Fall Weddings

Fall weddings are really beautiful. June weddings are quite popular, but I prefer fall weddings. I just prefer the fall. The colors are awesome. Earth tones everywhere. Yellow, orange, brown, rusty red. Some of my favorite colors. Today I’m going to talk about what makes weddings special no matter the season.

But first, 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 say it every time and I mean it every time. I appreciate you all so much.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

What’s going on at the homestead right now? Well, it turns out a lot.

Creamery

Today, I’m starting with the creamery. It’s so exciting to see it evolving day by day. Scott has worked so hard on this project and continues to work hard every day to get it done. Even when I’m sick or traveling or whatever and he has to step in and take on my work load, he is right there picking up my slack and getting his tasks done as well. He is so amazing.

What he thought would be a rather quick task of a day or two is turning out to be days and days and days. That’s because he is doing such a magnificent job of it. I’m talking about filling in those spaces between the blocks that has been on his radar for weeks. It needs to be completed before the weather gets too cold and the mortar wouldn’t set up as well.

He has been at it for quite a few days and it looks wonderful. Not only is he filling in the spaces between the blocks, he is also giving it a wonderful rough finish. It’s going to be truly stunning once completed and painted. He always goes that extra mile to make his work durable and beautiful.

Cows

The cows and bulls got shuffled around. Only two bulls with a few sheep are in one animal group. The larger group of our milking girls, the main flock of sheep and all of the goats are getting ready for the rotation through the back fields.

Stock Rotation

We rotate our stock for several reasons. The biggest reason I think is for parasite control. They never eat the grass down so low they are re-ingesting parasites they just eliminated. Fresh, tall grass makes that impossible. Another huge reason for rotating stock is managing the grass. Just like any other animal, they eat all the really tasty stuff first and leave the undesirable stuff behind. Well, if you let that continue, all of the really tasty stuff eventually gets eliminated and only the less nutritious and less desirable grass is left.

Keeping them confined in a small area until they must eat the second and third desirable grass maintains a variety of grasses in the pasture. No one grass is left to take over. All are grazed and that maintains a balance. It is a delicate dance to get them to eat everything without eating it too far to the ground.

Standing Hay

The fields in the back have been left to grow without being grazed for many months now. We have been working towards a goal of having enough grass for the livestock to graze throughout the winter without feeding hay. I’m thinking we are not quite there yet, but we get closer every year. The longer we can go without having to put out hay, the better. Leaving these fields to grow throughout most of the summer without being grazed makes a kind of hay in the field that we don’t have to buy.

Sheep

It’s getting closer and closer to the time when the sheep will begin their breeding cycle. This task is so much easier to handle that getting the cows bred. We simply put the breeding ram in with the girls – the ones we pick out for breeding – and that’s all there is to it. We do not have to keep such a close check on exactly when the lambs are born. They can be born over two or even three months if necessary and our plans will still come out all right. Not like the cows when we need the calves to be born within a specific window because of our milking schedule.

The lambs grow out over a year or even a little longer. We process them as needed for ourselves and for our customers.

Garden

There isn’t much to say about the garden. We still have a lot of clean up to complete and I still have some peppers growing out there. The first frost hasn’t happened yet. We will go as long as possible before clearing out everything that will be killed off by the frost. That includes the lima beans, the basil, parsley, and the potatoes as well as the peppers. The other herbs need to be moved to containers for planting in a more permanent location in the spring. I suppose I could just leave them where they are until spring, then create the herb garden of my dreams. We shall see.

Fall Weddings

Now I’m on to fall weddings. I just returned from a trip to Oklahoma where my grandson was married and is now off on his honeymoon. It was as beautiful service. I got to see family that I haven’t seen in years. It had been four years since I had been to Oklahoma to see my children and grandchildren. Some of them have visited me here in Virginia in between but it’s always nice to get to visit them. I hadn’t seen my sister and her daughter and grandchildren in longer still. It was wonderful to see them.

Oklahoma

I lived in Oklahoma for four years and loved every minute of it. The seasons are similar to ours here in Virginia. It does get a little hotter in the summer and a bit colder in the winter – and those scary tornadoes – but overall, the USDA growing season is about the same.

Weddings are wonderful no matter the time of year. When two people come together and pledge to love one another through thick and thin, the bad and the good, it’s a beautiful thing. Life will bring them many challenges and with God’s help they will meet those challenges together. I didn’t get the chance to ask about their plans for my great-grandchildren. We shall see.

The Marriage Relationship

One of the unique things about a marriage relationship is that we choose it. We do not choose our mother, father, brothers, sisters, or other relatives. Marriage is the only one we choose on purpose. It is where you spend most of your life. As a child you spend 18 to 20 or 22 or so years with your parents. But those parents will spend that time and much more together as a couple. As a married couple you share all sorts of physical, mental and emotional challenges.

And marriage is only the first step. Having children and a family is the next logical step for most married couples. In fact, it may be the reason they came together. They wanted to raise a family. In raising a family, the solid base of humanity is maintained. It is the raising of children that then have children who also have children that maintains the human species.

Traditional Marriage and Parenting

Traditionally, the role of the parents was to raise other human beings that would contribute to society. These new adults would further society and continue the tradition that came before them. In this way, humanity was able to evolve over millennia and not become extinct like so many other species. It is the natural way of our world. It is how we came to be today.

But today sometimes it seems like that natural world is falling apart. In this world of computers, iPhones, iPads and social media, we have lost touch with each other. We have lost the physical touch. And in this day of covid19 it has gone even further. Many of us are afraid to hug another human being. We are afraid of dying from loving another. I find this heart wrenching.

