The Cicadas in Southwestern Virginia Have Emerged

The cicadas in Southwestern Virginia are out and about. It happens once every 17 years. It’s truly a phenomenal occurrence. I can’t wait to get to that topic today.

But first, welcome to all new listeners and welcome back to veteran homestead-loving regulars. That you for stopping by the FarmCast for every episode. It wouldn’t be a show without you. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week including all about the cicadas.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Life goes on at the homestead, right though the rain and more rain and more rain. We trek twice a day out into the pastures to bring up the cows for milking, rain or shine. It’s getting pretty muddy out there.

Cows

The cows are not bothered by the cicadas. They continue to carefully navigate that mud and come up to the milking shed twice daily. Last Friday they each got a second trip into the shed. We have started the artificial insemination process. There is a uterine implant and a hormone shot to start. This will make all of the cows cycle together. The reason we want that is so we can breed them all at once and the calves will all be born within days of each other. It makes the calving season short, sweet and predictable. Once they start cycling together, they will continue to cycle together. It’s lovely system.

The next step is removing the implant and another hormone shot. There is a very specific time window when the actual insemination occurs. I believe it is approximately 60 hours after the second hormone shot. I’m learning as we go. Scott is the one with the detailed perspective on this whole process.

The process of placing the implants involved a physical exam of each cow. It was a relief to find out that Buttercup is actually pregnant, though she has a long way to go before she delivers. The vet estimated she is about 6 months along. Cows take 9 months to grow a healthy calf, just like humans. We look for her to give birth in August.

The other four are getting ready for the next phase. They didn’t complain too much during the process. It was quick and painless. Except for those shots. Cows don’t like getting a shot any more than humans do.

Sheep and Lambs

Let’s talk about the sheep and the lambs. These guys are also oblivious to the song of the cicadas. The lambing is just about done. There is one more ewe that looks like she will deliver in the next couple of weeks, but it could be longer. And there is one that does not look pregnant at all. She babysits the lambs a lot. I think she would like to have one. We shall see.

The big news with the lambs is the giant set of twins that was born about 5 days ago. This is a great mom and she didn’t require any assistance. But I have to wonder how she managed it. Normally, our lambs are 6 to 8 pounds at birth. Sometimes less. We had one that was only 5 and a half pounds. Sometimes more. We had one just shy of 9 pounds. But these two from the same mom totaled over 25 pounds. Think of it. Normally, even if a ewe had lambs on the upper edge and gave birth to two lambs 8 pounds each. That’s a total of 16 pounds of lamb. This 3-year-old ewe carried a set of twins totaling over 25 pounds. The boy was 11 and a quarter pounds. The girl was a whopping 14 and a half pounds. The day they were born, they were larger than the lambs born two weeks previous. And lambs grow fast. The little 5 and a half pounder may have doubled in weight by now. But she is still way smaller than her newest half-sister.

All are healthy and thriving. It’s a great thing to see. So far, so good. No lost lambs. I did just rescue the newest boy. He was on the other side of the creek. Because of the rain today, the creek was swelled and he didn’t want to cross. He was stranded on the other side of the fast-moving creek water. Fortunately, he didn’t try to run away from me. I caught him easily and returned him to mom. All is well. Fingers crossed, the last ewe delivers healthy lambs without issue. I say lambs plural because I think she will also have twins. But you never know. Last year she also had a large lamb, but a single.

Goats

I have no idea what the goats think of the cicadas? But I am pleased that they are more and more comfortable with me being near. The sheep also are getting more comfortable with human interaction. Oh they will still run away if you get too close. But the point is I am able to get closer before they run away.

I am happy to report they are staying in their assigned paddock and not sneaking off to wherever they want without regard to our fencing plan and rotational grazing plan.

Donkeys

Of course, the donkeys ignore the sounds of cicadas generated in the trees all around them. They want a little cuddle and a scratch. That’s it. Once they get that, they are happy campers. It’s strange to see their winter coats are still hanging on. It will likely be July before they have a sleek coat. Even with brushing, their winter coats hang on long after I think they should be gone. But what do I know? It’s not up to me.

Quail

The tree right next to the quail cages is full of cicadas. Poultry and fowl are pretty carnivorous. The quail would likely enjoy munching on them if they could get close enough but that is not going to happen. The cicadas are too big to get through the mesh cages. The quail are left to hear them and not be able to eat them.

The breeding groups are doing very well. There are 13 hens there and we get anywhere from 8 to 11 or 12 eggs a day. Nine or ten is most common.

The young ones are doing really well. You would not believe how big they are now. They are barely three weeks old. They went from being the size of my thumb to larger than my whole hand in that short period of time. They still have a little way to go to reach their full size. Their unbelievably fast growth rate will slow down a bit and they will become fully mature over the next five weeks.

Creamery

Scott is off the farm right now. He had to go to town to pick up that special grout I talked about last time. I think tomorrow he will be finishing up that smaller cheese cave. How exciting is that? I think that is what he has planned but I could be wrong. He is also diligently working on that roof over the milking parlor and open-air animal barn. There is an attic area over the milking parlor. That is the part where we stand when setting up the cows for milking. This roof and ceiling are a couple of feet higher than the rest of the building. Over the past few days Scott has been building a stairway from the attic over the rest of the building to the attic floor of the other roof. It looks really good. His talent with building is always amazing to me. I look at that stuff and think, “how does he do that?” It seems so complex to me. I think it is complex. He is simply very talented with creating buildings.

Cicadas

Let’s get on to the main point I want to talk about today. The cicadas. There are pictures posted on our Facebook page. Go over there and check them out. There is at least one video where you can hear their mating calls there as well.

I don’t know how many cicada broods there are. They are numbered from I to XXIII, but there are numbers missing after XI. Brood IX is emerging in north-central North Carolina, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia. It began in mid-May and will end in late June. They started emerging when the soil, 8” beneath the ground, reached 64 degrees. A nice, warm rain will often trigger an emergence. We have had plenty of that.

This brood, and other species like it, referred to as magicicada periodical cicadas, emerge every 17 years. Other magicicada periodicals emerge every 13 years. There are seven magicicada species. There are hundreds of other cicada species that emerge every year.

Life Cycle of the 17-Year Magicicada

Cicadas begin their life as an egg which the female deposits in a groove she makes in a tree limb. The egg looks like a grain of rice. The groove provides shelter and exposes the tree fluids, which the young cicadas feed on. These grooves can kill small branches. We hope we have no problem with our orchard trees. The brood is emerging all around it.

Once the cicada hatches from the egg it will begin to feed on the tree fluids. At this point, it looks like a termite or small, almost translucent, white ant. Once the young cicada is ready, it crawls from the groove and falls to the ground where it will dig into the ground until it finds roots to feed on. It will typically start with smaller grass roots and work its way up to the roots of its host tree. The cicada will stay underground approximately 17 years. The cicadas are active underground, tunneling and feeding, and not sleeping or hibernating as has been commonly thought.

After 17 years, the cicadas emerge from the ground as nymphs. We are seeing this now. There are hundreds and hundreds of small, perfectly round holes, about the diameter of my pinky finger, all over the place. The emerging nymphs climb the nearest available tree, and begin to shed their nymph exoskeleton. We can see lots of this going on now. All over the trees there are nymphs in varying stages of shedding. Once free of their old skin, their wings inflate with fluid and their adult skin hardens. They have red-orange eyes. Their wings are longer than their body. It’s an odd-looking creature. Check out our website. The featured image is a cicada. Once their new wings and body are ready, they begin their adult life. It is quite brief, only about a month.

The adults spend their time in trees looking for a mate. That is the song that we hear every morning and until sometime after mid-day. The males sing. The females respond. Mating happens and the cycle begins again. Eggs laid and hatched. Young cicada falls to the ground and digs in for another 17 years.

Why Are There So Many Cicadas All at Once?

One answer is predator satiation. The first cicadas that emerge are eagerly consumed by predators. Birds, raccoons, squirrels, dogs, cats, snakes and so on. They eat until they are overwhelmed. They fill themselves to the point of exhaustion. This gives the remaining cicadas a chance to escape.

In areas where there aren’t enough of them to satiate the predators completely leads to dwindling populations. Some eventually die out.

I look forward to the next few weeks as this phenomenon continues. Who knew we would be one to have part of this brood on our property?

