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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Farm Updates, Herd Share Pickups, Market Info: 6/9/2022

Hello beautiful peeps,

Once again, it has been a long time since I’ve given you guys an update. My apologies. Live seems to be moving so fast right now. Is it the same for you? Can you believe we are already into June? Scott has been making lots of 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 two areas of subscriber-only content that I am in the process of creating. One is short presentations of various types of cheeses. The other is short presentations on various homestead medicinal herbs.

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

PODCAST DETAILS

I realize it has been a long time since I updated you on goings-on here at the homestead. There are lots and lots of changes. I’ll hit the highlights here and provide details in an upcoming podcast. There are also more details on a couple of podcasts I’ve published since my last newsletter. My habit is to only send out an email when I have announcements with very brief homestead updates. Podcasts are where to find everything you ever wanted to know about the homestead as well as additional content regarding cheese, raw milk, medicinal herbs and homesteading. 

Honestly, there has been a significant lag with the podcast publications as well. The last one came out two months ago. A new episode will be published in the next few days getting you up-to-speed on as much as I can cover in a 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Subsequent episodes will bring you more details on the cows, dogs and sheep. There is just too much to get into one episode.

I recently did a short series of podcasts with information on growing your own food. The first in the series is a brief introduction to types of soil conditions involved in container gardening, raised-bed gardening and the conventional row-type garden. In the podcast, I only have time for a very brief description following the homestead updates. Ask for more detailed information on the Locals platform. This will be subscriber-only content. Again, get started with your free trial (FREE30) to see if this is something you want to enjoy in your life.

This newsletter is getting long. Here we go with the very briefest of updates on the homestead. 

HOMESTEAD UPDATES

Sheep, Finn, Charlotte and Mack 

We had 7 lambs this year. Unfortunately, we had multiple issues with keeping Finn and Charlotte contained. The last time they escaped and left the sheep  was about 5 weeks ago. I tethered Finn in the back field as a temporary measure to contain him. We left the sheep unattended in the front field for maybe three days and we lost 6 of the 7 lambs and one of our new ewes. Yet another coyote attack. Bad mistake. We immediately moved the sheep to the back with Finn and Charlotte (Finn was still tethered at this point).

Eventually, having observed that Finn and Charlotte were such a problem with escaping, we decided to change plans and train Mack with the sheep. He had bonded so well with the cows it was logical to try him with the sheep. Yet another mistake was made during this transition and at this point, I am still grieving the loss of Finn.

We took him off the tether and contained him with Charlotte in the “lower garden.” This was to be a temporary place — literally less than an hour — while we took all of the sheep and Mack to the corral and checked their health and then returned them to their original pasture, together as a unit. By the time we returned, both Charlotte and Finn were gone — escaped yet again. By evening Charlotte had returned. Finn has been missing now for three weeks. He has never been gone more than two days. Once we picked him up about five miles away when a local farmer called to let us know he was at his place. He has a collar with our farm name and phone number. I can only hope that he is still out there somewhere roaming around and someone will see him and give us a call.

On the up side, Charlotte is getting along well with Finn. She still pretty much goes anywhere she pleases, but she comes back quickly. It took her about 2 weeks of missing Finn before she would even bark at anything. Now she is more back to normal — which means escaping regularly. He has never gotten lost the way Finn did nearly every time. There is no fence that will contain either of them so I will be trying a corrective collar on her to try and save her from disappearing, never to be heard from again. 

Cows 

The cows have begun the artificial insemination process. If all take, we will have eight calves in March or April. All is going well with that process. Watching for signs of coming back into heat begins in about 4 days. In about a month, preg checks will begin.

Quail and Chickens

A lot has changed with the quail situation. We have decided to go ahead with getting chickens. That means the quail will no longer be needed for our homestead. As soon as our new chicks begin laying eggs, we will be done with the quail. I don’t know if I ever mentioned this, but raising quail is quite expensive. There is a reason people have chickens rather than quail. 

