Our Virginia Life

Our Virginia Life

Our Virginia LifeThis week I want to share our dream with all of you. Perhaps you’ve been dreaming the dream as well and just don’t think you can get there. Sometimes it takes time—a lot of time. But it is so worth it. I encourage you to start today.

Welcome new listeners. It’s so good to have you. And welcome back veteran homestead-loving regulars. Thank you for stopping by the farmcast every week. I appreciate you all so much. I’m super excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week and I’m super existed to share the history of our homestead dream with you.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • Our Virginia Life
  • Greek Spiced Ground Meat with (optional) Yogurt or Sour Cream

Homestead Life Updates

Garden

Starting with the garden which seems to be at the end of our list of priorities at the moment. The strawberries are overwhelmed with wheat grass. I believe I mentioned that the straw we bought for mulch was full of seeds. I’ve never seen so much waste of wheat. Scott is working on that project today. The carrots are overrun with grass and weeds. I just looked at them. They seem to be holding their own for the moment. It will have to do until Tuesday. That is 3 days from now. Market is tomorrow. Church on Sunday and much needed rest in the afternoon. Cheesemaking on Monday. Hang in there, guys. I’ll save you. And the rest of the garden needs to be weeded and fertilized as well. I still need to get the green beans planted. The peanuts did not sprout and will need to be replanted. And the first harvests will be happening next week as well. I use flowers as pest control but I’m so far behind on my flower starts that the bugs may take over in June. Oh well, we do what we can and don’t sweat it. That’s not quite true is it? We will be sweating a lot come next week.

Cows

Cows are finally getting back into a routine. They really, really don’t like change. We added a new cow. We split up our girls and put one with Butter as a companion. Butter had a calf. All changes. The big one was we changed their feed. Once we changed their feed, all of a sudden the entire herd of Normandes no longer wanted to come into the milking shed and stick their head in the stanchion. I don’t mind so much the ones that we are not milking. But Claire and Buttercup are in milk and have to be milked twice a day. Anyway, we fooled them by putting a bit of sweet feed on top of their nutritional supplement and they are now eating it and getting better about coming into the shed without a lot of hassle. Still some work to do there, but we are making progress. We changed their dairy supplement from a garden variety from Southern States to a non-GMO, non-soy dairy supplement. It’s like a kid that is used to eating McDonald’s and then being switched to organic salad greens. They were pretty petulant. Butter is a different story. She will eat anything you put in front of her and beg for more.

Lambs and Goats

The lambs and goats are doing great. We couldn’t be more pleased with how this group of lambs is progressing. And the goats just keep on keeping on eating weeds and brush that the others won’t touch. They have cleaned up so much around here in the way of small trees that were sprouting, briars, wild blackberry bushes and so on. Good job!!

Creamery

The creamery project has been sitting idle for nearly two weeks. Scott had to fix the bush hog and then mow everything. He built the quail cages for when the little guys get out of the brooder and into their permanent digs. A load of gravel was delivered and he spent quite a bit of time spreading that in the places where erosion and mud was making our lives miserable. A day of digging a trench for drainage out of the milking shed took another day of his time. The days seems to slip by one after another. There is always so much to do and not enough hours in the day.

That update was pretty intense with listing our setbacks on timing. But you know what? We love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. Our lives are filled with purpose and meaning. The geese are strutting around with their gaggles of goslings. The trees are leafing out. The garden is full of all kinds of plants. The calves are a joy to watch as they bask in the sun or galivant around their pasture. We have taken the moment to look at the stars at night in a while. But they are there, waiting for us to enjoy their magnificence.

Our Virginia Life

That brings me to today’s topic. Have you dreamed of living the homestead life? Do you think it is impossible? I want to give you inspiration and share a bit of our journey. It all started in the last century.

The Beginning . . .

Scott and I met in 1999 in western North Carolina. We were two people following similar paths who met and become life-long friends. We apprenticed together at a spiritual training center learning how to teach a meditation technique. This is where we reconnected to our hearts and desire to be close to the land. The dream of our homestead life was born.

During our training we dreamed of a sustainable farm and communal living. We wanted to raise good food as close to nature’s intended way as possible. We knew that experiencing loving relationships with others and soaking up nourishing nature would ultimately help us remember our kinship with God and creation. Two souls had found each other.

Our dream has changed and evolved over time. It continues to evolve. We just took a step and then another and another. Each step clarified our vision. Each step led to the next and sometimes our direction needed to change. So we changed. We continue to take steps and we continue to change.

The first step began 16 years ago and we still don’t have that creamery built. But we love our homestead life and all it brings us.

Buying Land Was the First Step

In the summer of 2003, we bought our first piece of land in southwest Virginia. We rented a mobile home nearby. At this point in our lives we had a great deal of debt: credit cards, school loans, taxes, and now a mortgage. We set out to pay everything off in full. We would have our farm — but we would have it debt-free. We both took on lucrative jobs in Information Technology as the electronic medical records industry kicked off.

Our jobs required extensive travel. We traveled all over the US and to a couple of European countries as well. Every other week we flew home to Virginia to visit our beautiful piece of land.

In 2005 we bought our own mobile home and moved it onto our land. And in the fall, our wedding ceremony took place at the homestead. It was so beautiful. Even though it was November the weather had permitted the leaves to change very slowly. And with very little wind this particular fall, there were many leaves still on the trees. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect time.

Learning to Produce Food

Our first experience with livestock was raising chickens in the summer of 2006.

The contract we had been working for a couple of years was done. I moved on to a different contract and continued traveling. Scott was done with traveling. He remained on the homestead and built a couple of chicken tractors ala Joel Salatin. He raised, and we processed, around 100 chickens. We ate a lot of them ourselves and gave a lot away to relatives and neighbors. This part of the journey was just a taste to get our feet wet.

Twists and Turns and . . . Texas?

Somewhere along that two-year time period we paid all of our debts in full. The next step along the path was making the money needed for infrastructure.

February 2007 Scott went back to work . . .  in Texas.

I was now traveling to various places around the country every week instead of every other week. I lived in hotels and airports with a too quick Saturday and Sunday at home with Scott. What a far cry from the peaceful life we envisioned. We persevered and dreamed on.

In 2008 we bought an additional 40 acres adjoining our property. We were in debt again. This time for more money than ever before. It’s a good thing that I got to walk around that property occasionally or I might have forgotten exactly why we went into debt again. The “why” had to do with dreaming bigger. We were learning about raising sheep. Still very much a dream at this point . . . we’re still living in Texas. The timeline to move permanently to the homestead kept getting longer. That can happen when you’re dreaming while making good coin.

The constant travel and living out of a suitcase got really old, really fast for me. It was fine when I was traveling with my best friend and awesome life partner. Doing it alone was torture. Within a year I was insisting that Scott get a job closer to home. If I was going to fly home every weekend, I wanted it to be Virginia — not Texas. Scott made it happen.

South Carolina is Closer Than Texas

From the fall of 2008 until December 31, 2016 Scott traveled 6 hours every Sunday evening to Beaufort, South Carolina. A guy by himself doesn’t need much and a travel trailer we purchased for the task was sufficient housing. Every Friday evening, he returned to the homestead in Virginia. Six hours again. He did it alone for the first year and a half. Then I got a job offer . . . just outside of Savannah, Georgia.

We moved the travel trailer to a park halfway between Savannah and Beaufort. It was an hour drive for me and 45 minutes for him. We were completely back together again as a couple.

Then in 2010 I got a job offer at the same hospital where Scott had been working for over two years. I jumped on that like a duck on a June bug. We moved the travel trailer to Beaufort and cut our work commute down to 20 minutes. As we were still driving 6 hours each way, we were actually able to leave a little earlier on Friday as Scott no longer drive backwards 45 minutes to pick me up. We only buying gas for one vehicle. These were small but important steps on our journey.

All of this unconventional living circumstance was worth the huge amount of stress that came with it. After all, we were now back together as a couple. That was great. We were at the homestead every single weekend. That was great. And it was only going to be for a couple of years . . .

Five years later and nearly 12 years into the process, I was stressed beyond my capacity to remain sane. I needed a nest. For the final two years of working in Beaufort, we rented an apartment. Moving from 100 square feet to over 1,000 square feet of living space was just enough nesting happiness to get me through it.

In the end, even that wasn’t enough and we decided to make the leap to full-time homesteaders. That was December 31, 2016. Over 13 years of tiny steps and a couple of giant steps.

Getting that creamery built is the focus of our lives right now. We are over 2 years into that process. The dream keeps going. The dream keeps moving forward.

From Chicken Tractors to Raw Milk Artisan Cheese

Let me back up a little bit and fill in some details of how we grew the farm during this period of time. How did we go from pasture raised chickens to artisan cheese? What the heck happened there? Well, we tried a few different things over the years. In order to succeed as a small homestead farmer, diversity is important. You don’t want to have all of your eggs in one basket. However, having a central core enterprise is also important. So one big basket and lots of smaller baskets was our ideal. This also supports our ideal of living a traditional life where every farming family raised much of their own food in addition to their main crop or livestock enterprise.

The weekend life allowed us to dabble a bit in a lot of areas. And we read a lot and studied a lot about many areas of interest. We did a lot of trial and error experiments on a small scale. There is so much that can be done on a homestead. Which was going to be the best fit for us? Like a lot of folks, we tried to do too many things at once. Having that central enterprise is the only way to make it.

Early on we were clear that raising the chickens in 2006 was a great learning exercise but not where our hearts were. Having them for eggs and meat for personal use, yes. But not as our central farm enterprise. In 2009 we put in fruit trees. That’s a long-term project that continues to stretch over many years. Also, for personal use at this point, though the orchard will provide a small income at a later date. You know. The date we actually have time to give it attention. 😊

In 2010 we bought a flock of sheep and a donkey as a guardian animal for them. Twelve pregnant ewes and a pregnant donkey. We proceeded along the lines of raising sheep and selling lamb as our centerpiece. We learned a lot over several years. At one point we had over 70 sheep. However, two things happened that prompted us to change our course yet again. An issue arose around raising and marketing lamb. One, we simply didn’t have the land to raise enough livestock to make it profitable – and two, in 2011 something big changed on the homestead. Love crept in, awakened and rapidly altered the farm dream.

I wanted to make my own butter and cheese and I loved drinking raw milk. I still can’t stand the taste of cooked milk. In 2011 we bought cows. With working toward homestead sustainability as part of our mission, we also wanted beef (and pork and chicken and rabbit). And after researching every cow breed under the sun, we settled on the Normande. It’s a dual breed cow. A prolific milk producer as well as producing well-marbled muscle perfectly suited for beef. For more details on these cows, give a listen to the Peaceful Heart FarmCast episode I dedicated to them.

Suffice it to say, I fell in love with these cows. We knew the lamb was not going to produce the income we desired without adding a lot more pasture. Another alternative arose out of the dream. We could build a creamery and make artisan and farmstead cheese. It just happened to coincide with my desire to have more of these cows in my life. To pay for it, how much longer are we going to have to work for someone else? Yes, that’s the decision that drove the planned two years of living in a travel trailer to a full seven years of craziness.

It was so worth it.

Peaceful Heart Farm Creamery is Born

Finally, I’ve gotten to the part of the story where the creamery comes in. It has been a wild and varied journey getting here. But this is the one. We are investing all of our time and energy into becoming a local cheese resource for our community. We will use traditional cheese making techniques to develop our local cheeses. I have two recipes that meet my expectations regarding the product I want to sell . . .  and I have two others that are currently in development. One is failing miserably. Fear not! I will prevail. We are going to produce the best cheddar cheese that Virginia has ever seen! With a slight tweak on the salt, I’m expecting my alpine-style cheese to be a winner this year as well.

The creamery still has a long way to go before passing state inspection. I’ve got a little time to get the cheese right. In the meantime, I’m getting to know you and getting some really good traditional cooking information together for you. If you are buying local food, it pays to know how to prepare it well.

The latest change is the addition of the herdshare program. We became aware of this need some time ago for offering herdshares to our fellow Virginians. Not everyone wants to live this life but they want the benefit of the great food that it produces. One of those great foods is milk from pasture-raised cows. If you’ve been following me, you’ve heard me talk about this before. You can own a piece of a grassfed dairy herd. We provide the land, animals and labor so you don’t have to do that part.

We purchased a lovely Jersey cow from a fellow Farmer’s Market vendor. She has had her calf and is now producing wonderful A2A2 milk. We are offering milk and/or yogurt (full fat or low fat with honey) during the summer months, May through October. November through April cheese and butter will come out of the herdshare. During times of abundance in the summer you may find yourself with a little extra product. Your herd sometimes produces a LOT of milk. And at other times not so much.

What Else?

At some point we added cashmere goats to our livestock. I’m a big knitter and dream of using only 100% cashmere. More and more my skepticism that I will ever reach that goal increases. You can only do so much! For now, they keep our pastures clear of brambles and provide us with some really great nutrition. But their days are numbered. You remember what I talked about earlier? There are only so many hours in a day. So, dream big but keep in mind that at some point, likely you will have to trim it back a little.

At the present time on the homestead, the only food we don’t produce is eggs (and coffee). That situation will be rectified in the next few months. I believe I’ve mentioned before that Scott doesn’t have the time to invest in building elaborate chicken housing and protection. His priority is getting that creamery functional. Instead, we’ve opted for quail. This is 99% my project. Scott will build a couple of cages that will likely take no more than a day or two to complete. The rest is all on me.

With the addition of the quail, all of our food will now be produced on the homestead. We spend hours and hours working, sweating and loving every minute of our life.

We are meeting new people just like you at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market. Come see us on Saturdays 8am to 12 noon. Taste our grass-fed beef, lamb, and goat. Talk to us about your interest in a herdshare and taste our yogurt. There are lots of other great vendors there as well. And remember, you can come directly to the farm on Tuesday mornings 10am to 12 noon or Saturday afternoons from 3pm to 5pm. Call for directions. We’d love to help you get here.

Greek Seasoned Ground Meat Medley with (optional) Yogurt or Sour Cream

This recipe is for my Keto and carnivore friends and listeners. If you have a traditional, diversified farm with all kinds of ruminant animals, this recipe is for you. Or if you are shopping at your local farmer’s market for a variety of grass-fed meats, this recipe is for you. It calls for one pound each of beef, lamb and chev or goat, but you can use any combination of these meats. Or you could divide the ingredients by three and only use 1 lb.

What You Need

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb ground chev (goat)
  • 3 tablespoon butter

Spice Mix

  • 3 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons salt (less is fine)
  • 3 teaspoons ground pepper
  • ¾ cup water

What To Do

  1. Brown ground meats until fully cooked
  2. Drain pan drippings and add butter (this is actually optional but worth it)
  3. Mix in spices and water
  4. Simmer 5 to 10 minutes
  5. Serve with yogurt or sour cream

Final Thoughts

I hope you found some inspiration to follow your dreams whatever they may be. By continually putting one foot in front of the other, you will get there. Keep the vision in front of you and keep plugging away. Start as small as you need to and build a little each day. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or what route you follow. It really doesn’t. It is all about the journey. You will never reach your destination because there is always another dream in the making. It’s all about the journey and living each day to the fullest. Go for it!

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, we’d really love it if you shared it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”

Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

Recipe Link

Greek Seasoned Ground Meat Medley with (optional) Yogurt or Sour Cream

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Greek Spiced Ground Meat Medley with Yogurt or Sour Cream

Greek Spiced Ground Meat Medley with Yogurt or Sour Cream

This recipe is for my Keto and carnivore friends and listeners. If you have a traditional, diversified farm with all kinds of ruminant animals, this recipe is for you. Or if you are shopping at your local farmer’s market for a variety of grass-fed meats, this recipe is for you. It calls for one pound each of beef, lamb and chev or goat, but you can use any combination of these meats. Or you could divide the ingredients by three and only use 1 lb.

For those of you who are not restricting carbohydrates, feel free to stuff this into a pita. You’ll be glad you did!!

Greek Seasoned Ground Meat Medley with (optional) Yogurt or Sour Cream

A lovely blend of spices with a variety of ground meats. Stuff it in a pita and enjoy!!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Hot Entrée
Cuisine: Greek
Servings: 12

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb ground chev goat
  • 3 tablespoon butter

Spice Mix

  • 3 teaspoons garlic minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons salt less is fine
  • 3 teaspoons ground pepper
  • ¾ cup water

Instructions

  • Brown ground meats until fully cooked
  • Drain pan drippings and add butter (this is actually optional but worth it)
  • Mix in spices and water
  • Simmer 5 to 10 minutes
  • Serve with yogurt or sour cream
This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm: 5/15/19

This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm: 5/15/19

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This Week at Peaceful Heart Farm:

Hello everybody,

New births again this week on the homestead. I know I said that last week. But it’s true. This week we have a brand new jersey calf. And we have a new set of twin lambs. That’s the last for the sheep. Likely next week I will say the same. We expect Violet to calve sometime after Sunday. She will be the last new mom for a while.

News about the Herdshares. Butter and her calf have A2A2 genetics and will provide excellent milk for our Herdshare program. We are seasonal milkers so when you buy into our herd, you will be part of that seasonal routine. During the summer months, first week of May through last week of October, your cows will provide milk, yogurt, and cream. During the winter months, twice monthly pickup November through April, your cows will provide cheese and butter. Please contact me if you are interested in our Herdshare program. 

Buying a Herdshare makes sense if you’ve ever wanted to have the benefits of consuming your own milk and milk products from your own cow but were not prepared to care for the animal. You don’t have the space, the knowledge, or the desire to get dirty. We can take care of that for you. For $60 you can buy a share of our herd ($30 for 1/2 share) and then pay us a monthly fee of $44 ($22 for 1/2 share) for the care of your animals. That entitles you to the benefits of the milk and other products generated by the cows in the herd.  Get on the wait list early as there will be a limited number of shares available. Contact us Here

As always, we’d love to meet you in person. Come see us at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market. We can talk about Herdshares. The summer season is in full swing and we will be there every Saturday from 8 am to 12 noon. This week I’ll have tasting samples of our grass-fed beef, lamb and chev (goat). I will also have yogurt samples. 

Visit our dairy farm in Claudville, Virginia Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 noon and Saturday afternoons from 3 pm to 5 pm. Come visit us in person, find out how we raise our animals and why you will love the taste of tradition that is inherent in all of our products. If you are interested in herdshares, you will be able to see up close how your cows will be cared for and where your cheese will be made and stored. 

  • This week’s FarmCast is Cooking on the Hearth. In a previous podcast I presented a recipe with instruction on how to cook it on a traditional hearth. This podcast expands on that idea, providing details about this way of cooking. The concepts are also valid for cooking outdoors in your backyard. 
  • Most Recent Recipes
  • Important Stuff in the News This Week

Peaceful Heart FarmCast

I want to follow up on a previous FarmCast, The Taste of Cheese where I talked about developing your expertise with using descriptive words. The FREE downloads of Classifying Cheese by Type and Category and Expand Your Cheese Vocabulary are still available at our website. Please stop by and get your FREE resources. 

This week’s FarmCast provides greater detail on how our ancestral mothers (and fathers) used open fire to cook all of the meals for the family. A fireplace was the centerpiece of the home. Cooking on the Hearth is a fun podcast with a closer look at the intricacies of building fires and using it effectively for cooking meals. 

I hope this FarmCast stimulates you to go outside and spend time in nature. Build a fire. Prepare your meal. Get a feel for how far we have come with our modern conveniences in the kitchen.  And then some things remain the same. You still need poke, shovel, and tongs to effectively work a fire. You can LISTEN TO THE EPISODE HEREOr, if you have an Alexa device, just say:Alexa, play podcast Peaceful Heart FarmCast.

And don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the Peaceful Heart Farm podcast on Apple PodcastsAndroidTuneIn, Stitcher or Spotify


Recent Recipes

Click the links and check them out. All of my recipes are printable.

mint sauceMint Sauce: This is an easy mint sauce recipe that will make your lamb dinner out of this world. It’s basic structure is a combination of sweet and sour with that unforgettable taste of mint.

Try it with this Easter Leg of Lamb. Replace the red wine vinegar sauce with Eliza Leslie’s Mint Sauce.

easter leg of lambMom’s Chocolate Pie: The Tradition of Mother’s Day provides the perfect opportunity to try out Mom’s Chocolate Pie. This one is easy with a classic meringue topping. If you prefer whipped cream or whipped topping, it will do just as well. Make mom proud in 2019. You can do it!! 

Stinging Nettles InfusionStinging Nettles Infusion: This is an energizing infusion. It works on the adrenals to build energy and stamina. Conversely, with strengthened adrenal function you can expect to rest better and to experience less anxiety.

best lasagna everBest Ever Lasagna: This traditional lasagna is stacked high, with three full layers of pasta filled with sauce, ricotta, Italian sausage and ground beef , then plenty of mozzarella and Parmesan. Finally, one last layer of pasta gets added, topped with a sprinkling of more cheese and some sauce.

It’s decadent and delicious.


Important Stuff in the News

Herd Shares in Virginia: The Stumbling Beginnings: This article will help you better understand all about Herd Shares. How they evolved. Why they exist. How they work. 

Virginia: Victory Over Herdshare Threat: We have a great team of people here in Virginia fighting for our right to consume whatever food we wish. When you join our herdshare, you also become part of this growing community of citizens interested in regaining control of their food source. 

Jennifer Bice, A Woman of Vision: This is a woman after my own heart. Especially since she loves her animals. She is an extraordinary business woman. Check out her story.


Cooking on the Hearth

Cooking on the Hearth

 cooking on the hearthThis week’s topic brings back memories of days gone by and just might stir up the desire in you to cook over an open fire. Well perhaps not you. Maybe someone you know.

In any case, I thank you all for listening and hope you find this information useful. Thank you, thank you to all of you veteran homestead-loving regulars and welcome to all of you new listeners out there. Let me know what you’re interested in and I’ll see if I can come up with some compelling dialogue.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • Cooking on the Hearth
  • Mint Sauce (for Lamb Roast)

Homestead Life Updates

Cows

Our newest addition, Butter, had her calf. Butter is a purebred Jersey with certified A2A2 genetics. If you are not familiar with what that means, well that’s a podcast for another time. The health benefits of raw milk from cows with A2A2 genetics are substantial. We have four calves now—with 2 more still to come.

Sheep

Finally, the last ewe had her lambs. She has a lovely set of twins. That brings our total lambs this season to 9. All are alive and well. Only one issue. But Lambert is doing well on his bottle. Every morning and afternoon I go out and call “lambikins” and he comes running. As soon as he has finished his bottle, he turns around and trots back to his mom and 2 siblings.

Quail

The quail have hatched. We have 24 baby quail in a brooder right now. They peeped a lot when they first hatched, but now they are as quiet as church mice. I’ve spent lots of time just watching them run around pecking here and there. In three weeks’ time they will be fully feathered and ready to move to their quail condo. By 8 weeks, the hens will be laying eggs and I will start the process all over again until we have the number of birds we want for breeding stock. Our goal is to raise all of the eggs we eat. Eggs and coffee are the only items I currently buy from the grocery store. Soon to be only coffee.

Steers

We have 3 steers soon to be up for grabs. If you are interested in a ¼, ½ or whole steer, please get on the list quickly. The first one will go to processing in late June and will be available for pickup around mid-July. We are always limited in the amount of grass-fed beef that we have available. Again, please get on the list early.

Garden

The tomatoes are in the garden. It was a bigger job than I thought, but I persevered and got them all in the ground. The beans are up. I still need to plant the green beans. And just today we got the sweet potato slips. Once the beans and sweet potatoes go in, I will have planted that entire garden. Oops, I almost forgot. I need to plant the sunflowers between the tomatoes.

I’m amazed at how much I accomplished on my own with this garden. Sure, Scott did a lot of the heavy work with the mulch and initial fertilizer, but the rest was all me. I’ve never done that much on my own before. Diet and exercise is working wonders for me.

Creamery

Not much to report on the creamery this week. We’ve been tied up with other tasks and another week has slipped by with only a little progress. Life on the homestead is constantly filled with meaningful, fulfilling tasks. Scott really does have a lot on his plate right now. He’s doing a great job juggling all of his responsibilities. He is so awesome.

Cooking on the Hearth

In the Cooking Through the Ages FarmCast I finished up with a recipe for cooking cornbread on the hearth. There have been so many questions about hearthside cooking, I decided to do an episode on the techniques and knowledge that our great-great-great-great grandmothers used to cook meals for their families. When the United States was founded, all cooking was done over a fire. Most often it was done in the fireplace of the home.

Knowledge of fire-building was a part of everyday life. There were specific tools and implements that assisted in the cooking process. I’ll talk about those as well.

Today we see a fireplace is a charming optional feature for a home. In yesterday’s world a fireplace was absolutely essential to living and the virtual center of family life. It was the primary heat source, was a major source of light, and provided the means by which all food was prepared.

We have a wood stove and perhaps you do too. Once the match was invented, fire building became pretty easy. We merely crumble up some newspaper, lay on some wood, then strike the match. Before this modern convenience, coals had to be carefully banked at night to ensure a ready fire was easily built for the next day’s meals. A “cold fire” meant using flint and steel to strike sparks in extremely flammable tinder, skillful application of air and carefully feeding small twigs, then larger and larger sticks into the flame.

Fire Safety

Another convenience of today that we may take for granted is our screened fireplaces. Together with normal precautions, fire hazards from sparks and coals hitting the floor are reduced to nearly nothing. In the past, the fear of fire meant constant vigilance. A coal of fire accidentally falling on the floor causing a fire was not uncommon in the days of large fireplaces with steadily burning fires and no protective screening. In fact, hearth injuries were second only to childbearing as the leading cause of death in women.

Certain safeguards made the difference between a pleasurable, rewarding cooking and heating experience and possible tragedy.

Some things kept on hand included having a bucket of water nearby and a woolen blanket that could smother flames. Long skirts would be tucked up and out of the way when working at the fire. Women often checked the lower hem of their skirts for smoldering cloth if their dress was dragged across live coals. Have you noticed how women wore hats in the past. Their hair was covered and no bare feet were to be found near the fire.

Carefully thought out steps also guarded against accidents. The immediate area needed to be kept clear when moving hot coals. Heavy iron pots filled with simmering liquid or food were not easy to handle. Extreme care was taken in removing them from the crane or lifting them from the coals. Frying foods and roasting meats require care to avoid burns from splattering fat. Staying continually alert was the best protection against mishaps.

Building a Fire

Everyone has his or her own theory for “correct” fire building. Here is a relatively simple method that has worked quite well for us. Sometimes we have to start with a clean fireplace. However, old ashes provide insulation and helps to maintain heat. We usually crumple several sheets of newspaper on top of the existing ashes for kindling. In the 18th century scrapwood, bark or small and dry branches would be used in lieu of paper. Next, we lay the wood on the kindling in a grid pattern, starting with soft kindling wood such as pine. On top of the kindling, we lay a mixture of hardwood and softwood in slightly larger pieces. Next follows another layer of hardwood. At that point, we would simply use a lighter to make a flame on the end of a very small piece of pine kindling and light the newspaper at the rear of the fire. Starting the fire at the rear allows the fire to start warming the chimney. After the fire is well-established, we add large pieces of wood to keep the flames burning steadily. Hardwoods for this purpose include oak and hickory. Cedar has a tendency to “pop”, creating a possible fire hazard without the door on our stove or the fire screens I mentioned earlier. So no cedar in an open hearth. You can use fruit woods, such as apple and cherry, to provide a tantalizing aroma and impart a delicious flavor to roasting meats.

Cooking on the Hearth

The fire should be started well before actual cooking begins. You might think that Hearthside cooking is all done directly over a fire. Not true. Though flames are necessary for roasting and cooking on a crane (I’ll talk more about the tools next), the quantity of coals is more important. It will be at least two hours of preparatory fire burning before a large amount of coals is ready to be raked or shoveled into individual mounds on the hearth. Moving the coals around and piling them creates cooking areas something like the burners on your modern stove. Most hearth cooking—baking, frying, simmering—was done over glowing embers. The need for a steady supply of embers necessitates a continuously burning fire.

Equipping a Fireplace Hearth for Cooking

If this topic of Hearthside cooking is of interest to you as a hobby, there are tools are available still available for purchase. Artisans are producing ironwork, pottery, woodenware and tin-ware for reasonable prices. With a few basic implements, any fireplace can be made ready for cooking. The following are essential for open hearth food prep:

  1. A swinging crane
  2. Pot hangers—S-hooks, trammel, ratchets
  3. Dutch ovens—a minimum of two
  4. Long handled tools including spoons, ladle, meat fork, and spatula
  5. Trivets
  6. An iron pot
  7. Poker, tongs, and shovel

The crane

The swinging crane, a hinged device bolted into the side of the fireplace, was a major development in kitchen furnishings. Prior to the crane, the lug pole was used. It was a fixed device suspended across the upper portion of the fireplace and fitted into the brick itself. To use the fixed lug pole you had to step on the hearth and leaning into the fireplace to suspend or remove those heavy iron pots filled with food or water. At best, this was dangerous. The swinging crane brought new flexibility and safety since it could be swung out and away from the fire for use.

Pots Hangers

Pots were suspended from the crane by a variety of hangers. The simplest is the S-hook, which can be linked together with others to raise or lower a pot over the flames and thus regulate the amount of heat for cooking. I use a version of this to raise and lower the height of the lights over my plant seedlings.

Other pot hangers included the trammel, basically a flat hanger with the hook and eye arrangement. The eye goes over the crane and there is a hook for the pot handle. The trammel is too long and cumbersome for modern fireplaces, but they were very important for the large fireplaces found in the days of colonial America.

Dutch Ovens

A Dutch oven is probably the single most important item for Hearthside cooking. It can be used to bake bread and desserts. You can use it to stew meats and vegetables or to brown foods. Standing on three short legs, the Dutch oven would be placed on a bed of coals and its contents would be covered with a tightfitting lid. Additional coals are then shoveled on top. Voila! An oven is created. The coals are replenished as needed. Generally, cooking times are equal to those given in modern recipes. With this most important piece of equipment, anything done in a modern oven can be duplicated on the hearth.

Long Handled Tools

A variety of long handled tools are needed for stirring, mixing, turning, basting, skimming, and labeling. Made of iron or wood, they include spatulas, meat forks, spoons, strainers, and ladles. You can find these today for use with outdoor grills.

Trivets

Trivets refers to a tripod used to elevate pots from the coals of an open fire. In fireplace cooking they were used to hold pots and kettles for cooking over the coals and for keeping already prepared foods warm.

Iron Pot

An iron pot, hung on the crane, is indispensable for soups, stews, and boiled puddings. Usually equipped with legs, the pot is also useful for simmering directly over the coals.

Tongs, Poker, Shovel

The same equipment used for our woodstove—tongs, poker, and shovel—are also needed and for the same purpose as times past. They are used to manipulate the wood and coals.

Additional Utensils

Hearthside tools could be supplemented with an endless array of additional utensils, especially those for roasting.

For roasting meats and fowl, a pair of andirons or firedogs, fitted with hooks to hold an iron spit, is one such accessory. Food to be cooked is skewered on the spit and then suspended between the firedogs. The simplest of these spits has a handle at one end. The meat is turned on the spit for even roasting.

A necessary adjunct to roasting is a dripping pan, generally made of iron. It is placed underneath the roasting meat to catch its juices. The juices are then used for basting and later used to make gravy.

