Farm News, Herd Share Pickups, Farmer’s Market: 8/6/2020

Hello beautiful peeps,

Finally, a break in the heat. And we’ve had lots of rain. The garden is grateful. Well, I’m grateful too. I don’t have to water the garden for a few days.

At the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday we will have SEEDLESS BLACKBERRY JAM $8.00, quail 1-lb package $20.00, various peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, sweet banana, Hot cherry) for $0.25 and $0.50 each, new potatoes 1-lb bag $3.00, 2 cups fresh basil (with pesto recipe) $4.00 and pickled peppers. I will have at least two kinds, one hot and one not.

If you are looking for Herd Share pick up info, jump down the page here

Quail

The baby quail are now in the penthouse. They are not quite tall enough to use the automatic watering system. For the first five or six days I will have to keep their water jars filled. They truly grow at an amazing pace. In that short time they will be a couple of inches taller and will be able to drink from the auto waterers.  

Cows and Donkeys

The Claire, Buttercup, Cloud, Butter and Violet are out in the front pastures doing their thing. Eating grass. It is very tall. When I walked out to get them and bring them in for milking, the grass was well above my knees. 

The donkeys finally shed their winter coats around the first week of July. Usually, they roll in the dirt making their coats quite dull. Yesterday I saw them in all their sleekness. It had rained the night before and their coats were sparkling clean, smooth and sleek. So beautiful.   

Creamery

Scott has actually made quite a bit of progress this week. It required lots of extra hours, but he did it. More of the plywood decking is on and the other details to make it all work continue. All of that is far beyond my pay grade.   

Garden and Orchard

Tomatoes will be coming soon. They are finally ripening and there are a lot of them. It may be a week or more before they are ripe. The one I picked a week ago is still not ripe. My assortment of peppers is doing well. So well that I am making pickled peppers. I will have these available at the market this weekend.

Scott finished clearing blackberries from between the rows in the blackberry patch. I don’t know when I’m going to be able to get out there and pick any more. So much to do, so little time. There are still lots of red ones that will ripen soon.

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

Farmer’s Market

We will be at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday 8 am to noon. The Board is meeting later this month to discuss the market hours. I’ll let you know how that turns out.  

See above for the new additions we will have ready for you!! 

We still have lamb rib chops and loin chops. We will have ground lamb and ground goat next week and ground beef two weeks after that.    

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. I look forward to seeing each and every one of you. Fresh milk and yogurt is still available. And as always, cheese and butter. 

New herd share opportunities are available. Contact me via email (melanie@peacefulheartfarm.com) or phone (276-694-4369). 

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


News This Week


Products Available to Herd Share Owners

Choose 1 per week 1/2 Share Whole Share
Raw Milk 1/2 gallon 1 gallon
Yogurt 1 quart 2 quarts
Butter 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Ararat Legend 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Peaceful Heart Gold 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Pinnacle 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Clau d’ville Cheddar 1/4 pound 1/2 pound

Products Available to the General Public

Beef Price / Pound
1/4 Beef (approx 100 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Beef (approx 200 lbs) SOLD OUT
Whole Beef (approx 400 lbs) SOLD OUT
Ground (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Lamb Price / Pound
Lamb Loin Chops $18
Lamb Rib Chops $18
Lamb Kabobs SOLD OUT
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Whole Lamb (approx 40 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Lamb (approx 20 lbs) SOLD OUT
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 8:00 am to Noon. Special procedures are in place for your health and safety. Masks are recommended but not required as far as I know.   

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


Peaceful Heart FarmCast

In this week’s podcast, “Raw Milk Cheese in Virginia,” due to lots of new listeners I review the layout and purpose of the various parts of the creamery. We have come so far already and still have much more to do. I also reviewed the herd share program and provided a bit of forward vision on what happens after the creamery is USDA inspected.  


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


Raw Milk Cheese in Virginia

Today I’m going to review how to get raw milk cheese in Virginia via our herd share program. And, because I have lots of new listeners, I’m going to review our creamery project.

I do want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to my veteran homestead loving regulars. Thank you so much for stopping by the FarmCast every week. I appreciate you all so much.

As always, there’s a lot going on and there is not nearly enough time in the day to get everything done. And as always, I love it. It’s so good to be alive.

Homestead Life Updates

We are finally getting a break from the heat. Rain has finally returned – at least for the time being. There is still quite a bit of summer left to go.