Why We Survived as a Species

Over thousands of years we have survived many hardships. Many times, our population could have been wiped out. Many times, millions of people have died during these difficult periods of our history. Never before have we stopped living our lives. Why have we stopped living our lives this time? I do not have an answer. Likely there are many reasons.

At my grandson’s wedding, his grandparents on his father’s side did not attend the wedding. They were afraid of covid19. I cannot fault them on their choice. Especially since I have no idea their state of health. We all must make choices during this time. I am grateful that we live in this country where we can make those choices – well in most places in the country we can still make those choices. I realize some states have been stricter than others in this. I was pleased that the restrictions were few. The wedding was outside and there was no restriction there. Inside, the only restriction was wearing a mask while in the buffet food line.

Joyful Occasion

It was beautiful to see people interacting, talking dancing, laughing and enjoying themselves with no apparent fear or apprehension. I’m only now just thinking of this. People hugged. People danced closely with one another. People talked in groups of one, two, five or more and no masks. Many of you are listening to this now with horror, I know. But for me, it was a joyful experience as it should be at any wedding. Maybe some will get sick. Maybe some will get very sick. Maybe some will die. But all will live their lives knowing they enjoyed that moment in time. And it was worth every moment, no matter the outcome.

Fall marriages and indeed marriages at any time of year symbolize the starting of yet another journey into adulthood with good times and bad times, challenges, loves, and yes even fears. It is life.

The Grace of God

I feel so for those that now live in fear for their lives. They fear loving others in any physical way. It’s so sad. Yes, wear your mask as you feel the need. Wash your hands. But don’t stop hugging others. Open your heart to the grace of God and give up your fear. Heaven awaits the faithful. Death is not to be feared. Pray for those who are Godless that they may come to the understanding that there is no need to fear death when heaven is your next destination. You are free to love and live. You are free.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I know it was a little off the beaten path for me, but I felt the need to share some traditional faith, hope, and love. I trust all is well in your life and you can call on others when you need that extra boost. Call on me. I’ll be here.

Enjoy the fall weddings or winter weddings or whenever weddings. The union of two people starting out in life is glorious. Let’s celebrate new unions and new life.  

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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What You Can Do With Milk

What you can do with milk is my topic for today. There are lots of ways to use milk. It is a very versatile food. There is so much more than just drinking milk out of a glass. I know you didn’t drink it out of the jug, right? 

As always, I want to take a minute and welcome all the new listeners and to say welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving. 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

New Farm Sign

Scott just came in and showed me a picture of the new mailbox and farm sign set up. It looks great. I ordered a sign online from an Etsy shop. I found a guy who makes really great signs for a very reasonable price. He had lots of samples to choose from and an interactive website. Choose a design, type in your farm name and voila, you could see how the sign would look when completed. I was really pleased with the work and the quickness of shipment. I’m doubly pleased with Scott’s work and how beautiful it looks in real life. Now people can tell when they have reached the farm. The GPS brings you right to it, but we are 1,000 feet off the road behind a bunch of trees. It can be a little spooky driving off into the wilderness without a sign indicating you are on the right track.

Garden

I took a stroll out into the garden this morning just to see how everything was going. I don’t go every day anymore. There just isn’t that much out there. And with the ground cloth, the weeds are almost non-existent. There are five beds that are completely empty now. All the beans are in except for the baby limas. I’ll wait until the first frost is forecast before pulling out all of those. I want to give them as much time as possible to mature.

Crowder Peas

Today I picked a few more crowder peas from the garden. I really love these. I’m already looking forward to growing even more of these next year. I’ve talked about these beauties before. They are so, so, so easy to grow. I’ve never had disease, knock on wood. The only pests I have are aphids and they don’t affect the development of the peas. Next year I’m going to try putting the plants on a trellis. In the past, I’ve just let them grow all over the place. However, I want to try a trellis because I think it will make picking them so much easier. They get so tangled up. The branches are like half runners. I have been letting them grow into a jungle. We shall see how it goes with the trellis next year.

Peppers, Potatoes, Tomatoes

The peppers just keep on going as well. I mentioned last week that I am working on creating pepper jam with the idea of selling it as Christmas gifts. They are going to be gorgeous. Red, green and yellow varieties. Hot, mild, and medium respectively.

More potatoes are sprouting out of the ground each day. But how long before the frost kills the plants? That’s an experiment in progress. I’ll get a really good idea of how late is too late for a fall planting of potatoes.

The tomatoes are blooming again. I’m just going to go out there and cut those down and put them on the compost pile. There is no way those tomatoes are going to make it to maturity.

Culinary Herbs

The culinary herbs are going to need to be transplanted into pots. Eventually, they are going to go into a permanent herb garden. Don’t know if that will happen next year. Having them in pots for the winter will be fine though. Well, the basil and parsley are annuals. I’ll probably plant those in the garden again next year. For the rest, I really need to get cracking on designing exactly how I want that perennial herb garden planted.

Cows

The cows got to try out their new loafing area. I talked about that in the last podcast when I was talking about the creamery. Scott completed the area with fencing and a very ingenious gate system. The girls spent some time in there getting to know the area. Cows are creatures of habit. They are very calm and peaceful animals – until you put something in front of them that they have never seen before. Scott is getting them used to being in this area. At some point we will even walk them through the milking stanchion area several times before using it regularly for milking. They need to be comfortable with it and that takes some time and training effort to accomplish.

The calves are getting fat with all the milk they are getting. At the end of this month I will begin to wean them off the milk. By that time, Virginia will have developed her rumen enough to be fully self-sufficient on grass. Wendell is already at that point but I can’t really wean him without weaning her. He would just push up under her neck and dislodge her mouth from the bottle. He already does that if he finishes his before she finishes hers. She does the same. They are quite greedy for that milk. 

