Wintersowing Tutorial: Upcycle Trash to Make Garden Greenhouses & Start Seeds in Cold Weather

Photo credit: nociveglia via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: nociveglia via Foter.com / CC BY

What is Wintersowing?

Wintersowing is a method for seed starting developed by Trudi Davidoff. I first heard of the wintersowing method several years ago on Garden Web. The idea is a simple one; creating mini greenhouses out of recyclable materials to use for seed starting outdoors during the cold winter and spring months. I thought that it was a brilliant method that was inexpensive, environmentally beneficial, flexible, and allowed me to keep dirt, bugs, grow lights, and whatnot out of my home.

I also love wintersowing with the kids. We can plant a little bit at a time over the course of the season, which keeps planting fun and manageable. We talk about the stages of growth as we check on the progress of our seeds. We also discuss different aspects of plants and their needs as we create our little growing spaces (e.g., we need holes to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide; the greenhouses hold in moisture and allow the sun to shine through, we open the lids in the warmer weather so that we don’t overheat and cook our seedlings, etc.)

Why Use a Wintersowing Approach?

There are many reasons why I love wintersowing, but the basics breakdown to cost, convenience, and success.

Wintersowing is extremely economical. The containers used are generally free and readily available. Wintersowing eliminates the need for grow lights or any special equipment. A bag of potting soil is typically my only true expense. Some years I also purchase seeds, but not always (see seed discussion down below for many resources for free seeds).

I love the convenience of wintersowing. Because I am sowing seeds in the comfort of my home across a period of weeks or months, I can do a little at a time. I don’t feel overwhelmed by my garden or a need to start all of my seeds in the same small window of time 6-8 weeks before our final frost date. I also really like the low-maintainance of the method. Once I prepare a container for sowing, it just sits outside rain or shine, and there is no mess in my home. There is no need for upkeep until the seeds sprout, and from then on it is fairly minimal. It is important to make sure that sprouts don’t dry out, overheat, or “hit their heads” on the tops of the containers, but these needs can be managed with little trouble (see resources below for tips and guidance on wintersowing). Additionally, since the seeds come to life in the great outdoors, there is no need to coddle them through a hardening off period, they re ready to plant after the final frost date in your area.

The best part of wintersowing has to be the success of the method. Since wintersowing keeps seeds contained and protected, there is little seed loss due to weather conditions or animals, as there can be with direct sowing. Wintersowing also keeps temperature and moisture conditions controlled better than indoor setups in my experience. I find that I have incredibly high germination rates with wintersowing.

What Seeds Work for Wintersowing?

In my experience, just about any type of seed adapts well to wintersowing, with the exception of plants that are notoriously difficult to start from seed under any circumstance (rosemary comes to mind). Perennial plants are very well-suited to wintersowing, but I find annuals to work great as well. I have used wintersowing to grow a wide range of annual and perennial flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables with great success.

Basic Steps of Wintersowing

To wintersow, you will need your potting soil or preferred growing medium, seeds, and your containers. You will also need a knife or other object for poking holes in your containers, a marker to label your containers, and possibly some heavy-duty tape and rubber bands. I sometimes also purchase paper cups to use within some of my little greenhouses.

Wintersowing is generally done using plastic, food-grade containers that have not previously held any toxic or hazardous materials (I stick with old food containers that I would otherwise recycle). You want to look for containers that can hold at least a 2″-3” depth of soil with some head space for your plants. If the container itself is not clear or translucent plastic, you at least want the lid to be a clear plastic to allow the sun’s rays to shine in. Sometimes a lid can be adapted by cutting away a portion of the lid and replacing it with plastic wrap or similar as discussed in the video.

Wintersowing will shift how you look at your garbage and recyclables. Once you figure out your preferred types of containers, friends, neighbors, and others are often more than happy to route their garbage to you. Some of my favorite containers are quart size yogurt tubs, large plastic clamshells from bulk lettuces, and traditional seed starting trays coupled with single-serve yogurt cups and reused large plastic bags. Other people are milk jug enthusiasts,

The video will give you an idea of how to use and modify your containers to create your mini greenhouses.

Wintersowing Resources

Wintersowing is supported by an enthusiastic community. There are many great places to learn more about wintersowing, ask questions, and to see the setup and successes of other wintersowing gardeners. Some of my favorites:

Trudi Davidoff has her own website about Wintersowing. The site is currently under construction but still has some information and pictures.

Gardenweb’s Wintersowing Forum is a great place to post questions and reap the advice of winter sowers of all ranges of experience and from all across the country. It is also a treasure trove of pictures about wintersowing from seed starting to planting, and for the “after” shots of beautiful gardens built from wintersown plants.

The Wintersown Facebook Page is another useful public forum for discussing wintersowing and sharing progress photos. The page has over 9,000 members. The Facebook page is administrated in part by Trudi Davidoff as she continues to share her passion for the method that she developed.

But What about the Seeds?

Of course in order to wintersow, you will need seeds. One of the most exciting aspects of starting seeds on your own versus purchasing seedlings is the exponentially greater range of plant options available to you. I love thumbing through seed catalogs looking at the beautiful and exotic plant varieties. I gravitate toward unusual colors, shapes, and sizes that I would never see at a grocery store, and are a rare find even at the farmer’s market.

Whenever I purchase seeds, I prefer to support companies who are committed to biodiversity and who are against GMO seed. If this is important to you as well, I recommend purchasing from companies who have signed the Safe Seed Pledge, indicating that they will “not knowingly buy, sell or trade genetically engineered seeds or plants.” A list of companies who have signed the Safe Seed Pledge can be found here.

I also prefer to grow heirloom and open pollinated plants to allow me to save my own seed over the years; giving me a large stash of seed to work from. See a video tutorial of how I save tomato seeds here. Saving seeds from other plants such as flowers, peppers, peas, and beans is even easier.

I also find that because wintersowing has such high germination rates for me, I waste less seed and can successfully grow older seed. As a result, seed packets go a very long way and I often have extra seed from my own seed saving efforts to share. Seed swaps are another growing trend. I have participated in seed swaps through online communities as well at through my local botanic garden. Seed swaps tend to occur in January or February to allow gardeners to start their seeds in time for spring planting. This list of seed swaps around the country can help you prepare for next year’s events. Local seed libraries are another resource for seeds. See a partial list by state here, or search online for seed libraries in your state to find options local to you.

