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Peaceful Heart FarmCast


Homestead podcast where the conversation revolves around the value of tradition; traditional food prep and storage, traditional cooking, and of course, traditional artisan CHEESE. Topics discussed here are designed to create new perspectives and possibilities for how you might add the taste of tradition to your life. My husband and I work a small farm and are building a farmstead creamery. We practice sustainable living and produce farmstead and artisan cheese, hand-made in small batches. You can find more information at


Claudville, Virginia




Homestead podcast where the conversation revolves around the value of tradition; traditional food prep and storage, traditional cooking, and of course, traditional artisan CHEESE. Topics discussed here are designed to create new perspectives and possibilities for how you might add the taste of tradition to your life. My husband and I work a small farm and are building a farmstead creamery. We practice sustainable living and produce farmstead and artisan cheese, hand-made in small batches. You can find more information at






Raising Goats to Make Your Own Cheese - Part 1

Raising goats to make your own cheese is a great goal. Today I’ll go over the basics of how to get started. Making the cheese is another topic for later. Let’s just start with what it takes to raise and care for the animals that make it happen. First let me 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. As always, I appreciate you all so much. Thank you. There is no show without you. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates Before I get started on today’s topic, just a very brief update on our animals. All of the animals are doing really, really well. No issues so far, even though we had that really deep cold snap. Fortunately, we did not have any lambs born during that time. That was my only concern. Right now, it looks like it will be February before we have lambs. It always takes longer than I think. Lambs Lambs gestate for about five months. And the pregnant ewes end up looking like they are going to burst for days and days before the lambs actually arrive. You would think I would get used to it. I looked at one of our ewes a few days ago and thought to myself, “she’s going to have her lambs in the next couple of weeks.” Then I looked at her again yesterday and now I’m thinking it is going to be much later. This is the way of things when we leave the animals on their own for breeding. Scott keeps really close eye on the cows because they come up to the milking shed every day. The sheep and goats stay out in the pasture, so knowing when they come into heat is just not feasible. Because we know the date that the breeding ram or buck goes in with the ewes and does, we know the earliest date that babies can be born. But after that, we just wing it and figure that all will be born within two months. That usually works. These animals are healthy and can be bred easily. Cows We expect our first calf of 2023 the first week of March. The entire herd is all in one lump except for the two heifer calves that were born last year. They are too young to be bred and must be kept separate until we are ready for their breeding to commence. If I remember correctly, that will be some time in the summer. June, July or August. They will go in with the bull and have their first calf about the time they reach two years old. Chickens The chickens are doing well. At least three of the four roosters did get a little bit of comb damage during that cold snap. We kept them locked in their coop so their combined warmth would help keep everyone warm. Unfortunately, our roosters have very large combs. Those are those big red things sticking up from the top of their heads. They are quite subject to frostbite. There is only a small bit of damage that I saw. Maybe a ¼ inch or less on the tip of one or two of the points. So other than that, all is well with them. Goats My young goat girls are doing fantastic. They are still quite small, but will enter the breeding cycle in less than a month. They also require five months of gestation for their kids. We will be looking for our first kids from them in the height of summer. July and August should brings us those cutest of cuteness, goat kids. Well, it’s kind of a toss up between the kids and the lambs. They are both just as cute as they can be when young. Speaking of goats, how about some info on how you might get set up for raising your own goats? Raising Goats I’m going to recount, to the best of my ability, the steps we took to prepare for raising goats. Then I will talk about some of the challenges. The rewards of owning and caring for goats far outweighs the challenges. Keep that in mind if you decide to go on the goat journey. Getting Set Up As you are making your plans for bringing goats into your life, the second highest priority is deciding how you will contain them. I’m going to say with near complete certainty that no matter how well you plan this and prepare for it, your goats...


Knitting is My Favorite Winter Activity on the Homestead

Have I mentioned that knitting is my favorite winter activity? Things have slowed down and I can have some time to catch up on my knitting projects. The garden has been put to bed. I’m still making cheese, butter and yogurt, but canning is done for the season. I have even gotten all the frozen fruit out of the freezer from this past spring and made the promised cherry and blueberry jams. For the first time, I made brandied figs. This and so much more coming up in this podcast episode. But first . . . Welcome to all the new listeners and a hearty holiday season welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I appreciate you all so much. Let’s get on with some homestead updates. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates Let’s talk about the animals first. We love all of our animals. What would our homestead be without our animals? Pretty boring, don’t you think? Cows Finally, we have good news on the bovine front. We believe that all of the cows are now bred. Glory Be to God. Natural breeding is superior by far. We have one calf scheduled for birth on March 5th 2023. Then the next two will be around the 16th of July. Then the bull comes along and we have six that will give birth between August 4th and September 4th. Here is the run down. Princess Princess is a lovely purebred A2A2 Jersey heifer, soon to be cow, giving birth to that first calf around the 5th of March. We used sexed AI semen for her so her calf will be 50% Jersey and 50% Normande and likely a girl, a heifer. She looks great and we are anticipating great genetics in her calf. She is small and so is her mom. Not quite miniature Jerseys, but close. Rosie is her mom and in her first lactation cycle she was giving us about three gallons of milk per day. We will expect a similar amount from Princess. We plan on selling her in the future as we move to a 100% registered Normande herd. Keep your ears open about when she comes up for sale as she will make a fantastic milk cow for some lucky family. Rosie Speaking of Rosie, she is in the second group of two giving birth in near the middle of July. Rosie is also a registered A2A2 Jersey. She was bred via AI to the bull Fullblood French bull Jacaranda. The semen was unsexed so the gender of her calf will be a surprise. This calf will also be 50% Jersey and 50% Normande. We will be keeping heifer calves that are 50% Normande, but like her daughter, Rosie will come up for sale sometime in the near future. Ginger Ginger is the second animal giving birth in mid-July. She is 75% percent Normande. That means she is not recognized as purebred, but her offspring will be as their percentage will be high enough to meet the minimum standard. The sire is also the Fullblood French bull Jacaranda. Ferdinand’s Offspring The last group of six are all bred via Ferdinand. You will recall that he is the Guernsey bull that we purchased a couple of months ago. He did his job well. In one month, two hormonal cycles, he has impregnated all of our remaining cows and heifers. At least it appears so as of this recording. I’m not sure if we will be able to registered his offspring as 50% Normande. I’ll have to check on that. Violet, Virginia and Wanda are all purebred Normandes but it may not be enough for proper registration. We shall see. Butter is a registered A2A2 Jersey. And the last two, Molly and Cookie are mostly but not registered Jersey cows. Though they are also A2A2. We will be keeping Molly as she does have 25% Normande genetics, but Butter and Cookie will also be moving on to another family. In the end, four of our cows will be up for sale in the next year or two. They are all great animals, but again, we are building a 100% Normande herd. Each year we will probably move out a couple more as we slowly inch toward our preferred genetic goals. Nickel We have Nickel waiting in the wings to get big enough to be our breeding bull. Ferdinand will...


