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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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My Enchanted Life

As the weather gets warmer my days get busier so I need meals to be simple. I run a full time business, The Enchanted Cupboard, while running my household and homeschooling 4 children. I need to keep our meals healthy and nutrition filled! I love this recipe because it is what I make with the last 2 chicken breast when I am doing big batch cooking and it is packed full of yummy veggies. Dicing up the veggies and adding it to chicken salad is a great way to boast your kids diet with lots of color that are full of antioxidants! I serve this for lunch on whole wheat bread and a cup fruit salad. You could easily make this low carb. and gluten free by serving it on big lettuce leaves like a wrap! If you like this easy recipe and want more come checkout my own blog and see what is cooking in my kitchen.

Mama’s Chicken Salad


2 skinless boneless precooked chicken, diced
2 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 med. size onion dice
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow or orange pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1 cup prepared or homemade mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste


In a mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, veggies and herbs. Set aside.
Add mayo and mix gently until combined.  Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to serve.



On my work table I often have much smaller versions of play food just right for Waldorf Style dolls. I work with wood and paper clay to make play food.


This sweet little set is made of wood and is just right for doll house dolls. I so enjoy creating for this miniature world of childhood play. Come on over to the Nature Table and see what is cooking at the Acorn Cafe.


The Acorn Cafe


On the first day of Spring the world was a buzz of activity at the Acorn Cafe.


Everyone was enjoying the wonderful food made by Miss Dandelion.


Grandpa was having his favorite tomato sandwich.


A few fairies stopped in for tea and sweets.


Four forest friends enjoyed an after noon treat.


All were happy on this bright spring day.

Items on the Nature Table:

Wooden toys, playsilks, and dolls can be found at The Enchanted Cupboard.

Felt Woodland Friends can be found at Muddyfeet.

Acorn Cafe  and table & chairs were created by Willodel.


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how to teach children to ride a bike: grass hill method

I thought this post might come in handy for some parents out there. It’s hard to believe but I recently met a young man who never learned how to ride a bike. I was utterly confounded by the news. A kid 15 years of age who got his driver’s permit but does not know how to ride a bike? How was it possible? His parents are quite embarrassed about it. I guess they just never got around to it when he was a young fellow. They are not bikeriders themselves. A couple of years ago the boy started asking if they could teach him so he could ride his bike to middle school. They made an attempt or two. But it was already too late…The boy was mortified to be seen outside practicing riding a bike at this age. It’s so sad. How could this happen?

I think the greatest gift we can give our children as parents is the gift of confidence. It’s our job to help them accomplish these milestones in life. It’s hese milestones that make them feel they can do stuff on their own. One of them is riding a bike. Another is being able to swim. By learning to do these physical things they gain pride and confidence and can move on to bigger things.

I wrote about my traumatic childhood memories when it comes to learning to ride a bike on my personal blog recently. It definitely wasn’t good being put on a bike without training wheels and pushed down a steep hill until you fall…What parent would do such a thing? My Dad! But at least he cared enough to teach me how to ride a bike as painful as this lesson turned out. Plus I learned something else: it made me determined to do better with my own children.

Like other parents from the NaturalKids Team who kindly shared their photos with me – my husband and I used a much gentler approach with our children.

I think it’s important to make kids feel safe on the bike first. My kids both rode their bikes with training wheels for a couple of years. Then, when my son turned 5, I decided it was time to take the training wheels off and teach him without. The first couple of days I would just walk beside him. You know the break-my-back-hold-on-to-bikehandles and running-running-alongside-your kid method. But my son just wasn’t able to balance. Some kids just have a harder time when it comes to balance. Then I had an idea. We have a soft grassy hill where our grass slopes down into the neighbor’s yard. I used my dad’s approach, using gravity rolling down a hill, but without the hard fall. I would run along and push the child and then let go. We used this method with both of our children. They both did fall  a few times – but they landed on the soft grass. All it took was ONE afternoon. Both of my children learned in one afternoon by using the grassy hill method. Once they got the Feel for it they were okay. They went from the hill to the sidewalk that same day.  And there was no crying, no injuries, no bruises.

Please, take the time and teach a kid how to ride a bike! You will make a real difference in their life! Plus, it’s good excercize and great for the environment too.


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Tutorial: Bubble Wands

One of summer’s biggest outdoor fun is to blow bubbles. But when you have little ones around, loosing the tiny plastic bubble wands is a very easy thing to do! Plus, they only make tiny bubbles. I decided I would try my hand at making wire ones like I saw around on the internet and I was pleased at how easy they are to make! Let me show you how we (me and my 4 year old) did!


You will need:

  • Cooper wire, like the one we use in jewelry
  • Wood dowel, or found sticks. We used drift wood like in the Solstice wand tutorial
  • Cookie cutters of various shapes
  • Cutting tools (jewelry ones works great)

Wrap wire around chosen cookie cutter. Take care to leave some loose so the wire overlaps itself.

This the excess around itself, and leave a good length of the other end before cutting. Wrap your shape around your stick.

That quick, that simple! and you have an awesome magical bubble wand! Now you only need to mix one part dish soap with one part water and pour the mix in a plate. Dip your wand in it and blow, or wave you hand!

You can let your creativity go from the basic shape, and even choose not to use cookie cutter as a guide. Kids like them so much better then the little plastic ones. Go try to make one, but I warn you, it’s addictive and soon you’ll have tons in stock- perfect for summer birthdays!

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Team Tom For Kids

It’s been a great summer. I think what I love best about summers is that we as a family and the children get lots of good workouts and outdoor excercize. Unlike many families on the NaturalKids Team, our family does not homeschool. I think one of the biggest problems with the American School System is that children do not get enough breaks and physical excercise during a normal schoolday. And they wonder why obesity rates are going up…

I feel very fortunate that we can keep our children enrolled in dance and do lots of sports during the school year to keep them healthy and fit. I know there are so many kids that don’t get the chance to do sports because their parents cannot afford it.

There is a workout program for kids in our town that is very affordable for families. It’s called Team Tom  and is run by personal trainer Tom Forsyth. About a dozen or more children between the ages of 5 and 18 have been participating on any given day this summer. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday a large group of kids would meet in the parking lot behind a healthclub in our town. Any kid can just pop into class on those days. Cost is $5 per workout – less than a movie.

Boys and girls alike, would do a one-hour workout together this summer. Usually the children would be paired up as teams: one big kid with little kid. The teams would go from station to station completing sets of a certain exercise such as jumping rope, hopping on a ladder, carrying weights, hitting a tire with a big sledgehammer, and flipping big tractor tires over.

But every kid’s favorite activity happened on Wednesdays: The famous truckpulling. The teams would get a harness on – like horses pulling a wagon – and two kids would pull a truck across the parking lot.

My daughter is really sad that the summer has come to an end. During the schoolyear Team Tom will meet later in the afternoon. We probably won’t be able to go to Team Tom because of our busy schedule with school and dance classes. But I surely hope that lots of kids will find out about this great workout program helping even the littlest guy or gal build strength. Or maybe you can get a personal trainer in your community to start a cool exercise class for children.

In the famous words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: We’ll be back next summer!



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Sleepover Nightmares…

I am having a really hard time with the American institution of the Sleepover or Slumber party. I had never heard of the existence of such a thing until I moved to the US. What in the world is a sleepover?

When I was the kid growing up in Germany, the only reason one would spend the night at someone else’s house would be because your parents were hospitalized or on a romantic Getaway. The only place you would spend the night would be your grandma’s or a relative’s house. But then this rarely EVER happened. My parents were not the vacationing type.

Let me ask you: Why would you let your child spend a night at a perfect stranger’s home? I remember the agony of my kids asking me once they started school, begging me to spend the night at so-and-so’s house. After all, I already stick out like a sore thumb with my German accent. Then I also became known as that German lady who wrecks birthday parties.

I am sorry I am having such a hard time with this. I just don’t see why children should be allowed to go to another kid’s house and stay up all night eating candy, watching inappropriate movies, and do anything BUT sleep. I have seen the zombie-like victims of such parties at soccer games the next day…

Even better, one time this kid walks up to me, not knowing me from Adam, and says: “Can I sleep over at your house?” What in the Sam hill?

I feel bad for being the crusher of so many sleepover dreams but it took me a while to wrap my mind around this idea. I don’t want to be mean or anything, I just want my kids to be safe and not worry about them getting in the middle of some bad scenario. I have actually had parents confess to me about their regrets letting a child sleepover at times. Looks like I am not alone with my fears.

Over the years I have tried to find a healthy middle ground where I can exist and my kids can still have fun. I developed some rules that make me feel better about letting my child participate in a sleepover. So hopefully all of us can >sleep like a baby< when they are away from home…

1. Knowing all members of the family and what the sleeping arrangements will be is a must for me! I don’t let my child sleepover at anyone’s house unless I have met both parents and the siblings. I have to be able to trust my instincts. If I have any doubts about my child’s safety, I will say “No!” to the sleepover.

2. I talk to the parents about rules in their house and try to assess whether my child will get any sleep that night. If we have big event on the agenda for the next day, and I get the impression that this will be more of a “Awake-over” party, I may allow my child to go to part of the party. I pick them up after they had dinner at their friends house. They just don’t do the sleep part of the party…

3. I make sure I have the parents’ house and cellphone numbers and that they have mine in case of an emergency.

4. It’s also a good idea to discuss what foods are being served, especially if your child has allergies or is a picky eater.

Points to consider from the child’s perspective:

Is he/she emotionally ready to sleep away from home? Will my child be comfortable spending the night at another person’s house?

Discuss with your child what happens in case they wake up before the family in that house does? Our kids are early risers. They are up early regardless of the time they went to bed the night before. Will they be comfortable upon waking up?  What will they do when they are awake before everyone else?

Hope my little check list helps you and your kid stay safe and avoid any nightmares.


Ulla Seckler  is a dollmaker who was born and raised in Germany. She lives in beautiful Colorado with her husband and two kids. You can find her Notes by a German Dollmaker on her blog where she shares some great German recipes, pictures of her sweet dolls, and life lessons learned.  Don’t forget to stop by her Etsyshop and take a peek at her wonderful doll creations.


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Book Review – The Lone Bull

Oh, how I love this story, never have I met such a good-natured bull …

The Story of Ferdinand ~ by Munro Leaf (Author), and Robert Lawson (Illustrator)

“all the other bulls who had grown up with him in the same pasture would fight each other all day. They would butt each other and stick each other with their horns.What they wanted most of all was to be picked to fight at the bull fights in Madrid …But not Ferdinand.”

I have read this story many times to my girl when she was young … the book was even wrapped up nicely by my daughter and put under the Christmas tree one year when my girl who noticed how fond I was of Ferdinand .. she thought I should certainly have a few more special presents just for me.

There is so much to be admired about a little bull who knows how to listen to his heart and happily sits among the flowers and underneath a cork tree in a little pasture in Spain … instead of butting heads as the other little bulls do.

Though it is not always easy to stand alone or stand out …how important for our little folks (and ourselves) to know that we can. By the way did you notice the “cork tree”? … Or all the boo boos and bandages the other little bulls are sporting?.

reprinted from original post by prettydreamer  from “whither will i wander”



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Horse Mentorship Camp…Thumbs UP!

Eva is just now seven….and a huge horse fan. She has been on a horse’s back since she was 19 months old and feels as comfortable there as she does sitting on a swing. And though she has never gone to any sort of camp before…when a friend told me about the Silver Horse Healing Ranch….I thought perhaps this was the summer to let her have some camp time. My instincts were right.The ranch is nestled in the mountains of Topanga Canyon. There are several corrals in the midst of immense trees and lush wild brush. The horses who are cared for so lovingly here are all rescues…and the most relaxed horses I have ever seen.Diva and Laydee are large, gentle Percheron draft breeds. These were Eva’s favorites…They were rescued from their lives of misery, standing in stalls barely large enough to contain them, continually pregnant and tapped for their urine for the hormone replacement drug Premarin. (An acronym, I learned, for pregnant mare urine.)The ranch holds a one to two week summer camp and other classes all summer. They also have other programs, which are designed to help heal children and adults with ADHD, high functioning autism, depression and cancer survivors. The motto there is “Helping Horses Helping Humans.”

It is run by an English gal who, I am convinced is part cow girl, part shaman….and whose name happens to be Sara Vaughan…well I think she just changed it to Sara Fancy! She has such a love and respect for horses and all living things…including children. On her site it says, “Children are taught how to tap into the horse’s willing nature to gain co-operation and a reciprocal relationship. There is no pressure put onto the child or the horse to do things that are stressful to the child or horse.” The experience Eva had demonstrates how true those words are.

One of the things I love most about Sara is the matter-of-fact respect she had sharing with the children all her knowledge. From a Waldorf perspective, when a child enters first grade, as Eva will this year, she looks to a single point of authority and yearns to learn about the world of adults. Sara has that authority with humor, a straight forward approach, wealth of info and a spiritual perspective on her world that makes her a wonderful role model, for boys and girls alike.