Wintersowing Final Thoughts

I hope that you find the wintersowing method to be as exciting and useful as I have over the years. After trying and succeeding with this gardening method, I really can’t imagine starting my plants any other way. I’m curious to know if you’ve tried wintersowing before. Do you have any experiences to share? I’m happy to field questions in the comments too so feel free to ask. There’s still time to start seeds for this year’s garden.

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Tutorial: Needle Felted Wool Sachet or Ornament

Crunchy Parent Tutorial Needle Felted Sachets and Ornaments

I told you all that I was felt like I had come up a bit short in the crunchy department when it came to the kids school valentines this year. I thought that it might be nice to do a more natural Valentine’s Day-related craft with the kids on the actual holiday since we had the luxury of having Valentine’s Day fall on the weekend. Alina is especially drawn to doing handcrafts and Asher has become more excited by them over the past year. Eva was spending Valentine’s Day at a friend’s house so I pulled together a basket of wool batting and the younger kids and I needle felted some fragrant sachets together.

Alina, age 9, has been needle felting for a number of years, but this was Asher’s first time wielding a felting needle at not quite six years old. Felting needles are sharp and hurt if you end up getting poked. I supervised him closely on this project, and tried to teach him some of the basic needle felting safety rules. It is clear to see in the video that Asher was very proud of his developing skill and is excited about future felting projects. He did need help to complete this task, but he was able to participate in a lot of the work.

Alina was more independent in her craft, but she asked me to do most of the embellishing for her. As bad luck would have it, our whole family came down with the norovirus within hours of shooting this video, with Alina leading the pack. I think that she was starting to get worn out, which is why she handed the embellishment job over to me. Under different circumstances, I might have set the sachet aside for her to finish on another day, but she really wanted it to be part of the finished pictures for the tutorial.

It is often suggested in Waldorf circles that it is best for young children (especially prior to age seven) to avoid work on needle felting human or animal figures. There can be something disturbing about repeatedly jabbing a needle into something that looks like a person or animal. This project is a great one for new felters, young and old, because it works mostly in two dimensions and in a confined area. The cookie cutter creates structure for the project, and the whole thing comes together quickly.

For the project you will need:
wool roving or batting (colored or natural)
felting needle
felting pad
cookie cutter(s) in desired shape(s)
optional embellishments such as wool yarn, prefelt scraps, curly wool locks, etc.

The supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as etsy.com or ebay.com. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased my felting needles and some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well.

I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route. If you are a fan of one-stop, click and receive shopping, Amazon has a large selection of wool fiber for felting in endless colors as well as felting needles and multi-needle felting tools and accessories.

As I also mention in the video, I have purchased upholstery foam from Joann Fabrics to use as a felting pad. It is cut and sold by desired length and if you plan ahead, you can bring one of the ubiquitous 40% off Joanne coupons with you to increase your savings.

The video will give you a good overview of how the project comes together, but I wanted to give a closer look at some of the steps.

I showed several types of cookie cutters in the video. Admittedly, a cutter that is open at the top without any bar or handle is easiest to use for this project, but I showed my process using a less open cutter here. In all cases, you want to begin by stacking several thin layers of wool in the cutter, alternating the direction in which you place the wool (horizontally and vertically). Try your best to keep the wool inside the cookie cutter. It’s okay if some of the wool climbs up the edges a bit; it will get felted down in the process. Because I was working with a more involved design shape here, and with a low-profile cutter with a bar, my wool extended outside the cookie cutter (oops). Not a big deal, it will get fixed later; felting is a very forgiving process.

Poke around the shape in the cookie cutter.

Poke around the shape in the cookie cutter.

1. Poke around the inside of the cookie cutter, forming the shape of the cutter. I rotated the flower cutter here to get better access to my work area. Once again, don’t worry too much about the wool that may have extend outside of the cutter. We’ll fix it in a moment.

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2. Lifting up the cookie cutter, you can see the flower shape roughed out on the foam mat. The loose wool that is extending beyond the felted petals can now be folded in and felted to the flower without the cookie cutter getting in the way. For open cutters like Asher and Alina used in the video, there won’t be much overhang, so they pretty much skipped this step. Once I moved the cookie cutter out of the way, I could also felt down that pouffy center section.

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3. The flower shape is clear now, but some of the curves lack definition.

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4. Carefully using the needle parallel to the foam mat, you can work to define the shape.

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5. Add your fragrant filler (dried flower petals, aromatic herbs, etc.). Repeat steps 1-4 to create a second shape using the same color wool or a contrasting color if you prefer.

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6. Make a sandwich using your two wool layers and your aromatics. Note that you can see some thinner spots on my top flower here. That’s not a problem, more wool can be added as needed throughout the process. Felt around the edges of the “sandwich” to join the front and back securely. Take care felting around the center of the piece to avoid hitting the aromatics in the center. Hard ones like the star anise that I used could cause your needle to break if jabbed too forcefully.

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Once your front and back pieces have been fairly well joined together, you may find it easier to stand your sachet on its side to firmly felt all around the perimeter. I demonstrate that here with Alina’s pink sachet. Of course, you would want to use two hands when doing this, but taking photos calls for some one-handed maneuvers.

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7. Add your embellishments. I used different-colored wool here to create the flower design. On Asher’s and Alina’s sachets, they both chose to make a second smaller object using a mini cookie cutter, and we also used wool and wool yarn to create designs. Wool yarn can be felted to the sachet with the needle just as you would do with the wool fiber.

Finished sachets

Finished sachets

The project can be easily modified to make holiday ornaments, seasonal window hangings, felted play food, pins, hair clips, and more. If the sachet loses its scent over time or just needs a punch of fragrance, you can add a couple of drops of essential oil to the back of the sachet. If you do this, you may wish to take care about where you place the sachet to avoid transfer of the essential oil to clothing or surfaces.

I hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and look forward to sharing more wool and natural crafting with you. What are some of your felting crafts to do with children? What natural crafting tutorials would you like to see?

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Our Not-So-Crunchy Valentines

Crunchy Parent Valentines

So here’s the deal. I wasn’t going to post about making the kids’ classroom valentines this year. The reason, if I’m being completely honest is because they aren’t really crunchy. They’re crafty, but they involve plastic and are devoid of wool or watercolors. They are anything but natural. I feel mildly guilty about this and I wasn’t entirely proud of sharing that bit here, where the focus is the crunchiness of my parenting. The omission nagged at me though, and I felt like I was being disingenuous. I don’t want to project an image of myself that is fake, holier-than-thou, or unattainable. Of course, I don’t Periscope when I’m at my wit’s end and losing it here in the Crunchy Casa, but I can be honest about the valentines at the very least.