Herd Share Program

It has been a while since I talked about our Herd Share program. We offer you the opportunity to have your own part of our dairy herd. You too can experience what we are blessed with by virtue of operating our homestead. I know all of you cannot possibly do what we are doing, but you’d like to have the benefit of fresh dairy products from pasture raised cows.

The way you obtain raw milk cheese in Virginia is to purchase part of the herd and then simply pay a monthly boarding and maintenance fee and we will take care of everything else for you. On a weekly basis, you come to the farm and pick up your fresh milk products. We have butter and cheese year-round. During the active milking season we also have fresh, raw A2A2 milk and Yogurt.

We guarantee fresh milk from the first Saturday in May through the last Saturday in October. Sometimes we have milk earlier and sometimes it lasts longer into November. As I said earlier cheese and butter are available year-round. We have many members who are only in it for the cheese and butter.

If you are not familiar with A2A2 milk, I have a podcast on that topic titled, “What is A2A2 Milk?”. Link in the show notes. Or just go to our website (give web address), click or tap the podcast menu item and browse for it. It’s a way down the page as it was well over a year ago that I did that podcast.

The Area We Serve

For those of you out there listening to the sound of my voice, if you are in the southern/southwestern Virginia area or northern North Carolina area, we are here for you. It is about an hour trip from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and perhaps an hour and a half from Greensboro. In Virginia, Martinsville, Hillsville, and Galax are all less than an hour away. Wytheville is slightly over an hour. It takes us an hour and 10 minutes to get to the downtown Farmer’s Market. Roanoke is 2 hours from us. Floyd, Christiansburg and Blacksburg are somewhere in between.

Herd Share Pickups

We are open for on-farm sales and herd share pickups: Saturdays 3 – 5pm and Tuesdays 10am – 12pm. Come on out and get yourself some homestead sunshine. Take a look at how our animals are raised. We’ll answer all of your questions and make sure you get the best grass fed and finished beef, lamb and goat on the market today. Tuesdays 10am – 12 pm and Saturdays 3 – 5 pm. 

Creamery

For new listeners I want to go over what we are doing with our creamery. My husband, Scott, is single-handedly building our USDA inspected dairy facility. It is a monstrous task. He has been doing the physical work on it for three and a half years. Long before that he was drawing up the plans. He was born with a hammer in his hand so he is very skilled at doing these drawings. We had long discussions about what we needed to include. The dairy inspector has been involved every step of the way. Many hours went into the design before the first bit of ground was dug up for the foundation.

Once it is complete, we will be able to offer our raw milk cheeses to the general public. Right now, it is only available via our herd share program that I just talked about. The milk, butter and yogurt will only ever be available via herd share. Unless and until the laws change in Virginia.

There are many different sections to the creamery building project. There is a barn, a milking parlor, a milk storage room, a full bath, the cheese make room, two cheese caves, a commercial kitchen and a storefront where I will do business with all of you.

Barn

The farthest away from my back door is the barn and animal loafing area. This is where we will collect the cows for milking. It is covered and will keep the donkeys out of the rain and snow. There is also a small area on the other of a wall from the stanchion platform. That will be used for various other aspects of animal husbandry.

Milking Stanchions and Milking Parlor

From the loafing area, the cows walk up four short steps to get to the stanchions. This area is set up with metal bars that keep the cows together and at the perfect angle for milking. The cows walk into the stanchions and eat a little snack while we are milking them. We are standing below them where the floor of the milking parlor and the rest of the building is about 2 and a half feet lower than the elevated barn floor.

Let’s do a virtual tour of the rest of the building. You are currently standing on the floor of the milking parlor. It is open and breezy. The design is one we saw at another dairy near us. They got the idea from a trip to New Zealand. Most milking parlors are closed in, dark, and humid. Ours has a roof but no sides. The air freely circulates.

Imagine you were facing the cows in their stanchions. Now turn around and face the other way. The rest of the creamery is now in front of you.

Milk Room

Directly in front of you is the doorway to the milk room. This is where the milk is stored. There is a direct pipeline from the milking parlor to the milk room. Its main feature is a large stainless-steel bulk milk tank. Our tank will hold up to 80 gallons of milk. The milk must be cooled quickly and this is the piece of equipment that makes that happen. In accordance with USDA inspection rules, it must be emptied, cleaned, and sanitized at least every three days.

Directly to your left would be the wall of the large cheese cave. There is no access from this side, called the dirty side. To the far left is a utility room. It holds the washer and dryer and the pipeline milking system. That thing is really loud. I’m glad it will be behind closed doors in the utility room.  

