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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Sandbox for Addies Birthday!! (Could also be a raised bed garden!!)

Addie loves to dig in the dirt so we figured she would adore a sandbox! We looked around and realized it would be much much cheaper just to build it ourselves instead of buying a kit or getting a plastic sandbox.

  • Cedar Fence panels
  • Sand
  • Outdoor Decking Screws (1 5/8")
  • Galvanized Corner brackets
  • Chop Saw
  • Screw driver

We got cedar fence posts instead of cedar boards and it was about half the cost! We decided to stack the posts 2 high instead of just 1 so it would be a little higher and all the sand wouldnt get thrown right out of the sandbox. We also decided to buy a few extra posts so we could do some decorative corner pieces.

Step 1: Cut all the posts to the size you want your sandbox. Henry loves helping Daddy! And he was really excited to help build Addies birthday present!
Step 2: Line up your posts with the inside brackets.

Step 3: Connect all your posts
Step 4: Lay down landscape fabric under your frame. The landscape fabric will allow proper drainage (which is important) and will help prevent weeds and bugs from coming into the sandbox. 
Step 5: Once all your bottom 4 posts are level and screwed into the decorative corner pieces using the corner brackets, you are ready to stack the second level on (if you choose to do a second level...otherwise you are done!)
Step 6: Screw in all the second level posts, making sure the tops and sides are all flush and even!

Step 7: We took a look at it at this point and decided that since it was so big (and since we had extra pieces of cedar) that we would go ahead and put more braces in the center of the side walls. So we measured halfway and screwed in some center braces!!

Step 8: Fill it with sand!! We drastically underestimated the amount of sand we would need! We bought 10 - 50lb bags of sand (so 500lbs) and it barely filled it 1/4th of the way! We didnt want it full to the top (to help keep sand in the sandbox and not thrown all over) but we were suprised at how low it was! Our sandbox is 6'x6' square and about 11" tall...so to fill this thing to the top we would need about a ton of dirt...ya and thats not gonna happen!! We might buy 10-15 more bags later, but the kids sure to love it just like this!! (If you are using this method for a raised bed garden, you will probably need at least a half ton of compost...if not more). We are really happy with the sandbox and are considering doing something like this for the garden in the front yard.

Cost Breakdown:
10 Cedar fence panels at $3.50 each - $35.00 + tax (you can use treated lumber as well, but the cedar will last longer and look nicer, and be void of chemicals...you can also save money by making a smaller sandbox or not making it as tall)
10 bags of 50lb sand (500lbs) at $3.00 each - $30.00 + tax (you could get different sand, but we didnt want to run the risk of bringing bugs into our yard so we got the sifted bagged sand)
4 galvanized corner brackets at $1 each - $4 + tax
Outdoor deck screws (we had enough that we didnt have to buy these)
Landscape Fabric (we had some extra and didnt have to buy any, but you can get a small roll for a couple dollars)

Total - $69.00 + tax (you can do this cheaper as well if you have spare wood around or if you make it smaller and only do 1 level instead of 2). This is easily customizable!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Canning Peaches

I'm so excited about these peaches! I've tried several times to can peach halves and it hasn't worked....but this time they look beautiful!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.8

Canning Mania

It's been a busy time around here! We had family in town for a while and did a lot of running around. Now that the family is all headed back home I have alot to catch up on in the garden! Ive had a lot to harvest and a lot to freeze and can up!! Then on top of that a produce delivery trucks compressor went out so the grocery store couldn't accept the produce and a local fruit stand was selling it for cray cheap! We got strawberries, peaches, nectarines, and spinach! It was a great price, but its been ALOT of work!!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.8

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sage Basil Bouquet

I love cooking with basil but sometimes I don't want to run put to the garden for just 1 leaf...problem solved! This smells marvelous too!! Edible flower bouquet
Thanks Jill :) its a beautiful idea and I think everyone should try this!!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.8

Chamomile Mint Bouquet

I put this bouquet on our wood burning stove to add some color to the black metal...it looks and smells delightful!! Much better than a candle! Plus I have drag herbs in the house to grab any moment I want to add some to dinner or a drink!
Thank you Jill for the idea!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.8

Garden Update

The sun is creeping over the top of the garage this beautiful gardening morning...its so peaceful! I love sitting out at the garden watching the goats and chickens working and playing in the yard with the kids and seeing all the work we've done finally come to harvest!
The beans gave us quite a good crop but they are on their last leg and so is the broccoli so that will open up 2 more areas to get ready for fall planting. The radish bed is empty and getting ready for a new veggie...still not sure what though. I pulled up the rest of the potatoes a couple days ago and got about 20+ lbs which was pretty exciting! The sweet potatoes are taking off and looking good, as well as the tobacco! The squash is hanging in there, but we lost all the zucchini (along with the spinach!) :( We have several watermelons and pumpkins getting bigger and bigger! We have 2 beds of celery that we planted a couple weeks apart and the first bed is almost ready! All the onions and garlic are done...and yummy! Definately have to plant more onions and garlic next year!! The basil, mint and sage are very abundant! I even did a few herb bouquets for the house that turned out real good...the idea was from my Aunt Jill!! Jill was in town for a few days and was able to stop by the house to see our backyard chaos in person. I'll post more on the herb bouquets later...its such a great idea!! The sunflowers in the front yard are just starting to open up and they look fabulous!! I am SO excitted about those sunflowers!! Oh and the carrots! How could I forget about Henrys carrots!! They are getting closer and closer and I cant wait to see the look on Henrys face when all those carrots come out of the ground!
The tomatoes have taken over the little tomato cages and we had to build a 30 foot wall of twine around the whole row to help contain them! (We put 8 foot stakes every 4 feet and attached the twine with galvanized nails every 12 inches up the stake) They are producing quite well and taste absolutely magnificent! I have never tasted anything that can compare to eating a ripe heirloom cherry tomato right off the vine!!
Overall we have had some tremendous success so far (being our first year here and everything) and I look forward to seeing how much more this little area can produce!!
One things is for sure...working the soil with a good amount of compost will really help the garden be more productive. We added alot of compost to the back 4 rows of the garden and those 4 rows are fantastic!! But we didnt add as much to the front 2 rows because we added them later and had ran out of compost...it was a good experience for us to see how much less that area produced and how much slower the plants grew as well. We have quite a bit of compost that is getting ready to throw out there though so we will work the soil good this time!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Canning Tomato Sauce - super easy with pictures!

Here on our little homestead the tomatoes are starting to take off! The first week or so it was really hard to get any of them into the house because we would all eat them out in the garden...especially Henry and Addie, they would sit giggling in the corner eating all the red cherry tomatoes. I was making alot of sauces and pizzas but the tomato harvests have got to the point we are having more than we can eat in one day...so the canning begins!! I have really been looking forward to this so it was an exciting day for me :)
Canning USA had a great recipe for canning tomato sauce with herbs...I also think one part that really caught my eye in this recipe was the addition of red wine...which I used our pinot noir we just bottle last month :) Another part of this recipe that I was particularly interested in is that they do not say it is necessary to blanch, peel, core and seed the tomatoes. Alot of the recipes I found said that I would need to take all that out which I felt like was a waste of a lot of tomato!!
I had 10 lbs of tomatoes to work with so I modified the recipe to be for 10 lbs and not 15...but its the basic idea

