Prepare for Disaster

Prepare for disaster is a motto I grew up with living in rural Michigan. Back in the day, when the power went off due to a winter storm, it could be off for several weeks. Today we have much better electrical systems and our current provider has kept us in good shape. We have never been without power for more than a few days. But even that can be disastrous if we are not prepared. Today I want to talk about how we prepare for disasters that may or may not happen.

First, let me take a moment to say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. Thank you so much for your time and attention. I appreciate you all so much and I couldn’t do it without you. It’s midwinter and life goes on here at the homestead.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

The cold weather has been consistent for weeks. Not too cold, getting just below freezing at night and 40s and sometimes 50s during the day. This is a typical Southwestern Virginia winter. I look for a few days of freezing weather sometime in the near future. A typical winter will have at least four or five days when the temperatures drop all the way to the teens and occasionally single digits overnight. That four or five day stretch usually happens at least once and sometimes twice, usually in January. It hasn’t happened yet. Still waiting for that shoe to drop. We did have some unseasonably cold weather in December, but January is proceeding right long the normal line.

Cows

The cows are handling the cold weather as they always do. It amazes me that these animals can go through the winter without seeming to notice it too much. I go out there and the cows are moseying around, eating grass and/or hay looking like they don’t have a care in the world. If they are eating, they are laying down, relaxing and chewing their cud, again, like they haven’t got a care in the world. Personally, I don’t handle cold very well, but I’m so glad they do.

Donkeys

The donkeys handle the cold very well also. Their coats are full and thick. Just about everyday they come up to the milking shed looking for a treat. Scott or I will give them a small handful of sweet feed and a petting. When they are finished, they head on down to the creek and out to pasture with everybody else. Our donkeys are the friendliest animals on the homestead.

Sheep and Goats

The sheep and goats always prepare for disaster in winter. They have really thick coats. Our goats are cashmere goats. They have a really thick undercoat of cashmere that they shed in the spring. Our sheep are hair sheep which means they also grow a thick coat of wool and shed it in the spring. No shearing for these sheep. I was watching the ewes graze in the front pasture. Just like the cows, not a care in the world.

Quail

The quail are even more amazing to me. They have feathers and I can’t see that they have any extra feathers for winter. Whatever they have is what they have and that’s it. My ladies and gents have it better than they would out in the wild. There is a box shelter where they can get completely out of the wind. They can huddle together for added warmth. Sometimes I go out there and they are kind of fluffed up, but other than that, not a shiver. Nature is amazing.

Garden

This time of year is the time to plan for the spring garden. What plants will we grow? How many? What will be rotated to another location? And so on. I’m a bit behind on getting started with that but I just can’t seem to drum up the energy. It’s too cold and I don’t want to think about going out in the garden when it is cold. Anyway, I’ll get to it in the next couple of weeks.

Creamery

The creamery roof is nearly complete. Scott is putting the finishing touches on the peaks. He spent much of the day yesterday rigging up a way to safely move around up there. Today he is full steam ahead getting those ridge caps completed.

Still to come is all of the ends of the building above the ground floor. I think they are called dormer walls or something like that. It’s basically the area from the top of the block building to the peak of the roof. All of that will be covered in the same metal as with the roof.

It’s cold out there every day. And every day Scott is out there working in it. He doesn’t mind the cold and he prepares for it with layers of clothes.

Preparing for Disaster

Speaking of being prepared, let me get into how we prepare for disaster. Some of it anyway. I could probably talk all day long about how we created and executed our plan. Some of it is still in progress.

No matter where you are in the world, there is always something you can do to prepare for disaster. You simply never know when power is going to be out or something disrupts the flow of goods. For instance, I got caught short this summer because there was a shortage of canning jars and lids. In the end, I did have enough for what I needed to save our harvests, but it was touch and go sometimes. Recently I came across canning jars while in town and I purchased just about everything they had on the shelf. Still no lids but I got a better stock of jars than I have had in the past. We learn from our mistakes.

Let’s start at the beginning. The first thing to stock up on is water.

Water

You should always have water on hand or access to clean water. Making this happen doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Today, we have a hand pump connected to our well so we can always get water when needed whether we have power to the well pump or not. Still, we keep water on hand in the house. While it’s easy to go out there and hand pump some water, it is still easier to reach back in a closet or go into the spare bathroom and get some water for cooking, cleaning and flushing.

The recommended amount of water you will want to store is 7.5 gallons of water per person per month. A family of four would have 15 gallons of water stored if preparing for a short-term disaster lasting a few days or weeks. That’s where you always start. How much do I need for 2 to 4 weeks? Then get it done. You have the blue 5-gallon containers at Lowe’s, Home Depot, the grocery, and so on. Invest in a few of those and you are good to go. Strapped for cash? Buy one a week or even one a month. Your stored water will need to be refreshed regularly. Either use it or pour it out, but replaced what you have stored in the containers every 6 months or so. You don’t have to get there all at once. But you do want to get your water situated first.

Food

The second item is food. This one is a little trickier and takes quite a bit more time. So, start now. There are many methods for building up your food stores. Set several goals with this one.

How Many Days to Prepare for Disaster?

First, how many days of food do you need to store? That depends. Start with a week, then go to a month, then three months and so on. Ideally, you get to a place where you have a full year’s worth of food stored for your entire family. That may seem like a lot and it actually is a lot. But for my peace of mind, I wanted a full year of food. You may make your cutoff date sooner – and some even plan for longer.

What Food Should Be Stored?

Second, don’t store anything your family won’t eat. What are you eating right now? That’s what you want to stock up on. Forget the MRE’s and whatever else might sound great or someone might try to sell to prepare for disaster. What you want is food that your family regularly eats. Most foods have a shelf life of at least a year. If you rotate what you have saved, using the oldest stuff first and adding back what you have used in the back of the shelf, you can come up with a system that keeps you stocked up at all times. This is the first in, first out method. Instead of having one box of cereal, you have 12, or whatever you determine is the right number. Buy an extra box or two whenever you shop, or whatever you can afford. Build up slowly. You’ll be there before you know it.