Remember back when I said that family life and needs and resources are always changing and sometimes choices that I make or things that I do may seem uber-crunchy, and sometimes they may seem crunchy-light? Well, valentines this year were crunchy-light at best.

I have reasons for this. I have learned that I have limits, and that I am best served by acknowledging and respecting them. I have also spent some time recently reflecting on my own memories from childhood; the moments that felt the best and the experiences that I most strive to replicate with my kids. What I’ve come to realize is that the specific events and outcomes were not important, it was the feeling of joy and fun and care that I associated with each memory. Doing something that felt special was awesome; being pushed too hard to adhere to a specific imposed standard was not. In approaching Valentine’s Day this year I was striving for the former.

Valentine’s Day is being celebrated in the kids’ classrooms tomorrow since the holiday falls over the weekend this year. I knew that I would be flying solo all week because Rich had to be out of town for work. I steel myself for his work travel. My admiration and empathy for single parents and military families grows with every trip. I knew that adding extensive craft projects to the week would be too much for me to take on if I hoped to remain a pleasant person. I wanted the valentines to be mostly done before he left town on the Monday morning red eye.

I suppose that I could have moved the valentine deadline up and still craft something masterful, but last weekend we were celebrating Chinese New Year with a family hot pot meal, we had a special occasion to attend for family friends, and then there was the Superbowl. We also have a big cancer charity event next week and I’m working on planning Eva’s birthday in two weeks. I wanted each event to be a fun experience without homemade valentines feeling like an obligation hanging over our heads. My goal was for the valentines to be fun and manageable. I hoped that the kids would be excited about making them, and that the valentines would reflect each individual child and who they are right now.

I talked with the kids to get an idea about what was important to them. Asher super did not care. Alina is at a school where for the very first time she is allowed to give out candy with her valentines, and her Priority #1 was to give out a valentine that had candy attached to it. Eva wasn’t sure what the kids might be doing for valentines, but she wanted to give out something that was “a thing” and not just a paper card. With these guidelines, I turned to Pinterest. The girls and I looked over the scads of pins together. I took the liberty of finding an idea for Asher that I thought that he would like. He loves space so I took a space-themed valentine and riffed on the idea a bit.

Asher's space valentines

Asher’s space valentines

Alina’s teacher (bless her) had requested that the students make personal valentines for their peers; having every child write at least two lines of genuine compliments for every other child in the class. I knew that I wanted Alina to focus her time on this aspect of the valentines, so I steered her away from anything too time-consuming in the crafty department. Alina also tends to think big and then get overwhelmed by the reality of her vision, which is a meltdown in the making. In the end, she settled on letting me do a photo valentine of her. Her favorite part about it (beside the candy of course) is that she was still wearing her pajama bottoms when we took the picture. I bet in 10 years she’ll look back at those valentines and laugh about wearing her pajama bottoms, which is much better than seeing them and rehashing a bitter memory of her mom nagging her for a week to finish gluing on doilies or sign her name on every card.

Eva’s class has a lot of students who benefit from fidgets to occupy their busy hands. We decided on a “slime” valentine that the kids could squish and play with at school or at home. As I write this, all three of my kids are playing “bakery” with the extra slime at the kitchen table. If their enthusiasm is any indication, I have a feeling that this valentine will be a hit with the kids at school.

Eva's valentines complete with pink glitter slime

Eva’s valentines complete with pink glitter slime

Just in case you are in a last-minute panic and searching for something for your kids, I’m including the links and resources that I used here.

For Asher’s space-themed valentine, I used this great idea. The astronauts mentioned in that link were no longer available through Amazon so I ordered cute glow in the dark aliens instead. I also used a red Sharpie to draw on hearts because that seemed faster and easier than painting them on as mentioned in the original tutorial. I printed the template out onto card stock and then glued some silver glitter around the moon. All design, color, and embellishment choices were made by Asher. I might have made some different ones, but he had a clear vision of what space should look like, so who was I to impose my ideas? Asher eagerly wrote his name on the back of each valentine. He has been talking about the party at school all week.

For Alina’s lollipop photo valentine, I searched for “lollipop valentine” on Pinterest and found a bunch for inspiration. I snapped a few quick pictures of Alina striking a pose against a plain wall in the house.

Raw photo for valentine

Raw photo for valentine

After selecting the one best-suited for the project, I  used the free photo editing software at Picmonkey to create the card. I’ve been using Picmonkey for a while so I knew my way around, but the site is fairly straightforward and they have a lot of video tutorials to help you achieve the look that you want.

Valentine after Picmonkey magic.

Valentine after Picmonkey magic.

Alina gave her opinion about the colors and design and came up with what she wanted the card to say. I then had the pictures printed up at the Walgreen’s one-hour photo (I used code FORTYOFF40 for 40% off and went through ebates for another 4% back). In an hour I had her photo cards for under $8.00. We planned to attach the Yummy Earth organic lollipops, but the wrappers were so large that they covered up her face. I had a bag of mini tootsie pops leftover from Halloween and they were a perfect size. Mind you, Alina can’t eat them due to her food sensitivities, but she isn’t giving a valentine to herself, so we’re okay there. We printed out Alina’s personal messages and taped them to the back of each photo.

When I went to pick up Alina’s pictures at Walgreen’s, I saw the exact heart-shaped containers that I had been looking for to use with Eva’s slime valentines. Walgreen’s had the containers on clearance. Each set of eight cost me 50 cents. I had all of the other supplies on-hand to make the slime and as mentioned, the kids have been having a blast playing with the excess all week. I printed out the little message on card stock and traced around it with a heart-shaped template that I created to match the back of the containers. I taped them on to the back of the containers with a little loop of tape.

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I have a few aliens left to tie onto cards tonight, and I’ll also be making some killer gluten-free, dairy-free brownies for the kids to have at school during their parties tomorrow. I’m not stressed though. I won’t be up until 3:00a.m. trying to embroider heart sachets or needle felt valentine gnomes. In all it is much less crunchy than prior years have been, but I’m okay with that. Making crunchier choices most of the time lets me consciously choose to be un-crunchy on occasion.

Crunchier valentines of yore: wet on wet watercolor with a resist.

Crunchier valentines of yore: wet on wet watercolor with a resist.

