Natural Bug Repellent 

In a group I help run I posted about a natural bug (and arachnid) repellent I was making for our porch and patio today. It was essentially half my essential oils and a stick of cinnamon I soaked in a half and half vinegar/water mix. There are many different oils and herbs one could procure to help ward off a variety of bugs without chemicals. 

Some of these include:

*Lavender

*Citronella

*Lemongrass

*Tea Tree

*Eucalyptus

*Mint (any kind)

*Marigold

*Geranium

*Cedarwood

*Rosemary

*Citrus – Lemon, Lime, Orange, Grapefruit, etc. 

*Cinnamon

*etc. 

I usually do a mix of what I have on hand to ward off different types of bugs but if you have a specific pest you can easily find specific herb/s for them.

After I have made my repellent I either add a cup to a gallon of water and wash the porch with it or I put it in a spray bottle and spray around door and window frames, etc. I would avoid getting this near your plants. If you have children or animals I would spray where they can’t lick or touch it and/or use only safe ingredients that won’t harm them if accidentally consumed.

If I’m making something for the skin I use half witch hazel instead of vinegar and put it in a spray bottle. Be careful not to spray too close to clothing as it can stain. Spraying on shoes or socks before a hike is helpful. 

Alternatively, you can add a 2% dilution of these oils to body lotion and do a rest patch to make sure you are not allergic. Please look into the properties of the oils before attempting this. I am just giving suggestions as a place to start researching. 

Here is a basic bug repellent I used to make: 
Witch Hazel soaked in fresh Geranium and Marigold (then strained!), Spring Water, Essential Oils of Lavender, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Citronella. 

I don’t have the exact amounts as I do things as I go without recipes half the time. I would still make a 2% dilution of the oils. The herbs should be soaked 1-2 weeks. Dried works as well. 

I hope this proves helpful in the warm months ahead! 

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Timehop Memories

Yesterday morning I checked my Timehop as usual looking for photos of my toddler from the year prior. When doing so I found this image from six years ago. It was a younger me before I cut off all my hair collecting vegetables in my Opa’s garden. I don’t remember who took the picture. Most likely one of my younger sisters. It brought back so many memories. Some vague images of my mom’s vegetable garden when I was very small and then our large future gardens of mostly herbs and flowers when we (my sisters, mom and eventually my step-dad) were older and living elsewhere. I also remember my Opa’s ranch type home that once had livestock before my time on this earth. Then when he moved a state away when I was a pre-teen he slowly made a few gardens in his new home. A vegetable patch, a few apple trees, berry bushes and a small greenhouse among other things. All with his own hands as is his way (and which I admire). 

My childhood was full of farmers markets and swap meets. Handmade and homemade goods. My mom teaching us crafts and giving us the freedom to explore any interest that took hold of us as kids and teens and also the freedom to explore outside on our own. All alongside stories of her own childhood with talk of her animals and growing up on the glorious chunk of land I got to grow up with as well before it was sold and sadly modernized by the new owners. Of course there were other inspirations from both sides of the family but she was there to inspire us the most. 

It’s funny to me now to see how different my sisters and I are. We all had nearly the same upbringing (my youngest sister is 14 so she has a little bit different of an experience) but have different interests. My husband and I want to live a little more rurally with a farm and animals. Eventually, using my talents (and his since he picks everything up at lighting speed so he will undoubtedly learn faster than I did) to create and sell goods we made from our land at markets and such. The others I won’t speak for but though they seem to both love crafting and fresh farm food I’m not sure they want to live a life smelling like natural fertilizer and farm animal fiber. Which is perfectly well! 

Another part of me knows this yearning is naturally part of me. Whether through genetics or being born with the interest at heart. I have wanted it for so long. If you have read some of my blogs that weren’t recipes or how-to ‘s you would know that even as a child I felt this pull to the homesteading life. Nothing is more frustrating than living somewhere that you can’t live as you wish. I see the space we have and want to fill it with chickens and a garden instead of cement and mostly unusable plants. You can’t rush dreams though! So until the land we want makes itself available (we are always on the lookout!) I’ll be learning and growing through books and small hands on experiences. 

