

Wendell Berry wrote an excellent essay some decades ago titled "Solving For Pattern" (PDF). In it, Berry writes, "A good solution acts within the larger pattern the way a healthy organ acts within the body." Making my own butter seems like just such a good solution. It acts within the larger pattern, reducing my energy and resource usage while making use of already-existing resources and behavior, and further enhancing my life's resiliency by increasing the flexibility with which I may react to the future. This small homesteading activity fits within the broader patterns--both existing and desired--of my life. It's the exact sort of homesteading activity that I'll be writing about in this series.

My hope is that by following the above principles, I'll create a series that will prove a bit more holistic and informative than simply producing a number of how-to guides. While I still intend to include step-by-step instructions for these various homesteading activities, they'll come after I provide the context of what I'm doing and how it fits into my goals. In this way, I hope this series will, more than anything, reinforce the idea of homesteading and a patterned approach to it that will prove beneficial in the sort of constrained future I think we face--or at least will prove beneficial for those looking to live their lives a bit more modestly, whether or not they think such modesty will turn into a necessity.

As should by now seem befitting, the first project I'll be writing about is homemade raw butter. That will be the next post, arriving soon.

(Cross-posted from my blog, Of The Hands.)

Originally posted to aimlessmind on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 07:52 PM PDT.

Also republished by Practical Survivalism and Sustainable Living and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Altho i'm probably not going to be making butter-- (19+ / 0-)

    because i don't have access to cream...
    [and because it's just so much easier for me to wait
    till butter goes on sale at the local market and then buy it...and because i'm kind of lazy that way ;0 ] --

    I do love the basic philosophy here.

    I've often thought that we have way too much Stuff--
    and that it so burdens us.  Debt, space, renting storage
    units to house all our crap---where does it end?

    A quote that i first read way back in high school,
    that has since hovered in the periphery of my mind:

    As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
    ~Henry David Thoreau
    I look forward to reading more diaries from you.
    Write on, brother  [or sister].
    •  Love the quote (8+ / 0-)

      It's ridiculous--considering I'm writing a blog on voluntary poverty, homesteading and connection to nature--but I still haven't read Thoreau, though I've obviously read plenty of works hugely influenced by him. I'm going to read Walden next.

      Whenever my stuff builds up, as it inevitably does, I start to get anxious and want to get rid of it. Often times, that's what I do--or get rid of some of it, at least. In fact, I'll probably be writing about that at some point not too far in the future. An occasional purging is good for the soul, I'd say.

      It is indeed brother. Thanks for the kind words.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 08:50:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting post. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind, lgmcp, Aunt Pat

        You have given this a lot of thought.  The way I avoid the anxiety of having too much stuff and then having to purge is not to buy anything I don't absolutely need.  It's an easy philosophy to adopt when living a small budget lifestyle, but it can also be rewarding to see how much I can do without.  It also helps me to keep perspective about what is really important in life and it's definitely not "stuff".

        Homemade butter from raw milk is excellent and very easy to do.  It's one of my favorite adolescent memories of how my life changed for the better when my mom, newly divorced with 7 kids, moved us from our suburban life in California to a somewhat rural area of Idaho circa 1971.

        •  The best approach is definitely (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aunt Pat

          to avoid building up so much stuff in the first place. I'm pretty good at that these days, what with not having much money. My remaining weaknesses are books and kitchen tools. I still have a hard time resisting those--but the lack of money, again, keeps a check on things.

          Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

          by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:10:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Yours is an interesting path. (8+ / 0-)

    Not mine but I look forward to reading more.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 08:47:54 PM PDT

    •  Thanks! (5+ / 0-)

      It is indeed interesting, and not for everyone. It's been treating me pretty damn good, though.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 08:51:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I had access to (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, aimlessmind, lgmcp, Aunt Pat

        raw milk (friend's son who worked at a dairy), I enjoyed nothing more than ladling cream off the top and into a Mason jar, then shaking it up while "doing other things" to make butter. A friend with goats gave me a wooden butter mold, makes a nice half-bowl mound with a fluer-de-lis on top. Still have it, though no cow or milk goats these days.

        Goat's milk is naturally homogenized, you need a separator to get the cream. Traded a friend in New Mexico for artwork and calligraphy on his bead catalogue for fresh goat milk from a goat someone had traded him for beads... but goat milk is honestly so darned tasty and rich (and easily digestible), I never bothered to get a separator.

        Just starting with livestock on our homestead (now in its 20th year). Too close to the wildlands to have wanted critters other than dogs to keep the bears at bay and cats to keep the rodent population in line. Starting with a pair of Pekin ducks (just now getting first feathers) for "protection squad," then will get chickens - all hens. We don't eat meat, just want the eggs as well as bug control and poop for the garden compost. Have foxes, occasional coyotes, lost hunting hounds, rare bobcats, big hawks/owls and even eagles that may take chickens but can't handle a 12-pound loudmouth duck. And since the ducks are as big as the wild turkeys hereabouts, I already know bears won't bother them.

        Would have gotten a watch goose instead, but geese are not friendly critters to dogs and children. Ducks THINK they're dogs, do much better. If it works out, I'm planning bee hives and goats. Slow but sure here, by the time the grandkids inherit the place it ought to be fairly self-sufficient! §;o)

        •  I love the trading aspect. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aimlessmind, Joieau, Aunt Pat

          Right now I have a friend who gives me honey and I give him homemade limoncello.

          "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

          by tardis10 on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 12:42:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Chickens and predators (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aimlessmind, Joieau, Aunt Pat

          If close to wildlands,  the predator you will probably have to guard against most carefully are weasels.  They have a nasty habit of getting into coops at night and maiming or killing the chickens.  

          Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

          by barbwires on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 01:03:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Raccoons seem to be the most immediate danger (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Joieau, Aunt Pat

            in our area. Just in the year I've been out here, I've made note of numerous ducks and chickens lost to them, between the farms I've been on and others. They're crafty, for sure.

            Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

            by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:19:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Never seen a weasel (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat

            here. Do have foxes, but they're small red ones, mostly go for rodents and baby rabbits in the high field. Have a border collie desperate for work. Never had a real working dog (sis rescued this one), he's kind of amazing. The shepherd will patrol and keep bears away, but she's not looking for more work - more a people dog. The collie is always looking for work. Will attach him a nice doghouse between the house and coops, he can sleep out to guard the poultry. One of these days we'll get him a sheep, since Granddaughter-in-Law spins and knits.

            We'll see how it works out, not in any big hurry.

          •  I lost a couple chickens (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aimlessmind

            to a hawk before I figured out how to shut them in at night.  Those were my first losses in 8 years of having livestock (but first year of chickens), then in February I had three goats killed by stray dogs.  Now I'm getting two livestock guardian dogs, plus got a lot of new fences.  It would be a whole lot cheaper to get milk, meat and eggs at the grocery store.  I do love it, though.

        •  We have a goose, wild turkeys, and ducks (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau, Aunt Pat

          I love ducks. They work particularly well out here since we get about a 100 inches of rain a year. While the chickens are huddled miserable under a tree during rain storms, the ducks are completely in their element.

          Wild turkeys have been roaming around the farm for the last few weeks and they're quite fun to watch. They're big, though--if your ducks are close to that size, quite impressive. We've got bald eagles around here and, actually, just had a couple lambs taken out by coyotes today, which really sucks. Two were killed and two injured. Bald eagles and vultures were feasting on one of the little guys out in the field when we found it, but I'm pretty sure it was a coyote attack and they just came in for the leftovers. Not sure if the attack happened in the daylight, but it seemed fresh this afternoon, which is certainly concerning.

          Sounds like you have a great homestead there. Keep up the good work--sounds like you're farther along than I am in many respects!

          Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

          by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:17:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well, this is our 20th year, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat, aimlessmind

            and it's still a "work in progress." Figure that's what it'll always be, but that's okay. We work so we can pay the mortgage, only three years to go. But we hit retirement in two years, hoping we'll be done getting the grandsons through college and into work by then, they can help US our for a change!

            Do grow lots of food and have very nice wilding stands of ginseng and black cohosh in the forest. "Inherited" (from owners before last) an orchard with pears, apples, cherries and peaches, plus small vineyard with concord, muscadine and zinfandels. Love it here, never get tired of it!

        •  J, I have a burning off-topic question (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Joieau, Aunt Pat

          to ask. Err, sorry for barging in like this...

