Let’s get back to the quail and pickled quail eggs. So much has happened. Many changes since the last time I talked about them. Ten jars of pickled quail eggs that have been completed. And so much more to talk about, especially the creamery roof.

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 and I’m so excited to share with you what’s going on at the farm this week.

Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates

It’s getting close to Christmas. Hope you all are ready. Scott and I have been watching the YouTube series called “The Chosen”. I highly recommend it. The story so far is about Jesus’ adult life, not his birth. It’s still great watching for Christmas time IMO. A second season is currently in the works. I believe filming is scheduled to be completed in February 2021. I don’t know a release date, but I’m eagerly anticipating its release.

Quail

On to the quail updates on the homestead.

Last time I talked about our beautiful Japanese Coturnix quail we were having issues with hens getting beat up really bad. We rescued a bunch of them and put them in quarantine away from the others. One rooster was also in quarantine. Each and every one of them healed up just fine. The only problem is that we couldn’t put them back in their various cages lest the same thing happen all over again. So, they were slated for culling.

An additional blessing and/or problem was we were getting 29 or 30 eggs every day. That’s a bit too many. Who knew that we would be so successful in getting them to lay throughout the winter? Last year we had zero, zip, nada for eggs throughout the entire winter. Then one day in late March, they all started laying again as if on cue. Getting 30 eggs at a time was a giant blessing. The more eggs we get from our quail, the less eggs we have to purchase elsewhere.

Culling Hens

Before I get on to the pickled quail eggs, I need to talk a little bit more about culling the hens. When you live the homestead life, there are certain choices that need to be made that are not always easy. I love our quail. The eggs they lay are so cute and beautifully colored. However, we have to face facts and only keep what we need. And we need to give them the best life. We ended up reducing our quail population by 12 birds – well actually 13 but I will get to the additional bird in a moment. We had 6 in quarantine. Originally, there were five hens and one rooster in the bottom cages. In the lower cage on the right, we were missing a hen, the white one. All of the groups have 1 rooster to 5 hens. With my new experience, I realized I could not add another hen to the cage because she would just get beat up by the others as they vied for dominance and so we simply took all of the remaining hens out of there. That was four more. The cage on the bottom left had only one hen and a rooster in it. The other four hens from that cage were in quarantine. We took that last hen and added her to the group to be culled. Now we have 11. The end result is two cages on the bottom, one left and one right, that have a rooster and no hens.

In the penthouse was an interesting situation in that there were originally 10 hens and 2 roosters on each side – or so we thought. On the right side is where the rooster in quarantine came from so there was only one rooster there now and 10 hens. We took the five extra hens without a rooster buddy from the penthouse right side and put them in the lower cage with the lone rooster on the right. It made sense that these hens had been raised together and would therefore live in relative harmony together with their new rooster friend. They did to a point. More on that in a minute.

Miscalculations

In the penthouse on the left side was supposed to be 2 roosters and 10 hens. The only problem was that I kept getting 11 eggs from there. That’s right. I got 11 eggs from 10 hens. After closer inspection it became clear that I had misidentified one of the hens as a rooster. No problem. I needed five hens to be moved to the lower cage on the left. That left six hens and a rooster in the left penthouse. I snagged one of the hens at random and added her to the cull group. Now there were 12 in the cull group and each cage had 1 rooster and 5 hens. It seemed perfect.

More Rearranging

We processed all of the culled birds immediately and I had them in cold water overnight. There are enzymes produced in that first 24 hours or so that help tenderize the meat. Once that process is complete, I usually package them and then freeze them in packages of four birds. However, these 12 were slated for dinner and leftovers and they got an extra day in the frig. The very next day after doing all this culling and rearranging of hens, I went out to feed and water them and found another hen with a slightly bloody head. It wasn’t bad but she had definitely been abused. This time I grabbed the rooster and immediately quarantined him. It had to be him. The girls were getting along fine before and now the bloody head again. The only change was putting them in with the rooster. Sure enough, the next day, her head was much better and there were no other injuries. She healed up within three days and still no other injuries. As soon as I saw that she was going to heal up without the rooster in there, he got added to the dinner pot. And that is how it ended up being 13 instead of 12. We still have a few leftovers in the frig. Maybe dinner tonight.

