I’ve decided to make my own biodegradable soap. In case I haven’t said so, I’ve been wanting to make all natural liquid soaps for the house for some time now. I’m disgusted by all the chemicals and hidden ingredients in most products.  I love that I get to control what’s in it.

I’ve invited my friend, Sandi here to join me to make two batches (1 for her and 1 for me) of liquid Castile soap.

You need a base soap like Castile, in order to make different liquid soap variations like dish washing liquid, liquid hand soap, dishwasher liquid soap, liquid laundry detergent, shower gel, shaving cream, pet shampoo or bubble bath. I will be storing them in glass jars and will repurpose plastic pumps I’ve saved.

Though I could probably buy Bonner’s Castile Soap for about $16 for 32 oz., I could make a gallon (128 oz.) of homemade Castile soap for $30 or less.

Here’s all the supplies I either had to get or had on hand:

NOTE: Do not reuse wooden spoon, plastic utensils or immersion blender ever again after using it for soap making.

  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • A slotted spoon
  • Wooden spoon
  • Glass measuring cup or bowl, 2 quart
  • Glass measuring cup, 2 cup
  • Scale (I bought a digital scale)
  • A crock pot – 6 qt. minimum
  • Immersion stick blender (a cheappie you can dedicate to soap making)
  • Plastic table cloth to keep your work area clean
  • Glass jug, 1 gallon (to store your new soap) and 1 glass pint jar. It’s a little over 1 gallon.

Here’s the ingredients I used:

  • Olive oil, 24 oz.
  • Coconut oil, 16 oz.
  • Potassium Hydroxide Caustic Potash KOH Flakes, 9.35 oz. (comes in a 2 lb bottle)
  • Distilled or filtered water, 1 gallon

We’ve decided to do this outside because of the fumes from the lye. However, after doing it, we were glad it was outside. Batch one boiled over a bit. When they say pour slow, they mean very slow!!!

We cooked batch 1 in a stainless steel pot. Batch 2, we cooked in the crock pot. Batch 2 took all day. We were done with batch 1 after 4 hours. Batch one is the one in the bottle. It turned out good. It’s thinner than you think of for liquid soap.



We did a visual check this week on the progress of our hives. Here are a few photos. The girls are filling up the frames up and there’s a few cells with cap brood going on (bee larvae). The black & gray cells are pollen. The golden cells are honey. The first 3 frames are the fullest of the 10.

The Queen at bottom right side of knife

The Queen at bottom right side of knife from Hive #1. Click on photo to see it enlarged.

So far, we’ve had good success with examining the hives. The best time of day seems to be at dusk. Eric goes very slowly. I almost find that we really don’t need our bee suits, but it’s just a level of precaution. If you were stung in the eye, you could loose your eyesight.

The first hive looks really healthy, but the other hive is smaller and not so active. Hopefully in another week or two, the second hive will do better.

We are still learning, but so far, we are really encouraged.

We looked forward to getting our bees.

File Apr 20, 6 26 46 PM

Our bee boxes were set up and ready earlier this week.

File Apr 20, 6 25 28 PM

Inside the hive box. 10 frames inside the brood chamber which is where the bees will make honey and raise their young.

After the bees fill up 80% of the frames, we will put a honey super and put 10 more frames in.

When Eric picked up our bee packages, he went to a someone’s house that had bee hives. Bees were flying all over the place and he got stung on the tip of his finger. He’s lucky he didn’t have a reaction like he did when he was a kid. He didn’t bring his epipen!

File Apr 20, 6 28 48 PM

This is a package of bees. Eric brought our two packages (3 lbs each) home yesterday. It was so cool hearing them buzzing around in their screened packages. They actually smell good too!

File Apr 20, 6 57 14 PM

Liz lifts up one of the bee packages to see how heavy it is. It’s hard to believe it is 3 lbs of bees! Our dog Kona was very curious!

We joined a beekeepers club here and there’s a lot others just like us getting started. Another girl and her daughter, from our club, came up to watch us install the bees. She won the hive our club was giving away. She’s getting ready to purchase her bees soon, so this was really good for her to watch.