          It may be a dumb question. But, if I may, how is spent MOX fuel stored? Does it go into a regular spent fuel pool? Does Fukushima Reactor No. 3 have spent MOX fuel on site? In case you haven't already heard, TEPCO just 'found' that a 35 ton "machine" had "fallen" into that particular SFP during the explosion last year.

          "All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe." ~ Thomas Paine

          by PreciousLittle on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 05:26:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Burning off-topic (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat, PreciousLittle

            answer: MOX is just another fuel, goes to the same place as the rest of the fuel. Don't know if there were new assemblies in the pool, but could be because they were going to expand MOX elements at next refueling. Far as TEPCO's said, this was its first MOX run, so the older fuel isn't MOX. All of it contains plutonium.

            They didn't just "find" the damned fuel crane, knew it was there last March. They've just started the info-cycle over again as if it's all new, because they're still unable to do anything useful about any of it. Nobody can get near unit-3. Maybe 5 or 10 years from now they'll have a plan and some way to make it happen.

            Unit-4 is the one to watch - the one with the full core in the pool. This 'news' is just distraction, 4's listing heavily and ready to collapse. 20 earthquakes centered on Fuku today, starting at 5.9. They don't have 5 or 10 years.

            •  J, Brilliant, thank you. Now, this... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Joieau

              Yes, what we have now is a news spin recycle.

              Re. storage of spent MOX fuel: I was having a hard time getting info online that is understandable to a lay person. I half-recall reading something, in passing, that said spent MOX fuel was hotter than the regular stuff and had to be stored in casks. I must be mistaken, as I trust your answer that it is stored in regular SFPs. Can regular spent fuel and spent MOX be stored in the same SFP?

              More misc stuff: I've been reading Ex-Skf, pretty much from Day 1, although my more recent must-have is your new stomping grounds ENFORMABLE.COM. I began reading Ex-Skf more closely, again, a couple of weeks ago and I'm finding a decidedly hostile tone toward Gundersen, both in the editorials and in the comments.  I've been called a "troll" for Gundersen several times on that site. Unit-4 is a case in point.

              Laprimavera (the Ex-Skf site admin/host/author) is vocally dismissive of that assessment of the Unit-4 SFP. In fact, he's recently written a couple of posts that push-back against the "meme" (his word) that the Unit-4 SFP is currently any worse off than it was last summer when it was "reinforced with steel and concrete" (his words). The vast majority of his posts, of the past couple of months, don't deal with impending global catastrophe from ongoing structural deterioration at the site. The focus is on issues of radiation but, oddly, he wrote a piece that minimized/ridiculed Gundersen's recent radiation findings from Tokyo. At present, I'm also not seeing a particularly high level of skepticism toward TEPCO.

              You may recall that Gundersen actually publicly recommended Ex-Skf (and ENENews) last summer. However, something seems to have changed around there at Ex-Skf and I don't think it's for the better. It concerns me because I believe it is still perceived as a highly trustworthy site. Maybe I'm expecting too much.

              "All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe." ~ Thomas Paine

              by PreciousLittle on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 09:57:12 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I'm in PDX too (5+ / 0-)

    Which creamery? We like Lady Lane, though we don't buy raw. We just can't afford it. :(

    •  I got the cream at People's (6+ / 0-)

      And I believe it was Garry's Meadow, though your question makes me realize I don't remember for sure who it was. Glass bottle. It might've been Noris, but I think it was Garry's.

      Raw's a lot trickier to get hold of. Aside from the goat milk you can find at People's--which is super expensive, for sure--and a few other places, you pretty much have to buy it on the farm. The legalities are pretty strict. I'm lucky to have the access. But I'm out on the coast now, near Nehalem and Manzanita. Portland's my second home, though. Going in for a Horse Feathers show and visiting with friends and family next week.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 08:55:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Like LynnS, I'm in Portland (14+ / 0-)

    and am interested in your source.  

    We've been looking more and more into urban homesteading.  We grow lots of our own food and can a ton of things.  We grind our own meat and make our own sausage.  (Meat purchased from local butcher who gets their stuff from Oregon Natural Meats)  We make our own household soaps.  I don't know when I became that crazy survivalist chick, but we're having a blast!  We don't have chickens yet, but most of our neighbors do.  Our nabe to the north has 12 different kinds of fruit on his 50' x 100' lot.  Grows his own hops and brews the most delicious beer ever!

    Anyway, thanks for the diary.  I'd love to try butter at least once! :-)

    Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ~ Abraham Lincoln

    by CJB on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 09:35:05 PM PDT

    •  Source of raw milk? (7+ / 0-)

      It's a local place out here on the coast, but they're pretty full up with customers. I know of a place closer to Portland, though, that might have some availability if you're interested. Let me know.

      Sounds like you're already urban homesteading, and doing a damn fine job of it. I found a cast iron, hand crank meat grinder at the local thrift shop awhile back for three bucks and snapped that up. Would love to make my own sausage at some point, but haven't gotten around to it yet. Also want to try my hand at soap one of these days.

      It's pretty fun, isn't it? Definitely go for some chickens--the fresh eggs are so fantastic.

      I'll make sure to post my butter-making post here when I get it written. It's really easy--you should definitely try it.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 10:09:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sausages (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind, Aunt Pat

        Here's a good link to get you started making good links. It got me going. And the Minnestota Brat and Sweet Anise Italian recipes here got rave reviews from my vict... guinia pigs.

        I made my first batch of sausages - bratwursts - about 2 weeks ago. I used the grinder / stuffer adapter from my stand mixer, but you might find the hand grinder you bought will grind faster. You will probably have to buy a stuffer tool, but those can be had new for $40-50 I understand.

        The one lesson I learned in my first attempt was this: Don't make your first attempt a 10$ batch. Start with 2 or 3 pounds.

  •  I recall making butter in school (7+ / 0-)

    when I was a child. Haven't thought of that in such a long time.

    Thanks for an interesting diary.

    Honesty pays, but it doesn't seem to pay enough to suit some people. Kin Hubbard

    by Mr Robert on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 10:06:52 PM PDT

  •  Going to a Simple Living... (7+ / 0-)

    meeting next weekend... people coming together to share stories on homesteading and to perhaps do a little bartering or maybe even put together a small co-op.

    Love this series!!!

    Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

    by mommyof3 on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 11:18:28 PM PDT

    •  Excellent! (4+ / 0-)

      Self-reliance only goes so far, after all. One person can't make all their own living, but a community can do quite a lot. It's also good to have the moral support, as well.

      I wish you happy bartering. I think we all could use less of the money economy and more sacred economics.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 11:24:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Butter is easily made from heavy cream (8+ / 0-)

    in your food processor. I do it all the time.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 11:30:55 PM PDT

  •  Why not make your own Iphone also (0+ / 0-)

    I never cease to be amazed when this type of diary rises to the top of the rec list.  Although harmless, they display remarkable ignorance of the fact that the food (in this case the dairy) industry has the same advantages of scale and technology that are provided by, for example, Apple.  To put it bluntly:   1) There is no way you can make butter that can compare in quality, taste, smell, etc. to that of the high quality butter produced by the specialty creameries and are available in any good supermarket;  and 2) it will cost you twice as much in just the raw materials, not to mention your time and labor.
    What is it about products such as butter, yogurt, mayonnaise, catsup, mustard, etc. that makes people think that modern science, technology, specialization and scale does not apply as much to the food industry as it does to the auto industry?

    •  Riiiiiight. (17+ / 0-)
      1) There is no way you can make butter that can compare in quality, taste, smell, etc. to that of the high quality butter produced by the specialty creameries and are available in any good supermarket;
      Because homebrewed beer is never better than Budweiser, and everyone knows the best pecan pies come from Marie Calenders.

      Your second point isn't laughable, though it ignores that some people actually enjoy preparing food and spending time in their own kitchens.

      I can't buy a bar-b-q sauce I enjoy as much as what I make at home, because nothing in a bottle at the store is made with the honey I use.  Period.

      Yes, it costs me more than twice as much as a store-brand bar-b-q sauce.  However, it's cheaper than many premium labels.

      And, what's more important, it's worth it to me.

      Kos should start a PvP server for this game.

      by JesseCW on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:30:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Besides (7+ / 0-)

        the BBQ sauce from the store doesn't have a 1/2 oz of Laphroaig in it and another 1/2 ounce in the cook!
        Preparing stuff from scratch is good fun. Though I have not made butter myself, the potential is there to incorporate fresh herbs or do some other things with it.
        As a cautionary tale though, I used butter as my main cooking fat for years, though I didn't do a lot of baking and ate very little bread, so my intake wasn't particularly large. At a point in my late 40s, my cholesterol numbers went into the stratosphere, so it's olive oil or duck fat for me. Be careful.

