Love Is …

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* A night out dancing and celebrating with my sparkling friends.
* Grandparents who take my boys overnight so I can be with adults at a nightclub.
* Friends who figuratively put on their wellies and step into the muck to help others, who sacrifice and do the work and give so much of themselves.
* Visiting my mother-in-law over coffee, and admiring how she has already thriving vegetable garden seedlings under a grow light in her dining room.
* New-to-us chairs from my parents; they’re more comfortable than any chairs we have, even if they are a shade or two too purple.
* Working all together on housekeeping chores that might not be fun, but that make our living together easier and our home the haven we want it to be.
* Giving away wonderful games and puzzles to my sweet nieces.
* A brief visit from my brother and his girlfriend, who brought us the chairs.
* Gardening time: I planted pansies, divided day lilies to make two new clumps, planted forsythia, planted two irises that have been in pots a while. I was able to divide each iris into several groups.
* Watching my garden come alive again with new shoots, daffodils, magnolia, and azaleas blooming, and tulips coming up. My plum trees are clothed in flower clouds, too.
* Rain. Yumptious, sloppy, wet rain that soaks the ground and demonstrates our persistent drainage problems.
* Flower and seed catalogs that come in the mail.
* Being done with basketball season, but also feeling so grateful for all Lucas learned, for his wonderful coach and teammates, and for a wholly positive experience.
* Having work to do, even if it’s not very interesting. I’m learning more about surgery than I ever have before.
* A reunion with my husband; although I hate it when he goes (and I try not to whine), I love it when he comes home.
* Taking my dad to a Ladysmith Black Mambazo concert this week
* Little Fur audiobooks, which are entertaining my little son while he’s home sick today.
* Window stars.
* Fractal vegetables and welcome-home dinners.
* The sixth-grade Waldorf curriculum, which is so brilliantly meeting our son.

Edible fractals #waldorf #math #food #wholefood #csa #farmfreshtoyou

Love Is …

 

  • RAIN. My garden looks so grateful, and bulbs are starting to pop up from the soil.
  • Sleeping in until 8:30 a.m.; waking to hot, fresh coffee.
  • Grandpa’s 68th birthday, and gathering around a table with my new beautiful nieces.
  • Work that comes when you need it, even if it comes all at once in a big rush.
  • Dog-sitting a sweet little girl for a sweet friend.
  • A creative friend who spends his precious free time hanging out and playing Magic with my kids, conjuring a magical duel between wizards.
  • A husband who does laundry and cleans the kitchen while I work on the weekend, even though he’s sick.
  • A young friend who gives my older son a taste of big kid adventure—exciting paintball wars in the rain and mud.
  • Basketball games, even when we get skunked by a team two years older and two heads taller than our boys.
  • Little boy who says, “Mama, put your arms around me; it makes me feel safe,” and then tells me precisely how much to keep the bedroom door open and “check on me in four minutes,” every single night.
  • Big boy who lately seems more interested in hugs than usual, and who is learning how to write essays.
  • A grandfather who braved an outing alone with the boys for the first time.
  • Trudging through the muddymuck of the chicken coop to feed the hens; finding that their laying has increases ever so slightly.
  • Realizing that I live with Tigger—irrepressible, indefatigable, bubbly, bouncy funfunfun 7-year-old!

Spring Is Here!

Flowers and new leaves

Everything is flowering now, it seems, in joyous celebration of the start of spring. How did you celebrate?

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My love made me a raised bed!

My darling husband built me a raised garden bed this past weekend. It’s glorious and 8 ft. by 4 ft. It took a couple of hours to build. I still need more soil to fill it. Seven 2 cubic ft. bags wasn’t enough, but that’s all that would fit in my car. It meant I got to go to my happy place for a brief while, and I refrained from buying much—

Happy place

Just a tiny six-pack of red snapdragons and one of orange marigolds … you know, for luck.

It’s spring break now and my children have two weeks off school. Today’s project was Clean the Bedroom. (It looks pretty good now.) Yesterday’s projects were more fun:

Before During dyeing

We dyed Easter eggs, using our hens’ eggs. We started, as you can see, with an assortment of colorful eggs, and only one white one.

During

It’s good rainbow fun, you know.

After, no filter; we dyed brown, green, and one white egg.

Brown eggs and green eggs turn lovely, gentle colors when you dye them.