Full Bath

You are still standing in the middle of the parlor floor. Directly to your right is a doorway to the clean side. Walking through the doorway, immediately on your right is a bathroom complete with shower. We will be able to come in dirty and sweaty from milking and take a quick shower and get into clean clothes before entering the “clean side”.

When you walk into this section the bathroom is on the right and in front of you is storage area for clean clothes, aprons, gloves, boots and so on that are used within the cheese make room. It is the ultimate in clean spaces. There are even pans of bleach water at various locations to keep the soles of boots clean and sanitized.

Cheese Make Room

Past the storage areas is the entrance to the cheese make room and a hard-right turn will lead to an entrance/exit door to the creamery on the right. We are going to enter the cheese make room. In here we find all of the tools and equipment used to make the cheese. A vat is the centerpiece. But there are lots of cheese forms or molds for shaping the curd. There are sinks and tables – all stainless steel. Shelves contain various sets of weight, measuring tools, and cleaning supplies. In the corner is the magnificent cheddar cheese press we special ordered from the Netherlands.

The floors have a tile with a special and very expensive grout that will hold up to the acid pH of the cheese whey. It empties out of the vat directly onto the floor and flows down to a floor drain in the corner.

The Cheese Caves

After entering the room, turn left and walk all the way across the room to the exit door. It leads to a common area between the cheese caves and the kitchen. Directly in front of you is the door to the small cheese cave. To the left is the door into the large cheese cave. To the right is an open doorway to the commercial kitchen area.

The raw milk cheese caves are heavily insulated rooms that will maintain specific temperatures and humidity. We are currently using the small cave to age the cheeses we are making for our herd share members. It is complete except for electricity. Scott has something rigged up that works quite well for the humidifier, a small lamp, the window air conditioner and Cool Bot. The Cool Bot is an electronic device that fools the air conditioner into thinking it is warmer than it actually is so the air conditioner will continue to run. Most won’t cool a room below 60 degrees. But with a Cool Bot we can get our temperature down to the low 50’s which is ideal for aging cheese. The small humidifier keeps the humidity well over 70% and sometimes as high as 83%. I’d like to get it to go higher. Still working on that detail.

The large cheese cave will be similarly equipped and has enough space to house an entire year’s worth of cheese. Some of our cheeses need at least 8 or 9 months to reach a decent maturity and will only get better with time.

Commercial Kitchen

Standing in that entry alcove, large cave on the left, small cave in front of you, turn right into the commercial kitchen. You can see yet another entrance/exit door. It’s not there yet, but you will eventually see a large stove to the left of the door and a triple sink to your left against that wall. Stainless steel tables will be in the middle of the room. Freezers and refrigerators will be lined along the wall opposite of the door. A window above the chest freezers will give visitors a view into the cheese make room.

Far to the right you will see the door to the storefront. And that is the last room in the building. Of course, it also has an entrance/exit door. This door is where you guys would enter the building to pick up product. Another window here that looks into the cheese make area.

When it is finally complete, we will have an open house for you all to come and see how it all turned out. Classes in cheesemaking and food preservation will also be a time where you all can see the final creation. And if you are a herd share owner, weekly and/or monthly visits bring you even more access to all of it.

That went a little longer than I originally intended but I get so excited when I’m talking about our creamery. I want everyone to know how wonderful this project is and what a wonderful job Scott is doing to bring our dreams to life.

How about some homestead updates on the animals, gardens and orchard.

Animals

All of the animals are doing well, even in the heat. The cows produce slightly less milk on really hot days, but for the most part they are doing a splendid job of producing milk and otherwise munching lazily on grass all day.

The calves are getting bigger every day. Luna’s eye is healed and it looks like she will have permanent scarring on her eyeball. We now have the flies under control and do not foresee any future issues with pink eye.

We are down to just two bulls being raised for meat. I called the meat processor today to get them scheduled. It will be October 2021 before they can be processed. There are still hiccups in the food supply chain due to the virus. It looks like it is going to take quite a while to get that flow back to normal. The overflow from the closure or reduction of service from large processing plants keeps overwhelming smaller, custom processing operations used by small farmers.   

The goats and sheep are also doing very, very well. I am pleased that we have had no issues with lambs this year. It is the first time in our history on this homestead that we have come this far without losing a single lamb. A 70% to 80% survival rate is much more common for us.

I noticed the coats on the donkeys are really glossy today. Probably a month ago they finally shed all of their winter coat. Quite often they roll in the dirt and dull their coats, but we had rain last night and they were particularly glossy this morning.