We are still getting lots of eggs. For the most part we get 24 to 27 eggs a day.

I hatched out two batches of chicken eggs. We now have 14 American White Bresse chickens and 10 Black Copper Maran chickens. More on those guys in the next newsletter. They are about 8 weeks old and doing very well. For more details on some of our plans in this area, listen to the latest podcast.  

Creamery and Scott’s Other Stuff

Scott finished ordering construction materials to complete the entire building. There are still a few items on backorder that will show up at some time in the future, but most is here waiting for him to complete the assembly.

I have been helping him put up the roof. Everything slowed down with the coming of spring. We have both been working on getting the garden planted. Scott got the orchard in order and all of these things have superseded working on the creamery. Such is life on the homestead.   

Garden

It’s past the first week of June and we finally got the bulk of the garden planted. Yesterday I really did myself in with too much sun in one day. We were planting the rest of the vegetables I had in 2″ pots. Whatever was left of my plant starts after the last farmer’s markets ended up in the garden. I held off planting our garden to see how many plants would be available. As usual, God has a great plan and I had almost exactly what I needed to fill out the entire garden. We have brussel sprouts, onions, chard, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, lima beans, parsley, winter and summer squash, eggplant  and I will fill in any spaces with flowers, bachelor buttons, stocks, and painted daisies. 

That’s it for farm news. 

ITEMS OF NOTE FOR SALE AT THE FARM AND INDEPENDENCE MARKET:

  • Mild, Medium Hot and HOT Salsa (pint jars)

  • Sweet and sour pepper relish (pint jars)

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

  • Apple pie jam (pint jars).

  • Apple 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

  • Quail meat in 1 lb packages

  • Grass-fed ground goat (approx 1 lb)

  • Grass-fed ground beef (approx 1 lb)

  • Grass-fed ground lamb (approx 1 lb) 

Herd Shares

I’ll see you in my usual location in Independence or here at the farm.

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

Pickup locations are at the Independence Farmers’ Market on Fridays 9 am to 1 pm or 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

A new podcast is in the works. The latest podcast “Planting the Garden,” has a lot more information on the breeds of our new chickens as well as springtime animal births on the homestead. Give a listen to bring yourself more up-to-date on how our lambing and calving season went. A large portion of that podcast details my original spring plans for the garden. As life goes on, those plans changed. More on that in the next podcast.  


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


Planting the Garden

Planting the garden this year is a little tricky. Each year I have to determine what vegetables I want to grow. I don’t plant everything. After years of just planting everything that caught my eye, I am now choosy about what I plant.

There are quite a few farm updates to talk about. Before I get to it, as always, 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 never want to take you for granted. Thank you so much for being here. Let’s get started on some homestead updates.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

It’s officially spring according to the calendar. We are still having quite a few cold days, but birthing is happening and planting the garden is on the horizon. We have calves, lambs and chicks in the incubator. Let’s start with the calves.

Cows and Calves

We had and/or have four cows and/or heifers that were bred this year. Three have given birth, all within 8 days. That’s how AI works. Everyone is fertilized at the same time and the births come close together.

We have two bulls and a heifer so far. We bought Cookie and added her to the homestead last year. She was not bred with our other cows and her delivery date is sometime in April. So about two to three weeks before we have that last calf. Incidentally, we expect to breed seven cows and two heifers beginning the first week of June. We will have lots of calves, more calves next year than we have ever had on our homestead. Just in time for the cheesemaking to get into high gear. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The calves are beautiful and growing like weeds. We are still looking for names for the two bull calves, but the heifer is named Penny. You can see pics of these guys on our Locals.com community or on our Facebook page.

Sheep and Lambs

As far as the sheep and lambs, the ewes were pasture bred. That means we stick the ram in there with them and he does his job according to their cycling schedule. Interestingly enough, all five ewes delivered within three days. They delivered even more closely than the AI’d cows. We had a total of eight but lost one that was part of a set of triples.

