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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Build Your Own Butter Churn

Build Your Own Butter Churn

by Ken Gies of Fort Plain, NY

Fresh butter melting on hot homemade bread… Isn’t that the homesteader’s dream? For me it is a satisfying reality. It started with a few goats and a rusty cream separator and blossomed into fresh milk and butter. Elbow grease cleaned up the separator and provided hand shaken butter for a long time. I simply couldn’t justify the expense of a new butter churn.

Before I describe building a churn, I want to tell how I handle our milk. I have heard many complaints about off-flavored milk from goats. So here are my personal don’ts. First, keep goats out of strong tasting plants, especially the cabbage family! Next, don’t let the buck near the milking does except for a quick breeding. Somehow, billy-smell gets into the milk almost instantaneously. Then, filter it quickly. Finally, cool it quickly. I have a shelf reserved in the freezer for the evening milk. I chill the milk in a shallow stainless steel pan until bedtime and then transfer it to the refrigerator. In the morning, I pour the warm morning milk over the partly frozen evening milk, thawing it and cooling the other immediately. Then I run it all through the separator. I get more cream if the milk is not full of ice crystals.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

My filter is as cheap as I am. I take a six inch, non-gauze milk filter and fold it in half. Then I fold one corner up about a third and make a cone. I set this into a funnel and hold it with my thumb as I pour the milk into the freezer pan. The pictures show the steps. Usually I find just a few hairs in the filter. It is nice to use in case there is mastitis in the herd. The little curds show up, alerting me to check carefully. This has not happened in a long time and I hope that it doesn’t happen any time soon.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

The temperature of the cream and the ripening process vary with the time of year and the feed eaten by the dairy animals. I disregard all advice and just take the cold cream out of the fridge and mix several days’ worth together. I fill the churn, plug it in and go away.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

At some point, the churn will become very quiet as the butter forms and floats to the top of the buttermilk. I let it churn for another ten or fifteen minutes and then place it into the fridge to firm up more.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

After a few hours, my wife works the butter under cold water, salts it and makes pats. She freezes the excess.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

A cheap two-gallon stock pot from the local chain store got me started in churn building. It was thin stainless steel and cost less than ten bucks. I carted it home wondering what I might find in my junk pile to run the thing. I found an old squirrel cage fan and pulled the little motor to test it. It was a bit sticky, so I added a few drops of automatic transmission fluid to the bearings and away it whizzed. It is rated at 3000 rpm and only 1/100 hp! I figure that if it could turn a six-inch fan, it could turn a two-inch impeller.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

The motor shaft was 1/4 inch and I just happened to have a drill bit extension that fit right. If you have an odd sized shaft, try a similar sized piece of cold rolled steel rod and a long roll pin with an inside diameter close to the shaft size. If the shaft is too large for the roll pin, swell the ends with a tapered punch. If it is too small, lay the roll pin on its side on an anvil and tap the sides to close the split side and decrease the diameter.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

I cut off one end of the extension so it was an inch shorter than the churn and welded a 1/8” by 1/2” by 2” flat iron onto the bottom for the dasher. I bent it into a propeller shape with a vise and adjustable wrench. I noted which way the motor turned and bent the leading edges up so that it would force the milk down. The milk moves out to the edge, up the outside and back down the center in a small whirlpool. This circulation seems to be important. I suspect that a slower rpm motor would need a longer impeller to agitate the cream well.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

I attached the motor directly to the lid of the stock pot after drilling holes for the motor shaft and two flange bolts. I am not that precise so I just eyeballed the center hole and located the flange holes with a marker. My motor has its own switch, but a hard-wired motor can be plugged or unplugged as needed. My mother’s monstrosity was over two feet tall with a 1/8 hp motor and no switch. It churned three gallons at a time and thundered around on the floor as it worked. It had a 4 inch impeller and ran at 1750 rpm. This little comparison shows the latitude that would-be churn builders have in choosing parts for the homebuilt machine.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

I am no engineer, just a copycat. I couldn’t find a good latch to imitate. Instead, I have used a large elastic band for several years without failure or replacement. I stretch it over the top of the churn and under the bottom of the pot. I set the contraption on a towel so it doesn’t rumble and let it spin my butter out.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

This system has worked well for me for several years now. I think it could work for you too. However, if the thought of building a churn still daunts you, go ahead and shake. Efficiency will increase markedly if you imagine that the jar is the neck of your least favorite politician… Oh Look! Butter!

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Why Farm

Farming For Art’s Sake: Farming As An Artform

Farming as a vocation is more of a way of living than of making a living. Farming at its best is an Art, at its worst it is an industry. Farming can be an Art because it allows at every juncture for the farmer to create form from his or her vision.

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

An Introduction To Grasslands Farming

From Dusty Shelves: A World War II era article on grassland farming.

Old Man Farming

Spinning Ladders

You die off by passing away. You live on by passing on. I want to pass the culture of my life on slowly, over the ripening time of my best years.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

SFJ Spring 2016 Preview: Edward O. Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, offers a plan for the problem of species extinction: the dominant species, man, must hold itself back, must relinquish half the earth’s surface to those endangered. It is a challenging and on the face of it improbable thought, expressed in a terse style. But his phrases are packed because the hour is late.

Art of Working Horses Hunter Review

Art of Working Horses – A Review

by:
from issue:

Over 40 years Lynn Miller has written a whole library of valuable and indispensable books about the craft of working horses. He has helped beginners acquire the basics of harnessing and working around horses, and has led those further along to focus on the specific demands of plowing, mowing, haying and related subjects. But, in a fitting culmination, his latest book, The Art of Working Horses, raises its sights and openly ponders secrets at the heart of the work that may over time elevate it to an art.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

Storey’s Guide To Keeping Honey Bees

It is well known that the value of pollination and its resultant seed set and fruit formation outweigh any provided by honey bee products like honey and beeswax.

Art of Working Horses Another Review

Art of Working Horses – Another Review

by:
from issue:

One could loosely say this is a “how-to” book but it is more of an “existential” how-to: how to get yourself into a way of thinking about the world of working horses. Maybe we need to explain what a working horse is. A working horse is one, in harness, given to a specific task. So, in that context, the book illustrates the many ways Miller has worked with his equine partners over the years – helping them understand what he wants them to do, as both work together to create relationships that help achieve desired goals.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

by:
from issue:

I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.

McCormick Deering/International No 7 vs no 9

McCormick Deering/International: No. 7 versus No. 9

McCormick Deering/International’s first enclosed gear model was the No. 7, an extremely successful and highly popular mower of excellent design.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT