Stir-Fried Beef Skirt Steak & Broccoli

Course: Hot Entrée
Cuisine: Chinese

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs skirt steak thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar or white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup jasmine rice
  • 3 cloves garlic divided
  • 1/2 lb broccoli
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cups water divided

Instructions

Cook the Rice

  • In a small pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil (reserve remaining olive oil) on medium-high. Add garlic, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Add rice, a big pinch of salt and 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat to boiling on high.
  • Cover, reduce heat to low. Cook 12 to 14 minutes, or until tender and water is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat; fluff with a fork.

Cook the Broccoli

  • Heat the sesame oil on medium-high. Add broccoli, season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, or until slightly softened.
  • Add garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add water and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 to 5 minutes, until water is cooked off and broccoli is bright green.
  • Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the pan.

Cook the Beef

  • Season the beef with salt and pepper. Add cornstarch, toss to thoroughly coat.
  • Heat remaining olive oil on high. Add half of coated beef in a single layer. Cook, without stirring, 1 to 2 minutes, until browned on first side. Turn and continue to cook, stirring constantly 1 minute, until just cooked through.
  • Leave brown bits in pan and transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining coated beef, leaving it in pan.

Finish and Serve

  • Return first batch of beef to pan. Add hoisin sauce and vinegar. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring frequently 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until coated.
  • Add cooked broccoli and 2 tablespoons of water; cook, stirring frequently, 30 seconds to 1 minute or until well combined.
  • Remove from heat; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Transfer cooked rice and finished beef to a serving dish. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Mongolian Flank Steak

Mongolian Flank Seak

Beef that slowly cooks until tender will be melt-in-your-mouth perfection. This takes minutes to throw into the crock-pot and has such amazing flavor. One of the best things you will make in your slow cooker (or instant pot).
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 hours
Course: Hot Entrée

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs flank steak
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic minced
  • 5 green onions divided
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup carrots grated
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ginger minced
  • sesame seeds garnish

Instructions

  • Cut flank steak into thin strips. In a ziplock bag add flank steak pieces and cornstarch. Shake to coat. Set aside.
  • Add cooking oil, garlic, 3 of the onions, soy sauce, water, brown sugar, carrots and ginger to slow cooker. Stir ingredients.
  • Add coated flank steak and stir again until coated in sauce.
  • Cook on on low for 4 to 5 hours until cooked throughout and tender.
  • Serve over rice and garnish with remaining green onions and sesame seeds

Notes

You can also put everything into the ziplock bag and marinate overnight if desired. 

Raising Goats to Make Your Own Cheese – Part 1

Raising goats to make your own cheese is a great goal. Today I’ll go over the basics of how to get started. Making the cheese is another topic for later. Let’s just start with what it takes to raise and care for the animals that make it happen.

First let me 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. As always, I appreciate you all so much. Thank you. There is no show without you.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Before I get started on today’s topic, just a very brief update on our animals. All of the animals are doing really, really well. No issues so far, even though we had that really deep cold snap. Fortunately, we did not have any lambs born during that time. That was my only concern. Right now, it looks like it will be February before we have lambs. It always takes longer than I think.

Lambs

Lambs gestate for about five months. And the pregnant ewes end up looking like they are going to burst for days and days before the lambs actually arrive. You would think I would get used to it. I looked at one of our ewes a few days ago and thought to myself, “she’s going to have her lambs in the next couple of weeks.” Then I looked at her again yesterday and now I’m thinking it is going to be much later. This is the way of things when we leave the animals on their own for breeding.

Scott keeps really close eye on the cows because they come up to the milking shed every day. The sheep and goats stay out in the pasture, so knowing when they come into heat is just not feasible. Because we know the date that the breeding ram or buck goes in with the ewes and does, we know the earliest date that babies can be born. But after that, we just wing it and figure that all will be born within two months. That usually works. These animals are healthy and can be bred easily.

Cows

We expect our first calf of 2023 the first week of March. The entire herd is all in one lump except for the two heifer calves that were born last year. They are too young to be bred and must be kept separate until we are ready for their breeding to commence. If I remember correctly, that will be some time in the summer. June, July or August. They will go in with the bull and have their first calf about the time they reach two years old.

Chickens

The chickens are doing well. At least three of the four roosters did get a little bit of comb damage during that cold snap. We kept them locked in their coop so their combined warmth would help keep everyone warm. Unfortunately, our roosters have very large combs. Those are those big red things sticking up from the top of their heads. They are quite subject to frostbite. There is only a small bit of damage that I saw. Maybe a ¼ inch or less on the tip of one or two of the points.  

So other than that, all is well with them.

Goats

My young goat girls are doing fantastic. They are still quite small, but will enter the breeding cycle in less than a month. They also require five months of gestation for their kids. We will be looking for our first kids from them in the height of summer. July and August should brings us those cutest of cuteness, goat kids. Well, it’s kind of a toss up between the kids and the lambs. They are both just as cute as they can be when young.

