January 28, 2016

Another spectacular sunrise

I was having one of those morning today when you just can't get yourself moving. I hit my snooze button 3 or 4 times then was rushing around trying to get ready for work but feeling like I was in slow motion. 

I was washing my coffee cup when I looked out the kitchen window and saw this...

The sky only moments before had been dark but the sun came up like a ball of fire from behind the pond, bringing with it all kinds of vibrant colors. 

I felt myself pulled outside (in my bathrobe and slippers) where I stood in the yard watching the sky morph each moment. 

Suddenly I felt energized and ready to start my day. I am so thankful for this beautiful place we are so lucky to have found. 

January 26, 2016

Planning for spring

If your garden looks anything like mine now, it's hard to think of spring warmth and the beginning of growing season.

It isn't too far off though and the time is upon us to plan and order seeds so that we will be prepared when the snow melts and the ground thaws enough to start planting.

The first thing I did was consult my garden log from last year. I checked my notes on what grew well, what didn't, what we really enjoyed and what had flavors we didn't prefer. I also looked through my freezer and pantry and noted what I wish I had more of now and what things we have way more of than we will ever eat this winter. 

Next step was to draw my plan. 

In drawing my layout, I consider which plants are good companions, how much room they need as they grow, what kind of supports I will need to provide and how I can do that most effectively.  I also compare my plan to last year's drawing and try to move things around so that different plants are growing in different areas each year. Finally, I think about how much room I need to move through the rows. 

Once my draft plan was done, I looked through my drawer of leftover seeds. 

I figured out what I had left over from this year and what I needed to order.  Some items I always order as seedlings because I don't have a good space right now for starting things like tomatoes and peppers, which aren't effectively seeded directly into the ground, inside.

Finally, I made my list and placed my order. I like to get my seeds and seedlings from seed savers exchange. They have a fabulous variety of heritage seeds and I have had good luck with growing them. 

It may be snowing outside but spring will be here before we know it!

January 25, 2016

A birthday's worth of good food

Baxter's birthday celebrations began on Wednesday with cupcakes and a few presents...

The actual party was Sunday afternoon.  While my husband took B and some friends to play at Recreation's Outlet, I worked on the food and festivities...

I like to make some kind of flavored water and enjoy trying different combinations.  I had some apples so I wanted to use them.  First I cut the apples into thin slices then I threw in a couple cinnamon sticks and a star anise.  Lastly, to give it a touch more sweetness, I stirred in some honey.  It was subtle but quite good!

Our friend Melinda brought a homemade fruit salsa and cinnamon pita chips for the appetizer.  It was winning combination as well.

While the adults mingled and nibbled on these starters, the boys took their small guests out to meet the birds and see the farm.  Josh went out with the kids.  He said there was much excitement to get to feed and hold a chicken and collect eggs - a little taste of life on the farm.  

Back to the food...

For the salad, my mother-in-law made a recipe I found online for a winter salad using beets frozen from my garden last summer.  It also had caramelized walnuts and goat cheese topped with a homemade balsamic.

For the main course, I made oven grilled cheeses and chicken chili.  I found the recipe to make this classic in the oven so you could make a lot of them at once and I wanted to try it out for a party.  They were a hit and so easy to make.  I think what made them extra delicious was that I made the bread for them the day before - nothing makes a great sandwich like homemade bread!

I did the chicken chili in the crockpot - also super easy.  Are you noticing a theme here?

You can't have a birthday party without a birthday cake!  Josh's aunt Robyn is our family cake maker.  She asked Baxter what he wanted and he answered without hesitation: Minions!  He also had a minion cake last year, but she managed to make this year's special all over again.  It was so beautiful we didn't want to cut it.

But the time came for singing and candles and eating!

The cake was half chocolate, half white cake - something for everyone - and it was as yummy as it was pretty!  

Another birthday on the farm: filled with family, friends, good food, and good conversation.  We are blessed with much to celebrate!

January 24, 2016

Phillipsfarmbatavia now on Instagram

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New Product from Phillips Farm: Fresh Baked Breads

I have really gotten into making fresh baked bread for my family in the last year.  I like it because it's natural and contains no unpronounceable preservatives.  My husband and children like it because it tastes delicious!

We have enjoyed this item so much that I thought: I should offer this to other people too.  Thus...