Stellar Ewe

It is very unusual for ewes to deliver more than one lamb in their first season. One young lady had triplets. She is currently raising two of them and doing really well. I think we can probably expect triplets from her every year. The oldest ewe consistently has twins – really big twins. They were the last born and looked to be a week old compared to the others.

The breakdown on the lambs is four girls and three boys. We will be keeping the girls and enlarging our sheep flock. For quite a few years we have kept the flock small. But quite frankly, the market for lambs and goats is going crazy right now and we need the extra income to finish the creamery. And we really like these animals. It’s great that they can now support themselves and provide a bit of income. In the past, we worked at a break-even margin, eating a lot of the lamb ourselves. That does save money on groceries, so there is that.

Goats

We have not had goats on the homestead for over a year. Next week we are visiting a nearby goat operation. They have registered Kiko goats. I’m not sure we will be able to get a starter herd this year, but we plan to go and see what she has and ask a lot of questions. They will be really expensive as goats go. We need to prepare and budget for that as well.

We keep goats for their meat of course, but they are also very useful in keeping the pastures cleaned up from unwanted brush and pine trees. Goats love woody stemmed plants. They will completely clear out all of the wild blackberries, wild rose, and generally all thorny plants that sheep and cows will not eat. It’s exciting to think about having these love creatures back on the homestead. I’ll keep you posted on when that might happen.

Quail and Chickens

The quail are doing well. I will be hatching out at least one batch of quail in the near future. However, at the moment, I have two incubators running with two dozen chicken eggs in each. I’m so excited about having chickens.

American White Bresse

I ordered fertile eggs instead of live birds. The reason was the cost for the breeds I chose. The first breed is call American White Bresse. They are a heritage breed that originated in France. Goes well with our French breed cows. Anyway, they are bred to forage well and are traditionally raised with their feed soaked in milk. Isn’t that cool. I always have skim milk after taking the cream for butter. Now we have yet another place the milk can go.

These birds are dual purpose. They lay lots and lots of eggs and also grow to a good size for meat. Another advantage is they reach their laying age about 6 to 8 weeks earlier than typical American dual-purpose chickens.

Black Copper Maran

The other set of eggs are Black Copper Maran. These birds don’t get quite as large and I’m okay with that. I personally don’t care for the really large chickens. The cool thing about the Black Copper Maran is they have the darkest brown eggs available. They are milk chocolate colored. They are so beautiful. They also lay quite a few eggs and mature more quickly than American dual breeds.

The Black Copper Maran is also a French breed. Post-WWII France, the breed was endangered and close to extinction. The French Department of Ag rescued it and began a breeding program. Today, there are lots of varieties. The Black Copper Maran is still quite rare in the US. This is yet another expensive bird which is why I went with the eggs rather than trying to get chicks. The day-old chicks can cost up to $80 a piece. Two dozen eggs were about $85 I think, perhaps more with shipping.

Anyway, we will have baby chicks in a few days. If I get a 50% hatch rate or a dozen of each breed, I will be happy. That will be plenty of hens to lay eggs and the rest for meat. Then next year we raise more.

Orchard

Scott has been working diligently in the orchard pruning and cleaning up old canes in the blackberry rows. He still has a long way to go. The trees are done and the blueberries are done.

Somewhere when he was working in the blueberries, he placed an order for more plants. There was a particular variety that did really well for us. He ordered 50 of those. That meant he had to dig 50 holes along with fertilizing and other soil treatments.

It’s raining today so the blackberries will have to wait still another day before he completes that trimming job. It has been years since they were pruned and cut back. The rows he has completed look fantastic. I look forward to lots of berries this year. The berries always grow better when the plants are trimmed and maintained. More energy can go into making fruit and not so much into keeping up old canes.