I try to remind myself that this parenting thing is a marathon and not a sprint. When the kids reflect back to their childhood memories, they may only remember the year that we made beautiful wet-on-wet watercolor valentines using a resist technique, or they may have forgotten everything except the time that we took PJ-pics and played with slime. I just hope that the memories that stick with them the most are happy ones.

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Immune Boosting Spiced Elderberry Syrup-Deliciously Fight Cold & Flu

Crunchy Parent Spiced Elderberry Syrup picture
Photo credit: cobaltfish via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Goodness, I’ve missed being around. In addition to the gremlin infestation, we seem to have gotten caught up in an endless cycle of illness around here. It reminds me of the importance of warm clothing, adequate sleep, and nutritious food even in the midst of holidays, schedule changes, and celebrations. I’ve been searching for other ways to fortify our health. One of my preferred ways at the moment is a delicious spiced elderberry syrup.

**As a reminder I am not a doctor and you should seek advice from your own health practitioner before changing your health regimen.**

Elderberries get a lot of attention for their immune-boosting properties. The elder flowers are also excellent for supporting the immune system, so I use a blend of both in this syrup. However, if you only have the berries on-hand you can use a cup of berries and skip the flowers.

A blend of cardamom, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, and ginger all lend a delicious spiced flavor to the syrup. In addition, many of these herbs and spices are warming and drying, which can be helpful if there is an illness that causes chills and runny, congested gunk. Ginger is also beloved for its anti-viral and anti-nausea properties which can come in very handy when fighting a bug. Star anise is anti-viral and anti-bacterial as well as being an antioxidant-packed expectorant.

Echinacea an osha root are both included as optional ingredients. Echinacea is popular as an immune-booster, but there are some differing opinions as to whether echinacea is appropriate for longer-term preventative use, or is if should be reserved for acute illness only. Accordingly, you may want to include the echinacea if you plan to use the syrup during illness only, and skip it if you want to use the syrup preventatively.

Osha has an affiliation for the lungs. It has historically been used for respiratory illness, especially in Native American medicinal tradition. Osha root has suffered losses more recently due to over harvesting and is really not commercially available. If you happen to be fortunate enough to have access to osha root through mindful and sustainable wild harvesting, a small piece of osha root can be a nice addition to this syrup.

The directions for making the syrup are pretty straightforward, and I like the almost instant-gratification of the process. It seems that the first colds of the season always catch me off guard; before I have had the proper time to steep a tincture or elixir. This syrup can be made and used the same day when I sense that it is needed.

Please use my photos as illustrations of the steps in the process. Pay no mind to the quantities shown. I took some of the photos when I was making small, experimental batches and others when I was making large batches of the favorite recipe.

Spiced Elder Syrup (yield approximately 3 cups)
All plant materials used are dried unless otherwise specified. I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs or Frontier Co-Op as resources for dried organic herbs (learn more about establishing a Frontier wholesale buying club here).

Herbs and spices awaiting their big moment.

Herbs and spices awaiting their big moment.

Ingredients:
1 qt. water
3/4 c. elderberries
1/4 c. elder flowers
10 cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
4 whole star anise “stars”
2 cinnamon sticks
1” chunk of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 T. echinacea (optional)
2” piece of osha root (optional)
1 c. honey, raw and organic preferred

Instructions:

1. Place water and herbs into a sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat.

Crunchy Parent spiced elder syrup herbs in pot 1-12-2016

2. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes, until liquid is reduced by approximately half and syrup is slightly thickened.

Crunchy Parent spiced elder syrup simmering 1-12-2015

3. Strain the liquid from the spent herbs into a glass jar, being sure to press the herbs to extract the most liquid. A nut milk bag, jelly bag, or fine mesh sieve can be helpful for this step.

crunchy parent spiced elder syrup strain 1-12-2016

pressing herbs in sieve to extract elderberry syrup

4. Allow the liquid to cool to approximately 105 degrees fahrenheit and add the honey, stirring gently to dissolve. Tip: this is a great way to use raw honey that has become more solid and grainy over time as it will dissolve well in the liquid.

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5. Cover, date, and label syrup. Store in refrigerator.

We enjoy this syrup during times of illness or preventatively. I take a Tablespoon every day when there seems to be some illness brewing in the house, or 2-3 times per day if I am feeling under the weather myself. So far the kids have refused to take it, but if they were willing, I’d say a teaspoon dose for them. It tastes delicious, and I could probably add it to a chai tea without the kids noticing, but I haven’t attempted that yet.

The syrup requires refrigeration. I have found it has lasted for at least a month or so. I usually have used it up by then.

I hope that you enjoy the syrup and lots of good health. What are some ways that you support you health during the cold, dark days of winter?

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Fiber Art Tutorial: Creating Prefelts & Felt Sheets through Wet Felting

Crunchy Parent fiber art tutorial creating prefelts & felt sheets through wet felting (with video)

There is just something about fall weather and wool for me. The change of the seasons and crispness in the air inspires me to to recreate what I see outdoors in a woolen form.

In this tutorial I take you through the process of creating your own custom sheets of wool felt or wool prefelts to serve as the foundation for many crafting projects. The process of wet felting the wool can be carried all the way through to create firmly felted, sturdy sheets of textile that can be cut, sewn, and used in countless craft projects. Another option is to more loosely felt the sheets into prefelts that grant the flexibility of being embellished in future projects, such as through needle felting, or incorporated into other projects. Your prefelted sheet can serve as the base for a playscape or be felted onto a figure or other piece of felt crafting. For a more in depth look at the difference between prefelts and felt sheets, and suggestions for using prefelts, read this article.

Wool batting & roving waiting to become something pretty.

Wool batting & roving waiting to become something pretty.

To create your felt or prefelt sheet, you will need the basic materials of water, soap, wool batting or roving, and some bubble wrap. In addition, you can use embellishments in your work such as bits of wool or silk yarn, dyed silk scraps, curly wool locks, angelina fibers for sparkle, or bits of prefelts. You can also use tools to expedite or simplify your work process. These include towels, a sushi mat, piece of foam pool noodle or rolling pin, or one of these beautiful “hand washboard” felting tools. Rubber bands or pieces of yarn or scrap fabric to tie your roll together may also come in handy as you work, and you may need some tape to attach multiple pieces of bubble wrap for larger projects, as demonstrated in the video.

Reclaimed wool yarn, sari silk yarn, & curly wool locks add character.

Reclaimed wool yarn, sari silk yarn, & curly wool locks add character.