A long handled frying pan is another helpful utensil for open hearth cooking. Set on a trivet or made with three legs to stand over the coals, the frying pan is helpful for frying or sautéing.

A griddle for baking over the fire is another useful kitchen utensil used to bake a variety of muffins, buns, and pancakes. Its handle is secured to the crane by a pot hanger. Also needed for baking are pie and cake tins and tart and biscuit pans.

We’ve come a long way baby. It’s still fun to use some of these traditional techniques. They are applicable on your camping trips or backyard firepits as well.

A colonial meal would be composed of foods dictated by the season and the weather. In a future podcast I’ll talk about the traditional seasonal cuisine of Virginia.

Eliza Leslie’s Mint Sauce Recipe

We have lots of lamb. Cruise on over to our website www.peacefulheartFarm.com, and place in order. Then stop by the farm on Tuesday mornings between 10 and 12 or Saturday afternoons between three and five and pick it up. And to go with that lamb you might want to try making this wonderful mint sauce.

This is Eliza Leslie’s mint sauce recipe in its original form.

Take a large bunch of fine fresh green mint, that has been washed well. Strip the leaves from the stems, and mince them well. Put it into a pint bowl, and mix with it gradually some of the best cider vinegar. This sauce must not be the least liquid, but as thick as horseradish sauce or thicker. Make it very sweet, with the best brown sugar. Mix it well, and transfer to a small tureen, or a little deep dish with a teaspoon in it. Serve it up always with roast lamb, putting a teaspoonful on the rim of your plate.

A quart or more of mint sauce, made as above, but with a larger portion of sugar and vinegar, will keep very well for several weeks, in a jar well corked.

As I’ve said before, early recipes can really only be followed by the best of cooks. Here’s what the recipe looks like in our modern lingo.

Makes approximately 1 cup

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh mint leaves

Hearth:

  1. Combine vinegar and brown sugar in small saucepan. Set on trivet over hot coals and heat until warm.
  2. Remove from heat and add mint leaves. Stir well and set aside to cool.
  3. Pour into sauce boat and serve as accompaniment to roast lamb.

Modern:

  1. Follow hearth direction 1, heating vinegar and sugar over low heat.
  2. Complete following hearth directions 2 and 3.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this week’s traditional hearth cooking topic. The mint sauce recipe is available FREE for download at www.peacefulheartFarm.com/category/recipes/. You’ll find all of my other recipes there as well. And again, don’t forget to pop over to the online farm store to make your lamb purchase to go with that mint sauce.

Speaking of lambs, we have been extremely blessed this season with nine healthy lambs. It doesn’t always happen that way and we are grateful.

Remember to get on the list for purchasing ¼, ½ or whole beeves.

As we get ramped up for our herd share program, we will be busier than ever. But we’re never too busy to listen to your input. Stop by website and leave us your feedback. We’d loving your ideas.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, please share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

As always, I’m here to help you “taste the traditional touch.”

Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

Recipe Link

Eliza Leslie’s Mint Sauce

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Easy Mint Sauce

Easy Mint Sauce

This is an easy mint sauce recipe that will make your lamb dinner out of this world. It’s basic structure is a combination of sweet and sour with that unforgettable taste of mint.

Try it with this Easter Leg of Lamb. Replace the red wine vinegar sauce with Eliza Leslie’s Mint Sauce.

Eliza Leslie’s Mint Sauce

This is Eliza Leslie’s mint sauce recipe in its original form. Take a large bunch of fine fresh green mint, that has been washed well. Strip the leaves from the stems, and mince them well. Put it into a pint bowl, and mix with it gradually some of the best cider vinegar. This sauce must not be the least liquid, but as thick as horseradish sauce or thicker. Make it very sweet, with the best brown sugar. Mix it well, and transfer to a small tureen, or a little deep dish with a teaspoon in it. Serve it up always with roast lamb, putting a teaspoonful on the rim of your plate. A quart or more of mint sauce, made as above, but with a larger portion of sugar and vinegar, will keep very well for several weeks, in a jar well corked. As I’ve said before, early recipes can really only be followed by the best of cooks. Here’s what the recipe looks like in our modern lingo.
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: American, French, Mediterranean

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or more to taste
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh mint leaves

Instructions

Hearth:

  • Combine vinegar and brown sugar in small saucepan. Set on trivet over hot coals and heat until warm.
  • Remove from heat and add meant leaves. Stir well and set aside to cool.
  • Pour into sauce boat and serve as accompaniment to roast lamb.

Modern:

  • Follow hearth direction 1, heating vinegar and sugar over low heat.
  • Complete following hearth directions 2 and 3.
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