Articles

My wonderful neighbor Rita Heikenfeld connected me with an editor for Countryside Network, who asked me to be a regular contributor for their magazines: Backyard Poultry and Countryside.  Below you’ll find an archive of all of my articles on topics from family recipes to raising ducks and chickens to running a small farm business.  Enjoy!


“Six Uses for Your Watermelon Plant’s Bounty”

August 27, 2015, Countryside

The beginning of the summer is when you read about watermelon planting tips, but this is the time of year when you start to think: What do I do with all the fruits from my watermelon plant? If you are anything like me, you have been patiently watching your melons grow and grow these past few months and now you have finally reached the point where you have a bounty of fruit to enjoy. Read article


“A Tasty Recipe for Three Bean Salad”

September 1, 2015, Countryside

My bean plants have been growing splendidly this year, which means I have made my Dilly bean recipe more times than I can count. When I picked my most recent harvest, I just couldn’t stand the thought of another round of Dilly Beans so I went in search of something new to make. In my Ball Blue Book: Guide To Preserving, I found a recipe for 3-bean salad. This classic recipe called for different kinds of beans than the ones I grew as well as some ingredients I didn’t have at hand so I modified it a little. I am going to share with you what I came up with in case you, too, can’t stand that Dilly Bean recipe anymore. Read article


“Raising Pekin Ducks”

September 28, 2015, Backyard Poultry

My husband and I decided to start raising Pekin ducks kind of on a whim. We were picking out the birds for our chicken flock and saw the ducklings on the hatchery’s site.  Our farm has a lovely pond, and we thought the ducks would be a fun addition to our adventure raising birds. We began reading information about ducks: different duck types, what do ducks eat, what type of housing do they need, how does it work raising ducks with chickens, how fast do they grow etc. There is so much to learn!  Looking back now, we probably weren’t ready for our ducklings, but we have learned much through trial and error and nobody is too much worse for the wear.  We decided when it came to raising Pekin ducks, we wanted three; one for each of our sons to name.  I’d like to share with you some of the information about raising Pekin ducks we have learned from our experiences at Phillips Farm. Read article


“Freezing: Food Preservation For Your Garden Greens”

October 12, 2015, Countryside

Why do we preserve food? All those plantings often provide way more greens than can be eaten at once. To save abundant garden greens for later use, try freezing. Food preservation using your freezer is quick, easy and convenient. Blanching vegetables for the freezer means your greens won’t go to waste and you can use them throughout the year. Read article


“Kitchen Gift Guide: Homemade Bread Recipes, Mason Jar Cookie Mixes and More”

October 20, 2015, Countryside

As we prepare for the holidays, I always take a day to make gifts from the kitchen to share with friends, teachers and co-workers. One of my favorites is a homemade bread recipe from my grandmother. In the last few years, I have also discovered the fun of making “recipe-in-a-jar” creations. These are creative gifts with endless possibilities. Read article


“The Homestead Heritage of Mason Jars”

May 4, 2016, Countryside

Mason jars are something that can last for generations if cared for well. They are often part of the homestead heritage that gets passed down with an estate, and they seem to be a mainstay at antique shops. Read article


“How to Cook Stewing Hens and Roosters”

May 9, 2016, Countryside

A friend of mine approached me several months ago and asked if we wanted a few roosters. I sighed and asked what was going on knowing that if we took them, they would end up as a stewing hens and roosters project. She explained her predicament. Read article


“How to Make White Wine Vinegar Flavored with Herbs”

June 27, 2016, Countryside

It’s the time of year when the herb garden is profuse with perennials returning after winter and new plants beginning to grow. If you’re anything like me, it’s also when you’re feeling eager and energized to try out some new uses for all the abundance. Recently, I was walking through my herbs with my neighbor and local herb expert, Rita Heikenfeld, when she spied my patch of scallions all a-bloom. She exclaimed, “Oh Erin! You have to get those flowers off before they go to seed. I’m going to get you a recipe for flavored wine vinegar!” And so, my newest project began: learning how to make white wine vinegar infused with the garlic scent and taste of scallion blossoms. Read article


“A Quick and Easy Chicken Eggplant Recipe”

July 18, 2016, Countryside

If you’re anything like me, this time of year you find yourself out in the garden an hour before dinner time trying to put together a healthy dinner recipe using things you’ve grown. On a night like that, I created this chicken eggplant recipe and it was so delicious I thought it was worth sharing! Read article


“How to Make Jelly From Queen Anne’s Lace”

July 19, 2016, Countryside

Walking just about anywhere in the countryside here in Ohio, you will find the beautifully intricate white flower called Queen Anne’s Lace. I recently learned from my herbalist neighbor that it, too, is on the edible plants list. She gave me an old-time recipe to try so that I could learn how to make jelly from this edible weed. Read article


“A Homemade Dandelion Wine Recipe”

