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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review (Cordials from your kitchen)

Have you ever wanted to make your own liqueurs? Perhaps you want to experiment, or your love of cooking has carried over into drinks. Perhaps it is just too expensive to buy the kinds of full flavored liqueurs that you would like. This book may be able to help.
Divided into Chapters based on the type of liqueur that you are looking for, Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling provide excellent and easy to follow recipes to make recreations of many popular liqueurs as well as recipes for some of their very own creations. The side-bars provide insight into how to experiment and what flavors may go well together.
The last chapter of the book is devoted to recipes using the liqueurs often using them in desserts and other sweets. This book is chock full of ideas on how to make and use various liqueurs as gifts, as ingredients, or even as drinks themselves.
Chapters include Fruit liqueurs, nut liqueurs, herb and spice cordials, cream liqueurs, coffee liqueurs, and flavored liquors. With a huge amount of recipes under each section, this book could provide years of experimentation simply by following the recipes in it and seeing how they turn out. However, I find that the book provides many more ideas than recipes, and once you master the basics of making liqueurs, almost anything you can dream up can be created.
This is an excellent book for those interested in experimenting with flavors, or who love those sweet and luscious drinks that are oh so expensive.

You can buy the book at or at your local bookstore.

Live a hands on life

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review (Basic Butchering of Livestock and Game)

Basic Butchering of livestock and game by John Mettler Jr. DVM (Veterinarian) is one of those essential books if you want to do any kind of butchering by yourself. While some are uncomfortable with butchering, if you are going to eat meat it behooves you to know how to safely and humanely butcher animals. Butchering is truly one of the lost arts, as there is rarely a neighborhood butcher anymore, and you either buy meat from the supermarket where it has had who knows what done to it, or you look to learn to butcher yourself.

Dr. Mettler takes a beginner oriented approach to writing this book. He begins with a chapter on tools,a nd includes illustrations of the various tools that you would need to begine butchering your own animals. Some of thses tools are for large animals (like a powered saw) but for the most part they are the basic tools that anyone doing any butchering would need. He divides the book into chapters based on what kind of animal is being butchered, and advises on where to place the stunning shot, how to skin the animal, and how to divide it up for storage.

Dr. Mettler gives advice on how to butcher beef, veal, lamb, pork, rabbit, poultry, venison and even has a chapter on less usual meats like goats. He gives information on meat inspections, on preserving by smoking (including how to build a smokehouse) and also includes recipes for both meat and sausage.

The best thing about the book is the illustrations. While some are quite graphic, all of them are informative and explain in a simple picture what would take hundreds or thousands of words to explain. If you are looking at butchering your own meat, or simply would like to know how the butcher shop does it, this is the book to get.

You can purchase it here or at your local bookstore.

Live a hands on life

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review (Root Cellaring)

Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel is a book that anyone who gardens extensively should have. If you want to be able to store your garden produce, in a way that is not energy intensive, you need to have this book. Natural cold storage is the perfect green solution to storing food, requiring neither refrigeration, nor special packaging.

The book is not just about building a root cellar however. First the book addresses what varieities of vegetables are the best keepers, and also gives an idea on what vegetables are available when. Not simply when they are grown, but when they can be expected to last until in storage.

And the book doesn't end with the traditional root cellar. There is a huge variety of storage methods that the book details, from a basement storage room, to a garden row clamp. You can try one or several of these methods until you are able to find what works best for you and for your garden.

Root Cellaring also details real people and their cellars. All of the cellars in the book are a little bit different and show that you can fit the cellar to your needs as a gardener, or as a family. There are many ingenious designs that people across the country have come up with to help store their own food, and produce their own meals.

And speaking of meals, the last chapter is packed full of recipes to assist you in cooking your stored produce. Fried green tomatoes, pear bread, pumpkin custard, and many more recipes will allow you to enjoy your stored produce, and to not become bored with it.

If you would like to purchase Root Cellaring, it can bee found here.

Live a hands on life,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review (Storey's Illustrated Breed Guide to Sheep Goats Cattle and Pigs)

Have you ever wondered what makes one breed of farm animals better than another. Or perhaps which breeds will do well in your particular environment. Perhaps you are interested in rare or heritage breeds of livestock and want to help preserve the diversity of farm animals. This book is an asset to all of those things and more.

Loaded with photographs of both common and rare breeds of farm animals, this is almost a coffee table book explaining difference in breeds and even tracing what these breeds were used for throughout history. It is immensely interesting to know that the White Park Cattle were hunted as feral animals, or that Chianina were used by the Romans to pull triumphant generals through the streets.

The book is more than simply a history lesson in different breeds however. Each breed is given details such as functional type (beef, dairy, wool, etc.) appearance, size, conservation status, and what the breed is best known for. The book also has a huge amount of resources for finding out more about each of the breeds, and contact information for the societies that work with and track breeders.

This is not a how to book on how to raise these animals. Rather it is a book that is useful to determine which particular animals may suit your situation, and how best to understand and promote diversity on the farm.

If you would like to purchase the book you can do so through our website here. Even if you are only a dreamer, this book is full of useful and interesting information.

Live a hands on life

Saturday, December 3, 2011

People you should visit (Sur la Table)

The next in my series of people that you should visit is Sur la Table. If you cook, if you know someone who cooks, ah heck, if you eat, you should visit Sur la Table. They have a beautiful website full of tons of stuff for your kitchen.

Sur la Table provides a ton of hand tools from knives and dishes to more esoteric items like Ebelskiver pans or pizza stones. If you are looking for the proper tool to do a job, or simply want to see new ideas for your culinary endeavors, Sur la Table is a great site to browse.

Sur la Table also has great items available for bars, for storing wine, and for nearly anything to do with food. Perhaps you simply need a wine shelf instead of a 142 bottle dual zone touch screen wine cooler, they could help you out with either.

Sur la Table has also published some great books. "Things cooks love" is one of my favorites. Not only is it full of useful tools that the average cook may never have used before, it also contains a ton of recipes that use these tools. They also provide recipes and advice from chef's on the website.

It is a two minute process to request a free catalog, just using your name, address and email. These people are great for finding that tool that you didn't even know that you needed.
Check them out and see what you think.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

People you should visit (Lindsay Publications)

It is getting to be the time of year when everyone is looking for new places and new people. We look for places to buy presents, and we look for places that can help us meet our goals for the upcoming year. I had the thought that I would do a series of blogs on different companies that I think should be known. Whether you are striving to work on your own, or just looking for something a little bit different, these companies at least deserve a visit.

The first is Lindsay publications. Lindsay is a company that sells books by men such as Dave Gingery, as well as books from the early and mid 1900's reprinted. If you are unfamiliar with Mr. Gingery, it is alright. He wrote an entire series on how to build your own metal shop. The first book was how to create a casting furnace, and the rest of the books used castings from that furnace to make everything from a drill press to a metal lathe. There are books on how to build a hobby casting furnace with an electrical heating element, or even how to build your own cupola to create cast iron.

Now not everyone is in the mood to start a metal casting shop right in their backyard, but Lindsay has books on many other subjects as well. Books on everything from how to build your own radio set, to creating an electric motorcycle, or your very own wind turbine. For those who are rail fans, they sell books on railroad construction and repair as well as creating models.

One of the best things that Lindsay publications offers is their catalog. A free catalog, black and white, and printed on newsprint. The catalog is immensely entertaining to read through, with descriptions of their books, reprinted books, and stories and anecdotes for anyone interested in their own shop or technology in general. While you will not find anything on creating your own computer, or many other "high tech" devices, if you are looking at building something for yourself, and it would have been useable in the 1950's or 1960's, Lindsay publications probably has a book to help you.

Give them a visit, you might be surprised what you find


p.s.- All of the companies mentioned in this series are here because of their merits, none paid or in any other way compensated uncommonskills, so you know that these recommendations are genuine.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Things that I am thankful for

It is the time of year to look back and see what you are truly thankful for. I have a lot to be thankful for this year. Most of all is my beautiful little girl AnaSophia. She was born in late October and is the main reason I haven't got a whole lot done on the website lately.

I am thankful for my wife, without whom I would never be able to handle a newborn, or the stress of changing jobs, or the miriad of other things that she takes care of so that I do not have to worry.

I am thankful for Lecompton Alternate, the webdesign team that created the new site. They did a great job and were infinitely patient with me through the whole process.

I am thankful to be able to pursue a life in which I can learn and teach, and stumble my way through a new business without worrying that it will destroy me and my family if I do something wrong.

I am thankful that I have the ability to learn new things, and am constantly surrounded by people who teach me something new everyday.

