July 31, 2015

A perch for the babes

Last night when I went to check on the babies lots of them were tightrope walking along the top edge of the brooder so I decided it was time to make them a proper perch. I found a large branch and cut it into similar lengths that I could use to create a ladder. I scrounged up a couple pieces of wood in the workshop to screw them to, and wah-lah.... a perch!  At first they were scared of it - they are chickens after all - but by this morning they were fluttering up onto the branches and hanging out there. 

July 30, 2015

"Oh, excuse me ladies. I think I may have gotten some cheese on my wattle."

"Oh, excuse me ladies.  I think I may have gotten some cheese on my wattle."

I was strolling through the reduced section at Jungle Jim's today, one of my favorite places to spend a lazy hot afternoon, and found some treats for the chickies: a container of cottage cheese with pineapple chunks in it and several heads of lettuce, each priced at a $1.00 or less!  Of the two, the birds were MUCH more excited for the cottage cheese.  They dove in beak first and enjoyed the cold sweetness with abandon.  It cracked me up to watch them walking around with cottage cheese all over their little faces when they finished.  I made up a small plate for the babies, who also seemed to love it.

July 29, 2015

From darkest to lightest

When I went out tonight to put the birds to bed, the sky was alive with color.  

I stood and watched as it transformed and faded into the night.  It brought to mind a classic Montessori lesson in color gradation; I put the sky in order from darkest to lightest.  Enjoy.

Happy (Two Week) Birthday birdies!

The new chickens turned two weeks old this morning.  It is truly amazing to see how many feathers they have gotten in just that short period of time.  Their little wings are filling in nicely.  As you can see in the video, they are testing them out, fanning each other and causing a raucous sometimes.  The other day we were sitting on the porch and Josh said, "What is all that noise in the workshop?"  He went to look and the birdies were going nuts because one little lady had flown the coop and was scampering around on the floor.  They apparently have a little separation anxiety!  So we may need to put the cover over the brooder soon to keep them from exploring the far corners of the workshop.  

July 23, 2015

Seeing red

Despite the challenges this year has posed with all the rainstorms and weird temperature extremes, the garden is still hitting that period when it produces enmasse. I'm harvesting a basket full of produce almost daily. Usually I get a handful of beans, about ten cucumbers, several peppers, and gobs of tomatoes. Because my tomato plants are in rough shape (from blight and being toppled over so many times), I have been picking the tomatoes as soon as they turn the slightest bit red and letting them ripen in the windowsill. So this morning I made canned diced tomatoes with the ones that were ready to go, but I still have a bowl full of almost ripe tomatoes as well as a windowsill packed with still ripening ones. I'm seeing red!

July 22, 2015

A Floating Duck House on the Pond

The ducks are now spending their entire day down on or near the pond.  When we let them out in the morning, they waddle down the hill to the water, and they usually don't come back up until after dark.  We have been thinking a lot about how we can make our animals fairly independent so that they can go a couple days without us if we want to leave for the weekend.  Josh has the chicken coop mostly automated but those darn ducks still need to be let in and out.  We have been wondering if there was a way to keep them down by the pond, kicking them out of the chicken run for good.  I saw a floating duck house online and showed it to my super handy husband, who immediately whipped up a deck to float the house we already made on.  Today we launched it out on the water but so far the ducks are staying pretty far away from it.  It's hard to see but in the picture below, they are in the middle of the pond, by the cattails and the house is on the edge, near the willow tree...

We tried to put food on the deck to lure them in, but they didn't even get close enough to see the food.  Ducks don't seem to have the natural curiosity that chickens do.  It takes them a LONG time to get used to new things.  So, unless we come up with some other ideas, I guess we will just leave it out there and hope they figure it out.  The goal will be for them to get comfortable with the house and go there instead of the run at night.  Eventually our plan is to push it out in the middle of the pond so the water can act as a natural predator barrier.  For now, though, I'm guessing those ducks will be back up in the run tonight.

July 19, 2015

Home, home on the range...

"Home, home on the range, where the ducks and the chickens roam free..."

So I decided Friday to try out free ranging the chickens.  I was out working on putting gravel around the edge of the coop so I figured I could keep an eye on them. I opened the door and at first no one came out. Finally one curious chicken came and peeked out. She turned around though and ran back under the henhouse.  Soon she was back though looking outside again.  After doing this several times she finally made the plunge and ran outside. That's all it took to open the floodgates and before I knew it they were 23 chickens roaming about the yard. 

They were so happy to have room to roam about!  The "chicken Hilton" is pretty roomy. They are by no means crammed in there. But it's different to be out in new pastures where you can find insects and new kinds of plants to eat, flap your wings, run about gleefully chasing your sisters, and just generally enjoy the taste of freedom. 

Since this was the first time I had let them out of the run I simply had to keep my fingers crossed that they would follow their instincts and return to the henhouse in the evening. I was hoping and praying that they would cooperate because if they didn't, my husband was out of town so it would be just me chasing 23 chickens.  Luckily they did as mother nature tells them to, and when I went out there at 8:45 every last little chicken was perched in the henhouse ready for bed. 

Since they were so cooperative, I decided to let them out again yesterday and this morning. Now we just have to keep praying that they won't become prey to some predator while they roam about!

July 18, 2015

Phillips Farm in the Community Press

 Phillips Farm is in the news!

