Harvest Season

It’s harvest season. I’m overwhelmed with tomatoes. Bumper crops are coming in at a time when I don’t really have time to address them. What’s a homesteader to do? That’s today’s topic.

Welcome new listeners. Welcome back veteran homestead-loving regulars. Thanks for tuning in today. I appreciate you all so much. You make this podcast happen. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Cows

Well, we have to make a decision. It’s a tough decision. But sometimes that’s what happens on a homestead. This is the first year that we have milked Cloud. She is only ¾ Normande and that last quarter is angus. Because of those genetics, she does not produce near the amount of milk that the others do. Additionally, she kicks. I mean she really kicks. And she is very quick. Scott has received many injuries over the past few months.

She didn’t start out that way. When we started milking her, she was fine with it. No problems. Then her hoof started growing very long. She was limping a bit. We talked to the vet. It’s not so simple to trim a cow’s hoof. Long story short, she began kicking when Scott would get anywhere near her back leg on that side. Fine. It’s just as easy to work from the other side. That worked for a few weeks. But recently, she started kicking again. Now we are out of sides from which to work. The end result of the long hoof was that it actually broke off before we found anyone to take care of it. But I don’t want to try milking her on that side. She is just too skittish now.  

We tried everything to make her more comfortable. Nothing worked. In fact, it only got worse and worse and worse. It has gotten so bad that we simply cannot milk her anymore. Scott cannot even get the inflations on her. At this point she has become useless as a producing part of our homestead. She will have to go. It won’t be right away, but the decision has been made. She has been with us since 2012.

Her future looks like this. She will have a calf in the spring. We have no intention of trying to milk her. We hope she has a heifer calf. That will at least add something. Anyway, her calf will stay with her, just as Luna did, until weaning.

Usually we bottle feed all of our calves. But what happened with her last year was she didn’t give birth until after we had dried up all of the other cows. Basically, she gave birth in our off season. We don’t milk in the winter. We knew she would not produce a lot of milk anyway. We just left her and Luna to do their thing with each other. Then when we started back up with milking in the spring, Luna was five months old and we weaned her. Cloud was put into the milking rotations. As I said, everything was fine in the beginning. She had no problem. But now . . . well every animal must add something to the homestead. We only have so much grass for the cows. They all must produce calves. But more importantly, they must produce milk. That means they need to comfortable being milked.

Well enough of that. What about the sheep?

Sheep

We have our flock ram and several young boys running around together with the young bulls we are growing out. It was easy enough to move the bulls to another paddock, but the sheep just kept running in circles. The way we have pasture number five set up is with an area at the end like a funnel. The funnel leads to the corral area or to the travel lane which leads to the other fields. Every time Scott got them down the hill and headed in the right direction, they would stop just a few feet from going into the funnel. It’s quite wide. Maybe twelve feet or so. It’s not like they were cramped. And it’s quite open through there. But they were having none of it. They quickly circled around behind Scott and he had to start over. Go over the hill, round them up again, drive them up and over the hill and down the other side to the funnel. He did that about four times before giving up.

The next day, I tried to help. We moved two of the donkeys, Sweet Pea and Johnny, over there. The sheep will easily follow the donkeys. They are very aware that these are their protectors. And sure enough, we moved the donkeys over the hill, connected with the sheep and turned the whole crew around. The sheep immediately followed the donkeys. They followed them all the way over the hill and down the other side. Sweet Pea and Johnny immediately went into the funnel and into the travel lane. The sheep stopped dead, then began looking for an escape. I don’t know why they don’t want to go down that travel lane but I decided immediately that repeating this three or four more times was not what I wanted to do with my morning. We gave up and Scott began thinking up Plan C.

Plan C is currently in operation. There is a gate between paddock five and six. It hasn’t been used in several years. Scott opened it up and we hope they will move over to the next field on their own. We will check in a day or so. If they have not moved, we will again try to herd them. Perhaps it will work this time. That gate is nowhere near the travel lane funnel. But you can’t really tell what will happen. Sheep are notorious for running right by an open gate without seeing it.

Quail

Okay, now it’s time for quail talk. Are you ready? Tomorrow the eggs that are in the incubator go into lock down. Just a short refresher on what that means. I open the incubator, take all 80 of the eggs out of the automatic egg turner and lay them on the bottom of the incubator. The cover goes back on, not to be lifted until three days after the first chick hatches. Saturday is the day we expect to hear the first peeps. This never gets old. Every birth is an event on our homestead. With the cows, sheep and goats it happens once per year. But with the quail it happens quite a few times per year. Every couple of months we are starting a new batch of eggs.

I have to say one more thing about the quail. The current batch living in the penthouse are quite rambunctious. More so than the last two batches. It is consistent that the first few days that they are up there, every time I open the door, some of them try to jump out. They don’t know they are jumping out. They just jump and out the door they go. Sometimes they just walk off the edge. It’s comical. Once they jump out or fall out, I have to go catch them up and put them back in the cage.

