Cedar Ring Mama

Taking My Cues From Mother Earth


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Guest Post- Kids And Knitting Go Hand-in-Hand

Today I am happy to welcome Elizabeth from Handwork Homeschool. She is here to inspire us with visions of handmade splendor!

 

Summer-time knitting – the perfect way to while away an afternoon.

The KNIT Lessons Handwork Homeschool

Ahhh, doesn’t that conjure up the most wonderful image of sitting under a shady tree, watching your little ones happily playing while you turn out piece after marvelous piece?

Perhaps, you have your favourite drink by your elbow, a stash of delicious yarn & a pair of magic knitting needles….  whoa… what?!

You may have dreamt this dream, but we all know that it’s a real trick to make it happen!

Knitting is pretty easy to learn but what about finding the time to actually knit ?


The KNIT Lessons - Handwork Homeschool

Oddly enough, whenever someone sees my children wearing a handknit sweater
or playing with a knitted toy, they are always shocked to find out that I made it!

They KNOW that I knit & yet, they always say, “but you HOMESCHOOL!!!
When do you find the time to knit along with everything else you do ???”

I just smile & look off into the distance – they don’t need to know all of my secrets
but I’ll share them with you!

One of the most amazing things about knitting is that you can build up a project bit by bit.

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool

“Every stitch counts!”

It is such a great feeling to knit a little bit everyday, especially when the rest of your day is filled with tasks that you have to do over & over –  laundry, dishes, making meals, sweeping floors, getting the groceries – you know you did them but sometimes, it feels like you didn’t actually accomplish anything all day.

That’s when a few rows of knitting can remind you that the
little things are worth doing
.

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool

If you’re a knitter,  you probably recognize the feeling that washes over
you once you settle down with your needles for a few minutes.

Did you know that it’s not all in your imagination?

Recently scientists have been doing studies into what knitting actually does
to your mind & body.  It’s calming & yet makes you incredibly alert at
the same time. The rhythmic act of making the stitches frees your mind to wander – allowing you to slip into a relaxed state almost instantly.

No mats, special clothes, babysitters or headstands necessary!

What other form of meditation can you practice while your kids are jumping
on the couch?!

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool

The best thing is that you’ve got something to show for your work.
A little toy, a sweater for your babe or even a new pillow for that well-bounced couch.

Knitting can add so much to your life:

  • dazzling colours, patterns & textures to play with
  • time to think & create something of your own
  • a way for you to give a gift that will always be remembered

Speaking of gifts, teaching your child to knit has got to be one of the best
that you could ever give.  One that will increase in value as the years
pass.

At first, knitting will be a challenge, one that makes his brain tell his hands
to move in new ways.  Then after a while, he’ll begin to hone his skills of
perseverance & patience as he works to finish a project.

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool
Before you know it, he’ll be making gifts for you.  He won’t know that
the little knit bag he made is only half of the present, the other part
is the shining look of joy in his eyes as you admire his work.

When I first found out about Waldorf, one of the main things that drew me to
it was the fact that handwork was included in the children’s regular lessons.
I really liked the idea that it was considered important enough to spend
time on along with the academic subjects.

As we’ve walked the homeschool “path”, I’ve watched my son & daughter
blossom & grow.  I’ve learned a lot about how to teach them & they’ve learned
how to have their Mama as their teacher.

When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t realize that knitting could affect them  on so many levels.   After more than 30 years of knitting (yes, it’s hard to believe…) & then teaching it to my son, I decided it was time to find out exactly why it was part of
Steiner’s first curriculum.

Oh, the things I’ve discovered!

This summer, I’m finally ready to share the course that I’ve been working on for years…

NEW final logo

When I first introduced my son to the fibre arts,  I was so excited.
The funny thing was, that I wasn’t sure what to do first!

I searched for a complete step-by-step course that would show me what to do &
when to do it.

Guess what?  I couldn’t find one.

So, I figured I’d better roll up my sleeves & create my own.

One that would teach the basics (stitches, starting, finishing) as well as  few
extras (shaping, colourwork) along with some creative work (designing
your own Tell-Tale Playscape) mixed in with a touch of theory (just HOW
will I teach my child to knit & WHEN?).

