About Me

My photo
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, June 30, 2010

Broccoli is ready to harvest! Freezing broccoli!

We brought in about 3 pounds of broccoli the other day and I blanched them and stuck them in the freezer! Super easy and we can enjoy these this winter :)
First off I have to say, Doesn't this little head of broccoli almost look like a bridal bouquet?? Hahaha that would seriously be an interesting wedding!
Step 1: Rinse your broccoli and separate heads into the size of your choice
Step 2: Immerse in a brine (1 cup salt to 1 gallon of water) for 30 minutes. This will help remove all insects... and with organic gardening, you probably will have insects...but at least you know for sure its organic!!
Step 3: Rinse and drain
Step 4: Blanch for 3-4 minutes (immerse into boiling water for 3-4 minutes and then immediately into ice cold water)...drain (I let it rest on a kitchen towel for a few minutes to make sure ice wouldn't form on my broccoli in the freezer)
Step 5: Pack in your freezer container and label (don't forget to write the packaging date)

Mint Mint and More Mint!!

I love mint! Especially Spearmint (this is due to my friend Erin teaching me a love for Mojitos!!). I became a little overeager in my planting of the mint this year and seeing as mint is a perennial plant that spreads like crazy...I'm sure I will have an OVER abundance next year. What to do? Well, I started looking into as many things as I can do with mint now to preserve it for the winter and enjoy the spearmint all winter! Canning and more canning! I made a spearmint jelly (that turned out more like syrup) and some spearmint oil (mainly to rub on my aching back and shoulders!). I'm also going to try and can some spearmint simple syrup so I can have some mojitos during the winter :)
I cut back spearmint almost every day and find that one of my favorite parts is that my house smells SO good!! I even put some in a vase like flowers...looks and smells pretty!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

2 Little Green Bean Farmers

Henry and Addie love heading into the garden with their little "harvest buckets" and going "exploring"!

They did a pretty good job :)

Canning Homegrown Potatoes at Home :)

I have never grown or canned potatoes before, but I have heard it is one of the easiest things to can! SO I was super excited to give it a try. The canning process was actually relatively easy, but the research and decision making process was much more intense than I had thought!!
My first hurdle: When do I dig up my potatoes?? Everyone was saying..."and then you harvest your potatoes.". Some resources said "when the leaves begin to wilt" and others say "when they plant dies back".
I have about 16 potato plants and several of them looked dead dead and several of them do not look like they are even starting to wilt. I had decided to dig up a couple plants (partially out of excitement and partially out of extreme curiosity!) but only found 4 potatoes in 1 plant and 6 in the other...after much digging around (which was fun!) to make sure I was getting everything!. So I called my dear friend Nicole (which I have called about this same issue several times this season already!) to ask her when do the plants look "dead enough". Nicole is my "potato expert", although I do not think she would consider herself a potato expert, she is a lot more experienced at it than I am! Nicole convinced me to leave the other plants until they are completely died off and we will hope for more than 4-6 per plant! Nicole plants her potatoes in bushel baskets and it makes it alot easier come harvest time because you just overturn the bushel basket and there you have it!! You know for sure this way that you are getting all of the potatoes!!

These are 2 of the plants I dug up: 1 looks really dead and the other was having some wiltage!

I got quite a variety of sizes!

I ended up digging up 1 more plant and from 3 potato plants I got 21 potatoes! The first plant I dug up was the "dead dead" plant and I got 4 from it, the second one was the "wilting" plant and I got 6 from it...then the last one that I almost didn't dig up gave me 11 potatoes!! So, I really don't know what the conclusion is here except that with potatoes it is just an extreme mystery :)

Get ready for canning: Get your pressure cooker, large pot for boiling potatoes and water, small pot for sanitizing your lids!
Step 1: Wash and peal your potatoes (some people say that they leave the skin on their potatoes, but some people say that the skin contains bacteria that could be harmful for canning...I'm not sure but I opted to use my new potato peeler!)
Get the family involved here!! Its alot more fun than standing by yourself in the kitchen for hours! Bryan helped with the hand peeler and Henry helped with the turning of the potato peeler handle...and Addie pretty much ran around the whole time.
Washing potatoes that are just out of the ground is Super easy! The skin pretty much comes right off! If you are wanting to keep your potatoes in a root cellar then you will need to let the potatoes rest for a few days and not scrub them right away or this is what happens to them...but since I was going to peel them anyway it really didn't matter :)
Step 2: Cut your potatoes and place in boiling water for 10 minutes. (not longer or they will turn to mush!)
Step 3: Fill your hot sterile jars with hot potatoes (not the water)...add 1 teaspoon salt at this time.
Step 4: Top off each jar with fresh boiling water leaving 1" head space
Step 5: Remove air bubbles - use a non metal stick (I used the plastic handle of a spaghetti spoon) and slide the stick around the outside of the jar several times to make sure all air bubbles are out.
Step 6: Clean/Dry off the top of each jar and place hot sterile lids and bands on top of each jar
Step 7: Place in your Pressure cooker and process for 40 minutes at 10psi.
Step 8: When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and let your pressure cooker slowly release the pressure and once it has stopped "whistling" and all the pressure is gone, remove all your jars onto a towel and let them set for 24 hours.
Step 9: Once your jars have set and all the seals are tight, wash them off, label and store!