With the first few batches, they stopped jumping out after four or five days. They learned about their new environment and where the “safe” places were located. I would open the cage and they would run there, straight to the back of the cage or into the box on the side. The current group has a few slow learners. Just yesterday, in the pouring rain, I opened the cage door and out jumped one of the hens. Well, it was one of those cases where she hopped forward like she was going to go around me, only there was no floor under her and she fell to the ground.

Even though it was raining, I went out without any rain gear. Scott had the rain poncho as he was bringing in the cows from the field. The rain would pour down and then lighten up for a while, then pour down again. I was out working with the quail during a time when it had lightened up. Only it started up again before I finished my tasks. I was going to just deal with it and quickly get back inside. But then the hen got out. Scott was right next door now under cover in the milking shed. I went over and confiscated the rain poncho and headed back out to catch up that hen.

Now she is missing in action. And being a quail, her coloring makes her blend in with the environment. I’m slogging around in the rain trying to scare her into moving. It took a bit of time but I finally located her, scooped her up and deposited her back into the safety of her cage. I hope she wasn’t too upset. The hens are reaching an age to start laying eggs. I expect to see the first one in the next few days. But stress like that can cause a hen to stop laying eggs for a few days. So likely for a first-time layer, it would delay laying eggs also. We shall see.

Harvest Season

Okay, it’s harvest season. What do I mean by that? Haven’t I been harvesting veggies for quite a while? Well yes, I have. But prior to the “harvest season”, it was a batch of beans here, a batch of peas there. Lot’s of peppers on the next day and so on. It was all spread out.

The current situation is that the sunflowers needed to be harvested before the birds found them and before the seeds started falling out all over the ground. The green beans and crowder peas put on a bumper crop, the fall potatoes needed to planted and the tomatoes – the hundreds and hundreds of lovely tomatoes, steadily ripened on the vines.

I just canned 13 quarts of tomato juice. That was two 5-gallon buckets full of tomatoes. I talked about that last week. They literally got canned yesterday. I had them cored, cooked and run through the food mill within a day. Wait I take that back. I got them to the cooked stage on day one, put them in the fridge overnight and ran them through the food mill the next day. I stored the resulting juice in gallon jugs in the kitchen refrigerator. Five of them. I started with nearly five gallons of juice. I cooked it down yesterday to about three and a half gallons before getting it into the water bath canner. Those jars were in the fridge for a couple of days. The whole project took quite a while. Five or six days, I think. There were so many other things going on while that juice sat in the fridge to two days, maybe three. I lost track.

The sunflowers got harvested. Some of them anyway. Maybe a couple dozen. They are so gorgeous. I’m so pleased with this project done simply for the pleasure of it. It truly was and is fun. Today, Scott got the flower heads tied together in batches of three and hung them up to complete the drying process. There are a lot more out there waiting to be cut. That’s on the to-do list.

What else is on the to-do list? Picking green beans and crowder peas, again. I just canned eight quarts of green beans today from a bunch we picked a few days ago. We ate the crowder peas picked at the same time. These are bumper crops and not quite as big as earlier in the season. And I sold all of the earlier crops at the farmer’s market. I may get a few cans of crowder peas. We shall see. I fully expect to get another eight or ten jars of green beans canned. The Mexican bean beetles have finally arrived, but the beans are already set. I just need to go pick them before they get too big. And the crowder peas will dry on the vine if I wait too long. That’s for tomorrow.

The big task for tomorrow is picking the tomatoes. This is the overwhelming part. The heart of harvest season.

I finally got the juice canned from the first batch. Today I got the second batch – again, two 5-gallon buckets – of tomatoes ready for the food mill. They have been cored, cut into pieces and cooked for about 20 minutes. It required two 5-gallon stainless steel pots to get them to this stage. Those pots will go into the refrigerator tonight just as the previous batch did. I was surprised that I didn’t lose more of these tomatoes. Last week I talked about picking them just as they began to ripen. I put them on shelves to finish ripening. Two days or three days ago I needed to get started on the batch that I finally go to today. I knew some of them were rotting. I just didn’t have the time to get to them. Picking up meat from the processor. Two trips. Getting it ready for customers to pick up. Vending at the Farmer’s market. The sunflowers and so on. The days slip by so fast.

While all of this is going on, the tomatoes still out in the garden kept getting ripe. I haven’t had the time to pick them. They are ripening on the vine. This morning, I was out giving the calves their bottles and while they are joyfully sucking down their liquid nectar, I’m gazing over at the garden. And what do I see? Hundreds and hundreds of dark orange and red tomatoes. I’m going to estimate five 5-gallon buckets at least. I think I’m probably underestimating at this point. There could be twice that amount. We shall see tomorrow. They will be picked tomorrow. Well, at least some of them will be picked tomorrow. I’ll let you know what happens with that once I’ve gotten out there and made a dent in them.

