Buttermilk cheese

I made butter and had a lot of rich buttermilk leftover. I poured very hot water into the churn and the solids separated from the rest which was clear water. I collected the solids in cheesecloth and hung it on the back porch for a month. It grew a mold but was very good cheese. What kind of cheese did I make?

Robert Bumpus
Newcastle, California

Boy you’ve got me, Bob. I’ve made a lot of different cheeses but never have I made cheese out of fresh, uncultured buttermilk. Any readers out there have an answer for us? — Jackie

Turkey gravy

How do you can turkey gravy?

Karl Creekmore
Chesapeake, Virginia

Sorry, but gravy is one thing you shouldn’t home can as it can get too thick to be safe for home processing. How about canning turkey broth then making your gravy from that? If you add some of the pan scrapings from the bottom of your roaster to the broth, you’ll have a rich-tasting broth for gravy making. — Jackie

Discouragement in homesteading

I was wondering if you or someone else at Backwoods Home Magazine could do an article or even a regular column where homesteaders share some of their discouraging moments and how they managed to triumph or simply push their way through them?
A quick background on me and my reason for asking…
My family is from the deep South, I grew up in the corn belt Southeast of Chicago, and now live in Pitt, MN (between Baudette & Warroad). I married a 3rd generation + local. It is a second marriage for both us. We’ve been homesteading on his 160 acres (referred to as the Old Paxon Place) for 8 years. I have often referred to your articles for advice.
I’m also learning much from the locals about the culture and fortitude of the Norwegians, Swedes, Germans , etc. that settled in these parts. It’s fertile ground for potential homesteading knowledge, but often it is mockery, discouragement, disdain, & disgust shown to those of us who desire this way of life now.
Perhaps the locals have struggled too much, too long, too recently in history? Perhaps they remember all too well only the pain & negatives of a homesteading lifestyle… They say they “simply” want “better & more” for their kids. It even seems the pervasive “throw it away”, materialism, and “money is everything” attitudes are as strong or stronger here than in any big city. Hence, as a persistent homesteader, I get “hungry” not for good, wholesome food- but rather, encouragement, homesteading knowledge, & mentor-type friendships. Again, I’m grateful for your articles and blog.
When I look out my kitchen window at the remains of the “Old Paxon Place”, I have often wondered about the obstacles that the Paxon family faced: the extreme cold, the mosquitoes and biting flies, the brief gardening season, the wildlife predators, the remote location… We have faced those, too. And after 8 years of work & pondering, I now feel qualified to answer when asked, “What’s the biggest obstacle for a modern day homesteader”? It’s Discouragement. And while I will never know for sure, I will always wonder what part Discouragement played in the Paxons abandoning this homestead here and moving to Washington.
Thanks Jackie for your part in encouraging modern homesteaders!
Shae Grund
Baudette, Minnesota

This constant facing of nay-sayers can be discouraging to homesteaders. It’s a thing that homesteaders from small towns to remote locations face constantly. After all, most modern people just don’t “get” homesteading and equate “success” with money. It’s too bad. Maybe that’s why today we talk about self-reliant living. When your mood depends on how others around you regard your lifestyle, you’re not being self-reliant no matter how much of your own food you grow, etc. We need to feel our joy in our day-to-day accomplishments, the nature around us, and in ourselves and families. It does help to find some like-minded folks in your area. (There ARE some!) We host a few potlucks at our place for local homesteaders to come talk, and share tips and seeds. Each time it grows larger and we all become networked. You might try it yourself. One thing I’ve learned is not to talk homesteding to neighbors who are not interested. You always end up shot down.

Of COURSE discouragement killed many homesteader’s dreams in the old days. Simple starving out was a huge factor. No money, no food, no market for crops produced. It was a tough time. Very few today really understand what our ancestors faced. It makes us, today, seem like wimps!

What about it readers? How about answering Shae’s question from your own experience? — Jackie


  1. Jim Sanderson,

    I’m so glad you came back to homesteading. Yeah, I know what pain feels like. (And I guess I’m a “little old lady” now that I’m approaching 70, have arthritis and a twice crippled up back.) But you’re right, even if you can’t do some things the way you used to doesn’t mean you can’t do them. You said “work smart” and that’s just what we do here to keep doing. You might tell your grandson that even if you ARE old and decrepit, you sure don’t like being treated like you are! That’d kind of get my back up a bit.

  2. Shae and Jackie,
    First off, wonderful response. We only have a hobby farm really that I started when the kids were young. We raised beef, chickens, and a garden. Nothing fancy or large, just enough for us and a little to share. If I was to offer advice, the only thing I might say differently is SHARE your blessings with those who you WANT to be your friendly neighbor etc. As a gift, share your beautiful eggs, or egg salad sandwhiches on homemade bread when they appear to need them, or the occassion arrises. Invite them over for a nice grilled steak, straight off the farm ;^). Offer salad fixings, fresh tomatoes, and the like, to let them taste your success. That really helps people come around to accept your choices. It is nothing special, just one way that opens doors to what they might see you have that they are missing. Offer to sell as side of beef if they like the taste of farm meat. I am sure this is not even touching the surface of what you’ve been talking about, but it has been one way I let those who know me come to accept my choices. I like what I do, and by sharing just the food part of it with someone, it seems to help them understand a little of why we live the way we do.
    I’d love to see more articles in the magazine, as Shae suggests.
    Good luck Shae with your homestead.