BONUS

If you enroll in the COMPLETE course before June 18th, you’ll also get access
to the all NEW mini-course,

“How to Write a Fantastic Container Story”

The KNIT Lessons - Handwork Homeschool

If you’d like to know more about The KNIT Lessons you can pop over HERE

The KNIT Lessons - Handwork Homeschool

Before you go – let me tell you about one extra cool part of this course.

In keeping with my theme of making this course a real All-In-One Experience, I’ve teamed up with Becca here at Cedar Ring Circle to create some amazing
“The KNIT Lessons” kits.

Whether you take Babes ‘n’ Yarns (Part ONE), Tell-Tale Knits (Part TWO) or opt for
the complete The KNIT Lessons – Make YOUR Story – we’ve got one for you.

Each kit contains a complete collection of yarns & tools that are perfectly suited to make the exercises & projects during the course.  She’s giving you a fab deal
(better than retail prices) & you will get it all in this nice neat package… so after you purchase your course tuition, head on over to Cedar Ring Circle and pick up your materials.

The Knit Lessons Kit

It’s always great to save time AND money!

This summer, come on over to Handwork Homeschool  & join a global
community of knitters (a great mix of beginners, experts & everybody in between)
who are going to have a great time learning, making & imagining with some
yarn & a couple of “sticks”!

By the way,
there’ll be step-by-step video tutorials, all the virtual handholding
you want, printables & lots of FUN!

See you in class!

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P.S.  I’d like to thank Becca so much for sharing her spot on the ‘net
with me today & helping me make this course truly interactive!
This is the closest thing I can get to putting you in my car & driving you to the
nearest yarn shop!

Let’s learn & KNIT at Handwork Homeschool !


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Waldorf Moms Have LOTS To Look Forward To!

Why?

Great things are coming!

If you haven’t heard, here’s a little heads up.

1. Donna Ashton’s annual Waldorf Connection Global Homeschooling Expo is scheduled for June 13-15th, and it’s free!  She has put together a wonderful assortment of speakers, and you can listen from the comfort of your own home. It takes a lot of talent to contain the pure Waldorf power of both Eugene Schwarz and Marsha Johnson in one venue, but if anyone can, Donna can! And she’ll do it with finesse, because she’s like the Terry Gross of the Waldorf world.  I can’t wait to listen to Anne-Marie Fryer Wilboltt’s talk about using grains in a gluten-free world (one sort of feels like a rebel baking bread these days in the crunchy crowds, know what I mean?), and Ingun Schneider discuss the Extra Lesson and sensory issues.  But most of all, I am waiting with baited breath to hear Rick Tan explain how to tell my kids about the birds and the bees, Waldorf style.  No, not the actual birds and bees- *those* birds-and-bees. Wonder with me if you will… what kind of container story can we make up for this one?  Is there a fairytale that may magically bypass the awkward moments and impress upon our child’s psyche all he or she needs to know about the matter?  Do we plan a farm field trip and hope the animals are feeling frisky (I’ll admit, that has sort of been my plan until now but I am not sure if my son’s wives will appreciate it. PLEASE HELP ME, RICK!)? If I can’t tune in for anything else, *this* I need to know.

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2. From Handwork Homeschool, Elizabeth’s “The Knit Lessons“.  It is like a magical adventure through knitting, both to shore up your own newbie or intermediate skills AND your present-this-to-your-child skills, even if you yourself are an expert! After this course, your youngster will be knitting like a sailor.  Which is pretty much better than anything else they can do that a sailor would.  Drinking and cursing come to mind. LOL. You will also be guided through creating an entire fairytale scene in yarn, and it gets better…. Elizabeth and I have teamed up.  She will be offering the course, and I will be offering complete materials packages.  From sanding your dowel, to adding a cute little wooden cap to the end of it and polishing it smooth, to finger-spinning your own yarn from raw wool straight off the sheep, to a beautiful knitted playscpae- this course will be unlike any other available. Stay tuned for a course and materials scholarship opportunity!

KnitLessons

3. Affordable rocker boards! Yes, these things have taken the natural toy world by storm.  They began appearing in Waldorf early childhood classrooms years ago.  Who knew a bent piece of wood could be so versatile… so entertaining… so …expensive? After many requests from Cedar Ring Circle members, I teamed up with an Amish woodworker to create boards that would be a little easier on the budget.  My first batch sold out before I could even list them online, and I already have a growing list of buyers for the next batch, so I highly recommend pre-ordering one so little Johnny does not have to wait til he’s graduating from college to get one of these. Although it would make a fabulous graduation gift. :) Best of all, I am offering you, my fabulous blog readers, $10 off when you pre-order this week. Use the code ROCKNROLL.  That will make your board just $89 plus shipping (and will help me order the needed materials)!

