Wednesday, November 30, 2011
With Thanksgiving behind us, there is no denying Christmas is right around the corner. Our quiet country road was abuzz with traffic on Black Friday with families heading to the neighbor's Christmas tree farm. Conifers are king in our neck of the woods, with Christmas trees being a major agriculture crop due to our high rainfall and acid soils providing perfect conditions for growing trees. In fact it's hard to keep land clear here, it naturally wants to grow trees.
That being said, many people do get a natural tree, but still buy many decorations for the rest of their homes that aren't natural at all. I have to admit I am a sucker for the bright colors of ornaments and lights, but I'm trying to end it there, and have more natural decorations to go along with the fir tree we will decorate.
Douglas Fir bark with lichen.
No matter where we live we can look outside in our surroundings and find something to decorate with. My daughter and I challenged ourselves to make a bouquet to get us in the Christmas spirit. But, it had to be out of ordinary plants available nearby, and put together quickly. She took off with the camera, and I took off with my trusty Felco pruners.
Cotoneaster, bird planted.
She was attracted to the berries on various plants, all these are natives or wildings and just part of our landscape on the farm.
In the wintertime we cut firewood on any dry day that we are all available. We're taking out dead or damaged trees, and the dead trees have loose bark. Living in a rain forest means moss and lichen grow on anything that doesn't move. It is lovely and perfect for bringing in to dress up a vase or to decorate with.
For our impromptu arrangement we went for scotch broom and sword fern for filler and just added a spray of holly and a multi-branched snowberry to add some contrast.
We know this bouquet wouldn't win any prizes at the fair, but it was fun, didn't cost a penny, and we brought a little bit of the forest into our house to enjoy.
What types of greenery or natural items do you have in your neck of the woods to decorate with?
Sunday, September 25, 2011
This week I have been packing boxes in readiness for our return home and I came across Melody's cherished "ballet book" - a simple scrapbook I made to document her first ballet classes. I wrote about its creation on my blog last year and I thought readers here at Simple, Frugal and Green might appreciate the idea that memory-keeping needn't be an expensive or elaborate affair.
I’m no Martha when it comes to scrapbooking, that’s for sure. No designer layouts and special albums for me; I prefer to wing-it with whatever’s at hand. While my efforts wouldn’t pass muster with serious scrapbooking enthusiasts, I am happy that I have at least made the effort to document and celebrate some of the significant events and activities in my girls’ lives in this form.
Pictured above is a crazy-huge scrapbook of Ella’s very-first artwork from her toddler and pre-school days. We made this book together when she was a young child, I think she was four-years-old, and we took it off to a local copy shop to have it bound. For many years she would trot out this book to proudly show visitors and to this day it is still one of her most prized possessions. It is an especially important keepsake to Ella as she has developed into a most talented young artist and this book documents her “early years” (or her “bunny years” as I like to call them as that was about all she was interested in drawing for quite some time!)
This one is a book I made last year to document Melody’s first year at ballet. It has photos and mementos from her first ballet classes through to her first performance and I have written the text in very simple storybook style. It is now one of Melody’s favourite bedtime reads (what three-year-old doesn’t love to read a book all about themselves?) This book was made late at night, after Melody had gone to sleep, while I was pregnant with Maddison and finished just the night before she was born. So, for me, this book is also infused with those special pregnancy/birth memories... I gave it to Melody for Christmas and it was one of her favourite presents.
I think this home-made, free-form approach to scrap-booking works better for me because I get intimidated by expensive, “perfect” scrapbooks and I procrastinate over what is the “perfect” thing to write and add to them. If I am just winging it with less expensive materials, in a less structured way, I relax a bit more with the whole thing and don’t end up placing such huge expectations on myself that I never get around to doing anything.
The results are, in a word, wonky! That’s my style... But they are made with mama-love, and I reckon that’s what really counts.
We have some significant things happening in 2010 – Maddi’s first year being one of them - and Melody has oh-so-enthusiastically started pre-school a couple of days a week, so right now I am playing away documenting these major events.