Creamery

Not much has been happening here. There is another wall that has been completed, but most of Scott’s time went into completing the loafing area and tweaking it a bit here and there. He did get the attic wall up. There was some acrobatics involved in that job. He was working in and around other sections and obstacles like the stairway. But it’s done and he is injury-free. That is always a worry for me. I’m a worrier. I admit it. Prayer helps a lot.

Quail

Those quail in the penthouse are doing really, really well. They only escape occasionally now. It’s like they have learned to run to the back of the cage when I open the door. Previously they seemed to only run toward the door and ended up falling out. Literally, they would fall out. Now they will sometimes fly out, but before they would run and their little legs were still churning as they unexpectedly fell to the ground. In two more weeks we will sort them out and decide which ones to keep and which ones go to freezer camp. We will be keeping quite a few extra through the winter this year.

Fruit

I noticed the Muscatine grapes are disappearing. We have two grape vines, one gold and one kind of bronze. They both produced grapes this year. Last year only the gold one produced. Anyway, this morning most of the grapes were gone. Probably a raccoon.

What You Can Do With Milk

I want to talk a little bit about what you can do with milk. You’ve heard me talk about making cheese but there is so much more.

Nature’s Perfect Food

Milk is one of nature’s most perfect foods. Like all high-quality perishable foods, milk is best when it’s fresh. Homestead milk from your own cow varies in flavor due to the seasons and grasses being consumed by your animals but you can count on it being sweet, light, delicious and wholesome with a fresh taste. Commercial milk has a cooked flavor. Every once in a while I end up taking a sip of regular milk from the store and it never ceases to amaze me the difference in taste. It tastes cooked. I never noticed it until I started drinking milk straight from the cow. Now it stands out like a sore thumb. I love my fresh milk.

Knowing what you can do with milk is important when you have a lot of it coming in every day. It also gives some insight into how you can use your creativity to learn to make lots of great tasting milk treats. You don’t have to have your own cow to make most of this stuff. You can use milk you purchase in the grocery store. Except for ultra-pasteurized milk, all will work just fine. Ultra-pasteurized milk will not make cheese or yogurt or any other fermented milk product.

Cream

Let’s start with cream. You get cream by skimming milk after it has been left standing for at least 24-hours. A caveat on what I just said about making things with store-bought products, cream these days generally has alginate added to artificially thicken it. It is quite harmless but adds to the demise of the flavor. Of course it is pasteurized as well so has that cooked flavor. Real sweet cream drizzled over apple pie is a delicacy everyone should try at least once in their life.

Personally, I like it with fruit. Think peaches and cream, strawberries and cream, blueberries and cream and so on. Yum, yum. Pour the cream over the fruit, stir it well, let it sit for an hour or so and you have a treat like no other.

Other cream treats include whipped cream and ice cream which usually has some milk but is mostly cream. Another treat you will want to try is clotted cream. That is a cream dish that is cooked in the oven. I have plans to do a podcast on just that topic in the near future. I also use some cream to make ½ and ½ for Scott’s coffee. I fill a quart jar with two cups of cream and then top it off with whole milk. That equates to a little more than ½ and ½ but I have found it to be a great blend.

Cream can be processed in other ways such as with making crème fraiche which is a type of cream cheese. I have a recipe for crème fraiche on the website. There will be a link in the show notes. You can make sour cream as well, I’ve just never been really successful with that so I’ll stick with crème fraiche.

The last thing I will mention about cream is making butter and ghee or clarified butter. The skimmed cream is placed in a butter churn and processed until the butter fat separates from the milk. Now you have butter and buttermilk. I’ve talked about this butter milk before. It is unlike the cultured buttermilk purchased in the store. This is the traditional buttermilk.

If you are making this traditional buttermilk, generally you set out whole milk overnight and let is sour slightly before churning the butter out of it. The resulting buttermilk was a treat my dad loved with all his heart. He talked of buttermilk poured over cornbread all the time. It was probably his favorite treat of all time.

The butter can now be packaged and frozen for a long time or used as needed. I keep mine out on the counter so it is always soft. If you do this, you will need to use it quickly (as I do) or it will go rancid. You can add Vitamin E to help keep it from going rancid, but ours never lasts that long. There are also tools called butter bells that help keep butter fresh on the counter. The butter is put in the bell and then set upside down on a dish of cold water. That keeps the air from reaching the butter and oxidizing the fat causing it to go rancid.

Ghee is made by further processing the butter. I have a recipe for ghee on the website as well. Basically the butter is melted and cooked on the stovetop until the little bit of milk proteins still left in the butter is separated from the fat. Clarified butter is reached as soon as the separation occurs and ghee is made by continuing to cook the butter until the protein bits are browned. Ghee is very shelf stable without refrigeration. I have some in jars on my canned food shelves right now.

Fermented Milk Products

Let’s move on from cream to other milk products. All of these require some type of fermentation. The buttermilk and crème fraiche I talked about are also fermented products. However, cheese and yogurt are probably the most common fermented milk products.

Yogurt

I love making yogurt with our milk. It is so easy and so yummy. I get so many compliments on it. “It’s so creamy”, they say. That’s because it is not made from powdered milk like the stuff you buy in the store. Not only is that product made from powdered milk, but they also add stuff to thicken it.

I make mine by heating the milk to a just below boiling, around 180 to 190 degrees, then quickly cooling it. This destabilizes the proteins. Once a temp of 117 or so is reached, I add in yogurt with active cultures at a rate of one tablespoon per ½ gallon of whole milk. I use my Cosori multi-function pressure cooker to complete the process. In eight hours I have delicious and nutritious yogurt. I have that yogurt recipe on the website as well.

Kefir

The last idea for what you can do with milk I am going to talk about today is kefir.

