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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Composting, Choosing the right outdoor method for you and your family

There are alot of composting options out there these days!! If you are thinking about composting, do some research and choose the right method for you and your family.
There are the enclosed compost bins that set right on the ground that come in all sizes...so if you are going to have a lot of stuff to compost make sure you get a big one!! Then there are the Compost Tumblers, they sit off the ground and are super easy to "rotate" your compost pile because you just turn it!

You can also make your own "Compost Tumbler" out of an old plastic trash can.

There are also online plans for how to build your own compost structure out of wood or just by using old wooden palates.

We prefer the open air method where its just a pile that can be easily rotated. We have a 3 station rotation and the smallest pile is right before it is sifted into bins to be taken to the garden.

This method takes up more space than the plastic bins, but we have a lot of stuff to compost from the chicken and goat barns so the extra space is well used! But if you just have kitchen scraps and lawn scraps then it might be best to look into a smaller option.

We would love to hear what methods you use and how it works out for ya!?

Kitchen Compost Bin Pail Homemade

The most important thing I have found about composting as much as I can is that it has to be convenient or I tend to forget about it.

Have a bin in your kitchen to collect daily compostable items. Keep it somewhere in your kitchen that is super convenient and will be a reminder to you and your family to compost as much as you can!! There are all sorts of little "kitchen compost bins" you can buy that are aesthetic and would blend right in with the kitchen....everything from plastic pails to nice stainless steel pails. If you have the extra cash for a nice pail that is great, but if not then you can always use something homemade :)

I would love to have one of these kitchen compost pails, but for now I just use an old Folgers Coffee plastic container...free option! Cut a few slits in the lid to allow some airflow. Its not the most aesthetic option, but I usually place the coffee container in the bottom of my sink so visitors dont really even notice it...until they see me filling it with stuff :)

Put whatever compostable kitchen scraps you have throughout the day and then at the end of the day (or every other day...just dont let it start smelling) take it out to the compost pile or compost tumbler and cover it with some "green matter".
Sometimes I carry my kitchen compost bin outside to dump it right into the compost pile and sometimes if I have alot (when my bin is full and I cut up alot of veggies and have scraps) then I put it all in a large compostable brown paper sack and just put the entire bag in the compost. (Tip: next time you go to the grocery store and forget your grocery bags...ask for paper, not plastic!)

This is a good list of "What to Compost"... most lists Ive found are CRAZY long and just about get overwhelming before you even start composting! But this list (in the link of "What to Compost") is a good brief yet explantory list of what you should and shouldnt compost. You can do more research (and if you are planning on composting I do encourage alot of research) just search around on google :)

Home picked flowers

Iris bouquet from the front yard.

Ive never really been the kindof person to want flower bouquets around the house...mainly because they are really expensive and then they just die. BUT we have a ton of iris's growing in our side yard so me and the kids went out and picked some and made a pretty bouquet. It was fun and the kids loved it and so did I...and free :)

One of the flowers fell off while we were making the bouquet so Addie carried it around "smelling the pretty flower". That flower didnt last long...but Addie really enjoyed it as long as it did :)

Wine Home Brew

Bryan and I made our first batch of wine a couple months ago. The first wine brew we did was a Bergamase and we got about 28 bottles from the kit. We got a few more kits and are getting ready to give it another try. This time around we got a Pinot Noir and a Sangiovese...still not quite sure which we will make first!

The last time we bought a kit we just got it from our local brew store but this time I found a guy online that sells them for super cheap! Home Winery Supply for only only $25-$31 per concentrate set you can fill your 5 gallon carboy. The shipping for 1 bottle of concentrate was going to be the same as the shipping for 2 so we decided to go ahead and get 2 kits since the shipping was going to be $17 either way...still MUCH cheaper than the local brew store.

"Home Winery Supply Company was formed in 1963 to help dedicated and amateur wine makers, produce the best from their grapes and grape concentrate. When people began to recognize that home-made beer could be made better than store bought, Home Winery was there to offer their expertise to eager consumers."

The garden has kept us pretty busy the past couple weeks so we havent had a chance to get the wine going, but as soon as we do we will let you all know!!

If you are interested in making your own homemade wine or beer you can check around at your local garage sales or on craigslist to find inexpensive new or used brew equipment...I found a $200 brew kit at a garage sale for $10! Search craigslist for "Carboy" (the 5 gallon glass bottle you will need to brew) or for "Brew Equipment"...you will need alot of various supplies. Check with your local brew store to make sure you have all the supplies you need BEFORE you start!!!

