It has been a wild and crazy few days and there are more to come. Today’s podcast will be short. We do not have internet and won’t have it for 5 more days for a total of 8 days.

If you are new, welcome. Thank you so much for tuning in and I hope you’ll engage and comment as we go along. And as always, welcome back to the veteran traditional homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast every week. I appreciate you all so much. I have so much to share about the farm this week that it is the topic of the day.

Today’s recipe is MIA, missing in action for reasons I will detail later.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • The Storm
  • No Recipe

Homestead Life Updates

I’m wanted to start out with the ordinary, the usual. The animals, the garden, the orchard, the creamery, the cheesemaking. I wanted to speak in general terms and fill in details later in the main body of this podcast. However, I can’t really cover it even in general terms without the overlay of the wake of the storm we had three days ago. It is coloring everything at the moment and will continue to do so for quite a while into the future.

I’ll start with describing the storm and the initial damage and the move into how it affects the animals, the orchard, the creamery, and the cheesemaking.

The Storm

It was late afternoon on Tuesday. The second day of several days of predicted storms was upon us a couple of hours before evening milking. The wind picked up and the trees were whipped about like twigs. It was strong. It was sudden. The rain began to pelt down in sheets. I don’t know if I have ever seen it rain so hard. Well perhaps some of the rains in Florida could match it. Anyone driving would have had to pull over. There was no way to see even a few feet in front of you.

The torrent of rain and small hail went on for quite a while. We were late getting started with evening milking and even so, it was still raining steadily as we proceeded with the evening. We didn’t get far.

Evening Milking Plan A

There are two directions to bring the cows up to the milking shed. Scott created what he calls a “travel lane” in several places around the farm. It runs along the edge of the front fields to a wooded area. From there we can get the animals across the driveway with the nifty gate set up that makes a path across. The lane proceeds down the side of the two fields on the other side, past the creamery in progress to the milking shed. That lane also continues past the orchard and across the creek bottom to the fields in the back. So the cows can get to the milking shed (and later the milking barn when it is finished) from either direction.

Scott’s first task is to get the milking shed set up for the cows. Then he comes down the travel lane and ideally meets me in the middle. Ideally means, I’ve finished my first task of feeding Lambert (he’s just over two months old and gets a bottle in the morning and in the evening) and gotten the cows to the driveway crossing. At the very least, I would have them moving in the right direction. Scott joins me, takes Butter with a lead rope and I bring along the rest of the motley crew.

For my task, I head straight up the driveway to where the gates can be opened across the driveway. It is the quickest route to the front pastures where they are all currenting residing. This particular evening, I ran into the first problem. A very large tree was directly in front of me across the driveway. I’d say it was nearly a foot in diameter in front of me and larger at the base. The top branches were laying on top of the tool shed just to my left. I checked briefly but could not tell if the roof was damaged. (Later, Scott said it wasn’t.) My biggest concern at this point was that, not only could I not get to the gates to open them across the driveway, that tree was laying directly across the travel lane to my right. I would get the cows across the driveway, but not very far up the lane. I yelled for Scott.

He came up to assess the situation and immediately went for the chainsaw. I circled around behind the shed, went out to the pasture to feed Lambert and bring the cows up. I was hoping that Scott would have a path cleared by then. But realistically, it was going to take a little while to get that tree cut up enough to get the cows through. Chin up, let’s get ready anyway. That was my thought.

Plan B

It was still raining. Not heavily at this point, but steadily. As I brought the cows up, I could hear Scott with the chainsaw. I could see he was working on the upper part of the tree first. The part that was across the driveway. That made sense. However, the chain saw was giving him issues. It wouldn’t stay running. He persevered, got the tree cut up into 3 or 4 pieces on the driveway side, left them laying there and moved into the travel lane. The plan was to cut the part in the travel lane into a few pieces and roll them to the side, just enough out of the way to get the cows through. All of the debris could be removed later. Tomorrow. But the chainsaw really started acting up. The tree originated in the field to the left and was pushed over with the roots sticking up in the air. The part of the tree trunk in the travel lane was the larger diameter portion of the tree nearer the base, more than a foot wide.

Plan B gets set into motion. Let’s take them across the driveway and into the field instead of the travel lane. Hopefully we could move them all the way down the field to a gate that came out into the travel lane coming up from the other end, at the corner of the orchard. We would then drive them up the travel lane from that direction. I hurried into the field to open the gate.

As I approached the gate, low and behold, another tree lay across the travel lane smashing the orchard fence. These were big trees. They were living trees. It was hit and miss with which ones toppled over. I have no idea why these two trees fell and the others didn’t. The entire travel lane is lined with many trees of the same size and relative condition.

