Fruit Canning Season 2015

This 2015 garden season was non-stop until the middle of November.  It did not go as I planned.  Things didn’t grow that I wanted to.  Weeds grew more than I wanted them to. My melons didn’t grow at all.  I had beets and carrots grow but guess what happened??  Mice ate them….under the  ground!!!

Throughout the hot summer months, we were able to go pick strawberries, apricots, peaches and pears from local farmers.  I did get a few apples which were only enough to make one batch of applesauce as we have plenty from last year.  I preserved and dried as much as I could handle.  We planted several fruit trees but it takes several years for them to mature and we even lost three (plum, cherry and peach).  Next year, we will have to plant more.IMG_1004

Here are some of my favorite recipes:

My favorite strawberry jam recipe (Just don’t try it with raw sugar.  Makes it too runny like a syrup!)

We found an abandoned apricot tree and made this Apricot Jam.

I discovered this AMAZING honey spiced peach recipe. I had leftover syrup and canned the syrup too.  SO DELICIOUS!!!!

This peach vanilla jam is TO DIE FOR!!!!!!  And was the easiest thing ever to make.  But our area had a hard freeze in late spring so there weren’t as many peaches to use.

Because I like the peach vanilla jam so much, I made tons of her pear vanilla jam to give out to neighbors and homeschool friends as Christmas presents.  I loved using this recipe because you did not have to peel the pears before making!!  Wahoo!!

If you can’t tell, we aren’t plain canned fruit with sugar syrup people.  I made this recipe for vanilla spiced pears  last year and knew I needed to repeat it this year.  My kids would drink the syrup if I let them!!!

I got so sick of pears before I finished, so I made one last effort to make this pear sauce!

My ideal goal was to have our fruit needs prepared for the year but they way THIS family eats fruit, I am sure I didn’t do that!!

 

What to feed pigs

Have you ever heard the thought that you are only as healthy as what you eat?  Ever thought that you are only as healthy what your food eats?

That was MY main thought when we got our pigs.  Why raise pigs to eat that don’t eat heathy themselves?  As you know, I am fairly new to the area so I don’t know the area businesses.  Don’t know where the food comes from.  But I do know a farmer that raises his own pasture raised pork.  What does HE feed his pigs?  I asked him and it’s from another local farmer, who happens to be certified organic!  It’s just a mixture of three grains.  Why I didn’t think about this until I GOT the pigs, I have no idea!

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For the first couple of weeks, I fed that mixture.  Farmer John allows his pigs a larger area to pasture.  Mine don’t have that much area and they immediately tore up all the vegetation in there.  So I was concerned that they weren’t getting ENOUGH to eat.  Yes, they got our scraps but was that enough?

Shortly after we got the pigs, we went up to our favorite camp and helped clean out the industrial refrigerator and freezer.  I was so excited to bring home all the expired food to feed the pigs.  One reason I love having pigs is they turn scraps into bacon!

Through K’s 4H classes, I learned that pigs need a certain percentage of protein.  I buy our bulk goods from an awesome coop called Azure Standard and saw they offered alfalfa  pellets and field peas but no pig feed.  I asked Farmer John if those would be good to add and he said yes.  I want these pigs to grow like they should!  No skimping on my bacon!  K IS in 4H but she is a clover bud meaning she can’t sell her pigs in the livestock sale but WE can eat them!

So my pig feed is a mixture of local grains, alfalfa pellets and field peas.  They LOVE it!!!

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Seasons – Summer

Right now it is so very hot and humid (for Idaho! I’m from Texas so do know what humidity is!)  I am ready for summer to be over!  Start the fall weather, fall clothes, fall food, and fall activities.  But first must can the tomatoes!

Do people ever ask you what is your favorite season is?  My favorite season is always the next one.  I spent most of my life living in Hawaii and south Texas.  Neither of them are known for their change in seasons!  So now I relish the changes in the seasons.  Watching the tulips coming up, green grass starts to grow, getting warm enough to plant things in the garden, watching tomatoes ripen, time to start canning, having a bonfire on a crisp evening, time to make pumpkin pie, watching the snow fall.  They are all my favorites!   I love that we live in a world that has been masterfully ordered so that even the seasons are predictable.  Summer comes after spring, fall comes after summer and so on.

