Sunday, June 26, 2011

Herbs for Kids Camp

We harvested garlic and Stinging Nettles and both are now are hanging up to dry. We made mint sun tea and juiced lemons. The next day we combined both and made our first lemon-mint sorbet. We processed dried Lemon Balm for tea. Lucy happily filled a big jar to take home.

On our field trip to Salmon Creek School we spent lots of time in the garden. Everyone picked there own herbs for tea and we all tried different combinations. We had Spearmint and Peppermint leaves, Chamomile flowers, and Raspberry leaves. In the past we've used Calendula flowers, Lavender flowers and Sage too. The kids were so happy with their teas that many of them made a second cup.

They also discovered the Jerusalem Sage flowers and happily sucked the nectar out of every last one! Next to the beautiful cob greenhouse was a large Bronze Fennel. Calvin was particularly fond of munching on the leaves and with his teeth in their current state I couldn't resist taking a picture.

Every day of camp we played the WILDCRAFT! board game, read stories from Leslie Tierra's A Kid's Herb Book, and tried herbal recipes from the great zine series Herbal Roots. If someone got a splinter or mosquito bite we made an herbal remedy for it. These kids are so open and curious. They really want to learn and they know so much already. They never cease to amaze me!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Natural Dyes and Paints Camp!

We started off by heading over to one of the kid's houses to harvest walnut leaves. We pruned a sidewalk purple leafed plum tree on the way home. Then, we headed to the park to collect oak galls. I pre-mordanted all of the shirts and socks in an alum solution simmered for 30 minutes and then left in overnight. We experimented with a pair of shorts pre-mordanted in oak galls since they are so high in tannin. I've even seen fibers dyed in straight oak gall dye before. But, this time we were using it as a homemade mordant.

These two goof balls (also known as Ian and Kisho) did matching shiboried shirts in the walnut leaf dye.

We boiled up a purple cabbage, added some left over "paint' we had made from blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (juice really). Marta did a design with rubber bands around marbles in a circle. We ended up calling it the "magic shirt" because it liked to change color. Some of the rubber bands she used had been used in a turmeric dye before and created a sunburst around the marbles. When she wore it and filled some water balloons at the park it turned blue where it got wet. Later, we picked 135 oranges from a neighborhood tree. When we juiced them some of the juice got on the shirt and turned it orange. She was quite pleased with herself!

Lucy decided to dye an entire outfit in different dyes. So, we have a shirt dyed in purple plum leaves in a rusty bucket. She wrapped rubber bands around marbles in a circle around her crow. We have shorts mordanted in oak galls and then dyed in the walnut leaves. They came out a beautiful golden color.

One of her socks was dyed in walnut leaves. The other was dyed in a yellow onion skin dye bath we had already used to dye our fancy eggs in the day before. She shiboried her socks using popsicle sticks and rubber bands.

Last but certainly not least we have Charlie in his amazing yellow onion skin dyed shirt. Talk about a happy guy. He wore it to camp for two days straight!

More fun to come. This week is HERBS FOR KIDS CAMP and we've been busy!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hot and Steamy.... Compost

So, I head down to Bovine Bakery a couple of times a week for a little treat or a loaf of organic bread. I pick up two or three five-gallon buckets of kitchen waste each time. The buckets contains fruit and veggie scrapes, egg shells and lots of coffee grounds. I layer the contents of the buckets with used straw and shavings and grass and weeds from the chicken and duck coops as well as the contents of our pet rabbit's litter box.

First kitchen scraps, then weeds/grass/straw/shavings/bunny box. Each layer gets watered in with duck pond water to get that "wrung out sponge" moisture level all those composting books talk about. Within 24 hours it heats up. The goal is to keep it hot for as long a possible. That kills any seeds or pathogens that may be lurking. Doug Gosling at Occidental Arts and Ecology Center sets a goal of 140-160 degrees for their giant compost piles. I'm lucky to to get my compost that hot. Usually it's between 120 and 130 degrees.

I've got two separate composters and as each one fills I empty the older one into some open bottomed packing crates until I need the finished compost for the garden. Since it's cooled off by then the worms automatically move in. I never imported any they just showed up to work. They finish off the composting process, contribute worm castings to the finished product and provide a great source of protein for the ducks! Win, win, win....