Posts tagged foraging

Crafting with Gourds

Every year the harvest of Gourds begins in the fall and fills the groceries and natural food shops with fresh Squash, Cucumbers, Luffas and Melons. There are also the Calabash Squash, which is the most common Gourd. Luffas and Calabash Squash have to be harvested very young to be edible. If they are harvested after they have dried out, there is nothing to eat but their skins make fantastic containers, scrubbers and other tools. The Loofah or Plant Sponge is often used in sandal making and other crafts. You know it because you’ve seen in the bath section of the department store, where it’s sold as a body scrubber. Loofahs are also used to make the sponges you use in the kitchen and have been used in certain types of constuction.

The Calabash Squash is the one you are most familiar with when you think of Gourds. They are often called Bottle Gourds because the older, larger ones have been used as containers for generations. You are familiar with a form of Gourd use through the use of Pumpkins as decorations at Halloween and Thanksgiving. Pumpkins are a form of Squash that has Gourd properties. You can scrape out the Pumpkin and eat the insides but use the thick skin as a container for candles and you can carve it out in designs, the most popular being a face. This is a form of Gourding.

However, in short time, your Pumpkin wilts and shrinks and collapses and ends up in the trash. You cannot get a long lasting decorative collectible this way. So I suggest sticking with the hard, inedible, bitter Melons and Squashs that are referred to as “Ornamental Gourds”. These are a distinctively different variety than the edible Squash you see in the stores and they are never edible. They are purely for ornamental use. You will find them in the grocery stores, in the vegetable stands, in the craft shops and health food stores during the fall and winter season. They are there right now. So read this article and get an idea of what kind of Gourd you want to use for what project and then scoot on out and get it. You will be amazed at how fun this is and you will end up doing every year from now on.

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Flowers as Gifts: Going Beyond the Bouquet

Just about everybody loves flowers. Flowers are a beautiful gift from nature that smell great, look great and have come to represent love to most of us. They are the most popular gift in the world, given for the many events in our lives, from Mothers Day to birthdays to weddings and even at our funerals. They seem to be everywhere, popping out of the foilage around us, brightening the world whereever they are. We love to give a bit of that beauty to our loved ones when we can. But did you know that flowers are useful in gifts other than bouquets? That you don’t have to put them in vases to give them and there are a lot of ways you can give flowers as inexpensive gifts, even at Christmas. You don’t even have to know anything about flowers to take advantage.

As fall peeks around the corner, we start to see the summer blooms fading and falling in our yards. The grass is littered with slowly wilting bright colors and the last scent of the blooms lingers in the air. Why not capture this now and make gifts you can give later? Homemade food gifts like pickled flowers, flower honey or flower jellies and jams. Homemade beauty gifts like floral perfumes, toners or cleansing creams. Homemade floral soaps, potpourri or candles. Cards and stationary made with pressed flowers. All personalized and special, made by you. And you don’t have to be some creative genius to do these things because I have the recipes, the plans, the step by step instructions. All you need is to round up the dieing blooms you find in your yard and beyond. So get the basket and go picking!

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The Magic of Mullein

From soothing your cough to flavoring your liqueurs, Mullein has a lot of uses, some of them you’ve never heard of. The seeds are cheap and they are easy to grow; simply put in a pot full of soil and water. And if you don’t want to grow Mullein, there are many sources for it online, most of them inexpensive. There are about 250 genuses of Mullein, which is a member of the Figwort family. Mullein is also called by about 30 common names including Velvet Dock, Candlewick Plant, Cow Lungwort, Hags Taper and Aaron’s Rod. These cultivars grow all over Europe, Asia and the Meditteranean. They are also widely cultivated in North America and can sometimes be found growing wild. Very common varieties include Moth Mullein, Dark Mullein, Wooly Mullein and Common Mullein. The cultivar I have used the most and whole heartedly recommend is Verbascum Thapsus or Common Mullein. This particular cultivar has been naturalized all over the US, mostly in Hawaii and also in Australia. So it can be grown almost anywhere. I highly recommend planting Mullein in your garden and using it year round. I have recipes and guidelines for you to use when making use of the plant so bookmark this page for after your plants are growing and blooming. You can use Mullein for many things during every stage of it’s growth so it is well worth the few cents it costs to buy a packet of seeds.