As I’ve mentioned before, the wool fiber supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as Etsy or ebay. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move, and where I stopped in for a visit recently as I said in the video. The studio is run by a lovely crunchy family. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well. I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route.

I am not entirely sure what I will create next with the sheet that I made. It is softly felted enough that I can use it as a prefelt for future crafting, but sturdy enough that I may use it to craft some fall leaves to combine with the wool acorns that I made recently to create a wreath or a garland. Any thoughts?

If you are interested in seeing other crafting tutorials, take a look here. While there, subscribe to the Crunchy Parent YouTube channel for more crafting videos to come.

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Felted Wool Acorn Tutorial

Crunchy Parent felted wool acorn tutorial photo and video picture

I love working wool, especially as it moves into the cooler weather. There is just something so magical to me about taking the cottony fluff of wool and transforming it into sculpture or textile with water or a felting needle. The possibilities are literally endless, which may be why I never tire of working with the medium.

Now that I have identified my boxes of wool among the seemingly endless sea of moving boxes, I am set and ready to share some wool crafting with you. This project is a quick and simple one and the results are irresistible. Everyone just seems drawn to collect, handle, and admire the little acorns falling from the sky at this time of year, and this wool acorn project brings the acorns into the home in a new way, allowing them to find their place in play, on nature tables, or in home decor.

I demonstrate this project with either needle felting or wet felting applications, and will even give you a “cheat” that will let you skip the felting process altogether and still result in cute wooly acorns if you prefer. The materials needed for the project are varied depending on which method you choose, and having multiple methods to pick from makes it very easy to adapt this craft to the ages and skill levels of children who you might wish to include in the craft. Regardless of the method selected, you will need wool batting and acorn caps that have been separated from their acorns and thoroughly dried.

Acorn caps gathered from outside and colorful wool roving and batting

Acorn caps gathered from outside and colorful wool roving and batting

If you opt to wet felt your wool acorns you will also need:

hot water
soap (dish soap or liquid castile are easiest to work with)
bowl (optional; a sink works fine too)
towel
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

Bring on the wet felting!

Bring on the wet felting!

If you prefer to needle felt your wool acorns you will need:

felting needle
felting pad
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

Felting needles and foam pad

Felting needles and foam pad



If you wish to skip the felting but still make cute wool acorns you will need:

purchased wool balls/beads
craft glue or hot glue and a hot glue gun

The supplies can be gathered from many retail sources online and through craft sites such as Etsy or ebay. You may also be lucky enough to have fiber shops or a Waldorf school local to you who may carry supplies. I purchased my felting needles and some of my colored batting through Peace Fleece. I also love shopping at Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio, which was my local fiber shop prior to our move, and where I stopped in for a visit this past weekend. The studio is run by a lovely crunchy family. For those who are not local to them, they do sell products online and through Etsy as well. I have even noticed that chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you wish to go that route. If you would prefer to avoid the felting step and limit your supplies to the third list, you can purchase pre-made wool balls/beads on Amazon or search at sites like Etsy or ebay.

Take a look at the video for the needle felting and wet felting instructions.

For a close up view, you can see the process of rolling up the roving or batting into the small ball here:

Roll and rotate

Roll and rotate

Almost done rolling and ready to needle felt or wet felt the ball.

Almost done rolling and ready to needle felt or wet felt the ball.

In addition, one of the nice aspects of needle felting versus wet felting is the ability to have a bit more control over the process. When I needle felt the acorns I tend to make more varied shapes. Not only do I do round “ball” acorns, but I make more oblong or pointed shapes as well. I tend to draw inspiration from the acorns that I remove from the caps and mirror their shapes in my work.

Needle felted pointed acorn

Needle felted pointed acorn

Although not shown in the video, once you wool balls are ready (and thoroughly dry if you opted for wet felting), mix and match them with your acorn caps. As mentioned in the video, if you have a bumpy or otherwise less attractive spot on your wool ball, try positioning that part within the cap. Once you have found the right acorn-to-cap match and positioning, secure the balls to the caps with a bit of hot glue or with craft glue. If you use craft glue, set them aside to dry as directed on the glue bottle. If you have used hot glue, there is no need to wait.

Felted wool acorns-tutorial

When your acorns are all set, you can use them on a nature table or within a play room. They mix well with fairies, gnomes, and woodland creatures in play, or into a play kitchen as ingredients (no need to overthink, once children see them, their imaginations will know what to do with them). For those whose children appreciate tactile sensory experiences, the warm, soft feeling of the wool contrasted with he hard, textured acorn cap can be engaging. A bowl or bin filled with the acorns could make a wonderful seasonally-themed sensory area for exploration and play.

The acorns can also be used to add some fall beauty to your own home. You can pile them into bowls, clear vases, or other vessels to decorate a table or mantel. They also incorporate beautifully into a fall-themed vignette (which as far as I can tell is a nature table that people don’t want their children to touch). In addition, you can thread fishing wire, embroidery thread, thin ribbons, or other material through the wool body of the acorn and turn them into jewelry, garlands, and more.

This simple craft can be the foundation and inspiration for wonderful fall crafts that bring the beauty of nature into the home in a new way. I hope that you enjoyed the tutorial and look forward to sharing more wool crafting with you. What are some of your favorite autumn crafts? What objects in nature inspire you at this time of year?

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Kombucha 101: Grow your own SCOBY

Crunchy Parent Kombucha 101 Growing your own SCOBY at home from store bought kombucha

I remember the first time that I tasted kombucha, a fermented tea beverage. I was at a trade show for the specialty food industry with my mother and some brand representative thrust little cups of this exotic, fizzy, tea beverage into our hands as we walked down the aisles of vendor booths. We each took a sip, turned to one another with expressions that communicated our displeasure, and deposited our little cups into the next trash receptacle down the aisle. This was about fifteen years ago and I have no recollection what brand we were trying, why we found the taste so unpleasant, or how I came upon kombucha again with a more open mind years later, but it is now one of my very favorite beverages to make and to drink.

For those unfamiliar with kombucha, it is a beverage made by introducing a symbiotic culture of (good) bacteria and (good) yeast (known to its friends as a SCOBY) into a batch of sweetened tea. The SCOBY feeds off of the sugar in the tea and releases carbon dioxide throughout the fermentation process, creating a bubbly brew. The fermenting process allows the yeasts and bacteria to multiply into the tea, yielding a probiotic elixir that can do all of the wonderful things for the gut that we have come to understand and expect from probiotics. (See this article for a bit more about which probiotics have been found across kombucha samples). As we have also been learning more about the important connection between our gut and our overall immune system, kombucha may represent another way to introduce robust probiotic populations into our diet and into our gut, resulting in an overall healthier immune system.