I'm Back From My Podcast Vacation

I’m back from my podcast vacation. It has been three months since I recorded anything. We were both very, very busy and the things that keep the homestead financially solvent become front and center. It’s good to be back in front of the microphone. Let me take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners. The subscriber numbers continued to go up even though I was absent. Again, thank you so much. And a big welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. I truly appreciate each and every one of you. I’m not sure how much I’m going to include in today’s episode. As I said, it has been three months and a whole lotta stuff has happened in that time. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates Those of you that are members of our community will have heard about some of the things I’m going to talk. That’s thanks to Scott. He posts weekly about the cows and the creamery. If you’d like to hear his perspective, go to peacefulheartfarm.locals. com and join our community. It’s free to sign up. We also have specific data that is for subscribers only. Also, anyone can read, watch and listen, but only subscribers can comment and make their own posts to the community. There is a minimal fee $5 per month to subscribe, though you can support us at whatever level you choose. And again, read, watch, listen for free. A shout out and huge “Thank You” to our Locals supporters. You help us keep going. Again, for those of you interested in more content, the address is peaceful heart Let’s start with the cows. The centerpiece of our operation as a small dairy and creamery. Cows Breeding season with artificial insemination began the last week of May. In August, when I last published a podcast, we had one confirmed pregnancy with a second AI procedure in progress, waiting on preg confirmation the first week of September. Today, we STILL have only one confirmed pregnancy and the last AI appointment for this cycle was completed about three weeks ago. We have spent hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars on this AI process. I believe there have been a total of three tries. We have to work with the vet’s schedule so the timeframes have stretched long. The second attempt produced three or four additional pregnancies and we set up the third AI appointment to try and get the four remaining cows impregnated. The second attempt girls were preg checked with ultrasound and three or four confirmed. However, before the next AI session, they all aborted. The aborts were likely related to a spirochete infection that is spread via deer urine. We treated all the cows. The next AI appointment was scheduled so we could start all over again and get them cycling all at the same time. Time just kept moving forward and here we are in November and still only one confirmed pregnancy. The third attempt is completed. Last AI Vet Visit The vet will come again a few days after Thanksgiving to see where we stand. One of the reasons this has stretched so long is the vet waits 65 days or so to be able to confirm pregnancy with ultrasound. We already know that only two have not come into heat again. Five have been bred by Ferdinand. We can tell because of what are called “heat stickers” If they get mounted, the stickers are rubbed clean and the underlying fluorescent orange becomes visible. That means possibly two out of seven on this last try. So why do I keep saying it is the last try? Well, that’s because we finally bit the bullet and bought the bull I just mentioned. We purchased Ferdinand about a month ago. He’s a gorgeous guernsey bull. Of course, this is not ideal because our plan is to have 100% registered Normande dairy herd. But we had to do something just to get calves so the cows would be in milk. We can’t support the herd shares and make cheese without lactating cows and we don’t have lactating cows if they don’t give birth to calves every so often. Even if we are able to...


Multitasking on the Homestead

Multitasking. How do I get so much done in one day? This is a question I get often. I do a lot of multitasking on the homestead. I didn’t just wake up one day and do this. There was a process that I went through to get from a scattered, unfocused, ineffective person to one who can just get things done. Now of course, I’m not always in that zone and there are days when I’m going into a room and wondering why I am there, multiple times a day. There are remedies to the unfocused mind. And I’m going to talk about that today. 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 I’ll keep this part brief as I give you the updates on our animals, gardens and the creamery. Cows The cows are still undergoing various artificial insemination routines. The first attempt we inseminated eight of our cows. Cookie had just given birth a few weeks ahead of this so she was not in this first rotation. Princess is the only one that took. We did eight again. No Princess but adding in Cookie this time. We checked the semen and it was viable. However, the bull with the semen sexed to produce heifers was much less active. In the end, we used this semen on our Normande cows and we used the unsexed semen on the jersey girls. We will pray for greater success this time and know for sure in about three weeks. I don’t expect all of them to take. That would be wonderful, but it is not statistically likely. At that point, we will need to think about the next step. We would be getting very late in the breeding cycle. We may continue on anyway because we need the milk to make the cheese. It’s just so frustrating right now. We plan for births in March and April. If we try again, it would push the births back into May and June. Then we get into the situation like we had with Cookie this year. The cows will not be ready to start the breeding process again in the first week of June if they give birth in May. I think I’ve mentioned this before that we make choices every single day trying to create our homestead exactly as we imagine. In the end, it never happens as we imagine and we must roll with the punches and make another plan. Dogs and Sheep The dogs and sheep are doing well. I have them collected together so they can get used to each other. I’m still waiting on that magic moment when the dogs and the sheep bond. So far, the sheep are still afraid of the dogs. Sooner or later, they will cave and become used to these noisy beasts in their space. We closed them up into an even tighter space so they are more likely to get to know each other a little bit better. I’ve watched the sheep watching me feed the dogs. I even saw one start to approach Mack’s bowl while he was off munching on a bone. He is very sharp and spotted the advance right away. He immediately went to his bowl and growled very ferociously at that sheep and she backed away. As I said, I don’t want them to be afraid of the dogs, but I do want them to respect the dogs and their food. I’ve considered making a separate place for feeding the dogs and that may still happen – likely will happen. But I’m going to wait a little longer. I want the sheep to know that he will only growl at them when protecting his food. Any other barking, I want them to assume he is doing his protection job. Goats I’m getting a plan outlined to integrate the new goat kids into the group as well. It looks like that will happen sometime in early fall. We will have three new goat babies to add to our family. I’m excited about that and a little apprehensive as well. They are young and small and I’m still learning about these dogs. Praying it all goes well. The goat kids will also have to learn to leave the dog food alone. It’s not likely that they will learn. That’s the...


Homestead Musings

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. Cows 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...


