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Gifts for Homesteaders

Gifts for Homesteaders

Looking for the perfect gift idea for the homesteader in your life? Homesteaders of America is here to help! We’ve compiled a collection of all the BEST gifts for homesteaders so you can give joy to your favorite farmer!

Of course, there’s no better gift for homesteaders than the opportunity to gather with like-minded folks, build community, be inspired, and learn how to homestead even better. That’s why, NEW for 2021, we are offering GIFT CARDS for the 2021 Homesteaders of America conference to be held on October 8th & 9th in Front Royal, Virginia!

Each gift card is for two people to enjoy both days of the conference! (Admission is free for children under the age of 17.) Your loved one will be able to sit in on lectures from their favorite farmers, getting inspired while learning their secrets of success. They will get to mingle with their tribe, making new friends and greeting old ones. They’ll find the tools and resources to build their homestead and make life easier as they stroll down the rows of vendors, sponsors, and authors.

(And the whole time, their heart will be overflowing with gratitude towards you for your generous gift that keeps on giving!)

Gifts for Homesteaders

From gardeners to livestock farmers, the home cheesemaker or the home butcher… Whether you’re shopping for the kidsteader or the crazy chicken lady in your life, we’ve got a list of gift ideas for you!

In this gift guide you’ll find gifts for homesteaders including:

  • Gardeners
  • Chicken Lovers
  • The Farm Kitchen
  • The Farmhouse
  • Homestead Management Tools
  • Homestead Library
  • Farmer Apparel
  • Kidsteaders
  • Livestock Owners
  • Cheesemakers
  • Home Butchers
  • Homestead Skill Building

Gift Guide for Gardeners

It may be the dead of winter, but I promise you, your gardener is already dreaming about sowing seeds come springtime. They will love these gardening gift ideas for homesteaders that will help them grow even better!

Gift for Homesteaders (Gardening)
  1. Plow through weeds with a Wheel Hoe from Hoss Tools.
  2. Love those garden-worn hands with a Hand Care Kit.
  3. Stunning Hand Forged Garden Tools could be a family heirloom.
  4. Lug tools or bring in the harvest with a basket.
  5. Grow fungi with Mushroom Plugs or Logs from Windmere Farm.
  6. Stop filling shirts, use a Roo Apron to bring in the harvest.
  7. Make them smile in August with the Sunflower Seed Collection.
  8. Get started growing seeds with a Premium Seed Starting Kit.
  9. Orchard harvesting is easy with a Fruit Picker.
  10. Don’t let bugs get all their hard work! Use an Organic Pest Control Kit .

Gifts for the Chicken Lover

Every chicken lover, crazy or otherwise, will be thrilled to know you just “get them” when you get them one of these awesome gifts for their flock.

Gifts for Homesteaders (Chickens & Poultry)
  1. Save on chicks- hatch your own with a Professional Grade Incubator.
  2. Freshen up the Nesting Box with Herbs
  3. No more nightly chores with an Automatic Coop Door.
  4. Gather eggs with beautiful handmade Egg Baskets
  5. Get a Chick Starter Kit from Premier One
  6. Custom Egg Stamps are adorable!
  7. Raise quail! Get Quail Hatching Eggs from AJ Farm.
  8. Every chicken lady (or gent) needs a handmade Chicken Mug!
  9. Urban Farmers will love a mini Chicken Coop Kit.
  10. Give the gift of chicks with a gift certificate from Murray McMurray Hatchery!

Gift Guide for the Farm Kitchen

So much of a homesteader’s life is kitchen-centric. It’s all about good, healthy food after all! That’s why tools for the farm kitchen always make great gift ideas for homesteaders!

Gifts for Homestaders (Farmhouse Kitchen)
  1. All farm kitchens need a Lehman’s Cast Iron Skillet!
  2. A Canister Set for the look of copper without the price.
  3. Start canning at home Canning Tool Set.
  4. Discover the joys of Sourdough with a Starter Kit.
  5. Get beauty & function with Hand Carved Wooden Spoons from Riverwood Trading.
  6. Dry the harvest with an Excalibur Dehydrator.
  7. Every home canner needs an All-American Pressure Canner.
  8. Home cooks would love a beautiful handmade Wooden Cutting Board.
  9. Every kitchen needs quality knives like these from Victorinox.
  10. Learn the art of Fermentation with a Starter Set.

Gifts to Freshen up the Farmhouse

Just because we live on a farm doesn’t mean we can’t have beautiful homes! These gifts will spruce up the place and add brightness and& cheeriness to make any farm home an enjoyable haven at the end of a hard day of work.

Gifts for Homesteaders (Farmhouse)
  1. Cozy Candles in Wooden Dough Bowls you can repurpose later!
  2. A Crocheted Basket is pretty & functional.
  3. Every farmhouse needs a Custom Homestead Sign with the farm name on it!
  4. Enjoy a breezy day with a Cooper Chicken Wind Chime.
  5. Bright & fresh Farmhouse Toss Pillows are sure to be a hit!
  6. Stunning Custom Needlefelt Wall Art of their favorite critter!
  7. Greet guests to the Farmhouse with this custom Welcome Mat.
  8. Forget the wreath! This Wooden Cow Door Hanger is too cute!
  9. Embrace the simple life with this Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote Art.
  10. Bring them running at meal time with this wrought iron Dinner Bell.

Give the Gift of Homestead Management

An organized and well-managed farm is a more PRODUCTIVE farm! These tools all help the homesteader run the farm more smoothly and efficiently. Keeping records will help the homesteader plan better, keep track of successes & failures, and grow more!

Gifts for Homesteaders (Homestead Management)
  1. Know how old eggs are with this Egg Carton Stamp.
  2. Keep track of the harvest with a Heavy Duty Kitchen Scale.
  3. Don’t forget what’s in those jars with these pretty Canning Labels.
  4. Get that Seed Stash Organized!
  5. The 2020 Homestead Journal is the ULTIMATE homestead management tool!
  6. Keep track of yields & expenses with an annual subscription to Smartsteader app.
  7. Know what you planted using Bamboo Plant Markers.
  8. A custom fabric binder with the farm name & year for printable worksheets.
  9. Organize the farm with our set of Homestead Management Printables.
  10. Help a farm-based business run smoothly with the Homestead Business Planner.

Gifts for the Homestead Library

Give the gift of knowledge! Every homesteader loves their resources and these books and magazines will make fantastic additions to the homestead library!

Gifts for Homesteaders (Books)
  1. The Organic Gardener’s Natural Pest & Disease Control Handbook is great for your favorite gardener.
  2. Get a Countryside Magazine Subscription!
  3. Country Wisdom & Know-How is THE homesteader’s compendium.
  4. Fall in love with simple home cooking with The Prairie Homestead Cookbook.
  5. Learn how to plan your garden for production with The Family Garden Plan.
  6. The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest needs to be on every home canner’s shelf.
  7. Simple Farmhouse Life is perfect for the DIY farmwife.
  8. Care for your farm & family the natural way with The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion.
  9. Timber Creek Farmer’s Homestead Collection
  10. The Homesteader’s Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook is a must-have for all chicken owners.

Homestead Apparel Gifts

Whether it’s for function or showing off homesteader pride, farm apparel always is a good gift idea for homesteaders when you’re not quite sure what to get!

Gifts for Homesteaders (Farm Apparel)
  1. Keep warm in a Floral Chicken Hoodie from Fluffy Layers.
  2. Make Home canners happy with a “Canning is My Jam” t-shirt.
  3. Flock Mama’s will LOVE this ball cap!
  4. Every homesteader you know needs a Homesteaders of America cap!
  5. Leggings with POCKETS. Need I say more?!
  6. Homesteaders of America who love their land and country will also love this 1776 t-shirt.
  7. Gather eggs without breaking any using an Egg Gathering Apron.
  8. Hunters need a camo long sleeved tee from Homesteaders of America!
  9. Farmher’s want a jacket that’s built tough and made so you can move!
  10. Skellerups are THE ULTIMATE FARM BOOT! Made to last more than a season or two.

Gifts for the Kidsteader

Kids love the farm life too! They’re going to be so excited to open up any of these gifts, especially the little tools that will help them do big jobs on the homestead. Just like mom & dad!

Gifts for Homesteaders (Kidsteader)
  1. Keep clothes clean and protected with a Canvas Farm Apron.
  2. Help big kids get farm jobs done with ease using a Swiss Army Pocket Knife.
  3. Preserve plants with a plant press from Sow the Land.
  4. Protect little hands with heavy duty Work Gloves.
  5. Farm kids love farm t-shirts!
  6. Cultivate a love of gardening with a Hand Tool Set and Tote.
  7. Carhartt coveralls aren’t just for the grown-ups.
  8. Building skills by using Real Tools made for their size!
  9. REAL yard work tools for kids from Lehman’s!
  10. They’ll be hauling everything with their own wheelbarrow.

Gift Guide for Livestock Owners

Whether it’s pigs, sheep, goats, cows or more your favorite farmer is going to surely appreciate these tools and resources that will help them better care for their stock!