Kefir is a fermented milk drink similar to a thin yogurt that is made from kefir grains, a specific type of mesophilic symbiotic culture. The drink originated in the Caucasus, Eastern Europe and Russia, where it is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep milk with kefir grains. My kefir recipe can be found on our website. All of these recipes will have links in the show notes.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. We always have something going on at the homestead and I love sharing with all of you. Things will be winding down for the winter soon. Topics for winter conversation will be varied. I look forward to it.

I hope you enjoyed the information on various ideas for what you can do with milk. I didn’t talk about cheese because the previous podcast was about types of cheese. Refer to that one for ideas on using milk for cheese making. Check out all of my recipes on our website. All of my recipes are printable. Let me know how they work for you.

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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Types of Cheese

Today I’ll be talking about types of cheese. What I mean by that is things like fresh, aged, hard, soft, semi-soft and so on. Our specialty is semi-hard and hard aged cheeses, but there are many other types of cheese out there. So how are they different and how are they the same?

But first, 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 cannot say how much I appreciate you all. What would I do without you? Thank you so much for being here.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Fall is arriving in full force right now. The weather has cooled. I expect the leaves to show their glorious colors soon. It is the time of year when tourists come from all over to participate in the magnificent color painted all across the Appalachian Mountains. This year the season began way up in the northeast around the first week of September. As of this podcast in October 2020, we are at near peak color. Between now and the next seven days, the color will reach its height. In two weeks, it will be done and past.

Green Leaves

How about a little leaf trivia and 5th grade science review? Without the presence of Chlorophyll in the leaf, the bright golds, reds, yellow, and browns would be the natural colors seen year-round. Chlorophyll is key to a plant turning sunlight into glucose. Trees then feed on the glucose. When the leaves are saturated with Chlorophyll cells, they appear green to the eye.

Orange, Red and Yellow Leaves

There are other compounds in leaves that determine their color. Carotenoids, Anthocyanins, and Flavonols. Beta-Carotene is probably the most common carotenoid present in leaves. While absorbing blue and green light, it them reflects yellow and red light from the sun. These leaves appear orange. These are much more clearly visible as the sunlight and subsequent production of Chlorophyll decrease in the fall.

Anthocyanins actually increase in autumn. They provide the red color. Anthocyanins prolong the life of the leaf on the tree.

Finally, Flavonols are always present in leaves. These are the same flavonols that make egg yolks yellow. While they are always present in the leaves, you won’t see the yellow color until the production of Chlorophyll begins to slow.

Brown Leaves

The last step with the fall leaves is for the tree to close off the veins that carry water and nutrients to and from leaves. A layer of new cells forms at the base of the leaf stem. Water and nutrients no longer flow to and from the leaf. The leaf becomes brown, dies and eventually falls gracefully to the ground. If left in place, the leaves break down and create a rich humus on the ground. It holds moisture and nutrients for the trees and other plants.

That’s the cycle. Pretty cool isn’t it? Nature at its finest.

Let’s talk about the animals.

Cows

I talked about our new heifer, Rosie, last time. She is doing great. What a great addition to our herd.

Buttercup is still not pregnant. At this point, we have given up on her for this season. It’s important in a dairy operation that the cows all give birth within a relatively short window of time. That way they can all be bred back at the same time, give birth near the same time again, and so on. They will be “in milk” at the same time. We need that consistency to be able to plan our milk herd shares and to have enough milk to make larger batches of cheese for our cheese herd shares.

Buttercup is beyond that desired window. At this point, if she bred true today, she could not give birth before the end of June. Ideally, all of the cows are bred in June and July so birthing that late just doesn’t work for us. We will try again next year with our additional knowledge. We are still very much in the learning curve in raising cattle. Who knew it took so much knowledge and experience?

Sheep and Goats

We are not breeding the goats this year. We are down to 14 goat does. And we will be thinning those out over the next few years. Ideally, we will get down to maybe four to six does at the most.

The sheep on the other hand are nearing their peak fertile period and we will be breeding some of them. Currently, we have a dozen ewes and/or ewe lambs. Based on our discussions so far, we have decided to breed the four older ewes. That will give us anywhere from four to eight lambs in the spring. Their breeding cycle will start the first of November. So in about three weeks.

 Quail

The quail babies are doing really well. They have a few more weeks before we thin them out as well. We will be keeping quite a few extra hens and perhaps a few extra roosters through the winter just to make sure we have enough breeding stock to get started again in the spring. I don’t have a final count on that. There are just too many at the moment to tell which ones we will keep and which not.

Creamery

The dairy inspector came out and spent a couple of hours with Scott. They went over our proposed processes and mapped out what still needs to be done to be in compliance with USDA inspection requirements.

Scott also added another covered area for storage. I didn’t realize that he planned on this until he started digging new footers. Originally, he was going to do it later. But in the end, he decided to just go ahead and add it on. Otherwise, he would have to redo the roofing on that end of the building. So nearly all of the north wall has a 12-foot (I think that’s right) roof over it. Lots of room to store equipment.

On the west end of the building is the barn. And even farther west is what Scott calls the loafing area. It also has a roof covering. He completed an elaborate fenced in area with multiple gates that will allow for better movement of the animals as well as creating a multipurpose area for collecting, sheltering and working with them outside of the barn and milking parlor.

Garden

The garden is definitely winding down. I still have lots of culinary herbs. Many of the plants are still green, but I just need to get in there and clear them out – compost them. The tomato plants, the crowder peas, what’s left of the green beans and so on. The sunflower stalks need to be cleared out as well. I’m going to let the potatoes go for a little longer, though there will not be many of them. Still, there will be a few, I think.

The celery is ready to harvest. I hope to have some of that at the farmer’s market this weekend.