Garden

The heat has kept me busy watering the garden. I don’t know if I mentioned this in prior podcasts, but I hope to have drip irrigation in place next year. We keep improving our gardens each year and I think it is time for the automatic watering system to get going again. We had it working for a couple of years, but we have not reconstructed it since the entire garden was redesigned four years ago.

The peppers, tomatoes and sunflowers are the centerpieces of the garden at the moment. Many of the sunflowers have bloomed. They are gorgeous. The tomato plants are loaded with green tomatoes. I saw an orange one this morning I will have to go our there later and see if there are others. The peppers are producing well. Some of the peppers are smaller than I think they should be and I believe that is due to not enough fertilizing. I need to step up my game in that arena.

Well now that I think on it, the basil, oregano and thyme are also worth note. I took an oregano leaf to Scott the other day and let him smell it and identify it. Don’t you just love the smell of fresh basil and oregano? I’ll be drying some of that for use this winter.

Orchard

A lot of the blackberries are getting eaten by the birds. There is a ground hog hole in there also. He is probably taking advantage as well. Scott went out there with the chain saw and cut a path between the rows. I might have mentioned that last time. He started last week and just yesterday finished all of the rows. I can freely pick berries now. But there is still so much that needs to happen with cleaning up those rows of blackberries. Now that I have a clear path, I foresee the final clean up happening much later. In the fall or perhaps even in the winter.

The strawberries are completely overrun with weeds. I have a task on my calendar that says, “weed the strawberries”. It also says it is four weeks overdue. Do you have any idea how many weeds have taken over in four weeks? It’s a lot. There are far more weeds than strawberry plants. Looking on the bright side, the larger weeds are much easier to pull up all at once. And with just a little work, it makes a very big dent. Feeling you have accomplished something is very easy when you see the earth where previously it was covered in large green things with lots of stickers.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed the tour of the creamery. It’s good to review how far we have come every once in a while. If you looking for raw milk cheese in Virginia or nearby, I hope you’ll consider joining our herd share program. We make really fine cheese and our milk is rich, nutritious and, best of all, delicious. The butter I make is the best I have ever tasted and I have had other grass-fed raw milk butters. Mine is superb. You won’t find this kind of quality and flavor anywhere else.

If you enjoyed this podcast, don’t forget to subscribe via iTunes or your favorite podcast listening app. Also, please share this podcast with any of your friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

Thank you so much for listening and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.

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Farm News, Herd Share Pickup, Farmer’s Market: 7/30/2020

Hello beautiful peeps,

We are off to the meat processor after I finish this. Finally, after months, we are able to get this done. We will have beef in 2 to 3 weeks.

At the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday we will have SEEDLESS BLACKBERRY JAM $8.00, quail 1-lb package $20.00, various peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, sweet banana, Hot cherry) for $0.25 and $0.50 each, new potatoes 1-lb bag $3.00, 2 cups fresh basil (with pesto recipe) $4.00 and purple hull crowder peas 1-gal bag $5.00.

If you are looking for Herd Share pick up info, jump down the page here

Quail

The 53 baby quail are doing really well and we are getting lots and lots of eggs. I picked up 33 eggs yesterday. The earlier batch of babies are now pretty much full grown and providing lots of eggs. There are 50 quail in the upper level (the penthouse I call it) and probably half are hens. We could get up to 25 or so eggs from there every day. I got 20 yesterday. The other 113 came from the breeding sets in the lower cages. I sure am having fun with the quail.  

Cows, Calves and Goats

The cows escaped from paddock number 6 and got into number 5. Oh well, they might as well eat that grass too..

Violet and Buttercup were ready for the ag tech when he arrived to do the AI a few days ago. Hopefully, we are all bred now. Fingers crossed.

Scott’s training for the steer and bull worked. He got them into the trailer. They are ready for a peaceful trip to Walnut Cove, NC. Goats and lambs have appointments on Monday.

Speaking of goats, they keep getting their heads caught in the fence. Sometimes they just never learn. Yesterday morning not one, not two, but three had to be rescued. And two more again in the afternoon.  

Creamery

Scott has again been off doing many other tasks this week but some progress was made on the barn part of the construction project. Some of the plywood decking is on and there are other details to make it all work that he has taken care of now.   

