Episode 148 | Small Homestead Living: Raising and Sourcing Quality Animal Foods | Amy Sliffe of Blue Whistler Farm

What began as a conversation about options for sourcing quality meat turned into a fascinating discussion on all that you can accomplish on a small homestead.  Amy homesteads less than five acres, and she is full of creative ideas for making the most of a small space.  For those who are interested in raising their own meat, we dive into what that looks like on a small scale.  For those who want to source high-quality meat without raising it themselves, we also share our best tips for that.  And if you stick around until the end of our discussion, you might just find yourself adding dairy sheep to your homestead!  May this episode inspire you to think creatively about producing and sourcing animal foods no matter the size of your homestead.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The beauty of finding community as a homesteading mama
  • Counting the cost of raising your own beef
  • Where to begin sourcing food locally
  • Options for raising your own meat on a small property
  • Different approaches to weaning calves and lambs
  • What to know when ordering meat in bulk
  • Choosing and using the various cuts of meat
  • Questions to ask your farmer about how your meat is raised
  • Surprising benefits of dairy sheep over other dairy animals
  • Why you might want to prioritize raising animals on your homestead

Thank you to our sponsors!

Toups and Co Organics uses nourishing, organic ingredients to create simple and safe skincare products.  Toups and Co is offering my listeners 10% off any one purchase with the code FARMHOUSE.  Visit ToupsandCo.com to order today.  And check out my interview with the founder of Toups and Co, Emilie, to find out more about this amazing company and their products.

Check out some of my current favorite Toups and Co products: activated charcoal face bar, seabuckthorn cleansing oil, frankincense tallow balm, makeup line

Azure Standard is a family-owned company dedicated to providing you with high quality, affordable organic, natural, and non-GMO groceries, health, and household products.  Place your first order at AzureStandard.com and use the code FARMHOUSE10 to receive 10% off your purchase of $50 or more delivered to a local drop point.

You might like some of my favorite Azure products: bulk raw honey, raw cheddar cheese, gamma seal lids

This promotion expires November 30, 2022, and is only available for the first time Azure customer order, with a minimum of $50 order or more (orders to drop locations only). One time use per customer.

Harvest Right has made preserving food accessible to anyone with their home freeze dryers.  This method of preserving the harvest locks in flavor and nutrition and can last for years.  Harvest Right is offering my listeners a discount on your purchase of a freeze dryer at bit.ly/farmhousefreezedryer.

About Amy

Amy Sliffe of Blue Whistler Farm and founder of Homestead Mamas lives with her husband, Josh, and their two little boys in Harrisonville, MO, where they are currently bringing back to life a 100-year-old farmhouse on five acres. Her passion for farming and desire to provide nutrient-dense food for her family sparked the idea of bringing together a community of like-minded women.

Resources mentioned

Follow Homestead Mamas on Instagram

Join the Homestead Mamas Membership Community

My interview with Melody Haege of Renaissance Woman MN

My interview with Erin Worrall of The Cedar Chest Farm

Local Harvest

Real Milk

Premier 1 Netting

Keeping a Family Cow by Joann S. Grohman

Green Dirt Farm’s sheep milk cheese

Homestead Dairy Sheep Facebook group


Amy Sliffe of Blue Whistler Farm | Website | Instagram

Lisa Bass of Farmhouse on Boone | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | TikTok | Facebook | Pinterest

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Lisa Bass [00:00:00] Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m having on Amy Sliffe from Blue Whistler Farm. She’s also the founder and creator of Homestead Mamas. So if you’ve been on Instagram—which most of you have probably been on Instagram—but you might want to follow along with them because creators all over the world who are homesteaders do takeovers on that account—I’ve actually done one myself—and share happenings around their farm, things they’re learning, maybe some recipes that they’re making. It’s a really great place to follow along. Very grateful for that community. This conversation with Amy— it took a few different turns into some very interesting concepts on homesteading on a really small space, which I really appreciated. So the idea of this podcast episode is to talk about sourcing— so finding meat and then actually getting it in the cuts that you want, how to talk to the butcher, how to maybe make it work for your family. And she had some really practical tips on maybe avoiding some of the cuts that you don’t like as much. But then we also talked about animals that you can raise, caloric bang for your buck on very small acreage, and how to nourish yourself with your own property even if you don’t live on a homestead. If you think you want a homestead, but you think you have to move, this is definitely a really good episode for you. So without further ado, let’s dive into the episode. 

Lisa Bass [00:01:22] My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way. 

Lisa Bass [00:01:36] Well, hey, Amy. I’m so excited to finally have you on the podcast. Thank you so much for joining me. I know that we’ve had a little bit of back and forth on getting you on here, but I’m glad to finally have you on. I found out about you because of Homestead Mamas. So if you first want to just start by introducing yourself and your homestead and Homestead Mamas, that would be awesome. 

Amy Sliffe [00:02:01] Yeah. Well, I’m Amy. Amy Sliffe. Thank you so much for having me. Been a huge fan for many years, so super excited to be here. But yeah, I own Blue Whistler Farm. We just moved back after ten years in North Carolina, moved into 100-year-old house and completely gutted it and renovated it and are finally able to focus on outside, which is where I’d prefer to be. But now that we have the house— I just got my kitchen in April. So we’ve been living in what we call the cottage. We renovated our garage and turned it into a livable space for a few months while the house is being renovated. So yeah, we’ve been working on that the last two and a half years. It’s been a long, long journey. But back in North Carolina, I was farming full time. That was my career, and it was fantastic. I did pastured poultry, pastured hogs, rabbits, turkeys, ducks was one of my bigger products— or I did mostly of them. And then I was selling direct to consumer. We had a ton of agritourism events on farm. That was primarily where I sold all of my meat products. And then I also worked with some higher end chefs in the Raleigh-Durham area, and it was really fun getting to know them and getting to eat at their restaurants the products that I had been raising out in my field and then putting it into their hands and then getting to eat that at the end of a long season was always just fantastic. And I loved the farming career. But once we moved or once we had babies, I was like, “Okay, I think it’s time for me to focus on our home.” And working animals all day long is a total joy, and I love it. But I had boys, and I had a—let’s see—a one-year-old, and I thought that I would continue doing rabbits at that point. But then once I got pregnant with my second one, I was like, “Okay, I think that they are a lot more work than I thought they would be.” So we decided to pack up our homestead and move home back to Missouri, just like south of Kansas City. So we’re back surrounded by family and it’s been a huge blessing getting to have our family around our boys growing up and also getting to do this homestead life with my family. 

Lisa Bass [00:04:13] Yeah. That’s amazing. I definitely see the value in staying close to where your family is or moving back to that at some point. We have that and sometimes I feel like people hold that very— like it’s optional, and it’s really just such a benefit. So one of the things you’ve created—I believe you’re the one who created it—the community of homesteading on Homestead Mamas which I’ve told my podcast about before. I’ve also done a takeover. So yeah, tell us a little bit about that. 

