Homestead Update and Health Update

It has been a while so how about a homestead update and health update. I republished a couple of podcasts. I hope you got a chance to listen for the first time or relisten if you were interested in the topic of cheese.

It’s going to be close, but I think I can get this podcast published today. Let’s hope all goes well and I am able to accomplish it. If it doesn’t, I am likely to abandon the effort for another week. My life is topsy-turvy and I only have so much time each day to take care of any given task. When things don’t go well, they get pushed to the next day. It’s my method of reducing stress. Let’s pause a moment.

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 hanging in there with me. I appreciate you all so much. Let’s have a homestead update and then a little info on the status of our health here at Peaceful Heart Farm

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

The cows are coming up first.

Cows

Last night at about 9:15 we got a call from the neighbors across the street. Two of our cows were in their yard. Who could they be? There were two groups of cows with two animals. I knew it was most likely the two that were scheduled for freezer camp this morning. Sure enough, those two guys were out there wreaking havoc in the neighbor’s yard and trying to get into the pasture with their cows.

It was a little harrowing to be trying to work with two very large boys in the dark. However, all of our cows are fairly docile. They were upset and confused of course. I believe that I’ve mentioned before that a cow does not like anything out of the ordinary. They want things to be the same all the time. Routine, routine, routine. So needless to say, everything about this situation was out of the ordinary.

Perrin is Secured

Nearby, just 20 or 30 feet down the driveway, was a gate to a paddock. Scott opened that gate and Perrin almost immediately went inside. Rocketman was a different story. He went back and forth in front of that gate at least three or four times, never venturing inside. Finally, he started down the driveway and Scott herded him that way and away from the neighbor’s cows. I followed with the car. Of course, once we got him down the driveway the next challenge was finding a way to get him into a pasture.

Scott chased him up and down one fence a couple of times. I opened up a couple of gates. One was a gate back to where he escaped. The other was into the field with our nursery girls. It was a little risky letting him in there, but we needed some way to get him into some fence somewhere. Once he was back inside our perimeter fence, there were many options as to how to move forward.

Rocketman is Secured

Rocketman eagerly went through the very wide-open gate into the pasture with the girls. The girls themselves were way out in the field. We needed to get him contained before he joined with them. That would be a disaster if we had to single him out from that crowd in the dark. Scott quickly contained the girls in paddock number one. Perrin was in paddock number two. And Rocketman was in the travel lane that joins with all paddocks.

The goal was to isolate both boys in the small holding area just inside the gate I opened for Rocketman. He had already walked most of the way down the travel lane toward the other paddocks. Scott met him coming the other way while herding Perrin down the travel lane toward the holding area. I was over in paddock number four which runs directly alongside the travel lane. I wanted to be close but not in the travel lane. That would have just confused everything and possibly herded them back out into the field in an attempt to get away from me.

Chasing Cows Around Paddock Four

Now for the next debacle. There are two gates at the bottom of a hollow. One opens into paddock four where I am and one opens or closes the travel lane where Scott and the boys are walking. I’m a little way up the hill in paddock four, just monitoring how they are moving. Everything looks Ok. Scott is coming down the travel lane headed toward the holding area. I just happened to mention that the gate into paddock four is open and they might come in there instead of continuing up the hill into the holding area. And you know what? That is exactly what they did. Now we are reduced to chasing them around paddock four, still trying to get them to go back through the gate and up to the small holding area.

All Ends Well

At some point I went down and closed the gate to the travel lane. No sense in letting them run back up that way. Now all we needed to do is get them to go through the other open gate out of paddock four and into the holding area. Somewhere along the way in this process, I noticed that part of the problem we were having is that they would go wherever the light was shining. Our headlamps and flashlights were actually confusing them. As Scott brought them back down the hill for the third or fourth time, I had just finished latching that travel lane gate. I shined my flashlight in the exact place I wanted them to go. It worked. Right through the gate they went. The travel lane gate was closed and now the gate into paddock four could be closed.