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 05:26:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  It depends on what you want to eat. (13+ / 0-)

      Many of the chemical additives that are used in manufacturing to create food with a longer shelf life and certain flavor and texture profiles make me feel bad. Some even trigger migraines.

      If I go into my kitchen and I start with plain ingredients, I can make food I can eat without adverse consequences.

      Plus, it's fun to cook. It's fun to play with an old recipe and see what comes out. And no one is making spiced pear butter with white wine, ginger, mace, and cardamom, but I spread some on my toast this morning.

      When you come to find how essential the comfort of a well-kept home is to the bodily strength and good conditions, to a sound mind and spirit, and useful days, you will reverence the good housekeeper as I do above artist or poet, beauty or genius.

      by Alexandra Lynch on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 05:19:30 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Considering that I have made superior butter (9+ / 0-)

      I can tell you with 100% certainty that you are wrong wrong wrong about both quality and taste.

      Furthermore, as expired cream makes for fine butter, making it at home can save waste. Though I have yet to do so, I have heard of folks who collect un-used cream from local coffee houses etc to use for their vutter.

      Do some research maybe?  

    •  There is a huge difference (8+ / 0-)

      in butter than comes from pasture-fed cows and those from corn-fed.

      The most obvious thing is color.  Grass-fed butter is golden yellow.

      It is also softer, even when cold, and has a much richer taste.

      I only know of one store brand of butter (from Ireland) that uses grass-fed milk.

      The other thing is that a lot of people get personal satisfaction from making their own, and you can't beat that.

    •  Wow. A few points. (6+ / 0-)

      First of all, I don't know where you got the idea that you can't make butter or other food products that taste as good as what you can buy in the store. I pretty regularly make food products at home from scratch that taste much better than what I can get at the store and I'm in many ways an amateur. Also, taste is often subjective. So I don't know, maybe you've never tasted something homemade that you thought was better than what you got at the store, but that would be your personal taste. I think quite a number of people would disagree.

      Second, I don't want an iPhone, so no need to make one.

      Third, that second pithy response aside, I suggest you go back and take a closer look at the "Patterns and Systems" section of the diary. I'm of the mind that the energy- and resource-intensive industrialism that we consider normal today is going to have a very hard time of it in the future, as we deal with reduced availability of energy and resources. I'm of the mind that process has already begun. And I'm of the mind that it's smart to begin changing our lives to deal with that reality. Granted, I didn't get into that opinion with too much detail because I've written about it at length in other posts at my blog, some of which have ended up as diaries here, too. I can't rehash it in every diary. But I do make mention of it a few times here and note that I see a benefit in knowing how to do many of these things ourselves, integrating it into our lives, and increasing our flexibility to respond to a future economy and infrastructure that may work dramatically different than it does today.

      Fourth, I also make note that if I just went to the store and bought cream, came home and made butter from it, it would likely cost me more than just buying butter and probably wouldn't have much of a quality difference. Not that I think it's terrible if you want to do that for fun, but it doesn't hit all of my personal foci. But if you reread the diary, you'll note that in my situation I'm actually producing butter from a product I already have and am thus saving money and likely saving energy, as well, though you might have to do a long study to tease out all the implications of my small electricity usage to run the food processor versus the economies of scale electricity usage of butter bought at the store.

      Fifth, speaking of such studies, they're always a little tricky to pin down because they so often don't take into account the sunk energy costs of the very necessary and vast industrial infrastructure that often backs these products that they're looking at. They'll see the more direct inputs, but not so much the secondary ones. In other words, they don't look at a systemic picture and try to ask what our energy and resource usage would look like if we did things in a completely different way--utilizing a small scale, local economic model--rather than an industrial way. But now I'm getting way away from your comment, so I'll end this here.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:51:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  LOL! (5+ / 0-)

      You seem to have gotten most of your points covered already, so I'm only going to add one more:  many people who have grown up on mass-produced foods from the industrial food chain have been so far separated from what real food ingredients actually taste like, that they find the tastes of foods that are NOT full of chemical additives "odd" at best, while the presence of real natural flavors can be disconcerting (mass-marketed foods are generally designed to be as bland as possible, flavored primarily with salt and sugar, which are extremely cheap in industrial bulk quantities).  In other words, there could be good reasons why you think that crap-for-food "tastes better" than the more nutritious real thing: you've been trained since birth to eat what is cheap and easy to mass-produce.  Humans tend to learn what "food" is as children, and find it difficult to extend their horizons thereafter.

  •  Aside from the economy of it all (10+ / 0-)

    ... what one loves to do needs to figure into the equation.)  Aside from the fact that I don't use much butter anyhow.)  But I do like gardening, and do keep little patches of many perennial cooking herbs.  Through much of the year, it's a simple matter of picking what's needed for the project at hand.  No money spent on things that are purchased at a fairly high price per ounce.  No trips to the store to buy them.

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden 8/10/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 05:11:33 AM PDT

    •  Absolutely (5+ / 0-)

      Love is a big piece of it, especially in the world of the household economy. No sense in turning it into drudgery--that's for the money economy. I didn't get into the importance of personal enjoyment as much. I meant to touch on that more in personal context but it slipped out of the flow of writing. But I will make sure to hit on that point in the future.

      Gardening is, of course, one of the very best household economy activities you can do. I plan on doing a good amount of gardening this year.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:57:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That can turn into drugdery, too (3+ / 0-)

        I've put a lot of emphasis on perennials.  And fruit trees.  After some initial effort getting established, they self-maintain pretty well.

        Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden 8/10/09)

        by Land of Enchantment on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:50:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I like permaculture a lot (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Land of Enchantment, Aunt Pat

          And love the idea of perennials and fruit trees. If you can make yourself a rudimentary ecosystem that largely takes care of itself and provides you food, why wouldn't you? That's just smart.

          Animals can be quite nice in this regard, too, though they certainly require their own attention.

          Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

          by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:51:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I like seasonality, too (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aimlessmind, Aunt Pat

            There's a good wisdom in knowing there's only a certain season for asparagus, for example.  I think maybe you can savor things better when you know it's only there for a limited time, and fresh and perfect when it is.

            The energy side of permaculture gets a lot less attention than the food and water components.  But it definitely deserves mindfulness, too.  Stuff like planting trees for summer shade (east/west - morning/afternoon) while maximizing winter sun.

            Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden 8/10/09)

            by Land of Enchantment on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 11:39:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I love gardening (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, aimlessmind, Aunt Pat

        I know that it's drudgery if you HAVE to do it: I DETEST mowing grass.  Grass is for sheep.  If you don't have sheep (or goats or cows or horses), grass is a damned-all useless waste of good growing-space.  But I love working with plants, and smelling dirt, and harvesting my own crops, even when they're not things I particularly want to eat.  And I love critters.  Next month I'm moving to my mountain place, and I already used the move as an excuse to purchase five little bush-starts (cherry bushes at $2.50! -- all right, they won't be grown for three years, but that's what plants DO) and a new cherry tree.  I can't wait to start the new garden!  Then as soon as I fix up one of the spare sheds enough, I'll be looking for some chickens and goats.  I understand that goats are great lawnmowers.  I intend to name mine Weedeater, Lawnchop, and Bush-hog.  I doubt that I'll make much butter, as I don't really use the stuff (I tend to cook Mediterranean style with olive oil).  But I'm looking forward to home-made feta, which I can consume in mass quantities ;-).

        •  Goats are great lawn mowers (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cynndara, aimlessmind, Aunt Pat

          But be aware they will eat almost anything not nailed down, including clothes off the line.

          Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

          by barbwires on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 01:08:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wellll . . . (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat

            I read somewhere that they had a particular passion for the young, new shoots of blackberries.  My mountain is overgrown with blackberries to the point of being a Hill Of Thorns.  I understand that I'll need to cut back the old, nasty, hard and heavily-barbed stuff.  But if the goats can keep the young growth trimmed, I won't have to KEEP cutting it back, which will really reduce the potential workload.  I'd like angora, so I can play with the wool; I'd like milk, so I can make cheese.  But if they can keep the brush clear, that alone will make them worth their living-space, back-up food supply and treats and spoiling.  And of course, there will be a Dog to help keep them from eating the clothes, the rosebushes, the cherry-trees, the blueberries, the daylilies . . .

