December 30, 2016

A Holiday Surprise from Bossy Pants

I had noted that our original female Pekin duck, Bossy Pants, seemed to have stopped laying eggs recently.  She does usually have a period in the winter when she stops laying, but this seemed early.  I looked in all the usual spots around the run but didn't see any of her large pale green-spotted eggs.  

Then I opened the henhouse to add some straw and when I got to the back corner I found a holiday surprise!  Bossy Pants made herself a little nest and it was full of big dirty eggs (it's so muddy out from all the rain; all our eggs have been a mess lately).  There were even a few chicken eggs in there too.  I guess one of the chickens thought it looked like an inviting spot as well.  

I took out all but one egg to encourage her to keep using her spot.  

Raising ducks will certainly keep you on your toes.  You never know what to expect from those funny creatures.  They are so much less predictable than chickens, which can be frustrating but also amusing!

For now I'm happy with my holiday surprise.  Good ol' Bossy Pants is still giving us those wonderful eggs.

December 28, 2016

The babies are 2 months old already

Our little Golden Comet babies are two months old today, hard to believe!  They are doing really well so far and growing quickly.  We have opened the door to let them out into the run where they can see the adult chickens but not interact with them yet.  Josh commented the other day that they may be ready to mix with the adults in another month.  They aren't that much smaller anymore!

Had to include this photo because who can resist a tiny fluffy butt??

The little ones are very inquisitive and not at all afraid of us.  When Baxter goes into the run with them they come up to him to check him out.  Once they were even following him around like he was their mamma hen.  

I think we are going to be pleased with this breed.  It's a new one for us and may prove to be a better brown egg layer than the Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds we've kept before.  The Barred Rocks seem to be not the brightest chickens.  They are the only ones that don't follow their instincts to go inside when it gets dark.  I will go to lock up and the entire flock will be in roosting except for three Barred Rocks, who will be milling about in the yard still.  They are hard boogers to chase too!  I don't see any more Barred Rocks in our future.

In just two months' time we will be starting over with the brooder when we get the Easter Eggers we need to finish out our flock expansion to serve the other Jungle Jim's store...

December 27, 2016

Scenes from our family Christmas

We did a big family "Christmas Eve" dinner on the 23rd due to our holiday schedule with my stepsons.  I made ham, quiches, scalloped potatoes, honey roasted roasted carrots and fresh baked bread.  Others brought appetizers, salad, green bean casserole, dessert and wine to round out our meal.  Tummies full, we gathered in the family room to exchange gifts with the few family members who wouldn't be returning in the morning.

Bailey is still new to opening presents.  She ripped one tiny piece of paper off at a time :)

In the morning, most of the crowd returned for our Christmas morning celebration.  Bailey and Baxter were inseparable most of the morning.  Whenever she got distracted and wandered away, Bailey would call out, "Baxter?!  What you doing Baxter??"  Here they seemed to be having a last minute consult with one of Santa's reindeer...

All the boys love their little cousins.

After breakfast, the gift frenzy began.

My nephew Landen is just about six months old.  He watched from the sidelines with dad and then grandpa.

He was excited to have a little package to hold on to too.

Bailey got twin baby dolls that even cry "when they are hungry" and stop when you give them a bottle.  She loved this!  My brother said to his wife, "Looks like Bailey is ready for number three."  She has been surprisingly good with helping with baby Landen.

Roscoe watched intently as Bailey took care of her baby doll on the floor.

McGregor got a special ornament to commemorate his big present of the year - the four wheeler he got for his birthday.

Oliver was super excited for his relaxing foot bath.  His brothers were making fun that he asked for a "girl toy" but once he had it all set up, they all wanted to take a turn!  Oliver also got a new roll top desk for the room he refers to as his office, which is really the laundry room but gives him a space of his own to retreat to.  He spent all afternoon working away at his new desk.

I didn't capture a picture of it, but Baxter's favorites were a little motorized dog that you can "take for a walk" and it barks and dances, and an art area just for him with a little easel and all the supplies he needs for creating and cleaning up on his own. 

The last present of the morning was for Bailey and it was taller than her.  I had to help her with the bow but then she got the paper off to discover a little basketball hoop just her size.  

