About Me

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My tremendously supportive husband & I have 3 wonderful children, 1 dog, 12 laying hens, 2 dairy goats, 3 bee hives, and a 2000 sq foot vegetable garden on a small 1/4 acre lot in the city. In the center of it all is our small 1,000 sq foot house purchased in 2008 as a foreclosure that we fully renovated to host our growing family, home school adventures, and small home business (CozyLeaf.com). We have a desire to learn a path to self sufficiency finding ways to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. We want to learn to live with less as we laydown roots to our little homestead.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Afternoon nap on the deck

It is such a nice day today! The animals are all loving relaxing on the back porch.

The goats love to "snuggle".

The crew is all here!

We got 3 more hens to add to our flock. 3 white Orpingtons and they are just beautiful! Now they are all coming in for some "snacks" as they are getting to know each other.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mother Earth News magazine... another one of our favs

We love the ideas & suggestions found in this magazine. It's really impressive whats going on in the world of gardening & self sufficiency.

Sun Chips Compostable Bag... does it work?

So last time I was at the store I saw this Sun Chips bag "Worlds First 100% Compostable Chip Package". We compost and thought it would be fun to give this one a try!! Same Great Sun Chip taste, but now with a compostable package! Im excitted to see if it composts down :)

The bag is made of plant based materials so it will compost! And it sure sounds different too. The regular crinkle of the bag is ALOT louder...which is fine with me because it really makes it "kid proof". If the kids try to climb up and reach in the cabinet to sneak out an extra snack...I will know!!

Getting the seeds ready for the ground - "Hardening off"

Get your little seedlings ready for the sunlight, drying winds, and climate changes by Hardening them off. This process was completely new to me because we had never started our plants from seeds before, but just bought them at the store. Thanks to a kind lady from theeasygarden.com forum, I learned that I needed to "let them meet the world" BEFORE I plant them in the ground. It makes sense, I just never thought of it before.
We started our plants off with about 1 hour of evening sun when there wasnt much wind (which is hard to find in Kansas!) and are slowly working them up to the full extent of the elements they will experience outside!

Seedlings doing good

We got our seedlings going for the garden at the end of February/Beginning of March (6-8 weeks b4 last frost) and they are all taking off great! We are going to have to start the "hardening off" process here in a week or so and it is all a new adventure!

We decided this year to start as much, if not all, of our plants from seed. We are using mostly heirloom varieties so we can save the seeds at the end of the year to use the next year...Now we've never started from seed before and we've never saved seeds before so this is all a new adventure for us and we are learning ALOT along the way!

FREE Cloth Diaper Pattern Cut Outs

I hope this works great for anyone and if you have any questions feel free to comment and Ill try to fix all the kinks.
Print off this document and cut out all the pieces then follow the step by step photo  instructions sheet I have posted on my blog and you will be ready to make your own pocket cloth diapers at home!! This pattern kit is completely free, I just want to help people learn the benefits of using cloth diapers as well as save some money!

Cloth Pocket Diaper Pattern Pieces

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A little bit of Goat relaxation

The Goats sure love hanging out on the back porch with us, especiall when the sunlight hits right in their little corner and they can eat a little snack and relax in the sun :)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Compost Screening

So todays project was Compost Straining. We currently have 4 compost rotations. Today I turned the 3rd compost into a strainer for the 4th station to be ready to lay into the beds for garden.

Really all you need is something to screen the larger particles out with, but I like to also use a shovel, a pair of leather work gloves (in case theres sharp objects in there...which there usually is) and a large bucket or trash can.

The process is simple and absolutely tons of fun for little kids so get them involved!!!

This rotation of compost has been rotated for about 6-8 months, just moving from 1 pile to another till it gets nice and rich.

Just shovel some dirt onto the screen (wood frame and 1/4" hardware cloth) and shake it around...tell the kids you are searching for little treasures and they will love picking out all the sticks and other items.

Once the screen is full or dirt, give it a good shake and spread it around with your hands if you need to until it gets all the good rich dirt out into the lower bucket.  Its suprising how many small sticks and things you will find...but just throw them back into another compost pile so they can break down more and eventually be dirt. 
I ended up being able to fill 2 large plastic trash cans with good rich composted soil and it will make a great addition to the garden. You can see from the picture to the left that its great loose soil! I decided not to screen it again but there are a few little twigs that went through the screen and are in the soil, but I kindof like it like that. We have heavy clay here in our yard so we are constantly trying to loosen it up by working more and more organic matter into the soil.
With several compost rotations you should be able to do this process every couple months so you can have a steady rotation of nice organic matter. 
Have fun and I hope you enjoy and get those kids involved they sure do love to learn :)  

Mommys little helper

The smell of Jalapeno Jelly is in the air!