Bulk Foods

One of the best ideas for food is to store some products in bulk containers. I’m talking about beans, rice, sugar and wheat or flour. You can live a long time on beans and rice. And if you are into making your own bread, having wheat or flour on hand at all times is a great idea. This is another place to build slowly.

The pieces you need to do this part effectively are: 5-to-6-gallon food-grade plastic buckets, mylar bags, oxygen absorbers and a standard household iron. The mylar bag goes in the bucket. The beans, rice, wheat, or flour go in the bag. Toss in a couple of oxygen absorbers and seal the bag with your iron. The oxygen absorber will suck out all the oxygen in the bag, And the sealed bag without oxygen will keep the food fresh for up to 30 years. I said 5 or 6-gallon buckets, but you can use smaller buckets. I like the larger buckets because I can buy 40 or 50 pounds of beans or rice and it fits in the larger bucket.

Canned Goods

Let’s talk about canned goods. These can also last for a very long time – not so much as the beans and rice, but still a long while. Those “use-by” dates on the can are not expiration dates. They are CYA dates for the manufacturers. As long as the can is not damaged and the seal is in place, canned food in jars and metal cans will last for years. Food in jars needs to be kept out of the light. And all canned foods need to be kept at room temperature or lower. Keep that in mind when you are planning where to store your stuff. Strapped for space? Under the bed works pretty well. Use that cabinet space up high that is empty because you can’t reach it easily. Find used shelving at yard sales and put it up in your garage. Lots of ways to make the space you need.

And don’t forget the can opener. Not one of those electric ones. No! a hand-operated can opener is needed.

Self-Protection

I’m not going to talk about this one because I’m not educated enough to know what to say. We do have weapons and ammo and such but Scott handles all of that. I’ll just mention it here and say find someone who knows what they are talking about with this and follow their podcasts or YouTube videos. It’s definitely important. And don’t forget to get the proper training. It’s no good to have weapons you don’t know how to use safely and care for properly.

Energy Needs

This is the last piece I’m going to touch on today. There is so much to cover on this topic I couldn’t possibly do it justice. So, I’m just going to give you a bit of information to get you started. Every person’s situation is different and your energy needs are going to be different.

Gasoline

Keep extra gasoline on hand. That’s an easy one. We try to keep 12 containers at all times. I must say, we are not as efficient at this as could be desired. If you have 12 containers of gasoline labeled one each month, rotate through that stock at a particular date in the month. In other words, in January, you empty the container labeled “January” into one of your car gas tanks. Pick a day of the month that you do this. The first, 15th or last day of the month are good choices. Take the empty container and refill it. That newly filled container won’t be emptied for a year and it will require a fuel stabilizer to keep it fresh and usable.

Generator

Having a generator that has enough power to run your refrigerator and freezer is a great tool. Again, add these things as you can afford them. Get your food stores up to a couple of weeks at least before moving on to a generator. Your generator will need to be started once a month to keep it in tip-top shape and so you know it is in good working order. You don’t want to be without power and find out that your generator is no longer working.

Living off the Grid

You may decide to go completely off the grid – or at least be prepared to go completely off the grid. That takes a great deal of planning and the choices are endless so I’m not going to go into that topic. But I will say keep in mind that, while solar sounds really good, if you don’t live in a really, really sunny place it may not be the option for you. There are other options.

Having a wood burning stove is always good. At the very least you can use your gas grill to cook meals – if you have planned ahead and have an extra propane tank or two. We took out our electric stove and put in a gas stove. The oven won’t work but the surface burners can be lit with a match. Keep some of those on hand. I like using what I’m used to using for cooking, so this works for me. We have the wood burning stove as well – complete with an oven. I really should learn how to cook on that thing in the event we run out of propane.

Communication

This is the toughest one to get prepared for in my opinion. How do we communicate? As long as the cell towers are up and running and your phone battery is charged, we can communicate. Well, we would have to climb way up to the top of our property and then maybe, just maybe, we would get a cell signal.

Right now, we have all sorts of social media where we can find out what is going on with family, friends and co-workers. But what if you didn’t have that? How would you get in touch with people? Could you get in touch with people? This topic requires some deep thought, lots of planning, and practice sessions to make sure your plans work. You don’t want to be isolated.

There is a significant amount of banning of communication going on in the large tech communities. They have a great deal of power. Indeed, more power than the US government. They can turn off anyone with the push of a button. They can make you disappear. You might want to consider broadening your reach to smaller platforms if you can find one that works for you and your family.

I have created a page on a site called Locals. You can find me on locals by searching for peaceful heart farm. Once you’ve joined my community, you can post whatever you’d like on my page. We can have a conversation and share insights.

I think I’m going to end there.

Final Thoughts

The animals go on and on and don’t give a thought to whether there is power to heat the house. And as long as the grass and hay keep coming, they are good to go. For us, it’s more complicated. As I said, I don’t like being cold. I’m grateful for our wood burning stove. It saves on electricity in the winter and is quite useful in a pinch for cooking.

I’ve spent years gathering food, both for ourselves and now saving up in case our neighbors are not prepared or not financially able to make it happen. And our water supply will also help out – and indeed has – helped out our neighbors. There is so much more to prepare for disaster but these two pieces are key. Water and food. Start today. You just have no idea when the power lines are going to go down with a winter storm, a hurricane, tornado and so on. It may be only a couple of days but it very well could be weeks. Remember hurricane Sandy and what a disaster that was and not so long ago.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts or whatever podcasting service you use, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. If you like this content and want to help out the show, the absolute best way you can do that is to share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content. Let them know about the Peaceful Heart Farmcast. And please give locals.com a try.