Raising Animal Protein

Raising animal protein for food on the homestead. What are some of the options? And what are some of the factors to consider when making your choices. As you may know our choices for raising animal protein on the homestead currently includes cows, goats, sheep and poultry. In the very near future, we plan on having pigs. There are other types of protein that we may have or have considered. I’ll talk about all of those. But first, as always, I will never take you all for granted. You make this show possible. Welcome to any and all new listeners and welcome back to the veteran homestead-loving regulars who stop by the FarmCast for every episode. You mean so much to me. Thank you so much for your support of this podcast. It has been a while and I’m so excited to share with you all about the homestead. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates We’ve had a busy morning already. Scott is milking. I set up for making butter in a little while and put some yogurt on to ferment. It will be ready in less than 8 hours. I’ve been out to the garden and planted a half dozen flowers, stocks this time, and let the chickens out to play. Chickens/Quail Chickens you say. When did that happen? If I remember correctly, the eggs began hatching on April the 8th. I had 24 eggs each of American White Bresse and Black Copper Maran. There were two incubators running and all went well. I hatched 17 White American Bresse and 7 Black Copper Marans. Due to the low hatch rate on the Marans, the eBay seller sent me another dozen for the cost of postage. I incubated those and hatched three more of the Black Copper Maran from that batch. The first batch of low hatch rate was not my fault. Most of the eggs were not fertile or perhaps were “scrambled” in the shipping process. But I must say that of those that didn’t hatch in the last dozen, four were nearly or fully formed. I have no idea why they died just before hatching but have to believe it must have been something I did or did not do with that last batch. At the moment, I have 14 American White Bresse and 9 Black Copper Maran. I lost three of the Bresse and one of the Marans. That last loss happened just a few days ago. That particular chicken was hatched six days after the rest of the crew. It was always smaller, but a little over 2 weeks ago, it developed some kind of disorder. It couldn’t really stand up. The vet happened to be here that day and took a look at it. She recommended antibiotics for a few days and see how it goes. That seemed to help a bit but eventually the chick succumbed to whatever the ailment was. The vet did not have a lot of information on chicken issues of this type. She said there are just too many variables without testing. And chicken generally are not worth the cost of testing. So, there you go. Dogs There is a lot to talk about with the dogs. I’ll try to keep it brief. Let me start with the current state of affairs and then go back and fill in a few details. Finn disappeared about 4 weeks ago and has not returned. While he and Charlotte escaped a lot, Charlotte has always been back the next day and Finn never more than two days. We did have to go and fetch him three different times. He seemed to get so far away that he did not know how to get home. Charlotte and Mack are now guarding the sheep. They seem to be doing well with that task. Charlotte still goes wherever she wants, whenever she wants, but she stays relatively close. She grieved for about two weeks after Finn disappeared. I had her on a tether so she could not run away, but even after I let her loose, she was very quiet. Being a Great Pyrenees, she generally barks a lot. But there was nothing for many days. Now she is back to barking up a storm. Fear of Thunder Speaking of storms, on the day that Finn disappeared, there was a storm and Charlotte returned home only hours after they both escaped. I found that she is very scared of thunder. Still, after seven months, she will not let me walk up to her to pet...


Planting the Garden

Planting the garden this year is a little tricky. Each year I have to determine what vegetables I want to grow. I don’t plant everything. After years of just planting everything that caught my eye, I am now choosy about what I plant. There are quite a few farm updates to talk about. Before I get to it, as always, 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 never want to take you for granted. Thank you so much for being here. Let’s get started on some homestead updates. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates It’s officially spring according to the calendar. We are still having quite a few cold days, but birthing is happening and planting the garden is on the horizon. We have calves, lambs and chicks in the incubator. Let’s start with the calves. Cows and Calves We had and/or have four cows and/or heifers that were bred this year. Three have given birth, all within 8 days. That’s how AI works. Everyone is fertilized at the same time and the births come close together. We have two bulls and a heifer so far. We bought Cookie and added her to the homestead last year. She was not bred with our other cows and her delivery date is sometime in April. So about two to three weeks before we have that last calf. Incidentally, we expect to breed seven cows and two heifers beginning the first week of June. We will have lots of calves, more calves next year than we have ever had on our homestead. Just in time for the cheesemaking to get into high gear. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The calves are beautiful and growing like weeds. We are still looking for names for the two bull calves, but the heifer is named Penny. You can see pics of these guys on our community or on our Facebook page. Sheep and Lambs As far as the sheep and lambs, the ewes were pasture bred. That means we stick the ram in there with them and he does his job according to their cycling schedule. Interestingly enough, all five ewes delivered within three days. They delivered even more closely than the AI’d cows. We had a total of eight but lost one that was part of a set of triples. Stellar Ewe It is very unusual for ewes to deliver more than one lamb in their first season. One young lady had triplets. She is currently raising two of them and doing really well. I think we can probably expect triplets from her every year. The oldest ewe consistently has twins – really big twins. They were the last born and looked to be a week old compared to the others. The breakdown on the lambs is four girls and three boys. We will be keeping the girls and enlarging our sheep flock. For quite a few years we have kept the flock small. But quite frankly, the market for lambs and goats is going crazy right now and we need the extra income to finish the creamery. And we really like these animals. It’s great that they can now support themselves and provide a bit of income. In the past, we worked at a break-even margin, eating a lot of the lamb ourselves. That does save money on groceries, so there is that. Goats We have not had goats on the homestead for over a year. Next week we are visiting a nearby goat operation. They have registered Kiko goats. I’m not sure we will be able to get a starter herd this year, but we plan to go and see what she has and ask a lot of questions. They will be really expensive as goats go. We need to prepare and budget for that as well. We keep goats for their meat of course, but they are also very useful in keeping the pastures cleaned up from unwanted brush and pine trees. Goats love woody stemmed plants. They will completely clear out all of the wild blackberries, wild rose, and generally all thorny plants that sheep and cows will not eat. It’s exciting to think about having these love creatures back on the homestead. I’ll keep you posted on when that might happen. Quail and...


Producing Your Own Food: Planning

Today I will be continuing the conversation on producing your own food. There is a lot to cover and what I can include in this podcast will only whet your appetite for more. Growing food for you and your family is one of the most satisfying occupations in the world. That is of course in my humble opinion. I’ll keep talking about it as long as you want to keep listening to it. Welcome new listeners and welcome back veteran homestead-loving regulars. Thank you so much for stopping by the FarmCast for every episode. I appreciate you all so much. There are so many exciting things happening around the homestead. Let’ Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates Let’s start with homestead updates. I have some fantastic news. Well, it’s fantastic for us. I’ll save it for last, just before I get into the next “producing your own food” segment. Cows We have three cows and one heifer that are scheduled to give birth very soon. Claire and Butter are two of the cows, Luna is the heifer. All of these girls are due sometime around the 23rd of March. Our newest cow, Cookie, is due in mid-April. I forgot to tell you all about Cookie in the last podcast. She is our latest addition to the homestead. Cookie is about 4 years old. We were a little concerned about meeting our needs for milk in the early spring so we started looking around for a good milking girl to add, at least temporarily, until we get our younger girls bred and producing milk. Cookie is a great cow. She is a from an organic dairy about an hour and a half from us. She is mostly jersey but has some guernsey in her as well. Originally, she was a 4-H show cow. That makes her very friendly and an attention seeker. We love her already. And it looks like she integrated into the herd without issue. Sheep We expect lambs in the next two weeks. There are five ewes that are currently pregnant. Two of them are older and I expect at least one of those girls to have twins. The other three are just about a year old. Normal birthing is for yearlings to have a single lamb. We are looking for five to seven lambs this season. Dogs Finn and Charlotte are on patrol duty for keeping these guys safe. Finn is still escaping regularly and we are working on a training regime for him. Every time he goes where he is not supposed to be, he gets put on a tether for two days. We are hoping this will be effective. However, it is well known that any dog with Great Pyrenees genetics will tend to roam. Recently, he hasn’t been roaming outside of the perimeter fences, but we really want to train him to stay in the area he is assigned. We shall see how it all works out. It may be that we simply have to live with him going wherever he wants, whenever he wants. It is obviously dangerous for him, but we do not want to deflate his spirit and ruin him as a livestock guardian dog. I hope that the birth of the new lambs will give him better incentive to stay with his charges. We shall see. Quail The quail seem to cause me perpetual grief. So many people love walking in nature and I do too. It seems so peaceful and calm and beautiful. The true reality is that nature has a really brutal side to it. You all know this. Storms and drought and fires and floods are all daily happenings around the world. What we tend to overlook is how brutal animals can be with each other. The quail have been a real challenge in this area. After months of no issues, all of a sudden, I might have one, two, three birds that are brutally attacked by the others in the cage. It is heartbreaking. I then have to make special arrangements for healing of these unfortunately bullied birds. If I can find the culprit, I separate her from the rest. One dilemma is where do I keep all of these? What quarters do I have available for housing? Quail Clinic Right now, I have two roosters in the bottom right cage. One is in the main part and the other is in the enclosed box the hens use for laying eggs and all use for taking dust baths. The one in the main...