We also did another springtime project as a surprise for Daddy that I’ll tell you about tomorrow.

The Miracle of Eggs

Two days' worth

I get it now. Although I’ve always loved Easter and the springtime, I think I really get it now. I’ve studied Christianity and the goddesses of world religions and I’ve done my share of pagan festivals. The rites of spring have always been glorious and inspiring.

But I really get it now. The miracle of eggs.

I keep hens, and I currently have 15 beauties in my backyard. They range in age from 5+ to 1 year old. All are mature enough to lay and their eggs are delicious.

Sweet hens Feeding time

In the wintertime, the hens stop laying, or slow down to an unbearable trickle. They slow down so much that it’s frustrating to be feeding them all winter long and getting so little—especially when the chicken run gets cold and sloppy with mud and manure and I have to tromp out there daily to make sure they get fed and watered, and to collect my rare, occasional egg. In the wintertime, I buy eggs at the supermarket and I buy feed for my chickens.

As February arrives, the hens start laying a little more. Some days I get two or three eggs. Some days it’s back to one.

It’s March now. It’s the Spring Equinox and the girls have fully ramped up. In the last 24 hours I’ve collected 15 rainbow-hued eggs. Just in time for Ostara. Just in time for Easter egg rituals and children’s hunts. Just in time for the eggs to take their exalted place in our cultural observances for one day.

Rainbow Eggs

So let’s look at that a moment. All winter long, if we were subsistence farmers, we would be eating mostly last year’s food—stored or preserved food. When it comes to protein, that means either a winter slaughter or dehydrated, salted, or frozen protein. What if we, like previous generations, didn’t have freezer technology? That leaves us with the risky expenditure of energy on hunting for fresh meat, dehydrated or salted protein, or the sacrifice of a valuable animal.

Signs: Eggs

But with the coming of the springtime, the eggs return. The flow of fresh, nutritious protein begins again. Bellies get full. Muscles get stronger. People can return to the hard work of living because they’ve got the fuel to do so, and it comes in safety-sealed, perfectly portion-controled little packages— boxes without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.

And so the egg is naturally the symbol of renewal, of hope, of plenty. Chicks hatch from some, and that’s delightful because they are cute and fluffy (and because when they fall asleep they instantly flop over and doze, awkwardly and ridiculously, however and wherever they fall). But really, baby chicks mean more eggs will come.

Lucas in the school orchard #waldorf #spring

Eggs aren’t the only symbol of springtime renewal, of course. And we honor them all: workable earth, seeds for planting, tender sprouts, fresh edible greens growing where there had been snow. Flowers mean bees and bees mean fruits. Pregnant livestock give birth. Milk and honey flow.

All of these are longed-for signs that life will continue, that mothers and fathers can feed their babes.

Happy Ostara!

Wood-burned Garden Markers Tutorial

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Are you poring over seed and flower catalogs, itching to get your fingers dirty by planting your garden? Are you still stuck inside, or unable to plant because of cold temperatures? Here’s a little project to help you while away the time until you can get out there and start growing: Make wood-burned garden markers. We made these as a Christmas gift for grandparents and they were a hit. They are simple, inexpensive, and sweet.

Materials

  • wide craft sticks (tongue depressor size)
  • wood sun shapes
  • wood glue
  • watercolor paints or craft acrylics
  • wood-burner tool and tip
  • wood varnish

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Tutorial

These materials can all be found at a craft store such as Michael’s. We liked the sun shapes; we thought garden markers with sun shapes would be most appropriate for making garden plants grow big and strong and bountiful.

Start by deciding what plants you want markers for. Summer veggies or herbs are great. Practice drawing the fruits on paper a time or two, so you know how you want your wood-burned markers to look. Keep your drawings very simple because the wood-burner tool is more difficult to draw with than a pencil. We decided it was OK to abbreviate some of the longer vegetable names.

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My 10-year-old son did a couple of these, so I know a careful, older child can successfully use a wood-burner. Just stay nearby and encourage safe habits. The wood-burner gets very hot! (Be sure to protect your work surface, especially if it’s wood!) While using a wood-burner, you have to draw slowly, allowing the tool to make a mark on your pale wood. Be patient and go slow.