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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Farm News, Herd Share Pick up, Farmers Market info: 1/7/2021

Hello beautiful peeps,

Happy New Year! Hope is has been a great one for you so far. How are those resolutions coming along? I  means it has been a week, right?

It’s market time again. This Saturday 1/9/2021 is the first market of the new year. It looks like here in Claudville we are going to get a pretty good amount of snow with 2 to 4 inches of accumulation predicted. It looks like Wytheville will only get an inch or so of accumulation. I have a wonderful all-wheel-drive vehicle that should get me there safely. A quick note for my herd share peeps. If you think you can’t make it, that’s okay. Just let me know and I will hold your stuff until next time. Let me know the next two items you want and we will meet up on the 23rd. 

The hours at the Farmer’s Market this time are 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. It’s going to be a great market. Come on out and see what we have to offer. We will have our lovely quail eggs for $3 a dozen. I have a couple of pickled quail egg recipes that are working well for me. I’ll have jars of pickled quail eggs as examples of how they look. Three different varieties to give you an idea what can be done. Again, I’ll have pickled peppers (not very hot) for $5 a jar, pepper jam (HOT, Medium and mild) for $5 a jar and apple pie jam, $8 a jar. We have the usual grass-fed meats available – ground beef $7 per package (approx 1 lb), ground goat $12 per package (approx 1 lb) and ground lamb $10 per package (approx 1 lb). Quail meat packages are available 1 lb – $20.00, and pickled peppers $5.00. 

If you are a Herd Share member, this week you can pickup between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon. Remember, only show up if you can do so safely. Email me to let me know and indicate what else you want for January 23rd. Also, let me know if you want an additional product along with your regular product pickup. To get to the product section, you can jump down the page here

Quail

The quail are doing really well with the cold weather. These are hardy birds. They are still laying lots of eggs. My latest podcast has more information on what I’m doing with all these eggs. Check it out here. As I mentioned above, I’m pickling them.

Cows 

We spent some time checking up on everybody and repositioning a few cows. The younger calves, Virginia, Wendel, and Luna got moved in with the “big” girls. We left Rosie in a close pasture as we are still closely monitoring her pregnancy. She needed a companion and Buttercup was tapped for that task. They seem to be doing very well together. Yay!!

Can you believe we have gotten this far into winter and have not started giving hay to the main herds of animals. Rosie and Buttercup get hay as their pasture is bare. The same for the two bulls and breeding sheep in the front pastures. The main herd of cows and goats and the younger lambs and ewes are still munching on grass in pastures that we held pristine for the winter. A couple more weeks and they will start getting hay as well as the grass will finally be gone.

Creamery

WOW Scott is moving fast on the roof. Just a month ago I talked about the metal pieces being ordered. It was quite the ordeal getting them delivered and transported from the road back to the creamery. Too much there for this short newsletter. I did go over all that in the “Pickled Quail Eggs” podcast. Check it out. Long story short, Scott and neighbor friend were able to get them close enough for Scott and I to unload them.

Already Scott has nearly the entire roof done. We didn’t actually unload all of the pieces. The longest sheets of metal roofing were 27 feet long. The last one of those came off the trailer today. For the past two days, every 20 to 30 minutes Scott would come and get me to help him get one of these giant pieces of metal onto the roof and into position for screws to secure it. I even got up on the roof one time. I cannot begin to describe the dangerous conditions Scott faced doing this part of job. That metal is slick and cannot really be walked on. Getting into corners and completing the panels at the edge was no easy feat. He made “walk boards” and ropes to keep himself from sliding. By the end of today, he will have completed at least 90% of the roof. Originally he estimated that it would take him a couple of months to get this part done. But here we are less than a month in and he is nearly finished. He’s amazing. In the evening and during “rain” days, he started filling his brain up with information on electrical wiring. That comes next.  

That’s it for farm news. Now on to the farmer’s market update. 

Farmer’s Market

I will be at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday 10 am to 12 noon. We have a new market manager. Come on out and meet Joanne. Again, the weather is going to be a little tricky, but I will leave early and take my time getting there.

Our items for sale include apple pie jam and hot, medium, or mild pepper jam. 

We have all of our meats back in stock for you. I’ll have lots of quail eggs!! 

We have ground lamb as well as rib chops and loin chops.

We have ground beef and ground goat. 

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. Let me know if you cannot make it and want to pick up for the whole month on January 23rd. Add on as you desire and all cheeses and butter are at your service. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday and/or Tuesday. 

I still have new herd shares available. Contact me via email (melanie@peacefulheartfarm.com) or phone (276-694-4369).

Please go HERE to learn all about Herd Shares and get on our waiting list. 


 News This Week 


Products Available to Herd Share Owners

Choose 1 per week 1/2 Share Whole Share
Butter 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Ararat Legend 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Peaceful Heart Gold 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Pinnacle 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Clau d’ville Cheddar 1/4 pound 1/2 pound

Products Available to the General Public

Quail Price / Pound
Quail Eggs (1 dozen) $3.00
Quail meat (approx 1 lb) $20.00
Beef Price / Pound
Ground (approx 1 lb) $7.00
Lamb Price / Pound
Lamb Loin Chops $18
Lamb Rib Chops $18
Lamb Kabobs SOLD OUT
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) $10
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) $12

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 10:00 am to Noon. Special procedures are in place for your health and safety. Masks are still recommended but not required as far as I know. 

As always, you may visit us at our dairy farm in Claudville, Virginia Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 noon and Saturday afternoons from 3 pm to 5 pm. Find out how we raise our animals and why you will love the taste of tradition that is inherent in all of our products. Herd share holders will be able to see up close how their cows are cared for and the cheese operation and where it is stored. 


Peaceful Heart FarmCast

In this week’s podcast, “Pickled Quail Eggs,” I’m giving out lots of information on just how it’s done. It was so easy. And the second time I made a batch, it was every easier. I had the steps down so good that I only needed the recipe for amounts of ingredients to use. These little gems are the creamiest eggs ever. Give it a try. I canned mine but you don’t have to do that. They can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks.