Phillips Farm is offering a new product: 
5 Types of Homemade Bread, Made to Order

Country White
This is a kid favorite!  It is a classic, simple bread with a nice crusty exterior and a soft inside.  My step-sons love to eat this plain or with one of my homemade jams on it.

Also available as Country White with Herbs or Country White with Chia & Flax Seeds (pictured here).

Caraway Rye
This bread is big on flavor!  It is a darker rye bread, with lots of caraway seeds.  Caraway rye is my favorite for a hearty turkey sandwich, loaded with homemade pickles.

Honey Whole Wheat
This is my kids' second favorite.  It is a hearty bread with a little sweetness.  This is a nice choice for an accompaniment to dinner, morning toast or a sandwich.

All loaves are about 8" round and cost $5.  To order, see the "Products" page on our website:

Because all bread is made to order and bread requires time to rise, I require two days to produce it.

January 20, 2016

Brrrr...it's cold!

I woke up this morning and wrapped myself in my robe.  It was cold upstairs!  I crept down to the dining room and loaded some more wood in the fireplace insert.  There were still coals in it from last night so the fire took off pretty quickly and almost immediately I felt warmer.  

We got this fireplace insert for one of our two fireplaces earlier this winter, and we are trying to heat our house with it.  We still leave the furnace running for the blower, to move the air around, but at least the downstairs is mostly heated by the stove and the heated floor in the family room.  We are still perfecting how to get more of the heat upstairs though.

After I warmed up and got dressed, I ventured out in the snow to check on the girls.  Here's what the area by the coop looked like...  

When the forecast called for wind chills near -15 last weekend I put up plastic to cover most of the ventilation area at the top of the coop.  It's still cold but at least most of the wind is blocked.  I also added more straw to the ground in the run and more bedding in the coop to give the birds more insulation against the cold.  They are birds though - I have to keep reminding myself that they are wearing a down coat.  They are fairly well insulated from the cold.  It's mostly the wind we have to worry about.

Anyway, the chickens seemed fine except that their heated water bowls were frozen solid!  I checked the breaker to see if it had tripped for some reason (we have been having a lot of issues with electrical stuff in the coop with this extreme cold) but it wasn't tripped.  So I hauled out a bucket of water and filled a basin for them to drink out of until my husband gets home and can look at it.  As I was filling the basin, I saw the issue - Yesterday we were checking some electrical issues and Josh had unplugged the water bowls!  No wonder they were frozen!  So anyway, problem solved!

Next, I went down to let the ducks out.  I added a bunch more straw to their home to give them something to nestle into at night for warmth.  I tried blocking off part of the front of their home against the wind with a bale of straw but it freaked them out and they wouldn't go inside.  So it took it out.  They were laying in the snow, waiting to be let out when I got down there.

The pond is totally frozen over now but the little stream that comes down the hill from the school has stayed open because it is moving.  This is like a little baby pool for them and they spend most of their days swimming in and drinking from it.  The snow is great camouflage for them!

It seems that the ducks are getting into the routine of going into their home at night.  It's getting easier and easier to walk them over there in the evening.  Only once did I have to shoo them out of their "baby pool," usually they are laying near the duck house and I just have to walk behind them until they go inside.  Ducks are certainly creatures of habit.  This can work in your favor if you are consistent but makes it challenging if you need to change things around on them!

January 17, 2016

Proud to be "Ohio Proud"

Phillips Farm is excited to announce that we are now an official member of "Ohio Proud," an initiative of the Ohio Department of Agriculture to support local food and agriculture.  They publish a list of Ohio producers and at least 50% of their products must be made or grown in Ohio.  They also provide marketing tools and workshops to their members to help their businesses grow.  Read more about the project, see member farmers, etc. at their website: ohioproud.org

January 16, 2016

A filling breakfast to try

I was craving something different for breakfast this morning so I went searching on Pinterest for a breakfast recipe. I found this: cinnamon apple breakfast quinoa

I started with an apple, which I peeled and diced, saving the peels and core for the chickens. 

I put the apple in a small pan then added 1/4 c. quinoa and 3/4 c. water.  I turned the heat up and brought to a boil. When it was boiling, I put the lid on and turned it down to simmer. The recipe said to cook 20-25 minutes but mine was done in about 18 minutes. 

When it was done cooking, I transferred it to a bowl and topped with cinnamon and honey. I mixed these in and tried it. It seemed like it needed a little creaminess so I added some whipped cream to mine. 

Yum!  It was delicious and filling.  Smelled great too - my dog Soju sat next to me drooling and starring at my bowl until I finished.

January 13, 2016

Chickens, ducks, eggs and some serious cold

I read all over the place that chickens will avoid snow like the plague. With the cold temps and snow on the ground, I was worried about the girls being stuck in the run for a while so I put down a good thick layer of straw to give them something to scratch at and lay in until they can get out again. 

We have still been opening the door to let them free range though. The first day they all stood in the doorway watching the snow fall. On the second day, one brave girl came out, but stuck close to the run, picking in the rocks around the edge. 

Now that it's been a few days, more birds are venturing out. They are still staying close to their house but seem to be adjusting to this cold white stuff covering the ground. 

Now there are chicken prints all about in the snow.

Another part of this cold is that we have to collect eggs several times throughout the day so they don't freeze. We are so lucky because our lovely retired neighbor is willing to come over on his tractor and collect the eggs for us a couple times a day when we can't be home. 

Yesterday I went out to lock the ducks in their house and found them up on the hill by the railroad tracks.  What a weird place for ducks!  I went up on the tracks and tried to shoo them down but they kept getting their little feet stuck under branches and leaves on the hill.  Ducks are not designed for mountain climbing!  Eventually Josh had to come out too and help me get them. 

Today I decided to leave the ducks in their pen and just gave them food and water.  Josh is gone so I didn't want to have the ducks stuck somewhere and not be able to get them. It was so very cold. This morning the news said it was -9 with wind chill. That's definitely cold enough for a duck's feet to get frost bitten. At least in their home they have dry bedding to lay in and a break from the wind. 

January 12, 2016

A quarter-sized egg

I had to quickly share this absolutely teeny egg with you. It's barely larger than a quarter!

Here it is next to an average egg:

The shell is fragile and covered in small bumps.  

That's a new record for tiniest egg here at Phillips farm. 

January 11, 2016

Footprints in the snow

A couple nights ago Josh and I went out to lock the ducks up and when we stepped outside we were greeted by the chorus of a pack of coyotes somewhere off in the woods. Their howling sounded like the soundtrack to a hunt. 

This morning as I was driving to work after being home for a week and a half with pneumonia, I had to venture out of the warm car to investigate some tracks in the snow. 

They came down from the railroad tracks...

And crisscrossed the front yard...

They were interesting because one was obviously the track of a deer. 

The one next to it looked like a large dog or more likely- a coyote. 

I wonder if it was a chase or if the coyote came thru chasing the scent of the deer. The coyote prints seem to zigzag around the deer further up in the yard so I would guess the coyote was moving through later, sniffing out its prey. 

This is one cool part about the snow: seeing signs of who has been about at night. Last time we got a dusting we saw raccoon hands all around the chicken coop. 

Looks like this cold is here for a while so I don't think the snow is going anywhere soon.  I'll have to keep my eyes out for more signs in the snow. 

January 5, 2016

Winter at last

The ducks probably woke up this morning and wondered what in the world was happening - their world was shrinking fast!  It was 13 degrees this morning and the pond was mostly glazed over.  As the day progressed, even with some sun shining, it froze more and more.  The ducks spent all morning and most of the afternoon swimming in circles to keep a small pool of water clear of ice.  

Josh had heard from a local woman who has kept every kind of poultry imaginable that you have to worry about ducks sleeping in water that cold.  If they stop moving during the night they can get frozen into the ice and lose their legs!  What a frightful possibility!

So I told him this afternoon: We need to clean out the duck house and put in lots of fresh bedding; then figure out how to get them out of that water before tonight.

I haven't been feeling good so this task was really up to Josh.  I missed the event but he said it was rather comical.  Because their cleared spot was fairly small, he managed to reach out to the ducks with a long stick.  Initially they tried to go out further but slipped on the ice so instead came to the edge and ran up the hill.  He was able to chase them over into the duck house once they were on land.

Later on, I brought them down some ground up kitchen scraps and water so at least they'd maybe begin to associate this forced confinement with some delicious food.  In minutes they made a huge mess, but seemed happy for the food.

Tomorrow we will let them out to wander in the yard, but we are fairly certain the pond will be completely frozen over.  So commences our first winter as duck keepers - there is always more to learn!