A Day in the Life on Our Homestead

A day in the life on our homestead. My brother-in-law says we are always working. He is so right. And we love it. There is never a dull moment around here. For sure, sometimes it seems like just too much and wouldn’t a life of leisure be preferable. No, not really. As I imagine that life, I can only see boredom and always searching for something new and interesting. Here we don’t have to search for it as it comes to us every single day. Today I’ll give you an overview of a whirlwind day I recently experienced.

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

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

I’m going to skip most of the updates on the animals as they will show up in my rendition of a day in the life on our homestead. I will just briefly mention that Sweet Pea and Johnny are still looking for a new “forever home”. We love them but we simply do not need four donkeys. We intentionally reduced our sheep population and now the coyotes have reduced it even further. It will take time to rebuild what we have lost. In the end, we will still have only a small number of sheep, perhaps a dozen or so, compared to our high of 70 animals in the flock.

We are winding down our cashmere goat herd this fall. Next up will be bringing in a few Kiko goats. Perhaps I will do a whole podcast on this breed of goat. They were bred in New Zealand. The wild goats were bred with domestic stock to create a breed that is disease and parasite resistant. And my favorite attribute they bred for was little to no hoof maintenance. Most domestic goats in the US have a really hard time with their hooves. I look forward to raising goats that can be comfortable on their feet without constant attention.

That’s it for now. I want to get on to the topic of a day in the life on the homestead. I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse of the story of our life.

A Day in the Life

Our day begins the same every morning. Scott and I pray the rosary together. It’s a great meditation and starts our day off in the right frame of mind. God first.

Morning Milking

Now we get ready for morning milking. There isn’t much for me to as Scott handles most of the milking tasks. I handle some of the cleanup at the end. The only thing I have for this morning is to tend to the baby quail chicks. I make sure they have food and fresh water. The little ones get checked on twice a day. The grownups, only in the evening. Everyone looks good this morning and they are happy to have food and water.

Morning Gardening

Scott is still working on the milking so I take the opportunity for a brief walk through the garden. I decide to harvest some fresh herbs for the farmer’s markets. It’s a spur of the moment decision just because I have some time and it’s a beautiful morning to be in the garden. I sprint back to the house, pick up some scissors and a bucket and I’m back out in the garden in a flash. I love cutting fresh herbs. This morning it’s basil leaves, oregano sprigs and bunches of thyme. The smell is heavenly. The herbs are quickly stored in the cooler. I will package them later – probably tomorrow.

Making a Snack

I need to have protein snacks quickly available. Hard boiled eggs are one of my favorites. My Corsori, an Instapot lookalike, can handle 18 eggs at a time. Six minutes under pressure, six minutes cool down and natural pressure release, followed by a quick pressure release and open the lid. Six minutes in a cold-water bath, then peel. I like using my pressure cooker because the shells always just fall off when I am peeling them.

We generally eat just two meals a day. Scott makes us brunch somewhere between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. It is usually in that 11:00 to 12:00 range. If I plan well, dinner will be around 5:00 pm for me. Scott’s dinner is always much later. Well, not always, but usually his preference is to work outside right up until milking time in the evening. He will eat after all of that is done and he has had a shower. That’s an Italian evening meal time around 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening. Sometimes he even gets the Italian siesta in the afternoon. Most times not though.  

Starting Strawberry Jam

I’ve got four quarts of strawberries that need to be attended to today. I’ll be making jam. I love strawberry jam. It’s a quick job to cut out the stems and dice them up. Two quarts of cut berries and six cups of sugar. I’ll add a dash of lemon to help maintain the bright red color.

Well, the strawberries are mixed with the sugar in the pot on the stove, but I’ve got to interrupt that process and forego the cooking and canning part. I’ll cover the pot with a clean towel and get back to it in a little while. This is a day in the life on the homestead. We need to take care of some animals. I have cream warming up in the butter churn. There is still about an hour before it will be warm enough to churn into butter. It should be possible to get it all done in time.

Cattle Husbandry

The flies have been horrendous. We have two suffering from pink eye. In humans we call it conjunctivitis. It is a bacterial infection of the eye. The flies irritate the eye and make it susceptible to the bacteria. The flies are also spreading it from one to another. Anyway, we put antibiotic cream directly in the eye and then followed up with injectable antibiotic. We are as natural as possible in raising and caring for our livestock. However, I’m sure you have heard me say this before, if they need medical treatment, they get it. In this case, blindness is a real possibility if the condition is left untreated.

We spent quite some time checking on each and every cow to make sure there were only two affected. I even treated Newton, the youngest calf at three weeks of age. This was prophylactic just in case. The younger calves are often the most susceptible. He looked fine but we treated him anyway. Just the cream, not the injection.

Time Trials

The whole process took more time than I had planned. There were four different groups of animals. There are the milking girls. Then there is the group we call the nursery girls. We do not milk them, but they are nursing calves three calves between the two of them. We also have Luna in that group. She is a heifer and has no calf. And Buttercup is also in that group. She did not have a calf this year. The boys are always in a group by themselves because two of them are bulls. They can’t just run with the girls. That would be a breeding disaster. And then there was Virginia and baby Newton. All in all, it took longer than the hour I had set aside but the cream was still in good shape for making butter.

Making Butter

I’m back inside now running the electric butter churn while the strawberries are heating up and cooking for the jam. It’s a little risky to do both of these things at once as they both have a break point that must be met. I gambled anyway. I figured the butter would get done long before the strawberries and sugar reached the gel point. It didn’t.

I don’t use pectin in my jams. I just cook it to gel point. That usually takes about 40 minutes or so. The butter got done just a few minutes before the jam reached the gel point. So, what do I do now? Well, I just turn the churn off and let the butter sit in the churn until I can get to it. I still had to be quick. The problem there is that the warmer the butter gets, the harder it is to work with. It is literally melting in my hands if it gets too warm.

Finishing the Strawberry Jam

The jam is ready. I quickly fill the jars, clean the rims, secure the lids and put them in the water-bath canner. Now I have time for the butter. It will take a while for the water to heat up to a rolling boil for the jam. Once it reaches that point, it is just a matter of setting a timer for how long to process the jam. That’s 20 minutes at my altitude.

I clean up the butter by rinsing it over and over with cold water. Then squish it firmly into 4 oz silicon soap molds and put the mold tray into the freezer. Tomorrow I will remove it from the freezer and pop out and wrap each 4 oz block of butter in paper. Now that the butter is in the freezer and the jam is processing in the canner, all of the clean-up for these two tasks is happening. I’m pretty messy when filling jars. There are bits of jam all over. And the butter? That requires lots of soap to get all that greasy mess in the churn, the bowls and utensils cleaned up. Whew, it feels good to get all that done. What’s next? Yes, there is more.

Making Blueberry Jam

Now I’m ready to make blueberry jam. I smashed them, added the sugar and got started heating them up. That takes a while. I have time to get more jars ready for the blueberry jam. The jars of strawberry jam are finished and need to come out of the water-bath canner. I’ll keep the water in it near boiling waiting for the blueberry jam. That makes the second batch quicker as the time to reach boil after adding the jars will be shorter. As the blueberry jam nears the gel point, I’m stirring constantly to keep it from sticking. Make sure to have my clothes covered. It begins to spit out blueberry goo all over the place. Stir more to keep that under control. That’s another mess to be cleaned up later.

Now it’s reached gel point, repeat the filling of jars, adding lids and put them in the canner. I’m a little tired but there is still so much to do. I think I’ll take a much-needed short break while this second batch of jam is processing. I have about 45 minutes or so to relax.

Weekly Newsletter

It’s now late afternoon and I need to create the weekly newsletter for all who are following what we are up to on the homestead. I like communicating with all of my customers and those who just follow us because they like hearing about our progress on the homestead.

It’s important to get the information out weekly. There are always updates and changes to what is happening at the farmer’s markets. I’ve done this so many times, that I have made the process quick and efficient. The newsletter is done and out in the email ethers. Now it’s probably time for evening milking and other chores.

Evening Chores

We start each milking event by warming up Newton’s milk. He gets two half-gallon calf milk bottles morning and evening. That’s two gallons per day. As a side note, tomorrow, I’ll spend quite a bit of time filling up gallon jars for just this purpose. We store his milk in one-gallon jars. Twice a day we put a gallon jar in a bucket of hot water. After about a half hour, we pour out the now cold water and refill it with hot water again. In another half hour it is warm enough for him to drink ready to be poured into the calf bottles.

All of this minutia becomes second nature as we do it twice a day. Go get the cows, get them prepped for milking, turn on the machine and put the milking inflations on their teats. Wait for about six minutes and they are done. Two at a time so there is a second round for Violet. The milk gets filtered and poured into five-gallon cans which are stored in the bulk cooling tank. The milk must be cooled to below 40 degrees in less than two hours. Then the clean-up procedures begin.

While Scott is doing those milking tasks, I’m taking care of the quail. The babies get food and water again. I collect eggs from the big girls, give them feed, and check their automatic watering system. I refill the 5-gallon bucket that automatically feeds into little cups in their cages as needed. Not a lot to do here, but a daily tasks nonetheless.

Clean Up Time

At the end is lots of clean up. Calf bottles, milk filter, milking machine – all have to be meticulously cleaned and sanitized. Then dinner, a shower and it’s time to wind down for the evening. For me that is usually around 8:00 or 8:30. Scott is sometimes just eating dinner at 9:00 or 9:30 – he may or may not have had that wonderful shower.