I am thankful for the gift of life, to be able to enjoy everyday, and to rest every night knowing that it was a good day.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tree Crops

I was talking to a friend the other day, and we got on the subject of tree crops. It always seems that trees are the easier crop than annuals. The do not require planting every year, they predominately take care of themselves, once established weeds are not much of an issue, and the yields are often times better.

It would not be difficult for people to use tree crops either. While we typically think of a crop as something that is harvested and stored, it does not have to be that way. There are many people who have a chicken coop where they feed corn or pellets to their chickens. If a mulberry tree was planted in the chicken yard, it would recieve fertilizer from the chicken manure, and would provide huge amounts of food for the chickens with little cost or care. No needing to harvest, no needing to store, and the benefits of the crop would be self evident.

Most of my ideas come from an old book called "Tree Crops" by J. Russell Smith. While it is out of print, it is fortunately available online for free. Click this link to check it out, and download it if you want to.

Tree crops gives a new perspective to thinking about how crops work and what is necessary to have a piece of productive land. While it may take many generations before the general public accepts some of the crops as food (acorn flour for instance), the use of the tree crops with animals could start immediately. This is a perennial agriculture, that would make use of land while helping to prevent eroding soil. It is at least something that should be thought about and discussed.

Thanks for reading.
Live a hands on life

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Please bear with us

As we move to the new and in many ways improved website, please be patient with us as we add books, add blog articles, and generally learn how to do everything in the best way possible. If there is something that you would like to see more of, let us know. If there is something you do not like, let us know. We will be adding books on a variety of subjects, and sometimes it just takes a while to sort through. We ask for your thoughts, prayers, and patience as we continue to grow.

Thanks for checking us out, and let us know what you think.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Small revolutions

We commit thousands of revolutionary actions every day. Every time we make a choice we choose to create the world that we live in. Everytime we use big business we empower big business. Everytime we decide to buy local or go to the farmers market we encourage more of those actions. It seems that many times we limit ourselves, we believe that we are truly insignificant, and in doing so, give ourselves a free pass. We must realize that we must shape the world.

Another important thing to realize is that we must change ourselves first. Every time we do something for ourselves rather than buying the solution, we make the world a little more self sufficient. Everytime we learn to do something we make the world a little more knowledgable. Everytime we live the life that we believe is best, we bring the world closer to our ideals.

We can change the world right where we are. Not that we don't need demonstrations, protests, and new ideas for the world. But we must realize that we can change the world by being an example to others. We can replace the frontyard with a beautiful food garden. We can learn to make our own bread, to create our own butter, and even to have our own milk animals.

We live in an age of nearly limitless information. We can find examples of people living alternatives to the rat race everyday. We can learn from thousands of books at places like Our public libraries are full of information on how to live more sane lives. We can create a better world simply by living by our beliefs.


Monday, October 10, 2011

The many names of simplicity

Everywhere you go, whether you want to or not, you can hear the call. Simplify!

Deep down we know that this rat race was not designed with our happiness in mind, it was designed to keep us running. We know that we cannot keep up with the Joneses, we cannot continue on this path we have been on. We know that something must change.

There are dozens of movements that emphasize simplicity, and I plan on taking a look at many of them. The first I want to look at is distributism. The reason behind this is that distributism is what got me interested in simplicity in the first place.

Essentially distributism is an economic system based upon Catholic social teaching. The Catholic church says that there is a certain way that humanity is supposed to act toward each other as a society. Now before someone says "but I am not Catholic", I would say, it doesn't matter. Read some Catholic social teaching or distributist works, and see if what they say makes sense. See if you can find the parallels to your own life, and see if you agree with the system or not.

Essentially distributism is the idea that under an ideal system, as many people would be self employed as possible, unless they chose to work for/with others. If your employer has skills or leadership that you do not possess you might choose to work for them. If you need a group of people in order to purchase the necessary property to produce a product, you would band together and form a cooperative.

Distributism sees agriculture, manufacturing, and mining as the only real sources of wealth. It is in these areas where something is taken, labor infuses more value into it, and then it can be sold/traded at enhanced value. I would say that some service industries fall into this category as well, as they can use their expertise and labor to add value that otherwise would not be there.