Speaking of goats, how about some info on how you might get set up for raising your own goats?

Raising Goats

I’m going to recount, to the best of my ability, the steps we took to prepare for raising goats. Then I will talk about some of the challenges. The rewards of owning and caring for goats far outweighs the challenges. Keep that in mind if you decide to go on the goat journey.

Getting Set Up

As you are making your plans for bringing goats into your life, the second highest priority is deciding how you will contain them. I’m going to say with near complete certainty that no matter how well you plan this and prepare for it, your goats will escape. Why do I say that? Because they are goats. It’s what they do.

What Do Goats Eat?

The first priority is deciding how you will feed them? Grazing is always the first choice here, but there are times when feeding a little grain is useful. And then there are nutritional supplements to be considered. Today it is popular to think that we are going completely back to nature and they can just live on grass. That is a fallacy in today’s world. Domesticated animals have been bred for generations to be cared for and so we must continue this practice. Our soils are depleted and the grasses that grow no longer have all of the required nutrition for healthy animals.

You will need to give them mineral supplements. You will need to manage their pastures. And sometimes, as much as you may try to prevent it, you will need to use modern medicine to save the life of your animals. These are skills you will build over time and I’ll try to cover the basics a little later.

Grass vs Browse

There are many types of grasses such as orchardgrass, crabgrass, fescue and so on, and your goats will eat them. However, they prefer what is called browse for well over half of their daily diet. What is browse you say? It’s brush, small deciduous trees like those small pines intruding at the edge of your pasture, and small saplings. They love things with thorns like briars, brambles and small black locust trees. They like wild roses and wild blackberry plants, also thorny. Then there are what we normally call weeds that they love. Things like pigweed, various kinds of docks, plantain and lambs quarters. The pigweed and yellowdock have deep roots and are hard to get rid of like dandelion. Plantain and lambs quarters grow wild all over the pasture and are great goat food, while we spend hours trying to get them out of our gardens before they take over.

So, keep that in mind when deciding what your goats might eat.

Grain

What about grain? We personally don’t use a lot of grain with our goats, or the sheep for that matter. But there are uses for it. In the commercial world, young lambs and goat kids are fed what is called “creep feed”. It is used to get their weight up so they can be weaned off of mother’s milk at an earlier age and remain healthy. As far as I can tell, its purpose is to get animals to market quicker and at less cost. Neither of these goals are our goals, so we don’t use creep feed.

We do use grain for other reasons. The number one reason is the health of a doe about to give birth as well as her kids. Where we live, the soil is depleted of selenium. You will need to check your area to see if this is the case where you will be raising your goats. Selenium is vital for the health of your animals.

White Muscle Disease

In the beginning, we used to have kids just disappear after a week or so. Our first goats were really wild and we couldn’t even catch them. They had their kids out on the pasture and we let the does take care of the kids without any intervention. We assumed that predators were getting these little guys. Then one day I caught one of the week-old kids not able to get up and stay standing up. I quickly drug out the book on goat health that I had on my shelf and discovered the problem.

It’s called white muscle disease and it is a result of too little selenium. In our case, the kids would not have enough selenium and quickly became too weak to stand. The kids are very clever at hiding and that is why they just seemed to disappear without a trace. I found one once hiding under a small pile of wood and once in the trunk of a tree. They are small and very easy to miss. Anyway,

White muscle disease is quite easy to remedy if you catch it quickly. A bolus of selenium and vitamin E and the kid is back on its feet within hours. But the better treatment is the preventative treatment. We feed our does just a bit of grain containing selenium supplement every day beginning about two weeks before we estimate they will give birth and then for about a week after. That ensures that mom has the selenium she needs and is passing it on to her kid via her milk. This completely eliminated losing kids to white muscle disease.

Goat Taming

The second reason we use a little bit of grain is to tame the goats. Right now my two baby girls will follow me anywhere. I can even pet Lian and she doesn’t run away. Admittedly, I do have to wait for her to come up to me. If I try to walk up to her in the pasture, she might walk away if she doesn’t see me with a bowl in hand. It is a very small amount, less than a cup between the two of them, and not every day. I’m loving the friendliness that I have not had in the past.

Just a quick note. Our first goats were purchased while we were still traveling back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina and back every single week. I didn’t have the time to spend with my goats that I have now. And they were wild. We could not get within 50 feet of them. It was a real learning curve to get them into the corral. The tasks was accomplished but not without frustration.

