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BirchLeaf Designs a Farm

Playsilks and Swords and Shields, OH MY! We recently came across a photo of a boy who was not afraid to play. His imagination was wondrous!

Boy who was not afraid to play.
Boy who was not afraid to play.

Wondrous and amazing…very much like this mosaic shield. Made from a blank shield from our shop and then sold at an auction to help raise funds for the Portland Waldorf School in Portland, Oregon.

Mosiac Shield. Photo courtesy Portland Waldorf School.
Mosiac Shield. Photo courtesy Portland Waldorf School.

The mosaic shield reminds me so much of our life…with the family in the center, the heart, the hearth, the fiery life-force. Then, branching off of the heart center are our many activities in which we are involved. Each day is filled with a bit of this and a bit of that…from eating healthy foods, to homeschooling, to farming, to making toys. These past few weeks have found us in the woods. Many blessings are upon us!

Maple Sap is flowing!

Pro Maple sap taster!
Pro Maple sap taster, Kiah.

Little baby chicks are healthy and here!

Baby chicks are a'peepin'.
Baby chicks are a’peepin’.

And little lambs have arrived!

Meet Patience.
Meet Patience.
Kiah and her lamb, Patience.
Kiah and her lamb, Patience.
Milo and his lamb, Temperance.
Milo and his lamb, Temperance.

It only gets livelier from here on out! Garden starts are ready to be planted. Piggies are due to arrive April 20th and bees shortly thereafter. Festivals and art shows are in the not so distant future…which brings us back to our shop…BirchLeaf Designs…Playsilks and Swords and Shields, OH MY…

Wendy, Mojo and their 2 children, Kiah and Milo live, homeschool, farm, and make toys off the grid near Marquette, Michigan. Please visit their shops at and

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Dragonfly or Damselfly?

Here’s a dragonfly we found while camping… as it was having trouble flying.  We picked it up to move it to a better area to (hopefully) recover….

It's a ...?

Finding insects or animals in nature is a great springboard for learning.  Did you know that female ‘dragonflies’ are called ‘damselflies’?  Here are a few ways they are different: Dragonflies have larger bodies than damselflies, and their hind wings are usually larger as well… although it’s a bit hard to tell in my photo.  Damselflies have all four wings about the same size and shape.  As well damselfly eyes are very far apart, while dragonflies are quite close together  (sometimes meeting on top of the head).  Can you see the eyes in the photo??  It’s a… dragonfly!

 On Etsy there are many amazing ‘dragonfly’ finds, including this  beautiful window decoration Green and Blue Dragonflies by Harvest Moon by Hand , team member.



This little nature tidbit was brought to you by Natalie of Woolhalla, who keeps busy raising three children, making crafts from natural materials and being inspired by natural beauty.  It’s a good busy.  You can also find her sometimes blogging at

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Raising Chickens

I have been raising chickens since I was about 9 years old and I am still loving it today. They are fun to watch, the eggs are great and hearing the rooster’s crow makes my home feel so much like a farm. How can you have a farm if you don’t have any chickens?

 I am currently raising two different kinds, bigger chickens, though they are all different breeds, and smaller chickens called Silkie Bantams. Our coop is designed in a way that there are two separate sides, one bigger side for the big chickens and a smaller side for the little ones. I have to keep them separated or there is a lot of fighting.

 My Dad and I custom built this coop so there is a big door you walk into, then a little door beside the entrance for the chickens to go out to the pen and a big people sized door to get into the pen. Each side of the coop has this set up. The little chicken door is made so you can lock the chickens in at night to keep the raccoons and other predators out.

There is a roost for the chickens to sleep on and lots of boxed filled with straw for laying eggs. The food is a little tray attached to the wall and the water is just a 1 gallon bucket. I prefer the bucket to the normal chicken water dispenser because it’s much easier to fill, clean and break the ice in the winter when it freezes. If we have a bunch of baby chicks though, I do use the little chick water dispensers until they can easily reach the bucket water.