Gifts for Homestaders (Livestock)
  1. Nobody wants to break ice. Using a stock tank de-icer makes one less winter chore.
  2. The human body does not have to be a Fence Tester.
  3. Keep the mud outdoors where it belongs with a Cast Iron Boot Scraper.
  4. Merck Veterinary Manual is THE ultimate guide in farm animal health.
  5. No farmer (or farmher) should be without a good Leatherman multitool set.
  6. A well-stocked emergency kit for the barn is a must-have!
  7. No need for cold feet even in the most frigid temps with Electric Socks!
  8. Get started with bees! Premium Beekeepers Kit.
  9. Premier One gift certificates are always appreciated!
  10. Get chores done after dark with a Rechargeable Headlamp.

Gifts for the Cheesemaker

Cheesemakers often acquire the tools they needs slowly over time. Help them get there faster and share a gift or two from this collection of gifts for those who love to make homemade cheese.

Gifts for Homesteaders (Cheesemaking)
  1. Get started with a Beginners Cheesemaking Kit.
  2. A hand towel made just for cheese lovers!
  3. 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes- one of the best books you find!
  4. Kitchen Creamery makes cheesemaking beautiful and easy.
  5. Keep cheese out of a puddle with Bamboo Draining Mats.
  6. This long-probe Thermometer clips to the vat, is self-calibrating and has a 5-year warranty!
  7. A Cheese Ladle is an essential tool.
  8. Cut curds with a long Curd Knife.
  9. Stainless steel cheese presses are easy to clean and don’t hold odor.
  10. A beautiful custom cheese board & knives are perfect to show off their creations!

Gifts for the Home Butcher

An increasing number of homesteaders are building butchery skills and gaining confidence to process their own meat at home. These tools will make the job go more smoothly with less stress on butchering day.

Gifts for Homesteaders (Home Butcher)
  1. Know how much meat weighs with a hanging scale.
  2. Every home butcher needs a high-quality Meat Grinder.
  3. A handmade leather butchers apron makes an excellent gift!
  4. Adam Danforth’s books are the best in home butchery!
  5. Glide through bones with a professional grade meat saw.
  6. Make sure the home butcher has a Field Dressing Knife Kit on hand.
  7. Get started butchering chickens with a kit from Murray McMurray.
  8. Carve your roasts with what may be the best home Meat Slicer.
  9. Turn any small space into a cold room with a CoolBot! Great for aging meat and more!
  10. Keep knives sharp thanks to a good Whetstone Sharpening Kit.

Give the Gift of Homestead Skills

Building homesteading skills is an essential part of living the homestead life. These gift ideas are wonderful for homesteaders young and old who want to learn how to do something new.

Gifts for Homesteaders (Skills)
  1. Knit a warm beanie with this pattern.
  2. Bamboo Knitting Needles come in a cute teal storage pouch.
  3. Learn weaving with a Harvest Basket Kit.
  4. Make yarn with a Drop Spindle and Roving.
  5. Like wooden spoons? Here’s the perfect Wood Carving Starter Kit.
  6. Everything needed to dive in with a Soap Making Kit.
  7. Jan Berry’s Simple Natural Soapmaking is the best for beginners!
  8. Free Range Yarn Bouquet Kit is better than flowers!
  9. Naturally dye wool is easy with this kit from Free Range Yarn.
  10. This Basic Sewing Kit contains everything to get started.

Tell us, homesteader? What gifts would you love to get from your friends and family?

5 Reasons Why the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome

5 Reasons the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome

By choosing to live a homesteading lifestyle we have enriched our lives in so many ways. I couldn’t imagine raising my children any other way. So many valuable lessons are learned on a homestead.

Our family started homesteading in 2011 and we have never looked back. I don’t know if we really knew what we were getting into when we started but it’s been an amazing journey. It hasn’t always been easy and fun but it’s always been worth it. 

5 Reasons Why the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome : Fresh Eggs

Why the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome 

Self-Sufficiency

 One of the main reasons we started with the homesteading lifestyle was to provide our family with our own food. This makes us very self-sufficient.

When we are raising our own meats and vegetables, we can preserve food to last us all year. We don’t have to rely on the grocery store to provide the basic needs of our family. When a storm hits or the power goes out, we have the food, supplies, and skills needed to make it through. There’s no need to panic and flood the already crowded and quickly barren grocery shelves to try to get through a storm.

Knowing Where Your Food Comes From

As part of raising our own food, it is very important to us to know how it was raised or grown. We want to feed our family the cleanest and healthiest food possible and growing our own ensures that.

We know exactly what our animals have been fed and that they haven’t had any chemicals used on them. Our garden vegetables are grown in organic soil that is rich in nutrients. No chemical fertilizers or pesticides have been used on them giving us very clean and healthy produce.

Garden Fresh Produce in bowls on a table

Homesteading Skills

The skill set that you acquire as a homesteader is something that will continue to grow and benefit you for life. From animal husbandry, gardening, cutting firewood, building, cooking, preserving, butchering, the list goes on and on. Children are taught so many skills and important life lessons in this homesteading lifestyle. This sets them up to be successful in life no matter what they venture to do.

Work Ethic 

If you don’t want to work hard and constantly, homesteading may not be the best choice for you. There is no end to chores that need to be done and projects that need working on. It’s a busy lifestyle with plenty of jobs to go around. We definitely know how to work hard but we also know how to play hard. The kind of satisfaction that comes from all of this hard work is like none other.

5 Reasons Why the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome : Baby AnimalsLife Cycle

This is one of the most beautiful and one of the hardest aspects of homesteading. The planting of seeds that brings new life to the garden, a promise of a harvest to come. The birth of a baby animal fills your heart with joy. These moments on the homestead are amongst the best. It’s something that’s so beautiful that words just don’t do it justice. 

There’s also loss on the homestead that is always a hard lesson and sometimes heart wrenching. When your garden is growing and an animal gets in and destroys it all it’s beyond frustrating. To see all of your hard work and effort ruined is definitely not a good feeling. Losing a life on the homestead is always hard. Sometimes, it happens from a mistake you’ve made and sometimes there’s just nothing that could have prevented it. No matter how the loss occurs, there are always tears shed and heartbreak involved. As hard as it is, Life and death are all part of living on this earth and is something we all have to learn to deal with.

Connectedness

This is my favorite aspect of homesteading. The connection between me and my family, my friends, my animals, and to nature are all something that I treasure.

When our family works together all of the time and experiences every aspect of homesteading, we grow closer. We are brought together by the good times as well as the bad times.

We’ve also connected with others who have chosen this lifestyle. It’s so wonderful to have a community of people that are like minded and living a similar lifestyle as you. That’s something that is truly a blessing when the rest of the world thinks you’re a bit crazy for living like this.

The connections with the animals on our farm is also something that I enjoy. Sometimes, it’s nice to just sit and watch them all. The chickens are busy scratching the ground looking for tasty treats, the goats are quietly chewing their cud, the cows are grazing on the green grass, the horses switching their tails at flies, all of it reaches to the depths of my soul.

Growing our garden connects me to nature, I love the feel of the dirt between my fingers. When I plant a tiny seed knowing that it has the potential to provide for my family, I’m so excited and grateful.

When that seed begins to emerge and plant starts to grow, it is so satisfying. Once that plant produces fruits and I can harvest them to make a delicious meal for my family, when it comes full circle, I’m so connected with my land and creation.

All of these reason are the anchors in our lives to homesteading.

I’m grateful for having the opportunity to live on a homestead and raise my family here. I don’t know of any other life that allows one to live out their dream daily. Not everyday is easy and full of positive things but the good days always outweigh the bad ones.

5 Reasons the Homesteading Lifestyle is Awesome

Free-Ranging Chickens- The Pros vs The Cons

Free-Ranging Chickens in the Backyard

A lot of people love the idea of free-ranging their chickens and I’m definitely one of them. Like with anything in life and homesteading, there are some pros and cons to free-ranging chickens.

Free-Ranging Chickens- The Pros vs The Cons

Chickens are known as the “gateway animals” in homesteading. So, you get a few baby chicks and then they get big. What do you do with them now? “To free-range or not to free-range?” That is the big question.

We’ve been raising free-range chickens for many years. In that time we’ve learned quite a few things about it. While I prefer the free-range method (because raising pastured poultry is important to us), I know it is not for everyone.

Don’t feel bad if you decide not to have free-ranging chickens. It just might not be a good option for you. If you have a small property, live in a neighborhood, have a lot of predators, or any other reason it’s ok to raise them confined. Just be sure that they have enough space for them to stretch their legs and scratch around.

Another great option for free-ranging chickens while keeping them secure is a mobile coop or chicken tractor. This gives you the ability to move them as needed and keep them safe all at the same time. The benefits of free-range and the security of confinement. Best of both worlds!

Free-Range Rooster- Pros and Cons of Free-Ranging Chickens

The Pros of Free-Ranging Chickens

Broader Diet

Free-range chickens are able to forage for bugs, grass, and herbs. They will have a much more diverse diet than when raised in confinement. This makes them happy and healthy birds!