            •  They should definitely help with the blackberries (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              lgmcp, Aunt Pat

              At least, the new and tender shoots, as you note. The little bummer lambs we have running around in the house's yard seem to really enjoy nibbling at the new shoots on the blackberries, so your sheep might also help in that regard.

              I love feta and chevre. One of these days, I would love to have a couple milk goats just for cheesemaking supplies. In the mean time, I should see if I can work out some trade or barter, as there are local people with goats who make their own cheese.

              Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

              by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:25:47 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Simply not true. See below. (0+ / 0-)
  •  I miss country butter- you need a wooden churn (11+ / 0-)

    If I were to take up butter making, my main goal would be to make the "country butter" of my childhood, which I haven't had in decades.  I would love to taste it again.

    My grand parents had a farm and by the time I was a kid, they no longer made butter, but people traded stuff like butter, ham and other smoked pork products.  Homemade butter, which we had a lot of, but only down south on the farm, was completely different from store bought butter.

    The thing is -- it had a stinky cheese taste!

    Real country butter was made from fermented cream like youghurt and cheese.  The mile was accumulated over several days and got increasingly "ripe."  Only when it was ripened was it churned into butter.

    It tasted like a cross between butter and cheddar cheese.  

    Later I read the Firefox books which discuss many country methods, one of which was butter.

    Apparently, by using the same wooden churn over and over, the butter maker impregnated a specific strain of bacteria in the grains of the wood, which gave each butter maker a somewhat different flavor -- just like each cheese cave in Italy or France produces a slightly different cheese.

    Before about 60 years ago, most people had never tasted unripened butter.  Butter made from fresh cream arose because factories couldn't control the ripening process to their desired degree -- hence the bland, fresh taste of store bought butter today.

    People who make butter today often think that's the flavor to aim for.

    I think if I were to make butter, it wouldn't be just to make fresh butter, but to make the stinky-delicious butter of my childhood on the farm.

    I so wish I could taste it again.

    Btw, sorry for littering your diary with misplaced comments

    •  Love the bit about the wooden churn (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cynndara, HamdenRice

      I didn't know that, but it makes perfect sense that each churn would slowly build its own, unique microbial profile, much like a sourdough starter.

      The ramekin of butter I just finished up the other day was actually getting pretty cultured. That butter had been made with cream that ended up sitting in the fridge for a week or so--after it had already sat in the fridge for awhile before being skimmed off the milk. Since it's raw cream, it just slowly cultures and so by the time I made the butter, it already had a bit of that cheesey cultured taste. Then I ate it over the course of a week or so. As it sat on the counter, it got a little more ripe and a bit darker yellow each day. By the time I was eating the last of it, it was definitely getting pretty cheesey.

      I don't know if you have any sort of access to raw milk or cream, but if you do, try to find it. The beauty with raw as compared to pasteurized is that when it spoils, it actually just sours rather than actually going bad like pasteurized milk. You can still use it, it just doesn't taste as good (depending on your tastes!) But if you have some raw cream you can leave it out at room temperature for about 8 hours so that it will start to sour and then make your butter. Voila, cultured butter.

      The book Nourishing Traditions also talks about culturing pasteurized (but not ultrapasteurized) cream with a piima culture and then making butter for a similar effect. I've never tried that, but it might be something for you to look into. You can order piima cultures online.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:06:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks - I miss so many smells, tastes (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind, tardis10, offred, lgmcp

        As I sit here trying to conjure up that taste, I'm sure I'm mixing up several different sensations.  

        My grandmother gave us, her grandkids, my cousins, buttermilk biscuits with country butter and homemade "preserves" of pears, apples, watermelon rind,  and other fruits.

        The biscuits were made with homemade rendered lard and cooked in a wood burning stove.

        So the flavor I'm trying to conjure includes the stinky butter, the bread that tastes like bacon, the preserves laced with cloves, the smokey-ness of the biscuits from having been cooked in a wood fired oven, even the smell of my grandmother (she had no running water and bathed in a galvanized tub, so everyone was kind of funky in the summer) and the flour and lard worked into her hands and under her fingernails because she made bread twice a day every day for 80 years.

        All these smells run together.

        Thanks for the advice.  I'll have to try to get some cream and at least make the cheesy butter.  I remembered that it's technically called "cultured butter" and you can buy it from small scale creameries.  

    •  It is sad how many flavors (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aimlessmind, HamdenRice

      have been blanded away.Your comment reminds me of how my grandmother would allow raw milk to sour to bake with because of the specific tang and better texture it gave.Now using yoghurt or buttermilk can impart a certain similarity but it is not the same.

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 01:33:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Baking is one of my common uses (0+ / 0-)

        for raw milk that's soured to the point that I don't really want to drink it straight anymore. I'll also sometimes just separate out the whey from it for various homesteading projects and then use the leftovers as a sort sharp and tangy cream cheese.

        I love that with raw milk it's pretty much always useable. I also like the way it changes flavor over the days as it sits in the fridge. It's nice knowing my food's real, alive, not dead, and I love that connection that stems from having a new little ecosystem to taste with each glass.

        That might sound weird, but it's very cool to me.

        Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

        by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:28:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  That reminds me of a Betty McDonald story, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HamdenRice, aimlessmind, tardis10, offred

    Hamden.  Betty McDonald, for younger Kossacks who may not have heard of her, was the woman who wrote The Egg and I, The Plague and I, Anybody Can Do Anything, and Onions in the Stew.

    These books are all personal accounts, hilarious tales of her life on a chicken farm, where she met Ma and Pa Kettle, her stay in a TB ward, and of her many attempts to get a job during the Great Depression.  In Onions in the Stew she speaks of life on Vashon Island and her attempts to make her own butter.  She said it always turned out dark yellow and tasted like cheese.  "Now," she wrote, "I buy my butter from the milkman and it is always pale yellow and sweet."

    That's interesting about the cheesy-tasting butter.  My grandmother was still making her own butter in the late 1940s but I don't remember what it tasted like.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:47:56 AM PDT

  •  I like this diary (5+ / 0-)

    I don't necessarily want to do these things myself, but it's interesting and reading aimlessmind's posts might teach us something. Learning new ways of living can be most valuable.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 06:51:28 AM PDT

  •  Use a stand mixer instead. Butter is easy peasy (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, Debby, aimlessmind, Lily O Lady

    Or if you use a food processor use the plastic blade instead of the metal blade. The sharp metal blade chops some of the forming butter back into suspended fat. That is probably why it is taking you longer.

    I've been making my own butter for about 2 months now. I get about 14 ounces from a quart of heavy cream and about a pint of milk left over. The milk probably is somewhere between 2% and whole milk in terms of suspended fat. That goes into homemade bread or homemade ice cream.

    I buy cream from the store. The Dean's brand has no additives. Even with store-bought cream, the cost is about the same as buying name-brand butter and ice cream at the store. But the home-mede stuff is of better quality.

    •  I'll try this. A half-gallon of cream (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quicklund

      at Costco is cheap, and I always wonder what people do with so much of it.

      The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

      by ybruti on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:14:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Half-gallons? [green eyes] (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ybruti, Debby

        I wish I had a source at volume prices. Well, I am new to the world of hommade butter. I will find my source!

        Just be sure to read the label. Look for pure cream w/o additives. That is ideal. Though some additives can be tolerated. In WI, Dean's brand is additive-free.

        Speaking of which, here is the link that got me started. It gives you three times as much info as you actually need. It will give you the additive info you need to shop.

        Buy some plastic tubs and freeze it until you need it. Mine has kept just as well as commercial butter. Entirely stable.

        •  Thanks for the link. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Quicklund

          I'm planning to use a food processor as I don't have a stand mixer. I'll try to adapt the information in the link.

          The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right. -- Judge Learned Hand, May 21, 1944

          by ybruti on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:22:24 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Skim the comments (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ybruti

            And pardon the pun. There are comments there describing food processor experiences, as well as some info in the main article. IIRC.

            It's basically like making whipped cream but you just keep going. It is very easy ... just have your detergent handy to wash off your hands. In a FP at least you will already contain the splashing. :)

      •  Ultrapasteurized vs. pasteurized (0+ / 0-)

        A lot of times, store bought cream is ultrapasteurized rather than regular pasteurized. I've heard that sometimes makes it a little harder to make the butter, but others have said it doesn't really make a difference. Just something to keep in mind if that half-gallon is ultrapasteurized, which it probably is. I'd still give it a whirl, but if you have some trouble that's one potential reason.