Garden and Orchard

The sunflowers are blooming!!! How exciting is that? The crowder peas are are still going. The green beans are done. I keep harvesting the basil and it keeps growing more and more leaves. The tomatoes are finally producing lots of fruit. It will still be a couple of weeks I think before any are ripe. I picked one. It wasn’t quite ripe but I just couldn’t wait any longer for that first tomato. All sorts of peppers are growing and ripening. I will have these available at the market for quite a while

Scott helped me get the blackberry patch opened up so I could pick some to make jam for you guys. Because we have let it go and blackberry vines are very prolific, it had become a jungle. Scott cranked up the chain saw and cut a path down a few rows and I was able to get in there and pick some berries before they were all gone.

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

Farmer’s Market

We will be at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday 8 am to noon. I haven’t heard any more about changing the hours for this 2020 summer season to 10 am to noon. We will be proceeding as usual.  

See above for the new additions we will have ready for you!! 

We still have lamb rib chops and loin chops. We will have everything back in stock in mid-August.    

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. I look forward to seeing each and every one of you. Fresh milk and yogurt is still available. And as always, cheese and butter. 

New herd share opportunities are available. Contact me via email (melanie@peacefulheartfarm.com) or phone (276-694-4369). 

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


News This Week


Products Available to Herd Share Owners

Choose 1 per week 1/2 Share Whole Share
Raw Milk 1/2 gallon 1 gallon
Yogurt 1 quart 2 quarts
Butter 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Ararat Legend 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Peaceful Heart Gold 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Pinnacle 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Clau d’ville Cheddar 1/4 pound 1/2 pound

Products Available to the General Public

Beef Price / Pound
1/4 Beef (approx 100 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Beef (approx 200 lbs) SOLD OUT
Whole Beef (approx 400 lbs) SOLD OUT
Ground (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Lamb Price / Pound
Lamb Loin Chops $18
Lamb Rib Chops $18
Lamb Kabobs SOLD OUT
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Whole Lamb (approx 40 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Lamb (approx 20 lbs) SOLD OUT
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 8:00 am to Noon. Special procedures are in place for your health and safety. Masks are recommended but not required as far as I know.   

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


Peaceful Heart FarmCast

In this week’s podcast, “The Blackberry Jam Journey” the details of what happened with the blackberry patch are covered. It was quite the adventure.  There is also a lot of new info on the quail. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.  


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


The Blackberry Jam Journey

Blackberry jam. That’s today’s topic. Seedless blackberry jam of course. I can’t abide those tiny seeds between my teeth. I’m also starting to preserve veggies from the garden. So much to talk about today.

But first, a shout out to you all. Thank you and welcome new listeners. I hope you’ll stick around, subscribe and share my podcasts. Welcome back veteran homestead-loving regulars.  I truly appreciate you taking time out of your day to listen to me.

There are tons of things going on at the farm this week. Let’s get to it.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Scott is still having to do so many other things. The creamery work is creeping along. After tomorrow that will change. Part of the reason he has less time on the creamery is the twice daily caring for the steer and bull that are going to processing.

Cows and Calves

Training the steer and bull to be comfortable with the trailer has been quite the job for Scott. I talked about the small corral he built to enclose them in close proximity with the trailer. They had to go into the trailer to get their hay. Twice a day Scott has been feeding them hay and filling their water. The space is quite small so they ate their ration and were ready for more when he showed up. He has been doing this for two weeks now. It was quite time consuming but it worked. They got very comfortable with the setup and would willingly go into the trailer to eat their hay within a short period of time. Cattle are such creatures of habit. They don’t like things that are different or new, but once they get used to things being a certain way, they just go on about their business.

As far as the girls go, I think we have finally completed the AI breeding. At least I hope so.

Fly control is working. Even the ag tech asked what we were doing and commented on how well it is working. It does have to be done twice a day, but that is easy for us because we are milking twice a day. Scott does it while the milking machine is running. Well, except for Cloud. She is so touchy about anything from her underbelly down. He can spray her back and sides easily enough, but as soon as he tries to spray lower, she starts kicking if the milking machine is hooked up to her.

Recently he tried it again while the milker was running. He had been spraying her either before or after the machine and she was okay with that. Something about being hooked up to the machine combined with the spray was upsetting to her. But he thought surely by now, she must have gotten used to the spraying and would tolerate it while the milking machine was running. Nope. She kicked and kicked and kicked. Of course, she kicked the inflations off. Scott was able to get the equipment out from under her feet before she destroyed it but it was a close call. So back to square one with her. Use the fly spray either before or after, but not during, the time that the machine is running.