So, tomorrow is another big day in harvest season. I’ll be picking green beans, crowder peas, and tomatoes. Some day those red beans and white beans will get picked. They are dried on the bush at this point. The only danger there is them getting wet enough and long enough that they begin to sprout in the pods. Maybe I can get them day after tomorrow. We shall see. Those beautiful sunflowers need to be cut again too.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I’ve got to get back on those tomatoes. They need to get to the refrigerator. Only I’ve got to change the settings on the big fridge. It’s really a freezer with a special temperature control. And right now, it has been converted into an actual freezer for the beef that passed through here from Saturday to today. There is still some meat in there that will get moved to another freezer and I will get my produce refrigerator back. The tomatoes in their stainless-steel pots will go in there overnight. Oh yeah, when will that project get completed? I don’t know really. But I do know it will get done.

Harvest season, when everything comes in at once, is a very busy time. But I just want to mention how rewarding it is for me. And it only lasts for a short time before we head into the relatively slower season of winter. A well-deserved break from the madness. The joy of growing, harvesting and preserving our own food is a huge reason why we do what we do here on the homestead. Yeah, it’s a lot of hard work. And it is so worth it.

If you enjoyed this podcast, 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 Pickups, Farmer’s Market: 8-20-2020

Hello beautiful peeps,

Cooler weather this week has been a blessing. Harvest time in the garden is very sweaty work. Cooler temperatures is always welcome. 

At the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday we will have ground goat and ground lamb once again. There is a little bit of Lamb Kabob/Stew also. Additionally, we will have Blackberry Jam $8.00, quail 1-lb package $20.00, various peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, sweet banana, Hot cherry, serrano) 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 $5.00. 

If you are a Herd Share member, let me know if you want to add anything to your regular product pickup. To get to that section, you can jump down the page here

Quail

The quail have become my favorite animal here on the farm. Well, except for the donkeys — and the cows — and the goats — and the sheep. Okay, I love them all. But the quail operation is successful at this time. I have 15 hens in the breeder cages. And I have been getting 15 eggs per day. That success has taken a year and a half. Likely they will start dropping off the number of eggs in the next 4 to 5 weeks. As fall approaches and daylight hours are reduced, they will slow and then stop laying eggs for the winter. They will pick up again in late March.   

Cows 

Violet got another visit from the ag tech. She came into heat yet again. Will we every get all of these cows bred? I’m hoping this is the last time. With all of the rain we have gotten, they have so much grass to eat, they are getting fat. That’s a good thing. A few years back we had quite the drought and the grass suffered a lot. We thinned out many of our animals because we simply could not support as many as we had with the grass drying up in the drought. Thankfully, we have not had that issue in many years. Also we’ve gotten better at pasture management

Creamery

Scott is taking a break from creamery work and catching up on clean up tasks around the farm. Lots of bush hogging, gathering up scrap wood, rearranging tools and equipment. It’s looking a little better around here. The creamery always looks better when the grass is cut and the scrap lumber is cleared away. 

Garden 

Tomatoes are still coming in. Lots are ripening every day. Scott worked on the trellis and it still fell over in places. I need to go out there and just pick and pick and pick tomatoes to reduce the weight. The problem is that I have no place to store them if I pick them before they are completely ripe. Currently I have four shelves full of partially ripe tomatoes. I do regularly pick them before they are completely ripe. Otherwise the raccoon gets the benefit of our hard work. Although I’m thinking he will never be able to eat all of them this year. There are just too many.

Anyway, I am canning tomato sauce tomorrow. That will take care of two and a half 5-gallon buckets of ripe tomatoes. There are three more 5-gallon buckets worth ripening on the shelves. We are blessed with an abundance of tomatoes.

I’m dried two trays of green bell peppers and one of red bell peppers. Then I strung a bunch of cayenne peppers and hung them to dry. Those will be turned into home made cayenne pepper seasoning and red pepper flakes.

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. 

See above for the new additions we will have ready for you!! It will be next week before we have ground beef again. The meat processor had an issue with their coolers and were shut down for a couple of days while repairs were accomplished.

We have ground lamb and kabob/stew lamb as well as rib chops and loin chops. We have ground goat back in stock.     

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. Let me know if you want something added on to your regular choice. Fresh milk and yogurt is still available. And as always, cheese and butter. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday and/or Tuesday. 

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
Ground (approx 1 lb) SOLD OUT
Lamb Price / Pound
Lamb Loin Chops $18
Lamb Rib Chops $18
Lamb Kabobs $12
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) $10
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) $12

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 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, “Canning Tomato Sauce,” I share the basics of how I make tomato sauce. I’ve done it many times and now it is easy. Also included in that podcast is a bit of trivia about the donkeys and the cross they all have on their backs.  


