Multitasking on the Homestead

Multitasking. How do I get so much done in one day? This is a question I get often. I do a lot of multitasking on the homestead. I didn’t just wake up one day and do this. There was a process that I went through to get from a scattered, unfocused, ineffective person to one who can just get things done. Now of course, I’m not always in that zone and there are days when I’m going into a room and wondering why I am there, multiple times a day. There are remedies to the unfocused mind. And I’m going to talk about that today.

I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

I’ll keep this part brief as I give you the updates on our animals, gardens and the creamery.

Cows

The cows are still undergoing various artificial insemination routines. The first attempt we inseminated eight of our cows. Cookie had just given birth a few weeks ahead of this so she was not in this first rotation. Princess is the only one that took. We did eight again. No Princess but adding in Cookie this time.

We checked the semen and it was viable. However, the bull with the semen sexed to produce heifers was much less active. In the end, we used this semen on our Normande cows and we used the unsexed semen on the jersey girls. We will pray for greater success this time and know for sure in about three weeks. I don’t expect all of them to take. That would be wonderful, but it is not statistically likely. At that point, we will need to think about the next step. We would be getting very late in the breeding cycle. We may continue on anyway because we need the milk to make the cheese.

It’s just so frustrating right now. We plan for births in March and April. If we try again, it would push the births back into May and June. Then we get into the situation like we had with Cookie this year. The cows will not be ready to start the breeding process again in the first week of June if they give birth in May. I think I’ve mentioned this before that we make choices every single day trying to create our homestead exactly as we imagine. In the end, it never happens as we imagine and we must roll with the punches and make another plan.

Dogs and Sheep

The dogs and sheep are doing well. I have them collected together so they can get used to each other. I’m still waiting on that magic moment when the dogs and the sheep bond. So far, the sheep are still afraid of the dogs. Sooner or later, they will cave and become used to these noisy beasts in their space. We closed them up into an even tighter space so they are more likely to get to know each other a little bit better.

I’ve watched the sheep watching me feed the dogs. I even saw one start to approach Mack’s bowl while he was off munching on a bone. He is very sharp and spotted the advance right away. He immediately went to his bowl and growled very ferociously at that sheep and she backed away. As I said, I don’t want them to be afraid of the dogs, but I do want them to respect the dogs and their food. I’ve considered making a separate place for feeding the dogs and that may still happen – likely will happen. But I’m going to wait a little longer. I want the sheep to know that he will only growl at them when protecting his food. Any other barking, I want them to assume he is doing his protection job.

Goats

I’m getting a plan outlined to integrate the new goat kids into the group as well. It looks like that will happen sometime in early fall. We will have three new goat babies to add to our family. I’m excited about that and a little apprehensive as well. They are young and small and I’m still learning about these dogs. Praying it all goes well. The goat kids will also have to learn to leave the dog food alone. It’s not likely that they will learn. That’s the point when feeding the dogs separately will become most important. The goat kids will change that dynamic and I will need to get that separate space going.

Creamery

The electrical wiring is getting moving along rapidly at this point. Scott has gotten the hang of it and that part will soon be complete. I’m helping out by occasionally holding up pieces of metal as we get the ceilings in place. We’ve completed the barn, milking parlor and milk storage room. The cheese make room is in progress. I’m not sure what room is next. I just show up when he asks for my help.

Garden

The garden is in full growth and production mode. That keeps me moving too. Like the fruit, vegetables need to be taken care of quickly or they spoil. Fortunately, I’ve had some customers lately that needed squash and cucumbers. What a blessing they have been in taking my excess veggies home with them. I’m about to have lots and lots of eggplant as well.

It has been a while since it rained and I am back to watering in the evenings again. Some of the cucumbers are looking a little worse for wear as is the zucchini. They may be close to completing their cycle this time around. Now that I think about it, I could start more plants inside and have summer squash and cucumbers back in the garden in time for a late harvest. That sounds like more work than I have time for but I will still consider it in the next few days.

Chickens

I’m looking for my first chicken eggs any day now. Scott has completed the nest boxes and the hens have been trying them out. I think they like their new boxes.

We have six white and one black rooster that need to be processed. That will be enough for quite a few months for us. We don’t eat a lot of chicken but I am looking forward to these American Bresse chickens. They are supposed to be prize winning meat birds. I’ll let you know how that goes.

That’s it for the homestead updates. Let’s move on to the main topic. Multitasking. How do I get so much done in a day? 

Multitasking – Concentration is Key

I have several things in motion today. A gallon and a half of yogurt and a pot of bone broth are both long term tasks that I don’t have to monitor. Well at least I don’t have to monitor them after I get them set up. The yogurt has an in-between step where I need to cool the milk and add the cultures. Then it just sits in the Instant Pot for eight hours.

I have the juicer/steamer going. That is full of blackberries. I’ll extract the juice and then make seedless blackberry jelly. It’s a crowd favorite. I also need to process about a gallon and a half of strawberries and get them into the jam pot. That should keep me pretty busy throughout the day.

Waiting on the sidelines are the cherries and blueberries still in the freezer. Grab them as they ripen and put them in the freezer. Putting them in the freezer is a great method of getting done what would otherwise be an overwhelming task. Fruit can go bad quickly so it needs to be dealt with quickly. I can go back later and make the frozen fruits into jams and jellies. I love it. Low stress is great.

So, what is the secret to being able to juggle multiple tasks efficiently?

What does it take to multitask effectively?

