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Issue 09 | The Homesteading Issue

The Essence of Living Locally


THE HOMESTEADING ISSUE CONTRIBUTING WRITERS, PHOTOGRAPHERS, RECIPE CRAFTERS Corrin Meise-Munns Mihaeko Schroedinger Elias Roustom Shari and Russ Apotheker Hannah Rosengren Renata Christen Sarah Page Kyrcz Abigail Ytzen-Handel Steph Zabel Todd Danforth

A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO Whole Systems Design Anne Petersen and Rosasharn Farm




There is no one definition of homesteading. Upon searching for what it “means” to be a homesteader or to live on a homestead, we came across a multitude of answers. This also made us realize that we could very well create our own definition – one that applies to the many unique lifestyles and geographies of New England. “To live simply, and as self-sufficiently as possible off of ones land, no matter the size or locale.” In essence, what this means is that no two homesteaders are the same. This person could be a farmer from the rural outskirts of town, or an urbanite looking to get back to their roots. It’s clear to us that, by and large, the days of homesteading as a necessity in New England are over – today it is a well thought-out choice. It is a personal expe rience, where the only requirements are to be adventurous, creative, and adaptable. Compiling this issue inspired us to be creative, make a few small changes in our lives, and take the first steps towards becoming more self-sufficient. We hope it will do the same for you. On behalf of the t.e.l.l. New England team,

Mandi Tompkins, Managing Editor


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A HOMESTEADING MANIFESTO Words by Corrin Meise-Munns Photographs by Jenn Bakos The current interest in and trend toward “good” or “slow” food, and the back-to-the-land movement that necessarily lies at its core, is related to a larger desire to define or reclaim life as a whole. The food movement and its sister do-it-yourself ethos are reactions to modern society’s pre-packaged, service oriented landscape of a highly specialized and lowly skilled population. Many of us have lost the ability to truly feed ourselves (relying on the convenience of microwave dinners and individually wrapped slices of cheese) and the ability to fix or make our own tools (necessitating expensive yet minor car repairs, or the buying of anything from new electronics to pairs of shoes when the old one conks out or develops a hole). This lack of general and basic life-knowledge wears on our wallets and our survival skills, certainly, but also on our understanding of ourselves as individual, selfsufficient living organisms, capable of creating all that we need for our own happiness and survival. This new attitude toward survival and convenience as something to be bought and used, not made and nurtured, has directly affected our concepts of food and lifestyle, which in turn have affected our homes—by which I mean not only our physical places of habitation, but also the lifestyles, events, activities, and philosophies that enliven them—which have become ready-made, prefabricated, to fit a certain theme or motif, or altogether neglected. Very often, for the younger, mobile generation, apartments serve only as liminal places for sleeping, bathing, and grabbing a quick bite before running off again to another class, work, meeting of friends, “going out.”

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Our lives are increasingly becoming less stable, and we move from apartment to apartment as we move from school to career, profession to profession. For the more established among us, the goal is to fill our houses with the convenient and acceptably stylish furniture that we think is expected of us — nice enough couches, the usual appliances, some entertainment units, a serviceable bed. For those who are willing, able, and inclined to pay attention to personalizing their houses’ aesthetics, there are many national magazines dedicated to decorating and hosting. These magazines, while useful in their ways, address only the visual aesthetic and superficial side of the home, and remain unable to touch the intrinsic and inherently personal nature and philosophy of the individual home. Each home, whether a temporary apartment or a permanent house, has its personality, governed and curated by its history and inhabitants. Each home has its numen. It is this individuality for which we advocate and hope to encourage.

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We are missing a sense of place, a purpose and drive within our own nonprofessional lives. Our homes as houses for our bodies are metaphors for our bodies as houses for our spirits. By tending to one, we tend to another. And by caring for beautiful, happy homes, we come to care about our neighborhoods, interacting locally with friends, keeping streets clean, inviting unfamiliar neighbors to become intimate friends—cultivating community by cultivating our homes. Homesteading attempts to address both the home-made aesthetic and the side of home (physical structure, mode of living) that cannot be seen, but only cultivated and curated; that feeling of the home and the search for a well-crafted life full of meaningful labor. An idea of home not only as a sleeping and eating place, a place to be visually perfected and envied, but as an extension of ourselves and a comfortable asylum that remains humansized and manageable. This is work dedicated to the process, not only to the results. With the hope of building a better life through a better home, we work, struggle, learn, and feast.

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Poem by Corrin Meise-Munns


It has been a long time since December. When we last met, the sun was on its way to its lowest point and drifting off into a wintry sleep. The days were short, the nights long — we traded and swapped roots and the hard fruit from autumn vines, jars of preserved summer berries and cans of fermented spring flora. Dreaming of summers past and of springs to come, we ate well, and slept, waiting for the sun. Now we are on the other side, and the days are growing longer. Already the sunlight lingers through the evening and into the night; already we are approaching the sun at its zenith. Our gardens are bursting with new life. We’ve eaten our fill of rhubarb and asparagus, are eagerly awaiting strawberry season — not to mention the first: cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, blushing eggplants. We are dusting off our canning pots and pulling out our salad spinners. Harvest season has begun. ◊◊◊


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Dyeing your own linens and other fabrics is a fun way to spruce up old items or

Cloth made of natural fibers (Cotton and linen are perfect)

experiment with new colors using things

Approximately 2 cups of your plant or vegetable (or whatever you are using to dye – some may be less than others).

easy! You can use beets, turmeric, red

½ cup white vinegar


large pot (large enough to hold whatever you are dyeing)

Fill your pot ¾ of the way full with water.


Add your vegetable and bring to a boil.

found in nature. Natural dyes are safe and cabbage, and many more ingredients to create an array of colors.