Tomorrow’s To-Do List

There is a lot more to do tomorrow. It will be Thursday. I need to get ready for the farmer’s markets on Friday and Saturday. That means making labels for those two new jams. And do you remember those herbs I cut early this morning? Yeah, those have to be packaged. I have three more half-gallons of cream and need to make another butter. I’m not sure how I got behind on that, but it will be good to catch up.

The Milk

All milk cans need to be emptied and cleaned. I’ll pour milk into 14 one-gallon jars for feeding Newton for the next week. And I will pour up milk for Friday and Saturday herd share pickups. I’ll need a gallon and a half of milk put back to make yogurt on Monday or Tuesday next week. I may even pour up some drinking milk for us. Any remaining milk gets the cream skimmed off the top. I store the cream in half gallon jars.

The Cream

The remaining cans usually have enough cream to skim to make one batch of butter. That will also happen next week on Tuesday or Wednesday. I make three pounds of butter at a time, usually once a week. I’ll have some extra cream to add back into the skim milk to make Scott’s half and half. He loves his coffee. In the end, there will be leftover skim milk and that gets poured on the garden. The green beans and tomatoes are loving that milk fertilizer. They look amazing.

Not a Typical Day in the Life

The day I just described is not every day, but it is very often the life that I live. It is wonderful. Actually, on most days, I laze around and would only make one batch of jam and maybe no butter. Some days, Scott takes a nap in the middle of the day or comes in and just vegges out on Facebook or YouTube. Sometimes he is doing more than vegging out. Sometimes he is sharing his day in the life on our Facebook page. If you are not following us there, please do. You get my perspective here, and Scott’s perspective can be found on the Facebook page with pictures and videos. Just search for Peaceful Heart Farm and it should come right up. Like us and share our content.

Well, I got tired just talking about all of that. I think I’ll end early today. We have that luxury any time we want – within limits. The cows still need to be milked twice daily and the quail need daily care. But other than that, we set our schedule. 

Final Thoughts

So, my brother-in-law says we seem to always be working and when is age going to slow us down? We hope that’s a long way in the future. I’m 66 and Scott will be 66 next month. This lifestyle keeps us fit. We get to eat healthy food that we have produced ourselves. Or at the very least, we know the farmer from which we purchased those eggs and hydroponic lettuce. And the blueberries and strawberries that went into the jams came from local farmers as well. We all grow good food and support each other.

I hope you enjoyed that walk through a day in my life. As I said, every day is not that busy, but I really enjoy the challenge in finding out how much I can accomplish in a day. I’m not crazy enough to do it every day though. I also need to spend time sitting at my computer making podcasts for you guys. I love you so much. Thank you so much for listening and sharing our joy.

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

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

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Canning Peas

Canning peas is great fun. We have been shelling peas for several days. That is also quite fun. I’ll be talking all about that and more in today’s podcast.

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

It’s a beautiful time of year. Summer has arrived in full force. The days are often sunny and hot. We could use a lot more rain, but again, it is summer. The rains will be few and far between for the most part. That means watering the garden and orchard a lot. We really need to get that irrigation system back up and running. Oh well, it’s on the very long list of stuff we would like to do. Right now, life is all about canning peas. But first . . . how about some animal updates?

Cows

Surprise! Hansel and Gretel, the twin calves, have a new home. Each day I went out there to give them their bottles I looked and them and mused about what we were going to do with them. Then God provided. A man called out of the blue. He actually lives relatively close, about an hour away. He was frantic for a calf. Just that morning one of his cows, a Holstein, had lost her calf. I was happy to say that we did have a calf he could buy. In fact, we had two and the cow being a Holstein, she would produce lots and lots and lots of milk. He could probably use two calves.

It all happened so fast. Before nightfall, this wonderful man and his wife were here picking up those two calves. It was such a win-win situation. Again, it all happened so fast I didn’t have much of a chance to think about how much I would miss seeing those baby faces every day.  

Artificial insemination is in progress. It is less than a week before we see if the AI took. We look for signs from any of the cows coming into heat. If so, we do it again. Fingers crossed all seven cows and heifers are pregnant on the first try.

Donkeys

Scott got all of the donkeys spiffed up with their hooves trimmed nicely. They are going to the sale barn. If you would like one of these great animals, let us know soon. Their purpose on our homestead was livestock protection. Now that we have decided to use livestock guardian dogs for that task, their jobs no longer exist and they will have to move on to help out someone else.

I will miss them, especially Daisy and Cocoa. Well, Sweet Pea and Johnny will also be missed. It was a hard decision but we have to do the best we can for all of our animals and the coyote pressure was too much for them, I think. They are miniature donkeys. Perhaps if they had been full sized donkeys, the job would have been an easy one. In any case, we are moving on with the next plan. It’s how we roll on the homestead.

Sheep and Goats

I just checked the possible delivery dates for the sheep. We couldn’t find the day that we put Lambert back in with the ladies, so we guessed based on the log entries for when the animal predation stopped. Our best estimate indicates we could have new lambs the last week of October. That would be such a blessing. We really have no idea how it will go as we’ve never tried to breed the ewes for a fall lambing. Many sheep and goats will only breed in the fall for spring lambing. The katahdin breed is supposed to be able to breed year-round. We shall see.

Orchard and Garden

Just before I started this podcast, I went to the spare bedroom and looked out the window to see if Scott might be in the garden. It was not likely but you never know. He has been working on fixing the deer fencing that was annihilated a few years back during a particularly difficult thunderstorm. Trees were down all over and one took out some of the deer fencing.

The game cameras we have out there indicated to Scott that there are two deer that are regularly invading the orchard. That’s why the blueberries disappeared. Likely the blackberries will be next. Something was also chomping on the green beans. I knew that would be deer. They love green bean plants.

Deer are Dear

Anyway, I’m looking out the window for Scott and what do I see? There is a deer pacing up and down outside the garden. She is looking for a way to get in and steal more of our bean plants and fruit. I watched her for a little while. Then she laid down right in front of the gate into the orchard. Just plopped down. A half hour later, I looked again and she was still laying there in front of the gate. Of course, if I opened the door and looked out, she would hear that noise and likely run away. I let her rest. It seems Scott has her fenced out. No need to upset her even more.

Tomatoes

The tomatoes are doing well in the garden. Again, we have to water nearly every day. Fertilizer needs to happen as well.

The tomatoes were planted just in front of the green peas. Green peas produce a whopping amount of peas and then die off pretty quickly. I had two 70-foot rows of peas. One was a shelling variety and the other were those lovely sugar snap peas. My original plan was to take them to the farmer’s market. Then life happened. They came on so quickly and there were far too many for me to pick, clean and package in time for market. I did pack up two 5-gallon buckets full and sold nearly all of those. But there were so many.

Green Peas

Because they ripened so quickly and it was hot and they were drying out quickly, I simply pulled up all the plants. There was a lot of green material along with the peas. But I needed to get them out of the sun quickly. The living room floor was filled with lots of greenery for a few days. Each evening, we went through the plants and pulled off the peas.

All together there were five more 5-gallon buckets of peas in the pods. These were too far gone to sell fresh at the market so the next challenge was getting the peas shelled out so I could can them. That is still a work in progress. And that brings me to the topic of the day, canning peas.

Canning Peas

Within a couple of evenings, my 3-gallon stainless steel pot was full. In quart jars, that is a nice even dozen. I figured with leaving head space and all that I could stretch that to 14 jars and fill my American Standard canner. It is tall enough to hold two levels of 7 jars each. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Shelling Peas

Scott and I have spent three or four days so far shelling peas in the evening after chores and dinner. We are re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When Scott saw what I had picked for entertainment while we shelled peas, he commented something along the lines of, “I guess you are expecting this take a while.” And indeed, I did . . . and do. We are nearing the end of the extended versions of the movie. I don’t really know many hours that entails. I’m thinking three plus hours for each film, so that would be somewhere in excess of nine hours so far.

We have three of the five buckets of peas shelled. I have one canner full from the first two buckets and enough peas for another seven jars from the third bucket of peas. That leaves two more buckets for tonight and tomorrow night. That should make another 14 quarts. All together I will likely have 35 jars of canned peas. That should last us a while, don’t ya think?

Canning is the Easy Part

Canning the peas is the easiest part of this whole scenario. I know that some of you may be hesitant about canning. But once you know and understand how it is done, it comes down to what size jar you use and how much time will that be at 12 pounds pressure. Well, twelve pounds for us. We are over the 1,000 feet elevation mark. The standard is 10 pounds of pressure for canning just about anything that requires a pressure canner.

I have a nice gauge that allows me to bring that pressure up to 12 pounds. If I use my smaller canner, I end up using a pressure device that just wobbles and spits steam when the pressure is reached. I use the 15-pound pressure gauge to make my canning safe. And I’m ahead of myself again. Let me give you the basics of canning in a nutshell. Hopefully, you will see that it is not as onerous a task as you might think.

Experience Develops Confidence

I used to think that canning was really, really hard and I dreaded the late summer as I would have to begin canning the harvest. That was years ago. After the first couple of years, it became second nature to me. You can get there as well. When canning peas, beans, carrots, corn, greens and so on, the steps are the same. The time to hold the jars at pressure is the only thing that changes. I simply bring out the Ball canning book and check the time for the vegetable I’m canning.

