Cedar Ring Mama

Taking My Cues From Mother Earth

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Creating Family Culture- The Adventure Begins!

This week marks the beginning of a book study I am very excited to host on my facebook group Waldorf Town Square.  In follow-up to her much loved Heaven On Earth- A Handbook For Parents of Young Children, Sharifa Oppenheimer has developed a workbook called “How To Create The Star Of Your Family Culture” . I can’t wait to delve in to the task of building a better culture for my family, to support others as they take up the task as well, and to be encouraged together.

As we look forward to the birth of our fifth child (less than two months away!), I know I need to examine the flow of our day and how we can best prepare for this new little soul’s arrival, and especially how to give our evenings a boost.  By the end of the day, everyone seems grumpy in our household lately, and I’d like to change the mood to peaceful and relaxed… babies already tend to have a hard time with those early evening hours- my children have always been their fussiest as babies from dinnertime until they go down for the night.  I also want to ensure each of my children and my spouse do not feel neglected or as if their needs have fallen through the cracks when the baby comes.

In considering this word “culture”, I find it so significant that it comes from an agricultural idea of tilling or cultivating land so that it may be used towards a specific end or for a specific crop/harvest.  Sharifa posits that our end goal is “to raise children who, as young adults, can freely create their life as they envision it- this is our task.”  I wholeheartedly agree- my mantra has long been “we create our own reality”.  But *what* reality are we creating?  Without mindfulness, without careful cultivation, there will undoubtedly be weeds in this garden we are cultivating- things that drain resources and lower productivity and yield.  We all want our time and energy to matter and to create abundance.  We all want to thrive.  How can I, as a co-shaper of my family culture, help everyone in my family thrive, and help ensure our time together multiplies the meaning of each of our individual lives and fully empowers each of us to fulfill our destiny, our life’s purpose?

In the first chapter, Sharifa offers us a time-tested tool as a starting point for our endeavor.  Her heartfulness meditation is a basis for developing the inner resources we will need for our journey- and these inner resources are self-knowledge, self-compassion, and self-regulation.  The added benefit of developing these inner resources is that our children, who naturally imitate us as an expression of their oneness with their environment at this point in their development as human beings, will be learning these things from us as we practice them!

It is easy to overlook the importance of the spiritual tasks we accomplish in our families, as they are often overshadowed by the more tangible tasks we can see/hear/smell… but far beyond the clean dishes, the vacuumed rugs, the delicious meals, I hope my family will always have memories of how it feels to be inspired by my strength and dedication to personal growth and rising to meet my challenges- and in the remembering of it, will themselves feel that ability rising within them because they witnessed HOW it was done…  remembering a place and time where we felt loved, where we felt purpose, where we played and work together, where our needs were met and we felt the incredible gift of having a full tank so that we in turn could meet needs- these will be more than just memories.  These will be treasure, emotional and spiritual treasures that our families can retrieve with instant recall during any difficult times to come, just as well-prepared fields grow strong crops that weather storms.

As I practice the heartfulness meditation, I send out a strong spiritual beacon of resolve to all of us carrying this intention, envisioning us as blacksmiths at the forge fired by our will, where we mine the raw materials from deep within and form them into the tools we need to cultivate our family culture.


© Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar








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Welcome, old friends and new who may be visiting from the Waldorf Connection Global Expo!  As promised, here is the story, “Harmonia“, which goes along with the “Dynamic Mothering with the Four Humours” talk airing on Saturday, May 16, 2015.



I had been searching the universe, an endless spirit in an endless realm, not knowing what I was looking for.  But I would know it when I found it.  For a while now, I had been catching faint vibrations of an impulse, a calling.  I couldn’t hear it very clearly until this moment.


I listened, and heard the call for someone to bring a very special gift to mankind- a seed that would grow and blossom and produce a fruit that would nourish a part of humanity that was greatly diminished.  I felt the tingle of my inner knowing- I would be this person.

And so, the day came when I crossed the threshold and the whirring, spinning energetic gift I clutched tightly, crossed with me.  When I opened my clenched hand on the other side, now clothed in skin, I held only a tiny, inconspicuous seed.

I looked around me, and saw that I was surrounded by four very different landscapes.  To the north stretched a vast sea, dotted with distant islands. To the south, the sun beat down on what would have been a mostly dry, parched land if not for the exceptionally engineered irrigation systems that fed crop lands and a network of oasis-like cities sprouting up along a wide, winding river.  To the east, all that could be seen was a vast plain where tall grasses continually rippled in the wind with movement like waves. In the west rose hills and mountains with great, cavernous stone mouths.

I planted the seed. I watered it. I waited. But day after day, week after week, nothing happened.  I became discouraged.  Could I have been wrong about accepting this mission?  Would some other spirit have been more capable, more ‘chosen’?