It was a busy day and we were all ready for a nap by early evening.  The dogs were especially pooped from all the commotion and people in the house.  They just wanted to snuggle up with their papa.  

We were grateful to have a house full of family, good food to offer and a feeling of abundance for the children in our life.  We hope your Christmas, too, was abundant and joy-filled!

December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas from the farm

We actually did our family celebrations a day early because of our schedule with my stepsons so today has been a peaceful day for Josh and I.  

This morning I brought the girls out some special Christmas treats.  For the babies: cranberries and bird seed.

For the adults: cranberries, bird seed and Christmas day leftovers.  

We had so much food leftover.  I froze what I could but there was still bunches left over that Josh and I will never eat alone before it goes bad so I shared some with our birds.  They were so excited!  I cooked my first ever ham for Christmas Eve dinner.  It turned out quite well.  I used the Pioneer Woman recipe for my glaze, which called for brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, brown mustard and Dr. Pepper.  I would recommend it!  I froze the ham bone and some scraps for making black bean soup this winter.  It's amazing how much I've learned in the last few years about not letting anything go to waste.  One recipe's remains lead into another great meal with just a little extra work.

This morning I also set out for a nice long stroll with my free-range puppies.  Roscoe officially graduated from his dog training and has been released to roam about the yard.  He's definitely not going to be a chicken protector, but with his training collar on, he is capable of leaving the birds alone under supervision.  This morning the birds were still in the chicken yard so he didn't need his collar even and could just run free.  He's really good about coming back when called now.  I love watching him run around the yard.  Roscoe is definitely a dog that's meant to run about and explore.  He looks like he's smiling when he runs back towards you.  Makes me happy that we were able to give him a home.  

Even Soju is doing ok with being off-leash.  She and Roscoe chase each other around while old lady Doodle hangs near me.  Soju makes a scene like she doesn't want Roscoe to chase her, but when he stops she eggs him on again.  They are doggy friends.

So that's what Christmas day is looking like around here.  It's nice to enjoy some peace and quiet after all the family festivities.  I'll post some pictures from our family Christmas in the next few days too.  We had a wonderful time celebrating together with both our families.

I hope all of you will have a splendid holiday full of the warmth of family, the joy of traditions, and the goodness of hearty and delicious food.  Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2016

Gingerbread Tradition

One of my most treasured memories from Christmases growing up is making making and decorating Gingerbread men with my mom.  We did it just about every year.  I loved the taste of the cookies and the fun of trying to make little outfits on the gingerbread-people.  We would fill a big old roasting pan with them and keep it in the garage where it would stay cool, until Christmas.  Often times it would be nearly empty by then though, as we each in turn snuck down to steal some cookies from the pan...

This year I made the cookies by myself but did get help from three little boys decorating some of them.

Here's my recipe card for ingredients...

First you mix the dry ingredients.

Then you melt the molasses, butter and sugar in a small pot.

Mix it all together and add in the eggs.

Cover and refrigerate a couple hours to harden up the dough.  This is important for ease of rolling and cutting.  It's so much easier to work with cold.

When you're ready, spread flour out on the counter and grab a big ball of dough.  Flour the top and your rolling pin and roll it out to about 1/8" thick.  

Cut out your cookies and bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes.  I like mine soft so I always go on the low end of the baking time, but you can cook them longer if you want harder cookies.

Let them cool on a rack then spread them on wax paper to decorate.  I make icing by mixing powdered sugar and water with a bit of food coloring.  Add the water in drops to the sugar.  It really doesn't take much to get the right consistency.  I make small batches so I can change colors often.  Ice one cookie at a time and drop candies or sprinkles in right away so they will stick.

I decorated about half the cookies myself and saved the rest for our annual visit to our neighbor, Rita Heikenfeld, to decorate.  She makes quite a nice set-up for the boys with all kinds of different sprinkles.

They each get their own tray and icing to work with.

By the end of the evening we only went home with about five cookies for Santa so, needless to say, we also had some pretty happy little boys with tummies full of sweetness.  

December 13, 2016

Six new additions

We received about a week ago that a colleague of a family friend had gotten a coop and six chickens thinking he and his family would be backyard chicken keepers.  They had only had the birds 6-8 weeks when their house sold, and they had decided they didn't want to move the chickens.  They asked if we would come and get the chickens and possibly even take the coop.  It was free for the taking; they just wanted someone else to claim the birds.

So Josh and I went over to their house with the trailer.  We found the birds milling about in their coop: two Barred Rocks, two Rhode Island Reds and two Golden Comets.  They looked to be about four months old and mostly healthy.  One of the Golden Comets had a gimpy looking wing.  When we caught it and got a closer look, we surmised that some animal had gotten the poor girl and chewed most of her wing off.  There was exposed bone and dead tissue hanging limply off her one side.  Somehow, despite this trauma, she seemed alert and active.  

We put the birds in a dog cage, loaded up the coop, and then re-situated the birds inside for the trip home. It was a surprisingly easy process.

When we got the girls home, I took the injured bird into the workshop so I could get a closer look at her wing.  After some examination, I could see that all that was connecting her wing to her body was dead tissue so I used tin snips to cut it loose.  That left just the stump of a bone tucked into her side.  I brought her in with her sisters in our little baby coop, which we use for isolating new or injured birds.  They all snuggled in together for a bit before coming out to get some food and water.  

We are hopeful that these birds will eventually integrate with our flock.  We've had pretty good success with taking in adult birds, letting them habituate in the baby coop and an isolated run, then mixing them in out in the yard where there's lots of room to roam.  Eventually they naturally join in with the group.  

My only concern is that bird with one wing is highly likely to get picked on.  It's amazing how perceptive birds are of weakness in each other, and they're quick to gang up on the weakest link.  That's their instinct as, if they were out in the wild, that weak bird could put them all at risk.  So we will have to keep a close eye for any aggressiveness towards her.  

We are grateful for these new additions and that we were able to rescue six birds who needed a home!

December 11, 2016

Christmas has arrived at Phillips Farm

It just doesn't feel like the Christmas season has begun in earnest until we have our tree up and decorated.  We have a family tradition of cutting down our own tree at Corsi Tree Farm, a local family farm in Bethel, Ohio.  We had been waiting and waiting until we had a day with my stepsons to go and finally today it arrived!  So, despite the cold rain, we set out to gather our tree...

Baxter, of course, found himself a small tree someone else had cut down and abandoned.  He pulled it around for a bit, saying he was going to take it home for his room.  Meanwhile, the rest of us kept our eyes peeled for a nice Norway Spruce, round and full, for the family room.

We found a keeper and McGregor decided he wanted to try to cut it down this year so he manned the saw initially.  That didn't last too long though, before Josh took over.

With McGregor's help, Josh had the tree cut in no time at all!

Here stand the Phillips boys with our Christmas tree, cut and ready to drag to the car.  I told McGregor he looks like he thinks he's too cool for school, but he swears he was happy to be there.

Oliver wanted to drag the tree up to the car all by himself, and he did drag it for about two minutes before others joined in to make it go faster.  It's amazing the teamwork cold rain will inspire!

All three boys got inside the pull rope and made their way up the road.

Towards the end, Baxter wanted to give it a try on his own.  He declared, "I am the strongest one you have!"

Roscoe and I watched all the excitement.  There were so many happy tail-wagging dogs running around the farm today.  Roscoe was pooped by the time we got to the car.  I sat in the back with him, and he put his head on my leg and fell asleep.

Once we got home, we got the tree in the stand with some water but it needed to settle a bit so I went to do chicken chores and get dinner going.  Josh sat in his chair and promptly fell asleep. Poor guy had to work last night and tonight, but wanted so badly to be up with us doing our tree tradition.  

After dinner, we finally got the lights up and Little B got our angel in place.

And three antsy little boys, who'd been waiting all day to decorate the tree finally got to put up ornaments.

Oliver hung up the final ornament...

...and it was done!

Trains never get old for boys.  I think that's a rule.  

By the time Josh left for work, I was left with three snoring dogs and three tired boys.  That's how you know it was a good day.

And so now we can say with sincerity that Christmas time is here again.  I just love this holiday season, filled with the warmth of family, the sweet smell of something baking in the oven, the happy sound of carols drifting through the house, and the soft glow of the lights illuminating our tree as we sit together.