This is the start of a scrapbook of Melody’s artwork from her first year at pre-school. As you can see, it’s made from a simple, old-fashioned scrapbook, and Melody is the creator-in-chief - from making the artwork to start with to sticking it in her book each week. I can’t wait to see how her drawings and paintings change over the year. The book is covered in one of her paintings and then clear contact paper is applied over the top.
While these books will ultimately be in the possession of the girls, I freely admit the making of these is as important, if not more important, to me than them! Childhood, that most powerful of times, scoots away from us so, so quickly... I want to savour, and remember, every moment with my girls while it lasts.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
from Spiral Garden
Early sunsets and nature’s bounty set the mood for family feasts.
Gathering together is the theme of autumn. Traditionally, it is the time when we store food for winter, close up our homes and spend more time indoors. The Autumn Equinox was on 21 March 2011 (in the southern hemisphere) - a wonderful time to unite with friends for a harvest feast. It is a time of balance – equal sunlight and darkness. Harmony...
Taste – Cooler evenings see the return of soups and slow-cooked meals. The bountiful harvests of Autumn ensure that plates explode with colour, flavour and warmth.
Touch – Little hands delight in the varied textures of treasures found on nature walks. Nature sows as man harvests. Seeds are enchanting – great power in the palm of our hand. There is a chill in the breeze and we seek out jackets and shoes, amazed at how tall children have grown through summer.
Smell – Inhale the fertile soil when digging in the garden to harvest the last of summer’s abundance. Allow earthy scents to envelop you as you crunch fallen leaves underfoot. Absorb the sumptuous aroma of a simmering soup, or something baking in the oven.
Sight – The resplendent colours of Autumn are a celebration of nature: one last party before winter sets in. Notice how the golden pumpkins capture some sunshine to store through the grey days ahead. To compliment the brilliant hues of trees, the sky is bluer than in any other season.
Sound – Migrant birds call farewell as they leave for warmer climes. Autumn sounds are as crisp as the cold winds that begin to blow.
Feelings – Autumn is the time to preserve the living wonders of summer - try making jam, pressing flowers or drying herbs to give thanks to the waning sunlight. Soak up the last rays of warmth as summer disrobes and darkness creeps in. Relax and enjoy the fruit of your labours – your garden, your work, your family.
Activities – Autumn is a good time to clean up the garden and plant in readiness for spring. Depending on where you live, different crops will do well through the cooler months. Seed packets and catalogues have appropriate instructions, or ask a local gardener, as their advice will be the most valid to your locale. Most things you plant now will take quite awhile to reward you – bulbs, brassicas (the cabbage family), potatoes, onions, garlic and broad beans, for example. For fast results, try some sprouts or a terrarium indoors.
This season will provide many treasures for your seasonal tableau.Find a warm-toned cloth and adorn it with seeds, leaves, bark and pods.Dry some flowers and leaves to put into a little pottery vase. The hues of Autumn showcase nature’s splendour.
It’s time to come inside. The days are shorter, the evenings cool. The summer holidays are but a memory and each of us is settling back into our routines and rhythms for the year. This is the time to revive evening rituals neglected during the fast and fun summertime. Long story times and meals by candlelight are some of our favourites.
Craft in autumn can include Mother Nature’s offerings – simple bark and leaf rubbings, seed pod characters, arrangements of dry foliage or jewellery-making. It’s also time for fibre crafts – if you want to knit a scarf for winter, start now!
Enjoy this season of slowing down and reconnecting with home and family.
This is part of one (of three) Seasonal Fun Series I have had published in parenting magazines. I know many of our readers are in the northern hemisphere. For more seasonal inspiration, here are some relevant articles:
- for the northerners, and...
Friday, July 3, 2009
Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden
One of the most important aspects of having a garden is spending time there. By observing, touching and appreciating our gardens we have more success simply because we’re there to notice what it needs.
Time in the garden need not be only about planting, feeding, watering and harvesting. Another way to enjoy your garden is through art.