Travel Lanes

Scott has built the useful system of fences to move animals from one large area to another. We call them travel lanes. These were so useful in herding the goats. If we could get them into a travel lane, we could move them to a smaller and smaller area until we could catch them up to check on their health. One, we called her Julie Jumper, could escape even this arrangement. It was nearly a year before we were able to give her a health check. Every time we would corral them, she would jump over the five or six-foot fence. It took Scott building that fence up to 10 feet high to keep her contained. It was a small area, so it wasn’t like we had to redo all of our fences. Just those in the corral.

So, grain feeding for taming it a great thing. You want to be able to catch them up to check for general gut health and hoof health.

Ok, enough about grain. Let’s get to creating the most nutritious pasture for your goats.

Rotational Grazing

We set up a rotational grazing system. This system is the best way to maintain their health with minimal intervention with things like worming chemicals. I’ll talk more about worms in a minute. Rotational grazing is also the best way to maintain your pasture. Maintaining pasture is essential for having good foraging and grazing for your goats. You want them to have lots of good grass and browse to maintain their weight and for nutritional support.

How much pasture you require will depend on where you live. In Texas and Oklahoma, you will need more acreage per animal than we require here in Virginia. If you have questions in that regard, email me and I’ll try to give you resources to find out what is best for your part of the world.

Basic rotational grazing for us was setting up a perimeter fence around all of the pastures and then creating smaller paddocks within those larger areas. You will want to set it up so that each paddock will have no goats for a couple of months. This has to do with letting the pastures regrow as well as keeping the parasite load under control. That means those pesky worms I mentioned earlier.

Fencing

There are a couple of different approaches you can take with fencing. One, a permanent fence system. Two, an electric fence system. In my humble opinion, option two still needs a permanent fence perimeter. What do I mean by that?

Permanent Fence

As I mentioned, the goats will get out. Even with a “permanent” fence, they will find a way out eventually. You will want to be able to catch them up quickly so be ready for that. But here again, prevention is best. We can’t have them getting injured by getting out in the road. And we can’t have them damaging the neighbor’s property. A good strong perimeter fence is your best insurance for managing this risk.

Permanent fence needs to be designed specifically for goats. The wires nearer the bottom are closer together so the smaller kids are contained. I’ve seen our full-grown goat girls get through a fence wire that was barely 6” square. I can’t remember her name, but any time of the day we might find her grazing outside of the perimeter fence. Thankfully, they are herd animals and she never went far from the rest of the herd. Later she would be back inside just going on about her business.

Taller is better. Most goats like to jump and some can jump really high – Julie Jumper was as pro. Keep it close to the ground. If the land is not level and uneven, be aware of gaps at the bottom as you move across terrain. We use two strands of barbed wire at the top for extra height and deterrence from jumping.

As far as the dividers between paddocks, this is where electric fence is an option. We chose permanent fence here as well, but it is not absolutely necessary.

Electric Fence

The advantage of electric fence that is commonly used for all sorts of pastured animals is the ease of moving it. In the spring there will be lots of grass and browse, therefore, you may keep them in a smaller area to make sure they eat everything before moving on to the next paddock. Later in the summer, they may require a larger area for the same amount of time grazing as the grass is not as tall and definitely not growing as fast. Being able to vary the size of the paddock is easily accomplished with electric netting. It facilitates a more regular schedule for you.

Again, we chose permanent fencing so our trade-off is that sometimes they might be in an area for a week and other times as much as two or three weeks if the grass is strong. It’s a little different way of thinking about it than just automatically moving them every few days or every week or however much time you decide is optimal between rotations. We move on their schedule. Electric wire lets you move on your schedule.

Source of Electricity

Things to consider with electric fencing is whether you have electricity available close to your pasture, or are you going to use a solar charger to keep the electric fence hot. While a hard wire is more reliable, it’s not that practical unless you have only a few goats that basically in your back yard. If you have more extensive pasture, then solar becomes almost a requirement. The solar unit moves with the fence.

You can also use a marine battery that will move with the fence. All things to consider in planning your system. Plus, these are great conversations with your spouse. I love our dream building conversations probably more than anything else we do together. That’s just me. I’m not sure Scott would rate the conversations that high, but he does like spending time with me. So, there is that.

Housing

Sheep will stay outside in the worst of weather. Goats do like a bit of cover from the worst of it. Though it is not absolutely essential, it is recommended. Of course, how elaborate will depend on your individual situation. They really don’t require a lot of space and will bunch together and snuggle each other.

We have a calf hutch and a couple of dog igloos. Some people build wooden structures including a space where hay can be stored close by for use in the winter. A simple lean-to or covered area with open sides are also options. Just a little something they can get under when the rain comes down hard.

Supplements and Disease Management

A couple of last things to consider in your planning is how will you supplement their minerals. This is a requirement. They must have access to free-choice minerals. Options here include a simple system of buying a pre-mixed, all-purpose mineral or going the more elaborate route. There are systems were you can buy each mineral individually and keep them stocked in their own box. The animals choose how much of each mineral that they want to consume. The prepackaged minerals leave less choice, but are balanced for the average needs of a goat. It must be goat minerals. They need copper more than other animals. Minerals made specifically for goats will address that need.