Free Downloads

I want to follow up on my 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. 

You can LISTEN TO THE PODCAST 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


Pickled Quail Eggs

Let’s get back to the quail and pickled quail eggs. So much has happened. Many changes since the last time I talked about them. Ten jars of pickled quail eggs that have been completed. And so much more to talk about, especially the creamery roof.

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 and I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

It’s getting close to Christmas. Hope you all are ready. Scott and I have been watching the YouTube series called “The Chosen”. I highly recommend it. The story so far is about Jesus’ adult life, not his birth. It’s still great watching for Christmas time IMO. A second season is currently in the works. I believe filming is scheduled to be completed in February 2021. I don’t know a release date, but I’m eagerly anticipating its release.

Quail

On to the quail updates on the homestead.

Last time I talked about our beautiful Japanese Coturnix quail we were having issues with hens getting beat up really bad. We rescued a bunch of them and put them in quarantine away from the others. One rooster was also in quarantine. Each and every one of them healed up just fine. The only problem is that we couldn’t put them back in their various cages lest the same thing happen all over again. So, they were slated for culling.

An additional blessing and/or problem was we were getting 29 or 30 eggs every day. That’s a bit too many. Who knew that we would be so successful in getting them to lay throughout the winter? Last year we had zero, zip, nada for eggs throughout the entire winter. Then one day in late March, they all started laying again as if on cue. Getting 30 eggs at a time was a giant blessing. The more eggs we get from our quail, the less eggs we have to purchase elsewhere.

Culling Hens

Before I get on to the pickled quail eggs, I need to talk a little bit more about culling the hens. When you live the homestead life, there are certain choices that need to be made that are not always easy. I love our quail. The eggs they lay are so cute and beautifully colored. However, we have to face facts and only keep what we need. And we need to give them the best life. We ended up reducing our quail population by 12 birds – well actually 13 but I will get to the additional bird in a moment. We had 6 in quarantine. Originally, there were five hens and one rooster in the bottom cages. In the lower cage on the right, we were missing a hen, the white one. All of the groups have 1 rooster to 5 hens. With my new experience, I realized I could not add another hen to the cage because she would just get beat up by the others as they vied for dominance and so we simply took all of the remaining hens out of there. That was four more. The cage on the bottom left had only one hen and a rooster in it. The other four hens from that cage were in quarantine. We took that last hen and added her to the group to be culled. Now we have 11. The end result is two cages on the bottom, one left and one right, that have a rooster and no hens.

In the penthouse was an interesting situation in that there were originally 10 hens and 2 roosters on each side – or so we thought. On the right side is where the rooster in quarantine came from so there was only one rooster there now and 10 hens. We took the five extra hens without a rooster buddy from the penthouse right side and put them in the lower cage with the lone rooster on the right. It made sense that these hens had been raised together and would therefore live in relative harmony together with their new rooster friend. They did to a point. More on that in a minute.

Miscalculations

In the penthouse on the left side was supposed to be 2 roosters and 10 hens. The only problem was that I kept getting 11 eggs from there. That’s right. I got 11 eggs from 10 hens. After closer inspection it became clear that I had misidentified one of the hens as a rooster. No problem. I needed five hens to be moved to the lower cage on the left. That left six hens and a rooster in the left penthouse. I snagged one of the hens at random and added her to the cull group. Now there were 12 in the cull group and each cage had 1 rooster and 5 hens. It seemed perfect.

More Rearranging

We processed all of the culled birds immediately and I had them in cold water overnight. There are enzymes produced in that first 24 hours or so that help tenderize the meat. Once that process is complete, I usually package them and then freeze them in packages of four birds. However, these 12 were slated for dinner and leftovers and they got an extra day in the frig. The very next day after doing all this culling and rearranging of hens, I went out to feed and water them and found another hen with a slightly bloody head. It wasn’t bad but she had definitely been abused. This time I grabbed the rooster and immediately quarantined him. It had to be him. The girls were getting along fine before and now the bloody head again. The only change was putting them in with the rooster. Sure enough, the next day, her head was much better and there were no other injuries. She healed up within three days and still no other injuries. As soon as I saw that she was going to heal up without the rooster in there, he got added to the dinner pot. And that is how it ended up being 13 instead of 12. We still have a few leftovers in the frig. Maybe dinner tonight.

Not Perfect But It Will Work

So now, one cage has five hens with no rooster. All five still lay eggs like clockwork. I just won’t be able to use those infertile eggs in the incubator.

The final note with the quail is that yesterday, I went out to feed them and found one of the hens in the penthouse on the right had died. There were five eggs in there, so she laid her daily egg before expiring. This happens sometimes. There was no mark on her externally, but she had blood just inside her beak. Something internal went wrong. I have no idea what. One cage has a rooster and four hens instead of five. That reduces our total hens to 24. That’s two dozen eggs each day. Hope the rest of them fair well through the rest of the winter. We will have to cull a few more to make room for new babies in the spring. But until then, lots of eggs. And some of them will be made into pickled eggs.

Pickled Quail Eggs

I boiled 100 quail eggs and made 10 jars (1/2 pint) of pickled quail eggs. The boiled eggs were submerged in vinegar. This did two things. First, the spots lifted off and floated to the surface of the liquid. Second, the shells, now white, became soft and rubbery overnight. Peeling them was a matter of pinching the soft shell and peeling the rubber-like shell. It was so easy. Who knew peeling eggs could be so easy.

I used three different pickling recipes. The basic pickling solution was similar in all of them. Two cups vinegar and one cup water and two to four tablespoons of sugar depending on the recipe. The salt varied a little too. This solution was enough for three jars plus a little. I made three jars of pickled quail eggs with this solution and added curry seasoning. There were three jars of pickled quail eggs with the vinegar solution, a pickling spice mix and ½ a beet. Those are a beautiful pink egg now. Then I did four jars of pickled quail eggs using apple cider vinegar in the mix instead of white vinegar and I added some minced garlic. I used the same pickling spice mix as the previous one. Unfortunately, none of them have been tasted yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

In the end, I have canned 10 jars of pickled quail eggs with plans for quite a few more over the winter. It will be a fine snack throughout the next year.

