Saturday, February 28, 2015

Uses for Pine Needles

As I was lighting the fire this evening,
I threw in a bunch of dried pine needles.
For just a moment,
you could have seen the hint of a smile as
I thought ~
pine needles are so useful
and for so many things.

They are a fabulous source of vitamin C.
Every so often I break one up for in my tea
or if I am out puttering around,
I will just nibble on one.
Of course, winter decor is fond of pines
and other greens.
That's just while green.
They are equally useful when dry.

There tend to be an abundance of them available
wherever there is even a single pine tree.
On occasion, a small branch will break and fall.
Around here, those get tossed in with the firewood
When winter comes,
they make starting a fire a cinch.
They are great to use in the chickens' nest boxes
with a couple handfuls of wood shavings.
The chickens don't seem to scatter them 
like they do straw.
Pine needles also make great path covers.
Where a path is worn and becomes muddy,
a thick layer of these really seems to help.
And, they aren't slick like wet straw.
If added to compost,
they are acidic so ask a professional first
and/or know the ph of your soil.
There are certain plants that do thrive on acidic soil.

One other side note:
If you do have pine trees or if you visit a friend with one,
don't park under them.
In addition to pinecones falling, they "rain."
Mostly in the summer months or warmer weather.
They emit a very fine mist
that is actually sap (resin.)
It can be difficult to wash off your car if you don't do it right away.

Do you have pine trees/needles around your place?
If so, do you use them & for what?

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Smell of a Barn

First things first...
I know anyone with a barn full of critters right now
is either going to be rolling their eyes
or be jaw-dropped & dumb-founded.
I am fully aware of my abnormalities:)
(You can read more about the Barn Quilt Block right here.)
growing up, any time I was stressed, anxious,
mad, worried, or upset, I would go muck out the barn.
That was just my therapy.
Nobody would bother me,
probably for fear that I would either stop
or put them to work too.
So I had physical & productive work
while I sorted through whatever the issue was.
The labor, the sound of the fork and my breath,
the smell, and in the end, the accomplishment
all worked together.

I remember when I first went off to college
and had a stressful day/week whatever,
I drove around looking for barns
wondering if I knocked on the stranger's door
and asked to clean their barn 
if they would have me arrested or put in a white room
with a 'special' white jacket to wear.
I never had the nerve to ask.

Life of course is not without its issues.
I have been helping care for an elderly couple
who mean a great deal to me.
Over the past 6 weeks,
3 of them have been spent in the ER.
I am not saying this for sympathy or kudos,
but I still don't have a barn to muck out.
I'm pretty sure when you see a big old picturesque barn,
the first thing running through your mind is not
"If only I had a pitch fork and wheelbarrow."

It's kinda peculiar how the habits
we form growing up stay with us throughout life.
I think we need those things.
Now I usually go out and play with a chainsaw,
weed wacker, pruners, shovel, etc.

Do you have a (therapy) habit like that?

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Healing Cottonwood Lotion Bar (a simple recipe)

 Do you curse those sticky little pods
that come into the house
on shoes, pets and pant legs?
They leave a coffee colored smudge on the floor
and seem to attach themselves to every light colored thing.
They are actually good for something.
They are very healing for dry and cracked garden skin.
To use them, gather those sticky pods
in a dark colored jar, 
cover with olive oil,
let 'brew' for 6-8 weeks.
If you agitate the jar every so often, it helps speed the process.
Drain off the oil for use & discard pods.

It's amazing how this oil now smells like spring.

NOTE: anytime you use beeswax, it should not be
in anything you want to reuse in your kitchen or
keep nice (Thrift store bowls or pots are great.
If you end up throwing them away, at least it
wasn't a favorite.)

My recipe and method for making the lotion bars is simple.
It a clean tin can:
2 parts infused cottonwood oil
2 parts coconut oil
1 part beeswax
(If you've been a follower for a while, you might already have guessed
that these are approximate amounts.  This is a great beginner
project because it is so forgiving & doesn't require
absolutely precise measurements.)
I set it on the edge of the wood stove while I was doing other things.
You may also set the tin can in a pan with water over low-med. heat.
Occasionally stir it with a skewer or twig
(or some other disposable thing.)
Once it is completely melted,
pour into a mold
which can be an actual mold or small butter tub
or any flexible container that can handle a little heat. 
You will need to be able to remove it from the container
so you can use the lotion.
Let cool completely.
This is wonderful for summer time dry cracked hands & feet.

I have a couple of friends that I have shared it with for 
St. Valentine's Day (thus the hearts.)
I usually ask if they have an allergy to cottonwood
because I don't know if it would bother them if they did.
I don't have such an allergy so it doesn't bother me.

You are responsible for yourself: your thoughts, your
actions, and your decisions.
I am neither a doctor nor health professional of any sort.
Use at your own risk.  This is shared as informational
and is something my family uses.

I am doing this post now since in our area,
the cottonwood pods come about the end of
March and run through mid to late April.
Depending on your climate,
they might be a little earlier or later.
Wouldn't want you to miss them:)

Doesn't it seem peculiar that some of the things
that seem to most irritate us are actually beneficial.
I am continually amazed by the gifts of nature.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why It's Called a "Pair of Pants"

Every time this question is posed,
I just chuckle, because I know the answer
and it's not some outlandish thing.
Historically, men wore britches(short) or trousers(long.)
(I made mine with a back button opening and sewn crotch seam.)

"Pants" is a shortened version of pantaloons.
It's called a pair of pants
because the crotch seam was not sewn.
Two were worn (one for each leg obviously)
and held up by a drawstring.
There could be various styles - fancy or plain.
If you think about having to go to the bathroom
wearing a corset, first petticoat,
hoop skirt or bustle, another petticoat, and then a huge dress/skirt, 
it makes sense that there would be
such 'accommodations' for the task.
The expression that the woman wears the pants in the family
is a little tongue in cheek.
Of course they do.  Men don't wear pants.
But, it also has the other meaning.
It is becoming less so, but if visiting with older men,
they will refer to them as trousers.

 A friend of mine just laughs when I tell her things like this.
I always say 
I know lots of useless bits of information.
Just don't ask me anything important:)

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pine Resin Soap

Some time back,
I shared that I was infusing oil with pine resin.
It is a natural antiseptic
and smells absolutely wonderful.
You can see how it came about right here.
To my embarrassment, 
I forgot to share the results
once the oil was infused.
I have made a couple batches of soap
and a small batch of lotion bars.

It makes a great soap;
however, there were a few differences.
When I went to use the stick blender,
it thickened really quickly.
Also, it is darker than usual
which doesn't really matter to us.
It's usually a soft white color.
Mr. LB was having reactions to store bought soap~
even the ones for sensitive skin.
He has had no reactions and loves the smell of this.

If you have the opportunity to get some pine sap,
I would strongly suggest it.

The sap in a thrift store pan
that I don't ever plan on using
for kitchen purposes.

I heated it over a low heat
so it could be poured into
a glass jar and mixed
with olive oil.

I filled each jar about
1/4 full then poured olive oil
in to fill the jar.
I actually left it for about
2-3 months before using it
for the soap.
For the first batch,
I used all infused oil.
The second batch,
I used half infused and 
half regular olive oil.
It turned out equally well
with no other changes made to the recipe.

I treasure this oil and will be on the look out for more any time
we go get firewood from now on.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches