A day in the life on our homestead. My brother-in-law says we are always working. He is so right. And we love it. There is never a dull moment around here. For sure, sometimes it seems like just too much and wouldn’t a life of leisure be preferable. No, not really. As I imagine that life, I can only see boredom and always searching for something new and interesting. Here we don’t have to search for it as it comes to us every single day. Today I’ll give you an overview of a whirlwind day I recently experienced.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
I’m going to skip most of the updates on the animals as they will show up in my rendition of a day in the life on our homestead. I will just briefly mention that Sweet Pea and Johnny are still looking for a new “forever home”. We love them but we simply do not need four donkeys. We intentionally reduced our sheep population and now the coyotes have reduced it even further. It will take time to rebuild what we have lost. In the end, we will still have only a small number of sheep, perhaps a dozen or so, compared to our high of 70 animals in the flock.
We are winding down our cashmere goat herd this fall. Next up will be bringing in a few Kiko goats. Perhaps I will do a whole podcast on this breed of goat. They were bred in New Zealand. The wild goats were bred with domestic stock to create a breed that is disease and parasite resistant. And my favorite attribute they bred for was little to no hoof maintenance. Most domestic goats in the US have a really hard time with their hooves. I look forward to raising goats that can be comfortable on their feet without constant attention.
That’s it for now. I want to get on to the topic of a day in the life on the homestead. I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse of the story of our life.
A Day in the Life
Our day begins the same every morning. Scott and I pray the rosary together. It’s a great meditation and starts our day off in the right frame of mind. God first.
Now we get ready for morning milking. There isn’t much for me to as Scott handles most of the milking tasks. I handle some of the cleanup at the end. The only thing I have for this morning is to tend to the baby quail chicks. I make sure they have food and fresh water. The little ones get checked on twice a day. The grownups, only in the evening. Everyone looks good this morning and they are happy to have food and water.
Scott is still working on the milking so I take the opportunity for a brief walk through the garden. I decide to harvest some fresh herbs for the farmer’s markets. It’s a spur of the moment decision just because I have some time and it’s a beautiful morning to be in the garden. I sprint back to the house, pick up some scissors and a bucket and I’m back out in the garden in a flash. I love cutting fresh herbs. This morning it’s basil leaves, oregano sprigs and bunches of thyme. The smell is heavenly. The herbs are quickly stored in the cooler. I will package them later – probably tomorrow.
Making a Snack
I need to have protein snacks quickly available. Hard boiled eggs are one of my favorites. My Corsori, an Instapot lookalike, can handle 18 eggs at a time. Six minutes under pressure, six minutes cool down and natural pressure release, followed by a quick pressure release and open the lid. Six minutes in a cold-water bath, then peel. I like using my pressure cooker because the shells always just fall off when I am peeling them.
We generally eat just two meals a day. Scott makes us brunch somewhere between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. It is usually in that 11:00 to 12:00 range. If I plan well, dinner will be around 5:00 pm for me. Scott’s dinner is always much later. Well, not always, but usually his preference is to work outside right up until milking time in the evening. He will eat after all of that is done and he has had a shower. That’s an Italian evening meal time around 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening. Sometimes he even gets the Italian siesta in the afternoon. Most times not though.
Starting Strawberry Jam
I’ve got four quarts of strawberries that need to be attended to today. I’ll be making jam. I love strawberry jam. It’s a quick job to cut out the stems and dice them up. Two quarts of cut berries and six cups of sugar. I’ll add a dash of lemon to help maintain the bright red color.
Well, the strawberries are mixed with the sugar in the pot on the stove, but I’ve got to interrupt that process and forego the cooking and canning part. I’ll cover the pot with a clean towel and get back to it in a little while. This is a day in the life on the homestead. We need to take care of some animals. I have cream warming up in the butter churn. There is still about an hour before it will be warm enough to churn into butter. It should be possible to get it all done in time.