A strong mind with skills in concentration, memory and imagination. Everyone has these capabilities. As far as I know, none of these mental skills is related to intelligence. To develop these skills require specific exercises, just like you would exercise a muscle. The more you exercise a muscle, the stronger it becomes. Perhaps there is a limit to how strong your mental muscles can become, but I am not aware of one.

On a side note, I am aware of the physical limitations of memory. Alzheimer’s is a real thing. Dementia is a real thing. The physical changes in the brain are real and strength in memory requires a healthy brain.

Past, Present and Future

Concentration, memory and imagination. These are three mental capabilities and they relate to the past (memory), the present (concentration) and the future (imagination). There are exercises for each of these mental muscles. When they are all strengthened and working together, juggling multiple tasks becomes easier. Staying focused becomes easier. Regaining focus after distractions is easier.

Developing the Skill of Concentration

Today, I’ll start with concentration. This is probably the most important area for me. Indeed, this skill is required as a foundation to develop memory and imagination. We will get to those two in later podcasts.

Practicing concentration is where I always start when I feel out of sorts. Focusing my attention into the present moment relieves a great deal of stress and calms my anxiety. The key is to practice concentration and focus of attention outside of any stressful situation. In other words, you need to train the muscle so when you need it, you simply call on it and it is there.

Trying to learn how to concentrate in the midst of chaos is futile. Set aside a specific time to practice. Make this a time when you will have no interruptions. Turn off your phone and any other electronic devices that may distract you from your practice session. You want to set aside this time to develop muscle memory related to concentration.

First Develop Muscle Memory

If any of you have had dance, music, art, or singing lessons you know what I am talking about here. Let’s say you are dancing the ballet. You did not just wake up one day and perform. It takes hours and hours, weeks and weeks, months and months and years and years to perfect your dance steps. You practice them in small pieces, repeatedly moving your feet, arms – your whole body in particular ways. You are repeating particular motions over and over again. And when the time comes to put it all together into a dance, you are simply repeating those motions in various combinations. Your body knows exactly how to position itself when your mind calls upon it to perform a long-practiced motion.

Another Example of Muscle Memory

The same with playing the piano. Hours and hours go into playing the scales. And not just playing the scales, but playing the scales with your fingers in particular positions and repeating the names of the notes in your mind. Those notes become drilled into your brain’s memory. Eventually, when someone puts a piece of music in front of you, commanding your fingers to play the notes you see before you will come easily. Each note is engraved in its own memory hole along with the hand and finger motions to make it happen. The training embeds into your memory muscle memory what it takes to play a G# or middle C without having to think a whole lot about it. Without that foundation, you are left to pick out a tune and play the same tune over and over until you get it. Sure, it can be done. You can learn the song, but you will always lack the flexibility that someone with the muscle memory has ingrained in their brain.

Concentration is Also a Learned Skill

With concentration, the same is true. Instead of a physical muscle memory, I built a mental muscle memory. Because I have practiced the skill of concentration, usually it takes little to no effort to call on it anytime I feel scattered or unfocused. I can play my mind and make it dance according to my desire.

Your Physical State Affects Your Ability to Concentrate

I say it “usually” requires little effort because I am also aware of how my physical state of being can affect my ability to concentrate no matter how much I know what to do, I may have something else going on that overrides my skill. Perhaps I didn’t get enough sleep, or I ate lots of sugar or I’m in pain and all of my attention is naturally drawn to it. I can practice and develop the skill but I also recognize that human beings are complex and even with the best of intentions and the best will in the world, God and life can step in at any time and rearrange my carefully constructed plans. In any case, even if my life is scattered to the wind, I can regain some control in any situation. My ability to concentrate may not be perfect in times of stress, pain and poor nutrition, but it definitely is much better than no skill at all with concentration.

Here is an exercise that I used to develop my concentration skills.

You will need several items. 1) a candle, 2) piece of paper and a pencil, 3) table and chair, 4) timer. The candle will be burning for 10 minutes at a time. Keep that in mind as you choose the size of your candle. A kitchen timer is fine or even a timer on your phone.

Concentration Exercise Steps:

  • Sit comfortably in a chair at a table
  • Place the candle directly in front of you
  • Place the paper to the right or left, depending on your right or left handedness. Place it where your arm is comfortably able to hold the point of the pencil on the paper
  • Light the candle
  • Set the timer for 10 minutes
  • Focus your attention on the candle flame and start the timer
  • Hold your attention on that candle flame.
  • Each time you notice that your attention has wandered from the flame, make a mark on the paper and bring your attention back to the flame

That’s it. Practice this exercise every day. Set aside 10 minutes a day to train your brain.

There is no need to keep the paper. The paper and pencil marks serve as a physical stimulus to refocus your attention. That’s all. It’s not about how many marks you make. That is irrelevant. The pencil marks are a way to grab hold of your attention and then move your attention back to the flame. You may want to keep the paper with marks as a record of your consistency with the exercise. Your goal is to do this exercise every single day.

If you run into trouble, let me know. I will be offering guidance on the Locals platform. Again, that is Peaceful Heart Farm dot Locals dot Com. Support my work over there and I will be there by your side to support you in your work. Further instruction in memory and imagination will also be available there. I’d love to help you reach your goals and improve your concentration, memory and imagination.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. We are moving along at lightening speed here on the homestead. I’m practicing concentration and mental focus every single day. It makes my life so much easier. I hope this exercise helps you as well. Oh, I need to mention that you will want to give it time. You’ve spent a great deal of time letting your mind move you. It will take some time for you to get ahold of those reigns and begin to direct your thoughts more purposefully – for you to move your mind. There will be some good days and some days when you won’t be able to concentrate to save your life. But gradually, you will develop greater and greater skill. You will see the results in your daily life. All it takes is a little practice. Okay, okay, a lot of practice. But it’s just 10 minutes a day. You can do it!