Simmer for an hour on low and then add the vinegar to help the dye adhere. Once your dye pot is done and cooled, put your cloth in, making sure it is fully submerged. Let soak for 2 hours or even over night. Wring dry and air dry or tumble dry, the heat will help the color set.

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FOOD AND HOME Words by Elias Roustom Photographs by Elias Roustom and Mihaeko Schroedinger The way we eat or think about food

apricots, figs, all in glass jars, many

is in layers, preference, availability,

of them sealed with a thick layer

restriction, family, culture,

of wax. It’s only now that I realize

geography, education, society. On

how lucky my brothers and sisters

the pleasant surface of it Food is a

were to grow up with that pantry

simple idea that makes everyone

and that kitchen, and I know how it

smile, but not far beneath that

formed and informed us. How we

simplicity is a depth of complication,

cook and how we eat, and how we

delightful simplicity and wondrous

enjoy and appreciate the labor of

complexity. The notion of Home is

feeding our own families started

not too different, and the two are

in that kitchen and that pantry. But

inextricably tied to one another —

that kitchen and pantry are from

for very good reason anyone who

long ago and far away. Damascus,

talks about basic needs says “Food

Syria in the 1970s to be more exact,

& Shelter” like it’s one word — and

and no longer Home. I am now a

what ties them together is the

New Englander.

greater part of each, Memory. “I remember” is part of almost every conversation about food or home, and this short story is about both.

No one would call me a Yankee, and it wouldn’t take long to find out I’m not really from around here, but what a Syrian is doing in New

I remember going into the pantry

England is not that remarkable a

of my childhood home and looking

story, no more so than that of an

at rows of jars, filled with preserves,

Irish or Portuguese. It’s recent

the product of a busy kitchen that

events, the sad news from Syria

was always in touch with what was

over the last few years, that have

in season, by necessity not choice of

been remarkable for this Syrian in

course. Eggplants, tomatoes, beats,

New England, and that has made

cucumbers, artichokes, cherries,

remembering an urgent need.

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After 33 years I’m in touch again

remembering something himself,

with many of my childhood friends,

which brings me to the point of this

scattered across the globe, brought

whole recollection. I remember that

together on Facebook, and I’m find-

in my mother’s pantry in Damascus

ing them in Boston and New York, or

was a jar filled with little white

Montreal. I’m exploring the language

balls in a yellow green liquid that

again and the traditions, reading,

we called “Labneh Da’abeel,” yogurt

music, the Orthodox Church...and

balls preserved in olive oil. Still a

I’m eating more strained yogurt

favorite treat. Rich and creamy and

drizzled with olive oil.

tart and salty to taste and to smell. Made from goat’s milk.

But that’s half the story. Half of me, the silent half, is French Canadian,

Nostalgia is a funny thing anyway,

and I’m told the land on which

but for an uprooted middle-

Swansea Mall now stands (Swansea,

easterner with paved over North

Massachusetts) was once my great

American roots, funny is a question

grandfather’s farm. My mother

of identity, and for a middle aged

remembers corn fields, vegetable

man such questions can verge on

gardens, cows, geese, turkeys, and

crisis, and make him hungry. For

a horse. My grandfather, who grew

the patient and sympathetic partner

up on that farm, once informed

of such a man, the question of

me that a goat would eat anything,

crisis is often an excuse to change

including a tin can, but would not

the subject and cook something.

look at a tomato. We were tending

So it was that a long series of

tomatoes in his garden one summer,

conversations over meals that

maybe it was 1976, when our whole

started with “I remember” one day

family visited him and Grandma

ended with “Let’s make our own

where we eventually settled on the

Labneh balls. Wouldn’t that be fun?

South Coast of Massachusetts. He

Let’s make them from scratch. Let’s

said it with a laugh, like he was

find a goat farm and buy some milk!”

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Of course one can buy prepared labneh balls from the Armenian AraxMarket in Watertown, or the Lebanese Daou Market in Fall River, imported straight from the source of all nostalgia — if you’re an adventurous New Englander you know you don’t have to leave New England to find the world — but as it happens, just north of Swansea in Massachusetts, of all places, is Rehoboth, and there you can find Anne Petersen’s Rosasharn Farm, breeders of award winning Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats, Great Pyrenees and Anatolian Shepherd dogs too, and American Guinea and Large Black Hogs, and sheep, and chickens. A few emails and phone calls later and we were there saying hello, and not long into our conversion we found out that a dear friend of ours is a dear friend of theirs. If nostalgia is a funny thing, what is coincidence? We had a great tour of Rosasharn Farm, met countless bright and gregarious goats, and dogs, large and small, and we watched half a dozen does being milked. We talked cheese with our dairy goat farmer, and got very excited about making our own yogurt from that day’s milk, and then we learned that while Anne Petersen can sell you a goat, she cannot sell you goat’s milk! Talk to Anne long enough and you will learn all about the milk and milking, but also about the Commonwealth’s rules and regulations that govern the production and sale of milk. It’s the longer lesson. A friend of a friend however, in rural Rehoboth as in rural Syria, will share. Happily Anne was kind kind enough to give us a gallon of milk to turn into yogurt, strain and salt, roll into balls, cover with olive oil in a big glass jar, and put on the pantry shelf of our New England home.