I immediately turn around and head back to the way I came, heading off Scott and the cows. Back into the travel lane they went. Maybe a half hour or 45 minutes has passed and now it is pouring rain. We are drenched, the chainsaw is faulty and we are stuck. We decide to take a break. We left the cows in the travel lane, closed in where they couldn’t go back across the road or into the next field. Then we trudge back to the house to wait a little bit for the rain to subside at least a little.

Plan C and Success

On the second try, Scott chose to work on the smaller diameter tree that had crushed the orchard fence on the lower end of the travel lane. He was able to keep the chainsaw running enough to get a section cut out of the middle wide enough for the cows to pass, maybe 6 feet or so. Whew. We finally got the cows to the milking shed and things proceeded nicely from there. Only a couple of hours later than usual. Scott finished up with cleaning the equipment shortly after 10:00 pm.

Dinner was really late and we got right up again at 6:00 for the morning chores and milking – and to assess the extent of the damage.

After the Storm

There are still trees down everywhere. We will have plenty of firewood this winter. The tree with the bat house came down. The bat house is smashed.

There are a bunch of trees across the path from Field 10 to Field 14. The boys have been hanging out back there. The rams and bucks were in Field #10, but the Steers and bulls were trapped in #14. Either the chainsaw gets repaired and the trees cut apart and moved – OR the fence has to be cut.

On Wednesday Scott took the chainsaw into town to be repaired. On Saturday he finds out it is going to be a week or more because they had to order a part. Big sigh. That means the fence will have to be cut. We need to get the boys out of there. One of them has an appointment at the meat processing plant on Tuesday. And another has an appointment with Butter and Cloud.

Being creative, Scott cut the fence between two trees, moved the steers and bulls out to field #11 and temporarily repaired the fence with some old downed branches and small trees. That should hold them for the moment. Well perhaps not the goats. We shall see. However, they may get through but they can also get back by the same path.

The Internet

Those were Scott’s most pressing issues. Mine was the internet. At the start of the storm there was a lightning strike that took out the DSL modem, my monitors, and later my network card. I’m sitting there minding my own business when the first peals of thunder can be heard. A mere five minutes or so later, a flash and an immediate boom outside produced a pop and the smell of burning circuits just to the right of me. This is not the first time we have lost a modem to lightning. That brief light and sound show let me know I should have stopped at the first sound of thunder and unplugged the phoneline from the modem.

I have a spare modem and wireless router from the last incident, so I hooked them up. No luck with the DSL. I have the home network working via the router, but the modem for the DSL and the internet do not connect.

I opened a ticket with our internet provider late Tuesday afternoon and was assured it would be resolved by 2:00 or so on Thursday. Around five pm on Thursday, I called and received a new automated message. That’s when I learned there was an issue in the area that would be resolved by Friday 7:00 am. Great, I could live with that. I even got a call at 8:00 on Friday morning that the issue was resolved. Wrong! At least for us it was not resolved. We are three days without internet at this point.

I call again and find out that my original appointment for resolution had been moved to a different date and time. Wednesday next week. I spent another hour on the phone trying to get it escalated. I need my internet connection to publish my newsletter and this podcast. The agent was polite and helpful but no luck. The repair schedulers wouldn’t budge. And they wouldn’t give me the contact information for the local office so I could try and plead my case to the actual repairman. In the end, I’m still stuck with no internet for another 4 or 5 days.

I’m recording this and have no idea how I am going to get it published. It requires hours and hours of online time to get the audio post created, the recipe created, and to connect all of the details to the various podcast distribution sites. I have contacted a neighbor that has offered assistance with internet, but I need to save that favor for uploading the podcast after getting all of the background work done at a public Wi-Fi location.

It has been a rough week on the homestead. Around here we like to be prepared for just about anything. One saying we repeat often is two is one and one is none. We only have one source for internet and when it is out, we have none. There is no decent cell phone signal here, so that cannot be a backup. Maybe you guys have some ideas on how we can come up with a backup internet system. Let me know.

On to the normal farm updates.

Herd Shares

Please let your friends and loved ones know about our herd share program. Raw milk, yogurt, raw milk cream and butter, and raw milk cheese. These are all available via our herd share program. If you are near Winston-Salem or Greensboro, North Carolina, we can serve your needs as well. Contact me and I’ll get you started on the path to healthy dairy consumption.

Go to www.peacefulheartfarm.com and select “Herd Shares” from the menu. You can also call us at 276-694-4369 or send an email to melanie at peacefulheartfarm . com.