One of my favs, Jalapeno Jelly!! I made a batch yesterday and cant wait to try it out!

SUPER EASY and you should definately ALL try this one!

Ive gone through quite a few Jalapeno Jelly recipes trying to find which one I like best and I finally started trying new things and I ended up with this recipe that is a combination of a few...and I must say I DO LIKE leaving ALL the Jalapeno seeds...if you like a little extra WOW to it :)

SO, give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!! You dont need a fancy pressure canner for this one, just a stock pot big enough to cover your jars with water and boil for 20 minutes. You dont need any fancy canning equipment, just your regular kitchen pots and a blender. You can see Ive made a few modifications to my own recipe, so Im sure I will modify more and more as I go!

Sugar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Pectin (just find the Ball liquid Pectin at Walmart), Canning jars with lids and bands (you can find those just about anywhere too!) Make sure to Sterilize all your jars and lids...if your dishwasher has a "sterilize" cycle, use that...otherwise put them in boiling water for about 5-10 minutes (you dont want all your hard work ruined because you didnt clean your jars!)

I had quite a few peppers (green bell and jalapeno) frozen from a friends harvest last years and Ive been slowly taking them out and defrosting them to blend them up for jelly, but this time I decided to just blend them all and freeze the extra so I would have to do the stemming and blending process again. SO if you have alot of extra peppers they will sure store alot better (SAVES SPACE) in the freezer if you blend them up! Then it makes it alot easier to make jelly!
(I marked what was in my jar and how much "Green Bell Peppers 1 Cup" because I knew when i looked back in the freezer a few months from now I would wonder what on earth I had put in that jar!!) MARK EVERYTHING ALWAYS!!

Once you have your Bell Peppers and Jalapeno Peppers blended, combine all your ingredients (NOT THE PECTIN), give it a good stirring, and bring it to a boil!

Be careful as your mixture starts to reach a boil because it WILL foam and it will FOAM OVER!! I have had this happen once and I had to pull out my entire stove and clean it all off to get that sticky sugary jelly mess off my stove and side of my cabinet! Therefore, constantly stir as you get close to the boiling point. And if it looks like it is getting too foamy then remove it from the heat and stir stir stir until you get that foam under control! Return it to the heat once you can see the green mixture again and most of the yellow foam is under control.

Once its boiled for 5 minutes, remove it from the heat and let it set 1 hour...this is a good time to get your jars all sterilized and ready for processing! (The photo to the right is after the mixture has set for 1 hour and you can see how clear it is, I also have my canning pot ready with boiling water in the back)
When the hour is almost up I like to get my canning pot (just a large enough pot to fit all the jars) filled with water and heating up...I usually put my jars in the boiling water to get them extra sterilized until right before Im ready to put the jelly in them.
Now you add your pectin to the mixture and stir it in real good while bringing it to a boil for 1 minute...then your ready for your jars! (A jar funnel is really handy right now so you dont get sticky jelly mess all over your jar)...Fill your jars, put on the lids and rings and place them in the boiling water (at least 2" over the top of your tallest jar). Let it come to a good rolling boil for 20 minutes and then pull the jars out onto a thick towel or wire rack and let them set overnight. You will hear the rings pop and that is good...they are sealing!

There you have it! I ended up making 8 Half Pints, 6 Pints, and 1 quarter pint (which is SO cute too)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Chickens playing in the yard

This is Dixie, one of buff Orpington hens running around the yard after some bugs & worms

all 4 girls busy at work in the backyard

Gathering eggs

today we got 4 eggs. All the girls worked hard for us. we get about 6 eggs a week from each hen...so I pick up 3-4 a day which is just perfect for our small family.

Sunset is here!

I love this magazine and it only comes every couple months so I get pretty excited when it arrives :)

Cheese Making!! Homemade Mozzerella Cheese Ball

Homemade Mozzerella Cheese Ball! DELIGHTFUL!! I hope you give it a try and like it as much and we do! :)

I love this 30 Minute Mozzerella Recipe!

HINT: I did figure out 1 thing (by accident) that made the cheese ALOT better. In the first step where you add the Citric Acid, (Add 1 & 1/2 tsp. Citric Acid diluted in 1cup cool water to 1 gallon of cold milk) DONT stir it right away! Let it set for about 15 minutes, this helps seperate the milk and you will get ALOT larger cheese ball. I know it makes it more of a "45 Minute Mozzerella", but it is WELL worth the extra wait!

Also, I used Liquid Rennet instead of Rennet Tabs (just because that is what I could find at my local Whole Foods store. Doing this method with Liquid rennet, you will have to add 20 drops (1/8 tsp) to the 1/4c of cold water for each gallon of milk you use. I dont think it really makes any difference but this is the rennet I got. I also got Citric Acid you can order it online at IHerb.com... everyone who knows me knows that I LOVE IHerb.com!

Note: Make sure you use Stainless Steel and NEVER aluminum, it will mess with the cheese ball and it wont form right.

Hint: I didnt use a Stainless Steel strainer (because I only had aluminum) so I cut the top out of an old gallon plastic bottle and inserted a double layer of cheese cloth (from the local fabric store) and this worked WONDERFULLY for straining out the whey! If your pocket of cheese cloth starts to get full, then just scoop out the cheese and put it in your microwavable glass bowl and continue to strain the rest.

DONT FORGET THE SALT! I forgot to add salt one time and it was miserable! I tried to go back in and reheat the cheese and kneed in the salt, but it was just a mess...We still ate the cheese and it was yummy, but it wasnt the same :(

Here is a photo of my very first Mozzerella cheese experiement! I was so excitted and couldnt believe it actually worked and it was SO yummy. Now I just cant stop making them! It was pretty small because the first time I did mess up alot, but now the cheese balls about twice that size! Very fun!

This one is a Basil and Sundried Tomatoe Mozzerella!! It was really simple...once you have the Regular Mozzerella Ball, just toss in some sundried tomatoes and fresh basil in the final kneed and you have this!

I love to try something new each time...Try a different spice , fresh herb, or dried vegetable each time and you will soon figure out which is your favourite!! My problem is that I like ALL of them!!
Enjoy :)

MORE RECIPES on Cheesemaking!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Enjoying a chilly afternoon in the the backyard goat barn

Our "Goat Playground" ... tree stumps and ramps

The goats and kids love to run up and down the ramps and jump off the large tree stumps

Loading in trucks of compost for the garden

Just too tempting for a young boy not to play in!

compost rotations

So the tilling begins

My new leaf blower/ weed eater/ lawn mower

Having a nice relaxing afternoon

Free Cloth Diaper Pattern Kit for Pocket Insert Diapers Step by step with Pictures!

The step by step photo details and instructions to making cloth diapers. Print this off to have beside you as you work. The pictures help out alot! Its Free so enjoy and this makes a GREAT baby shower gift...if the mom is wanting to do cloth diapers that is, otherwise it might be a nightmare!

Cloth Diaper Steps

Pocket Cloth Diaper Pattern Video Step by Step FREE

Here is a video (for those visual learners like me!) to help see the overall picture of the cloth pocket diaper pattern. It helps put a big picture to the process and see how easy it really is!!
This video cracks me up because it did it several years ago and I totally forgot that I had made this video until I dig out an old removable hard drive with all my cloth diaper stuff on it! BUT I did the video for myself so if I ever needed to make the cloth diapers again I would be able to sort out my own pattern...hahaha I probably would not have done the video if I knew I would have posted it on the internet a couple years later! BUT I know it will help people out, so who cares how silly and obsessive I look in the video.

I will also upload a step by step guide with photos so you can print it off and have it beside you as you work!
If you have any questions feel free to comment because if you have the question then someone else probably does too!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Cloth Diapers

When I was about to have my first child I realized that diapers were an obvious necessity and were VERY expensive. I purchased a few cloth diapers but at the time couldnt afford to purchase anymore and realized I needed more than just a few cloth diapers to do "full time cloth". An amazingly talented friend of mine helped me come up with a pattern so I could make my own!
For those of you completely overwhelmed at the idea of sewing your own cloth diapers I would like to add...I had never sewn a project before in my life, never used a pattern, never owned a sewing machine - duct tape was my idea of "fixing things". So with the encouragement of my friend I decided to give it a try. Now there have been dozens of girls who have been able to save money using this pattern. I continue to have more people wanting to borrow the pattern so now Ive decided to post it online so anyone can print it off and use it for free!

There are sooo many options for cloth. A Couple issues Diapers, Inserts, Wipes, Cost Premade and Homemade, Bags, Scent control, Leak control, Washing, Disposable!