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THE APOTHEKER’S CREATIVE HOMESTEAD An Interview with Shari and Russ Apotheker, Apothekers Kitchen Words by Mandi Tompkins Photographs by Jenn Bakos and Ashley Herrin Russ and Shari Apotheker are an inspiring pair. I’ll be honest — when I first heard about their home on the outskirts of Boston, I was a little skeptical. How could they possibly embrace a homesteading lifestyle so close to the city? But, as with many aspects of this issue, I learned an incredible amount just within the first few minutes of talking to Shari and Russ. Upon pulling up to their home, I knew immediately that I was in for a few surprises. You can see that a lot of love and care went into building this home and the land surrounding it. Unique plants are placed carefully around the property, many of which Shari and Russ brought home with them from adventures around the country. The red chicken coop peeks over the landscape, soft coos and clucks coming from the pen. And as you walk up to the front door, trinkets and small potted plants line the windows, welcoming guests — there is even a dainty little lime tree! Enthusiasm for living a wholesome yet simple lifestyle exudes from every nook and cranny of the Apotheker home. Their kitchen is filled to the brim with dried herbs, stored away in mason jars and glass bottles. And there is evidence of dabbling and tinkering everywhere you look — bottles half full of their latest fermenting experiment, a serious collection of honeys, and cabinets full of their latest creations.

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TINKERING UP A DREAM Experimenting with new recipes and concoctions is not just a part-time hobby for these two artists. These days, it’s Russ and Shari’s livelihood. In 2013, the couple founded Apotheker’s Kitchen, which crafts simple, all-natural products and sweet confections. And although the company is only 2 years young, the concept was dreamed up well before. Russ and Shari have long yearned for a simpler lifestyle; one where they can slow down and really get back to the basics. This desire, paired with the couple’s artistic minds and healthy lifestyle, motivated them to bring this dream to life. Dabbling and creating is also a longstanding tradition in Russ’ family. He comes from a long line of herbalists and pharmacists dating back to ancient Jerusalem. In fact the name Apotheker, which his ancestors adopted in the 17th century, actually means pharmacist. So it should come as no surprise that it was Russ who initially crafted a batch of Apotheker’s chocolate (a very early iteration). Shari, who had been striving to live a cleaner lifestyle, could not beat her cravings for something sweet. So Russ took on the challenge of concocting something that would both satisfy her sweet tooth, and that she could still feel good about.

REALIZING A SELF-SUFFICIENT DREAM Sweets are not the only focus in the Apotheker family kitchen. Russ and Shari have recently been on a fermentation kick, and we were lucky enough to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The two have created their own sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha, and even fermented soda (recipe on following page). Fermentation is an ancient practice that was originally leveraged as a way to preserve the harvest of summer well into the dark days of winter.

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Today, homesteaders and DIYers alike look to fermentation for a far more creative reason — it is a true culinary art. Not only can fermentation deliver a practical solution for homesteaders, it can provide a delicious, healthy alternative to the processed foods of today. Russ and Shari try to use all-natural, clean ingredients wherever they can. And this practice extends to their very own backyard, where they raise four chickens. Vivienne Pickles, Lucille III, Sweet Dee, and Madame Clucks-a-Lot provide as many as 3-4 eggs per day. Raising these chickens means that they can be even more self-sufficient, and they have the added benefit of knowing exactly where their food originated. And nutrition isn’t the only perk of raising chickens; they help to maintain a more sustainable backyard as well. The chickens live on a diet that consists mainly of food scraps and some chicken feed, eliminating a lot of the waste that would ordinarily end up in the trash. And it doesn’t hurt that the ladies are also quite cute and cuddly.

DEFINING THE HOMESTEAD From the early stages of our visit with Russ and Shari, it was obvious that they have a true love for nature, art, and living a simple lifestyle. Their story is truly a valuable one, as they demonstrate how to take the first steps towards realizing a dream and becoming more self-sufficient. The Apothekers have embraced their own version of homesteading, one that fits their personalities and allows them to live the healthy, meaningful life they want. On top of that, they are two of the sweetest, most driven, and authentic people we have come across. If there is one thing we hope our readers take from this story, it’s that leading a selfsufficient lifestyle may not mean what it did 100 years ago, but it’s still very much possible. Embrace your own version of the homestead!

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FERMENTED ELDERBERRY SODA From the Kitchen of Shari and Russ Apotheker

Making homemade fermented sodas is easy and begins with creating

a culture called a “ginger bug�, which is similar to making a sourdough starter. This process is incredibly quick and easy, and the ginger bug is usually ready to go in just one week. There are many variations of this recipe out there, but here is a basic one to get started. For those who prefer to steer clear of refined sugars, please note that the wild yeast will digest the sugar. You can add natural sugars, such as molasses, honey and maple syrup, but for best results some cane sugar should be used.

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GINGER BUG 2 Tbsp. organic cane sugar 2 Tbsp. fresh organic grated ginger 4 Tbsp. filtered water

Mix all three ingredients in a jar and swirled them around. Then put a piece of cheesecloth over the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band or tie. Once a day for 5-7 days, add the same parts of these three ingredients to the mixture, swirl to combine and place cheesecloth back over opening. After 5-7 days, your ginger bug should be ready and you can place a lid over the opening and remove the cheesecloth. You will know it’s ready when you see some bubbling has started to occur.


Makes about 5 cups of syrup

1 cup dried, organic elderberries

The recipe for this elderberry syrup is adapted

4 cups water

Herbs. You can find all the ingredients for this

1 Tbsp. cinnamon bark or powder

extra of this syrup to use throughout the year

from one of our favorite sites Mountain Rose recipe on their site as well. It’s great to make to help boost your immune system.

1 tsp. organic juniper berries 1 tsp. organic ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to

¼ cup organic wild cherry bark

boils, turn the heat down and let the mixture

1 Tbsp. organic dried dandelion root

a boil on medium high heat. Once the mixture simmer for 30-40 minutes. Using a strainer, pour the mixture into a large glass bowl. Press down with a wooden spoon to make sure you get all the juice and flavor. Once the mixture has cooled a bit, add 2 cups raw, organic or treatment-free honey to the mixture while it is warm, but not too hot. If you add honey while it’s boiling, you will destroy the honey’s wonderful beneficial properties.

