Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY - Christmas Dresses for my Girlies - Tutorial - PART 1

Over the past couple of weeks, we really did look for some cute christmas dresses for our girlies but we could not find anything we liked. Gotta admit, we are somewhat picky: Aurelia insists that the dresses have to match (BTW: I cannot stand matching outfits for kids, but hey, she wants it, she gets it.) and Roberto and I were not loving any dresses we saw.

Aurelia kept arguing that christmas dresses should be pink and purple because who ever wears red and green? Roberto whispered to me, "I wouldn't mind if some of the girls' clothes were not pink or purple. I mean, there ARE other colours..."

My man even raised the point that it was somewhat silly to get an outfit that you wear once in your life, since the girls will outgrow it in no time. Well, Aurelia and I simply ignored that rational comment.

Then we thought, maybe we should go with an outfit - as in shirt, leggins, skirt - that is a tad festive but even with that idea we could not find anything we liked enough to buy it.

Eventually, i said, "Let me see what I can whip up from my fabric storage."

Back at home, I found some ivory colored knit and a red velvet. Aurelia loooves that velvet, even if it's not in her favourite colours (pink & purple). Hmmmm.....

Now, here is the idea:

I have a pattern for a cute shirt, that I could extend the hem so that it becomes a dressy length with some flare, of course.

I am planning on using the ivory knit to make this shirt-gone-dress kind with red velvet sleeves.

Then, I will cut stripes of the red velvet and make ruffles and more ruffles and sew them onto that ivory portion of said dress.

OK.... now, let's wash that fabric and draw that pattern.... stay tuned...

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Harvesting & Drying Herbs

It is fall. And most of our garden's bounty has been harvested and eaten but there are still those herbs who need harvesting. With the moon in a watersign today, I decided, it is time to get the scissors out and snip: sage, rosemary, mints and lemon balm.

Now what?

After rinsing them, I shook them, tied some of them in bunches and hung them upside down in the dining room. You won't believe the scent!

Drying herbs in the oven is way faster, but if the herbs are dried too quickly at too high a temperature, much of the flavor, oils, and color of the herbs can be lost.  So, to gently oven dry, I placed the leaves and / or stems on a cookie sheet or shallow pan and warmed them at 180°F for 3 to 4 hours with the oven door open.

What to do with those dried herbs? While herbs can be used for soo many things, here is what I do with my herbs:

Lemon Balm, is a perennial.The leaves are picked and I use it in herbal teas or in iced tea or fruit salads.
Lavender is a perennial. The whole flower spikes are cut just before the florets are fully open. I use lavender in sachets, cold-hot-packs, eyemasks, airsols, oils, soap as well as for culinary purposes. Check out some herbal tea recipes here. 

Marjoram, is an annual but in my mild Californian winters, they end up being a perennial. I cut them back to 1 inch above the ground and use marjoram leaves with meat, poultry, vegetables (beans for Thanksgiving!)

Mints are perennials. We harvest the leaves basically all the time for herbal teas and for cooking. Since they grow like mad, you may want to cut them almost to the ground.

Oregano is a perennial. Harvest and dry before flowering and use to season spaghetti sauces and tomato dishes.

Rosemary is a perennial and mine smell and taste amazing! We love them with meats, poultry dishes, and potatoes. After drying, you can season sea salt with it; in a pretty jar these are nice gifts.

Sage is a perennial Harvest when just starting to flower A commonly used seasoning for Thanksgiving (meat & stuffing) as well as great in herbal teas. We also love fried sage leaves. Check out my recipe here.

Thyme is a perennial and is nice with meats and soups.


Soften 1/4 pound of butter at room temperature. Add about 4 tablespoonsful of dried herb leaves as well as a bit of minced garlic.  Beat with an electric blender until light and fluffy. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How to make Rose Water - Tutorial

My rose petals
With holiday baking approaching, it is always good to stock up on rose water. Rose water can be used in baking, cooking and even makes for a great mild facial toner for sensitive skin.

What do you need?

  • Fresh petals 
  • Water (Ratio: 1 cup firmly packed petals : 2 cups of boiling water)
  • Ice cubes
  • Enamel or stainless steel pot with lid
  • Heat proof bowl or brick or stones
  • Deep bowl

What should you be mindful of when using rose petals?

Flowers should be organic (no pesticide, no herbicide!) and freshly picked; you will be using only the flower petals; no leaves or stems.

I grow my own, but some vendors at farmer's markets may also sell organic roses. Rinse briefly to take bugs and dirt off.
Inside the pot

What now?

Fill the bottom of the pot with the petals.

Then pour the boiling water over them until they are just covered. 

Place the heat proof bowl in the middle of the pot. 

The pot's rim should be at least a couple inches higher than the liquid. 

Ice cubes on upside down lid
Cover with lid, but position it upside down so that there’s a dipped “container” to hold the ice on top (to be added later). 

Bring to a boil.

After a couple minutes, turn the heat down; simmer for about two hours.
Add more ice as needed and check occasionally to ensure the petals still have some water.