Our Garden, What we are planting...with our Plangarden Design

It has taken me a few days, but my Plangarden.com Design is getting pretty close so I thought I would share it with all of you. My Garden Design . The design on here is just the main garden in the back. We are also doing some smaller gardens in the front and side yard, but for now Im just focusing the design on the main garden in the back. There are a few things I will probably change around or add, but most everything is in the ground already so I cant very easily change it once its in the ground! I have really enjoyed this software!!

We have a lot of stuff going on in the garden (as you can see from the picture) but here is a list of the veggies we have planted/or will be planting soon.

These are the Heirloom varieties that we have and that were started from seedlings: 
Early Prolific Straight-neck Squash
Dark Green Zucchini
Golden Delicious Squash
Tendercrisp Celery
Blends – Heirloom Salad
Sugar Daddy Pea
Jalapeno Pepper
Habanero Pepper
California Wonder Pepper (arent doing so good)
California Wonder Pepper, Gold (arent doing so good)
California Wonder Pepper, Purple (arent doing so good)
Amsterdam Minicor Carrot
Chantenay Royal Carrot
Crystal Wax Onion
Red Creole Onion
Easter Egg Radish
Watermelon Radish
White Lisbon Onion
Evergreen White Bunching Onion
Waltham #29 Broccoli
Calabrese Broccoli
Viroflay Spinach
New Zealand Spinach
New England Pie Pumpkin
Amish Pie Pumpkin
Cherokee Wax Bean
Contender Bean
Tender-green Improved Bean
Besser Tomato
Brandywine Tomato, Red
Brandywine Tomato, Yellow
Porter Tomato
Scarlet Beefsteak Tomato
Bush Sugar Baby Watermelon
Crimson Sweet Watermelon
Basil, Genovese
Basil, Sweet
Bee Balm
Chamomile, German
Chives, Garlic
Coriander/ Cilantro
Evening Primrose
Lavender, English
Lemon Balm
Marsh Mallow
Mustard, Brown
Parsley, Italian
St Johns-wort
Purple Italian Globe Artichoke
Mary Washington Asparagus
Dwarf Sunspot Sunflower
Velvet Queen Sunflower
Marigold, African
Marigold, Signet

We also have a few non Heirloom seeds that we started from seed:
3 Tobacco varieties

Then we have just a few that we purchased as plants:
Peppers (Our pepper seedlings just arent looking so great so we are going to purchase a few peppers as well)

We also purchased:
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Red Potatoes
A few onion varieties

That is the run down of the plants we have going on in the backyard. Most of the seed packets we purchased still have quite a few seeds in them so they are in a container in the freezer so hopefully we can use them next year and save some extra money on seeds!
We are going to try and save our seeds this year (but we've never done this before so who knows!) and then we wont have to buy the majority of our seeds next year either...PLUS we just want to learn how to save our seeds!

It is extremely excitting to watch these tiny little plants grow from such small seeds. It is encouraging to see the garden finally starting to get some green!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Junk Mail Creations...what do you do with your junk mail???

We get a ton of junk mail and it drives me nuts!! So Im trying to get more creative with what I do with my junk mail because some of it I just cant compost (ink!).
I have a shelf beside our computer printer that I put all misprinted documents and junk mail so the kids can grab a piece of paper whenever they want and color or make things. We've been making a lot of paper airplanes out of junk mail recently...Henry LOVES it.
We want to hear your ideas for what you do with your junk mail!?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Poppy keeps eating my garden plan!! Notty Goat

I have drawn out my garden plan SEVERAL times now! Poppy is obviously in rebellion toward the way she thinks I should plant my garden...or just doesnt want me working in the garden at all so decides to eat the plan each and every time I draw it out!
The first incident: I was sitting out in the garden with both of the goats and all of the chickens (before anything was planted) just looking and trying to decide what to plant where ... when out of nowhere Poppy came over, snatched up the paper with her little mouth and took off running (as if she knew it was wrong). Before I could catch up with her she had eaten the WHOLE paper!
The second incident was pretty similar to the first, but I was able to catch up to her before she devoured the entire paper...but one corner really doesnt help too much!
So I decided I better change my strategy for carrying my garden plan to the garden... I put the paper INSIDE of a book... yep she got to it!
The fourth incident: I had it folded up and put in my back pocket...where I thought it was definately safe...wrong! I guess a small piece was sticking out of the back of my pocket and she snatched it and took off running...I didnt even chase her that time I was just so shocked and couldnt stop laughing!

