We are raising quail for eggs – or are we? Maybe we are raising quail for meat. Or perhaps it is a combination of the two. That’s the topic of today’s podcast. Settle in and let’s get cracking on figuring this out.
But first, it is important for me to take some time to say welcome to each and every new listener and a heartfelt thank you and welcome back to veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast every week. I would not have a show without you. And I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.
- Homestead Life Updates
- Am I Allergic to Quail Eggs?
- Instant Pot Quail
Homestead Life Updates
As many of you know, that “To Do” list for the homestead always seems to grow and never shrink. Every day stuff is checked off the list and every day something is likely added to the list. One is never bored here at Peaceful Heart Farm. And there are those wonderful moments of appreciation for this creation. Just this morning I walked outside on my way to drive and hour to the Farmer’s Market. I looked around and listened and smelled and felt the peace of our beautiful piece of God’s creation. Scott was standing beside me and we shared a moment of bliss as the day was dawning. Ummmm. Peace.
Wytheville Farmer’s Market
I had a great day at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market this morning. The crowd was small but the people were engaging. I had several lovely conversations with neighbors and visitors from across this great country. We had a small band playing and singing. It was fantastic. There is nothing like a small-town farmer’s market with lots of good people.
Scott on the Homestead
Back here on the homestead, Scott was handling the milking on his own. It takes him much longer to accomplish that morning chore without my help but he gets it done and he does it well. His cleaning skills are exemplary. I know it is trying sometimes with only one person bringing up the cows. Claire likes to plod along while Butter zooms ahead as if going to the races.
Changes to Our Milking Routine
I have talked a lot about how busy, busy, and busier we are here on the homestead and, in an effort to streamline the time spent with milking and gain time for other things, we have made a couple of changes. First, we changed the schedule to once-a-day milking. We have filled our capacity for aging cheese and the only reason for milking twice a day is making cheese. Once-a-day milking changes the quality of the milk in a small way but it is enough to change the cheese. So, milking twice a day is required when we are making cheese. The next change was combining two milking sessions.
Up to this point we were doing three. Butter by herself, then Claire and Buttercup together and finally Violet and Cloud together. However, Cloud never had a calf. So in essence, we ended up with Butter milked by herself and Violet milked by herself. Cloud will either not have a calf this year or it will be much later. We don’t really know yet. Anyway . . .
We are re-training Violet so she can be milked at the same time with Butter and that is a major undertaking. There are two milking stanchions and that is what allows us to milk two cows at once. Since her indoctrination to the stanchion, Violet has occupied the one on the left. And Cloud has been to her right in the other stanchion. Now we are trying to train Violet to the stanchion on the right. She, like all cows, is quite distressed when anything changes in her routine. Eventually she will get the hang of it, but currently she still goes straight to the left-hand stanchion. The problem is Butter is always already in place there. She always wins the race to the shed. That means Scott has to urges Violet off to the right. At this point she complies with varying degrees of cooperation.
When we first made the change, she tried to exit the milking barn completely. Something was not right, someone was in her spot, and she was getting out of there until everything was back to normal. We chased her around in circles for a few days before she finally gave in and put her head in the stanchion on the right. But over time she has gotten better and better at the new routine. One day she will just start doing it and anything else asked of her will become the oddity. Once the routine is ingrained, cows do it nearly the same day after day after day. They are predictable in that way.
So, the cows are being milked more quickly, only two sessions with the portable milker instead of three. The calves are getting more milk because we have more available for them since we are not saving it for cheese. They are growing quickly. Being bottle-fed calves, they are easy to touch and pet and hug. They constantly push and poke trying to find a bottle, but still, we can handle them and they don’t run away. That’s important. Even though the Normande breed is a very docile breed, they still need to be handled when young. They need to be taught to lead and so on.
Goats and Sheep
There is not much to say about the goats and sheep. They are out there eating grass and weeds and such. The lambs and kids are growing. Scott handles the pastures very well and there is plenty for all of the animals to graze on. There is a great deal of work that Scott will have to do to get the back fields prepared for them. That microburst storm from two or three weeks ago took down at least 3 dozen trees back there. Many of them are on fences. I think Scott’s plan is to clear and repair each fence line as they are needed. Eventually it will all get done as the animals rotate through all of the paddocks one by one.
Garden and Orchard
Is it hot where you are? It’s certainly hot here. Day after day after day of intense summer heat. July and August are the hottest months of summer and we are really getting hammered this year. Fortunately, there are also summer thunderstorms and occasionally we are the benefactor of that 50% chance of rain. We hit the jackpot one day where the chance of rain for us was about 10% and we got all 10% of that bit of storm cloud.