Apple Pie Jam

Speaking of canning, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my apple pie jam. It’s pretty simple and out of this world delicious. The other day while out picking up some quail feed I ordered from a local supplier, I bought another bushel of apples. The previous bushel made lots of apple pie filling and a bit of apple pie jam. And there they were apples galore right out there for me to pick up. This year was the first time I had made the apple pie jam and it was a hit. Basically, it’s an apple jam recipe with pie spices added. It is unbelievably good. It has ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and ground allspice. A bushel of apples ended up making another 40 pint jars of apple pie jam.

Perhaps I went a little overboard with making this jam, but it was really fun. I have some ½ pints that I’m selling at the farmer’s market, and will likely sell some of the pint jars as well. There will still be plenty for ourselves and as gifts for family and friends. It’s just one of those things that was so fun I just had to do it over and over. Two days straight with canning two batches of 10 pints each. Now you know what to expect out of a bushel of apples. Plan accordingly.

Cows

On to the animals. Most of the cows are still grazing on grass. It’s amazing. No hay for the main herd yet. We are near the end of December. The plan is progressing nicely. Most of the year there will be no hay expenses for these girls. It’s a giant step forward in our homestead plan. Everyone is doing well.

Just last night a new possibility arose to add another new bred heifer or young cow to our herd. This time if it works out, we will be adding another purebred Normande to our homestead. We’re excited. It will be a very, very long trip, but so worth it. These young ladies are hard to come by and we hope to remedy that in the future by having lots and lots of heifers for ourselves as well as having some to sell to others. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if we have any heifers for sale. It seems lots of people are looking for these beautiful cows and there just aren’t that many heifers available. Especially that have the milking genetics. I’ll keep you posted on how this new development progresses. And if you are one of those looking for a Normande, drop me an email and I’ll let you know who to contact.

Donkeys

All of the donkeys got their hooves trimmed. Johnny was really, really difficult. I think more difficult than he has ever been. He was constantly kicking, jerking, moving around. And when Scott got to the last hoof, he just layed down. It was a very trying experience for all concerned. On the other hand, Cocoa is getting used to it. She did really well. And as always, Daisy and Sweet Pea just stand there. It’s old hat for them. Glad to get that accomplished.

All of the donkeys have their winter coats. They are like little fuzz balls.

Sheep

I was going out the driveway yesterday and noticed the sheep are looking nice and fat. I’m talking about the breeding group in the front pastures. They look really round but it is too early for that to be pregnancy showing. Sheep gestation is only five months. They are not even two months along. It is that last month that they get really big and round. No these girls are just really healthy and strong. It’s good to see them doing so well.

Creamery

The roof is in progress. What a job it was to get the material here and unloaded. It was not without issue. Plus, the wind contributed to some additional damage to the materials. Scott is out there right now finishing one run of metal on the lower end of the loafing shed.

This morning it was quite the ordeal to get the last pieces delivered and transported from the road back to the building site. Scott had quite the elaborate setup in place and it would have worked beautifully if his tractor had had a little more toughness. Unfortunately, it was just a little bit too small for the task. The metal was bundled all in one piece and was delivered on a tow truck. Because the pieces are so long, this was the only way to get it to us. Department of transportation rules for how much can hang off of a trailer made this job much harder to accomplish.

Bent Roofing Material – Oops

Anyway, the tow truck arrived this morning with the roof metal. Scott had our hay trailer rigged up so the bundle could be lifted up off the truck, the tow truck would drive out from under the bundle, Scott would back his hay trailer under it and then lower the bundle onto our hay trailer. He had already tested his ability to drive it back to the building site. All should work well. We had a neighbor friend bring his tractor over to help lift the load. All actually did go well for a brief moment. Then the load shifted, Scott’s smaller tractor was just not able to hold up the load and it slipped off the forks. Lots of bent metal sheets. A few more gyrations and they got it onto the trailer and the rest of the plan went smoothly. It’s all there next to the building ready for Scott and I to unload it one sheet at a time. That’s for tomorrow.

More Bent Roofing Material

Last week Scott picked up a different load of metal. These were shorter pieces that fit on the hay trailer. He and I unloaded that without issue. Yesterday, Scott laid out quite a few sheets of these metal sheets onto some sawhorses. Even before going out to the road to meet the tow truck driver, he discovered that the thunder I thought I heard last night was actually the wind blowing those large pieces of metal all over the place. More bent metal roof panels. You can’t have everything go right every day. That just would not be real homestead living. In the end, the roof will be completed and all will be well. I have a long day tomorrow helping with the heavy lifting and moving those 27-foot sheets of metal off of the trailer and under the barn. Some of them will get moved to the roof as well. I expect my biceps and wrists to be sore again. But hey, that’s one of the reasons we do what we do. No need to go to the gym. They are closed anyway. Daily life on the homestead is a workout that is never boring.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for this podcast. Trials and tribulations galore. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. All in all, things are going well for us on the homestead at the present time. We say our prayers and thank God for our blessings. The animals are healthy (well except for that one quail) and we are healthy.

I can’t get enough of those quail. It looks like we finally have all the issues worked out. We are back to normal operations with everybody happy and content in their little homes. I just put a jar of pickled quail eggs out on the counter as an appetizer for tonight’s dinner.

The creamery is moving along at a good clip. It won’t be long and we will have finally realized that dream. Just another one of those blessings I’m always talking about.

