On our last couple of outdoor adventures, we found so many things to bring home and investigate; Sumac Berries, clam shells, moss, a very old & empty turtle shell, a Coot's foot, deer antlers, and an owl pellet. My favorite was the owl pellet.
An owl pellet is: Owls eat their food whole and since they don't have teeth, they can't chew their food. They use their strong and sharp beaks to rip their prey apart and then swallow large chunks whole. The owl slowly digests its meal by separating the softer materials (meat) from the harder material (bones). It then regurgitates the harder material along with indigestible items like feathers and fur in the form of a pellet.
(See what we found below)
Sumac Berries: These "berries" are really seeds covered with a thin coating of flavoring substance and hairs. Late Summer is the right time to harvest Sumac or as soon as they are ripe (dark purple in color) and before they have been rained on. This is when they will have the strongest flavor. The rain will wash off the sour flavor. Sumac berries make a great sour lemonade type drink or sumac-ade. This yummy drink is so easy to make: harvest 6-8 ripe "berry" clusters, taste them to make sure they have the sour flavor, put them in a pitcher and pour cold water over them. Let them sit in a cool place for awhile, taste drink to see if it is sour enough. When ready to drink, strain the drink through cheese cloth. This will remove all unwanted seeds and hairs. Some people add sugar, but we think it is great without. (I will remind you of this yummy drink when we actually do it later this season)
Just a note: sumac is related to cashews and mangoes, anyone allergic to those foods should avoid it and/or be very careful. Also, there is a poisonous Sumac (Toxicodendron vernix or Rhus vernix) but according to Wikipedia: "Poison sumac grows exclusively in very wet or flooded soils, usually in swampa and peat bogs, in the eastern United States and Canada."
Happy exploring and foraging!
I gave the kids a tweezers, magnifying glass, and pokers and had them open up the pellet to see what this owls last meal was and see what he left behind. They got a kick out of finding tiny bones and teeth and separating them from the fur. Based on our finds, we decided the owl had eaten a mouse.
One of the places that we order essential oils from also sells synthetic fragrance oils and they often send us samples with our order. Since we use essential oils exclusively in our products the synthetic fragrances never get put to use, but the fact that we get samples for free and have never received essential oil samples is telling. It's the reason synthetics are used so much in the first place; they're cheap. So why don't we use synthetic fragrances in our handcrafted soap and other products? There are a few reasons. The first one is that they don't smell as good. This might seem obvious since creating a lavender scent in a laboratory is naturally going to fall short of actual lavender oil. But there are some things you can't get with using natural oils. For example, it would be difficult to achieve a good popcorn scent, or "ocean mist" or lilac etc. But I find that there are so many wonderful scents that can be extracted from nature that it seems unnecessary to use synthetics. Some include: Natural peppermint, lavender, rose, patchouli, eucalyptus, orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, clove. The simple fact is that synthetics are used because they are cheaper and easier. Which is generally a good reason to use something provided that they aren't also worse. Which brings me to the second reason we don't use synthetic fragrances. They are not healthy to work with, or put on your body. Not only do they lack the therapeutic properties of essential oils, but they also have many irritating and harmful properties. When you look at the ingredients on a lotion bottle and it says "fragrance" or "perfume" that one word can represent 200 different ingredients that aren't specifically listed. Many people have an allergic reaction to synthetic fragrances that can range from a skin irritation to headaches and nausea. Here is a short list of scents that you know are synthetic when you see them because they don't exist as essential oils:
Cucumber, lilac ( I get a lot of people looking for this kind of soap), Apple, April Showers, Melons, Bubble Gum,
Rainforest. The list can go on and on, but this is just an idea of what to look for when avoiding synthetic fragrances.