How does it work?

This process will create condensation forming on thedownward facing lid. 

The condensation will drip down into the bowl inside the pot, which is to become your rosewater.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY Christmas Presents - Paint a Mug - Aber bitte mit Sahne

With Christmas approaching rather fast, I am starting to get all my pressies ready to be shipped to our loved ones overseas.

Let me ask you this: What do grandmas love more than anything else in the world? Correct, their grandchildren!

So, I figured, they also must love artwork from said kids.

My mom lives in Germany where we have what is called 'Kaffeeklatsch', where basically a bunch of women get together, eat cake and drink well, coffee.

A famous German musician even made a song about this.... Aber bitte mit Sahne

And here is what I have in mind for my Mama: I bought Villeroy & Boch New Wave coffee mugs here..... Dinner Ware Etc

Yes, real fancy. Well, it's for my one and only Mama!!!

Then, I recruited my one and only Aurelia....

We picked up some acrylic ceramic paint at Michaels. Note if you are planning on doing this project with your kids, you may not want to take your kids to pick out the colours because in my case I ended up with pink & purple and I had to use bribing to get the blue that my mom would actually like ;-)

Anywho..... I covered the table and the girl and she painted those mugs.

What's next: Well, after one day of drying, they will be baked in the oven for about 30 minutes at 325F and TADAAA! Personalized Christmas pressie for a Kaffeeklatsch Oma!

Happy Holidays!

.... and yes, you may wanna stay tuned for more DIY Christmas pressies....

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Friday, July 20, 2012

Succulent Wall - Vertical Gardening - TUTORIAL

You have seen them everywhere, probably. I liked them soo much, I decided to make two for our wall on the back patio.

I used:

  • 2 old wooden coca cola crates. 
  • nails
  • plastic sheet
  • succulent cuttings 
  • sphagnum moss
  • soil

Here's what I did:

I found 2 old wooden coca cola crates. They are truely vintage and a piece of art just by them selves, if you ask me. 

Cut the plastic sheet to the size of the back of each crate. This is to protect your wall from water. Not that you water succulents THAT much, but an itty bit of water even these little plantlings need. 

Nailed the sheet on the back.

I started with layering the moss into the crates as a base and additional soaking material to protect the wall.

Then, I filled it up with soil, put the cutting in and used moss again to push it in place. 
After that, I watered them, let them dry up and hung them. 

That's it.

Now, I will probably have to water them once a month.  When I do that, I take them off the wall, water them, let them dry and hang them again.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Herbal harvesting time on the homestead!

Now, what to do with all those goodies?

Well, for sage, there are multiple uses as tea since it is such a benefitial herb.

And of course we love fried sage leaves.

If you have never tried it, well, you must!


  • It is said to benefitially influence the human spirit, 
  • to quell unnatural or vicious sexual desires,
  • restores normal virility when failure is not due to veneral disease,
  • helps in fevers, colds and coughs,
  • acts as insecticide,
  • heart tonic, 
  • helps in digestive ailments, constipation, obesity,
  • supports weaning,
  • aids in nervous ailments, including paralysis and mild mental derangement,
  • improves memory.

And did I mention it yet: it's yummy!

OK, here now my fried sage leaves recipe:

bunch of sage leaves
1 egg
optional: flour for dusting

Wash the sage, shake dry, set aside.
Crack egg, whisk it, pull each sage leaf through it.
Now, the optional part: dust with flour. BTW: I didn't do this.
Melt butter in pan, fry leaves until crispy brown.
Takes them out, sprinkle with salt.

I like them with a rose champagne as appetizer!

If you want to read up on the health benefits of sage, click HERE.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

YARROW TEA and other herbal tea recipes

For eras, yarrow tea benefits have been famous in the history of herbal medicine. It is also called the healing herb.

By drinking yarrow tea there are plenty of benefits and it is rich in vitamins and minerals.

Yarrow tea is a tonic which helps to flush away toxins.

Yarrow is botanically known as Achillea millefolium and other different names are Soldier’s Woundwort, Bloodwort, Old Man’s Pepper, Milfoil, Staunchweed, Carpenter’s Weed, Thousand Leaf Clover Achillia, Dog Daisy and Nosebleed.

The long-stemmed yarrow plant is found in the regions of the Northern Hemisphere.


  • Take 1 teaspoon of dried herb and add it to 1 cup of boiling water.
  • Allow it to steep for 10 minutes and add honey for sweeten taste.
  • For adding flavor add a slice of lemon.


    Yarrow tea has astringent property which helps to treat allergies like nasal secretions and watery eyes that caused by molds, dust, pollen and dander. In cases of flu, fevers and colds, Yarrow is also known to cause sweating and so helps to cure simple infections.

    Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis:
    The blood circulation of the body is improved by yarrow tea. It removes the unwanted waste materials like uric acid from the joints and the muscles and oxygenate the entire body very well. Over that yarrow being a diaphoretic and diuretic which helps to remove the toxins from the body through perspiration and urine accordingly. This will prevent the rheumatic or arthritic problems.