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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Farm Musings – A Day in the Life Podcast Episode

Hello beautiful peeps,

I have a new podcast episode out there. Please give it a listen and share with others who you think might enjoy my content.

I have two beef quarters available. Let me know if you are interested. It is 100 lbs of packaged and frozen grassfed and finished beef. About 40 to 45% is ground beef, the rest is ribeye, filet, NY strip, and sirloin steaks, various roasts, brisket, short ribs, soup bones and liver. I probably forgot something in that list. This is very high quality beef from our Normande herd. 

PODCAST DETAILS

How about a brief look at a day in my life? I also give a few homestead updates. It’s short and sweet. This is the first time I’ve created a podcast while making cheese. It actually worked out quite well. I might try it again.

I’ve finished my series of podcasts with very basic information on growing your own food. Next up for podcast series will be all about herbs used for herbal medicine. Most of that will only be available in my Locals community. You can find it at peacefulheartfarm.locals.com. 

My Social Media Community

My social media platform of choice is Locals.com. Our Locals community can be found at https://peacefulheartfarm.locals.com. This platform is designed to be a community and to be able to support itself. Not only will I post, but subscribers can post as well. You can view all of the 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.

After 30 days, it is $5 per month to become a subscriber. Subscriber status gives you access to ALL content, including the subscriber-only content. Subscribers can post and comment on my 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 be part of 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


Homestead Updates

Cows

We are in the process of artificial insemination with our cows. It is not going well. In fact, it is going so badly that we are seriously considering keeping a bull. We used to keep a bull but got tired of feeding him through the winter. A full grown bull can eat a lot of hay. He only provides a benefit to the farm about two months out of the year. We shall see. There is still time to make a different choice. 

Mack and Charlotte 

I can’t remember if I mentioned that we lost Finn a while back. He escaped one last time and never returned. It was bound to happen. I had just determined I was going to try one of those “shock” collars because we were so afraid something was going to happen to him and to Charlotte. We were too late for Finn. And Charlotte has at least been staying nearby. She still gets out occasionally, but never goes very far. I have the collar now but am not going to use it at the present time. As long as she does not wander far, she should be fine. Finn would roam for miles and miles.

So Charlotte and Mack are getting to know one another. Everything is going well so far. They are both in with the sheep out in the front field. That is where we had a coyote attack earlier this year. I feel confident that is not going to happen again with these two guardian dogs on the job. 

Quail and Chickens

The quail are all gone now. We finally processed them and now our focus is on the chickens. There are 14 American White Bresse that are doing very well. The roosters are crowing up a storm now. Six hens and eight roosters. We will have a few chickens in the freezer soon.

There are nine Black Copper Marans. Better numbers there. Six hens and three roosters. I’ll be keeping all of the hens of both breeds and two roosters of each. The rest will be meat birds for our freezer.

In the spring, I’ll hatch out a bunch more so we can keep the freezer stocked. I expect the girls to be laying lots and lots of eggs starting in about a month. I’ll probably run out of quail eggs about that time so it will all work out well.  

Creamery and Scott’s Other Stuff

The electrical installation is getting ramped up. The ceilings and insulation will go in right after that. I think we are doing one room at a time. Scott tells me the “milk room” is ready for the ceiling and he needs my help with that. He has some of the electrical stuff in place and now I will help hold the ceiling panels up while Scott operates the electric screw driver. It’s easy work and I love helping out. 

Garden

The garden is amazing. This is our fifth year with these raised beds. Each year we have added compost from our farm. It has paid off big time this year. I have the most beautiful plants I have ever seen in any garden. Summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, Swiss chard, eggplant, tomatoes — it is all amazing. 

That’s it for farm news. 


Farm and Farmer’s Market Items for Sale:

  • Mild and Medium Hot Salsa in pint jars

  • Sweet and sour pepper relish (pint jars)

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

  • Pickled quail eggs in 1/2 pint jars.

  • Apple and Peach pie filling (quart jars).

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

  • Pepper jam in 1/2 pints

  • Quail eggs by the dozen (limited quantities)

  • Quail meat in 1 lb packages (limited quantities)

  • We have ground goat (approx 1 lb)

  • I’m out of ground beef (approx 1 lb) until the first week of September

  • Grass-fed ground lamb (approx 1 lb) 


Herd Shares

I’ll see you in my usual location in Independence.

Add on as you desire. All cheeses and butter are at your service. Looking forward to seeing you on Friday.  

You can pickup at the farm Saturdays 3 pm to 5 pm or Tuesdays 10:00 am to noon. Email me to let me know if you want anything extra this time. 

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

Homestead Musing is now available. See the description above. Please like and share with others on all of your social media platforms. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. 


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


Homestead Musing – A Day in the Life

Today I’m doing a little bit of Homestead musing. More “a day in the life” sort of podcast. I’ll make is a short one and I hope you like it. I love sharing my life with all of you.

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

We got a late start this morning. I was Chatty Patty before morning prayers so we started an hour late, that’s 7:15 instead of 6:15. It’s now just about 10 am. I have fed and watered the chickens, emptied the dishwasher, sorted and started the laundry and am on my second load, cut down an entire 3’ x 8’ bed of swiss chard and disposed of it (more on that later), cooked about 3 pounds of swiss chard (some we will eat and some will be frozen), froze 2 gallons of blackberries and 3 gallons of blueberries and set up 1½ gallons of milk to make yogurt. I also need to set up for waxing last week’s cheese. Scott is currently pouring the milk into the cheese vat so I can make Pinnacle. That is our aged alpine-style cheese – sort of like gruyere. Yes, today is a cheese make day so I’ll have to get back to you later for the rest of the podcast. Love ya. Bye for now.