Distributism emphasizes the small and the local. It emphasizes that a good product is one that can be changed according to the local demands and environment, while a bad one is universal everywhere. One of the early distributist made this point with an essay on cheese vs. soap. Cheese has a thousand unique forms, and everywhere is slightly different, while the soap in all of the places he visited was exactly the same, even the same brand.

There are five books that I would recommend to those looking at distributism.

The first is What is wrong with the World by G.k. Chesterton. In this book Chesterton investigates Hudge and Gudge, personifications of big government and big business. He looks at the issues that face him in turn of the century Britain and I think you will find that we have not resolved these issues.

The next book is A Utopia of Usurers again by Chesterton. In this book Chesterton looks at various ways in which the world conspires to keep the system afloat, and how real people fight against it.

The last book by Chesterton is The Outline of Sanity a book written to give a hopeful look at the way out of the mess that was facing Britain and is facing it and other countries still. This book gives a blueprint to setting up an alternative economic system.

Unfortunately the next two are not available free on the web. They are both by Chesterton's contemporary and friend Hilaire Belloc.

The First is The Servile State in which Belloc describes how the concentration of productive property in the hands of a few people eventually creates a nation of servants.

The next is An Essay on the Restoration of Property. This is Bellocs view of how productive property could be restored to a large amount of people and the servile state could be avoided.

Distributism is a system that realizes that people are not perfect, and promises no utopia. What it seeks to deliver is a system in which one persons greed can be moderated by the constraints of the economic system, rather than enabled by it. Distributism is one of the few systems that claims there will never be a Utopia, and that the system itself must constantly evolve as it faces new challenges. Most notably, it is a system that emphasizes people, not collectively, but individually. It does not say that parties or governments or markets will show the way to live, but individuals, neighbors, and friends will.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Rebuilding before the fall

Reading up on the Occupy Wall Street movement and I am struck by one thing. While I belive the system is broken in many ways, if you tear it down and don't have anything to replace it with, what is going to happen? The same people who were influential will continue to be influential.

We must build something altogether different. We want more jobs, we must look at creating our own. We must look at buying from eachother, selling to eachother, and helping eachother learn. Sometimes we must take a hard look at ourselves, we created this system, perhaps not directly, but our nature did it. I sometimes find myself envious of the 1% wishing that I could have what they have. This is what has fed it, wanting more rather than wanting enough.

What is enough? What is a living wage? What has created the broken system? These are questions that the occupy wall stree protesters seek to answer, but mostly, seek to ask. They want us all to think about what has created a system in which our power as a people has been co-opted by those in power.

We are powerful, but protesting must end at some point. At some point the revolution turns and the work must begin. We must build an alternative. We must find a way to create a new system, to help address the issues of the old. We must find a way to balance the system so that those in need are helped, but no one takes advantage. We must find a way to balance the system so that people are rewarded for their work, but power and wealth do not concentrate in the hands of a few.

We must understand that no system will be perfect. However good we want to be, we are flawed. We will always have greed, and laziness. We will always have selfishness. We must find ways to balance this in ourselves, and within the system. Let us begin work on the rebuilding, and let us begin it today.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

A silent revolution

2011 was the year of the spring revolutions in North Africa and the Mediterranean world. But look around, there are revolutions everywhere. The entire organic movement was a revolution against the principles that the best way to grow things was to dominate nature. There is the occupy wall street movement, that those who are con artist should receive their punishment, whether they live in tenements or penthouses. There are revolutions everywhere, and the revolutions will continue. It is in their name, the turning, whether we turn the wheel forward or back, it is up to us to turn it.

Someone once told G.K. Chesterton that he couldn't turn back the clock. They were referring to his belief that the ideal economic system was that as many people as possible should be self employed. Chesterton responded that the clock, being a human invention, can be turned to any time that people see fit.

Look at history, look at your own ideals, decide what the ideal way to live is and start doing it. My website was started basically to put my money where my mouth is. To start living like I said people should live. To help others on their road to that life. I am not out to conquer, I am simply a person trying to live the best I know how.

I am ruled by certain constraints, as many of us are. I owe money for my schooling, I am in debt for my house. Nonetheless, I try to live life to the best of my ability, and to pay off my debts so that I may truly be free. Let us live as though we are free, and one day we will be.


Here you will find some books on how others percieved their revolution


And here you will find the distributist manifesto, namely that things shall be judged by the good or ill that they bring to humanity
From the last chapter of "What is Wrong with the World" by G.k. Chesterton

Here my book ends