    Fights against bacteria:
    Yarrow tea has an antiseptic action. The bitter parts and fatty acids of it promote bile flow out of the gallbladder which known as the cholagogue effect. Digestion is improve by free flowing action and prevents gallstones from forming.

    Drying effect is contained in yarrow and seems to improve coughs and sinus infections with sputum formation.

    Prevent Indigestion:
    Yarrow tea improves the digestion and helps to absorb more nutrients from the food that have been taken. It also controls the flatulence and improves the appetite.

    Prevent Hemorrhage:
    It can contract the blood vessels and prevent hemorrhage or reduce the bleeding as it is very good astringent. High blood pressure is also regulated by it. This property makes it useful for controlling heavy menstruation and intestinal bleeding.

  • Yarrow tea helps to combat stomach cramps, flatulence, gastritis and enteritis.
  • Yarrow tea has a sedative effect so drinking the tea can aid a restful sleep or help relax the body after a stressful or busy day.
  • Yarrow tea helps to encourage menstruation in women.
  • It has high anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Yarrow tincture can ease the discomfort of hemorrhoids.
  • Yarrow herb is a diuretic so can ease the effects of water retention.
  • It also gives relief from coughs, helps to clear the respiratory system, thus helping to ease chest infections. In this instance, it may also be beneficial to those persons suffering from asthma.
  • The blood clotting properties of yarrow is good for healing cuts and bruises. The herb can cure lacerations, abrasions and puncture wounds.
  • Yarrow helps to purify the blood and is good for improving the appetite of those who may be recovering from illness.
  • Yarrow is believed to be able to help regulate blood pressure and have a positive effect on cardiovascular issues.
  • It is good for treating bleeding from the bowels, urinary bleeding, uterine hemorrhage, menstruation problems, and bleeding ulcers.
  • Yarrow tea is said to help stimulate the appetite.
  • Yarrow tea may help in the overall treatment of liver problems.
  • It also helps to strengthen weak veins by making a tea with equal parts yarrow and calendula or hawthorn flowers and steep in one cup boiling water. Drink three cups daily.


  • Pregnant women should not take yarrow, because its ability to relax the smooth muscle of the uterus could cause miscarriage.
  • The prolonged use of high concentrations of Yarrow can cause allergic rashes to develop.
  • If you are ill or have any health concerns, consult the health practitioner.
  • Yarrow may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
  • When herbal remedies are used be aware that they can be extremely powerful, and should have any side effects when taking these infusions, immediately stop using the herb and consult your health practitioner right away.
  • Do not use infusions near the eyes.
  • If a person is sensitive to plants in the aster family such as chrysanthemums, daisies, ragweed, he may be sensitive to yarrow, either taken orally or applied topically.
  • Do not continuously drink the same infusion. Maximum use it for 10 days and then skip 5 days.
  • Only have one cup of herbal infusion per day, except during acute periods such as cold or flu, tea can be taken three times a day, but for a maximum of 4 days.


    Floral Fantasy Tea
    3 parts Lavender
    3 parts Yarrow
    1 part Chamomile
    1 part Stevia

    Spiced Anise Tea
    4 parts Anise Hyssop
    1 part Cinnamon
    1 part Vanilla Bean
    1 part Cloves

    Devoted Remembrance Tea
    3 parts Rosemary
    3 parts Lavender
    3 parts Marjoram
    2 parts Anise Hyssop

    Dark Rose Tea
    2 parts Rose Hips
    3 parts Anise Hyssop
    3 parts Yarrow
    1 part Bergamot

    Aromatic Mint Tea
    2 parts Spearmint
    1 part Marjoram
    1 part Sweet Woodruff
    1 part Sage

    Good Start Tea
    2 parts Yarrow
    2 parts Rose Hips
    2 parts Lavender
    1 part Marjoram
    1 part Stevia

    Chocolate Mint Tea
    4 parts Chocolate Mint
    3 parts Lavender
    2 parts Sweet Woodruff
    1 part Stevia
    1 part Rose Hips

    Black Licorice Tea
    2 parts Anise Hyssop
    2 parts Bergamot
    2 parts Marjoram
    2 parts Spearmint

    Everything & More Tea
    1 part Lavender
    1 part Yarrow
    1 part Anise Hyssop
    1 part Stevia
    1 part Spearmint
    1 part Bergamot
    1 part Rose Hips
    1 part Calendula

    Love Charm Tea
    3 parts Yarrow
    1 part Lavender
    1 part Anise Hyssop
    1 part Spearmint

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Tuesday, July 10, 2012

    SAD CAT - Moody Animal Charade - KIDS GAMES

    Our four year old sometimes gets pretty upset and then aggressive. Part of it may be because she still trying to figure out how to differentiate emotions and to figure out proper responses to them.

    To help her, I created this charade game with two dice:

    One of the dice has emotions on it and the other one animals.

    So, depending on your throw, you have to mime an animal with an emotion, e.g. a tired cow or an excited horse or a sad cat.