Amy Sliffe [00:04:45] Yeah. So when I was giving birth, actually, just hours after Charlie—our second—was born, I was laying in the hospital, and I had the idea come to me, and I wrote it down in my phone in my notes, and I just said, “Homesteading—” it was Homesteading Mamas at the time. And I put on just “takeovers by different homesteading women”. And then on Mother’s Day— let’s see, that was in November. So on the following Mother’s Day, I launched the Instagram account and just asked a few of the ladies that I had been following for years to do a takeover for three days, and they would take over the account and just share what they were doing on their homestead and why they were homesteading and how they were doing it as a mom. Because this mom life— I mean, I really was shocked at how much harder it was than I thought it was going to be. And I was struggling with postpartum. I didn’t have the strongest community of women around me. I had a lot of amazing friends, but being postpartum and dealing with some depression and stuff, I really reclused and just didn’t want to be around a bunch of people and I was definitely just dealing with depression and stuff. And so creating that community really took me out of that and got me actually talking to women— and women that I wanted to learn from. I mean, I wanted to be a homesteader, but farming is very, very similar. And I have farmers take over the account all the time because it is— I mean, if you’re farming, then you are also homesteading. So yeah, so I made the account and it really just connected me to women and on a deeper level than I had been allowing myself to do because I had to talk to women about how to log in and do all the things. And then, of course, after their takeover, you know so much more about them, and it was just a great way for me to connect, and I know that it’s done that for many, many women around the world now, and it’s just amazing. I love it. 

Lisa Bass [00:06:50] Yeah, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that you and several of the other ladies that maybe have taken it over and that are in the area have actually gotten together in real life, which I think is amazing because— I am thinking of the right thing, right? You guys have done that? 

Amy Sliffe [00:07:03] Yeah, but we all don’t live near each other. We’re actually spread out. There’s a few of us that are here in Missouri, but— like Melody Haege, you’ve had her on. Renaissance Woman. She’s in Minnesota. 

Lisa Bass [00:07:14] Oh yeah. She’s Minnesota. 

Amy Sliffe [00:07:15] And then RuthAnn is up in Iowa. And then Erin at the Cedar Chest Farm is out in Virginia, and we all just went out to Erin’s in July, and it was amazing. It was a blast. They were kind of the first group that really tapped into the perks in the Homestead Mamas membership. I started a membership after— I think it was like a year after I actually launched the Instagram. But I wanted even more of a deeper connection with women. So I decided to add in Marco Polo as a perk. And that’s just like a video chat. It’s a fantastic app. And my family’s been using it for years for my California family, and, you know, we’re spread out. So we launched the Marco Polo as one of the perks in the membership. And those women were the first few women that were really involved in the Marco Polo, and then we just got really close to each other, and it snowballed into an amazing relationship. And we talk every single day, and I talk to all the members every single day on Marco Polo. And it’s really, really a beautiful thing. 

Lisa Bass [00:08:21] Yeah, I really encourage people always to do that because we have social media, and because of that, we’re all more disconnected now than we ever were with real life people. Like back in the day when there wasn’t something going on, people got together. They actually got together. And I find that you can—if you’re intentional about it—meet your friends and people that you can be real life friends with on the Internet because like my real life friend group was assembled from Instagram. And it sounds like that’s the case for you, too. And I’m always making new friends. Like I was telling you before we actually got on that I’m about to hang out again with my friend Sara Jo. We get together like once a year because she lives about four hours away. We’ll meet in the middle or— we’ve met in the middle. They’ve came here. We’ve gone there, I believe, twice now. And that’s a real life friendship. So we always are so against social media, which I am too for a lot of reasons, but there is beauty to be brought from that. Actually, I met my podcast manager who you just met. I went to their house in real life, too. So yeah, just being intentional to foster those relationships. 

Amy Sliffe [00:09:27] Yeah. And that’s one of the perks that we just added in our membership. We just added a map—a directory map—for our members, which I’m super excited about because that’s exactly what I want is for ladies to find each other and just really, truly connect. Like we also have a calendar and you can upload your event to that calendar like chicken processing day, and whoever’s close, whoever wants to come can come and do the chicken processing day or lamb butcher or whatever it is. Preserving. So those are new features that we have in the membership that I am just super excited about because I want what I have and what I have found happen to everybody. And it encourages you in so many ways. You’re doing so much more. When you have a group of friends that’s doing all this cool stuff, you also want to do those cool things. And so you’re going to be doing a lot more if you’re surrounded by ladies who are doing things that you love. 

Lisa Bass [00:10:24] Yeah, I did not know about that. That is the coolest idea ever. So you actually— with this community of homestead moms that you have in your membership, you now have events and like a map where people can see each other. That is really, really cool idea because most likely somebody is going to be able to find somebody in their area or even if they have to drive an hour or two to meet up with people that you’ve made friends with. That’s a really good idea. There should be more of that. 

Amy Sliffe [00:10:49] It’s a lot of fun. 

Lisa Bass [00:10:51] I want to take a quick break to tell you about the first sponsor of this episode, and that is Toups and Co. Now, I just started really experimenting with the Toups and Co makeup. I’ve been loving their skincare. So their charcoal bar is one of my favorite things in the summer because my face can get a little bit oily in the summer, whereas in the winter I rely more heavily on the moisturizers and the oil cleansing because my skin is dry. Right now, that charcoal bar is really cleaning out the sweat and the dirt and all that comes with summer. I recently picked up their whole makeup line. I got an email from them about doing the contouring with organic natural makeup from Toups and Co, and I was really confused about it for a while because I’m not a person who knows how to do makeup very well. But a friend of mine—we were getting together for our weekly playgroup with our kids—she told me that you do the bronzer like a three, so you go across your head, you go under your cheekbone, and then along your jawline. Then you do the blush, then you do the highlighter. She told me that, and now I feel like my whole makeup routine is completely revolutionized. So I have from Toups and Co the primer, the foundation, the highlighter, the bronzer, and the blush. And I really feel like my face makeup is sort of coming together. I think it’s going to be a little bit better when I get a little more used to blending it because I think you guys probably noticed on the episode that I didn’t have my highlighter blended all that well, but it’s getting better and I love the makeup and feel like I actually know what I’m doing. I’ve always just been a— you know, back in the day, whenever I had time to do my makeup, I would just do foundation, powder. I never knew much about that contouring stuff, but I’m starting to really enjoy doing that. Toups and Co is an American-made organic skincare company. They have really beautiful ingredients like tallow from grass-fed cows. So you’re not looking at a bunch of fragrance oils or ingredients that you have to worry about going through your skin and into your body, because that’s what happens when you put things on your skin. I am very serious about sourcing organic, natural food in my house, and so it makes sense that things I put on my skin that will actually make its way into my body, I would also be serious about sourcing that, and that is exactly what I’ve found in Toups and Co. So if you want to support an American company with natural, beautiful products that actually work, make sure to go to ToupsandCo.com and use the code FARMHOUSE to get 10% off your first order. 

Lisa Bass [00:13:10] Okay, so I had a question from a listener that I thought you and I could just dive into a little bit because I know that this is something that you also are passionate about, and so I thought you’d be a great guest for it. But here’s the question: the person says, “I’m a family of going to be four in September, and I’ve always wanted to buy a cow or meat. We live in Oregon, so we’re not blessed by the farming towns and products that you are. I was hoping that you can do a how-to on buying bulk meat and what you buy and what cuts. I would love to get a half cow and chicken.” So anyways, this person is curious about getting farm fresh food. And then I also thought we could just talk a little bit more about sourcing in general, because that’s something that’s really revolutionized how we eat is by finding sources, even if we don’t raise it here in our homestead. So I thought we could talk a little bit about food sourcing, if that’s cool with you. 