That heat and lack of consistent rain is hard on the garden and the orchard. Time is our biggest asset here on the homestead and to water the entire orchard takes quite a few hours. The garden usually takes at least two. We have drip irrigation systems that are non-functioning at this time. That would save time if taking the time to fix it were higher on the priority list.
I’m getting lots of tomatoes. In a couple of days I’m going to start my first batch of tomato sauce. I’m so excited. A lot of my veggies got overrun with weeds and bugs this year but my tomatoes are looking really good. I am picking them before they are completely ripe or I would lose most of them to the raccoons. They are eating them before they are ripe. My solution is to pick them every couple of days and I get anything that has the slightest bit of color change toward ripening. It’s not ideal but it works. I have shelves of tomatoes ripening in my beautiful wall of windows in the living room.
My favorite vegetable to grow is crowder peas or cow peas as they are sometimes called. The plants grow prolifically. The Mexican bean beetles don’t bother them. They require minimal amounts of fertilization and even the hot, dry weather hasn’t taken much of a toll. The only pests I have ever seen on them are the ants farming the aphids. The ants keep the aphid population under control – at least I’ve never had a problem with the little buggers. The problem is when picking the peas, ants are always crawling all over me and I’m slinging them around to get them off of my arms. Sometimes I look like a scarecrow flapping in the wind, waving my arms around and slinging ants. They are those big black ants and they only bite if they get trapped.
I’m getting so many peas and they are really good. I always pick a few of the small sprouts and snap them like green beans. Just a few. I pick the cow peas when the pod is full but before it dries out. In the end I will dry some to be planted next year, but during the summer, I pick them while still moist and a little green. Usually they get canned in pint jars, though sometimes I will have enough in one batch for quarts. Open a jar, add just a small amount of bacon grease, make sure to have some hot cornbread on the side and you have a little piece of heaven.
The last homestead topic is actually the topic of the day. What to do with the quail? Here is the story.
Am I Allergic to Quail Eggs?
The answer is likely “yes”. Or at the very least I was made very aware that they don’t sit well with me.
As you know if you are a regular listener, we started raising quail so we could have the eggs. Coffee and eggs are just about the only thing we buy from the grocery store these days. I do buy other items like flour, sugar and salt but I get those in bulk. Those items last a long time in storage and I buy large quantities for a really good price. I store some coffee but that is only for a real emergency. Fresh ground is what Scott prefers that’s why it comes from the local grocery. And of course eggs need to be fairly fresh. Raising laying chickens was the original plan but the time needed to get that set up and maintained was more than we were willing to invest at the present time. That is not to say that it won’t happen in the future. I’m sure it will. In the meantime, raising quail seemed the next best option.
The plan was to have six breeding sets. Each breeding set would have 5 hens and a rooster. The required housing was reasonably small. Six small cages and one large cage for growing out new birds. We would also grow out regular batches of quail for the meat. It is a fantastic meat. And quail are just so easy to raise. Well, that was according to all of the information we looked at via YouTube. And in truth, we have found that to be the case. They are really easy to care for, they grow quickly and produce eggs and meat within 8 weeks. It is the ideal situation for us at this time.
The First Batch
We ordered eggs in the spring and received them a couple of months later. There is always a waiting list for quail eggs, so get on the list early. Anyway, we ordered three dozen and received 40 eggs. Twenty-four of those eggs hatched and we still have 23 birds. We lost one to a black snake a few weeks back. It was a small snake and got through the ½” hardware cloth cage sides. I have no idea how this snake killed the bird. It had to have gotten the head in its mouth and smothered it. I can see no other way. But the snake was less than ½” in diameter and the birds head had to be at least ¾” or more by that time. I don’t know how it happened, I just know I found the snake in the cage and the bird dead. The other birds are just running around and not defending themselves. It would have been comical if not so tragic.
Bottom line, we lost zero birds from the time they hatched. That is part of what I mean about how “easy” they are to raise. Some baby chicks seem to die within days no matter what you do but these quail are hardy. Make sure they have food and water. Get the snake out of the cage. That’s it.
The Second Batch is in the Incubator
We are getting 6 to 8 eggs a day at this point and we had two wonderful meals of quail from the extra roosters we raised. It took 6 days to save up the 47 eggs that are currently in the incubator.
The incubator is currently at day 10 of 18 with those 47 eggs nestled in there, rocking back and forth in the automatic egg turner every 2 hours. At day 15 I will open the incubator, take out the egg turner and close it back up. Then it does not get touched until 3 days after we hear the first bird chirping. They have enough energy to last 3 days after hatching. Some eggs will continue hatching during that three days. It is important not to disturb the hatching eggs. A sudden change in the humidity and temperature can seal in a baby quail that is trying to get free of the egg. The inner membrane collapses and suffocates it. So no opening the incubator until we are sure all the eggs have hatched that are going to. Last time I did close it back up and left it for three more days. We got one more to hatch but that was it. All in all it was a good hatch and I’m excited to see how our own eggs turn out.