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. 

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Canning Tomato Sauce

Canning tomato sauce is the name of the game this week. I have about 150 pounds of tomatoes picked so far. I think I will only be canning about 50 or 60 pounds of them between today and tomorrow. Some of them are still quite green. We shall see how it goes.

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

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

There is so much going on right now. It is harvest time in the garden. Not just to the tomatoes, though that is the big one. However, I’m going to start with the creamery and animals and finish up with garden updates.

Creamery

Scott is taking a break from working on the creamery. He finally got the entire project “dried-in”. The next big event will be putting on the metal roof. That will happen later, and in the meantime, he is using his time to clean up the construction mess and tidying up the property in general.

Mowing the fields is also happening. Cleaning up the grass in the orchard and garden area got done. General cleaning everywhere. It makes the building look so much nicer when the grass is cut and the scrap wood is gathered up and hauled off. Re-organization of supplies and tools also helps. And then there is helping me with various garden projects. I can’t turn that down. What a blessing he is when lending a hand in the garden.

Cows

Yet again, we had the ag tech out for AI purposes. Will it ever end? Violet showed signs of coming into heat yet again. Well she is taken care of yet again. Now we wait another three weeks to see if it took this time.

The calves are getting fat. They get two gallons of milk per day. I like to spoil them. Wendell is big enough to live on grass but I keep giving him the milk. He would push Virginia out of the way if I did not. He is quite committed to getting his twice daily rations of milk.

Goats

Several goats have had to have their heads removed from the fence yet again. It seems that every time they get access to a new area of pasture, they have to experiment will eating the grass on the other side of the fence. Nope the new grass is just not good enough for them. And some of them just never seem to learn that sticking their head with horns through the fence will get them caught.

Blue Herons

We have a pair of blue herons on the big pond now. For the longest time there was only one. Now there is a pair. Have you ever seen a blue heron? They are majestic and graceful in flight. I love watching them. I have heard that when you have blue heron’s it indicates the pond is healthy.

Quail

I am so pleased with how our quail operating is progressing. The hens are in full production with their laying of eggs. I have 15 hens and get 15 eggs nearly every day.

The incubator is humming along. Today the eggs in there are one week old. This process is so exciting. We have an entire life cycle operating quite efficiently. It is the one place on the homestead where everything is going smoothly at the moment. Perhaps I need to knock on wood now. I may have just jinxed them.

Donkeys

I’m thinking the donkeys are just about ready for another hoof trimming. They really don’t like it. Daisy and Sweet Pea will stand still while it is going on, but they really only come up for their trimming because of the sweet feed. Donkeys are the friendliest of animals and we love our crew.

Let me pass on a bit of trivia regarding the donkeys. Did you know that they all have a cross on their backs? There are a couple of Christian legends that say it is a gift our Lord gave to the humble donkey that carried Him into Jerusalem. They are similar stories but not the same.

According to one legend, the little donkey so loved his Master that he followed Him to Calvary. Grief-stricken at the sight, he turned away but remained at his station at the foot of the cross. The shadow of the Cross fell upon him and from that day all purebred donkeys wear the Master’s Cross on their back.

Another story recounts that when Jesus was carrying his cross to the mount, a little donkey tried to help him but couldn’t get through the crowd. When the crowd dispersed, the donkey went up to Jesus, and stood behind the cross and as the sun went down, the shadow of the cross fell across the donkey and now every donkey has the cross.

According a theology lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, the tales never actually appeared in the Bible. Other facts about donkeys and the Bible is it is the only animal in the Bible other than the serpent to speak, and it plays a significant role in more than one Christian prophecy. The prophecy of Zachariah comes to mind.

Garden

Sunflowers

Let me start with the sunflowers. I hope to harvest them in the next couple of days. The really big ones are bending over the stalks. What is happening right now is the seeds are forming. That makes those giant heads really heavy and thus the bending over. The harvesting can be tricky once the seeds become fully ripe. Shaking the plant in any way can cause the seeds to come loose.

Scott and I have a plan to work on them together. I will hold the stalk while Scott cuts it through close to the ground. Then I will gently lower the stalk to the ground. At that point, we will cut off just two or three feet of stalk with the flower. They will get tied together in bundles of three and hung up to complete the drying process. The birds are going to be really happy this winter.

Beans

I have harvested the black beans. Perhaps I already mentioned that last week. Still to harvest are the red and white beans. Then all will need to be shelled out. That’s a fun project that Scott and I will do together while watching Amazon Prime originals in the evening.

I’ve also picked the baby lima beans. The green ones I cooked and we ate them days ago. The dried ones also need to be shelled out. All of these dried beans will be used to plant again next year.