The pepper plants will simply be cut down in the end. When the first frost is predicted, I will pick everything I can and that will be the end. I’m making pepper jelly right now. I’ll have that at the farmer’s market as well. My plan is to have it all ready for the Christmas markets in late November and early December. Some will be red. Some will be yellow and some will be green. The red will be very hot, the yellow medium hot and the green will be made from sweet peppers.

Types of Cheese

I’m going to go over a few different types of cheese and what differentiates them one from another. I’ll go from the one with the most moisture to the one with the least. The moisture content determines texture and type of rind that will develop.

Fresh Cheese

These cheeses will typically be 19-24% fat. They have no rind at all. Fresh cheeses have a very high moisture content. Their texture can be stringy like mozzarella or mousse-like as in cream cheese or ricotta. When pickled in salt as with Feta, the curd is firm but crumbly. There are lots of variations with fresh cheeses that include wrappings such as leaves, coverings of herbs or being rolled in ash. Typically, a fresh cheese will be bright white and quite mild in lemony or lactic flavors.  

Soft White Rind Cheese

Think of Camembert, Brie or chevre. These cheeses grow a fine white crusty rind of penicillin candidum mold. This ripens the cheese and prevents it from drying out. The rind is mushroomy and the center paste is very soft. A really good camembert will melt at room temperature. Literally it will ooze out of the rind when you cut it. I love this stuff.

There are also double and triple cream versions.

Semi-Soft Cheese

Examples of semi-soft cheese are edam, reblochon and raclette. Typically, these cheeses develop a fine to thick gray-brown rind or an orange and sticky rind. The curd is lightly pressed to remove whey and create a rubbery, elastic texture. They attract a variety of gray, white and brown molds. The molds are brushed off regularly building a fine leathery rind. Edam has a rind that is barely formed and is generally milky, buttery and sweet. Thicker, denser rinds taste much stronger, more earthy. Think stinky cheese. Sometimes they are “washed” in some type of brine and sometimes wine or beer. This encourages the orange, sticky, bacteria to develop. That produces a much more pungent flavor and aroma.

Hard Cheese

These are the driest cheeses. The fat content is higher, around 28-34%. They are pressed for hours and hours to remove the whey and compact the curd. They also produce more complex and stronger flavors.

Our traditional cheddar is wrapped in cheesecloth or waxed to prevent it from drying out too much. Our alpine style is soaked in brine to begin the rind. These cheeses are stored for months at least and sometimes years, the flavor deepening and expanding with age. All sorts of molds are attracted; white, blue, gray, pink or yellow. They are brushed off during ripening which results in a thick, smooth and polished rind on our alpine style. The cheddar is also brushed off but ends with a much thinner rind. A parmesan rind can be very thick indeed.

That’s a very brief overview of types of cheese. There is so much more that goes into making one cheese or another, but those are some standard categories you can begin with to better understand the luscious art of cheese.

Heritage and tradition are very important to us so our cheese are based on time-honored European cheesemaking methods that we have adapted to our local conditions in southwestern Virginia. We embrace the changes in the seasons that lead to delicious and discernible variations in our cheeses.

Our cows graze all day on pasture and live a peaceful life. We practice integrity with all of our farming practices and give unending attention to our livestock.

The taste of each of our handcrafted cheeses reflects the animal’s health, diverse pastures, clean water, and soil minerals that go into the milk. All of our cheese is made with raw milk, completely hand made and slowly aged.

I have openings for raw milk cheese herd shares. Let me know if you are interested. You own part of our herd and can receive the benefits of the cheese produced. A half share provides you with about a pound of cheese per month and a full share – two pounds of cheese per month.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I hope you learned something about fall leaves. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to get out there and spend some time in God’s creation and soak up the vibes of those fabulous once a year, brief window of time, leaves. It’s truly a magical and glorious time.

The homestead is humming along; the animals are happy and healthy. The creamery gets closer and closer to completion with each passing day. Thank you so much for allowing me to share this adventure with you.

Types of cheeses is a fun topic and I only touched on it in this brief podcast. There is so much more we could talk about. Let me know if you are interested in our raw milk cheese herd shares and pass the info along to anyone else you know that may be interested. We live to share the health benefits of our hand made products. Hope to see you soon.  

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, please share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

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

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Fall is in the Air

Fall is in the air here in southwest Virginia. For us, that means the air is much cooler. The leaves are still quite green, but that will be changing soon. Fall in the Appalachian Mountains is the height of the tourist season. What will it be like this year? Who knows? But the leaves don’t care. They will do their thing and it will be beautiful.

Let me take a brief 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. Thank you all so much for your patronage. I appreciate you all so much. This show is for you.

So where have I been and what’s going on at the homestead?

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

You might have noticed I haven’t published a FarmCast episode in a couple of weeks. The first time I missed because I simply did not have the time. And last week I was in tremendous pain. I still am in fact. It’s nothing serious but it is painful. Somewhere in my spine about the level of the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rib I have some arthritic impingement on a nerve. I’m not sure which one but I am sure that it really, really hurts. Pain can really drag you down. It’s exhausting. My ability to think clearly is diminished and so on. This morning I got up determined to go on with my life and so here I am. Let’s talk about what’s happening on the homestead.

Cows

The biggest news I think is that we have added yet another animal to our homestead. She is a beautiful bred heifer named Rosie. We needed another milk cow for the spring and so the search began for a Normande bred heifer. The bad news is that there were none to be found. The good news is we never give up and just moved on to looking for another breed that had A2A2 and good milking genetics. We found Rosie.

Rosie is a Jersey so now we have two of them. I know, I know. We were going to sell Butter at some point so we would end up with only Normandes. So how did we come to add another one that we will also sell in the future? Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. We need milk in the spring. That means we had to get whatever was available. Rosie is adorable and a great addition to our homestead. Who knows, maybe one of you will buy her when we have built up our Normande stock. You will definitely know everything about her life and health if you listen to every episode.