Our neighbor, Rita Heikenfeld, writes a regular column for the Community Press family of local papers.  She asked me a few weeks ago if she could come interview me to do a story about our little adventure here at the farm.  I agreed and she came over one lovely morning to chat on the back porch and take some pictures in the garden.  The story came out this week (July 15, 2015) and you can read it any local paper here in Cincinnati, or online at the Community Press website.  It is also featured on Cincinnati.com.

July 17, 2015

Babies: Take II

I think having baby chicks the second time around must be something like having a second child.  I haven't actually raised any kids from baby-hood so I can't say for sure, but here's my speculation from what others have told me.

The first time you want to keep them in your house so you can keep an eye on them all the time.  You check on them constantly: changing their water any time it gets any bedding in it,  filling their bowls when they get less than 3/4 full, raising and lowering their heat lamps any time they huddle or spread out, worrying if they are too hot or too cold, picking them up and holding them...  You are overwhelmed by dust and dogs barking at birds but you live with it because they're babies and they need to be watched.

Take II: keep them in an outbuilding to contain the dust, check on them in the morning and evening, refill water and food once/day if they need it, set the lamps and leave them.  The happy little chicks really don't need all the fuss.  Whenever I do go out to check on them, they are scampering about, eating, pecking at things, napping under the lights, or just standing around together like old ladies chatting.

Lesson learned!  Never again will we make so much fuss about some baby birds.  Everyone seems happier if we just give them what they need and leave them be in peace.

A morning snack for the babies and old ladies

the "fear of something new" huddle

"My food!" - Rooster

"What?!  It was for me, right?" - Rooster

"Back away girls.  I'll tell you when you can have some."  - Rooster
Yesterday I made dilly beans and applesauce so I had lots of scraps that I ground up and put in several bags in the refrigerator to give to the birds.  I brought out two plates this morning: a big one for the old ladies and a little one for the babes.  When I delivered the small plate, the little girls did the "I don't know what that is so I'm going to stay away from it" huddle in the corner.  When I brought the big plate in for the old ladies, the rooster immediately stood on top of the plate and claimed it for himself!  The other birds surrounded him and managed to peck away some of the food between his legs, but he maintained his spot right in the middle of the bowl until most of the food was eaten.

July 15, 2015


Rhode Island Red friends
Finding their food dishes for the first time
Ameraucana baby  

Josh built a new version of the brooder to keep in the workshop; no more babies in the house!

We have had so many people express interest in eggs that we decided to go ahead and increase our flock this year instead of waiting until next. And it's warm enough now that they won't have to be indoors as long as they did in the spring. Josh picked up 22 chicks this morning: 11 Ameraucana and 11 Rhode Island reds. This will bring our total flock to 45. Our plan is to keep them in the workshop for a few weeks then attach the small coop to the side of the run so the new and old birds can see each other but the little ladies will be safely separated until they are big enough to hold their own. It's so exciting to have babies again. Boy are they cute when they are so little!

July 14, 2015

Something new: Phillips Farm Art on Etsy

Quilt Square painting in process

Completed painting

Handmade cards: Sketches from Around Phillips Farm

A bundle of cards

Rhode Island Reds

Gone Fishing 1

A Patriotic Sunset
I have been busily preparing handmade items for my new shop on Etsy: Phillips Farm Art.  So far I have several sets of handmade cards, a variety of framed original pictures from around the farm, and a quilt square painting like the one I made for our barn.  Check out the store and see if there's something that you like:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/PhillipsFarmArt.  Keep checking back as I will continue to add new items.

I hope you will enjoy this little taste of life on the farm!

July 13, 2015

Tomatoes aren't supposed to look like that

sideways tomato plants
I was feeling overwhelmed when I went out to work in the garden this morning.  It was like a jungle after our week-long absence and I had much to do.  Tomato blight had taken a strong hold on my plants since it's been so wet and the plants never get a chance to dry off.  My first task was the clear out the blighted foliage and get the tomatoes in order.  They were laden with leaves and fruit and weighing heavy on their cages.  I cut and tied up branches for hours when the sky turned dark.  I felt the first drizzles and thought: It's okay, I only have two more plants to do.  I can handle a little rain.  But then all the sudden the sky dropped about ten shades darker, the winds picked up, thunder rumbled loud and the clouds broke loose with sheets of pounding rain.  I ran for cover in the lean-to and watched the rain and winds destroy all my hard work...

As I stood there helpless, the tomatoes fell over; corn stalks broke; huge sunflowers leaned and creaked, breaking off in places; branches broke off my pepper plants; cucumber leaves tore into shreds.  How disheartening.

Tomorrow I'll see what I can do to set things right again.

July 12, 2015

Pickle Relish

My trellis was hanging heavy with pretty little cucumbers when we got home.  I also had a basket of big cucumbers sitting by the back door, a gift from a friendly neighbor.  My stores of pickles are looking good so I went to my cookbooks for some other ideas for my cucumbers.  I decided to try some pickle relish.  I found two recipes that looked delicious: sweet relish and dill relish.

They were both pretty easy to make, starting with pulverizing the cucumbers in the food processor with some onion.  With the addition of a few spices, it sits for a couple of hours then gets rinsed and drained.  Finally, you add a few more ingredients, cook 10 minutes then jar and it's done.

And we grilled up some sausages and hot dogs for dinner so we could try it...husband approved!