A friend lent me a CD called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  I own a hard copy but loved being able to drive around listening to a book while running errands.  Listening to the book made more of an impact then when I read the book 4 years ago.  Maybe because I am in a different place myself?

avm-book-coverThe book follows the author as she and her family the decision to eat from her county for a full year!!!  They started in the spring when the asparagus came up and showed how they survived each month for a full year.  I loved learning form her and her husband as he shared the flaws of our american food supply system.

They had a garden, raised chickens and turkeys, shopped the farmers market and made everything else from scratch.  She talked about how shopping like that saved them like $7000 that year!  All that they bought went directly back into their local economy.

This is something I want to emulate.  First, it is healthier – no additives have been added.  Second, you know that it will help the families you buy from.  This summer, I bought 60 butchered chickens from a local farmer.  I paid him a down payment in the spring and told him I’d like 20 birds at a time so I could cut them into the cuts we use.  It was a few hours of work 2 times a month but I learned a lot.  First off, that I need sharper knives!!!  Third, it’s more humane.  Farmer John didn’t have a huge faculty farm.  He had the chickens in a hut and they were able to run around and eat bugs out of their garden.  (Well, that was the idea!  The chicks ate some of their plants too.)

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I have been going to the farmers market for the items I couldn’t grow.  Like berries.  I bought at least a 100 lbs of berries to freeze for our daily use.  I have a handful of berries in my daily smoothie and usually bought the organic mix at Costco.  I have frozen several packages of corn.

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Grandpa butchered a cow for us!  It was my first time to have a butchered cow so we’ll count it as a learning experience.  Next time, I’ll request different cuts.  Some cuts I have no idea how to use!  But that animal came right from our backyard.  I hope we can start our own herd.  I’ll have to ask Grandpa how we can do that.

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Last week, we headed to a local orchard and picked 200 pounds of peaches, pears and apples.  The peaches have all been put in jam or canned.  The pears are almost ripened and we just got a few apples that trip for eating.  Canning apples come later.

 

Well, this all makes for an expensive SUMMER season!  But I won’t have to buy most of these things til next summer!  I need to be focusing on the YEAR’s budget and not just my summer budget.

Let’s see what the next season brings?? 🙂

Learning about PIGS!

Growing up, I never thought about pigs.  Never thought about where my food came from.  Never thought I live on a farm!  My entire pig experience was wrapped around the book Charlotte’s Web!

As God changed my heart and opened my mind to living on a farm, I began to search out blogs and Instagram people to follow and learn from.  As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite farm blog is ThePrairieHomstead.com  and two of my favorite Instagram accounts are YonderWayFarmer and WorkingHandsFarm.  I learn so much about taking care of my gardens and about raising animals through their posts.  Their posts are simple beautiful!  I wish I could take a picture like that!!!

After we moved to Idaho and settled into our home, I found a local 4H group for the kids to get involved with.  I wanted to join ALL the projects!!! If I didn’t have kids, I might have even done them all!  Baking, dutch over cooking, leather craft, archery…… basically, I’ve decided I am in the wrong time period!  I should have been born at least 50 years before I was.

The first year, we just were involved with making things.  Sewing, Legos, Cake Decorating, jewelry making, shooting rockets.  Kids (and I!!) learned so much!  And at the end of the 4H year (September) K says, “I want pigs next year!”  Well, okay!!!  She would still be a Cloverbud which means she can’t see at market but then that means WE get to eat it!  I asked her WHY she wanted to raise pigs and her own word answer was “BACON!”

This spring, K spent a Saturday working with her daddy and building a pen for her piggies, which she had named before we even got them, “Ham” and “Bacon.”  They will get shade from an old Russian olive tree and they made shelter from the old fencing laying around Grandpa’s farm.  The pig troughs come from when Great Grandpa raised pigs.  Love having the heritage in this pig pen!!!

We went to pick up the pigs on Mothers Day weekend.  At first they didn’t eat and I wondered why.  Could it be the change in location?  They’re scared??  Then I remembered… Pigs like SLOP!!!  After I started adding water to their feed.  They slopped it up!  (See what I did there??)

