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.
Sarge loves to snuggle up by the fire! I'm still surprised he gets so close to the fire, but he sure loves it! I love to sit by the fire with a nice cup of hot tea. There is nothing like a warm fire on a cold day!
With Peaches and Poppy gone to the breeder for several weeks, we had a major leaf buildup!! Usually they just eat through those leaves extremely fast, but not now! However, the kids loved this! We made 1 big huge pile of leaves and it has been hours of fun!
(So this is a post from several months ago that I somehow forgot to put up!)
We did some work in the front garden and put in some shrubs and mulch. Hopefully they fill out and are beautiful next spring!
Henry and Bryan dug up all the grass and then worked in the soil to get it ready for plants!
Laying in the edging could have been very difficult, but Henry and Addie really held it in place quite well while Bryan went along and secured it in place!
Henry was a great helper and even rolled up and put away all the extra landscape edging as well as putting away all the tools! We also laid a layer of landscape fabric and several inches of cedar mulch. It looked fantastic and somehow I didn't get a good picture of it before everything froze and went dormant...at least I hope its just dormant and not dead :(
It has been delightfully busy around here and I'm doing everything I can just to keep up with it! Peaches and Poppy are home!! They stayed with the breeder for almost 3 weeks just to make sure both girls were "well taken care of" :) Note: If you are considering getting and breeding goats...wow, brace yourself for the smell!! We did not want a billy goat because of the horrific smell they produce but I never considered that my does would completely stink of billy goat smell when we brought them home. Wow, it is bad! The breeder said that the smell would just go away, but its been a week and they still stink. (Ill let you know how it goes and what we end up finding to get rid of the smell.) It has been sad because Henry and Addie are so excited to see the goats and all I keep saying is "AHH, don't touch the goats!". So, if you are thinking about getting and breeding goats, make sure you are prepared for the "after smell" as well as some remedies to eliminate the smell from your does immediately!
While the goats were gone for a couple weeks Henry picked up a few extra responsibilities around here - bringing in firewood, watering the animals and putting the chickens "to bed" at night. It has been extremely helpful because he loves being a "big helper" and those are a few extra things that I don't have to worry about being done anymore :) It does take quite a while for him to do each job, especially since he can only carry in 1 piece of firewood at a time, but he loves it and eventually he will get really fast at each job! He gets really excited to get his boots, jacket, gloves and hat on (all of which he does even if it isn't that cold outside) and runs outside while Addie monitors the back door for him and opens it when he comes back up with an armfull of firewood!
In other random news, we also had a hawk attack one of our chickens! I looked out in the backyard as it landed on the chicken and they both started a rolling flapping fight through the leaves...thankfully it only lasted about 3 seconds because Sarge saved the day! If that hawk would have hung around 1 second longer we would have seen a rolling flapping fight between Sarge and the hawk, but the hawk flew off. Im sure it will be back, but Sarge is definitely on high patrol these days!
In garden/canning related news:
I also canned up 7 jars of mixed vegetables (excellent for pot pie!). I really wish I could find the recipe I used for the mixed vegetables! I'm seriously loosing my mind because I just canned them up last night and I cant find that recipe anywhere!! I sure hope I used an actual recipe and didn't accidentally combine 2 different ones! I would love to share what I did with you all, but I have no idea what I did :) All I remember is that I used about 29 cups of vegetables (potatoes, carrots, celery, onions), covered them with water, boiled for 10 minutes and then filled sterilized jars with vegetables and water, added 1 tsp canning salt, and processed in a pressure canner for 85 minutes. Easy pot pie: 1 Pie Crust, 1 Can of mixed veggies (drained), 1 can of canned Turkey or chicken with stock...bake and dinners done!
Some friends of ours have family with a small sweet corn farm and they brought us quite a few ears of corn. I wanted to try out my new Corn Cutter I got a while back, so I used 18 ears of corn and cut away! It was so easy!
It took about 20 minutes and I had 6 cans of creamed corn!
I was going to put these in the pressure canner, but I decided to freeze them instead.
Its a busy time of year for my side hobby of Teas and Tapestries. I have had several craft shows and quite a few Christmas orders to get out, but I sure do love it!
I used to sew up handmade tea pouches with my tea blends, but it took so much time and I had way too many orders to fill and just not enough time to fill them. So, I started making loose leaf tea tins that have enough tea to make at least 20-30 cups of tea in each tin. I'm very grateful with how well they are flying off my shelves! This has also opened up more time for me to sew tapestries :) I have hundreds of tapestry panels and I am slowly but surely finishing them all and selling them.
I started a coupon code in my Etsy shop for all of my blog readers "homesteadroots15". This coupon code is good for 15% off your entire purchase in my online shop. Enjoy :) Visit http://www.teasandtapestries.etsy.com/ to browse my stuff and use your coupon code!
Well its that time, Peaches and Poppy are all grown up and headed off to stay with a boy goat for a couple weeks. The breeder will keep the goats for at least 18 days and then we will go pick them up and hope everyone got along! Things sure are different around here. The back yard has slowed down! With the garden at an end for the season and the goats off for a few weeks, we have a lot less work to do in the backyard than we have had to do in the past year! Even though we have less urgent matters to tend to in the backyard we sure are going to try and get all caught up and ready for winter and next spring! Mainly we have a lot of planning to do!
The cold weather is about to be here and we will be hunkering down and getting inside work done. I have a lot of sewing projects planned that I always get excited about! I also have several craft fairs planned for selling Teas and Tapestries. I sure do love this time of year!
Its been so long since my last post but we have fantastic news to explain the long departure from posting! It has been a rough past couple months here because I've been very sick and completely fatigued...but in about 6 more months we will have a new member to our family!! I am pregnant and due May 12th!! We are very excited but it sure has been a rough first trimester in pregnancy. But the animals and garden sure don't care if I have been sick or not, they still need what they need. Bryan has taken on pretty much all of the animal maintenance the past month or so and he has done a fantastic job keeping things rolling around here. The garden has suffered and it has been sad, but we have been able to make it out there every couple days to keep up on harvest. There hasn't been much canning, but I just do my best to clean everything thoroughly and then freeze it for later.
I have started feeling much better through out this week and am very encouraged that this second trimester will bring a healthier mommy! Which is not a moment too soon because the fall harvest is right around the corner!! We have a lot of sweet potatoes to dig up and can as well as prepping the garden for next year. We also have alot of wine to bottle and alot of canning to do (jams, jellies, peppers, salsa)! In a few weeks we will also be taking the goats off for breeding and will plan on having a few goat kids in early April. Yep, there is going to be alot of pregnancy going on here during this winter ;)
We have done some work on the front garden and have planted a few decorative shrubs that will (hopefully) grow strong roots through the winter and fill out next spring. Other than that we really havent made much progress on the "homestead" but we sure have a lot of work ahead of us to get all caught up and Im very excited to dig my hands back into some work! We will keep you posted along the way and hopefully the worst of the morning sickness and fatigue are behind me :)
We love sweet potatoes around here so we were very excited to plant some sweet potatoes! I can not believe how well these are growing!! We planted them as small "plugs" that we bought at our local feed and seed store and they sure have taken off!! They are absolutely beautiful! The sweet potatoes grow similar to regular potatoes and grow in the ground so we can not see the veggies, but we sure do get to enjoy the amazing ground cover. I think I will plant some of these in the front yard next year just because they are so easy and aesthetic. We are not sure how many sweet potatoes we are going to get out of this bed, but we are eager to go "exploring for buried treasure"...and definitely make some sweet potato pie!
Here is a picture of Addie "hiding" behind the sweet potatoes in the next walk way. They have grown to a nice tall "bush" of leaves. I have to keep on the vines or they will trail out of their area and all the way into another bed of veggies. This helps with the height of the "bush" because we keep piling more and more vines on top of each other.
The carrots are doing quite well so we have been thinning them out every once in a while to make room for the others and to get higher yields! Basically we just reach in and find carrots that are growing too close together and we take the larger ones from each side. Its really simple...even Addie is getting good at it! She loves exploring for carrots! We pulled up about 10 lbs of carrots today! Im excitted to can up some carrots here soon!
I have talked about Peaches and Poppy alot on our blog, but I haven't ever told the full story of how they entered our family.