Amy Sliffe [00:14:04] Yeah, that sounds great. Yeah, as a farmer, that was my main shtick. And that was— you know, I just wanted everybody to be connected to their local farmer. And that’s why we did the on-farm events. That was one of the first things that I started doing was having people come to the farm and ask me any question that they wanted to and see the animal out in the field before it became the food on their plate. So that’s something I am super passionate about. 

Lisa Bass [00:14:29] Yes. And sometimes when you’re your first starting and you haven’t done it yet, it can be a little intimidating because you’re putting up quite a bit of money before— you’re used to just doing your weekly grocery shop, which might be— you know, whatever your budget might be. But here you are—at one time—spending sometimes thousands of dollars to completely stock your freezer, and maybe you’re going to be getting cuts that you’re not so sure about, and so I think people are a little intimidated by it. Okay. So first we can talk about beef. I find that a lot of people are really nervous about buying a whole cow or a half cow because of the cuts. So the first questions I had are about raising your own beef and then we can go into going to a farm. So do you all raise your beef on your farm? 

Amy Sliffe [00:15:14] I’m trying to think of how many cows we’ve harvested ourselves. I believe we’ve harvested three cows. Because we have always had a small amount of land— we’ve only been homesteading on five acres since 2013. So we we haven’t had a ton of cows. I primarily do sheep and smaller livestock, but we’ve done three cows, and cows can be very intimidating. But on the amount of pasture that we have, we have usually had them on about three or four acres, and we’ve been able to raise our own at that scale. 

Lisa Bass [00:15:47] Oh, cool. That’s something that we haven’t done because my sister raises beef on her 80 acre farm. But I’ve wondered if I didn’t have such a good source— if our acreage— like have you ever ran the numbers? If somebody doesn’t have the best pasture— that’s something we’re currently working on. I actually just passed the window with the guy who we hired to do some forestry mulching. We’re going to be getting the pastures back in order, but that’s just a really long process, and I feel like right now, we’re almost even pushing it with having a dairy cow and calf. So do you— or have you written numbers on if it still makes sense if you have to raise them on mostly hay year round? 

Amy Sliffe [00:16:24] Yeah. So, year round I’ve never done. Our cows have always had access to pasture pretty much from mid-April through October. October 1st is usually when I plan to start feeding hay, but it is still worth it to do it yourself. And for me, I love raising every kind of animal. I just want all the animals all the time. It’s very enjoyable, and I wouldn’t go any other way just because we have— just because we do have enough space for it to be viable. But my friend Sarah at @Nest.in.the.West, she’s done cows a couple of times. She does year round hay because they’re in Arizona and they don’t have that much pasture. I mean, they’ve done it because of the milk. And I know that if you’re getting milk and beef out of it, it’s going to be worth it. But we’ve got just about three acres. I think that my cows have mostly been on— I would say two acres of that. I had to separate them because of the lambs, and steers can get ornery with little lambs and stuff. So I had to separate them for a while and they were on about two acres, and with the drought we did have to do some chaff hay, which is just a fermented alfalfa supplementation. So we did do that, but it still came out to about saving $2 per pound on buying a half cow, which is— we raised Dexters, which are small cows, and they are much smaller footprint and they do very well on small pieces of land, and they’re also good at browsing. They’re a browsing cow. So you can put them in the woods and they’ll still do well. So that might be a good option for you guys, but they’ve done fine on this. We only supplemented about two pounds a day per cow, so it wasn’t much supplementation. I mean, and they look fantastic. My heifer’s a little over conditioned right now on just that pasture. But, yeah, we saved about $2 per pound hanging weight by raising our own. And that was buying a half a cow. And half a cow is about 200, 230 pounds typically, depending on your breed. And our Dexter— we’re probably going to be getting exact same amount off of him, and that’s the whole cow. So it really depends on a lot of things and how much you’re able to find a half cow or a whole cow for. But yeah, it still worked out for us. 

Lisa Bass [00:18:41] Yeah. Okay. That’s good to know. I’ve always had the good source in my sister, but actually years before she was doing that, I had other— like I had to go finding other sources. So with this person who lives in Oregon and not able to find it, do you have any recommendations on where to dig deeper or where to ask? Because I have a feeling there’s probably more there than she’s thinking. And maybe it’s just really crazy expensive. I’m really— obviously I don’t really know because I’m not from Oregon, and I have a friend who lives in Oregon, and yeah, it can be pricey. 

Amy Sliffe [00:19:15] There’s not a ton— I don’t know that many people up in the Pacific Northwest area either that are farming. But I mean, Instagram is a great resource, too, to find a local farm. Honestly, the best place, I believe, is going to the local farmer’s market, go to multiple different farmer’s markets if you have to. And at those farmer’s markets, you’re going to find at least a handful of farmers who are raising meat. And then also LocalHarvest.org is one that I always recommended as a farmer. That’s a really good resource. And then people who are doing milk often have beef as well. So RealMilk.com is a great resource to find raw milk. And if you have milk cows, then you have beef cows too, so—typically. They have to do something with the calves. So that’d also be a good option to try to find some. But really it’s going to the farmer’s markets and going to the little farmers markets in your area, too. We have one that’s really local to us and there’s a couple meat vendors. But if you live near a big city, you go to the big city and seek out the farmers and talk to them. They want to know you and that’s a really good way to get connected. And if they aren’t selling what you want, then they’ll probably know somebody who is. 

Lisa Bass [00:20:28] Yeah. You were saying that you raise your cows on three acres. So what is the minimum acreage? If somebody doesn’t have an HOA or something like that, but they have a little lot. What would you think would be the minimum that you would think about raising your own meat on? Because I think a lot people wouldn’t think to even raise meat on something less than like ten acres. 

Amy Sliffe [00:20:50] Yeah, well, in North Carolina I was focusing on— we had just over five acres. Here, we have just under five acres. We were focusing on the smaller livestock. So I was able to raise thousands and thousands and thousands of pounds. And I never even fully tapped out our five acres there in North Carolina. I was raising so much meat on such a small amount of land, and I would say a good portion of that was house and barns and orchard and garden and stuff, so we really probably were only using probably three and a half acres there. But that’s why I focused in on the smaller animals when I was farming because you can fit a lot of animals— you can fit a lot of small animals into a small acreage. So we did sheep back then. We didn’t stick with that for too long just because I couldn’t grow my flock to a really good size on five acres enough to make it a very profitable enterprise. If we had more land, I would have. But I was focusing even more on the smaller animals because we had such a small amount of land. But you can stack those animals, too. So I would say for beef, it’s going to be the hardest— you know, you’re going to need the most amount of land. But I still would say three acres is probably—maybe two—is where you’re going to want to stick. But then I would also put multi-species in with those cows. You can graze sheep and goats and pigs, and then you can also do your your poultry behind them. And pigs can go in the woods. I mean, they do fantastic in the woods. So even if you have a very small amount of land, if your zoning allows you to have livestock, you should do it and see how long you can graze. But be okay with preparing for haying over the winter and spring. 

Lisa Bass [00:22:35] Yeah, it’s funny because before we had our dairy cow, the first thing we did when we moved here was we bought a zero turn lawnmower because we have seven acres, and it hasn’t been used as a farm for many, many years, and so there was just a lot of grass to mow. And once we got our cow, now whenever we drive down the road, Luke’s like, “Look at people mowing their lawn. Can you believe it?” Because we let the cow go all over the yard. And every time you see grass, all you can think of is, “Ooh, bet she’d love that.” And so now to see it just being mowed is just crazy. 

Amy Sliffe [00:23:09] Yes. Yeah. And with our property— so our old property was very good at not using a ton of space for the buildings and the house and the barns. This property, they actually did a really big courtyard, and there’s a space between our garage and our house, and then there’s a big space on the other side of the barn, and that’s where we planted our orchard. But I use Premier 1 netting, and I go between the trees. My trees are all babies since we just moved here, and I go between buildings and between fences and the house. And my husband’s always like, “Oh man, you set up the netting?” He doesn’t like it because there’s poop, and cows have big poop. But the sheep, it’s totally fine. But I mean, we utilize as much as we can, especially since we’ve been in such a drought in the past few months. I’m just like we didn’t have to mow there for a few, like probably two months. And I was just like, “Okay, we’ve finally gotten some rains. Our backyard is like up to my knees.” And I put the nets up and I was like, “All right, we’re grazing in the yard for a few days.” 

Lisa Bass [00:24:09] Yeah, that’s what we’ve been doing too. And I read it in my Keeping a Family Cow book that the cows, they’re not like goats to where they won’t eat your landscaping or anything. They just eat the grass. They might lay down on your landscaping, but they won’t eat it. That is not true. I don’t know what cows she was talking about in that book because we have had our ferns, our hydrangeas, our fruit tree leaves, and I’m like, I hope all this crap comes back, because here I thought— maybe I read it wrong. I’m positive she said that, though, in that book. Have you read the book? 

Amy Sliffe [00:24:38] I have read the book. It’s been many years. It’s on my desk, but it’s been— let’s see, I bought my first cow back when I was pregnant with our first born Jack, and he just turned four. And so it’s probably been about five years since I’ve read that book, but that’s one of the best resources out there. But I wouldn’t let my cow out in the yard. She would get into all of my fruit trees. And, I mean, she sees my apples on my tree just hanging in there. 

Lisa Bass [00:25:03] Okay. Well, I hope my trees are okay because she definitely ate every last leaf on them. I’m pretty sure that they’ll still come back next year, but yeah, every last leaf. She loves hydrangeas leaves, and so now all my hydrangeas— I’m like, “All right, we’ve got to get the cow back in and we’ve got to do some more fencing.” That was very naive of me, but I thought, “Well, she’ll just eat the grass.” And she did not just do that. 

Amy Sliffe [00:25:24] Well, if you had advice from that book saying that, then I definitely would try it. I mean, there’s no harm in— well, there might be some harm in trying it, but cows are pretty easy to fence. You can do a couple of strands— one strand of electric. No worries on that. But, yeah, they’re pretty easy to train to electric and move around with just a couple strands of poly and a good reel and a few step-in posts, and they’re pretty easy to keep in. But like I said, we use the netting because that’s what we use for our poultry back in North Carolina. And I’ve used that on every species, and it’s fantastic to have. You can put it anywhere and you can put it around the trees and you don’t have to think about it and the animals learn it really quick. 

Lisa Bass [00:26:09] Yeah, we have some netting because we used it for our goats, and I’m not against putting it out in the pasture to separate off certain sections, but I’m a little bit worried about putting it in my yard area because I’m afraid of the kids touching it. 

Amy Sliffe [00:26:21] Yeah. Charlie, our two-year-old— well, it’s kind of like the animals. They touch it once, and then they don’t touch it again. I remember last year Charlie decided to go through it. He was one and a half years old, and we’ve told him 17 million times, “Don’t touch the net. It’ll bite you. It’s hot. It’ll shock you.” And he learned the hard way. And as scary as that is, we were standing right next to him and he put his arm in and then he kept trying to go through and we grabbed him out of it. And he has not touched it since. So it is scary, and you do need to watch it, especially if the ground is wet and you’ve got a crawler. 

Lisa Bass [00:26:58] Yeah, that’s true. 

Amy Sliffe [00:26:59] It’s very important that you do safeguard it and make sure. But this year I have noticed that my boys—two and a half and four—know. They know now. They’re not going to touch it again unless they accidentally fall into it, which we try to make sure that they’re far enough away from it at all times, which they want to be because they don’t like getting shocked either. 

Lisa Bass [00:27:19] No. Yeah, I grew up on a farm, and I’ve been shocked by electric fencing many times. So I know about getting shocked by electric fencing. I know it’s not the end of the world. I just was worried about the netting, like them getting more caught in it. But I think we will have to set it up because clearly what we’re doing right now needs a little bit of tweaking. 

Lisa Bass [00:27:36] Taking a quick break from this awesome conversation to tell you about today’s podcast sponsor, Azure Standard. If you have followed my channel for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard of Azure Standard. They are essentially a co-op based model for ordering organic groceries, meat, staple items for your pantry and your home. I have been an Azure customer for probably over a decade now. With Azure Standard, you find a local drop point which likely will be pretty close to you because they have drops all over the country. And with that bulk purchase, you are getting a discounted price. So several people in your community will order at the same drop. Buy 50 pound bags of wheat or oats or smaller quantities too. I like to get things like honey and spices and cheese. They have products that a lot of times I can’t find at my local grocery store. So things like organic, raw cheese. That’s something that I simply cannot get locally. There’s also good prices on things that aren’t food. So I will pick up the lids for my five gallon buckets that I like to store my grains in from Azure Standard. Flour, spices, packaged meat, produce, whatever is in season. Organic and inexpensive sourcing right there on Azure Standard. Azure Standard is offering a 10% off code for my listeners by using the code FARMHOUSE10. This is on orders over $50 that are delivered to your local drop. If you’ve been on the fence about checking out Azure Standard, make sure to go to AzureStandard.com. Use the code FARMHOUSE10. Find your local drop. You’ll meet up with some awesome families in your community who also are passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and get really great pricing. Again, that’s AzureStandard.com and use the code FARMHOUSE10. 

Lisa Bass [00:29:27] Okay. Since you were talking about dairy cows and beef cows and calves, I just want to quiz you about something, even though it’s totally off script. But we have a 14-month-old calf who our cow had 14 months ago. And we we never weaned her because we were doing calf sharing, which I read also— I mean, this is my mistake of taking so many different— there’s so much different advice out there. And I guess you have to figure out what ends up working for you after you try it. But I wanted to calf share because I didn’t want to have to be— if we wanted to leave for the weekend or something, we wouldn’t have to worry about it. Well, what ended up happening over the last 14 months is, one, we never left. So we could have totally just milked her every day, which we did anyway. But we could have gotten rid of the calf or separated the calf a lot earlier. And actually this calf— I’m selling her. I wanted to keep her, but we’re having such an issue with her weaning because of us waiting so long that it’s really become a problem even with some things we’ve tried. Like no matter what, she gets to her and she nurses her. And so we’re getting rid of her, but we’re actually getting another cow that is going to be calving any day. And I’m curious, just, homesteader to homesteader— I’ve read different things, different methods. What do you do when it comes to the calf? 

Amy Sliffe [00:30:46] Well, with weaning, I’ve only had one calf, and actually my first calf ended up being a stillborn that I had to pull. My vet wouldn’t come out the night that she went into labor. I called him and he didn’t come. He was just like, “Oh, she’ll be fine till morning.” And then of course, it was stillborn. So we ended up buying a bull calf off of a dairy, a local dairy, and grafted him on to her. And we actually also never weaned him because we ended up selling the cow because I get hyperemesis when I’m pregnant, and so I couldn’t be milking while I was pregnant the second time around. And so we got rid of him— or we got rid of her, and then we kept the calf and another heifer that we had had that wouldn’t get bred and then we just butchered them when he was like 18 months old and she was older. But with my sheep, this is something that I do. Right now, I do 12 hours on, 12 hours off. And I’ve been told—because I have dairy sheep—I’ve been told by many people that if you— especially with dairy sheep, because sheep don’t have the longest lactation, they have a shorter lactation than most other animals. But sheep are known to be very skittish. My sheep are not at all. They’re in my pocket. They’re extremely docile. They love to be pet. They love me, just like most dairy animals. So my girls come when I call them. And the babies, I’m trying to get them to slow down on drinking mama so much so that we can get a little bit more milk. They’ve been getting some chaff hay ever since they were born pretty much. You know, they’ll go up and nibble on it and stuff. So they’ve gotten a taste for the chaff hay and they love it. I have a stall in my field barn just that they have access to. And I put two buckets of feed in the front of the stall. And my ewes all have collars, so for the first week of weaning—12 hours on, 12 hours off—during the evening, I would go in there, I would dump my buckets of chaff hay in those feed bins and everybody would go in and I would just grab my adult ewes by the collar and pull them out. And the babies didn’t even know it was happening. They would just have their heads in the bucket and be eating. And now I literally just go, “Come on, Elsie. Come on, Betty. Come on, Hope.” And they all come out because they know they’re going to get their chaff hay out in the bigger area that’s not stalled. So yeah, so that’s how I do weaning with my sheep and my lambs, and that’s worked out great. I mean, it really is. I thought it was going to be so much harder when I first started doing this. I was like, “How am I going to get these little lambs who are very skittish—” like my lambs don’t like to be touched very much until they’re about a year old, and then they’re like, “Oh, I really like you, and you give me cuddles and you give me good food.” But during that first year, they’re like, “Don’t touch me. I don’t want to be held.” So I was like, “How is this going to work?” But doing that, getting them into the stall and then removing the moms has worked great. And that’s my plan for my calf as well next year, which I’ll be milking my Dexter and four ewes next year. And especially since they all have each other, it’s not really that big of a stress, and they’re in a stall where they can see and literally lay against mama all night long and be with her. The other thing that I’ve tried that did not work just because I have not very good structure to what I was building, but I had somebody sew me some sheep bras, and I really wish they would have worked because then I wouldn’t have to separate at all. I would literally just have to put the bra on the ewe. And I’ve heard that this works in a lot of different countries. This is like the way they do it. It’s hilarious looking, but it’s just a bag, and then you just tie it up around their hips and it stays on. But the material that I had the lady make it in wasn’t strong enough. And so I need to figure out a way to do this, but that’ll make it to where no weaning is necessary. And I think that I’ve had some friends do it with cows. I’m not 100% sure. Cow poop is a little bit different than sheep poop, so it doesn’t just roll off like sheep. But this 12 on, 12 off has worked fantastic for me and my sheep. So I’m sorry I don’t have a ton of cow experience in that area.

Lisa Bass [00:34:52] Yeah, the issue with the cow—because the 12 on, 12 off works and like she’s 14 months past freshened and we still haven’t even bred her back. We’ve tried multiple times. I don’t really know what’s going on. But it’s not that we don’t— we get plenty of milk even with like 12 off, we get plenty of milk even still. The problem is she doesn’t give the cream unless we completely wean. And so that’s why I’m considering completely separating them very early or a lot sooner. And so I was just curious because a lot of people do it a lot of different ways. And I think that it probably— there’s probably some really solid reasons to even bottle feed the calf, which that sounds like a lot of work and I don’t think I really want to do that. But I also don’t like milking every day and not getting the cream. As soon as we separated them, we got this huge cream line. Before, there was hardly any. And so I’m like, “What’s the point of this all?” All I really— that’s what I really want is the cream. 

Amy Sliffe [00:35:46] Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot ladies that have secrets to getting that hind milk down. Have you tried putting the calf on while you’re milking? 

Lisa Bass [00:35:55] So we have to even put the calf on— before we weaned her, we’d have to even put the calf on just to get her to let down at all. But still, the cream content— I think she’s just a very protective mother. So that’s maybe just— maybe it’s just been the particular cow I’ve had that this has been sort of not the best situation. 

Amy Sliffe [00:36:17] Aw, I’m so sorry. Yeah. I mean, that can— I know people that have gotten rid of cows because of that situation too. I don’t have that much advice on it, but I can hook you up with a bunch of ladies that do have good advice on it, and they have a lot of experience. So I can send you their information later. I like connecting people. 

Lisa Bass [00:36:34] Yeah. Yeah, well, I definitely am going to be— we’re going to be having another calf very soon, and so I’m going to be really researching that to figure out if there’s a way that I can do it to make it a little bit more streamlined this time. And this one we’re going to be having, it’ll be a Angus cross. And so I know where that one’s going. So it won’t be the issue of where to put the calf. I can actually— you know, I know where to send her or him, whatever it is. And so that’s not going to be as much of a problem, but I don’t know how long we’ll keep it. But when it comes to meat and sourcing— back to the whole buying in bulk thing, what are some of your family’s favorite cuts?  And what are some of your least favorite cuts? Maybe we could talk a bit about what to do with those. 