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed the cicada information and the homestead updates. I look forward to next week when I hope to have some garden updates to share – if it ever stops raining long enough to get anything planted.

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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Does Parental Grief Ever End?

A bit of a poignant topic in today’s podcast is “Does parental grief ever end?” I have that and lots more to talk about today.

Welcome each and every one of you, new and vets. Thank you so much for tuning in for each episode. I appreciate you all so much. The homestead brings joy to daily life and I want to share some of it with you.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Every day brings some new incident for me to add to my memories of homestead life. Today, it’s the donkeys and sheep that provide the entertainment.

Sheep

The sheep have always been standoffish. They will continue to graze unconcernedly until you get about 15 feet – maybe 20 – away and then they will gradually start moving away. If you walk directly toward them at that point, they will begin moving away more quickly – as in running very fast in the other direction. So this morning I went out to check on everybody and there was one ewe that was laying down and not moving away with the rest of the flock. In fact, she was laying there as if she was dead. I am looking for another set of twins soon and the coloring of this ewe said it might be her. I walked right up to her until I was about three feet away. Suddenly she raised her head, saw me, jumped to her feet and proceeded to move quickly away. On the way, she stopped to nuzzle her lambs. She was the mom of the twins we already have. It was quite funny to see her jump up so quickly. And funnier still, that I was even able to get that close to her without a bucket of treats in my hand.

The donkeys provided a different kind of entertainment.

Donkeys

We have four donkeys. Two are in the front field with the boys – that’s the steers, sheep rams, and goat bucks. That would be Johnny and Sweet Pea. Then there are two in the middle field with the sheep mamas, Daisy and Cocoa. These are our livestock guardian animals.  Daisy and Cocoa have the greater job at this time of year. When lambs are born, there is an increase in the likelihood of predators coming to gobble them up. The donkeys make lots of noise and we have rarely had any issues over the years. Many times you can hear the coyotes in the distance, but they never really come close anymore. There was a time when we could hear them very close. But not so much anymore.

Our donkeys do a wonderful job in protecting the sheep and lambs. The first story I have today involves their care for the lambs. Each morning and each afternoon I make the trek out to field number 5 to check on the sheep and their lambs and to give Wendall his bottle. Wendall is our bottle-fed calf. He hangs out with Luna, our newest heifer. Yesterday, on the evening trip, I was in the vicinity of where the sheep were hanging out. And per my usual method, I was counting ewes and lambs, making sure everyone was accounted for and no one was missing in action. The ewes were out grazing on grass as they love to do, but the lambs were no where to be seen. Lo and behold, as I got nearer to the creek bottom, I saw the donkeys hanging out under the trees. The next thing I knew there were lambs coming out from behind them, venturing out for their evening frolic in the grass. Daisy and Cocoa had been babysitting while moms were out in the field grazing.

I counted them and came up one short. I immediately struck out for the creek intending to check on the other side. When they are this small, I keep a very close eye on them. Sometimes they get separated from mom and need me to rescue them and reunite them with the flock. This time however, my worry was unneeded. Out from behind Cocoa came the last lamb. She stopped to touch noses with Cocoa before joining her friends for a little run and jump action. All were safe and present. Check. On with feeding the calf.

I want to tell one more story about the donkeys before I move on to the quail babies. When I go out for evening chores, I bring along music. In my ears are stuffed earbuds as I listen to some of my favorite music, singing along of course. With earbuds on, I’m sure I’m singing flat most of the time. After all, I can’t hear myself. In my mind it sounds great but who knows. There is no one to give me feedback. Except I did get some feedback.

A few days ago, I was out there singing softly a sweet song and the donkeys came walking up to me. Usually I have to go to them. And sometimes they are contrary and run away. But not this time. They came walking up to me as I softly sang a song. At least I think I was singing softly. I do recall that it was a sweet song, not sure the title or subject. So they come walking up to me and begging for attention. I start petting Daisy and Cocoa comes up and puts her head on Daisy’s rump so I can pet her too. Eventually Daisy turned around and they entwined their heads while I was gently stroking them both and singing softly into their ears. I’ve done it a couple of times since then. I’m not sure what the signal is in my singing. They don’t always come up to me. I think it is related to the song. You know, whether they like it or not. When I am singing loudly, they definitely keep their distance. I do know that much. But all in all it is a very sweet time for us. I have on my list of things to do to add a curry comb to the bucket of supplies I carry around for taking care of the new lambs. I’m sure both Daisy and Cocoa will love a good combing.  

Quail

The baby quail are all outside now and looking great in their new hotel suites. There are two areas and they are nearly evenly split between the cages. Each side has a main area where there is food and water. And then they have the spa area where they can take a nice dust bath in the sand. The sand box is part of the enclosed area on each end of the coop. These birds are living the life.

One thing that I am still learning is how to keep them from jumping out when I open the cage door. I try to chase them to the back of the cage, but inevitably on most days, one or more will escape when I open the door to replenish their food and water. Then I’m out there chasing down these quail chicks. So far, I have been able to recapture them and return them to their cage.

One day, the cage door was left open on one of the breeder cages just below where this grow out cage is located. There are six birds in each of the breeder cages. They also have a dust bath spa in each cage. Anyway, the door was open and all six birds were out and about for a few hours. Scott caught most of them and got them replaced securely in their hotel rooms. However, one was missing. Later in the day, I went out to the milking shed to get ready to bring up the cows and there she was, the missing hen I mean. She was in the milking shed. I was able to catch her up and get her secured as well. All’s well that ends well. The hens were all hesitant to lay eggs for a few days after that little bit of drama, but they are all back up to full production now.

Cows

The cows are all doing really well. Scott is working on getting setup for our first experience with artificial insemination. Soon it will be time to start the breeding process. This year, we are using AI or artificial insemination. This gives us much greater control of the genetics and gender of our calves. We picked two bulls that have the characteristics we are looking to develop in our herd. Number one is A2A2 genetics for our herd share milk. As we expand, we need more cows that provide this type of milk. Eventually, all of our cows will have the A2A2 genetic component. (What is A2A2 Milk?) The other genotype we are seeking to develop is BB kappa casein. That is a milk protein specifically beneficial in making cheese. The Normande breed is great with this trait, but again, we want to get everyone on the same page. It will take a few years, but we will get there.

Gender is also an important factor to consider. When we have male calves, or bulls, they end up as steers and grow up to be beef cows. That takes about two years. While the extra income from selling the beef is nice, it is yet another marketing task that I need to find time for in my already busy schedule. It is far better to have female calves, or heifers. We can grow them out for beef if we desire, but they are also very valuable as replacement stock for ourselves and breeding stock for others looking to add the Normande cow to their herd. We get lots of calls for heifers. No marketing required. People find us. In the past, we have not had any to offer. And indeed, over the next few years, likely we still will not have any until we get our herd into the shape we desire. But eventually, we will have heifers for sale.  

Goats

Apparently, the goats are now contained within the current paddock. It has been quite a few days and they are still where we put them. Scott worked long and hard to patch up the holes in the fence where they were sneaking through from paddocks 10 and 14 into paddock 11. Thank goodness. We shall see how long that lasts.

Does Parental Grief Ever End?

The last experience I want to share today has to do with the question, “does parental grief ever end?” This morning I was out gathering the cows. I had my earbuds in and was listening to my usual mix of music. The weather was a bit wet and it was definitely cool. I love these morning and afternoon walks out on our land. The birds are singing. Often there is a soft breeze. It was pretty breezy this morning. The geese are all over the place squawking and making their usual racket. Life is great here on the homestead. Peace abounds in every corner of my world. Love wells up within me as a take in these many wonders of God’s creation. Contentment oozes out of my pores during these times.

And thoughts gently flow through my mind. Not overpowering. Not overwhelming as before when I worked in the stressful corporate IT world. A bit of worry here and there, but nothing like the stresses you all endure and that I have endured in the past. It’s quite the contrast. Before not so much physical labor but lots of mental stress. Now lots of physical labor and much less mental stress. I like the tradeoff.

Often, I think of my life and how I got to where I am today. That inevitably brings up thoughts of my parents. Like many of you, there were ups and downs in my childhood. As a teenager I had real issues with my parents. Resentment filled me and I blamed them for my unhappiness. Then, I grew farther and farther apart from them as I built my adult life. “Cat’s in the Cradle” syndrome and “we’ll get together then”, though I talked with my mother often, especially in the later years when she was in her sixties and seventies and I was in my forties and fifties. My dad remained the same rock throughout my life. He never changed that much in my eyes. I’m sure he actually did change. We all do. The resentment faded and respect replaced it. Just as my life was filled with challenges and mistakes, so were theirs. We all do our best. Likely many of you, like me, judge our choices as not good enough and still struggle to be better – but we always do the best we can with what we have in the moment. And we inevitably make mistakes.

My parents have both been gone now for a while. It seems like there are still here and it feels like they have been gone forever and a day. My mother died over five years ago. And my father nearly 4 and a half years ago. I was with him at the end. Or I should say, he was with me. The last three months of his life he spent with me as I gently caught him as he fell; grieving still for my mother and his body giving out after six years expending every bit of energy he had to care for her as she lived out her final days.

When I think of them, the deep grieving loss wells up in me. Any of you who have lost a loved one know what I am talking about. The deep sense of love and grief at the loss of love that seems to spontaneously surge through my heart. Tears instantly fill my eyes as I think of them. I can feel it even now as I speak. And I wonder does it ever end? Will I grieve the loss for the rest of my life? I don’t mind. I am grateful for the ability to feel love for them even in their absence.

I’ll bet some of you have similar stories. I’ll bet some of you experienced your loss more than five years ago and still feel it today. What do you think? Does parental grief ever end? I do not think so. At least I hope it never does. I want their memory to live on in me forever. What about you?

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed the homestead stories and come back again and again to hear more. It has taken me a while to find my stride and to land on what I have to offer. It took a while to realize that all I have is me and my experiences. Every day I strive to experience greater love and peace. I strive for God’s grace and forgiveness.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please go to Apple Podcasts, search for Peaceful Heart FarmCast and SUBSCRIBE. Take a moment to give me a 5-star rating and a review. And if you enjoy this content, the best thing you can do to help me is to share it with any friends or family who might be interested.  

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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Raw Milk Cheese

Today I want to talk about our raw milk cheese and cheesemaking. We have 4 different types of cheese and I am working on a 5th. I am so glad the small cheese cave is nearing completion so we will have a place to store all of them. 

If you are new to the podcast, welcome. It’s great to have you. And a shout out to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. You all make this show possible. I have so much exciting news this week. Let’s get to it.  

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Cheese

This week I made an absolutely fabulous raw milk cheese – Clau d’ville cheddar. Well at least it looks good so far. Sometimes we have trouble getting the cheese to come together and close up so there are no holes on the outside of the cheese. This is important. If you have opening on the surface of the cheese, unwanted mold can get inside and ruin the whole cheese. This is the first cheddar that I have made this season and I am well pleased with it.

I started off the cheesemaking with creating a new cheese. The first wheel is nearly ready for tasting. It is a tomme-style cheese. Tomme is used to describe a generic group of cheese produced mainly in the French Alps and in Switzerland. This cheese is lower in fat than our other cheeses. It is made in a circular mold, has an earthy gray-brown natural rind and, hopefully, will have an intensely nutty taste. Additionally, in the last three of these cheeses I experimented with adding wasabi to the curds. The last one I made looked like the best one with the added wasabi. We shall see.

At this point I am into a regular rotation of making Ararat Legend (a Dutch gouda-style) cheese, Clau d’ville Cheddar, Pinnacle (a swiss gruyere-style) and Peaceful Heart Gold (a Danish Havarti-style) cheeses. I’ll be talking about the small cheese cave next. That’s where all of this wonderful cheese will be aged to perfection.

Creamery

The creamery features two cheese caves. One is large enough to handle an entire year’s worth of our raw milk cheese. All of the cheeses we make are aged. That means we have them in the aging cave for a very long time. When we are in full production, the large cheese cave will have lots and lots of cheese in it all the time in varying stages of aging. At the present time, Scott is trying to get the smaller cheese cave ready for us to use. We are not at full production so the smaller cheese cave will be excellent. It will be a blessing to have more room and greater control of temperature and humidity. At first Scott was not going to put the tiles on the floor, but recently he changed his mind. Last podcast I said we would put it into use without the floor, but life changes daily on the homestead. This cave will have wooden shelves to house the cheese. These shelves are held up with cinder blocks. I believe his reasoning on going ahead with the floor tiles was the daunting task of taking all that apart to do the floor later.

He is working on getting those tiles glued down as I speak. The grout between the tiles will come later. It has to be a special grout that can withstand dramatic alkaline and acid fluctuations and harsh cleaning compounds. Fortunately, we learned about the necessity for this based on someone else’s issue. There is a lovely dairy about an hour away from us, Meadow Creek Dairy. They milk about 200 cows and make lots and lots of cheese. They make 20 times more than we ever plan on making. Originally, they started out small, just like us, going to farmer’s markets and selling to local stores. Now they sell wholesale cheese internationally. They even had one of their cheeses featured at a White House dinner some years back.

I know Scott would prefer working on the completing the roof but his priority is getting that cheese cave functional and he is nearly there. After that, nothing will hold him back from finishing the entire roof. And who knows what he plans after that. I’ll let you know when he lets me know.

Lambs

We have new lambs. Our first lamb – well first scheduled lamb – was born on May 7th. There is one lamb that was the first week of February. The unplanned one that resulted from one of our oopsie moments. We moved the animals around and somehow one of last year’s ram lambs got sorted in with the girls. Fortunately, only one unplanned birth. Anyway, May 7th was the first planned one and now we have 6 altogether. Three more ewes still need to have their lambs. So far. we have 4 singles and one set of twins. From the round look of the still pregnant ewes, we are on a path to have two more sets of twins.

There have been no issues with any moms or lambs so far. We have no bottle lambs. Last year we had one. The mom of this year’s twins had triplets last year and one of them just wasn’t getting enough milk and attention. On day two or three we found him shivering and a little weak. I immediately scooped him up and brought him inside and got him warmed up. It took a little while to find the bottles and lamb milk replacer, but I soon had some warm milk in him. We had to keep an eye on him several times a day for a few days, but eventually, he perked up and is now in line to be our herd ram. We call him Lambert. 

Cows

The cows are giving us plenty of milk. We had our cows tested for A2A2 genetics and about half of the herd is certified A2A2. Over the next few years, we will be moving to 100% A2A2 genetics. If you are not familiar with what that means, I have a previous podcast on the topic. It is called “What is A2A2 Milk?” I’ll put a link in the show notes. Or you can go to the website and click or tap on the podcast menu item. I recorded that one nearly a year ago, so scroll down a little way and you will find it. I also have lots of good information on why we drink raw milk and lots of other information about raw milk.

All of our raw milk cheese and dairy products are available via herd share. In Virginia that means if you want these products you need to own your own cow. We offer the opportunity for folks to buy into our herd via our herd share program. You pay a fee to get into the homestead herd and then a monthly service fee and we do the rest. We have lots of great people enjoying our milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. By the way, if you know of anyone in the Winston-Salem, North Carolina area that is looking for these kinds of nutritious products, let them know about us. We can’t deliver across state lines, but they can certainly come to the farm and pick up their milk or butter or whatever. We welcome our North Carolina neighbors into our herd share program.

Quail

The quail babies are fully feathered. Their heat lamp has been taken away and they are getting acclimated to keeping themselves warm without the additional heat the lamp provided. I believe tomorrow is their debut in the cages outside. It has been a bit too chilly to put them out there. But the temps are changing tomorrow. And once they are acclimated, they will be fine. Their parents survived the entire winter and did very well. Sometimes I am surprised by the hardiness of barely domesticated animals. Quail in the wild have always been born and lived outside their entire lives. Nature is tough.

Garden

Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time in the garden. We have this lovely ground cover on all of the beds. The places where the seeds go in the ground are clearly marked and a hole has been cut in the fabric to allow the seed to go in and the leaves to come out once the seeds sprout. This new system we are trying this year, if it works, will simplify gardening for us. Weeds are always a problem for every gardener. And we just have too much else going on to spend a whole lot of time battling weeds. We hope this ground cover is the answer we have been looking for to bring joy back to gardening.