Seed-Starting Basics

Today, I’ll follow up on the basics of getting started with gardening with an intro to seed-starting indoors ahead of planting in the garden when the weather warms. But before we get to that, more homestead updates are in order. I’ll be talking about our beautiful livestock guardian dogs for the most part. There is so much to share about these fantastic dogs. 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. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Now, on to homestead updates. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates I have a bit of cow news that I’ll add at the end. Let’s talk about the dogs. Our Livestock Guardian Dogs We have added two new wonderful dogs to our homestead. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am about these beasties, Finnigan (Finn for short) and Charlotte. We purchased them from a fellow vendor at the market who is scaling down and exiting their business. They were guarding chickens and turkeys. We don’t have these kinds of birds yet but we will at some point. It’s nice to know that we have dogs that have at least some experience with poultry. It can be hard for livestock guardian dogs to learn how to guard and not chase and chew on poultry. Finn is ½ Great Pyrenees and ½ Anatolian Shepherd. He is a big baby. Loves to have his tummy rubbed. Follows us everywhere. We have had these guys since mid-October so they are still learning about us and the sheep. They are kept exclusively with the sheep. At first, we had to hold Finn in a fenced area next to the sheep because he was chasing them all over the place. He has since proven he can be trusted to not run them to death and now resides with them and Charlotte. I have not seen much evidence that the dogs have bonded with the sheep. That will come in time. Right now, they are learning to love us and we definitely love them. Charlotte Charlotte is a Great Pyrenees. She is the most beautiful dog I have ever seen. Well maybe I’m biased. For whatever reason, she is very shy of humans. At first, I thought she had been mistreated. Lately though, I’m thinking she was not socialized to humans at an early age. She just has an innate mistrust of humans. She is not aggressive or anything. It’s just that we cannot walk up to her and pet her. The first time I was able to pet her was when the vet was here for a general exam and heart worm tests. While the vet was working on Finn, Charlotte came over next to me and was kind of hiding behind me. I was able to pet her and hug her. Alas, it was only for the moment when she thought she needed protection and Finn was not only unavailable, but may have needed protection himself, in her mind. Getting to Know Each Other From the beginning, she would come up and quickly take a biscuit from my hand as long as I had Finn between us. I reached over his back and she would take the biscuit and run off to chomp on it. A few days ago, she started coming up without Finn between us. I still can’t just walk up to her but she has improved greatly in just a couple of months. Yesterday I was able to pet her and give her some love. She is tied on a lead at the moment and allowed me to walk up to her fairly easily. It is so satisfying to finally be able to love on her. For weeks and weeks, she held back and just watched Finn get petted and babied and loved. Now she is getting some of that. She is scheduled to be spayed next week. We don’t like having her tied up, but she has escaped twice in the past couple of weeks. The Great Pyrenees breed is harder to contain than goats. Who knew? Well, I knew there was an issue with roaming with this breed. However, I had no idea they were so successful as escape artists. We have been so concerned that she will escape and get pregnant. I’ll be so glad when this escape artist is safe from pregnancy. Finnigan (Finn) Now let’s talk about Finn. That’s short for...


New Year, New Projects

I’m back, finally with a new year, new projects. Hope you are doing well. I hope you had wonderful Christmas and New Year celebrations with your families and friends. It has been four months since I’ve talked with you all. It takes a great deal of time, energy and money to make this podcast happen. More on how you can support us later in the podcast. For right now I want to say how much I appreciate all of you. I’m putting forth the effort to get back on track and to once again interact with all of you. I’ve been slacking and you deserve more from me. We’ve all been lonely and isolated these past two years. I intend to bring a little bit of love and light into each of your lives. I’ve always talked about tradition and the value of tradition. From summer 2021 into winter 2022, I’ve come to appreciate God and our Lord Jesus Christ in a deeper fashion. Probably none of you know that I am Catholic. If you do know that, it will probably not surprise you that I attend the Traditional Latin Mass. It’s just another place that tradition permeates my life. I’ll continue to talk about traditional homestead living and our traditional raw milk products and artisan cheese. But don’t be surprised if you hear more exclamations like glory to God or praise God or praise Jesus. We all need more reminders that we are loved. Locals I’ve started a Locals community. It’s a place where we can come together and talk about whatever we want. There is no censorship. Think along the lines of a Facebook Group page. Everyone is posting, commenting and supporting one another. There is no cost to become a member and get access to these podcasts as well as select other content. Pictures of the animals I talk about. Maybe even some short videos. In order to support me and this podcast, I’m looking for people to become paid subscribers. The biggest advantage you have in becoming a paid subscriber is that because there is a little bit of financial investment, there are no trolls. Should someone be willing to paying the minimal monthly fee only to come in an harass our community, I can remove them. We have complete autonomy within our community. And no one is going to collect your data and sell it for advertising. That’s not what Locals is about. In fact, it is designed to free us from that intrusion into our personal lives by technical oligarchs getting rich from our love for each other. I urge you to check it out. Support this podcast by becoming a paid subscriber – or just enjoy the free stuff. That’s perfectly fine too. I’m considering starting a subscription-only group of followers over on the Locals platform for those that are looking for more faith in their daily lives. Whether you have your own homestead, dream of having one or are perfectly satisfied living the suburbs and purchasing food from your local farmer, faith plays a part in all our lives. And definitely let me know if you are interested in participating in religious conversation in an interactive way on the Locals platform. I’m still trying to figure out how the plat form will allow me to separate this content from the rest. Sort of like how to make a playlist for specific content topics. Again, to support the show, become a paid subscriber. Again, it’s not required. However, when I make a post, a paid subscriber (which is $5 per month) can do more than comment. You can make your own post on the topic or post o a topic of your choice to start a conversation. Other paid subscribers can comment on your posts and/or mine. It is a community. Enough of all that. Check it out and let me know what you think. If you have trouble figuring out what you need to do, email me (at email address). Let’s get on with the podcast. Appreciation for All of You It has been about four months since I’ve talked with you all. There is so much that has happened I can’t possibly just pick up where I left off last fall and go forward. Nope, I’m just going to start from where we are and go from there. If there is...