Wormer

As far as disease management, there are a few things that you should have on hand. First, a good worming medication. While you may not want or need to use these chemicals, there will be times when it might save the life of one of your animals.

Hoof Trimmers

Hoof trimmers are essential for most goat breeds. If you don’t keep them trimmed, you are going to see your goats limping around every time it rains. It is an easy and necessary skill to learn. We got Kiko goats to minimize the need, but I have no doubt that it will be a need from time to time.

Final Thoughts

There is so much more to know, but I am going to leave it here for today. How will you feed them? How will you contain them? How will you house them? How will you care for their physical health? These are the main areas to consider first. Building the physical structures will be led by the decisions you make after having these discussions and thought exercises. Let me know if you have questions.

As always, our Locals subscribers have direct access to us. And you can always drop me an email if you have specific questions. Again, I covered only the very basic thoughts to consider. There is so much more. And should you decide to embark on this journey, I believe it is one that you will have a blast learning about with your family. Jump in with both feet and enjoy the experience. There is nothing like raising and caring for your own animals.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or whatever podcasting service you use, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. It really does help. If you like this type of content and want to help us out, the absolute best way you can do that is to share it on all of your social media platforms. 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 come on over to our Locals community. Subscribe at peacefulheartfarm.locals.com. We’d love to have your support and input in the community. And we’d love to help you out by answering your questions. See you there!

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

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Knitting is My Favorite Winter Activity on the Homestead

Have I mentioned that knitting is my favorite winter activity? Things have slowed down and I can have some time to catch up on my knitting projects. The garden has been put to bed. I’m still making cheese, butter and yogurt, but canning is done for the season. I have even gotten all the frozen fruit out of the freezer from this past spring and made the promised cherry and blueberry jams. For the first time, I made brandied figs. This and so much more coming up in this podcast episode. But first . . .

Welcome to all the new listeners and a hearty holiday season welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate you all so much. Let’s get on with some homestead updates.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Let’s talk about the animals first. We love all of our animals. What would our homestead be without our animals? Pretty boring, don’t you think?

Cows

Finally, we have good news on the bovine front. We believe that all of the cows are now bred. Glory Be to God. Natural breeding is superior by far. We have one calf scheduled for birth on March 5th 2023. Then the next two will be around the 16th of July. Then the bull comes along and we have six that will give birth between August 4th and September 4th. Here is the run down.

Princess

Princess is a lovely purebred A2A2 Jersey heifer, soon to be cow, giving birth to that first calf around the 5th of March. We used sexed AI semen for her so her calf will be 50% Jersey and 50% Normande and likely a girl, a heifer. She looks great and we are anticipating great genetics in her calf.

She is small and so is her mom. Not quite miniature Jerseys, but close. Rosie is her mom and in her first lactation cycle she was giving us about three gallons of milk per day. We will expect a similar amount from Princess. We plan on selling her in the future as we move to a 100% registered Normande herd. Keep your ears open about when she comes up for sale as she will make a fantastic milk cow for some lucky family.

Rosie

Speaking of Rosie, she is in the second group of two giving birth in near the middle of July. Rosie is also a registered A2A2 Jersey. She was bred via AI to the bull Fullblood French bull Jacaranda. The semen was unsexed so the gender of her calf will be a surprise. This calf will also be 50% Jersey and 50% Normande. We will be keeping heifer calves that are 50% Normande, but like her daughter, Rosie will come up for sale sometime in the near future.

Ginger

Ginger is the second animal giving birth in mid-July. She is 75% percent Normande. That means she is not recognized as purebred, but her offspring will be as their percentage will be high enough to meet the minimum standard. The sire is also the Fullblood French bull Jacaranda.

Ferdinand’s Offspring

The last group of six are all bred via Ferdinand. You will recall that he is the Guernsey bull that we purchased a couple of months ago. He did his job well. In one month, two hormonal cycles, he has impregnated all of our remaining cows and heifers. At least it appears so as of this recording.

I’m not sure if we will be able to registered his offspring as 50% Normande. I’ll have to check on that. Violet, Virginia and Wanda are all purebred Normandes but it may not be enough for proper registration. We shall see.

Butter is a registered A2A2 Jersey. And the last two, Molly and Cookie are mostly but not registered Jersey cows. Though they are also A2A2. We will be keeping Molly as she does have 25% Normande genetics, but Butter and Cookie will also be moving on to another family.

In the end, four of our cows will be up for sale in the next year or two. They are all great animals, but again, we are building a 100% Normande herd. Each year we will probably move out a couple more as we slowly inch toward our preferred genetic goals.