        Good luck!

        Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

        by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:14:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I was using the metal blade (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Quicklund

      Thanks for the tip on using plastic, instead. I'll give that a try and see if it doesn't work better. I can't remember if I used the plastic blade the first time I did it or not, but that would explain the difference.

      I've been using the leftover buttermilk in baking, as well. Cornbread is a favorite, had a batch of pancakes this week, and I'm going to try buttermilk bread next time. It's pretty great the way the butter-making leads to the making of other things--often which go well with butter!

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:11:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the diary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind

        You gotta like a dairy diary ... it's typo-resistant!

        Thanks for bringing up the topic. I just tried butter-making on a spur-of-the-moment idea and it's worked so well I think I will buy factory butter now only for things that use a LOT of butter like pie crusts.

        I like your observation that butter-making leads to othr, butter-using applications. Sometimes life gives ya a two-fer. :)

  •  This just yesterday (3+ / 0-)
    The latest outbreak associated with raw milk has put a toddler and two young teens from the Portland metro area in the hospital with E. coli poisoning, two with kidney failure.
    http://www.oregonlive.com/...

    I own a Grade A sheep dairy, that I started a few years ago knowing nothing about dairying.  Now I know a lot, and a lot of what I have learned is horrifying.  

    It is so easy to contaminate milk with horrible diseases, stuff that's just around that doesn't normally bother us unless they're allowed to grow out of control in a medium like milk - and then we drink it.

    Milk does have to be pasteurized or aged a certain amount of time to be safe.

    I sell raw milk to a licensed cheese maker, who is legally allowed to receive it and do the required processing under controlled circumstances.  I have invested a huge amount of time and money in equipment, cleaning practices, refrigeration and controls to make sure I turn out a safe product.  On top of that, my customer does lab testing, the State does lab testing, and so do I to make sure our practices are working.

    I empathize on the matter of homogenization - I miss the days when you could buy cow's milk with the cream on top.   And when you could buy milk that came from Jerseys not Holsteins.

    But for your own safety - please learn about home pasteurization.   Then you could still get the cream without risking kidney failure.

    In the meantime, please remember, you can't see germs.  So you cannot tell anything about a dairy just by looking at it.  But here are some standard practices appropriate to hand milking that you should ask about and insist upon:

    Do they shave their cow's udders to prevent dirt getting trapped in the hairs when the cows lie down?

    Do they pre-dip the udders in an iodine solution made for the purpose?  Do they wipe the udders off with a clean, disposable cloth with sanitizer before milking?  Do they post-dip the udders to protect them against bacterial invasion until the teat orifice closes again?

    How often do they mastitis test their animals?  Once a month is minimum - once a week is ideal.

    Do they milk with disposable gloves, and how often do they change them?  Do they thoroughly wash their hands both before handling animals, before packaging milk and before cleaning?

    Do they use a dairy detergent that is specifically designed to clean their equipment properly?  Regular dish detergent won't work to clean milk properly, and milk is actually quite nasty stuff - especially the high fat stuff.  It will eat through concrete.  

    Are all their milk contact containers Grade A approved?  Meaning seamless stainless steel, or some plastics that have no nooks and crannies making them hard to clean.  Look in your bucket.  Can you see any seams?  

    How hot is the water they use to clean, and how long do they soak?  Having spent several years hand cleaning, I can tell you the water needs to be unbearably hot, according to the detergent directions.  I would use gloves and tongs and long-handled brushes.

    What concentration of sanitizer do they use, and how soon before use do they sanitize?  It should be between 100-200ppm, and done immediately before use.

    How often do they hose out or lime down the floors of the milking parlor?  It should be a minimum of every day - we do it after every milking.  How often do they clean and sanitize the walls, floors and gear in the rooms involved in milking?  It should be a minimum of once a week.  This includes the head stanchions and the feed trays.  We do it every day.

    How do they quickly cool the milk down after milking and maintain it at that temperature?  How do they confirm this?  If they store their milk overnight, how do they know there wasn't a temperature spike overnight?  The only way to be sure is with a certified temperature recorder.

    I'd say this is the minimum any farm selling raw milk should be complying with.

    Just because they're not pasteurizing doesn't mean they shouldn't be complying with the rest of the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance: http://www.fda.gov/...

    •  Not interested in getting into a raw milk debate (0+ / 0-)

      But thanks for the info. I know the people I get my milk from, know their operation, and I trust it. And I think that's the ideal for raw milk and for most all the food we eat.

      Washington state has a raw dairy licensing program and allows sales in stores. Oregon has a licensing program for goat dairies through which you can sell in stores, but I believe only a couple dairies have gotten that license so far. They don't do it for cow or sheep. You have to buy off the farm.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:20:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  While all of this (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      aimlessmind

      is correct-as-received-wisdom in modern society, let me add just two caveats:

      1) the extent of these sanitation precautions is intended and designed to deal with the risks of large-scale contamination brought about by mass-production, long-distance transport, and mass-distribution systems, in which HUGE quantities of product from multiple sources are batched, transported, mixed in processing with other multiple sources often multiple times in vast industrial-sized facilities, and then re-distributed to multiple mass-outlets which distribute to thousands if not millions of end-consumers.  The potential for the smallest error to lead to unpredictable consequences is large, and therefore the means of prevention have to be correspondingly secure.  Limited production by specific individual producers distributed to specific individual consumers has a much smaller scale of potential harms.  While a one in a million chance of infection is a near certainty when dealing with a billion sales, it's actually a rare event when sales are numbered in less than hundreds.

      2) the risk to immunocompetent adults with some history of exposure to common food pathogens is much lower than that to immunologically-immature children who have been carefully protected from similar exposures by a rigorous social sanitation regime.  It's the difference between an adult who has consumed raw milk for at least months and perhaps years never experiencing any symptoms of illness despite obvious exposure, and a child drinking raw milk for the first time being admitted to the EMR with a potentially-fatal infection.  Immune systems can handle -- and can ONLY handle -- infections with which they have some prior experience.  This is why children raised in households kept to sanitary perfection with constant disinfectant use have MORE allergies than children raised with dogs, cats, and hamsters to clean up after.

      I am in no way advocating a return to medieval concepts of sanitation.  Industrial-strength cleanliness is absolutely necessary as long as we mass-produce our food in an industrial manner.  However it would be wise given upcoming economic limitations for individuals to broaden their systemic immunities by carefully-limited exposure to natural microbial suites.  One way of doing this is to GRADUALLY introduce locally-produced natural foods into the diet in small and gradually-increasing amounts.  No abrupt shifts in microbial exposure are wise.  It's best to do everything slowly, to allow the body and its own commensal bacteria time to to adjust.

  •  Choosing your battles wisely (5+ / 0-)

    and based on what works for you. My personal experience from 30 years of growing most of my own food is that doing it all leaves little time for anything else. There is a reason our ancestors ate 5000 calories a day, they burned them working......... I finally landed on the idea of choosing those areas where I could make a big difference or where the difference in taste is huge.

    I have always made bread, for the past 15 years I have done so with a bread machine. I have become expert at repairing said bread machine and have even collected or made parts for it. It is like a cat with nine lives :) and about two origional parts left. Had I been the type to give up and buy new there would be five or six machines in the landfill now.

    Butter not so much but in my case I had only sporadic access to raw milk and a couple of local daires that made their own selling it in the local supermarkets around the area.

    Choosing those things that make a difference and fit into the life you want figuring out how to mix modern work and space saving technology makes it possible to live a good homesteading life and still have time to enjoy.

    It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

    by PSWaterspirit on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:48:48 AM PDT

    •  Exactly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northerntier, PSWaterspirit, cynndara

      Your own personal situation and tastes is a huge piece of it. You can't do everything for yourself--not even close. So you figure out what makes sense and what you enjoy, and with luck and work you get yourself rooted into a community that can help fill in some of the gaps. That's my approach for the time being.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:23:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That sentence, that you can't do everything (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind, PSWaterspirit

        for yourself is perfect.  On a small scale, to take a ridiculous example , not everyone needs to grow zucchini, for obvious reasons. It may be that the huge increase in the number of small, local farmers markets will help fill in a gap that may develop if gas prices, climate change, you name it, causes some disruption in food getting to markets. I've even wondered if it's possible to forge some sort of fusion between local and supermarkets. (This is probably already happening.) There will always need to be a nexus, some type of distribution center for foodstuffs, etc. both locally and distantly produced.
        More and more  products are available from local vendors  and smart chains would make local products and produce available to customers. While not everyone is willing to make their own butter,  some small changes, eating less meat, buying local breads and cheeses, etc. would start to make a difference. If less product needed to be trucked  in from hundreds of miles away, either because people were making their own or making use of local growers/producers, the net result would be a positive. And it may ultimately lead to more and more people being capable of living a life much less dependant on what has to be brought in by truck, train or plane.