File Apr 20, 6 38 33 PM

We put out sugar water for the bees. It’s a 1:1 Spring solution of water and sugar, one for each hive. (Autumn/Winter solution is 1:2 water and sugar)

File Apr 20, 6 50 45 PM

This is the entrance of the hive.

This is Eric installing the bees.

Eric made a sugar station for the bees (below), aka “The Sugar Shack”. They are going through the sugar very quickly!


The Sugar Shack

We will not be able to harvest our honey until a year from now, but I cannot wait. I can already tell we are going to love raising bees.

Signs of Life


This year wasn’t a bad winter. In fact, it was pretty mild. Every year I get a surprised when things start to come back to life when it looks like they won’t. You see, some perennials act like annuals here. I guess it’s too cold for them. So, I’m never sure when I plant a perennial if I’ll see it again the following spring.

File Mar 27, 4 52 50 PM


The lavender survived the winter. I didn’t think it would since I’ve read that they don’t do well in Zone 7. Mine looks really healthy though. It might have been a hardier variety. The hardier ones are developed for colder climates.

Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller

My dusty miller actually survived and it has new growth. Note to myself for next year…Don’t dig them up. They’ll come back!

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage

A pineapple sage plant I planted after growing it in my bathroom all winter last year grew huge during the summer. All the stalks had died during the winter, but I found new growth underneath. Turns out, the person who gave me a cutting of this plant needs me to give them a cutting because their plant died!

Even my stevia has new growth.

Russian Sage

Russian Sage

Russian Sage and Mexican Sage are also coming back.

Eric threw a bunch of iris bulbs out by the treeline and they are growing now. Even though they only bloom once, I love it when they do. They are so vibrant. I had more bulbs, so I threw them out there too.



We have gladiolus, dutch irises, irises and tulips and they all have different blooming times. I’ve integrated them so we will have a full season of blooms.

File Mar 27, 5 00 09 PM

New Plum Tree

We brought home two new plum trees last week to add to our fruit tree grove of apples, pears and peaches.

We also planted strawberries and raspberries. Two years ago, we started blueberries and blackberries and the blackberries are real producers. We’re ot doing too well with the blueberries, so we fertilized them this year. Hopefully it helps. We started everbearing strawberries this year.

Each year, we plant less in our herb garden. I like that there’s some established plants in there now and each year we learn something new about the plants.

We are about to embark on another adventure…beekeeping! Eric says what he likes most about this one is that we can be away for days at time and not have to worry about them. (Definitely not as hard as caring for dogs and horses.)

Eric recently took a class on beekeeping. Apparently, there are lots of locals here that raise bees.

We were invited by one gentleman to come out to his place and he would set us up with 2 hives. At one time, he had about 150 hives. He’s now setting his son up to raise bees.

Our bees will arrive sometime at the end of April. We will be starting with 2 packages of bees. That’s 6 lbs of bees! Each package has a queen. We will not be able to harvest the honey till after the first year. How much honey we harvest will depend on how well the resources are here (the supply of nectar). We have berries, fruit trees, flowers, wildflowers and a nearby creek. Hopefully it will provide an ample supply.

I personally love honey. I prefer it to any of the natural sugars. I use it to make desserts and even sweeten my coffee occasionally. The trick to using honey in cold drinks is to make a simple syrup. Combine one part honey and one part water in a saucepans over medium heat and stir until completely dissolved. Let cool and store in the refrigerator. Use it to sweeten any drink to your desired taste.

Stay tuned. I’ll be posting more on our new project as we go along.

RV There Yet?


In September, Eric and I bought an RV. I never thought I’d be the RV type, but with all the bugs here, I now am. Besides, there’s something so cozy about a small space. We bought it two days after my birthday and Eric says it’s a gift for all the upcoming occasions (for the next two years).

As much as we love the farm, we thought it would be nice to get away once in awhile and explore. We are close to so many beautiful states. And, as I’m finding out, Tennessee and Alabama have some of the most gorgeous campgrounds.