Laying boxes
Food Trays

If you are just getting started and would like a few chickens for eggs, I would recommend getting some Wyandotte’s, Ameraucana’s (they lay blue eggs, very cool) and Australorp’s are some of my favorites. Bard Rocks and Banties are great too and I would recommend trying different breeds to see what one’s you prefer. Though many people like Rhode Island Red’s, I do not as every one I have ever had has always become egg eaters, a VERY bad habit. Larger chickens will lay larger eggs, but they will also eat a lot and not live as long.

If you have children and think they might like a pet chicken or two, I would highly recommend the Silkie bantam. They are adorable, little, soft and very docile. If you handle them every day they will get used to people and be very friendly. They are also wonderful brooders and will hatch just about anything you put under them and be it’s momma. Their eggs are very small though so they aren’t exactly a chicken you would want just for eggs, though the eggs they lay are adorable. ^_^

Chickens are a fun and easy animal to raise. If you feed them, give them clean water every day and keep their coop cleaned, they will give you lots of yummy eggs and viewing pleasure. ^_^ They are a great animal to have if you can’t have horses, cows and other livestock but still want something for your farm!




This article was written by Kelley Zdziarski (the Little Elf) of LittleElfsToyshop. I live on a Christmas tree farm with my wonderful husband and parents and happily spend my days making toys to bring smiles to people all over the world. ^_^

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Children and Animals

On our (itty bitty) farmette we have 2 Old English Southdown Babydoll sheep, 18 chickens plus one rooster, 3 muscovy duck hens, 2 angora rabbits and a little rabbit of unknown breed that is just as sweet as sugar. These wonderful animals supply us with farm fresh eggs daily and the most beautiful fiber for spinning and knitting. And in return, we feed them and house them and protect them and care for all their needs.
Keeping livestock, or any animal for that matter, is a big responsibility. They depend on us, on a daily basis, to ensure all their very basic needs are met. It is such a beautiful, mutually beneficial relationship and not one to be taken lightly. It’s also a wonderful way to teach children  about responsibility, healthy interdependent relationships, giving of oneself and also provides a great learning tool for understanding where the things we use really come from. Wool is not just brightly colored yarn that Mama buys from the store for knitting toys and woolens. It comes from sheep. Sheep that eagerly come running for treats whenever anyone even glances their way. Sheep that Mama sheared that wool from with her own two hands.

And eggs aren’t made by people or machines, lined up and waiting to be bought on grocery shelves. Eggs come from chickens and they come from ducks. Ducks that hide their eggs away and hiss if you try to take them. From chickens that like watermelon and, if you happen to walk into the hen house or barn at just the right moment, you can wait for and watch lay those eggs right before your very eyes. And when you scoop them up after the hen walks away, they’re dark brown and so warm.

The main gathering area for our animals is directly behind our house and you can hear the rooster crowing in the morning and hear the sheep, bleating for one another, come on now! We have a rule, people do not eat before our animals have been cared for. So, after my girls and I are up and dressed in the morning we all head outside.

The girls very eagerly help with chores, filling water tubs, feeding rabbits and chickens, ensuring the sheep have fresh hay and collecting eggs. It takes just a bit longer when they help, but it’s so worth it to have them involved. Such joy it brings them to interact with and care for our animals.

It isn’t practical for everyone to have a barn yard in their backyard. We are very blessed to be able to have such a close relationship with them. But, perhaps your family has a cat or dog your child can help care for. Even very young children can help scoop food into a bowl and then are overjoyed to watch the animal eagerly eat what they provided. They can also help groom some pets with a soft brush and gentle hands. Local farms are also a wonderful way to show children the origin of things we all use but frequently take for granted.

When approached with love and respect, human/animal relationships can be so beautiful and rewarding. Let’s not forget to teach our children this, as well. Through them we can witness a generation that treats animals with respect and dignity, instead of a means to an end.

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A Treasure Hunt of Sorts…

The summer is drawing to an end. One of the noises we will really miss this winter is the song of the cicadas. The children had so much fun collecting the empty shells last week. Each year they like to collect them and see who finds the most. We collected them off of tree bark, window frames, the grape arbor, the play set.

We decided they looked good on our shirts. How many could we pin to the shirt and keep on while running around the yard? Was it 16 bugs?

Then we caught a ” live one” after hatching. It gave us a bit of a fright…

Bugs are amazing creatures. Who can deny it? See and hear you next year, little cicada!

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Bees in the Yard

BEES! They hum from flower to flower once spring arrives… and honeybees also make the honey we eat. There is a resurgence in beekeeping and many families are now keeping bees again, or thinking about it. Here is a little overview with photos by Ulla of German Dolls (except the pic above by me):

One look at honeycomb and the desire to start beekeeping goes up exponentially!Honey, honeycomb, wax, and propolis are the wonderful benefits of keeping honeybees. There are other ways to tend bees, but I will just stick to the classic honeybee for now.

To keep honeybees shortlist: 1. A place to keep bees, like your yard (unless someone close by has an allergy to bee stings!). 2. A hive and frames. 3. Safety equipment (gloves & mask good idea, especially for beginners). 4. Bees (you can order in the mail, find online) 5. Other equipment for checking bees (smoker), cleaning frames, maintenance; like removing honey! 6. Time; you will need to have time to learn about your bees as well as spending 1-on-1 with them.
This is just a shortlist!

After learning about bees and if they are a good fit for you, you will need to have a hive clean and ready for your bees arrival. Above is a homemade hive; you can make or buy hives in shapes and sizes. The most common is a box frame with frames that can be easily removed on the inside, as they can also be stacked like you often see if farmer’s fields. Beekeeping season is essentially spring to autumn.

The worker bees fly off from the platform to go find nectar. They return and show other bees where to find it.

The bees are moving into their new home. The box you see in the picture, is the cage that the bee folk arrive in. You simply pour the bees into the hive. The queen comes in a separate little cage.

The queen and her workers will spend a few days chewing through a piece of marshmallow trying to unite! The presence of the queen will make the new bee hive stick around and start building.The queen is usually marked with a dot so you know if she is still around. Get to know your bees, especially the Queen. Hives need a Queen to survive.

And, check them again… but not too often, they don’t like being disturbed constantly.

The fruits of keeping honeybees!
FAQ: Is it safe to keep bees around kids, like in your back yard? Absolutely! If someone has an allergy in your family or in the neighbourhood then possibly not (do check in with the neighbours!). When I learned beekeeping living in Holland my mentor had a teensy backyard with a bunch of hives, and 6 kids running around, and felt totally safe with that.
Speaking of running around… if you’re worried about being stung then MOVE SLOW! Bees are are agitated by fast, flapping arms, and the like.
Thank you Ulla for sharing your photos!!
This article was brought to you by Natalie of Woolhalla

Find “BEE” treasures on Etsy from the NaturalKids Team (top left to bottom right): Boston Beanies, Driaa, Fairyfolk, GermanDolls, Harvest Moon By Hand, Prettydreamer, The Enchanted Cupboard.

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Natural Kids, Literally!!

KIDS!! Aren’t they just the cutest!! Recently I made a little trip to a mountainside home (yes, that’s snow on the goats!) to meet some charming furry kids. It’s not so surprising that our own young have acquired this name as well, you only have to spend a short amount of time with some furry kids to see the similarities of fun, playfulness and sometimes mischievous with our non-furry (human) kids.

The goats you see below are for milking and some of their milk also is made into yogurt and kefir. They live outside in a lovely large fenced area to keep them safe from predators in the area (cougars, coyotes, etc). They will soon have a rooftop area to climb up to and enjoy… call it a deluxe playground for furry kids… with a view.
Kids are very curious and anything dangly was in danger of getting nibbled. Okay, maybe my kids (non-furry!) don’t really nibble clothing, strings, etc…

I think mama might be saying, “I’ve got my eye on you…”!!
On second though maybe I was getting eyed up for some butting…
“Hey chickens come back here, you’re really interesting” . These chickens co-habitate with kids and I have to say they are pretty good sports about it.

I think we had a collective thought: “more snow…again…”

You can see the teeny-tiny horns growing on the (awfully cute!) little one and some larger ones on the one below.
Goats are fun to spend time around, unless they butt you! Now is a great time to go to a farm or a petting zoo with your kids (non-furry) if you have one nearby as there are usually kids (furry) and they are a blast to watch.