We decided that the marker stakes should also have words of inspiration for gardeners. We wrote “trust,” “patience,” “hope,” “peace,” and “love.” These are some of the qualities people need to make a garden grow, of course. Other virtues might be “caring,” “tenderness,” “gratitude,” “faith,” “prosperity,” “sufficiency,” “serenity,” and “tenacity.” Or maybe “sweetness,” “juiciness,” or “plenty.”

Glue your sun shapes to the craft sticks. Now you can choose to paint them with your watercolors or other paint, or you can leave them plain. We wanted ours to be colorful. If you’re using watercolors, be careful and put only a little moisture in your paint to color the vegetables. Too much water can make it run (like on our tomatoes). After you paint your veggies, paint the rest of the sun gold.

When all parts of your garden markers are dry, give them a good coat of varnish. This will protect the wood a bit from the elements. Now you just need to plant!

 

Signs of Spring

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I’ve been watching carefully for signs of the coming spring. Perhaps you have been too?

Signs

I collected these for you, in case your eyes are aching for some color and you’re tired of being cold.

Signs: Chinese Fringe Flower

Or even if you just enjoy the promise of it, knowing that it’s coming.

Magnolia

Signs: Plum buds

Signs: Almond in bloom

The trees are waking up, putting on their pale dresses and stretching in the sunshine.

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Our eyes can get caught in the showers of petals, or in the shimmering, sunstreaked clouds.

Park time

But looking down is rewarding too. The earth is dark and moist. Grasses are singing. It’s a good time for tromping, in shirtsleeves if you can get away with it.

Signs: Hyacinth

Sometimes you have to look closely. There among the decayed leaf litter …

Signs: Jonquils

are some lovely signs. Fortunately, they’re designed to catch the eye.

Do you feel the earth waking? Are you seeing signs of spring?

Autumn Equinox

September is golden. #september #gold #garden #homestead. #leaves #light #autumn #color

Alms in Autumn
Spindle-wood, spindle-wood, will you lend me, pray,
A little flaming lantern to guide me on my way?
The fairies all have vanished from the meadow and the glen,
And I would fain go seeking till I find them once again.
Lend me now a lantern that I may bear a light
To find the hidden pathway in the darkness of the night.
Ash-tree, ash-tree, throw me, if you please,
Throw me down a slender branch of russet-gold keys.
I fear the gates of Fairyland may all be shut so fast
That nothing but your magic keys will ever take me past.
I’ll tie them to my girdle, and as I go along
My heart will find a comfort in the tinkle of their song.
Holly-bush, holly-bush, help me in my task,
A pocketful of berries is all the alms I ask:
A pocketful of berries to thread in golden strands
(I would not go a-visiting with nothing in my hands).
So fine will be the rosy chains, so gay, so glossy bright,
They’ll set the realms of Fairyland all dancing with delight.

—Rose Fyleman

Good morning, September!

Today is the first day of autumn and I’m feeling happy and energized. The temperatures here in Northern California are still warm, but not dreadfully hot. The garden is looking weary, but still hasn’t given up—flowers bloom, seeds are forming and scattering, plants are looking thirsty. I spent a little time in my “bower” this morning. I have an old futon out in my backyard underneath a cleverly bowed tree covered in wisteria vines. The foliage combined makes a shady spot to sit and read, and I love it. I drank my coffee, and listened to the tiny sounds of just a few first leaves falling and the hens’ clucks and the rattle of their food container. I’m starting today slowly, even though there are a million things to do and a million more I want to do. But I am content. Slow, gentle starts are just right sometimes.

Riotous #garden #homestead. #path #arch #wild

My garden, as I mentioned, is tired. I’m a little discouraged by it this year. We’ve had watering troubles that I’ve failed to solve. Along one of our drip lines is a long row of dead plants. I got some lovely tomatoes this year (cherries are my favorites), but little else. I’ve decided I’m not going another year without a raised bed. Our soil is just too clayey, and when the summer comes and the water is scarce, it becomes like concrete. Only the most determined vegetables produce. I had hopes for pumpkins and peppers and squash, yet I never mustered the energy to get them going. I tell myself that it’s OK because I can’t do everything. Right? And I do enough. Right?

#Morningglories #garden #sun #sunbeams #light #seethrough #suburbanlife #homestead. #purple

Still, I’ve enjoyed the hummingbirds who visit my salvia and cannas, and the many other birds who visit my birth bath for drinks and bathing. It delights me to see a bird actually bathing in it.

