Monday, February 23, 2015

Encouragement from Romans

Last week I finished reading Romans again, and one particular chapter I read through several times as it was especially encouraging to me when reading it this time. So much so that I wanted to share some portions of it here in the hopes that they will be an encouragement to your heart as well . . . 

(and I am 'borrowing' some spring/summer photos to go along with the verses as they seemed to fit better than winter ones! :)

"For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

"In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose . . . .

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

"Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.

"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . .

"But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Romans 8:24-28, 31-35, 37-39

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In the Mailbox

A sweet letter from a little friend and the gift of a flower that she made . . .

Opening this lovely card really brightened my day! I am so thankful for the special friendships I am able to have with the children I know . . . children are such precious blessings from the Lord!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Blanketed in White

We had our first significant snowfall of the season this week! Monday morning, everything was coated in a beautiful blanket of white, and I went for a much enjoyed walk with my camera.

Down our driveway, through the woods, over to see the goats . . . all was quiet and still save for the sound of the snow crunching underneath my boots as I walked and also the sight and sound of a few birds here and there.

I love being outdoors after a snowfall like this and taking in the beauty all around! There was so much to see and enjoy, some of which was captured with my camera . . .

Looking down our driveway

Snow on cedar branches

The same grass seedhead that I photographed a few weeks ago only now, covered with snow

Pinecones on one of our Pine trees

Not sure why these pinecones didn't open all the way up, but aren't they interesting?

 Another pinecone

 One of our big old Oak trees 
(with some of our beehives and fruit trees in the foreground.)

A snow-covered log pile

Sienna peeking out at me from the hoop house

And then coming up to be petted

Sierra . . . she wanted (and received :) some attention, too

Oak leaves

Looking out across our neighbor's pasture

Another of our big, old Oak trees . . . and one of my favorite trees on our place

 Hosta seed pods

 Flower seed heads that have yet to shed all of their seeds

 Snow caught in the crook of a dead tree

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Busy, Busy, Busy!

My brain has been swimming with keywords, SEOs, product descriptions, [some] html, shopping carts, product photography ideas, website customizations, and more. If you haven't guessed yet :), I have been building a website for Niobrara Farms! Well, as much 'building' as one does when they start with an e-commerce theme that has already been designed. :)

The past month or so, I decided to set aside my other winter projects for awhile and use this 'less busy' time to really focus on business planning and getting a website up and running before spring busyness arrives. It has been fun to do, and I am excited with how everything is coming together!

While I thankfully did not have to start building the site from scratch (since I am using an already developed theme), there was still so much that needed to be done including quite a few customizations which led me into hesitantly working in the html a bit.

All week, in the midst of all the business work and spending a lot of time on my new (and fast!) computer editing photos, working on the website, etc., I was trying to think of something interesting to post about here. I finally decided to simply post what has been primarily filling my last few weeks! And hopefully you all don't mind another soap related post. :)

My workspace with the website in progress

I finally found the right paper for the new labels, finalized the label design, and printed them. Then came photographing each variety of soap again which was time-consuming! I braved the wind and cold this morning to take photos of the last three varieties that needed to be photographed. So now that's done!

Here are a few of the product photos (one each for three of the soap varieties) . . .

Besides product photos, there was also a need to take other photos as well such as this one (which Leah actually took as I was the one holding the soap :) . . .

With one of the photos that was taken, I created a new banner for my Facebook Page . . .
And in the midst of working on the website, it was also fun to come up with new packaging, too . . .

After quite a few very full weeks, I am nearing the end of this big project and am really looking forward to when the website goes 'live'!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ham Bone Bean Soup Recipe

I have a computer again! And to start off returning to blogging, here is a post that I had put together before my computer broke . . . .


It used to be when cooking or baking in the kitchen that I was strictly a recipe follower, now, though, I change and alter recipes quite often. It's fun to be able to do this! Not only altering recipes to make them more tasty, but also coming up with my own recipes.

One evening last week, Ham Bone Bean Soup was on the menu, and I had had somewhat of a base recipe (i.e. spice suggestions and how long to simmer) that I have always used for it, but somehow when I redid my recipe binder recently, it disappeared. So I made up my own this time! And after getting positive reviews from my family, I thought I would share the recipe here with you all as well . . . .

Ham Bone Bean Soup

- Approx. 3 cups dried beans, your choice 
(these are the ones I use: approximately 3/4 cup Great Northern, 1/4 cup Navy, 1/2 cup Lima, 1/4 cup Kidney, plus 1/8 cup Lentils, and 1/8 cup Split Peas)
- Leftover ham bone
- One medium onion, chopped
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. basil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. thyme
- water
- Either 3-4 cups chopped fresh carrots, or one quart jar canned carrots (since we can a lot of carrots, I always use the latter.)
- *celery would be a great addition to this soup as well!

Rinse the beans. Place in a fairly large glass bowl, cover with water (with the water reaching a few inches above the beans) and soak overnight until ready to use the next day.

Drain the beans and place in large pot. Add the ham bone.  Add the chopped onion, salt, basil, bay leaf, and thyme. If you are using fresh carrots, add those now as well. Cover with water.