  3. Dear Shea and Jackie,
    I loved Jackie’s response when she said that if you are depending on others for encouragement, then you aren’t truly being self-sufficient. Right on! For all aspects of life, for all lifestyles!

    My wise mother used to say that when you point a finger at someone, you have three pointing right back at yourself. I bring this up because I have found that when I am not getting the response I am after, I need to analyze my own actions/thoughts/behaviors. Am I extending encouraging words to someone else? Am I being a good neighbor to others? How am I asking the question? Can I find humor in the situation/mishap and could I share the story with others? (Humor can and does break down MANY barriers). Sharing your funny stories and asking with a joyful and humble heart often elicits positive words of advice and encouragement from others. People respond to that!

    I started my self-sufficient journey 5 years ago and discovered that there are more and more people canning and dehydrating and trying to live out this philosophy (some are just cautious about sharing this aspect of their lives) than I ever knew. Keep looking and you will find them! Keep your chin up and discover the joy and beauty all around you….that is encouraging too!

  4. My most difficult thing is getting old. I am 70, have serious arthritis (had knees replaced), heart trouble and diabetes. Last year I decided to give up on homesteading. That decision lasted about a week. Then I went to work figuring out how to homestead with less physical labor. Don’t carry all that firewood, pull it in a small kids wagon. Use raised beds so you don’t have to bend down or get on your knees. Get a wood splitter. Accept help. Grandkids started saying “let us come and do that for you.” When I told one of them I didn’t like being treated like I was old and decrepit” he replied, ” But you are old and decrepit”. Lots of other changes. Just don’t ever give up, just work smarter.

  5. For me the most difficult thing was my dh who decided after only two years on our acreage that it was too hard. We’d planned before marriage that we’d have an acreage and worked for 10 years to get there. Its the only major thing I’d wanted and he’d agreed BEFORE we were married that’s what he wanted too. But I guess an early midlife crisis or some other fluke in his brain meant that I had to leave to save my marriage. So I’d say the hardest issue is having a non-supportive partner.

  6. My husband and I have been homesteading for almost 20 yrs. I have come to love this mountain we live on. This is where I learned to drive a tractor after I wrecked it into a tree. This where we learned to shear sheep after, to our dismay, we accidently cut and nicked them till they bled. This is where we learned to build predator proof pens after we lost multiple sets of chickens. This is where we spent days planting over 100 blueberry bushes only to lose 90% of them to goats. And I won’t go into setting our place on fire and being rescued by the neighbors or the time stray dogs wiped out my daughter’s rabbit business, or the time a tree fell and crushed our barn or how many times we’ve had to replant stuff because of drought, cold or flood. But this is also where my children were born and raised. Where we learned to work together as a family, where we spent afternoons cooling off in the pond and snowy days sledding down the back hill. This is where my daughter fell in love with animals and saved for years to buy her own horse. This is where my son learned to hunt and earn his own money by raising pigs for people in our church. This is where my kids brought their friends because it was cool to play in the barn and roam the woods. This is where my son wanted his graduation party and 250 people showed up to spend the day. And I could tell you about our u-pick blueberry farm, 4-h clinics, 4-wheeling trails, hikes, air-soft parties, swimming parties, sledding parties, cook-outs, people vacationing here or people coming to just rest and enjoy the peace and quiet. Yes, there have been times when we wondered if it was worth it all, (when the goats ate our blueberry plants,) times when we wondered if we should quit, when the barn was crushed, rebuilding seemed like such a huge task. Even now as our kids are at that age of trying to decide if they want to stay on the mountain or move on, we have once again decided to stay, because this is who we are and what we want to do. So, we pull together and begin rebuilding the barn, and when the sun shines we go outside and dream about what we’ll plant when spring comes.

  7. Shae and Jackie.
    I would say my biggest problem was the lack of skills it takes to homestead and loneliness. While I have a small place (4 acres), I had absolutely no training in homesteading/survival skills. I went from a job where I taught 200+ students a day and lots of coworkers and friends to living by myself in a sparsely populated county. The quietness was so hard to bear that I used to turn on the tv or radio just for noise. The first time the electricity went off I panicked majorly and fled to my mother’s. I had no idea how to can, garden, raise animals, etc.
    Then I found BWH magazines on a trip to B&N. It was as if God Himself said to buy it and read it. I bought Jackie’s books, back issues, and read each fervently. I am not kidding–without this support I would have sold out years ago and gone back to my previous life.
    I joined a church in my new community and met friends. I joined a bridge group and volunteered. I try canning or dehydrating something new once a week to add to my supplies. I bought a dog who is my best friend. I even have dates!
    Loneliness can be cured, skills can be learned, dreams can come true.
    Just ask Jackie!

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