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Leif’s Garden Adventure

This is my Summer home in the Pear tree

It has been a long winter indoors and I have enjoyed doing handcrafts at the kitchen table, but I am so eager to spend time outside! Spring has come at last & life is bursting forth everywhere! I live high in a mountain climate  near Mt . Shasta, CA.  Spring and Summer come later than in the low lands. Together we will look around the yard that is my home. In my yard there are fruit trees, flower beds, Toad ponds, vegetables, herbs and lots of bird houses! Beyond the yard there are woods, fields and ponds, but they are very wet and we will visit those another time!
My summer house is in a little pear tree in the yard. I like it there because it is shady in the hot summer sun and honey bees visit me in the Spring while looking for pollen in the flowers. Many birds stop by looking for insects on their way to the bird bath or home. So we will start our adventure here in the Pear tree!

The pear blossoms are lovely white and there are so many bees collecting pollen in the tree that you can hear the hum of their busy wings clear across the yard! Bees are our garden friends who pollinate the trees to make help lots of fruit. Honey bees are very busy about their work in the Spring and Summer when it is warm. They need the flowers to collect their pollen from. In the colder seasons, they hibernate. Honey Bees and Bumble Bees are quite friendly and like them all!

Next I am going to hop to the ground and look for Jedediah, one of the garden toads. Jed always suns himself in the same place on the edge of the Toad Pond. He is one of my best pals, always friendly and so helpful in the yard. He eats all the bugs that eat the plants! He also eats mosquitos and flies. During the winter Jed digs a hole in the ground and hibernates, which is like a deep sleep, until the sun warms up the Earth and he can come out again. I will also drop by his house so you can see where he lives! Toads like houses to have a shady place when it gets hot and to rest in when they are not eating bugs or spending time in their pond.

Jed is sunning himself and watching for bugs on the edge of his pond

 

Jed's House made of stone and copper and is next to the toad ponds

It is such a nice day, it just makes me want to run and jump and skip! I am passing by the lovely little blue veronica speedwell, a helpful plant named after a Saint! We use this little blue ground cover to fill in all the empty places and let it cascade about the rocks and stones. It is the first plant to flower in the Spring after the daffodils, it is very hardy and comes back every year!

 

Running through blue the Veronica Speedwell!

 

Now I have reached the vegatable patch and have found strawberries in bloom! This is always exciting because the beautiful white blossoms will turn into sweet red strawberries, such a wonderful treat to eat! The strawberry patch always smells so good!  We also grow squash, lettuce and green beans in the garden. We have a short growing season where we live because of the high mountain climate. Spinach, broccoli and lettuce can grow even if it get’s cold at night.

 

Leif is showing us the pretty strawberry blossom

Next to the strawberries I also found some Lemon Balm, a lovely herb that smells just like lemons. In the summer we put crinkled leaves into a pitcher of ice water or make tea, both refreshing and relaxing. So nice to have all these useful plants around & the toads to watch over them! They  also get to watch over the calendula flowers in the herb garden.  The calendula flowers, sometimes called “winter marigolds” are very important to us.

Calendula flowers in the herb garden
Calendula flowers in the herb garden

Calendulas are very useful and healing to the skin. We make soap using both the flowers and the leaves infused in a vegetable glycerin base. Over the summer we make enough soap  to last all winter and use for Christmas gifts for family and friends. We put lemon grass, sage and ylang ylang oil in the soap too to make it smell good. The lovely green color is the natural color made by using the calendula plants.

Home made Calendula Soap

Now I am going to the near by fence to climb up the post to vist one of the bird houses. The songbirds work with the toads to eat pesty bugs and take care of the garden and yard. They also fill the air with their lovely songs and help wake us up with their music at dawn. The house I have reached is being used this year by Mr. & Mrs. Tree Swallow. Such a beautiful blue color and bright white chest they have. Did you ever notice that some bird pairs look different, the male bird being brighter than the female bird? And other kinds of birds, they look both the same? Well, the pairs that look just the same are birds that stay together their entire life and the different looking ones find a new partner each Spring. So let me introduce you to Mr. & Mrs. Tree Swallow! They have raised a family of 4 in this house! After the baby birds come out of the house and fly for the first time, they stay in the area feeding and making their wings strong for their flight south in when Winter comes.  They will return again in the early Spring of the following year. It is very good for us all to help the birds by putting out houses for them as often it is difficult for them to find places to make their nests.

Leif visits Mr. & Mrs. Tree Swallow

Across the yard from the Tree Swallow house is our Summer work table. This is a big table we made from  old lumber that we use to work on as well as eat outside, sometimes for breakfast and for summer evenings.   It has a shade structure over it and is next to the toad ponds. This is a peaceful and inspiring place to work, next the gardens, herbs and toad ponds.

 

We have been making Fairy, Elf and Gnome dishes the last few days!

A lot of the work we do is hand work, making things out of wool and felt , putting oil and beeswax on the wooden houses, drawing and painting pictures and sorting seed pods and pine cones. All this work is pleasant to do where we can hear the birds singing, the wind blowing in the tall pine trees and the toad plopping into the water of their pond.

I love helping with the work!

The last place we will visit today is one of my favorite places! The bird bath! This is a place birds come to get a drink and also take a bath!  Birds need to take baths too! They also need a place to drink all year.  In the winter we try to keep water that is not frozen available for them in the winter.  Every day about 4:30 the yellow warblers stop by to twitter and hop about in the bird bath! I like to sit on the edge & watch them!

This is the large bird bath and fountain. I am visiting here with my friend!

Thank you everyone! Thank you for going with me ! It is going to be a busy season with lots of time out of doors and longer days. We will be gathering sticks and wood from forest and then collecting acorns and other seed pods when they fall from the trees in late summer. We also collect plants for summer tea and and dried grasses for fairy house roofs. Maybe we can meet again in the Autumn  and see what we have made! Bye~~~!

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Bunnies in the Forest (Toys on a Walk series)

On a crisp, spring day, Hungry Bunny went out for a walk in Tryon Creek State Park in Portland, OR. I am so lucky to get to work in this beautiful park and I was able to capture his adventure with my camera.

Hungry Bunny decided on a trail with waterleaf lining the edges and sword fern arching overhead.

The forest is coming to life thanks to spring’s sunshine and the fiddleheads are like starting to uncurl above the bunny’s head.

Did you know that violets aren’t always, um, violet colored? These are yellow wood violets and the young leaves and flower buds are edible. Our bunny friend stopped for a little nibble. His name is Hungry Bunny after all!

Hungry Bunny passed under some salmonberry plants and decided to take a break to play dress-up with the buterfly-shaped wings.

Every hiker knows they have to share the trail so he stopped to let a banana slug pass by. There’s nothing icky about these creatures. They’re decomposers that do great work in the forest. Watch out for the slime!

At the base of a huge western red cedar tree, Hungry Bunny met up with his pals Love Bunny, Woodland Bunny and Pretty Bunny.

From their low vantage point the tree seemed to go up and up forever!

The friends frolicked in the forest and climbed the roots of a fallen Douglas fir tree.

In the soft, decomposing wood of a western red cedar stump the friends had a picnic of candy flower, also known as western miner’s lettuce.

Happy and finally no longer hungry, Hungry Bunny made his way back home, careful not to linger too long next to the huge skunk cabbage plants with the smelly flowers.

He ended the afternoon with a nice nap on the broad leaves of a trillium. These pretty flowers take 7 years to bloom and the petals start out white then turn pink and, finally, magenta as they age.

 

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A walk through Nairobi (Toy on a Walk Series)

Hello all!

