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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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Wild, Wonderful Worms!

The last 5 years have seen a lot of change in our household. We do everything we can to reduce, reuse and recycle. As a result, we are avid composters. We have a lawn compost bin, two actually, for our leaves and grass clippings, and a compost bin for our kitchen. The compost bin for our kitchen gets the most interesting comments from friends and family. It sits right outside the kitchen door in the garage, and houses about 4,000 worms.

My 4 year old son holding a red wiggler.

No, the worms don’t get out and make a break for freedom, and no, it doesn’t smell, well not badly. If you open the bin and stick your head in it, it smells just like a walk in the woods after a rain. If you walk by it, you can’t smell a thing at all. No one knows that’s what the bin is even for until I tell them. The lack of smell is the biggest surprise to those not familiar with vermiculture. The next big surprise to those new to this kind of composting is how easy and well it works. We throw everything in there except protein (worms are vegetarian!) and our 4,000 worms handles all the scraps this family of 5 makes with ease.

So, if you want to turn all your kitchen scraps into the most perfect garden fertilizer you’ve ever used, fall in love with love wild, wonderful worms!

Our garden with rich, dark soil thanks to our worms.

The first thing you need is a big bin. I used a Rubbermaid plastic tote, because they are cheap, readily available and durable. Drill 1/4″ holes all around the top for air and 1/16″ holes all over the bottom for drainage. You will need 2 lids for the bin, one to use as an actual lid and one to use underneath to catch any liquid that drains from the bin. It’s important to have adequate drainage for two reasons: one, you don’t want your worms to drown, and two, the liquid that you catch is called worm tea and it’s gold for plants. Use it as a fertilizer for your indoor potted plants and you’ll be amazed at the results.

Once your bin is done, next fill it with bedding. You can use newspaper or cardboard. We use newspaper, it’s a great way to recycle it. Just tear it into strips before you put it in the bin and moisten it. White paper and coated cardboard is no good, so don’t start thinking you can recycle all your paper goods here, stick with good ole newspaper or plain cardboard. The worms need it for air circulation, so once you moisten it, fluff it up for them. Don’t let it get too wet, just damp like a wrung out sponge. Feel free to throw a handful of dirt or sand in there too, the worms need the grit in their diet too, although egg shells do a great job of giving them the grit they need.

The bin is all ready for worms!

Now your bin is ready for your worms! You want to get red wigglers. They are small, multiply easily and are fairly hardy. They are not the best for your actual garden since they do multiply fast and can take a garden over quickly, but they make the perfect vermiculture worm. They will multiply to meet the demand of the food you give them, but won’t multiply so much that they outgrow their bin, so it’s perfect. Try to get them locally as that’s the most earth friendly option, but if you can’t find a worm farmer close by, there are lots of worm farms online as well and they will ship them to you.

You need 1,000 worms for every 1 lb. of kitchen scraps generated daily. When you collect your scraps and are ready to feed your worms, just throw on some rubber gloves (I keep mine right on top of the worm bin with the extra newspaper and a spray bottle of water), clear a corner, throw in the scraps and cover the scraps with bedding. The worms will do the rest. Rotate which corner you add to each time. If you get any fruit flies or other bugs, stop feeding them for about a week, as that’s a sign there is too much food for them to handle. Either let them multiply a bit and catch up, or get more worms.

Worms and castings in their bin.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the bin itself, you’ll want to reap the rewards and harvest the amazing castings for use in your garden. Castings are worm droppings and are the best compost material around. Harvesting them is surprisingly easy. Just dump the whole bin out onto a tarp or large piece of cardboard and spread it out into a nice, thin layer, about 3 inches deep. Let it sit in the sun for a bit, and the worms will go straight to the bottom since they are not fans of the light. Scoop off the top layer of castings and add them to the garden. When you are left with little but worms, just start the bin again with fresh bedding, food and put the little guys back in their home.

Worm castings ready for harvest, notice there are still some eggshells and a bit of bedding in this bins castings. 
That’s ok, just add them right into your soil too.

Mix the castings in with vermiculite, peat moss and some manure and you have the perfect soil mix for growing just about anything. Add more castings each spring to your garden and you’ll never have to feed your plants and vegetables anything else.