Not Perfect But It Will Work

So now, one cage has five hens with no rooster. All five still lay eggs like clockwork. I just won’t be able to use those infertile eggs in the incubator.

The final note with the quail is that yesterday, I went out to feed them and found one of the hens in the penthouse on the right had died. There were five eggs in there, so she laid her daily egg before expiring. This happens sometimes. There was no mark on her externally, but she had blood just inside her beak. Something internal went wrong. I have no idea what. One cage has a rooster and four hens instead of five. That reduces our total hens to 24. That’s two dozen eggs each day. Hope the rest of them fair well through the rest of the winter. We will have to cull a few more to make room for new babies in the spring. But until then, lots of eggs. And some of them will be made into pickled eggs.

Pickled Quail Eggs

I boiled 100 quail eggs and made 10 jars (1/2 pint) of pickled quail eggs. The boiled eggs were submerged in vinegar. This did two things. First, the spots lifted off and floated to the surface of the liquid. Second, the shells, now white, became soft and rubbery overnight. Peeling them was a matter of pinching the soft shell and peeling the rubber-like shell. It was so easy. Who knew peeling eggs could be so easy.

I used three different pickling recipes. The basic pickling solution was similar in all of them. Two cups vinegar and one cup water and two to four tablespoons of sugar depending on the recipe. The salt varied a little too. This solution was enough for three jars plus a little. I made three jars of pickled quail eggs with this solution and added curry seasoning. There were three jars of pickled quail eggs with the vinegar solution, a pickling spice mix and ½ a beet. Those are a beautiful pink egg now. Then I did four jars of pickled quail eggs using apple cider vinegar in the mix instead of white vinegar and I added some minced garlic. I used the same pickling spice mix as the previous one. Unfortunately, none of them have been tasted yet. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

In the end, I have canned 10 jars of pickled quail eggs with plans for quite a few more over the winter. It will be a fine snack throughout the next year.

Apple Pie Jam

Speaking of canning, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my apple pie jam. It’s pretty simple and out of this world delicious. The other day while out picking up some quail feed I ordered from a local supplier, I bought another bushel of apples. The previous bushel made lots of apple pie filling and a bit of apple pie jam. And there they were apples galore right out there for me to pick up. This year was the first time I had made the apple pie jam and it was a hit. Basically, it’s an apple jam recipe with pie spices added. It is unbelievably good. It has ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and ground allspice. A bushel of apples ended up making another 40 pint jars of apple pie jam.

Perhaps I went a little overboard with making this jam, but it was really fun. I have some ½ pints that I’m selling at the farmer’s market, and will likely sell some of the pint jars as well. There will still be plenty for ourselves and as gifts for family and friends. It’s just one of those things that was so fun I just had to do it over and over. Two days straight with canning two batches of 10 pints each. Now you know what to expect out of a bushel of apples. Plan accordingly.

Cows

On to the animals. Most of the cows are still grazing on grass. It’s amazing. No hay for the main herd yet. We are near the end of December. The plan is progressing nicely. Most of the year there will be no hay expenses for these girls. It’s a giant step forward in our homestead plan. Everyone is doing well.

Just last night a new possibility arose to add another new bred heifer or young cow to our herd. This time if it works out, we will be adding another purebred Normande to our homestead. We’re excited. It will be a very, very long trip, but so worth it. These young ladies are hard to come by and we hope to remedy that in the future by having lots and lots of heifers for ourselves as well as having some to sell to others. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me if we have any heifers for sale. It seems lots of people are looking for these beautiful cows and there just aren’t that many heifers available. Especially that have the milking genetics. I’ll keep you posted on how this new development progresses. And if you are one of those looking for a Normande, drop me an email and I’ll let you know who to contact.