    That way, there are 36 possibilities, all of which are non-threatening, since you are acting a moody animal.

    This gives ample options to discuss emotions. And it's fun, too.

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Monday, June 25, 2012


    OMG! It arrived! My delivery from Horizon Herbs with loads of medicinal herbs in it! Hallelujah!

    HERE is who I ordered from.

    While I have been falling in love lately again and all over with herbs and their culinary uses - think mint, lavender (chocolate scones), sage, oregano, borage (try flowers in your salad), thyme and rosemary (roasted chicken with roasted potatoes) - my even deeper and older love goes for their positive and powerful medicinal effects on us humans.

    While pregnant with Ms D, my wonderful midwife Jeanne had introduced me to raspberry leaf tea and through my gardening class, someone had brought hibiscus tea into my life, and then while pregnant, I started using an herbal mix that was supposed to prep my uterus for birth. Apparently the effect on me was so strong (read: i am that sensitive) that I went into contractions. Roberto was taken by the power of these 'weeds'.

    So, with all their amazing powers, I wanted to plant them in my garden, so we could put them to use anytime we needed them.

    Who inspired my love for herbs? I cannot possibly tell. It seems it was always there. Whether my sister and I munched the sweet red clover buds on the meadows in the village I was raised in or my love for fennel or chamomille tea or possibly my mom's cooking which ALWAYS included herbs, dried or fresh!

    But I can tell you, who made me want to know herbs better and use them not merely for culinary uses:
    Juliette de Bairacle Levy, whose passion and knowledge of herbs is unsurpassed!

    Read more about this amazing woman HERE.

    So, what did I order and what am I planting or sowing?

    Well, it's a bunch and I will keep updating as I keep planting, but along with a bunch of seeds, I received a comfrey root today that needs to go into soil TODAY; moon in virgo, you know.

    So, what's the story on comfrey, Symphytum Officinale?

    Juliette calls it a 'wonder herb', claiming it's "good for almost every ill of mankind". It is most often used for repairing fractured or broken bones. So, having two wild little girls, this can come in handy,
    I figured. Some refer to comfrey as 'knit-bone'. It is also good for skin conditions and many natural cosmetics for several skin conditions, contain comfrey. Screams Saturn to me, for the astrologers reading. How to use it? Externally through rubbing leaves on a grater and smear it on or simply rub the leaves on. Of course, you can eat the leaves in a salad or with potatoes.

    Read more about comfrey's use in medicine HERE.

    How to grow that thing?

    You probably can buy a plant but I ordered the root. It is an herbaceous perennial with pretty little purple flowers.

    Comfrey is also a good helper in pulling nutrients from deeper parts up to the area more close to the surface due to its vast root system, thus, making it a great plant to grow next to annuals, who need nutrient density closer to surface, especially when starting from seed.

    Plant it in a well- spaded area.

    It likes full sun.

    Dont cut the leaves the first year and wait in the second until about 2 inches when it reaches about 2 feet (yes, they get big!)

    Of course, Mother Earth News did an article on COMFREY a bit ago. CLICK HERE.

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Friday, June 22, 2012

    Lavender Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Laah!vender.... I love it. 

    But what to do with all these beautifully smelling buddies?

    One use that isn't widely known is in the kitchen. 

    Here is a yumm recipe for chocolate scones with lavender. 

    • 1/2 cup real butter
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 Tbsp. dried Sweet Lavender flowers (3-4 Tbsp. fresh flowers)
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 Tbsp. milk
    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup oatmeal
    • 1 1/2 cups white flour
    • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
    • 1 generous cup good chocolate chips

    Bowl 1: Blend butter, sugar & Lavender until smooth. Add egg, milk & vanilla in next.

    Bowl 2: Blend oatmeal, flour, and baking powder together; add in your chocolate chips to this dry mix.
    Blend both mixes together to form soft dough.

    Place by teaspoons onto baking tray.

    Bake 10 minutes for soft cookies, 15 mins for crisp ones in a preheated oven at 350F.

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Wonderberry Muffin Recipe

    I know what you are thinking, what the heck is a wonderberry?

    The wonderberry, also called sunberry is a nighshade with botanical name solanum burbankii.

    It is an annual, a small plant who produces good yields and takes about 75 days to ripen.

    They were developed by Luther Burbank; it is a tasty, small blue-purple fruit; good fresh or cooked.
    A historic heirloom that is easy to grow.

    Now, I had planted some last year and thanks to bird or squirrel poo they reseeded themselves all over the homestead. Great! Especially here in Southern California, where we have a hard time growing blueberries or any ramblers.

    Now what to do with them wonderberries!


    1/2 cup butter at room temp
    1 cup sugar
    2 large eggs (ideally duck eggs)
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    2 cups flour
    1/2 cup milk
    cups fresh Wonderberries (I only had about 1 cup... ah well)

    Bake at 375F in a preheated oven for 20 mins.

    Wanna read more about wonderberries.... CLICK HERE

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    Garlic Harvest

    OMG,.... could it be time to harvest those beauties? Really? Already?