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 Hope to “see you” at either the Expo or the Knit Lessons. And please share this post and help spread the news about all these wonderful things!

 

 

 


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In The Morning

My desk sits facing a large picture window where our backyard, acres and acres, stretches out over a gradual incline, topping off at the crest of a hill.  Mist has descended down from the hill, almost to our house. The ash tree just beyond the window is finally pushing forth new leaves; ash tend to be very late to awaken from their winter slumber.  I watch as the branches tremble when small winged guests make their landings, then groom themselves for a moment, and flit away.  The starling on an uppermost branch has quite the morning care ritual; so much tail feather shaking, under-wing preening, and looking about to see who may be watching.  Down below in the grass,  the dandelions have gone to seed and seem, in wispy globes, to be ghostlike orbs hovering- countless- everywhere.  Paired with the dense fog, the morning has an other-worldly quality. A bit eery, but very beautiful, and I am so thankful for the peace and stillness.  The children will wake soon, and I hope I can hold onto this feeling to come back to through the day when things get lively.

For a moment, I have a guilty feeling that I should be reading my Bible in these few moments of alone-ness as day breaks. Growing up, I was indoctrinated that the success of my spiritual path required this.  But, that never seems to start the day off right for me; it just leaves me confused, mind swirling as I try to make sense of what I read.   It very may well not even be the text that creates these feelings- but the fear that was layered through those pages by people who seemed to doubt any intrinsic attraction I might have to goodness, and instead, appealed to my sense of self preservation to convince me to embrace God. But I am not motivated by promises, by rewards, by threats, by punishments- they are all the same thing, an insult to my higher nature, a cat call to base impulse.  I am motivated by love, beauty, peace…  I find it just beyond my doorstep.

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Even the grass seems insanely beautiful with its coat of miniscule dew drops.

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This last one, the raindrop falling from the forsythia branch- it feels as though the branch is weeping and just brings tears to my own eyes.  It has been a long, hard year and only just this past month, has the hardness begun to yield to something in which I find comfort and a deep sense of peace again- I recognize them as long lost friends. I know there is both bitter and sweet; I am willing to taste both in the feast of life. Feist’s “So Sorry” plays through my head; I feel that I am singing it to the cosmos, acknowledging all the tantrums I threw in the face of difficulties and frustrations.  There is no guilt, more a fondness for and humor in the humanity of my response, and a knowing that I am so loved and accepted despite any inadequacies- and perhaps, because of them.

 


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Beeswax Flower Candle Tutorial and Giveaway

Ahhh… new colors in beeswax sheets!  I just ordered more for my shop, and could not resist playing with them myself.  Many people think of rolled candles when they think of beeswax sheets; but their flexibility and the natural stickiness of the wax lend them to so many creative possibilities beyond a simple taper! So, roll up your sleeves and get ready for a little candle art.

To make stunning beeswax flower candles, gather up a few supplies…

  • Candleholders (I used the brass holders that fit in birthday rings and advent spirals)
  • Cutting Board
  • Knife and/or Scissors
  • Wooden Skewer
  • Wick
  • Flower Cookie Cutters (check out the baking/cake making section of the craft store)
  • Beeswax Sheets (greens for stems and leaves; bright flower colors for petals)
  • A Cute Helper

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Start cutting out your beeswax flower shapes.  You may want to help your child choose the most judicious spacing of where to cut, so you have the least amount of scraps.  Scraps can be saved and melted down for future candle making- I like to use little molds like this and make floating candles for special occasions in a rainbow of colors.

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After pressing down firmly on the first side, carefully flip your sheet over and press the wax downward over the cutter to ensure a clean cut.

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Now carefully pop your shape out.

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We were able to get six petals per sheet, which was perfect for one flower.

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For the butterflies, I used two beeswax sheets (ten cut-outs).