Fewer Feed Costs

Because the chickens are foraging, this will supplement some of their feed. You will still need to give them chicken feed but the amount will be greatly reduced by free-ranging. Saving money and cutting costs is always a good thing in life!

Free-Ranging Chickens are Fun to Watch 

One of my favorite things to do is sit outside and watch my chickens roam around. They’re very entertaining creatures. If you’ve never watched chickens fight over a worm or two roosters show each other who is the boss, you’re missing out on a lot of fun entertainment!

Richer Eggs 

When you crack an egg from a free-ranging chicken and compare it to a store-bought or confined chicken egg, there is a noticeable difference in the color of the yolks. The free-range egg yolks are a much deeper yellow (sometimes even orange) and are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. I think they taste much better too!

Free-Ranging Chickens Have Healthier Meat

When chickens free-range, they tend to have a healthier and more natural diet. They are also more active and exposed to more sunlight than their confined counterparts. In my personal opinion, I believe this results in healthier eggs and meat for the consumer.

Free-Ranging Chicken in the Snow - The Pros and Cons of Free-Ranging Chickens

More Exercise for Free-Ranging Chickens

As I said, free-range chickens are more active. We all know that exercise is better for all creatures big and small, human or otherwise. You may also find yourself getting exercise in the case of trying to catch your free-range chickens. Those jokers are fast!

Coop and Run Stay Cleaner

When your chickens spend the majority of their time out and about, they aren’t in the run and coop to dirty it up as much. You still need to clean them on a regular basis to keep your chickens healthy but much less frequently than when confined.

Fewer Flies

When the coop stays cleaner and there is less chicken mess concentrated in one spot, it is less attractive to flies and you’ll have fewer pests on the farm.

If you raise other types of livestock, free-ranging chickens may even find their manure and scratch through it making it less attractive to flies to lay their eggs in. But if they do, the chickens will find the larvae and eat them. Fewer flies on the homestead is always a good thing!

Compost

Remember all of the chicken poop and bedding you cleaned from the coop? Throw that stuff into a heap and you’ve got a compost pile in the making. Chicken waste needs to break down for a year to reduce the excess nitrogen (this can burn your plants) but once that stuff is aged, it’s an amazing additive to your garden soil.

Free-Ranging Chickens in the Garden

The Cons of Free-Ranging Chickens

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to free-ranging chickens but there are some downsides as well. Let’s hit on those points now.

Predators

Free-range chickens are more susceptible to predator attacks because they aren’t confined to a safe enclosure. If you live in an area that’s prone to a lot of predator attacks, you may need a more confined solution or perhaps a livestock guardian dog to keep your chickens safe.

Rogue Chickens

 Oh yes, chickens like to go rogue. Why do they cross the road? Because the grass in the neighbor’s yard must be greener or perhaps the bugs are juicier. At any rate, free-range chickens will start to wander beyond their allowed area. I usually remedy this by keeping them locked up in the coop for a few days and then they behave for a while afterward.

Free-Range Chickens Poop Everywhere

Oh, the poop! They will poop on your porch, they will poop on your sidewalk, they will poop everywhere. If chicken poop all over the place bothers you, free-ranging may not work for your situation.

Garden Mayhem

 Chickens will try to find a way into the garden. I mean why wouldn’t they? They see all of those bright tomatoes and beautiful pumpkins…. they’ve just gotta have a taste. We make extra efforts to fence the chickens out of the garden because they will destroy the harvest and devour it all for themselves.

Egg Hunting

We try to train our chickens to lay in the nesting boxes by keeping them up for a couple of weeks until they are laying well in their designated nesting box. This works but sometimes, you’ll have some chickens decide they’ve found a much better place for eggs. Unfortunately, you often find the nest after the eggs are too old to consume. Retrain your naughty hens by locking them up for a bit again. Easter egg hunts all year round!

Eggs from Free-Ranging Chickens

Intimidating Non-Homesteading Guests

 If you aren’t a chicken person it may be quite scary to be chased by little dinosaur-like creatures. I promise they aren’t attack chickens, they’re just curious and maybe you brought them a snack?

Annoying Delivery Personnel 

Your mailman, UPS guy, or FedEx delivery personnel may be annoyed (or even terrified) when trying to deliver packages. Those pesky chickens are all around their truck, under their feet, and sitting right where they need to leave the package. You may also come home to chicken poop on your package. Yay!

Space Required for Free-Ranging Chickens

Free-ranging chickens will require a little extra space than confined chickens. If you don’t have a lot of room for them or perhaps a high fence around your yard, your neighbors may end up with chickens at their place. This can result in the chickens messing up their flower beds, gardens, and pooping on their property. Doesn’t really make for good neighbor relations.

What it Boils Down To

If you have the space and capabilities to safely free-range your chickens, go for it! Most chicken problems (wandering off, laying eggs random places, etc….) can be fixed by cooping (literally) them up for a few days to a week. I think you will find it fun to watch your chickens in action from your porch.

If you decide that free-ranging isn’t the best or safest option for your birds, you may find ways to give them access to more grass and bugs. You can get creative with a mobile coop, grass clippings, herbs for them, mealworms, or even raising some sort of bug farm to feed them from. Keeping them happy, healthy, safe, and comfortable is the overall goal no matter how you raise your chickens.

I wish you the best of luck in your chicken-raising ventures free-range or otherwise!


More About Raising Chickens

Whether you’ll be free-ranging them or not, keep reading for more information about raising the healthiest and happiest backyard chickens on your homestead!

Considering letting your chickens roam? Learn what the pros and cons are of free-ranging chickens in your backyard.   #chickens #backyardchickens #homesteading #selfsufficiency #raisingchickens #pasturedpoultry #freerange

3 Ways to Make Ricotta Cheese at Home

Whey Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Ricotta cheese is one of the easiest homemade cheese recipes you can make! And it doesn’t even need special ingredients, like rennet or starter cultures, so it’s one everyone can make today. Let’s learn 3 different ways you can make homemade ricotta cheese!

Making cheese at home can be intimidating. Like pressure canning and soap making, it’s one of those homestead skills some folks are nervous about tackling. But thankfully, it’s a skill you can start slow with and build experience and confidence over time.

Ricotta cheese is a great confidence builder! It helps you to familiarize yourself with coagulating milk and seeing the curds separate from whey. Once you have mastered it, then it’s time to think about moving on to a slightly more complicated cheese recipe involving rennet.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Unlike other cheese recipes ricotta uses high heat and an acid to coagulate the curds and separate them from the way. This acid can be lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or citric acid (dissolved in water). Simply stir in a bit of acid into the hot milk at a time until you see the curds start to separate from the translucent, greenish-yellow whey. 

After a resting period in the pot, the curds are ladled into a cheesecloth-lined colander and drained until the reach the desired texture. Mix in some salt and just try to resist snacking it all away! You’re going to be fighting those greedy fingers off like kittens at milking time in the barn if you want any left for your recipe!

Regardless of which ricotta cheese recipe you choose, those basic principles are the same. The difference in the techniques and ingredients simply affect how long it takes to make the cheese, the flavor & texture, and the yield. 

Curds and why separating in homemade ricotta cheese
Curds and why separating in homemade ricotta

Equipment to Make Ricotta

Quick Ricotta Cheese
Quick Ricotta Cheese

Quick Ricotta Recipe

This is the ricotta cheese recipe I make when I need it in a pinch!  If you’re just as horrible at remembering to plan today’s dinner out before 4 pm, as I am, this is the ricotta recipe you’ll be making most too. 

It’s very similar to a paneer or queso fresco cheese except it shortcuts the pressing or long hanging time that make a more solid cheese. 

Quick Ricotta Cheese

Quick Ricotta Cheese

Quick Ricotta Cheese is very similar to a paneer or queso fresco cheese except it shortcuts the pressing or long hanging time that make a more solid cheese, but stll has the sweet, mild flavor or traditional ricotta.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Draining Time 10 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Slotted Skimmer Spoon
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Butter Muslin
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 2 gallons milk
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat the milk to 180F in a large pot.
  • Slowly stir in the apple cider vinegar for a couple minutes. You will see the curds separate from the whey. The whey should be translucent, not cloudy. If it’s cloudy, add in another splash of acid to increase your yield.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Line a colander with butter muslin.
  • Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth and let it drain for a few minutes until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and use your fingers to break up the curds to your preferred size and work the salt throughout.

Notes

Store leftover cheese in the refrigerator for up to one week. 
Keyword cheese, homemade cheese, ricotta cheese, soft cheese

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese Recipe

If I have the time, this is the ricotta cheese I prefer to make simply because I like the flavor best. With a family cow on the homestead, I almost always have to ask myself, “What can I do with all this milk?” instead of “How can I stretch this milk even further?”

This recipe for whole milk ricotta cheese does take the longest so I usually take the lazy way out and go with the Quick Ricotta. 

