Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This Moment

{This moment} - This moment - an end of week ritual, no words, just a special photo to remember, savour, enjoy. 

Holiday preparations

We are getting ready to celebrate the longest night of the year - solstice.  We've made some favourite foods (cookies of course, but also these hearty wintery crackers cut into stars, acorns and hearts), dipped lots of candles to light up the house, and in time for Dec 22 are attempting to create our first ever chocolate yule log (Buche de Noel) with this delicious flourless recipe!  

Instead of a tree we've brought in pine and cedar branches, rosehip branches, yellow and red osier dogwood branches, and pinecones - all from the yard - to decorate the doors and tables.  The wild rosehips have started to sprout leaves after about a week in a jar of water, which is a lovely reminder of the spring to come. We also have our gratitude tree, a large collection of yellow dogwood branches in a vase where we've hung felted acorns and bird oranments.  We added our thoughts of gratitude written on slips of leaf-shaped paper, remembering all we are thankful for at this time of year and hopes we have for the new year ahead.   Wishing you all well for the holidays and new year!

Hearty Wintery Crackers
2 cups flour (organic whole spelt)
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, ground finely
1/4 cup each hemp seeds, sesame seeds
1-2 Tbsp millet
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup water

Mix ingredients well, and form into a ball.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface.  Cut into shapes.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes on ungreased baking sheets, in 350 F oven.  Serve with cheese, apple butter, jams, or soups!  Or package into containers to give as holiday gifts.

Pinecone projects

On our walks we invariably will collect all manner of objects - dried leaves, special sticks, rocks, acorns, and pinecones.  We have baskets full of pinecones - so we've been crafting with them.  We made a good selection of pinecone firestarters as holiday gifts by dipping the pinecones into melted beeswax.  They can be used to help get a fire started in a woodstove or fireplace and work extremely well.  Simple, yet effective!  Then there are the pinecone bird feeders. 

How to make Pinecone Bird Feeders
Gather half a dozen or more full size pinecones.  Fill the crevices of pinecones with peanut butter (use a butter knife or chopsticks), then roll them in millet (or other bird friendly seeds).  Let dry on waxed paper, and then hang outdoors on a long string in a place where birds can access them, but out of reach of squirrels!   We first tied them to our pea trellis, but this was a bad idea!  Hung from the branches of a young pear tree the squirrels could also reach.  So, finally we hung them off our long clothes line where there are no overhanging tree branches.  Success!

Both these pinecone projects were fun and easy for young kids to accomplish with only a little help from an adult. 

Animal tracking with kids

We've recently been told that a fox has been seen in a nearby wooded area - and so we have been going on regular adventures to see if we can spot it's home.  With new snow on the ground it's much easier to track animals here in the city, and when we look closely we can find a surprising amound of tracks (the usual birds, rabbits, mice).  It's a good exercise in slowing down and honing skills of observation, even better when done with kids who get excited about discovering the smallest details.  We did find several nice hollows, logs and burrows, and at each place Maya left a small handful of dried blueberries as a gift (because you never know if the fox might be hungry). 

These fox searching walks led to us doing more research at the local library, and delving into other interesting links like this one for making your own fieldguide of your own backyard with kids or this one eco field guide for younger kids and then reading more about the very inspiring Forest Schools that are evolving all around the world, including this one that is organized by people we know who live near Thunder Bay. 

Even though we are an unschooling family that lives in the city (on a tiny farm, but still yes, it's in the city) we have a strong leaning toward outdoor nature-based education and hope to be able to tap into something like this with a group of other families locally in the future.

December garden

December has been a busy month.  We've had our craft sale, been preparing for the holidays, watching the days grow shorter (and nights longer), and just winding down.  We've taken many wintery walks, and I took a few photos the other day when we were out enjoying the snow in our garden (which has all melted again by today - funny southern Ontario weather!)  I think the seeds heads are so beautiful when they are covered by a thin layer of fresh snow.  We leave most of our dried plants standing in the garden as birds enjoy these seeds over the winter months.  In our cold frame we still have kale, arugula, dandelion, tatsoi, and parsley going strong!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This weekend's craft sale!

We had our annual "A Little Bird Told Me" craft sale yesterday - it was a great day, with lots of catching up with friends and neighbours who dropped by, and so many beautiful handmade items on display.   Unfortunately the photos below don't do justice to how nice everything looked, and once the crowds showed up I didn't have the time to keep taking photos.  We had turned out dining room into a small cafe area, with a few tables and chairs where people could nibble baked treats or have a chance to take a break, and it was nice to have this social hub in the centre of the house.  Thanks to everyone who came out to support our local vendors!  And a huge thank you to all our talented vendors for participating in this year's event.

For the rest of the month we will take a little break from being busy, and wish you all well for the holidays.  In the next few weeks we will be posting new workshops and events for 2012 on our website and here on this blog - stay tuned!