July 28, 2016, Countryside

This dandelion wine recipe all started with violets. I know that might seem like a strange statement, but violets were my introduction to foraging. My neighbor introduced me to collecting blooms on the edible flowers list one evening, followed by several days of making violet jam and jelly. I found it so satisfying to create something delicious from a plant that’s considered a weed that I set out with my basket later that week to pick another superstar edible flower; the dandelion. Read article


“Creative Lavender Uses in the Kitchen”

August 5, 2016, Countryside

When we moved into our home two years ago, I planted lavender all across the front of the house because I find it so calming to smell it as I enter the house. Many of lavender’s uses—from herbal sleep remedies to home remedies for headaches—play on the calming aspect of the aroma of the plant. In harvesting my lavender this year, though, I wanted to look at lavender uses in the kitchen because not only do the buds smell wonderful, but they also provide a vibrant floral taste to lots of different foods. Read article


“Try My 5 Best Beet Recipes”

August 10, 2016, Countryside

I have been growing beets in my garden for a couple years now. They are so easy to grow! I always end up with an abundance; so I’ve been on the hunt for the best beet recipes for cooking fresh beets. One thing that makes beets such a great food plant is that just about the whole plant is edible. When I pick a beet, I use the root and the leaves. The hard stems – the only remaining part – I like to grind up for the chickens so literally every part of the plant gets eaten. Generally, I think of beets as a savory food, but they have a high sugar content so the kinds of food that can be made from them are various. Let’s explore some of the best beet recipes I’ve found. Read article


“Reviving Old Crabapple Recipes”

August 24, 2016, Countryside

Previous generations grew crab apple trees as an edible, not just decorative, tree. People knew how to care for apple trees and nurtured these trees well to produce great abundance. The varieties that were planted grew bigger fruit that was a little less tart and crab apple recipes abounded to use them. There is an old heritage crab apple tree in the village where I live. It bears well every other year and this was the year for it. So, I went to gather the fruits and as I approached the tree, all I could say was, “Wow.” The huge old tree was laden with fruit. Read article


“Canning Salsa Recipes Abound”

September 7, 2016, Countryside

Canning salsa recipes are everywhere these days. There are so many options to try! You can experiment with canning salsa using tomatoes, corn, beans, fresh herbs, dried spices, peppers and even fruit. There are so many canning salsa recipes that it might seem overwhelming. What I’ve done is to simply make small batches of ones that sound interesting and let my family find the ones they like best. I’d like to share with you the best we have found out of all the canning salsa recipes we’ve tried.  Read article


“A Tomato Ketchup Recipe Anyone Can Make”

September 16, 2016, Countryside

It’s nearing the end of tomato season. You learned how to care for tomato plants, tended them tirelessly, and now – if you’re like me – you’re getting tired of making tomato sauce from scratch. When those tomatoes come, they come quickly and in great abundance! This tomato ketchup recipe gives you something new to add to your arsenal of food preservation methods for tomatoes when you can’t do one more batch of sauce.  It seems like one can never have too many options for what to do with those tomatoes when they are coming in by the basketful. Read article


“How to Make Kombucha at Home”

October 21, 2016, Countryside

Not long after I began drinking it, I decided I needed to learn how to make kombucha. If you buy it in the store, you will pay $3 to $5 for a single-serving bottle depending on the brand. That becomes an expensive habit quickly! I have recently gotten into fermentation big time, trying everything from fermentation food preservation (making pickles in my great-great grandmother’s crock) to fermenting delicious dandelion wine recipe. Fermenting brings so many health rewards; we have even begun to make fermented chicken feed so that our hens can benefit from the added probiotics it creates. My neighbor has nicknamed me the queen of fermentation since every time she comes over I have something new bubbling away in my kitchen.  Read article


“Apple Butter Uses APlenty”

November 25, 2016, Countryside

Apple butter uses truly do abound. The apple itself is such a versatile fruit, which can be preserved in so many ways as a beverage, a sweet or savory sauce, a jam, a butter, a whole fruit, a pie filling, a dried chip, a fruit leather… the list goes on and on! If you take just one of these uses—apple butter—and look at all that it can be turned into, the list of apple uses grows again. What a gift an apple tree is to a homestead—even a crabapple tree. There are many a crab apple recipe as well. If you can also pass on to your children the knowledge of how to care for apple trees, even better! I am a teacher and I love to share with my students each year the story of Johnny Appleseed, planting trees in early America so that those who came after him would have food to eat. We sing the “Johnny Appleseed Song” in thanksgiving for the gifts in our lives: This world is good to me, and so I thank this world, for giving me the things I need – the sun and the rain and the apple seed. This world is good to me.  Read article


“A Caramel Pear Crumble Recipe”

December 8, 2016, Countryside

This pear crumble recipe was inspired by the big old pear tree in our front yard. Our neighbors planted it when they built our house more than 40 years ago. Every other year it produces pears galore. In the spring it is heavy with aromatic blossoms then come late September into October, I go out every evening to collect the pears that have fallen before the deer and bees get to them. Because I had a daily supply of fruit coming in, I was forced to get creative with uses for pears! At first, I made pear juice, canned pear slices, and even tried a pear butter. I used my knowledge of how to make jelly, to make a batch of pear jelly from the juice. Read article