DIAPER: First issue: I realized I didnt want pins (ouch!) and I realized I didnt want velcro (nasty and ratty after too many washes) so I looked for snaps. Second issue: I realized I didnt want AIO (All in One) meaning the diaper is all one piece, the soaker and the "plastic pants". I didnt want this because they get so bulky and have so many layers to be enough cloth to soak up the "stuff" that I just dont trust it to get clean enough, so more of a sanitary issue. And also it is alot less drying time if they can seperate. But I also realized I didnt want to put on a cloth diaper and then have to put on "plastic pants" over it to protect from leakage! They just dont sit still that long! This led me to pocket diapers. There is an opening in the back where you can stuff the insert in and you can take it out for cleaning. Making it harder for bacteria to stick around. With these factors in mind, I found "Fuzzi Bunz" (www.fuzzibunzworld.com) They have an outside layer of waterproof material called PUL (Polyurithane Laminate) and an inside layer of microfleece (extremely soft and absorbant and easy to clean) and they fasten with snaps (several different levels for baby growth) and they are a pocket diaper. So I bought the small size. I loved them.

INSERTS: (What you stuff inside the pocket to soak up the "stuff") They make them out of all sorts of materials, the basic one that you get with the basic package is MicroTerry. Basically just a really absorbant bath towel material. I found what I like the best is Hemp French Terry (I had to make these myself but of course cheaper that way). Hemp because it is "supposably" antibacterial...to a certain extent and French terry because it is highly absorbant. I sewed them together in two layers and them fold them over to be 6 layers thick. (This way when I wash them, they unfold to be cleaner and dry much faster). Anyway! More Cost efficient is just sewing up some old towels or some cheep terry fabric. Anything that can absorb will work GREAT!
WIPES: I tried cloth wipes and they just never really worked for me. But when they are newborn and the diaper contents really isnt that "solid" cloth wipes work alright. I cut up my own squares of microfleece and mixed them in a wipes solution (water, baby oil, soap, tea tree oil).

$$$COST TO PURCHASE THEM PREMADE: First off the Cost of various items will constantly change, more than likely going up so it is hard to give a definate price depending upon what your materials cost. Ok when I first bought them (2006) I only bought a package of 6 because it is quite an investment and I wanted to be sure I would use them a six pack was right under $100. They say you need about 18 for full time diapering (just depending on how often you want to wash them)18 pack is $297 (and this is only for one size) you will need 3 different sizes to get you through to potty training S, M , L. So you are looking at around $1,000 to Purchase them premade. That is for 18 of each size and you may want more depending on how often you want to do laundry, when I made them I made about 25 medium size diapers so I wont have to do laundry as often (but it is cheaper to make them) and since I had 2 children in diapers at the same time. And this is for basic solid colors, no cute prints (those are about $20 each purchased premade) So you could easily spend up to $1500 to purchase premade, but that just depends on what you want! Ok, there is the money speal. It is alot up front, but I promise it will save you money in the end and will be better for your child! The nice thing about it is that you could ask for this as a gift and then you may get it partially paid for for you. They say fuzzi bunz will last up to 4 kids.Ok a quick price comparison (I budget everything and I am a ridiculous tightwad so I might as well share this part also). A kid will go through 6-8 diapers a day (so lets say 7 average). 7 per day times 2 years (very optimistic age for potty training but...) 730 days = 5110 diapers (average). Sams Club disposable diapers (which are the cheapest) $27.88 for 156-200 diapers (depending on the size). Ok 178 diapers average per package and you are looking at buying about 5110 diapers over 2 years so that is about 29 packages * $28 = $812. And this is only for one child and you will probably not have him/her completely potty trained by age 2 and this is budgeting on the cheapest diapers. Both my kids werent potty trained completely until the age of 3 so that would have cost me EVEN more! However, with cloth diapers you also have to wash and dry them and I dont exactly know how to figure that cost. One website I found www.punkinbutt.com says "Total detergent, energy, and water for 30 months = $230 or less than $8 per month"

$$$HOMEMADE POCKET DIAPERS: Under $6 each to make Pocket Cloth Diapers (you can do it even cheaper too with a few tricks and finding discount fabrics!!). To save even more money. What is needed... PUL material (available online) I have found cute pattern material and great solid colors at www.diapershop.com. There is 1mil and 2mil...just the thickness (1mil for everyday use and 2mil for nightime). I also got some material off ebay. White Pul 60" yard. Then you need microfleece also from diapershop or you can sometimes find it on sale at your local fabric store. You will need 1 yard of Pul and 1 yard of microfleece to make 4-8 diapers (depending on the size). Inserts: www.thesnapstore.com - Hemp French Terry 5 yds (makes about 18-20 inserts) or you can find really cheep terry cloth that works great. Even better are cheap microfiber terry towels that you dont even have to sew up, you can just fold and put them int he diaper!!! I found them cheapest at Sams club, but I dont know what you guys have there. You can probably get them online from Sams. OR even better...Just use old towels!! Anything that will absorb will work GREAT!

