Celebrating Winter Solstice

This year we have decided to give up Christmas. We have many different reasons for this. I don’t want to delve to deep into  our reasoning, simply because its not incredibly important to this post, but I will give a brief explanation.  I have recently started my journey as a Buddhist, and my husband is an atheist. We found it silly that we were celebrating the birth of a god we don’t believe in or worship. Secondly, it is far too commercial. Starting in October every store you walk into begins throwing Christmas EVERYTHING in your face, and all people care about is money, savings, sales, buying. It’s no longer about love, compassion and giving. So we have decided not to raise our children celebrating Christmas.

So for our winter-time ‘holiday’ we have decided to start celebrating winter solstice. It has been something that has appealed to me in the past so I decided to look further into it.

In short, the winter solstice is a celebration of light, nature, the sun and new beginnings. Solstice occurs on the shortest day of the year, or when the least amount of sunlight reaches the earth (December 21st or 22nd in the Northern Hemisphere). The sun seems to stand still. From this day forward in the year, the days will be longer and more full of light.

For more history on the solstice click here, here or here. (I will share more history with latter posts and ideas!)

Since its creeping up on us, I’d like to share with you our plans, some ideas, recipes and activities between now and then.

For those of you that think quitting Christmas and celebrating solstice is totally crazy, let me tell you our plan for the day-

Sleep in. Cook a nice breakfast. Exchange some gifts (not tons, and mostly homemade). Make bird feeders (as Delilah gets older, we will add more nature friendly activities). Start dinner. Then in the afternoon, about an hour before the sun sets, take a walk and hang our bird feeders in the woods for birds to nibble all winter. Then we will watch the sun set over the river. When we get back, we’ll light candles all over the house and drink wassail, have sun cake and some herbed cookies and enjoy a nice, hearty, dinner!

How could you not want to do that?? Even if you celebrate Christmas, solstice might be something to add into the festivities!!

For this post I’ll detail 3 things we’ll be doing!

Solstice Tree

In similar fashion to Christmas, we plan to have a small evergreen tree in the living room throughout December. But we plan to decorate it with homemade ornaments! Dehydrated orange slices with ground cinnamon and cloves, hung with ribbons and beads. Homemade ginger bread sun, bird and animal ornaments. A homemade tree topper in the shape of a sun. Twinkling lights (I would do traditional candles, but I don’t think our landlord will be OK with the fire hazard!)  Some red winter berries from a local farm and maybe some cranberries!

Very natural and beautiful.

Wassail

Wassail is a traditional cider/drink for solstice/yule. It can be alcoholic, but there are plenty of alcohol free recipes!! Wassailing was an ancient tradition where everyone would enjoy some drink in sing songs. We plan to use this recipe.

Gifts

We plan to give a few simple gifts. I’m making my daughter a teddy bear, we’ll give out homemade cookies to our neighbors, and family will get some knitted items, homemade bath items and foods. We will wrap them either in fabric, or recycled newspapers to help keep waste down and to add to the nature friendly aspect of the holiday.

I hope to add a few more posts throughout December highlighting a few other traditions of solstice and a few more ideas. If your celebrating leave a comment and let us know what your favorite aspect of solstice is!

If your looking for more inspiration for your own solstice celebration, you can follow my Pinterest board for solstice ideas!

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Foraging Series: Part 3- Jewelweed!

Part 1- Staghorn Sumac
Part 2- Queen Anne’s Lace

The 4 main rules of foraging-

1. Make sure wherever you harvest is at minimum 100 ft. from a road cars drive on.
2. Make sure wherever your picking is public property (don’t pick on someone’s private land unless you’ve OK-ed it with the owners!)
3. Make sure where your picking is not somewhere that gets sprayed! You do not want chemicals all over your yummy wild food.
4. Give back to the earth and do your part to help keep the environment clean and healthy. Don’t take without giving back!!

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Let me enlighten you with my amazing poetry skills with my haiku about jewelweed-

I love jewelweed
Jewelweed is an awesome
Medicinal plant

Alright, so my amazing poetry skills aren’t so great, but jewelweed is!

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A jewelweed bush

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Flowers

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The side of a flower

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The leaves, and if you look closely you can see a seed pod under one of the leaves in the center of the photo. It looks like a bean pod.

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Close up of a flower head on

Jewelweed is also called spotted touch me not, touch me not and they are impatiens.

These bushes grow rampant where I live. The bushes grow extremely large and everywhere. In the woods and along the roads are the most common places for them. Its very distinct and has saw blade edged oval leaves with trumpeting flowers. The flowers can be yellow (like the ones I have pictured, these are called pale jewelweed) or light to dark orange to reddish. But aside from they will all look exactly alike. The flowers are spotted and the plant itself has knobby joints- everywhere a stem meets another stem there is a little knob. Its like knees and elbow. But plant-ish.