    I guess so.... my chickens scratched the heck out of my garlic bed and so I looked at them.

    They look done to me.
    Moon is in Taurus.
    All systems say GO!

    Now, the digging up part in our super compacted soil is a chore. The other day to pull out carrots, I needed a knife and instead of a pulling out it was rather a digging out.

    Anyway, I am seeing roasted garlic in my very near future....

    Will check out this recipe HERE.

    Read about planting the stinking roses HERE.

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Look, who is in my bee hive now - Varroa Mites - Cheap DIY Remedy

    This poor colony of Italian Ladies has been suffering since the day I got them:

    1. I had to hive them while doing all those mommy chores.... so they ended up being hived AT NIGHT

    It started bad: Argh... so, i dropped the queen cage in the package. now i gotta fish it out... then baby woke up and started crying... so i had to put the sugar feeder back in with hundreds of girlies now outside the door and a few smooshed ones.... SORRY! rushing inside to calm the crying baby. thank god for the dog who entertains ms a with playing fetch.... i need to hive them before sunset.

    Update: i went out during a brief calm to fish the queen cage out with the hive tool but it is stuck. so, i will have to put my hand in as soon as everyone is fed & calm.... and the sun is going down.... they really need to be hived before dark.... *sigh* 

    Update: after i fished out the queen cage (in the dark with a flashlight and all the bees basically asleep), i inspected it: there were several bees in the cage (there is normally only 1 queen in there). 

    im not sure my queen was in there because of all that 'gewusel' and because i had ordered my queen unmarked (not digging the idea that someone snips her wings and/or paints sharpie on her just so i can find her more easily in the colony)... 

    i figured she MUST be in there because a large cluster was around the cage. bees always surround their queen, waiting to feed her or get other orders :-D 

    Aurelia was assisting me; holding all the tools and watching my total bungle bee job... 

    So, i pulled the cork out of the cage, so that the workers can eat thru the candy thats stuck there and this way release her majesty, hung that thing from a frame in the super and shook the rest of the crew in. 

    of course not all went in and i left the package sitting out, next to the hive, hoping the stragglers will get 'home', following her pheromons. 

    next morning, while feeding sugar water, the 'stragglers' were still in the package and a bunch of dead bees at the hive entrance... OHNO! now i had to bring out the suit and open the hive. it looked alright; guess i smooshed a bunch when i hived them. when i checked on them later in the day, the stragglers had made it home, i saw many of my girlies already flying out to forage... 

    THANK GOODNESS for their resilience! Note to self: NEVER IN THE DARK!

    2. then, ANTS invading my hive....

    Yeah, i loooove bees. last year the mites got them all and this year, i started sooo poorly with the hiving and NOW i got ants in the hive.... drives me crazy because the bees are still on sugarwater and the ants keep stealing it. i already poured boiling water over the ant hill.... they dont seam too impressed...

    Read more about solving this problem here

    3. and now M I T E S !
    Yep, M I T E S ... I noticed a few bees flying funny and then I saw a crawler with eaten up wings.

    Of course you know, THIS MEANS WAR!

    So, what is my first strike? Powdered sugar and a sticky bottom board.

    What do I do?
    Make a sticky bottom board.  You may buy it or simply build it yourself. I build it myself, using cardboard, vegetable oil and a mesh that's big enough to let mites thru but no bees. Typically 3mm or 1/8 inch are recommended. However, I mis-estimated the size of my mesh (it is about 2mm) and then figured I should try it since the mites are at max. 1.6mm x 1.2mm in size and so they should fit thru a 2mm mesh. I bought 2x2 ft of mesh, costing me less than $2. It occured to me that some curtains may work for this as well or if you have a torn fly screen, there you go... you get the idea: Just measure the size of the screen/mesh/thingy.

    So, I cut the board in the size of my super minus the walls. Smear vegetable oil on it. You can also use vaseline, whatever you have at home or is cheaper. This ensures the mites stick on the board and you can berid them. HALLELUJAH!

    I stapled a thin rim on the four sides and then stapled the mesh on the rim.

    Then the sugar... This is easy: Get powdered sugar, fill it in a glass jar, punch holes in the lid. There is your sugar shaker. No brush or other fancy equipment needed. I had to buy it: 1 lbs for about $2 (total of $4). Take all this to the hive. Put the sticky bottom board in first. Then, take the sugar and open the top of the hive and sprinkle the bees. Make sure you get many covered.

    What this does? The mites cannot hold on then anymore to the bees and fall off. This also inspires the bees to clean each other and as a result, more mites fall off. 

    Now what? After a day remove the sticky boards, scrape the sugar and mites and toss into a trash bag or some suggest to burn it (I see some homeopathic remedy potential here and will consider). A good tip is to not leave it on the ground as it may attract ants and boy, the last thing I need is more ants around my hive. Smear new oil on the sticky board and put it back in the hive. 

    How often, when to do the powdered sugar sprinkling?

    In spring!It is advised to do this treatment 3 or 4 times in spring at 5 to 7 day intervals. 