It will be at least another week or two before I plant my tomatoes and peppers out in the garden. Currently they reside in my living room with grow lights over them. In a normal year, I would have been planting them out in the garden but this year, it has been quite a cool spring. We actually had a frost a day or two ago. Typically, our last frost date is April 15th. That was three weeks ago. Oh well, as homesteader, we roll with the punches. Each year is unique. 

Fruit

On the bank just outside of the main garden is a bed of strawberries. At each end are alpine strawberries. They are very small and quite sweet and tasty. In the middle is an everbearing variety we got at Lowes. That bed is overrun again with weeds. We were going to put the landscape cloth there as well but haven’t gotten around to it. The result is weeds overrunning the strawberry bed. Sighhhh. It’s a never-ending battle.

On the bright side regarding fruit, the blueberries bloomed nicely and should bear some great fruit in about a month. The blackberries are blooming. It is one of my favorite times of the spring season. Blackberry blossoms and wild rose blossoms fill the air with a lovely fragrance. The blackberries will be ripe about mid-July. If you are interested in picking your own blackberries, let me know. I can arrange a time for you to come out and fill up a bucket or two.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure I left out something. There is so much that happens in a day and time flies when you are living the life and having fun. I’ll let you know how the raw milk cheese and cheese cave turns out. Next week I hope to have more lamb births to announce. And who know what else will happen in the coming seven days.

I hope you all can safely get back to work soon and get on with your lives. I cannot imagine what it must be like for you. Your lives upended. I hope my tales of the homestead are entertaining for you during this confined and uncertain time at home.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. The best thing you can do to help out the show is to 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.

References:

What is A2A2 Milk?

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Spring Lambs and Goat Kids

It’s spring in Virginia and we have calves, spring lambs, a goat kid, and baby quail. So much is going on. This is true of every spring. After a sleepy winter, spring brings rapid growth and renewed life.

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

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

We love our place here. The dream we started nearly 17 years ago just keeps going growing toward our ever-changing vision.

Sheep and Spring Lambs

Spring lambs have sprung. Just yesterday, Cinco de mayo, we had a brand new baby ram lamb born. He is strong and healthy, weighing in at 6 lbs 6 oz. His mom is the youngest ewe out there. She is just now one year old. There are 6 more ewes still to deliver. A couple of them look like they are about to burst. Sheep usually have a single in their first year and twins in their second year. We have had quite a few along our journey that even have triplets on a regular basis. On the very rare occasions this breed of sheep will have quadruplets. We have not seen that. And I have to say that I am glad of that. Four lambs is a lot to keep up with out there. 

The sheep are no longer right outside my living room window. We ran out of grass in the pasture there so I’m making a bit of a longer trek to check on them a couple of times a day. Concern for their health and the health of the pasture drove that decision. Sure, it was much more convenient for me to be able to look out the window and easily check on them. But their health and the pasture health is much more important than my convenience.

If the grass gets too short, it has trouble growing back. Especially if we have any kind of drought. We learned that lesson quite a few years back. Good pasture management is essential for our grass-based operation. The health of the sheep is greatly impacted by short grass as well. Domesticated sheep and goats around the world have issues with parasitic worms. We have worked long and hard on our flock to alleviate this issue. We lost a lot of lambs in the beginning – and we even lost a couple of ewes to parasites.

The long and the short of it is that these worms are pooped out onto the grass. In the warmth and wet of spring is the perfect medium for them to re-infect their host sheep. They crawl up the grass and get eaten by the sheep eating very short grass. They can only crawl up so high and then the dryness will kill them. They need moisture. The solution to this deadly issue is regular pasture rotation. Just about the time the eggs would hatch, the sheep get moved to another clean section of grass. The worms are left behind and most die off without a host in which to lay their eggs. And if some do hatch and begin to crawl up the grass, as long as the grass is tall enough, the worms are left behind having only climbed a short way up the grass stem.

In the beginning we were forced to chemical worming solutions to keep our livestock alive. Now we rarely need to worm them. We still keep an eye on them and worm as needed. So far this year, no worming has been needed. The goats, too, have not had to have any wormer.

Goats

Speaking of goats, have I mentioned that it is almost impossible to keep goats inside a fence. Scott put lots of effort into creating a fencing system that would hold them. And I must say that the perimeter fence does a pretty good job. Inside the perimeter they pretty much go wherever they want.

We have 14 separate paddocks that we use to rotate stock so they are not too long on one part of the pasture for reasons I just stated. Four of these paddocks are on the front part of the property. Five are in what I would call in the mid-point of our land. In the back field there are five more. The front, middle and back are each separated by a driveway. The goats don’t generally go across that divide. But within the middle and back sections, they pretty much move at will between the five paddocks. The sheep, donkeys and cows stay where we put them. But not the goats.

Now as I said, they generally stay inside the perimeter and only go between the internal paddock fences. But there is this one goat. She goes in and out of any fence, anywhere, anytime. This is a full-grown goat and somehow she goes right through the fence. She’s like Houdini. Why is this important?

We decided not to breed our goats anymore. Gradually, the cashmere goats will be phased out and replaced with a meat goat breed. We keep goats for pasture maintenance. Originally, I wanted the cashmere goats because I had dreams of using cashmere yarn for my knitting projects. I think I mentioned this in the last podcast. When you start out on a homestead, you want to do everything. Then reality sets in and you realize you have to scale back. There is only so much time in the day. You simply can’t do it all. And so it is with the cashmere. I simply do not have time to keep up with the cashmere, much less get it processed and spun into yarn. I have knitting projects in progress at this time that I have been working on for over a year.

Back to Houdini goat. About a week ago, I was out bringing in the cows from the field for their morning milking. And low and behold, there was a goat kid out there. It didn’t take me long to figure out how that happened. Houdini went to visit the boys at some point. As I said, she goes wherever she wants, whenever she wants. She had a really cute kid and I’m happy to have him. There is a part of me that wants to hurry up the switcheroo so we can have goat kids again. But I’ll stick with the plan. It will be a couple more years before we switch over to the meat goats. This will likely be the last kid born here on the homestead until the switch is completed.

Cows

The cows are doing great. We are still waiting on a calf or two to be born. I talked with the vet about Buttercup to get some advice about what to look for if she were to have another problem like she had a couple of years ago. According to the vet, we are still in good shape and I know what to look for in regards to identifying she is having an issue.

Cloud is having a problem though that we have not been able to resolve. She has overgrown hooves on both rear feet. One of them is quite significant and may be causing her some pain. She is very sensitive and jumpy when we get near her rear legs. Scott has gotten kicked quite a few times. I think I talked about the kick that injured the thumb on his right hand. He has had to slow down on some of the construction because he can’t grip with that injured hand. It’s getting better but still has a way to go before he has full function with that hand.

Violet and Claire are cruising right along. I am still unsure whether Butter is actually going to have a calf. She doesn’t really look preggers to me. Scott say yes. We shall see over the next month or so if there is any indication she is ready to deliver us a beautiful calf.

Quail

We have 33 baby quail in brooders. That is an intermediate place between the incubator and living outside. We use large plastic storage containers with a piece of woven wire inserted into the lid. On top of that is a heat lamp. They have a deep bedding of wood shavings. That keeps them warm and safe while they grow their permanent feathers. In an unbelievably short while – 2 weeks or so – they will be completely feathered out. We are nearing that date at this point. Once they are fully feathered, we gradually remove the heat lamp and then transfer them to the cages outside. At 8 weeks of age, they are fully grown. Today I will start collecting eggs for the next batch to go in the incubator. We are getting 10 to 13 eggs per day. That means likely over 70 eggs will get incubated this time.

Garden

Scott worked very hard on getting the garden ready for planting. It is too late for peas, but I have lots and lots of beans, tomatoes, onions and culinary herbs ready to go. I’ll be getting into that over the next week or two. I love planting in the garden. Watching the plants come up from those seeds, sprouting and growing rapidly, reaching toward the sun. This year I expect to have to weed much less. Scott spent a good bit of time putting down a landscaping ground cover, then cutting holes for the seeds and plants to be put in the ground. I’m excited to see how this works for us this year. Weeds are always a problem and the least fun part of gardening. A few weeds are fun to work with, but an overgrowth is just hard work. Our garden is quite large which is the perfect setting to allow weeds to grow faster than I can get them under control. I have my fingers crossed that this year, the landscape cover is going to do the trick in keeping the weeds to a minimum.