It was seriously super easy and I am very excited to have these 5 jars of canned potatoes!! YEAH!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ball Blue Book for Canning, Freezing and Dehydration

I have another book recommendation! "The Ball Blue Book for Canning, Freezing, and Dehydration"...I also have a funny/sad story behind how I got mine!
When I first started looking into canning last year I wanted to "get prepared" with some recipes and the basics of canning. A friend from church let me borrow this amazing book that she said was her "go to book for canning". I had it a week or so and was going to take it back to her but forgot to put it in the car before we left for church. I didn't think much of it because she said to borrow it as long as I needed so I was going to just shoot for bringing it to her next week. Well, we get home from church only to find said book in the clutches of our precious Sarge (who at the time was cowering in terror because as I gasped he knew he had done something SO notty!).
In my panic I got online to try and quickly find a replacement for this book and the only copies for sale were over $100....AHHHHH!! I had no idea I was borrowing an antique irreplaceable recipe book (Due to the publish date and book volume!) !! I had no idea what to do! So I searched and searched desperately hoping I could find one cheaper AND that Doris (the extremely kind lady who let me borrow this antique!) wouldn't ask for her book back before I could find a new one!! Well after a couple weeks of searching I found an online book store in a small town in Texas that had the exact book, publish date and volume for sale for $4.98 (shipping included!). I was speechless and immediately bought it...slightly wondering if I was in a scam and would never really receive the book! Well a few days later the book arrived safe and sound and sure enough it was the exact book!
I took both books with me next time I was going to see Doris and handed her the new copy and said "Thank you" then I showed her the old copy and what Sarge had done to the book and she got a really good laugh out of it! And we all still get a really good laugh out of it to this day! NOW whenever Doris wants to loan me a book I always check the replacement value of it First!! Doris let me keep the old copy which is still mostly usable...some recipes are missing, but Doris said she could photo copy those ones for me :)
See, upon first sight it really doesn't look that bad! ... but then you flip it over and see the true damage!! Ya, there is no index so I really cant look things up! This really isn't something I could have given back to Doris ;)

So I totally recommend the "Ball Blue Book for Canning"...but try and find a cheaper volume and edition , I hear that they are just as good! :) Oh and Also the moral of the story: Check the replacement value of something before you borrow it because you just might be having to buy a new one!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Garden Update! Beans, Tobacco, Tomatoes, Celery, Garlic...Oh My!

I am super excitted about the garden!! It has been ALOT of work, but its looking good :)

The Tobacco is coming up beautifully! This has been one plant that we really thought wasnt going to make it. It was a SLOW starter and then once we finally got it in the ground it just didnt take off like we had hoped...then after the few weeks of rain we got a while back it just exploded! We planted 6 plants - 2 each of 3 different varieties.
The Green Beans are in harvest and SO much fun to pick. Addie absolutely loves getting in there and "exploring for beans"...at first she was picking the "tiny ones", but then she learned to leave those alone because "they are the babies and still need to grow"...so she just goes after the "daddy beans" now.

Oh and the tomatoes!!! Could they be any more excitting!!! We are eagerly anticipating their redness!
Their are green tomatoes EVERYWHERE! I am afraid it is going to be a race to beat all the birds and squirrels to the ripening tomatoes, but hopefully they dont present too big of a problem...
Alot to cook and can here soon!!
Celery :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Green Beans!! Canning

A couple days ago I tried my first round of canning green beans! It did take a lot of time and work, but sure was alot of fun! Addie and I went out to the garden and picked and picked green beans. We ended up with about 10 lbs, came inside, cleaned and destemed them (by this point Addie had lost interest), then got the canning recipe ready!!