Whew what a trip. It lasted about 45 minutes. Shortly after 10 o’clock we were back inside and grateful for it.

The Girls

The girls continued to happily exist up in paddock number one until the next morning. After loading the boys into the trailer, he opened the paddock gate allowing the girls access to the pond for water and cooling baths.

Last week we had our vet and AI tech out checking to see who is and is not pregnant. There was good news and bad news. Three are pregnant and three are not. We are going to roll with that for the spring.

Buttercup

The vet gave us health information on the entire herd. Buttercup did not conceive. This is two years in a row. The vet talked to us about her weight. Too much fat is not a good thing, especially in an aging cow. I won’t go into the details, but her opinion was that, not only had she not conceived, but it was going to be harder and harder for her to conceive as she ages more. She will need to be replaced.

Cloud

Cloud was pregnant but miscarried. The vet was not too concerned about this. A late term spontaneous abortion would be a different story. But aborting early in the process is not so uncommon. We decided against trying to start over with any of our girls. Cloud is also marked to be replaced. Not because of her miscarriage, but because she kicks so much that we cannot milk her. Due to her strong angus genetics, she is also not really ideal as a milk cow. She simply does not produce as much milk as the others. Not by a long shot.

Claire

Claire appears to be pregnant but the vet could not 100% confirm it. She did mark her as pregnant but noted that she could not move the uterus to a position where she could know for sure. However, the fact that she could not move it was a good indication that Claire is pregnant. We shall see. Claire is also marked for replacement as she is getting on in years and is prone to mastitis. Her udder is in bad shape. She produces enough milk for her calf and not much more.

Luna

Now on to one we will keep for a little while, though we may offer her up to anyone looking for a family cow. Luna is pregnant. She is a heifer which means this will be her first calf. We do not expect her to produce lots and lots and lots of milk. Her mom is Cloud and Luna exhibits a lot of the angus coloring traits. We don’t really know how much milk she will produce, but it is likely that it will be substandard for what we are looking for in a milk cow. However, it may be perfect for someone looking for a little milk for their family and a good beef calf every year. We shall see. At this point, her fate is still up in the air.

Violet

Just a brief note on Violet. She did not make it into the rotation for artificial insemination. And we did not expose her to the bull. She is not pregnant and will remain open for the coming spring birthing season. In June next year, she will make it back into the breeding rotation. Violet has really good Normande breeding genetics. She has the BB kappa casein genetic trait that we want for cheesemaking. I asked about her weight and the vet said that even though her belly is really big and round, she is not overweight near her ovaries and therefore does not have Buttercup’s issue with weight. She’s a keeper for now.

The Jerseys, Butter and Rosie

Now on to the Jersey girls. Butter is a champ. She is pregnant and looking good. No issues there. Rosie, on the other hand, is not pregnant. The vet had already warned me that this was the most likely issue with a heifer having a calf when she was so very young. Getting pregnant again might take a little time.

Scott and I were just discussing this morning that we might want to have one cow that gives birth in the fall so we have some milk year-round. Right now, we dry them up in November and have no fresh milk products until March or April the following year. Rosie might be an ideal candidate for a fall delivery. We shall see. There are still a couple of months ahead of us before we would need to make that decision.

Special Cheeses

Any cow that gave birth in the fall would be completely out of the rotation for making cheese. Do we really want to give up that milk? It’s still under consideration. It would be nice to have a very small amount of milk to make cream cheese and yogurt throughout the winter. And perhaps a bit of camembert, reblochon or other cheese that we might make in smaller quantities for personal use.

Calf Sharing

If we decide to do that, we would do what is known as calf sharing. That means the calf stays with mom. Anytime we want to have milk, we simply separate them overnight and milk in the morning. For any of you thinking about having your own milk cow, this offers tremendous freedom. Normally, cows get milked twice a day. But if you are calf sharing, the calf takes care of the milk during the day. Overnight mom makes lots of milk and we get to keep that part. The calf rejoins mom and gets all of the luscious milk throughout the day. As I mentioned earlier, even Luna would produce enough milk to make this work. And if the day comes when you don’t want to milk at all on any given day, just leave calf and mom together for the entire day and night. It’s a win-win situation. The calf really appreciates the extra juice and the homesteader gets a break from milking every single day, seven days a week.