BAGS: You dont need these, but they are convenient. When you travel, you need something to take the diaper home in without a dirty diaper just laying in the diaper bag. They are made out of the PUL material and have a little piece of terry sewn inside for some odor control. They come with elastic and a snap on top to help contain the diaper. They have travel size (3-5 diapers) and pail size (alot of diapers). These can all be thrown in the wash along with the diapers. More info on these at fuzzibunzworld.com under "Diaper Pails and Totes". $10-$20 each. I have several small and 1 large. You can also put the dirty diapers into a ziplock bag and then throw the bag away. I do this sometimes when the travel bags are dirty or if I forget one (usually you can find either an old Dillons plastic sack or something if you are out without a bag) I keep a couple zip lock baggies in the car just in case. One poopy diaper can stink up the car REALLY fast!

SCENT CONTROL: Several things I have found very effective are 1: Tea tree oil (very potent only a few drops needed per load) available online www.iherb.com for $12 (1 bottle will probably last you through your entire diapering). 2: Dryer sheets. 3: Baking soda

LEAK CONTROL: Every once in a while your diapers may start to loose their waterproofness. You can buy DWR (Durable Water Resistant) Spray and spray down the outside of the PUL, then throw them in the dryer to set it in and it will restore the leak control. This will cost you anywhere from $6-$20 an application (for about 25 diapers) depending on where you buy it from. In 1 year of diapering I have only had to do this 2 times, so not a huge expense (unless you buy the most expensive DWR and do it all the time!) I bought the $6 can from Gander Mountain.

WASHING: (This is usually the defining line in doing cloth) With a newborn you dont really need a prewash, just a regular cycle in the washing machine. However, when there is more contents and depending on how long it has been since you have washed... Now when my kids got older and were eating solid food Id take off the Pocket diaper, give it a quick dunk in the toilet and if it has "contents" in it, I make sure to get it all off in the toilet. I'll be honest have some antibacterial hand soap close by, your hands will get dirty. You can buy diaper sprayers at fuzzibunzworld.com for around $35. but you may just end up spraying contents all over. What I do once it is pretty clean is pull out the insert and put it in a plastic pail that I have right next to the toilet. At the end of the day I empty that pail into the larger pail with PUL bag that I have in the garage next to the washing machine. Wash time...I empty all the diapers into the wash and do a quick hot prewash with some antibacterial dish soap (not suggested by many, but it works for me and it is cheaper - hasnt hurt my diapers yet) Once that is done I just run it through a regualr wash with regular detergent (I dont buy the special the detergent and it hasnt hurt my diapers).

SNAPS (or you can use velcro): www.thesnapstore.com 36 pieces per diaper about $.30 per diaper but without a snap press it makes it hard. Elastic: just cheap stuff from walmart 3/8in. Thread: just cheap stuff from walmart. For both elastic and thread, budget about $5-10 for each size. Bags: I just use leftover PUL material to make a couple bags and sew in a piece of old wash cloth inside for odor control. If money is a concern, you could even have some family members buy you gift certificates to various websites such as www.diapershop.com and then you wouldnt even have to pay for material. For a quick price idea. I just got 6 yds of PUL (basic solid color 7.95/yd = 47.70) and 6 yds of microfleece (8.95/yd = 53.70). I already had elastic, thread, and snaps (about $20 worth). I cut out from this material 30 diapes. So for 30 diapers it was about $120. Then the hemp french terry about 10 yds and so that is $67 for inserts - so for about $190 you have 30 large diapers and inserts (fuzzi bunz would be a 12 pack and an 18 pack for over $500) if you figure 3 different sizes at this price, that is quite a large savings. This is the price breakdown for the Large size, you can get more mediums and smalls out of each yard so those are even cheaper! BUT now Fuzzibunz has the One Size diaper which is $19 per diaper, Im not sure how they work exactly but it would be something to look into.

Ok I will post the step by step photo instructions and pattern next.