The rest of the girls are doing fine. Violet and Buttercup came into heat yet again. So we know they were still not bred. The best option at this point was to put the bull that we have in with them and see if he can do the job that the AI is not accomplishing. We shall see in a few weeks if he was successful. So far it looks like Cloud, Claire and Butter are all bred but we won’t know for sure until the vet checks them. That will happen next month. We were going to do it this month but now that we have Rosie, we decided to wait a little longer to make sure we can check her as well.

I must say it has been a very frustrating breeding season for us. But that is just another day on the homestead. Challenges abound.

Quail

The last batch of baby quail chicks are doing well. They are in the penthouse now and getting bigger every day. We are going to keep all of the hens and maybe a rooster or two from this batch. Yes fall is in the air and this winter we will be experimenting a little bit more with adding more light to their cages so that they might lay an egg or two throughout the winter. Last winter, once they stopped laying, they didn’t give one single egg until later in March. Then the egg production bounced back to full capacity within a week. With the added hens and a little more light, we might just get a few eggs. We shall see.

Donkeys

I know the donkeys are going to need another manicure soon. That’s always an unpleasant task but needs to be done nonetheless. It’s not so much that it is unpleasant as it is that Scott has to get into very uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time in order to get the job done. But like so many tasks on the homestead, it must be done whether it is comfortable or not. Now that I think about it, that’s not so different than cleaning house. Some of those tasks are much less pleasant than others. Cleaning the bathtub comes to mind.

The donkeys had a good time a couple of weeks ago when a customer brought two of her children along when picking up her beef. I put together a spontaneous homestead tour and the donkeys were central to that. The young lady was the most interested in the animals. She even walked out into the field and braved the various moon pies to get a close up encounter with Virginia, Luna and Wendell. She only got a very brief time to lay hands on the calves before they decided to be elsewhere. But the donkeys – that’s a different story. Donkeys are very, very friendly beasts. They love human attention. Once they got over the strangeness of a person they had never seen before, they were grooving on the affection coming their way.

Sheep and Goats

The sheep and goats are doing well. We got yet another call from a neighbor a week or so ago that one of the goats was out on the road. I think I’ve mentioned that one doe that goes in and out whenever she chooses. So far, she hasn’t gotten herself run over and she’s back with the herd again.

The breeding ram that we have is a bottled-fed lamb from last year. He has four companions that were born this year. All of them are now in the field with the calves. That means I get to see them every day, twice a day when I go out to give the calves their bottles of milk. It’s such a pleasure to see that Lambert grew up to be such a great ram. His dad just keeled over and died last winter. We have no idea why. It happens. But Lambert will pick up the slack beginning in just over a month. Did I mention that fall is in the air? That means sheep breeding is closing in fast.  

Now that I think about it, I’m going to have to decide which ewes get bred and which not. Those chosen for breeding will need to be separated from the rest. Should we do six or eight this year? Last year it was eight, though the plan is for six. Eight worked out pretty well though. We shall see.

Garden

I had a friend come over and pick a whole bunch of tomatoes to take home and make sauce. I gave her everything I had and got some great blueberry jam in exchange. We are both very happy. It is likely that I will not even grow tomatoes next year. I have canned 35 quarts of diced tomatoes and a couple dozen jars of tomato sauce. What will I grow if I don’t grow tomatoes? What will I grow in their place?

Potatoes

The potatoes were apparently planted too late to make a fall crop. I’ll remember that for next year. When it pops up on the calendar, get it done. Don’t wait another four weeks or more before getting them in the ground. Out of about 85 or 90 potato starts, less than 10 have peeked their little leaves above the ground. The cooler days are great for growing good potatoes, but it also means the frost is coming soon. Oh well, there is always next year.

Sunflowers

We harvested all of the sunflowers and they are currently hanging up in the attic over the commercial kitchen and cheesemake rooms. I keep thinking about going up there to see how they are doing. But if I do that, it means that I will then have yet another task on my To-Do list that will need to get done. If I procrastinate, they will still be there and the tasks will still need to be done but I can keep my list shorter for just a little while longer. The illusion of being caught up with all of my tasks is maintained. That’s right. I can fool myself with the best of them.

Peas

The crowder peas are finally slowing down. I will likely plant even more of these gems next year. They are so easy to grow and we love them. It looks like next year the garden may be really heavy on beans and peas. I also plan to grow English peas. Perhaps even two crops of them. Green peas must be started early, before it gets hot. And likewise, this cooler weather is ideal for growing a second crop.

Beans

I’m pleased with the black, red, and white beans that I grew this year. The red and white beans put on bumper crops that are just now getting ready to complete their cycle. The black beans put on one crop and then died back. The other two died back some but then came back strong with a second, somewhat smaller, crop of great beans.

I only had two beds of green beans and could have used many more. This is the one thing that people ask for at the farmer’s market. I’ve heard that there is no money in them at the market but I will grow some extra next year to see why that is so.

Celery

One thing that I have in the garden that I have rarely talked about is the celery. It’s coming along now and I’m getting excited about harvesting some of it. This is another crop that looks like it won’t produce very much income, but I will bring a few to the market anyway. Mostly I just love to share the fruits of my labor. I will have plenty for myself as well. These lovely plants will get chopped up and put in the dehydrator. I’ve already used up everything I had from last year. There was a little mishap just about harvest time last year when the calves got the garden and ate most of the celery. This year, I’m looking forward to building up my stores of dried celery.

Culinary Herbs

This was my first year to grow a significant amount of culinary herbs. It has been a success for the most part. I’ve had lots of extras to sell at market and I certainly have plenty of fresh herbs for cooking and lots of herbs to dry and store for later. This is an area that I want to expand on in the future. However, the next step there is to create a permanent location. So many of them are perennials or annuals and biennials that will reseed themselves. They need a permanent location and, dare I say, an aesthetically pleasing area known as my herb garden. But where? Where is the perfect permanent location? We shall see.

Peppers

The last thing I’m going to talk about is the peppers. I love growing peppers. The problem with peppers is that just a couple of plants can produce so many peppers. I’m thinking of the hot ones right now. What do I do with so many serrano peppers? Anyone got suggestions?

Canning, Drying, Selling at Market

Some of the things I’m doing with all of them so far is canning, drying and selling a few at the market. I’ve canned some of those great banana papers that go so well on sandwiches. And the jalapenos are also great on sandwiches. And what about a mixed pepper with a blend of hot and mild peppers. That one didn’t come out as hot as I would have liked. I’m going to do another batch of those and add more serrano peppers to the recipe. After all, I have a ton of them.

Cayenne

Hanging up in my kitchen are three strings of cayenne peppers, about 2 or 3-feet each. They are gorgeous. I simply threaded a sewing needle and threaded them one after another on the string, put a fancy knot on each end so they won’t slip off and hung them up to dry. One strand is already pretty dry and the other two are well on their way. I don’t know if I will ever use that much cayenne pepper, but they sure make great kitchen decorations. I smile every time I look at them.

Pepper Jam

Another experiment I am doing this year is making pepper jam. I have all the ingredients and I have the task popping up on my calendar for a couple of weeks now. Alas, I haven’t gotten around to completing the task. But soon, very soon, that’s going to happen. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I didn’t get to the creamery and the updates there. That will have to wait until next time. There is some great progress going on there.

I hope fall is in the air for you as well and you enjoyed the virtual farm tour this week. The trials and tribulations of raising animals and vegetables are so worth it for us. We left the corporate world nearly four full years ago and have never looked back. Thank you so much for joining me as we make our journey. I hope you got a few ideas for yourself and how you might add a little bit of the homestead feel to your life.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, please share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

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

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Quail Chicks Hatched – WOW!

Quail chicks hatched – WOW!! How did I accomplish an 80% hatch rate? Well, I do follow specific procedures to ensure a better result. These procedures are working. I’ll talk about it today. Will it work for other eggs? I don’t know but you might try it and see if it works for your chickens or ducks or turkeys.  

Before I get started on that, 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. Thank you for turning in for the podcast. I truly appreciate you all so much. Thank you.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Garden

Today I’m going to start with the garden. Just this morning Scott and I harvested the rest of the sunflowers. All that is left out there are various heights of stalks with nothing on top. I see a bunch of tall green sticks with a few leaves. These latest sunflowers will be added to rest to be thoroughly dried. Once dried, we will get to pluck out all of the seeds. They will get an additional period of drying in a single layer just to make sure that they are completely dried and cured. Then I’ll store them in a mason jar. Well, I say A mason jar. More likely it will be many mason jars. I do have lots of half gallon jars and in a pinch I might use some of the gallon jars. I like to keep those for milk, but milking will end in a couple of months. If I can wait that long before getting into those seeds. We shall see how that goes.

I picked a few green beans this morning while Scott was moving the newly cut sunflowers inside the building. The Mexican bean beetles have decimated the plants. Likely this is the last bit of green beans for this year. The plants may come back but by the time they do and recover enough to bloom, the weather will be turning cold. It was a good year. In years past the beetles have taken over before I got the first picking. This year the plants were so healthy it took a while for the pests to arrive. Next year I may even try to control them and keep the beans going just a bit longer. I did little to stop them this year besides squish and squish and squish. And I didn’t do that every day. If I had, I would have controlled them a bit better. But I planted much more than we needed and am delighted to share with nature. When gardening without chemical pesticides it’s always best to grow enough for us and for them.

The bumper crop of purple hulled crowder peas keeps going and going and going. I canned nine pint-sized jars last week. A couple of days ago I picked another batch that will likely give me another half dozen jars of peas. When I picked that batch, I left behind at least as many still green to be picked in another few days. And to top it off, the plants are blooming again. I love growing this crop. They are very pest and disease resistant. Aphids to attack them and the ants farm the aphids. I just work around both of them and enjoy my peas. The plants always perform well with little attention. And every year they have bloomed and bloomed and bloomed through the season. As I said, they are very easy to grow and very tasty to boot.

I planted fall potatoes last week. We shall see if it was too late in the season. It will be days before I see any sign of plants. And weeks before any potatoes are produced. Will the frost kill them before that? We shall see.

Most of the culinary herbs are doing well. The basil, parsley, oregano and thyme are all doing particularly well. All of my cilantro died when I wasn’t looking. I don’t know what happened. I went out there one day and noticed they were all dead. There is always next year. I have plans for starting them inside and caring for them a little better than I did this year. The rosemary is still struggling along. I had to try several times just to get anything to sprout in the spring. Now they are growing very, very slowly. I may need to do more research on soil composition for them. I can’t think of anything else it could be.

Lastly the tomatoes. About five or six days ago I picked five 5-gallon buckets of tomatoes. I cleaned them up and put them on the ripening shelves. This morning I pulled out eight or ten that were rotting. Tomorrow is a big tomato processing day. Well, today is a big tomato processing day also. I’ll get to that in a minute. This very large batch of tomatoes will all be turned into diced tomatoes, I think. That will be the quickest and easiest method of preservation of such a large number of tomatoes. Well canning them whole would be the quickest, but I don’t use a lot of whole tomatoes. In fact, I don’t remember ever using whole tomatoes that I didn’t have to cut up when I opened the jar.

I’m estimating at least a couple dozen jars of diced tomatoes will be processed tomorrow. Perhaps more. Today, I’m cooking down tomato sauce. It’s ready to can. As soon as I finish this, I’ll get in there and start filling jars and getting that water bath canner going. Actually, I have two water bath canners that will hold seven quart jars each. I’ll be using both of them simultaneously. It’s going to be a late night.

While cutting the sunflowers this morning I took a quick look at the tomatoes. Just about the time that I get these hundreds and hundreds of lovely tomatoes processed, another batch will be ready to pick. Perhaps not another five buckets. Maybe only four this time. We shall see.

Cows and Pastures

The grass is growing. The cows are loving it. All day, that’s all they do. Wander around eating and eating and eating. After a while, they go lay down in the shade and begin chewing their cud. Then later in the day, they might go out again for another round of cropping the grass. What a peaceful life.

Will we need hay this winter? I need to ask Scott. Usually by this time of the year we have hay stockpiled for the winter. But not this year. I wonder what’s going on? Is this planned? An inquiring mind wants to know.

Goats, Sheep and Lambs

Everything is still going very well with the ovine animals. Did you know that is the species term for sheep and goats? Ovine. Bovine are cattle. Porcine are pigs. Equine are horses and donkeys. Ovine are sheep and goats. That’s your trivia for today.

All of our ovine are doing very well and I expect that to continue. The deep grass in the pastures keeps the parasites down. I’ve talked about this before. It’s easy to have a healthy herd of goats and a healthy flock of sheep if the pastures are maintained and the animals are rotated regularly to keep them from eating too close to the ground. That’s the secret.

Creamery

Creamery tasks are moving along. More details are being accomplished. There are many. Hurricane straps, closing in the gable walls, and soon to come, finishing filling in the cracks between the blocks. When doing the block work, Scott left many blocks with the spaces between each block was not filled in completely. There are a lot of these places. You can see through the cracks. Before the cold weather sets in, Scott intends to have all of these openings filled. The cold weather affects how the mortar sets up. The plan is to have that finished before it turns cold. Our first frost date is October 15th. And can you believe it is already September. Time flies when you are having fun.

The Quail Chicks Hatched

This is the last batch for this year. And it is by far the best batch. If you’ve listened to previous podcasts, you know that I put 80 eggs into the incubator. The normal average hatch rate is 70%. That means I could expect 56 eggs to hatch – on average. We had 64 eggs hatch. That is 80%; an unprecedented hatch rate. Now to be fair, we have lost two and may lose a third. But still. It is an incredible accomplishment. I achieved a 65% hatch rate, time before last. Last time only 64% hatch rate. Now that I am looking at those numbers, I don’t know if the 80% hatch rate is my procedures or luck. I used the same procedures for all batches.

The procedures are simple. I collect the eggs and put them points down into our egg cartons. Then I spray all of the shells with Listerine. That’s right Listerine. Don’t wash the shells. They have a protective coating on them that keeps bacteria out. I use the Listerine to deter the bacteria on the surface. The next step I take is to keep them cool but not cold. Of course, we have the advantage of having the nice cheese cooler where the temperature is kept at 52 to 55 degrees. It is the perfect temperature for eggs. The last thing that I do is tilt the egg cartons maybe 10 or 15 degrees from level. Each day I add new eggs and then tilt all of the cartons the other way. Each day the eggs are tilted in the opposite direction. It keeps the insides from sticking. I collect eggs for seven days and then put them all into the incubator. Some people advise spraying again with Listerine just before putting them in the incubator. I have not done that. Perhaps I will try it next year. What I am doing seems to be working really well so far.

Now, I want to go over the current quail chicks situation. Initially, 63 eggs hatched and one didn’t make it out of the incubator. Two others hatched the day we moved the bulk of the little guys out to the brooder. Again, they have to come out of the incubator within three of hatching. The first four hatched on Friday at 16 days. Eighteen days is the average time for hatching quail eggs. We usually hear the first peeps on day 17. So, this was the first novel thing that happened with this batch at 16 days. Three days later, we moved 60 quail chicks to the brooder. There were two chicks that hatched just a little bit earlier in the day. I judged them both to be too weak to move out. They stayed in the brooder until this morning.

The first night in the brooder we lost one chick and then another this morning bringing the total to 58 in the brooder. The two that were left in the incubator were definitely strong enough this morning and I moved them out with the others. We are back to 60 in the brooders. Two brooders with 30 chicks each. From where did the 64th chick come.

After moving those last two out with the others, I went back to clear the egg shells out of the incubator and I found another egg just hatching. I heard him peeping and found the egg with the crack in it. I’m not sure he will make it. The little guy looks to be having trouble standing, but we shall see. I helped him out of the shell and have been keeping an eye on him all day. The membrane inside the shell was stuck to one of his wings and I had to gently pulled it free. That is what happens when you open and close the incubator while they are hatching. The membrane kind of collapses and shrinks over them. He is looking better but I won’t know for a day or two whether he will actually make it.

This batch of quail chicks has been yet another adventure. The time frame from first peeps to today is five days. That’s also unusual. A full seven days will have passed before this last little guy goes out with the others. Life on the homestead is always bringing new surprises.

Final Thoughts

That’s all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed the latest quail story. These birds are so wonderful. And the birth cycle is quick so I get to see it a lot. New life is always fascinating and quail chicks give the opportunity for multiple experiences each year.

The rest of the homestead is moving along in these last days of summer. Soon the season will change and the routine will change. I’ll keep you posted.

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, please share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

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

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Harvest Season

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

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

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

Cows

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

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

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

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

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

Well enough of that. What about the sheep?

Sheep

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

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

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

Quail

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

If you enjoyed this podcast, please hop over to Apple Podcasts, SUBSCRIBE and give me a 5-star rating and review. Also, please share it with any friends or family who might be interested in this type of content.

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

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