The flies have been horrendous. We have two suffering from pink eye. In humans we call it conjunctivitis. It is a bacterial infection of the eye. The flies irritate the eye and make it susceptible to the bacteria. The flies are also spreading it from one to another. Anyway, we put antibiotic cream directly in the eye and then followed up with injectable antibiotic. We are as natural as possible in raising and caring for our livestock. However, I’m sure you have heard me say this before, if they need medical treatment, they get it. In this case, blindness is a real possibility if the condition is left untreated.
We spent quite some time checking on each and every cow to make sure there were only two affected. I even treated Newton, the youngest calf at three weeks of age. This was prophylactic just in case. The younger calves are often the most susceptible. He looked fine but we treated him anyway. Just the cream, not the injection.
The whole process took more time than I had planned. There were four different groups of animals. There are the milking girls. Then there is the group we call the nursery girls. We do not milk them, but they are nursing calves three calves between the two of them. We also have Luna in that group. She is a heifer and has no calf. And Buttercup is also in that group. She did not have a calf this year. The boys are always in a group by themselves because two of them are bulls. They can’t just run with the girls. That would be a breeding disaster. And then there was Virginia and baby Newton. All in all, it took longer than the hour I had set aside but the cream was still in good shape for making butter.
I’m back inside now running the electric butter churn while the strawberries are heating up and cooking for the jam. It’s a little risky to do both of these things at once as they both have a break point that must be met. I gambled anyway. I figured the butter would get done long before the strawberries and sugar reached the gel point. It didn’t.
I don’t use pectin in my jams. I just cook it to gel point. That usually takes about 40 minutes or so. The butter got done just a few minutes before the jam reached the gel point. So, what do I do now? Well, I just turn the churn off and let the butter sit in the churn until I can get to it. I still had to be quick. The problem there is that the warmer the butter gets, the harder it is to work with. It is literally melting in my hands if it gets too warm.
Finishing the Strawberry Jam
The jam is ready. I quickly fill the jars, clean the rims, secure the lids and put them in the water-bath canner. Now I have time for the butter. It will take a while for the water to heat up to a rolling boil for the jam. Once it reaches that point, it is just a matter of setting a timer for how long to process the jam. That’s 20 minutes at my altitude.
I clean up the butter by rinsing it over and over with cold water. Then squish it firmly into 4 oz silicon soap molds and put the mold tray into the freezer. Tomorrow I will remove it from the freezer and pop out and wrap each 4 oz block of butter in paper. Now that the butter is in the freezer and the jam is processing in the canner, all of the clean-up for these two tasks is happening. I’m pretty messy when filling jars. There are bits of jam all over. And the butter? That requires lots of soap to get all that greasy mess in the churn, the bowls and utensils cleaned up. Whew, it feels good to get all that done. What’s next? Yes, there is more.
Making Blueberry Jam
Now I’m ready to make blueberry jam. I smashed them, added the sugar and got started heating them up. That takes a while. I have time to get more jars ready for the blueberry jam. The jars of strawberry jam are finished and need to come out of the water-bath canner. I’ll keep the water in it near boiling waiting for the blueberry jam. That makes the second batch quicker as the time to reach boil after adding the jars will be shorter. As the blueberry jam nears the gel point, I’m stirring constantly to keep it from sticking. Make sure to have my clothes covered. It begins to spit out blueberry goo all over the place. Stir more to keep that under control. That’s another mess to be cleaned up later.
Now it’s reached gel point, repeat the filling of jars, adding lids and put them in the canner. I’m a little tired but there is still so much to do. I think I’ll take a much-needed short break while this second batch of jam is processing. I have about 45 minutes or so to relax.
It’s now late afternoon and I need to create the weekly newsletter for all who are following what we are up to on the homestead. I like communicating with all of my customers and those who just follow us because they like hearing about our progress on the homestead.
It’s important to get the information out weekly. There are always updates and changes to what is happening at the farmer’s markets. I’ve done this so many times, that I have made the process quick and efficient. The newsletter is done and out in the email ethers. Now it’s probably time for evening milking and other chores.