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MAKING THE SODA Add 2 cups of Elderberry Syrup to a half gallon jar and fill almost to the top of a with cold, filtered water. To this, add 2/3 cup of the ginger bug, (I strain out any ginger pieces to prevent mold from growing). Stir to combine. Cover with a cheesecloth/rubber band and allow mixture to sit at room temperature for 3-5 days while it ferments. Taste the soda after a couple of days, noting that different times of year will cause the soda to ferment more quickly (warm weather) or slowly (cold weather). Once the soda is fermented to your liking, you are ready to bottle. Use glass bottles with a screw top or cap as you would homemade beer. This doesn’t last long in our house so we tend to make smaller batches since it continues to ferment, even in the fridge. Enjoy and, as with all herbal recipes, have fun trying to experiment with adding different herbs or proportions to make it to your taste!

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DO-IT-YOURSELF: HOME CLEANING REMEDIES Photographs and Natural Cleaning Tips by Jenn Bakos


As a modern homesteader, it is both rewarding and sometimes fun to make

½ cup salt 1 cup Washing Soda 4 cups hot water 1 ¼ cup pure Castile soap (we used Dr.Bronner’s) Essential Oils (optional) (we used lavender and mint) 1 ½ Gallon Container Something with a spout makes it easier but you can use whatever. Glass preferred as some essential oils can dissolve plastic. More water – fill up the rest of the container with water

your own home cleaning products, not to mention it’s usually cheaper! Knowing what ingredients are used often gives us peace of mind. This recipe is simple and uses non harmful ingredients that are okay for you and the environment! Bonus points for hanging out your laundry to dry after! (Energy saver!)

METHOD Put the salt and washing soda into the container. Pour in the hot water and mix until mostly dissolved. Pour in your castile soap and add in your essential oils if you choose. (As much as you like). Fill up the rest of the container with warm water. Mix well until everything seems to be dissolved.


This simple recipe can be used on almost anything. The acid in vinegar

32 oz. bottle of white vinegar (the glass bottle)

kills germs as well as inhibits mold from

2 cups distilled water

safe way to clean your home without

20 drops of essential oil (lavender, orange, or lemon are great!)


An old, clean, spray bottle with a nozzle

growing. It’s another cost effective and harsh chemicals.

Pour 2 cups of vinegar from vinegar bottle into a jar for storage or into another bottle if you’re making more than one spray. Add 2 cups of water back into the vinegar bottle. Add your drops of essential oil and shake to mix. Replace the lid with the spray nozzle and you’re ready to use! Store in a place away from sunlight.

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CRAFTING THE HOMESTEAD WITH WHOLE SYSTEMS DESIGN Words and Photographs by t.e.l.l. New England A few years back, part of the t.e.l.l. New England team visited Whole Systems Design based on a recommendation from a family member. Uncertain of what was in store, we made our way to Vermont, curious to see what was at the other end of the journey. Whole Systems Design is a landscape design and architecture firm that helps educate the general public and their clients on permaculture, sustainable infrastructure systems and adaptive human habitats. Located in Vermont’s Mad River Valley, WSD is headquartered on a picturesque swatch of land unique in countless ways. Their own homestead is essentially a research farm, or “test kitchen” if you will, for all that they teach and do. It might sound complicated, and grasping the full list of their capabilities and educational programs might be a bit tricky to digest because of their breadth of services and skills, but really, their business is based off of one main attribute: being smart. Whole Systems Design teaches you how to approach your landscape in a smart way – don’t just design to design – be smart about it, make your home and land work for you just as much as you work for it. They’ll teach you about soil building and fertility, solar water systems, proper methods of home heating, food storage skills such as fermenting and drying and even medicine making. And this list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of their full list of capabilities and teachings.

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In addition to teaching educational courses to the public and small and large land owners alike, Whole Systems Design also has an ever-growing list of clients with whom they’ve developed sustainable landscapes and systems for throughout New England. Their roster includes the Arnold Arboretum, The University of Vermont and Middlebury College to name just a few. For them, they all seem to be moving towards one goal; sustainability and stability during a current economic time of disrupt. Whole Systems Design described this need as “those seeking wealth preservation and development in this time of economic transition, using land, solar infrastructure, food systems and community. They are leveraging these “slow money” investments to help ensure future economic viability as the current economy feeding on phantom (derivative) value, cheap energy supplies and a relatively stable biosphere becomes increasingly impossible. Our clients are moving quickly toward viable long-term land-based solutions that are likely to be most adaptive to the challenges driving the 21st Century” (source: Whole Systems Design). When we visited the Whole Systems Design research farm, our impression was undoubtedly “Wow!” Their sprawling 10-acres of land is home to their design workshop, and what they refer to it as “wet field and forest transitioning into an edible landscape of ponds, fruit and nut trees, forest and pasture, stone and timber structures and outdoor living spaces.” In other words, wow! At the time, we didn’t exactly know where Whole Systems Design was going to fit into our scheduled content, but we always knew we needed to save it for something good. A few volumes later and we’ve arrived at the Homesteading Issue – and quite honestly, the perfect match for Whole Systems Design. Throughout the pages of Issue 09, we’ve scattered photography taken at the research farm – each image seemed too fitting to not incorporate into the narratives and stories we were trying to tell with the help of our contributors. Each image is humble yet powerful, and speaks beautifully to the homesteading lifestyle, to being smart, and to making your home and land work for you just as much as you work for it.

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BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO COMPOSTING Illustration and Tips by Hannah Rosengren Foreword by t.e.l.l. New England Composting is not only beneficial for the earth and the environment; it also has substantial benefits for your home, your yard and even you. It is even said that the waste stream out of your home can decrease by as much as 35% just by composting your kitchen and yard waste. The most obvious benefit to composting is the positive effects it has on your garden. Plants grow stronger, the amount of moisture the soil retains increases making watering less frequent, it helps prevent soil erosion and improves soil structure overall. Costs to your home for things such as trash removal will also decrease as you compost your waste instead of simply tossing it into the rubbish bin. And by turning those food scraps into mineral-rich compost, you’re also reducing the amount of methane that’s produced when trash is shipped to the landfill. Composting has effects the are both large & small scale…it’s good for the environment, the atmosphere, and your very own back yard…no wonder they call it “black gold. ” Get started composting today with these basic tips and pointers!