In the near future I’m going to be updating the website to highlight our raw milk cheese herd shares. Look for updates on that next time. This year’s cheeses are superb. If you regularly eat a pound or two of cheese per month, you might want to think about joining our herd share program. You can own a piece of the herd and dine on locally produced cheese.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts or whatever podcasting service you use, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. If you like this content and want to help out the show, the absolute best way you can do that is to share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content. Let them know about the Peaceful Heart Farmcast.

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

To learn about herd shares:

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment on our Facebook Page
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To help the show:

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Farm News, Herd Share Pickups, Market Info: 12/10/2020

Hello beautiful peeps,

It’s market time again. This Saturday 12/12/2020. Who knows what’s going to be available during this Christmas season?

The hours at the Farmer’s Market this time are 10:00 am to 12:00 noon. It’s going to be a great market. Come on out and see what we have to offer. We will have QUAIL EGGS $3 a dozen and recipes to help you decide what to do with them!! Also to assist with quail egg info, I will have pickled quail eggs. Hopefully, fingers crossed, five different varieties to give you an idea what can be done. Again, I’ll have pepper jam and apple pie jam, $5 a jar. These are great Christmas gifts especially for that one who already has everything. We have the usual grass-fed meats available – ground beef $7 per package (approx 1 lb), ground goat $12 per package (approx 1 lb) and ground lamb $10 per package (approx 1 lb). Quail meat packages are available 1 lb – $20.00, and pickled peppers $5.00. 

If you are a Herd Share member, this week you can pickup between 10:00 am and 12:00 noon. Remember only one pick up in December and that is this Saturday. And you will let me know what you want for January the 9th. Hope you have a fabulous Christmas and next I see you it will be 2021. Let me know if you want to add anything to your regular product pickup. To get to that section, you can jump down the page here

Quail

I’m not going to spoil anything with the quail right now. I will have much to say next time. I am experimenting with pickled quail eggs as I mentioned above. I’ll give you more updates on that next time.

Cows 

We spent some time checking up on everybody. That happens every day or two. The “big” girls are in the back pastures and it requires some effort to get out there to see them. But this needs to be accomplished every two or three days to make sure everybody is healthy and happy. I am happy to report that all is well with the cows. Yay!!

Rosie is doing well after her dehorning ordeal. She is interacting well with the three younger calves. I’m really happy about her progress. We still need to keep her close because of her likely problematic pregnancy. She was just too young to be bred. Is that why we thought it important to bring her to the farm? She needs close attention. We are expecting all to go well.

Creamery

Scott is making some excellent progress with the creamery. The roofing materials are ordered. That’s a really big upcoming job. The panels in the cheese make room are being installed. These are special panels that are easy to keep clean. That’s a really, really important piece of construction. We had a regularly scheduled visit from VDACS to see how we are progressing and if there needs to be any changes to our plan. Got to see Rosemary again. Haven’t seen her so much since the Independence Farmers Market outside never happened. Hopefully, next year we will be back on track for that.  

That’s it for farm news. Now on to the farmer’s market update. 

Farmer’s Market

I will be at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday 10 am to 12 noon. This is the only market in December. Check out everything here for those Christmas gifts for that one person for which it is so hard to find the perfect gift. There is only one market in December. The 4th Saturday of December is the day after Christmas and the market will not be open.

Our Christmas items include apple pie jam and hot, medium, or mild pepper jam. 

We have all of our meats back in stock for you. I’ll have QUAIL EGGS again!! 

We have ground lamb as well as rib chops and loin chops.

We have ground beef and ground goat. 

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. Let me know if you want something added on to your regular choice. All cheeses and butter are at your service. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday and/or Tuesday. 

I still have new herd shares available. Contact me via email (melanie@peacefulheartfarm.com) or phone (276-694-4369).

Please go HERE to learn all about Herd Shares and get on our waiting list. 


 News This Week 


Products Available to Herd Share Owners

Choose 1 per week 1/2 Share Whole Share
Butter 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Ararat Legend 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Peaceful Heart Gold 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Pinnacle 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Clau d’ville Cheddar 1/4 pound 1/2 pound

Products Available to the General Public

Quail Price / Pound
Quail Eggs (1 dozen) $3.00
Quail meat (approx 1 lb) $20.00
Beef Price / Pound
Ground (approx 1 lb) $7.00
Lamb Price / Pound
Lamb Loin Chops $18
Lamb Rib Chops $18
Lamb Kabobs SOLD OUT
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) $10
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) $12

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 10:00 am to Noon. Special procedures are in place for your health and safety. Masks are recommended but not required as far as I know. 

As always, you may visit us at our dairy farm in Claudville, Virginia Tuesdays from 10 am to 12 noon and Saturday afternoons from 3 pm to 5 pm. Find out how we raise our animals and why you will love the taste of tradition that is inherent in all of our products. Herd share holders will be able to see up close how their cows are cared for and the cheese operation and where it is stored. 


Peaceful Heart FarmCast

In this week’s podcast, “Our Raw Milk Cheese Creamery Progress,” I’m giving you the long awaited updates on the progress of the creamery. Lots of pieces of the puzzle are being placed. It’s so good to see our dream becoming a reality more and more each day.


Free Downloads

I want to follow up on my 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. 

You can LISTEN TO THE PODCAST 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


Our Raw Milk Cheese Creamery Progress

Our raw milk cheese creamery was the center of the day today. The construction is moving along nicely. Our state inspectors made an appearance and helped us out with details on safety measures. We work with them every step of the way to make sure all safety concerns are addressed.

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

Winter animal care was high priority today. Let’s talk about that before we get into the details of our lovely raw milk cheese creamery project. We check up on the animals regularly. Some we can easily see in the front fields and every time we go out the driveway. Others are out there in the back fields. It takes a bit more effort to check up on them, but rest assured, they are not out of sight, out of mind. I’ll start with the cows.

Cows

Our beautiful Normande cows are the centerpiece of our small farmstead raw milk cheese creamery. It is our habit to check on them first. I say first, but they are all out there together. And while we may be aiming at the cows, sometimes it is the sheep or goats that we encounter first. Many times, it is the donkeys. More on that later.