Greetings from Nairobi, Kenya!  We are bunting baby dolls from the ziezo label and we would like to take you around our garden and neighbourhood, now that we woke from our nap under the baby pawpaw tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the flame tree, with gorgeous red – orange flowers blooming now that we are reaching the end of the long rains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we lay under the pawpaw tree, these are the dark skies of the rainy season. . . the sun is hiding behind the clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two of us like to climb trees and bushes, and there are plenty of those around in our neighbourhood and garden.  Here we are in a baby banana tree and a mango tree, unfortunately there are no fruits on them at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we are in a small acacia tree.  It’s difficult to climb this one, because of the long thorns.  Did you know that giraffes can eat the leaves from these trees despite the thorns?  There is something in their saliva to soften the thorns and then they pluck the leaves off with their tongue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once in a while we visit the Waldorf Kindergarten in Kileleshwa, and we then like to hang out in this lovely shrub that smells so nice and is commonly called “yesterday, today & tomorrow” (Brunfelsia) because of the different colours the flowers turn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you go for a ride in Nairobi, you have to be ready to wait, traffic jams are the matter of the day because of the number of cars, the state of the roads, and ongoing construction for the “Vision 2030” plan.  Here’s a view of the Nairobi Arboretum at the bottom of the hill, and some of the road construction around it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And in some places the old road has been replaced by a new dirt road to allow for road improvements, while you also can see the rapid construction of new apartment buildings that are replacing the single standing houses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, after a bumper to bumper drive to Karen, reknown from Isak Dinesen’s (a.k.a. Karen Blixen) ‘Out of Africa’ it is also nice to be ending up in the lovely green environment of the Nairobi Waldorf School there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nairobi and its environs have lots of sunshine (even in the rainy season), but one thing that is always certain as you could see in most of the pictures, there is never a lack of some dreamy clouds in the sky with many imaginative creatures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We liked taking you on a short tour and know that we soon join our friends in the ziezo Designs shop to find a new home and explore new places on this lovely earth.  However, now it is time for a nap again. . .

 

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Greetings from the Garden Patch

Do you remember our community garden patch? I wrote a few posts about it last year. Before we knew it, the new growing season was upon us this year. We had to make haste to get our soil ready and crops planted.

We found some potatoes we forgot to dig up last year had volunteered already. So we left half of one of our patches and just filled in some holes. The other half we planted with carrots, beets, kohlrabi. It is always tough to make decisions of what to plant when space is limited.

On the second patch our two families rent we devised a new plan. Last year a terrible thing happened. Some thieves came over night and stole our watermelons. Can you believe it? Who would do such a thing – steal crops from a community garden?

The husbands came up with the idea to plant a maze to keep our watermelons safe. The two outside corners of the patch have fences now. The fence was built using some scrapwood and wire mash. We planted plants (squash) that will climb the wire. A third side of the patch has a construction made of bamboo poles and knotted sisal netting. Underneath this intrepid construction the guys planted stringbeans. Hopefully the beans will grow up the netting and make for nice green shield from that side. Along the fourth side we planted brussel sprouts again.

Hopefully this will keep the thieves out so we can actually eat the watermelons this year. Keep your fingers crossed for us. The children were so disappointed. They work so hard weeding and taking care of the garden, don’t you think they deserve a treat at the end?

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Living on a land (Toys on a Walk series)

Please let Albus and Victoria, our resident dolls, give you a tour of our little part of earth.

For this year we decided to rent the grand-parents house of Papa, which is located on the family land on the shore of the magnificent Saint-Laurent river, in the Province of Québec, Canada. There, my in-laws cultivate potatoes and all sorts of vegetables.

Here the land takes longer to wake up. When we took our walk, only green moss and some dandelions were at sight.

But there are lots of winged friends around!

Of course, the kings of nature here are the evergreens. Cedars, Pines, Firs are what’s green all year long.

Buds are just appearing. Roses, Maples, Birch are cautious here. They don’t want to get caught with frost!

We will plant potatoes soon, as now’s the time. But the lettuce, carrots, beans, squashes and broccoli will have to wait until the end of the month; they are much more fragile.

On the land, there are ponds to sit by and watch trouts. Sometimes a heron great us there too.

Fields waiting. Oh, the possibilities!

Back to the house is one of my favorite view. A swirly earth road borded with trees, looking at summer cottage transformed into all-year home, to the river so huge we people here call the sea.

In the sand we can find many treasures; seashells, urchins, crabs shells, special rocks and tons of drift wood.

Underwater lies more treasures, and all the activity of tiny things living in it!

With the sea and the forest so near, we feel very fortunate. It is a perfect setting for a slow-paced life and a wonderful theatre for us to witness the cycle of the seasons.

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What’s Your Spring Fun?

I think one of the greatest things about Spring is the ability to have impromptu fun of any sort at any time. The weather is perfect so often—the warmth of the sun combined with a soft, cool breeze make it easy to do almost anything. Longer days allow for more stolen moments from the hustle and bustle of daily activities. You only need look around for a chance to share those fun moments with the kids, and act like a kid yourself.