Homestead Update and Health Update

It has been a while so how about a homestead update and health update. I republished a couple of podcasts. I hope you got a chance to listen for the first time or relisten if you were interested in the topic of cheese. It’s going to be close, but I think I can get this podcast published today. Let’s hope all goes well and I am able to accomplish it. If it doesn’t, I am likely to abandon the effort for another week. My life is topsy-turvy and I only have so much time each day to take care of any given task. When things don’t go well, they get pushed to the next day. It’s my method of reducing stress. Let’s pause a moment. 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. Thank you for hanging in there with me. I appreciate you all so much. Let’s have a homestead update and then a little info on the status of our health here at Peaceful Heart Farm Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates The cows are coming up first. Cows Last night at about 9:15 we got a call from the neighbors across the street. Two of our cows were in their yard. Who could they be? There were two groups of cows with two animals. I knew it was most likely the two that were scheduled for freezer camp this morning. Sure enough, those two guys were out there wreaking havoc in the neighbor’s yard and trying to get into the pasture with their cows. It was a little harrowing to be trying to work with two very large boys in the dark. However, all of our cows are fairly docile. They were upset and confused of course. I believe that I’ve mentioned before that a cow does not like anything out of the ordinary. They want things to be the same all the time. Routine, routine, routine. So needless to say, everything about this situation was out of the ordinary. Perrin is Secured Nearby, just 20 or 30 feet down the driveway, was a gate to a paddock. Scott opened that gate and Perrin almost immediately went inside. Rocketman was a different story. He went back and forth in front of that gate at least three or four times, never venturing inside. Finally, he started down the driveway and Scott herded him that way and away from the neighbor’s cows. I followed with the car. Of course, once we got him down the driveway the next challenge was finding a way to get him into a pasture. Scott chased him up and down one fence a couple of times. I opened up a couple of gates. One was a gate back to where he escaped. The other was into the field with our nursery girls. It was a little risky letting him in there, but we needed some way to get him into some fence somewhere. Once he was back inside our perimeter fence, there were many options as to how to move forward. Rocketman is Secured Rocketman eagerly went through the very wide-open gate into the pasture with the girls. The girls themselves were way out in the field. We needed to get him contained before he joined with them. That would be a disaster if we had to single him out from that crowd in the dark. Scott quickly contained the girls in paddock number one. Perrin was in paddock number two. And Rocketman was in the travel lane that joins with all paddocks. The goal was to isolate both boys in the small holding area just inside the gate I opened for Rocketman. He had already walked most of the way down the travel lane toward the other paddocks. Scott met him coming the other way while herding Perrin down the travel lane toward the holding area. I was over in paddock number four which runs directly alongside the travel lane. I wanted to be close but not in the travel lane. That would have just confused everything and possibly herded them back out into the field in an attempt to get away from me. Chasing Cows Around Paddock Four Now for the next debacle. There are two gates at the bottom of a hollow. One opens into paddock four where I am and one opens or closes the travel lane where Scott and the boys are...


Cheese Makes You Happy

How Cheese Makes You Happy! Today’s Show Homestead Life Updates Scott is working hard on getting the creamery built. Every day that does not bring adverse weather sees him out there building the walls. There are also lots of other odds and ends and details he adds in there that breaks up the monotony. I’m am so blessed to have such a wonderful life here with him. Our life has purpose and meaning as we both work hard to bring you the benefits of traditional hand-made artisan cheese. The winter drags on. Seems like a long one this year doesn’t it? Every year winter is the same 13 weeks on the calendar but the weather conditions during that period of time alters our perception of time, I think. There is a common winter ailment called seasonal affective disorder. I’m sure some of you know of what I speak. It’s a type of depression that’s related to changes in the seasons. Symptoms can begin as early as the fall and continue into the winter months. Occasionally, SAD causes depression into the spring or early summer, but that is rarer. Spring usually brings a rush of relief. I experience SAD every year. This year is different. I’ve significantly changed my diet and it shows. While I can still feel the effects of this winter season, it is muted compared to previous years. I feel kind of heavy sometimes; slightly weighted down by life in general. As an aside, I generally just suffer through it. However, there are things you can do. Light therapy or phototherapy is the most common treatment. Some schools of thought attribute the issue to reduced vitamin D from the sun as there is less light due to the length of the day. More severe cases may require medication or psychotherapy. The symptoms may start as a minor issue such as having trouble sleeping or a general loss of interest in doing anything. Low energy, feeling sluggish or maybe agitated for no reason. As the season progresses, the symptoms get worse and worse. In the past it has seemed overwhelming to me. And then, poof, spring arrives and it all evaporates like mist. Let’s talk about how cheese might help with that. Did you know that cheese has nutritional properties that stimulate our happy hormones? First, let’s cover the basic nutrition in cheese. Cheese and Nutrition Cheese is a delicious and tremendously efficient source of nutrition. It supplies many valuable nutrients, including proteins, sugars, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. A 4-ounce piece of solid farmhouse cheese, for example, supplies more than half the adult nutritional requirements for protein, fat, calcium, and phosphorus as well as significant portions of vitamins A, B2, and B12. If you compare the nutritional content of a 3.5-ounce chunk of a hard, aged cheese such as Cheddar or Emmental to an equivalent amount of chicken eggs (two eggs are about 3.5 ounces), the cheese contains about twice as much protein and one quarter the cholesterol. The miracle of evolution has ensured that milk is an extremely nutritious food. After all, without it how would mothers, down through the eons, have guaranteed the survival of their babies? Cheese concentrates the nutrients in milk. It’s a highly efficient method of getting vital nutrients for our bodies. Another advantage to cheese is that its nutrients are “predigested” by bacteria and enzymes during cheesemaking and aging. That means the process of breaking down the proteins, fats, and sugars began before it was savored on our palette and began the journey to our tummy. Plants in the pasture have absorbed nutrients from the soil; the dairy animals have extracted those nutrients, packaging them in the form of milk. That’s another place that a lot of gathering nutrients has already been done for you. Your body has to devote less effort to processing cheese than it does with many other comparably nutritious foods. Cheese Tastes Good Cheese tastes good and satisfies us. A big reason for that is the fat. There are beneficial fats available in milk. Many...