Garden

The garden is still patiently waiting to be revived. Planting the garden is currently on hold. I have lettuce and onions ready to plant. Steps still needed there are getting the compost over to the garden and getting is sifted so it can be used as top dressing for each bed.

Last fall, Finn the wonderful livestock guardian dog, dug holes – really big holes – in a lot of the beds. There is a lot of work that needs to happen there. In total we have 20 beds and two long and thin areas that connect 10 boxes each. So, 10 boxes that are 3 feet wide and close to 7 feet long are all connected at one of the short ends. That continuous bed is 70 feet long and about 2 feet wide. And there are two sets of those.

I’m still not completely sure what I am planting in the 70 feet long areas. Last year it was 50 tomato plants down one side. The other had early green peas and then nothing for the rest of the year. I may plant flowers in there this year. Who knows? I still have time to make that happen. All 20 beds are planned. I’ll come back to that when I talk about today’s topic of what I am planting and why.

Creamery

First, let me finish up the homestead updates with the creamery. We have lots and lots of materials all over the place. Scott ordered just about everything we need to complete this project. With prices skyrocketing, he ordered fast and furious to keep the cost as low as possible. It will cost a bit in interest, but nowhere near the cost of waiting as prices are still rising and sometimes nearly double what they were just a few months ago.

As soon as he finishes with the orchard and readying the garden, he will be hot and heavy on getting that creamery finished. We are looking for that to be before year end. Yay. It will be about 5 ½ years since we broke ground on it in the spring of 2017.

Let’s get on with planting the garden this year.

Planting the Garden

What will we have and why?

Back to those long pieces that connect all the beds, the current plan is to have cherry tomatoes and cucumber plants along the orchard wall. I may need to start more cucumbers as I plan to sell some of those plants at the farmer’s market beginning in May. Now that I think about it, I may need to rethink how many plant-starts I have and get on the ball with planting more if needed.

All along the other wall will be Brussel sprouts. Scott loves these little cabbages and I want to see if I can grow them successfully. We do have problems with all sorts of pests that attack the cole crops. That’s c-o-l-e crops. At a basic level, they are all plants that belong to the mustard or brassica family. They descended from the cabbage. They grow better in cool weather. Some people think that is where Cole came from, but alas, no. Cole is a Latin word that means stem.

Cole Crops

The most common plants in the Cole category are: broccoli, brussels sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, turnips and watercress. We have tried most of these plants and have had consistent problems with the cabbage moth. I’m not sure what I will do this year to stave off this pest. What do you do? Anyone out there got some tips on this?

So that takes care of the two outlying beds. Now, for the 20 individual beds, 10 on each side. Right now, my plan is three beds of lettuce. For the most part, that will be sold at the farmer’s market. Three beds of spinach because Scott loves it. I haven’t ever successfully grown spinach so, fingers crossed, this will be the year I make a breakthrough on growing beautiful spinach.

I plan on a couple of beds of herbs including basil – two types – parsley, and cilantro. A bed of Swiss chard and one bed of eggplant. Again, Scott loves these. I have been quite successful with Swiss chard and I want to get better at growing eggplant. I was successful one year, but not in any successive year. We shall see how it goes this year.

Squash and Onions

I will have three beds of onion. Only white onions this year. I have found they keep the best and it just doesn’t make sense to me to grow onions that go bad after only a short while, no matter how pretty red they are or how sweet the yellows may taste. I’ll have three beds of winter squash, spaghetti, acorn and butternut. We love squash. And finally, four – yes count them – four beds of lima beans. Last year it was green beans and crowder peas. The year before that it was various dried beans, red – black and white. This year is the year for lima beans.

Plants for Farmer’s Market

Other things I’m growing for market are Jet Star tomatoes, hot peppers, cucumbers, summer squash (yellow crookneck, zucchini and white scallop) and herbs. I’m also going to start some flowers. I need to get going on that. Spring is moving along rapidly.

That’s about all I have time for right now. I still have lots to do before the day ends. Scott is in here waiting for me to finish so we can go milk cows. I love milking cows. It’s so peaceful.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed getting up-to-date on the homestead and learning some about our method of madness in gardening. Planting the garden always encompasses many considerations. Perhaps my thought process is more complex or even less complex than yours. In the end, it is one of the most enjoyable times of my life is thinking about what my plan is and then executing that plan. And each year planting the garden will be different and I love it. Life on the homestead is always evolving. There is never a dull moment around here. Thanks so much for traveling along with me. Hope you tune next time as well. We love having you.

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

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Producing Your Own Food: Planning

Today I will be continuing the conversation on producing your own food. There is a lot to cover and what I can include in this podcast will only whet your appetite for more. Growing food for you and your family is one of the most satisfying occupations in the world. That is of course in my humble opinion. I’ll keep talking about it as long as you want to keep listening to it.

Welcome new listeners and welcome back veteran homestead-loving regulars. Thank you so much for stopping by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. There are so many exciting things happening around the homestead. Let’

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Let’s start with homestead updates. I have some fantastic news. Well, it’s fantastic for us. I’ll save it for last, just before I get into the next “producing your own food” segment.

Cows

We have three cows and one heifer that are scheduled to give birth very soon. Claire and Butter are two of the cows, Luna is the heifer. All of these girls are due sometime around the 23rd of March. Our newest cow, Cookie, is due in mid-April.

I forgot to tell you all about Cookie in the last podcast. She is our latest addition to the homestead. Cookie is about 4 years old. We were a little concerned about meeting our needs for milk in the early spring so we started looking around for a good milking girl to add, at least temporarily, until we get our younger girls bred and producing milk.

Cookie is a great cow. She is a from an organic dairy about an hour and a half from us. She is mostly jersey but has some guernsey in her as well. Originally, she was a 4-H show cow. That makes her very friendly and an attention seeker. We love her already. And it looks like she integrated into the herd without issue.

Sheep

We expect lambs in the next two weeks. There are five ewes that are currently pregnant. Two of them are older and I expect at least one of those girls to have twins. The other three are just about a year old. Normal birthing is for yearlings to have a single lamb. We are looking for five to seven lambs this season.

Dogs

Finn and Charlotte are on patrol duty for keeping these guys safe. Finn is still escaping regularly and we are working on a training regime for him. Every time he goes where he is not supposed to be, he gets put on a tether for two days. We are hoping this will be effective. However, it is well known that any dog with Great Pyrenees genetics will tend to roam. Recently, he hasn’t been roaming outside of the perimeter fences, but we really want to train him to stay in the area he is assigned. We shall see how it all works out. It may be that we simply have to live with him going wherever he wants, whenever he wants. It is obviously dangerous for him, but we do not want to deflate his spirit and ruin him as a livestock guardian dog. I hope that the birth of the new lambs will give him better incentive to stay with his charges. We shall see.

Quail

The quail seem to cause me perpetual grief. So many people love walking in nature and I do too. It seems so peaceful and calm and beautiful. The true reality is that nature has a really brutal side to it. You all know this. Storms and drought and fires and floods are all daily happenings around the world. What we tend to overlook is how brutal animals can be with each other. The quail have been a real challenge in this area.

After months of no issues, all of a sudden, I might have one, two, three birds that are brutally attacked by the others in the cage. It is heartbreaking. I then have to make special arrangements for healing of these unfortunately bullied birds. If I can find the culprit, I separate her from the rest. One dilemma is where do I keep all of these? What quarters do I have available for housing?

Quail Clinic

Right now, I have two roosters in the bottom right cage. One is in the main part and the other is in the enclosed box the hens use for laying eggs and all use for taking dust baths. The one in the main part of the cage was not too badly injured. The other was in really bad shape. Yesterday it looked like he had his eyesight back in at least one eye. This is after three or four days of complete blindness. I’m happy he is healing. I still don’t know what I’m going to do with these two guys after they are healed. That cage is meant for hens who are laying eggs.