Peppers

I made a really neat string of cayenne peppers and hung it up to dry. That’s all you have to do. After they are dry, I can do a couple of things with them. I might powder them up to make my own cayenne pepper seasoning. And I can chop them up into flakes and roast them in the oven. That adds a kind of nutty flavor to them. Then just toss them into soups, stir fries, and so on. Use them as you would store bought stuff. Using your own homemade seasonings is very satisfying.

The hot cherry peppers are producing like crazy. I have so many of these lovely peppers. They are not too terribly hot. Unlike the serrano peppers that I have. The serrano peppers are the hottest ones that I am growing this year. My jalapenos are quite mild. In fact, I made some pickled hot peppers and was informed by a customer that they simply were not hot. Next time I make a batch, I’ll add more serrano peppers to the mix and fewer jalapenos. In the meantime, I need to re-label the pickled hot peppers. What should I call them? Probably just pickled peppers.

I finished drying a batch of sweet bell peppers. I did two trays of green and one of red. Right now, I have a few more green ones that are turning red. I’m ripening them in a window. I hope to have lots more of these great peppers for cooking throughout the winter and spring.

Scott has prepared the potato beds for the next planting. I’m not sure. It may be too late in the season for fall potatoes, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. We shall see how big they get.

Green Beans

The green beans bloomed again and I will have another picking from them within a day or two. The purple hulled cow peas also put on a bumper crop. Those may need three or four days yet before picking. Both of these lovelies will be fresh veggie for dinner soon.

Onions

I successfully grew a small batch of red onions. They are currently in the drying process and will be ready soon. There are a few white onions still out in the garden. They do not look like they are going to get very big. Some of the tops are already dying and that means they have grown all they are going to this time around.

Tomatoes

Now let’s talk about those tomatoes. The row is set up with tomato cages that were tied to rebar every so many feet. The sheer amount of tomatoes on the plants soon pulled that apparatus down. Yesterday, Scott went out there and tried to shore up the row. Many of the plants were laying on the ground, having broken down the make-shift trellis completely. I went out there last night to pick some and found some of the cages fell over yet again. I just need to pick and pick and pick to lighten the load.

The problem with that is I am running out of space to ripen them. I’m okay with picking my tomatoes just as they begin to turn. Once they are yellow or orange, I bring them in else the raccoon will get the results of all my fine work. I bring them in and put them on the shelves I used in the spring to start the tomatoes and peppers indoors so they are large enough to plant in the garden at the proper time. Once the seedlings are done, those shelves remain empty until this time of year when they fill up again with the fruits – literally – of my labor. The shelves are filled with tomato fruits and a few peppers.

I have four shelves currently full. There are also two 5-gallon buckets sitting in my kitchen at this very minute waiting for me to finish this podcast and return to them. They are red, ripe and ready to be turned into sauce.

Tomato Sauce

Here’s my process for making tomato sauce. It’s fairly easy as long as you have the proper equipment. I start with cleaning up the tomatoes, taking out the cores and then quartering them. I put them in a pot and start heating it up very slowly on the stove. Once they are cooked, it’s time to get the seeds and skins out.

I have a Kitchen-Aid mixer that has lots of nifty attachments. One of my favorites is the food mill. Once it is set up, all I have to do is turn it on and start dipping the tomatoes out of the pot into the hopper. The seeds and skins come out in one place and the juice and pulp come out in another place. I usually run the seeds and skin waste through a second time to get the most pulp and juice possible.

Once I have the pulp and juice, it’s a matter a cooking it down to the desired thickness and then starting the canning process. Sometimes this is a two-day project. Today is one of those times. Likely I will only get the tomatoes cleaned up and cut up today. Tomorrow will be the cooking, separating seeds and skins, cooking down to desired thickness and finally canning.

Canning the sauce is as easy as dipping the thickened sauce into sterilized jars, cleaning the rims, putting on the two-piece lids and setting them in a water bath canner for 15 or 20 minutes. Zip, zam, zowie and it’s done.

What do you think? Are you ready to give it a try? I don’t do videos, only audio. But I can recommend finding a YouTube video or two to get the details of how canning is done. One day in the future I will have a class or two here at the homestead on canning. I hope to meet some of you when that day arrives.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed the donkey story. They truly are blessed creatures. We love them so much. The quail are such a blessing. And yes, the sheep, lambs, goats, and cows are a blessing as well. Our life here is full. There is always so much to do and every bit of it is a blessing. Some things are a bit onerous, like all of the cleaning. And the quail and cow waste smells something awful, but when taken in context with everything else, you just can’t beat the joy of living every day in the presence of God’s creation.

Being able to grow our own food and preserve it for the winter is also fulfilling. It gives us a security that I would not give up for anything in the world. Especially in these days of uncertainty at the grocery store. I hope I’ve inspired you to try a bit of self-sufficiency for yourself. You don’t need a big place. A few plants in pots on your apartment balcony can provide a similar experience. Grow a few peppers and tomatoes. You’ll be glad you did.

