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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

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

The Milk and Human Kindness: A Look at Butter Churns

by Suzanne Lupien of Thetford Center, VT

Finding an old butter churn at a flea market, one that is still usable can be a lot of fun, and because there are so many types, it’s good to know a few tips to help you find one that works well for you. For one thing, the size of your butter churn must match your cream supply so that your valuable cream gets transformed into golden butter while it’s fresh and sweet, and that your valuable time is not eaten up by churning batch after batch because your churn is too small.

So the factors in choosing a butter churn are: size, cost, efficiency –- how long it takes for the butter to come — and care, cleaning, and maintenance.

If you have a very small amount of cream, say a pint a day, you might consider simply shaking the cream in a wide-mouthed half gallon mason jar — or better yet having your teenage son do it. It takes a bit more physical energy in the shaking, but you end up with beautiful butter and no dasher to clean, and therefore every speck of butter ends up in the butter dish rather than going down the drain with the wash water. I much prefer dasher — less churns for these reasons. Large, coopered “tumble” barrel churns are my favorite but their capacity is usually too much for the family cow scenario. If you are very lucky you may even find a ceramic tumble churn perhaps one small enough to fit your cream supply.

Many folks love their 2 1/2 gallon daisy churns with the little plastic propeller-type dasher. I personally do not favor this type as they are slow. I suspect people like them because their capacity is bigger than most glass churns – a little over a gallon. (Keep in mind that you can only fill a butter churn half full owing to the fact that cream expands as you go.)

I once had a 2 gallon glass motorized churn with a cylindrical metal dasher that worked like a dream. The old motor went on it and it was a simple matter to mount a new one. If you find one of these prize churns, treat it ever so gently, it’s a great loss should the jar get broken.

People think they can plug in their electric churn and then nip outside for a quick errand to the henhouse but I don’t recommend it. Things happen: if the butter comes and forms into a solid mass thereby stopping the dasher from turning you can burn out your motor in a jiffy. There are plenty of things to do right there in the kitchen while the cream is spinning.

I used to pooh-pooh the tall plunger style dasher churns but actually they work very well. And I’m sure they fit nicely into many multi-tasking kitchen plans like dandling a colicky baby on your knee and working the dasher with one hand. Or bottle feeding a baby lamb. Certainly you could be adding up the week’s farmer’s market receipts while churning, or calling everyone on the bake sale list while running your plunger churn, it’s not very noisy at all.

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

Ceramic butter churn.

Old ceramic plunger churns are surprisingly easy to find. They are distinguishable from crocks by their deeply cut-in rim, like bean pots, to receive the circular wooden lid with the central hole for the dasher handle. You could easily fashion the lid and dasher and be merrily making butter before you know it.

Old wooden butter churns, the classic tall narrow slant-sided hooped style, the tumble churns with metal hoops and a clamping lid, the table top drum style churns with the hopper top and the crank handle, and the cradle-like swing churns are all marvelous and very functional styles. However, in the intervening years the wood shrinks, mice chew and other little bug varmints’ drill holes and tunnels. Occasionally I’ve found one that looks like it would hold cream after the pre-requisite soaking in water, but it is hard to tell. I’ve got a beautiful three gallon barrel churn that leaks like a sieve even after I meticulously removed the hoops and snagged them up and re-riveted them. These barrel churns were advertised in Back to the Land catalogues so perhaps they’re are still being made (hopefully not in China!) and in any case they were produced up until 2000 so you may find one someplace. I love using these churns. The thumping of the dasher as you turn the crank sound like the team trotting along, it’s easy to pull the plug and drain the buttermilk and rinse and turn after adding cold water, and the ladder dasher is very easy to clean.

In my estimation, all hand operated churns do a much better job than the electric versions which spin the cream a bit too fast with the result that washing the butter is harder since it is often no longer in grain or kernel form, but rather like peanut butter.

Another drawback with the electric models is that cream always splashes up the motor shaft and gets up where you really can’t sanitize it.

To make good butter your equipment needs to be spotless, sweet and in good order. Your cream needs to be fresh, and not too cold. 50ºF works well.

In the next issue I will write about making good butter: skimming, and churning, and washing, and draining, and working, and pressing, and forming, and salting, and storing!

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

by:
from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Concerning the Bioextensive Market Garden

One of our goals when we first started farming here was to develop the farm as a self-contained nutrient system. Unlike the almost complete recycling of nutrients which can take place on a livestock operation, we are always amazed – even a little disturbed – to see how many tons of fertility and organic matter leave the market garden each year with so little returned to the good earth.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

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Any claim about winter production of fresh vegetables, with minimal or no heating or heat storage systems, seems highly improbable. The weather is too cold and the days are too short. Low winter temperatures, however, are not an insurmountable barrier. Nor is winter day-length the barrier it may appear to be. In fact most of the continental US has far more winter sunshine than parts of the world where, due to milder temperatures, fresh winter vegetable production has a long tradition.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Lost Apples

Lost Apples

The mindboggling agricultural plant and animal diversity, at the beginning of the twentieth century, should have been a treasure trove which mankind worked tirelessy to maintain. Such has not been the case. Alas, much has been lost, perhaps forever. Here are images and information on a handful of apple varieties from a valuable hundred year old text in our library.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

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The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Syrup From Oregons Big-Leaf Maple

Syrup From Oregon’s Big Leaf Maple

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There is a great potential in establishment of a seasonal “sugarbush” industry for small farmers of the northwestern states, particularly western Oregon and Washington. Five syrup producing species of maples are found mainly east of the Rocky Mountains. The Box Elder and the Big-leaf Maple are the only syrup producing maples of the Pacific Northwest. Properly made syrup from these two western maples is indistinguishable from the syrup of maples of the midwestern and northeastern states.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

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Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

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