There are five big girls in our current herd. I say big girls because these five have already had a calf. We have our newest arrival, Rosie, who is still known has a heifer. That means she has never had a calf. I guess technically she is a bred heifer. She has never had a calf but is currently pregnant. Currently she is in a pasture with the younger calves so we can keep a closer eye on her as her pregnancy progresses.

The “Big” Girls

Anyway, of the five big girls, four are pregnant. Everyone looks healthy and happy. Claire barely looked up as I approached. She was far too busy eating grass to give me much notice. Violet always looks up whenever we come near. She wants attention and yet she doesn’t want attention. I guess what she really wants in a treat. But they don’t get treats in the winter. Only during lactation. So, she will have to wait until late March or early April to get any more treats. Butter is quite open to petting, while Buttercup avoids it at all costs. Cloud has had her hooves repaired but she is still quite standoffish when out in the field. All of them are easy to get close to when they are up in the milking shed. Funny how that goes.

Grazing Abundance

The grass in those back fields is holding up very well. They are literally still eating green grass and it is coming on close to mid-December. Scott believes they will not need hay until late February. I can’t tell you how great that is for a couple of reasons. The cost, of course, is always the first concern in my mind. I do all of the accounting and cost is always on my mind.

The next great thing is that the green grass is always going to be better nutrition and the animals truly prefer grass to hay. We want to keep them on green grass for as long as possible. Ideally, we would be able to graze them all the way through the winter until the spring grass appears in late March. That is a goal we likely will not meet for many years. We would need additional pasture, especially as we are on a path to grow our herd.

Hay is Still Needed

If we double our herd size, having green grass available to them for the entire winter is a really long shot without clearing some of our wooded areas and turning them into pasture. That’s a huge job for the distant future. They do fine on hay. It’s just similar to having a burger and fries when you really want a nice traditional home-cooked dinner. Sure, the burger and fries will keep you fed. But the real treat is that homemade roast leg of lamb with macaroni and cheese on the side. Throw in some crowder peas and it is a meal to be savored.

Sheep

Speaking of savoring a good meal, the sheep will continue to eat as much grass as they can scrounge. When the pickings get slim, the cows will rush to the hay as Scott brings it into the pasture. However, even when they have hay available, the sheep are going to go for every little bit of grass they can find. They eventually go eat the hay. And shortly thereafter, they are right back out there grazing on little bits of grass.

Counting Sheep

One of the regular exercises we do when checking on animals is counting them. Well, we don’t really count the cows. They are all grazing quietly in the field and we simply identify them by name. The sheep can be a little trickier. They hang out in a bunch and they move together almost as one unit. Trying to pick out individual animals is nearly impossible. Even counting bodies can be a challenge. One method that works well is for Scott to walk toward them from one side and I hang out toward the other side. As they move away from him, they will string out just a little bit and I can more easily get an accurate count. Because they can see me, they walk or trot in my direction more slowly and I can get that accurate count. Eventually, they make a turn away from both of us and bunch up again. I gotta be quick with the count.

It’s important that we count regularly and make sure they are all there. If a predator starts picking them off, they will continue one by one until we do something. We have to be vigilant in protecting the sheep. We accounted for all 12 that are in the flock with the big cow girls. This includes three younger girls from spring a year ago and all nine of the lambs from this past spring.

Goats

As far as the goats, well there is no goat counting. At least not nearly as often. There is little we can do to protect them that they cannot do for themselves. Goats are quite different from sheep in their herding behaviors. For one thing, they can go places sheep wouldn’t dare. Case in point, they were all in a different field than the cows and sheep. It seems that no matter which field that everyone else is currently occupying, the goats find a way to get into the next field. Another disadvantage to counting them easily is that they mill around much more randomly than the sheep. They do cluster together but it is a much larger circle. The space separating each animal is quite a bit larger. And when they see someone approaching, they all get up and start moving about in varying directions in small groups. Eventually, one will take the lead and start to move the herd in a particular direction, everyone else follows – sort of.

Goat Herds

Again, this is a little different than sheep as they will be farther apart and then bunch up and then spread out again with one or two moving in a random direction. It’s kind of like they are trying to do a goat “head fake” trying to fool you into thinking they are going to run in a different direction from the rest of the herd. Lots of times it is not a fake and they bolt in that direction, taking 1/3 to 1/2 the herd with them. They split up into two or three groups and then rally back together after they run past you. This is what I am talking about when I refer to their self-protection against predators. They go in so many directions, it’s harder to catch them. It’s also harder to count them. Their speed and agility are phenomenal.

Today, when they saw us approaching, they immediately moved into the woods. Not running away in particular. Just moving out of sight and into the cover of trees. That’s a signal that these beauties are going to make you work hard for a head count. Maybe we’ll get them counted next time.

Donkeys

While we were checking on everyone, the donkeys came up for a cuddle and to say “hi”. They have their fuzzy coats on for winter and look so sweet. Just about every day, they wander up to the milking shed and bray at us, well mostly Scott while he is out there working on the building next to them. Have I mentioned how people friendly donkeys are? According to what I’ve read, they are even more personable than horses. I can believe it. They followed me around while we were checking on the other animals. And Daisy likes to come up behind me when I stop and give me a little shove with her head. You know, just a little notice that, “Hey, I’m here. Give me some loving.” And one of the greatest things is that Cocoa will come up behind Daisy and put her head across Daisy’s back trying to get close enough for a nice nose rub, but keeping her mom between us. After that, she will come around and get a more proper petting. What would we do without our donkeys to brighten the day?

Raw Milk Cheese Creamery

I didn’t give an update on our raw milk cheese creamery last time and lots has happened. There were special panels planned for the milking parlor and in the cheese make room. These panels are specifically chosen because they can be cleaned easily. That work is currently in progress.