If you enjoyed this podcast, 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 Pickups, Farmers Market: 8-13-2020

Hello beautiful peeps,

Are you getting lots of thunderstorms where you are? We sure are. Just about every day. I don’t think I’ve seen everything so muddy in August ever. I had to get the onions out of the ground before they rotted. Lots of tomatoes also. 

At the Wytheville Farmer’s Market on Saturday we will have ground goat and ground lamb once again. There is a little bit of Lamb Kabob/Stew also. Additionally, we will have Blackberry Jam $8.00, quail 1-lb package $20.00, various peppers (cayenne, jalapeno, sweet banana, Hot cherry, serrano) 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 $5.00. I have two kinds, one hot and one not.

If you are a Herd Share member, let me know if you want to add anything to your regular product pickup. To get to that section, you can jump down the page here

Quail

The incubator is going again for the last time this season. There are 80 eggs nestled in the trays. Their older siblings are doing well in the penthouse. They are now tall enough to drink from the automatic watering system. The best news is that I got a full compliment of eggs this evening – 15. Finally, I have reached that goal.  

Cows 

Claire, Buttercup, Cloud, Butter and Violet are out in the front pastures doing their thing. Eating grass and hanging out in the pond. Literally, in the pond. They like to stand in it in the heat of the day. When I walked out to get them and bring them in for milking, I had to traipse through the deep mud to get them out of the pond. My boot sunk in about a foot and got stuck. I wrenched that one loose, took another step and that boot got stuck. The mud is really deep in one place — the specific place I need to cross to get to them. 

Creamery

Scott informed me today that the creamery and barn is completely dried in. That means he got the tar paper on the rest of the roof. That is a very large accomplishment. He deserves a break I think. There is still a whole lot more to do. Ceilings, walls, floors, electrical, plumbing and so on. Every day we get closer to completion. 

Garden and Orchard

Tomatoes coming in fast. Lots are ripening every day. The trellis we constructed for them is leaning way over with the weight of the tomatoes. I picked a 5-gallon bucket full and a few days later picked another 5-gallon bucket full.

I’m getting ready to dry a lot of green and red bell peppers. I had to clear space to set up the dehydrator. I’ll be making more pickled peppers as well but I want to get started on the dehydrating so they don’t pile up on me. I always have too much to do this time of year. I like the option to quickly chop them up and pop them in the dehydrator. When they are dried sufficiently, I scoop them into a mason jar and I’m done.

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. 

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

We have ground lamb and kabob/stew lamb as well as rib chops and loin chops. We have ground goat back in stock. I’m looking to have some ground beef next week or the week after at the latest.    

Herd Shares

Herd Share Peeps, I’ll see you in my usual location. Let me know if you want something added on to your regular choice. Fresh milk and yogurt is still available. And as always, cheese and butter. Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday and/or Tuesday. 

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 $12
Ground Lamb (approx 1 lb) $10
Whole Lamb (approx 40 lbs) SOLD OUT
1/2 Lamb (approx 20 lbs) SOLD OUT
Chev (Goat) Price / Pound
Ground Chev (approx 1 lb) $12

Let’s Get Together

As always, we love meeting you in person.  You can find us at the Wytheville Farmers Market on Saturday from 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, “Why Does Cheese Melt,” I give you the skinny on the chemical changes that are happening when cheese melts. I’ll also give you some tips on getting the best result when melting your cheese. I’ll warn you ahead of time that you will be hungry for your favorite cheese dish by the end of the 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


Why Does Cheese Melt

Have you ever wondered, “Why does cheese melt”? Well, I’m going to talk about that today. What would we do without cheese that melts? Some are gooey. Others stretch forever. Pizza wouldn’t be pizza without stretchy cheese. And what about that oozing cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich? Ok, now I’m hungry.

As always, let me take a moment for new listeners. Welcome to the show and again, as always, welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week as well as some insight into why does cheese melt.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Garden

Tomatoes

My tomatoes are coming in fast now. Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of them are out there on the vines. Twice I’ve picked tomatoes. I brought in a 5-gallon bucket full both times. On a day not very far in the future that might turn into two or three 5-gallon buckets at a time. A couple of the plants are in real trouble now and I for those I will likely have to pick all of the tomatoes even if they are still green. That’s only about three or four plants. There are fifty in the row. Lots of tomatoes left to ripen.

The tomato vines were enclosed in cages and which were tied up with baling twine tied to iron rebar driven into the ground every few feet. The weight of the tomatoes has taken down that half-hearted trellis. Well, it’s still there but leaning over quite sharply. Next year will require a modification. That’s the way of our homestead. You try something one year, see what works well and what didn’t. The next year, make improvements keeping the good and modifying the less than desirable.

Sunflowers

The sunflowers are blooming. I’m not sure when to cut them down. Before the birds go crazy for sure. But exactly when I don’t know yet. These sunflowers have been a great little fun project. Who would have thought I would enjoy them so much? I hope I get the hang of harvesting them. I’m looking forward to next year and another great growing season for sunflowers.