I had become interested in kombucha once again when I began to learn and think more about cultured foods as the kids advanced through their Waldorf school. Part of the parent education piece in preschool included discussions about diet and the gut, and featured a lot of conversations about Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, as well as Weston Price, both of whom emphasized cultured foods and gut health. As I played around at home with sauerkraut and other cultured vegetables, at some point a bottle of kombucha made its way into my cart at the health food store. This was a bit odd for me as I am a water and hot tea drinker by nature. I really do not enjoy any other beverages and am not inclined to experiment with them often. That said, I loved the refreshing bite and bubbles in kombucha, and it quickly became another preferred way to hydrate and refresh.

As any regular kombucha drinker knows, a kombucha habit can become costly to support as bottles can run upwards of $4-$5 each at the store. Moreover, although the selection of available kombucha options is ever-expanding as kombucha’s popularity soars, one is still limited to the flavors available at their local markets. Fortunately kombucha is very inexpensive to make on your own, especially once you get your basic ingredients and set up ready to go (i.e., loose tea, organic sugar, good water, a brewing container, bottles, and of course your SCOBY). I knew how to source out the basic ingredients, but finding a SCOBY can be a challenge. I was lucky because one of the teachers at the school at the time brewed her own kombucha regularly and thus had SCOBYs to share (each batch will yield a new “baby SCOBY” in addition to the reusable “mother SCOBY”). I used the SCOBY that I was gifted and its resulting babies to brew and share for years. Unfortunately, with our move and extended time living in someone else’s home, I could not maintain my brewing or my SCOBYs. As soon as we got into our new house, brewing kombucha was high on my list of things to do right away, but despite asking around I could not get my hands on a new SCOBY. I considered several options (purchase one online, drive a distance to a store that sells them fresh, etc.) but in the end I opted to just grow my own.

There has been a fair amount of debate in kombucha brewing circles for a while about the feasibility of growing a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha. I participate in an active kombucha-brewing discussion group and this topic pops up a lot. Some of you may recall that a number of years ago, Whole Foods sent a panic out to their kombucha-drinking customers when they pulled all of the kombucha off of store shelves for months due to concern that the alcohol content in these beverages may have exceeded the 0.5% threshold that distinguishes “non-alcoholic beverage” from “Mommy can’t drink that in the car on the way to yoga class.” As a result of this debacle, many kombucha manufactures modified their brewing practices. It has been speculated that these changes in the brewing process have somehow altered the viability of the kombucha in such a way that it hinders the growth of a SCOBY. The general consensus is that if one is attempting to use store-bought kombucha to grow a SCOBY, they should look for a bottle that is clearly labeled “raw” and that has no added flavoring agents, like juice. To grow my SCOBY, I purchased a 16 oz. bottle of GT’s Original Organic Raw Kombucha. For good measure, I looked for one that had a lot of “gunk” in the bottom of the bottle (which I think is technically yeast, not gunk, but nevertheless having more seems to jump start the process).

Empty bottle. So excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture first.

Empty bottle. So excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture first.

There is not much that is required to grow a SCOBY, but it is important that you keep everything really clean. Because you are working with a fermentation process, you don’t want to have bad fungi or bacteria hanging out and proliferating along with the good. Accordingly, you want to make sure that you use a sterilized, clear, non-leaded glass vessel to grow your SCOBY or a sterile ceramic fermenting container. DO NOT use a plastic container or any glass with additives such as colors or metals as chemicals will leach into the tea and SCOBY during the fermentation process, which means that you’d be sipping toxins with your tea and we do not want that. I used a quart size glass canning jar that I sterilized in my dishwasher and immediately removed to put to use as my SCOBY incubator. You can also sterilize your glass jar in boiling water, in a low temperature oven, etc. I would recommend using a large-mouthed jar if possible to allow for the best air flow and surface area for SCOBY growth. The SCOBY will grow to the exact circumference of the container and you want a good size SCOBY for future batches. Also, if the top of the container is more narrow, it can be tougher to get your SCOBY out of the jar in one piece when you are ready to make your batch of kombucha.

Once you have your sterile glass jar all clean and dry, just open up your bottle of kombucha and dump it in. It’s that simple. You are going to want to let your kombucha breathe while it works to grow that SCOBY since it needs to keep taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide. That said, you don’t want your jar open to all of what is floating or flying around in the air. I generally cover my jar with a scrap of clean muslin or cotton. In a pinch a scrap of an old (clean) cotton shirt will work, or in the case of having just moved into a new house and not knowing where anything is, you can use a piece of a clean paper towel. Secure your cover to the jar with a rubber band, string, or the band of the canning jar lid (without the lid piece). Next you just want to place your SCOBY jar in some out of the way place. Not too cool or too hot, and not in direct sunlight. You also want to be mindful of the need to breathe, so a counter top is good, but a closed cabinet is not. In my experience the kombucha does not like to be jostled about, especially in the early stages when a new SCOBY is growing. If you do it will disturb the SCOBY growth, which happens along the very surface of the tea. This may cause the growing SCOBY to drop down from the surface and a new one will have to start growing all over again (not a critical error, but annoying). So it really is best to find some out of the way counter space for your SCOBYs growth process, which can take from weeks to a month or so.

The following photos show my SCOBY’s progress:

Here she is after about three days. Not a whole lot going on.

Growing SCOBY from store-bought Kombucha. Slow progress on Day 3

Now we’re about a week in. You can see a thin film starting to form on the surface. That is the new SCOBY growing. From the top it looks a bit patchy, which sometimes makes people freak out (they think that it’s getting moldy). If it is fuzzy, blue, green, or black you may have a problem; but slimy, white, brown, or tan are typical SCOBY traits, and those patches will expand and grow together to make the complete SCOBY surface.

Kombucha progress-Day 7 of growing my own SCOBY from storebought GT's

It’s been about 19 days. SCOBY is starting to thicken up. You can see a couple of layers because there were two occasions when I jostled or moved the jar a bit because I was trying to get a better angle for taking pictures for demonstrative purposes to show you what it would look like. I also was worried that there might not be enough sugar in the tea to support healthy growth, so I added about a teaspoon of organic sugar to it and tried to push down the edge of the SCOBY gently with a clean straw to allow the sugar to dissolve into the tea. The new SCOBY just continued to form over the layers and they had not totally separated from the top so no biggie.