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I have an addiction…… Chickens!!

Last fall after the county fair, I bought all the pullets (not yet egg laying female birds) that were available.  But at least 2 weren’t mature enough to know they were roosters!  Thankfully, we knew people who will take and eat them!  Can’t have too many roosters in the hen house!

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In February, a fellow chicken owning friend asked if I wanted her flock of 20 hens and a rooster as she couldn’t keep them in her new city backyard.  Of course I jumped at the chance, especially since she was selling her coop along with the chickens.   Good thing we have access to trailers!!!  Needed something to transport them.   I gifted 4 hens to Grandpa’s hired hand as he is a fellow animal lover.  As I’ve driven by his house, I’ve seen him sitting watching his own “chicken t.v.”  The new flock in our pasture is so happy running amidst the rock piles and under the Russian olives trees and scratching through straw piles.

In March, we headed to Texas to spend time with my family.  My parents live on my mom’s 66 acre ancestral farm.  My hubby D had a plan.  We were going to get a coop and chickens for my parents!!!  How could they NOT have chickens?  They lay eggs and eat any food scraps you give them.  We got them the cutest red barn hen house from Tractor Supply and searched Craigslist for the oldest pullets we could get them.  We did not want to get them the young chicks that are harder to take care of as they have to stay under heat lamps the first 7 weeks.  Mimi got to pick out the cutest 5 pullets – 2 Black Australorps, 1 Barred Rock, I Buff Orpington, and 1 New Hampshire.   And now they have a “Comedy Central” to watch.  Hopefully they’ll start receiving their first eggs by the end of June!

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After returning from Texas, I received my order of day old chicks.  I have learned I don’t like a uniform flock.  If they all look they same, how are you going to tell if a certain hen is doing certain thing – like has become broody or which buff is limping or if one is missing?  So I prefer having only 2 – 4 of the same breed.  in this order, the kids were able to pick some “pretty” birds (bantam breeds) and I got chicks for egg layers – araucanas (lay green or blue eggs), amber whites and black sex links.   Since this ordered was mailed, I had to have a minimum of 25 chicks so I asked others if they wanted to order with me.  After doling out the chicks to friends, we weren’t careful with the brooder and one of our mousers got in and had a picnic.  At least 3 were enjoyed by the cute kitty.  So I had to got to our local feed store to get 5 more to replace the ones we lost.

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At the first part of May, I got a call saying my rare lavender orpington day old chicks were shipped!!  I can’t tell you were we first saw or heard of this breed but Hubby D was just as intrigued by them as me. They are a unique lavender/grey bird.

I had to google the breed to see where it came from.  “Named after the town of Orpington, Kent, in south-east England, the Orpington chicken was created by William Cook in 1886. It was developed by crossing Minorcas, Langshans, and Plymouth Rocks to create a new hybrid. Since their first appearance in Maddison Square Gardens in 1895, they have become instantly popular and well liked on account of their loose-feathered fluffy appearance. Not only is the Orpington a striking exhibition bird, but often prized for its docile nature. They are exceptionally hardy during the winter months and continually lay eggs in cold weather.”

I was so excited to get the early morning call from our post office saying they had arrived.   For the first three days of life, chicks can survive without food and water which is how they can be mailed.  But I don’t like any animal not having access to food or water, so I was worried about this little fluffy butts!  But all 20 arrived safe and sound!  The entire family is watching them grow and getting more “lavender-y”!!  Cannot wait to see how they grow!

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We moved the March babies into the adolescent pen this week as they grew in all their feathers.  The first day, they didn’t venture out the pen.  They were nervous to be “outside” (pen is completely fenced in with fencing for the roof and sides) but now they have to be gathered up to be locked up at night.  They don’t know when to head to bed!!!!  And in the morning when I open them up, they all fly out of their coop!  Love watching my chicken t.v!!!

 

I LOVE essential oils

Doterra Cover picture

In September of 2014, I was offered the chance to watch the video presentations of an essential oil company’s national convention. I was blown away by the science behind the products. And how God created the plants this uses to make the essential oils and how they actually work to help heal and support our bodies’ health. And how the company offers so many types of testing to insure that the products we receive have not been adulterated or have fillers added.