A Cancer Diagnosis

A cancer diagnosis is causing temporary changes to the podcast. We have had a cancer diagnosis and that will affect what I am able to do on a daily basis. I will be caring for Scott and picking up a lot of tasks he normally handles. In the end, it looks like he will be fine. However, getting to that end point will entail traveling a very difficult road of chemo and radiation. 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, even more so right now. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates I’m going to start with a few more details about our health situation and then give you a few livestock and garden updates. A Cancer Diagnosis Over the past four weeks we have been to one appointment after another. Specialists, CAT scan, biopsy, surgery and a couple more specialist appointments all in little more than 30 days. Scott has had both tonsils out and the healing for that procedure is quite lengthy for an adult. I’ve been milking the cows on my own and with a little help with the heavy lifting from a neighbor. It has been going pretty well. Getting things in Order Scott and I are streamlining as much as possible so we can get through this time period with less stress. We have plenty of cheese stored up, so I will not be making any more cheese for the rest of this milking season. Milking twice a day changed to once a day almost immediately. That reduces the amount of milk that we are handling on a daily and weekly basis. Between the great herd share folks, feeding the calf, making yogurt and having drinking milk for ourselves, I think we will be in good shape here. Oh yeah, and making butter every so often as well. Cheese Cave Changes We are changing how we store the cheese in the cheese cave. Scott handles all of that, and rather than me trying to add that to my already full schedule, we are going to try vacuum packing a lot of the cheeses. I’ll let you know how that goes. Garden Changes The garden is in full swing and there is not much I can do about that except get out there every day or so and bring in the harvest, process it quickly and move on to the next task. I’ve determined that if I get behind on that, the compost pile will be loving it. Podcast Changes The biggest change will be with this podcast. It takes a tremendous amount of time to put out each episode. My plan is to replay some of the older episodes. If you are new this will be a benefit for you. And if you are a long-time listener, I hope you will bear with me as we get through this time. The doctor let me know to expect drastic changes in lifestyle for four to six months. We can do this. Now for a few homestead updates. Creamery Of course, the creamery is completely on hold. This will be my last mention of that for several months. Cows The cows are hanging in there. I’m a little worried about getting hay to them in the winter. I’ll be looking for help from a neighbor or two in that regard. Moving them from one pasture paddock to another is something I can easily handle. But when the grass runs out, they will need hay brought to them. That means someone who knows what they are doing with a tractor. That’s not me. Fortunately, that task can be done once or twice a week in an hour or so and should not be too much of a burden for those helping us through this time. Sheep The sheep are hanging out with Mack, the sheepdog. They seem to be getting along quite well. We may add a few sheep back to the flock over the next few weeks. Again, moving them from place to place is not hard. So, having six or eight instead of four is not a big deal. We shall see how that plays out. If it seems stressful to try and accomplish it, I will let that do as well. There is always next year. Donkeys Because we now have a livestock guardian dog, the donkeys are going on to another home. This is a high priority in the next few...


What I Love About Homesteading

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. Cows 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. Quail 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...


A Day in the Life on Our Homestead

A day in the life on our homestead. My brother-in-law says we are always working. He is so right. And we love it. There is never a dull moment around here. For sure, sometimes it seems like just too much and wouldn’t a life of leisure be preferable. No, not really. As I imagine that life, I can only see boredom and always searching for something new and interesting. Here we don’t have to search for it as it comes to us every single day. Today I’ll give you an overview of a whirlwind day I recently experienced. 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 I’m going to skip most of the updates on the animals as they will show up in my rendition of a day in the life on our homestead. I will just briefly mention that Sweet Pea and Johnny are still looking for a new “forever home”. We love them but we simply do not need four donkeys. We intentionally reduced our sheep population and now the coyotes have reduced it even further. It will take time to rebuild what we have lost. In the end, we will still have only a small number of sheep, perhaps a dozen or so, compared to our high of 70 animals in the flock. We are winding down our cashmere goat herd this fall. Next up will be bringing in a few Kiko goats. Perhaps I will do a whole podcast on this breed of goat. They were bred in New Zealand. The wild goats were bred with domestic stock to create a breed that is disease and parasite resistant. And my favorite attribute they bred for was little to no hoof maintenance. Most domestic goats in the US have a really hard time with their hooves. I look forward to raising goats that can be comfortable on their feet without constant attention. That’s it for now. I want to get on to the topic of a day in the life on the homestead. I hope you enjoy this brief glimpse of the story of our life. A Day in the Life Our day begins the same every morning. Scott and I pray the rosary together. It’s a great meditation and starts our day off in the right frame of mind. God first. Morning Milking Now we get ready for morning milking. There isn’t much for me to as Scott handles most of the milking tasks. I handle some of the cleanup at the end. The only thing I have for this morning is to tend to the baby quail chicks. I make sure they have food and fresh water. The little ones get checked on twice a day. The grownups, only in the evening. Everyone looks good this morning and they are happy to have food and water. Morning Gardening Scott is still working on the milking so I take the opportunity for a brief walk through the garden. I decide to harvest some fresh herbs for the farmer’s markets. It’s a spur of the moment decision just because I have some time and it’s a beautiful morning to be in the garden. I sprint back to the house, pick up some scissors and a bucket and I’m back out in the garden in a flash. I love cutting fresh herbs. This morning it’s basil leaves, oregano sprigs and bunches of thyme. The smell is heavenly. The herbs are quickly stored in the cooler. I will package them later – probably tomorrow. Making a Snack I need to have protein snacks quickly available. Hard boiled eggs are one of my favorites. My Corsori, an Instapot lookalike, can handle 18 eggs at a time. Six minutes under pressure, six minutes cool down and natural pressure release, followed by a quick pressure release and open the lid. Six minutes in a cold-water bath, then peel. I like using my pressure cooker because the shells always just fall off when I am peeling them. We generally eat just two meals a day. Scott makes us brunch somewhere between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. It is usually in that 11:00 to 12:00 range. If I plan well, dinner will be around 5:00 pm for me. Scott’s dinner is always much later....