Today, a picnic dinner as the sun starts to set, on a fresh cut lawn to boot, was too good an opportunity to pass up. It allowed us healthy nibbles shared at our leisure family style, a game of frisbee played mid-bite and between bites, and for lots of Ring Around the Rosie. The long hour and a half dinner would normally have been a somewhat rushed affair, coming on the heels of a long, busy day. But we chose to take our time tonight, push bed time just a bit and enjoy each other and the chance to simply play for a bit.

Don’t let the perfect weather this Spring pass you by without a little bit of this stolen joy in your own life. What will be your impromptu Spring fun?

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A Year in the Garden, Part 3

My seedlings are growing strong inside and all signs of freezing night weather have passed, so it’s time to plant my cool weather crops outside! I’m very excited in case you couldn’t tell. Earth Day activities always get me in the mood for planting and gardening in general.

In our family, we eat a big salad every day and we like a variety of baby greens, so we are planning to plant spinach and 3 kinds of lettuce this year. As I mentioned a few posts ago, last year I finally reclaimed a prime area of our yard for my garden. We follow the Square Foot Garden methodology by Mel Bartholomew. I highly recommend his book if you like to garden and are short on space. Heck, even with 3 acres, we use this method, as it’s easy peasy and pretty darn fool proof. Last year was the labor-intensive year, as we had to build our raised beds and mix our soil. This year, I get to reap the rewards though as my garden is ready to plant with no work needed at all. I merely evened out the soil with my hands and the beds were ready for seeds.

So lets get started! With the amount of lettuce we go through, I have an entire 4’x5’ bed dedicated to lettuces and spinach. That bed isn’t divided into 1’x1′ squares like my other beds. That’s because I plant a whole row of each lettuce type and I find it easy this way given that the bed is dedicated to lettuces. I also planted 4 other square feet with lettuce since it will be a few months before the summer watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin crops can be planted there.

Lettuce seeds are tiny, so it’s hard to sow just one in each hole for planting. Never fear, you can cut the weaker ones that sprout once you see what it coming up. I’ve even had good luck transplanting little seedlings to other spots where a seed failed to sprout. This is a great thing to get the kids involved with too. Every child can drop seeds into the holes, no matter the age. My 8 year old pokes the holes, and the 5 and 3 year olds drop in the seeds.

I have a sprinkler set up in the garden and hooked to the hose is a timer so the seeds can get daily water, but not too much. I’m eventually going to do a drip irrigation system in the garden hooked up to a rain barrel to maximize our water conservation efforts, but that’s for another year. 

When it gets a bit warmer, we’ll plant more of the garden, some summer crops this time. I’m itching to get the tomatoes and peppers that I’ve started into the ground, they are all growing indoors quite nicely.

Now is a great time too to firm up your garden plans, and decide what you are planting and where it should go. Don’t forget some flowers too, they are great for attracting bees, and annuals like marigolds are good deterrents for aphids and other bugs that you don’t want in the garden.


Kristi Ashley is a homeschooling mom of three who spends time in the garden or hiking nearby her Hudson Valley, New York home. She is fabric artist, amateur photographer, scrapbooker and avid reader. Find her work and blog at Tickety Bu.

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Planting with children

{getting everyone involved)

 

This is a variation of one of my favorite projects seen here.

It is important to remember that:

children LOVE to work with their hands!

they ADORE getting dirty!

and they love being part of a greater project that they can literally WATCH grow.

{all hands on deck}

 

The easiest thing to forget when planting with children is that they will want to get their hands right in there so allow enough room for everyone to work. We used an egg crate for each child and modeled it while planting our own egg crate. In all on this day we planted 4 different types of seeds to be sown as soon as ready.

With egg crate planting you can plant the egg crate in the ground and thin where needed or you can transplant them out of the egg crate when they are ready (with gentle hands of course).

 

Needed for planting with children:

*A good clear workspace (outside is preferable, but this DOES make a good rainy day project as well)

*One egg crate for each child

* a medium bag of potting soil

*seeds, we love these and these, but any will do!