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

Arguably the most flavorful way to prepare homemade ricotta cheese, this recipe does not use whey, but rather whole milk. For acidification and flavor buttermilk is used instead of apple cider vinegar.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Draining Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Slotted Skimmer Spoon
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Butter Muslin
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 quart cultured buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, stir the milk and buttermilk together.
  • Slowly heat the milk to 185F. Only stir the milk occasionally, otherwise the curds will be too small.
  • Remove the pot from heat and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Line a colander with butter muslin.
  • Gently pour the curds into the cheesecloth, tie up the corners and hang for about 30 minutes or until you like the consistency.
  • Transfer the curds to a bowl and add salt to your taste preference.

Notes

Refrigerate homemade ricotta cheese for up to a week.
Keyword cheese, ricotta cheese

Traditional Whey Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Want to get the most out of your home cheesemaking?

Then make a batch of Whey Ricotta using the leftover whey from other cheese recipes! (Don’t worry homesteaders, there will still be plenty of whey left for the pigs! Now you’re getting 2 types of cheese and bacon out of a few gallons of milk!) 

Ricotta means “re-cooked” so this is the most traditional way to make ricotta cheese. It is sweet and mild with very small tender and creamy curds. It is ideal for spreading or using in your favorite recipes.

I made this Whey Ricotta without the optional milk. I simply used the whey leftover from a 2-gallon batch of cheddar cheese. The final yield was about 12 ounces of ricotta cheese. You can expect up to double the yield with the added milk.

Be sure to use fresh, active whey within an hour or so of cheesemaking or the proteins in the whey won’t gather together to make cheese.

Because of the acidity of the whey will vary depending on the cheese that it came from, the amount of acid you use will vary. Start slowly and add a little more at a time until the curds separate and the whey is less cloudy. 

Whey Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Traditional Whey Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta means “re-cooked” so this is the most traditional way to make ricotta cheese. It is sweet and mild with very small tender and creamy curds. It is ideal for spreading or using in your favorite recipes.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Draining 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 12 ounces

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Slotted Skimmer Spoon
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Butter Muslin
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 2 gallons fresh whey
  • 1-4 cups whole milk, optional (increases yield)
  • ¼ teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water, OR 2+ Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • Heat the whey to 160F.
  • Gently stir in the milk.
  • Continue heating the milk to 180F.
  • Quickly and thoroughly stir in the acid of choice for a few seconds. The curds will begin to form a layer on top of the whey.
  • Without stirring, allow the cheese to continue to heat until the surface cracks and the whey comes through.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Line a colander with cheese cloth and ladle the curd into it.
  • Tie up the ends and hang for about 30 minutes or until you like the consistency.
  • Gently stir the salt in with a spoon.

Notes

Refrigerate leftover cheese for up to one week. 
Keyword cheese, ricotta cheese
3 Ways to Make Homemade Ricotta Cheese #homesteading #ricottacheese #cheesemaking #ricotta #homemade #cheese

The Home Dairy

Make the most of your homestead’s raw milk with these delicious recipes!

The Ultimate Guide to Sugar-Free Jam

If you’ve ever shuddered at the amount of sugar in a recipe for homemade jam, you’re going to love this guide to sugar-free jam.  Because yes, it’s totally possible to enjoy homemade and home canned jams that are both delicious and free from refined sugars.  

How to Make Sugar-Free Jam

When it comes to canning jam, some people think that sugar must be added in order to preserve the fruit, to achieve a proper gel, or to retain the fruit’s color.  However, these are all myths.

Many fruits can be safely canned without sweeteners at all, although I do prefer to sweeten my jams with local honey.  Maple syrup is another good option.  Lemon or lime juice is typically added to increase the acidity and make jam safe for canning.  The amount of juice added is enough for safe canning but not enough to impact the fruity flavor of the jam.

Even pectin can be optional, for reasons I’ll outline below.

Canning sugar-free jam is so simple that I often recommend it for newbies.  Honey-sweetened jams are versatile, tasty, and healthier than store bought versions or sugary homemade jams.

Favorite Fruits (and Veggies) to Use for Sugar-Free Jam

I prefer to use local, in-season, and sometimes even homegrown ingredients for canning jam.  However, you can definitely can fruit from the grocery store, including frozen fruit.  

  • Apples
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers

Sweeteners to Avoid in Jam

In addition to refined sugar, I recommend avoiding the following sweeteners in home canned jam.

  • Agave: agave nectar is not the “healthy” natural sweetener it’s often cracked up to be.  In comparison with honey, agave contains a much higher concentration of fructose and far fewer nutrients and antioxidants.  Personally, I steer clear of agave nectar.
  • Stevia: stevia is actually safe to use for canning, but I’ve never tried it.  For canning, liquid stevia is easier but powdered stevia is the least refined option.  Personally, I limit stevia to very occasional uses and choose  local honey for sweetening sugar-free jam.  
  • Xylitol: according to my research, xylitol is safe for canning but I avoid it for several reasons.  Xylitol is processed, often comes from GMO corn, and commonly causes intestinal distress.
  • Aspartame: aspartame is not a healthy sweetener for jam or anything else, and it can cause an off taste in canning.
  • Corn Syrup: by now, most of us are aware of the health dangers associated with corn syrup.  For this reason, I do not recommend using it for canning jam.
Honey Sweetened Blueberry Jam: The Ultimate Guide to Sugar-Free Jam

Do You Need Pectin in Sugar-Free Jam?

Pectin is not necessary, although pectin-free jam may turn out a bit soft and loose.  Soft jam doesn’t bother me one bit, because it’s still delicious!  Plus, I love keeping my homemade jams as simple as possible, and free from any unnecessary ingredients.

As someone who turned to real foods in order to turn my health around, I’m on a mission to help others do the same.  I now serve as a Natural Living Mentor, inspiring and encouraging families everywhere to embrace a less processed life, which includes simple, unprocessed foods.

When I began to emphasize real foods and eliminate processed foods from my family’s diet, I made it my mission to learn to can fresh, seasonal foods as simply and healthfully as possible.  For me, this means no refined sugar.  It also means avoiding pectin when possible.

My family and I are happy to eat a softer jam knowing it was made from fresh, local ingredients without unnecessary additives.

5 Tips for a Thicker Jam

Don’t be afraid to experiment, knowing that the results will always be delicious. A thin jam that doesn’t set well is still wonderful for stirring into oatmeal or yogurt, pouring over waffles or pancakes, serving over ice cream, and more.  

  • Use a low, wide pan.  A low, wide pan provides more surface area, which allows for faster water evaporation.
  • Cook a bit longer.  A longer cook time may help to reduce and thicken the jam. There’s a bit of a learning curve here, however, because cooking for too long can cook away the natural pectin.  
  • Resist the urge to stir.  Stir only enough to prevent scorching.
  • Batch Size. Another variable that can affect the jamminess of jam is the batch size.  Typically, the smaller the batch, the thicker the jam.

But who has time to can multiple small batches of jam?  Not me, which is why I constantly push the limits for jam batch size.  Personally, I’d rather turn out more jam in one batch, even if it’s a bit on the soft size.

Therefore, I tend to double and sometimes even triple or quadruple jam recipes, including my own.  Just keep in mind that the bigger the batch, the greater the chances for a softer, looser jam.

Jar Size. When it comes to canning jam, I recommend using the smallest jar your family will eat in one or two sittings. 

Once you open the seal of your jam jar, it’s important to eat it up quickly.  You don’t want to risk it spoiling!

At my house, we often have multiple varieties of jams going at once.  The more open jam jars in the fridge, the longer it takes to finish any one jar.  For this reason, I tend to can most jams in 4-ounce jars.

My #1 tip for when you can’t make everything yourself

I know that you can’t always make your own jam. Sometimes life is too busy, but you still want to feed your family the best options you can purchase. That’s why I’ve created a FREE list of healthy pantry staples at the store that breaks down the best choices when from-scratch isn’t an option.

Honey Sweetened Blueberry Jam

Honey Sweetened Blueberry Jam: The Ultimate Guide to Sugar-Free Jam

Honey Sweetened Blueberry Jam

Canning sugar-free jam is so simple! Honey-sweetened jams are versatile, tasty, and healthier than sugary jams.
5 from 4 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Canning Time 10 minutes
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 6 half pints

Equipment

  • Large Wide Pot
  • Potato Masher
  • Long Handled Spoon
  • Half Pint Mason Jars
  • Funnel
  • Ladle
  • Jar Lifter
  • Waterbath Canner

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds blueberries, 2 quarts
  • 1⅓ cup honey
  • tablespoon bottled lemon juice

Instructions
 

  • Add the berries to a large, wide pot. The lower the better.
  • Mash well.
  • Stir in honey and lemon juice and allow to rest for a few minutes until the honey dissolves.
  • Bring the berry mixture to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • When the jam has thickened, pour it into clean, hot jars.
  • For canning, process in a hot water bath for ten minutes.

Notes

Canning is not necessary. If you prefer not to can, simply pour into clean, hot jars and allow to cool. This jam should last for three or four weeks in the fridge.
Keyword blueberry jam, honey blueberry jam, jam, sugar-free jam
The Ultimate Guide to Sugar-Free Jam + a Recipe for Honey Sweetened Blueberry Jam

Cornish Cross or Freedom Ranger? Which Meat Chicken Breed Should You Raise?