    Tomatoes, Onions, Basil and Garlic from the Garden!
  • 10 lbs Tomatoes
  • 1 1/3 lb Onions
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 2 tbl Salt
  • 2/3 tbl Pepper
  • 2/3 bottle Wine
  • 1 1/3 cup Herbs (I used basil)
  • 4 cloves Garlic (I used more but we like alot of garlic)
  • Lemon Juice (I used Citric Acid instead, 1/4 tsp per pint jar)
Canning Steps: (from CanningUSA.com)
  1. If desired, blanch and peel tomatoes (I did not desire to do this)
  2. Coarsely chop tomatoes and put them into a bowl. (I used my food processor and just pulsed each batch a few times)
  3. Chop onions and then sauté onions with optional garlic in olive oil until translucent. (I chopped the onions pretty small in the food processor) 
  4. For large canning batch this will take about 15 minutes
  5. When onions are done, add chopped tomatoes.
  6. Add optional wine and herbs
  7. Stir well and bring the entire pot to an even slow simmer.
  8. Simmer until reduced by one third (approx. 2 hours)... and it did take a little over 2 hours
  9. For canning, mix in lemon juice and simmer for 5 minutes. (I did not use lemon juice but added my 1/4 tsp citric acid to the top of each pint jar)
  10. Can immediately using hot pack method with 1/2” of head space.
  11. Processing with a Water Bath; 30 minutes for pints or 35 minutes for quarts at 212 degrees. For elevations above 1,000 foot level see Altitude Time Adjustments.
  12. After processing, remove from boiling water and place the jars on a towel, separated by 1” to cool naturally as quickly as possible.
  13. Labeling and Storing

This recipe made 9 full pints and 1 half pint. All of the jars sealed beautifully and they sure look delicious! I did save a little at the end of the pan that we all tried and it was SO good, I wanted to open a jar right then, but then I realized I did all that work and wanted to save it for winter when I don't have fresh tomatoes and basil :)


We are getting about 5 lbs of tomatoes a day...time to learn how to can these!
Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.7

Friday, July 16, 2010

$5 off coupon code for IHERB.COM

I love iherb.com it is a great online resource for natural products. I get quite a few items from iherb...everything from flax seeds and wheat germ to natural bug spray and sun screen. They are even offering free shipping on orders over $40. Iherb has some of the best prices I have been able to find for natural products and with free shipping it is a great deal!!

$5 off coupon code: NAF075

Once you are an iherb customer and save $5 on your first purchase you will receive a coupon code to hand out to others to earn discounts for yourself as well!! Save money and earn money with the iherb rewards program :)

Some of the products I highly recommend from Iherb.com:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Companion Planting, Planting Schedules, & Crop Rotation

Planning my garden this year was very overwhelming! It was difficult trying to decide what to plant where to get the best companion planting as well as planting at the right time and starting the seeds inside far enough in advance. There are a few plants that have not done so good, but for the most part the garden has gone pretty good! There have been quite a few unexpected surprises too...but this year Bryan and I really just looked at as an experimental and educational year so we can be more prepared for next year. Another frustration for me is looking at empty spaces in my garden and trying to decide what to plant there! I hate to see un-planted soil back there and I really don't know why it is so hard for me to decide what to plant in those empty spots...but it is just all so new and different to me so I just get overwhelmed...plus we kind of started with a pretty big garden.
I love making charts! When I am having a hard time making a decision I always go to Excel and make a spreadsheet...I just love spreadsheets to help me organize my life! But before I could make a spreadsheet I had to figure out what was important to have on the spreadsheet.

It came down to a huge spreadsheet, but for those who are not very fond of large spreadsheets I will break it down to the 3 main points:

1: Companion Planting: Once again I recommend "The Vegetable Gardeners Bible". I got alot of my information from this book...and it has great pictures with excellent step by step instructions for us beginners! Another resource for companion planting is companion planting.net, they have a great chart for what plants work well together. This is really important if you are wanting to garden organically because it helps balance your garden and keep the environment undesirable to the bad bugs.

2: Planting Schedule: Another resource I used for trying to figure out when to plant what was from Heirloom Seeds (where I bought all my seeds this year). They have good charts (which I love) for Spring Planting Schedules as well as Fall Planting Schedules. To use these charts you have to know when the first frost and last frost usually hits in your area. I printed out the charts and only highlighted the column that was relevant for my specific frost area...then it wasn't so overwhelming! Victory Seeds has a good chart for helping figure out when your first and last frost will hit. The chart is here and just click on your State and it breaks down your State into the major cities.

3: Crop Rotation: Unless you are able to add alot of new rich soil to your garden each year you should probably not plant your tomatoes in the exact same spot each year but move your garden around a little bit... but you need to make sure that your soil has enough nutrients for the particular plant you are putting there. Some plants strip different things from the soil while they put other things back into the soil so you want to make sure you rotate to get the best yields possible. I have no experience in crop rotation because this is our first year so the soil was pretty much good to go...but since I am wanting to do some fall planting I have been looking into what I need to plant where. The best resource I have found for that is once again "The Vegetable Gardeners Bible". He has a great list of what is good and bad to plant before and after each crop. Some other good online resources are The Yankee Gardener, as well as this nice diagram on Crop Rotation for your Vegetable Garden.