Nickel

We have Nickel waiting in the wings to get big enough to be our breeding bull. Ferdinand will have one more round of breeding our cows and then we will also sell him. As you can tell, he is a great bull and will be a wonderful addition to someone’s herd. After that, Nickel will be our herd bull for a couple of years. And we will continue using AI as we can to improve the herd genetics. Scott is coming on board as our primary AI technician.

Scott’s AI Training

This is a really great piece of news that I have to share. I mentioned in the last podcst that the idea was for Scott to be able attend an AI workshop and learn to do the procedure himself. Hallelujah, he was able to attend an AI tech training session just a couple of weeks ago. It was literally only an hour away and we made it happen so he could attend. He now knows the basics of how it is done and what challenges he may face. And we have lots of cows for him to practice on as he builds his skill.

The first day he came home a little frustrated with his lack of skill. According to him, it is much harder than it looks from the outside. On the second day of the training session, he got the hang of it and all that is left now is for him to practice.

The very next time that any of our cows get bred, Scott will be trying out his new skills. That is months and months from now but we are both excited about the prospects of being able to use AI much more effectively. We will share how that goes when we get there. The timing of this training session was truly a Blessing from God.

Mack, Finn and Charlotte

Now on to the livestock guardian dogs. There is not much to say here. I am still feeling so blessed that Finn returned after six months of roaming the countryside. We are still treating an infection in his left eye. It is a stubborn infection. Sometimes his eye is clear and then it will cloud up again. Just today we aggressively upped the amount of antibiotic cream we are using in that eye to see if we can knock out that infection once and for all. Otherwise, he is putting on weight and is very happy to be home. There was an early escape and one a day or so ago that was my fault for letting him loose with an open gate, but he is still with us.

Charlotte is going along just fine. Sometimes she tolerates me petting her and sometimes still she won’t let me near her. I just go along and pet her when I can. She is a great dog and I love her so much.

Both Finn and Charlotte are currently with the sheep and the goat doelings. There are a couple of calves in there as well. I forgot to talk about Jill and Penny. Jill is currently up for sale if you know of anyone looking for a young heifer calf. We will be keeping Penny. She is 50% Jersey and 50% Normande. All is well in that pasture for the moment.

Mack is with the cows. They don’t really need him, but what else are we going to do with him. At some point, I would like to see all of the dogs and animals together. I’m not sure that will ever happen. We will always have heifer calves that need to be kept away from the bull and/or vise versa, but bull is kept away from the cows/heifer calves. And then there are ewe lambs and doelings that need to be kept away from the breeding ram and buck. I’m pretty sure we will always have two groups of animals. The best I can hope for is that all the of animals and dogs will eventually become interchangeable. At the moment I don’t trust the large animals with Finn and Charlotte and I don’t trust the small animals with Mack. So, there you have it. This may be our standard operating procedure going forward. I’ll keep you posted.

Kiko Goats

Now for a little update on the goats. Things are going fairly well in that area. I have managed to tame all of the goats a fair bit. They will follow me anywhere if they think there might be a treat at the end of the road. All are growing nicely. It will be another two months before the girls can meet up with the boy.

Lian and Amys are with the sheep and Rhuarc is right next door in the lower garden with a ram lamb as a companion. As soon as the girls are old enough, these two boys will be able to join the main group of sheep and goat girls.

Sheep

Several ewes are looking quite plump. I expect that we will have lambs in January or February. Not the best time of year, but I have found that these Katahdin sheep are really good moms and the lambs are generally hardy even in winter. If the weather is particularly bad, we can take them to shelter. Otherwise, this breed is very used to giving birth out in the pasture, even in the winter.

I have heard of several breeders that specifically breed for birthing in January and February as they are looking for their lambs to reach market size by the time November rolls around and the various religious groups are looking for lamb and goat for their feasts. We may look at that market as well. Otherwise, we like to keep ours all the way up to the 12th month of growth. I’ll keep you posted, but the sheep have dogs protecting them at the moment and I expect that we will actually have lambs soon and that we will be able to raise them to market weight without predators running off with them. At least that is the current expectation.

Chickens

The last animals to discuss are the chickens. Last time I mentioned that Mack had made mincemeat of one of the hens. We still have all of the rest of the hens and roosters. Just a few days ago, we added six new hens to the flock. One of our herd share members had more chickens than she wanted and she gifted us these hens. We are not sure whether they are Cinnamon queens or Rhode Island reds. Either way, they are providing us a couple more eggs a day.

Of the eleven others that we have, we were getting 2 or 3 eggs per day. We added half as many hens but doubled our egg production. Now we are getting 5 or 6 eggs per day. Go figure. I don’t know if I mentioned that I am looking at perhaps changing my mind of what breed of chickens that we raise. There are always good logical reasons for the breeds we choose for any given animal. However, the literature seems to be flawed on the chicken breeds I chose. I expected way more eggs from the American Bresse and Black Copper Marans. And it seems that the traditional Rhode Island reds are just better at producing eggs. I’ll have to look it up. It may be that they are primarily egg producers and not a dual breed chicken.