Growing my own kombucha SCOBY from storebought booch. Progress on day 19

Day 30 (today)!!! I can’t believe that it’s been a month already. I really should have unpacked more by now, which has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but goodness a month already!?!

Growing my own kombucha SCOBY from scratch. Progress day 30. Success!

The SCOBY is not quite 3/4” thick and is very pretty, if you’re into that sort of thing. You can see some of the CO2 bubbles trapped below the SCOBY and some yeast “gunk” hanging off the bottom of the SCOBY to the right. I will be brewing up my first batch of kombucha with my new SCOBY soon, as well as using the remaining tea in the jar as the starter tea for the batch. It is still a small SCOBY, so I will need to brew a relatively small batch, but it will get the job done.

If you want to join me in kombucha brewing, start growing your SCOBY now and get your hands on some organic sugar and non-flavored, loose leaf, black tea or you can blend black, green, and/or rooibos tea (unflavored is a must though). You’ll also want a larger non-leaded glass container for your larger brew. I use this type of jar without the lid. They are often sold in 1/2 gallon, 1 gallon, or 2 gallon sizes at stores like Target. Hold onto that kombucha bottle as well because it will come in handy when you are bottling your homemade brew. We’ll talk more about the “why”s of all of those specifics next time, but just trust me for now.

Have you ever brewed your own kombucha at home or grown your own SCOBY from scratch? If you have any tips or favorite flavor combinations to share, I’d love to hear them.

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Seed Saving: What Seed Can Be Saved, How, and Why?

heirloom and OP tomatoes

Why Bother with Seed Saving?

I have really loved to grow food for as long as I can remember. Flowers and medicinal plants have claimed a place in my gardening heart in more recent years, but food is where it all began. As a young child, I remember that my dad always planted a summer vegetable garden in addition to the grape vines that wound their way up the fences amidst the raspberries and blackberries, and the strawberries that claimed their spot at the foot of the apple and pear trees. He would proudly display a handful of radishes or carrots and proclaim with pride, “Look what G-d and I made!” My Papa (his dad) was a gardener too, growing food his whole life. In his retirement he even coordinated a community garden and organized the donation of their bounty to local food pantries.

I am happy to carry on this tradition of growing food for my family and to share with others. My favorite food of all to grow is a tomato. In particular, I love to grow heirloom and open pollinated tomatoes. They tend to represent a seemingly endless array of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavor profiles. I think that they are beautiful and delicious. They also appeal to my drive to be sustainable and to perpetuate biodiversity in our food because open pollinated and heirloom seeds allow for the grower to harvest seed from the choicest fruit and save it to grow the same variety of plant year after year.

I know that in the weeks ahead gardeners from all around will be selecting and hardening off their plants or getting them in the ground. It is a bit late to be staring your own plants from seed this year, but if you want to plan ahead with the option of saving seed and starting your own plants next season, be mindful when choosing this year’s plants or seed. Moreover, if you are already growing heirloom or open pollinated plants, take advantage of the opportunity to save seed from your favorites to grow again in the future.

I demonstrate how to ferment and save your own tomato seeds in the video below. For more information on types of seeds and which are appropriate for saving (and which are not), keep reading.

Plant and Seed Types

For those unfamiliar with the distinctions among variety types, I’ll break it down:

Hybrids

A hybrid plant is a variety that has been created to have a number of desired characteristics. In the case of a tomato for instance that could be an early ripening, low acid, cherry size, orange, and sweet variety. This hybridized tomato is the evolution of cross-breeding plants with some of the desired characteristics and selecting out the resulting “baby” plants that come closer to the intended end product.

The variety mixing and tweaking goes on until the desired parent plants can be identified and stabilized so that when cross-bred will create the ultimate “blended” tomato. This tomato is their first generation “ideal” offspring and is labeled the F1 hybrid. However, hybrid tomatoes have seed that is unstable. That is to say that if you save and grow seed from this F1 fruit, the seeds will revert back in different and unpredictable ways to earlier generations, perhaps yielding an early ripening large red tomato with watery flavor; a late ripening, sweet, red cherry tomato; and a low acid, early ripening, medium-sized, yellow tomato. Moreover, second generation hybridized seeds also tend to produce less vigorous and more sickly plants.

Open Pollinated

An open pollinated (OP) plant means that the plant is pollinated by natural means such as insects, birds, or wind carrying pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers, rather than being a manipulated cross like a hybrid. As it happens, tomatoes are self-fertile and generally will be fertilized and set fruit without interference from other tomato plant varieties, but it could happen on occasion. If the blossom was to be fertilized from the pollen of a different open-pollinated tomato variety, the fruit would produce seed that would grow into a new and different variety altogether (in essence, an accidental hybrid).

This fact made me wonder how an OP keeps from becoming a hybrid. Generally speaking, these tomato varieties have become stabilized over time by selecting out generation after generation of plant that grows stable from the seed. The commonly held belief is that after 4-5 generations of growing seed from a fruit and saving seed only from those plants of each generation that replicate the initial plant, the variety is now stable and will yield the same tomato from generation to generation assuming that it is not accidentally fertilized by a different variety.

Because these plants are technically open-pollinated, they can yield seed that is a cross between the initial variety and another open pollinated tomato plant should an errant breeze or helpful bee carry over pollen from another plant before the flowers have pollinated by their own fertile selves. In an effort to ensure seed that is true to the variety, a grower would want to either isolate the plant a prescribed distance from other tomato varieties, or (more practical for the home grower) bag the flower blossoms to keep the fruit and seed true to the variety.

Heirloom

An heirloom plant is by definition an open-pollinated variety. The distinction however is that an heirloom variety is one that that has existed and handed down through families for years (I have seen definitions ranging from 50-100 years as the minimum requirement, but suffice it to say it would be an old variety). These tomatoes have become stabilized by years of selecting out the plants that represent the variety and handing these seeds down time and again, as with OP seeds. So in short, all heirlooms varieties are open-pollinated, but not all open pollinated varieties have earned the distinction of becoming heirlooms. If they stand the test of time and familial preference, they may become the heirlooms of the future.

Cliff Notes Version

In summary, a hybrid is a tomato that has been intentionally bred from crossing other varieties. It is unstable across generations so only first generation (F1) seeds should be used. Saved seeds from hybrids will not grow true. An open pollinated (OP) tomato is stable assuming that it does not accidentally become cross pollinated by another variety. This can be avoided by distancing plants or bagging blossoms. An heirloom is an OP variety that has been handed down from generation to generation for a period of 50-100 years or more and is still being grown today. Seed from OP or heirloom varieties can be saved and should grow true to variety except in the rare case of accidental cross pollinating.