The garden itself is often seen as a form of art. Using plants’ colour, texture, shape and size the gardener creates a landscape of beauty. By adding accessories, either natural (such as stones) or man-made, we enhance and individualise our growing spaces. By looking at others’ gardens, parklands, nature, books and magazines from the library or garden web sites, we can collate ideas of what appeals to us and from there gradually shape our garden through the addition of new plants or other items.
~ Elizabeth Murray ~
Throughout history gardens have also influenced artists’ paintings, photographs and words. Famous garden artists include Paul Cezanne, Claude Monet and Georgia O’Keefe. Of course for many children, their first artworks include flowers, trees, butterflies and other natural beauty.
Nature and the garden offer free and sustainable art supplies: flowers, leaves, gourds, bark, sticks, seeds and pods are suitable for drawing, pressing, drying, painting, decorating, paper-making, using in sculptures or useful creations, using for dying textiles and more. There are many books and web sites dedicated to nature craft projects.
Designing a garden on paper, or using a computer program, is a useful creative process. A design can save you time, money and disappointment. Garden designs are a great learning tool for children too – measuring space, calculating costs and brainstorming alternatives to reduce, re-use and recycle.
Gardens are also ideal galleries. From painted flowerpots to giant-sized sculptures, imagination and creativity are at ease in any garden from window box to courtyard to farmyard… Our vegetable gardens grow inside greenhouses. In one greenhouse we added wind chimes, chipped crockery and mosaic items. They were clutter inside our home but provide joy out there in the jungle of greenery that is our tropical food garden.
Our thirteen-year-old, Imogen, loves to grow plants in pots. On a low, upturned broken concrete tank she has a collection of recycled containers including a fish bowl and broken teapot housing her various cacti and succulents. Her experiments with tree seedlings and strawberry runners live amongst the exotic display. Around the base Imogen has gathered her beloved potted roses, and scattered in between are rocks, shells, unfinished carving projects and more. At a glance, it’s a mess, but upon closer inspection I see her appreciation for beauty, love of nature and artistic flair shine through.
We would like to build an herb spiral – a pyramid-shaped pile of rocks from our creek planted with herbs grown from cuttings and seeds. The moisture-loving mint will ramble at the bottom and right up top the thyme, rosemary and lavender will escape the wet soil they dislike. There will be room among the herbs for some of our favourite garden art, such as pottery from the thrift store which is too unusual to be practical in the kitchen, but ideal for scooping a bit of water or protecting a frog. Or toadstools made from clay and protected with a coat of builder’s sealing agent. Perhaps even some dragonflies made of bent wire and glass beads from broken costume jewelery…
Next we could create a pond. I’ve seen simple ones built with recycled vessels or a piece of black plastic lining. By adding rocks, logs and plants of various colours and textures, the perfect environment is assembled for a few small fish. Or we might wait for the wildlife to discover this gift – frogs, birds, insects and lizards all appreciate garden ponds.
While we’re decorating for the wildlife, we might build some bird feeders together. Seed for wild birds can be purchased locally. We could also plant some of that seed and grow fresh seed heads for our feathered friends to enjoy. I’ve seen bird feeders made from fallen timber, gourds, commercial building materials and various recycled items. Our large family could try several designs to see what the birds prefer.
Some birds that visit we don’t want to encourage. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are Australian birds who can destroy a whole crop of fruit in one day. They often pierce a small hole in the fruit, devour the seeds, and let the rest fall, wasted, to the ground. They also bite off branches and leaves from trees in order to trim their beaks. In urban areas, they can destroy timber features of houses and fences. Maybe we’ll create a scarecrow? I notice that when any of us are outdoors, the Cockatoos don’t descend on the fruiting trees and vines. And those pesky crows don’t bother our young poultry when a human is on guard. A scarecrow would be a fun project, and he or she wouldn’t mind standing on guard in the rain!
I hope your growing space can be the muse for engaging artists of all ages.
Garden Crafts for Kids: 50 Great Reasons to Get Your Hands Dirty - Diane Rhoades