“Flavoring Kombucha: My 8 Favorite Flavor Combos”

December 30, 2016, Countryside

About a year ago I learned how to make kombucha. From the start, I found that flavoring kombucha was really the fun part. Once you make your first batch, you can begin experimenting with kombucha recipes, adding things to enhance the flavor of your brew. By mixing in spices, fruit, syrups, juices, sweeteners and whatever else you like during the second fermentation, you can create seemingly endless varieties of kombucha. Read article


“Automating a Chicken Coop Door Using Arduino”

January 20, 2017, Countryside

When we designed our chicken coop, automating our chicken coop door was a necessity. There was already so much to consider, from the design and quantity of nesting boxes to roosts and space. But, since we both work full-time jobs, an automatic chicken door had to be considered too. We had seen plans for automated chicken coop doors. In fact, there are ready-to-purchase devices out there which will accomplish the mission of securing your birds. These products are rather expensive, especially given a significant design flaw: They rely on a timer to open and close the chicken coop doors. We didn’t like this idea because, as sunrise and sunset times change, the timer needs to be adjusted. If forgotten, there was a good chance the birds could be locked out of the coop. This was not acceptable. Read article


“A Guide to Getting New Chicks”

February 3, 2017, Backyard Poultry

Whether you’re starting a new flock or expanding one, spring is the time when people start to have baby chicks on the mind. It’s good to do some planning and figure out just what you need ahead of time. What breeds are right for you? Where do you get them? And what will they need when you get them home? Read article


“An Easy Carrot Cake Recipe Evokes Sweet Memories”

April 14, 2017, Countryside

This easy carrot cake recipe came down to me from my mother, who passed away just over two years ago. She didn’t teach me any easy pie recipes or even how to make homemade biscuits, but man did she make a good carrot cake. Read article


“Where to Buy Baby Chicks”

April 19, 2017, Backyard Poultry

After figuring out which chicken breeds will best suit your family or farm, you need to decide where to buy baby chicks. There are three main options for where to get your chicks: a local hatchery, a mail-order hatchery or a local feed store. Let’s look at the pros and cons of buying baby chicks from each of these sources. Read article


“The Many Uses of the Chicory Plant”

April 20, 2017, Countryside

It’s getting to be that time of year when wildflowers appear a-plenty along roadsides everywhere. As I drive along, I like seeing the colors appear and trying to figure out what all those plants are. Lately, I noted a sea of pale blue and I wondered: what is that? A quick search and I found my answer; the Chicory plant. Read article


“Selecting the Right Chicken Breeds”

April 22, 2017, Backyard Poultry

Whether you’re starting a new flock or expanding one you already have, spring is the time when many people start to have baby chicks on the mind. It’s good to do some planning and figure out just what you need ahead of time. What breeds are right for you? Where do you get them? And what will they need when you get them home? Read on for answers to some of these big questions about how to get started right with new baby chicks. Read article


“Baby Chick Brooder Ideas”

April 23, 2017, Backyard Poultry

Once you’ve selected your chicken breeds and figured out where to buy baby chicks, you need some chick brooder ideas. The brooder will be the baby chicks’ home for their first month or so. Setting up the brooder is one of the most important factors in learning how to raise baby chicks successfully. Caring for baby chicks isn’t terribly complicated, but they do have particular needs.  If a mother hen is brooding chicks, they stay under or very near her most of the time, providing warmth and safety. When you purchase baby chicks, you take on this role. Read article


“Eggs As A Business”

May 10, 2017, Backyard Poultry (cover story)

Whether you are a backyard chicken keeper looking to expand your flock into a business or a total newbie to chickens hoping to create a livestock business, there are a lot of factors to consider when selling eggs in the retail market. To be successful at selling eggs, not only do you have to learn about raising birds on a larger scale, but you must also gain skills in marketing and business. Much like selling homemade food, there are a lot of laws that govern the sale of livestock products. It’s important to keep in mind liability and ensure you follow appropriate laws. Read article


“Blueberry Cinnamon Baked Dog Treats – Your Pooch Will Love Them!”

May 24, 2017, Countryside

Your pups will be sure to love this baked dog treat recipe, whether they are livestock guardian dogs or family pets. This all-natural baked dog treat recipe is packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients, including flaxseed, cinnamon, and blueberries. Antioxidants can be especially beneficial for dogs with eye and skin problems, allergies, illnesses like cancer or just old achy joints. Read article


“Six Basics for Chicken Coop Design”

July 6, 2017, Backyard Poultry

When thinking about basic chicken coop design, you need to consider six main things. Whether you plan to construct a high-end, stylish coop or something basic, you’ll need to keep your birds safe from predators.  You must give them enough room inside the coop. You’ll need to provide a place for the hens to lay their eggs and for all the birds to roost at night. The chickens must be protected from cool winds and precipitation, but you also need to allow for ventilation in the coop. Finally, you have to be able to keep it all clean. Let’s look at each of these pieces of basic chicken coop design a little more closely. Read article