Ok, I’m back. Just a short update. I’ve got the culture in the cheese milk and I have a few minutes before the next step. I have to bring the temperature of the milk up to 90 degrees for the cheese that I am making today. The way that I do that is to put hot water in the metal jacket cheese vat. It is sort of like a double boiler except that it is completely closed. Well, not quite completely closed. There are a couple of openings at the top that let the displaced air out as the water fills the jacket.

Focus is Really Important

I have to be quite focused when I am doing this part because I tend to check on the milk and then go do something else and then check the milk again. If I am also filling the water in the jacket, a disaster can sometimes happen. It has already happened once this cheesemaking season. If I forget that the water is running, it will completely fill the jacket and then overflow through the opening at the top onto the floor. What a mess that makes. I think once I forgot and it was overflowing for like five minutes. There was water everywhere. If I was in the actual cheese make room we are building, this would not be a big deal. It would simply go down the drain in the floor. But at the moment we have a temporary set up in our storage room. There is a drain in the floor, but the floor is tile and not meant for lots of water to be on it. Anyway, no such disaster happened today.

More homestead musings. I’m going to get in a few animal updates before I need to go tend to the cheese again.

Cows

We are in the midst of the AI process with our cows and it is not going well. You know, one thing and another. I say this often. Life on the homestead is never dull. There is always something going on that you did not plan. We plan for pregnancies but God has the final say. We had one – possibly two – heifers that appear to have taken on the first try. That’s one or two out of eight. We have to start over with the other six. Add to that an inconvenient medical condition and we are way behind on getting these cows bred.

We are praying for the health of our vet. She got the Covid and is still under the weather. Once she is back on her feet, we will preg check the two girls we think took and give the other six another chance. Actually, there are seven because Cookie is now far enough past her delivery to begin the AI process as well. If we don’t have success this time, I’m not sure what we will do. It is extremely expensive to do AI over and over and over. So expensive that we are reconsidering keeping a bull.

Keeping a bull is also a huge expense because the bull is eating and eating and eating while only being useful for a couple of months out of a year. It’s a dilemma. However, at this point, the AI is going to cost more than feeding that bull through the winter with hay. Will it be that way every year? Who knows? We do the best we can and make new choices. Ideally, Scott would be able to do our AI but that is a long and involved learning curve. I’ll keep you posted on that topic.

Quail and Chickens

We are out of the quail business. The last of the quail were processed last week. I have quite a supply of eggs saved up. Hopefully, the new pullets will start laying about the same time I run out of quail eggs for Scott. The chickens are doing fantastic. I couldn’t be more happy there. We have at least six American White Bresse hens and eight roosters to choose from to fill out the breeding flock. There are a total of nine Black Copper Marans. The distribution there is nearly perfect. There are six hens and three roosters. I’ll be keeping two each of the roosters and the rest will get processed for eating.

Garden

A few thoughts on the garden. I mentioned that I took out an entire bed of Swiss chard. We had a dry spell throughout June. So much so that we bought extra hay to get the cows through this winter. Well, now it is raining every day. The weather is always weird. Anyway, the Swiss chard got a fungus, some kind of unpronounceable leaf spot. The red variety got it, but the giant white looks fine at the moment. I cut down every plant in the bed of red. We shall see if it grows back and if I eradicated the fungus.

Everything else looks really, really good. This is the fifth year of using this particular raised bed system. The first year we started with cut up trees, fill dirt from around the homestead and a top layer of purchased organic composted soil. The next four years, Scott added our own composted soil to the beds. This year it has really paid off. The eggplants are huge. As are the squash. The peppers took a little bit of time to catch on but there are going great guns right now.

Homestead Musing About Plants: Do I Have Too Much Plant and Not Enough Produce?

Because I planted everything so late, I’m not sure whether I am growing too much plant and no fruit, or if I just need to wait for the blooms. This morning the squash was covered in blooms and bees. I’m still not sure about that eggplant. It may be all plant and no fruit. My cilantro survived the dry heat of June. So far, so good there. The tomatoes are going to need more support in the next couple of days. I have small tomatoes and lots of healthy plants.

The lima beans are blooming. There are three beds of winter squash. The butternut I grew from plant starts so they are already producing squash, too small to pick, but there are lots of them. The other two beds are a variety of other winter squash that I started from seed. They plants look great. They are fending off the squash bugs and I look for a great crop there. The summer squash looks like all plant and they are huge, but as I said, they are now covered with blooms as are the cucumbers.

It’s little weird that it is July and I am just now getting the first squash and cucumbers. I really didn’t get my garden planted until June. Normally, it was would have been a month earlier, but I was holding on to my plants to sell at the farmer’s market. And Independence and Galax are both in a different USDA planting zone. The elevation there is about 2,500 to 3,000 and we are between 1,200 and 1,400 here. There is a big difference in temperature.

Making Cheese

Well, I’m off to tend cheese again.

And now I’m back. That’s the last time I will tell you when I leave and return. When making cheese, there are often timespans of 5, 10 or 15 minutes – or even 30 minutes to an hour where I need to leave the process to continue what it is doing and return later to go to the next step.

The cheese make process is going exceptionally well. I probably shouldn’t say that as superstition would indicate that I just jinxed myself. Oh well, I don’t believe in superstition, so there you go. I expect it will continue to go well.