Saving Tomato Seeds in Two Simple Steps

So, now that you know that you can save seed from heirloom and OP tomato plants, you just need to know how to do it. The good news is that it is very easy. All that is required is the liberation of the seed from its protective gel sac and then thoroughly drying the seed before storing so that it doesn’t mildew.

tomato seeds in their protective gel sacs

tomato seeds in their protective gel sacs

The second part is easy (just lay out flat and allow to dry). The first part is pretty simple too provided that you have a jar and a few days to allow the seeds to ferment in the tomato’s juice. See the video above for the quick tutorial.

What are some of your favorite tomato varieties? Why do you enjoy growing and eating them?

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Making Herbal Tinctures from Fresh Herbs (Video Tutorial)

Time to Tincture!

Sorry that I’ve been MIA. I was actually off on a fun adventure. I’ll tell you more about that in the days ahead. In the meantime, I’ve been spending lots of time as of late working with and learning about herbs and their medicinal properties. One thing that I’ve been doing is using herbs to make tinctures, which are essentially the beneficial compounds of the plant extracted into alcohol and then dosed with a dropper. You can see a video of the process here:

For those looking for the Cliff’s Notes version, you chop up your plant material into small, uniform pieces and put it in a glass jar with high proof alcohol in a quantity that is double in volume relative to the weight of your plant matter. You shake it up at least once a day, and after a period of time (7-10 days or 6-8 weeks depending on who you’re asking) you strain out the liquid from the plant material, squeezing out those last precious drops. Then you just bottle and label your new tincture. Voila!

Along the way in the video, I mention some helpful resources. The first is to help acquaint you with different herbs and gives some guidance as to the strength of alcohol needed to extract all of the plants’ goodness into your tincture. Some plant compounds can be extracted by lower proof alcohol whereas others need the heavy duty stuff. Mountain Rose Herbs gives the general guideline of using lower proof alcohol for high-moisture herbs and high proof for more resinous herbs and gums. I use high proof for everything during the extraction phase to hedge my bets. This also gives me the option of diluting with distilled water later if I want a less potent extract.

If you are looking for bottles for storing your herbs, you can order smaller amber or blue glass dropper bottles of various sizes from many retailers. I also purchase screw top larger bottles to use as the “stock” bottles to store my tincture and then refill the smaller dropper dosing bottles from them. I have ordered bottles from Frontier Co-op, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Amazon among other places.

As mentioned in the video, you can probably find high proof alcohol at your local liquor store (or at least, I did). If you want a larger array of options, wish to produce a grain-free or organic product, or anticipate needing very large quantities of alcohol, Alchemical Solutions is a great option. Shipping costs can be very high however.

If you are intrigued by the idea of making herbal tinctures, but don’t know where to begin in terms of which herbs to use for what, there are some accessible herbal guides and recipe books that may help you become more confident working with herbs. Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs book, Michael Moore’s books such as Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West, or Jesse Wolf Hardin’s books such as A Treasury of Herbal Wisdom: Vital Knowledge & Essential Skills among many others are great for helping you get better acquainted with the use of herbs to support healing. So are you ready to get started?

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TBT: Wet Felted Wool Ball Tutorial with Needle Felting Option (video)

Wet and Needle Felted Wool Balls

I am keeping my fingers crossed that in time we will be able to recover some of the more frequently searched for and referenced posts from the CrunchyParent.com blog in its first version before we lost all of the content from the site (more about that here). It is amazing to me, and very gratifying, that even through I had stopped posting new content to the blog almost seven years ago and it had disappeared from the interwebs completely for five years, people still find their way to the site through old links from other blogs. It seems inhospitable to have nothing to greet them about their topic of interest other than an error message. Fortunately I was at times a contentious blogger, saving my posts as actual files rather than typing the content directly into my hosting site. We’ve saved the hard drive from the computer that I used at the time, so there is still the possibility of finding some or many of my old posts and revisiting them here.

In honor of Throwback Thursday, I’m going to attempt to capture the essence of a video tutorial post that I had made in 2008, back when I posted to the blog anonymously and used pseudonyms for the children and didn’t show my face in videos (I’ve since gotten over all of that). The first video in the two-part tutorial series shows a very accessible way to craft a wet-felted wool ball using nothing more than your hands, wool batting, dish soap, and water (which means that you probably have at least three of the required ingredients already!). These wool balls can be made in any size needed and are great for gentle indoor play for children of all ages (including babies provided that they have direct supervision to ensure that they don’t gum off any loose wool and choke on a hairball). The balls can also be used as cat toys and as wool dryer balls to cut down on drying time and eliminate the need for artificial fabric softeners.

Part Two of the series shows you that by adding a dry felting needle and some imagination to your supply list, the sky is the limit for the complexity and types of designs that you can create. The picture above shows some of the balls that I made years ago, and that my children and their friends have played with for hours and hours.

For those looking for supplies, I have always been happy with the felting needles and colored wool batting that I have purchased from Peace Fleece. I especially like their batting bundles because they give me great color variety and it would take me a long time to go through a full pound of a single-colored wool. For the natural colored wool batting used for the core of the ball, my go-to supplier has historically been West Earl Woolen Mill (their website is as bare bones as one can get, but call them for pricing and ordering information). As mentioned in the video, this type of undyed wool is incredibly useful in natural crafting for needle felting and wet felting, constructing Waldorf style dolls, stuffing soft toys, and more. Of course ebay, Etsy, and Amazon can all be great resources for wool batting, roving, and other felting supplies. I have even noticed that my local chain-store craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabric carry a limited selection of needle felting tools, kits, and supplies, wool batting, and roving as well if you prefer to shop locally or just can’t wait for craft supplies to arrive by mail. In addition, you may be lucky enough to have a local fiber, craft, or Waldorf School store nearby that might stock the necessary materials or supplies. As an additional tip, I personally find it easier to wet felt with somewhat coarser wool batting versus finer wool roving, but your experience may differ.

If you try out the process and have any questions, please post in the comments. I’d also love to learn about any wet felting tips or resources that you have to share as well as pictures of your finished projects. Please remember to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com and to the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel for more craft tutorials, cooking demos, “crunchy” subscription unboxings, and lots more.

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