Peaches and Poppy are our one year old Nigerian Dwarf sisters who joined our family this past March. We had wanted goats for a long time but thought we would have to live in the country and own acreage for them to roam...then we started reading about the Dervaes and realized that we did not have to own a large farm to have our very own homestead. The journey began and we were so excited!! I started looking into the ordinances for my city that pertained to owning goats and kept getting No after No after No. Throughout the next couple months, I did a lot of research and sought out advice from “experts”. Then I wrote up a petition with quotes from documented professionals, a letter from my country vet, property diagrams, and a detailed essay explaining the benefits of a backyard dairy goat. At this point we had already picked out the two precious sisters we wanted to bring home with us and the breeder said she could hold them for a couple weeks...the clock was ticking!! Now we had a photo of the girls to take with us on our quest so people could see our precious girls and realize they weren't 200 lb horned billy goats that would be eating down fences! With my pictures and petition in hand, I went around to all my neighbors to explain our new adventure and asked if they were willing to sign my petition. To my joy, they were all on board and graciously signed! After taking a look at our petition, several city officials from the animal maintenance department came out to survey the property and sign us a permit!
We finished up some detail work on the back yard goat barn and went to pick up “the girls”!! We arrived at the breeders farm in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm and loaded up our new family members and headed home. We felt like new parents bringing home a baby as we all stared at each other for hours thinking “ok, now whats next?”. We even let the goats sleep in the house the first night due to the torrential rain falls and unsettling conditions outside. I felt like a new mommy the next few weeks...I could not sleep, I could not stop staring at them, and I was constantly worried and anxious they needed something or that they were “crying” too loud. Henry and Addie were ecstatic! They had 2 new little "friends" that would follow them absolutely anywhere they would go. The goats love to cuddle with the kids and were overly sweet as they would all play throughout the yard. Finally, we all got comfortable with each other and have settled in nicely!
Goats are amazing creatures, they can be very strong willed and stubborn, but with a gentle hand from their owner and consistent training they will prove to have some of the most adorable personalities and sweet temperaments. This is only a small piece of our story but I wanted to share with all of you how our adventures began with Peaches and Poppy and hope to inspire others to see that behind 100 “No's” there might be 1 “Yes”.
The girls are a year old now and we are taking them for breeding at the end of next month. Nigerian Dwarfs have a gestation period of 5 months so we will expect the little babies in March. We plan to keep the babies with there mothers for 4 days and then sell them as bottle babies to a lovely home. At that point, the milking will begin!
Bryan has been counting the days to his tobacco harvest! We were very impressed how well these plants turned out. One of the plants grew to almost 8 feet tall! Bryan started by picking all the leaves and placing them in a laundry basket to bring inside for rinsing. He organized them into 3 different groups based on the 3 levels of the tobacco plant: Ligero, Seco, Volado - All house blends are formed by mixing various combinations of these 3 leaves.
Ligero: (Top of the Plant) Dark and Flavorful leaves which power comes from the natural oils produced. This is a very slow burning leaf and is typically the smallest of the tobacco leaves. Ligero is found in the middle of a cigar as they can be compacted and rolled very tight to enhance the burn time.
Seco: (Middle of the Plant) These leaves are lighter in color and flavor and are excellent for rolling the Ligero leaves before they are compressed.
Volado: (Bottom of the Plant) These leaves impart little flavor to the cigar, but they are used primarily for their excellent burning qualities and cigar wrapping abilities. These are harvested from the bottom of the tobacco plant and typically are the largest leaves which make them best for wrapping.
After all the leaves were harvested and sorted, they are rinsed to remove any debris. Tobacco leaves are quite sticky which makes rinsing them quite necessary to remove any dirt or bugs that have been stuck to the plant.
Once all the leaves are rinsed and sorted they are ready to be hung and cured.
We used a large knitting needle with thick twine to string all the leaves together. The vein of the leaves are quite thick and will hold the weight of the leaves perfectly.
After the leaves are all strung together, they need to be hung in a temperature controlled location. We don't have a special temperature controlled location for our tobacco, so we just hung them in the garage where they could have a fan and constant air circulation.
This is our first attempt at home grown tobacco and home rolled cigars. We are just so excited that the plants actually lasted and grew so prolifically. There are several processes to reaching the final product and it could take up to a year... We are definitely not experts, but we will let you know how it turns out...in about a year!
UPDATE: The tobacco leaves have been drying for several weeks and are starting to look quite nice! We have a box fan near the leaves helping to circulate air and aid in the drying process.