Creamery

We are getting closer and closer to completing this project. Scott is sometimes down that he is not getting more done. There is always another something that needs to be done instead of working on the creamery. My advice to him and to you is to keep your attention focused on what is in front of you. Do what needs to be done right now and the rest of it will take care of itself. No sense ruminating over what didn’t happen. Let’s be grateful for what did happen. Let’s be grateful for what we have gotten done. Let’s be grateful for the people that touched our lives this week.

We thought it would be complete in late summer summer/early fall. Then spring happened. Even though the cows would need to be dried up and we wouldn’t have milk to make cheese, we thought it would be complete by year end. Then summer happened. At the moment, I’m feeling pretty confident that it will be done by the time the cows give birth in the spring. We can have a USDA inspected cheese facility just about the time we have milk to make the cheese. That sounds like a plan. . . right? We shall see.

Cheese Update!

It did go well. The cheese is in the press for the final time. I’ll check it in the morning and move it to the brine tank for salting. And at least five months until it is mature. Seven months is better. And a year is the best.  

Final Thoughts

That’s really about all I have to say for today. I just wanted to check in with you all and let you know the status of our homestead and give you yet another window into the lifestyle. As always, we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. There are always more tasks to be accomplished than there are hours in a day. It gives us purpose and motivation. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming but at those times, I just let some of those tasks slip a notch or two down the list. There are a few things that have to be done on a specific time schedule. But many more do not. I choose what I do on any given day. I choose how much I will do on any given day. Most of the time I choose to do an unbelievable amount in one day. Or at least it seems so to me. Actually, I only think that in contrast to the other days when I laze around and get very little accomplished. Well, there are fewer of those days. I get bored pretty easily and get right back to it.

How about you? Do you get bored easily? Are you dreaming of the day when you get to call your own shots? Are you working toward that goal? If you are, here is a little encouragement. It may seem like you will never get there. Don’t lose heart. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

That’s What We Did

At first, we planned five or 10 years into the future. Many times, it seemed like we would never get there. But here we are. We worked seven years longer than our original plan. We blew through our savings that was supposed to last until the creamery was built. It is still not done and we came up with other ways to make ends meet. We started our dream in 2003. That was 19 years ago and we are still going, trying to get this creamery built. In between then and now, we have changed our plans more times than I want to count. It was in 2012, ten years ago, that we decided to be artisan cheesemakers. It has taken a lot more steps, time, money, effort and so on than we ever imagined. But we never stopped imagining.

Scott is currently getting the electrical work done on the creamery. I help him with the ceilings from time to time as he moves from one room to the next. Electrical, plumbing, floors – we are nearly there.

We Appreciate Your Support

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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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Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies

Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies

White and semi-sweet chocolate chips with macadamia nuts and dried cranberries
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter 2 sticks
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Chips, Nuts, and Cranberries

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white baking chips
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 375
  • Stir together Dry Ingredients: flour, baking soda and salt.
  • Beat Wet Ingredients until creamy: butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl on medium speed of mixer until creamy.
  • Add eggs; beat well. 
  • Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. 
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Add nuts and cranberries
  • Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set
  • Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

Raising Animal Protein

Raising animal protein for food on the homestead. What are some of the options? And what are some of the factors to consider when making your choices. As you may know our choices for raising animal protein on the homestead currently includes cows, goats, sheep and poultry. In the very near future, we plan on having pigs. There are other types of protein that we may have or have considered. I’ll talk about all of those.

But first, as always, I will never take you all for granted. You make this show possible.

Welcome to any and all new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. You mean so much to me. Thank you so much for your support of this podcast. It has been a while and I’m so excited to share with you all about the homestead.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

We’ve had a busy morning already. Scott is milking. I set up for making butter in a little while and put some yogurt on to ferment. It will be ready in less than 8 hours. I’ve been out to the garden and planted a half dozen flowers, stocks this time, and let the chickens out to play.

Chickens/Quail

Chickens you say. When did that happen? If I remember correctly, the eggs began hatching on April the 8th. I had 24 eggs each of American White Bresse and Black Copper Maran. There were two incubators running and all went well. I hatched 17 White American Bresse and 7 Black Copper Marans.

Due to the low hatch rate on the Marans, the eBay seller sent me another dozen for the cost of postage. I incubated those and hatched three more of the Black Copper Maran from that batch.

The first batch of low hatch rate was not my fault. Most of the eggs were not fertile or perhaps were “scrambled” in the shipping process. But I must say that of those that didn’t hatch in the last dozen, four were nearly or fully formed. I have no idea why they died just before hatching but have to believe it must have been something I did or did not do with that last batch.

At the moment, I have 14 American White Bresse and 9 Black Copper Maran. I lost three of the Bresse and one of the Marans. That last loss happened just a few days ago. That particular chicken was hatched six days after the rest of the crew. It was always smaller, but a little over 2 weeks ago, it developed some kind of disorder. It couldn’t really stand up. The vet happened to be here that day and took a look at it. She recommended antibiotics for a few days and see how it goes. That seemed to help a bit but eventually the chick succumbed to whatever the ailment was.

The vet did not have a lot of information on chicken issues of this type. She said there are just too many variables without testing. And chicken generally are not worth the cost of testing. So, there you go.

Dogs

There is a lot to talk about with the dogs. I’ll try to keep it brief. Let me start with the current state of affairs and then go back and fill in a few details. Finn disappeared about 4 weeks ago and has not returned. While he and Charlotte escaped a lot, Charlotte has always been back the next day and Finn never more than two days. We did have to go and fetch him three different times. He seemed to get so far away that he did not know how to get home.