It sounds a bit complicated, but in practice could not be easier. We keep a compost crock inside on the kitchen counter that we put our chopped scraps in. Once a week I dump them into the worm bin and about once a month I mix the whole bin up with a garden trowel. I harvest the castings twice a year, once in the spring before I plant the vegetable seeds and once in the fall when I am putting the garden to bed for the winter. So, for about 5 minutes a week and about 1 hour twice a year I have reduced our household waste considerably and I get free, incredible fertilizer. Like I said, these are wild, wonderful worms!

The perfect soil mixture–peat moss, vermiculite, manure and worm castings!
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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

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What’s New, and, Well, Natural from the Natural Kids Team on Etsy

I’m so thrilled to take over the post of highlighting new goodies in the shops of the artists and crafts men and women of the Natural Kids team on Etsy. Please check in here every Monday for recently posted fresh picks from our team members for when what you want for your family comes…naturally!

Here are the first few as we go in alphabetical order….reverse order that is!

Nothin’ here but us chickens! Here’s a fun patten to delight any knitter in the house by Yarnmiracle. “Yarn Miracle specializes in Companion Animal Placement. Each of my animals, large or small, is hand knit with the structure, durability, good looks and charm required in a stuffed playmate. I choose natural, sustainable, humanely grown fibers and fillings to create conscious, comfortable, eco-friendly companions for all ages…”

Woolies is “home of heirloom quality knitted and sewn stuffed animals and dolls. Using all natural materials, always.” Here is Sara’s newest: a delightful hand knit horse…a lovely plush toy for any child.
You can find so many delightful hand knit treasures in her shop!

Here’s what a recent customer said: “Boutique quality and absolutely adorable. I love the all organic yarn and stuffing. Also I loved being able to custom design such an adorable snuggly for my daughter. Thanks!”

Woolhalla specializes in “heavenly all-natural Waldorf & dollhouse dolls and wool felt animals.”

Here’s where the name comes from: “With the risk of being struck by a thunderbolt from Thor… the name Woolhalla is a play on the heavenly home of the gods/godesses Valhalla. When I look out my front window across the lake nearby I can see Mt. Loki, named after one of the Norse gods.”

Here is her sweet valentine dollhouse doll.

Queen of Etsy’s front page…Woodmouse features handcrafted wooden toys and Waldorf toys made to inspire stories. “My toys are made to encourage creative play and their magic is shown best in the hands of children. I love to hear about the stories, personalities and scenarios children invent with my toys!”
Here is Amber’s Wee Wooden House Quartet!


More sustainable goodies from… Wood Toy Shop  is now solar powered! Most of the wood comes from mill ends and scrap from cabinet shops…all the trees are left standing for you children to enjoy! “I am pleased to bring a collection of finely crafted wooden heirloom toys. If you are looking for a gift of lasting value, a wood toy is a wonderful choice. ” Here’s the latest for when your child simply must chat on the phone: a wood toy phone!

Thank you for looking, reading, browsing. I’ll be featuring more next Monday as I work my way back down the alphabet.  Til then, stay healthy, joyful and filled with wonder!

Warmly, Rebecca aka Nushkie 🙂

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Kid Craft: Festive Feast for the Birds

Give your feathered friends a festive treat this winter (and make your trees look pretty, too!) with these fun, simple bird feeders from Lori. Hang vertically, or create unique garlands to decorate the outdoors for the season!

If your house is anything like ours, we are often over run with crafts, so this craft, being consumable and meant to go outdoors, was just what we needed on a sunny day home sick from school and seemed just right for the season!

The tutorial shows the craft being done (almost) independently by a just-turned-5 year old. Younger children will enjoy picking the elements for their own special garland and leaving the needle work to a grownup. This craft helps to build fine motor skills and is *great* pattern building exercise for those kindergarteners who are starting to work on math skills by detecting and predicting patterns.

Age: 3+
Time: 15 minutes or more

This craft is easy to make with items commonly available throughout the holiday season.