The steps are simple for cold pack canning. That means the vegetables are not cooked or otherwise heated. The jars are supposed to be heated, but I never actually do that.

Step One – Get Your Equipment Ready

Step one is getting your equipment ready.

The Canner

I set up the canner on the stovetop, fill it with three quarts of water or just enough to have about an inch and a half of water from the bottom of the canner. I add about a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. It can be detrimental to the rings, making them rust, but it makes keeping the inside of the canner clean a breeze. That’s a tip I picked up a couple of years ago. The inside of my canner had become dark and discolored. Then I saw a canning video on YouTube and the Youtuber added vinegar to prevent that. I started doing that and my canner now looks like new inside.

Anyway, get the canner set up. I turn the burner on low and slowly heat that water and vinegar. It will be just about at a boil by the time I get everything else done.

The Jars

Prepare the jars. That means making sure they are free of cracks and knicks at the rim. They need to be clean and sterilized. Lots of folks immerse them in boiling water, I use bleach water. It’s faster and that means a lot to me. The canning is not hard to do but it can be time consuming waiting for this to boil and that to boil and so on. If using soapy bleach water to clean and sanitize my jars is not safe, someone let me know in the comments, along with why. My mom used to put her jars on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven for a few minutes. That was her method of sterilization.

Large Pot of Boiling Water

You will also need a large pot of boiling water to pour over the vegetables once they are in the jars. Go ahead and prepare that now. There is no set amount. Guessing is my method there. Twelve quart-jars filled to the brim will hold three gallons. The peas take up lots of space so I figured no more than a cup or two of water per quart jar of peas would be plenty. In the end, I used less than a gallon and a half of boiling water for 14 jars of peas.

Canner set up, jars cleaned and sterile, water to pour over the veggies. Equipment is all set up.

Step Two – Prepare the vegetables

Step two is getting your vegetables ready. For canning peas, that means shelling them out and cleaning them up. That has been the hardest part so far. It was much harder than shelling them out. That just takes time. Getting the little bits of shells, twigs and leaves out was a real challenge.

Step Three – Fill the Jars, Put Lids in Place

The next step is filling the jars. Oops! Almost forgot. Add salt if you desire. I always do. One half teaspoon for pints and one teaspoon for quarts. Again, it’s the same for all vegetables. That’s why this gets easy. After a while you don’t even have to think about it.

Add salt to the bottom of the jar. Loosely fill the jar with vegetables, don’t pack them. I fill mine to just below one inch of headspace below the rim.

Next fill each jar with boiling water to one inch below the rim. I’m making sure the veggies are covered under the hot water.

Wipe the rims with a damp paper towel or washcloth. Place the lid and ring. Screw lid on to finger tight. Put the jar in the canner. After all jars are in place, put the canner lid in place and secure it according to manufacturers instructions.  

Step Four – Bring the Canner up to Pressure and Start Timing

Now that everything is in place, turn up the heat on the burner. Leave off the pressure gauge. That’s the big weight that lets you identify when the proper pressure has been reached. Because I have the analog reading on my big canner, I use the 10-pound pressure gauge. It will actually come up to about 12 or 13 pounds of pressure before that gauge starts dancing and letting out steam. It should dance around a few times each minute. More than that, and you have too much pressure. Turn down the heat.

Once I get that dancing pressure gauge, I turn down my heat to medium low. That is three on my stovetop dial. After doing a few batches, you will know exactly where to set your stovetop to maintain the proper pressure. Again, mine is at three. Set your timer for the recommended amount of time. For quart jars of canned peas the Ball Canning book says 40 minutes at the recommended pressure for your altitude.

Step Five – Remove the Jars

When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and wait until the pressure gauge has completely returned to 0. If you don’t have the analog dial, what you will have is a pressure relief button. Once the button falls back to its resting position, the pressure is zero. If you are ever in doubt, just wait 15 more minutes.

Remove the Gauge

Once the pressure has returned to zero, remove the gauge. Some steam may come out still. Do not do the “quick release” like you would do with your InstaPot. Let the pressure return to normal without any help. If the pressure comes down too quickly, the water will bubble up out of the jar. You will lose liquid leaving your veggies partially out of the liquid and you may have jars that do not seal well if bits of the veggies got under the lid. Let all return to normal naturally.

Remove and Cool the Jars

After removing the gauge, a waiting five minutes to ensure all pressure is normalized, remove the lid. Using the special tool for removing jars from the canner, gently place each jar on a towel or wooden cutting board. Do not adjust the lids. Let them cool naturally.

At this point you are all done. And what a great job you did. Once the jars are completely cooled, label them and store them with your other canned foods.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today podcast. I hope you enjoyed hanging out with the animals on the homestead. Sharing it all with you is a blessing for me and I hope it is for you as well.

I boiled the steps of canning down to five. Get your equipment set up, prepare your vegetables, fill the jars and place the lids, bring your canner up to pressure, and then a proper cool-down afterwards. That’s it! I hope I’ve inspired you to give canning a try if you haven’t already. And I know you probably have lots of questions if you are just starting out. Feel free to contact me if you would like me to answer your questions. I’d love to assist you in developing your homestead skills.

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

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

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Cheddar Cheese

Today’s topic is cheddar cheese. That’s right. It’s time for another trivia podcast and this one is all about cheddar cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? I must say that I make a fantastic cheddar cheese and I hope you get to try it one day.

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. Before we get started on the cheddar facts, let me give you an update on what’s going on at the homestead.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

If you are listening to this podcast sometime in the future, your date marker is that we are in the middle of June. Almost at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. That the crops are starting to come in already. We are continuing the overwhelmed portion of the year. It starts in spring and continues right on through the fall. Planting, weeding, harvesting, and storing food. Along the way, the animals need additional care. Breeding cycles, milking twice a day, and flies. Always the flies. This year they are particularly high in population. Large dumps of wet rain at the perfect time of year for the propagation of flies is making the animals miserable.  

Cows

The artificial insemination process has officially begun. The first step is to get all of the cows that are being bred to cycle at nearly the same time. This is especially important for a dairy. Ideally, the calves will be born within days of each other.

In the first few days, the cows produce a thick nutritious milk product called colostrum. It is high in fat and most importantly, it is filled with the antibodies the calves need to survive and thrive. We can save that milk for making cheese or fulfilling herd share obligations. It must all go to the calves. And there is a lot of it. We save it in jars and cans and gradually dole it out to the calves. Once we get into keeping the milk, we get to keep every single drop of it until this backlog of milk/colostrum is consumed. Then we share the awesome milk with the calves and we get less milk for making cheese and herd shares.

The reason that we need the births to be close together is the timing of who is in colostrum and who are we milking. We milk two at a time. If the calves are close together, then it is easy to just milk everybody the same. If that doesn’t happen, then we end up milking out the ones who are in the stage of producing milk we can use and then lastly, we milk out those who are still producing colostrum. Again, ideally everybody produces their colostrum all together and then we can get on with just milking everybody and not worrying about stopping, pouring up the milk and then starting again for colostrum milk for those late birthing cows. This is our second year of AI. So far, it is going well. Tomorrow, the placing of the sperm happens. Then we wait for three weeks to see if anyone comes into heat again. Of course, we hope that everyone takes on the first try. But how often does that actually happen? I don’t know. Again, we are new to this process.

Sheep

The sheep are still grazing safely right outside my living room window. I think we are past the predator issues for the moment. We are still looking for a dog to add to the homestead. I don’t ever want to go through that kind of predator loss ever again.

Lambert is in there with the girls. Perhaps we will have lambs again in the fall.

Quail

I don’t think I said anything about the quail in the last podcast. That’s a first, right? Well, the first batch has been processed – well we kept almost all of the girls. They filled out the breeding groups that were missing a hen, replaced one complete breeding group that was older and the remaining 10 we kept for extra eggs. They are all laying pretty well at this point.

The second group that was a really small hatch, only 19, is now in the penthouse growing. They are growing like weeds. We did lose one and so there are 18 up there on the left side of the grow out cage. Again, the right side of the grow out cage has the extra hens we kept to lay eggs for us.

Now we come to the third batch that are in the incubator. There are 72 eggs in there and they go into lockdown in two days. Two days after that, we will begin to hear some peeping. Let’s pray that we have a better hatch rate this time. We shall see.

Garden

The biggest news I have at the moment is the garden. We planted lots and lots and lots of peas. I wanted them for the farmer’s markets. Well, I got my wish. There are soooo many peas out there. Today, instead of trying to pick from each plant (which I did a few days ago), I decided to just pull up the plants, peas and all. I needed to get the plants out because the tomatoes are planted right in front of them and they will need that trellis soon. It was really quick and easy. I now have piles of plants with pea pods hanging off of them. After I finish this podcast, I will be out there pulling the pods off of the plants. And the plants I pulled up today was only half of what is out there.

The beans are doing really well. I would like to get a bit of time to go out there and fill in the blank spaces where a seed here and there did not sprout. But even if I don’t get that accomplished, I’m going to have lots and lots and lots of beans and crowder peas.

There two beds of peppers. One is a wonderful bell pepper called California Wonder. Those plants produce beautiful large green bell peppers like you find in the grocery. If I leave them on the plant, they will eventually turn red. The red ones are really sweet.