Creamery

The first room in the creamery is nearing completion – well near completion. The tile floors will have to be installed later and the electrical connection is temporary, but it will be functional enough for me to use it to store and age cheese. We have a freezer set up with a special temperature control that keeps the temperature near 55 degrees. That is our current aging environment. We are talking very limited space in there with no control of the humidity. The new aging room is going to be an incredible asset. It is very spacious and I will be able to put in a humidifier to keep the cheese from drying and cracking. I am so excited about the prospects of making more cheese and aging it more effectively.

Cheesemaking

I am having such a great time making cheese. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but making cheese is a very peaceful endeavor. I have a couple of podcasts on basic cheesemaking and the process involved. In a nutshell, the milk gets heated, cultures are added, then a coagulant to make one great big curd. The curd gets cut into small pieces and from there several different branches can happen that I won’t describe here today. I’ll do that again another time. But once the curd is cooked – I say cooked but it never gets above 100 to 122 degrees depending on the cheese. Once the curd is deemed done, the whey gets drained and the curds are put into cheese molds or forms. It’s a long day but a wonderful experience. I can take my mind off of anything that may be bothering me, using the cheesemaking almost like a meditation. Anyone interested in cheesemaking classes? We can start with something really easy. Drop me an email (say email address) and let me know your thoughts on that.

Herd Shares

I’ve opened up a larger number of herd shares at this point. Lots and lots of folks are looking for raw milk and raw milk products. This is one my favorite parts of what we are doing with our homestead right now. I get to know my herd share owners a little bit more every week. These are some great people that are doing great things. I hope to attract some attention from Winston-Salem, NC. If you know anyone in that area looking for raw milk, let them know about us. They will need to come to the farm to pick up as we are in Virginia and can’t deliver across state lines. We’ll give them a tour and the kids love petting the donkeys.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you enjoyed walking along with me as we toured the homestead and said hello to the spring lambs. Maybe later this summer we can invite you to a physical tour. Those lambs are going to be cute over the next few months. 

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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Getting Back on Track

I’ve been off track on a few things in my life and today’s podcast is about getting back on track. No matter what activity or goal in which you are off track, there are ways to get it back together. Let’s talk about that. 

Welcome new listeners and welcome back veteran homestead-loving regulars. I appreciate you all so much.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • Getting Back on Track – a Recipe for Success

Homestead Life Updates

First item of note, I’m changing the podcast format. As you may have noticed, I do not publish nearly as many podcasts as when I started out. Life on the homestead is quite full and the podcast is what is nearly always pushed to the back burner when push comes to shove. Going forward I am changing the format to one that I can fit in to a very limited time frame. I still want to talk with you each week, but doing more than sharing my current thoughts and experiences on the homestead are about all I handle timewise.

The podcasts will be shorter in duration and focused on our traditional homestead life. I’m giving up on having a recipe each and every time. I may still throw in a few here and there, but it won’t be a regular feature. The topics each week will revolve around life on the homestead and no longer contain educational content in exactly the same form. The educational aspect will be me sharing my personal learning experiences as well as stories about how we do things on our homestead and why.

The preparation for the large middle section of the podcast is the sticking point that stopped me from doing the rest of the podcast. It is a daunting task to come up with that content when I have so much else to do. So many other things require my attention. Therefore, I’m eliminating that block to my success and moving forward with what will works better for me and the homestead life.

I hope it will still be entertaining and educational for you. If not, I understand and will miss you. We all have to do what works best for us. Now, on to what is going on at the homestead followed by a vivid dream that I had. It has helped me get back on track with my goals.

Cows

Claire had her calf on April the 8th. Yet another bull. We named him Wendell. He is beautiful and healthy. Remember Luna. That’s Cloud’s calf that was born in November last year. She was out of sequence with our breeding schedule. We hope to gain a better handle on breeding beginning this year. We are trying artificial insemination for the first time. Anyway, Luna and Wendell are sharing space with the sheep. More on that later.

Artificial insemination is our next big learning curve in regards to cow animal husbandry. Our goal there is to use sexed semen so we get heifers instead of so many bulls. The reasoning there has several points. Number one is that we are trying to improve our herd genetics. Using artificial insemination is a good way to do that because we can choose the genetic traits in the bull that we are looking to cultivate in our herd. Also, with the sexed semen, we will be able to grow the herd without purchasing from other farms. There are multiple problems purchasing from other farms with the biggest one being the closest Normande dairy stock is somewhere in Wisconsin or Missouri. Lovely places but a long way for us to go to get a cow. I’ll share some of those learning experiences as they come up.

So far, we have acquired the semen and the tank in which to store it. We’ve hooked up with a person who can recharge the nitrogen tank. That was one of Scott’s adventures. Again, living remotely and having a very small operation limits the availability of lots of services others can easily obtain. It took lots and lots of phone calls over weeks of time to get that set up. Next will be the hands-on learning how to do the artificial insemination ourselves. I’ll keep you posted on that. I think we are set up to start that process in June or perhaps July. Again, Scott’s arena. He’ll let me know as the date comes closer.

Sheep and Goats

So Luna and Wendell are sharing space with the sheep. They are all away from the main part of the herd. Luna and Wendell have been weaned from their moms. Wendell is on a bottle and Luna is old enough that Cloud would have started kicking her off soon anyway. She is dining on grass.

The sheep are due to starting lambing around May 6th. I like to keep them close until that time is up. Newborn lambs are the epitome of skin and bones. They grow and put on weight quickly, but there is nothing to them when they exit the womb. Goat kids too. The first week of their life is very important. Once they get past that first week, they have a great chance of making it all the way to adulthood.

A couple of years ago we started giving the sheep ewes and goat does a supplement just before their lambing and kidding dates. In this part of the country the soil is deficient in selenium. It’s an important nutrient for muscles. The goat kids were particularly susceptible to what is called white muscle disease. Sometime during the first week of their life, all of a sudden, they cannot get up. Their muscles simply don’t work. Goat kids are the greatest at hiding. They are nearly impossible to find when they have gone off to sleep somewhere. So you can see the problem. They can’t get up and nurse and we can’t find them. We noticed that each year in that first week of life, quite a few goat kids would go missing and we thought that predators were the problem. But no. It was nutrition.

I happened to catch sight of one that was too weak to stand up. This was a few years ago. Maybe three years ago. I quickly scooped him up, caught mom up and set up some temporary housing for them. Then, I got out a few of the books we have and started looking for what could be the problem. Called the vet and got even more information there. After that phone call, I immediately began giving the doe a feed supplement that was fortified with selenium. That nutrition would pass through her milk to him. We kept mom and kid in a small dog cage so we didn’t lose track of that kid. I milked her out a little and fed him by hand at first. Within a day, he was better and within about 5 days he was back on his feet and growing rapidly. He was finally getting the nutrition he needed via his mom’s milk. After that learning experience, every year at kidding and lambing time, they get that same feed supplement. We are a grass-based operation for the most part, but are perfectly willing to use any scientific advancement as needed for the health of our animals.

Again, after the first week or so, those lambs and kids are good to go and we stop feeding the supplement. Moms go back to 100% grass-based nutrition. We have been very successful with out lambs and kids since making that change. All that long story to explain why those sheep are right outside my living room window where I can keep an eye out for when the babies are arriving. I can assist as needed and the view of those beautiful animals grazing is the highlight of my day during this time of year.

Once this isolation stuff is done with, we will be having on-farm tours. I hope to schedule them around the time these lovely little babies are being born and the first couple of months afterwards. You will never see a cuter site than a lamb jumping straight up and down. They only do it for a few months, but it is just delightful to watch. Just about dusk seems to be their cue to set that frolicking into motion. Looking forward to that in the next month or so.

Quail

Speaking of new babies, the quail eggs I saved a little while back went into what we call “lockdown”. I take out the automatic egg turner and lay the eggs on the bottom of the incubator in anticipation of the hatching within a day or two. I literally expect to hear peeping tomorrow morning. They will be shut up in there for 3 days from the time the first one hatches. We are waiting for the rest of the eggs to hatch and need to keep the lid closed. The temperature and humidity must remain constant during this critical time. We have 48 eggs in there. I’ll let you know how that goes in the next podcast.

Garden

Moving on to the garden. Scott has worked very diligently on getting the ground mulch put back in place. It washed out so badly during the winter. But the walking paths are now completely covered again in mulch. That keeps the weeds out of the paths.