Firefly, the special-needs chicken

Our hens are all healthy. Most of them are laying and the four young hens we raised from chicks this year are laying now. They’ve grown into very pretty young ladies. My special-needs chicken, Firefly, (in the photo) is finally completely rehabilitated. She spends her days on the ground now, like all the other hens. For more than a year she stayed on top of the chicken coop day and night because she was so bitterly harassed by the others. I don’t know how she finally integrated into the flock, but I’m glad she has. She is still the smallest hen we have, even smaller than our youngest hens from this season. She lays eggs though, so I feel she’s finally living a normal chicken life.

So I’m wishing all of you a happy, blessed autumn. We’re heading up to Apple Hill today for a small adventure and some apples. Seems like a great way to spend the first day of autumn.

Calendula and Mint Herbal Soaps Tutorial

Finished Soaps

Earth’s bounty is always all around us, but it is perhaps even more apparent in the summer, when crops are ripening and plant life flourishes. Wild or cultivated herbs can be useful friends, growing perhaps right outside our kitchen doors. Herbs are commonly used as food, as decorations, as dyes, as flavorings. They also are used the world over to clean and heal.

You can easily make herbal soaps for your family to use and enjoy, right in the comfort of your own kitchen. There are two soap-making techniques. This tutorial teaches you the simpler of the two. Technically, you’re really embellishing this soap, rather than making it from scratch. Because the process is simple, even small children can help to make these beautiful, healing soaps, as long as you carefully monitor them around the stove and hot soap. (Of course you will!)

Calendula

Calendula (also known as pot marigold) is a common and prolific garden annual that reseeds itself. It is known to have been used as early as Roman times as both a dye and a flavoring. Calendula is known to have antiseptic properties, which make it perfect as a soap additive. Many natural first aid preparations include calendula.

Peppermint grows in many cottage and kitchen gardens. You can use it in teas, desserts, and body care potions, such as lotions, shampoos, balms, and soap. Mint may have a calming and soothing effect for skin irritations, itching and hives. It is believed to have anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Materials for Making Herbal Soaps

  • glycerin soap base (I used a glycerin and olive oil base)
  • calendula (pot marigold) and mint herbs from the garden (I used a mix of dried calendula petals and fresh flower heads, and fresh mint leaves)
  • stovetop pan, cutting board, knife, ladle
  • soap molds (also silicone muffin pans work very well; these come in fun shapes )
  • essential oils for fragrance (optional)
  • soap colorant (optional)

A word about glycerin soaps: You can buy glycerin at the craft store, along with lots of other fun soap-making and body product supplies (dyes, fragrances, molds, etc.). Using pure glycerin soap in this project will result in soaps with a layered effect, since your herbal additives float to the top of your molds as your soap sets. There’s nothing wrong with this, and the result can be quite beautiful and rustic. Another kind of glycerin soap base that you can buy has olive oil added to it, and a property that keeps any additives in suspension, meaning you won’t get layers and your herbs will stay mixed throughout the soap. This is the look that I was going for with these two batches. You can decide what’s right for you. There is no difference in how you make the soap. Just be sure to read the packaging carefully so you get what you really want.

Making Soap

Begin by gathering your materials. You will need a clean cutting board and a table top to work on.

Glycerin Soap

First, cut your glycerin soap base into small cubes. This makes it easier to melt at low temperatures, and you want to keep the temp quite low when you‘re making soap. You can use a double boiler or just put your glycerin cubes into your pot. (Cleanup is easy with hot water and a scrub brush!) Stir the soap often until all pieces of glycerin are melted.

Making Soap

Meanwhile, chop your mint leaves into very small pieces. You may wish to set aside some of the tiniest leaves to be used as a decoration later on. Of course, this is optional.

If you have lots of soap molds or muffin pans, you might be able to make both types of soap at the same time. Since I had to reuse the molds after the first soaps were fully set, I made two batches—first calendula, then mint—cleaning up in between batches.

Calendula

Before starting, I saved the dried petals from my calendula flowers for a week or so. For my soap, I also used a few fresh flower heads to maximize its potency as an antiseptic.

Making Soap

Add your petals and flower heads to your melting soap cubes. The heat will begin to cook the flowers.

Making Soap

If you want your calendula soap to have a rich yellow coloring, add a few drops of soap colorant to the pot. You don’t have to do this, and if you cook the petals in the soap a while, it will begin to take on a natural yellow color. At this point, you can also add fragrance, if you wish. I added a few drops of geranium essential oil. Geranium is known to be a comforting scent, and since I envision my children washing their scrapes with my calendula soap, comfort seemed to be just the right feeling to evoke by smell.