The day begins in her yurt, (equipped with an outhouse and a compostable toilet.) There she forms a circle with the children and gives the ground rules and the plans for the day. She might tell the histories of the various horses and share her convictions about why horses and every living being deserve respect and how it is an honor to be on a horse’s back. Then they might play tuning forks together, learn to run in a herd around the room, or have a beautiful horse-related tale read to them, choose Indian names for themselves or discuss various animal encounters they had the previous day with a snake, or bee or coyote etc. Then it is out to care for and groom the horses. With just about one on one attention, which is easy to do because the camp is limited to nine children and Sara has two helpers, she shows them all the homeopathic medicines for the horses. “Nothin’ in ‘ere is toxic,” she reaffirms. And the children smell and look at all the various natural ointments as she tells them stories of how she healed this horse and that one from the various ailments they had when they arrived in her care.

Day by day, the children deepen their appreciation for the horses, guiding them on leads with halters (Sara never uses a bit), grooming them, tending to any wounds, feeding them carrots or handfuls of hay, molding their own horses from clay, and learning to understand how horses think and feel and how human behavior affects them.

“Where is the riding?” you might be asking. It is actually a special time reserved for the end of the day. The children ride one at a time on a soft pad, led by Sara or one of her two lovely assistants. Eva even got to canter for the first time, with Sara running along, huffing and puffing!

But this is not a riding camp, per se. It is so much more. When Eva arrived, she was tentative around the horses, around Sara, around these unfamiliar grounds. By the end of the first week, she was marching around (with quiet feet, of course, so as not to startle the horses), directing any newcomers, getting bits of hay and feeding it to her favorites, or just having a tete-a-tete with Hank or Diva. From her posture to how she discussed her various opinions with Sara or relayed the day’s events at home, her confidence, not just as a “camper,” but as a little person, was deepening and growing every day as her bonds with the horses grew stronger. She and all the friends she made there shared a beautiful and fun adventure none of these children will forget any time soon.

One very funny coincidence that topped it all off for Eva specifically was that Sara has a rescued chihuahua mix named Minnie…and so do we! Here are the two Minnies with our Minnie on the right! This delighted Eva and the other children to no end!

I can’t say enough to recommend the Silver Horse Healing Ranch‘s children’s programs. What a natural way to spend the day, what a relaxed way to spend the summer, what a very special experience that will touch my daughter for a lifetime. We will be back for more!

Thank you for reading!
Rebecca Varon aka Nushkie!

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God Bless the Child who has his Own Cellphone

Oh dear, oh dear. What is one to do as a “nature” oriented parent in this age of technology and kids wanting to spend all their free time in front of a screen? One tends to think that life gets easier as the diaper era turns into distant memory and the kids become more independent each day. But what about cellphones? Since the day our son entered 6th Grade, middle school, our life has become hell in the battle over cellphones. He has wanted and needed a cellphone for about 3 years now.

We heard plenty a story of lost cellphones in first and Second Grade. But those were brushed off as figments of the child’s imagination. What kid that age would need a phone?

The first time the topic came up for serious discussion was two years ago, when our son announced to my husband that he needed a phone in case he got stranded at a baseball game or practice. DH’s response: What? How would you get stranded? We take you to each practice and hang around till it’s over. Your mother and I have never missed a single game. We are Velcro parents…What are you talking about?”

Things got more serious when he announced that his 6th Grade math teacher had told the students he would send them homework assignments via cellphone and email. What? It turned out it wasn’t really a requirement. The boy just wanted a phone because supposedly ALL of his classmates had one. Are we bad parents for saying “no”? When is the right time to give a child a cellphone? Will my child turn into a social outcast because I am not giving him a cellphone.

This morning came the last stroke. Our youngest daughter won received a little cellphone in the shape of an eraser. My son’s response: “Even she got a cell-phone before I did.”

Oh boy! Must we cave in? Maybe I am just afraid that my kid may turn into one of those morose teenagers sitting on the sofa texting all the time and not wanting to have a regular conversation any more. I have witnessed first hand, kid’s sitting right next to each other, callused hands sending endless texts like: “What are you doing?” “Oh, just sitting here texting you.” How do I explain to the kids that my tweets are somehow more valuable or important? Well, they are for my business…

He is turning 13 in the fall. What he really does need is a new bicycle since he has outgrown his old one. But I know what he wants more than anything is a phone. Do I get him the bicycle, or do I let him join his texting friends? Please, I’d like to hear some opinions from other parents who have fought this battle. When is the right time to give a child a cellphone?

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