Well, that was a lot of cow updates. On to the sheep. I won’t be as long-winded here I promise.

Sheep and Mack

Mack is doing a good job of protecting the few sheep that we have left in the flock. We had one ewe that had an abscess on her chest. The vet drained it and gave us instructions on how to care for it. She is nearly healed already. Lambert, the ram had deeper issues. We don’t really know the cause but he had some pretty severe hoof issues. The vet seemed to think it was perhaps related to running around trying to get away from predators that precipitated this issue. His feet were really sore. She tried trimming his hooves but there wasn’t really much there. We treated all of the sheep for hoof scald and hoof rot. This is a problem that we are aware of but have never encountered. It usually happens when their hooves are not in top shape and they are exposed to a lot of water. And it appears, that lots of stress on the hooves can caused problems.

Worms Again?

In addition to the hoof problem, Lambert also had an enormous worm load. He had lost lots and lots of weight. He is still actually quite weak. The worms suck the blood out via the stomach. The animal becomes very anemic. It does take some time to heal. Hopefully, Lambert will turn the corner soon and regain his weight and strength. He was pretty far gone and his health is still up in the air.

The remaining two seems to be in relatively good shape. We wormed all of them just to be sure. Lambert’s worm overload was also likely precipitated by the enormous amount of stress they all endured during the predator attacks. Stress can weaken their systems enough to give the worms the window of opportunity they need to begin to multiplying uncontrollably.

It has been a good long time since we had any issues with worms and we may have been a little lax. Going forward we will be keeping a closer eye on these guys. Hopefully, they will all stay relaxed and continue to live peacefully on the homestead.

We are also still looking to add a few more ewes to the flock soon. Rebuilding will take some time and we want to get started on that process. Two more dogs are lined up to help us out as we rebuild from the disastrous spring and summer. More on that later.

Personal Health Update

Before closing today I’ll give a brief health update for both Scott and myself. Scott is doing very well with treatment. He is two and a half weeks into seven weeks of radiation treatment. No chemo, thank the Lord. He drives an hour each way to receive the treatment, Monday through Friday. I will be accompanying him in the coming days.

He is managing the treatment very well. A sore throat makes it more and more difficult to eat. There are lots of treatments to help with that as well. Taking daily naps is a way of life for him. Sometimes for a couple of hours, but yesterday for only a half hour. We are still fairly early on in the treatment so we will see how he progresses.

Treatment Side Effects

At this point in the treatment, the worst side effects start to manifest. I already mentioned the difficulty in getting food down due to the pain in his throat. Add to this that his taste will change. Doctors have let him know that everything will begin to taste horrible. Their experience has shown that the taste issue will continue for a month or two or even more past the time when the treatments are complete. As you can imagine, this adds insult to injury. He already has trouble swallowing. How much worse will it be when he has to force himself to even put anything into his mouth?

Scott is a trooper. He is a stoic individual. I fully expect he will plow through this just like he does any other issue that presents itself to his world. I am here to support him in any way that I can.

My Health

My state of health is stable. That is the best way I can describe it. The time prior to the treatment starting was more stressful. I can say that at this point. Who knows what the future will hold? I could be off-the-scale stressed next week. The uncertainty of what the future would hold, one appointment after another in preparation for treatment and my own insecurity about whether I was mentally and emotionally up to the task of caring for Scott was wreaking havoc on my normal schedule and making me a little cray-cray. Now that we are settled into a routine, I am handling it much better. I feel much more relaxed and confident in my ability to respond to Scott’s needs as they arise.