Amy Sliffe [00:37:15] Yeah. So we bought— when we first moved to Kansas City, back to Kansas City, we bought a half cow with my parents because we weren’t raising any of our own meat at that point because we were living with them for a while before we found our house. So I had been following a farm that was local to here for years, and I knew that if I ever moved back, then that’s who I would buy from because I got to watch them on their farming journey and I loved it. So we bought a half cow from them and that’s what we’ve been eating for the past year— I want to say a year. And it was great. I mean, we got 200 pounds of beef back total and we split that with my parents. And I think we each got 25 pounds of ground and then—so 50 pounds of ground total—and then we split the rest of the cuts between us. So steaks and roasts and brisket and stuff like that. It really depends on who you’re working with. Like you need to really talk to your farmers. If they’re the one that is going to be handling the butcher, a lot of times they’ll kind of put that on the customer. I prefer if the farmer handles that because they just know more about the cuts and stuff. So I would find a farmer that you can talk through the butcher cut sheets with and tell them exactly what you want. Make a list of all of the cuts that you really love and say, “Okay, these are the things that are most important to us. We want 50 pounds of ground. We want 25 pounds of stew meat. We want 25 pounds of brats. We want—” you know, whatever you have to have, make sure you write that down, and you are very adamant about that with your farmer or your butcher or whoever you’re working with. And from there, that’s when you start getting into the cuts that you don’t know about. Well, you don’t even have to get those cuts back. You can say, I want you to grind everything besides these cuts and put it into ground. And that’s going to be some really delicious ground beef because there’s a lot of cuts that you— if you get this one cut, you don’t get this cut. And I mean, there’s literally so many of those that it’s hard to understand. But if you talk to your farmer— and they’re going to talk to the butcher, too, and say this is the options that they have because every butcher is also different. And they will give— like the butcher here in Missouri doesn’t give the same stuff that I was working with in North Carolina. And they don’t have the same value added products. They don’t have Kansas City strip. We didn’t have that steak available in North Carolina. You know, that’s obviously— you know, we’re famous for that in Kansas City. So there’s just different cuts. And you just need to write out your favorite steaks, your top three favorite steaks and say, “Can I get these?” And then, “Okay, and I want these roasts.” And you do need to be very clear about wanting your bones back and your tallow. Those are very important. And your organs. Those three things, a lot of times, a lot of times you won’t get back. And that can be very frustrating because that’s your cow or it’s something that you expected to get back. And I know that a lot of us homesteaders really utilize those products. So that’s something to point out and make a note of and tell them to put it in red the things that you really want, and then go from there. If you don’t know what a cut is and you don’t want to spend the time Googling it and understanding it, then just say, “Just grind it for me or put it in a stew meat or put into brats,” or whatever it is. 

Lisa Bass [00:40:40] Yes, those are some really good points. One is that don’t just assume that they’re going to assume you want your organ meats and your bones, because likely they are used to working with people who don’t want that. And so they’ll just assume that you don’t want it. So you do have to specify that. All the times that I’ve gotten a whole or have cow or pig, I usually am the one who’s in communication with the farmers that I worked with. They usually will say, “Hey, you need to call such and such a butcher shop and tell them what you want.” And usually what I do, if I don’t understand something, I’ll just say— like if they say, “Okay, do you want inch or inch and a half?” I’ll say, “What do people usually get?” And then I’ll do that. But over time, I have gotten more comfortable with what I want. Also, I have been putting way too much stuff into ground beef, and I say way too much as if like I need to change it. But I actually that is just what works for our family right now. I don’t really want a whole lot of stew meat. I don’t want a whole lot of steaks. I want the very best steaks. And I put all of the rest into ground beef because it’s what is so easy for our family. I can set it out. It can thaw a few days before in the fridge and then it can go into literally anything. The kids can all eat it. The baby all the way up to us. We can all eat it. I don’t have to make special steaks for us and that for the kids. And so actually I was asking my brother-in-law and my sister— they raise pork, and they’re going to be butchering again in September. I’m going to be getting a whole hog. And I said to my brother-in-law, which he’s new to the family. They just got married. I said, “I think I’m going get all my pork chops into sausage this time.” And he was like, “You can’t do that. Like, you just can’t do that.” I’m like, “You know what? I know that’s wrong. That’s wrong of me to do, but I use sausage in everything.” I’ll cut some beef with some sausage and make like a really good meatloaf or meatballs or I’ll put it in like a soup or a cheeseburger soup or like an Italian wedding soup or just to make our eggs better in the morning. We love sausage and my kids love it. And I’m sorry. We don’t do that well with the pork chops. Like the six— not the six-month-old. I don’t have a six-month-old. The nine-month-old can’t gum down pork chop. And so just don’t be hesitant to do it the kosher way. Like if you want to do it in the way that normal people don’t do it and they look at you like you have ten heads, if that’s what works for you and your family in this season of life, then just grind it all down. 

Amy Sliffe [00:43:06] Exactly. And yeah, I mean, it’s exactly right. When you have younger kids, ground beef is really just wonderfully easy. It’s so easy. And you don’t have to have the forethought more than a day of getting that— or you can just stick it in some water. Usually grass-fed beef, you want to thaw them in the fridge. But I mean, it is so nice to have ground beef. And we just ran out like two months ago of ground beef and I’m just like dying to have it back in our fridge. So we’ll get our beef back next week and I’m super excited. But as far as because that I don’t love— organ meats are hard for everyone, I would say. So what we did— we did an on-farm kill with our steer, and it was absolutely beautiful and just the way to go. In Missouri, we have that option available. So somebody can come to your farm and do a kill and gut, which was just fantastic. Zero stress on the animal, which is always my biggest goal. Really shows up in the beef flavor too. So if you have that option available— it is not legal in every state and it’s very frustrating that it’s not. Like in Kansas, it can’t happen, and we’re really close to that line. But I’m very thankful that we live here and that that is allowed because it was just— he had no clue. It was an instant shot and he was down, and then we started gutting. And the guy who’s doing it gave me the heart and the liver and I got to tan the hide. Like that’s done. I just finished it yesterday, and it’s amazing and beautiful. I have the liver and the heart. Two of the most nutrient dense parts of a cow. So I just ground it. It was disgusting. Grinding liver is not fun. You get splattered everywhere, but I just used my KitchenAid, ground it and then froze it in ice cube trays. And then now I will just throw that in to— we eat a lot of meatloaf and hamburgers, and I’ll throw— I’ll thaw a couple cubes every time we do a pound of ground beef, and that will be incorporated into our food. And you cannot taste it in meatloaf and the burgers, you can barely taste it, but I usually add like eggs, and if you put any kind of seasoning in there, you’re not going to taste it. And it’s super nutrient dense and very bioavailable, so it’s very good. And you should be eating your organ meats, which I know you’ve had a lot of people on saying that. It’s just extremely important for our bodies. 

Lisa Bass [00:45:21] I really like the idea of putting it into the ice cube trays because whenever I get it back, you know, it comes in a container about this size, and it always— once you thaw it out, we need to be putting it in a lot of things throughout the next week or two before it goes bad. And if you cut it half and half, you can definitely taste it. So I really do like the idea of just having this small dose all the time ready to go. So I’m definitely going to be incorporating that. That’s a really, really practical idea for people who are overwhelmed with organ meats. 