There are a ton of different methods and techniques to use for organic gardening, but these are the 3 that I have focused on and will try to add more as I go.
Fall planting is here and going quickly so start getting a plan and your seeds ready as well as the ground prepared and your fall crops will be productive...hopefully :)
Happy Planting :)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Goat brushing

Henry and Addie love brushing the goats...but I think the goats love it more!!

Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.5

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Granola or Granola Bars!!! Homemade Recipe, Easy and Inexpensive! With pics

I absolutely love granola, especially with some homemade yogurt, but granola and granola bars can be really expensive! I've tried a few ways and this is my absolute favorite! I actually "fell" into the granola recipe trying to make some homemade granola bars, but I didn't use enough honey and peanut butter in my first experiment so the granola bars didn't stick together well...therefore they crumbled into amazing granola, which I was just as excited about! I modified the recipe and was able to make granola bars that were just as scrumptious and were excellent snacks to throw in my purse to have on hand when someone got hungry!

  • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 2 1/2 cups Nuts and Seeds (this is where you can get creative and have each granola be different and not be repetitive!) I use about 3/4 cup crushed almonds, 3/4 cup peanuts, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup flax seeds, 1/4 cup sesame seeds...but you can use any combination or nut you want or have to make up 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • (for Granola) use 1/4 cup EACH of Honey, Brown Sugar, and Peanut Butter
  • (for Granola Bars) use 1/2 cup EACH of Honey, Brown Sugar, and Peanut Butter
  • 1 cup dried fruit (another way to change up each granola recipe!) cranberries and raisins are favs here
The only step that is different if you are making Granola or Granola Bars is Step 11!
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
Step 2: Line a square baking pan (8x8 or 9x9) with parchment paper.
Step 3: Crush your almonds and peanuts (or whatever other nuts you want to the size you want them!)...this is a great time to get the kids involved, my kids LOVE it! I use the bottom side of my rolling pin with the nuts all in the bottom of my large measuring cup.
Crush them into whatever size you want...I like to have some really fine and some still a little larger for a good crunch!

Step 4: Combine the nuts, seeds, oats, & flax meal

Step 5: Spread out the mixture onto a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 15-20 minutes

Step 6: About 5 minutes before the oat mixture is done toasting Combine the honey, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla in a pan over medium heat and stir...stir constantly to avoid burning!

Step 7: Once the oats are done toasting and the sugary peanut butter mixture is smooth pour it all into a bowl together with the dried fruit and stir it up :)

Step 8: Press the mixture into your square pan (lined with parchment paper)...press it real firm (I used the bottom of my measuring cup to get it nice and tight). This step helps to get some good chunks of granola! If you want flaky granola you don't have to press it in real firm, but I like chunks!! This step is super important for the granola bars though, otherwise they wont be firm enough and will end up being granola :)

Step 9: Bake at 325 for 30 minutes

Step 10: Remove pan from oven and let it cool for several hours (letting the mixture cool while still in the pan will help all the good chunks form together! This is super important for the granola bars too!)
Look at that beautiful golden brown coloring!

Step 11: Once your mixture is cooled, pull the mixture out using the parchment paper. (Step 12: Cut or Crumble, depending if you want granola or granola bars!)
Step 12 (For Granola): Crumbled the mixture into the sizes you want onto a baking sheet :) I let my crumbled granola cool even longer out on a baking sheet (to avoid moisture build up in my jar when I store it) then I pour it into a canning jar and it is ready whenever breakfast or snacks are needed!
Crumbly, Golden Granola!!
Step 12 (For Granola Bars): Make sure your bar is cooled completely and take a sharp knife and cut into the size bars you want, wrap the bars with plastic wrap or put them in a mini zip lock baggy (I have 2"x4" baggies for snacks) and they are ready to go!