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Fall is in the air here in southwest Virginia. For us, that means the air is much cooler. The leaves are still quite green, but that will be changing soon. Fall in the Appalachian Mountains is the height of the tourist season. What will it be like this year? Who knows? But the leaves don’t care. They will do their thing and it will be beautiful.
Let me take a brief minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. Thank you all so much for your patronage. I appreciate you all so much. This show is for you.
So where have I been and what’s going on at the homestead?
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
You might have noticed I haven’t published a FarmCast episode in a couple of weeks. The first time I missed because I simply did not have the time. And last week I was in tremendous pain. I still am in fact. It’s nothing serious but it is painful. Somewhere in my spine about the level of the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th rib I have some arthritic impingement on a nerve. I’m not sure which one but I am sure that it really, really hurts. Pain can really drag you down. It’s exhausting. My ability to think clearly is diminished and so on. This morning I got up determined to go on with my life and so here I am. Let’s talk about what’s happening on the homestead.
The biggest news I think is that we have added yet another animal to our homestead. She is a beautiful bred heifer named Rosie. We needed another milk cow for the spring and so the search began for a Normande bred heifer. The bad news is that there were none to be found. The good news is we never give up and just moved on to looking for another breed that had A2A2 and good milking genetics. We found Rosie.
Rosie is a Jersey so now we have two of them. I know, I know. We were going to sell Butter at some point so we would end up with only Normandes. So how did we come to add another one that we will also sell in the future? Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. We need milk in the spring. That means we had to get whatever was available. Rosie is adorable and a great addition to our homestead. Who knows, maybe one of you will buy her when we have built up our Normande stock. You will definitely know everything about her life and health if you listen to every episode.
The rest of the girls are doing fine. Violet and Buttercup came into heat yet again. So we know they were still not bred. The best option at this point was to put the bull that we have in with them and see if he can do the job that the AI is not accomplishing. We shall see in a few weeks if he was successful. So far it looks like Cloud, Claire and Butter are all bred but we won’t know for sure until the vet checks them. That will happen next month. We were going to do it this month but now that we have Rosie, we decided to wait a little longer to make sure we can check her as well.
I must say it has been a very frustrating breeding season for us. But that is just another day on the homestead. Challenges abound.
The last batch of baby quail chicks are doing well. They are in the penthouse now and getting bigger every day. We are going to keep all of the hens and maybe a rooster or two from this batch. Yes fall is in the air and this winter we will be experimenting a little bit more with adding more light to their cages so that they might lay an egg or two throughout the winter. Last winter, once they stopped laying, they didn’t give one single egg until later in March. Then the egg production bounced back to full capacity within a week. With the added hens and a little more light, we might just get a few eggs. We shall see.
I know the donkeys are going to need another manicure soon. That’s always an unpleasant task but needs to be done nonetheless. It’s not so much that it is unpleasant as it is that Scott has to get into very uncomfortable positions for extended periods of time in order to get the job done. But like so many tasks on the homestead, it must be done whether it is comfortable or not. Now that I think about it, that’s not so different than cleaning house. Some of those tasks are much less pleasant than others. Cleaning the bathtub comes to mind.
The donkeys had a good time a couple of weeks ago when a customer brought two of her children along when picking up her beef. I put together a spontaneous homestead tour and the donkeys were central to that. The young lady was the most interested in the animals. She even walked out into the field and braved the various moon pies to get a close up encounter with Virginia, Luna and Wendell. She only got a very brief time to lay hands on the calves before they decided to be elsewhere. But the donkeys – that’s a different story. Donkeys are very, very friendly beasts. They love human attention. Once they got over the strangeness of a person they had never seen before, they were grooving on the affection coming their way.
Sheep and Goats
The sheep and goats are doing well. We got yet another call from a neighbor a week or so ago that one of the goats was out on the road. I think I’ve mentioned that one doe that goes in and out whenever she chooses. So far, she hasn’t gotten herself run over and she’s back with the herd again.
The breeding ram that we have is a bottled-fed lamb from last year. He has four companions that were born this year. All of them are now in the field with the calves. That means I get to see them every day, twice a day when I go out to give the calves their bottles of milk. It’s such a pleasure to see that Lambert grew up to be such a great ram. His dad just keeled over and died last winter. We have no idea why. It happens. But Lambert will pick up the slack beginning in just over a month. Did I mention that fall is in the air? That means sheep breeding is closing in fast.
Now that I think about it, I’m going to have to decide which ewes get bred and which not. Those chosen for breeding will need to be separated from the rest. Should we do six or eight this year? Last year it was eight, though the plan is for six. Eight worked out pretty well though. We shall see.