I felt God challenging me to start sharing with others about why I love these oils and giving them the chance to try them too. So along with sharing the oils, I needed to start a business out of it because I couldn’t just give hundreds of dollars away of oils each month!! 🙂

I love introducing essential oils to people. Love leading classes. Love seeing the changes that individuals have seen by using the products.

I also love how it lines up with the rest of our natural living practices of raising our own animals and produce and cooking.

It has impacted my entire family. My son is a fruit cake!! I love him dearly! He has memorized my reference book. One day, I got stung by a wasp and ran into the house. He heard me and yelled from his back bedroom, “You need Basil!” Having no other quick ideas, I put a drop on the sting and felt immediate relief. I looked in my book and sure enough, he was correct! He is an elephant…. never forgets.

So you might learn several ways we use the oils in our family and on the homestead!!! 🙂

What’s keeping us busy??

Hello!  I cannot believe it is May of 2015!  I am finally feeling like I can breathe.  The last year has been a huge whirlwind with all the work we have done on the farm.  My idea of how much extra-curricular activities I could be involved in while on the farm shrunk drastically.

First off, we worked on getting the “dirt pile” ready to plant grass seeds.  That involved lots of racking, picking rocks, digging up BOULDERS, spreading manure and harrowing with the ATV. We also had the blessing of a neighbor helping (actually we helped HIM!) to put into a sprinkler system.  That helped putting int he grass seed so much easier!

 

Next, we worked to get our huge garden put in.  This also involved lots of racking, picking rocks, digging up BOULDERS, spreading manure and harrowing with the ATV.   And also was blessed by the neighbor putting in a sprinkler system!!  Made it 10X easier.  We still had tons of weeding to do over the summer.  We planted kale, swiss chard, beets, 45 tomato plants, strawberry plants, watermelon, pumpkins, cucumbers, beans, sugar snap peas, corn, cabbage, zucchini, yellow squash, honeydew melon,  jalapeños, basil, jackolantern pumpkins, daikon, blueberry bushes, okra, butternut squash….. and all from seeds that we started in March inside our kitchen.  I was able to can and freeze so much of it.  And was even able to share a ton too.

It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination.  The corn didn’t grow to produce ears, my husband ran over my blueberry bushes with the lawnmower since they were buried in weeds, the okra never produced, I got cucumber blight and only pickled about 5 jars, didn’t stake the peas early enough and the same with tomato plants, but we are back at it again this year!

August was busy with 4H preparation for all the kids.  We didn’t know how involved it would be. BUT I was amazed by what all the kids learned!  The last week of August was intensely busy with the county fair.  Our family entered over 45 items to be judged – from produce to cakes to sewing to jewelry to baking to paintings to lego and WWII dioramas!

My parents came to visit in the fall and we could show them our little patch of heaven in Idaho.  We stayed busy canning fruit (pears, peaches and apples), making and canning apple cider, and even learning how to ferment sauerkraut.  We were able to get a steady stream of regular egg buyers too!

Oh and we still homeschooled!  My goal was to make all our Christmas gifts but that didn’t happen!

Missions convention

Remember who I am??  I have NOT been taking the time to write…..  but here
I go….

I am a true home body.  It’s so nice to be home after being gone a large part of Friday, Saturday and today.  I would have great trouble adjusting if I ever had to work fulltime outside the home!

Since D and I moved here, we joined the tiny farm community church named Clover Trinity Lutheran Church where he grew up.  I’ve wanted to blog about it and never taken the time.  The Lierman family who moved out here to farm in the early 1900’s were part of the founding members in 1915 and D’s great grandfather was the pastor for a long time.  I LOVE being part of a church with such a heritage!  The average member is silver haired and but offers a such wealth of wisdom for this younger mom and wife.

Clover Trinity Lutheran Church

Each month the ladies host an LWML meeting.  That is such a hard thing for me to say.  L.W.M.L.  Can’t say that fast!!!  It stands for Lutheran Women Missionary League.  That’s about all I knew other than my mother in law (going to call her Doris since she looks so much like Doris Day!) and aunt are highly active members and have traveled to conventions around the country over the years.  After attending several local meetings, I came to realize that an LWML meeting always contains yummy snacks, a bible study, announcements and a mite offering.  I LOVE snacks made by farm wives.  There are so many new things to try!  We recently finished the video study called Gods at War by Kyle Idleman.  Now we have moved on to Your Strong Suit by Donna Pyle.  Love learning with these ladies!  And I love the name of the mite offering taken from Mark 12: 41-44.  My MIL Doris has had her mite box next to the refrigerator for the 18+ years I’ve known her.  When she has spare change, she puts it in the box and takes it to the monthly meetings for the offerings.  All the ladies do it and they vote where it will be sent – to the local pregnancy center, to help provide sewing classes for Muslim women, scholarships for seminary students, etc…..

But you know what??  Most of these ladies have silver hair!!  A couple of months ago, the ladies were talking about an tri-state convention held in Twin Falls (closest LARGE town to us) in April and they wanted to send a Young Woman Representative.  The pastor’s wife IS younger than me but was due to have a baby the first part of April.  That’s all I remember of the conversation for several weeks.  THEN my MIL Doris said, “Here’s the schedule and we bought your ticket.”  Okay………  The only other convention I have attended was MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) in Nashville in 2009.  Just a little different.

So this past Friday evening, I drove into Twin not knowing what to expect at all.  I prayed that God would keep my heart focused on Him and not that I didn’t know anyone and had no idea what to expect.  My instructions from Doris were to look for the group of women WITHOUT gray hair! Tee hee hee!!!  I got there right before the service and sat with the other Young Women Representatives.  Since it’s was a church service you SHOULDN’T talk too much so I just learned two of their names.  Afterwards we had a little meet and greet with the five other YWR’s and then went back to home/hotels since we were supposed to arrive back at 6:30 am to help set up.  Didn’t know WHAT to expect other than that was awful early for me!!

I got there a little after 6:30am.  (What??  Me??  Late???? NEVER!!!)  The YWR’s were instructed to stay together and do tasks throughout the convention like lead the group in the pledges, collect offerings, pass out flyers, help with the servant projects.  I actually enjoy being told what I’m to do and having a job to do.  I LOVED being with a group of YWR’s who had never attended any other type of convention.  I am amazed at how quickly we were able to form bonds.  We all love the Lord, were under 40, and love serving Him but that was our only commonality.  

Five of the YWR’s with leaders Donna Pyle (L) and Linda Gage (R)

These days were full of singing praises, voting on where offerings should be sent, learning how the “business” of LWML is run and listening to people give reports.

My favorites things – other than the being with the YWR’s and learning about them –

  • The worship music.  I have missed being able to sing worship songs as a group since we have moved to a smaller church. I love hymns but LOVE worship music!!  We were led by a simple trio of women playing guitars and a little native type drum.  Simple but still quite powerful!
  • The Bible study leader from Texas, Donna Pyle.  The key verses were Psalm 8:1-2.  “Oh, Lord, our Lord, How majestic is your name in all the earth.”  Donna is such a vibrant speaker and I loved the times I had to speak to her in a small group setting (… and got a little taste of Texas while being near her!)  I can’t wait to see when I will see and learn from her next!!
  • Hearing from some various local mission groups who have been impacted by our tri-state LWML groups.

How would I describe what LWML is???  It is a group of women who love the Lord and want to share the saving power and love of the Lord with who they can.  Either through making blankets for cancer patients, conducting mission trips to Native Americans in New Mexico, providing funding to print Braille bibles, sending funds to a seminary in Africa, and the list goes on.  These are just simple women who believe that their time, money, and lives should be used for God’s purposes.  But since this society was form in the 1930’s, they have given away MILLIONS of dollars and countless hours serving in the name of Christ.  I was blown away.  I want to be one of them!!!

Working on several service projects 

There is a major thing that I am concerned about.  The lack of young women and, I mean, under 50.  Yes, I know that we who are younger are busy with our families and raising them and our jobs and that IS important. But I am involved in several volunteer activities and our age group seems to have dropped off the face of the earth!  I feel like my generation has made TOO much of a focus on our families and their activities and that has become a type of idol. It IS possible to focus too much on family.  It’s a fine line and one I am trying to learn how to balance.