Mullien was considered a magical herb in antiquity and it was given to Ulysses to protect him from the magic of Circe, who had changed his crew into pigs. The soft fine hairs on the leaves and stems of this plant makes a superb tinder and it was used this way throughout history. Hence, the popular name, Velvet Plant. These same soft hairs protect the herb from moisture loss, creeping insects and grazing animals because the down irritates mucus membranes. So this plant has few enemies in the garden, making it even easier to grow. So here are my hints on how to cultivate Mullein and how to use every part of the plant in every stage of it’s growth.

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Easy Spring and Summer Flower Projects

Isn’t it just wonderful that Spring has finally arrived? If you are in a part of the country where Spring is taking it’s time, you will just have to get an early start on the melt! There is nothing more cheery and lovely about Spring and Summer than flowers. April brings the rains and May brings the flowers, or so goes the rhyme. There will be blooms everywhere, if not today then very soon. And those blooms need to be captured and made use of; don’t leave them to rot on the ground! I have great simple and cheap ideas for decorating your home with flowers for Spring and Summer. Bright yellows, blues, greens and whites. Lovely brash, happy colors to make your home just glow with cheery sunlight.

Be prepared for some very simple ideas and projects. These could actually cost you very little or even nothing at all if you have old containers in your home that are packed away and flowers growing in the garden outside. Otherwise, you can get containers and other items at the flea market or thrift store and pick flowers in the neighbor’s garden (with permission, of course!). So get out the floral supplies from last year and clear the winter decorations from the table.. you are about to make some great decorations that will help you welcome Spring with open arms.

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Handmade Egg Basket Easter Decoration

Full of spring flowers, bursting with bright colors and stuffed into a beautiful, big handwoven wicker egg basket! This is the consummate table decoration for Easter. It is also a big project so you should get started right away to have it ready for the big Sunday events at your home. The basket decoration is not hard to make in and of itself, it’s the expedition you will embark on first that takes the time and money. You will have to locate the precious flowers and plants that go into making this gorgeous creation. I have not included a picture of the final product because the true product will depend on you. I made one for myself following this recipe and found that it looked nothing like the original I had seen. You should not compare your project with anyone else’s because whatever you come up with will be fine. It will be yours.

The heart of this project are the beautiful flowers you will use in making it. Many can be found in the grocery store or florist and used fresh. Others will have to be used dried and are found at craft stores. Some will grow wild in your area and you can just go out and pick them. Perhaps you have flowers in your garden. If you have trouble finding one specific kind on the list, feel free to substitute to your liking. I have included vivid photos of the flowers that are called for in the ingredients list and a photo of the type of egg basket I used. You are free to use any kind you feel like using. I did not use the same type of basket that the original designer of this arrangement used. If you would like to see the original basket by the designer, you can find it in the book, Nature Crafts and you can see it and buy it HERE.

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Fall Projects for Roses

You have been enjoying the Rose Garden all summer, watching the lovely flowers bloom and smelling their luscious fragrance. Now you are left with the coming of fall and the bloom is off the Rose. You have a house full of fallen petals from those lovely stalks you had in vases. You have a garden covered in pretty red, pink and yellow petals as your plants thin down, preparing for the colder, darker days ahead. You are thinking about raking them up but maybe just let them scatter. DON’T! Get busy and gather them all up. Don’t throw them out and let them fly off in a gust. There are many wonderful things you can make using these Rose petals, leaves and stems! They will make fodder for fascinating fall projects during the boring, indoor days you must now face. The beach and the sun may be fading, but the flowers are about to take over your life.

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Snacking in the Flower Garden

I have been to many an office party in a fancy hotel conference room, haven’t you? Even if not, I am sure you have had those fancy salads they serve, filled with flowers, fancy lettuces and vegetable leaves. There, among the Romaine, Arugula and Spinach, you have seen yellow, red or orange blooms. What on earth are they? You don’t see them in the grocery store and you don’t see them in most restaurants, but they are obviously ok to eat, and even downright delicious! Even though it’s not common on our menu, the truth is, many cultures use flowers in their traditional cooking. The Italians use squash blossoms and the Indians use roses. Flowers can be spicy, herbacious, floral and/or fragrant. And what they can add to your food is amazing.

As I noted, many of us have eaten flowers in salad. Some of us have had teas made of blooms, like Roses and Dandelions. But they can actually be obtained easily and sometimes for free and used in a many inspired ways that can improve your food. You can use the blooms from chives, garlic or basil in pasta, vegetable sauces and in soups. You can make milk based desserts like custards or ice creams out of Roses or Carnations. You can pickle the buds of flowers like Nasturtiums or Cloves. The ideas are endless as are the recipes. Here are the different flowers that are good to eat with a few interesting recipes thrown in:

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