I had a friend come over and pick a whole bunch of tomatoes to take home and make sauce. I gave her everything I had and got some great blueberry jam in exchange. We are both very happy. It is likely that I will not even grow tomatoes next year. I have canned 35 quarts of diced tomatoes and a couple dozen jars of tomato sauce. What will I grow if I don’t grow tomatoes? What will I grow in their place?
The potatoes were apparently planted too late to make a fall crop. I’ll remember that for next year. When it pops up on the calendar, get it done. Don’t wait another four weeks or more before getting them in the ground. Out of about 85 or 90 potato starts, less than 10 have peeked their little leaves above the ground. The cooler days are great for growing good potatoes, but it also means the frost is coming soon. Oh well, there is always next year.
We harvested all of the sunflowers and they are currently hanging up in the attic over the commercial kitchen and cheesemake rooms. I keep thinking about going up there to see how they are doing. But if I do that, it means that I will then have yet another task on my To-Do list that will need to get done. If I procrastinate, they will still be there and the tasks will still need to be done but I can keep my list shorter for just a little while longer. The illusion of being caught up with all of my tasks is maintained. That’s right. I can fool myself with the best of them.
The crowder peas are finally slowing down. I will likely plant even more of these gems next year. They are so easy to grow and we love them. It looks like next year the garden may be really heavy on beans and peas. I also plan to grow English peas. Perhaps even two crops of them. Green peas must be started early, before it gets hot. And likewise, this cooler weather is ideal for growing a second crop.
I’m pleased with the black, red, and white beans that I grew this year. The red and white beans put on bumper crops that are just now getting ready to complete their cycle. The black beans put on one crop and then died back. The other two died back some but then came back strong with a second, somewhat smaller, crop of great beans.
I only had two beds of green beans and could have used many more. This is the one thing that people ask for at the farmer’s market. I’ve heard that there is no money in them at the market but I will grow some extra next year to see why that is so.
One thing that I have in the garden that I have rarely talked about is the celery. It’s coming along now and I’m getting excited about harvesting some of it. This is another crop that looks like it won’t produce very much income, but I will bring a few to the market anyway. Mostly I just love to share the fruits of my labor. I will have plenty for myself as well. These lovely plants will get chopped up and put in the dehydrator. I’ve already used up everything I had from last year. There was a little mishap just about harvest time last year when the calves got the garden and ate most of the celery. This year, I’m looking forward to building up my stores of dried celery.
This was my first year to grow a significant amount of culinary herbs. It has been a success for the most part. I’ve had lots of extras to sell at market and I certainly have plenty of fresh herbs for cooking and lots of herbs to dry and store for later. This is an area that I want to expand on in the future. However, the next step there is to create a permanent location. So many of them are perennials or annuals and biennials that will reseed themselves. They need a permanent location and, dare I say, an aesthetically pleasing area known as my herb garden. But where? Where is the perfect permanent location? We shall see.
The last thing I’m going to talk about is the peppers. I love growing peppers. The problem with peppers is that just a couple of plants can produce so many peppers. I’m thinking of the hot ones right now. What do I do with so many serrano peppers? Anyone got suggestions?
Canning, Drying, Selling at Market
Some of the things I’m doing with all of them so far is canning, drying and selling a few at the market. I’ve canned some of those great banana papers that go so well on sandwiches. And the jalapenos are also great on sandwiches. And what about a mixed pepper with a blend of hot and mild peppers. That one didn’t come out as hot as I would have liked. I’m going to do another batch of those and add more serrano peppers to the recipe. After all, I have a ton of them.
Hanging up in my kitchen are three strings of cayenne peppers, about 2 or 3-feet each. They are gorgeous. I simply threaded a sewing needle and threaded them one after another on the string, put a fancy knot on each end so they won’t slip off and hung them up to dry. One strand is already pretty dry and the other two are well on their way. I don’t know if I will ever use that much cayenne pepper, but they sure make great kitchen decorations. I smile every time I look at them.
Another experiment I am doing this year is making pepper jam. I have all the ingredients and I have the task popping up on my calendar for a couple of weeks now. Alas, I haven’t gotten around to completing the task. But soon, very soon, that’s going to happen. I’ll let you know how that turns out.
That’s it for today’s podcast. I didn’t get to the creamery and the updates there. That will have to wait until next time. There is some great progress going on there.
I hope fall is in the air for you as well and you enjoyed the virtual farm tour this week. The trials and tribulations of raising animals and vegetables are so worth it for us. We left the corporate world nearly four full years ago and have never looked back. Thank you so much for joining me as we make our journey. I hope you got a few ideas for yourself and how you might add a little bit of the homestead feel to your life.
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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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