And then, from the windy plains, came the tinkling of a gentle, joyful, breathless laugh.  A child- now running, now skipping, now stopping to smell the the wildflowers, now  stumbling and being whisked up, it seemed, by the breeze itself- arrived like the wind, in bursts and gusts. When she reached me, she smiled and threw her arms around my waist, hugging me. She was neither tall nor short, small or big- and her eyes were what stood out most, they were lively and sparkling. She pressed a light-as-air package wrapped in yellow silk into my hands.

“My people are an energetic, creative, and accepting society who deeply value communication, arts, and entertainment.  We are quick to forgive and have already forgotten what gave rise to the rifts between our neighbors and ourselves, and condemned our people- once sought after merchants and tradespeople- to be unwelcome outside our own borders.  I dreamed you came to help us create peace amongst ourselves, and I have come to help you. Please accept my gift.”

The girl pressed the package into my hands, then ran back along the path from which she came, until finally tall, rippling grasses swallowed her back up.  I removed the cloth and opened the box, and out fluttered a bright yellow butterfly. The butterfly circled around me gently for a few minutes, then it hovered above the ground where I had planted the seed what seemed like ages ago. As the butterfly’s wings flapped and flapped, the air all around warmed and rushed to encircle me.  The discouragement I had felt faded, and I was filled with hope and renewed conviction that I was indeed on the correct path.  I felt very, very alive, and then I felt very, very tired.  When I awoke, the seed’s hard outer coating had softened and allowed a shoot to poke up from the ground.  I cried with joy and relief and told every creature who came near, what happened and showed them the beautiful sprout.

At first I was so attentive- I barely left except to get water for the seedling. But soon the beauty of the world around me and all the other warming, shooting up plants- for my seedling was not the only one to have woken up- distracted me and I returned to my sprout one day to find it drooping and choked with weeds. How could I have been so forgetful and failed to take better care of it?  I began to cry, and my tears watered the soil and the little plant was no longer withered.  I practiced being a faithful caretaker, but my plant’s growth had begun to slow and I wondered if perhaps in my zeal to correct my mistakes, I had overwatered it.  Once again, discouragement seeped in.

It was then that a young man came forward from the southern lands.  His body was short and compact, as if he had been formed to precise specifications to meet maximum efficiency, limbs placed exactly where they could, in as short a time as possible, receive the maximum amount of circulation possible. He strode purposefully towards me and extended his hand to offer a firm handshake.

“My society has heard the stories of your coming.  We are a strong, determined, and productive nation who work hard to make the south lands thrive and squeeze every bit of crop capacity from lands that were once almost desert.  We are skilled hunters and we have a strong military full of trained warriors.  My leader has begun to talk of conquering other lands. I am not afraid of war, but my grandfather tells me of a time in our history when all four nations worked together and trade flourished, and we were even stronger then, than we are now.  I dreamed you came to help us create peace amongst ourselves, and I have come to help you. Please accept my gift.”

The man handed me a tightly wrapped, warm-to-the-touch package wrapped in leather with red and black markings on it. As quickly and purposefully as he had come, he left.

I opened the gift, and inside the leather was a metal box which held a single, smoldering coal.  The yellow butterfly returned and began to flutter her wings gently, fanning the coal until it burst into flame. As the flame grew, the hot summer sun lifted high in the sky and heated the soil around the young plant. The plant responded to the heat almost immediately, and began to grow taller and taller at a remarkable rate, basking in the heat and stretching towards the sun, the first evidence of fruits emerging from pollinated blossoms.  I worked steadfastly to keep the flame burning steadily, and as I thought of the south lands from where the flame originated, I decided that I, too would engineer an irrigation channel from the nearby watering pool.

Perhaps I was over-zealous, because soon the flame was burning unbearably hot. My plant leaf tips began to show scorching, and the irrigation channel had diverted so much water that there was not enough left for the animals who frequented the pool. I felt angry that things were not going smoothly, even though I knew it was my own fault for being a little too ambitious. And that is when the woman from the west came.

She was older than the young man from the south, with a hint of gray touching her dark hair. She was very tall like the mountains she hailed from that reached for the heavens, but her shoulders pulled downwards as if she was used to bearing heavy loads. Her footsteps were heavy, but she picked her way through the rocks with conscious expertise.

“My clan have made the hills and mountains our home.  We are a very proficient, structured society with a strong sense of justice.  Our religious leaders, scientists, doctors, and musicians used to be highly regarded in all the lands, and we were known for our charitable aid and humanitarian efforts to anyone in need.  In recent times, however, we have been weighed down by the many rules of our leading council, which dictate how even the smallest of actions must be performed and do not allow for change, keeping our progress stagnant.  We need renewal, and we need to return to helping others instead of being enclosed within our own boundaries. I dreamed you came to help us create peace amongst ourselves, and I have come to help you. Please accept my gift.”