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POETRY FROM THE HOMESTEAD Poems by Renata Christen Photographs by Jenn Bakos Between 2011-2012, I spent time in Waldo County working alongside other avid young people interested in learning all they could about living off the land sustainably. Chop wood, cook all meals on a Clarion stove, and grow your own food were a few basics. The difficulty of wanting your own land, but not having the capital to attain it easily, is why I’ve since gone on to pursue 9-5 work. Hopefully, I don’t get stuck in the cycle of waiting for retirement before settling into a life connected more directly with nature again.

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I. Helen + Scott: active hideaways who, sending transmissions, from their parallel universe - in a stone cave harbor, wearing old flannel, drinking rosehip tea.

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II. little shelf mushroom, dehydrate for the winter, now we will hunt you.

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III. flying grasshoppers scatter like quail when startled.

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IV. Dinner at Bob & Kim’s: avocado, sprouts, jack cheese sandwiches nostalgia about functional Co-ops: “oh, the variety. And everyone used them.” put your money into tangible things: bibbed overalls. a loom. homegrown blueberry cornbread and cream tips for kidney and heart health? little altars everywhere sheer cotton curtains no wireless, no cell phones hand-pump water faucet in house a tub you wash in, and an outhouse worldly homes “Mountain Ladies & Ewe” Walpole, VT knit hats chimney flow liner bookshelves and jungle plants millet, oats, a string of chiles and basket of unthreshed seed “Intention is selfless. It’s not contrived or mental. You’re not showing intention by rationalizing a personal gain from acting – it’s not an ego thing. You help the bird out of your greenhouse, and in that moment, you are placed in time.”

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SAVING THE SEASONS Foreward by t.e.l.l. New England Whether you’re pickling or canning, our motives seem to be the same. Today, in a world surrounded by industrial food giants and a tidal wave of scary words such as trans fats, high-fructose, additives and artificial being tossed onto our plate daily, it’s no wonder that we all want to regain ownership of our food — to take control of where it comes from, how it’s grown and sourced and the process from soil to plate. Not only that, but, how good does a homemade strawberry jam made from the ripest berries from your neighborhood farm stand taste on a crispy baguette in the middle of one of the coldest, snowiest storms winter has to offer? New Englanders can certainly appreciate this movement much more than our West Coast friends. We’ve been there, and boy, does summer taste sweet in the middle of February! Let’s celebrate spring and summer’s harvest and preserve the finest tastes of the season! The following pages introduce you to a few tips and tricks to canning, pickling and preserving, as well as recipes from the kitchens of fellow New Englanders.

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CANNING DO’S Make sure to have clean and sterile jars and have an incredibly clean workspace. This also includes the lip of the jar where the lid will rest. Do follow instructions and recipes closely. If not, spoiling may occur. Do use the freshest and ripest ingredients. Never use ingredients that are about to (or look like) they are spoiled. Do allow for proper head room — the distance between the top of your jar and it’s contents (½-inch for pickles and a ¼-inch for jams). Do use acid. The pH level should be 4.6 or lower. Acid can be added by using vinegar or lemon juice. Do have fun and experiment with ingredients! Use your imagination in the kitchen, sometimes the best outcomes are the least expected!

CANNING DONT’S Don’t eat from a jar whose contents look or smell as though they’ve spoiled. You can detect spoiling by jar swelling, the safety seal may have popped, or the contents may smell bad or abnormal. Don’t forget to check the seal. The lid should be tight once the jar has come to room temperature. Don’t leave your jars unchecked. Be sure to rotate every once in a while and check for spoiling around the lid or the lid popping. Don’t store your jars in a overly damp, hot or within reach of direct sunlight. Finding a home with even temperatures and conditions will maximize their shelf life. Do not add more low-acid ingredients than the recipe calls for. This includes produce such as garlic, onions, celery and peppers. Doing so may result in an un-safe product.

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HERBAL PRESERVATION Words and Photographs by t.e.l.l. New England Whether you’ve picked up one too many bundles of basil at the farm stand, or your marjoram is sprouting like crazy, there’s no point in letting those fresh herbs go to waste. There are many different methods of herbal preservation…most you’ve heard of before, but some are a bit more unique (hello homemade herbal butters!). One thing we’ve found is that all are relatively easy to actuate and shine a new light on herbal preservation. Not to mention, they provide inspiration for inexpensive yet genuine gift giving ideas when those holiday bells toll.

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Freeze herbs and water to add


in an ice cube tray and freeze.

An easy way to add flavor to

Best with drink-friendly herbs

your cooking Simply bring 1

such as rosemary, mint and sage.

cup (approx. 2 sticks) of your

ALT: combine olive oil and herbs

favorite unsalted butter to room-

in an ice cube tray and freeze.

temperature and combine with

Use as needed when cooking

1 cup of loosely packed herbs

poultry, fish, vegetables and

(one type or a blend). Mash until

other foods.

combined and freeze. Use year round with your favorite New England dishes!


flavor to some of your favorite iced beverages. Simply combine



Combine dried, crushed herbs and local honey in a jar. Cover


with a lid and place in your

Combine your favorite dried

pantry for 5-7 days. A stronger

herbs with the olive oil of your

flavor can be acheived by

choice in a sauce-pan over

allowing the herbs to infuse for

medium heat. Heat until the

a longer period. When desired

mixture is bubbling slightly.

flavor is reached, strain honey.

Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before straining and bottling. Once cooled, strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a cheesecloth, then funnel the liquid into your bottle. Enjoy!



Add layers of complexity to just about any meal in not time at all. Simply combine dry herbs and coarse sea salt in a blender. Store in a glass jar with a secure lid for future use.


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FAMILY TRADITIONS: STRAWBERRY JAM Words and Recipe by Sarah Page Kyrcz Photographs by Jenn Bakos My two girls and I always knows when the “pick you own” fruit season is just about to start here in our shoreline town. The best indicator of this exciting time, when the strawberries are red, ripe and juicy, perfect for plucking off the vine is when the our treasured inventory of homemade jam is nearly depleted! There is nothing quite like harvesting a strawberry, raspberry or blueberry and, fresh off the vine and partaking in the sweetness. We are always mindful to add a little something to the “Sin Bin” for those treats enjoyed while gathering! The real goal of our visits to the fields of fresh fruit, though, is to fill our buckets, with the ripest of the ripe, and return home to turn them into homemade jam. These delectable jars of liquid gold are lovingly prepared, season after season, to be savored all year long. While we all thoroughly enjoy every last morsel of this homemade treat it is also something that family and friends have come to expect as a special gift. Everyone knows that one requirement to remain on the coveted list is that they return the empty jar to be used and reused! The strawberry season, starting mid-June is such an exciting time. These luscious berries ripe and ready for picking not only brings us together as a family, but brings me back to my childhood and the memories of my parents canning all summer long to sustain us through the winter.

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Making homemade jam is a family

rows. This cold, stark corner was the

tradition passed down from my mom

perfect spot to store this precious

and dad, which my girls have embraced

produce. With the canning cupboard

and look forward to doing with me.

filled by the end of the summer, we were set for the long, cold, stark winter

It was never a favorite chore of mine, as


a young girl, weeding the family garden. It was hot, boring and tedious work.

Making jam is a hot and very exacting

As I bent over the neatly laid out rows

process. The fruit, sugar and pectin,

of vegetables I daydreamed of riding

plus the sterilization of the jars, must

my bike, climbing trees, swimming

be boiled and boiled and boiled for the

and romping in the neighborhood.

perfect setting of the jam. Yet when

The result however, which I did not

the jars are filled, the tops secured and

appreciate at the time, was home

you hear the familiar POP, as the jars

cooked meals, with homegrown food,

seal, there is an overwhelming sense of

all year long.


While I only concentrate on preserving

In the middle of a cold, snowy

jam, my parents spent the majority

Connecticut winter it is a special treat

of the summer procuring a variety

to sit down with a steamy cup of coffee

of vegetables including string beans,

and a piece of whole-wheat toast

cucumbers and tomatoes from a 50 ft

slathered with homemade jam.

by 30 ft garden to keep our family of 10 well fed and healthy through tough New England winters. With such a large family, the canning and preserving was an essential part of our life.

The choices are almost endless. We make strawberry, raspberry, peach, strawberry peach, raspberry peach and triple berry consisting of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry.

Our 100 year old home had a designated basement “canning cupboard� where the fruits and vegetables of their labors were arranged in perfectly organized

Wrapped in a pretty dishtowel this liquid gold is a gift that is sought after year after year.

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STRAWBERRY JAM INGREDIENTS 6 cups coarsely chopped strawberries

½ teaspoon butter (optional)

4 cups sugar

1.75 oz. low-sugar powdered fruit pectin (1 box)

½ teaspoon butter (optional)

Jam jars

METHOD Wash and remove the stems from the strawberries and coarsely chop. Fill a large pan with water, set the jars in the water and bring to a boil. Let the jars sit in the slowly boiling water until they are needed. Fill a shallow saucepan with water, place the lids and screw tops in the pan and bring to a boil. Let this simmer until needed. Measure the exact amount of strawberries into a 6 or 8-quart saucepan. Optional: Stir in butter (to cut down on foaming). Measure the exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl. Mix ¼ cup of the measured sugar with 1 box of low sugar powered fruit pectin. Stir this into fruit mixture and bring to a complete rolling boil (a boil that does not stop when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. When it has come to a complete boil, add remaining sugar quickly. Return to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute. Stirring during process is important to avoid burning fruit. Remove from heat and skim off any foam. Ladle quickly into prepared jars. Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top of the jar. Wipe the jar rims and threads clean of any jam. Cover the jars with lids and screw bands. Place the jars upside down on an elevated rack for 5 minutes. Place the jars right side up to cool. As the jars cool you will hear a POP as the jars seal. You can check the sealing process by pressing down on the middle of the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, it is not sealed. Cooling times varies, so patience is required! If jars do not seal they should be refrigerated. Store the sealed jam in a cool, dry place for up to a year. Refrigerate open jars for up to 3 weeks.

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PICKLING: PRESERVING OUR HARVEST Recipe and Photographs by t.e.l.l. New England Want to carry your delicious spring and summer vegetables well into winter? Pickling is a surefire way to preserve your hard-earned vegetable patch for as long as a year. This long-time tradition of homesteaders is used as a way to preserve summer crops, extending shelf life so that the family can enjoy nutritious vegetables all year round. The recipe on the following page is a simple but traditional recipe for the pickling beginner. Best yet, these tart vegetables will last you up to six months when refrigerated...that means crisp carrots, beans and peppers at Christmas! Enjoy!

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3 c. cauliflower florets

After cutting your vegetables, place

½ pound small carrots, halved

cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, peppers,

1 red bell pepper, cut into 3-by- ½ inch matchsticks

and beans in ~ 2 large glass mason jars, or 4 smaller mason jars. Pour the cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sugar, salt,

1 zucchini, cut into 3-by- ½ inch matchsticks

coriander, peppercorns, red pepper

½ pound green beans, cut into

pot. Add 3 cups of water and bring to

flakes, bay leaf and garlic into a large

3 inch pieces

a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.