Onions

I had one entire bed of onions that I finally dug up. They can stay in the ground, but they can rot if it is wet. And after weeks of no rain, we are getting rain nearly every day. In fact, I can hear the thunder right now. Yet another afternoon thunderstorm is upon us.

Dried beans

I pulled up all of the black beans. The plants were completely dry. I pulled up each plant, stripped the dried bean pods off and moved on to the next one. It was the easiest way to pick them.

There is still a bed of red beans and one of white beans. Both of those have a lot of plants that are still somewhat green. I’m going to let them dry a bit more before I go in and pick all of those pods. It had been a great year for dried beans.

I picked many of the baby lima beans. We had a meal of the green ones a couple of nights ago. I love green baby lima beans. The rest of what I picked had already dried in the shell. Those will be shelled and stored for winter. There are a lot more still in the garden, still growing. In fact, they are still blooming. We will be having lima bean harvests for a while yet.

Peppers

The hot cherry peppers are really producing. I’ll be using them in another canned pickle pepper recipe. Some of them will be dried.

I have so many green peppers right now. Likely there are enough to fill the dehydrator – and it has nine shelves. And still more green peppers out in the garden. We are blessed with abundance there.  

Culinary Herbs

This is another area of abundance. I’m a little disappointed with the parsley, cilantro and rosemary. There is always next year. This year it’s the basil, oregano and thyme that are magical in their growth. The dehydrator will be getting many of those leaves as well.

Quail

I started up the incubator once again. This is the last time this year. The earliest I would collect eggs again would be the last week of September and I’m pretty sure that would be too late. I learned my lesson last year with 48 eggs in the incubator and only 8 hatching. Somewhere around mid-September the hens dramatically reduce the number of eggs they are laying. That’s due to the reduced hours of sunlight. The roosters become infertile around the same time.

It’s probably an evolutionary survival thing. No use wasting time and energy on raising more babies in the winter. Nope. That’s the time to try and keep yourself alive. It can be rough on birds, trying to forage through the snow. Birds need protein. All the bugs are gone. The frogs are hibernating. Worms have gone farther underground where it isn’t so cold. What’s a bird to eat?

Anyway, late September eggs will be few and infertile. I have 80 eggs in the incubator. We shall see in three weeks how it all comes out.  

Cows

I don’t really have much to say about the cows. All look healthy. Butter is even starting to look fat. It is an unusual sight for a Jersey. The one thing that I will mention is the mud around the pond.

These animals are big. In the summer they like to hang out in the pond. Literally, they stand in the water up to their belly. It’s cool and keeps those giant bot flies off of their belly. A few years back they got into the habit of coming out of the pond at the same location time and time again. The result was that the bank broke down and eventually the pond stretched all the way to the fence. Originally, there was a strip of land more than 6 feet wide. It’s all gone now. Years later, not only is the pond all the way to the fence but the rest of the pathway is churned into mud. It is churned into deep mud.

The Mud

I’m prepared for mud. I have some really great rubber boots that allow me to slog around just about anywhere. A couple of days ago I went out to bring in the girls for milking. Instead of finding them grazing in the pasture, they were still in the pond. I really didn’t want to have to go across that mud to get them moving toward the milking shed. I tried getting them to move from outside the fence. It just didn’t work. I had to bite the bullet and make my way across that mud to get them moving. And It’s not just one time. I had to follow them back across the mud.

Coming back, I was really, really careful. On the way over I sunk up in that mud so far that my boot was stuck. The mud was over a foot deep. When I tried to pull my boot out to make the next step, my foot came out and the boot stayed where it was. I put my foot back in the boot and wriggled and pulled until it got it loose. Now I’m in the middle of the mud pit. I take another step and the other boot is stuck fast in the mud. I repeated the procedure of wriggling while pulling to get that boot out as well. Thankfully, those two steps got me to more solid ground. I tried a different route on the way back and managed to only get one boot stuck.

The mud over that stretch of land is over a foot deep in places. Those 1,500-pound cows can create quite the muddy swamp. It’s a real mess. Just another task on the to do list to get that fixed.

Enough of that. Let’s talk cheese.

Why Does Cheese Melt?

There are two things that happen when cheese melts. First, at about 90 degrees, the solid milk fat in the cheese begins to liquefy. You will see the cheese softening. You might see beads of melted fat rising to the surface. Second, as the cheese get hotter, the bonds holding together the casein proteins break apart and the cheese melts into a thick fluid.

The complete melting happens at different temperatures for different cheeses. Mozzarella, which is a fresh (meaning not aged), soft, high-moisture cheese, will melt at about 130 degrees. For aged cheeses with much lower moisture such as cheddar and alpine cheeses like gruyere, the melting happens at about 150 degrees. For hard cheeses that are grated like parmesan, a temperature of 180 degrees is required to get the cheese to melt.

