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Living the Simple Life

Ellen Telander
Winsted Organics Farm

My husband and I decided years ago that we did not want to wake up one day and wonder “what if?” We did our research and planned for our escape to a small farm in western Minnesota. Neither one of us farmed, but we always thought it would be a good life to lead: growing our own food, raising our own dairy animals, and living off the land. However, the homestead we found needed a lot of work. The roofs on the barn and house were useless and the cement floor in the barn was in terrible condition. The attic was infested with bats, there were mice in the basement, and urine stained carpet throughout. The house needed a complete rehabilitation to be livable.

If we thought about the decision too much, we would never have acted. Now, five years later, we can confidently say we have made our farm livable and know how to organically farm. We have a joke about our life. If you want a sandwich around here, you have to harvest the wheat, dry it, clean it, grind it into flour, and then make your own bread.

We rescued two dairy goats our first year on the farm for our milk and cheese. It was difficult learning how to properly milk a goat. My hands ached from the twice-a-day milking that resulted in two gallons of milk a day. We also purchased egg-laying ducks that lay about 300 eggs a year each. We have a small creek they enjoy and their eggs are far superior to chicken eggs. They are also much smarter than chickens so they tend to survive longer and warn the goats if intruders approach. The only downside to the ducks is sometimes we have to hunt for our eggs, since they hide them well.

Recently, we added to our animal farm and purchased two young pregnant ewes for wool making. I do not know how to spin yet, but I am learning. You can buy a spinning wheel for $200, or you can save enough of the wool and send it in for processing and spinning. Both ewes are pregnant, so our herd is already growing.

Meat production is something I thought would be easier, but it is difficult to part with an animal once you have cared for it. We survive mainly on our organic produce as a result. We live well on our half-acre garden and fruit orchard; the rest of the acreage we use for hay needed for winter feed for our animals. In the summer months, our goats and sheep eat from the pasture.

We learn more and more each year. My family has no comprehension how we got this crazy idea to live off the land, being from suburbia. We enjoy our life experiences, and although it’s tough at times, we would not trade our new life for anything.

I have also collected many old books on food preservation and preparation and learned the art of fermenting food for storage.

Amish Sauerkraut

  • 5 heads of cabbage
  • 10 T Salt

Shred cabbage heads one at time inside an old crock. Put in two tablespoons of salt and mix. Let it sit for ten minutes. Then use a potato masher and mash the mixture until juices form over the top of the cabbage. Repeat process until all cabbage is used. If the cabbage juice is not enough to cover the cabbage, simply add enough water. Using a ziplock bag, fill it with water and close. Place the water filled bag on the top of the cabbage inside crock so that none of the cabbage is exposed to air; all you should see is a little bit of cabbage juice around the bag. Let this kraut ferment for two weeks or longer and skim off the scum every couple days. It will smell bad for the first few days. You can eat immediately or preserve the kraut using ball jars and lids.

Fresh Goat Cheese

  • 1 gallon of raw goat milk
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 T salt and herbs

Heat the milk SLOWLY on the stove on medium with the lid on until it reaches about 175 degrees. Do not let it boil. Turn off the stove and add the vinegar to milk. Let it sit for fifteen minutes until all the curds are floated to the top. Skim off the curds with a spoon and put into a bowl. Add the salt and other herbs if desired. The cheese will last about four days in the refrigerator.

Read Up

The Best of Amish Cooking by Phyllis Pellman Good, Good Books Publishing, 1996.

Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, Broadway Books Publishing, 1997.

Storey’s Guides to Raising Sheep/Turkeys/Chicken, etc. Storey Publishing, 2000.

The Simple Life

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