Canning Peas

Canning peas is great fun. We have been shelling peas for several days. That is also quite fun. I’ll be talking all about that and more in today’s podcast. 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 It’s a beautiful time of year. Summer has arrived in full force. The days are often sunny and hot. We could use a lot more rain, but again, it is summer. The rains will be few and far between for the most part. That means watering the garden and orchard a lot. We really need to get that irrigation system back up and running. Oh well, it’s on the very long list of stuff we would like to do. Right now, life is all about canning peas. But first . . . how about some animal updates? Cows Surprise! Hansel and Gretel, the twin calves, have a new home. Each day I went out there to give them their bottles I looked and them and mused about what we were going to do with them. Then God provided. A man called out of the blue. He actually lives relatively close, about an hour away. He was frantic for a calf. Just that morning one of his cows, a Holstein, had lost her calf. I was happy to say that we did have a calf he could buy. In fact, we had two and the cow being a Holstein, she would produce lots and lots and lots of milk. He could probably use two calves. It all happened so fast. Before nightfall, this wonderful man and his wife were here picking up those two calves. It was such a win-win situation. Again, it all happened so fast I didn’t have much of a chance to think about how much I would miss seeing those baby faces every day. Artificial insemination is in progress. It is less than a week before we see if the AI took. We look for signs from any of the cows coming into heat. If so, we do it again. Fingers crossed all seven cows and heifers are pregnant on the first try. Donkeys Scott got all of the donkeys spiffed up with their hooves trimmed nicely. They are going to the sale barn. If you would like one of these great animals, let us know soon. Their purpose on our homestead was livestock protection. Now that we have decided to use livestock guardian dogs for that task, their jobs no longer exist and they will have to move on to help out someone else. I will miss them, especially Daisy and Cocoa. Well, Sweet Pea and Johnny will also be missed. It was a hard decision but we have to do the best we can for all of our animals and the coyote pressure was too much for them, I think. They are miniature donkeys. Perhaps if they had been full sized donkeys, the job would have been an easy one. In any case, we are moving on with the next plan. It’s how we roll on the homestead. Sheep and Goats I just checked the possible delivery dates for the sheep. We couldn’t find the day that we put Lambert back in with the ladies, so we guessed based on the log entries for when the animal predation stopped. Our best estimate indicates we could have new lambs the last week of October. That would be such a blessing. We really have no idea how it will go as we’ve never tried to breed the ewes for a fall lambing. Many sheep and goats will only breed in the fall for spring lambing. The katahdin breed is supposed to be able to breed year-round. We shall see. Orchard and Garden Just before I started this podcast, I went to the spare bedroom and looked out the window to see if Scott might be in the garden. It was not likely but you never know. He has been working on fixing the deer fencing that was annihilated a few years back during a particularly difficult thunderstorm. Trees were down all over and one took out some of the deer fencing. The game cameras we have out there indicated to Scott that there are two deer that are regularly invading the orchard. That’s why the blueberries...


Cheddar Cheese

Today’s topic is cheddar cheese. That’s right. It’s time for another trivia podcast and this one is all about cheddar cheese. Is your mouth watering yet? I must say that I make a fantastic cheddar cheese and I hope you get to try it one day. 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. Before we get started on the cheddar facts, let me give you an update on what’s going on at the homestead. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates If you are listening to this podcast sometime in the future, your date marker is that we are in the middle of June. Almost at the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. That the crops are starting to come in already. We are continuing the overwhelmed portion of the year. It starts in spring and continues right on through the fall. Planting, weeding, harvesting, and storing food. Along the way, the animals need additional care. Breeding cycles, milking twice a day, and flies. Always the flies. This year they are particularly high in population. Large dumps of wet rain at the perfect time of year for the propagation of flies is making the animals miserable. Cows The artificial insemination process has officially begun. The first step is to get all of the cows that are being bred to cycle at nearly the same time. This is especially important for a dairy. Ideally, the calves will be born within days of each other. In the first few days, the cows produce a thick nutritious milk product called colostrum. It is high in fat and most importantly, it is filled with the antibodies the calves need to survive and thrive. We can save that milk for making cheese or fulfilling herd share obligations. It must all go to the calves. And there is a lot of it. We save it in jars and cans and gradually dole it out to the calves. Once we get into keeping the milk, we get to keep every single drop of it until this backlog of milk/colostrum is consumed. Then we share the awesome milk with the calves and we get less milk for making cheese and herd shares. The reason that we need the births to be close together is the timing of who is in colostrum and who are we milking. We milk two at a time. If the calves are close together, then it is easy to just milk everybody the same. If that doesn’t happen, then we end up milking out the ones who are in the stage of producing milk we can use and then lastly, we milk out those who are still producing colostrum. Again, ideally everybody produces their colostrum all together and then we can get on with just milking everybody and not worrying about stopping, pouring up the milk and then starting again for colostrum milk for those late birthing cows. This is our second year of AI. So far, it is going well. Tomorrow, the placing of the sperm happens. Then we wait for three weeks to see if anyone comes into heat again. Of course, we hope that everyone takes on the first try. But how often does that actually happen? I don’t know. Again, we are new to this process. Sheep The sheep are still grazing safely right outside my living room window. I think we are past the predator issues for the moment. We are still looking for a dog to add to the homestead. I don’t ever want to go through that kind of predator loss ever again. Lambert is in there with the girls. Perhaps we will have lambs again in the fall. Quail I don’t think I said anything about the quail in the last podcast. That’s a first, right? Well, the first batch has been processed – well we kept almost all of the girls. They filled out the breeding groups that were missing a hen, replaced one complete breeding group that was older and the remaining 10 we kept for extra eggs. They are all laying pretty well at this point. The second group that was a really small hatch, only 19, is now in the penthouse growing. They are growing like weeds. We did lose one and so there are 18...


Honey! Fun Facts

Today is going to be all about honey. How sweet is that? Honey is a yummy treat that has lots of health benefits. But what is it really? And how is it made? What’s the best way to store it and how long will it last? All of these questions and more will be answered in today’s podcast. I want to take a minute and say welcome to all the new listeners and, as always, welcome back all of you who are veteran homestead-loving regulars stopping by the FarmCast for every single episode. I appreciate you all so much. We have lots to talk about regarding the goings on around the homestead. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates Let’s start with the cows. I love our cows so much. They are definitely my favorite. Well, I love those lambs too. And the goats. And the quail. And what about the donkeys? Okay, I can’t decide on a favorite. Cows We tried again to put the milking moms in with the rest of the herd and the other three nursing calves. There is a video up on our Facebook page of Princess following Rosie around. And as you can imagine, Rosie came up short a couple of gallons of milk this morning. Well, it was worth a try anyway. Princess is a very resourceful young lady and will latch on anywhere that anyone will let her. Violet is “bagging up”. That means she is approaching her delivery. We now have her in with the Rosie and Butter. They come up every day, twice a day so we can check on her more often. The rest of the crowd will come up once a day. They are getting retrained for the upcoming AI procedures. There are three. There is a hormonal implant that is done a week ahead. Then there is a hormone shot three days ahead. And then the AI implantation takes place. After all of that, we wait for three weeks to see if they come into heat again. If so, we try the implant once again. And that circle of life is continued. This will be our second year of using artificial insemination. I hope it goes better this year. I expect it will. Experience always makes things go easier. Violet will be the only one not involved in this first round of AI as she will either not have delivered yet or will have freshened only a day or so ahead of all the prep. She will need six weeks before she is ready to start her next calf. Sheep We lost yet another sheep, this time to a rogue dog, or so the tracks would indicate. They were much too large for a coyote. I say it was a rogue dog because we never saw another indication that it was still in the area. There was a very large lost dog that was listed on our county Facebook page the very next day. Are they connected? We will never know. The losses are devastating but we keep moving. We continue to search for a livestock guardian dog and pray the right one comes along soon. Garden Scott is out in the garden today putting in a whole lot of plant starts. We have been so busy with other things that the garden tasks have just been pushed back and pushed back and pushed back some more. He is out there trying to get us caught up. What a wonderful man he is as he picks up the slack that I’m leaving out there. I sprained my hand last week and it will hurt like crazy if I work it too hard. Scott has been doing lots of things to help me out. The garden work is only one of them. Culinary Herbs I have two perennial herbs that are going in between the sections of the strawberry patch. I already have oregano and thyme out there. Today Scott is adding the rosemary and garden sage. Other herbs plants he hopes to get in the ground are the parsley and basil. I’m raising those as annuals. Perhaps when I have an official herb garden I will plant some that will reseed each year. We shall see. Peppers On the vegetable front. He has two flats of peppers that will fill another two raised beds. It’s a lot to accomplish in one day. Will he reach his goal? We shall see. Whatever he gets done is so appreciated. The peppers are those lovely California Wonder bell peppers and pepperoncini. I’m going to pickle some this year....