I was sad when our time together came to an end.  At the close of this convention, I feel that God is impressing on my heart that I am to work to help to train up the younger ladies.   I do not know what that means quite yet but will be seeking.  So please keep me in your prayers as I seek the Lord’s will.

I am so thankful that we are settled here in Idaho.  (It actually doesn’t even matter WHERE we have settled but that we HAVE settled.)  I am so thankful to be getting to know people that know past generations of Lierman family members. That we have this strong Christian heritage that I can teach our children.  But I am so thankful that I will be continuing to get to know these ladies year after year.  I feel so blessed!!

Baby gifts: Part 1

I can’t believe that I sewed all my formal dresses in high school and most of my church clothes too.  I also imagined that I would sew all my future baby clothes too.  I had that much focus???  Can’t imagine that now!  Well, Fly Boy and I got married and that thought flew out of my head.  Those frequent moves made me have ADD.  Always jumping from one place to the next.

Fast forward 15 years…. my Navy man surprised me one Christmas with a sewing machine.  Oh no!  I first used it to make all the cousins hooded bath towels.  But the next summer, I found out like 25 friends were having babies!  I wanted to give each of them something but buying that many gifts would wipe out our bank account.
When my children were babes, my mom made these wonderful silk “babies” for each of them.  They LOVED them!!  Would rub the silky on their faces as they went to sleep, went everywhere with us, lost a few on the way, comforted when they went to the church nursery.  Don’t say anything but they still sleep with them!
See how well loved they are?
Back to baby gifts…. Somehow I had a wild thought to make a soft/silky ribbon square.  There was NO way I’d sew the same things my mother did.  She has way more patience than me!!!  And I knew if the recipients loved them, there needed to be replacements so it needed to be something easy.

 

One of the many I have made.  This is #3 for this baby!!! :). All gifts come with free replacements!! 🙂
I try to make them around what the baby nursery theme is but if I don’t know it, I just choose something fun!  Have done robots, Star Wars, zebra, all sorts of fun stuff!  The important things is to have the silky satiny fabric and ribbons.

What I need to make these:

2 fabrics of the same size.  I vary from 12×12 inches to 10×12 inches.  There is no set size.  What ever you’d like.

 

Ribbons cut into 3 inch strips – once again, whatever you’d like.  I’ve made patterns or been totally random.  Doesn’t matter :). I do three on each side.

 

K creating her own 🙂

 

 

Baby gift: part 2

The other part of my customary baby gift is a couple of tins of homemade baby bottom balm.  I have no idea why I started making it!  Maybe as part of trying to make more natural products?  But I have heard from the moms that it really works!!  How could it not with coconut oil???  (One of my favorites of all!!)

 I purchased this book from Amazon (Prime is another of my favorite things!) and have enjoyed trying things from it.  This is where my recipe came from.  It’s official name is Bottoms-Up Salve but I call Baby’s Bottom Balm.  Not only is it good for the diaper area but also for all kinds of cuts and scrapes.
Ingredients:
Equal parts calendula flower, comfrey leaf, comfrey root, St. John’s wort flower totaling 2 ounces
 2 cups olive oil
1/2 cup beeswax pastilles (or beeswax)
2 tablespoons Coconut oil
Essential oils – I use Lemon, Lavender, Myrrh, Frankincense, and a calming blend of oils
Place herbs in olive oil in 1 quart jar.  Swirl around to cover. Place lid on jar and place in a sunny window for 2 weeks. This is called solar infusing.  At the end of the two (-ish) weeks, warm jar in pan filled with water heating on low on stove.  I put a wash rag in between jar and pan to prevent rocking.  Let warm for 1 hour.  Strain off oil and measure.  For each cup of oil, add 1/4 cup grated beeswax.  I am too lazy to grate and buy the pastilles from Mountain Rose Herbs! I also add 2 or so tablespoons of coconut oil now.  Stir to melt both beeswax and coconut oil.  Pour into tins or class containers and let cool before moving.  You could half recipe but I just make a big batch at one time.  I have several Ball canning jars that are devoted for herb use only.  And some mixture is always infusing in my window.