So I have decided that I need to do something on the computer so she cant eat it! Then if she does eat it I can just print it out again and it isnt lost! I found a really neat online garden planning software with a 45 day FREE trail! Plangarden.com. I am pretty excitted about it because it is a VERY organized system...and those of you who know me know that I LOVE spreadsheets and organizational things! This software allows you to export your garden charts and garden logs to an excel spreadsheet! LOVE IT!

We will see how it goes and hopefully Poppy doesnt get in the house and eat my computer next!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


After some good work in the garden we have to take "Garden Race Breaks!"
Get Ready, Get Set...


Addie is giving Henry instructions on how to race and cheering him along as he runs!
But Henry seems to be doing just fine!

Garlic!! How to plant Garlic... demonstration by Addie & Henry

We absolutely love garlic and I seriously cant get enough garlic! SO we planted a lot of garlic this year. We have planted it in various stages so we can have fresh garlic all summer. The kids absolutely love to help with the garlic so this time I thought as they plant it I would just take pictures! You start off with your garlic bulbs that you "unwrap" (as the kids say) and then you plant individual cloves of garlic. At the end of the year if you dry your garlic thoroughly you can even plant your own garlic cloves the next year. This is our first time planting garlic so we just purchased some at the local seed store.

Work the ground really good so the soil is loose and ready for the roots to go deep.
Heres my Garden Helpers!
Peal your garlic and take out 1 clove.

Dig a little whole and put your garlic "into bed" (as Addie calls it). You can see where Addie is planting we already have some garlic coming up right beside it that we planted several weeks ago.
"Put it in the ground and leave it in the ground". Thats what the kids say over and over as we are planting. When they helped me plant potatoes they kept burying them and then digging them right back up to see if they had grown... so now they are learning that it takes a little longer than 2 seconds to grow!

As Henry was showing me that after you plant your garlic you have to give it a good smack to help it stay in there!
Then just start it all over and "unwrap" more garlic and keep the planting process going!

Yesterdays Toyz Wooden Alphabet Name Trains

Kids love trains! Kids love to see their own names! SO why not delight them with an alphabet name train!!

My Uncle started a business making handmade wooden alphabet trains. These are fantastic! He sent us one for Henry and Adelle and the kids absolutely love them!! They are very durable so they are excellent for playtime, but they are also extremely cute so they make fantastic bookshelf or dresser toppers!
Each letter connects to the next letter with magnets. The magnets are very strong and my kids love to pull their names through the house. They really enjoy taking all the letters apart and trying to spell their names again (Henry gets it sometimes, but Addie usually just decides hers is a kitty cat that she will take on a walk).
These alphabet trains are wonderful! My kids play with these for hours and it is absolutely adorable!!
These delightful wooden alphabet trains are even made with eco friendly paint...making them just that much more enjoyable.
My Grandpa was an avid woodworker making so many things from hand in his little woodshop behind their house. My Grandpa is an amazing man and he has handed down his skill of woodworking to my uncle who wants to keep the oldfashioned wooden toys alive!
I highly recommend Yesterdays Toyz!!  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Keeping your city farm animals watered!! Clean Water Access!

 ALL your animals need to stay HYDRATED!! With the heat of summer coming you need to get prepared in advance for how you will address the issue of keeping your animals watered!
I absolutely love my plastic poultry foundation base for watering the animals. I found one at my local feed store for $1.39 and we bought one a couple months ago. We used to have a large water dish in the chicken coop that I had to clean out at least once a day because it was too large for the coop and the animals would poo in it :(
Now that I have this watering dish it is really easy to keep clean and since we have 3 throughout the yard I dont worry about the animals running out of water during the day. All you have to do is get a regular mouth mason jar to screw onto the dish ... I even found several half gallon size jars as well as 1 gallon size jar with a regular mouth lid. This helps to keep several gallons of clean water around the yard.

Plus we have a large 22 qt flatback bucket that is in the goat barn, I leave it up against the side of the gate so the chickens can even stick their heads through the fence to get a drink but cant poo in it!

The watering base is even great for the goats! Ive even seen my dog Sarge getting a drink from it.

Cleaning Day

So today is CLEANING DAY! Usually I spend the majority of Saturday doing a deep clean out of all the animal areas, cleaning the yard of animal droppings, and cleaning tools off...but this saturday I was still trying to get caught up with everything since I was gone last friday (up at the hospital with my family for my moms second surgery...Praise God everything is going good with her now and she is home!).
So we woke up at about 6:30 this morning and got after it!! Henry loves to take pictures and I let him take pictures today since I knew I would be busy with cleaning...He got quite a few good ones so I thought I would share them with you all.