To make the flower stems, cut sheets of green in different lengths.  We used a variety of sizes ranging from 3.5 to 7 inches, so they could be close together without bumping against each other like they would if they were all the same height.  I also used a variety of greens on the stems- dark, medium, and light. If you make the stems too tall, they are likely to crack when you press down on them to attach the flowers (unless perhaps you decide to make the stems thicker than we did).

When rolling candles, you want the wax to be nice and warm, so it is flexible and does not crack.  I kept a pot of water simmering on the stove and held my stem wax over it for a few seconds til it felt a little floppy. Once properly flexible, you can press your wick down at one edge and roll tightly.

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Keep your candle holder of choice nearby, so you can check the diameter of the candle to ensure a snug fit.  Leave a long tail on your wick, as you will need to thread your petals with it.

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I rolled until the candle was slightly thicker than the holder.  Then, using two fingers, press the wax together to condense it enough to squeeze it into the holder.  A tight fit is better than a loose fit… no need to set the neighborhood on fire, right?

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Next, grab your wooden skewer and poke a hole through the center of your petal cut outs.  I do them one at a time, then match the first to the second to line them up and so on, to ensure the holes are all uniform and the petals will be centered well when threaded onto the wick.

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Start threading your petals onto the wick, one at a time.  If the wick end gets frayed, just rub your fingers on some beeswax sheet scraps and then smooth the wick with your waxy fingers; it should help the wick thread easier.

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Once you’ve threaded all the petals on, carefully yet firmly press the center of petals down.  You want them to stick firmly, without pressing so hard that the stem bends or cracks.  When the petals are attached, you can begin to gently curve the top layers upward and the bottom layers downward to give them their layered petal look.

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If you like, shape a leaf with your knife or scissors and press onto the stem. :)

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For the butterfly, place your cutouts in to equal stacks.  Cut two small pieces of wick just long enough for the candle and antennae.

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Press the second stack onto the first firmly, squishing the middle a bit.  Then, carefully separate the layers a little, so the wings look as if they are fluttering in flight.

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These make wonderfully festive candles for a birthday ring!

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Couldn’t resist breaking out a birthday spiral too.  Since today is my birthday. ;)

Which means… we need to celebrate!

So… I’m doing a giveaway! It includes…

  • One of these lovely, locally made spirals.  Handcrafted by an Amish neighbor, they utilize a variety of woods to give them a unique, dual-tone effect 
  • 12 brass candleholders and twelve Grimm’s decorations of your choice!
  • A gold 35″ silk from Sarah’s Silks
  • A Create-Your-Own-Assortment Beeswax Sheet Kit with 12 beeswax sheets in your choice of colors, so you can try your hand at some flower candles (or whatever your heart desires!). 

Entry is open to US residents… please leave ONE comment to enter, and if you share on social media, don’t forget to tell me in your comment and you get 3 extra entry points for each share!

Giveaway

Giveaway closes on Sunday night, May 18th at midnight. 

And the winner is Gabi- “Happy birthday to you! Lovely giveaway…can’t wait!”

Congratulations, Gabi :)


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Potato Planting- In The Garden With Children

I know, I know. I know what you all are thinking… I deserve “most inconsistent blogger of the year award”.

Yep! I won’t even go in to the layers of craziness that have been my life lately! But thankfully, circumstances are stabilizing. *Deep sigh*. 

I want to share pictures of the wonderful time we had this weekend, doing one of our favorite things together… playing in the garden!

According to the Biodynamic Planting Calendar, yesterday and today are perfect times for planting root vegetables- and the weather was also incredibly nice.  So we cut some already sprouting potatoes from the root cellar into pieces (I like to make sure there are at least two “eyes” per piece).

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And scooped some rich earth into each hole (wheel-barrowed over from behind the chicken coop, where the coop bedding from last year has been composting for months)- to ensure the potatoes have all the nutrients they need…

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Poured the dirt into each hole…

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  And into the ground goes each potato! We hope to get at least a pound per plant in yield. We buried them, and when they come up we will mound the dirt in little hills around each plant.  Potatoes like to be cozy! If we should get frosty nights between now and the true start of frost free season, I’ll cover the bed with a sheet.  Potatoes like it chilly, anyways.  I find if the plants have a good start before hot weather, they resist the potato beetles better.