Livestock Guardian Dogs; Let's Add to Our Homestead

Livestock guardian dogs is a natural follow-on to the previous podcast about coyotes. At that time, we weren’t really willing to make that step. However, after speaking with other sheep herders, we’ve decided it is time. This is a really big step for me. I truly still feel quite uncomfortable about my ability to properly care for a dog. I don’t really know what my block is in this regard, but I’m jumping in there and I’m going to move past it. I believe some of that revolves around the years that we could not have animals that require daily attention as we were only here on the weekends. It’s an old mindset that no longer applies. I’ve learned to care for lots of different animals. I can do livestock guardian dogs. 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. If you want to help us out with our mission to provide local, nutrient dense food and heal the earth, please share this podcast on your social media with those interested in following the sustainable homestead life. That’s the best way to help us grow. Now on to our stories. Our Virginia Homestead Life Updates Let’s start with some updates on the homestead. If you listened to the last podcast all about coyotes, you know that we have been having some predator issues and we lost a significant number of our sheep. We believe we have that under control for the moment. After lots of discussions and soul searching, we have decided to get a dog. After I give you the normal updates on all of our wonderful homestead livestock buddies, I’ll go into that topic in detail. But first, let’s get you caught up on what’s going on around here. Sheep As noted in the last podcast we lost over half of our sheep and lamb population. In fact, we lost all six of the lambs born this year. I let Scott talk me into having a fall crop of lambs. So, Lambert is back in with the girls. We shall see how that goes. We’ve never had lambs in the fall, though it is quite common. All of the sheep are now in the back pasture again. The cameras we put out night after night indicate that there are no longer any predators coming into the area. We will be getting a dog anyway. They will eventually return and we want to be prepared. Cows I’ve completed the registration process on all of our girls. We have three registered Jersey girls and five registered Normande girls. The breeding season is upon us. In mid-June we will start the artificial insemination process once again. There are still a few details that we haven’t worked out in that realm. Depending on the conversation we will have with the vet will determine whether we try using embryos. The implantation of an embryo enables you to pick all of the genetics of the calf. The mom simply carries the fertilized egg in embryonic form. I don’t know much about this yet. More to come on that. Calves The twin calves are back in the calf pasture and we’ve added Virginia to the mix. I don’t know if I talked about that last time. Virginia was sneaking in and stealing Cloud’s milk. Cloud is already supporting two calves. A third, especially a yearling, would be way more than she could support. She has a significant percentage of black angus genes and does not produce as prolifically as the other dairy cows. Butter could support three or four calves. She produces well over six gallons of milk per day. We are still eagerly anticipating the birth of our last calf via Violet. June 10th is just around the corner. I can’t wait. The late birth may eliminate her from being in the breeding rotation for next year. After birth, it is a minimum of six weeks before she can be bred again. And that would put her insemination at the end of July and the subsequent birth date would be late April. I think we may give AI one try, perhaps two. A second attempt would have her delivering in mid-May. That is pushing it. But it just...


Coyotes on the Homestead

Coyotes are a plague when you have sheep. Today’s podcast is going to be all about coyotes. Probably more than you ever wanted to know. Some things about coyotes might surprise 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 So why is the topic today about coyotes? Well, we have had issues and I need to talk about it. I’ll try to keep it mostly factual and as upbeat as possible. In the end though, sometimes homestead life has tragic consequences. Sheep and Lambs Over a span of about 3 or 4 days we lost more than half of our sheep. All six of our lambs, including my bottle baby, Susie Q are gone. Five adult ewes are also gone. We have 10 sheep left out of 21. Yeah, it’s a big loss. I’m still heartbroken about losing Susie Q. I still look for her. When I look out the window, momentarily I’m looking for her. Especially in the evening, when I go to create bottles for the twin calves, I briefly look for the very small bottle we use for lambs. Then I remember. She’s gone. I was unusually attached to Susie Q. We’ve had bottle lambs lots of time. But I’ve never been so attached. Well, perhaps it’s that we have never lost one. And after they are grown and no longer need me for daily feedings, I naturally let go of them. Like Lambert. He’s still out there with the boys and he was a bottle baby. I just don’t think I would miss him the way that I miss Susie Q. And we’ve had others that ended up at freezer camp. I don’t know what’s different except that she was still so young dependent on us. Cows and Calves We moved all of the animals out of the back fields where the attacks were occurring. Scott brought out a couple of guys that hunted the male leader and we also used poison. That’s a really harsh method, but sometimes it is necessary. The twin calves were also quite vulnerable to coyote attack. Scott moved them to a sheltered area. Virginia is also with them. We had to pull her out of the general herd because she was nursing on Cloud. If you remember, Cloud is already feeding two calves. Adding Virginia was definitely more than Cloud could support. You can likely guess that the ones who would suffer would be Princess and Winston. Virginia is about a year old and would definitely wipe out all the available milk and the younger two would be left hungry. So, Virginia is safely away from the other cows and hanging out with the twins. Keeping the various calves out of one or another milk supply has really been a challenge this year. I don’t know if I mentioned that we briefly had all the calves and cows together. It’s much easier to maintain the pastures if there are only two groups of animals. The boys and the girls. However, having all the cow girls together immediately failed. Rosie came in for milking down a couple of quarts of milk. We suspected Princess as Rosie is her mom, after all. Now I’m wondering if it was actually Virginia and after she got a taste of milk she started looking around and found Cloud after Rosie was gone. Who knows? Rosie and Butter are in a field by themselves. The twin calves and Virginia are in the loafing space. And the rest of the crew which includes Violet, Claire, Buttercup, Cloud and her two calves, are out front. The boys, of course, are in yet another place. We have cows all over the place. Everyone is relatively safe at the moment. Let’s talk about coyotes. I didn’t want to know all of this and I’ve left out the most gruesome of details. But the gist of the story is here. Coyotes The coyote is a species of canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the wolf. It fills much of the same ecological niche as the golden jackal does in Europe and Asia. Though the coyote is larger and more predatory. Other...