Eggshell Tea Plant Fertilizer 

Every day that I check on my small container garden I think to myself that I should really get some fertilizer. That with the size of the container combined with the amount of vegetable plants I packed in (I honestly didn’t expect them all to survive the deer and our sudden weather changes) that it would be really helpful to my plant babies. I opened my herb cupboard for something completely unrelated and realized I had jars full of washed and dried eggshells. I had kept them for other purposes mostly but some were from making fertilizer in my old home with my larger urban garden. I realized they would be perfect for fertilizer here and that I didn’t need to buy a thing! We generally only eat local eggs or organic brown eggs but I had some others from a big sale that just so happened when I needed tons of eggs for certain recipes I was making. So I pulled them out and got to work. 

Egg shells are made mostly of calcium carbonate and when steeped and tested for content showed to add calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and phosphorus to the water. Plants NEED calcium and the other items can be beneficial as well. Saving your eggshells instead of tossing them both saves you money on fertilizers and is a great way to do a little homesteading. If you have young ones around this can be an easy chore for them to help out with. 

Here is what I currently had. I had to share our DashGo as it is a egg steaming lifesaver! I was steaming eggs for my family and excited about saving the shells. Something I shamefully have neglected to do lately. It cooks them perfectly and they peel easily hot or cold. I wish I got paid to say that. Haha! 

To make the eggshell fertilizer (commonly called eggshell tea) you will need a gallon of water and 10-20 eggshells at least. The more you add the stronger the tea will be. Be sure you are using eggshells that have been washed and left to dry fully. You can save eggshells months in advance! Even if it isn’t gardening season where you are. They don’t really go bad.

Boil the gallon of water. Use a container you won’t need for the next 24 hours. I chose my favorite used and abused pot. 

Add the eggshells! You can crush them more if you wish but it isn’t necessary. You can turn off the heat now as well. 

Leave overnight at least! 24 hours is a good amount of time. 

Strain and water your plants directly with the tea weekly! 

You can even add crushed shells directly to the soil. I did this as well before I got started on the tea. I’m impatient and wanted to give some love to my plant babies right away! 

Midsummer 2016

I joked a few days ago that when you’re a single person celebrating a holy day it seems to be a lot easier to do what you planned. Even last minute. Even with no plan. To have funds for supplies for cooking or craft making, to follow a schedule or ritual of sorts, etc. That in comparison being a parent with a family and a child/children can be a lot more difficult. That you can plan all you want but inevitably you’ll probably end up with pizza delivered as your family feast. With a mumbled: “Sorry. It’s pizza again.” When you’re setting out the first serving as an offering. That half your crafts may be unfinished and you’ll be cleaning your sacred space up right before it’s time to use it instead of preparing it ahead of time. Luckily, we fared well for Midsummer this year.

My daughter woke me up with a soft “hai” about an inch from my face before she bounced down into my arm and snuggled her face against me. My husband was downstairs and came upstairs to greet us with a “Happy Solstice!” after hearing us get up. Soon after we ventured downstairs and my husband lured me into the kitchen to show me a nice clean table (such a rarity) and a piece foxglove he collected for me. He knows how much I love them and how sad I was they were all at the end of their lives by Midsummer. He found one with a few blooms left for me. Then he revealed he had actually collected everything. Top to root. That it was waiting for me in the garage. I was so happy! I had only harvested a root from this plant once before. He said: “I wonder what the neighbors think of me going for a run and coming back with a 5 foot plant.” Haha! As if they are not somewhat used to it. After that we listened to Swedish Midsummer music and watched videos on traditional celebrations before moving onto more child friendly songs for our toddler. AKA more upbeat songs with funny words that she laughs at without knowing what they mean. Accompanied by lots of silly dancing of course. Eventually, my husband made us his amazing waffles stuffed with goodies for a special breakfast and we sat together and enjoyed that. 