Cornish Cross vs. Freedom Ranger Chicks: Which Meat Chicken Breeds Should You Raise?

Are you wondering which meat chicken breed you should raise, Cornish Cross or Freedom Ranger?

There is an increasing selection of meat chicken breeds available to the consumer these days, not to mention the option of raising larger, traditional, dual-purpose, laying hens. The two most popular choices right now are the white Cornish Cross and the Freedom Ranger Broiler. 

The two breeds have some differences which may make one more suited to your homestead than the other. Let’s explore those contrasts so you can make the decision that works best for you!

Meat Chicken Breeds: Cornish Cross Chicken

Cornish Cross or Freedom Ranger? Which Meat Chicken Breed Should You Choose?

Cornish Cross Breed Characteristics

  • Average Time to Raise: 8 weeks
  • Average Weight at Harvest: 4 pounds

Cornish Cross are found with a few variations to their name but are generally a heavy-bodied white chicken. Cornish chickens are bred with large breast meat in mind for consumers looking for low-fat protein.

They are typically inactive and if you’ve only raised laying hens in the past you may be surprised at how they really don’t behave very much like a chicken. They basically spend their lives eating, drinking, sleeping, and defecating. 

It’s a personality well-suited to bulking up quickly. 

“These broiler chickens are known for their remarkable, rapid growth and feed efficiency. Whether you are looking to raise these top-selling meat birds for your own pleasure, or to raise and sell, you won’t find better. 

Females will have a fine, smooth finish when dressed and reach beautiful roasting size. Buying straight run chicks gives you some of each sex so that you can take advantage of the strong points both ways. Males will dress from three to four pounds in six to eight weeks, and females will take about one and a half weeks longer to reach the same size.”

McMurray Hatchery
Cornish Cross Chicken

Benefits of Raising the Cornish Cross Meat Chicken Breed

Quicker to Raise

Many find that you can raise Cornish Cross to butcher weight more quickly than other breeds. They seem to get to the 4-6 pound finishing range within 2 months of age. Afterward, their growth rate seems to slow down… if you want to risk raising them longer for a larger carcass. 

Easier to Butcher

The internal organs in this breed are easier to remove and because they spend so much time laying down, feathers often don’t grow on their breast. This means there are fewer feathers to remove at butchering time.

Later Maturity

Unlike Ranger Broilers, Cornish Cross will not reach maturity before butchering so the roosters won’t crow or act aggressively towards the females. 

Less Expensive to Raise

There is a higher demand for Cornish Cross chicks which lowers the cost of day-old chicks. Because they are also an inactive breed that reaches a finishing size more quickly, Cornish Cross have a higher feed conversion and are less expensive to raise. 

Cons of Cornish Cross

Pasture Raised

If you are interested in maximizing the health benefits of pasture-raised meat chickens, Cornish Cross may not be the breed you’re looking for. They rarely forage for bugs and greens, preferring to hang out around the feed trough and waterer. 

Health Issues

For a variety of reasons, the Cornish Cross are prone to have more health issues compared to other breeds. They are notorious for heart failure and broken legs, especially as they near maturity. They have also been known to experience rectal prolapse. Unfortunately, these types of health issues are experienced later in the bird’s short lives… which means the bulk of your investment in raising them has already been made.

Meat Chicken Breeds: Young Freedom Ranger Broiler

Freedom Ranger Broiler Breed Characteristics

  • Average Time to Raise: 11 weeks
  • Average Weight at Harvest: 6 pounds

Freedom Rangers are also hybrid chickens that fall under a variety of monickers. Generally, you’ll find the term “Ranger” in the name though. They are much more active, healthy birds and behave more like what you’d expect from a chicken. They will run around, chase bugs, pick at grass, and roost instead of parking themselves at the feed trough all day. Their leg bones are stronger to support their body weight and, as a result, you’ll find they have an increased yield of dark meat.

“Freedom Ranger chicks grow at a moderate rate, reaching their peak weight of 5-6 lbs in 9 to 11 weeks. These active, robust chicks are suitable for free range, foraging and pasture environments and produce tender, succulent meat with more yellow omega 3 fat and less saturated fat than fast growing breeds.

Our Freedom Ranger chickens feature either red or tri-colored feathers and have yellow shanks, skin and beaks. They are an active breed and thrive when allowed to free range, scratch and dust bathe in natural sunlight.”

Freedom Ranger Hatchery

Benefits of Raising Freedom Ranger Broilers

Pasture Raising

This is one of the greatest benefits of raising Ranger Broilers. When raised on pasture they will forage well, diversifying their diet and increasing the flavor and most likely nutrition of the meat through the addition of greens, bugs, and whatever else chickens love to find and eat while scratching around.

While Rangers do have a more varied diet, it is not a significant enough consumption to offset production feed costs to help you save money once you factor in the longer time to reach harvest weight.

Fewer Health Issues

Freedom Ranger Broilers typically do not experience the health problems that the Cornish breed is prone to suffer from. This is well worth noting since those health issues often occur after the majority of the investment has been made in the bird. 

Higher Dark Meat Ratio

Because their legs are bred to be sturdier to support their heavy weight, they are larger and have a higher ratio of dark meat. Your preference for dark meat will determine if this is a pro or a con. I place it in the pro column because the moist flavorful dark meat is my favorite!

Richer Flavor

The flavor of Freedom Ranger meat is somewhat richer than Cornish Cross, especially the dark meat. You may find the meat to be juicier and the texture slightly more firm. (Which is not a hard feat to accomplish since Cornish Cross breast meat is almost sawdusty in texture. )

Live Longer

Because they don’t experience health issues, Freedom Rangers can live much longer than Cornish Cross. We have kept one alive and healthy for 3 years. 

Can Lay Eggs

A Ranger hen can be kept for laying, but they are not highly productive. They lay a large pointy egg about 3 times a week for about 2 years. 

It’s a shame that they are a hybrid cross because you can’t hatch out those eggs for continuous self-sufficient meat production. Chicks hatched from Ranger broilers won’t turn out with the same characteristics as their parents and may not make a great meat bird.

Freedom Ranger Broilers
No, it doesn’t take till winter to raise them… we started a batch late and then had a freak early snowstorm in October.

Cons of Freedom Ranger Meat Chicken Breed

Longer to Raise 

The growth rate of the Ranger meat chicken breeds is slower than their Cornish counterpart. It seems the Cornish achieve the 4-6 pound target range more quickly before slowing off their growth rate. But Rangers seem to take the same length of time to reach a larger carcass weight (we prefer the 7-pound range). Both breeds get to that weight in about 14 weeks or so in our experience. 

More Difficult to Butcher

The difference is really negligible and if you haven’t butchered Cornish you may never notice, but the internal organs in a Ranger are a little more trouble to remove. They are also more fully feathered than Cornish and therefore require more work at plucking time. If you have a plucker, this isn’t an issue at all. 

If you take your chickens to a butcher to be processed, they may charge a higher fee per bird (usually less than a dollar each) in order to accommodate the additional work removing feathers.

More Expensive to Raise

Because of the longer time it takes to raise them, Rangers can be more expensive. This is a difficult variable to determine because it depends on many factors besides feed conversion, such as health issues.

Can Be Aggressive 

Because they reach maturity more quickly, Rangers may become aggressive. This is usually only an issue if you raise a straight-run flock. With all males, they will do the squeaky teenage chicken crow, but won’t run around and chase each other the way they do when the ladies are around. We have never once had them turn that aggression toward people, including our children.

Grilled Freedom Ranger Chicken: Cornish Cross vs. Freedom Ranger
Sliced Chicken Breast from Freedom Ranger Broiler

We’ve been raising meat chickens for our family for over a decade now. We’ve experienced raising both meat chicken breeds many times and have done extensive comparisons of their health, hardiness, longevity, costs, and flavor. Ultimately the choice as to which breed to raise comes down to your needs, homestead set-up, size requirements, and flavor preference. Part of the homesteading adventure is having fun and experimenting to discover which breed works best for you! So now that you know what to expect, try raising both breeds and learn which you prefer to raise on your homestead. 


About the Author

Quinn and her family have been homesteading in Ohio for over 17 years, many of which she spent sharing their experiences and encouraging other homesteaders at Reformation Acres until 2018. Besides raising their main crop of 8 children, Quill Haven Farm revolves around the Queen of the Homestead, the family milk cow. In addition to cheesemaking and other home dairy, the cow also provides skim milk to fatten a few hogs every year, raise up a beef calf, supplement the feed for their flock of laying hens & broilers, and beautiful compost for their 14,000 square feet of organic gardens. You can find her writing these days on her Substack- https://www.quillhavenfarm.com


More About Raising Chickens

Whether you’ll be free-ranging them or not, keep reading for more information about raising the healthiest and happiest backyard chickens on your homestead!

Cornish Cross v. Freedom Rangers: Which Meat Chicken Breeds Should You Raise?

