Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday goings on

Ah... the holidays. Christma-stice or Sol-mas or whathaveyou. I celebrated once with a wonderful local coven in my tradition, then again solitary-style, then I rocked Christmas with my husband. Christmas was a household-only, laid back affair (in contrast to Thanksgiving) and was quite cozy and relaxing. Us being us, we hit up Home Depot shortly before closing on Christmas eve and built a large chalkboard to cover an ugly electrical panel in the kitchen on Christmas day. More on that project later perhaps.

Of course we also watched Hogfather, an essential part of wintry festivities here in the little victorian. Just imagine a skeletal Santa figure who means well but does not truly understand humankind greeting children with COWER BRIEF MORTALS out of habit. Holly jolly indeed.

More substantive post later, perhaps.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Mapping Candle Flame Meditation

Science is so rad. I love listening to Science Friday on my local NPR station. In October I heard this story and immediately had to look up the video. Gazing at a candle flame is commonly used as a focal point for entering a meditative, or light trance, state. However, this new work of modeling a candle flame adds the fascinating element of knowing that the clear part of the flame, at the center, near the wick, pretty much is what it seems like— an opening in the flame. It’s not on fire. It is cool there, at the root of the flame. This introduces an interesting element into the symbolism of flame more generally, but in terms of candle meditation, it really emphasizes the enchanting idea that in the center of the flame is an opening, symbolically speaking, a doorway—into an altered state of mind, into your subconscious, into Otherworlds…

Friday, December 16, 2011

Rosemary Tree Fail

This year I got sucked into buying one of those rosemary bushes trimmed into a Christmas-tree sort of shape. They are such cute little topiaries. And they smell wonderful. And I had dreams of planting the rosemary in the garden come spring. But it is not even the solstice yet, and already the rosemary is pretty much dead. The poor wee tree has been replaced by paperwhite narcissus. Here is the rosemary tree in all its glory (weeks ago):

I get the feeling that the rosemary doesn't like living in a house, nor being pruned into an unnatural shape. Poor thing!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tree ornaments from my garland leftovers

Having wooden hearts and pinecones left over from my garland making extravaganza, and always having things like hemp twine, wire and needlenose pliers in my crafty stash, I whipped up some simple ornaments for our tree this year:

More on the tree as a whole later!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Super fun nature-oriented meditation tool

This is a genius idea, and with a drill and a miter saw, totally reproducible. The nature collage art frame is sold by Magic Cabin for wee ones, but I think it is a creative meditation tool for nature lovers of all ages (cleverly disguised as a kids' toy).

Love it. So on my To Do list.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How to Make a Pinecone Garland

Being totally enchanted by the photos of pinecone garlands circulating on Pinterest it became absolutely essential that I create my own version. Apparently my fondness for pinecones knows few bounds this season as I actually made two, quite different, versions of a pinecone garland. Pinecones are a natural to go with the evergreens that most of us bring indoors at Yule. They are rich in symbolism from fertility to eternal life to the sacred geometry found in the arrangement of their petals.

Regardless of the style of garland you choose to make, the first step is the same: prepare the pinecones for indoor living. Pinecones are outdoor things, complete with the bugs and sap that are natural to their outdoorsy nature. But fond of the outdoors as one may be, bugs and sap in the house are unfun. Baking will kill any bugs and crystallize the sap. So:

1) Turn the oven to no higher than 220F.
2) Cover a baking sheet in tin foil and spread pinecones on sheet
3) Bake until the sap has melted completely—30 minutes or more (quite a lot more in my case)
4) Remove from oven and allow to cool fully before doing anything more with them.

Life-or-death note: Do not leave the oven unattended. The baking pinecones will fill your kitchen with a lovely pine scent, but lest they decide to fill your kitchen with smoke and flames, keep an eye on them. If they start smoking, take them out of the oven!

My Garland #1: I collected the long, skinny pinecones that are on my mantle with my sisters and niece over Thanksgiving. These pinecones have little stems on their butts, so making the garland was as simple as tying them to hemp twine at regular intervals. That’s it. Garland made.

My Garland #2: I had the elongated hardwood hearts in my craft stash, and I wanted short, fat pinecones as a contrasting shape—which I found at the dollar store. So un-green of me, I know. Sometimes one just has to put aesthetics first.

Materials: Pine cones, solid wooden heart cutouts (not plywood), hemp twine, small eye screws (in the fastener isle at Home Depot), electric drill, pliers

1) Drill holes through the tops of the hearts and the butts of the pinecones using a drill bit that is just slightly smaller than the eyescrews.

2) Screw in eyescrews, using pliers if needed

3) Paint wooden hearts with a watered down wash of white acrylic craft paint and allow to dry. Water the paint down enough that you can still see the natural grain of the wood.

4) Optional: Seal hearts with beeswax & olive oil wood polish

5) Tie eyescrews to hemp twine at regular intervals, alternating hearts with ‘cones.

I didn’t use either of these garlands on my Yuletide tree, but you certainly could. I bet it would be very cute.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Search for an Eco-Friendly Lawn Alternative

The Little Victorian’s lawn is a half-wild medley of grass, white clover, violets, wild parsley, mock strawberry, something low growing and non-tasty in the mint family, the occasional dandelion and some other sorts of plants I can’t identify. The grass is struggling in places. Everything else is fine. And by “everything else” of course I mean the aforementioned “weeds”. Before herbicides and synthetic fertilizers came on the market in the 1950s, clover was a highly desirable component in lawns. So I have been investigating how to help the weeds take over the lawn.

It’s funny how weeds get a bad rap. Mock strawberry, clover, dandelion and parsley all have medicinal and/or culinary uses. Clover and strawberry also replenish nitrogen in the soil. They don’t need watering or fertilizer or mowing (usually). But a monoculture of grass is so delicate, and useless. You can’t use it for eating (unless you are a goat) or healing. It sucks in resources like crazy—water and nutrients from the soil and then pollutes through fertilizer, gas-powered mowers and weed killer. Grass is expensive, time consuming and terrible for the environment. How could I justify maintaining a grass lawn?

Looking for advice, I explained to my dad that I hoped the “weeds” would crowd out the remaining grass because nature abhors a monoculture and I abhor mowing and watering the lawn.* Of course he thought I was kidding and suggested Roundup for my “weed problem”.

I love my dad, but Monsanto sure does have a friend in him. Water pollution and high human and animal toxicity is nothing when compared to having a perfect lawn, right?

I have since found a wide of variety of seeds that offer a healthy, eco-friendly, low-maintenance mix of plants to create a lawn alternative. Here are some options I am considering:

Hobbs & Hopkins

Earth Turf

Outside Pride

Wildflower Farm

During my winter hibernation, I am plotting out where to sow different kinds of seed. I am thinking we may end up with a hodgepodge of drought-tolerant grass, white clover, Irish moss, creeping thyme and wild flowers. And of course the current denizens-- mock strawberries, parsley, the mint-esque thing and violets are also more than welcome to stay.

*This implies that I do in fact mow and water. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that I abhor calling my neighbor who has a wee lawn maintenance business to mow. We have never watered the lawn. Or fertilized. I think about watering, and then shudder at the waste of time and natural resources. I don’t think we will ever water. Fertilizer (derived from petroleum) runoff creates unacceptable collateral damage. That which cannot live with rain and without chemical fertilizer, cannot live with us.