Charlotte and Mack are now guarding the sheep. They seem to be doing well with that task. Charlotte still goes wherever she wants, whenever she wants, but she stays relatively close. She grieved for about two weeks after Finn disappeared. I had her on a tether so she could not run away, but even after I let her loose, she was very quiet. Being a Great Pyrenees, she generally barks a lot. But there was nothing for many days. Now she is back to barking up a storm.

Fear of Thunder

Speaking of storms, on the day that Finn disappeared, there was a storm and Charlotte returned home only hours after they both escaped. I found that she is very scared of thunder. Still, after seven months, she will not let me walk up to her to pet her. But if there is thunder, she is right there beside me looking for comfort. I can pet her all I want in those moments. But Finn did not show up with her, not unusual.

Let’s see if I can be brief regarding of the circumstances of Finn’s final escape. Starting about six weeks ago, we were trying to get them to bond with the sheep so we put all of them together in the front pastures. We had already been trying this for some time in the field next to the house. We were able to contain the dogs there. The same was not true when we moved them to the front fields. For several days we tried patching places in the fence to keep them contained. They still escaped nearly every day. After an escape that had Scott going a few miles to pick up Finn, we put both of them back in the field right next to the house. Finn was put on a tether. Charlotte will stay close by to him. We then spent long hours discussing what we were going to do.

Another Coyote Attack

In the meantime, we left the sheep in the front pasture. Within three days of the dogs being out of the pasture, we had a coyote attack. We lost six of seven lambs and one of our new ewes. The remaining sheep and lamb were moved back into the field next to the house with the dogs. Just three days alone and the coyotes zeroed in on them. We suffered yet another huge emotional and financial loss. It’s far in the past now and I am over it, but as you can probably imagine, it was quite traumatic at the time. Again, I was questioning whether we wanted to have sheep and goats.

I got over that bit of negativity and we still have the sheep and a deposit on some goat kids. More on that later.

After lots and lots of research, I decided to try and train Charlotte and Finn with an ecollar. It was recommended over and over again in the Livestock Guardian Training group on Facebook. No matter the ecollar system, it is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking.

We were keeping Finn on the tether and Charlotte always stayed with him. But what to do about protecting the sheep? We can’t keep them in the same field forever. The sheep must be rotated from field to field for their health and the availability of grass. The idea of fixing fences every day, every time we move them to another field or paddock was completely unrealistic. The time to complete the ecollar fence and training would be months and months. We decided to go back to an original plan before we got Finn and Charlotte. Mack was to be the sheepdog.

We had kept him separate with the cows because he chased the sheep. He bonded well with the cows and we were preoccupied with trying to train Charlotte and Finn to guard the sheep. All was well there. Now that Finn and Charlottes plan with the sheep was scrapped, we decided to bring Mack back into the picture. And this was the fatal day that we lost Finn.

Let’s Train Mack

Now that we decided to train Mack with the sheep, what was the plan to make that happen? We needed to check the health of the flock after their coyote ordeal. The plan was to bring all the sheep and Mack to the corral together so he could see us working with the sheep. Then we would bring the lot of them back to the field next to the house for a week or so until Mack could start to see them as his animals to be protected. Well, we needed to move Finn and Charlotte out of that field while we made this short jaunt up the travel lane to the corral and back.

We put Finn and Charlotte into the lower garden fenced area. We had held them there before and there was no problem. We didn’t take the time to move the tether. By the time we returned with the sheep and Mack only about 30 minutes had passed. I’m guessing that within 10 minutes Finn and Charlotte had gotten into the orchard and then completely out of the perimeter fence.

I’m still grieving over Finn. Tomorrow will be four weeks. There is not much hope, but I still cling to just a little bit of hope. He has a collar that has our farm name and phone number clearly visible from 3 feet away. I can’t imagine someone would steal him. How would they know they needed to strongly contain him? He could have run afoul of a bear or that pack of coyotes. He could have been hit by a car, though we have found no evidence of that. Someone could have shot him. He could have gotten to the Primland resort. They have all sorts of bears, lions, and who knows what else over there. It’s an internationally known hunting resort. I just don’t know. I just don’t know. And that’s the worst, not knowing. He could still be out there.

A Brief Hope Still Burns

About three weeks ago, we had a call from someone who thought they had “our dog”. I was so relieved, but then it wasn’t our dog, it wasn’t Finn. It was a Great Pyrenees dog that was extremely skinny and had some medical issues. Perhaps Finn is still out there somewhere like that trying to survive. There is that small string tied to hope coming up again. I better move on.

Sheep/Lambs

The remaining sheep and lamb are doing really well. We moved forward with the plan for Mack guarding them. Charlotte was also in the same field and I let her off the tether after only a few days. She was so despondent I thought it was best. My instincts were correct for once in that situation. No more escaping. She stays pretty close, though she does still roam around various places on the property. I will eventually have to train her to stay within the perimeter.

I think Mack is beginning to bond with the sheep. Moving him out of the field next to the house has sealed that deal. Before that move, the sheep were with Mack and Charlotte, but the calves were also in that field. Mack immediately bonded with the calves, but not the sheep. Moving the dogs and sheep to a separate paddock from the calves seems to have worked. Fingers crossed, so far it has worked. The sheep are still wary of the dogs. It will likely take months and months for them to become comfortable with Mack. I mentioned in a previous podcast that he is food aggressive. He has chased them away from his food multiple times. We are working on a system where the dogs can have their food and the other animals cannot get to it. The sheep are easily chased away but we really want them to get along with the dogs. Eventually, all of the cows and sheep will be together and the cows are not so easily chased away. And truly, the dogs should not have to fight for their food. Yet another plan is a work in progress. Scott is working on that today.

