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Category Archives: Blog

Homesteading, Food Preservation, Frugality, and Simple Living.  At Pantry Paratus, we mix it up with good old-fashioned “how-to”, food science, and recipes.

Homesteading Lessons: 10 Things I Have Learned

   About Agnes


We know why we choose this crazy homesteading life, but during the ride of it all, have we learned anything? Here are a few of mine; please leave a comment below and tell us some of the homesteading lessons you have learned along the way.

#1:      Never carry eggs in your pocket. 

Sure, you have your hands full, but go back for the egg basket.  Trust me.

Eggs in Nesting Box


#2:    Chickens snore. 

It’s true.  They also get the hiccups when they eat too fast.

#3:    Enjoy the weather for what it is. 

It will never align perfectly with the to-do list you had planned, but go with it.  If fencing is out because of rain, then maybe it’s a sewing day instead.  You’re along for the ride.


Enjoy the Weather

#4:  Neighbors are important for more than just unloading too much zucchini. 

There can be a mutually beneficial—symbiotic, really—relationship that makes every individual stronger than they would be otherwise.


But…if you find yourself with too much zucchini, we have a few suggestions for that, too.

#5:     Manicured lawns are a serious waste of time.  And space.  

If you live in the city or suburbs, consider a book about edible landscaping (psst…I know-a-guy)…

#6:    Over-plant. 

Next year, you might not get any.  Overplant, give away, and preserve extra, just in case.

 Seeds & Starts

#8:     Dirt roads seemed romantic at first, but…no.  

Drive slowly or leave pieces of your car’s underbelly in the dust behind you.

 putting muffler back on with the Klamper tool

#8:  Kids are underestimated. 

At least, mine were.  They are smarter, faster, stronger, and more resilient than I ever would have guessed.  They are more adaptable and harder working than I gave them credit. They jump in with both feet, and even have better ideas sometimes.  You don’t have to homestead to learn this about your own kids–but it is what it took for me to see it.

My kids are the awesomest. 

#9:    Always have a back-up plan. 

The new animal pen might get a hole in the fencing, the rains might soak the hay, the mice might get into your stash of heirloom seeds in the potting shed. 

#10: To admit failure. 

And to be okay with failure.  I cannot do everything, and what I can do is far from perfect.  But I tried.

Decaying Picnic Table 

Read about my most recent failure here (and this one landed me in the hospital).

 Don’t miss: Homesteading: 10 Reasons Why I Bother

Want to learn more about homesteading? Check out our many great resources available through the “By Skills” menu on the right, or by clicking onto our “How-To’s & Why-To’s”.  


Photo Credits:

All photos, unless otherwise stated are property of Pantry Paratus.  Please feel free to share them on your social media but please keep proper attribution.

zucchini:neil conway via photopin cc



Announcing the Pantry Paratus Christmas Sales!

Hostess gifts under $10

Whoo-boy.  We get excited about this every year.

We bring the best prices all year around; we spend a lot of time price-checking ourselves against our competitors because we are fully aware of how important frugality is in this homemade life.  But we are one of the few still around that focuses first on American-made and then on production ethics and quality.  Our personal convictions drive our product selection, and we know they drive your shopping habits, too.

So this year, we’re merging both our top products and our frugality to bring these great Christmas sales!

Let’s start with a few things to have on hand, just in case:

Hostess gifts under $10Click here to find gifts that are always (even not on sale) $10 or less.  You’ll find that many of these are knocked even further down in price right now.   I like to have a few of these on hands for last-minute things.  Some great stocking stuffers, too.  And not just for hostesses…I happen to know that hubby wants the cannoli presses this year for Christmas.

Christmas sales-books

We’re putting all of our in-stock books on sale! 

Books make awesome gifts, because they can sometimes be the one surprise under the tree–a title someone would want if they even knew it existed, something to read over the quiet holiday weekend, something to do in the long winter months.  And for the home-chef,  a good cooking title is perfect for the holidays since they actually have some time to experiment!  Check out a few children’s titles, too!

Great Christmas Gifts on SaleGreat Christmas Gifts on Sale!