Throughout the day we cleaned and talked and enjoyed ourselves. My husband had opened up the house in the early hours of the morning so our home smelled like the sweet dampness of the dewy flora around our home mixed with the invigorating scent of various pine and Western Red Cedar from the forest behind our home. We burned candles and incense as the day grew slowly warmer. Lately, the sun has not made much of an appearance until the afternoon when it fights it’s way through the clouds. 

Other things we did were putting on brightly colored clothes (mostly) and then we went for a walk to collect wildflowers.

Checked on our small but thriving vegetable garden. 

Transplanted a Fern to a pot I painted with the rune “Sowilo” on it (and added a Lemurian Seed Quartz to the soil). 

Baked honey and strawberry cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting. 

And honey and milk bread (with half coconut flour). 

Later, we played with friends outside and shared cake with them. 

Our “feast” wasn’t anything amazing as our day had been full of celebrating and merrymaking. We also were on our second day of celebrations! So cuddles with our daughter were called for to end the second day. 

The day period we had attended a local Midsummer event. We are lucky to live in an area with a part of the county that has a large Scandinavian population. There are many “Viking themed” shops and a local chapter of the “Sons of Norway” that holds regular classes, meetings and events that appeal to us. This year we were able to make one of their Midsummer events (last year we moved to the area a month late). 

We showed up to watch them decorate their midsommarstång (also called a majstång among other names) or “Midsummer Pole.” with local flora the club had collected. Once finished the children and teens from the club led a procession through the city to bring more people to watch the pole rise. Once gathered it took some time to raise the pole but it was fun to watch. Traditional Midsummer songs (in Swedish) were sung and dancing occurred. It was a ton of fun and I can’t wait to attend again next year! 

Homesteading Herbalism – Mugwort 

Home grown mugwort! We have several jars from different parts of the plants that were harvested at different times back home. I wanted to write a really quick blog on mugwort to share! These are some bare bones to get you started. 

Mugwort is a prominent herb in Urglaawe and Braucherei. The American Heathen practices that originated in Germanic Europe. It’s a family favorite here and sacred to my goddess Frau Holda. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is one of the 9 Sacred Herbs to the Anglo-Saxon people. It is mentioned in “The Lacnunga” that was written after the Christianization of the area but still gave insight into the popular practices of the populaces who tended to hold on to some of their Pagan rituals. The 9 Sacred Herbs are said by some to refer to the world tree Yggdrasil while some texts say these correspond to the 9 different illnesses. In either case the herbs were used by Odin (or Woden to the Anglo-Saxon’s) to defeat the serpent which was a symbol of death and suffering. Mugwort was used by the Anglo-Saxon’s not only to flavor their brews but to also protect against evil and illness among other things. Today, it is commonly used in divination, dream pillows, for protection, to increase psychic powers, for healing, strength, astral projection, safe travel, spiritualism and more!

Medicinally, mugwort is used by women to help with delayed menstruation and to regulate the menstrual cycle. It is also create to stimulate the digestive system, aide gas and bloating, in calming nerves, in relaxing muscles, etc. It is a popular ingredient in some Asian goods and medicine as well. 

Gardens of our Past – A Look Back 

  

This image showed up in my Timehop (an app that shows you pictures and posts on that particular day from years before) today. It makes me so happy to see it. It’s also a reminder that we make it work wherever we live. 

  

We were lucky when we lived in this horribly run down apartment in San Diego. The landlady told us we could use the garden bed. I don’t think she expected us to go as far as we did! My husband tore out all the giant half dead succulents that were probably older than us and over time we amended the soil and had a wonderful herb garden that was so out of place there. French Lavender, English Lavender, Spanish Lavender, Spearmint, Peppermint, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Verbena, Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, Mugwort, Kitchen Sage, Geranium leftover from before, Mexican Sage for aesthetic purposes (and because I like it and it attracts bees and butterflies) and a few herbs I can’t remember anymore. An elderly German woman would often come from the farthest apartment away just to look at it. We were pretty proud of it. 
  