The other peppers are Italian pepperoncini. I’m going to pickle them. I’ll probably sell the pickled pepperoncini at the farmer’s market. Oh, and I think there are a few banana peppers out there. I don’t know what I will do with them. Perhaps, pickle them as well. We shall see.

The onions look fabulous. I’m not sure how much longer they have before they are done. It’s easy to tell with onions. The green tops will just fall over, dry out and turn brown. That the indicator for when it is time to dig them up and cure them for storage.

Fruit and the Orchard

The strawberry plants look great and there were lots of strawberries. However, something was eating them and we haven’t gotten very many for ourselves. That’s yet another project that got on to Scott’s “To Do” list. Fix up some kind of barrier to keep out the squirrels, rabbits, birds, etc that are eating the strawberries. He just doesn’t have the time right now. More on that later.

I checked the blueberries a few days ago. There are a lot fewer berries than last year. That is likely due to the bee hive dying off. We really relied on them to pollinate everything. This year we were dependent on the bumble bees for all of our pollination.

One thing I noticed while out checking the blueberries and blackberries was that we finally have a few apples coming on this year. I don’t really know how old these trees are, but we have been anticipating apples and pears for a while. Looks like the apples are coming this year. Yay!!

Creamery

The creamery is on hold yet again. Scott is off doing other things. Mostly gathering hay. We tried to grow our own hay for a year or two and just found that it was simply not worth it for the small amount we need. Maintaining the equipment is always a challenge. Better to let someone else have those headaches. The person who normally supplies our hay is growing his cow herd and the lack of rain at the appropriate time led to a smaller than usual harvest. So I got on Facebook and found a couple of places where Scott could get hay. Unlike the previous arrangement, which was quite close and the hay was delivered right to us, Scott is having to haul the hay here. These are large round bales. He can handle eight bales at a time. It is a time-consuming task that requires days and days and days to complete.

In between, he is prepping the cows for the AI appointment and doing most of the milking tasks. He helps me on Mondays with making cheese and spends quite a bit of time cleaning up the large cheese vat and the large utensils. I handle the small stuff. On Friday and Saturday morning he does the entire milking routine by himself as I am at the farmer’s market. The creamery will get back on the schedule soon, I’m sure. Speaking of making cheese, It’s time for me to get to the topic of the day. Cheddar cheese.

Cheddar Cheese

Let’s start with the basics of describing this great cheese. It is a relatively hard cheese. Ours is off-white and the stuff in the store is usually orange. Cheddar cheese originated in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Now it is produced all over the world.

Background

In the UK, cheddar is the most popular type of cheese, accounting for over half of the country’s annual cheese market. It is the second-most popular cheese in the US. The most popular is mozzarella. In the US the average annual consumption of cheddar cheese is about 10 lbs per person. In 2014, the US produced about 3 billion lbs of cheddar cheese.

The term cheddar cheese is widely used and has no protected designation of origin even when the UK was part of the EU until 2020. Many cheeses have a protected designation of origin name. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is the English name for an identification form used by the EU that is meant to preserve the designations of origin of food-related products. This labeling was created in 1992 and its main purpose is to designate products that have been produced, processed and developed in a specific geographical area, using the recognized know-how of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned.

PDO

The characteristics of the products protected are essentially linked to the terroir. That is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a food or crop’s unique environmental contexts, farming practices or growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir refers to this character.

The EU’s regulation is meant to guarantee the reputation of regional products, adapt existing national protections to make them comply with the requirements of the WTO and inform consumers that products bearing the PDO logo respect the conditions of production and origin specified by this designation.

The regulations cover all sorts of foodstuff like wines, cheese, hams, sausages, olives, beers, fruits, vegetables, breads and animal feed.

Foods such as gorgonzola, parmigiano-reggiano, asiago cheese, camembert de Normandie and champagne can be labeled as such only if they come from the designated region. There are other requirements. In the case of camembert de Normandie, not only is it required to be produced in the Normandy region of France, it must also be made with raw milk from Normande cattle.

History

Cheddar originates from the village of Cheddar in Somerset, south west England. Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the village contains a number of cheese caves, which provided the ideal humidity and steady temperature for maturing the cheese.

Cheddar has been produced since at least the 12th century. Financial records of King Henry II from 1170 records the purchase of 10,240 lbs. Charles I also bought cheese from the village of Cheddar.

In the 19th-century Somerset dairyman Joseph Harding was central to the modernization and standardization of cheddar cheese. For his technical innovations, promotion of dairy hygiene, and volunteer dissemination of modern cheese-making techniques, he has been dubbed “the father of Cheddar cheese”. Harding introduced new equipment to the process of cheese-making, including a device for curd cutting call a “revolving breaker”. The “Joseph Harding method” was the first modern system of Cheddar production based upon scientific principles. Together, Joseph Harding and his wife were behind the introduction of Cheddar cheese into Scotland and North America. His sons, Henry and William, were responsible for introducing the cheese production to Australia and facilitating the establishment of the cheese industry in New Zealand.

According to a USDA researcher, cheddar cheese is the world’s most popular variety of cheese, and it is the most studied type of cheese in scientific publications.  

Cheddaring Process

“Cheddaring” refers to an additional step in the production of the cheese. After culturing, cutting, cooking and draining, the cheddaring begins. It is a lengthy process of stacking and turning slabs of curd. The curd is then milled or broken up into small pieces again and salted before being placed in a press. The press forms the final shape of the cheese.

The cheese is kept at a constant temperature and humidity level. Special facilities or a cheese cave as mentioned before are needed to complete this part. And it will mature for anywhere from three months to two years or more.

Character of Cheddar Cheese

The ideal quality of the original Somerset Cheddar was described by Joseph Harding in 1864 as “close and firm in texture, yet mellow in character or quality; it is rich with a tendency to melt in the mouth, the flavor full and fine, approaching to that of a hazelnut”.

Cheddar made in the classical way tends to have a sharp, pungent flavor, often slightly earthy. The texture is firm and can be crumbly. Cheddar cheese aged over one year should also contain large cheese crystals consisting of calcium lactate.

Cheddar can be a deep to pale yellow color, or a yellow-orange color when annatto is added. Annatto is extracted from seeds of a tree. Originally it was added to simulate the color of high-quality milk from grass-fed Jersey and Guernsey cows, but it may also impart a sweet, nutty flavor.

Clau d’ville Cheddar

We don’t use annatto in our cheddar cheese. We produce a beautiful light cream-colored cheddar cheese. Bright, citric flavors at the six-month mark complement a smooth, creamy texture. As each cheese approaches it’s first birthday the pineapple notes give way to a deeper, more savory cheese with a buttery, malty finish, offering a delightful taste sensation.

At six months it is smooth and almost creamy. Aged a year or longer, it becomes deliciously crunchy, crumbly and tangy. Pair it with a fruity Pinot Noir, a strong ale, apple liqueur or cider, or a vintage port.

Our cheddar is currently only available via our Herd Share program. If you are listening to this in 2022, this statement will be out of date. We plan to be in our inspected facility in early 2022.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast on Cheddar cheese. The homestead is moving along nicely. We are moving into the summer routine. The animals are doing their thing, eating grass out in the fields. The gardens are flourishing. And the work continues to keep us on our toes. It is healthy activity and we appreciate the opportunity to share our journey with all of you.

I hope you enjoyed the Cheddar cheese information and we look forward to serving your cheese needs in the future.

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

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

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Honey Fun Facts

Today is going to be all about honey. How sweet is that? Honey is a yummy treat that has lots of health benefits. But what is it really? And how is it made? What’s the best way to store it and how long will it last? All of these questions and more will be answered in today’s podcast.

I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and, as always, welcome back all of you who are veteran homestead-loving regulars stopping by the FarmCast for every single episode. I appreciate you all so much. We have lots to talk about regarding the goings on around the homestead.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Let’s start with the cows. I love our cows so much. They are definitely my favorite. Well, I love those lambs too. And the goats. And the quail. And what about the donkeys? Okay, I can’t decide on a favorite.

Cows

We tried again to put the milking moms in with the rest of the herd and the other three nursing calves. There is a video up on our Facebook page of Princess following Rosie around. And as you can imagine, Rosie came up short a couple of gallons of milk this morning. Well, it was worth a try anyway. Princess is a very resourceful young lady and will latch on anywhere that anyone will let her.

Violet is “bagging up”. That means she is approaching her delivery. We now have her in with the Rosie and Butter. They come up every day, twice a day so we can check on her more often. The rest of the crowd will come up once a day. They are getting retrained for the upcoming AI procedures. There are three. There is a hormonal implant that is done a week ahead. Then there is a hormone shot three days ahead. And then the AI implantation takes place. After all of that, we wait for three weeks to see if they come into heat again. If so, we try the implant once again. And that circle of life is continued.

This will be our second year of using artificial insemination. I hope it goes better this year. I expect it will. Experience always makes things go easier. Violet will be the only one not involved in this first round of AI as she will either not have delivered yet or will have freshened only a day or so ahead of all the prep. She will need six weeks before she is ready to start her next calf.

Sheep

We lost yet another sheep, this time to a rogue dog, or so the tracks would indicate. They were much too large for a coyote. I say it was a rogue dog because we never saw another indication that it was still in the area. There was a very large lost dog that was listed on our county Facebook page the very next day. Are they connected? We will never know. The losses are devastating but we keep moving. We continue to search for a livestock guardian dog and pray the right one comes along soon.