I believe I found the perpetrator. I took a chance and put her in another cage. I took out the rooster in that cage and put him in another cage. That was risky also. It is always risky to put one bird or another into a group of strangers. So far, after a few days of this setup, there have been no more incidents. But I have a cage of hens with no rooster. That means eggs, but no fertility. Do I dare put a rooster back in there with the mad hen? I know, you probably think I should just cull her and be done with it. I agree, though the problem I have is that one quail is barely enough for one child. We need three or four to make a meal. I could take the two injured roosters as well. But the risk there is I need them for breeding later. It’s all so complicated. So, what is the solution?

Chickens

Well, the solution is for me to give up on quail altogether. Maybe another could handle it, but not me. We have ordered baby chicks which should arrive around the first or second week of April. It will take them many months to get large enough to provide us with eggs. I will deal with the quail until then. Once the chickens are grown and producing eggs, all of the quail will go to freezer camp. Their cage will be repurposed. Perhaps at a later date we will add rabbits to the homestead and this will be the perfect housing for them.

I shopped in detail and we discussed at length which chicken breed we wanted to raise. In the end, we settled on two breeds. First the Barred Plymouth Rock. These are black and white spotted chickens. They lay brown eggs. Second the White Plymouth Rock. These are pure white and they also lay brown eggs.

Dual-Breed Chickens

There were several reasons for choosing these two breeds. The first and most important reason is that they are what is called “dual-breed” chickens. Like our cows that are abundant in meat and milk, these chickens excel at producing both meat and eggs. Both breeds produce large brown eggs and top out in weight at nearly the same size.

I thought I had decided on a different breed, the Buff Orpington. I loved their beautiful tan color and fluffy look. However, after comparing breeds, it became obvious that the Buff Orpington, while dual-purpose, leaned toward meat more than eggs. They produced an equal number of eggs to the Plymouth Rocks, but medium rather than large. And the fully grown Buff Orpington is significantly larger than the Plymouth Rock breeds. I’m very happy with my choice. Eggs were the most important to us, but not to the exclusion of meat.

Egg Layers

There is a breed of chicken called Easter egg. They lay multiple colors of eggs. Then there are the really productive egg layers, but the birds don’t put on meat like the dual-purpose breeds. I may check them out in the future because, as I said, our primary need is for eggs. And I may raise a few high producing egg layers and see how the carcass compares with the dual-breed chickens. It’s a whole new adventure.

Scott has been watching videos on various types of chicken coops. Our goal here is to provide just enough protection for two or three years. So a simpler, more stream-lined chicken coop is in order. We want something that can be completed in a day or two. Later, after the creamery is built, Scott can spend some time creating the perfect chicken coop complete with an attached garden shed. The coop will be in the garden area with immediate access to the orchard. This is for free-range grass grazing in the orchard and pest control in both areas.

Let’s move on to my continuing series on producing your own food. Animals and poultry will come later. Right now, we are focusing mostly on vegetables in the garden.

Producing Your Own Food

Today I am going to focus on the planning aspect of gardening. I’ve talked about deciding what kind of planting you will do – container, raised beds, row crops and so on. Last time I touched on starting plants from seeds. But how do you decide exactly what you are going to put in those beds and containers and seed starting plugs?

Planning

The first and most important thing you need to hear is to grow what you like to eat. There is no point growing lots and lots of gorgeous lettuce if you only eat salad once every two weeks. And while peppers are easy to grow, how many do you think you will use? And what kinds?

These are decisions that need to be made before you go into your big box store and start looking at those rows and rows of seeds. Decide before you open that giant catalog. I can’t tell you how much I love looking at those different plants and all of the various vegetables that can be grown. It is really fun – and it is so easy to get bogged down in the details and endless options.