Goats

Let’s talk about the intelligence of goats. Do they have any? They do actually. They are quite adept at escaping captivity – except for one specific circumstance. They can get their heads caught in the fence over and over again. Some have a hard time figuring out that it is unwise to put your head through there because your horns are going to get in the way of pulling your head back out. This morning, not one, not two, but three had to be rescued from their self-imposed imprisonment.

Sheep and Donkeys

Not much to say about the sheep. The lambs are healthy and growing. Moms are also doing well. The donkeys are doing their job well and keeping the predators away. We couldn’t ask for more.

Quail

There are 53 quail chicks in the brooder. They are a week and a half old and nearly fully feathered. They are doing great. This week I figured out how to save money and time cleaning up their mess with the food. When eating, they fling the food around. They literally put their head in the opening and start shaking it back and forth and spreading the grain all over the place. What I discovered quite by accident was that once the feeders got down to a certain level, the shape of the container prevented them from slinging it outside of the feeder.

The feeders are half gallon jars screwed onto a base. Ideally, you fill up the jar, screw on the lid, turn it over so the jar is upside down and the feed empties into the feeder tray. As they eat the food, more drops from the jar into the feeder tray. What I found out was that once the jar is empty, the feeder tray starts to get emptied. And as I said, the level is low enough that they can no longer strew the food all over the place. They still sling their heads back and forth but the food stays inside the feeder tray. It means I have to keep a closer check on their food, but the amount that is being wasted is nearing zero.

Before the change, I would fill up that half gallon jar and in a couple of days it would be nearly empty so I would refill it. That’s a lot of feed. The problem was that most of it was on the floor of the brooder being trampled and pooped on. It was quite a mess. Now, with my new system, they still make a mess because they are birds and they poop a lot and there are a lot of them. However, there is no longer a whole bunch of wasted feed mixed in with the poop. The jars are still there but they are empty. Instead of filling them up, I only put a little feed in the tray. It works. Yay. They were literally wasting at least four times what they were eating. Now the brooder doesn’t require as much changing of bedding and we don’t have to buy as much feed. It’s a great solution.

The previous batch of chicks can be considered grown at this point. They are a little over seven weeks old and I am getting 15 to 18 eggs daily from the penthouse. There are 50 birds up there and it is likely that 25 or so are hens. We could easily see those 15 to 18 eggs daily reach 25.

Garden

The garden is still going great guns. I have to water a lot. Sometimes we get afternoon thunderstorms but most days I have to get out there and give them some water.

A few of the tomatoes are starting to turn yellow. There are so many out there. It won’t be long now and they will start ripening by the gallons.

The sunflowers are blooming. Just in the last week or so, some of them have shot up to about 12 feet. It is interesting. For most of the time they were all relative close in height. But now there are lots of varying heights. But almost all are blooming. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes. I hope to have lots and lots of seeds from these flowers.

The peppers are coming on strong as well. They need to be fertilized to make bigger peppers but I’m okay with them being a little smaller. There are just so many. I’m trying to figure out where to set up the dehydrator. The one I have is pretty big. Last year I had it on my countertop in the kitchen. This year my countertops are full of milk cans and butter churn stuff. I may end up just putting it on the dining room table.

Some of the peppers I’m going to use in making pickled peppers. You know those great peppers that they have at Subway? I think those are pepperoncini. They are similar to the banana peppers that I have. I actually like banana peppers better than pepperoncini. Both peppers are mild and sweet, but the banana peppers are tangy where the pepperoncini are slightly bitter. So I’ll be slicing and canning some of those. I also plan on canning some of the jalapenos. I may even try my hand at a mixed hot pepper batch. The serrano peppers are coming along more slowly but there are a ton of them out there. I’m going to have so much fun with peppers.

Blackberry Patch

Now for the main topic of today. Blackberry jam. In order to have blackberry jam, I need to have some blackberries. Therein lies the problem. You know I’m always saying how much there is to do and so little time to do it. The blackberries canes have been neglected over the past couple of years. I already had too much blackberry jam and syrup that I didn’t worry about it. The birds and other animals were getting them all. I was okay with that. Unfortunately, the canes and vines need to be trimmed and cut back regularly because blackberries are very prolific.

The berries grow on the new growth and the old canes need to be removed regularly. Then there is the fact that the vines grow very fast and spread all over the place. We have the original plants all in nice rows and a trellis erected to keep them trained to the row. Well, that doesn’t work out so well if you don’t go out there and actually train them to the trellis.