What Makes a Good Melting Cheese?

There are three things that determine the meltability of cheese. Moisture content, whether it is fresh or aged and for how long, and how it was curded. What was used to make the curd? Animal rennet or some type of acid.

Moisture Content

The higher the moisture, the more easily they flow. A moist cheese contains lot of water that is interspersed between the proteins. They readily liquify. A hard cheese contains much less water so when they melt, they don’t completely liquify. You can see this illustrated on a pizza with both Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The Mozzarella is grated and sprinkled on the pizza. When heat is added, the Mozzarella melts into one pool of cheese. That’s the effect of moisture. On the other end of the scale, the parmesan is a very low moisture and very hard cheese. Using the smaller grater, it comes out finer. The grated pieces are much thinner and shorter. When melted, you can still see the individual strands of parmesan cheese.

Age

The age of the cheese can also be a factor. In a fresh cheese, such as Mozzarella, the casein protein molecules are large and stretchy. They tend to tangle up and form a rope. They get stringy. With an aged cheese, the casein molecules are acted upon by ripening enzymes which break the casein into smaller pieces. That keeps the molecules from tangling when they melt. The result is smooth, oozy melt. Or as in the case of parmesan, smooth, but not so much ooze.

Acidity

A cheese made by using acid to form the curd won’t melt at all. These cheeses include, Indiana paneer, Mexican queso blanco, Italian ricotta, Greek haloumi, most fresh goat cheeses, and most vegetarian cheeses.

Using animal rennet keeps the calcium to protein bond intact. Acid-curded cheese proteins are held together simply by the proteins binding to one another. The acid used to make the curd dissolved the calcium bond. When that acid cheese is heated, it does not melt. In fact, the protein bonds tighten, forcing out any water. The water evaporates. There isn’t enough moisture left to allow the cheese to liquify. Cheeses like queso blanco and paneer can be simmered or even fried without melting. Ricotta and fresh goat cheese retain their shape in the lasagna or manicotti.

Tips for Smooth Melted Cheese

Bring the Cheese to Room Temperature

A sudden temperature change can cause the protein to coagulate too quickly and squeeze out the fat. If that happens, the cheese will clump, have a greasy texture or both.

Grate It

Grating creates greater surface area. Heat can permeate more quickly. Large chunks with irregular shapes will melt at different rates. The outside can overcook and become clumpy or oily as above before the inside of the chunk reaches the temperature to flow.

Use Low Heat

Gradual temperature changes with a lower temperature will prevent the fat from separating out of the melting cheese. It is best to add cheese at the end of a cooking process. That way it can reach melting point but not exceed it. An example is sprinkling cheese on top just as you finish the dish. Another example that may seem counterintuitive but is not, is making the cheese sauce for mac and cheese.

The sauce is made by browning flour in butter for a couple of minutes and then adding milk to make a thick sauce. That sauce is removed from the heat before adding the cheese. As the sauce is cooling the cheese is melting. Remember it only needs 150 degrees. Lastly, the cheese and sauce mixture is stirred into your choice of pasta. Though cooled somewhat, it is still hot enough to spread evenly through the dish. Add some parmesan on top, pop it into the oven to heat it through and brown the parmesan. Voila! The best mac and cheese ever.

Add Acid

This works when making fondues, sauces, and soups. You can use white wine or lemon juice. The added acid will bind to the calcium in the melted cheese keeping it separate from the proteins so they cannot clump together. The liquids of wine and lemon add water to dilute the proteins and keep them flowing. Smooth, smooth, smooth.

Add Starch

As in the mac and cheese example, flour or even cornstarch guards against clumping and stringiness. The starch coats the proteins and fats in the melted cheese. That keeps the proteins from clumping and the fats from separating out. Starch always makes a fine glue to hold things together.

Stir Gently

You will get there in time. Don’t try to rush it. Overstirring encourages the proteins to clumps. You don’t want it to become clumpy or stringy.

Serve Hot

Melted cheese is much more likely clump as it cools.  

Use the Proper Cheese

For smooth melted cheese use a well-aged cheddar or high-moisture cream cheese. Save the Mozzarella for pizza.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. Are you hungry now? I have a recipe on the website for that fabulous mac and cheese I talked about. Go to www.peacefulheartfarm.com and click or tap “recipes” on the menu. And I’ll put a link in the show notes. All of my recipes are printable.

Did you get the answer to the question of, “Why does cheese melt?” I hope so. Feel free to contact me if you have questions and I will answer to the best of my ability. It’s always good to hear from you. It makes my day.

If you enjoyed this podcast, 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 STORE Hours:

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Saturdays:  3 – 5pm

Peaceful Heart Farm

224 Cox Ridge Road, Claudville, VA 24076

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