Tips

Here are some tips. If you are going to grow zucchini, start small with one or two plants. Some kinds of vegetables produce all summer long. Zucchini, yellow squash and the various white scallop squash are examples. Even a couple of each of these plants will sometimes be overwhelming for two people. By the end of the season, you may never want to see another zucchini again. On the up side, I guarantee you that if you love this veggie, this aversion will dissipate to nothing over the winter. By spring you will be chomping at the bit to grow it again.

While lettuce and tomatoes sound great for your salad, they are not necessarily complimentary in the real world. Lettuce likes cool weather and turns bitter in the hot summer and will bolt. That means it goes to seed and stops producing. On the other hand, it’s not unusual in this part of the country to not get your first tomato until July. The lettuce is long gone. Of course, you can grow late summer/early fall lettuce and likely still have tomatoes to go in your salad. Eating with the seasons is a bit of a learning curve and can catch first-time gardeners by surprise. While I said grow what you like to eat, you might find that what you like to eat doesn’t look quite the same in the garden as it does on the grocery shelf.

How Much to Grow

Let’s see, what else? There is no good solution to knowing how much you should grow of any given vegetable. While crop reports and projected crop yields may give you an idea, your soil, your location in the world, your average weather, the fertilization schedule, pest attacks all contribute to outcome of your crop. Pest and weeds are a greater problem in infertile soil. That means in the beginning, before your soil is built to perfection, you can expect lower yields. Every year I expect greater yields. I learn more about when and how much to water, how much fertilizer is required and how often. The weather is different each and every year and that will never change.

So how do you plan for how much to grow? Some of that is limited by the space you intend to use. Beans come in a packet that usually has about 40 seeds. Plant one packet and see what it produces. Learn about how to grow the plant before settling on how much you will grow. Use your first year or two or three to simply learn how to grow things.

Tomatoes

I’ll give some examples with a raised bed garden system with a bit of a ground crop on the side. Let’s start with tomatoes. One cherry tomato plant will provide a constant supply of candy all summer long. You might plant one or two more if you have several kids that like tomatoes. Then you might want a few plants that produce a good slicing tomato. You will find these distinctions clearly identified in your seed catalogs. Cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, paste tomatoes, tomatillos. One other thing about tomatoes. There are determinant and indeterminant species. Determinant plants will produce all of their tomatoes at once and stop producing. Indeterminant tomatoes produce over and over and over all summer. They also grow very large plants with lots of greenery and needs a couple of feet of space between them. Don’t be fooled by how small they are when they are first put in the ground. These are very large plants. Only grow paste tomatoes if you plan on trying your hand at making tomato sauce, salsa, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, bar-b-q sauce, etc.

Peppers

Peppers: Keep your choices down to a few. There are so many different kinds of peppers. And I must admit, they are very fun to grow. I love growing peppers. But what do you do with all of them? I grow lots of green bell peppers. At harvest time, I chop and freeze lots of them and use them throughout the winter and spring any time I need chopped peppers for a recipe. Hot peppers are a different story. Cayenne peppers can be threaded together and dried. They will last a very long time and it’s easy to reach up and grab a pepper and crush it into whatever dish you are creating. Jalapenos can be pickled. Last year I grew Pepperoncini and pickled those. Banana peppers are easy to grow. I also chop and freeze them when I get too many.

Lettuce

Lettuce: This is a tough one for me. There are just too many options here. If you are new to garden grown lettuce, you may need to do a lot of reading. In the grocery store you usually have access to ice berg lettuce (which no one that I know grow in their garden), large heads of romaine lettuce, and usually a green and/or red leaf lettuce. There are sealed packages of greens that are also available now that can give you a bit more of an idea of loose-leaf greens. All of these are available in your seed catalog. The romaine lettuces are usually smaller and yummier than the large heads you see in the grocery store. You know the ones that have that big white stem that you often cut out. Garden varieties will have smaller, leafier greens.