Garden

Scott is out in the garden today putting in a whole lot of plant starts. We have been so busy with other things that the garden tasks have just been pushed back and pushed back and pushed back some more. He is out there trying to get us caught up. What a wonderful man he is as he picks up the slack that I’m leaving out there. I sprained my hand last week and it will hurt like crazy if I work it too hard. Scott has been doing lots of things to help me out. The garden work is only one of them.

Culinary Herbs

I have two perennial herbs that are going in between the sections of the strawberry patch. I already have oregano and thyme out there. Today Scott is adding the rosemary and garden sage.

Other herbs plants he hopes to get in the ground are the parsley and basil. I’m raising those as annuals. Perhaps when I have an official herb garden I will plant some that will reseed each year. We shall see.

Peppers

On the vegetable front. He has two flats of peppers that will fill another two raised beds. It’s a lot to accomplish in one day. Will he reach his goal? We shall see. Whatever he gets done is so appreciated.

The peppers are those lovely California Wonder bell peppers and pepperoncini. I’m going to pickle some this year. Look for those at the farmer’s market this fall.

Tomatoes

One other garden topic is the tomatoes. I only have two flats of tomatoes left. I’m taking them to the farmer’s market this weekend. Whatever is left will be planted just behind the shelling peas along the orchard wall. Scott put up a fence for a trellis there. It is working great for the peas right now. And as they come out in the next few weeks, the tomatoes will pick up where they left off.

Still to come are the beans and crowder peas. It is so much all at once and then the maintenance of fertilizer and water is all that is needed. We already have some compost tea brewing in a couple of 55-gallon barrels. We have plenty of poo that Scott gathered and put in there, then filled the barrels with water so the tea can brew. It’s a great fertilizer.

Creamery

With all that garden stuff going on, what is happening with the creamery. The answer there is “nothing”. We are still waiting on the guys who will build and install the milking stanchion setup. We have now decided to add the other option that was offered to us a few weeks ago. To recap, the quote for the stainless-steel overhead complete pipeline system was way outside of our budget. We nixed that and asked for just the milking stanchion setup. They quoted us that and then added that instead of the complete pipeline system, they could hook up our vacuum pump so we could milk into buckets and then pour them into the bulk holding tank. I kind of balked at that as well. The price quote was certainly within reason and we could swing it financially, but I didn’t see the real benefit. Now comes the part about how I injured my hand and how we are likely going to get that vacuum pump working.

Broken Equipment

I didn’t see the benefit because we already have the portable milkers that pump the milk into a can. It’s on wheels and easy to move from cow to cow. We can do two at a time. It really works well for us. Why change? Well, because it can fail quite easily. One evening during cleanup after milking, the cover over the vacuum tank on that little machine suddenly collapsed and was sucked into the vacuum drum. Scott and a family friend worked on getting something patched together for the morning milking. They worked well past midnight.

In the morning, we tried the newly engineered vacuum tank cover. It failed within a minute or so. Rosie was maybe half way milked out. Butter was not even close. I quickly got together what we needed to hand milk the cows. Butter was done in a little over 20 minutes or so. Then we moved to the really hard one, Rosie. She was already milked out some but there was probably close to a gallon still to go. Rosie’s teats are about as big as my little finger. There is no way to get a good grasp on it. We were getting about a quarter teaspoon with each squirt. I cannot imagine how long it would take to completely milk her out. We finally decided to just let her go and make sure we had a system in place to milk her out in the evening.

The Backup Portable Milker

One other thing we tried along the way was using the other portable milker that we keep as a backup. It had been so long since we had used it that we didn’t even remember how to set it up correctly. There are lots of hoses that have to be hooked up just so or it simply won’t work. This particular milker needs to be oiled in order to function properly. Here is where I fell.

Scott turned it on and the oil shot up out of the top like a geyser, splashing on the roof of the shed and splattering everywhere. I tried to quickly jump out of the way. My foot caught on a piece of wood that we had in the ground from a couple of years ago when we had to tie one of Butter’s legs back so she wouldn’t kick the milking inflations off of her teats. My foot caught and down I went. I fell to the side and landed on the outside of my right arm and hand. Within a few minutes I felt alright. The pain subsided. I continued to do everything I had planned for the day. Basically, that was making cheese.

My Fall and Injury

Over the next few hours, the pain escalated to the point that I had to get Scott to finish the cheese while I went to the urgent care clinic. No broken bones, but a good sprain in that hand. According to the PA, it was likely my osteoarthritis causing the biggest part of the pain at that moment. He wrapped it up and I kept it wrapped up for a couple of days, but it seems like everything I do involves water. I finally gave up on the wrap and have been using pain to temper my activity. It’s an imperfect method. Usually by the end of the day my hand is throbbing. Today, the swelling is almost gone but it will still be a few more weeks before it is back to normal. Scott is picking up the slack for me. He is always there for me.

The bottom line is I can now very clearly see why we might want that vacuum pump hooked up and working, keeping the portable milker as a standby. Experience is a great teacher. And all of that to say that the creamery is currently on pause while Scott does other things and we wait on the milking stanchions and vacuum pump work to be completed.

The primer coat of paint is complete and Scott has decided on the wall coloring it will be a color that is between the color of milk and butter. Nearly white, but with some yellow tone. It’s going to be glorious.

Okay that went on longer than I anticipated. Let’s get on to the topic of honey.

Honey

We have had one single beehive in the corner of the orchard for several years. We have never worked this hive. The bees fended for themselves. We never took their honey. They kept it all. This likely would have continued for another few years except that our bees did not survive this past winter.

I asked one of the guys that sell honey at the farmer’s market what might have happened. He said that they also lost more than usual. If the bees unclump because it gets warm and then it gets cold again, they will freeze. They clump together over the winter and keep the queen bee in the center of the clump so she is warm. Throughout the winter more and more bees on the outside will die. The rest keep going and going, keeping that queen safe and warm. Again, if they unclump too early, the cold can kill them. We did have lots of warm and then freezing weather right behind it.

Once the weather got warm for a longer period of time, all sorts of bees came around that now unprotected hive to steal the honey. An active hive will have an army of bees that protect the entrance from just this sort of activity. Any bee will steal honey that they find undefended. It was an angry mob out there. Scott waited until it got dark and the bees went home. Then he pulled off the top three boxes, or supers, full of honey. We kept the boxes covered in a plastic garbage bag inside and away from the robber bees.

Another one of those tasks that got pushed back and pushed back and pushed back, Scott started working on getting the honey out of the comb just a few days ago. We have the honey extracted and will begin seeing what we can do about preserving the wax in the next couple of days.

So, we have lots of honey now, perhaps five gallons or so. What will we do with all of that? Let’s talk about honey.

What is honey

How about a few trivia facts to get started? The honey itself is produced from flower nectar or from honeydew secreted from other insects. The bees eat the nectar or honeydew, add some of their stomach enzymes and then regurgitate the result. It goes into the wax structure or honeycomb where they proceed to fan it with their wings causing the water to evaporate.

So what makes it sweet? Whenever you see that O S E on the end of a word, “ose,” it means a type of sugar. Honey gets its sweetness from fructose and glucose. Honey has about the same relative sweetness as sucrose which is table sugar. Those of you counting calories will want to know that one tablespoon of honey is about 46 calories.

Honey use and production have a long and varied history. There are cave paintings in Cuevas de la Arana in Spain that depict humans foraging for honey. These paintings were done at least 8,000 years ago. Large-scale meliponiculture has been practiced by the Mayans since pre-Columbian times. Meliponiculure beekeeping of stingless bees. Stingless bees are meliponines. They actually have stingers but they are small and not used for defense. There are other types of stingless bees and they can have painful and powerful bites.

Global production of honey in 2019 was 1.9 million tons. The leading producers are China (with 24% of the total), Turkey, Canada, Argentina, and Iran.

How is Honey Made

I’ll expand a little on how it is made. There is more to it than eating pollen, regurgitating and drying it. It all starts with the queen. Each hive must have a queen. She keeps the hive functioning. There can be only one.

The Queen

When the hive gets too large, the queen will begin laying queen cells. Nurse bees take care of this cell by feeding the queen cells nothing but royal jelly. Other eggs only get royal jelly for the first few days.

Once the new queen hatches, the older queen leaves with a small swarm so the new, younger, stronger, queen does not kill her. If multiple queen cells hatch at once, they will fight to the death. There can be only one.

The Mating Flight

Now that the new queen is hatched, it is her job to lay eggs and keep the hive thriving. Of course, that means she has to mate before laying eggs. This is where the worker bees and drones come in. The worker bees mainly lay drone eggs. The drones are the male bees. The virgin queen bee will only mate once in her lifetime. These drone bees wait their entire life for the chance to mate with the queen. After that they are just another mouth to feed.

The queen flies high into the sky. The drone bees are hanging out waiting for their opportunity. The strongest and genetically best drones will make their way to the queen. It’s a short life though. The drone’s genitalia will be ripped free after mating leaving a hole that will ultimately lead to his death. It’s a short life filled with purpose. His life mission to continue his DNA is completed and he dies. The queen has a storage sack where the sperm is stored and utilized for the rest of her life.

The Queen Lays Eggs

The queen now returns to the hive and begins laying eggs. She lays in the cells called brood chambers. Based on the needs of the hive, the queen will determine what type of bee each egg will produce. I mentioned the queen cell earlier. It is peanut shaped. The drones are larger cells, the worker bees are smaller cells. Young worker bees are called nurse bees. They feed all the cells in which she has laid eggs.

