Monday, November 10, 2014

Treasures from the Past

If you have been reading my blog for much length of time, you probably already know how much I like antiques. :) There is just something special about the pieces from the past . . . the beauty, character, and history of them is so appealing. Anything made of wood especially catches my eye . . . and another thing that quickly draws my attention is quilts.

The often faded, yet colorful, fabrics carefully sewn together to create a priceless treasure. Tiny handstitches cover the surface of many of the quilts, showing the time that the maker put into carefully making a beautiful bed covering for her family. I have wished more than once that the quilts (or any antique really!) could share some of its history . . . where has it been? Who made it? Who has used it? What stories could it tell?

When I wander through antique stores, most times I am simply admiring . . . the price tags on the quilts and many of the other items are often far above what I would want to spend! But every once in awhile, I find a treasure of a quilt with a price that I cannot pass up . . .

. . . such as this one . . .

At some point in this quilt's recent history, someone had attempted to repair a torn end by sewing a large neon pink strip very crookedly over one edge. Perhaps that is why the price was so low, but for me, it was an easy thing to remedy! A ripper and some time quickly had the very unappealing strip of fabric off. The quilt still needs some TLC, though . . . after a thorough washing, it will need to be rebound and have some holes repaired.

I love the quilting on this quilt! Tiny hand stitches cover it in a beautiful pattern . . .

Having been hand quilting myself, I have a great appreciation for the quality of the stitching and how much of it there is!

This next quilt was tied instead of quilted. It has seen a lot more wear and has several holes, quite a few missing squares, and is going to need a fair bit of work (if I decide to repair it completely.)

When I first saw it draped across a bed at an antique store and saw its poorer quality, the first thought that came to mind was how nice it would be for a picnic quilt or to use when going outdoors to read underneath the trees or things like that. And for a price of $12.75, the time to repair it will be worth it!

My winter project list has been fast filling up, and included on it will be
the fun restoration of these two quilts!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Growing and Drying Beans

It's so fun growing different types of vegetables in the garden, and a few years ago, I ventured into growing dry beans. First to try were Great Northerns which did well, and this year, we tried Lima beans. We use Lima beans in soups regularly, but as they are a more expensive bean, I thought it would be nice if we could grow them ourselves (and it was a success!)

One thing that I like about growing dry beans is that the process is relatively simple . . . we plant them in wide rows about two feet across, and usually, they only need one weeding before the plants have grown large enough to shade the soil and prevent most weeds from growing.

Then after that first weeding (or a second if necessary) . . . you wait!

 One of the pods - they averaged about three beans per pod

Through the spring and summer, the rest of the garden grows and the other produce is harvested and either dried, frozen or canned. Meanwhile, the beans keep growing unattended (as long as there are not any significant pest and disease problems which need attention, that is.) 

By the time fall comes, and the pods start to dry, then comes the fun part! Harvesting the beans and shelling them.

Dry and ready to harvest! While some of the pods ended up looking like this one (I think from a disease that affected some of the plants late in the season), the beans inside were just fine.

One thing that was different with the Lima beans from the Great Northerns is that while I could let the entire plants of the latter dry before harvesting, I couldn't do that with the Lima beans. Not only did our unusually damp late summer/fall make some of the beans start sprouting in the pods, but when the pods are able to dry all the way out, they will soon burst open to scatter their seeds. So these ones were harvested as soon as the pods were entirely brown, yet the rest of the plant was still green.

I don't have any photos of the shelling part of the process, so you'll have to imagine a big pile of Lima bean pods on the table, a paper sack for the empty pods on the chair next to me, and one by one shelling each pod. :)

As you can see, the Jackson Wonder Bush variety that we grew are colorful!

Once shelled, the beans need adequate time to dry. I spread them in a fairly thin layer on a cookie sheet, and then let them dry for several weeks. Once you cannot dent them with a fingernail, they are ready to store.

 Now the Lima beans we grew this year are all ready to use and are in jars on our pantry shelf with all the other beans.