I Love Quail Eggs
Now that the incubator is up and running, the quail eggs are collected each day and set aside for eating. It takes 4 quail eggs to equal one large chicken egg. Basically, 8 to 12 quail eggs for breakfast along with sausage or bacon and perhaps some grits. Well, I don’t eat grits, but Scott does. He needs a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast for all that hot sweaty work he is doing building the creamery.
I loved the eggs but it seems they didn’t love me. Or maybe I love them in my mind but my body said “no way”. When I first started eating them, I did feel a little queasy later in the day. I chalked it up to them being too rich and decided to eat less of them at one sitting. No problem, right? I can always get by on fewer calories.
They Don’t Love Me
Between the time that I first became queasy after eating quail eggs and the time I decided to eat fewer in a given meal was about a week. About half way through those days I was sick for about 12 hours. I mean really sick. It seemed obvious to me that it was something I ate. If it was a virus or something, I think it would have lasted at least 24 hours. At this time, I assumed it was something that I had eaten the day before, not suspecting the quail eggs I had eaten a few hours earlier. I threw out a whole salami because that was the only thing new that I had consumed the previous day. I used Scott as a guinea pig to test out some other foods. He didn’t get sick.
In the end, I missed my farmer’s market debut in Independence, VA as I was still recovering from the effects of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea from the day before. All of those issues stopped within 4 hours or so from their beginning, but it does leave you pretty weak for a period of time. I didn’t want my first day at the market to be a disaster so I postponed that market appearance for another week.
I had quail eggs again on Tuesday. Only six this time but the same thing happened again that had happened just five days earlier. I was sick as a dog. My experience was slightly milder but no less debilitating. Bummer, at this point I was sure it was the quail eggs. So now what?
Well, if my body doesn’t like them, I’m giving them up. And not just quail eggs. All eggs. We will still raise quail for eggs but we won’t need so many because I’m not eating them. My mind right now is thinking that we will raise a lot more for meat. Chicken is a rarity in our household because we don’t raise any and I don’t shop much at the grocery. We have beef, lamb, and goat. The poultry is nice and I will sometimes pick up a rotisserie chicken while picking up eggs and coffee. But the future holds more quail for us.
And that leads me to today’s recipe.
Instant Pot Quail
The reason that I go for the Instant Pot rather than oven roasted is the heat. It is really hot outside and to roast quail requires a 500-degree oven. That’s right 500 degrees. It’s a short time but just the thought of preheating an oven to 500 degrees makes me sweat.
As with all Instant Pot recipes, this one is quite simple. (By the way, I actually have a Cosori but it works the same. Instant Pot is to multi-function pressure cookers as Xerox is to copy machines.) The prep time for this recipe is 12 minutes, cook time is 23 minutes. Another advantage to Instant Pot cooking. Quick and easy.
What You Need
- 2 whole quails, 4 to 5 oz each
- Salt to taste
- Pepper to taste
- 1 bunch fresh thyme
- 2 Tablespoon cooking oil of your choice
- ½ cup chicken broth
- 3 ½ oz bacon, chopped
- ½ small onion, finely chopped
- 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
What To Do
- Season quail with salt and pepper
- Stuff cavity of quail with fresh thyme
- Place oil in Instant Pot and select “Sauté”. Add the bacon, onion, dried herbs, bay leaf, and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Place quail in the pot, breast-side down and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until browned, then flip breast-side up.
- Select “Cancel” and add the broth to the pot.
- Secure the lid and cook using “Manual” and “High Pressure” for about 7-9 minutes.
- Select “Cancel” if needed and carefully do a “Quick Release”.
- Remove the lid, transfer quail onto a plate. Remove the herb sprigs from cavity.
- Strain liquid into a bowl.
- Return broth to Instant Pot and select “Sauté”. Cook for about 3 – 4 minutes.
- Add the quail back to the broth for about 2 minutes, basting with the broth/sauce.
- Remove from Instant Pot and serve with the sauce.
That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed catching up with us on the homestead. Sometimes we plan and plan and then God steps in and alters our path. Oh well, I trust him and will roll with the punches. I’ll be having quail meat rather than quail eggs. Scott will continue to enjoy both.
I hope you are having fun with friends and family this summer as we continue on with the dog days. Kids will be back in school soon and the cycle will move on to fall. I’m already ahead of myself. Summer is not my favorite season. It has its beauty and advantages, but I really like moderation. But isn’t it the contrast that gives us appreciation of moderation? Something to think about.
And remember, don’t heat up that kitchen with the oven. Use your Instant Pot. You’ll be glad you did.
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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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