The next new thing we are trying in the garden is using woven ground cover to keep the weed population under control. Good weed control is essential for healthy plants. Healthy plants are much more resistant to pests and diseases.

The bulk of the planting is still a couple of weeks away. I can start some things next week. Already I need to repot my tomato seedlings. I have 40 something plants that will get planted out in the garden sometimes around the middle to end of May. But right now, they are growing very well and need more soil and space. A task for another day. Not today. 

I also have lots of peppers – both hot and sweet. Those need to be repotted as well. I’m growing celery and onion starts. Those move along much more slowly but they are both healthy and doing well.

A new garden adventure for me this year is growing lots of culinary herbs. I use lots of herbs in cooking but they are dried herbs for the most part unless I make a special trip to town to go to the grocery store. I’m looking forward to learning how to grow some of my favorites.

Right now, I have starts for sweet basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano, and mint. I’ve tried twice to sprout rosemary with no success so far. I may have to get a cutting of that to get started. Another bright idea I had was to make a grouping of these plants and sell them at the farmer’s market for your home herb gardens. That’s not going to happen this year. The farmer’s market is very limited in how they operate at the moment. And I think that when we do get back into full swing, the opportunity for those sales will be long past. Oh well, there is always next year.

Creamery

Let’s talk about the creamery. We are into our fourth year of creating this building from the ground up. I say “we” but it is Scott that is doing it. He is so amazing.

He has taken a break from getting the roof on over the barn and milking parlor. Because we are in milk and I’m making lots of cheese, we need storage space. The small cooler is getting closer and closer to being ready to house some of that cheese. It will open up so many possibilities once I have more space.

Waxing cheeses has been the method of choice for aging up until this point. That’s mainly because I couldn’t control the humidity and the cheese would get too dry if I tried to grow a natural rind. That’s about to change. In a space created specifically for aging cheese, controlling humidity is part of the building design. I’m so excited to try some new things in the new cheese cave.

Once small caveat there. Scott has injured the thumb on his right hand and can’t really grip anything or wield a hammer. Cloud got a little upset a day or two ago and kicked him during milking. We are working with her to get her calmed back down. I’ll talk more about that next time. It’s just another challenge on the homestead. Anyway, Scott is now modifying what he can and cannot do. I’m getting more help around the house but I think he would rather be completing that project. I believe he said it might be a couple of weeks before his hand is healed enough to continue with construction. What will he do with himself?

Cheesemaking

Perhaps he will make cheese. He really likes to make cheese. Last year he was putting those block walls up and only made cheese three times. I know that because he makes the cheddar. And he makes a great cheddar. We had three, giant 25-pound cheddar wheels. I think we are on the second one. It is nearing a year of aging and OMG it is so good.

I’m making cheese at least once a week. Maybe Scott will make one each week as well. As soon as Buttercup and Butter have their calves we will be drowning in milk and making lots and lots of cheese. It’s a beautiful thing.

Pressure like that helps me get back on track if I’ve strayed from the goals. Additionally, I had this really great dream that came from a new process that I started a couple of weeks ago. It’s really working for me and I want to share it with you. Perhaps it will help you as well.

Getting Back on Track – a Recipe For Success

First let me tell the dream and then I’ll talk about my recent experiences that led to having the dream.

The Dream

I went to visit a female friend. Friend was “off track”. I believe it was in regards to her diet. Not necessarily a weight loss diet. Simply her nutritional diet of choice which involves choosing some foods over others. She was not choosing according to her plan. I decided to help but didn’t know what I was going to do. I just decided and moved forward with my plan. My friend’s husband was there. I told him I was going to help her get back on track. He looked grateful. Looked at wife with supportive expression and said, “see you later. Have fun!” He had complete trust in me being able to make a difference in her life.

I still didn’t know what to do but I really wanted to help her. She was off her diet and couldn’t seem to get back on track. She was suffering from continuous beating herself up, berating herself and generally giving up. She was experiencing the “what’s the use” thought pattern. I told her we were going to walk through this together.

The dream switched to a room full of tables of food. We walked from table to table, looking and smelling food. At each luscious food dish, we would say together “maybe tomorrow, but not today.” This was the key. No restriction. The food was absolutely available as a choice. But the choice was deferred. “Maybe tomorrow, but not today.” She repeated it like a mantra.

That’s the end of the dream and it was pretty clear to me what it meant for me. You see, the problem is the restriction. I have found this to be true of all things that I am resisting. When someone tells me I can’t have something or can’t do something, immediately my mind goes into overdrive and incessant desire to have or do the thing that is forbidden. I know, pretty childish right? It is indeed childish. It is a learned behavior from childhood and this kind of deeply ingrained response can really interfere with daily adult life. It gets me off track. 

For me, getting off track starts really, really small and then grows. Pretty quickly it grows exponentially. What I choose to eat is where I fall off the wagon most often. Well, that and exercise and household tasks and doing marketing for the business. Okay, it all snowballs together. I don’t know about you but I tend to berate myself as I make bad choices. I even watch myself leaning toward those bad choices, tell myself I know it’s a bad choice – – – and then I do it anyway. It can be a real downhill spiral from there. I am an awful person for knowing how to make a better choices and then not doing it. That reaffirms to me that I am an awful person. Awful people make awful choices so I’ll just do it again. I’m powerless against my own mind and on and on and on. The downward spiral will eventually get me to a place of hopelessness. I’m hopeless that I will ever be a good person and make good choices.

So, these are all character judgements by me about me. Perhaps you can relate to this. Maybe for you it is screwing up your really great job because you just can’t seem to get it together. Maybe it’s your relationship. You know what you need to do, but you just keep doing what you have been doing, all the while knowing it is the wrong thing to do. Or maybe you have set yourself a goal to pay off all your debts and save money to build your own homestead. But darn, you really want that new car and that fantastic outfit and a great trip to Europe and so on. You keep spending your money instead of saving it. Perhaps getting even more indebted. The complete opposite of what you say you want. You know the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome.

Actually, when the hopelessness enters the picture, you don’t really expect a different outcome. And in a way, it’s a great place to be. There is nowhere to go but up. And the way back up is similar to the way down. It will start with a very small choice, then a bigger choice, and a bigger choice and so on until you are roaring with strength and confidence.

But what starts the cycle? What is the driving force that compels you to make that first unproductive choice – and on the other end, the first productive choice? It’s freedom. It’s the freedom you give yourself to make that choice.

Let me explain a little. I’ll use binge eating as an example as that is my biggest issue. But the principle applies to many areas of my life. What happens to me is that I tell myself I can’t have certain things. Sweets, of course. Or bread. Or chips. And when I demand that kind of abstinence from myself, there is a childish backlash that begins to build. There is a small voice in the back of my head that says, “but I really, really want it.” That voice gets stronger and stronger until it finally takes gets me to take that first taste – just a taste mind you – of the forbidden fruit. Immediately, the weakness begins to step in. What I mean by that is the self-recrimination. It’s small at first. The “cheat” was small. But the next one is larger and the self-recrimination gets larger. And the larger it gets, the smaller the disciplined voice gets and the louder the voice of judgement gets. They feed on one another. The restriction gets harder and harder to maintain. The rebellion gets louder and louder until it breaks free. That’s what I mean about freedom.

Now what if I got to that same place without the judgement? What if I gave myself the freedom to eat absolutely anything I want at any time that I want? What would happen? The fear, of course, is that I would start eating everything in sight. However, if I follow my actions and not my thoughts, I begin to see that I am already there. I’m eating anything I desire as soon as the desire arises. And I haven’t given myself the freedom to do that. I’ve done it in rebellion against a perceived restriction.

Here’s what I am learning to do. Stop. Take a deep breath. Focus on the positive aspects of my nature. Starve the negative judgements. And I only have to do it for a second. Then I can have a rational conversation with myself. And it goes like this. “I could do that. Yes, I could. But not today. Maybe tomorrow. But not today.” And as above, small success is key. If I can stall myself for a few minutes, the urge passes. I didn’t restriction myself. I simply made a small choice to put it off for a day. I can look forward to doing the forbidden tomorrow. I’m not restricted from it. The next day, I can test myself again. And with each successful choice, I get stronger. I feel I am in control of my life. I’m okay that I can make really bad choices if I want. I’m no longer judging myself. It is the judgment that is the problem.