She handed me a package wrapped in green linen which was surprisingly heavy for its small size. I thanked her, and she returned the way she had come.

I opened the cloth and found a beautiful, clear crystal.  Again the butterfly came and flapped its wings gently, and the crystal began to pulse with light.  As it pulsed, it seemed to drink up the flame’s out of control energy until the heat lessened and reduced it to a comfortable glow.  I felt calm, rational, and filled with understanding.  I began to work to restore the habitat I had disrupted earlier, and when order had been restored I worked to create a beautiful garden around the plant, with walkways and paths lined with shrubbery, a gazebo to shelter people and a small chapel- never forgetting to tend to my plant. But as I delved deeply into my new work, little things that never would have bothered me before became intensely upsetting. The crystal cooled and became dark, and I became critical of myself and everything around me.  My plant was now weighed down with heavy, beautiful fruit, but instead of delighting in it, all I could do was worry about if the stalks would hold up or someone would try to steal the fruit before it was ripe to perfection.

Now, from the shore of the northern island-speckled sea came an old man, slowly. For a while, he was silent and I wondered if he was going to speak at all.  When he did, it was as if his mouth had rusted with disuse and he had to put forth great effort into prying his jaw open to form his thoughts into audible words.

“My people once came and went with the flow of the ocean, but for many years now we have kept to ourselves and avoided the others.  The stories that were passed down say that conflicts developed between the four lands, and our leader refused be involved decided it would be best to isolate our nation from strife and any potential war.  We are a peace-loving, stable society with rich traditions that we love and follow religiously. Our ranks are filled with farmers, fishermen, skilled craftsmen, and patient teachers.  But without the possibility of trade or interaction with the other lands, we have become unmotivated and unproductive.  It does not feel right to me, and I worry about the future of my grandchildren.  I dreamed you came to help us create peace amongst ourselves, and I have come to help you. Please accept my gift.” He handed me a bundle wrapped in blue wool cloth and, contented to have accomplished his mission, he turned away and shuffled back to the sea as I called out my thanks.

I opened the gift and it contained a vial of liquid, clear as the crystal.  I felt as if I could hear the old man whispering, urging me to pour the water on the crystal.  I opened the vial, poured the water on the crystal, and it transformed from cloudy and dark to clear and bright again.  The butterfly flapped her wings, and the flame grew brighter and evaporated the water into a mist that filled the garden.  The cool mist became cooler and cooler.  Every day, the garden was cooler than it had been before and soon the fruit was perfectly ripe and ready to be picked.

I worked hard to harvest every last bit, and when I had finished, I rested and felt at total peace. The girl of the plains came back, driven by intense curiosity to see how the plant had turned out.  She was delighted when I shared the ripe fruit with her, and I asked her to send messengers to each of the nations to summon them, which she gladly agreed to.  Soon representatives from each land came to me to receive a portion of the delicious fruit.  As they ate and marvelled at the delicious fruit, they began to talk amongst themselves and forge new bonds.

That was the beginning of a new time for humanity. The garden was named after me- Harmonia- and became a center for diplomacy amongst the four nations.  The roots of my plant reached deep and far and extended to the borders of each nation. Harmonia is that place in the center where all people come together to be whole, and where every good fruit is cultivated, shared, and enjoyed.


Courage For the Task- Mimulus

The flower essences, herbal decoctions or infusions prepared from the flowering parts of a plant and used to facilitate emotional wellness (and impact mental outlook), were pioneered by Dr. Edward Bach to be pro-active responses to the body’s quest for balance (health).  Dr. Bach believed that the roots of disease can begin within the mental/emotional realm and, over time, when a pattern of disharmony develops and becomes pathological, it can amplify and begin to manifest in the realm of the physical body.  This pattern of disharmony, he postulated, originates when a person’s inner and outer worlds- the “I’ one experiences, versus the persona one creates for family, friends, and the outer world- fall out of sync.  I understand this to mean that when I am not true to myself- when my actions contradict what I actually believe, aspire to, and love- a disconnect occurs and I start to lose internal harmony and energy. Eventually this carries over into my physical well being. Bach’s study of flowers was aimed at being able to prevent disease in the body, or- in flower terms- “nip it in the bud”. In comtemplating Dr. Bach’s work, and how others have carried it on, I am fascinated and compelled to learn more.


A friend recently recommended the flower essence mimulus to me, and I have to share what a powerful little punch this flower essence packs!  A superficial study of mimulus yields, likewise, superficial results- it is, according to the “sound byte” summary on Bach’s Flower Essence chart, “Fear of worldly things, illness, pain, accidents, poverty, of dark, of being alone, of misfortune. The fears of everyday life. These people quietly and secretly bear their dread; they do not freely speak of it to others.”