* Walnuts (halved, save the meat for a holiday recipe!)
* Bird Seed
* Peanut Butter
* Cranberries(frozen or dried), raisins, apples, popcorn and other bird safe treats
* Tapestry needle
* String, yarn or floss cut half again as long as desired garland/ feeder

Prepare ahead of Time:

* halve the walnuts and drill a small hole in each half shell.
* if using fresh cranberries buy frozen or freeze : they are easier to thread and *much* less messy!
* if working with younger children, or concerned about mess, fill the walnut shells with peanut butter ahead of time, cover with bird seed as shown in the directions below and chill. This means less peanut butter slopping about, but the kids can still get a needle through.

1) Gather your materials and prepared supplies.
2) Tie several knots in one tail of your string. Thread the other end through the tapestry needle.

3) Invite your child to lay out the elements they wish to add to their garland feeder, or just get started threading pieces onto the string.

4) We have pictured adding peanut butter and bird seed to the walnuts after stringing the entire garland. An alternative, as suggested above, is to fill and chill them in advance.
5) Once the garland feeder reaches the desired length, remove the needle and tie a loop and then hang this on your favourite limb outdoors for the birds to enjoy!

If you have any leftovers, there are sure to be some little creatures to eat them up…
…and the birds will help, too! ♥

Beneath the Rowan Tree is currently on vacation for welcome rest, renewal and family time. They’ll open shop again January 5 with more hand dyed playsilks, Fairy Silkies ™, wooden games, ribbon toys and more. And Twirl Skirts! Don’t forget the Twirl Skirts!

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Friday Feature with Kreativ Spiel

Today’s interview is with new Natty Kid Angela, of Kreativ Spiel. Enjoy!

Tell us little about yourself!

My name is Angela,  I am Mom to 2 boys and I am now living in my 7th year in the United States. But I was born and raised in Germany and had the luck to grow up with all the wonderful quality wooden toys, Germany is known for. Waldorf principles are naturally incorporated in a German child’s every day life.
I have many wonderful memories of my childhood thanks to the magical toys and freedom of play that was given to me.

What do you make and how long have you been creating?

I am fairly new to creating wooden toys. I started in February of this year and, as it is with most things in life, it’s an ongoing learning process.

What inspires you?
Memories of my own childhood, books, nature and of course my two boys.
What got you started working with wooden toys?
The desire to create something with my own hands, that my will bring joy to kids and that incorporates everything that is important to me: the use of natural materials, the option for open, imaginative play and uniqueness in the design.

How long have you been on Etsy and how has it been for you so far?

I have been selling on Etsy since February, though due to a move always across the country, I had to take a long break. But now I am bursting of new ideas and I am trying much as my time allows to put those new ideas to work.

What advice would you have for other Etsians?
Always keep going, don’t give up. And having a great customer service is key to everything.

 What do you hope to learn/gain/contribute from being part of the Natural Kids group?

I hope to gain some more experience about selling on etsy, as well as get inspired and maybe inspire others through our exchange of thoughts and talents.

What thoughts do you have for parents on the importance of natural toys for creative play?

I believe surrounding your children with the beauty of natural toys is one of the biggest gifts you can make them. In a world of hustle and bustle, the simplicity and warm energy those kind of toys radiate is more important than ever. Toys that allow for imaginative play are of such value in a time where almost everything around us seems battery operated and function with the pushing of a button.
Our children should be worth these toys, vs. cheap, mass produced and potentially hazardous toys from China.

Your links:
Thank you Angela!
This interview was by Kat, of kats in the belfry.
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Simple Nature Bracelet

Sometimes the simplest activities turn out to be the best. This was the case recently when I headed outside with my 3 year old, to make a nature bracelet. We used to do this in the preschool I worked at several years ago, and it’s a suitable activity for even the youngest children.

I helped him wrap the tape around his wrist, sticky side out. Then we took a walk around our neighborhood and yard to find leaves and objects to decorate it with.

After only a few minutes of adding leaves to his bracelet, my son decided a belt would be even better! He thought this was the best idea ever, and I had so much fun watching him as he decided to roll around on the ground to see what would stick to him.

Grab some packaging or masking tape and head outside with your little ones while the colors are bright and leaves are in abundance!

A beautiful fall day, some fresh air and laughs with the ones I love, and appreciating how my little ones continue to teach me to appreciate the simple things in life. It doesn’t get much better than this!

– Amanda, Just Hatched