        •  You got it (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          northerntier, cynndara

          I think that's a future we're heading toward, via necessity as much as anything. I expect reduced energy availability, the end of growth as a viable economic strategy, and a good amount of chaos thrown in via climate change and environmental degradation. Globalized, industrial supply changes are going to falter if I'm right.

          There are already supermarkets working to bring in more local produce, but their model isn't quite right for it. Supermarkets tend to be dependent on the supply chain model. Local co-ops and independent grocers that are willing to rethink how they stock and receive food are doing more, and I think they'll flourish in the future. We'll also continue to see more farmers markets and direct-to-consumer models like Community Supported Agriculture and animal shares.

          If push came to shove, food is (thankfully!) one of those areas where we've made a lot of progress and where the potential lies to dramatically make over the system in a relatively short amount of time. It would be a huge challenge still, granted--the local and organic movement has grown a ton, but it's still a tiny percentage of the overall food system--but the knowledge is there and a change in outer circumstances could push a lot of people toward learning to do small scale farming. From there, you could relatively quickly form more local co-ops and small scale markets for locally grown and processed foods. We'll go that direction anyway, I think, but it'll be interesting to see if economic and energy issues give it an extra kick in the pants.

          Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

          by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 11:10:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Excellent. Thanks for amplifying this. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aimlessmind

            You've given me a bit of hope in addition to some info. In a way, I am the least predictable person to write on this topic. I live in a nothern rural state, but originally come from a metro area. I've only started gardening after we purchased a old house that had been in one family for 50 years and had lots of plantings and veggie garden. Husband is very good at growing veggies - he's the canner and picker in the family, but I stand ready to do more. Of course, that may happen of necessity depending on what happens in the outside world. Thanks for this article.

        •  Trading is good :) (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aimlessmind, northerntier, tardis10

          I am currently in the process of handing out tomato plants. I don't have room to grow everything I eat but a few dozen tomato plants gets me my own row of fresh corn and it is a long row, enough for eating and roasted/ frozen for winter. Other plants get me fresh strawberries for jam (I have a few plants for grazing)

          Everytime we make a choice to buy local we are voting to make our local economy more self sufficent and less dependant on corporations and the infrastructure that seems to currently be failing us

          I do look forward to future installments of your well thought out dairy! Thank you.

          It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is not what he has -Henry Ward Beecher

          by PSWaterspirit on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 11:24:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting post and your blog is one I (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aimlessmind

    will return to.

    One quibble:  Those of us who live in the cabin in the woods do not do so in isolation.  Indeed, even now, in the better of times, we have close connection and cooperation with our friends, neighbors and communities.  That will only strengthen.

    Living in the woods does not cut you off  from your community, it only allows you a small measure of control over your immediate vicinity.

    Knowing and interacting with those around you is a part of that control...who to count on, who to trade and share with, who to learn from and who to teach for health and well being.

    I agree that it will be communities that will best survive what is to come...and a part of those communities are those of us in the cabins in the woods.

    •  Oh, no no (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trinityfly, cynndara

      I didn't mean living in the woods in general. I meant the sort of bunker fantasy, which often involves living in the woods. I lived in the woods until my recent move, in a yurt, with other awesome people, and it was amazing community. I definitely wasn't saying living in the woods means isolation as a matter of course.

      I love the woods. That's my ideal place to live.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:57:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even the guy in the bunker (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind, cynndara

        likes our fresh eggs.  :-)

        •  Heh (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          trinityfly

          Fresh eggs are pretty hard to turn down.

          Anyway, was just trying to note what you're noting--the importance of community. I've seen people with an attitude rooted in fear in which they seem to want a secluded house, plenty of guns and ammo, and to keep out most everyone except maybe a few chosen people. I think those who dive into community--even if they live in a more secluded area--are going to be a lot better off than those who work from an isolationist mentality. It's a lot easier to have that sort of mentality now when you can buy all your needs from people who don't care one way or another than in a future that may see the resurgence of community and intensely local economies--at which point you've got to deal with your neighbors whether you like it or not.

          If you like your neighbors, much the better. :)

          Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

          by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:13:58 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The polarization that I find on many (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aimlessmind

            political sites, including this one, often keeps fear alive and people from talking to their neighbors...which is such a great loss and hindrance to what we will have to face as time goes on.

            I heartily agree that it will be the communities and local economies that will define a sustainable future.  In our community, which is very rural and has a 20% unemployment rate, we are seeing many positive steps toward reaching out to one another, barter and sharing of goods and skills.

            •  Polarization (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              trinityfly, cynndara

              Completely agreed on the polarization issue. I'm plenty liberal, but I have a strong streak of classical conservatism too, I suppose. I think you can see it in the post above--I don't really trust big corporations or large government bureaucracies, and I'm a big supporter of local autonomy.

              I really hate when I see gleeful rural- and conservative-bashing here. I don't think it helps, it's ignorant, and it just serves to further divide us. As I've been farming the last few years, I've found myself living in rural areas and it's a pretty quick lesson of how ignorant it is to bash and dismiss rural people just because of political differences. Some of those differences are well-founded and others are honest disagreements. There are, to be blunt, assholes in the city and the country and the suburbs. Work on filtering out those people and you're likely going to find a range of excellent neighbors and community members whom you genuinely enjoy even if you at times disagree with them politically. You're also going to find a lot of people who genuinely want a better world and who have varying views on how to get there.

              One of the beauties of living in community and being dependent on others is that you figure out how to get past philosophical disagreements and work within the context of your connections. It's a good lesson. Personally, I found that in the city I surrounded myself with people of like mind (particularly easy in Portland.) In the country, I have to broaden the scope of my community more and it's been a great experience.

              Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

              by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:56:51 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  LOL (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            aimlessmind

            It IS easier if you like your neighbors.  I have a couple of neighbors up in the hills I really like.  I have one . . . not so much.  Was considering the necessity of a Big Dog to keep him down.  Latest news, though, is that he might be gone, right as I'm planning to move in.  But so are my favorite couple.  So I'm just going to have to make do with who's there and hope for the best.  I expect it to work out . . . I'm not REALLY difficult to live around.

  •  ye gods, this took me back (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barbwires, tardis10, aimlessmind

    as a kid one of my regular chores was churning.

    Mom had a couple big Dazey churns with wooden paddles on steel stems that fit through (vented) aluminum screw-down lids, made so that if you broke the heavy glass square jar the thing came with you could fit the churn lid on a pickle jar (the big 2 1/2 gallon one she bought at a farm sale came on a pickle jar and with a spare pickle jar).

    She'd put the cream in the churn the night before in the winter or a couple of hours beforehand in the summer and whichever kid whose turn it was -- there were 3 of us, and the rotation was gather eggs today, churn butter tomorrow, weed or pick in the garden the 3d day; Mom did the chicken feeding, Dad did the milking and corn-shelling, and we had a Farmall C tractor for cleaning out the barn and chicken house, thank Ceiling Cat,FSM and all the gods.

    One thing: we never got bored, or if we were we didn't let on, 'cause there were always chores waiting. Mom & Dad were sticklers on homework, but we always had fences to check, hay to handle, salt licks or water troughs to fill ...

    what were the bonuses? Oh, guineas and ducklings and turkeys and chickens in the backyard, irises and peonies and a snowball tree and rose bushes, plum and hickory trees, wild grapes in the pasture (along with ramps, which make the milk taste awful in the spring because the cows absolutely adore the damn things), baby calves, trustworthy beef and pork, the best-tasting milk, butter, and eggs ever ...

    downsides? Snakes. Bird poo -- lots of it everywhere, 'cause birds just don't care where they go -- and you had to watch out for predators, and there were always chores waiting ...

    LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

    by BlackSheep1 on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 12:11:40 PM PDT

    •  I smiled through your whole post (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BlackSheep1

      Whatever downsides there are to that life, I've been finding the upsides to very much make up for it. At least, in my version of that life.

