COVID19, in the year of our Lord 2020 it’s affecting us all in one way or another. This podcast format will be a little different. This episode is going to be a farmstead update only. Because of the emotional charge around this pandemic virus, I have lots of things I want to talk about regarding the homestead and our life here. I also want to take a few minutes to talk you with about how we are doing here and how we are affected by the current world situation. No recipe today.
I’d love to hear from you about how you are faring as well. Comment on this podcast on our webpage or drop me an email at melanie at peacefulheartfarm.com. Let me know if you need anything or if I can help out in any way. We are all in this together.
If you are new, welcome. This will not be the best representation of my podcast format so I hope you will come back again and again to get a better idea of what I do here. Welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode.
- Homestead Life Updates
- COVID19 – In the Year of our Lord 2020
Homestead Life Updates
Violet has recovered from her uterine infection and is doing fine. Claire is due to calve in 7 to 10 days. She is so big. I let her take her time coming up to the milking shed. Buttercup is also quite big. If I have to walk a long way to gather up one of the girls, it will be Buttercup. This morning it was all the way to the farthest fence line. She just stood there and watched me as I approached. The others had all started moving in the right direction, but not Buttercup. Nope. Come and get me she says. Well, the exercise is wonderful so I don’t mind at all.
The Sheep and Goats
The sheep are still more than a month away from their delivery dates and are looking quite happy and healthy. No baby goats this year as we are reducing the herd, but the girls are looking fine. They are shedding their cashmere.
We originally got these particular goats because I wanted to spin and dye my own cashmere yarn for knitting. That never happened. We, like just about everybody else who is just starting out, wanted to do everything about which our hearts had ever dreamed. Then reality sets in and you realize that there is only so much time in the day and you must pick and choose your homestead enterprises. Your focus must be narrowed. After just 9 or 10 years we have just about settled on the final look and feel of our homestead.
Our Homestead Vision
We have the cows for milking and making cheese. The sheep are just because we like them. The goats are for specific pasture maintenance. The herd will become much smaller. Perhaps we will not breed them at all. It may be that we just keep three or four does that require minimal upkeep. That is still a work in progress. We are sure that the cashmere girls will eventually be gone completely and replaced with a few meat goats.
Pigs and Chickens?
I hope next year will be the year of the pigs and chickens. The creamery will be completed or nearly so and pigs/chicken projects can move forward. Pigs and chickens are a natural part of any cheesemaking operation. They will get any messed-up cheese and all the whey that would otherwise be poured out on the field. These are high protein, nutritious foods that will keep our animals happy and healthy. They will provide us with meat and eggs.
Scott loves the orchard but I have often wondered what we were going to do with all that fruit. As I said, your enterprises must be prioritized. Just thinking about how we would have the time to pick, store, preserve and market that much fruit is daunting. The pigs are the solution. We will keep whatever we need for ourselves and the rest will be food for the pigs. They will love it and we can still have this giant orchard – well it’s not really giant. We can still have this orchard that is far to big for two people and make good use of the fruit as well.
Expanding on the orchard idea, the garden space is also much too big for two people. I have plans for growing lots and lots of root vegetables and squash for the pigs. The chickens will get to eat all kinds of greens, tomatoes and cucumbers – after I’ve taken out what I need, of course.
We also have the quail. Scott can eat those eggs and we both love the meat.
Speaking of eggs. A couple of days ago we went on a treasure hunt. We came back to 8 Canadian goose eggs. That is equivalent to 2 dozen chicken eggs.
Every morning on my way to bring in the cows, I passed by this goose nest. First, I saw 2 eggs, then 3, then 4, then 5. Then nest was in a horrible place. It was less than two feet from where I and the cows walked twice a day. It was also in a place where a huge spring rain would flood the area and wipe it out.
The eggs stopped increasing after five and I wondered if the nest had been abandoned. Perhaps that pair of geese had gotten fed up with us interrupting their family situation two times every day. It gave me the idea.
Back in 2009 or 2010 we got our first pair or two of geese making their home on our ponds. We have two. The older pond is about an acre and the newer one, established in 2007 or 08, is about an acre and a half. For the first couple of years they nested, hatched a batch of goslings and then left for the winter. I’m not sure exactly when that changed but now they are with us year round and about a week or so ago I counted 36 of them.
Every year the total gets larger. There are usually at least three nests and sometimes four. Some years most of the goslings don’t survive and some years they increased the flock by a couple of dozen. Not all stayed of course. But as I said, we are up to 3 dozen birds at this point. That’s a lot of squawking geese. Hence my idea. What if we raided their nests and took the eggs? That would reduce the increase in population and give another great source of food.
The Treasure Hunt
We found two other nests but only one had any eggs. The gander guarding that nest tried to give us a flogging but we persevered. That pair nests in the same place every year. Likely she will lay more eggs. I’m undecided about snatching those as well.
That particular pair nests on the island in the larger pond. There is also another pair that regularly nests on the other side of that island. I saw them but there was no nest as of yet. I think we might have had three nests on that island at one point. There are two pairs that regularly nest up by the older pond. We found on nest but no eggs. It is still early.
Their normal egg-laying activity goes like this. They will lay one egg each day and cover the nest. At this point the goose is not incubating the eggs. Eventually, after 4 to 9 eggs are laid, she will begin to sit on the nest and warm the eggs beginning the incubation process at that time. The gander stands guard and they can be fierce. Once a day the goose will leave the nest to feed. It takes an average of 28 days for the eggs to hatch. Every year near the end of April, I start looking for goslings.
I’ve been afraid to try the eggs because of the ordeal that I had with the quail eggs. If you don’t know about that, go back and listen to my podcast “Am I Allergic to Quail Eggs”. I’ll leave a link in the show notes. Scott is loving them. I may give them a try as I have had them in the past and had no issues. Duck eggs give me a rash. Quail eggs — well that’s a whole different level of issue.
Let me finish up the Homestead updates with some info on the creamery. Doors with locks and windows with lovely sills are all completed. Scott is currently working on the roof over the barn and milking parlor. Once that is completed, the metal roofing will go on. Then the plumbing and electrical installation will begin. And somewhere along the way, the milking stanchions and milking pipeline system will be installed. We have all the pieces and parts sitting off to the side just waiting for their opportunity to contribute to the final product.
After that walls, ceilings and tile floors. Bathroom fixtures, kitchen appliances, various stainless-steel tables, carts and shelves will magically appear. Who knows what else? It has been a little over three years. Perhaps at the end of four years there will be much light at the end of the tunnel.
That’s it for the overview of what our homestead is growing into. Let us know what you think.
Covid19 – In the Year of our Lord 2020
Now I want to talk just a little bit about this corona virus and how it is affecting us. I know you’ve probably heard too much about it already, but I just feel the need for us to come together and understand each other, help each other out in a time of need and grow into better human beings.
I walked out the front door this morning and looked at the world around me. It’s glorious. This is by far my favorite part of every day. It is what it is and nothing else. There is no noisy traffic. There is only the sounds of birds. Sometimes I might hear a cow mooing, a donkey braying, or a sheep or goat baaing. The geese are always over there on the pond making a racket, or at the very least low rumbling squawks and splashing about in the water. This time of year, the sun has not risen about the horizon but the sky is light. There might be a soft breeze.
As I walked down the path to go bring the cows in for milking and/or practice milking routine, I thought to myself “these cows know nothing about what is going on in our world.” It was one of those things that struck me squarely in the heart. We have finally been affected by the pandemic restrictions. Farmer’s markets in Virginia are ordered to close for about a month. The farmer’s market is my primary drop off point for my herd share customers. Fortunately, drop-offs are still allowed. Likely I will meet my peeps in the parking lot at the usual time – as long as they are willing. I have hand sanitizer. 😊 This is small potatoes compared to the disruption in the lives of those around us.
Scott and I are fortunate that we live where we do, with nature all around us. We are naturally isolated, keeping our distance from large crowds and society in general. Our lives revolve around the many tasks and responsibilities of raising animals. It is a full life. Going to the farmer’s market is a treat for me; a chance to meet people and have conversations with other humans besides Scott. A trip to the grocery store is usually made in conjunction with a trip to drop off product for the Online Independence Farmer’s Market or the twice monthly Wytheville Farmer’s Market. We save on gas that way. We just don’t get out much. It’s hard for me to understand the deep gouge this corona virus restriction has put in the normal person’s life.
We have chosen a different life. However, I do remember when I was flying every week and my life revolved around teaching classrooms full of doctors, nurses and support staff. I provided instruction in how to use the US Military’s custom designed electronic health record. Interestingly enough, I got sick a few times during that five years of intense travel and exposure to one hospital or clinic after another. Since we left that world a bit over three years ago, I’ve yet to have even a sniffle. Even before we left those jobs for the homestead, we worked in a hospital setting. It was the same one and we must have built up immunity to all the bugs because Scott and I have rarely been sick with any kind of flu or virus in the last 10 years. It was trippy for a while there. Especially if I worked in a pediatric setting. I’m pretty sure I caught something every single time I worked in that environment.
And in 2009, the H1N1 was the center of our world for a while. Likely most of you don’t remember it. We geared up quickly, as is happening now, and many people stepped up to the plate to battle this new danger. All sorts of new procedures were put in place. I worked with the healthcare staff to develop new work flows for documenting rapidly when the vaccine came out. Drive up processing was set up. Tents were set up. All kinds of things we put in place to address the demand for the vaccine.
The H1N1 was the last pandemic disease. Before that it was MERS and SARS. We handled them all and we will handle this one as well. The big difference is the shutdown of society. And that is huge. I know some of you are frightened to death and others are just calmly doing what needs to be done. Some of you are at greater risk than others. I just turned 65 last week. Technically, I’m in a high-risk category though I am one of those completely unconcerned about contracting this virus. Again, we live a life of isolation. And the making of cheese, butter and yogurt ensures I wash my hands many, many times in any given day.