Trying to aggressively control everything inevitably leads to being out of control. Allowing all choices to be valid choices without judgement creates freedom. There is empowerment – being in charge of your life – even your own inner evil self cannot sabotage you. 

Think of the times in your life where you have procrastinated or overindulged. Either of these actions is generally a response to restriction. Procrastination is a self-imposed restriction against doing something and overindulgence is a rebellion against a perceived outside restriction on doing something. In either case, the easiest way that I have found to get past it is to repeat to myself over and over, “maybe tomorrow, but not today”. Maybe tomorrow I’ll play video games on the computer, but not today. Today I have tasks that need to be completed. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have ice cream, but not today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a day off from exercise, but not today. And so on.

This is a simple and easy mind trick technique that works for me. The hardest part of using this technique was, and still is, remembering to think it or say it out loud. By the way, saying it out loud is much stronger. Saying it out loud to another person is stronger yet.

Do you ever find yourself displaying this kind of childish stubbornness? This technique may work for you. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.

I said the podcasts would be much shorter and now I’ve gone on and on. I could judge myself for that but instead I’m simply going to end it here. I have got to get some housecleaning done. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go for a recreational and peaceful walk instead of staring at a list of unpleasant tasks, but not today. Today the bathroom needs to be cleaned.

Final Thoughts

I hope you will enjoy the new format and continue to come along with my journey on the homestead life. There is always so much going on in my life and in my mind and I love sharing it with you. Living the traditional life is the best thing that I have ever created. The mental, emotional and physical challenges are still there in abundance. I can get tired of the daily slog and want to give it all up. Then I get up, dust myself off and get back on track. It’s what makes me happy and successful. No matter where you are in life, you can get back on track with your goals. Maybe tomorrow you can go back to being a child for a little while, but not today. Today you will fulfill your potential.

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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COVID19 – In the Year of Our Lord 2020

COVID19, in the year of our Lord 2020 it’s affecting us all in one way or another. This podcast format will be a little different. This episode is going to be a farmstead update only. Because of the emotional charge around this pandemic virus, I have lots of things I want to talk about regarding the homestead and our life here. I also want to take a few minutes to talk you with about how we are doing here and how we are affected by the current world situation. No recipe today.

I’d love to hear from you about how you are faring as well. Comment on this podcast on our webpage or drop me an email at melanie at peacefulheartfarm.com. Let me know if you need anything or if I can help out in any way. We are all in this together.

If you are new, welcome. This will not be the best representation of my podcast format so I hope you will come back again and again to get a better idea of what I do here. Welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode.

Today’s Show

  • Homestead Life Updates
  • COVID19 – In the Year of our Lord 2020

Homestead Life Updates

The Cows

Violet has recovered from her uterine infection and is doing fine. Claire is due to calve in 7 to 10 days. She is so big. I let her take her time coming up to the milking shed. Buttercup is also quite big. If I have to walk a long way to gather up one of the girls, it will be Buttercup. This morning it was all the way to the farthest fence line. She just stood there and watched me as I approached. The others had all started moving in the right direction, but not Buttercup. Nope. Come and get me she says. Well, the exercise is wonderful so I don’t mind at all.

The Sheep and Goats

The sheep are still more than a month away from their delivery dates and are looking quite happy and healthy. No baby goats this year as we are reducing the herd, but the girls are looking fine. They are shedding their cashmere.

We originally got these particular goats because I wanted to spin and dye my own cashmere yarn for knitting. That never happened. We, like just about everybody else who is just starting out, wanted to do everything about which our hearts had ever dreamed. Then reality sets in and you realize that there is only so much time in the day and you must pick and choose your homestead enterprises. Your focus must be narrowed. After just 9 or 10 years we have just about settled on the final look and feel of our homestead.

Our Homestead Vision

We have the cows for milking and making cheese. The sheep are just because we like them. The goats are for specific pasture maintenance. The herd will become much smaller. Perhaps we will not breed them at all. It may be that we just keep three or four does that require minimal upkeep. That is still a work in progress. We are sure that the cashmere girls will eventually be gone completely and replaced with a few meat goats.

Pigs and Chickens?

I hope next year will be the year of the pigs and chickens. The creamery will be completed or nearly so and pigs/chicken projects can move forward. Pigs and chickens are a natural part of any cheesemaking operation. They will get any messed-up cheese and all the whey that would otherwise be poured out on the field. These are high protein, nutritious foods that will keep our animals happy and healthy. They will provide us with meat and eggs.

The Orchard

Scott loves the orchard but I have often wondered what we were going to do with all that fruit. As I said, your enterprises must be prioritized. Just thinking about how we would have the time to pick, store, preserve and market that much fruit is daunting. The pigs are the solution. We will keep whatever we need for ourselves and the rest will be food for the pigs. They will love it and we can still have this giant orchard – well it’s not really giant. We can still have this orchard that is far to big for two people and make good use of the fruit as well.

The Garden

Expanding on the orchard idea, the garden space is also much too big for two people. I have plans for growing lots and lots of root vegetables and squash for the pigs. The chickens will get to eat all kinds of greens, tomatoes and cucumbers – after I’ve taken out what I need, of course.

The Quail

We also have the quail. Scott can eat those eggs and we both love the meat.

Speaking of eggs. A couple of days ago we went on a treasure hunt. We came back to 8 Canadian goose eggs. That is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs.

The Geese

Every morning on my way to bring in the cows, I passed by this goose nest. First, I saw 2 eggs, then 3, then 4, then 5. Then nest was in a horrible place. It was less than two feet from where I and the cows walked twice a day. It was also in a place where a huge spring rain would flood the area and wipe it out.

The eggs stopped increasing after five and I wondered if the nest had been abandoned. Perhaps that pair of geese had gotten fed up with us interrupting their family situation two times every day. It gave me the idea.

Goose History

Back in 2009 or 2010 we got our first pair or two of geese making their home on our ponds. We have two. The older pond is about an acre and the newer one, established in 2007 or 08, is about an acre and a half. For the first couple of years they nested, hatched a batch of goslings and then left for the winter. I’m not sure exactly when that changed but now they are with us year round and about a week or so ago I counted 36 of them.

Every year the total gets larger. There are usually at least three nests and sometimes four. Some years most of the goslings don’t survive and some years they increased the flock by a couple of dozen. Not all stayed of course. But as I said, we are up to 3 dozen birds at this point. That’s a lot of squawking geese. Hence my idea. What if we raided their nests and took the eggs? That would reduce the increase in population and give another great source of food.

The Treasure Hunt

We found two other nests but only one had any eggs. The gander guarding that nest tried to give us a flogging but we persevered. That pair nests in the same place every year. Likely she will lay more eggs. I’m undecided about snatching those as well.

That particular pair nests on the island in the larger pond. There is also another pair that regularly nests on the other side of that island. I saw them but there was no nest as of yet. I think we might have had three nests on that island at one point. There are two pairs that regularly nest up by the older pond. We found on nest but no eggs. It is still early.

Goose Husbandry

Their normal egg-laying activity goes like this. They will lay one egg each day and cover the nest. At this point the goose is not incubating the eggs. Eventually, after 4 to 9 eggs are laid, she will begin to sit on the nest and warm the eggs beginning the incubation process at that time. The gander stands guard and they can be fierce. Once a day the goose will leave the nest to feed. It takes an average of 28 days for the eggs to hatch.  Every year near the end of April, I start looking for goslings.

I’ve been afraid to try the eggs because of the ordeal that I had with the quail eggs. If you don’t know about that, go back and listen to my podcast “Am I Allergic to Quail Eggs”. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. Scott is loving them. I may give them a try as I have had them in the past and had no issues. Duck eggs give me a rash. Quail eggs — well that’s a whole different level of issue.

The Creamery

Let me finish up the Homestead updates with some info on the creamery. Doors with locks and windows with lovely sills are all completed. Scott is currently working on the roof over the barn and milking parlor. Once that is completed, the metal roofing will go on. Then the plumbing and electrical installation will begin. And somewhere along the way, the milking stanchions and milking pipeline system will be installed. We have all the pieces and parts sitting off to the side just waiting for their opportunity to contribute to the final product.