In the end, I may just give up on the whole dual breed idea for chickens. I’m really in it for the eggs. We just don’t eat that much chicken so the meat is not a really big deal. That’s for another day. In the spring we will do some incubations and hatch out some birds and see where we go from there. In the end, we may just have mutt chickens and forget about trying to raise specific breeds. Right now, as long as they lay lots of eggs, I don’t really care.

Creamery

Let’s move on that huge creamery project. Where do we stand with that? All of the floors are complete. As I mentioned in the last podcast, Scott was racing the clock to get that done. The temperature-sensitive nature of the glue and grout were driving that carriage. He made it. There were a few cold days where he had to wait, but in the end, he got it done.

There are a few details he is working on for the pull box covers, but other than that, the floors are complete. Next up is the electrical. And of course, the plumbing. That is still looming large in my mind. I don’t know how he will do it, but I do know that he will make it happen. It’s just who he is as a person.

At the moment he is moving his attention to fixing fences in the back fields. There is a good bit of standing hay back there but trees on the fences need to be cleared and those fences repaired. Another task on his calendar is gathering up pine wood for the wood stove this winter. For the past two winters we have not used the wood stove as other priorities and factors interfered with the collecting of wood. This year should be the time that we get back on track with using wood for fuel in the winter and getting that electric bill back down to a reasonable cost. Especially at this time in our economy when prices are rising.

These tasks will take away from the time he has in the creamery. But I’m pretty sure we are still on track for USDA certification sometime in the spring or summer.

Knitting, Cheesemaking, and Other Milk Products

I want to talk a little bit about cheesemaking and other milk products before getting into my knitting projects.

Cheesemaking

Because we have had so much problem getting cows pregnant, we are currently planning to milk the cows as long as we can before drying them up for birthing their calves. Normally, that would be about a one-year cycle. This time, it’s going to be nearly a year-and-a-half. Their milk production will continue to decline over time. And the cold of winter will also decrease milk production. These are additional days of learning and having new trials of which we have yet to have.

Currently, the cows are still producing enough for herd share milk and for me to make cheese. I’m perfecting my techniques in cheesemaking and trying a couple of new ideas to improve flavor. We shall see in a few months if my efforts have paid off.

Additionally, I’m still making yogurt a couple of times per week and butter every other week or so. It’s a bit of a different winter experience to still be dealing with milk after the end of November, but it seems to be working out great for both Scott and myself. So far. I’m happy to continue the creative art of dealing with dairy products.

Knitting

My favorite winter pastime is knitting. In the summer it’s all about the garden – planting, weeding, harvesting, canning and so on. But in the winter, things slow down and I get to take a break. What do I do with all that free time? Well, to be honest, there isn’t that much free time. I just do a lot of stuff that was put off because I was in the garden and in the kitchen for every hour of every day in the summer.

It’s so funny that I have these knitting projects that sit for months on end without any progress whatsoever. Then winter comes and I can work on them. Do I get them finished? I guess it depends on the project.

Victorian Newborn Set Knitting Pattern

The one I’m going to talk about today is a really beautiful baby layette. It has a blanket, bonnet, booties and sweater. I’ve been working on the blanket for some time. It is a Victorian themed pattern. Lacy edges and cream or off-white base color. The contrast color is burgundy. I’ll put a picture on the Locals platform and maybe I can work one in on the website. Perhaps I’ll make it the featured photo on this podcast. Yeah, that could work.

I started working on this at least two years ago. It is the most difficult project that I have ever done. First it was all about getting the pattern correct. I must have started over at least four times. That was the first year.

The second year (and when I speak of years, remember that it is a few months in the winter) – The second year, it was all about starting the lacy edge. I have taken out that part at least six times. It was late last winter when I discovered that the pattern I was trying to use was flawed.

Recreating the Pattern

Here’s that little story. As I get older, it is harder for me to read small print. And the pattern that I was using was already a year or more old and the pages stuck together and the print was mangled. So, what did I do? Well, I searched on line to try and find a “clean” copy of that pattern. I did find one. It was great for the “rosebud pattern”. It is the main theme in all of the pieces. But when it came to putting the rest of the pieces together, that pattern was a disaster.

So, what do I do now? On the evening that I made the discovery that it was the pattern that was flawed and not my knitting skills, I set out to recreate the pattern from the original. And so I did. I spent about an hour in Microsoft Word. (Okay, it may have been more than an hour. At this point, I have no idea. I just know I needed the pattern to work.) I typed out every single instruction, every detail. Then I proof-read what I had typed. It all seemed to make sense. I still have the original just in case I made a mistake. I can go back with my magnifying glass and see if I can decipher what the actual instruction is supposed to be. However, I am pretty confident that I got it right. There is a pattern to patterns and I could see it clearly. After all, I had created it over and over again, incorrectly. So when I saw the correct instruction it made perfect sense.