We have a wood burning stove that is our primary heat source for our little house. We used our heater once last year and it was because we were going to be gone for a couple days and did not want our water pipes to freeze. Other than that, the wood stove is slowly burning throughout the day and night. The kids love to play outside and come and warm up by the fire and I particularly like to just hangout by the fire! My favorite winter time activity is snuggling up by the fire with a hot cup of tea and watching the snow fall in the front yard...ahhh brings warmth to my heart just thinking about it :) I do not function well in a cold house and our furnace would hate me (as well as the bank account) if I expected the furnace to keep it to the desired temperature that this wood stove can bring! There are many benefits to a wood stove (radiant heat, cooking, warm even in a power outage, etc) and I highly recommend anyone to install one in your house!! (more about that later!)
So it is almost October and I am beginning to dread the monthly trips to pick up firewood when the weather gets cold. Its can get expensive and it is NOT fun to be loading firewood in and out of a truck when it is 10 degrees outside...you loose feeling in your fingers very fast!! Our plan was to stock up on firewood during the summer that was free firewood we could pick up, cut and split ourselves, but we had so many things going on this summer that we never got to the firewood. I thought there had to be a way to get firewood cheaper than paying $110 per rick (we used about 5 ricks last year). I posted an add on craigslist that "I am trying to prepare for winter early this year and need several cords of hardwood - seasoned, cut, split, delivered and stacked". I was so surprised how many people replied and how competitive they were for the business. I ended up getting 2 cords (4 ricks) for $240...which is $60 per rick (as compared to the regular $110 per rick). I am so excited for the savings as well as not having to go pick it up and stack it ourselves!! We also had an offer for 1 and a half ricks for free. I think $240 for an entire winter of heat is a good deal! That sure beats running the furnace :)
So the moral of the story, if you burn firewood during the winter...start buying now!
Look for local deals or post an add on craigslist.
Be very specific of what you want and what you expect!
Ask for a picture of the exact firewood you will be getting or ask if you can come see it prior to delivery (the last thing you want is a huge amount of the wrong stuff!!).
Also be specific if you want it delivered and stacked, you don't want them raising the price once they get to your house!!
Make sure they are a reputable business and not a random person who knows someone who might know something about trees and have some lumber - you will probably end up with a terrible quality product! Often times landscapers collect all the hardwood that they cut down during the season and are willing to make you a deal!
Look for FREE hardwoods. Most of the time you will have to pick up, cut and split this wood...but if you have the time and supplies then this is by FAR the best deal!! Most of the time this wood is not seasoned though (a tree was just cut down or fell down and the owner needs it off their property) and you will need seasoned firewood in order for it to burn. BUT if you stock up early in the year then the firewood will have plenty of time to season (loose some moisture so it will burn!)
Have a place ready for the firewood to go. Bryan set up posts 8 feet apart to help keep the wood neatly stacked throughout the season. (1 "Rick" is a single stack that is 8 feet wide by 4 feet high. And 1 "Cord" is 2 "Ricks"). Make sure the wood can be stacked somewhat conveniently located to the house...you don't want to be hauling firewood through the snow too far :) We have the majority of the wood stacked in the yard and then on a random nice day we will stock up the pile at the back door.
Kindling will also be important, you need a way to get your fire started! Try to find free scrap lumber you can cut and split as well as stock up on newspapers (only black and white pages, not the colored pages - they will increase build up in your chimney).
Last but not least, you will need a flame! Get matches, fire starters, lighters, or a hand held torch (which is my favorite!).
After cooking and juicing all the apples and pears and straining all the juice from the pulp, I canned the pear juice and got ready for canning the apple pear sauce! The pears had a lot of excess juice, but the apples were fairly thick and didn't need to be strained.
I stirred together all the pear and apple pulp and added a few squirts of lemon juice and about 1 cup of sugar to the 3 gallons of apple pear sauce. I did my best to bring it to a boil, but the sauce was very thick and it was producing boiling hot bubbles that would fling apple pear sauce all over my kitchen...So I kept the lid on the pot and stirred with caution!!
I filled hot sterile jars with hot apple pear sauce and placed on sterilized lids and rings.
Canned the jars in a water bath canner for 20 minutes.
Then I left the jars to seal and cool overnight and they were ready to be cleaned, labeled and stored in the morning!