Bee Employment

The bees start out as larvae, they graduate to whatever their job is going to be when they mature. The drones, as mentioned above, hang around and get fed, leaving the hive during the day to hang out with other drones searching for a virgin queen in flight.

The worker bees are all female. Some gather the pollen, while others stay in the hive receiving the pollen and other things that are brought to her. The others will also help with making the honey. There are some worker bees that become nurse bees, caring for the eggs and larvae. Some, called attendants, even care for the queen.

Most bees live for about two months or less. All of this is happening very quickly.

The queen bee’s job is to lay eggs. She will lay around 1,500 eggs per day. And that’s a full-time job.

Collecting Pollen

The older, scavenger bees will travel within a 5-mile radius of their hive to collect food and pollen using their proboscis like a straw. What they don’t use for their own nourishment in their first stomach goes to their second stomach. This is like a storage pouch for transferring what they collected. They return to the hive.

The worker bee in the hive will use their proboscis to suck the nectar and pollen from the scavenger bee’s second stomach.

Filling the Honeycomb

The worker bees spread what they collected over an empty comb constructed by other worker bees. Once a comb is full, the honey needs to be dehydrated. Pulling the water out of the honey keeps it from spoiling. They dehydrate it by flapping their wings at just the right speed for just the right amount of time. Their instincts tell them when the honey is ready.

Capping the Honey

Next, the honey is capped. Bees create wax from their abdomen and they layout sheets of it, capping the newly filled comb. This keeps the water out. They eat it in the winter.

That’s it. The honey is made. This is where the beekeeper will come in and make the harvest. Again, we have never done this in real time. We only saved what was left when the hive died. That’s yet another learning experience for another day.

How is Honey Stored?

Honey is a staple in the kitchens of many around the globe. It is a very useful sweetener. It never goes bad and is very easy to store. Even if it starts to crystallize, it can easily be restored.

All you need to do is keep it cool and away from direct sunlight. Use a tightly sealed container. Glass or food-safe plastic are the best containers. Honey can oxidize metal.

You do not need to refrigerate honey. In fact, it will become really, really thick and harder to use when you need. You end up heating it up a little to return it to liquid.

Shelf Life

Honey will keep for a very long time. The high concentration of sugars makes it one of the most stable natural foods available. It can have an almost indefinite shelf life if stored properly. You may notice that honey producers put a “best by” date on their products. It’s usually about two years. According to the National Honey Board, this is done for practical purposes because of the variability of honey. However, they do note that honey can be stable for decades and even centuries.

Do not be alarmed if your honey becomes cloudy during storage. This is simply the honey crystalizing. It is not an indication of deterioration. Raw honey with high pollen content will crystallize faster than commercially produced honey. Sometimes crystallization is produced on purpose by the beekeeper.

Crystalized honey can be easily re-liquified. Place the jar in a pan of hot water. Stir gently while heating. Do not overheat. Excessive heat may alter the flavor if the sugars begin to caramelize. The microwave will get too hot too quickly. Avoid at all costs.

Health benefits of Honey

There are so many but I am only touching on five today. Raw honey has been used as a folk remedy throughout history. It’s even used in some hospitals as a treatment for wounds. Many benefits are specific to raw, or unpasteurized, honey. Most of the honey you find in your grocery store is pasteurized. The high heat kills unwanted yeast, can improve the color and texture, removes crystallization and extends the shelf life. Unfortunately, many of the beneficial nutrients are also destroyed in the process.

Good Source of Antioxidants

Some types of honey have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals left behind in chemical reactions.

Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties

Research has shown that raw honey can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus. It naturally contains hydrogen peroxide. Its effectiveness varies but is clearly more than a folk remedy for bacterial and fungal infections.

Heal Wounds

Manuka honey is used in medical settings to treat wounds because it has been found to be an effective germicide. It also aids in the regeneration of tissue. Honey used in a medical setting is inspected and sterile. Do not treat your cuts with honey from the grocery store.

Digestive Issues

Honey is sometimes used to treat diarrhea, though there is not much research confirming it. It is proven effective as a treatment for H. pylori, a common cause of stomach ulcers.

Honey is also a prebiotic, meaning it nourishes the good bacteria living in your intestines.

Soothing a Sore Throat

Hot tea with honey and lemon is a very common sore throat remedy. It’s easy to make and tastes good too. It also works as a cough suppressant. One or two teaspoonfuls, straight should do the trick.

Are There Any Risks?

There is only one risk of which I am aware. Honey should never be given to an infant under one year. I believe it is the danger of clostridium that is the problem there.

There is so much more I could share about honey but this podcast has already gone on a bit longer than usual.

Final Thoughts

That’s if for this this edition of the Peaceful Heart Farmcast. I hope you enjoyed the homestead updates. Let me know if there is anything else in particular you would like to know about what we do here. Drop me an email. I’d love to hear from you.

The animals are all doing well. I didn’t get to the quail so more on that in the next one. As I said, there is so much more I could share about honey. Let me know if you have questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.

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

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

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Livestock Guardian Dogs; Let’s Add to Our Homestead

Livestock guardian dogs is a natural follow-on to the previous podcast about coyotes. At that time, we weren’t really willing to make that step. However, after speaking with other sheep herders, we’ve decided it is time. This is a really big step for me. I truly still feel quite uncomfortable about my ability to properly care for a dog. I don’t really know what my block is in this regard, but I’m jumping in there and I’m going to move past it. I believe some of that revolves around the years that we could not have animals that require daily attention as we were only here on the weekends. It’s an old mindset that no longer applies. I’ve learned to care for lots of different animals. I can do livestock guardian dogs.

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. If you want to help us out with our mission to provide local, nutrient dense food and heal the earth, please share this podcast on your social media with those interested in following the sustainable homestead life. That’s the best way to help us grow. Now on to our stories.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Let’s start with some updates on the homestead. If you listened to the last podcast all about coyotes, you know that we have been having some predator issues and we lost a significant number of our sheep. We believe we have that under control for the moment. After lots of discussions and soul searching, we have decided to get a dog. After I give you the normal updates on all of our wonderful homestead livestock buddies, I’ll go into that topic in detail. But first, let’s get you caught up on what’s going on around here.

Sheep

As noted in the last podcast we lost over half of our sheep and lamb population. In fact, we lost all six of the lambs born this year. I let Scott talk me into having a fall crop of lambs. So, Lambert is back in with the girls. We shall see how that goes. We’ve never had lambs in the fall, though it is quite common.

All of the sheep are now in the back pasture again. The cameras we put out night after night indicate that there are no longer any predators coming into the area. We will be getting a dog anyway. They will eventually return and we want to be prepared.

Cows

I’ve completed the registration process on all of our girls. We have three registered Jersey girls and five registered Normande girls. The breeding season is upon us. In mid-June we will start the artificial insemination process once again.

There are still a few details that we haven’t worked out in that realm. Depending on the conversation we will have with the vet will determine whether we try using embryos. The implantation of an embryo enables you to pick all of the genetics of the calf. The mom simply carries the fertilized egg in embryonic form. I don’t know much about this yet. More to come on that.

Calves

The twin calves are back in the calf pasture and we’ve added Virginia to the mix. I don’t know if I talked about that last time. Virginia was sneaking in and stealing Cloud’s milk. Cloud is already supporting two calves. A third, especially a yearling, would be way more than she could support. She has a significant percentage of black angus genes and does not produce as prolifically as the other dairy cows. Butter could support three or four calves. She produces well over six gallons of milk per day.

We are still eagerly anticipating the birth of our last calf via Violet. June 10th is just around the corner. I can’t wait. The late birth may eliminate her from being in the breeding rotation for next year. After birth, it is a minimum of six weeks before she can be bred again. And that would put her insemination at the end of July and the subsequent birth date would be late April. I think we may give AI one try, perhaps two. A second attempt would have her delivering in mid-May. That is pushing it. But it just might work to get her back in sync with the other cows. Ideally, they all need to give birth from mid-March to mid-April.

This is all so much more complicated than I ever imaged. The cheesemaking process demands that you have lots of milk. And to have lots of milk, the cows need to give birth at the same time. Without that piece, you can have many weeks of small amounts of milk in the spring. If they all give birth within three weeks, that’s ideal.

The Garden

The weather has delayed us in planting the garden. I’m finally ready to get the beans in the ground. It was only a few days ago that the temperatures were back down into the 30’s at night. The soil needs to be consistently warm for summer plants to grow. I think we are finally there. Look for more news on that in the future.

The strawberries are doing well. I went out there an checked on them this morning. There is one strawberry starting to turn red. And there are thousands of others that are white. It’s so exciting to see so many berries out there. Do you love strawberry jam? We sure do.

The blueberries are finished blooming and the blackberries have just started. All over the place are lots and lots of white blossoms. The wild blackberries and wild rose are in full bloom. If you live in the area, I’m sure you’ve noticed the clouds of white flowers everywhere. If you are brave and want to pick wild blackberries later in the summer, take note of where those flowers are blooming. Growing up in NW Georgia, we would suit up every 4th of July holiday weekend and go blackberry picking. You had to have long sleeves and no shorts because of the thorns. And in Georgia, it was best to have some way to keep the chiggers off of you. Chiggers are also known as red bugs. And they are a pain. Are you familiar with them? Unless you live in the south, probably not.

