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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 PST

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: Livestock

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

New York Horsefarmer Ed Button and his Belgians

New York Horsefarmer: Ed Button and his Belgians

In New York State one does not explore the world of draft horses long before the name of Ed Button is invariably and most respectfully mentioned. Ed’s name can be heard in the conversations of nearly everyone concerned with heavy horses from the most experienced teamsters to the most novice horse hobbyists. His career with Belgians includes a vast catalog of activities: showing, pulling, training, farming, breeding, and driving, which Ed says, “I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold the lines.”

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

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There are hundreds of plants that can be toxic to livestock. Some grow in specific regions while others are more widespread. Some are always a serious danger and others only under certain conditions. Poisoning of livestock depends on several factors, including palatability of the plant, stage of development, conditions in which they grew, moisture content of the plant and the part eaten.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

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The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

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Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.

Work Horse Handbook

Grooming Work Horses

The serviceability of the work horse may be increased or decreased according to the care which is bestowed upon him. If he is groomed in a perfunctory fashion his efficiency as an animal motor is lessened. On the other hand, if he is well groomed he is snappier and fresher in appearance and is constantly up on the bit.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

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In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

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I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

Ask A Teamster Horse Don't Won't Can't Turn

Ask A Teamster: Horse Don’t, Won’t, Can’t Turn

After moving the drop ring on the other side down we went out to the round pen for a test drive. The difference in how she ground drove and turned was amazing – not perfect, but real sweet. With the lines at that level a right turn cue on the line obviously meant go right to her, and a left turn cue meant left. After we drove around for a while with me smiling I couldn’t resist moving the drop rings back up to the line rings – Bam, back to the old confusion.

Horse Breeding

This is an excerpt from Horse Breeding by M.W. Harper, a Dept. of Agriculture Bulletin from January 1928. In breeding horses the perfection of the animals selected should be carefully considered. Occasionally stallions are selected on the basis of their pedigree. Such practice may prove disappointing, for many inferior individuals are recorded merely because such […]

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

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“Don’t let them out in the rain, they’ll stare up into it and drown…” Our experience with turkeys has been completely the opposite. While most poultry species aren’t exactly bright, we find that turkeys are lovely, personable, and most important for the self sufficient homesteader — extremely efficient converters of grain and forage into delicious meat. In 5 months, a turkey can grow from a few ounces to 20-30+ lbs.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

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A great deal of interest has been shown the last several years in using multiple hitches in horse farming, especially in spring fieldwork. The question often asked is how to keep it simple and easy in driving and assembling the hitch as far as lines are concerned. We demonstrated our method at the Horse Progress Days at Mt. Hope, Ohio in 2003 and have been asked numerous times how we drove four, six and eight-horse hitches using only two lines.

The Equine Eye

The Equine Eye

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The horse’s head is large, with eyes set wide apart at the sides of his head; he seldom sees an object with both eyes at the same time and generally sees a different picture with each eye. In the wild, this double vision was a big advantage, making it difficult for a predator to sneak up on him. He can focus both eyes to the front to watch something, but it takes more effort. Only when making a concentrated effort to look straight ahead does the horse have depth perception as we know it.

Ask A Teamster Hauling Horses

Ask A Teamster: Hauling Horses

For a claustrophobic animal like the horse, being confined to a small box while speeding down the highway at 60 miles per hour is a mighty unnatural experience. Luckily, equines are adaptable animals and are likely to arrive in good condition – if – you make preparations beforehand and take some precautions. Here are some tips to help your horse stay healthy, safe, and comfortable while traveling.

Lineback Cattle

Lineback Cattle

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Cattle with lineback color patterns have occurred throughout the world in many breeds. In some cases this is a matter of random selection. In others, the markings are a distinct characteristic of the breed; while in some it is one of a number of patterns common to a local type. Considering that livestock of all classes have been imported to the United States, it is not surprising that we have our own Lineback breed.

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