If you used fresh flowers, you should fish out the centers now. When you’re satisfied with your soap’s color and fragrance, it’s time to pour it into molds to set. Using a ladle, gently fill each cup to the brim. Keep the mold flat. The soap will begin to cool quickly, but it may take an hour or so for the soap to become very firm to the touch. You can speed the cooling by placing the mold flat in your refrigerator.

Making Soap

When the soap is completely firm and set, gently pop each soap out of the mold. They should separate from the mold’s sides with some gentle twisting and come out cleanly.

Making Soap

My second batch of soap was mint. You’ll repeat all the same steps as with the calendula soap. Begin by cutting soap cubes and then just add the chopped mint in with the glycerin. The longer you allow your mint soap to cook on the stove over low heat, the greener it will become. I added a few drops of eucalyptus and mint essential oils to the warm pot. The smell is calming and relieves stress.

Making Soap

You can add your reserved tiny mint leaves into your mold if you wish. They won’t stay exactly in place when you ladle in your mint soap, but you will be able to see pretty whole leaves in your soaps after they have set.

Homemade Mint Soap

In this photo, you can see my two different pours. The greener bars were poured from soap that had been on the stove longer. The natural green from the mint leaves colored the soaps. I like them both.

Mint Soap

A finished mint soap, with lots of gorgeous herbal goodness visible.

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And here’s a darker one. This soap was on the heat longer and became a dark green.

Calendula Soap

Here is the finished calendula soap, with pretty golden-orange petals showing inside.

Homemade soaps make wonderful gifts for family, friends, and teachers. Consider adding a mint and a calendula soap to your outdoor adventure box or your first aid kit. Use both types to cleanse and to heal.

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Letting Go: A Life Skill

Butterfly Garden Habitat

“We need in love to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily–we do not need to learn it.” —Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes letting go isn’t easy, especially if what you need to let go of is something you treasure. In many ways, parenting is one long process of letting go; every day we parents and caregivers are challenged to give a little more space, a little more trust, and a little more independence to these growing beings in our care.

Letting go of hurts, mistakes, expectations, and even our loved ones is, at times, part of life, and finding healthy ways to do so without struggle or stubborn holding on is a valuable life skill. Letting go can make way for new ideas, new opportunities, and new knowledge. It‘s also an excellent reminder to live in the present moment, and not in the past.

It‘s a good idea to find opportunities for your children to practice this skill of letting go. Here are two simple ideas that are perfect for children in the summertime.

Rescued Ladybugs

Buy a container of ladybugs at your local nursery. Watch them, hold them, admire them, perhaps compare their colors and count their spots. Wait until evening, when the beetles are less likely to fly away, and then release them in your garden. Gently sprinkle them onto your roses and other plants that attract aphids. The ladybugs will be your garden protectors, and your children will be doing the right thing by letting them go free.

Order a butterfly garden and live painted lady caterpillars from a company such as Insect Lore. When your caterpillars arrive, watch them eat, grow, and transform into chrysalides. Then carefully place them into your mesh butterfly garden. After approximately seven to ten days, your painted lady butterflies will emerge. You can keep them for a while; they will eat sugar water or fruit juice in captivity. After a few days or a week pass, release the butterflies into the wild. Keep your eyes open because they move surprisingly fast! Whenever you see butterflies fluttering among the summer flowers, you’ll fondly remember the ones you set free.

Fly away, butterfly! Fly up so high. Fly away, butterfly, fly up in the sky!

This Moment: Swallowtail

Swallowtail in my Garden

Inspired by SouleMama {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

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  • About Sara

    Thanks for visiting! I'm Sara, editor and writer, wife to Ian, and mother of two precious boys. I am living each day to the fullest and with as much grace, creativity, and patience as I can muster. This is where I write about living, loving, and engaging fully in family life and the world around me. I let my hair down here. I learn new skills here. I strive to be a better human being here. And I tell the truth.

    Our children attend Waldorf school and we are enriching our home and family life with plenty of Waldorf-inspired festivals, crafts, and stories.

    © 2003–2017 Please do not use my photographs or text without my permission.

    "Love doesn't just sit there like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new." —Ursula K. LeGuinn

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