I live two completely different lives. One is my farm life
. I live that version up a steep hollow, in the Green Mountains of southern Vermont. I rent this little cabin in a clearing with six acres and a few loud streams running through it. There I live with my two sled dogs, and raise chickens, geese, sheep, rabbits, and a hive of bees. I bake bread, plant organic vegetables, and play Civil War tunes on my fiddle by the fireplace. It's everything corny and cliché about country living and I adore it. The plan is to someday, somehow, make my home life my whole life, and work full-time on my own homestead raising sustainable food for fine people like you and writing about it. It's good to want things.
However, my other life is one of offices, meetings, and computers. I'm a corporate graphic designer, and 40 hours a week you'll find me in my little workspace with my headphones on, making the cash to pay the bills. Yeah, it's a stressful way to spend my daylight, but I like that place. It doesn't have the same aesthetic appeal as my farm, but it's a hip scene. It's got charming people and lots of laughter, and I genuinely enjoy being there. We swap records, tell jokes, keep each other entertained between projects, and, like any day job, you start to grow fond of your cage. You'll have this. I make no apologies for it.
Maybe it's because I'm a web designer, or maybe it's because I'm speaking for a whole new generation of future back-to-the-landers, but I don't think being a homesteader means you have to separate yourself from the modern world. I think you can embrace it completely while still scaling down and making things simpler. Clearly, I think this because, well, I'm blogging to you about it, which requires computers and email and whatnot. But there are also all the advantages of modern life that can be utilized in your quest to escape it. For example, there are websites for urban chicken raising, free barn plans on downloadable pdfs, and I was even able to make a chicken coop out of my old iPod (I sold it and bought the coop with the cash, TA DA!). And I'll happily admit that I love, that I can't get enough of, new music and pop culture. Hell, I churn my own butter while watching 30 Rock marathons on DVD. All this, a good balance. Or at least that's the story I'm going with.
So welcome to my world and pull up a chair. My life is this feral combination of down-home farmin' and high-tech office culture — but so far, I've been keeping up with the dance steps and figuring it all out along the way. It's also why I wrote this book, Made from Scratch: Discovering the Pleasures of a Handmade Life. I wanted people working 9-5 like me to know they could have some of that localvore life they've been craving, even if they live in places with miles of Amtrak lines instead of livestock fencing. You can start doing simple things now to bring self-sufficiency into your everyday life. This week, I'll be posting some stories and ideas to do just that — starting with churning your own butter. And yes, I'm serious.
How to Churn Butter without a Churn
1 small carton of heavy whipping cream (organic, if you can)
1 pint jar with lid
salt, to taste
1. Pour whipping cream into your glass jar, and fill it halfway.
2. Set it out overnight, or for the eight hours you're at work, on the kitchen counter.
3. After it's set, take jar and shake it once a second, you can do this while you watch TV.
4. After about ten minutes, you'll see the butter and buttermilk separate.
5. Keep shaking at your steady pace till a solid yellow ball seems to form in the middle of the milk. (If your butter seems too milky yet, shake it again for a while longer till a ball forms. If your ball seems too soft, press out some of the milk between two clean washclothes)
6. Pour out the buttermilk into another container to bake with later (hello pancakes) and take your ball of freshly churned butter and place it into its own small glass or plastic container.
7. Sprinkle some salt on top and set it in the fridge to set.
8. Congratulations, son. You just made your own condiment. Next year, we'll build a barn.