Donkeys

All of the donkeys got their hooves trimmed. Johnny was really, really difficult. I think more difficult than he has ever been. He was constantly kicking, jerking, moving around. And when Scott got to the last hoof, he just layed down. It was a very trying experience for all concerned. On the other hand, Cocoa is getting used to it. She did really well. And as always, Daisy and Sweet Pea just stand there. It’s old hat for them. Glad to get that accomplished.

All of the donkeys have their winter coats. They are like little fuzz balls.

Sheep

I was going out the driveway yesterday and noticed the sheep are looking nice and fat. I’m talking about the breeding group in the front pastures. They look really round but it is too early for that to be pregnancy showing. Sheep gestation is only five months. They are not even two months along. It is that last month that they get really big and round. No these girls are just really healthy and strong. It’s good to see them doing so well.

Creamery

The roof is in progress. What a job it was to get the material here and unloaded. It was not without issue. Plus, the wind contributed to some additional damage to the materials. Scott is out there right now finishing one run of metal on the lower end of the loafing shed.

This morning it was quite the ordeal to get the last pieces delivered and transported from the road back to the building site. Scott had quite the elaborate setup in place and it would have worked beautifully if his tractor had had a little more toughness. Unfortunately, it was just a little bit too small for the task. The metal was bundled all in one piece and was delivered on a tow truck. Because the pieces are so long, this was the only way to get it to us. Department of transportation rules for how much can hang off of a trailer made this job much harder to accomplish.

Bent Roofing Material – Oops

Anyway, the tow truck arrived this morning with the roof metal. Scott had our hay trailer rigged up so the bundle could be lifted up off the truck, the tow truck would drive out from under the bundle, Scott would back his hay trailer under it and then lower the bundle onto our hay trailer. He had already tested his ability to drive it back to the building site. All should work well. We had a neighbor friend bring his tractor over to help lift the load. All actually did go well for a brief moment. Then the load shifted, Scott’s smaller tractor was just not able to hold up the load and it slipped off the forks. Lots of bent metal sheets. A few more gyrations and they got it onto the trailer and the rest of the plan went smoothly. It’s all there next to the building ready for Scott and I to unload it one sheet at a time. That’s for tomorrow.

More Bent Roofing Material

Last week Scott picked up a different load of metal. These were shorter pieces that fit on the hay trailer. He and I unloaded that without issue. Yesterday, Scott laid out quite a few sheets of these metal sheets onto some sawhorses. Even before going out to the road to meet the tow truck driver, he discovered that the thunder I thought I heard last night was actually the wind blowing those large pieces of metal all over the place. More bent metal roof panels. You can’t have everything go right every day. That just would not be real homestead living. In the end, the roof will be completed and all will be well. I have a long day tomorrow helping with the heavy lifting and moving those 27-foot sheets of metal off of the trailer and under the barn. Some of them will get moved to the roof as well. I expect my biceps and wrists to be sore again. But hey, that’s one of the reasons we do what we do. No need to go to the gym. They are closed anyway. Daily life on the homestead is a workout that is never boring.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for this podcast. Trials and tribulations galore. If it ain’t one thing, it’s another. All in all, things are going well for us on the homestead at the present time. We say our prayers and thank God for our blessings. The animals are healthy (well except for that one quail) and we are healthy.

I can’t get enough of those quail. It looks like we finally have all the issues worked out. We are back to normal operations with everybody happy and content in their little homes. I just put a jar of pickled quail eggs out on the counter as an appetizer for tonight’s dinner.

The creamery is moving along at a good clip. It won’t be long and we will have finally realized that dream. Just another one of those blessings I’m always talking about.

In the near future I’m going to be updating the website to highlight our raw milk cheese herd shares. Look for updates on that next time. This year’s cheeses are superb. If you regularly eat a pound or two of cheese per month, you might want to think about joining our herd share program. You can own a piece of the herd and dine on locally produced cheese.

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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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