Milking Parlor

Scott started with the milking parlor. The special panels are smooth, white panels that are glued to the wall. It was a little tricky getting them to stick strongly enough for the glue to set up in the cooler weather. In fact, they never did stick completely. So, plan B had to be put into action. Scott found appropriate screws to hold the panels in place. So far, so good with that plan. The milking parlor is done. There was a small run under the ledge where they stand in front of us. And then there was a larger bit of paneling along the wall in front of the cows. On to the cheese make room and more challenges.

Raw Milk Cheese Make Room

The cheese make room is designed to be cleaned easily and efficiently. These panels run from floor to ceiling, all the way around the room. I’m impressed with them. Clean up before, during and after cheesemaking is an important, necessary and time-consuming effort. These panels are going to be excellent for helping me out with keeping the room immaculate in the least amount of time.

Part of the challenge with getting the glue to stick relates to the ambient temperature and the temperature of the walls themselves. Even though screws have been added to the mix, they are really only there to hold it up against the wall until the glue can set. The panels are only screwed into the wall around the edges. The center is still held against the wall with glue. A few days ago, the temperature quite strongly took a downward turn. Additional techniques had to be employed to get the cheese make room warm enough to keep going with construction. It’s always something, right?

Heating Up the Room

We have a couple of small space heaters we used during our time living in a camper in South Carolina. Those had to be dug out. One was already in use in the small cheese room to keep the temp up to the proper level in there. Scott tried to use the other, lesser unit to heat up the cheese make room. He had even tacked up heavy plastic on the ceiling beams to hold in some of the heat. Imagine the extra time added for that little bit of unplanned construction.

He added the heater but it wasn’t strong enough to do the job. The cheese make room is quite large. The cheese cave is much smaller than the cheese make room. The remedy for that was exchanging the radiant heater out of the cheese cave with the weaker heater. The lesser unit is adequate for the job of keeping the temperature up to the target in the cheese cave, though it does not hold the temperature with the same steadiness as the radiant heater. Anyway, the radiant heater worked well enough when moved to the cheese make room, keeping the temperature up to 50 degrees or so. The work on the wall is now progressing quite well in there.

Stairways to Attics

Moving on to stairways. There will be two very long stairways from the ground to the attics. Attic space is in use above the creamery and then a half stair up to the attic above the milking parlor. There is an outside door into each of these areas. What’s missing is an easy way to get into those doors. Temporary methods using the tractor to lift a pallet full of stuff or simply climbing a ladder with your arms full are inadequate. Scott is working hard to get those stairs designed in between waiting for the cheese make room to be warm enough in which to work. Yay! I’ll be glad when the stairs are done. I sent lots of stuff up there for storage – stuff that I use but perhaps not that often. Being able to just climb the stairs to get it back will be great. And then of course, once I’m done using it, back up the stairs I go to put it back into storage. Lots of herd share jars, canning equipment, and so on. The dehydrator just made a trip back down and will go back up in a few days. Stairs are going to be great.

The Roof

Another huge step forward is the ordering of the materials for the roof. That was a big deal. Many hours went into the estimates for how many and which pieces are needed to do the job. It is going to cost lots more than I expected, but in the end, you just pay for it and move on. You gotta have a roof and the roof area for this project is huge. Take a look at some of the photos and videos on our Facebook page. There will be much more to report on that coming up soon in future podcasts. The materials are ordered but have not yet arrived.

The VDACS Inspectors

The last bit of info I want to share about the progress of the creamery is the visit from our local VDACS inspectors. VDACS is the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state version of the USDA. We have a great guy that we have been working with for quite a few years, beginning long before the first tree was cleared from the land.

For this visit, he may brought along another inspector that will likely take over our inspections should he retire. She had been to our farm a couple of years ago and it was great seeing her again. Both of these great people offer lots of pertinent information to keep us out of trouble. We work together to spot areas where contamination may occur and how we might avoid the situation. New procedures, additional pieces of equipment and altering the work flow are all discussed.

We are getting closer and closer to completing this project and becoming a fully inspected USDA facility. At that point we will be ready to start selling our cheese to the local restaurants and wineries. Our dream gets closer every day, every moment.  

Final Thoughts

That’s about all I’m going to cover in today’s podcast. A brief trip around the homestead with updates on the animals and bringing you up to date on our progress with the creamery. I didn’t talk about the quail. I’m figuring out how to pickle quail eggs and I’ll wait until next time to give details on that. There are five different flavor recipes I’m trying out.

Christmas is fast approaching. I hope you are enjoying the season. We don’t celebrate the commercial Christmas. It has been many years since I had a tree or a wreath or lights or anything. Sometimes I think about it but the effort to make it happen does not fit into my schedule. My children are long grown and my youngest grandchild is now 16. How about a nice nativity scene? I can go with making that happen.

Family visits mostly happen over Thanksgiving so Scott and I generally celebrate the birth of our Lord with just the two of us. There are a few other family members that we may visit sometime after the 25th. And who knows who might pop in to see us? We shall see. It’s always great to get together with those we love and Christmas provides the time off from work for others making it easy for us to catch them at home and unburdened by work. I do hope to work in a short visit or two between now and New Years Day.

Once again, I want to thank you all for listening to me ramble on about our traditional raw milk cheese and traditional homestead living and I hope all your dreams come true as well.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts or whatever podcasting service you use, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. If you like this content and want to help out the show, the absolute best way you can do that is to share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content. Let them know about the Peaceful Heart Farmcast.

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

To learn about herd shares:

To share your thoughts:

  • Leave a comment on our Facebook Page
  • Share this show on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

To help the show:

Website

www.peacefulheartfarm.com

Patreon

www.patreon.com/peacefulheartfarm

Facebook

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Instagram

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FARM STORE Hours:

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Saturdays:  3 – 5pm

Peaceful Heart Farm

224 Cox Ridge Road, Claudville, VA 24076

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