In trying to define this plant’s powers in terms of treating a stereotypical ‘mimulus’ personality, though, I think many who would benefit from mimulus are thrown off the trail of discovery of this little gem.  I am persuaded that many of us, at certain junctures of our lives, can also benefit greatly from mimulus.  The first fascinating fact about mimulus is that, from what I can tell in researching Dr. Bach and flower essences, it was one of the first flowers Dr. Edward Bach studied.  It was the flower that aided his undertaking, his “bridge to destiny”.  Dr. Bach was coming from a traditional medical establishment, and was an expert on vaccination.  He began to have misgivings and see flaws in the medical establishment he was a member of, and left his respected position to accept a post at a Homeopathic Hospital. It is not hard to imagine him being worried and full of misgivings over such a dramatic turning of the table.  How would he be received in trying to create a new health discipline based on “energetic” flower water?! And yet, he began and his ideas became a worldwide phenomenon. He lived a dedicated, fulfilled life and was truly passionate about his work, feeling he had indeed hit upon his destiny and made the most of it. I hope I will be able to say that at the end of my sojourn on this earth!

There are many varieties of the mimulus, or “monkeyflower”, genus, and mimulus guttatus- the type of mimulus Bach worked with- addresses fears associated with the solar plexus- “gut-level” fears that pertain to everyday life (not emergency or crisis-inspired fears). If you are familiar with the law of signatures- one of the ancient methods herbalists used to consider plants and their purpose or therapeutic value based on physical characteristics (such as habitat, color, shape, etc.)- mimulus guttatus is a bright, lively, yellow.  Yellow relates it to the solar plexus chakra- an action chakra, the “seat of the will”; and to the idea of a sunny, cheerful outlook in contrast to the cloudy fears it dismisses. It is like bringing a handful of sunbeams within. If your fears have darkened your inner light and caused you to lose touch with your true self, the light of mimulus may help you find and retrieve what has been temporarily lost. The very word mimulus comes from the latin root word for “mime”.  Mimes wear a painted mask and cannot give audible voice to their story, instead they must convey it with great dramatization. Mimulus invites you to take off the mask and give voice to your drama.  Dr. Bach was very specific that mimulus helps with fears that one holds in and does not wish to, or feel ready to talk about.  But being able to identify and articulate our fears is often what helps us process and deal with them.

Mimulus also prefers to grow near water, especially clean, well-oxygenated moving water.  Its’ flower heads nod vigorously in the wind. This suggests it has a proclivity for forward movement, and I believe, positive acceptance of circumstances.

When my dear friend recommended mimulus to me, she spoke of destiny and “a shift”.  She had been warned, when she first accepted a recommendation for mimulus, that it was powerful stuff. I definitely felt a shift in my life very shortly after taking it, and it did give me courage for the tasks that seemed fearful in my life. I also felt like it set me in forward movement, whereas I had been stuck in a “spiritual park n’ ride”. A path unfolded before me.  I actually dreamt a very specific dream about a bridge, and being prepared to cross it. Dr. Bach once said “We have much to do, but we must not be afraid of the task.” I think this sums up mimulus aptly. If known fears, anxieties, and dread are keeping you stuck, preventing you from reaching your potential, weighing you down- perhaps mimulus can help you shift forward and give you courage for your task.

Courage does not mean our fears disappear.  It means we are able to recognize our fear in a more objective way so that we can act as we will to, in spite of the fear.  If we give our power to fear, it will take mastery of us.  When we hold our power, when we embody our will, we can look past fear and remember it is just one emotional perspective with which to view our circumstances. Sometimes, our fears serve as valid signals that guide us away from danger or from taking “wrong turns” in life. Sometimes, because of past negative or traumatic experiences, ignorance, or a plethora of other invalid associations and ideas, fear manifests in less productive ways. It is part of our soul’s developmental process to deal with such fears and act with courage. Our task is to decide whether our fears are hindering or protecting us, and deal with them in accordance.

Mimulus, as mentioned earlier, has any different varieties and comes in a rainbow of colors.  Work has been done to understand how these different varieties manifest as plant healers, and several have been identified that address fears related to their specific color chakra.  For instance, scarlet monkeyflower is associated with fears related to sense of personal power (first chakra), and the orange sticky monkeyflower is related to fears associated with intimacy/sexuality (second chakra)- more about that here. I look forward to trying those as well!


