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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Canning Herb Syrup - Mint, Spearmint, Chocolate Mint, Lavendar, Basil

I have several varieties of mint growing like crazy in the garden so I decided it would be fun to make up some mint simple syrup to can for winter! I love to add mint simple syrup to my tea as well as with some club soda and ice for a "soda like" beverage. I'm also excited to try some lemonade sweetened with mint syrup :) I think I am going to do this syrup idea with some basil and lavender as well!!

 Start by removing and cleaning all your mint leaves. Then place them in water (proportions per batch are found at the end of this post). Bring them to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes...or longer if you get distracted! Stirring occasionally to help keep the leaves working and oils extracting! (during this time make sure your jars are getting sterilized and placed in a warm oven as well as getting your water bath canner boiling and ready for the full jars of syrup)

Once the leaves have simmered you will want to strain out all the leaves to only have the delicious juice. I like to use a small hand strainer over a 1 gallon glass jar. Then pour the juice back into the pot. You can see how dark and rich the liquid is from the essential oils in the leaves! Press out as much liquid as you can from the leaves...the last few drops are the best!!

Add the desired lemon or lime juice and then bring the liquid to a boil and add the sugar, stirring constantly once the sugar is added. You only need to heat the syrup until the sugar is dissolved, which could be as little as a minute, but may take a few minutes.
 With your hot sterilized jars ready to go as well as your lids and water bath canner, you are ready to fill your jars.
Fill your jars to within 1/4 inch from the top...be careful not to make a big mess...this is syrup remember and is very sticky!
Clean off the rims and place on your sterilized lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
I did several batches and made 11 quarts of mint syrup (7 chocolate mint, 3 spearmint, and 1 that is a combo).

These are the quantities I used (per batch): This batch will make about 3 quarts of syrup

  • 6 cups Herb leaves (loosely packed) You can use any herb you have: Any Mint, Lavender, Basil, etc.

  • 10 cups Water

  • This made about 8 cups of liquids after simmering and so I added 8 cups of sugar

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

Monday, August 30, 2010

Addie loves these Goats

Does it get any cuter than a little girl with her two precious goats :)


Audio books from Audible.com

Audio books are so fun for kids and adults! My kids love watching cartoons and I wish I could say we were a TV free house, but we are not...I'll admit it, my kids watch TV. One thing we have been doing to try and cut out the TV (but still have some "listening time") is snuggling up on the couch and listening to audio books. We still love to sit and read our own books, but audio books offer a whole new adventure to books!! The most fun is when we find an audio book to listen to that we actually have the hard copy book at home already and we can follow along!

You can always purchase hard copies of a book and CD combination, but those tend to be quite expensive. Audible.com offers downloadable audio books and have over 75,000 titles to browse through and purchase and you get a discount for monthly subscriptions Limited Time Offer - Get Your First 3 Months at Audible.com for $7.49/month!

My kids love listening to collections from Beatrix Potter (Peter Rabbit), Cat in the Hat, Curious George, Winnie the Pooh, and others. I personally have too many favorites. All of the titles have a small preview available to listen to, some are short (only about a minute) and some are longer (10+ minutes). I encourage you to browse their titles and listen to a few previews! Snuggle up on the couch with your kids and experience the wonderful children's stories with them. Some titles are animated with music (some classical composers) and sound effects to make them all the more enjoyable. I appreciate that the stories are read by adults with proper English and are not high pitched, fast paced, squeaky characters which is typical for modern cartoons. Also take some time by yourself to listen to a few titles. I feel this is the perfect way to relax after a long day...with a cup of hot tea of course :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Canning Grape Jam

I used the juice we crushed from the Marachel Foch grapes to make this jam. I made 2 different kinds of jams and just followed the directions listed on the packet provided with my powdered pectin. This is by far the easiest! I have searched far and wide for a good jam recipe but it always seems that the directions given with the pectin packet will contradict a good recipe. So trust the packet! I did 1 batch of jam with "No sugar added" and 1 batch of jam with "minimal sugar added".

The recipe will be similar to this. Measure out your juice and heat to a boil adding sugar if necessary (the recipe may or may not call for extended boiling times).
Have your jars sterilized and in a 200 degree oven to keep warm and sterilized.
 Add the powdered pectin and stir.

Fill your jars and clean the rims with a damp cloth.
 Process in a water bath canner for the time designated on your canning directions. My directions called for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Canning Grape Juice Step by Step with Pics

After we crushed the Marachel Foch grapes and extracted the juice, we made 10 gallons of wine and saved 5 gallons of juice for jams and canned juice. This 5 gallons was put in the refrigerator for a minimum of 24 hours (ours set for several days) to let all the sediment settle to the bottom. Once the sediment has settled to the bottom you will want to siphon the juice off the sediment (without disturbing the sediment). Henry thought this was the best thing ever! He held the hose for me and was a tremendous amount of help...or else I would have probably ended up with grape juice all over my kitchen!

Get your area ready! I sanatized my jars and put them in the oven at 200 degrees to stay hot and sterilized while I was getting everything else together. I have 1 large water bath canner on the stove getting boiling and 1 stock pot filled with as much grape juice as I could fit in there. Then behind the pot of grape juice I put my lids in a pot of steaming water to sterilize.
Bring the juice to 190 degrees and heat for 5 minutes stirring regularly to avoid scorching (adding sugar if you want). Remove from heat and fill your jars with the juice. Clean the rims and adjust your sterilized lids and bands.

