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.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Harvesting Tobacco

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.

Firewood Preparing for Winter and the Wood burning stove

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!).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Canning Apple Pear Sauce

 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!

Canning Pear Juice

I started off by cooking sliced pears in a little bit of water (a full pot of sliced pears with about 1-2 inches of water at the bottom). I cooked them with a lid on (stirring occasionally) until they were slightly mushy. At that point I set up my kitchen aid mixer with the juicer attachment and put all the fruit through there. This went alot faster than I thought! Addie loved watching all the juice and pulp fall into the gallon jar.

Then I used a fine strainer and strained out the juice from the pulp (so I could add the pulp to the Apple Pear Sauce!). I started with 2 gallons of Pear pulp and juice and ended up with 1 gallon of each after the juice was strained from the pulp.

I prepared my stove top with my water bath canner while also getting the lids sterilized in hot water. With my jars all sterilized I put them in the oven to keep hot and sterile.

The juice is placed in a large pot over medium high heat (stirring regularly) until boiling. Lemon Juice and Sugar is not completely necessary, but I added a couple squirts of lemon juice and about a cup of sugar to the pot to help with preservation and color.

Pour the boiling juice into sterilized jars and water bath for 20 minutes.

Let the jars set overnight to cool and seal and they are ready to clean, label and store!

Apples and Pears!

My cousin brought over 35+ lbs of Apples and 45+ lbs of Pears that had fallen from their fruit trees and were in immediate need of canning. We worked all day and after she left I even worked into the night to get all this done and ready for storage! It was alot of work, but extremely fun!! I didn't get very many good step by step pictures because we were more focused on trying to figure out what we were doing and keeping the kids from taking a bite out of each and every apple and pear :)
When we first started we had extremely different plans for the apples and pears, but as the coarse of the day unfolded, so did our plans! We had plans to make mostly pear slices out of the pears, but they were very ripe and extremely hard to peal...as well as we were running out of time. So we made as many jars of pear slices as we could and then used the rest to add to the apple sauce and make apple pear sauce (DELIGHTFUL!). Also some pear juice that is "extremely delicious", at least that was Henry's assessment :)

Apple Pear Sauce - 9 Quarts
Pear Juice - 5 Quarts
Apple Slices - 8 Quarts
Pear Slices - 6 Pints, 1 Half Pints
Apple Butter - 1 Quart, 2 Pints, 2 Half Pints