Goats

I’ve gone back and forth about whether I want to bring goats back onto the homestead. I already decided that I want Kiko goats. They are very expensive goats. And when I say expensive, I mean very, very expensive. The kind of expense that would really hurt our finances.

I have put down a deposit on a trio of Kiko goats. It will be late summer, fall or even next spring before we have these goats. Two does and a buck as a starter herd is the plan. Not only is it imperative that the dogs begin guarding the sheep so I can feel confident they will guard the goats, but more training will be needed so that the dogs don’t harm the goats when they arrive. Thankfully, that is still quite a few months down the road. There should be plenty of time to get the dogs and sheep stabilized in their symbiotic relationship. Adding the goats will be just a short training period with the goats in the next field over where they can be seen but with no contact. After a few weeks, we would introduce them to the dogs with close supervision until we are comfortable that the dogs will accept them as part of the family.  

More on the goats as that time gets closer.

Cows/Calves

Luna went to a new home. We sold Luna and her bull calf to a lovely couple looking for a family milk cow that was not going to overwhelm them with milk. Luna was perfect for them. And her bull calf is going to be breeding their other cows. It was a great fit and I’m so glad that we could rehome her so well.

Since Luna is rehomed and Cookie finally had her calf, we are now milking three cows. Butter, Cookie and Claire. I make cheese on Mondays and the rest goes to the calves and fulfills the herd shares. All is going well with the cows at the moment.

AI for Spring 2023 Calves

AI for birthing in March has already started. We AI’d eight cows. By Monday we will know whether we need to try again with any of these girls. If we see signs of any of them coming into heat again, we call the vet and she will try again.

We also have a tentative plan to breed one or two in the fall so that we have milk year-round. Perhaps if only one or two do not take, we will let one slide and try again in December for births in September 2023. And there is always Cookie. She calved so late that she did not make it into the initial AI session. At the moment, she is already slated for December AI. Of course, we can still change our mind at any time until mid-July. AI can be done as late as Mid-July for projected births no later than mid-April 2023. There are always so many decisions to be made.  

Garden

I’ll briefly mention the garden. Finally, the entire garden is planted. Yesterday I put in the last of the winter squash and melon seeds. I may plant a few more flowers, but the veggie part is done.

Tomatoes, Lima Beans, Eggplant and Chard

I ended up with a lot more tomatoes than I had planned. Who knows that I am going to do with them? I have four beds of baby lima beans that are looking good. The eggplant is going to be stellar this year, as is the chard. The chard is pretty easy, but I must say I am more than pleased with the eggplant. I haven’t grown it in four or five years because of repeated failures. I had given up on being able to raise that vegetable. I’ll say it again, these plants look fantastic this year. This could be the year of my success with eggplant.

Summer Squash and Cucumber

I also planted cucumber and summer squash which is also a first for several years. They have never done well for me. We shall see how they progress. It is too early to tell how they are going to do. We only transplanted my plant starts less than a week ago. I see many of them catching on, but time will tell.

Onions and Herbs

The onions look fantastic. I also have cilantro, parsley, and peppers planted. The cilantro looks weak. That one I keep trying but cannot say I have been successful with it – YET. No basil. I only started Thai basil and I sold all of those plant starts at the farmer’s market. I may have to buy a plant or two of sweet basil just to refresh my stock of dried basil. We shall see.

Winter Squash/Pumpkin

The last few beds have winter squash and pumpkin. Some of those are from seed which has not yet sprouted. I hope to see a jungle of plants out there in the next month.  

Creamery

As far as the creamery, Scott and I (mostly Scott) are putting up the ceilings in the barn and milking parlor area. He has finally gotten caught up on all of his other tasks and is moving ahead with completing the creamery. As usual, we are behind schedule, but you know what?, we will keep plugging along. It will get done, but on God’s timeline and now ours. That’s about all I have to say about the creamery today. I hope to have lots of updates on this topic in the next podcast. Let’s get on to the topic of the day.

Raising Animal Protein

We have lots of resources that I’ve already talked about. As you can tell, there are always challenges, no matter how well you think you’ve laid out your plan. And every day brings new decisions that you never knew you would have to make. No matter how educated or prepared you think you are, just know that every day is a learning experience. You will never get it done, settled, never to change.

Large or Small to Start

Unless you have previous experience with large animals, cows may not be your first goto animal for raising protein. My suggestion is to start with something smaller. Sheep and goats are smaller, but even smaller than that are chickens. Chickens are always a great place for anyone to start. Comparatively, they are easy. In many places, you can raise chickens in your backyard. If you have an HOA, maybe not, you may have to forgo the chickens, but there are other options. I’ll talk about some in a moment.

The thing to keep in mind with chickens is whether you are looking for egg or meat protein – or both. If you are looking for both, check out dual purpose birds. There are many other factors to take into consideration, but this one is the most important.

Choosing Chickens

You don’t want to get caught up in exotic chickens, really cool looking chickens, that don’t produce the meat and eggs you require for your family. While many exotic-looking chickens can provide exactly what you need, it is important to check the statistics regarding the finished size of the bird and/or expected numbers of eggs per year. Some may be as little as 150 eggs per year, while others may produce nearly 300. Generally, the more eggs, the less body size. And vice-versa. More body size can produce significantly few eggs. It’s not 100% true, but a good rule of thumb. Rely on the published statistics for your chosen breed. While you may not buy from Stromberg’s or McMurray’s (those are the two biggest outfits that I know), they are a great resource for comparing one breed to another. They each have lots and lots of information about the chicken breeds they carry. It really helps in making your decision. Then you can choose who and where to get the chicks for your enterprise.