Boil in a water bath canner for the designated time for your altitude. Mine was 15 minutes at a full boil.
Remove your jars from the canner and let them cool 24 hours. Remove the bands (not the lids obviously) and clean your jars thoroughly, label and store!
This was quite easy! The tast is unbelievable being from fresh crushed grapes. I did this process 2 times with 7 jars each time and ended up with 14 Quarts of Grape juice :)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Drying Basil and Saving Basil Seeds

My basil has reached the end! There was a storm that came through and from the rain and wind most of my basil was uprooted or laying over. So its drying time!! I clipped off all the basil that was laying over or uprooted and it ended up being 13 lbs...yes I cant believe how much basil we got from just a few plants!!! We still have about 13-15 more pounds out there, but it was still standing tall and growing strong so I left it! I was going to dry all the basil inside or in the dehydrator, but after seeing the large quantity I knew it wouldn't all fit in the oven or dehydrator so I thought I would give "air drying" a try!

I started by attaching some string to a nail and stretching it across the front of the garage door so I could have a place for the basil to drip dry after being rinsed off...I knew I didn't have this much space in my house!

I rinsed off all the basil and then tied them in bundles and clipped them to the string. (As you can see it is a significant amount of basil. I seriously had no intention of growing this much basil, but I am very glad I did now!!). I left the basil hanging throughout the remainder of this hot hot day to get rid of as much moisture as possible from the rinsing.
 Once all the basil is dry you can also use this time to save seeds!! The seeds are located in little pods in the flowers. I put a few arrows showing pods, although there are pods located at the center of each mini flower. Holding onto the stem, I would pull the flowers off of the stem.

 Once all the flowers are pulled from the stem, smash the flowers around in your hand and all the little seeds will come out! Very simple and a great way to get the kids involved!
 With that idea in mind and ALOT of dried basil to separate, I got a colander ready. This particular colander had small enough wholes for the seeds to fit through and fall out of the bottom, but to keep the main leaves in the bowl for saving!
I stripped the leaves and flowers from the stems and filled the colander. Then I crunched up the leaves gently to help release the seeds and gave it a good shake...
...out came the seeds!

I ended up with so much dried basil and more seeds than I will probably ever need!!

I was left with quite a few dried stems so I put them in the backyard for the chickens and goats. The goats loved them and started munching away on them. I didn't think the chickens would like them too much, but they sure did get excited about the seeds I left behind on the stems. The chickens were pecking away and I was surprised how they could easily spot out a seed pod and with one swift peck the seed would fly out and they had their little treats :)
I divided the basil into two 1 gallon jars (Yes, I have 2 gallons of dried basil! Wooo hooo!). One of the jars has the larger leaves and the other jar has the crushed leaves and a few of the dried basil flowers.

I have a half pint mason jar full of seeds and small crushed leaves. I am still trying to figure out how to separate all the leaves from the seeds, or I might just end up planting the seeds with the loose crushed leaves that made it through the sifter...who knows, but I'm excited!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Marachel Foch Wine

We used 10 gallons of the juice we crushed  and extracted to begin our batch of wine.
We made a simple syrup with about 8 cups of water and 8 and a half pounds of sugar that we added to the juice (looking back we wish we would have used juice to make the simple syrup instead of adding water, but we will make sure to do that next time). Then we filtered the juice through our "handy dandy filter system" (picture to the left) and  divided it into 3 different carboys (to avoid overflow we did not fill them to the top...yet).

Marechal Foch Grapes into Juice for Wine, Juice and Jams

So the time has finally arrived and we have had the opportunity to get our hands on some wine grapes! With 240 lbs of grapes we have ended up with 10 gallons of wine, 14 quarts of canned grape juice, 8 pints of jam and 9 half pints of jam. This was quite a bit of work and even more mess, but so much fun!!

This crusher is intended for a 55 gallon barrel, but all we had was a 6 gallon primary fermentor so we set the crusher on top of that. I highly recommend using one of these if you have the opportunity, it was very easy and very fast. We did all our grapes in less than 30 minutes.

They enter the crusher and one person holds on to the crusher and the other cranks the handle.

All crushed!

Grapes in the primary fermenters to set for 1 day and extract the juices!

Add Potassium Bisulfite to break down the natural yeast in the grape skins so you don't end up fermenting your grapes before you are ready to...especially if you are making juice for the kids!! (follow directions given on the back of the container)

The next day you will see a big difference in the amount of juice to pulp ratio!

Crush down your grapes to get one last squish out of the pulp. (I used a sterilized wooden rolling pin...but if you have a fancy wine crushing rod that would work good too.)

Grapes are ready to be filtered into juice! We started by scooping out as much pulp as we could and squeezing the juice out.
Then we lined a 6 gallon bucket with organza fabric and poured the remaining pulp and juice into that so we could easily gather the top of the fabric and squeeze the remaining juice away from the pulp. We talked to someone who prefers to crush their grapes directly into a bucket prepared with fabric like this and then they never have to transfer buckets since all the fermenting and straining can take place in 1 bucket...smart idea!

 Pour and gather!

JUICE!! We did this 3 more times with 3 more buckets and ended up with 15 gallons of juice... With that we made Wine, Canned Juice, and Jams.