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Meanwhile, the boys were clearing beds.  My eldest’s pick-axe like tool inspired him to sing the dwarves song from Snow White, slightly modified:

“We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig, we dig the whole day through;

We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig dig it’s what we like to do.

It ain’t no trick to grow food quick

If you dig dig dig with a shovel or a pick

In the garden, in the garden where a million earthworms crawl”….

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 Taking advantage of perfect root planting time, I planted tons of French breakfast radishes and, too excited to wait for opportune leaf planting weather, could not resist also sowing some Marveilles De Quatre Saison lettuce!

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Even the baby dug in the sandbox.  I keep a small sandbox in the garden so the younger children can play nearby as I work.  I’ll be tucking the sandbox under the bean teepee and covering it with sheets before it grows up, to shade him from the hot sun.

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We couldn’t get the old rototiller to start, so Cedar Ring Papa got a work out tilling with a pitch fork!

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Suddenly a rare Kingston plant sprang up in one of the beds.

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He was carefully tended to; shaded and bugs picked off. :)

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My daughter, who is 4.5 years old now, is such a good helper! She happily planted all the onions, dancing carefully between the rows.

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As usual, I went a little overboard on seeds this year! Hard to resist when Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has soooo many amazing varieties.  I’ll be putting in the last seed order of the season next weekend, so if you’d like to order seeds with me, browse all the lovely seeds at http://www.rareseeds.com, then head over to the Cedar Ring Circle Special Orders department and order your favorites (listed at 20% off, with free shipping!).

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 It’s amazing the difference a year can make.  Just last year, it was a challenge to garden with three young children and a baby.  But finally, their age and expectation of the tradition it has become has paid off, and we were able to all enjoy a productive, fun time together.  It was certainly the best Mother’s Day gift I could have imagined!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Waldorf Plans for St. Patrick’s Day

I am finally feeling like life is settling down- our family is still facing a lot of challenges, but that has actually started to seem status quo… haha… and I am ready to delve back into a more spirited undertaking of the festivals.  We need some celebration in our life at the end of a very long, cold winter!

St. Patrick was captured by raiders and enslaved for six years, and then he escaped.  He then chose a life of service to the country where he had been enslaved.  This reminds me of the Hebrew tradition, outlined in the Old Testament.  Anyone taken up as a slave in a Hebrew household was required to be set free on the seventh year.  Because slaves were often afforded protection and livelihood, and sometimes even felt as if they were to some extent a part of the family, they could choose to stay if they had a good master, and were then called “bondservants”.  They  “bound” themselves to their master and promised to serve him the rest of their lives.  It became an act of service born of freedom. So during this week of St. Patrick’s Day I am considering the ideas of slavery and freedom.

Wonder with me, will you, what things in your life you have felt a slave to?  I have been considering habits, thought patterns, and more which hold me down.  I have also been considering those good things which, out of meniality, necessity, and daily-ness have come to feel like slavery- those things I must do to keep my home and family thriving, that I seem to be internally grumbling about.  How can I make the switch from slavery to freedom?  By affirming my own personal responsibility and dwelling on my capability to make my own choices.  Indeed, we make the choices for everything in our lives.  We are not trapped, obligated, forced, manipulated… unless we allow it- or choose- to be!  This often does not “feel” true- but it is.  We step into a brand new realm of freedom and possibility when we take responsibility for our choices and actions, and stop taking responsibility for the choices and actions of others.  I am reading a wonderful book along those lines, called Boundaries in Marriage- highly recommend it!

St. Patrick’s Day is also a time to celebrate Ireland and all things Irish.  We borrowed some beautiful picture books of Ireland from the library, a Riverdance DVD, an Irish cookbooks, and plenty of leprechaun tales. We are actively studying the little creatures.  I’ve been painting up these wee pot o’ golds- wooden pots painted black to look like cast iron, and filled with small chunks of fool’s gold. They are so cute!

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I plan to hide them around the house for each child to find, under rainbows (perhaps Grimm’s rainbow stackers, a needle felted wool fairy with rainbow skirt, or rainbows created by these prisms).

I am painting some wooden rounds with gold craft paint to drop gold coins along the treasure hunt path to lead the way as “hints” and keepsakes, and sewing up little shamrock-shaped felt pockets (two sheets of green wool felt cut out in shamrock shapes and sewn together with a slot at the top to insert coins), probably to be attached to a finger knit string and worn as necklaces.  I am also painting 12 wooden shamrock shapes and designating a number on each little cloverlet- 1-48- to practice counting by fours. I am working on a needle-felted clover bunting, too! I’ll post again when it is finished.