Many of you are at risk and/or have family members at risk, young and old. I have a 95-year-old aunt. She lives with, and is well-taken care of, by her daughter, but can only wave at her son through a window. He works in healthcare. Scott’s daughter is a nurse. Our healthcare workers put themselves in danger every single day. We pray for them.
Some of you are out of work and don’t know when you will get another paycheck. Some of you own small businesses and are also wondering how you will survive. Some of you are working from home but the kids are there as well. What a challenge that must present. The stress must be off the scale for you. My heart goes out to you. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans and millions around the world have had their lives turned upside down. What will we do? How will we survive? Is it an over-reaction? We will never know.
We worship via streaming video. It’s not the same, but we are together in spirit. I appreciate the effort our church is putting into keeping us spiritually connected with each other and God.
I know I look at social media too much. There are all sorts of stories of people who are worried for their families. Then there are the stories of folks like us who can’t relate to fear. We don’t live in that environment. From my perspective the precautions seem excessive. The CDC has said social distancing is a must, but I don’t think they mentioned anything about shutting down much of the country. Literally shutting it down. I’m probably going to get a lot of hate over this, but I just don’t see the need. When does the cure become more harmful than the disease? I just don’t know. Again, I don’t live in a highly populated urban center or city with lots of sick people and immunocompromised people. But I do know of these people. And I do know that every year they are faced with health epidemics. This is another one on top of the others. We have never had to completely shut down in response to a pandemic. And we have one every few years. I hear people say this one is different. It is repeated over and over. That same phrase was repeated over and over in 2009 as well. H1N1 was different. That is what pandemic means. A new disease spreading easily from person-to-person, widespread over multiple countries. Each and every one is different from the last.
Well, in the end, we will all get through this. I have such great compassion and empathy for all of you struggling with a life turned topsy-turvy. If I came across as insensitive, I apologize. My personality at this time of my life is one of calm, reason. I know people whose natural level of anxiety would prevent them being able to experience their life this way. Having experience periods of extreme anxiety throughout my life, I can completely relate and I’m ready, willing, and able to listen, comfort, and reassure.
Along those lines, there are some really great stories going on out there. Companies stepping up to the plate and retooling their factories to make masks, hand sanitizer and ventilators. I saw all kinds of patterns for homemade masks this morning while browsing social media posts. There’s lots of love out there for the truckers who are keeping the food flowing. Though the hording is a bit disturbing. I do not think that we will run out of food. Truckers live isolated lives and are also considered essential. The food will keep moving. And the toilet paper thing is just bizarre to me.
How about those folks working in grocery stores and pharmacies? Also, putting themselves out there. I know, I know. They are doing it for the money too. But they gotta be thinking that any one of the people they come in contact with could be a carrier just waiting to infect them.
Our healthcare workers are being stressed at this time so keep them in your prayers. I remember the stress in 2009. Lots of them got sick. All were tired and overworked. It was brutal. We supported each other and all was well in the end. Let’s keep up the prayers for these special people who put their lives on the line to help others.
We don’t know how long this will last and that uncertainty is a huge stressor in and of itself. One thing I do know is that each and every one of you is doing everything you can to get us all through this with as little harm as possible.
There are some great things happening. School may be changed forever. In this age of technology, homeschooling may make a resurgence like never before. I realize this is not a good thing for some of you. But for many, you can take the education of your children back into our own hands. I’ve seen the articles regarding how far education has move from traditional reading, writing, and arithmetic and life skills such as home economics and shop into every social, political and sexual arena possible – and not in an age-appropriate manner.
I predict the online resources will proliferate. Smaller groups of children learning together in this person’s house this week and in another house the next. Location is malleable as long as there is internet. I guess that won’t work for those without a good internet connection. That does still happen, especially in this area. Any rural area with mountains can sometimes have internet speed and connectivity issues. But overall, I think education will improve for the better. It will be much less expensive. Online college is coming and coming quickly.
And with every pandemic exercise, new and improved methods of protecting that most vulnerable group of people we love so much are put into place. Think of it. The whole scientific medical community is focused on combatting this virus. There will be innovations like we have never seen that will come out of this. Something as small as a new workflow, isolation procedure, or sanitizing solution can make a huge difference when the next pandemic arrives. We are so innovative when it comes to survival. Think of the new medical treatments that will come out of this.
I think I’ve rambled on long enough. I’m going to close out this podcast.
We are all in this together and we will get through it. This is a tough time for so many of you. My life is relatively unchanged and that frees me up to assist you. If you are having particular issues and would like to talk to someone, drop me an email and let’s see if we can set up a time to talk on the phone. And if you know someone who would benefit from my message, please share this content with them.
Thank you so much for stopping by the homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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