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Preparing for the Festival Of Courage (Michaelmas in Fairyland)

This year I am working to tie together the lessons for my 3rd grader, first grader, and kindergartener.  I am calling it “Whole Family Homeschool”… where “one room schoolhouse” meets Waldorf education. 🙂 I will have to post the beginning of our year’s container story soon, as it will help make sense of the chapter below.  But, rather than get so far behind in typing the stories out that I procrastinate forever (lol), I will share the first two days of our Michaelmas week stories.  As a bit of a background, each of my three children has been given a special book whilst on a mission in fairyland- my kindergarten daughter has The Real Mother Goose, my first grade son has An Illustrated Treasury of Grimm’s Fairytales, and my third grade son has Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. These books have been given to them to help them meet the challenges they will face on their missions in lands of fairies, elves, gnomes… and of course… the land of humans!

*Day One*

There was spicy note of celebration in the air.  Everyone in the Elemental Realms was hurrying to finish their day’s work early and some were already preparing for festivities.  Cirrus, Arlo, and Tula were very wide-eyed all day, watching and waiting as the sense of anticipation, palpable and intoxicating, grew and grew. After a satisfying lunch of beech nut stew and blackberry pie, Tula’s book began to glow.  The boys watched excitedly as she opened it, straight down the middle as she had been shown, where a ribbon marked its center pages.  The pages began to flutter, then flip this way and that, until they finally settled.

Cirrus began to read the rhyme aloud to Arlo and Tula.

Jack be nimble, jack be quick,

Jack jump over the candlestick.

Jack be nimble, Jack be spry,

Jack jump over the apple pie.

Jack be nimble, Jack jump high

Jack fly up into the sky.

As they watched, daring fairies and mischievous elves began to dance about and hop over what appeared to be flaming boughs of goldenrod, and when they had tired of this, wee fairy pies.  Finally their jumping contest took to the air as they shot straight up, so quickly that they flew up above the page top and could not be seen til they gleefully descended again.  Arlo’s tummy fluttered a bit as he watched, and Cirrus immediately began to take running leaps at the nearest stand of goldenrod to see if he could make it over.  Tula giggled and shouted “I want to try, too!”

Cobble soon appeared and grunted in the grumpy way gnomes often do.  “Preparing for the Festival of Courage, I see.  Take care you don’t land in the thistles beyond”, he warned, pointing to a thistle patch just past the goldenrod Cirrus was about to throw himself over. And then, to their awe and delight, Cobble took a running start and launched himself through the air, defying all laws of Gnome Gravity, and cleared a single goldenrod plant that was at least four times his height. Tula giggled and Cirrus’s jaw dropped.

“Didn’t think I had it in me, did ya?” he boasted proudly.  I was a champion in my younger years I’ll have you know.  Won the Goldenrod Leaping Trophy three years in a row!” He dusted himself off, and sat upon a large toadstool nearby.

“Goldenrod, you see, is a very special plant.  While other flowers of its ilk blossom from bottom up upon their stalk, goldenrod buds from top to bottom, like a candle burning down.  Tonight the fire fairies will set all the goldenrod plants aglow, and they will burn like candles.  Tomorrow the humans shall wonder why almost all the goldenrod has faded away, but it is time, you see- time for all things to return to rest and pull inward.  It is time for flowers to fade and the days of light to dwindle to their lowest.  Lights out early for the animals, the elementals, the humans.  Now facing darkness can be scary for anyone, just as looking inward and facing your very own self can be daunting.  We all have parts of ourselves we aren’t quite sure we are happy with, things we want to change.  A Festival of Courage celebrates each one of us turning inward and making changes we know we must make. Of course being fairies, elves and gnomes we can’t accomplish any such task without merriment- and so the goldenrod leaping contests have become a tradition.  Nimble Jack was a fairy boy of long ago who set records yet to be beaten today, for fearlessly jumping over the highest and brightest blazing goldenrods.  That is where the rhyme comes from.  And then of course, their is the pie jumping contest… now that is my favorite part!” he said, patting his round gnome belly with a smile of satisfaction.

The children smiled too, and were still and thoughtful for a moment.  Soon they were practicing leaping over goldenrod again.


*Day Two*

“Cobble, must all of us leap over the goldenrod when the fire fairies set it on fire?” Arlo asked timidly.  Part of him wanted to imagine himself breaking new records, and part of him was a little scared.

Cobble grinned.  “Ah, when the night is upon us and the excitement of everyone touches your heart, it will embolden you lad.  Take courage from your friends.  But courage, you know, is not about having no fear.  It is about meeting your fear with grace, and understanding that fear is but an illusion, something that falls away when we do what we know, deep down here, is right” he said putting his hand upon his heart.

“I dare say Arlo, but your book seems to be positively glowing!” Cobble pointed to Arlo’s Treasury of Fairytales.

Arlo, quivering with excitement, set his brightly lit book down and it began to flip and flap, until it settled upon the Tale of the Four Skilful Brothers.  Cirrus abandoned his athletics and sat down to read the story to the two smaller children.