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I also bought a bunch of these “floating clover” candle molds.  Ok, so I’ve never seen a five-leaved clover, and I am not sure why they are calling them that… but we’ll go with it.  Great and easy way to use up leftover wax bits after making beeswax cookie cutter candles. Of course there is no need to have scraps laying around to make them… I had a couple sheets I just crumpled up and tossed in my double boiler because I was so happy with how they turned out. And when Mama Erin and I tested them out, they truly did float!

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We will paint with green on Watercolor Day, make homemade green mint essential oil playdo for the littler ones and make beeswax modeling wax leprechauns with my older one on Modeling Day, make Irish soda bread on Baking Day, and work on painting our wood rounds and clovers for Craft Day.  There will also be an attempt to catch a leprechaun, inspired by my friend Mari.  She says in her house last year, they glued sequins to the walls of a cardboard box, filled it with treasures and made a little ladder leading to it in hopes the leprechauns would leap in and become trapped.  They were smart little creatures tho- in the morning her children found the latter flipped to the inside of the box where the leprechauns could escape, after stealing sequins, leaving the box contents in disarray, and even overturning kitchen chairs and sprinkling flour about the kitchen!

If I have time, I’ll be needle-felting a leprechaun as well.  I made one already, and learned a lot- but he did not pass my personal aesthetic standards, lol, so I am trying again to make him just as I envision him.  I’ll admit it… it was his face.  I tried giving him a face and his features sort of creeped me out.  As in I could not be in the same room with him at night, lol! My boys, however, were thrilled I took up their suggestion to display his mischievous leprechaun ways by having him moon everyone.

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If anyone has a good recipe for natural corned beef, please share.  We are trying to avoid nitrates and also have a freezer full of our neighbor’s beef, so I don’t want to buy supermarket corned beef… but we will try colcannon for sure!

Visit my shop soon if you want to add a little Waldorf style Irish flavor to your home- orders that come in by tonight will ship priority mail tomorrow to arrive on St. Paddy’s Day or earlier. It tends to be a week long celebration for us, since one day is never enough to pack in all the fun!

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Seeds Worth Saving

I truly hope no one held their breath to find out who won the big giveaway I did a few weeks ago. Because if you did, I am sure you are currently unconscious. :) The winner is comment #6, Janel! I really did plan to come back and announce (and post more!) sooner, but I consider blogging one of my “guilty pleasures” and when I have co-op packages to be sent out, website development to do, and household tasks looming… blogging always gets shoved to the bottom of my to-do list! But, a recent issue has shoved blogging back to the top of my to-do list! I was just very saddened to read a negative review of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds because they source from  seeds produced in China (in addition to about 150 small time growers worldwide and their own magnificent farms). I fell in love with Baker Creek several years ago. Prior to learning about Baker Creek, I looked for organic, or better yet, biodynamic, seeds. To me, this seemed crucial in getting “the best of the best”. However, when I began to read Michael Pollan’s books and learn about biodiversity in our crops, my perspective of what is truly important changed a lot.

I stand strongly against GMO’s (and so does Baker Creek- they are leaders against genetically modified organisms and do everything they can to avoid them, testing to ensure they provide non GMO varieties on seeds prone to be tainted with gmo, like corn). But they are not the only threat to our food supply; lack of seed variety is a huge problem. What happens when farmers and gardeners begin to depend on a very few varieties of food crops- a tiny percentage compared to what we use to grow in our backyards and farmlands? These varieties have less of chance of standing up to inhospitable weather conditions, pestilence, and disease. We know the story of the Irish potato famine; this is a case of a nation depending overwhelmingly on a small variety of one crop. With all the weather and climate uncertainties earth currently faces, our food supply stands the best chance of providing for us if we are using many varieties, all with different strengths and different reactions to adversity. We have a greater chance of harvesting a tomato that is rarely affected by wilt, a corn crop that is happy in drought, or a cabbage that withstands worms when we have plant diversity available to farmers and gardeners, evening out odds and supplementing our mostly mono-cropped, industrialized food supply. Read more about the importance of food crop diversity here.