Lisa Bass [00:45:52] Taking a break to tell you about the last sponsor for today’s episode, and that is the Harvest Right freeze dryer. If you hang around the homestead world, you’ve already heard of them. You probably wonder if it’s worth it. Well, they’re brand new to me, but I can tell you that that thing has not stopped running since we had it. I have done 24 dozen eggs, a million zucchini. I don’t know. I’ve been doing zucchini shreds. So I put them out on the trees, put them in my Harvest Right freeze dryer, and then after they’re freeze dried, I just store them in jars. And all winter long, I plan to put a little handful into our soups and stews or whatever else. We can even make zucchini bread. They reconstitute beautifully and they are perfectly shelf stable now for years and years and years. So nothing is going to waste from the garden. It’s made it so easy. We made yogurt drops. So my daughter Ruth actually did this. She took some yogurt, blended it up with frozen strawberries and a little bit of maple syrup, and then just put it in spoonfuls like little circles onto the trays—actually on some parchment paper—onto the trays, into the freeze dryer. And now I have a jar of very easy snacks for Theo. He can bite into them and they’re very soft and it’s a great first food. So we are absolutely loving it. I’m finding new uses for it each day, things I didn’t even think I would enjoy doing on that. I’ve been brainstorming all of these things that we can do with the Harvest Right freeze dryer, everything from actually preserving the harvest to even some fun things. Like my daughters and I were talking about how we could maybe make a pumpkin spice latte and then freeze dry it and then have a powder to do something really fast with. I don’t know. We are enjoying it. If you want an easy way to preserve the harvest for many, many years that doesn’t require freezer space or a lot of time canning, make sure to go check out the Harvest Right freeze dryer by using my link bit.ly/farmhousefreezedryer. 

Lisa Bass [00:47:51] Okay. So what are some of the questions that you would ask a farmer? I know that there is a lot of confusion around that because there’s a lot of people who, like, they’ll have an Instagram account and they’ll sell farm meat, and it’s like, yes, but then you realize, okay, just because it came from a farm—because, let’s face it, all meat comes from a farm—doesn’t mean that it has a lot of the things that you want for your meat. And so what are some of the top questions that you’d recommend asking? 

Amy Sliffe [00:48:20] So as a former farmer, I just wanted everyone to come out and come to my farm. Not everyone. At the end there, we had 200 or 300 people coming to our farm every other weekend. We opened our doors every other weekend, and people loved it. They loved being that connection. They loved getting to know my husband and I. So the first thing that I would say to anybody is, “Can I come to your farm?” Or “Do you have any agritourism events where I can come or even pay you for your time to show me, give me a tour of your farm?” I do think it is important that you add in that you will pay them for their time because they’re farming and time is money in farming. Very much so. So yeah, ask them if you can come out and see how they’re raising their animals. I had all my chefs come out to the farm. I wanted them to see exactly how they were raised from either birth or from getting them from the brooder to the plate. And I mean, people really loved that, and they ate it up. If you can’t do that—which there are a lot of farmers that are literally just too busy—then I would ask them specific animal questions. So how is the beef raised? A lot of people prefer pasture raised, but corn finished beef. I’ve worked with a few chefs that always preferred that, but I mean, it really just depends on your taste and stuff. So if you haven’t tried grass-fed beef, I would highly recommend going to a farmer’s market or even Whole Foods sells 100% grass-fed. It’s pasture raised grass-fed, I believe, is the correct terminology, because you have to have the 100% grass-fed on there or it can be pasture raised and still be raised in a feedlot. So you want 100% grass-fed beef and then you need to taste it. The varying breeds taste a little bit different, like a Jersey cow does have a very different flavor than an Angus and a Dexter. So if you want to buy beef from a specific farm, then go taste it before you buy a whole or half cow, and make sure that you guys like it before you do that. So ask them for a couple packs of it. But ask them how the beef is raised. Is it 100% grass-fed? Is it corn fed? Do you corn finish? Is it raised rotationally grazed, if that’s important to you? There’s a lot of different questions. But if you get to go out to the farm, then you’re going to see a lot of it. And that way you’ll be able to trust them, and then also get on their Instagram and watch their stories and watch their pictures. Typically, they’re talking about the way that they’re raising their animals on social media, which is one of the blessings of social media, is people are getting to know where their food comes from a lot more. And people want it, and it’s really fun to watch people light up and realize that these chickens are raised on grass and that’s why they taste so different and things like that. So, yeah. Ask him how they’re raised. Ask him what they’re eating. If you want a corn-free, soy-free hog, you need to ask the farmer and ask them what they are feeding and how they’re raising it. 

Lisa Bass [00:51:25] Yeah, one of my biggest questions is usually I want to know grass-fed and then if they do grain finish, is there like a non-GMO feed? Which is what my sister does with her hogs is she does— they are on grain, but they’ll source, good quality grain, and so I’m comfortable with that and I like that source. Okay. Before I let you go, because I know that we’re like pushing on the time here, I want to talk a little bit about the dairy sheep because people know about dairy cows. Usually whenever somebody first gets into a homestead, they’re a little intimidated by the large animals, especially if they didn’t grow up around them. They think how am I going to get the trailer? Get the animal off the trailer. Are they dangerous? So they usually go to goats. And you milk sheep. And I don’t know if that’s something that people know about. And I feel like you could do that on a really small space. So just about anybody could probably get a couple of sheep and milk them. So yeah, tell us a little bit about the flavor and yeah. All that. 

Amy Sliffe [00:52:21] All right. So I have East Friesian and East Friesian Laconda cross dairy sheep. I bought my two foundation ewes from Green Dirt Farm, which is up here in Missouri. It’s in Weston. And they make sheep’s milk cheese, and it’s fantastic. But the sheep that I bought, I had been breeding to an Icelandic ram. Icelandics are a tri-purpose breed: wool, milk, and meat. But you have to get specific lines. And this is something that I’m also super— I’m an advocate of getting good genetics and finding a farm that you like the way they’re doing things and want to mimic the way that they’re doing it, and then you bring that stock onto your farm. So Eliza has been doing really amazing work up there. She’s the shepherdess up there that manages the farm and she does rotational grazing. Her flock is primarily grass-fed, but with dairy animals, it’s hard to keep conditions, so they do supplement with grain. I do peas, oats, and barley, and flax primarily. And then I also have chaff hay or alfalfa available for them a couple of times a day. So my ewes I’m milking currently— I didn’t hit them. I didn’t start weaning the babies at their peak because literally I was worried about how am I going to get the lambs separated at night? So I waited a really long time and I was also traveling a little bit in the summer, so I didn’t wean the lambs at the peak of the lactation, which would have been getting me just at under a gallon a day from both of my ewes. So one gallon from two ewes or just under that is what I would be getting. I’m getting half a gallon right now or just over half a gallon if I go to like 14 hours apart from the lambs. I’ve got five lambs on the two ewes. So one of them had triplets and one of them had twins, and they’re still giving me a decent amount of milk for our family. We drink half a gallon a day, and so we’re not getting enough to make any of the wonderful other things that I will be making soon. But next year, I’ll be milking four ewes. The year after that, I’ll be milking six ewes, and I think that’s where I’m going to cap it on our property is having six ewes, but I should be getting—at that point—oh, probably three or four gallons a day out of the six ewes. And that’s going to vary because right now I’ve got one ewe in her peak production and her age, and then the others are going to be babies, you know, like their first year. And so it’s going to take a while for me to get to where I’m getting the most out of them. But that’s fine. I’m fine with going slow. I’ll be milking my heifer next year as well. But sheep’s milk is the best. It’s 15 grams of protein per cup and our family is primarily animal based with our diet. We stick with a lot of meat and dairy, and we eat fruit and honey pretty much. And that’s what we’re living and thriving on currently. And it’s fantastic. My boys do get a lot of sugar and bread from my family still, and I still do splurge every once in a while. But I’ve been having stomach issues lately and I’ve been switching to animal based diet and it’s been helping me a ton. It’s just far superior than most other milks, and it’s higher in most nutrients and it’s delicious. It’s a little bit creamier than— well, it’s a lot— it’s the highest cream content. I don’t remember what the actual number is. I want to say it’s 9% or 8%, which most cows are about 4%, I think. But yeah, so cows and goats are also at like seven or eight grams of protein per cup, and you also get the highest yield of cheese from sheep’s milk because the cream content is so much higher. So they really are amazing. And you also get lamb, and you also get fiber. So I mean if you have a small property, sheep are really where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck as far as ruminants. And goats. I have tons of friends with goats, too. I can’t say anything bad against goats, so I really feel like the smaller dairy animal, the better for small acreages. 