I went with the "Hot Pack" method.
Step 1: Wash and Drain beans, Remove strings, trim ends and break or cut freshly gathered beans into 2 inch pices.

Step 2: Boil 5 minutes. (Get your jars and lids sterilized and get your pressure canner ready)

Step 3: Pack Hot Beans into Hot Jars leaving 1 inch headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to each Pint and 1 teaspoon of Salt to each quart.

Step 4: Ladel boiling water over beans leaving 1 inch headspace, remove air bubbles.

Step 5: Adjust 2 piece caps and place in pressure cooker.

Step 6: Process Pints 20 minutes, Quarts 25 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure in a steam pressure canner.

Step 7: Once your canning time has expired, turn off the heat source and wait for pressure to leave the pressure canner...this could take a few hours...NEVER take the lid off or try to speed up the process or you could destroy your contents, or injur yourself. Just let the pressure canner slowly dismiss the pressure and once it is resting take off the pressure weight first to make sure there isnt any pressure remaingin and then take off the lid. Jars will be hot! Remove the jars to a towel and let them set 24 hours until all the seals pop. If seals do not pop eat them asap or put it in the refrigerator to eat soon. One of my seals didnt seal properly, so we had those beans for dinner that night...they tasted fantastic!

Wine Home Brew Step by Step with Pics - Pinot Noir Phase 2

We have waiting for the fermentation to stop and are ready to proceed forward with our Pinot Noir!

We got a chance to taste our wine at this point and I have to say it is definately sweeter than we expected...the wine isnt done so the flavor will still change, but not too much. The chart told us that 8 cups of sugar would give us a semi-dry wine...I personally wouldnt classify this in the "semi-dry" category. It taste a lot sweeter than we expected. We are still happy with it because it is nice to have some sweet wine around but if you dont like sweet wine, be sure to go with less than 8 cups of sugar!

We already completed Steps 1-10 and are ready to start steps 11-12.
(alot of my pictures for this phase didnt turn out very good so we have limited pictures for the steps)
Step 11: After Fermentation is complete (approx 2 months). Dissolve acid package in 1/2 cup warm water and add to clean pail.

Step 12: Siphon wine out of carboy into pail containing acid solution. Take care not to transfer sediment off the bottom of carboy. (Our first batch of wine we did we did not follow this caution too well....it is really sad to work hard for several months on a batch of wine and then have a small layer of sediment at the bottom of every bottle :( SO we racked ours with a funnel and cloth that served as a filter just in case we picked up some sediment)

Step 13: Add potatssium sorbate to 1/2 cup warm water. Add to pail of wine.

Step 14: Clean out Carboy, siphon wine from pail into clean carboy making sure not to aerate. Wine should take about 3 more weeks to clear on its own. If you want your wine sooner than natural clearing process use SuperKleer fining agent at this time. (We did not use super kleer on our last batch of wine and thought it would be fun to give it a try just to see what all the hype is about...it was actually really impressive!)
For 25-30% greater flavor and some sweetness, add one pint extra concentrate at this time. Dissolve into wine. If wine is to dry oyu could use sugar to sweeten at this time. (We did purchase the extra pint of concentrate but we actually considered not adding it because our wine was pretty sweet...but we figured we already had the concentrate so we might as well add it instead of waste it!)

Step 15: When wine is totally clean (2-3 days with Super Kleer or 2-3 weeks without), siphon off any remaining sediment into clean pail.

Step 16: Degas wine by stirring vigorously.

Step 17: Prepare bottles by cleaning with One Step. Soak corks in sulphited solution, 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water for 2 hours.

Step 18: Fill bottles using bottle filler.

Step 19: Cork them using cork driver. (We also apply colored wine bottle sealers so we can tell our various wines apart. We wanted to make labels, but after cleaning the labels off of so many different bottles we opted out of dealing with labels!!)

Step 20: Allow bottles to age 2 months if possible before consuming.

From this set we got 23 bottles of wine. We tasted it and it is pretty sweet...alot sweeter than what we thought. However, it still tastes fantastic! We used 8 lbs of sugar to get a semi-dry wine but as sweet as it is we decided to go with 6 lbs of sugar from now on to get a dryer wine. It really was a lot of fun being able to customize this wine!! Im excitted to wait a couple months and try it again...it gets better and better with age.
Since we had all the wine equipment out and sterilized we decided to start right in on the second set of wine we got from Home Winery Supply. The second set we got was the Sangiovese....more details to come :) Sangiovese is one of my favorite wines so I am really excited about this one!!