When he had finished, the three children and Cobble the Gnome watched as pictures appeared upon the pages where once words had flowed, illustrating the story.  The gently quivering page finally settled upon a magnificent giant of a dragon, curled up in the shape of a huge D.  Arlo traced the D of the dragon’s body on the page, and as he did his finger brushed lightly upon a beautiful crested shield that decorated the borders of the page, where knights in shining armor and beautiful maidens danced happily.  His finger tingled and the book began to shake and shimmy yet again, until three shields and swords shook free of the pages and landed all about them with a metallic clamor.

“Well I’ll be”, Cobble said.  All your accoutrements for the Festival of Courage.  My, but your swords and shields are very plain.  That won’t do- you’d best see the color fairies and ask for paints to add your crests. And while you’re at it, I dare say you might ask them to dye you some golden capes, for all the other fairy folk will be wearing them tonight.”

And so Cobble led the excited children to the village and brought them to a hut with a sign that read “Fairy and Elfen Dyeworks, LTD”.


Dyeing Silk With Goldenrod (Michaelmas Capes!)

I can remember being annoyed with goldenrod when I first moved to the country.  It really dominates the September landscape, makes it hard to hike through our meadows, has a bad rap for causing allergies (the true culprit is ragweed),and did not seem to have much practical use.  Seven years later, I truly appreciate it- and not just because it dyes silk and wool a lovely, natural yellow- but for its essence and what it represents.  While goldenrod does have medicinal uses, it is also “The Bee Gold Rush”- offering our friends, the bees, a magnificent feast just when they need it most- before a long, cold winter.  While I am busy canning tomatoes and freezing corn, the bees are stocking up their larder with goldenrod nectar.


If you spend some time with plants- meditating on them, sitting amongst them- I think it is possible to get a feeling for their work and purpose.  Goldenrod is a very giving, humble, and yet glorious plant. It is as though it has soaked up an entire summer of sun and then reflects it back to the world, standing tall and yet head modestly, slightly bowed- gathering all along the roadsides to greet passers by and create a celebratory gold-lined path on many of our country roads. It is also anti-inflammatory and diuretic, having a number of uses as a healing herb.

In Julia Grave’s incredible book The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures, she talks about the difference between “a single, showy flower” and “a group of flowers giving an impression as if they were one flower.” The latter “often have to do with our comportment in groups, or the unification of all our sub-parts, of self”.  In North American goldenrod, single flowers are grouped into little flowers which are then additionally grouped into a rod.  This is a “double grouping process”

“It is the flower essence for children who seek attention from the group by acting in a negative way. It will enable them to act in harmony with the group without needing negative attention… In whichever variation, grouped flowers play on the theme of the individual versus the larger human context.”

Julia also talks about the significance of the order in which a flower blooms.

“Most flowers along spikes bloom from the bottom up… they open their lowest flowers first… it is remarkable that Goldenrod blooms from above down… The whole gesture is one of preparing to go in after the outward gesture of summer... Blooming with a gesture of a warm glowing candle that burns downward, Goldenrod speaks of bringing in the energy.”


When I see goldenrod now, I see a living, vibrant metaphor of my place in the cycle of the seasons; I remember to check in with myself and often find the busyness of autumn is truly burning my candle low, and I feel the stirrings of anticipation for the slower pace of winter.

To dye with it, you want only the blossoms, as leaves and stems will contribute a greenish tone to your dye pot. You can use the blossoms fresh or dried.  It is time consuming to strip the blossoms from the stems, so find a pleasant spot or some pleasant company and settle in!

Prior to dyeing your silk, you may wish to mordant it. This ensures the color stays vibrant and your dye job does not fade or rinse out. Some people use vinegar as a mordant, but I find alum to be more effective and the safest of the mordants.  Common consensus is to use 1/4 the weight of the item to be dyed worth of alum, and in my dye pot I generally do a few yards of silk with 1 tablespoon of alum and 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Handle the alum carefully (do not inhale or eat!). It is also well-advised to have a reserved dye pot and not use your pot for cooking edibles if you use mordants in it. Enamelware pots (like those typically used for canning) make great dye pots.

To mordant your silk, add the alum and cream of tartar and enough water to completely cover your silk, with extra for evaporation, and let dissolve.  Then heat the water to a gentle simmer (do not boil- may ruin the sheen of the silk!) and allow the silk to soak for an hour.  Now, remove from heat and let soak overnight. When cooled, ring out but do not rinse. You can allow it to sit in a cool place for a few days and this will “set” the silk all the more.