For some nifty ‘GOAT’ items from the NaturalKids Team members you can connect to the shops below (hopefully I didn’t miss any!):
This post is brought to you by Natalie, of Woolhalla
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A Crafty Nature Table Storage Idea

I am always looking for ways to store things that is not only functional but is also beautiful! I came up with a great idea to store my seasonal Nature Table toys and playsilks.

Here is what you will need:
4 wooden photo boxes – $10 each at your local craft store
An assortment of non-toxic paints
Stamps in a variety of seasonal themes

I decided to only paint the lids to keep the colors from not over whelming the whole Nature Table space.

I painted only one coat so as to let the wood grain show. I picked Green for Spring, Yellow for Summer, Brown for Autumn, and Blue for Winter.

Next use the stamps to decorate. Once the lids dry give then a coat of non-toxic finish or simple use a beeswax finish.

Come back tomorrow to see how we organize and store our lovely Nature Table treasures using these great boxes.

…Just a little side note from the farm, we had to take a brake from our crafting cause the kids found their first salamander! I often told them about my days growing up on the farm and looking for salamanders! They were as happy as can be!

Article by Beccijo, The Enchanted Cupboard

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Nature Table, Spring

Mother Nature gave her best for April’s Fools Day, this is what I woke up to:
Even thought it may look like winter outside it defiantly looks like spring on our Nature Table.
 We set the table with a Spring Silk and then added our fairy treehouse.
Next we added lovely spring items in like mushrooms and bushes.
The fairy house is staged for company.
The spring fairies brought gifts for the children.
Every one had a new item to love!
Last we added the new spring animals to the table.
Happy Spring!!
Items on Nature Table Can be found at:
Felt Fox and Bunny by Muddyfeet
Wooden Raccoon and Wooden Skunk by justhatched
Wooden Deer Family by Dadswoodentoys
Wooden Acorn Gnome by katsinthebelfry
Spring silk, Wooden Fairies, Wooden Flowering Bushes by TheEnchantedCupboard
There are other great items for your Nature Table from our team members on the NaturalKids Team website:
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Saturday Giveaway: Yarn Miracle

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and we have the cutest giveaway to melt your heart and fill your day with sweetness. Emily Ivey of Yarn Miracle is giving away this Itty Bitty Buttercream Bunny that she made especially for us! Hand knit from 100% Mongolian Cashmere and stuffed with organic cotton this little bunny’s eyes, nose and little pink heart on his chest are embroidered in a wool/cotton blend. Valued at $25 and 5.25″ from ear tip to toe (2.5ish of that is body) this adorable handmade bunny is sure to make someone very happy!

About Emily & Yarn Miracle:

I am Emily Ivey, married with too many cats and a small daughter. I have a BFA in Fine Art/Ceramics with add-on certification in K-12 Art Education.

I grew up in Atlanta, GA (two parents, one sister, no pets), matriculated in Gainesville, Georgia at The Women’s College of Brenau University, worked in Brenau’s boarding high school as a house mother, got married in 1999, and moved to South Alabama in April of 2003.

I started making toys as soon as I had the skills. With a BFA, art education degree, nine years of knitting experience and an in-house product tester, I am uniquely suited to this line of work.

Learn more about Emily & Yarn Miracle by visiting her website & blog.

How to Enter: This giveaway is open internationally & will be shipped first class to the winner!

Visit Yarn Miracle on Etsy and leave a comment here about your favorite item(s).

Get extra entries by:

  1. Adding Yarn Miracle to your Etsy favorites.
  2. Becoming a fan of Natural Kids on Facebook (and/or post this giveaway to your FB page)
  3. Following @emilyivey and NK_Store on Twitter and/or Tweet about this giveaway.
  4. Blogging about this giveaway with a link back to the post.

This giveaway will close next Saturday (February 12th). The winner will be chosen randomly and notified by email.

*Please note: Members of the NaturalKids Team and their families are excluded from this promotion.

This giveaway is now closed! Congratulations to Barbara Prine with comment #7