If you haven't tried growing dry beans before, consider adding some of these low maintenance vegetables to your garden next year!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Two Quick and Easy Breakfast Recipes

 One of the (many!) homemaking goals that I have had over the past few years was to compile quick and easy breakfast recipes. Thanks to cookbooks, the internet, and those of you who shared recipes with me when I did a post asking for your favorites, that section of my recipe binder has grown considerably!

With how full mornings can sometimes be here, it's nice to have recipes which are quick to put together or can be made the night before. These two recipes are ones that fit the first category, and in not much time at all, something delicious can be baking in the oven . . . .

 Quick and Easy Cinnamon Biscuits

-2 1/2 cups flour
-1 tablespoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup butter
-1 cup milk
-softened butter
-brown sugar
-1/2 cup powdered sugar
-1 tablespoon milk

Blend first three ingredients. Cut in butter. Add milk and mix. On a floured surface, roll dough out into a rectangle. Spread with softened butter and then sprinkle with desired amount of cinnamon and brown sugar. Roll up and slice. Place biscuits in two, round greased baking pans. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Blend powdered sugar and milk for glaze and pour over warm biscuits.

Baked oatmeal fresh out of the oven and with morning sunlight streaming in

(This recipe came from a blog reader, Anna . . . thank you again for sharing! :)

Baked Oatmeal
(I always halve this recipe for our family of four and like to add cinnamon to it as well.)

-4 eggs
-3/4 cup oil
-3/4 cup honey
-6 cups uncooked oatmeal
-1 Tbsp. +1 tsp. baking powder
-1 tsp. salt
-2 cups milk

Beat eggs; add oil and honey. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Put into a 9 x 13 inch baking pan (or an 8 x 8 if you halve the recipe) and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until done.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Autumn Days

The leaves on some of the trees have begun to change their colors and many are beginning to fall to the ground . . . the air is crisp and chilly in the mornings (and sometimes during the days!) . . . in the garden, the winter squash and pumpkins are maturing. Fall has certainly arrived, and it is a beautiful time of year!

The Burning Bush

Rouge Vif d'Etampes winter squash

Greek Sweet Red winter squash slowly turning color . . . I wish there was some way to help it hurry up. :) It still has a ways to go before it's ready to harvest, and a first frost is likely not that far away!

One of the Sugar Pie pumpkins

After a few years of trying to grow Luffa Sponge, we finally had success! This was more of a curious experiment, as they are supposed to be a natural sponge that can be used for cleaning, so I wanted to know what they were like. And if they actually work. :)

The last flowers blooming in the garden

The celery has done well, and we are planning to overwinter it as we have in the past.

Aurora and Sierra coming up to see what I was doing :)

With the garden nearly finished and farmer's market over for the year, it has been nice to begin focusing more on other things. Such as cleaning out our entire rabbitry which has been a fairly big project! It involves taking down all the cages, scrubbing the bottoms, spraying them all off, cleaning the cage mats, feeders, nestboxes, etc., and then putting everything back! I don't have it quite done, but hope to soon.

With the garden pretty much finished, the hens are enjoying being able to free range again

Indoor projects have been increasing as well and my Mom and I have enjoyed doing the fall deep cleaning in our home, and I've been getting back to sewing dolls for my As Lilies etsy store and also quilting again.

This feels like the project that keeps going and going and going . . . let's just say that I am a very slow hand-quilter. :) I am down to only 18 more squares to quilt, though! As I have other things I am hoping to do this winter, my goal is to have this finished before the close of fall. 

Earlier this week, I did some work on my Niobrara Farms etsy store and have two new varieties of soap added as well as variety packs available now, too . . .

The soap varieties I have so far

It was fun working on that!

As these Autumn days are quickly slipping by, I am thankful for all that they have been filled with and am looking forward to what the rest of this season holds!

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Hundreds of French knots later to make all of the raspberries . . .

. . . and now it is done and ready to be framed!