We start each milking event by warming up Newton’s milk. He gets two half-gallon calf milk bottles morning and evening. That’s two gallons per day. As a side note, tomorrow, I’ll spend quite a bit of time filling up gallon jars for just this purpose. We store his milk in one-gallon jars. Twice a day we put a gallon jar in a bucket of hot water. After about a half hour, we pour out the now cold water and refill it with hot water again. In another half hour it is warm enough for him to drink ready to be poured into the calf bottles.
All of this minutia becomes second nature as we do it twice a day. Go get the cows, get them prepped for milking, turn on the machine and put the milking inflations on their teats. Wait for about six minutes and they are done. Two at a time so there is a second round for Violet. The milk gets filtered and poured into five-gallon cans which are stored in the bulk cooling tank. The milk must be cooled to below 40 degrees in less than two hours. Then the clean-up procedures begin.
While Scott is doing those milking tasks, I’m taking care of the quail. The babies get food and water again. I collect eggs from the big girls, give them feed, and check their automatic watering system. I refill the 5-gallon bucket that automatically feeds into little cups in their cages as needed. Not a lot to do here, but a daily tasks nonetheless.
Clean Up Time
At the end is lots of clean up. Calf bottles, milk filter, milking machine – all have to be meticulously cleaned and sanitized. Then dinner, a shower and it’s time to wind down for the evening. For me that is usually around 8:00 or 8:30. Scott is sometimes just eating dinner at 9:00 or 9:30 – he may or may not have had that wonderful shower.
Tomorrow’s To-Do List
There is a lot more to do tomorrow. It will be Thursday. I need to get ready for the farmer’s markets on Friday and Saturday. That means making labels for those two new jams. And do you remember those herbs I cut early this morning? Yeah, those have to be packaged. I have three more half-gallons of cream and need to make another butter. I’m not sure how I got behind on that, but it will be good to catch up.
All milk cans need to be emptied and cleaned. I’ll pour milk into 14 one-gallon jars for feeding Newton for the next week. And I will pour up milk for Friday and Saturday herd share pickups. I’ll need a gallon and a half of milk put back to make yogurt on Monday or Tuesday next week. I may even pour up some drinking milk for us. Any remaining milk gets the cream skimmed off the top. I store the cream in half gallon jars.
The remaining cans usually have enough cream to skim to make one batch of butter. That will also happen next week on Tuesday or Wednesday. I make three pounds of butter at a time, usually once a week. I’ll have some extra cream to add back into the skim milk to make Scott’s half and half. He loves his coffee. In the end, there will be leftover skim milk and that gets poured on the garden. The green beans and tomatoes are loving that milk fertilizer. They look amazing.
Not a Typical Day in the Life
The day I just described is not every day, but it is very often the life that I live. It is wonderful. Actually, on most days, I laze around and would only make one batch of jam and maybe no butter. Some days, Scott takes a nap in the middle of the day or comes in and just vegges out on Facebook or YouTube. Sometimes he is doing more than vegging out. Sometimes he is sharing his day in the life on our Facebook page. If you are not following us there, please do. You get my perspective here, and Scott’s perspective can be found on the Facebook page with pictures and videos. Just search for Peaceful Heart Farm and it should come right up. Like us and share our content.
Well, I got tired just talking about all of that. I think I’ll end early today. We have that luxury any time we want – within limits. The cows still need to be milked twice daily and the quail need daily care. But other than that, we set our schedule.
So, my brother-in-law says we seem to always be working and when is age going to slow us down? We hope that’s a long way in the future. I’m 66 and Scott will be 66 next month. This lifestyle keeps us fit. We get to eat healthy food that we have produced ourselves. Or at the very least, we know the farmer from which we purchased those eggs and hydroponic lettuce. And the blueberries and strawberries that went into the jams came from local farmers as well. We all grow good food and support each other.
I hope you enjoyed that walk through a day in my life. As I said, every day is not that busy, but I really enjoy the challenge in finding out how much I can accomplish in a day. I’m not crazy enough to do it every day though. I also need to spend time sitting at my computer making podcasts for you guys. I love you so much. Thank you so much for listening and sharing our joy.
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Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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