There are vines out there that shot up from the ground and arched into the air well over my head. They are thumb thick. And you know they are not going to arch over the trellis just because it is there. They will do that sometimes, but they are just as likely to arch across to the next row. And not just on one side. No, no, no. This cane arches this way and that cane arches that way. Not only do the vines go across from one row to the next, but they also touched down in the middle of the rows. Rooting blackberry canes is really easy. Just stick them in the dirt. So everywhere they arched over and touched the ground, a new cane was born. It has become quite a jungle out there.

I was going to go out there with a pair of hedge trimmers and a couple of different pruning tools and work my way through the mess. However, Scott offered to use the chainsaw instead. I immediately took him up on that offer. We had already decided not to worry too much about making it pretty. We just needed to cut through the jungle so I could get to the berries. There are so many berries out there. But it was impossible to get to them. There were no actual rows left. So that was the first task. Re-establish the rows.

Scott took the chainsaw out there and cut a path between the rows. Well, he did most of the rows. There are still a few rows to go. But it was enough for me to get in there with a couple of buckets. I think I got enough for a batch of jelly. And now that the path is clear, I will be able to get more. There are still lots of red ones out there that will be ripening over the next couple of weeks. I think by mid-August they will have played out.

We will still need to get in there and clean it up. As I said, the old canes need to be removed. The ones that grew into the middle of the paths need to be cut all the way to the ground. Hopefully, we will keep those trimmed back from now on. Another issue that arose was the encroachment of wild blackberries. Wild blackberries have wicked thorns. Well some domestic ones do too. But we planted thornless blackberries. Now there are a bunch of wild blackberries mixed in with our thornless varieties. They are easy to spot. They will rip your clothes off. As I said, wicked thorns. Some of them are pretty big too.

In general, blackberries grow really well in our area. We use the goats to keep them under control in the pastures, but we can’t use the goats in the orchard. Goats won’t care whether they have thorns or not. They will simply eat them all.

So long story short, I was able to harvest some blackberries. Folks at the farmer’s market have been asking for jam and I’m going to make some tomorrow. It’s quite the task. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t stand seeds in my blackberry jam. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a system for getting those seeds out that is not onerous. I used to watch my mom using a food mill. Back in the day, it was all done by hand. Today, we have tools that make that task much easier.

I have a food mill attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer. It is quite simple to use. Hook it up. Turn it on. Put the blackberries in the hopper and the fruit and pulp are separated from the seeds. I use it for tomatoes also. There is quite a bit of cleanup afterwards, but for me it is still worth the effort. The end product is out of this world. I love blackberry jam.

I have a stainless-steel pot made specifically for making jams and jellies. The bottom is weighted. It has pint increments embossed on the side. There is even a pour spout in one edge. I usually dip, but it is nice to have the pour spout there when I want it. The biggest advantage of this particular pot is the shape. It is perhaps eight or nine inches in diameter at the bottom and maybe 12 or so inches at the top. What that does is provide a greater surface area for evaporation. And this is important to me as I like to make my jams without added pectin. Instead of jelling after a couple of minutes at a boil when using pectin from a box, it takes 30 minutes or so to reach the proper temperature for jelling without it. Again, the extra time is worth it to me.

The ingredients are simple. Blackberries and sugar. I use the recipe in the Ball canning book. It takes nine cups of berries and six cups of sugar. Thirty minutes of cook time and it’s ready to go in the jar. Jams and jellies are sealed by using the water bath canning method. Basically, covering the jars with boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Perhaps 20 for our elevation. Whatever the recipe indicates is what I do.

Canning used to be a task that I put off as long as I could. It seemed quite complicated. Now, having done it many times over many years, it seems quite simple. It’s amazing how that happens. In the beginning, reading the recipe over and over to make sure I have everything just right. Now, more often than not, I only pull out the book to refresh my memory on how long it needs to boil.

What do you think? Would you like to learn how to can jams and jellies? Once the creamery is completed, the commercial kitchen will come next. How about a few classes in cooking and preserving food?  

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. Life is full here and the craziness of the world seems far away. We are blessed with this life that we have built over the last 17 years. It feeds us physically, emotionally and spiritually. There is always purposeful activity and a sense of connection with our Lord in every moment. I know you all have that too. But for me, this environment makes it so much easier. God’s creation is always there at our fingertips.

I hope you enjoyed the trip around the homestead and through the blackberry brambles. And if you did, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, please share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

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

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Farm News, Herd Share Pickup, Farmer’s Market: 7/22/2020

Hello beautiful peeps,

Hope you and your families are all well. We are well. Thunder is threatening at the moment. I hope the rain comes. It has been so hot. The garden really needs the rain. Otherwise, I’m standing out there with a hose for quite a while.