As I worked on this embroidery, the verse was such a good reminder to me. How wonderful are the Lord's promises! And they never fail . . . His mercies are indeed new every morning. No matter what circumstances we may be going through - both the hard and the good - He is always so faithful to supply our need in abundance!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Awhile back, we made the trek down to the bulk food store to stock up on baking supplies, spices, and things like that. We always enjoy going there, and the drive is especially nice . . . a country highway winding its way through pasture and crop land, passing by several old homesteads, over creeks, and through wooded areas. 

This time on the drive, my Dad spotted a more unusual sight . . . four fledgling Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in a tree right next to the road! Scissor-tails are one of our favorite birds, and while they are not as rare to see here now as they used to be, it's still always a special treat when we do. And seeing fledglings was a first for all of us!

On the way back from the store, we were keeping an eye out for them again as if we spotted them, my Dad wanted to give me an opportunity to photograph them (as usual, I had brought my camera along 'just in case'! :) We noticed them too late and passed them by so my Dad pulled off to turn around and what should I see, but an adult, and likely a parent of the fledglings, just up ahead perched on the fenceline.

With my camera in hand, I slowly approached the bird, snapping photos as I went as I wasn't sure how close it would let me get. Right after the below photo was taken, it gracefully flew away . . .

 Can you see its 'scissor-tail'?

We then went back and stopped next to the fledglings and enjoyed seeing them up close . . .

The beauty and diversity in God's creation never ceases to amaze me!

"God created . . . every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good."
Genesis 1:21

Sunday, August 31, 2014

August Days and a Few Thoughts to Share

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is the first day of September . . . September! In just a few weeks summer will be left behind and fall will have begun. Where did the days of August go? While they flew by quickly, they were wonderful ones here overall and full of pleasant busyness and a great many other things as well.

Canning lots of tomato sauce (and soon salsa and ketchup, too!) . . . more green beans going into the freezer . . . putting parts of the garden to bed . . . spending a fun day at the State Fair (and a post about that will be coming eventually) . . . several Saturday mornings at the farmer's market . . . digging more potatoes . . . squeezing bits of time in to do a little embroidering . . . studying certain topics in Scripture . . . trying new recipes . . . harvesting and drying Jewelweed (which I'll be experimenting with in soap when it's ready) . . . making soap . . . and much more.

Freshly harvested Jewelweed

And then there are the more 'mundane' tasks . . . early mornings sweeping the floors and tidying up the house with the morning light just beginning to filter in through the windows, walking through the dew-laden grass to bring the first load of laundry out to hang on the line, taking care of the animal chores while the air still has the early morning quietness and stillness to it, baking bread, washing dishes, pulling weeds, cleaning, and the list could go on and on.

There is so much to be thankful for and to delight in in simply our every day lives . . . and that is one thing that has especially been on my heart this summer. To not just make it through the summer busyness or get caught up in the busyness and forget to simply enjoy it . . . to not just get things crossed off of a to-do list and keep up with the day-to-day tasks, but instead . . . to seek to truly enjoy and delight in every little task that helps to make our house a home and that can bless and encourage my family. And it has been wonderful.

Embroidery in progress . . . and the verse on it has been a fitting reminder!

Yes, there have definitely still been those days when I feel tired or uninspired! :) Or days when things are just hard and my heart is heavier. Yet when turning my focus away from self to truly loving others, to the Lord, to doing all things to serve Him, it is amazing how one's heart and outlook can change.

"Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men" (Colossians 3:23)

It turns even those least favorite tasks into acts of love and opportunities to glorify the Lord . . . even though you may be tired after a long day, it makes cooking dinner or doing anything else a delight simply because you are serving and loving your family through it . . . and it makes those things you especially enjoy doing all the more meaningful simply because they are being done for the Lord and others and not for self.

"She . . . works with her hands in delight . . . she looks well to the ways of her household"
(Proverbs 31:13, 27)

So as our summer days have been flying by, this is some of what has been on my heart. Learning from the everyday, seeking to grow in these areas, delighting in the life that God has given me, and thanking Him for all He is teaching me and the blessings He continues to give in abundance!

"Our days are like beautiful summer fields as God gives them to us. The minutes are blooming flowers and silvery blades of grass and stalks of wheat with their germs of golden grains. The hours are trees with their rich foliage or vines with their blossom potentials of purple clusters. Oh the endless, blessed possibilities of the days and hours and minutes as they come to us from God's hands! But what did you do with yesterday? How does the little acre of that one day look to you now? What are you doing with your time? Every moment God gives us has in it a possibility of beauty as well as something to be accounted for. Are we using our time for God?" ~ J. R. Miller

Friday, August 15, 2014

Simple Pleasures in the Everyday

One day this week I brought our Boer does back to graze in an electronet paddock my Dad set up and took my camera along and enjoyed some time sitting out on their grain feeder in the peaceful afternoon taking in the beauty all around.

When one looks at any view in nature, it is often the whole that is seen . . . yet it is amazing when you stop and really start looking at the small things that make up the whole, to see how much diverse beauty and detail there is. 

Looking towards our neighbor's pasture

I was out there for quite awhile soaking in the peacefulness, praying, thinking, watching various insects and butterflies, listening to the birds singing and the honeybees buzzing around nearby flowers, petting the goats whenever they came up for attention, and then photographing some of the 'little' things that caught my eye . . .

(And after uploading the photos, I used the book Missouri Wildflowers to identify most of the flowers in the below photos which was fun to do! For some reason, knowing the names of the plants makes it that much more enjoyable when I see them.)

Tall Bell Flower

 I couldn't find this plant in the book, nor online either . . . any ideas? The little pods open into tiny orange flowers (one can be seen in the photo.) Then in the fall, the seed pods dry and rattle in the wind. One thing I discovered about them this week is that the honeybees love them!

Edited to add: I was able to identify it! It's called Figwort and is a native herb that has a range throughout much of the United States. When reading online about it, I discovered that it is another wild plant that can be used medicinally. 

A honeybee on the 'mystery plant'

Sierra, Aspen and Sienna

A Turkey Vulture flying overhead

The sky was beautiful this day!

A Grand-Daddy Longleg 
(I'm not sure if that is their proper name or not, :) but that is what we've always called them!)

Jewelweed . . . which I just recently discovered is supposed to be good for treating poison ivy

Mist Flower

 Brown-Eyed Susans
(I didn't even know there was such a thing until looking in the wildflower book! They have smaller flower heads and many branching stems compared to the larger flowers and single stemmed Black-Eyed Susan.)


 Aurora, Sienna and Aspen

On a different note, Leah and I started harvesting the potatoes this week! So far we have 162 pounds, and there are still some to harvest, but they aren't quite ready yet.

Some of the freshly dug potatoes

Out of all the garden produce to harvest, I think potatoes rank up there as one of my top favorites. It's almost like digging for hidden treasure :), never knowing how many potatoes you'll find or how large they'll be. Our potatoes did very well this year, and we are thankful for how many we've been able to harvest!

This time of year also marks when the wild plums start ripening. Earlier this year it looked like we were going to have quite a large crop, but then in the last few weeks, most of the plums began falling off of the trees when only partially ripened. Today I was able to harvest some from the trees that I normally pick from, but not many.

Then I remembered about a few more wild plum trees at a corner of our property that in the past, haven't produced very well, but I thought that perhaps there might be some on the trees this year. One of the trees had a little more than the other trees had had, but still not very many. And then I saw this tree . . .

It had so many plums on it!

I don't think we have ever had a tree produce as well as this one has this year! I picked the lower branches and then worked my way up the tree using a step stool to reach as high as I possibly could. It was so fun picking and even more so seeing the basket and bowls quickly filling  . . .

Some of the plums

I know what I'll be doing this afternoon :) . . . washing, crushing and juicing the plums in order to make some jelly and maybe some syrup, too!