NEW!: 2021 “The Homestead Journal” Planner

Announcing the 2021 The Homestead Journal Planner -- the farm planner for every homesteader

I’ve spent countless amounts of money on farm and homestead planners every year, and none of them seem to work for me. So then, I switched to a cheap plain monthly calendar. That didn’t work either. And the reality is that, even if I did find a calendar planner that worked to keep track of dates, it didn’t help me with all the various papers flying around for my homestead projects, goals, finances, bills that need paying, seed sowing, canning schedule, and more.

I couldn’t find what I wanted in a farm planner, so we created one!

Earlier this year we sat down and thought about all the things we might want in a farm and homestead planner. I think this planner will grow and expand each and every year, but for now, it has the basics that every single homesteader and farmer may need.

Not only is it a planner, though, it’s also a journal.

Our ancestors knew the importance of keeping track of all the things that happened on the farm, in the garden, and with their livestock each and every year. The importance was rooted in reference. What grew well that year, how can you use that to prepare for the next year? And not just immediate reference, but decades worth of references.

For example, if you’re having a very wet and cold year and you think to yourself “this reminds me of 5 years ago,” you can then go back, pull out that year’s journal planner, and plan for your new year. There is greatness in patterns, records, and documenting your homestead life.

This is why we’ve added things like a weather tracker for each day of the week, a sowing and harvesting record keeper for every week, and enough journal pages in the back of the planner to help you document your entire homestead year!

What an incredible legacy to leave behind for your kids and grandkids, too!

And the best part?

It’s MADE AND PRINTED IN THE U.S.A!!!

And it will ship out starting in November, if not earlier.

Here’s more information about our brand new planner—The Homestead Journal Planner!

Organize your homestead in 2021 with this unique planner—The Homestead Journal Planner! Everything you need to keep track of, all in one high quality, flat setting planner. With a light vintage gray card stock cover that allows flexibility, this planner is something you can keep on your bookshelf (and look nice!) and easily reference back to for years to come. 

It’s more than just a yearly planner. We’ve created this planner to be a journal style planner meant to keep track of all the important things that happen in your life and on your homestead. Write daily journal entries about what happens on your homestead, with your family, and more. Keep track of the weather every single day in the weekly calendar portion so that you can go back year after year and see what the weather was like. Having a cooler year than normal? Find a year that it resembled in the past and see what grew well for you that year! 

The Homestead Journal Planner isn’t just a planner for one year, it’s a planner to help you build your homestead for years to come.

HOW TO USE THE HOMESTEAD JOURNAL PLANNER
  • 2021 Goals & Projects Worksheets: write down your goals for the year, the budget for each goal/project, due dates, to-do steps, and more!
  • Important Notes from 2020: use this worksheet to write down important things, like how the weather was like the previous year, when did you first sow outdoors, how did your experimental projects go, and what were the first and last frost dates?
  • 2021 Dates to Remember: broken down by month, this worksheet allows you to quickly see the important dates you absolutely need to remember this year.
  • Seasonal To-Do List: each season brings its own to-do list. Use this section to write down some of the chores and seasonal things you need to accomplish this year.
  • Website Login Records: keep track of your businesses, websites, usernames, passwords, and more.
  • Important Contacts: write down important addresses, phone numbers, and emails for people you need to remember, or who farm sitters may need to get in contact with.
  • Monthly Financial Overview: financially break down each month of the year in these helpful worksheets. For each month, keep track of your total income, household expenses, feed expenses, garden expenses, and more. Then, figure out what you have leftover each month after all of your expenses have been taken out.
  • Daily Rhythm Printable: use this sheet as a base to make printables each week. Write down your schedule of things you need do to get it all done morning, mid-day, evening, and before bed.
  • Monthly Calendar + Notes/To-do/Projects: a quick and easy way to find major events happening in your month. Also, keep track of monthly moon cycles, projects and things on your monthly to-do list, and important notes for (or from) the month.
  • Weekly Calendar + Notes/Projects: keep track of more detailed events, appointments, the weather, and more in the weekly calendar portion of the planner. There is also a sidebar for weekly notes and projects.
  • Weekly Meal Plan: Conveniently placed with the weekly calendar, plan out your weekly means as you’re planning your week!
  • Weekly Planting & Harvesting Schedule: keep track of what you need to plant and harvest each and every week of the year. This makes it easier for you to go back and see when you planted something, and when you should be harvesting it!
  • Monthly Financial Records: keep track of the bills you need to pay each month (and check off when you’ve paid them), expenses, and due dates for monthly financials.
  • Monthly Goals & Habits Tracker: keep track of your goals and habits for the month, and mark them off when you’re done!
  • Monthly Egg Tally: for each day of the week, write down your egg tally so you can keep track of all the work your chickens are accomplishing! 
  • Monthly Harvest Production Record: an easy place to record all of your harvest production from that month.
  • Monthly Pantry & Freezer Inventory: wondering what’s in that fridge and pantry? Make it simply by taking an inventory each month so that you never run out! You can also see what products you go through the most during certain years so that you can plan for the year ahead.
  • 2022 Year at a Glance: Write down important dates, projects, chores that need to get done, and notes for 2022 as your 2021 year progresses. There is a box for each month of 2022 where you can jot down important things!
  • Homestead Production & Expense Records: In this section you’ll find yearly garden expenses and production; poultry expenses and production; home dairy expenses and production; livestock expenses and production; beekeeping expenses and production; general farm expenses and production.
  • Livestock Health Records: keep important yearly medical records, breeding records, notes, and more for your livestock.
  • Garden Planning: use the provided graph sheet to plan out your yearly garden, as well as a blank page with a key/scale to help you build your best garden yet!
  • Seed Inventory and Sowing Schedule: wondering what seeds you need to buy? Use the handy seed inventory sheet in the planner to help you know what you have and what you need more of. Likewise, use the seed sowing schedule (in addition to your weekly schedule) to record when you planted, when you should plant, and more.
  • Home Canning Cheat Sheets: from applesauce to green beans, we’ve put together a set of canning cheat sheets that will help you know what you need to water bath can or pressure can, and how long to process them!
  • Curing Records: keep track of all of your curing adventures and recipes with this convenient worksheet.
  • Herbal Inventory: as you harvest your herbs, keep a record of what you have, where you got the herbs from, herbal preparations that you’ve made, and more.
  • Daily Journal Entries: daily journal entry sheets round up the back of the planer. These journal sheets allow you to keep track of daily weather, habits, chores, memories, garden discoveries, and more. Leave behind a legacy for your children and grandchildren, or even use them as a help reference for future years where you can see what worked well and what didn’t on your homestead.

Shipping is included in the price.

Ready to plan your new year? Click the button below to get a DISCOUNTED PRICE when you pre-order the planner now! Get it before we have all of the planners in hand, because then the price goes back to normal!

Introducing Polyface Designs

Polyface Designs

IT’S HERE!!

The long-awaited Polyface Designs is finally available! Now you can dig deep into the brain of Joel Salatin and the workings of Polyface Farms. Discover EXACTLY how the structures and systems of “The Lunatic Farmer” are built and put into practice.

This is the book you always wished Joel would write!

Polyface Designs is the complete compendium of distinctive designs from the leading educator in regenerative agriculture, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms! In this in-depth, easy instruction manual you will find tips, tricks, and glean from the accumulated lessons learned through trial and error that have led to the most creative and innovative solutions in modern small scale farming!

From low-cost electric fencing, to portable structures, chick brooders, pig loading systems, formulas to calculate the area to raise livestock, and so much more, if you are building infrastructure on your farm or homestead this book is a must-read!

“In POLYFACE DESIGNS we do our best to prepare you for the infrastructure and thinking that will make this new venture into food production fun and not a nightmare….And if you’ve been doing it for a long time, I guarantee this book will have ideas and drawings you’ll find helpful to refine your existing infrastructure.”

Joel Salatin

From Polyface Farms:

Have you wondered how to build the Polyface broiler shelter, or the dolly to move it, or an Eggmobile, Gobbledygo or Shademobile? For folks getting started, folks adding enterprises, or folks wanting a cheaper bootstrap way to build portable livestock infrastructure, POLYFACE DESIGNS has all the diagrams and do-it-yourself building specifications. Joel Salatin wrote the text and Polyface former apprentice and engineer extraordinaire Chris Slattery did the drawings. Ultimately practical, the book includes how to build a corral, a home-made head gate and even how to select the right axle for your project. Square footage requirements for the deep bedding hay shed and area advice for pig pastures make this the definitive repository for a lifetime of Polyface experimentation.

A massive volume, it’s 568 pages are in full color and beautiful enough to be a coffee table book even though you’ll use it in your shop. Don’t let the cover price scare you; one building tip can more than save the price of the book.



Small Gardens Can Make a Big Difference

Sowing Seeds for Small Garden

Think you have to grow a huge garden to be self-sufficient? Think again! It’s amazing what a big difference even a small garden can make in securing food independence and security!