I love how modern RVs have now become. They actually have interiors I like. The interior of this RV is beautiful and well-laid out with a separate bedroom, good-sized bath, a living area and a decent kitchen and dining area. It has a black/gray/tan neutral interior. One of my favorite features is the in-house vacuum. They call this a 26 ft. travel trailer, but in reality, it’s about 29.7 ft. The one we bought is a Keystone Hideout.

I went crazy stocking this camper. Everyone has their own personal bin (including the dog). I added a cozy little bed for Daisy. Since I have two of everything in my kitchen, it made sense to make use of all those extra utensils and appliances. I tried to make it feel like a home by adding comfortable bedding, pillows, throws and a basket for magazines and books.

On our first trip in October, which was only a few miles down the road at David Crockett State Park, we had our friends out for a barbecue. One of our friends gave us cute dog themed tea towels. Our other friends gave us a seasonal tea towel and pumpkin to decorate for the holidays.

In early November, we also visited Meriwether Lewis (in Natchez Trace) State Park which is an amazing free site with pull-throughs.

We are really enjoying  being RV owners. I like the fact that we never need a suitcase and we will always feel comfortable in our home away from home.

This table has quite a story. Eric handcrafted this trestle table for my brother’s family made from one red oak tree harvested from our farm. Both of us worked together to design it. We are very proud of it.

About the Wood:

  • The entire table was made from one tree from our land
  • We dragged the tree back from our pasture using a tractor and a chain around April of 2013
  • The wood was rough cut using our lumber mill consisting of a long steel frame and a chain saw
  • Rough cut lumber was stacked onto wood spacers to dry out for about a year before they could be used
  • We got about ten 9-foot pieces of lumber from this one tree

Before it became a Table, the Rough Cut Planks were used for a Party:

  • On July 26, 2014 the rough cut lumber was used for a farm to table dinner for our sister-in-law’s 40th Birthday party.
  • The party was set in our herb garden.
  • The temporary table consisted of 3 planks of lumber placed on 2 saw horses.

Preparing the Wood to be Used:

  • A local lumber mill planed our lumber in September of 2014
  • In October 2014, we designed the plans for the table. However, it was a work-in-progress as we continually challenged the design and continuity of the piece
  • Our goal was to create a casual family table to be used on my brother’s family’s screened-in porch
  • We looked at various ideas for table tops and trestle legs
  • We kept in mind that we would have to work within the constraints of Eric’s skills and tools
  • Because of the weight of the table, it had to be designed in pieces so it could easily be moved and reassembled
  • The overall dimension of the table ended up being 8’ x 3’6” 2’6″ high

The Table Top:

  • To create the desired width, we added 2.5″ strips between each plank
  • This created a nice custom look
  • 3 planks and 2 strips make up the top of this table
  • The planks and strips were doweled and glued together
  • The top had beautiful imperfections. They were carefully chiseled out so they would still look natural
  • We used a test piece to add resin to the imperfections but in the end, we decided it looked best natural

The Trestle Legs:

  • The trestle legs are made from three 2-inch thick planks
  • The legs are 10-inches wide
  • We wanted to put a decorative element on the legs and feet
  • A temporary template was made on paper and taped to the leg
  • A template was cut out of wood
  • Eric did not have a band saw, so he used a jig saw to cut around the template, then sanded around it

Table Construction:

  • The table is mortise and tennon construction
  • The only bolts used hold the table top and legs together
  • The table can be broken down into 8 pieces
    • 2 legs
    • 1 stretcher
    • 1 table top
    • 4 leg pegs

Finishing the Table:

  • The table was sanded down
  • The wood was oiled with linseed and sealed with wax
  • Eric carved on the bottom of the table our names with our collaborative design, that it was made for my brother’s family and the date it was completed
  • The table was finished October 23. 2014

Presenting the Table to my Brother’s Family:

  • On Thanksgiving, we presented the table to the delight of my brother and his wife.
  • They love it so much, they’re going to put this into their dining room instead of their porch.