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Today I’m doing a little bit of Homestead musing. More “a day in the life” sort of podcast. I’ll make is a short one and I hope you like it. I love sharing my life with all of you.
I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.
Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates
We got a late start this morning. I was Chatty Patty before morning prayers so we started an hour late, that’s 7:15 instead of 6:15. It’s now just about 10 am. I have fed and watered the chickens, emptied the dishwasher, sorted and started the laundry and am on my second load, cut down an entire 3’ x 8’ bed of swiss chard and disposed of it (more on that later), cooked about 3 pounds of swiss chard (some we will eat and some will be frozen), froze 2 gallons of blackberries and 3 gallons of blueberries and set up 1½ gallons of milk to make yogurt. I also need to set up for waxing last week’s cheese. Scott is currently pouring the milk into the cheese vat so I can make Pinnacle. That is our aged alpine-style cheese – sort of like gruyere. Yes, today is a cheese make day so I’ll have to get back to you later for the rest of the podcast. Love ya. Bye for now.
Ok, I’m back. Just a short update. I’ve got the culture in the cheese milk and I have a few minutes before the next step. I have to bring the temperature of the milk up to 90 degrees for the cheese that I am making today. The way that I do that is to put hot water in the metal jacket cheese vat. It is sort of like a double boiler except that it is completely closed. Well, not quite completely closed. There are a couple of openings at the top that let the displaced air out as the water fills the jacket.
Focus is Really Important
I have to be quite focused when I am doing this part because I tend to check on the milk and then go do something else and then check the milk again. If I am also filling the water in the jacket, a disaster can sometimes happen. It has already happened once this cheesemaking season. If I forget that the water is running, it will completely fill the jacket and then overflow through the opening at the top onto the floor. What a mess that makes. I think once I forgot and it was overflowing for like five minutes. There was water everywhere. If I was in the actual cheese make room we are building, this would not be a big deal. It would simply go down the drain in the floor. But at the moment we have a temporary set up in our storage room. There is a drain in the floor, but the floor is tile and not meant for lots of water to be on it. Anyway, no such disaster happened today.
More homestead musings. I’m going to get in a few animal updates before I need to go tend to the cheese again.
We are in the midst of the AI process with our cows and it is not going well. You know, one thing and another. I say this often. Life on the homestead is never dull. There is always something going on that you did not plan. We plan for pregnancies but God has the final say. We had one – possibly two – heifers that appear to have taken on the first try. That’s one or two out of eight. We have to start over with the other six. Add to that an inconvenient medical condition and we are way behind on getting these cows bred.
We are praying for the health of our vet. She got the Covid and is still under the weather. Once she is back on her feet, we will preg check the two girls we think took and give the other six another chance. Actually, there are seven because Cookie is now far enough past her delivery to begin the AI process as well. If we don’t have success this time, I’m not sure what we will do. It is extremely expensive to do AI over and over and over. So expensive that we are reconsidering keeping a bull.
Keeping a bull is also a huge expense because the bull is eating and eating and eating while only being useful for a couple of months out of a year. It’s a dilemma. However, at this point, the AI is going to cost more than feeding that bull through the winter with hay. Will it be that way every year? Who knows? We do the best we can and make new choices. Ideally, Scott would be able to do our AI but that is a long and involved learning curve. I’ll keep you posted on that topic.
Quail and Chickens
We are out of the quail business. The last of the quail were processed last week. I have quite a supply of eggs saved up. Hopefully, the new pullets will start laying about the same time I run out of quail eggs for Scott. The chickens are doing fantastic. I couldn’t be more happy there. We have at least six American White Bresse hens and eight roosters to choose from to fill out the breeding flock. There are a total of nine Black Copper Marans. The distribution there is nearly perfect. There are six hens and three roosters. I’ll be keeping two each of the roosters and the rest will get processed for eating.
A few thoughts on the garden. I mentioned that I took out an entire bed of Swiss chard. We had a dry spell throughout June. So much so that we bought extra hay to get the cows through this winter. Well, now it is raining every day. The weather is always weird. Anyway, the Swiss chard got a fungus, some kind of unpronounceable leaf spot. The red variety got it, but the giant white looks fine at the moment. I cut down every plant in the bed of red. We shall see if it grows back and if I eradicated the fungus.
Everything else looks really, really good. This is the fifth year of using this particular raised bed system. The first year we started with cut up trees, fill dirt from around the homestead and a top layer of purchased organic composted soil. The next four years, Scott added our own composted soil to the beds. This year it has really paid off. The eggplants are huge. As are the squash. The peppers took a little bit of time to catch on but there are going great guns right now.