After that walls, ceilings and tile floors. Bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, various stainless-steel tables, carts and shelves will magically appear. Who knows what else? It has been a little over three years. Perhaps at the end of four years there will be much light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s it for the overview of what our homestead is growing into. Let us know what you think.

Covid19 – In the Year of our Lord 2020

Now I want to talk just a little bit about this corona virus and how it is affecting us. I know you’ve probably heard too much about it already, but I just feel the need for us to come together and understand each other, help each other out in a time of need and grow into better human beings.

Contemplation

I walked out the front door this morning and looked at the world around me. It’s glorious. This is by far my favorite part of every day. It is what it is and nothing else. There is no noisy traffic. There is only the sounds of birds. Sometimes I might hear a cow mooing, a donkey braying, or a sheep or goat baaing. The geese are always over there on the pond making a racket, or at the very least low rumbling squawks and splashing about in the water. This time of year, the sun has not risen about the horizon but the sky is light. There might be a soft breeze.  

As I walked down the path to go bring the cows in for milking and/or practice milking routine, I thought to myself “these cows know nothing about what is going on in our world.” It was one of those things that struck me squarely in the heart. We have finally been affected by the pandemic restrictions. Farmer’s markets in Virginia are ordered to close for about a month. The farmer’s market is my primary drop off point for my herd share customers. Fortunately, drop-offs are still allowed. Likely I will meet my peeps in the parking lot at the usual time – as long as they are willing. I have hand sanitizer. 😊 This is small potatoes compared to the disruption in the lives of those around us.

Past Pandemics

Scott and I are fortunate that we live where we do, with nature all around us. We are naturally isolated, keeping our distance from large crowds and society in general. Our lives revolve around the many tasks and responsibilities of raising animals. It is a full life. Going to the farmer’s market is a treat for me; a chance to meet people and have conversations with other humans besides Scott. A trip to the grocery store is usually made in conjunction with a trip to drop off product for the Online Independence Farmer’s Market or the twice monthly Wytheville Farmer’s Market. We save on gas that way. We just don’t get out much. It’s hard for me to understand the deep gouge this corona virus restriction has put in the normal person’s life.

We have chosen a different life. However, I do remember when I was flying every week and my life revolved around teaching classrooms full of doctors, nurses and support staff. I provided instruction in how to use the US Military’s custom designed electronic health record. Interestingly enough, I got sick a few times during that five years of intense travel and exposure to one hospital or clinic after another. Since we left that world a bit over three years ago, I’ve yet to have even a sniffle. Even before we left those jobs for the homestead, we worked in a hospital setting. It was the same one and we must have built up immunity to all the bugs because Scott and I have rarely been sick with any kind of flu or virus in the last 10 years. It was trippy for a while there. Especially if I worked in a pediatric setting. I’m pretty sure I caught something every single time I worked in that environment.

H1N1

And in 2009, the H1N1 was the center of our world for a while. Likely most of you don’t remember it. We geared up quickly, as is happening now, and many people stepped up to the plate to battle this new danger. All sorts of new procedures were put in place. I worked with the healthcare staff to develop new work flows for documenting rapidly when the vaccine came out. Drive up processing was set up. Tents were set up. All kinds of things we put in place to address the demand for the vaccine.

The H1N1 was the last pandemic disease. Before that it was MERS and SARS. We handled them all and we will handle this one as well. The big difference is the shutdown of society. And that is huge. I know some of you are frightened to death and others are just calmly doing what needs to be done. Some of you are at greater risk than others. I just turned 65 last week. Technically, I’m in a high-risk category though I am one of those completely unconcerned about contracting this virus. Again, we live a life of isolation. And the making of cheese, butter and yogurt ensures I wash my hands many, many times in any given day.

Present Conditions

Many of you are at risk and/or have family members at risk, young and old. I have a 95-year-old aunt. She lives with, and is well-taken care of, by her daughter, but can only wave at her son through a window. He works in healthcare. Scott’s daughter is a nurse. Our healthcare workers put themselves in danger every single day. We pray for them.

Some of you are out of work and don’t know when you will get another paycheck. Some of you own small businesses and are also wondering how you will survive. Some of you are working from home but the kids are there as well. What a challenge that must present. The stress must be off the scale for you. My heart goes out to you. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans and millions around the world have had their lives turned upside down. What will we do? How will we survive? Is it an over-reaction? We will never know.

We worship via streaming video. It’s not the same, but we are together in spirit. I appreciate the effort our church is putting into keeping us spiritually connected with each other and God.

I know I look at social media too much. There are all sorts of stories of people who are worried for their families. Then there are the stories of folks like us who can’t relate to fear. We don’t live in that environment. From my perspective the precautions seem excessive. The CDC has said social distancing is a must, but I don’t think they mentioned anything about shutting down much of the country. Literally shutting it down. I’m probably going to get a lot of hate over this, but I just don’t see the need. When does the cure become more harmful than the disease? I just don’t know. Again, I don’t live in a highly populated urban center or city with lots of sick people and immunocompromised people. But I do know of these people. And I do know that every year they are faced with health epidemics. This is another one on top of the others. We have never had to completely shut down in response to a pandemic. And we have one every few years. I hear people say this one is different. It is repeated over and over. That same phrase was repeated over and over in 2009 as well. H1N1 was different. That is what pandemic means. A new disease spreading easily from person-to-person, widespread over multiple countries. Each and every one is different from the last.

Well, in the end, we will all get through this. I have such great compassion and empathy for all of you struggling with a life turned topsy-turvy. If I came across as insensitive, I apologize. My personality at this time of my life is one of calm, reason. I know people whose natural level of anxiety would prevent them being able to experience their life this way. Having experience periods of extreme anxiety throughout my life, I can completely relate and I’m ready, willing, and able to listen, comfort, and reassure.

Along those lines, there are some really great stories going on out there. Companies stepping up to the plate and retooling their factories to make masks, hand sanitizer and ventilators. I saw all kinds of patterns for homemade masks this morning while browsing social media posts. There’s lots of love out there for the truckers who are keeping the food flowing. Though the hording is a bit disturbing. I do not think that we will run out of food. Truckers live isolated lives and are also considered essential. The food will keep moving. And the toilet paper thing is just bizarre to me.

How about those folks working in grocery stores and pharmacies? Also, putting themselves out there. I know, I know. They are doing it for the money too. But they gotta be thinking that any one of the people they come in contact with could be a carrier just waiting to infect them.

Our healthcare workers are being stressed at this time so keep them in your prayers. I remember the stress in 2009. Lots of them got sick. All were tired and overworked. It was brutal. We supported each other and all was well in the end. Let’s keep up the prayers for these special people who put their lives on the line to help others.

Future Prospects

We don’t know how long this will last and that uncertainty is a huge stressor in and of itself. One thing I do know is that each and every one of you is doing everything you can to get us all through this with as little harm as possible.

There are some great things happening. School may be changed forever. In this age of technology, homeschooling may make a resurgence like never before. I realize this is not a good thing for some of you. But for many, you can take the education of your children back into our own hands. I’ve seen the articles regarding how far education has move from traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic and life skills such as home economics and shop into every social, political and sexual arena possible – and not in an age-appropriate manner.

I predict the online resources will proliferate. Smaller groups of children learning together in this person’s house this week and in another house the next. Location is malleable as long as there is internet. I guess that won’t work for those without a good internet connection. That does still happen, especially in this area. Any rural area with mountains can sometimes have internet speed and connectivity issues.  But overall, I think education will improve for the better. It will be much less expensive. Online college is coming and coming quickly.

And with every pandemic exercise, new and improved methods of protecting that most vulnerable group of people we love so much are put into place. Think of it. The whole scientific medical community is focused on combatting this virus. There will be innovations like we have never seen that will come out of this. Something as small as a new workflow, isolation procedure, or sanitizing solution can make a huge difference when the next pandemic arrives. We are so innovative when it comes to survival. Think of the new medical treatments that will come out of this.

I think I’ve rambled on long enough. I’m going to close out this podcast.

Final Thoughts

We are all in this together and we will get through it. This is a tough time for so many of you. My life is relatively unchanged and that frees me up to assist you. If you are having particular issues and would like to talk to someone, drop me an email and let’s see if we can set up a time to talk on the phone. And if you know someone who would benefit from my message, please share this content with them.

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

References:

Am I Allergic to Quail Eggs

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