      Today I fed the sheep and cows, fixed up some fencing they had managed to bust through, wandered around taking care of a few other chores--including fixing a leaky pipe feeding a water trough. It's a nice day, intermittently sunny and cloudy and borderline warm, and it was nice just to wander around the field with a pocket knife, a handful of bailing twine and a few other odds and ends and work on fixing up the place and patching up some of the sheep's work on the fencing.

      On the downside, we lost two lambs today to coyotes and two more were injured. That's a bummer. On the other hand, there's something very present about chasing a few bald eagles and vultures off the little lamb corpse, appraising the situation, and taking a few moments to allow some grief and sorrow. Not that it's good the lambs were killed, but even in that there's a lot of life to be had.

      I really, at this point, don't think I could trade this sort of life for any other. It has its times of frustration and burn out, for sure, but it's light years better for the soul than my old life of working retail, of working inside, of being so much more disconnected.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 04:37:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Questions:. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aimlessmind

    You say:

    If I'm anticipating a future in which large corporations and industrialism become less tenable and more expensive, and if I'm therefore looking to adjust my life so that it better fits into a local way of living--rooted in trade and barter, covenantal relationships and the sort of products and tools that can be made on a small scale, in a world of constrained energy and resources--well, then, my making butter fits that far better than my buying it.
    But what if that future never comes?  What if large corporations and industrialism never do become more expensive?  (They haven't yet, at least in the financial economic sense that we've had to deal with up to now, and conceivably may not in any sense corporations are increasingly successfully forced to bear the costs of environmental and other externalities.  In the US the extraordinary successes of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts are cases in point.)  Will your work in self sufficiency have been worth it?

    So far, only the Amish have really shown how to be prosperous and remain self sufficiently independent of urban economies and capitalism (corporations and industrialism), and they do it by giving up all of the cool things people get from the urban economy, including cell phones, the Internet, electricity, most of modern health care and insurance, etc.  Which of these elements of modernity, if any, do you think you would have to give up to be successful in your project?

    •  That future (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eastsidedemocrat

      Well, I think that future will come at some point. There are certain laws of physics that would seem to make it inevitable, and I do feel very confident in my (general) predictions. However, it's entirely possible I won't see that future. I could definitely be wrong on the timing, so your question's an excellent one.

      In that case, my work in self-sufficiency will most certainly be worth it. I enjoy this life of mine. I've lived a life completely lacking in self-sufficiency before, mired in the money economy, and I wasn't particularly happy with that life. I worked a retail job. I had health insurance. I had my own place and could pay my bills. At the same time, I was often unhappy and very regularly felt a desire for more meaning to my life. I couldn't figure out how to do that, though. I felt in many ways trapped.

      Now I work on farms. I quit my retail job some years ago, did a couple terms of AmeriCorps, went back to school for a bit, then did a farm internship in the summer of 2009. I've been farming in some capacity ever since and it's the happiest and most fulfilled I've ever been. During that time, I've lived in a tiny Airstream trailer with electricity and a propane stove, I've lived in an apartment in Portland, I've lived in a yurt with an extension cord running from a main house and a wood stove, and now I live in a more traditional house. Right now, I'm on the grid. Last year, I was off the grid, with a bit of electricity provided by solar panels and microhydro and heating and cooking provided by wood stoves.

      I've made little money in these last few years. Yet, I'm right now paying down my debt and working toward being debt free. I never did that when I made significantly more money. Having less money has slowly led me to have far more self-discipline and has taught me to do much more without. I still am not entirely disciplined--not even close--and probably never will be. But I'm in a much more resilient place now.

      I don't have health insurance, and there's a concern in that, I admit it. I don't have any plan to get health insurance. Hopefully, future circumstances will support it, either through a government program or through changes in my financial situation. For the time being, I go without like many people in this country, hope for the best, and know I'll have to deal with the fallout if it should ever come. I don't worry about getting sick in general--I'm healthy and on the rare occasion I get sick I generally can take care of it pretty quick by getting a lot of sleep. But I'm 31 years old. I won't always be this healthy.

      I have no retirement plan. I worry about that to a degree, but I don't have much of a faith in retirement plans anyway. That lack of faith is misplaced if, as you propose, I'm wrong about the unsustainability of infinite economic growth, and I may regret not figuring out a retirement. Yet, most of human existence has been devoid of pension plans as we think of them today. Community was the closest you had to a retirement plan and that's where I'm putting my faith, as well. I don't know if that will work out, but a heck of a lot of people have lost their pensions in recent years, too. Nothing's guaranteed.

      I have a cell phone but I don't use it much and would happily give it up. It would be harder to give up a landline, as well, but I'll give that up if I'm right to the point that we even lose basic phone service out here. If we never do, I'll happily keep a land line. I may keep a cell phone, as well, but yeah, I could give it up easily. I often go a week or two without using it anyway, and the only real difference it would make is that I'd have to plan things in advance a bit more. Of course, I lived about three quarters of my life without a cell phone. It really has little bearing on my life.

      The internet would be harder to give up, but it would be very satisfying and liberating in certain ways, as well. There would be inconveniences, of course, but similarly to the cell phone, I lived half my life without the internet. It wouldn't exactly kill me to give it up. But it would make life harder, in ways, and I obviously wouldn't be blogging anymore. The biggest sense of loss would be in the ability to very quickly look up most any information and in the ways in which not having the internet would make some of the social isolation inherent in this life more obvious.

      Then again, in 2009 when I first farmed, I didn't have access to the internet on the farm. It was available in the main house, but that wasn't my house and only once or twice during the season did I go in there and ask permission to use it for a few minutes. What I would do is go in to the local coffee shop about once a week to check my email, maybe look up a few things, and perhaps just kill a little time poking around the internet. But otherwise, I just went without it, and in many ways I loved it. I got more reading done, I felt more connected to the actual physical world around me, and I slept much better not staying on the internet right until bed.

      So yeah, I could give up the internet. It would be mixed, but I suspect I would overall be happier.

      Electricity? Well, if you don't have the internet and television and various distracting electronic devices, and you have a wood stove to provide heat and cooking, suddenly electricity isn't that big of a deal. Mainly, it's nice to have lights at night. That's primarily what I used it for when I lived in that trailer and often all I used it for in the yurt. Light can be provided in other ways and I could even live more in the rhythm of daylight. I've actually been thinking about the possibility of building a small, simple structure to live in on the property I currently live at. There's a good chance it'll never happen, but it's a small idea in the back of my mind. My main need, beyond the basic structure, would be a wood stove--and ideally running water. It would be much more a challenge without that, though not impossible. Now, slapping a small solar panel on the structure to provide electricity for lights and perhaps a small stereo would be nice, don't get me wrong, but that adds a lot of expense which I very possibly wouldn't be able to afford. Of course, as I've noted, this is all something of a pipe dream anyway. While it's not an impossibility, it's unlikely to happen.

      I've already given up health insurance. It would be nice to have it for emergencies, but in general I think we're far too dependent on the modern health care industry when many of our basic ailments and maladies could be more effectively treated within a fairly simple community health care system. Midwives used to provide a huge amount of health care in this country and there's no real reason we couldn't reestablish that reality. Granted, the modern health care system has certain very appropriate applications, but I think we rely too much on it for things it's not particularly well suited for.

      I don't really think I have to give up any or all of these things to be successful in my project. I think I've already been tremendously successful--I live a much happier and more meaningful life than I did before, I use less money, energy and resources than I did before, and I've already become far more self-sufficient. I could call it a day now and be very satisfied with where I'm at. But I also think I could go farther and that going farther could provide me many new benefits, so I'm continuing on with this project. I don't really know how far it will get, or if I'll ever give up the internet or my cell phone, et al. But I feel like if I had to, I could, and that I wouldn't be all that lost for it. Which is another way that I've already achieved many of my goals.

      Sorry this turned into a very long answer, but your question wasn't really a simple one. At least, not for me. Hope this helps you understand where I'm coming from--if you've even read this far.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:27:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the long answer. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aimlessmind

        I study this stuff for a living, so I'll check your blog regularly.  I just gave a speech about something similar to this to several corn farming groups (ethanol plants actually), and they really got it regarding how much they are really just urban workers and not farmers at all in the historical sense of living self sufficiently from the work of their own hands.