*gloves for you and the children (if you don’t like getting too dirty) at our house and school for this particular project we like getting our hands in the dirt and making that connection…but not all children will like the feel of dirt (adults included)!

* a watering can or spray bottle

{make sure you get the right amount of seeds in each spot}

 

You simply fill the egg crates about 3/4 full with potting soil, push a small hole in the middle of each and plant your seed. cover loosely with more soil and water gingerly. set on a sunny windowsill and watch. Your children will be amazed at what they have helped make and when the time is ready (read seed packet for germination times) they can help you transplant into your own home garden.

 

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little spring places

while Spring arrives quickly to other places ….  we find ourselves  looking at even the littlest greening things to know that she will be returning just as always ….

little bits found while searching for spring

here is some of what we find as the land starts to green from its shade of brown …

 

and some other little things we found as well …

 

and here is what we do …

 

in tiny cups  and glasses ….

 

and jars that still have no purpose ….

 

we make little green worlds while we wait for Spring …


 hello,  I am Pamela of  prettydreamer.   I am mama to a lovely prettydreamer  of my own.  I am still in love with toys,  storybooks and fairy tales of all kind.  I love trees, rocks, maps and unknown places and stumbling upon ideas turned upside-down, folk hands  and honest traditions that run deep. and all the other friendly playful things that function or are simply made to bring joy

 

 

 

 

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The Humble Dandelion- Uses and Making an Infused Oil

It’s dandelion season! And if you’ve not mowed them all down yet, my bet is your yard is covered with them just like ours. Dandelions get a bad rap, though. Don’t look at them as weeds. Look at them as a happy little makeshift herb garden, all over the place! Did you know that the entire plant is edible and that it has so much medicinal value? Well, I didn’t until just few days ago. Sure, I knew you could make a salad from the leaves but I thought that was just about all they are worth. Wrong! Doing a little online digging I came up with so many ways to use the whole plant, right down to it’s roots, which can be roasted and used like coffee or use them as a red or pink natural dye. Of course, the flowers make a lovely yellow dye.
/If you’d like to try eating them you can learn about when to pick here and tips on cooking the greens. They’re also great raw in a simple salad. That link also tells you how to fry and even pickle the flowers. Pickled dandelions… might be fun to try! Read through that link. It’s particularly fascinating. Near the bottom read about making an infusion to be drunk at mealtimes to aid digestion.
/OK, so we’re dying with dandelions and eating them, even drinking an infusion for digestion… what else? Well, the health benefits are numerous. I’m not going to repeat them all here as they been laid out quite nicely already here and here. Who would have thought?! Aren’t plants amazing?  To take advantage of some of those wonderful benefits my little ones and I set out to gather as many dandelion flowers as we could to make dandelion infused oil. This is such a great activity to introduce children to the healing power of plants and actually using them. From start to finish a young child can make the whole thing themselves. This technique works for many plants.

/So get out there and gather those dandelions! All you need to make the infused oil is the flowers. Make sure you are not gathering  from an area that has been sprayed with chemicals! Also leave those near animal dropping. Shake them off to get out any little bugs.

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Once you’ve gathered as much as you want (no specific amounts here) pluck the stem off and tear them open to loosen the petals. Place them in a clean jar and then fill to the top of the flowers with vegetable oil. We used grape seed because I like that it’s light and odorless, but you can use any. Stir them about just a bit and tightly close the jar. You might want to label it with the date and then you’re going to let it sit for 4-6 weeks in either a sunny window or a dark cupboard, your choice. Check it the next day to make sure the oil is still above  the flowers. The flowers absorb some of the oil and any air will cause mold. When it’s finished ‘brewing’ strain out the flowers with a cheese cloth and put the clean oil in a sealed container and label. The site said this infusion will last for a few years, especially if refrigerated or in a cool place.

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I’m looking forward to making a salve with ours. Just add a little beeswax! What else have you made with dandelions?
Julie Hunter is a wife and mama, raising 3 spirited girls, two babydoll sheep, angora rabbits and a gaggle of chickens and ducks in the North Carolina Foothills. She spends her days at home, crafting with her children, homeschooling, taking long gathering walks in the woods and knitting Waldorf-inspired toys. You can find her blogging and keeping shop at This Cosy Life.