The cows are providing A2A2 milk. Check out my previous podcasts on A2A2 milk and Why We Drink Raw Milk. Click on the links in the show notes or go to our website and select “podcast” from the menu to find and listen to those podcasts.

The Animals

The breeding schedule for the cows is starting. We are still working out the details of learning how to do artificial insemination. That project is currently delayed because we want to get “sexed” semen. I have no idea how they do it, but they have narrowed the likelihood of having bulls with “sexed” semen. It worked with Butter. We bought her just 11 days before she calved and she had been artificially inseminated with “sexed” semen. It worked. She had a lovely heifer.

We really need some Normande heifers. The problem is the supplier for the Normande semen tells us it may be several weeks before we can get what we are looking for, hence, Butter is going to be bred with the Normande bull that we have on hand. It is important that we have calves in late March to early April so milk for herd shares and cheesemaking is available well before the first week of May. Who knows, maybe she will have another lovely little heifer. With the others we will take no chances.

The sheep and goats are all healthy and lively. With the storm I was worried about trees falling on them and injuring them, but all are safe and sound.

The quail, born just 7 weeks ago have started laying eggs. We tried some yesterday. They were delicious. It takes 4 quail eggs to make one chicken egg sized portion. Additionally, we have scheduled thinning out the roosters. There are three cages full of quail. About half in each cage are male. We will thin that down to one rooster to five hens. At least that is the end goal. We shall see how close we get to that number.

In a few weeks I will begin gathering their eggs over a weeks’ time in preparation for incubating the second batch. Likely the second batch will fill out our breeding stock. Six sets of six birds. Again, one rooster and five hens in each of six cages. So far it has been easy.

We lost one bird to a snake a week or so ago. I think I forgot to mention that. It was necessary for me to enlist Scott’s excellent help to get that snake out of the cage. A small black snake was in one of the cages and one of the birds was dead. I have no idea how it killed the bird. There was no way it was going to be able to eat it. Anyway, Scott grabbed it with some pruning shears, pulled it out of the cage and – snip – that was the end of that snake. Normally we would leave a black snake alone as they eat mice and a relatively harmless. However, this one was small enough to get in the cage. He had to go. Earlier, a much larger one was perched on one of the braces at the back of the cage. He got relocated and we haven’t seen him since. His head and body were far too wide to get through the ½” hardware cloth cage.

I’m excited to see how this quail project progresses. It’s a new adventure and so far has been a really fun one. They didn’t seem to be affected at all by that storm. Scott did a great job on their shelters.

The Garden and Orchard

The garden is producing peas. The potatoes have been dug. The early onions are ready. The tomato plants are loading up. We are going to do very well there, I think.

The dried beans are blooming and producing lots of bean pods. Those we will let grow and grow and then leave them on the plant until they dry out. That comes much later.

The Mississippi Silver cow peas are coming along nicely. We eat those before they are dry. If you are not familiar, they are like black eyed peas without the eye – an little more rounded. Black eyed peas are somewhat oval. Anyway, we pick those after the peas have formed in the pod but before they dry out. We also pick a few that do not have the peas filled in. Those get snapped and put in with the shelled peas. It’s a wonderful dish.

We are getting blueberries out of the orchard and the blackberries will be ready in a week or so. Yum, yum. I’m going to can both the blueberries and blackberries. I’m going to try my hand at making pie filling. It will be so handy to be able to pull out a jar and pour it into the pie shell and toss it into the oven. Your mouth is probably watering right now. I know mine is.

The Creamery

Finally, the update on the creamery. With all of this craziness going on, Scott has been hard pressed to make any progress there. But he is persistent and the walls are rising.

He also makes cheese once a week, as do I. It’s a lot to fit into our days and weeks, but we make it happen.

It’s as great life. Busy, busy, busy all the time. No time for boredom. No time for getting caught up in social media scandals or endless watching of television. It took us three days to watch the movie Sherlock – the one with Robert Downy Jr and Jude Law. An hour – sometimes less – and we are off to sleep.

No Recipe This Week

I apologize for not providing a recipe this week. Due to the issues we are currently having with internet access, I have opted to leave that part out of this week’s episode. It requires an additional hour and a half of internet time when our high-speed connection is functioning. As I mentioned earlier, my plan is to only impose a little on my neighbor for uploading the completed project. The hours and hours of prework will be done at a public Wi-Fi location. Wish me luck.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for this week’s adventures on the homestead. Next week all will return to normal, right? Not likely. I’m sure there will be some new adventure that will arise. As I’ve said many times, we never get bored here. Life comes at us fast and furious sometimes as we kayak this river. We just move along with the current and try not to get too battered by the rocks in the rapids.

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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.

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