November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving at the farm

With family in different states, we did our celebration in stages.  Josh and the boys went up to spend the actual holiday with his dad and stepmom in Michigan while I stayed behind to work (the dreaded part of starting a new job just before the holidays - no time off!).  Then Saturday we did our big dinner here with our local family.  The fun began Friday evening as I set the tables...

Seventeen people meant we needed two tables.  I wanted everyone to be in the same general space together so I set up a second folding table in the family room, just next to the dining room table.  This allowed me to divide people into two groups - 11 and 6 - but still have us together.  It worked remarkably well.  I made these little place markers so people knew where to sat.  They were easy - just a small cardstock tent on which I wrote "happy thanksgiving."  Then I clipped little bird clothes pins on the side and wrote a name on the bird.  I like to pick up things like the little clips in the clearance bins at Michaels and I just throw them in with my table linens for times like this!

I decorated the tables with candles in different shapes and sizes, acorns I collected in the woods, and some fake fall leaves I got from my mom's collection.  It looked warm and natural - just what I was going for.

We used the kitchen table as a buffet for all the goodies.  We like to do meals like this as a potluck.  It greatly lessens the stress on the host and you get such variety!  We had sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole, spicy cranberry sauce, sourdough stuffing, classic stuffing from the turkey, rolls, and of course turkey and gravy.

We actually did two turkeys - one at my house and one at my mother-in-law's.  They were both about 13 pounds.  That's a lot of turkey!  I had never cooked a turkey by myself so Shelley was nice enough to come over in the morning to help me get started and tell me how to nurse it through the day.  We brined the bird then cleaned it again, stuffed it, stitched it closed, buttered it up, and put it in the oven.  It turned out beautifully!

Josh's aunt brought desserts - another lovely spread.  She made sweet potato pies, one plain and one with nut topping, and a pineapple upside down cake.

It was another lovely family dinner at the farm, with a house full of guests, chatter, and food.  Next year we will have two more babies at our celebration too - so much to be thankful for!

November 26, 2015

A strange but lovely sunset

I was out collecting eggs yesterday evening when I looked up towards the house. What a sky!  This picture doesn't quite do it justice. Pale blue was aglow with pinks, yellows, and oranges. The whole thing was spotted with small puffs of purple clouds. And within two minutes it was gone.

Then the full moon took over, lighting up a clear night sky with its brilliance. A spectacular evening!

November 24, 2015

Lighting up the night

When we "fall back," it's always a dramatic change that leaves me a little depressed.  The days seem to shorten so much all at once and suddenly it's nearly dark when I get home from work.  This year, we've had the added dimension of figuring out what happens with the chickens during this time.  With their natural inclination to seek shelter and perch when darkness falls, they are trying to go to bed around 5:30 pm.  We have read that this leads to greatly reduced egg production, which we want to minimize since we are selling the eggs.  This weekend, Josh put the lights in the run on a timer, extending the day for the birds a little in the morning and a little in the evening to give them closer to a normal length of day.  This evening I went out after dinner to check on the girls and thought: how pretty the coop looks all a-glow...

Many of the birds were inside the henhouse, milling about, but a few were still out in the lit up run, eating and moving around.

So far, our egg production has remained fairly consistent.  We'll see how it goes as we move into winter.

There was also a gorgeous close-to-full moon tonight, low and bright.  As I went out to see the girls, it was just over the trees, lighting up the sky.  What a lovely night.

November 14, 2015

Fall gardening

This is what the garden looked like after the tiller chickens worked on it for a couple weeks.  The soil was somewhat loosened and much of the greenery eaten away.  I could probably leave them to it longer but I needed to get my cover crop and garlic in so we went ahead this morning.

First we finished loosening the soil.  Oliver and Baxter gladly helped with this.

Then I scattered some winter rye seed that I had ordered.  I got a whole brown sandwich bag of it but this seed packet was taped to the outside so I'd know what it was.  

After I finished scattering the rye and mixing it into the soil a bit, we moved on to the garlic that my neighbor brought me back from the Mother Earth conference.  

The boys took turns digging small holes in one corner of the garden, dropping in a clove of garlic, and covering it up, until we had planted them all.

Baxter got the watering pot and we gave the garlic a good drink.

Next we covered the garlic patch with hay to insulate it.  This may have gotten a little silly...

And here was our garlic patch, all planted!

So now in the garden, we have curly leaf kale, garlic and rye.  A nice fall mix!

November 10, 2015

Waiting for happy hour

Usually Josh lets the girls out into the yard in the early afternoon, after they have laid most of their eggs. Today he was gone so they were still in the run when I got home from work. They cracked me up because when I walked back there they were all standing by the door waiting, like: "Uh, hello. It's time for chicken happy hour. When are you going to let us out??"

I opened the door and out they all came flocking out.  What a lovely site, birdies running about in the sunshine...

I opened the nesting boxes to gather today's treasures and found the girls are starting to cover their eggs with straw, maybe because it's getting cooler. Here is a view into some of the nesting boxes...

The more I read about factory farm raised eggs, it makes me appreciate these pictures all the more: clean eggs laid in real, natural, clean nests. Now those are eggs I want to eat!  Omelet anyone?

Seven eggs, tucked in neatly

Bossy pants is persistent. She's trying again to build up a nest full of eggs. I've been keeping a wide berth around it so they don't abandon it because of our smells. The last few days when I've walked by you couldn't really see anything because she has created a nest of sycamore leaves and then seemed to be covering the eggs with leaves as well, like a natural blanket and camouflage for them. This morning, however, she had uncovered them so I could see quite well. She's up to 7 eggs that I could count. 

I do so hope that these eggs will make it and bossy pants will figure out how to incubate them. Seems like when we try to help them, it screws up the ducks' natural order of things. So we are leaving them be and whispering a little prayer that they will be safe. It would be so exciting to have baby ducks at Phillips farm someday. 

November 4, 2015

Getting ready for winter warmth

A sure sign that we are heading into winter here at Phillips farm: wood piles everywhere. Josh has been busily collecting, splitting, and stacking wood. McGregor got in on the fun this week as well, for some nice father-son bonding.

Our house has two fireplaces: one in the family room and one in the dining room. When we bought the house it also had a huge wood stove in the kitchen.  We took that out to have more space for an Eden kitchen. Originally the house was primarily heated with wood.  

Since we moved in, mostly we have used the family room fireplace for ambience and a bit of extra heat on cold winter days. Josh would like to start using the fireplaces for more actual heating this winter though. We have been looking into fireplace inserts for the dining room. This would allow us to keep more of the heat generated in the house instead of losing it up the chimney. 

I think Josh is making the woodpile extra large in preparation for this possible insert. Every day or so it seems I come home to a driveway full of new logs to be split.  Josh and our neighbor Frank have been going off together into the woods nearby to collect dead ash trees. Because of the emerald ash borer there are a lot of dead trees in this area to be cleared.

November 2, 2015

Another spectacular sunset

We do have some truly spectacular sunsets... went from reds, pinks, oranges and yellows to purples, blues and grays to darkness in less than five minutes. This was one of those times you stop and breathe and say a prayer of thanks for being in the right place at the right moment.