Chiggers or Red Bugs

They are arachnids. The red-colored larvae are so small – only 1/120 to 1/150 of an inch – that you cannot see them with the naked eye. They hang out in tall grass, weed patches, and underneath trees. Any brushy or thicket – such as blackberry bushes can house them. I grew up with the popular belief that they burrow into your skin. Not true. They attach to your skin. They like tight places like in your armpits, around your waistband, etc. If they are not removed, chiggers will remain on your skin for about four days.

How do you keep them off? We took several steps when getting ready to go blackberry picking. As I said, long sleeves and pants. We also treated our clothing with insect repellent. We did use those that have DEET – and they are safe enough if you only put it on your clothes and not on your skin. And today there are DEET-free alternatives. Wear boots and tuck the pant legs into them. Then pull your socks up over the pants leg. Double protection there. But it is needed in that area as walking through the brush and bushes is a significant hazard to picking up these little guys. Once you return home, get in the shower immediately and use lots of soap while they are still wandering around. Launder the clothes in hot water.

That’s a little side note not at all related to livestock guardian dogs. Let’s get on to that topic.

Livestock Guardian Dogs

There are many breeds of livestock guardian dogs and they have been used by shepherds and farmers for centuries. They are bred and trained to instinctively protect their herd from predators. The breeds can be crossbred with other livestock guardian dogs, but crossbreeding with any other breed ruins the innate ability to be a great livestock guardian dog. I can’t stress this enough. This topic comes up over and over again when I am looking on Facebook. People ask about this all the time. And the answer is always the same. Your German shepherd is not a good LGD. Great Dane and Dobermans do not make good livestock guardian dogs, and on and on. You can’t breed a livestock herding dog with a livestock guardian dog and get a good outcome. You ruin both sides of that equation. Herding dogs have wonderful instincts but they are completely different than the instincts of a guardian dog.

Breeds

We are looking at several different breeds. The Great Pyrenees is probably the most well-known livestock guardian dog. They are quite popular in the US. Other breeds we are considering are the Akbash and Maremma. The Great Pyrenees originates from the Pyrenees mountains of Spain and France. The Akbash is originally from Turkey. And the Maremma is native to Italy. There are more than a dozen different breeds from various parts of the world. The thing they have in common is their breeding for livestock guardian instincts. Some are better in one or another area. It depends on what you are looking for in your particular situation.

What Makes a Good Livestock Guardian Dog?

They need to be large and strong. Typically, they are very comfortable living outdoors, though they should still have a dog house or some other kind of shelter. Developing a strong bond with livestock is essential. We are looking for a peaceful demeanor unless a predator comes around. They we want them to move into action quickly. These dogs like to mark their territory. Most of them are very vocal and can bark a lot. You want that.

One of the vendors near me at the market says that she can tell when new lambs have been born by the sound of the bark. The dog will be right there with the lambs, waiting for her to come and see to the new lambs. These dogs love to work, and truly need a job to stay occupied. I know a lot of people want to have them as pets, but they can really be a handful if kept couped up in an apartment. Even a nice sized house and yard can be problematic. They need acres and acres to roam and patrol in order to be happy. They need animals to protect to be truly happy.

Other Breeds

Some other breeds you may have heard of include: Anatolian shepherd, a Turkish breed; the shaggy Komondor from Hungary is sometimes referred to as the mop dog. You’ll know one when you see it; there is the Tibetan mastiff, an ancient breed used by the nomadic tribes of Nepal and Mongolia; The Karakachan is known for acute senses and a strong bond with the flock. There are just so many. How to choose?

These guys actually become part of the herd. They are always with the livestock, integrating into the workings of the homestead. Some routinely check the perimeters of the property, others like to keep watch from a high vantage point. They are not going to run off after bunnies and other small animals. They will stick close to the flock. Even after chasing off a predator, they will quickly return to their animal charges.  

What Do We Need in a LGD?

There are quite a few things that we have thought about so far and likely more to come. We are looking for an adult dog that already has some experience with livestock. After getting one adult acclimated to the homestead, we will likely add another that is in the puppy stage. We want to understand all the ins and outs of training as well. So, the first one needs to already know what it’s doing because we sure don’t. After the flock is protected, we can move into learning how to train one from start to finish. These dogs mostly live 12 to 15 years or so. We will likely need quite a few over our lifetime.

They are big dogs and that is a little intimidating for me. Even while still in the puppy stages, under two years old, they will be very large dogs. These are intelligent and headstrong breeds. We have the land and livestock to keep them busy – and they need that to keep them out of mischief. If they get bored, unwanted things can happen. In a household, chewing up things is not uncommon. Again, I don’t think we will have too much difficulty with that, but you just never know how rambunctious your animal might be.

Puppies vs Adults

Puppies simply cannot be left on their own. They need time to mature. The teen stage can be particularly horrible for most. They are just so big but they are still puppies at heart. A dog under two years of age can easily severely hurt of even kill the very livestock they are meant to protect. Again, we are going for an adult dog in the beginning. It is much easier for a puppy to learn if it has an adult mentor.

They absolutely need proper socialization training. Without it, they can potentially be very dangerous. Their sheer size and strength mean that they can cause serious injuries to people or other animals. They can inadvertently injure small people or children during what is considered quite routine play for them. Many breeds, even as adults, have difficulty with protecting birds – chickens, ducks, turkeys and so on – as they like to chase them as many have inbred instincts to kill them. We will be looking for which breeds can be trained well in this area as we intend to have chickens soon.

Caring for a LGD

The next thing I want to talk about is caring for them. This is my greatest area of insecurity. Almost all of these dogs are long-haired and need to be groomed at the very least every month. What do you think it will be like bathing a dog this big? Better get one that enjoys it. It would be impossible to handle a one-hundred-pound dog that didn’t like having a bath.

I’ve look at some of the breeds that don’t have as thick of a coat. But they need the thick, long coats to help protect them from predators and the elements. Some even have mane-like fur to protect their neck and shoulder region from the teeth of predators. It requires more effort from us, but in the end is worth the investment.

There are a few things out there in the interwebs that I have found to be myths. I think the worst one is that you can’t be friends with your dog. Making friends with a livestock guardian dog does not mean he won’t do his job. These are not house dogs and they have no such desire. They do however, love treats as much as any other dog.

I mentioned earlier about cross-breeding with herding dogs. Even worse is the idea that a herding dog can be a good livestock guardian god. Nothing could be further from the truth. Herding dogs have a completely different function. They are small and can easily be overwhelmed by large predators. Their job is to chase animals, although in a controlled way. Inevitably, they will tend to kill animals when bred with LGDs. Not a good thing.

How They Think

These dogs will bark at people that visit but will not bite. Their instincts are to attack only if there is a threat. Again, the difference between an LGD and say a Doberman. That Doberman may attack without provocations. Not so with the LGD.

If a stray dog comes around, they put on a great show but will not harm the dog unless an actual threat is perceived. If there is no threat, they leave the dog alone, perhaps escorting them off the property. The same with humans.

Most livestock guardian dogs learn to enjoy killing wild predators and may even hunt them. They know the difference between a domestic dog and a wild animal.

Final Thoughts

I’m so glad that we have peace on the homestead again. For the time being, all is well with the animals. The garden is moving along slowly but steadily. That means more time outside in the sunshine. It’s good for the soul. Yeah, get that vitamin D.

The perfect livestock guardian dog will be found and our animals will be protected. We will progress through yet another learning curve in caring for animals on the homestead. It’s all a cycle. One after another, after another. It’s a beautiful thing. And yes, I’m still intimidated. But I will get over it. I’m going to love having a dog. And it will be the best dog on the planet receiving the best care available from our loving hearts.

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

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

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Coyotes on the Homestead

Coyotes are a plague when you have sheep. Today’s podcast is going to be all about coyotes. Probably more than you ever wanted to know. Some things about coyotes might surprise you.

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

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

So why is the topic today about coyotes? Well, we have had issues and I need to talk about it. I’ll try to keep it mostly factual and as upbeat as possible. In the end though, sometimes homestead life has tragic consequences.  

Sheep and Lambs

Over a span of about 3 or 4 days we lost more than half of our sheep. All six of our lambs, including my bottle baby, Susie Q are gone. Five adult ewes are also gone. We have 10 sheep left out of 21. Yeah, it’s a big loss. I’m still heartbroken about losing Susie Q. I still look for her. When I look out the window, momentarily I’m looking for her. Especially in the evening, when I go to create bottles for the twin calves, I briefly look for the very small bottle we use for lambs. Then I remember. She’s gone.

I was unusually attached to Susie Q. We’ve had bottle lambs lots of time. But I’ve never been so attached. Well, perhaps it’s that we have never lost one. And after they are grown and no longer need me for daily feedings, I naturally let go of them. Like Lambert. He’s still out there with the boys and he was a bottle baby. I just don’t think I would miss him the way that I miss Susie Q. And we’ve had others that ended up at freezer camp. I don’t know what’s different except that she was still so young dependent on us.

Cows and Calves

We moved all of the animals out of the back fields where the attacks were occurring. Scott brought out a couple of guys that hunted the male leader and we also used poison. That’s a really harsh method, but sometimes it is necessary.

