Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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How to Make Homemade Butter

wpid CAM03139 1024x759 How to Make Homemade Butter

When we first learned about the benefits of raw milk (and the harm of pasteurized milk from non-A2 cows) we decided it was worth switching to healthier dairy products. Buying a herd share was a no-brainer first step. Our herd share enables us to obtain raw milk from the cow we lease and yogurt and cheese made from her milk. We’re not big milk drinkers so keeping our consumption (both for straight drinking and baking) to 1 gallon a week works fine for us. Unfortunately we’re not able to purchase pre-made butter at the same time.

That’s too bad because though we don’t drink much milk, we do use a lot of butter. A lot. I seriously considered purchasing a second herd share just to have a enough cream for butter making. Unfortunately that’s not in the budget at this time. So instead, I’ve been making a habit of skimming the cream off our weekly gallon of milk and freezing it. I skimmed the milk by pouring it out of a gallon milk jug and into a gallon container with a wide mouth and lid. After a day or so the cream rises to the top and easy to scoop off. (You can see the cream line in the picture below).

wpid PicsArt 1395688899006 1024x759 How to Make Homemade Butter

After four weeks of skimming I ended up with about 7 cups of cream. These jars look very full, and they are, because of course the cream expands as it freezes. I want to be sure to say that I only filled them about ¾ full before placing them in the freezer. Filling them to the top would cause them to burst.

wpid CYMERA 20140324 135231 How to Make Homemade Butter

After collecting to jars’ worth of cream, I decided it was time for my maiden voyage into butter-making.

First I put the frozen jars into the fridge (on the bottom shelf because it is the warmest place in my refrigerator). I couldn’t tell you exactly how long it took the cream to thaw, but it was somewhere between one-and-a-half and two days.  With thawed cream on hand, I was ready to begin.

How to Make Butter from Scratch

These are the tools and ingredients I used:

  • 3.5 cups of cream (approximate)
  • A blender or food processor
  • 1 cup of ice water
  • A strainer
  • A medium to large sized bowl
  • A spatula
  • Paper towel or a cheesecloth
  • Wax or parchment paper
  • Bakers twine
  • Salt (optional)
For instructions and pictures, please visit our website by clicking here.

Love Potion #10 Tea

diy valentine tea

Ok. Not really. It’s not a potion. No magic here. Just a yummy cup of tea that happens to be full of herbs known for their aphrodisiac qualities. It’s a sweet and simple handmade gift your tea lover will love on Valentine’s Day. If you’re an herb connoisseur you probably have everything you need on hand already. Otherwise, a quick run to the health food or grocery store will provide what you need, including:

  • Round Coffee Filters
  • Bakers Twine
  • Stapler and Staples
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Rose Petals
  • Lavender
  • Oat Straw
  • Whole Cloves
  • Lindon
  • Ginseng

First, create the tea mixture in a small bowl by stirring together all of the dried herbs. The mixture makes 3-4 tea bags. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 tsp Stinging Nettle
  • 3 tsp Rose Petals
  • 1 tsp Oat Straw
  • 1 tsp Whole Cloves
  • 1.5 tsp Lavender
  • Pinch Ginseng
  • Pinch Lindon

diy valentine day tea


Click here for the complete tutorial and more photos!


Bacon Hearts for Your Valentine

valentine day

Valentine’s Day is a mere seven days away. We celebrate Valentine’s Day, but not extravagantly. A sentimental card and a few tokens of love are usually the extent of gift giving in our family. Gifts often include flowers, candy, gift cards, special dinners and sometimes jewelry. Although we don’t (usually) give extravagant gifts for this particular holiday, we all (yes, the entire family) are still very particular about giving thoughtful, personalized gifts. Have you noticed how difficult it can be to find a great Valentine’s Day gift for a man? In years past I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find something modest but meaningful for my hubby.

That’s how I happened upon it…

Bacon hearts.

Yes, my husband loves bacon that much.

Few things warm the hearts of the men in my home more than bacon (Owen loves it too). Clearly the two must become one.

Inexpensive, easy-to-make and irresistible – bacon hearts match every criteria I need in a gift for the boys. Do you have a bacon lover in your life? You can make these pretty porky hearts for them as well. Here’s how…

How to Make Bacon Hearts

Click here for the complete tutorial, including pictures!



DIY Advent Tea Set

Last summer I shared with you that I love tea. I grew up drinking at least a cup a day, guided by my mother who throws down a pot or so in the same time frame. One of the things I treasure most about get togethers with my mom, brother and sister-in-law is enjoying a pot (or two) of tea together, especially since I’m usually the only one in our little nuclear family who gets excited about brewing a cup.

Since my relatives enjoy tea so much I decided last year to make them handmade herbal tea bags. I found some recipes online and used this tutorial as a guide to creating my own tea bags. It was a super cute idea (and I was super excited about it!) but alas, I completely underestimated how much time it would take. The bags weren’t nearly as pretty as I wanted them to be. And I cut my time so close to Christmas that I didn’t really have time to taste-test and adjust my recipes. Ultimately some of the bags turned out well but most of them were forgettable (if not bad).

Such a bummer…

So I promised myself that I’d try again this year – and that I’d start much, much sooner. So the week of Thanksgiving I paid a visit to our local health food store and picked up a couple dozen bags of various herbs and spices. Ever since I’ve been experimenting with and adjusting herbal tea recipes. My goal was to develop at least a dozen unique flavors. I didn’t quite make it there, but I’m really pleased with the six recipes that are ready.

Something Beautiful

diy handmade advent tea setI know that sometimes we make homemade gifts because they’re inexpensive, quick or simple to make. (And there’s nothing wrong with that.) Although they hold potential for the exact opposite, I feel like sometimes today’s homemade gifts are a little impersonal. I really wanted these teas to be the antithesis to all of these things, both to make them a sweet gift and simply for the joy of creating something beautiful.

That’s how I stumbled into the idea of making an advent tea set. I wanted to make something pretty to look at, meaningful and enjoyable to use. I guess I won’t know for sure if I hit the mark until my not-to-be-mentioned-till-they-receive-this relative provides a review. Meanwhile, I’m excited to share the results with you.

I’ve included all of the information and printouts you need to make an advent tea set for the tea lover on your Christmas list. Here’s how it works: Every day has a handmade tea bag. The tea bags are stored in a pre-made container. I wanted to use a Christmas tin but none of the stores I visited had quite what I was looking for. Instead I settled for this super cute box from the holiday section of Wal-Mart. (If you hurry you might be able to buy the same one!)

bakers twine for diy handmade tea bagsEach day’s tea bag has a tag with the date on it. Each bag is also preceeded by a divider card. The divider has the date on the face and a Christmas-oriented scripture on the backside. The idea is that every December morning before work (or perhaps every evening as you unwind) the recipient can read and reflect on an inspirational card while enjoying a cup of tea. There are 25 cards (and 25 tea bags) to last you all the way until Christmas Day. The divider cards are printed on heavy-duty photo paper and should be sturdy enough to last for several years. That means next year I’ll be able to supply a stash of 25 handmade teas to be ready for the following Advent season.

A few more details… the tea tags are attached to bakers twine because it comes in pretty colors but won’t leach color into hot tea. I bought some Christmas-y twine in the dollar section of Target and found even more colorful varieties in the party section (near the plates and cups). The bags themselves are made from regular (cheap!) coffee filters. My sewing machine broke down just as I was beginning to sew these so I had to improvise. I ended up figuring out a no-sew folding technique that looks just as cute and actually saved me a ton of time. I’m excited that anyone – even crafty folks with no sewing machine – can make these.

Advent Tea Set Tutorial

Supplies & Equipment Needed

  • 25 coffee filters
  • bakers twine
  • 9 sheets of photo paper
  • 3 sheets of cardstock
  • scissors
  • assorted herbs and spices (click here for recipes which list amounts for a single serving)
  • measuring spoons
  • stapler
  • mono-adhesive
  • craft glue
  • tea container (mine came from the holiday section at Wal-Mart)
  • Tea Dividers printout (click here to download)
  • Tea Tags printout (click here to download)

Make the Tea Bags

1. Cut a piece of bakers twine into a 6? length.

2. Fold a coffee filter in half.

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Fold the filter in half again. Reopen to previous half-fold position.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Fold each side into the center line created by step 2.

diy handmade advent tea set

4. Fold each side in again to meet the center line.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

5. Staple the bottom of the bag to help it retain it’s form.

diy handmade advent tea set

6. Mix a single-serving of the tea recipe in a small container.

7. Use your fingers to pry the opening of the bag open as wide as possible without completely unfolding it.

diy handmade advent tea set

8. Transfer the mixed herbs into the bag. Using a 1/2 teaspoon may help.

diy handmade advent tea set

9. Carefully tap or shake the bag down so that the tea is compacted to the bottom. This will make it easier to close the top. You can later disperse the tea more evenly throughout the bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

10. Laying the bag flat on a hard surface, fold down the top-right corner of the bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

11. Place the bakers twine onto the bag and fold the top-left corner down over it. This will create a point at the top of the bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

12. Fold the point down toward the bottom of the bag being careful to keep the twine secure under the flaps. Fold the twine up straight across the point (now pointing down) and up past the top of the bag. Secure both the top of the bag and the twine by stapling across it.

diy handmade advent tea set

13. Create tea tags by cutting out two of each number. Place one tag face down and add a few small dots of glue to the center and the corners. Place the top end of the twine on the center glue dot then cover the entire thing with the second tag (face up).

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set


diy handmade advent tea set

Make the Divider Cards

1. Print the Tea Dividers, preferably on photo paper or card stock.

2. Cut each divider along the dashed line (top, bottom and sides) and fold along the dotted line. Once folded, the number should be on one side and the scripture should be on the back.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Line the three open sides of the divider with mono adhesive and press it together.

diy handmade advent tea set

4. Repeat for all divider cards. For Christmas Day (Day 25) there are three options to choose from.

diy handmade advent tea set

Assemble the Advent Tea Set

1. Place the #25 tea bag in the bottom of the container.

diy handmade advent tea set

2. Place the #25 divider card over the #25 tea bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Place the #24 tea bag on top of the #25 divider, followed by the #24 divider.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

4. Repeat this process until all tea bags and dividers have been added.

diy handmade advent tea set

5. If you haven’t already, print the Advent Tea Recipes card. Cut it to fit into the container. Slide the card inside the container flush with the back side (behind the tea bags and dividers).

Print the Advent Tea Recipes card. Cut it to fit into the container. Place the card inside the container flush with the back side.

6. Close. Give. Smile.

I really enjoyed making this, and I can’t wait to give it!

diy handmade advent tea set diy handmade advent tea set diy handmade advent tea set diy handmade advent tea set

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How to Make Homemade Almond Extract

Life, according to my belly, can be categorized into the following seasons: Soup season, grilling season, roasting season and baking season. We, dear friends, are in the heart of baking season! Our household has no concept of portion control loves good food. And while I can’t say that the food we eat is always good for us (it’s hard to claim that cake is healthy) we do strive to make everything with natural, wholesome ingredients.

That’s why last year I kicked our artificial baking supplies to the curb. No sprinkles, no colored sugar, no artificial food dye and no artificial flavorings. The flavorings were the most difficult to part with. Fortunately I learned to make homemade vanilla extract. It’s actually quite economical, all-natural and super tasty! When we ran out mid-year I made a second batch and also created some orange extract (which I’ve yet to actually use). So far, having homemade vanilla extract on hand has met my flavoring needs… save for one: Almond.

I miss almond flavoring.

There are some things that just need an amaretto-esqe touch.

Why is it then that it has taken me all of this time to think of making my own? (Silly me!) I wish I had started this a month ago so I’d have homemade almond extract in time for Christmas goodies.

At any rate, making almond extract (or any extract, for that matter) is so easy!

Click here for the recipe!


Homemade Marshmallows

homemade marshmallow recipe

One of the icons of summer is a backyard campfire. And that icon conjures up images of another summer must-have: S’mores.

This year, I decided to try to make all the ingredients needed for homemade s’mores. Crazy, I know…

To get things started, I created marshmallows. I’ll be honest… I’m not personally a very big fan of marshmallows. (I am, however, a big fan of fire, so I’m obliged to eat each one that I burn in the backyard.) The thing about marshmallows is that they are loaded with high fructose corn syrup AND often contain artificial blue dye. (Seriously…) These factors make them a big no-no in our household and we eat them rarely. (See confessions above…)

Our homemade marshmallows are made with honey instead of corn syrup. I think they taste just like the store-bought version and Owen loves them. We’ve yet to try roasting them, but mostly that’s because I haven’t finished making chocolate and graham crackers yet. Can’t wait to share those adventures with you!

Meanwhile, click here for the video that inspired my marshmallow creation. They were pretty easy to make. FYI, I used cornstarch to dry mine. Next time, I think I’ll use powdered sugar. Also, they barely dried. And lastly, mine are a lot lumpier on the top than the pretty pieces you’re about to see. But they still taste good!

For a printable recipe, click here.


You Can Make Washing Soda at Home

convert baking soda to washing soda

About a month ago I shared info on how to create your own homemade laundry detergent and fabric softener. We’ve been using this detergent since mid-February and it works great! Even though we won’t run out for months, I recently bought supplies to make another batch. This time I’m going to try making detergent with Fels Naptha soap. (I already had three bars of soap so I just needed to buy borax and washing soda).

To have a full year’s supply of homemade laundry detergent, I’m going to need to make a third batch. When I get there I’m gonna break all the rules {BWAHAHAHAHA!} and use baking soda… well… kind of…

While meandering around the world wide web checking out detergent “recipes”, I happened upon this little gem: A tutorial for making your own washing soda!

Click here for the tutorial.


Minimally Process Cookies

cookies on plate

Earlier this month I shared this post about how to make natural, homemade vanilla extract. I had no idea it would be such a hit! After posting it, one reader emailed me with the following question:

“I have a question for you in regard to a comment you made about getting rid of all your artificial stuff. I was wondering the cookie recipe you used and if you would share it? My desire is to get rid of the artificial and harmful and make as much as possible from scratch. Thanks for the help.”

First of all, I was pretty excited to get this email because it was my first reader-I’ve-never-met-responding-to-a-blog-post email I’ve ever received. Second, I’m afraid I had to respond and let this dear lady know that the cookies I referenced in my vanilla post were… in fact… deliciously filled with processed food. I did get rid of all of my artificial “baking stuff” but the way I got rid of my white chocolate chips was by making (delicious) cookies with them. The cookies I made that day tasted unbelievably amazing! Besides highly processed white candy chips, they also contained processed white flour and processed sugar (both white and brown sugar). Here’s the original recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(These are NOT minimally processed – keep reading for the minimally processed recipe)

2 ¼ Cups Flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter

¾ cup sugar

¾ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon water

2 eggs

12 ounces chocolate chips


  1. Combine sugars and margarine with handmixer
  2. Add vanilla and water then beat until creamy
  3. Beat in eggs
  4. Add flour mixture (all dry ingredients)
  5. Stir in chocolate chips
  6. Bake at 375* for 10-12 minutes

Make Them Healthier

Despite the fact that the original recipe tastes amazing, this reader’s question sparked a desire in me to develop a less-processed recipe. To make the cookies healthier, I thought I would:

  • Substitute natural/organic whole wheat flour for white, processed flour
  • Use organic butter (I did this originally)
  • Use farm-fresh eggs (I did this originally)
  • Use natural/organic, minimally processed chocolate chips
  • Find a substitute sweetener to replaced the processed sugar

Possible contenders for sugar substitutes included:

  • Stevia
  • Honey
  • Pure maple sugar
  • Pure maple syrup

I decided not to use stevia because I frankly don’t care for the aftertaste it leaves. I don’t have any maple sugar and it’s a wee bit expensive, so I skipped on that one too. Because I have a plethora of both honey and pure (made by my father-in-law) maple syrup at home, I decided to use these as substitutes for the white and brown sugars, respectively. But then riiiight before I mixed the cookie dough I remembered that I’m also not a huge fan of the aftertaste honey sometimes leaves when baked so I decided to go all in with the maple syrup.

When I was planning to use honey I did some research on baking with honey and found the following common tips:

  • Substitute 2/3 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe
  • Reduce the amount of liquid (i.e. milk) by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used
  • Add ½ teaspoon baking soda to the recipe for every cup of honey used
  • Bake at about 25 degrees lower than called for to prevent over-browning

Maple syrup is obviously different than honey, but I decided to follow these guidelines all the same. They seem to have paid off, although you may be able to get away with just 1 teaspoon of baking soda. (Git it a try and let me know what you think.) With all that in mind, I put together the following recipe. Is it good? Yes!! Is it as delicious as the first recipe? Not so much. But if you’d like something sweet and are eager to eat minimally processed foods, they will be very satisfying. The sweetness of the cookies is very subtle while still readily satisfying that sweet-tooth desire for something sugary.

I used Semi-sweet Chocolate Mega Chunks from Enjoy Life Foods and I purchased them at Sawall Health Foods for $5.19 (10 ounces). They are dairy, nut and soy free, are certified gluten free and are also vegan. The mega chunks of chocolate contain no artificial colors, preservatives or additives. (And they’re delicious!)

Minimally Processed Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 ¼ organic whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup organic butter, slightly softened

1 ¼ cups real maple syrup

1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract

2 natural, homegrown eggs

10 oz natural or organic chocolate chips


  1. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter
  2. Mix maple syrup, vanilla and eggs together on low speed
  3. Add liquids to butter and mix for about 1 minute on medium speed (be careful!) or until well blended
  4. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt
  5. Add dry ingredients to liquid and mix (with hand mixer) until smooth
  6. Stir in chocolate chips
  7. Spoon cookies onto un-greased baking sheet and bake at 350* for 10-13 minutes

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

homemade vanilla extract in jar

We do a lot of baking at our house. Because we don’t eat artificial food dye and are trying to avoid artificial everything-else, I recently purged all of the unnatural additives from my baking cupboard. I pitched things like neon food dye, regular food dye, artificial vanilla and a slew of other flavorings like “butter” and “root beer.” All that remained was some pure almond and pure peppermint extract.

If you like to bake as much as I do, you know that a touch of vanilla is an important ingredient in many different recipes. In some cases I was able to substitute the almond flavoring, but you know that’s just not the same. Lucky for me I made a neat little discovery about homemade vanilla extract around Christmas time. (I wanted to share this with you earlier but since I was giving homemade vanilla extract as a gift, I decided to wait.)

The recipe for homemade vanilla extract is below. I’ve baked now with the recommended recipe (2 beans) and my own “recipe”, which really is just double the vanilla beans. Last week I used my double-vanilla extract for the first time. I could not believe what a huge difference it made! These were seriously the best cookies I’ve ever made. Ever.

view of homemade vanilla extract in jar from top

When you look straight down into the jar, you can see all of the vanilla beans laying on the bottom. It looks like there are more than four, but that’s just because I cut them in half so that they would lay beneath the vodka in the jar.

closeup of homemade vanilla extract in glass jar

Looking from the side, the homemade vanilla extract is much darker than artificial vanilla flavoring I’ve used.


Vanilla beans can be expensive. For those of you who are in the Kalamazoo area, we purchased our vanilla beans from Sawall Health Food Store. Don’t let the price per pound scare you! I don’t know exactly what it is, but the price is somewhere around $150/pound! I bought four tiny, practically weightless little beans for somewhere between $1 and $2. Vodka can range in price from $10/bottle to $60/bottle. In theory, the higher the quality of your vodka is, the higher your vanilla extract quality will be. We used a $20 bottle and I’m very pleased with the result.

Making your own vanilla extract is super easy!

Click here for the recipe!


Eat Healthy. Save Money. {Homemade Crackers}

One of the major reasons why we started Arcadia Farms was to learn to eat healthy, live sustainably and to be producers instead of consumers only. In October I announced that I would start focusing part of my attention on “homesteading” topics, including how to create your own {fill in the blank here}, save money, save energy and generally provide for yourself. After some trial and error, here's the recipe I came up with for making 100 tasty crackers for $1.32.  [Read More]
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