Lisa Bass [00:56:26] Yeah. Is the milk kind of like goats where it doesn’t really separate, where it’s more naturally homogenized? 

Amy Sliffe [00:56:33] Yeah. Yeah, I do have— so there’s a group on Facebook called the Homestead Dairy Sheep Group. And I have learned so much from that group. I have also— thank goodness I have a mentor, Eliza, from Green Dirt, where I bought my ewes from. I text her all the time. She’s on speed dial during lambing season, but that group has helped me a ton. And there are a few people that don’t use a cream separator and they get tons of cream and make tons of butter from their sheep. I am very in awe of this. We just drink it so fast that we don’t have enough to even like let it sit in the fridge for very long. But I did just get some cultures, and Sarah from @Nest.in.the.West is going to be walking me through and Robyn from @CheeseFromScratch. They’re going to be helping me get my first little bit of cheese going here. I’m super excited. But also I drink like sheep’s milk lattes every day, and I get a lot of protein out of my coffee. It’s pretty fantastic. So I’m going to be— I’m going to hold off for a couple of days on that and then have my boys just drink some cow’s milk for a couple of days so that I can get enough milk to make cheese. But I’m super excited. 

Lisa Bass [00:57:45] Yeah. If you don’t stop talking, I’m going to be calling Eliza and heading down your way in Missouri. And I’m in Missouri, and so I’m going to be heading down your way and buying dairy sheep. Because that just sounds so appealing. I’ve always liked the idea of sheep. And also when I milked the goats, one thing I really liked about them— because it was similar in that the cream was incorporated, it was just the most creamy milk. It was so good. And then you’re saying the sheep have an even higher cream content. One thing that I’d like to encourage people with small homesteads is a lot of times the first thing we think of is putting in a huge garden, fruit trees, all great things. But to really accelerate your caloric bang for your buck, like to get the most out of your property as far as protein and food and just sustenance, going straight to these— like if you got a sheep, right there, the amount of calories that you’re producing from your farm is going to be what you could do in who knows how long with a garden, with the number of tomatoes. And so I like the idea of shifting to thinking about  what small animal could we add and milk right away? 

Amy Sliffe [00:58:51] Yeah. And then there’s also— I mean, the smaller animals. Rabbit is a fantastic meat source, and I like to raise them alongside ducks because ducks are fatty and rabbits are very lean. And the two— if you can cook a rabbit in duck fat or make like a duck and rabbit rillette. That’s a super nutrient dense food that you literally are cooking it in the lard of the duck. And I mean, it’s a fantastic snack. But like the smaller the animal for those small homesteads, the better. And you can fit a ton of those animals and you can stack them. So rabbits go in front; they graze down the grass. If you have a really small homestead, you could do rabbits instead of a ruminant. And then the ducks or chickens go behind, and then you can even do hogs behind that as well, or between the rabbits and the ducks. So I mean, there’s a ton of options for small homesteads. And as far as bioavailability and nutrient dense foods, animals are where it’s at, in my opinion. I love animals.

Lisa Bass [00:59:51] Yep. I couldn’t agree more. All right. Well, everybody needs to head over to @BlueWhistlerFarm on Instagram, and you can follow along with Amy and follow along as she has more sheep and milks more. And I imagine there’s just a wealth of information just with what you’ve shared here in an hour. I mean, this turned into like a small homestead episode, but that’s amazing because some of these things we think that we don’t have the right property for, and you just gave so many practical examples of anybody without an HOA—unless you live in like a apartment building—could actually implement. And so that’s just amazing. 

Amy Sliffe [01:00:29] Well, I love getting people connected to their food. I mean, when you grow your own and you raise your own and you harvest your own on your homestead, you get so much more connected, and you enjoy your food so much more if you’re raising it or if you know the farmer. It just makes the food more delicious. It really does. So I love getting people hooked up with raising their own or connected to a farmer. 

Lisa Bass [01:00:53] Yeah, well, thank you so much for sharing all of that. Really appreciate it. 

Amy Sliffe [01:00:57] No problem. Thanks for having me. 

Lisa Bass [01:00:59] All right. I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Amy. I’m not kidding. I am definitely looking up that sheep person. We’re getting another cow, which I mentioned in this episode later this week. If you all remember, if you’ve been following along for a really long time, about two summers ago, we brought our first little heifer onto this farm. She was a four month old Guernsey heifer. Well, enough time has passed and a little time spent at my sister’s farm with her bulls that she is now due with her very first calf. Now, I intended for my sister— I thought she would want to milk her, and she totally did. But since then she’s had a few life changes. So one is she got married. She’s also pregnant with her first baby and they are renting a little farmhouse while they build their home on her farm. And so right now, there’s really not a good place for her to put that cow—or heifer still—at her rental farmhouse. And so she would have to go up to the farm that she is going to eventually be living in. And there’s no refrigerator there. And the logistics of actually milking a cow at a place that you don’t live is quite challenging because you’d have to find— there’s no— or I guess there there might— yeah, there’s sinks, so she could clean stuff. Anyways there’s no washer and dryer. There’s no way for her to insulate it, put it in a refrigerator. She’s not up there all the time. So she’d have to be up there twice a day to either milk or to separate and then milk. And so anyways, with all that being said, she’s due to calve, and my dad is going to bring her here so that we can milk her because if Ashley doesn’t want to milk her, I definitely don’t want that to go to waste. I’m interested in milking a Guernsey to see the differences between that and a Jersey, so I’ll be letting you all know. That’s something exciting that’s going to be happening here on the farm. Probably be sharing a lot of that over on YouTube. All right, well I hope you enjoyed this episode. As always, thank you so much for listening and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. 

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  1. Here’s a tip that I have used if you decide to bottle raise your next calf. Feed 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per day in the calf’s milk. Jersey calves are especially known for being susceptible to scours, though any breed of calves have trouble. Like humans, the probiotics really make a difference in gut and overall health. I raise quite a few orphan beef calves every year, and haven’t lost one to disease in the 4 years that I have started using the vinegar.

  2. Put on your cowboy hats and get ready for an exciting adventure as I search for a forum dedicated to discussing Shorthorn cattle on our property! I want my barn to become the focus of cow jokes, and I’m here for it, so hopefully I find one soon. By the way, I like that you mentioned how a debate about where to find high-quality meat evolved into an interesting exchange on what might be achieved on a tiny homestead.