We are blessed to have all of you praying for us. Thank you so much. Please continue to pray for us and we will pray for you.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I know the cow updates were long and perhaps too detailed. I didn’t even get to the quail. Well, too late now. I need to get this podcast published and then on to the evening chores. It’s time to wake Scott up from his nap so he can start on his evening routine. The regularity of routine is a life saver when your life is topsy-turvy.

Again, thank you so much for your prayers.

And I will add the shameless plugs because we need your support. If you enjoyed this podcast, please go to Apple Podcasts or Google Play 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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A Cancer Diagnosis and a Change in the Podcast

A cancer diagnosis is causing temporary changes to the podcast. We have had a cancer diagnosis and that will affect what I am able to do on a daily basis. I will be caring for Scott and picking up a lot of tasks he normally handles. In the end, it looks like he will be fine. However, getting to that end point will entail traveling a very difficult road of chemo and radiation.

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, even more so right now.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

I’m going to start with a few more details about our health situation and then give you a few livestock and garden updates.

A Cancer Diagnosis

Over the past four weeks we have been to one appointment after another. Specialists, CAT scan, biopsy, surgery and a couple more specialist appointments all in little more than 30 days. Scott has had both tonsils out and the healing for that procedure is quite lengthy for an adult. I’ve been milking the cows on my own and with a little help with the heavy lifting from a neighbor. It has been going pretty well.

Getting things in Order

Scott and I are streamlining as much as possible so we can get through this time period with less stress. We have plenty of cheese stored up, so I will not be making any more cheese for the rest of this milking season. Milking twice a day changed to once a day almost immediately. That reduces the amount of milk that we are handling on a daily and weekly basis. Between the great herd share folks, feeding the calf, making yogurt and having drinking milk for ourselves, I think we will be in good shape here. Oh yeah, and making butter every so often as well.

Cheese Cave Changes

We are changing how we store the cheese in the cheese cave. Scott handles all of that, and rather than me trying to add that to my already full schedule, we are going to try vacuum packing a lot of the cheeses. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Garden Changes

The garden is in full swing and there is not much I can do about that except get out there every day or so and bring in the harvest, process it quickly and move on to the next task. I’ve determined that if I get behind on that, the compost pile will be loving it.

Podcast Changes

The biggest change will be with this podcast. It takes a tremendous amount of time to put out each episode. My plan is to replay some of the older episodes. If you are new this will be a benefit for you. And if you are a long-time listener, I hope you will bear with me as we get through this time. The doctor let me know to expect drastic changes in lifestyle for four to six months. We can do this.

Now for a few homestead updates.

Creamery

Of course, the creamery is completely on hold. This will be my last mention of that for several months.  

Cows

The cows are hanging in there. I’m a little worried about getting hay to them in the winter. I’ll be looking for help from a neighbor or two in that regard. Moving them from one pasture paddock to another is something I can easily handle. But when the grass runs out, they will need hay brought to them. That means someone who knows what they are doing with a tractor. That’s not me. Fortunately, that task can be done once or twice a week in an hour or so and should not be too much of a burden for those helping us through this time.

Sheep

The sheep are hanging out with Mack, the sheepdog. They seem to be getting along quite well. We may add a few sheep back to the flock over the next few weeks. Again, moving them from place to place is not hard. So, having six or eight instead of four is not a big deal. We shall see how that plays out. If it seems stressful to try and accomplish it, I will let that do as well. There is always next year.

Donkeys

Because we now have a livestock guardian dog, the donkeys are going on to another home. This is a high priority in the next few weeks. The donkeys require regular hoof care that I simply will not be able to provide. It will be better for all of us if they get resettled soon.

Garden and Orchard

The green beans are done. I’ll be canning the last batches this week and next. The crowder peas are just coming on. Today, I packed up quite a few one-pound bags for the farmer’s market tomorrow. There are more out there to pick. Crowder peas are an overall joy for me. I like picking them, shelling them and, most of all, eating them.