My Greatest Achievement

Now to my greatest achievement so far. I’ve never been successful in making joins look natural. My work has always looked sloppy. But not this time. As I got started once again on this new adventure, I could clearly see the pattern this time. I could clearly see that it was working. I finished the first end of the blanket using a stitch I had never done before. But the instructions were clear and it worked the very first time. Yippee!!

That’s not the greatest achievement. No the greatest achievement was picking up the stitches on the starting edge of that blanket. YouTube helped me out. I watched a couple of videos on how it is done. In the past I just did the best I could with the instructions which read “pick up and knit X number of stitches. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that there was an actual method to make it work smoothly. So, I watched these videos and gave their suggestions a try. Lo and behold, I created a seam that looks unbelievable. The top is just a continuation of the knitting. The bottom has to be created as if it is a continuation.

Finishing the First Piece of the Project

I never knew I could do such good work. I can’t wait to start up the sides. I’ve already watched that video and I will watch it again before I start on the sides. First, I have to finish the bottom. And I have every confidence that I will make it look just as awesome as the top. Take a look at the picture to see what I am creating. This will be the most awesome knitting project I have ever done.

Did I mention it was the hardest thing I have ever attempted? It is going to give me confidence to make the other really complicated pieces. That sweater, hat and booties are waiting in the wings.

Now, in closing, I must mention that once I finish these difficult pieces that I already have in progress, I’m going to switch to making hat, scarf, mitten sets to give to the homeless. It’s going to be my new mission for quite some time. These are simpler projects, but with a great deal more purpose. I have all of this yarn and patterns for Afghans and such that I have collected over the years. If you are a knitter, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Large Afghans are a lot of work and, when finished, I can only give it to one person. For the same amount of time and yarn, I can make something useful for those in need, several somethings in fact. I don’t really know how many hats, mittens and scarves will come out of the vast amount of yarn in my closet. But I’m going to find out.

There you have it and that is the end of my knitting story for this podcast. Take a look at the pictures of my current project on our Locals platform. That’s peaceful heart farm DOT locals DOT com.

Final Thoughts

Well, that concludes this podcast. There is always something going on the with animals and I love sharing our stories with you. I hope you have your own dreams going and adventures going on. It may be the trials and tribulations of your children, your career or your family. Please share with us on our Locals platform. We’d love to hear from you.

I hope you enjoyed my knitting story. I’m so excited to be getting back into the groove and feeding that creative impulse. What do you like to create? Let me know.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or whatever podcasting service you use, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. It really does help. If you like this type of content and want to help us out, the absolute best way you can do that is to share it on all of your social media platforms. 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 come on over to our Locals community. Subscribe at peacefulheartfarm.locals.com. We’d love to have your support and input in the community. And we’d love to help you out by answering your questions. See you there!

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

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Open House – Saturday After Thanksgiving

Hello beautiful peeps,

We are inviting all of you to come and visit us on Saturday, November, 26 between 12pm and 4pm. That’s Saturday after Thanksgiving. Bring the family. We will have baby goats to visit, chickens, and calves. We will have cheese for tasting and all sorts of jams, jellies, salsa and relishes available for purchase. Christmas gifts for the hard-to-shop-for person. Grass-fed beef and lamb will also be available for your holiday dinners. We’d love for you to shop with us instead of those boring chain stores. Or just come out and have a good time on a Saturday afternoon.

How about some homestead updates? 

HOMESTEAD UPDATES

Sheep, Goats, Finn, Charlotte and Mack 

It has been six months since I last sent out an email. How do I know? Because in the last email Finn had disappeared and not returned. Well hallelujah, he showed up again — after six months. He is a little worse for wear, but doing well. He is in charge of the two doeling goats we recently purchased. And doing a fantastic job, I might add. He is not really trying to escape. I’m not sure what has changed and it may not last. Right now I feel blessed to have him back and satisfied to stay home.

Mack is hanging out with the main cow herd and doing well. Charlotte does not stay contained where I put her. She goes pretty much wherever she wants. Fortunately, she wants to stay pretty close. I actually like that she can go where she needs to in case a predator comes too close. She’s not waiting until they are right there in the pasture.

Not much to say about the sheep. They are all doing really well. We have one ram lamb that is keeping company with the buckling we recently purchased. The does are too young to be bred so we have to keep him separate for a few more months.

The goats are the Kiko goats that I’ve spoken of in past newsletters.

Cows 

The cows finished the artificial insemination process a few weeks ago. We had such a problem getting them pregnant via AI, we finally purchased a bull to get the job done. He is a gorgeous Guernsey bull. We may have three that were artificially inseminated. The final results will be revealed in the first week of December. Ferdinand will take care of the rest of the girls. Calving is going to be late next year. It’s always rolling with the punches on the homestead. 