Living where we do now our home is literally three times the size of the cardboard box we lived in before. An upgrade from our first apartment my husband and I (and eventually our baby) shared. I miss its garden and how much less I had to clean but beyond that I am much happier in our home here in NW Washington. The downfall here is the lack of gardening space. We live on a military base and apparently the landscapers are known to toss your garden if you don’t take special care in placing it somewhere they won’t mind. In our case our backyard is a forest. So we plan on growing things outside of our back window since I have only seen the landscapers back there twice since we moved here almost 9 months ago. 
  

Our garden may be temporarily much smaller than before but it’s a step. It will also help us to understand the environment and seasons here better. Less than half the year has sunny days and we have high winds and lots of rain. Back home was almost always sunny and hot with little rain. It’s a big change! And quite the learning experience. Great for us before we find our perfect homestead to buy and live on. 

Ostara 2016 – An Overview Of Our Day 

Not all Heathens celebrate Ostara but our personal practice is influenced by our ancestry and so therefore we do. Some use the day to celebrate Idunn or even Sunna instead of the Anglo-Saxon and/or German Goddess Eostre/Eastre and/or Ostara. We call the day Ostara because of its connection to that goddess or simply refer to it as the Spring Equinox (Vernal Equinox works too). 
  

Generally, to celebrate the seasons official change we make good Spring themed food, give offerings, bring flowers into the home, et cetera. Depending on where we live and what is happening in our lives we do more. When we lived in San Diego we tried to attend rituals with the greater Pagan community. Our local ADF group held many events connected to the Northern gods and other beings so we joined them when possible. Celebrating on a specific day isn’t necessary. It’s just “easier” and more popular. It has felt like Spring here for weeks whereas where my mom lives it’s still snowing and where my dad lives their Winter weather is our Spring weather so it’s harder to tell when it begins. I feel we could have celebrated this day earlier or waited until our last potential for frost has passed. Our ancestors didn’t follow the Gregorian calendar (well, until it was created and put into practice at least).
  

We celebrate on the Spring Equinox or as close to it as we can most of the time. When we “feel” the change in the air and environment we make offerings to the land wights and to the “awakening” that comes with Spring. On Ostara we give our flowers as offerings at the end of the day. When we had a garden we worked within it and gave offerings to the land wights who watched over and inhabited it. Other crafts included dyeing eggs, making candles from egg shells, painting symbolic images of Spring, starting processes like mead making, et cetera. 
  

Today, our celebration was fairly simple. We spent the whole day being together as a family and doing our daily routine with a little more thought on the changes that come with the season. It is our first Spring here and it has already proved to be eventful and beautiful. I woke up and put my seedlings on the porch. With our heavy winds, rain and potential for frost I had been avoiding it but these precious things needed more light than our house can offer without higherinh our electric bill. We are new to the PNW and have now learned we need to find our sun lamps for the baby plants in the future instead of multiple lights in every room that peeks into each other. They were not transplanted though. Only left to get a tiny bit more light than our house gave them. Then I made a hearty breakfast for my family before spinning some of the last bit of wool top I have until I can procure more. It was a bright yellow with white streaks and I felt as if I was spinning the sun. Absolutely gorgeous stuff on this gloomy day. 
  

Other than that I cared for our Easter Lily, cleaned, baked a lemon-lavender dessert bread/cake, made a special lunch influenced our heritage, toasted to each other and the gods/wights/ancestors, sat together with my family and played with the baby and generally just enjoyed the day. Time with family is a great way to celebrate any special day. If you don’t have family near you can sometimes find local events or go for a stroll in nature or even in a garden center. If you have a kindred I’m sure time spent with them would be appropriate. 
  

Happy Ostara! 

Homesteading – A Lifetime of Dreaming 

Ever since I was a child I can remember wanting a farm. A small one for just myself and my family. I can vividly remember an instance when I was young and we drove past a small homestead on a big plot of land. I thought to myself: “that’s going to be my home.” I think I might have even said it out loud at one point during the road trip but I can’t remember any responses. 

  With my Uroma (Great Grandma) at my Opa’s homestead.

The idea of a small farm appealed to me greatly living in a large city. My family was a big inspiration. The home my mother grew up in was a short drive away from the main part of the city. Large and lovely and surrounded by land. Oh, and built by my mother’s family when she was a child. How cool is that? I loved it. I remember daydreaming a lot while walking around exploring. 