The day before you dye, you’ll want to put your blossoms in the dye pot with enough water to cover the blossoms and silk you intend to use (do not add silk yet though), and extra to account for evaporation. Bring blossoms and water to a boil for 20 minutes; remove from heat and allow to soak overnight. You may wish to add tumeric or marigold if you would like a more vibrant yellow; I usually add a few petals of this flower (not sure of the name) that shoots up each year in our garden to herald September.


Michaelmas2012 007

Strain the flowers and add your silk to the pot (and perhaps some natural wool felt or natural roving if you wish!). Heat, but do not boil (this damages the sheen of the silk), stir well to distribute dye evenly and be sure silk is not folded up as this will effect dye distribution. After an hour, remove from heat and allow to cool.

SilkDyeing 001

Rinse and dry- all done!

SilkDyeing 005

Don’t forget to dry some goldenrod for later.  It will cheer you up and remind you of Indian summer during the dark winter.




If you are dyeing a large piece of silk as I did for our nature table, this is a great tutorial on hand-hemming silk. If you are dying a pre-hemmed 35″ square silk and wish to turn it into a cape, you can simply tie two corners to fasten the cape or get fancy and fold one edge down about an inch or so, sew in place, and thread a finger-knitted yellow chain through the “sleeve” for a tie.


Turning Work Into Play: “We Need To Tidy Our House Because…”

The house has been a bit of a disaster lately.  With a walking toddler on the loose, everything seems to land on the floor.  Trails of destruction follow in his cute little wake.  I don’t know how many times I’ve rescued older siblings’ pajamas from the toilet bowl this month, but I think I may just limit our potty breaks to the upstairs bathroom and use our downstairs latrine as a sensory table.

The older kids have begun to forget to put their own things away as they have adjusted to life with Little Mr. Messy and his constant mayhem.  It’s time to inspire them a little, and if *you* happen to have a nine year old boy you may know that those sweet little Waldorf tidying up songs that charmed your children in their early years no longer seem to spark that inner neat freak. So I’ve come up with the “We Need To Tidy Our House Because…” jar.  Every time I feel a tidying session is needed, to the jar goes a lucky child and decides our fate… which scenario will we face for the next 30 minutes of our lives?


  • The ruler of our kingdom has declared from hence day forth, every messy home shall be the royal habitat for thousands of our knights whom the wizard of our warring enemy kingdom has enchanted into angry skunks with diarrhea.
  • An angry obsessive compulsive gnome will cause mushrooms to sprout from the ears and spinach to sprout from the hair follicles of every child who does not keep their home tidy.  He will then harvest said mushrooms and spinach and feed it to the children every night for dinner.
  • Our home has been transformed into an ogre’s den and if we do not clean it before they return, the spell will remain and we will be ogre stew.
  • An evil fairy has cast a spell that turns every item in our house that is not in its proper place to slimy toads.
  • A mad scientist has devised a machine that will transport every messy home to a parallel universe where giant worms rule over humans and force them to eat chocolate fruity pasta three times a day (my eldest hates chocolate, my middle child detests fruit, and my four year old is a sworn member of the Pasta Haters 4Ever Club!).
  • The president is coming to visit and will offer our family a million dollar contract to teach genetically engineered monkey robots to clean the White House if we impress him with our spiffy janitorial abilities.
  • We are oppressed peasants from an impoverished medieval time who have traveled to the future and if we clean the house we have materialized in, we can keep it and stay forever.
  • An angry neat freak elf has enchanted our home and every speck of dust or dirt will transform to flesh eating fungus within an hour’s time.
  • Our family has received an offer from a mysterious philanthropist to donate $1000 to us for every room we clean in an hour.

How are you inspiring your kids to lend a helping hand these days? 🙂



Guest Post- Kids And Knitting Go Hand-in-Hand

Today I am happy to welcome Elizabeth from Handwork Homeschool. She is here to inspire us with visions of handmade splendor!


Summer-time knitting – the perfect way to while away an afternoon.

The KNIT Lessons Handwork Homeschool

Ahhh, doesn’t that conjure up the most wonderful image of sitting under a shady tree, watching your little ones happily playing while you turn out piece after marvelous piece?

Perhaps, you have your favourite drink by your elbow, a stash of delicious yarn & a pair of magic knitting needles….  whoa… what?!

You may have dreamt this dream, but we all know that it’s a real trick to make it happen!

Knitting is pretty easy to learn but what about finding the time to actually knit ?

The KNIT Lessons - Handwork Homeschool

Oddly enough, whenever someone sees my children wearing a handknit sweater
or playing with a knitted toy, they are always shocked to find out that I made it!

They KNOW that I knit & yet, they always say, “but you HOMESCHOOL!!!
When do you find the time to knit along with everything else you do ???”

I just smile & look off into the distance – they don’t need to know all of my secrets
but I’ll share them with you!