    If you have an infestation like mine,  dust every 3 days for 21 days to capture mites that emerge from brood.

    Before winter! Plan to do this treatment in autumn instead of chemicals. Do the dusting before the bees begin to form clusters because mites inside the cluster will not become sugared as not all bees will.

    My only concern... the sugar may bring those dang ants back.... anyway, I have to get the mites down first.

    If you want to read in detail how to do it, check out this pdf.

    More on this gross mite stuff, here....

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    MAY 2012 - Harvest Tally and Annoying Ants in Beehive

    Still working to make up for all the dead seedlings. Meanwhile, at least some of my work was not in vain... we harvest some lettuce and the perennials didn't have a chance to suffer from failure to thrive since I planted them last year.

    Mid month, the bees arrived. I hived them, using the old frames with drawn out comb to give them a head start.

    There is not much in bloom these days in my neighborhood. Luckily, some sunflowers (self seeding - thank you very much!) are blooming. OK, there is food plus I feed them sugarwater.

    Hoping they make it as I am observing lots of ants trying to rob my hive from the sugarwater.

    What am I doing?

    Well, I honestly watched it for a while, trying the all natural remedies:

    * sprinkling cinnamon around
    * putting hive on cinnamon sticks
    * thyme and peppermint leaves
    * thyme and peppermint essential oils
    * pouring boiling water into the anthill

    Result? Ants still happily marching into my hive.

    Now what?

    No more sugar water!

    Still ants..... and NOW? I am being told that ants can take down a hive in a week, so I needa do SOMETHING. DRASTIC. FAST.

    Back to my good old ant traps. Seriously, I am not in favour of this but it is the only thing that I know works:

    I use old plastic containers from yoghurt or hummus or whatever we ate. Yes, I store them for all sorts of possible usages, just like this one.

    OK, back to the ant traps: Take those containers. They need to have lids, though.
    I poke a few small holes into the lids, just big enough to fit an ant or two through it.

    Then I make sugarwater, as I would when feeding bees:

    Heat 2 cups of water, take it off stove, stir 2 cups of regular sugar into and let it cool off.

    Pour this stuff into the trap container, add 1 or 2 teaspoon(s) of boric acid (wear a mask when handling) and stir it in.

    Now, bring those traps outside and place them into the ant street. I typically pour a bit out to make sure they understand what dead super-yummy stuff I have for them. The ones that don't die from eating it, carry it into the anthill and feed it to their young.

    It may take a few weeks but I got rid of 2 ant colonies that way.

    Boric Acid is poison; let's not kid ourselves but with one trap (1 teaspoon of BA), I was able to kill 2 colonies. And yes, that stuff now is in my soil. However, adding boron to soil can be beneficial to certain types of soils. So, it's not all too bad although I am really not proud of having to go this route to protect my newly hived and vulnerable bees. Choices, choices, choices.

    So, what did we harvest in May?

    2 lbs of lettuce
    8 lbs of peaches (from that one tree that we planted bare roots last spring.... the same tree, that looked dead and Roberto wanted to throw it out only 1 million times! THAT TREE!)
    1 lbs of artichokes (yay for perennials!)

    35 chicken eggs
    37 duck eggs

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis


    Luckily, the birds kept producing.
    Whow, what a month! Our little girl has been taking all of our attention. Needless to say, that not much got done. As a result, many many MANY seedlings (!) died due to not being water at all or not enough.

    Roberto said, he is working on the watering system to avoid this for any other seedlings that I am sowing these days, if ever.

    Luckily, last years rotten tomatoes were hoed into the soil and produced enormous offspring. Hallelujah for self-seeding!

    So, what DID we harvest in April?

    7 lbs of chard
    37 duck eggs
    40 chicken eggs

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Of course you realise, this means war!

    We have been having all sorts of vermine visitors. Some long eared and somewhat more tolerated due to incredible cuteness, while others more light evasive and omnivorous and extensively disliked due to incredible distructiveness. And I should mention, we equally dislike the bald tails and the fluffy tails, just as Carrie in SATC famously said, "Squirrels are just rats with cuter outfits."

    Watch the Carrie and the Squirrel clip here.

    Typically, we believe in sharing. Yes, even the labour of our hard gardening work with those dang critters. But, sharing means, that we too, get some of the food. This is the part of the sharing concept that they don't seem to quite fathom.

    When our donut peaches - not quite ripe I should mention - were showing obvious vermine traces, my man decided

    Of course you realise, THIS MEANS WAR!

    more Bugs war declaration.
    And off he went to put out traps....

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Monday, May 7, 2012

    The Moby Wrap - Tutorial

    I am into Attachment or Natural Parenting, so baby wearing is a must.
    Ms. D sound asleep in her new wrap

    Today, I am going to make a moby wrap. These are these cotton wraps that always make me think of India. Ahhh, India! Now, I am thinking curries and get hungry.

    OK, back to the wrap: Target sells them for $39.99  Moby Wrap at Target

    Amazon sells it for $44.95.   Moby Wrap at Amazon.com

    And elsewhere they charge you up to $60 for it, while it is plain simple cotton jersey in these dimensions: 197 x 24 x 0.8 inches.

    I decided to make my own in a better material: that is hemp because it blocks the sun out better than anything else, which is crucial, considering you cannot put sunscreen on little ones before the age of 6 months. More on that in a later post about my all natural sunscreen.

    Anywho, Moby Wrap:

    So, you need 197 x 24 inches of a cotton jersey fabric.
    I ordered mine here   Hemp with free shipping for orders over $35. I ordered it at $5.49 per yard and ordered simply an extra yard to get free shipping; gonna make a few onesies out of it. Halleluja.

    You need about 5.5 yards.

    Now, how to do it?
    Nothing easier than that: You cut it in half lengthwise and TADAA!!! you are done.

    Yes, you get two wraps out of it for about $35 and you can gift the second one. So, my wrap cost me really less than $18 with better material.

    And EVEN better: when you outgrow the baby-phase, you still have 5.5 yards of fabric that you can create something out of.

    Since it is a knit it won't fray. If you are concerned about it, though, you can serge around or use fray-check (I would not since it is for baby) but it is not necessary.

    Now, how to wrap that Moby Wrap? Check out the link :-) or this one.. It takes some practise but it is really easy. Enjoy your baby!

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Saturday, May 5, 2012

    Special Home Delivery

    The due date for our highly anticipated special delivery was getting closer. Friends and family members were sending wishes for a smooth delivery the week prior and then on Sunday morning, March 11, 2012, the baby herself, Demetra, started sending signals that she was indeed arriving that very day. 

    But let's start at the beginning. Roberto and I had been talking about another baby for years and then two Christmasses ago, we decided that we would look into it more seriously. Well, first attempt, I got pregnant.

    Since we had just moved to the Conejo Valley from West LA and as a result I didn't feel comfortable driving over an hour each way to Cedars Sinai for my prenatal visits with my former OB, let alone for delivery, we looked into other options.

    Interviewing many new moms in our new neighborhood, we relatively quickly decided that we were not willing to see any of the OB's, even though some mothers highly recommended them because we did not like the high intervention rate. For my first daughter, I had an almost zero intervention birth at the high intervention Cedar Sinai. I had an IV with saline and the OB raptured the membranes. That was it. Everything else was just good old nature.

    For Miss D, I envisioned a zero intervention, all natural birth. No needles in my body, no rushing the process. Knowing how traumatic birth with medical intervention can be for both, mother and child, we started talking about homebirth with a midwife. 

    Jeanne Anderson at Whole Hearts Midwifery was recommended to us and after my first meeting with her, I decided I didn't even want to interview anyone else. Her warm and caring energy immediately made me feel comfortable, when discussing our 'ideal' birth as well as other prenatal topics. 

    During all my visits, Jeanne spent a lot of time with me, explaining everything and making sure that I was well. It felt more like spending time with a friend as opposed to a care provider and especially with giving birth, I want a person, who I can trust.

    We had a few scares along the way, such as a potential placenta previa, a glucose test that came out bad, the legally required OB visit ended with him telling me that I could not have a home birth, and last but not least baby facing the wrong way. 

    Needless to say, that we as expecting parents - although feeling confident in nature - had a moment or two, when we worried, whether indeed we could have the envisioned delivery sans c-section. 

    During all of this, Jeanne remained calm and ensured us that it was going to be fine, that we could have a homebirth and would not have to go to a hospital. 

    Then, on our special day came. 

    As I said, the baby was not in the ideal position and during labour had to turn. And she did thanks to the manouvres that Jeanne directed me to do. When I got weak towards the end, I was allowed to eat and drink. Then, baby's shoulder got stuck behind her back and Jeanne again had to use midwife magic to get it out. 

    Roberto was amazing, compressing my pelvis during the entire painful back labour. Since I labored and delivered standing up, my man also was in charge of catching baby.  

    And there she was: Demetra Rafaela. Roberto passed her to me immediately and I sat down with her. It is one of the most magical moments in life, when you see that little person that you seem to know already for the first time. She cried, nursed and we waited until her cord stopped pulsing before Roberto cut her umbilical cord. 

    It was amazing: There was no rushing around by nurses or doctors; there was also no taking baby to the nursery to weigh, measure and wash her. Everything was peaceful and happy. Demetra remained with me the entire time. The vernix remained on her skin to protect and moisten her skin.

    Vernix - It's amazing stuff

    My baby has APGAR scores of 9 and 10, she is developing beautifully (only ten days after birth, she already gained 1 lbs!) and I have no tears, was able to give birth naturally without any intervention while in the comfort of our own home.

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Tuesday, April 24, 2012

    Plant Terrarium - Tutorial

    I have been seeing them everywhere but could not get myself to buy them because they are pretty and expensive.

    Anywho, I decided to try making one for my friend Allin and myself:

    What I used:

    • 1/2 gallon Ball canning jar or a glass bowl that you deem pretty
    • a hand full of pretty pebbles
    • some moss
    • a couple hands full of potting soil
    • plants 
    • optional: decoration (pebbles, statues of fairies or gnomes, etc..)

    Some advise on choosing plants:
    As always in gardening, one should group plants together that like the same climate, i.e. don't mix fern with cacti. Also, when planting these, bare in mind that succulents prefer dry climates while a terrarium tends to hold moisture, i.e. shoot for tropical plants.

    Here's how I did it:

    So, start with a clean glass container.

    I used a canning jar. I love their homegrown look.

    The pretty cognac glass on top is for my friend Allin, who is napping on my couch; a little thank you for her helping me with the two girlies while my man is traveling. 

    There are multiple ways to create a drainage barrier but I preferred the pebble-moss combo for aesthetic reasons.

    Then, fill pebbles in; about an inch high.

    Next, spread out the moss and layer it on top of the pebbles.

    Now, add planting soil.

    Then plant and water the little guys. Using a watering can with a long nose is a good idea.

    I only wanted to create a small centerpiece and so stayed with one plant; I used a polka dot plant which are supposed to work really great for this kind of planting. 

    Finally, decorate (which I didn't). DONE!

    Keep  caring for your new plant(s) with trimming and watering.

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Making Gifts - The Resolution

    One thing that I wanted to do for this year's Christmas, is giving more handmade gifts.

    However, I was thinking that I cannot start doing so inDecember, so I will be sharing some of my gift ideas and the how-to's over the next months.

    Here are some gift ideas:

    • Fingerless mittens 
    • Kid's clothes
    • Tic Tac Toe game for kids
    • Memory game for kids
    • Busy book for kids
    • Shirts with reverse applique 
    • Poncho Wrap
    • Purse

    Stay tuned....

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Wednesday, April 11, 2012

    March 2012 - Harvest Tally

    It is spring and nature truely has returned and with it all animals are in love. On most days, our girlies now get visited by a ferrel mallard duck boy, who swims in our pond and eats our food. We assume he is feeding his broody girl. It is said that waterfowl and in particular ducks breed for life. Isn't that soo cute?!

    And all sorts of other feathered friends have decided that our garden is a fun place to hang out in and we love watching them. 

    While I believe they are coming because we created this habitat for them (where debris is allowed to compost with lots of straw to sneak for nest building, not to mention all that free food), Roberto believes that they come because the goddess of nature has arrived. 

    Yes, a few weeks ago, our little girlie, Demetra, was born at our home, scoring a 10 on the APGAR with no interventions and no tears for mom. Thanks to Jeanne and Nerissa with Whole Hearts Midwifery, who were wonderful during the whole process! Needless to say, that all eyes are on her these day and not much gets done. BTW: Demetra is an ancient Greek name of the goddess of agriculture, crops and motherly love. While the name is not much known in the US, it is not an uncommon name in Europe.

    As for the garden: Slow beginning of the year but it is sprouting everywhere and small little seedlings have been transplanted already. Our peach trees and the blueberry bushes already are full with fruit. Ahh, cannot wait...!
    Anywho, here is the harvest tally for March 2012:

    1 lbs of carrots
    5 lbs of chard
    3 lbs of spinach

    A total 9 lbs of produce and 59 duck and 61 chicken eggs. 

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    February 2012 - Harvest Tally

    It wasn't a lot of harvesting in February due to the weather but we were able to get a few meals out of the garden. 

    My birdies were still molting and so also our egg output was a little low. 

    Here is the harvest tally for February 2012:

    8 lbs of peas
    2 lbs of mustard
    1 lbs of spinach

    A total 11 lbs of produce and 18 duck and 26 chicken eggs. 

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

    JANUARY 2012 - Harvest Tally

    "I'm late, i'm late... !" yes, I feel very white rabbit-ish these days. 


    Sorry for being over a month late with publishing this but the unusual weather this year (no cold front, no rain) along with my progressing pregnancy with its preparations (soo excited!) kept me from posting. 

    Happy Birthday Homestead! This marks our first year being homesteaders and what a year it was: WIth ups and downs in weather and many new things learnt, sometimes the lessons were beautiful and fun and on other occasions they were hard and sad.

    We are looking forward to starting a hive again; the ladies are supposed to arrive in May. This BTW is my Christmas present from my wonderful man and I am soo excited. ALthough, I am worried that receiving them in May may be a bit late for them with most of my fruit tree blossoms already in fruiting mode but we shall see.
    I did prune almost all my fruit trees in January  at least a little bit since my trees are all still babies. But I took dead and damaged branches out and that was basically all I could do for this year's pruning. 

    It wasn't a lot of harvesting due to the weather but we were able to get a few meals out of the garden. My birdies were still molting and so also our egg output was a little low. 

    Here is the harvest tally for January 2012, the first month of a new year:

    1 lb of carrots
    1/2 lbs of beets
    1 lbs of Chard

    A total 3.5 lbs of produce and 21 duck and 25 chicken eggs. 

    "Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis