Springtime Magic

Every year I am STRUCK by all of the magic that surrounds me as the earth begins to wake up. Yeah, I know there are scientific explanations for all of it, but birth and rebirth of anything is about as close to magic as I have seen.

I push little seeds into the wet earth and part of me just doesn’t believe it’s possible for such a tiny speck to become a plant.  But then it does.  A little sprout pops up and it grows and grows.  It brings forth new life.  AMAZING!!! It’s like what I always say about the human birth experience… it’s crazy how the most EXTRAORDINARY thing can also be so incredibly ORDINARY!  Like, how is this happening EVERY day?  EVERY second even! (Don’t get me started…)

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Getting to share the magic of spring with my kids makes it that much more special too.  I know it’s such a cliche but seeing the world through their eyes is priceless.  Also, getting a chance to retell the story of what is and what might be to them helps to renew my own belief in what is possible.

The other day I was hanging out in the yard with my sweet 4 year old Ada when a Swallowtail butterfly landed right in front of us.  We both knelt down to get a closer look.  Ada asked if she could pick it up and I encouraged her to very gently.

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The butterfly let her hold it in her hands.  The joy on my little girl’s face was perfect.  Luckily I had my phone in my pocket… What was I saying about detaching from my phone?

Anyway, the butterfly then flew off and jumped around on the ground for a few minutes.  I was pretty sure it was injured.  I suggested to Ada that we say a little “prayer” to Mother Earth (because I’m like that) to see if we could help the little guy.

I kid you not.  Only seconds after we wished for it to find health and happiness the butterfly flew off.  And not just a little bit… it flew to the top of the tree line and disappeared into the sky!  Now THAT’S magic!!!IMG_0378

How have you been experiencing the magic of Spring?

 

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My favorite essential oils for sleep

One of my favorite ways to use essential oils is to diffuse them before bed.  There is something SO delicious about drifting off to sleep in a room filled with the cool clean feeling of diffused oils.  Breathing in high quality essential oils is not only great for overall health but can really help to put our minds and body at ease to support a healthy night’s sleep.

There are lots of essential oils that can help promote sleep but the blend I’ve been into the most lately is this:

  • 6 drops of Lavender
  • 4 drops of Cedarwood
  • 2 drops of Purification

I only use and recommend Young Living essential oils and you can read more about why here.  Diffusing this blend before bed and while we fall asleep has been an amazing thing for us.  If the kids are too hyper and it’s time to settle down I’ll rub some on their feet too, which they love.

Which oils are your favorites for bedtime?

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SUPER simple non-toxic air freshener

I used to be a big fan of scented candles and incense. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to go to a college that didn’t allow you to burn incense in your room!  Haha.   I bought conventional brands because they were cheap and smelled nice.

That all changed when I got pregnant for the first time all of a sudden I had a HUGE aversion to scented anything. It was like my body instinctively knew that they weren’t good for me.   I even ditched my perfume collection because I just didn’t have the stomach for it anymore.  I avoided that said “fragrance” after learning it was usually just a nice word for synthetic toxic chemicals that happened to have a smell.

Many air fresheners contain “phthalates which are hazardous chemicals know to cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems”.  The really crazy thing is that since these products are food the manufacturers don’t even have to list that on the label! They can even call the product “unscented” or “all natural” and still be full of toxic chemicals KNOWN to cause cancer.  But if you are breathing something in, you are consuming it.  It’s getting into your blood and your cells.  That’s just how it is. See source here. 

Discovering essential oils has been a reawakening to the world of scents for me. Finally I found a healthy way to scent the air and myself! Diffusing true therapeutic grade oils smells great and you are getting the health benefits of the oils at the same tine.  I have a cool mist diffuser that we use daily and LOVE.  I like diffusing calming blends in the afternoon and sleep enhancing blends in the bedroom at night. If we feel any sickness coming on I choose blends that boost immunity.  It’s all SO lovely!

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But my inspiration for THIS post is my SUPER simple non-toxic bathroom air freshener!  Young Living’s Purification blend is PERFECT oil to use if you are making this for the bathroom as it really helps to clean the air and has a fresh scent but you can have fun and experiment with different oils! I have one for the bedroom that has lavender.  It’s so nice to spritz over the bed before getting in or on the sheets when I change them.

The supplies you will need are:

  • Glass spray bottles
  • Alcohol
  • Essential oil of your choice
  • water

Glass spray bottles are best to use since essential oils  can break down petrochemicals and therefore degrade the plastic over time.  I bought my spray bottles here.  Pour in a few tablespoons of alcohol. I used vodka but any clear alcohol should work.  Then about 10-20 drops essential oils.  I’m way into my Young Living oils as you may have noticed.  If you want to hear more about why check out my post on “My Essential Oil Obsession”.