Chickens

We no longer have quail. The chickens I hatched have been reduced to 7 American Bresse and 8 Black Copper Marans. We had 8 Bresse, but Mack played with one a little too hard. That’s why he is with the cows at the moment. I’m not getting nearly as many eggs as I thought I would. Look for changes in that situation in the spring when we start hatching chicks.  

Creamery and Scott’s Other Stuff

Scott is getting closer and closer to finishing the creamery. We can hardly believe it has been nearly six years since we broke ground. It’s a beautiful and very functional building. I hope you’ll come on Saturday and take a look at all of his hard work. The electrical is about half done. The floors are nearly completed. The plumbing has yet to be started. That’s a job Scott is not looking forward to doing. He was going to contract it out, but the one bid he was finally able to obtain was way outside of our budget. Scott is a trooper and he will make it happen whatever it takes.   

Garden

The garden is put to bed for the winter. Nothing to say there. It produced well throughout the summer. Which is why I haven’t been putting out emails. I simply did not have the time.  

That’s it for farm news. 

Our Locals.com Community

Though I have been AWOL, Scott has continued to make regular posts on our community page https://peacefulheartfarm.locals.com. This platform is designed to be a community and to be able to support itself. Not only will Scott and I post, but as a subscriber, you can post as well. You can view content without becoming a subscriber, but there are significant benefits to taking the subscriber route. To get you started, here is the promo code for a 30-day free trial. FREE30 is the code to enter when registering.

I have a few areas of subscriber-only content that I am in the process of creating. Right now two are still only “in the mind” stage of development. One is short presentations of various types of cheeses. The other is short presentations on various homestead medicinal herbs. I do have one “subscriber only” playlist started. It will be three different mental exercises to improve your mental health. Concentration, memory, and imagination are the areas I address.

After the FREE30 days, it is $5 per month to become a subscriber. Subscriber status gives you access to ALL content, including the subscriber-only content I just mentioned. Additionally, Subscribers can make posts and comment on our posts or any other post in the community. Start conversations around local food, homesteading, cheese or any other topic of interest in this realm. Maybe ask a question about an issue you are having with your home and/or homestead. Get feedback from me and the entire community. Think of it like Facebook groups without the trolls. I post and we all comment. You post and we all comment.  

The pay wall does more than support your local food chain and our farm, website and podcast, it also keeps out those trolls. Anyone who wants to post in the community pays a nominal fee. Those who only want to be angry and destructive will not usually invest any money to be able to post their tirades. There are too many free ones, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and who knows how many others, where anyone can make any comment without fear of coming in contact with a real person. You know what I’m talking about. People saying things they would never say to a person in a face-to-face interaction.

In any case, check out Locals and let me know what you think. Here’s the link again: https://peacefulheartfarm.locals.com

ITEMS OF NOTE FOR SALE AT THE OPEN HOUSE:

  • Medium Hot Salsa (pint jars)

  • Various cucumber and squash relishes (1/2 pint jars)

  • Spiced pear jam – a hint of ginger and cloves (pint jars)

  • Apple pie jam (pint jars).

  • Cherry Jam (pint jars).

  • Pickled pepperoncini (pint jars). I have a variety with red pepper if you like a bit of spice.

  • Pepper jelly in 1/2 pints. One hot and one super hot.

  • Eggs by the dozen

  • Grass-fed beef (Roast, Steaks, Brisket)

  • Grass-fed lamb (Chops, Roasts, Leg of Lamb, Frenched Rack of Ribs) 

Herd Shares

Pickup locations are at the Independence Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays 3 pm to 4 pm or at the farm Saturdays 3 pm to 5 pm or Wednesdays 10:00 am to noon. 

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

Please go HERE to learn all about Herd Shares.


Peaceful Heart FarmCast

The latest podcast “I’m Back From My Podcast Vacation is an update on goings-on here at the homestead. Per usual, there are lots and lots of changes. This podcast covers a lot of ground. Listen to this latest one to get many more details on what’s been going on around the homestead.  


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


You found our farm!

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FARM STORE Hours:

Wednesday:  10am – 12pm
Saturdays:  3 – 5pm

Peaceful Heart Farm

224 Cox Ridge Road, Claudville, VA 24076

Can you find our products?

We'd like to make sure we have cheese available where you can get it. Whether it be at the Farmers Market or a specialty food store.

Let us know where you'd like to see us and we'll try to make it happen. We'll notify you via email when we get our products to your favorite shopping destination.

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FARM STORE Hours:

Wednesday:  10am – 12pm
Saturdays:  3 – 5pm

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Independence Farmers Market:

Fridays:  9am – 1pm (May thru October)

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