Some companies also use a mixture of synthetic fragrances and essential oils. There are synthetic peppermints and synthetic lavenders. Also, when you see a product scented with vanilla, jasmine, rose and/or sandalwood they are most likely synthetic. These are all available as essential oils too, but are so expensive not many companies use them in their pure form. The price depends on how much plant matter is needed to extract a decent amount of oil. For instance: you need 1,000 pounds of jasmine (3 million flowers) to make a pound of jasmine essential oil and you need 2,000 pounds of fresh rose petals to make a pound of oil. In comparison, you need 100 pounds of lavender flowers to make a pound of essential oil. I have found a reliable source who sells pure jasmine and vanilla oils at a reasonable price so I am able to use them in some of my products but keep it to a minimum because of the price. When buying beauty products it can be hard to know what are essential oils and what are synthetic fragrances. For the most part, avoid any products that list "fragrance" or "perfume" as an ingredient. Look for products only containing essential oils. After awhile, your nose will know what to avoid.
I have found a great company who makes and sells 100% natural and organic flavor oils. I have been experimenting with these oils and currently use some in my products. They are raspberry and coconut. These flavor oils may not contain the many therapeutic benefits essential oils do, but a lot of my customers and my family, love the way they smell. And it is good to know they don't contain the harmful ingredients like synthetic fragrances do. But I love that I have the option to offer these to my customers.
What is your favorite scent? Is there a synthetic scent that you wish was available in an essential oil?
This is why Minnesotans talk about the weather so much.........
Morning of April 23rd 2013:
We have had a total of 17.5 inches of snow this April.
But the good news is 70 degree weather is in the forecast and the Mankato Farmers' Market starts May 4th!!! Hope to see you there!
Yesterday, here in Southern MN we enjoyed a beautiful Spring day! The kids were out all day playing with bubbles, jump roping, playing with chalk, digging up worms, biking, and picking pussy willows. It was great. We will be starting peas this week outdoors and Clare will be starting her flower seeds indoors. We are all so excited to be able to spend more time outdoors. Our plan is to transform our whole yard into a garden with a pond, and little bridge, fruit trees, and an outdoor kitchen. We want pretty much everything we grow to be edible. With many beautiful flowers to pick! I say whole yard, which really only amounts to 50x40 feet in the back. Not much, but we have BIG plans. I will keep you posted on the progress.
One thing we have already added to our backyard is a deck. And on this deck we have had our buddies, duct tape dad and duct tape Clare, hanging out there all Winter long. So far they have attracted squirrels, sparrows, juncos, robins and blue jays. While the kids were out in the garden right behind our porch, Clare heard something, looked up and noticed there was a robin trying to get out of the porch through the closed window. "Why is there a robin in our house" she asked. We run inside, after a little struggle, John catches the robin, we took a little peek at him while John held him and then set him free. He must have been looking for food on our deck and snuck inside (we had our door open.)
So, I hear there is snow in the forecast. That will be a funny thing to see since we just enjoyed a day of Spring at 60 degrees. Life in MN, gotta love it!
I might have went overboard, but enjoyed every single minute of creating gifts for my kids for their Easter trays. It was a bit hard to sneak it in to my schedule while the kids were awake, but my hubby knew how important it was for me to do it. I hope that this is the beginning of a new tradition.
The wooden tray: I purchased these from Hobby Lobby and used to use them for soap displays at the market. We don't use them anymore and have a lot of them.
The peg dolls: I made a gnome, fairy, and a baby for each kid. The embellishments are made out of felt. I had printed felt with butterflies on them and that worked perfectly for the wings. After Easter, the kids added clothes and wings to their gnomes and babies. They made little houses and food for them.
The felt eggs: These are made out of felt and a glue gun. I was going to sew them, but my machine isn't that strong. They fit a little candy and/or treat in them. Now the kids are using them as blankets for their peg dolls.
The nest: Stick wreaths I had in my craft closet just waiting to be used for the last 2 years. Perfect for fairy nests! I added a couple of star anise for a decoration.
The kids loved all of it! The best part was that there was nothing to clean up. No plastic wrapping, no twistie ties, no plastic grass, no last minute filler toys with teenie tiny pieces that would eventually end up in the garbage.
Read my post here about no plastic: http://www.nakedbeautybathandbody.com/3/post/2013/04/i-shook-on-it-no-more-plastic.html