When I approach the question of which seeds to buy, I am enamored with the unusual, exotic, and ultra functional. I want the corn that stays “evergreen” if hung by its roots to partially dry. I want the tomato that will keep til the end of December. I want the funky gourd that can be turned into a basket. And I want to support a company that is constantly seeking out heirloom varieties that protect earth’s biodiversity and food supply. My criteria has switched from organic, biodynamic, local seeds (what I originally thought was most important)- to heirloom, open-pollinated, unique seeds.

What is heirloom? There are several opinions. Some people hold a true heirloom seed needs to be handed down from family to family. Others simply require them to be pre-1951, the year when many hybrid varieties were marketed widely. Basically, heirloom seeds are open-pollinated, non hybrid, and have been loved and appreciated, many times by isolated, small growers- since World War II or before. The fact that they are open-pollinated helps preserve our biodiversity; when pollination lies in the hands of nature and is not controlled, the plants have the possibility to run a larger gamut of traits. Offspring grown right next to each other can grow up to be uniquely different from each other and showcase a wide variety of features. What hand does Baker Creek play in this? Well, while there are three major seed banks and the Seedsavers Exchange, Baker Creek has many more varieties- and plans to continue to increase their varieties at their adventurous pace- than any other publicly accessible seed catalog around. While I do hope to join Seed Savers at some point, membership is pricey and having to write to and send payment for seeds to farmers and gardeners all over the country, different sources for every variety, becomes time consuming and expensive. A catalog that boasts over 1500 varieties, all in one place, without requiring membership fees to be able to order from it, is a labor of love and passionate work worth supporting!

Incidentally, all of China is not an industrial complex.  While we certainly need to be very vigilant in buying items made in China- and this post really opened my eyes to the degree with which we must be vigilant- there is a big difference in sourcing seeds from China, and sourcing plastics and metals made in pollution belching factories from the industrial sectors. There are over 300 million farmers in China and many of them are small time farmers cultivating on only approximately 1.6 acres.  This is very different from the typical US farm. If you’ve read some of my previous posts on gardening, you know that I feel very strongly about cultivating a relationship with my plants.  I love the human interaction and attention that small farms allow for.

I am so excited to honor diversity and teach about different cultures through food in our gardening this year.  I am planning 4 “mini gardens” within our larger garden, each with an ethnic theme.  My potager garden (“kitchen garden”) will pay homage to France and boast The French Breakfast Radish, French Dandelion, a french thyme variety, chervil, Tete Noir Cabbage, Bleu de Solaise leek, Merveille de Quatre Saisons lettuce (Marvel of Four Seasons), Corne de Belier peas, Rouge Vif D’Etamps pumpkin, Peche tomato, and Calima beans.  A homeschooling project will be to talk about France, build a mini Eiffel tower garden decoration for the plot, and cook authentic French meals from our bounty.  Our Asian themed garden will have a fairy pagoda and feature Chinese Chives, Chinese motherwort, Tatsoi Green, Baker Creek’s amazing Siamese Dragon Stir Fry salad mix, Chinese Red Noodle Bean, Extra Dwarf Pac Choy, Red Kuri Squash, and Chinese lanterns. Our “three sisters” garden will have a teepee structure over it and honor native Americans with corn, squash, and beans; and my Russian Dacha will feature some hardy and quickly growing tomato varieties like Raspberry Lyanna, Golden King of Siberia, Emerald Apple tomato, Pilcer Vesy tomato, Paul Robeson tomato, and Emmer wheat.

HeirloomVarities

I am so excited to have added all of Baker Creek’s 1500+ varieties from the seed catalog they mailed me… I had so much fun learning about all the varieties offered this year. As I do every year, I am offering everyone the opportunity to order their seeds through our Cedar Ring Circle Baker Creek Heirloom Seed special order, and you can order through that link and save 20% with the code SAVESEEDS at checkout (and free shipping on orders of 10 packets or more in the US- otherwise I will contact you for $3 to help with shipping costs). You may want to refer to Baker Creek’s website for pictures and descriptions, at http://www.rareseeds.com, too.  Although if you don’t have their paper catalog, you definitely want to order it… it is full of anecdotes and recipes.  I will place one order tomorrow, so earlybirds will want to get their orders in by midnight tonight, and another on March 3rd.

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