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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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