By Cheryl Aker, Pasture Deficit Disorder

Hello, fellow Homesteaders of America! I’m a new contributor here and I’m excited to share my homesteading journey with you. Let’s dive right in.

Tale of a Garden Fail

My garden last year was an epic failure. I think it got too hot too soon and then the grass and weeds started growing with a vengeance. Why is it that grass in the yard dies without lots of water, but grass and weeds in the garden grow with wild abandon with no watering, no rain? It’s like the garden was determined to return to a state of native pasture. Ugh. While I was disappointed, I also have to say I didn’t miss standing out in 100+ degrees with 85% humidity last summer to keep the garden watered. 

I always have such a sense of wonder when something that started as a tiny little seed is now providing me with food to eat. But this spring, while I was reading about everyone planning their gardens and starting their seeds, I was doing exactly none of that. I was still so disappointed over last summer. But I also found myself missing the whole process – dreaming over the seed catalog all winter, starting little seeds, delighting when they sprouted, transplanting them, and eventually harvesting the fruits of my labors. 

And then, enter a global pandemic.

I started thinking even if I was getting a late start, anything I could grow would be better than nothing. Garden Fever took hold once again.

Gardening doesn’t have to be all or nothing, go big or go home. You don’t have to plant a whole farm. You can grow a lot of food in containers, backyard gardens, and raised beds. 

At the beginning of the pandemic and all the grocery store hoarding, I was really worried about the availability of fresh food. Mid-March is late to just be getting started in my area (central Texas, zone 8), but let’s face it, I rarely get my garden planted on-time anyway. 😉

Getting Started Growing a Small Garden

The garden was still a certifiable mess and it was already getting too hot for me to spend the serious time required to get it under control (I should have been doing that all winter). I usually grow bush beans – I really like Roma beans – but this year I decided to grow pole beans and let them climb the garden fence. I chopped and hacked about a foot-wide strip along the fence – just enough to get some bean seeds sown and I planted two rows of beans about twenty feet long.

Meanwhile, I put my beautiful potting bench that I built (all by myself) to work and started some zucchini, yellow squash, basil, cilantro, and jalapeno seeds. I didn’t have a plan for where to put all those yet, but I started them anyway. 

In the past, I tried using weed barrier in my garden, but last year the grass and weeds just grew right through and around it.  Now I can’t even rent a tiller to try and get the garden under control because where there is weed barrier it will get all tangled up in the tiller. Hard lesson learned. I’ll have to work on excavating that over the winter because it’s just not something I can do in the brutal Texas summer heat and humidity. 

Switching to Raised Beds and Containers

I’ve been rethinking my garden strategy for a while now. I put a lot of thought into switching to raised bed gardens, but I just didn’t think I could pull it off this year.

On a day off from work in April, I went to buy some supplies for a raised bed. Using non-treated cedar decking boards, I built a 4 ft. x 8 ft. x 1 ft. raised bed all by myself while hubby was stuck at his computer for work. Yes! Unsupervised with the power tools. HA! (Watch for a post on building my raised bed coming very soon.)

Even though I didn’t buy any new seeds this year I had plenty to choose from. (Hello, my name is Cheryl and I might have a seed-buying addiction). I planted several in each little starter pot, not knowing how successful the germination would be. Well, everything came up! Am I the only one that can’t bring themselves to pitch out a little seedling, even when I don’t need that many full-grown plants? I mean, that cute little seed went to all the trouble to sprout and grow a beautiful first set of leaves.  Who am I to deny it a chance to show its stuff? 

When most gardeners in my area were harvesting squash and beans, my plants were barely big enough to transplant. I just kept reminding myself that it’s better late than never, and a little bit is better than nothing. 

Hubby surprised me by suggesting we put my newly built raised bed in the barnyard, the only other place around here besides the old garden that is safe from our dogs, chickens, and cows. We’ve already been transplanting a lot of our herbs that made it through the winter in the barnyard. We got my new raised bed filled with soil just in time to get things transplanted.

I also got six big heavy-duty empty cattle protein tubs from our neighbors to use for container gardening. I drilled holes in the bottom and filled them with soil. I planted all my tomatoes and cilantro in those containers and placed them on a bed of mulch along the fence.

But please do yourself a favor and whatever you’re using to stake the tomato plants, set it up early while the tomato plants are still small and don’t need to be staked yet. (Ask me how I know. Smacks forehead.) 

Along another fence, I planted most of the squash seedlings in the ground and planted another four squash in half of my raised bed. All the jalapenos are in the raised bed too. The basil went into several five-gallon pots. Anyone else have a problem with growing too much basil? I mean way too much basil. That’s not just me, right?

Harvest from our small garden

Harvesting the Small Garden Bounty

My garden may be much smaller this year, but it is producing mightily.

I planted six zucchini and six yellow squash, a dozen tomatoes, and a dozen jalapeno peppers. I’ve given away over 20 pounds of squash. I’ve made dehydrated squash chips, zoodles (spiralized squash) for cooking fresh, zoodles for the freezer, grated up squash for cooking/baking fresh, and more for the freezer. I still have squash on every counter in the kitchen!

I have 11 pints of diced tomatoes in the freezer and I canned four pints of spaghetti/pizza sauce. There are lots more tomatoes right next to the squash on every counter. No really. Every. Counter.

I also have jalapenos waiting to be made into jalapeno poppers for the freezer and I’m going to try dehydrating some and making jalapeno powder. My favorite go-to summer meal is toast and tomatoes with crumbled goat cheese with a side of cheesy squash “breadsticks.” Mmmm mmm!

Oh, and those green beans? We pressure-canned green beans on three different occasions. Each batch was between 15 and 21 jars and now we have a total of 58 pints of green beans! Those little batches add up. For the two of us, eating about one pint of green beans per week – that will last us for a year. 

Small garden raised bed

There’s More To It Than Just Vegetables

I’ve got all the materials to build another raised bed. I’d like to get it ready for a fall/winter garden. I have to remind myself throughout the brutal Texas summers that the reward is an almost year-round growing season. We have encountered some shortages of certain foods here and there throughout this pandemic. Have you thought about or read about our broken food system?

Do yourself a favor and grow your own food. Any little bit is better than nothing. Just get started and grow something. Anything. Not only are you less dependent on others to supply all your food, but you are also better prepared to endure tough times. 

You also have the opportunity to teach your children to garden and the value of understanding where food comes from. And it is a wonderful chance to create lasting memories while you do it.

I was talking to a dear friend of mine about gardening and she vividly remembers her mom’s huge garden when she was a kid. She realizes now that her mom was canning and putting up food to get them through lean financial times. But she also lovingly recalls some of her happiest childhood memories were times that they sat on the front porch snapping beans and shelling peas. She loved digging potatoes, onions, and carrots and couldn’t wait to see how big each one was – it was like a treasure hunt. 

I’ve always loved the sayings “when you garden you grow” and “playing in the soil is good for the soul.” Now go grow something! You’ll be so glad you did.


Homestead Gardening

Get ready for a great growing season with these articles to help you grow more in your homestead garden!

Small Gardens Reap a Big Harvest on the Homestead

Dairy Supplies for the Family Cow

Dairy Supplies & Equipment for Family Cow

So you’re thinking about bringing home a family milk cow? It’s time to hit the books and dive into Family Milk Cow 101! There is a lot you need to know before you fill that first pail with milk including what dairy supplies you need to get started so you have the milking equipment on hand from day one!

 

Obviously, much of the milking equipment used today are luxuries compared to pioneer times. Technically, all you need is a pair of hands and a bucket. (Some would argue a stool, but I squat so it’s not a necessity.)

But we’ve learned a lot since those days and can ensure we have cleaner milk, a healthier cow, and less stress at milking time with a few extra dairy supplies.

Stainless Steel Buckets for Milking a Family Cow

8 Family Cow Dairy Supplies You Need to Get Started

Teat Cleaner

Clean, safe milk requires clean teats before you start milking. There are several options available to you, some more economical than others. On our homestead, we switch it up depending on what time of the year it is. During the summer when cows are out on grass, they don’t get as dirty. Iodine-based teat dip is quick and does the trick. Some days in the winter it seems like you’ll need a garden hose to get her clean! (Can you blame her? Cow pies are warm.) On those days we carry out a bucket of warm, soapy water and scrub her down. Try a gentle, natural cleaner such as castile soap, but a squirt of dish soap will work as well.

Wash Rags or Disposable Towels

What you use to wash the teats with before milking is a matter of preference… and how much laundry you like to do. The most economical choice may seem to be reusable wash rags but while making the comparison don’t forget to factor in the detergent, water usage, energy usage, wear and tear on your washing machine and dryer, and the time it will take for cleaning reusable wash rags.

Can you tell which we use?

My personal preference is to dispose of the paper towels that are filthy after washing a cow. We tried reusable wash rags at first. Obviously, you’re not going to run the washing machine just for one or two rags you used in a day so you let them accumulate for a week or so before running them through. All the while bacteria are growing on them. Our washing machine wasn’t able to get the smell out and it’s not a stretch to imagine then that it’s not removing all of the manure or bacteria either.