One of the most amazing things about knitting is that you can build up a project bit by bit.

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool

“Every stitch counts!”

It is such a great feeling to knit a little bit everyday, especially when the rest of your day is filled with tasks that you have to do over & over –  laundry, dishes, making meals, sweeping floors, getting the groceries – you know you did them but sometimes, it feels like you didn’t actually accomplish anything all day.

That’s when a few rows of knitting can remind you that the
little things are worth doing

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool

If you’re a knitter,  you probably recognize the feeling that washes over
you once you settle down with your needles for a few minutes.

Did you know that it’s not all in your imagination?

Recently scientists have been doing studies into what knitting actually does
to your mind & body.  It’s calming & yet makes you incredibly alert at
the same time. The rhythmic act of making the stitches frees your mind to wander – allowing you to slip into a relaxed state almost instantly.

No mats, special clothes, babysitters or headstands necessary!

What other form of meditation can you practice while your kids are jumping
on the couch?!

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool

The best thing is that you’ve got something to show for your work.
A little toy, a sweater for your babe or even a new pillow for that well-bounced couch.

Knitting can add so much to your life:

  • dazzling colours, patterns & textures to play with
  • time to think & create something of your own
  • a way for you to give a gift that will always be remembered

Speaking of gifts, teaching your child to knit has got to be one of the best
that you could ever give.  One that will increase in value as the years

At first, knitting will be a challenge, one that makes his brain tell his hands
to move in new ways.  Then after a while, he’ll begin to hone his skills of
perseverance & patience as he works to finish a project.

The KNIT Lessons  - Handwork Homeschool
Before you know it, he’ll be making gifts for you.  He won’t know that
the little knit bag he made is only half of the present, the other part
is the shining look of joy in his eyes as you admire his work.

When I first found out about Waldorf, one of the main things that drew me to
it was the fact that handwork was included in the children’s regular lessons.
I really liked the idea that it was considered important enough to spend
time on along with the academic subjects.

As we’ve walked the homeschool “path”, I’ve watched my son & daughter
blossom & grow.  I’ve learned a lot about how to teach them & they’ve learned
how to have their Mama as their teacher.

When I first started homeschooling, I didn’t realize that knitting could affect them  on so many levels.   After more than 30 years of knitting (yes, it’s hard to believe…) & then teaching it to my son, I decided it was time to find out exactly why it was part of
Steiner’s first curriculum.

Oh, the things I’ve discovered!

This summer, I’m finally ready to share the course that I’ve been working on for years…

NEW final logo

When I first introduced my son to the fibre arts,  I was so excited.
The funny thing was, that I wasn’t sure what to do first!

I searched for a complete step-by-step course that would show me what to do &
when to do it.

Guess what?  I couldn’t find one.

So, I figured I’d better roll up my sleeves & create my own.

One that would teach the basics (stitches, starting, finishing) as well as  few
extras (shaping, colourwork) along with some creative work (designing
your own Tell-Tale Playscape) mixed in with a touch of theory (just HOW
will I teach my child to knit & WHEN?).


If you enroll in the COMPLETE course before June 18th, you’ll also get access
to the all NEW mini-course,

“How to Write a Fantastic Container Story”

The KNIT Lessons - Handwork Homeschool

If you’d like to know more about The KNIT Lessons you can pop over HERE

The KNIT Lessons - Handwork Homeschool

Before you go – let me tell you about one extra cool part of this course.

In keeping with my theme of making this course a real All-In-One Experience, I’ve teamed up with Becca here at Cedar Ring Circle to create some amazing
“The KNIT Lessons” kits.

Whether you take Babes ‘n’ Yarns (Part ONE), Tell-Tale Knits (Part TWO) or opt for
the complete The KNIT Lessons – Make YOUR Story – we’ve got one for you.

Each kit contains a complete collection of yarns & tools that are perfectly suited to make the exercises & projects during the course.  She’s giving you a fab deal
(better than retail prices) & you will get it all in this nice neat package… so after you purchase your course tuition, head on over to Cedar Ring Circle and pick up your materials.

The Knit Lessons Kit

It’s always great to save time AND money!

This summer, come on over to Handwork Homeschool  & join a global
community of knitters (a great mix of beginners, experts & everybody in between)
who are going to have a great time learning, making & imagining with some
yarn & a couple of “sticks”!

By the way,
there’ll be step-by-step video tutorials, all the virtual handholding
you want, printables & lots of FUN!

See you in class!


P.S.  I’d like to thank Becca so much for sharing her spot on the ‘net
with me today & helping me make this course truly interactive!
This is the closest thing I can get to putting you in my car & driving you to the
nearest yarn shop!

Let’s learn & KNIT at Handwork Homeschool !