        One thing you might consider, however, is the question of power and its importance for human being.  While it might be completely satisfying for many people to live self-sufficiently from the land in rural households, as 95% of humanity did as recently as 1800 when only 5% of everything that was ever produced and consumed in the world every exchanged hands through a currency or market medium of any sort, cities still managed to draw people off the land and become organized in complex social systems that have little to do with the rural households of the recent past.  How were people compelled, and are still being compelled, to abandon rural household life for the complexities and headaches of the city (which they live in even if they still reside in technically rural areas)?  I think I big part of the answer has to do with the power that markets and urban modernity in general provide to people and that power -- the act of organizing others to act as a group instead of on individual projects -- is a deeper motivator for human behavior than happiness or independence or other preference maps.  Furthermore, power is much greater in the large, organized social systems of urban modernity than the diffuse independence of rural household life.

        There are other benefits in addition to material things like cell phones and the internet that urban life has provided to people as well, particularly women, and we cannot assume that such benefits will remain if the power of capitalism to organize people declines as you expect it will.  Urban modernity destroys households by making individual family members gears of a much larger society and not dependent upon a household any more.  That has been really good for women especially because women are less and less dependent upon others in their families and household relationships than they were (and would likely be again) in rural households.  So while you might still enjoy some of the benefits of modernity while remaining independent from it yourself as you have described, I'm not sure that everyone could if too if very many more people followed in your footsteps.

        Anyway, really interesting diary and comment.  Thanks.

  •  Where do you think jars come from? (0+ / 0-)
    If I'm anticipating a future in which large corporations and industrialism become less tenable and more expensive, and if I'm therefore looking to adjust my life so that it better fits into a local way of living--rooted in trade and barter, covenantal relationships and the sort of products and tools that can be made on a small scale, in a world of constrained energy and resources--well, then, my making butter fits that far better than my buying it. In such a world, there will almost certainly be a local dairy able to provide me a pail of raw milk each week. In such a world, there's an excellent chance I could even barter or trade for that milk if I should need to, especially with the farming and ranching skills I've been developing. In such a world, I can just as easily skim the cream from my milk and I can even agitate it to make the butter without electricity if I should need to, transitioning from my food processor to a hand cranked mixer or just shaking the cream in a jar. Making butter at home currently uses some electricity, just by way of how I make it. But it doesn't have to. There's flexibility there and the adjustment could be made relatively easy if it needed to.
    Or stainless steel milk pails, for that matter.
    •  You could have made a much better argument (0+ / 0-)

      by asking what the hell I was thinking writing that on, you know, the internet, which is far more energy-intensive and dependent on massive industrial infrastructure than mason jars or steel milk pails.

      I didn't say I was attempting to purge myself completely of all remnants of modern, industrial society. I'm saying that I think the vast infrastructure of our society is very vulnerable, that I think we may find ourselves eventually and necessarily living in much more modest times, working within far more local and small scale communities and economies. Working to adjust our lives for that possibility makes sense to me. Learning how to do without a bit more also makes sense to me. Maintaining a certain flexibility, knowing you can drop certain conveniences, but also holding onto them while they're still available if you want to and they're not providing any major detriment to your life, also makes sense to me.

      Furthermore, if the world gets to the point that we don't even have glass jars or stainless steel containers, then I suspect the vast majority of us will be good and dead and whatever philosophy I have now will be fully out the window, with only a tiny population remaining to scramble for survival. I don't expect it to be that bad. I imagine we'll still be able to manufacture basic items at the very worst--or craft them by hand--and there'll be plenty of material for salvage, as well. There are a lot of mason jars and steel milk pails in the world, and a good percentage of them aren't even being used.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 07:49:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We shipped butter long distances (0+ / 0-)

        ... millennia before we had Mason jars.

        Little is known of the part which butter played as an article of commerce in ancient times. In the first centuries butter was shipped from India to ports of the Red Sea. In the 12th century, Scandinavian butter was an article of oversee commerce. The Germans sent ships to Bergen, in Norway, and exchanged their cargoes of wine for butter and dried fish. It is interesting to note that the Scandinavian king considered this practice injurious to his people, and in 1186 compelled the Germans to withdraw their trade.
        link
        •  And I'm still in a better position (0+ / 0-)

          to get my butter from local dairies or individuals with a cow or three. I'm still in a better position to barter or trade with them--I don't know whether or not I'll be able to trade for butter shipped in from Scandinavia. And if energy does end up being more restricted and small scale and local becomes more normative, I imagine the long tradition of dairying in this area will mean that most of the local butter will be just that--local--since it'd make way more sense than bringing it in from across the world.

          If I'm wrong about that future, which I may be, then there are still plenty of reasons why I enjoy the life I'm choosing to live, as I enumerated in excruciating detail to eastsidedemocrat's question right above this comment thread.

          As that article you link to notes, "The art of making butter . . . originated in the home." I've been enjoying bringing it back into the home.

          Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

          by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 09:33:55 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Youth and health being the most important ones. (0+ / 0-)
            If I'm wrong about that future, which I may be, then there are still plenty of reasons why I enjoy the life I'm choosing to live,
            •  Yep, those are huge (0+ / 0-)

              On the other hand, there are locals around here much older than me who are still doing much the same life. There's an eighty-something dairy farmer down the road who's still at it every day and a lot of these guys (and women) are a hell of a lot stronger and in better shape than I am, decades younger than them.

              Maybe I'm misreading you, but you seem to think I'm a fool for choosing the life I've chosen. But really I just like it and find far more meaning and happiness in it than other ways I've lived. That's fine if it's not your cup of tea, but it is mine. I don't know if I'll be able to live this sort of life forever or not, but I hope I will.

              Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

              by aimlessmind on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 10:35:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  To be perfectly blunt ... (0+ / 0-)

                ... you come across as a trustafarian.

                Voluntary poverty is an oxymoron.

                •  Yeah, I've gotten that comment once before (0+ / 0-)

                  I don't have a trust fund, though, and I'll be surprised if I inherent anything from my parents. Nor am I living off savings. I have some money in the bank, but I have negative net worth. I work as a farm hand for $10/hour, I do some barter and trade, and that's what supports me. I also get food stamps, which helps a lot, but I could get by without them if I had to. Congratulations on making assumptions about my life, though.

                  And no, I'm not living in anything close to resembling what people often think of when you talk about poverty. I'm not destitute. I've talked about that quite a bit over at my blog, in the series on voluntary poverty, and I've also gone over the above information about my financial situation, to be as clear as possible with people about where I'm coming from.

                  Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

                  by aimlessmind on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 06:53:45 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  I had milk goats as a teenager (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aimlessmind

    but unfortunately never really enjoyed the milk, in comparison to cow's milk.  However my mom would constantly make cheese out of it, a sort of ricotta, and the cheese was delicious.  We never got tired of it.  

    The down side was that you really couldn't let the goats eat a lot of bitter weeds if you wanted the milk/cheese to taste sweet.   When they were out of milk, we could use them to graze down weeds all over the property, but when they were in milk, it was time for pricy alfalfa and corn.  

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Sat Apr 14, 2012 at 08:02:19 PM PDT

  •  That's a wonderful ideal. (0+ / 0-)

    If, that is, everyone wants to make butter. Fortunately, we don't have to if we don't want to. We have enough people so that we can specialize. In fact, specialization is very necessary, because not everyone can make all of the things they want and need unless we want to revert to relatively (or very) primitive lifestyles.

    The time has long past when one person can possess all of human knowledge. That means that specialization is essential if we are to continue to learn and grow as a species, much less as individuals. That specialization, of course, means that true self-sufficiency, the ideal of the homestead movement (I speak as an old Mother Earther from the 70's), is unrealistic. It is not even possible for a community to be truly self-sufficient if its members want to possess more than the most basic necessities of life.

    But if you want to spend the time to make your own butter, have at it! Doing so can be very personally rewarding.

    •  Well, I'm of the mind (0+ / 0-)

      That the future is not going to support the kind of specialization we engage in today. I think we'll have dramatically less energy, money and resources to work with and it's going to force a very downscaled life on us, requiring that many people return to growing food and directly engaging in providing our various necessities, rather than handing all that off to the machines of an industrial economy.

      Of course, most people don't agree with me about this future.

      Of The Hands - Thoughts on voluntary poverty, homesteading, farming, reconnecting to the land, doing good work, and muddling through the new no-growth economy.

      by aimlessmind on Sun Apr 15, 2012 at 07:03:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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