NOTE: If you’re not a fan of spicy foods,

3 c. apple cider vinegar

try substituting the red pepper flakes for

½ c. white wine vinegar

mustard seed.

¾ c. raw cane sugar

Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables

1 Tbsp. salt

and let cool to room temperature.

1 tsp. coriander seeds

Cover and let sit in a cool dry place for

1 tsp. black peppercorns

2-3 days. For a more intense flavor, let

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

sit for 4-7 days. Once the taste of the

1 bay leaf

pickles is to your liking, place in the refrigerator to stop the pickling process.

8-10 garlic cloves, smashed

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STRAWBERRY SEASON: FIRST FRUITS OF THE NORTH Words and Recipe by Abby Ytzen-Handel Photographs by Jenn Bakos

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Here in New England, things take a bit longer. You might see your Instagram exploding with pictures of magnolia blooms in March or strawberries in May, but you and I both know that isn’t in the cards for us. Living in New England means embracing each season and its own brand of magic, because the seasons linger. Winter holds on with its freezing rain and wintery mix, finally giving way to spring’s abundance of blooms. Though it isn’t until spring ends and summer begins that we see and taste the long anticipated harvest. The art of preservation has strong roots here in New England. We survive the hungry months with the stores we have gathered in the abundances of summer and fall. We can make sauces, relishes, pickles, salsas, jellies and jams to last us until the cycle brings us back to June, with the coming of the first fruits, strawberries. June is the first true food month in New England. We have tended the garden for months now, waiting and watching, jumping with joy when the seeds turn to seedlings and the asparagus comes up. But not until the tail end of spring do we get strawberries. There is something magical about strawberries. They herald the arrival of the warm summer sun and with each bite bring us back to the sweet memories of childhood. I remember standing pressed up against my mother’s leg, waiting for her to finish rinsing the strawberries and devouring them as soon as the bowl was placed on the table.

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My mother imparted me with her love of fruit; we laugh and say we could subsist on fruit alone. I can’t think of a summer not spent eating strawberries while basking in the sunshine. On this particularly cold and dreary day, I find myself dreaming of strawberries! Walking into the field with my basket, picking strawberries that have been fully ripened under the heat of the early summer sun. I can feel the warmth upon my bare shoulders as I haul endless baskets filled with these little treasures. Some are eaten just as they are, perfectly unadorned. Some go into pies and crisps, while others are preserved for the next winter as strawberry rhubarb jam. I make mine tart, letting the fullness of the sweet strawberries blend with the sharpness of the rhubarb. These precious jars bring us back to the tastes of summer when the days are cold and short. So, in honor of the coming of strawberries, I give you my strawberry rhubarb jam.

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TART STRAWBERRY RHUBARB JAM This jam is slightly tart, the way I like my jams, it is delicious for PB and J, spread on crusty bread topped with blue cheese, baked on top of brie or spooned over


ice cream! Note: I reduced the sugar content from a typical canning recipe to have a greater amount of fruit and less sugar in each jar. I have found that the longer you store, there is


some color loss on the very top layer, however it is perfectly fine to eat. If you mind that sort of thing, simply add extra sugar. My ratios of rhubarb and strawberries are not set in stone – let your taste be your guide!

2.5 lbs of Rhubarb chopped 1.5 lbs Strawberries chopped Juice of 1.5 lemons 2 Âź c. Sugar

Combine and simmer while stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or so (until it reaches the consistency you prefer in a jam, the longer you go the thicker the jam will become as it reduces). Ladle into clean jars. To can, process jars in a water bath for 10 minutes, remove from bath and let sit until all lids have sealed. To freeze leave extra head space. Enjoy!

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THE WILD ONES AMONGST US: WEEDY SPRING PLANTS AS FOOD & MEDICINE Words by Steph Zabel Photography by Todd Danforth As a city-dwelling herbalist, I am surrounded by rivers of concrete and miles of densely-packed buildings. This leaves little room for the wild and overgrown green places that are so near and dear to my heart. However, there are benefits to being a city-bound plant lover who craves untamed places. Living in the midst of the concrete jungle forces you to deliberately be on the lookout for weedy patches of rogue plants. It forces you to be present and alert in your environment, and to appreciate the dynamic cohabitation of plants and people in a dense and bustling cityscape. You realize that once you start looking for wild plants, you will notice them everywhere. Amongst the weedy plant species it seems that there are few places where their vitality cannot emerge. In my own urban backyard – a modest little plot hemmed in by houses, fences and driveways – there are plants that were never planted there: dandelions, ground ivy, violets, plantain, celandine, wild carrot, mugwort, and more. These are wild spontaneous growers, or as most people would say, “weeds.” I love these wild ones and let them have their place in the garden, amongst the intentionally planted herbs. I delight in these weeds, for they are often the first bit of green to emerge in the spring, and the last to go dormant when the cold season descends. Not too long ago, these wild ones were appreciated for their food and medicinal use, and celebrated when they returned to us each spring. Here are three of my favorite wild weeds – ones that are commonly found in both urban and rural areas, wherever humans reside.

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DANDELION | TARAXACUM OFFICINALE Dandelion is beloved by herbalists and wild food foragers alike. As a wonderful tonic, it strengthens our livers, and steadily improves our digestion. The whole plant is edible – roots, leaves, flowers, even the seeds – and contains many vitamins and minerals. Sprinkle the flower petals on salads, eat the bitter leaves raw or sautéed, or try roasting the root for a delicious coffee substitute. Or, as I like to do, infuse the whole plant in vinegar. Vinegar has been used as a health-promoting ingredient for centuries, and for all maladies under the sun. In the kitchen, it serves as a useful medium for extracting mineral-rich plants such as dandelion. This herbed vinegar can then be used on salads, roasted vegetables, or for the base of sauces. If you are feeling adventurous, you can also drink it by the shot for a healthy and energizing pick-me-up!

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DANDELION INFUSED VINEGAR Choose a good place to harvest your dandelions. If collecting in the city you want to be sure you are in an area free of any heavy metals and pollutants that may exist in the soil and surrounding environment. Don’t harvest right next to a busy road. Consider how other people, animals and cars may have affected the plants in the area. As with any wild harvesting, look for plants that are vibrant and healthy, and respectfully gather only what you need. • Use a small trowel to gently dig around the dandelions, removing soil around the main taproot as you go. Try to unearth as much of the root as possible. Gather 4-6 whole dandelions, enough to fill a pintsized glass jar when chopped. • Rinse your dandelion roots and leaves well, removing the soil and using a very gentle scrub brush if necessary. Discard any brown or tired-looking leaves. • Pat dry and leave for a few hours if you can, until the dandies are completely dried. Ideally, let them wilt for a day or two to remove any excess water in the plant. This will result in stronger infused vinegar. • Chop up all the roots and leaves, and fill your pint jar to the top, but don’t pack it in too much. • Cover the whole thing with apple cider vinegar, stirring to remove any air bubbles. Top off with more vinegar. • Be sure to cover the top of the jar with a sheet of wax paper if you are using a metal lid, since vinegar will corrode metal. Then cap, label with the ingredients and date, and place the jar somewhere in your kitchen where you will see it often. • Shake daily. • After 2-3 weeks, taste your vinegar and see if the flavor is to your liking. If so, use a fine sieve to strain out the dandelion parts. • Bottle the remaining infused vinegar, label, and store out of direct sunlight. Keep it in the fridge for the longest shelf life, and use within 6 months.

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GROUND IVY | GLECHOMA HEDERACEA Ground Ivy is a low-growing plant with dainty purple flowers that commonly appears uninvited in gardens and lawns. It is a member of the mint family, and like its cousins, has an aromatic scent when crushed. This property gives a clue to some of its medicinal virtues, for it is a plant traditionally used to alleviate coughs, congestion, and headaches. Like dandelion, it is also a wild edible and you can use the leaves and flowers as part of a fresh salad. You can also dry the flowering plant for tea, or make it into a tincture. Another lovely way to use ground ivy is to create an oxymel with it. Oxymels are ancient preparations that involve the combination of honey, vinegar and herbs. This simple medicine dates back to the time of the great Greek physicians and has been used for many different ailments, but most especially for digestive and respiratory issues. Oxymels are one of my favorite and most delicious ways to preserve herbs, and are a wonderful medicinal tonic. They can be taken straight by the spoonful or added to sparkling water (or even cocktails) for a special treat.

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GROUND IVY OXYMEL • Collect your fresh ground ivy, enough to fill a pint-sized jar. Make sure any excess water has evaporated before using, or let it wilt for a day if you can. • Chop up the bunch and fill a pint-sized glass jar to the top. • In a separate bowl, mix together equal parts apple cider vinegar and local honey: start with nearly 1 cup of each. • Cover your herbs with the honey-vinegar blend so that all plant material is covered. You can also adjust the ratio of honey to vinegar if desired: if you want a thinner oxymel, add more vinegar, if you want a thicker, more syrupy oxymel, add more honey. • Stir up the herb mixture and cover the top of the jar with a sheet of wax paper before capping. Make sure all the plant material is covered by the honey-vinegar combination. • Shake daily and check that the herbs stay completely covered. Top with a little vinegar if needed. • Let steep for 2 – 4 weeks, tasting at intervals. • Strain out the ground ivy through a sieve and store in a tightly capped bottle out of direct sunlight, preferably in the fridge. Use within 6 months.

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VIOLET | VIOLA ODORATA & RELATED SPECIES The violets start unfolding their heart-shaped leaves as soon as spring begins its arrival. Then, all of a sudden, their brilliantly hued flowers appear. Just to gaze upon them is a balm for winter-weary eyes. Highly regarded in traditional herbal folklore as a nutritious spring food plant, violets also possess extremely soothing and cooling properties that assist with inflammatory conditions, itchy skin, or sore, scratchy throats. Herbalists in old days used violet to “comfort and strengthen the heart;” we modern-day humans can still turn to this sweet, beautiful flower for the same purpose. The violet syrup recipe on the following page is a wonderful and delicious way to preserve this ephemeral flower. Using sugar allows the delicate violet flavor to come through, but honey can also be used. Preserving the beautiful color of this syrup can sometimes be tricky – just be sure to allow the violets to steep for several hours to extract the most color from their petals. Also, if the final color is not what you hoped for, you can add some lemon juice to perk it up – just stir in a few drops and you will immediately see the liquid change to a magenta color! This syrup can be used as a garnish on desserts, added to sparkling water, or used as a remedy for sore throats.

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SIMPLE VIOLET INFUSED SYRUP • Collect 1 cup of gently packed violet flowers. • Place the flowers in a glass bowl and cover them with 1.5 cups of boiling water. • Let this mixture steep overnight, or at least 6 hours so that the violets are completely drained of their color. The resulting liquid should be a purplish-blue color. • Strain out the flowers. • Pour the violet liquid into a small saucepan, turn the heat to medium and add 3 cups of sugar. • Stir as the sugar dissolves. Heat and stir for 5-10 minutes, making sure it never boils. • Remove from the heat and pour the resulting syrup in a clean, glass jar. Label, store in the fridge, and use within 6 months.

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Issue 09 | The Homesteading Issue

t.e.l.l. vol. 09 | The Homesteading Issue  
t.e.l.l. vol. 09 | The Homesteading Issue