The tomatoes are also just starting to ripen. They are ripening quite late this year. I’m happy that there is a lot of plant and not so many fruits. I really have no idea what I am going to do with these tomatoes. They are slicing tomatoes. Perhaps I will make the effort to get them to the farmer’s market.

Again, if any of these tasks falls behind or becomes overwhelming, the compost pile is always open to new food additions.

The last of the fruit is picked. I have several gallon bags of blackberries in the freezer. I can make jelly out of that at my leisure – even next year if needed. Scott harvested the elderberries this year. The bushes have been producing for a few years now but this is the first time we’ve taken the time to harvest the berries.

Elderberries are really, really small. They form small tree-like bunches all over the bush. Scott snipped off each little tree and filled a five-gallon bucket. Then he gently stripped the berries off of the twigs. I believe I have maybe a gallon and a half of those berries. I’ll be processing those in the next few days. They will be made into elderberry syrup. It’s good for sore throats and general immune system support. Lots of vitamin C.

Final Thoughts

That’s about all for today. Again, I will be rerunning some older podcasts beginning soon. If I feel up to it, I may create a new one here and there. Please bear with me and please pray for Scott over the next few months.

Oh, I almost forgot. So many have asked how they can support us. Number one is please pray for us. Number two, if you live near, I may need your help from time to time to get Scott to and from his appointments – and with the hay, as I mentioned above. These are my most pressing concerns.

This will be a huge financial hit for us between the medical bills and the loss of income from products we would normally produce. If you feel moved to help us out financially, there is a very large “Donate” button on our farm website. You will find it on the podcast page.

I originally set this up for donations to support the podcast in general. I have not promoted it, instead footing the bill for the podcast from our profits. At this time, I will open it up for all of you. Not only will you be supporting the cost of the podcast, but at this time you would also be supporting our homestead in general. You can make a one-time donation or set up a recurring, monthly donation.

You can also send money via PayPal. Our PayPal email is melanie at peaceful heart farm dot com.

Please know that listening and sharing the podcast is also supporting us. It is absolutely one of the best ways to support us. Share it on all of your social media and with friends and family. That helps the most to grow the podcast.

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 I Love About Homesteading

Today I want to talk about what I love about homesteading. Quite a few of the previous podcasts have contained lots of information about animal predator issues we have been having. I know it has been a real downer. As for me, it has definitely been a downer and I want to do this podcast to bring a balanced perspective and more positive outlook on our life here on the homestead. We don’t always have such a bad time of it. In fact, what I love about homesteading is a much better representation of what it is like for us most of the time.

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. I can’t thank you all enough. I appreciate you all so much. And I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week. We have big news.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

The greatest thing is finally happening. If all goes well over the next few days, we will have a new dog on the homestead.

Sheep and Goats

We had yet another attack on our sheep. This time it was dogs. The tracks left behind were definitely from dogs. At least two. I’m not going to give the details this time, but we are down to four animals. The flock ram, a yearling and two breeding ewes. Thank God for the imminent arrival of a livestock guardian dog.

We can now rebuild our sheep flock and start a new goat herd. The most stressful thing about the whole situation is that we could not rebuild the flock or introduce the new goat breed we are adding to the homestead. I wanted to get back to normal flock size but we simply could not risk bringing new animals onto the homestead that would simply be killed by stray dogs. They are still out there. Yesterday we found dog tracks down in the very creek bed where the previous destruction occurred. It had rained hard the day before. These tracks were fresh yesterday. I’m so grateful that we have finally found a dog. Let me tell you a little bit about him.

Mack the Catalonian Sheep Dog

Mack was rehomed from a family that sold all of their sheep and therefore he no longer had a job. He was born and raised in the pasture with livestock, which is what we were looking for in a guardian dog. The lady from which we are getting him has had him for just a few months. She began having a bit of an issue with him going to visit the neighbors while she was not there during the daylight hours. At night he protected his animals.

Wandering is Not Good

As she does not live on that farmland where he was housed, he began seeking company elsewhere. She expected him to stay with the animals all the time. It seems that while she was only a few miles away, he still needed to know a human was around and sought out the neighbors to fill that role. We are hoping that because we are here all the time, he will be comfortable knowing we are always around and that he will be diligent about staying with the sheep. We shall see.

It has been many, many years since either of us has had a dog. I, for one, am looking forward to this new adventure. I hope Mack will be happy with us and with his new flock of sheep.

Adding the goats later will be an interesting exercise in introducing new animals to Mack. I’m sure I’ll be regaling stories of the ups and downs of livestock guardian dog ownership. Stay tuned.

Cows

We are still waiting on Violet to come into heat. Does it seem like to you that we are always “waiting on Violet” for something? I know it seems like it to me. We are pretty confident that all of the other girls are gestating a new calf. Will Violet get with the program? Only time will tell. She needs to conceive in the next few weeks or we end up in the same situation again. We have just a few weeks to meet our schedule of having her pregnant and due for delivery no later than the last week of April.

Quail

New quail babies will hatch in a few days. I have 84 eggs in there. I’m not sure what is going to happen this time. A couple of days ago we had a power outage. A tree fell on a line during a particularly heavy thunderstorm. We were out of power for several hours. This is not a problem during any time when the incubator is not running. After about an hour, we started the generator and plugged in the incubator. The temp was quite low and the humidity was really high due to the moisture from the rain. It stabilized quickly but I have no idea how this will affect the hatch rate.

I was going back and forth trying to decide between getting a battery big enough to jump start the car or one that would simply be enough for the cell phone and credit card reader. I need those two things working when I’m at the farmer’s market. This power outage clarified that decision.

HALO Bolt

There is a product called Halo Bolt and there are several different models. It comes with a small set of jumper cables, a couple of USB connections and even a place to attach a small device with an AC plug. It costs just under $100 dollars.

On the other hand, I can get a small charging device without the AC outlet and jumper cable capability for about 20 bucks. I was leaning in that direction. I just got a new car battery and don’t expect to have to use the jumper cables for quite a few years. But the experience of being without power for the incubator has convinced me to invest in the more expensive unit.

Let’s Get One and Test It Out

We cranked up the generator. But that was overkill for one little incubator. The more practical solution would be to be able to plug it into that battery for a little while. At least I think that will work. It is designed for charging a tablet or laptop, but I believe you can plug in any AC cord and run the device. We shall see. I’ll give it a try and let you know how it turns out. These are the kinds of things for which everyone needs to be prepared. You simply never know when the power is going to be out. For you it might be that you need to be able to charge your cell phone. For us, it’s going to be keeping the incubator running for those quail eggs.

Garden

I have three 5-gallon buckets of green beans in the cooler. We picked them Sunday evening. Tomorrow I’ll be packaging them up for the farmer’s market. They look beautiful. I’m so glad we got this great harvest. In the next few weeks, the Mexican bean beetles will come out and take over the plants. We don’t use any pesticides on our garden, not even the organic ones. We pick them off or squish them. But using this method ensures that eventually the bugs will win. Planting extra and making sure the plants are healthy and not a magnet to bugs are my two strategies for pest control and reaping a decent harvest.

There are small tomatoes all over the place out there. That’s going to be another great crop to harvest in the very near future.

Orchard

In the orchard, the blackberries are all that is left to pick. Scott cleaned out the wild blackberries that have thorns so it is easy for me to pick the remaining blackberries. We still have quite a few that are red and not yet ripe. I have a couple of gallons in the freezer right now. My plan for those is to steam the juice out of them and make seedless blackberry jelly.

I don’t know what happened to the apples. We had several trees that had apples for the first time ever but those apples disappeared. I suspect the deer that briefly invaded the orchard area is the culprit there. There is always next year.

I was hoping to see the strawberries bloom again. They are supposed to be everbearing. The deer ate all of the green leaves a while back, but they have grown back and the plants look great. Still waiting on those blooms and more strawberries.

Creamery

Still nothing going on here. It may be another couple of weeks before anything gets going again in the creamery. Scott is so busy with the high summer tasks of keeping the fields and orchards cut. Repairing fences takes up him time and so on. He has three or four more fields to mow and then maybe he can get back on the creamery tasks. You never know though. Some other tasks may come up. We shall see. Let’s talk about what I love about homesteading.

What I Love About Homesteading

I’m just going to run through a list of things that came up when I thought about what I love about homesteading. They are not in any particular order.

Setting my own schedule

The first thing that I love is that I’m in charge of when I get up and go to work. I say this with some ambiguity. It’s not like I can sleep until noon on any given day. In fact, there are still chores that need to be done on a regular basis, usually at a particular time. But as I have chosen to make those chores part of my life, I’m still in charge. I’m free to change the routine at any time. It might involve changing what animals we house here, but I certainly have that option.

Daily Planning Meetings

Another thing that is an absolute delight is having daily meetings with Scott about what we are going to do on any given day. It is a continuation of the hours and hours that we spent dreaming about what we were going to do once we were living here all the time, no longer working for someone else. We still dream together on a daily basis.

Making cheese

Once a week I make cheese. I love making cheese. It is a peaceful occupation. Sometimes it requires a bit of heavy lifting and that makes me tired, but in the end, I get these wonderful masterpieces of cheese on which to gaze. The entire process is still so amazing to experience, even though I’ve done it hundreds of times. To see liquid milk turn into a solid wheel or two or three of cheese is still awesome to see.

Gardening

Gardening without having to work it in around other things, well for the most part. This is like saying I set my schedule. There are sometimes when I need to do things in the garden but I also need to make cheese or go to the bank or clean the bathroom and so on. So, I do end up working it in around other things. But what I don’t have to do is try to work it in after a day at the office or in a limited time frame on the weekend. I have the whole week to figure out where I am going to fit in the gardening.

Perhaps this sounds too simple. But we spent years and years driving back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina for work. I had all day Saturday and Sunday until 6 pm to get all of the gardening done as well as laundry and cleaning and on and on. The garden was always overrun with weeds. It was not really that fun. Now it is a joy. And of course it is hard work when it is 85 or 90 degrees out, but it is a good work out. And if I don’t get it all done in one day, I have other days in which to work out when to get out there and water, weed, and pick veggies.  

Experiencing the Seasons

Experiencing each of the seasons up close and personal is part of our everyday life. The gardens brought that to mind. In the past, we experienced spring, summer, fall and winter as changes in temperature. Perhaps whether it snowed or rained was the most important aspect of the season but daily activities remained pretty much the same. Get up, go to work, come home, watch a little TV, go to bed and then do it all over again.

Now, each season brings us a change in what we do on the homestead. There is a lot of activity associated with spring, summer and fall. But each activity is different. In general, spring time is for planting, summer for weeding and watering and the fall is all about the harvest and preserving the harvest. Some of that happens all along the way, but in general, this is how I think about my life. The primary focus in the spring is getting the planting done. The primary focus in the summer is weeding and water, though there is a lot of harvesting happening as well. It just moves around a lot from one plant to the next to the next. In the fall, it is all about getting everything in and preserved for later use.

I Love Winter

And I never thought I would say this, but I love the winter now. It is a time to slow down, take stock of what worked and what needs to be changed in the next season. I used to hate winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder is something I have struggled with most of my life. As the winter season wore on, I would get more and more inactive and more and more depressed.

Recently, in the last few years, I’ve changed my diet, eliminating most carbohydrates. My moods stabilized. Now I experience the winter with joy. I still slow down. That’s why winter is useful. It is a time to rest up and revitalize the roots so the organism is strong and bursting with energy in the spring. I’m having a great experience with that deep revitalization in the winter. And I’m ready to get up and go when spring arrives.

Losing Track of the Day and Hour

Not knowing what day of the week it is or what time of day it is can be a little disconcerting. But I really only have to think about it once or twice a day. In the morning I determine what day it is and what I need to accomplish for the coming days. Things like getting ready for the farmer’s market or doing a podcast or newsletter. These things are done on specific days so I need to be ready for that. Otherwise, I check my list of things to do and get going on the first item.

In the evening there is a bit of reflection on what to prepare for the next day. One of the farmer’s markets requires me to get up at 5:15 am and the other 6:00 am. Other days of the week, the alarm goes off at 6 but we may or may not get up immediately. We have some leeway on those days. But market days, we pop up and get going as soon as the alarm sounds.  

New Life

The new births that happen in the spring. I never get tired of the new births. It is stressful for me, as I’ve said before. But I wouldn’t trade that joy of new birth for anything in the world.

Tours for Kids

Sharing our homestead with kids that come to visit. They love it so much. I watched a group of 8 kids just a few days ago which they explored the quail. They delighted in watching these quirky birds. They didn’t just look at them and say, “Oh they are cute.” No, they watched and watched and watched them. They looked into each section of the cages. They opened the cage doors and looked for eggs. It was so beautiful to see.

Clean Eating

Another thing I love about the homestead is cooking with ingredients that I raised myself. I know the exact contents of everything I eat. It was either raised by myself, purchased or bartered for it from another farm or homestead, or I purchased a single ingredient item in the store. This was the first and most important reason that we started our dream of living the homestead life.

I get so tired of reading the labels on foods in the grocery store and seeing all kinds of things that I cannot even pronounce. There are so many fillers and everything has sugar or wheat or gluten added. Even the meats now are injected with flavoring and fillers to bulk up the product. The label says something like, “contains 10% of something or other” to maintain freshness or enhance flavor or whatever. That’s 10% of the meat that is something that did not originate with the animal. I’m so glad those days are past.

Spending Time in the Kitchen

I get to spend lots of time in the kitchen storing food and being food self-reliant. When working for someone else, time in the kitchen was a dreadful activity. Mostly, I wanted to eat out as much as possible. Who wants to cook after working all day? I’m ready to sit down and let someone else do the work. Of course, I was eating a lot of really bad stuff. Chinese take out was a favorite. There is a lot of sugar in that stuff. So that is all in the past. I spend time in the kitchen when I choose.

Sometimes I make a meal that will last for days. In the intervening days, I might be making jam or canning pickled peppers. Canning is another task that I used to dread when I worked for other people. Pressure canning was something I had to do and I had to do it right away in a limited time frame on Saturday or Sunday. It was stressful. Now there is still stress to get the harvest processed but the window of time has expanded. I have every day, seven days a week to plan for the next harvest and canning session.  

Long Term Dreaming/Planning Sessions

Long term planning of the next step in our journey or modifying the previous plan is just as wonderful now as it was when we were just dreaming. We spent years dreaming about what we were going to do once we lived full time on our homestead. Of course, we wanted to do everything. We soon found out that we had to pick and choose what to do. There are simply not enough hours in the day to do all of which we dreamed. But the dreaming and planning is so much fun. And it continues. There is always something new to be added, changed or deleted from our homestead.

Daily Communion with God

And the final thing I want to say about what I love about homesteading is just getting up and going outside and communing with God. Living the homestead lifestyle makes it effortless. While all the work is going on and on and on, seemingly endless, there is always time to just stop and listen to the birds, feel the sunshine and soft breeze, and to watch God’s creations grazing in the fields, the children playing and the amazing plants growing and changing each day as they blossom and produce their fruits. We are truly blessed.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for today’s podcast. I may have rambled a bit here and there but I hope you enjoyed the uplifting ideas I talked about. Let me know what your dreams are and how you are progressing toward them. It doesn’t have to be the homestead life. We are all unique in our hopes and desires. Please share your dreams with me. I’d love to hear your story. Send me an email. Let me know what’s beautiful in your 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. And 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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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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