There is a variety of garden lettuce that I just love. It is called butter head. These are head lettuces but the heads are really quite small and very loose. Butter crunch lettuce is probably my absolute favorite lettuce to grow and eat.

Once you get to the loose-leaf lettuces, the variations are endless. These lettuces are sometimes called cut and come again. You cut most of the leaves off and leave the plant to grow more leaves. There are smooth leaf, ruffled leaf, curly leaf, red leaf, green leaf, purple leaf, and more. I gave up a long time ago trying to grow individual kinds and just opt for one of the salad blends.

Succession plant your lettuce. What I mean by that is you decide how much space you will use and then divide that up into four to six sections. Plant one section, wait a week to 10 days and plant again. Do that until all sections are planted. Like the first section will be producing about the time the last one just gets started. That will space out your lettuce over time so it does not overwhelm you all at once.

Beans

Beans: Our 3-foot by 8-foot raised beds require at least two packages of beans for a full planting. This is another place where you can try all sorts of beans just for the fun of it. And you may find you have a favorite that is simply not available at the local grocery where you a limited to green beans. There are purple beans – though they cook up green. Some are as long as 3-feet. I forget what those are called. I stuck with tried and true favorites with a few purple and yellow wax beans thrown in for fun.

Keep an eye out for “bush beans” and “pole beans”. I stick with bush beans. I have tried various methods of growing pole beans and always come back to the bush bean. Pole beans require support and they can climb ten feet or more. My mother had a really neat setup. Some day I may try it myself. She had a metal pole about ten feet sticking out of the ground. At the top my dad somehow mounted a bicycle wheel like a little flat top. Mom would tie string to the bicycle wheel and secure it in the ground with a tent stake. All the way around and when she was done it looked like a string teepee. She planted the pole beans at the tent stakes and those beans would climb right up those strings to the top and beyond.

Squash

Squash: again. Start with one zucchini, one yellow and perhaps one scallop. Winter squash is something else. Squash, melons, watermelon and pumpkins require lots of space. They will spread all over the place. For instance, in our raised bed system, I might have two to four plants in one bed. It will cover that bed, flow over the sides and into the walkways. I’ll keep moving the spreading vines back up onto the bed, but if it were only on the ground, I would just let it run all over. I can grow small pumpkins in the raised beds, but most pumpkins need at least a six-foot-by-six-foot area for each plant. Same with watermelon. These would be challenging for someone trying to container garden on their apartment balcony.

There really are too many options for me to cover in this short podcast. I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and if you have questions email me or contact me on our Locals page. That’s peacefulheartfarm.locals.com.

More Tips

Other things to consider. Think about buying open pollinated seeds as you can save them and not have to buy the next year. That is another learning curve for some things and you may not be ready for that, but consider it.

I talked about tomatoes, peppers, beans and squash because they are easy plants to start with. Seed saving is also relatively easy with these plants, though squash has a trick to it.

Once you see how to grow things you like and you’ve whittled down what you intend to grow into the future, then you can decide how much you think you need – and then you will need to double it if you plan to save food for the winter. You can always give it away to family or those in need if you over produce. Trust me, you will need more than you think if you plan to feed your family throughout the year.

I know I talked about starting seeds indoors in the last podcast, but buying plant starts instead of trying to start from seed is a great option when you are just getting started. It also gives you the freedom to select lots of varieties without buying a package of seeds just to try one plant variety.

That really is all I have time for and please visit our locals page and start a conversation to get more information. That’s peacefulheartfarm.locals.com.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. Let me know if I’m missing any animal updates. I didn’t get to the creamery today so I’ll give that special attention next week. Likely, we will have babies next time I do a podcast. That means spring is coming. And I just love this time of year.

I hope the gardening information is useful. Let me know if I can give you more information. There are likely many who listen that can also provide guidance over on the Locals platform.

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

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

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FARM STORE Hours:

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

Peaceful Heart Farm

224 Cox Ridge Road, Claudville, VA 24076

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FARM STORE Hours:

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

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