Aside from the medicinal benefits of this plant, the best part is the seed pods. All throughout my childhood we called these plants poppies. Not because they look like poppy flowers, because when you touch or gently squeeze the ripe seed pods they explode (in order to disperse its seeds). Its tons of fun. Look for a fat seed pod (they are ripe this time of year, so go now!!) and explode them. There is no plant out there more fun. Watch this video to see it happen =)

The jewelweed plant is natures poison Ivy (and poison oak) relief. It usually grows right near poison ivy. If you apply jewelweed lotion or salve prior to going into the woods its can actually prevent you from getting poison ivy. Don’t tell me that’s not awesome. Or if your unfortunate enough to get the stuff, soap, lotion or salve with stop the itching and heal the poison ivy. It also does wonders for just about every other rash. My daughter suddenly got a very bad diaper rash (I think it came with being sick) and my regular homemade ointment didn’t help, my plantain salve didn’t help so I tried jewelweed lotion and it cleared up in an hour!!

I’m gonna teach you how to make-

Jewelweed Infused Oil

This oil can be used as a base for soaps, salves, ointments and lotions as well as completely on its own.

You will need-

A large handful or jewelweed
Organic olive oil

Roughly chop the jewelweed (stems, leaves, flowers and all) and place them in a skillet or sauce pan. Cover them in a thin layer of olive oil (I used about a cup) and bring to a bubbling simmer. Let them simmer uncovered for an hour stirring every 10 minutes or so, you want them all to be wilted. Put everything into a mason jar and pop a lid on it. Let it rest anywhere from over night to a week then strain out all of the leaves and leaf pieces. And that’s it! Make whatever you like out of it. If you want to make a salve replace plantain oil in this Epic Healing Salve and make jewelweed salve. Or use a mixture of both! To use it on its own, just rub it on the affected area as needed.

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Cooking infused oil

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Finished, un-strained oil

How to eat Jewelweed

Here’s the deal, jewelweed really isn’t more then a trail side snack when your out walking. It may come in handy sometime though! You can eat the seeds from the seed pods. As you may notice, the seeds fly everywhere when you touch a ripe seed pod. So hold the whole seed pod in your hand to catch them. They are quite tasty!! If your free a whole afternoon in a large patch of jewelweed you can collect a bunch and put them on a salad or bread =) Yummy!

So have some fun with this amazing plant =)

~Courtney, The Crunchy Delinquent

This post was shared on Wildcrafting Wednesdays!

*Disclaimer- I am not a doctor. Nor do I claim to be. Use caution when picking wild plants and DO NOT pick anything unless you are 100% certain you are picking the correct plant. If you have allergies to any of the plants I feature, do not use them. If you are worried about the medicinal effects of any of the plants featured, please consult your doctor. Do your own research before deciding what is best for you.*

How to Make Flower Chain Jewelry

This week my house is a mad house. Delilah has decided that sleeping is optional and is (I believe) either having a growth spurt or teething. She’s up every half hour/hour to eat at night and fussy all day. I was planning on making some fancy Pad Thai with jackfruit seeds for dinner tonight and got as far as cooking and chopping the seeds, when Delilah decided I didn’t need to finish.

So today’s post is going to be short, sweet and just for fun =)

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This really is one of the easiest crafts out there, but its so much fun and a surprising amount of people don’t know how to do it!

The first step is to pick flowers. We used white clover flowers for ours. Make sure you pick them with stems long enough to tie into a knot (or have super nimble fingers so you can tie short lengths of stem!). Pick at least a dozen for a necklace, or 4-ish for a child sized bracelet. Its really a matter of how long the stems are and how big or small your body is.

What you do is take two flowers (flowers a and b) and tie flower A’s stem in a knot right behind flower B’s flower.

Like this-

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You have to be very gentle when you tighten the knot or you’ll just rip the stems and have to start over. And that’s it! Just keep tying on more flowers until you’ve reached the length you want.

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You can do this with all kinds of flowers and thoroughly impress anyone under the age of 10!

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Rory and Gage (my niece and nephew) were both very excited to get necklaces and bracelets made from flowers. My niece, Rory, had me make a, ‘Bracelet for Delilah’s foot.’ Also know as an anklet. And Gage, my nephew, had to have a bracelet for each arm and a necklace. Just like all the other cool kids have.

Now you know how to make flower chains! Maybe you’ll even come up with a non-child use for them =)

~Courtney, The Crunchy Delinquent