We did have rain and thunderstorms a few days ago. The power went out and the baby quail were in danger as the incubator was offline. There were 52 in there at the time. Scott hooked up the generator and we turned breakers on and off at various times to complete the milking, clean up after the milking, cool down the milk tank and freezers, and so on. The power came back on in about three hours and all was well. 

At the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday we will have quail 1-lb package $20.00, various peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, sweet banana, Hot cherry) for $0.25 and $0.50 each, new potatoes 1-lb bag $3.00, 2 cups fresh basil (with pesto recipe) $4.00 and purple hull crowder peas 1-gal bag $5.00.

If you are looking for Herd Share pick up info, jump down the page here

Quail

The 84 quail eggs in the incubator are hatched. As mentioned above, initially 52 hatched. Later another hatched and I tried (unsuccessfully) to save three more. It was quite the circus trying to balance the temperature and humidity with the power off. Plus the shear number of birds messes with the heat and humidity. All the but the last one hatched are already in the brooders and they look great.  

Cows and Calves

Luna’s pink eye is nearly healed, though her eye may be scarred. She can see out of it but it is still discolored. We are successfully using a natural fly spray on the milk cows and the calves. They get sprayed twice a day during milking or bottle feeding. It has to be done twice a day, but this is no problem at all because we are with them twice a day. There is time available waiting for the milking machine to complete its task or, with the calves, they are hanging around twice a day looking for more milk after finishing their bottles.

Violet and Buttercup will get a hormone shot today and be ready for AI again in a couple of days. Hopefully, this will be the last go round for all of the cows. We shall see.

Scott is training the steer and bull to go into the trailer. This is in preparation for their trip to freezer camp next week. In mid-August we will once again have beef, lamb and goat for sale.  

Creamery

Scott has again been off doing many other tasks this week. Again, the creamery hasn’t really progressed at all. . . . but I believe he said fields are now cut. He is bringing feed and water to the two cows in the corral. Perhaps next week progress will begin again. We shall see.   

Garden

The crowder peas are providing lots and lots of pea pods. I keep harvesting the basil and it keeps growing more and more leaves. The tomatoes are finally producing lots of fruit. It will still be a couple of weeks I think before any are ripe. These are paste tomatoes and I will have some available at the farmer’s market. Keep your eyes open for when if you need sauce tomatoes. All sorts of peppers are growing and ripening. I will have these available at the market for quite a while.

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

Farmer’s Market

We will be at the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday 8 am to noon. Just a heads up that discussion is being had regarding changing the hours for this 2020 summer season to 10 am to noon. This discussion has progressed to the point of being a near surety beginning with the first Saturday in August.  

See above for the new additions we will have ready for you!! 

We are still out of ground goat and ground lamb but have ribs chops and loin chops. We will have all of this back in stock in mid-August.    

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. I look forward to seeing each and every one of you. Fresh milk and yogurt is still available. And as always, cheese and butter. 

New herd share opportunities are available. Contact me via email (melanie@peacefulheartfarm.com) or phone (276-694-4369). 

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


News This Week


Products Available to Herd Share Owners

Choose 1 per week 1/2 Share Whole Share
Raw Milk 1/2 gallon 1 gallon
Yogurt 1 quart 2 quarts
Butter 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Ararat Legend 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Peaceful Heart Gold 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Pinnacle 1/4 pound 1/2 pound
Clau d’ville Cheddar 1/4 pound 1/2 pound

Products Available to the General Public

Beef Price / Pound
1/4 Beef (approx 100 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Beef (approx 200 lbs) SOLD OUT
Whole Beef (approx 400 lbs) SOLD OUT
Ground (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Lamb Price / Pound
Lamb Loin Chops $18
Lamb Rib Chops $18
Lamb Kabobs SOLD OUT
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Whole Lamb (approx 40 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Lamb (approx 20 lbs) SOLD OUT
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 8:00 am to Noon. Special procedures are in place for your health and safety. Masks are recommended but not required as far as I know.   

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


Peaceful Heart FarmCast

In this week’s podcast, “Best Animals for a Homestead” I’m discussing our animals; what we chose and why. Lots of experiential information here. It’s designed to help you think through the process if you are considering adding farm animals to your life. Lots more details about the quail in this 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


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Saturdays:  3 – 5pm

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224 Cox Ridge Road, Claudville, VA 24076

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