But anyway, just combine the alcohol, essential oils, water and shake before using.  That’s it!IMG_0147

Purification just smells CLEAN to me and I love how it makes my house smell like I’ve been scrubbing the floors even when it’s been a while since that actually happened! Another added bonus of Purification spray is that it doubles as a bug spray since one of the main ingredients in Purification is Citronella!

So I have my Purification foaming soap and the air freshener in the bathroom at all times and LOVE them!  I hope you do too!

 

DIY drainage swale using a reverse hugelkultur

FullSizeRender (8)Last year we had our our back yard cleared of invasive brush in the fall and then planted with low mow grass in the spring (some conventional grass seed as well, which I regret).  Over the course of the summer I couldn’t resist and put in my first attempt at at hugelkultur to house the many tomato plants that had seeded themselves around the garden.

This year I decided to take down the hugelkultur and put in a larger garden bed in it’s place.  It’s the one part of our yard that gets full sun but unfortunately it also has a bit of an underground stream flowing through it that becomes a problem during rain storms.

We got some HUGE quotes from local landscaping companies to deal with the drainage. Um, no thanks, I don’t want to spend 16k to make my back yard pretty! I’d much rather keep our money and just have a stream!

But then I started thinking about using a swale.  I’m kind of obsessed with permaculture but actually incorporating it into our landscape is an ongoing challenge.  Basically a swale creates a holding tank for excess water that will then slowly release into the land below.  Conventional drainage just moves the water away to the side of the yard or whatever.  This allows you to still USE the water for the garden!

I had made a small swale as part of my hugelkultur last year but it didn’t quite do the job. I decided to expand it to cover almost a quarter of the 20×10 garden space.

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I dug a hole about 18inches deep.  Deeper would have been better but getting through the clay and rocks was a challenge.  The water quickly filled the area, delighting my kids but somewhat frustrating me!

I tried my best to keep it in line with the grade of the slope.  I want it to really hold the water rather than just funneling it away.

While digging I was sure to separate out the topsoil from the lower levels of clay. The best part though was dismantling the hugelkultur and finding tons of worm castings and nicely broke down compost!  When I put it up last year I had said, worst case scenario it will be a big compost pile and I can use the soil for my new garden.  Score!

I decided to fill the trench with rotting wood.  In the same way that a hugelkultur uses rotting wood like a sponge to hold water above ground, this should do the same under ground.  Well, I hope it does…  I looked it up again in Gaia’s Garden to make sure my line of reasoning made sense and it seems like it should work!

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I just can’t help myself.  I LOVE the idea of a closed system where you just use what you make and make the things you use.  I’m REALLY far from that reality but I do have lots of rotting wood so I figure it’s worth a shot!

After I filled the trench with rotting wood I had a chance to see how it performed before covering it fully.  After a full day of spring rains I could see that it was holding a lot of water but some was escaping out the side.  I decided to go with that and create an overflow drainage ditch that is higher than the rest of the ditch so the runoff will go where I want it to.  I also caved and just bought a drainage pipe to use in there. I couldn’t figure out how to keep it open enough to move the water while also having it be just shallow enough to just catch overflow?  Maybe one of you knows?

I then filled in the crevices with some smaller sticks to help keep space for air and water.  IMG_0003

I separated out the dirt, soil and compost to rough in what will be the garden beds.  The local tree guys fortuitously called to ask me if I wanted more wood chips the week before so I used those to cover the swale and the garden paths.  They had pine, which apparently isn’t so great for plants but I’m hoping it will be fine since I’m not planting directly over it.

A traditional swale would usually have a raised mound directly down slope from the ditch.  I’m not doing it that way though. Sometimes I like to just half follow directions and see how it goes.  And when I say sometimes I mean usually.  But anyway, I’m hopeful it will work!

Next I covered the swale with wood chips which will serve as the pathways for the garden.

I also put in the beds.  I used large rotting logs to create the boundaries of the bed on the lower level of the garden.  I kind of love dragging big rotting trees from the forest! My hope is that they will help create a barrier for weeds, store extra water and break down over the next few years to eventually add more biomass to the garden. I was lucky enough to find a whole pile of rotted wood that crumbled into soil as soon as I picked it up. I filled up several wheel barrows with this and mixed it in with the soil I saved from digging the swale.  Again, rotting wood from around the property serves as a great free recourse!  And don’t worry, there is still PLENTY of rotting wood out there to feed the forest floor!

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Now all I need is to put in a fence and add some extra compost and amendments to the soil.  I’m planning to break down a few more rotting trees to enrich the soil too. I hope it all works!

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Edible invasives: Garlic Mustard

IMG_0110I’ve been excited by the idea of foraging for food since I was a little girl. I remember sucking the sweet nectar from clover buds in the fields around my childhood home and the delight of finding wild raspberries or blueberries on summer walks.

It seems like foraging is really having a moment now though, which is equally as exciting! Foraging gives us a cheap source of  food that is high in vitamins and minerals that occur naturally in the forest floor. Unfortunately, over foraging can negatively effect healthy growth of the foraged species as well as the health of the overall forest.

That is NOT the case when it comes to foraging for invasive species though!  Eat all you want! PLEASE!

Garlic Mustard is a terribly invasive plant that was believed to have first been introduced in the late 1800s as a culinary and medicinal herb.  It spreads rapidly  when left to go to seed and not only does it push out other native plants but it also releases chemicals into the forest floor that interfere with tree growth.  So yeah, not so good!

BUT it is very tasty and easy to harvest and prepare.  Look on forest floors, around the edge of the forest and in shady rode side area.   It has a somewhat heart shaped leaf and grows in bunches so it’s easy to find. If you are unsure just press a leaf in your hands and smell it.  Do you get a big whiff of garlic and onion?  You’ve got it!

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The leaves can be large or small.  These ones are pretty big.  Lovely, right?

Make sure to pull out the root too to stop this guy from spreading even further!

I decided to use mine to make pesto!  You could even just use the leaves in sandwiches or to add a spicy kick to salads though if you want to keep it simple.

You will need:

  • Garlic Mustard
  • Parmesan cheese shredded (or whatever hard cheese you have)
  • Olive oil
  • Walnuts (or pine nuts, or whatever you think would be good)
  • lemon (although vinegar could work too)
  • Salt (I LOVE salt)

Call me crazy but I kind of just do all the ingredients to taste and based on how much I have.  I’m not much for measuring…

Next take it in and wash all the dirt off.  I like soaking in a big bowl of water as it’s an easy way to separate the dirt from the plant.  I threw in a few pumps of my Dr. Bronners soap since I put it in everything I wash.  You can read about how I make mine here.  Then rinse well with cold water and you’re ready to go!  I just used the leaves but you can also eat the roots like horseradish apparently?

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Toast walnuts in the oven until fragrant.  We were roasting a chicken at 375 and that worked but I think 325 is the ideal temperature.  Maybe 5-10 minutes?

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Combine Garlic Mustard, walnuts, olive oil and shredded cheese  in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Add in some lemon if you want. I like squeezing lemon into a strainer so that the seeds don’t get in.  Add salt to taste.

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Use your own judgement as to what it needs until it’s just right!  Toss with pasta, use it as a salad dressing by adding extra oil and vinegar or spread on sandwiches!  It is surprisingly delicious!

So yeah, Garlic Mustard is a super healthy ingredient that you can find in your own yard from spring until fall!  The flavor is usually best in spring though so test a leaf before going too far with the recipe.  I LOVE the idea that we can decrease invasive plants, help encourage native species AND feed our family well.  Now that’s permaculture right there!

Which edible invasives are your favorites?!?!

 

Super simple DIY toxin free foaming soap

Like foaming soap but trying to save money, avoid toxins, trips to the store and your carbon footprint?  Problem solved!  All you need is an old foaming soap dispenser and some Castille soap.  Essential oils can customize it though and make it smell really great!

Step 1: Gather supplies

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Step 2: Fill empty dispensers with Castille soap. I use about a half inch but you could use more or less. I use Dr.Bronner’s unscented but I would imagine other Castille soap’s are similar?

Step 3:  Add essential oils if you are using them.  I like to add Young Living’s Joy blend to my body wash because the smell is SO lovely and it’s good for skin care.  I add the Purification blend to the bathroom hand soap as it’s great for cleaning bathroom grossness and smells really fresh. Anywhere from 5-20 drops depending on the oil would be great!

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You can learn more about why and how I use and love essential oils here or  here.

Step 4: Add water.

Step 5: Shake it up!

Step 6:  You’re done!  Enjoy your all natural and super cheap foaming soap!

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Do you have any good all natural life hacks to share?  Please add them in the comments!

“Mama, I love nature.”

“Mama, I love nature.  I love nature more than anyone else loves nature!” said my four year old daughter as I was putting her to bed tonight.  Obviously my heart melted.  And it gave me the feeling like I’m doing something right!

Today we went for what is becoming a weekly walk with friends through the forest.  We dress the kids up for wet and muddy play.  That usually means Bog boots, waterproof rain pants and jackets.  Then we just let them free.  They climb, they run, they jump.  They WALK in streams and mud.  They draw lines in the mud with sticks then use those same sticks to stir in the stream.

IMG_3475Today they surprised me by climbing up a huge rock outcropping.  I watched as my little girl scanned the area for the best path up then carefully climbed with her hands and feet to the top.  At one point I couldn’t help myself and so I shouted up, “do you feel safe?” To which she answered, “yes!”

These are the moments I dreamed of before becoming a mother. Giving my kids the space to explore their own limits and the world around them.  It just doesn’t get much better!

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