Disposable paper towels are the best solution for us when it comes to time, savings, and cleanliness. We use about one roll every week in the winter, and every two weeks in the summer.

Family Cow Dairy Supplies

Milk Bucket

This seems like a no-brainer on a dairy supplies checklist, right? You need something to put the milk in while you’re taking it out of the cow. I can’t recommend stainless steel buckets highly enough!

If you think they’re unaffordable, shop around. There are some that are ridiculously priced, but others are much more reasonable. Why stainless steel though? It all comes back to sanitization. Hands down a stainless steel bucket is easier to clean, easier to sanitize, and doesn’t hold odors that will affect the flavor of your milk.

What size bucket you need will depend on how much milk your gal is likely to give. We have three 2-gallon buckets for our home dairy. One is our winter Wash Bucket, one is the Under Cow Bucket that the milk gets squirted into, and the other is our Transfer Bucket. The Under Cow Bucket gets poured into the Transfer Bucket a few times while milking. Just in case. There is nothing worse than getting to the finish line only to have the cow shift and spill the whole bucket of milk. Ok. I’m sure there are worse things that can happen but at that moment it’s tragic. It makes me want to cry. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

Iodine Teat Dip for Family Cow

Iodine Teat Dip & Cup

Regardless of what dairy supplies you use to wash your cow’s teats & udder with prior to milking, when you’re done, you need a teat dipper cup and iodine-based teat dip as a post wash. This is to kill mastitis-causing pathogens from getting into the teat after milking. We do not do this step while we are calf-sharing, because there’s really no point. As soon as you turn mama back out the calf is gonna start sucking on her and its saliva has the same effect. 

Filter

Filtering milk before bottling and refrigeration is a very necessary part of the sanitation process. It doesn’t matter how well you clean your cow prior to milking, little bits of stuff will get into your milk. Hairs, skin cells, bugs that flew in the bucket. You don’t want those in your milk.

Sure you can definitely use a cloth rag as a filter. We started with strips of old t-shirts, a rubber band, and canning funnel.

But we don’t do that anymore.

Cloth funnels are inconsistent and can take a painstakingly long time to strain the milk. Time is of the essence when it comes to fresh, flavorful milk and once it’s out of the cow you want to get it chilled as fast as you can. I also hated the smell of spoiled milk rags in the laundry. And if that rag comes into contact with any of your other clothes before starting the wash, you can kiss those clothes goodbye, they’ll stink forever.

Disposable paper towels are an option, but they can rip causing you to have to restrain the milk.

After we started using filtering discs specifically designed for straining milk, we never went back. Once you see the weave and how much more it collects it’s hard to consider the other options again. I find they’re also easier to see any chunks in the milk for detecting mastitis. 

Funnel

How long do you want to spend straining your milk? That’s the question you need to ask yourself while choosing which funnel to add to your collection of dairy supplies.

Once again, a quick chill time is key to having the best milk that will last the longest in the refrigerator. (And don’t forget, there are other chores that need to be done on the homestead.) So while you can use canning funnels and coffee filters (and we have) we made the investment into a large-capacity strainer funnel and get our milk in the fridge fast.

Family Cow Dairy Supplies

Jars

You’re going to need jars to store your milk. The best choice of jar is up to you. We use half-gallon mason jars because the size is easier for children to handle than a full-gallon jar. Make sure your jars are glass. Plastic containers are more difficult to clean and sanitize. They will hold flavors that will permeate your milk.

That’s been my experience with plastic lids as well. Milk will get between the threads and dry out. It’s difficult to see when it’s clean and you risk using a dirty lid on the next jar of milk.

Grain/Treat Bucket

If you’re reading this article, it’s pretty safe to say you’re new to this. And as with any new skill, it’s going to take a little while before you’re pretty efficient at this whole milk cow thing. If you are blessed with a really, and I mean really, good cow she will patiently stand while you milk her without a treat. But for most of us, our cows would rather be back in the pasture grazing away instead of standing there while you mess around underneath her.

Without a treat to incentivize good behavior, you risk switching tails, shifting legs, and even spilled milk IF you’re lucky and she doesn’t stick the whole foot in there and spoil your bucket too.

Not only that but if your cow knows she’s going to get a treat when she comes in to be milked, you won’t have to spend needless time chasing her around the pasture to bring her in for milking on the days she doesn’t want to.

You can feed your cow a small ratio of grain (which will help her maintain her body condition during her lactation, especially if she is a dairy breed instead of dual purpose) or alfalfa pellets if you prefer grass-fed only. If your new cow is used to a grain ration at milking though, she’ll probably turn up her nose at alfalfa.

That said, I’m a firm advocate of training your cow to know the “shake, shake,” of a scoop of grain in a bucket. I don’t care how staunchly you stand in Camp Grass-Fed only, do yourself a HUGE favor and train them know what that sound means. It will save you so many headaches while moving cows later! Once they know what that means (and it won’t take long) you don’t need to give them grain regularly. Trust me, they’ll remember what it means.

Family Cow Dairy Supplies

6 More Dairy Supplies Recommended To Make Your Life Easier

Udder Balm

Having an udder balm to rub on your cow’s teats after milking is a great way to keep her skin healthy and supple. This is especially beneficial for older cows whose skin dries and cracks more readily or for cows who cut their teats on briars for example. You can purchase an udder balm or make your own. My favorite udder balm for cracked or cut teats is simply lanolin. It’s simply the most effective at healing, hands down.

Mastitis Test Kit

A mastitis test kit is an easy-to-use solution to help you detect mastitis before your cow gets sick from the infection. Early treatment is simple, quick, and has less of a milk withhold so your gal is healthy and milk is back in your fridge faster. With an early case of mastitis, you can use a simple homemade product with essential oils compared to a full-blown case that might require an injection into the teat to clear it up. 

Halter or Collar & Lead Rope

Next to grain training, breaking your cow to a halter or lead rope is going to be one of the dairy supplies to own. It will make life with your new dairy cow easy breezy. Seriously. If she doesn’t want to come in for milking, you could spend an hour out there chasing her around till she decides she’s done running from you. A little “shake, shake” or a horse treat in your hand and she’ll come running for you. Snap on the lead while she takes the treat and you’re on your merry way.

Dairy Supplies for the Family Cow

Grooming Brush

Brushing your cow down before milking is not only a great way to bond with her but also removes any debris that may fall into your milk bucket later. We have a curry brush for when they’re shedding out in the spring and a regular stiff natural bristle brush for the rest of the year.

Anti-Kick Device

Hopefully, you’ll never need this tool. But it sure is handy to have if you do. There are several anti-kick devices available. You can find different types of hobbles but we prefer a simple bar that hooks under the flap of skin between the back leg and udder then up over the spine. It works to apply just enough pressure so she can’t lift her leg (or if she still can, it’s much slower so you can get out of the way.

I recommend purchasing one of these if you have a new-to-you cow (she’ll test you), a fresh cow (they’re bursting and sore so they kick more the first week or so), or if a cow has mastitis (for the same reason as a fresh cow… mastitis hurts!)

Stanchion

Going out to the pasture, bucket in hand to stoop beneath your cow while she peacefully stands grazing as you milk is totally romantic! Totally Ma Ingalls, I hear you, and I love the image it conjures up.

But as dreamy and pastoral as it sounds, there have been many times when I’ve been thankful for having a stanchion and a cow that’s willing to go in it.

A stanchion serves as a milking center to store all of your supplies needed nearby. Grain bucket, feed, probiotics, iodine, etc…. it’s all right there nearby when you bring the cow into milk.

But more than that if she will be AI’ed, preg checked, treated for mastitis, examined by a vet, a stanchion is INVALUABLE I tell you!

We recently started using a rubber anti-slip mat on our stanchion and are very happy with it. Much easier to clean than a wood platform and when it’s wet she doesn’t risk slipping.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the dairy supplies you’ll need to properly care for your family cow, however, this milking equipment will get you started on the right track to home dairy success in your daily milking routine. You can always build your arsenal of supplies as time goes on.


About the Author

Quinn and her family have been homesteading in Ohio for over 17 years, many of which she spent sharing their experiences and encouraging other homesteaders at Reformation Acres until 2018. Besides raising their main crop of 8 children, Quill Haven Farm revolves around the Queen of the Homestead, the family milk cow. In addition to cheesemaking and other home dairy, the cow also provides skim milk to fatten a few hogs every year, raise up a beef calf, supplement the feed for their flock of laying hens & broilers, and beautiful compost for their 14,000 square feet of organic gardens. You can find her writing these days on her Substack- https://www.quillhavenfarm.com


Keeping a Family Milk Cow

Raising a dairy cow for your family’s milk supply is a lot of hard work and effort, but she will amply reward your effects with many dairy blessings of milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, and more! Keep reading to learn how to give your gal all the care she deserves!

So you’re thinking about bringing home a family milk cow? Check out this list of dairy supplies so you have the milking equipment you need to get started! #homestead #homesteading #familymilkcow #rawmilk #homedairy #dairy #milkcow #cow