Monday, March 23, 2015

What do you do when a homesteading forum steals your words?

Who reads the TOS of a website that they use?  I know that I don't often, but I sure am going to from here on.

There's a fairly big controversy at a site that I've written about before,  The basic issue is that the site has instituted a Terms Of Service (TOS) that is entirely in the favor of the site, and allows them to, well, let me quote them:

"Section 4. User Submissions.
Any communication which you post to the Site or transmit to or to the Site by e-mail, private message (PM), public post and/or other medium can be used by on a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive license 
with the right to reproduce, modify, publish, edit, translate, distribute, perform, and display the communication alone or as part of other works in any form, media, or technology whether now known or hereafter developed, and to sublicense such rights through multiple tiers of sublicenses. may use the information it obtains relating to you, including your 
IP address, name, mailing address, email address and use of the Site, for its internal business and security procedures. "

Now while a lot of websites may have terms of service that are like this, the new owners of carbon media decided that they'd actually do this.

They were taking posts by users on, editing them, and then posting them as "original" content on other websites that they own.  Most of the editing was just removing the original posters name and replacing it with "angie" or "pinkpiggy" or some other random username.

No link back to the original.  No attribution.  Just plain and simple plagiarism.

This has made hundreds of the users of that forum pretty mad, and they've been talking about it in the forums where the messages were drawn from... or trying to

Carbon media is deleting the threads and discussions as fast as they can, and this attempt at a coverup is really making more people angry, faster.

Honestly, as far as trainwrecks go, it's pretty good.

If you'd like a homesteading forum that's run by actual homesteaders, try

If you want a corporate trainwreck, I'd highly suggest the following links at

Users want the TOS changed
Users outraged that discussion threads are being closed
People find out their words are being stolen and posted
One of the forum moderators breaks ranks and keeps a discussion forum open

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cheese making

I've been doing the research on running a dairy for a few years now,  and raised and milked my own heifer  and I've been slowly growing my cow herd; a few cows for beef, but the majority for use in a dairy.

So now I'm at 24 head, with the majority of those being dairy heifers.  I'm milking 4 of them twice a day right now - one holstein, two jerseys, and a holstein-jersey cross.   Most of the milk is being used to feed calves, and I'm diverting 3 gallons a day to cheese making.

Why cheese making?    It's a way to sell milk, and it's a way to deal with surplus milk in a more shelf-stable way.  With fluid milk you've got to sell it relatively quickly; with cheese, a few months of aging often improves it.

If you're interested in the mechanics of cheese making, I'll talk about the stuff I'm using to make the cheese at the bottom of this post.

So I'm working through the process of making various kinds of cheese, and it's been pretty fun.  Here's my first two attempts:

camembert-style cheese
 I'm concentrating on fresh cheeses, that is, cheeses that are consumed relatively quickly, because that's what the market appears to want.  I've talked to a couple of cheese makers and recently took a 3 day course in cheesemaking offered by the local agricultural extension, and what is selling for local cheese producers are these sorts of farmstead cheese.

Plus I like to eat them.  I've made 40 wheels of this type of cheese and kept careful notes about the ingredients and handling of each.  Each batch of 3 gallons of milk made 3 or 4 cheeses (I varied the size a little so that I could see how they ripened if they were a little bigger or smaller) and so I'll get to try each batch at 3 ages.  one relatively young (2 weeks) one midrange (4-5 weeks) and one ripe (6+ weeks).

The natural rind is forming nicely.  I can't wait to eat them
 The actual cheese making process is a lot like baking crossed with brewing beer.  You're dealing with live cultures, and the trick to it is to provide the right conditions for the culture you want to encourage and have that culture crowd out all competitors.

Farmstead feta cheese
The farmstead feta is one of the favorites.  It's relatively simple to make, doesn't have to age very long at all (fresh it's very mild, two weeks old it's got a little bite, at 5 weeks it's sharp) and it has become the household snack item.

This is what I use for my cheesemaking:

To heat the milk and maintain the temperature on cultures or for cheddaring, I use a sous-vide water oven.  You can do the same thing with a couple of pots and a thermometer, but the sous-vide makes it pretty easy to get fairly precise control over your milk and culture temperatures, and in a pinch, can be used to pasturize  your milk if you'd like.  (set to 145 degrees and maintain at temperature for 30 minutes).  For my cheese experiments I'm using all raw-milk.

I'll warm the milk to temperature and then transfer to 3 gallon plastic totes for incubation of the culture and for curd formation.

I started with this recipe for the camenbert because by the time that it's all said and done, my mostly-jersey milk produces either a double-cream or a triple-cream cheese.  Plus that's one of my favorite types, so why not make something you like to eat?  Who says experiments have to be all work!

With the feta cheese I used a recipe supplied in the cheesemaking class.  The basic ingredients are whole milk, culture, lipase, rennet, salt.  

Both of the recipes assumed pastuerized milk ; for raw milk I was able to eliminate calcium carbonate
and use a little less rennet.

On a flavor note, there is a distinct flavor difference between raw-milk cheese and pastuerized milk cheese; having grown up with pastuerized milk, I'm finding that the raw milk cheese is particularly delicious.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

how many acres to feed yourself?

I think one of the things that people think about is becoming food self-sufficient.  that is, to raise your own food, and feed yourself from  your own land.

I got this question on a forum I read:

"How much land would you need to feed yourself"

And I'm going to answer it in the form of a chicken dinner:

Takes about 2lbs of feed to put a pound of weight on a chicken.
For a chicken you add about 5lbs = 20lbs of feed. which means about 20 pounds of grain per chicken, which means half a bushel or so.
Current grain yields are between 30 and 40 bushels per acre, which means for each chicken you'd need 1/60th of an acre of grain.

Want to eat a chicken a week? you'd need an acre of wheat. 

(yes, i'm ignoring the protein component of modern chicken feed; this is a thumnail sketch. if it makes you feel better make part of the acre some sort of protein; field peas or garbanzos or soy beans)

But what would it take to get that acre of grain? With a modern tractor, you could till and prepare the seedbed on an acre in a few minutes; at a cost of $150,000. With a mid-sized tractor it may take you an hour, at a cost of $65,000. With a horse and a plow, maybe a day. By hand, with a hoe, a week or two if you worked 12 hour days.

Seed would cost you $12-14 per 50lbs, and you'd need 150lbs for the acre. Putting the seed in the ground you'd need a grain drill (used, $800) or you could broadcast seed it (broadcaster, $800) and then disc it in (8x10 disc, used, $1200) and then you'd be all set to watch it grow.

To harvest it with a modern combine would take a few minutes ($500,000) or you could buy an older one for any price point you want (499,000 to $3k) depending on the decade you're purchasing it from, and it would take a 10 to 40 minutes. Or you could go out with a scythe and cut shocks of wheat down, and dry them, and hand-thresh them and it might take you two weeks of pretty hard labor, threshing and winnowing and drying the wheat.

And then you could store that wheat somewhere so that rodents didn't get it; maybe a nice grain bin, or metal garbage cans in a pinch.

Then you can feed it to the chickens, and watch them grow, and when they're the size you want, you can process them and eat them.
So how much land for your chicken dinner? an acre. 

But the real question is how much would that chicken dinner cost you?