Once you’ve chosen your breed, the internet, in general, is your resource for details. Search engines are amazing for providing answers to specific questions. Just today, I looked up the age at which my chickens should start laying. For the Bresse it can be as early as four months old, while the Marans can be as late as six months old. I didn’t really consider that in my decision for which breed to choose, but it may be an important stat for you. How quickly can you begin to get eggs? Which breeds may have health issues? Are there any climate issues to consider based on where you live in the country? And so on. Choose your breed, but then read up on it to make sure it will be a good fit for you. And as always, you may make a mistake and need to start again. No problem. You won’t be able to think of every single question and get every choice correct the first time. As I said, every day is a learning experience.

You may consider ducks, though often we keep ducks just because they are cute and not so much for meat. Having said that, they do provide good meat and they come with their own set of challenges related to water. I don’t have any and can’t provide much more information than that. They always seem like more trouble than they are worth. Your mileage may vary.

Rabbits and Quail

Other small animals to consider are rabbits and quail. Both of these can be grown in the smallest of environments. And an HOA will likely not even know you have them as long as you keep the manure cleaned up regularly. Both tend to produce a lot of odors from excrement. Out here, I can get away with any amount of odor I can stand. In an apartment or HOA subdivision, you will need to find ways to dispose of the manure likely on a daily basis. As with all animals, there is learning to be done, but both of these animals are relatively easy to raise.

Goats and Sheep

I would say that the next largest animals up the scale are goats and sheep. Obviously, you need some land for this. I can’t imagine any HOA allowing grazing animals in your yard. But you also don’t need a huge amount of acreage for just a few sheep or goats. You will need fencing. If you keep them close to you, a family dog can often provide deterrents to predators such as other dogs and a coyote or two. An acre or two of good pasture will suffice for one to five goats and/or sheep. Of course, it depends on where you live, but supplementing with hay is always an option if you don’t have the grazing space. You’ll likely need hay even if you have the acreage.

Pigs

Next up would be pigs. We haven’t given these guys a try yet, but it is only a matter of time. We have been so focused on the cows, sheep and goats that we simply haven’t had the time to get this enterprise started. You can also keep one pig in a relatively small area. They are generally friendly and easy to work with from everything I’ve seen. Of course, it depends on the particular animal. You could end up with a mean or unruly animal. Just like humans, there are all kinds of personalities out there. Visit the farm where you plan to purchase your pigs and see how they interact with them. Is the breed you are considering a docile breed? Will it do well on pasture. Sad as it is, there are some breeds that will require some confinement and lots of feed to live and grow. They have been bred to thrive in that environment. If you have woods, you have a great environment for raising pigs more naturally. This is another animal with which I have no experience, so I’m not going to say more here. Just listing it as an option for animal protein sources.  

Bovine Animals

If you are into the big animals, cows and even bison might be a good choice for you. Even with a cow, you can get by on a couple of acres. You’ll need more or less hay according to where you live. And as an aside, all of this info is for the US. I am definitely not your resource for anywhere outside the continental US. And I don’t have any info on raising bison, but there are plenty of them available out in the Oklahoma and Texas areas. They are a big, scary animal but it’s definitely doable. Check out Arms Family Homestead for info on bison.

How Much Do You Need?

Anyway, as far as beef, one butchered cow will provide protein for at least a family of four for a year. It depends on how much meat that your family consumes and that in turn depends on their ages. A couple of teenagers and you need the whole cow. If your children are younger, you might only need ½ a cow. And you will need to factor in what other animal protein sources you have chosen to raise.

Now that I am on that subject, I’ll give you our stats and you can perhaps scale it up for you and your family. For the two of us in a year we plan for as much as ¼ cow, ½ pig, 1 lamb and 1 goat. That amount changes depending on which animals we have available at any given time. But if all things were equal, that is what I plan for the two of us for a year’s worth of animal protein. Add to that lots and lots and lots of eggs from the chickens. As far as chicken meat, I don’t have a very good idea of how much we consume. Unfortunately, I’ve been buying them at the grocery store at irregular times. Usually, when I’m shopping and think, “gee, I haven’t had chicken in a while” and then I buy one of those rotisserie ones. All of that is coming to an end soon, thank God. At the moment we don’t eat a lot of chicken simply because it requires that trip to town.

I’ve heard others plan the number of meat chickens from one a week to one a month. There are 52 weeks in the year and 12 months. Your needs will fall in there somewhere. And all of that has to change if chickens and rabbits are your main source of animal protein. You might need two a week or some other number. Make your best guess and then adjust each year as you narrow those numbers down for your changing family situation. Again, your plans will change as you learn.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I’m changing my schedule to make it easier for me to publish podcasts more often. There is always so much going on and the animals and gardens have first priority – and of course getting that creamery up and running. We will get there eventually. In the meantime, I’m assessing how I use my time and opening up more opportunities to share our homestead updates and a little bit of wisdom on how you might get started.

God willing, I think I’ve given you enough basics on animal protein sources to get you started. Shoot me an email with any questions you have about getting starting with growing your own animal protein for food. I’m always happy to take a few moments to respond. Tell me what you are trying to accomplish and I will try and provide some guidance or at the very least, where to find more information.

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. It really helps with the algorithms. If you like this type of content and want to help out the show, 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.

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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