There was a man with a peacock over the bridge that I vaguely remember and my mom told me about her family owning livestock on their side of the stream. Stories of family events where my Opa slaughtered a pig and prepared it himself to feed everyone made me want to do the same. Not in a grotesque sort of way but in a: “I want to nourish my family from my land.” Kind of way. 

  
 My family’s backyard in 2009

When they sold the house and moved I was devastated. I went up to the top room, looked out of the window at the back yard and cried. I admit I was extremely dramatic about it too. I think I was around 11 years old. It was the perfect place for a homestead. Though not for me. The frogs under the floor at night terrified me as a kid. Haha! 

  
My 21st birthday spent in the garden (the little girl is my baby sister)

In our own home my mom worked hard to grow gardens in the awful clay soil our city had. Every place we lived she had to have some living thing. When we moved into the last house before she left the state we had all built a large garden under her artistic direction. I even worked in a Garden Center and brought home plants all the time. We had a meditation garden and a large compost bin I had wanted so SO badly and finally received for my 21st birthday. It was great for city living. 

  
On my 21st birthday feeling deeply blessed over my compost bin birthday present

  


My dream of homesteading has been long in the making. Luckily, it’s always been a passion of mine and I have been able to gain useful skills over the years. Now, it is just bringing the dream to fruition. 
  
The meditation area of my family’s urban garden in 2009

Planting Roots – Starting Seeds In Washington State

My husband has started working really long days as of today. So he ran the family to the store yesterday to pick up some seeds and a peat moss soil seed starter in case we can’t get to it for a few weeks. We eventually want to buy seeds as local as possible but for now these work. You have to start somewhere! This is exactly how we started seeds growing up. Sometimes we would use egg cartons and a starter soil. However, my mom was a single parent for much of my childhood so this was cleaner and more convenient! 

I have always been fascinated by gardening. Though, I have tended to be more of an herb gardener in the past. I still have quite a collection of dried herbs from our previous home. In working to be more self-sufficient we want to grow and raise as much of our own food as possible however so veggies it is this time around! Starting small in our new home (as in area not actual home) is a good way to learn how gardening works here. Weather, environment, etc. Where I am from in Southern California if you didn’t mind having people give you dirty looks for using a lot of water you could pretty much grow year round. Here, it is very different. 

We used a peat moss seed starter and planted our seeds the day after the Full Moon (today). My trusty Farmers Almanac says this is shops time for planting root vegetables. If you believe in such things. Age old wisdom could be a good thing to listen to. We planted red kohlrabi, radishes, beets, carrots and turnips! Yum! I wasn’t sure how veggies that grow above the soil would do with the animals here so we thought root vegetables were the way to go. Kohlrabi may grow on top-ish but it’s so delicious we are willing to risk it! 

  

  

Usually, I only put a pinch of seeds into my starters but many instructions say three seeds will do for medium to larger seeds like many of these veggies produce. I added a little extra because frankly I am kind of insecure about growing here! I only know what I have learned from books and not first hand experience like I did back home. 

   
   

I emptied each packet into bowls I borrowed from my baby. Much easier to pinch and drop into the netting than straight from the paper envelope! The leftover seeds I will be giving as an offering to the local land wights/spirits later today. 

  

Afterwards I covered the seedlings and made sure the soil was still damp from the night before.

  

Then I put them in the sunniest part of my home with a place to set the mini green house. That just so happened to be the laundry room. It’s always warm in there even when nothing is on so it is a good place for the little babies! 

  

Now we wait. 

Due to where we live we will be growing things out of a tub in a few weeks. I got the idea from another Heathen friend who lives in a apartment in the South. She had a magnificently magical little garden on her back patio that inspired me to grow in this way as well. 
The only addition to hers is that we may put up something to protect it from animals as well since our home is a few feet from the forest. Here’s to hoping the deer don’t eat it all! 
I can’t wait to share progress of our tiny garden as we get it going. Thank you for being a part of our journey by reading my blog!