The twin calves were also quite vulnerable to coyote attack. Scott moved them to a sheltered area. Virginia is also with them. We had to pull her out of the general herd because she was nursing on Cloud. If you remember, Cloud is already feeding two calves. Adding Virginia was definitely more than Cloud could support. You can likely guess that the ones who would suffer would be Princess and Winston. Virginia is about a year old and would definitely wipe out all the available milk and the younger two would be left hungry. So, Virginia is safely away from the other cows and hanging out with the twins.

Keeping the various calves out of one or another milk supply has really been a challenge this year. I don’t know if I mentioned that we briefly had all the calves and cows together. It’s much easier to maintain the pastures if there are only two groups of animals. The boys and the girls. However, having all the cow girls together immediately failed. Rosie came in for milking down a couple of quarts of milk. We suspected Princess as Rosie is her mom, after all. Now I’m wondering if it was actually Virginia and after she got a taste of milk she started looking around and found Cloud after Rosie was gone. Who knows? Rosie and Butter are in a field by themselves. The twin calves and Virginia are in the loafing space. And the rest of the crew which includes Violet, Claire, Buttercup, Cloud and her two calves, are out front. The boys, of course, are in yet another place. We have cows all over the place.  

Everyone is relatively safe at the moment. Let’s talk about coyotes. I didn’t want to know all of this and I’ve left out the most gruesome of details. But the gist of the story is here.

Coyotes

The coyote is a species of canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the wolf. It fills much of the same ecological niche as the golden jackal does in Europe and Asia. Though the coyote is larger and more predatory. Other historical names for this species include the prairie wolf and the brush wolf.

The coyote is listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, due to its wide distribution and abundance throughout North America. Coyote populations are also abundant southwards through Mexico and into Central America. Even now, it is enlarging its range by moving into urban areas in the eastern U.S. and Canada. The coyote was sighted in eastern Panama (across the Panama Canal from their home range) for the first time in 2013.

Coyote Subspecies

There are 19 recognized coyote subspecies. The average male weighs 18 to 44 lb and the average female 15 to 40 lb. Their fur color is predominantly light gray and red, sometimes interspersed with black and white. The colors vary somewhat with geography. Coyotes are highly flexible in their social organization. Sometimes living in a family unit and sometimes in loosely knit packs of unrelated individuals. Primarily carnivorous, its diet consists mainly of deer, rabbits, hares, rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates, though it may also eat fruits and vegetables on occasion. Its characteristic vocalization is a howl made by solitary individuals. Humans are the coyote’s greatest threat, followed by cougars and gray wolves. In spite of this, coyotes sometimes mate with gray, eastern, or red wolves, producing “coywolf” hybrids. Genetic studies show that most North American wolves contain some level of coyote DNA.

Coyote Folklore

The coyote is a prominent character in Native American folklore, usually depicted as a trickster that alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or a man. After the European colonization of the Americas, it was seen in Anglo-American culture as a cowardly and untrustworthy animal. Unlike wolves, which have undergone an improvement of their public image, attitudes towards the coyote remain largely negative. I’m in the group with that attitude.

Hunting and Feeding

Two studies that experimentally investigated the role of olfactory, auditory, and visual cues found that visual cues are the most important ones for hunting in coyotes.

When hunting large prey, the coyote often works in pairs or small groups. Unlike the wolf, which attacks large prey from the rear, the coyote approaches from the front, lacerating its prey’s head and throat. Although coyotes can live in large groups, small prey is typically caught singly. Coyotes have been observed to kill porcupines in pairs, using their paws to flip the rodents on their backs, then attacking the soft underbelly. Only old and experienced coyotes can successfully prey on porcupines, with many predation attempts by young coyotes resulting in them being injured by their prey’s quills. Recent evidence demonstrates that at least some coyotes have become more nocturnal in hunting, presumably to avoid humans.

Coyotes may occasionally form mutualistic hunting relationships with American badgers, assisting each other in digging up rodent prey. The relationship between the two species may occasionally border on apparent “friendship”, as some coyotes have been observed laying their heads on their badger companions or licking their faces without protest. The amicable interactions between coyotes and badgers were known to pre-Columbian civilizations, as shown on a Mexican jar dated to 1250–1300 depicting the relationship between the two.

Vocalizations

The coyote has been described as “the most vocal of all wild North American mammals”. Its loudness and range of vocalizations was the cause for its binomial name Canis latrans, meaning “barking dog”. At least 11 different vocalizations are known in adult coyotes. These sounds are divided into three categories: agonistic and alarm, greeting, and contact. The lone howl is the most iconic sound of the coyote and may serve the purpose of announcing the presence of a lone individual separated from its pack.

Habitat

Prior to the near extermination of wolves and cougars, the coyote was most numerous in grasslands inhabited by bison, pronghorn, elk, and other deer, doing particularly well in short-grass areas with prairie dogs, though it was just as much at home in semiarid areas with sagebrush and jackrabbits or in deserts inhabited by cactus, kangaroo rats, and rattlesnakes.

Coyotes walk around 3–10 miles per day, often along trails such as logging roads and paths; they may use iced-over rivers as travel routes in winter. They are often more active around evening and the beginning of the night than during the day. Like many canids, coyotes are competent swimmers, reported to be able to travel at least 0.5 miles across water.

Diet

The coyote is ecologically the North American equivalent of the Eurasian golden jackal. Likewise, the coyote is highly versatile in its choice of food, but is primarily carnivorous, with 90% of its diet consisting of meat. Prey species include bison (largely as carrion), white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, rabbits, hares, rodents, birds (especially young water birds and pigeons and doves), amphibians (except toads), lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises, fish, crustaceans, and insects. More unusual prey include young black bear cubs and rattlesnakes. Coyotes kill rattlesnakes mostly for food but also to protect their pups at their dens. They will tease the snakes until they stretch out and then bite their heads and shake them. Birds taken by coyotes may range in size from thrashers, larks and sparrows to adult wild turkeys.

If working in packs or pairs, coyotes have access to larger prey than lone. In some cases, packs of coyotes have dispatched much larger prey such as adult deer, cow, elk, and sheep, although the young fawn, calves and lambs of these animals are most often taken. In some cases, coyotes can bring down prey weighing up to 220 to 440 lb or more. When it comes to adult animals such as deer, they often exploit them when vulnerable such as those that are infirm, stuck in snow or ice, otherwise winter-weakened or heavily pregnant. Less wary domestic animals are more easily exploited.

Although coyotes prefer fresh meat, they will scavenge when the opportunity presents itself. Excluding the insects, fruit, and grass eaten, the coyote requires an estimated 1.3 lb of food daily, 550 lb annually.

The coyote feeds on a variety of different produce, including blackberries, blueberries, peaches, pears, apples, prickly pears, persimmons, peanuts, watermelons, cantaloupes, and carrots. During the winter and early spring, the coyote eats large quantities of grass, such as green wheat blades.

Other interesting diet components

In coastal California, coyotes now consume a higher percentage of marine-based food than their ancestors, which is thought to be due to the extirpation of the grizzly bear from this region. In Death Valley, coyotes may consume great quantities of hawkmoth caterpillars or beetles in the spring flowering months.

Livestock and Pet Predation Statistics

As of 2007, coyotes were the most abundant livestock predators in western North America, causing the majority of sheep, goat, and cattle losses. For example, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, coyotes were responsible for 60.5% of the 224,000 sheep deaths attributed to predation in 2004. The total number of sheep deaths in 2004 comprised 2.22% of the total sheep and lamb population in the United States, which, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service USDA report, totaled 4.66 million and 7.80 million heads respectively as of July 1, 2005. Because coyote populations are typically many times greater and more widely distributed than those of wolves, coyotes cause more overall predation losses. United States government agents routinely shoot, poison, trap, and kill about 90,000 coyotes each year to protect livestock. An Idaho census taken in 2005 showed that individual coyotes were 5% as likely to attack livestock as individual wolves. In Utah, more than 11,000 coyotes were killed for bounties totaling over $500,000 in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017.

Livestock Guardian Dogs

Livestock guardian dogs are commonly used to aggressively repel predators and have worked well in both fenced pasture and range operations. A 1986 survey of sheep producers in the USA found that 82% reported the use of dogs represented an economic asset.

Protect Yourself and Your Pets

Coyotes are often attracted to dog food and animals that are small enough to appear as prey. Items such as garbage, pet food, and sometimes feeding stations for birds and squirrels attract coyotes into backyards. About three to five pets attacked by coyotes are brought into the Animal Urgent Care hospital of South Orange County (California) each week, the majority of which are dogs. Cats typically do not survive coyote attacks. Smaller breeds of dogs are more likely to suffer injury and/or death.

Coyotes are one of my least favorite parts of God’s creation. I’ve probably given you far too much information on these creatures. But as I said earlier, I needed to talk about this. Thanks for listening.

Final Thoughts

Living on the homestead is not always pretty. Survival is always relative to the environment. Many times, survival is a competition between humans and other species. All animals have a right to live. God made them and there you go. They have a right to live. And we also have the right to protect our other animals. Sometimes it is a small parasite – which is also deadly at times. And sometimes it’s larger animals such as coyotes and bears. Everyone is just trying to survive. I miss my Susie Q. And when I look at our decimated flock of sheep, I am filled with sadness. However, in the end, some of our flock has survived and we will rebuild. It’s what we do. Our flock will rise again. In the fall or next spring, we will have lambs again. The life cycle continues.

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

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

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