Heat to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3 hours. (If using canned carrots, add those around 2 hours and 15 minutes after the soup begins simmering.) Remove ham bone and bay leaf. Remove meat from the bone and chop into small pieces. Add ham back to the soup. Heat through, and then serve and enjoy! (And fresh from the oven bread makes a great addition. :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thanks to My Computer . . .

. . . I will be on an unexpected blogging break while it is getting repaired. :) I dropped it off this morning at a computer repair shop, and hopefully it will be up and running again soon!

All the computer troubles is why I have not yet replied to your all's comments on the last post, and I am sorry it has taken me so long to do so! I hope to reply to them soon . . . thank you for your patience!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

How to Make Liquid Laundry Soap

We had been making our own powdered laundry soap for a number of years now which has worked well for us, yet not quite as well as we would like (our hard water certainly doesn't help!) And I wondered . . . would a liquid version work better?

The answer to that was 'yes!' I don't know why I had not tried making a liquid version earlier. :) It is so easy to make, easy to use, works well, and smells good, too! It uses the same ingredients as the powdered version only with the addition of water and optional essential oil . . .

The three basic ingredients

Let's get started! First grate a bar of Fels-Naptha (we use a cheese grater for this) . . .

Next, put four cups of hot water into a saucepan. Add your grated soap, heat over medium-high heat, and stir until all of the soap melts (approximately 10 minutes) . . .

Set mixture aside. Fill a five gallon bucket half full with hot water (the bathtub works great for this!)

Add in your melted soap mixture and give it a quick stir. Stir in 1 cup of the Borax and 1 cup of the Washing Soda.

Add 1/2 to 1 oz of desired essential oil (I didn't measure mine so I am not sure how much I used. I would guess it to be around 1/2 an ounce.) I chose sweet orange essential oil for our soap because not only is it one of the less expensive oils, citrus scents also smell so clean!

Stir again. Fill up the bucket with warm water within an inch or two of the top . . .

Stir together. If you do not have something long enough to stir with, simply put on waterproof gloves of some type (I used nitrile gloves which I have for soap making) and stir that way.

Next, put on the lid and let it set for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, mine looked like this . . .

A quick stir incorporated it all together. I had read that sometimes it gels and sometimes it doesn't, but either way it works just as well!

I put our bucket next to our washer and then use a cup per regular load. Mine tends to separate a bit after it sets so I just give it a quick swirl with the measuring cup prior to measuring out what I need.

It's pretty simple, isn't it?

And better yet, is the approximate cost breakdown per 5 gallon batch:

- Borax: $0.33
- Washing Soda: $0.54
- Bar of Fels Naptha: $0.97
- Orange Essential Oil: $0.39
TOTAL: $2.23

As the recipe makes enough for approximately 72 regular loads, the total per load is around $0.03 which is much less than commercial detergents and much safer and better for your skin as well!

If you try the recipe, have fun making it, and I hope it works as well for you as it has for us!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An Evening Walk

Sunshine, a gentle breeze, and warm temperatures beckoned me outside with my camera one evening earlier this week. There isn't as much to photograph here this time of year (especially when there is no snow!), yet as I walked around our place and through the woods, fallen leaves crunching underneath my feet, evening sunlight breaking through the clouds, many things caught my eye . . . and a few were captured by my camera . . .

I do not know fully what it is about being out in the peacefulness and beauty of God's creation that is so refreshing . . . so restful. As I stood next to the fenceline looking out across our neighbor's pasture watching the sun slowly sink to the horizon, I soaked in the beauty and the quietness.

A noise down in the woods caught my attention, and before long, two deer came into view. Nervous, tails up, they slowly walked through the woods. Stopping once for a bit to glance up at me, before continuing on their way.

Rustles in the pasture grasses indicated little creatures of the mouse variety were scurrying around. It was so still out, that every once in awhile, I could hear their little teeth chewing!

There is so much all around us to see God's hand in, to see a reflection of His wisdom and power that created it all. And I am so thankful for that . . . and so thankful for opportunities like this to be able to enjoy a small part of His beautiful creation which indeed brings praise to Him.

"Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:14b

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Snippets from My Week

It was a fairly uneventful yet profitable and enjoyable week here filled with various things such as working on getting my homesteading binder all ready and updated for the new year . . .

starting the garden planning by going through last year's records . . .

Last years' seed starting schedule

washing the two antique quilts . . .

Looking much improved after being freshly washed and dried

working on taxes (which I actually kind of enjoy! I think it might be the organizer in me :) . . .

experimenting with new soap photography ideas . . .

A quickly put together, slightly out of focus, and incomplete idea that I ended up liking and am going to work with

having a giveaway on my Niobrara Farms' facebook page for a pack of three bars of soap (and if you would like to enter, live in the United States, and have a facebook account, visit my page at Niobrara Farms Soaps and enter there before this coming Monday at noon!)

One of the photos for the giveaway post - one of each of the varieties of soap I have so far

enjoying watching the songbirds come up to the water that my Dad puts out for them . . .

It was a treat to see bluebirds come up!

and also going to the nursing home again yesterday.

In the meantime while all of these things and more were taking place, cold winter days continued to pass by. And much to my delight, the cold came to a temporary end starting yesterday with highs in the 50's and sunshine! The next few days look to be beautiful ones here, and I am looking forward to them!