Maybe we should have started here.  If you haven’t checked out our sale page recently, give it a browse now; what is listed on there is forever-changing.  We’ve got some beautiful, some interesting, and some “great idea!” gift ideas on there.

Big Christmas Gifts

Big Christmas Gifts!

Be sure to explore the rest of our store, too.   This can be an opportunity to bring loved ones closer to prepared, by supplying them with pure water straight from the Berkey tap, or by encouraging their gardening or healthy-eating efforts with an Excalibur dehydrator…or by getting that grain mill they have always wanted.  Vacuum sealers are a fantastic idea for the single person who needs real food in the freezer, and it’s perfect for the large family, too.

We hope you enjoy exploring our store this Christmas season.  You know that when you buy from Pantry Paratus, you will receive quick customer service.  We will communicate with you about your order, and you will know what to expect.

Thanks for shopping our family-owned, Montana small business!

–Wilson & Chaya

8 DIY Natural Moisturizer Recipes for Soft Hydrated Skin

DIY Natural Moisturizers

Soft, hydrated skin is elegant, dare I say alluring.  It’s easily recognizable as a result of the evident radiance. But here is the question: “Is it possible for me to have such soft and hydrated skin–and without harsh products?”  The availability of DIY natural moisturizers that can be put together without complications make it possible for you to groom such enviable skin. We’re going to give you 8 natural moisturizer recipes!

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Preserve Your Eyesight with These Superfoods

Preserve Your Eyesight with These Superfoods

As the leading cause of blindness in the west, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects 3 in 10 people over the age of 75. With odds like these it makes sense to want to find ways to protect ourselves against it. A study from Harvard university has shown just how we can do that. The study shows that one of the best ways to prevent AMD is through diet and here we’ll explain exactly what foods are your key to helping preserve your eyesight long into old age.

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The False Dichotomy of Black Friday

Christmas Simplicity

This was an email newsletter I sent before “Black Friday” last year.  It’s a bit controversial, but it’s important to us.  Be sure to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Logic Lesson: What is a False Dichotomy?

A False Dichotomy (or “false dilemma”) is when someone pits 2 opposing thoughts, requiring you to choose one of the 2 extremes (ignoring the possibility of alternatives).
  This is a major ploy of retailers.  How do I know?  I am one.

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Introducing the Sous Vide Cooking Method

Introducing the Sous Vide Cooking Method

Though based on ancient cooking principles, sous vide technique is a new method of cooking that is gaining popularity among home cooks today. Consequently, a lot of people have various questions about this process and the equipment used. To help you get the hang of it, we’ve put together some answers to various questions you may be asking about this cooking method.

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What Happened to this Michigan Cowshare When No one Got Sick from Milk

What happened to this Michigan cowshare farmer when no one got sick from milk

“I knew I wanted to convert our conventional dairy to a cowshare,” Kris offered. “It was in 2005 when the Michigan State Police ran a sting operation against a cowshare farmer, arresting him and ruining $7,000 of food by having it abandoned on the side of the road. It was a legal cowshare operation.”

Kris Unger--Michigan Cowshare farmerKris and her husband own a dairy farm just outside of Cohoctah, Michigan. Kris farms by herself; her husband has a full-time job. She works harder than anyone you may likely know, and she’s feisty.

“I am the only one working the farm now,” she laughs, “but the cows make fantastic employees. They show up to work every single day.”

From Conventional Dairy to Cowshare

Kris’ conventional operation ran through the “Association,” the dairy monopoly that requires all milk created on premises be turned over to them.  The farmer’s family may consume it, but no milk may be sold apart from the association or the farmer is kicked out.

Kris decided she had enough of this coercion in 2007 and converted her operation to a legal cowshare.  Cowshare means that other people own or lease cows and pay a boarding fee.  Kris maintains the animals’ care and uses her high tech milking equipment (the same used for the conventional operation).  Every family is assigned a day to collect their milk.

On the Unger’s farm, the 297 families often drive over an hour to get there.  They fill their own containers from the stainless steel holding tank, which keeps the milk at the perfect 34 degree temperature.  Although it is legal in Michigan to do delivery, Kris simply doesn’t have the time or the desire. “People need to have a connection to the farm and to their own animals,” she asserted.

When I gawked at the number of 297 families, Kris told me, “I should really send a ‘thank you’ note to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, because every time they cause problems, my cowshares grow. I increase by 10 families whenever they hassle anyone.”

Legal Farming Suffering Loss Due to Government Overreach

The word “hassle” is an understatement.  Kris is not alone in her story of governmental overreach, especially in the fine state of Michigan.  For her, the trouble started when a dad, son, and an overnight friend got sick.

The mom made tacos “so they wouldn’t get food poisoning” at the Detroit Tigers game that evening.  The boys and Dad loaded up on food at home, and on all the goodies at the game (in spite of Mom’s concerns).  The dad and son didn’t feel well for a few days, but the overnight friend became very ill.  His first hospitalization was for e-coli, the second for complications from the previous hospitalization.  When the health board called, the family answered the raw milk question honestly, a question that always appears at the top of the list on the Health Department’s questionnaire.  No one remembered the guest having any raw milk.

Not one member of 296 other families became ill.  The only commonality to the sick boy (likely without the milk) and the father/son (likely with milk) is that those three attended a ballgame together.  Remember, Mom also ate tacos and did not get sick.

On October 26, 2016, officials came to the Unger’s door demanding lists of all cowshare owners forgetting that under our judicial system they need a proper warrant for such “fact finding” efforts.  When they came back with the warrant on September 1st, they also did an “inspection,” which would be more aptly labeled “contamination. “

milking machineThe inspector’s conducted their “collection” without hairnets or gloves, leaving machinery valves open as the security cameras in the barn later revealed.  The coup de grace that this was a “professional investigation” was when one inspector unprepared to vault himself to the bulk tank’s lid, opted to stand on Kris’s coffee table (until her objection) and insert his upper body (without gloves or hairnet) into a food storage vat.   An inspector from the Department of Agriculture needed to “check the cows”, but wouldn’t get closer than 20 feet away, never taking a manure sample.  Brilliantly, he declared, “They look okay.”

A lot of food wholly unconnected to E.coli (or to the “okay” cows) was disposed.  This food is legally produced and privately owned. All in all the toll was $360 of honey destroyed, 2 dozen eggs confiscated, sauerkraut dumped, $610 of butchered chicken absconded, and (in an effort to protect the general public) cookies and apple muffins were properly dealt with (read: “stolen) to uphold the law.

Kris asked the inspectors, “If one of my families had a baby and everyone left meals for her, then…”

“…then you would be illegally warehousing it. Against the law.”

“Against the law.”

Legal culture develops out of property rights; this has held true for centuries of stable common law.  The fact that there is an agency inspector presupposes that there is a just law to protect in the public’s interest, even to the furthest extent of organic cookies and apple muffins.  I am sure that the Dept of Ag inspectors for the great and beautiful State of Michigan had to take some science classes with labs, so where is their adherence to sound scientific practices?

Does legal angst forego getting a warrant (editor’s note: rookie mistake) or proper field sample collection?  Since when is it in the public’s interest to contaminate and therefore ruin a bulk tank of milk without using aseptic collection methods?  Are nitrile gloves not in the budget for the Great Lakes State?

Let’s try out a hypothetical: let’s say this well-meaning inspector got his ungloved hand in the milk sample after not washing his hands in the restroom—of course the milk will test contaminated for coliforms!  It is far from just law to stand behind a legal fog of scientific principles poorly applied by those chosen to defend the common good.

The Pending Legal Battle

Kris continues to operate the farm but there are a lot of unknowns in her future.  She does have legal assistance from Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund.

Kris is being sued for the cost of the food disposal.  She has pending court hearings and does not know what the outcome will be for her or for the 297 families that depend upon the milk from their own cows.

This much she does know, “We have a community here, a wonderful community.  The government could never understand that.”

What happened to this Michigan cowshare farmer when no one got sick from milk

Produce, Prepare, & Preserve.