Four Easy DIY Natural Holiday Decoration Ideas

During the holiday season one of my most favorite things to do is to go outside and gather natural decorations such as pine boughs, pinecones, magnolia leaves, and different types of berries. I love the smells of these decorations. To me, these smells are synonymous with the holiday season. Even if one doesn’t live in the country, it’s easy to gather natural decorations for the home. As a child, I grew up in the suburbs and I remember my mother stopping on the side of the road to gather pinecones or boughs. Magnolia leaves can retrieved on any type of university or park grounds. Berries are often found along country roads and ditches.

Following are four natural and sustainable ideas I have learned from my mother during our suburban galavants that helped to make our home festive without a trip to the supermarket.
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How to Make Wild Grape Jelly

On a crisp cool day in autumn, one of our favorite things to do is to collect the wild grapes that grow alongside our road.  These grapes are difficult to pick-as they are found high up in branches of trees. With lots of climbing and pulling, we are able to gather a bushel of this fruit from their vines each year.

We use these grapes to make wild grape jelly! There is nothing like the taste of wild grape jelly. It’s flavor is twice as robust as regular grape jelly; leaving a lingering taste of flavor in the mouth long after it’s consumed. It is one of the Ranchette’s favorite breakfast spreads. Wild grapes also provide great health benefits. Research shows that grapes contain powerful antioxidants known aspolyphenols, which may slow or prevent many types of cancer, including esophageal, lung, mouth, pharynx, endometrial, pancreatic, prostate and colon. The seeds from these wild grapes also have great health benefits. Supposedly, the seeds from grapes are rich in antioxidents andoligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). OPCs help to destroy free radicals in the body, which in turn may help you avoid premature aging and certain chronic diseases. We usually bake the grape seeds and use them as supplemental ingredients for granola or for bread.

Following is the process of making wild grape jelly. We have used a variety of recipes but this year we adapted the recipe from Genius Kitchen.  Continue reading “How to Make Wild Grape Jelly”

Five Interesting Things You May Not Know About the John Adams Family

On a summer trip to Boston, I was able to visit the John and Abigail Adams homestead and second home, known as the old house, Peacefield. I was struck with the simplicity and smallness of their homes and the practicality of the Adams upbringing. The Adams lifestyle was one of self-sufficiency, hard work, and melioration. I left with five main impressions.

1). The Adams never had slaves, but employed servants who worked alongside the Adams. During a time when slavery was common-place in early colonial America, the Adams never had slaves. They had paid servants; local white people who they employed and provided fair wages. Of all the presidents, the Adams actually lived what they preached when it came to the issue of freedom and equality. The Adams were hard working people and worked alongside their servants. Abigal Adams was known to keep a very clean house and participated in daily tasks of cooking, sewing, knitting alongside her servants.


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How To Rid Your Garden of the Japanese Beetle

If you are a gardener, you should be familiar with the Japanese Beetle. Following are ideas on how to rid your garden of these pesky beetles by using eco-friendly, chemical free strategies.

These beetles originate from the island of Japan, which bears their name. They found their way to the United States early in this century by latching themselves onto plant roots from Japan. Now that they are settled in the United States, Japanese Beetles create havoc in gardens as they remain unchecked from natural predators. They do not discriminate with the types of plants they will destroy. In our garden, Japanese Beetles favor our roses and okra blossoms. They devour the entire leaf or blossom, leaving little behind.

Insecticide or Neem Oil is known to work in ridding garden from these beetles. However, both solutions can cause harm to the environment. Chemical dusts and sprays are highly toxic to honey bees. Neem Oil is harmful to fish and should only be applied to plants after a rain.

Following are three environmentally-friendly ways to eliminate Japanese Beetles and keep them from devouring your garden.
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Lavendar and Yarrow; It’s Uses and Benefits

The Ranchettes have been busy harvesting both lavender and yarrow at our farm. We mostly use lavender and yarrow for decorative purposes. However, both lavender and yarrow have an enormous amount of medicinal and culinary benefits.

Lavender is Lavandula in Latin. It grows in temperate climates around the world. While it is used as an ornamental plant for gardens and it’s extracted oils are used commercially, it is also used in food and medicinally. Lavender has been known to alleviate anxiety and restlessness.
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The Business of Bees

Bee keeping is now a family occupation. The saga began when my friend, Lizz, gifted us, the Ranchettes, a bee hive, bee equipment, and the book “Beekeeping for Dummies.”  At first, we were quite excited, thinking “How complicated can beekeeping be?” But, then we started reading the manual “Beekeeping for Dummies.” We soon realized that if “Beekeeping for Dummies” was trying to simplify bee keeping, it was a whole lot more complicated than we originally thought. We eventually passed the bee hives and equipment onto our brother, whose wife and four children now successfully maintain four healthy bee hives.

Here are a few pointers on keeping bees, which we have learned through my brothers’ family’s endeavors.
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Forest Ferns

 

On the Ranchette’s daily walks, we take great delight in the ferns that decorate the forest paths. This spring, which has been unusually wet and cool, we have noted that our local fern foilage seems to be growing fast and furiously.  Ferns have been popping up every where on the forest floor. We have found that there are many types and varieties of ferns, numbering at least seven different species in our local woods. Upon further research, we found that there are over 10,000 species of ferns in the world.

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Simplicity; Eco-Friendly Sustainable Decorations


For years, we have made an annual trip to Colonial Williamsburg to admire hand-made decorations displayed throughout the town. Many of these decorations are created self-sustainably and with natural elements.  These ornaments surpass any plastic, store-bought ornaments a person can buy in a store. In addition, they are free, gathered from from the forests floors, seashores, and gardens. To create natural ornaments only require a little bit of creativity and elbow grease.
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The Lonely Sweet Potato Trail

The Ranchettes recently harvested these sweet potatoes. Our sweet potatoes grew to mega-sizes thanks to the plentiful horse manure that Dixie and Faah supplied to our garden soil. Above is a picture “our lonely sweet potato trail harvest.”

Naomi, who harvested these potatoes, found information on wikihow.com which provides instructions on how to preserve sweet potatoes. Here are three simple steps on how you can preserve sweet potatoes. Continue reading “The Lonely Sweet Potato Trail”

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