Homestead Musing About Plants: Do I Have Too Much Plant and Not Enough Produce?
Because I planted everything so late, I’m not sure whether I am growing too much plant and no fruit, or if I just need to wait for the blooms. This morning the squash was covered in blooms and bees. I’m still not sure about that eggplant. It may be all plant and no fruit. My cilantro survived the dry heat of June. So far, so good there. The tomatoes are going to need more support in the next couple of days. I have small tomatoes and lots of healthy plants.
The lima beans are blooming. There are three beds of winter squash. The butternut I grew from plant starts so they are already producing squash, too small to pick, but there are lots of them. The other two beds are a variety of other winter squash that I started from seed. They plants look great. They are fending off the squash bugs and I look for a great crop there. The summer squash looks like all plant and they are huge, but as I said, they are now covered with blooms as are the cucumbers.
It’s little weird that it is July and I am just now getting the first squash and cucumbers. I really didn’t get my garden planted until June. Normally, it was would have been a month earlier, but I was holding on to my plants to sell at the farmer’s market. And Independence and Galax are both in a different USDA planting zone. The elevation there is about 2,500 to 3,000 and we are between 1,200 and 1,400 here. There is a big difference in temperature.
Well, I’m off to tend cheese again.
And now I’m back. That’s the last time I will tell you when I leave and return. When making cheese, there are often timespans of 5, 10 or 15 minutes – or even 30 minutes to an hour where I need to leave the process to continue what it is doing and return later to go to the next step.
The cheese make process is going exceptionally well. I probably shouldn’t say that as superstition would indicate that I just jinxed myself. Oh well, I don’t believe in superstition, so there you go. I expect it will continue to go well.
We are getting closer and closer to completing this project. Scott is sometimes down that he is not getting more done. There is always another something that needs to be done instead of working on the creamery. My advice to him and to you is to keep your attention focused on what is in front of you. Do what needs to be done right now and the rest of it will take care of itself. No sense ruminating over what didn’t happen. Let’s be grateful for what did happen. Let’s be grateful for what we have gotten done. Let’s be grateful for the people that touched our lives this week.
We thought it would be complete in late summer summer/early fall. Then spring happened. Even though the cows would need to be dried up and we wouldn’t have milk to make cheese, we thought it would be complete by year end. Then summer happened. At the moment, I’m feeling pretty confident that it will be done by the time the cows give birth in the spring. We can have a USDA inspected cheese facility just about the time we have milk to make the cheese. That sounds like a plan. . . right? We shall see.
It did go well. The cheese is in the press for the final time. I’ll check it in the morning and move it to the brine tank for salting. And at least five months until it is mature. Seven months is better. And a year is the best.
That’s really about all I have to say for today. I just wanted to check in with you all and let you know the status of our homestead and give you yet another window into the lifestyle. As always, we love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. There are always more tasks to be accomplished than there are hours in a day. It gives us purpose and motivation. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming but at those times, I just let some of those tasks slip a notch or two down the list. There are a few things that have to be done on a specific time schedule. But many more do not. I choose what I do on any given day. I choose how much I will do on any given day. Most of the time I choose to do an unbelievable amount in one day. Or at least it seems so to me. Actually, I only think that in contrast to the other days when I laze around and get very little accomplished. Well, there are fewer of those days. I get bored pretty easily and get right back to it.
How about you? Do you get bored easily? Are you dreaming of the day when you get to call your own shots? Are you working toward that goal? If you are, here is a little encouragement. It may seem like you will never get there. Don’t lose heart. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
That’s What We Did
At first, we planned five or 10 years into the future. Many times, it seemed like we would never get there. But here we are. We worked seven years longer than our original plan. We blew through our savings that was supposed to last until the creamery was built. It is still not done and we came up with other ways to make ends meet. We started our dream in 2003. That was 19 years ago and we are still going, trying to get this creamery built. In between then and now, we have changed our plans more times than I want to count. It was in 2012, ten years ago, that we decided to be artisan cheesemakers. It has taken a lot more steps, time, money, effort and so on than we ever imagined. But we never stopped imagining.
Scott is currently getting the electrical work done on the creamery. I help him with the ceilings from time to time as he moves from one room to the next. Electrical, plumbing, floors – we are nearly there.
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Thank you so much for stopping by our homestead and until next time, may God fill your life with grace and peace.
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