A few of me cleaning out the goat barn:
Sweet PDZ Granular, 40 Lbs WhiteBasically I just shovel out all the old straw and then close the gate so the animals cant get in and let it air out for a few hours while I play with the goats...then I lay down a couple cups of Sweet PDZ Granular, 40 Lbs White (This stuff is GREAT for keeping any smell to a minimal!)  Two little goats really dont smell, but as a preventative measure since we have neighbors so close! Goats have a really bad reputation for smelling bad, but its really just the Billy goats that stink when they are trying to attract a female!

Henry also caught a good picture of the garden

And another picture of the compost pile...it is pretty tall by the time Im done cleaning all the animal areas out! I usually water the compost pile after I am done piling up all the straw and then lay a tarp over the top to help hold all the straw in place (so on windy days like today it doesnt blow the straw all over the place). After about a day or two I will take off the tarp and usually the straw stays in place...until the next time I turn the compost!

Henry found a worm!

Henry loves "exploring" for worms and gets real excitted when he finds one...this time he found a pretty big one!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Natural PEST CONTROL ... ants deterant Cayenne Pepper and Garlic

Wow did we have an ant problem! SO I made a Garlic/Cayenne pepper spray to deter those nasty ants from wanting to be in my garden. (recipe from The Vegetable Gardener's Bible (10th Anniversary Edition) I HIGHLY recommend this book, LOVE IT!)
Ok so I made up several baggies of this "mixture" and put the other baggies in the freezer so I will have them ready and on hand when I need them! I got a 16 oz container of Cayenne Pepper at Sams for $4.46 and a 23 oz of Dried Minced Garlic for $4.66... so for under $10 you can have ALOT of this bug spray!!
Since I wanted a large application for the front and back garden I started with a large batch.

Garden Pest Control:
1/2 Cup Dried Minced Garlic
3/4 Cup Cayenne Pepper Powder
30 Cups of hot Water
2-3 days
(Use care when preparing and applying...the active ingredient is HOT PEPPER and can produce skin irritation!)

Combine the mixture in a Large container, give it a good stir and then let it set for 2-3 days...be sure to put the container somewhere where it wont be in the way or wont be tempting to the kids to want to play in!!
You can fill a sprayer with it and spray around your plant beds...OR just get a cup and pour it around your plant beds (this method is a lot faster!)
Ive only used half of my bucket and I havent seen an ant in days...it is quite potent!! My whole garden smells like garlic (oh I sure love it)! This is also a positive thing because we have a TON of squirrels in our neighborhood and I just read somewhere that squirrels HATE the smell of garlic and cayenne pepper. So although I thought I was doing this to deter just ants...I also have a simple squirrel repelent!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gardening Forum "I Dig My Garden"

Oh the joy of this drizzly day! Im on pins and needles wishing I could be outside in the garden and watching the kids play with the animals... but it doesnt look like that is going to be an option. SO, I thought I would do some research and I bumped across a new forum for Heirloom gardeners called I Dig My Garden.
Im having a blast reading through this and hearing about everyone elses garden. I really enjoy forums and it is a great way to get free advice from people who KNOW! Ask questions and get great advice, read all sorts of threads about topics that just inspire you tremendously!

Kitchen Tip: Precut Onions!

We have alot going on here at our city homestead and I am constantly looking for new ways to speed things up and make things easier on myself without sacrificing quality! This is one of the things that I do to help speed up meals...precut onions! It doesnt take any extra time, but it sure saves time and dirty knives. Everytime I need to chop up some onions for a meal I always chop at least 1 extra onion and put it in a canning jar in the refrigerator (a canning jar with a canning jar lid will help keep the lovely onion smell in the JAR and not in your refrigerator!).
This makes it VERY easy to throw together meals because usually I start all my meals by sauteeing some onions! Last night we had fajitas and I sauteed some onions (that were pre chopped), threw in some tomatoes (that I had seasoned and canned a while ago), tossed in the leftover chicken from dinner the night before (that I had already cut up). Dinner was fantastic and I didnt dirty up anything except the 1 sautee pan and it only took about 5 minutes to make! Healthy and homemade in under 5 minutes!! We even ate on paper plates for less cleanup! compostable paper plates :)
You can use this same method with just about anything! Next time you grill chicken, just throw an extra couple chicken breasts on and cut them up and put them in the refrigerator and plan fajitas or chicken pizza for dinner the next 2 nights.