A Nest for All Seasons A Nest for All Seasons: 2016

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06 December 2016

Pine Soaps for Christmas

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If you read my golden mercury glass Menorah post, you might have noted that I am a BIG fan of the Evergreen Pine fragrance.  BIG FAN.  I decided to try mixing it with a few different scents for a fast and easy stocking stuffer for Christmas.  I experimented with several combinations and am excited to share my results with you!  Today we are going to make a Peppermint Pine marbled soap, a Lavender Pine & Oatmeal Soap in Jello Molds and bars of Oatmeal Spice & Pine Soap.  Can you guess which I liked the best?  I wonder if it will be YOUR choice as well!  Let's dive in, shall we?

Create Crafting With Nature Pine Soap Stocking Stuffers of Hostess Gifts for Christmas Handmade 2016 at A Nest for All Seasons with Amy Renea



Peppermint Pine Stack of Soap

Let's start with the Peppermint Pine.  It is fresh and very "Christmasey".
STEP 1: Melt cubes of white Goat's Milk Soap Base in a microwave safe bowl.  Melt in 10-30 second increments and do not let soap boil.

Evergreen Pine Fragrance

STEP 2: When the soap base is melted add 10 drops of peppermint oil and 30 drops of pine.  
Adjust based on how strong you would like the scent to be.

STEP 3: For the marbling effect, dip a fork into Wilton food gel coloring.

Peppermint Pine Soap Food Coloring

STEP 4: Swirl the fork around the melted soap just a few times.  
For full colored soap, keep swirling until the mix is a solid color.  
For marbling, just do a few swipes, then get on out of there!

Create Crafting With Nature Pine Soap Stocking Stuffers of Hostess Gifts for Christmas Handmade 2016 at A Nest for All Seasons with Amy Renea Peppermint Pine Soap marbling

STEP 5: Pour soap into a flat baking pan sprayed with non-stick spray and allow it to fully harden.

STEP 6: Cut soap into bars and tie with cute little pine pipe cleaners.

Next on my list are these pretty little Oatmeal Lavender and Pine soaps made in vintage Jello molds. 

Lavender Pine Oatmeal Soap

I found mine at a thrift store, but HERE are some on Amazon.  They are cheap and make great molds!

Vintage Jello Mold for Soap

STEP 1: Melt Oatmeal Soap Base in a microwave-safe bowl in 10-30 second increments.

STEP 2: Add in 20 drops of Evergreen Pine Fragrance and fresh or dry lavender flowers.  
I harvested mine from my garden, but you can purchase them HERE or your local garden store or herbist.

STEP 3: Pour mixture carefully into molds sprayed with non-stick spray.  Allow to harden them pop out from molds, using a butter knife on the edges if needed.

Oatmeal Spice and Pine Soap Mold

NOTE: Sometimes the oil spray will leave a residue on the soaps.  Simply wipe off with a paper towel or with a bit of water if needed.  
Getting them out of the molds without some oil is very difficult!

Create Crafting With Nature Pine Soap Stocking Stuffers of Hostess Gifts for Christmas Handmade 2016 at A Nest for All Seasons with Amy Renea

See the cute little JELLO letters on the bottom?  Subtle, but I think that it is a fun vintage touch!

Last on the list, but my personal favorite (!!!!!) are the Pine and Spice Oatmeal bars. 
 They sound like something to EAT, don't they?  

Oatmeal Spice and Pine Bars

STEP 1: Melt a whole block of oatmeal base in a microwave-safe bowl in 10-30 second increments.

STEP 2: Add 10 drops of Evergreen Pine and 20 drops of Cinnamon Spice Fragrance.  Mix.

STEP 3: Pour mixture into a glass or non-stick bread loaf pan sprayed with non-stick spray.  Allow to harden.

STEP 4: Pry the entire block out of the loaf pan and cut into rectangles with a SHARP knife for clean edges. 
(Serrated knives make ridges and a butter knife isn't strong enough for soap this thick).

Soap making in the Microwave

SO. Drumroll please......

What was my favorite combination?

#1 The Oatmeal Pine and Spice Bars

#2 The Lavender and Pine Jello Mold Soaps

#3 Peppermint Pine Soaps

All 3 are fun and interesting mixes, but I loved the oatmeal-based soaps for winter even more than the peppermint. Merry Christmas!

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 If you liked this tutorial, then you might enjoy the BOOK!

Make your own coconut oil.
Gather your own sea salt.
Grow your own grapevines for wreaths.
Give gifts naturally grown and crafted from your backyard garden.

Each chapter focuses on a plant or groups of plants and how to grow them in your home garden.  Then, gather up those natural ingredients and get crafting! From lavender wreaths and hypertufa planters to lambsear angels and pickled tomatoes, there are projects for beginners on up!

Crafting with Nature is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books a MillionPOWELL's! (!!!!)  Booktopia (Australia!), IndieBoundAlibrisGlose.comThe Book Depository and Walmart.com.  Books are also rolling out to retailers and libraries, so check for them there. 
 If your library does NOT have it yet, this is why you should talk to your librarian!

11 November 2016

Planting by the Box ::: How to Start a Compost Box

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I tend to use a lot of "boxes" in my plantings around the house. I pick them up wherever I can find them cheap - usually auctions or in the trash. 
Old wooden boxes work perfectly for years until them start to disintegrate.

Planting Raised Bed Boxes DIY Gardening by Amy Renea of A Nest for All Seasons

Planting Raised Bed Boxes DIY Gardening by Amy Renea of A Nest for All Seasons
Planting Raised Bed Boxes DIY Gardening by Amy Renea of A Nest for All Seasons

You might remember seeing a few of these boxes in my Herbary Post:

Planting Raised Bed Boxes DIY Gardening by Amy Renea of A Nest for All Seasons

These boxes don't start off by being planted the first year though. They start by being full to bursting with kitchen trash. Typically the bottoms are either rotted out, or I take them out so that the worms can come up into the box and turn banana peels, apple cores and fall leaves into rich potting soil. Once the boxes have sat for 1-2 seasons composting, I will plant them out. These boxes are typically where I start seeds because it is so much easier to monitor weeds compared to the large in-ground garden.

How to Start a Compost Box

The concept is simple, but here are a few step-by-step tips to get you started!

1. Find a box!  Old wooden boxes are best and can be found for a song.
2. Remove the bottom of the box so that the compost makes contact with soil.
3. Add a layer of leaves or garden cuttings and then start adding kitchen waste.
4. Anything that goes in your compost pile works here. No dairy, fats or meat.
5. Layer generous layers of dry leaves with kitchen scraps to keep animals away.
6. Finish box with a big mound of fall leaves and let it sit all winter.
7. In spring, direct seed into the leaf litter or add a small layer of seed starter.
8. Plants will grow roots down into the finished compost and into the soil below.
9. Boxes will last for years until they fall apart. Once they do, remove the box 
and continue planting in that beautiful rich soil you have built!

Planting Raised Bed Boxes DIY Gardening by Amy Renea of A Nest for All Seasons

Often, surprises show up in these boxes, as they are a cold composting system.
You can see a surprise acorn squash above and tomato below.

Planting Raised Bed Boxes DIY Gardening by Amy Renea of A Nest for All Seasons

While you are cleaning up the yard this fall, keep your eyes peeled for an old, ugly box.
It might be the perfect thing to jumpstart your garden next year!

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06 November 2016

Closing Time

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Daylight Savings Time signals a shutting down, a closing in, an end to brightness and growth. It means we still wake up with the darkness, but now we come home to it as well. For some, this change in light negatively affects their very psyche. For others, like me, it is a season of sweetness; full of coziness and darkness pierced by subtle bits of light.

Pansies in Fall at A Nest for All Seasons
Pansies are the last blooms pushing on until frost. 
The whole world follows this path into chill darkness. The trees drop the last bits of green and wildlife skitters around for as much food as they can fit in their bellies and hidden stashes. There is this rush of activity into long, cold dormancy and it is exhilarating.

Closing Time for the Garden

The woods, the garden and the lawn are all shutting down for winter and I am doing my best to preserve what I can for the next growing season. All of the large potted plants from the front porch have been moved indoors and today I made one of two "nursery pots".

Southern Patio Inserts for Nursery Pot at A Nest for All Seasons with Amy Renea

Nursery pots are a place to save cuttings, start seeds and perhaps host a few out of zone bulbs. 
They allow me to keep little plants that will go out next spring, saving money on plant starts for next year.

Plants I want to SAVE for next year!

This particular pot was planted with some potatoes
 (they are a great soft yellow/white that will grow enough to preserve small starter potatoes that will plant out next summer):

Planting Potatoes in a Nursery Pot DIY Gardening
Potato Starts
Next comes a layer of soil and a few glads, an amaryllis, everything leftover in the garden
 that I forgot to pot up earlier. Then I plant cuttings that I started in water weeks ago. 

Growing Cuttings in Water DIY Gardening at A Nest for All Seasons
Note the ROOTS!
They have formed water roots that will get them through until good, strong roots form in the soil. Coleus, sweet potato vine and lemon balm cuttings will make 6-10 plants. Multiply that by as many nursery pots as you can start over winter and you could have a whole landscape of your favorite bedding plant!

Growing Cuttings Over Winter DIY Gardening at A Nest for All Seasons
 Cuttings in a Nursery Pot 
Lastly, I may start a few seeds in this nursery pot, either testing viability or getting a good start on spring planting. (I will do this later in the winter.) This pot is NOT meant to be pretty, but it is meant to be efficient and productive. Therefore, it is hidden away behind other attractive, full grown plants in the atrium. It is kind of a lesson on life, isn't it? Both the beautiful, stagnant things and the productive, yet unattractive must co-exist and complement each other for the best outcome.

The Final Rush

Outdoors, I am also furiously finishing up planting for the best possible gardens next year. Young woodland plants went in a few weeks ago, allium bulbs went in a new garden bed as well and plenty of mature plants found on clearance are finding homes. The goal is to get them in, get them watered well and allow the plants to develop solid roots before the ground begins to freeze. Now that the plants are in, they are getting a blanket of mulch, leaves, sometimes cardboard and whatever other organic materials I can find to both protect and nourish them over the winter and into the spring.

This grasses bed started out like this:

Those pictures were actually after having the overgrown grasses trimmed back and the ivy cleared somewhat from the rock wall.
I don't have a "before" before photo of the grasses bed, but it looked a little like the rest of the property when we bought it -- kind of like THIS:

Now it has been babied and coaxed back into form:

Rock Wall with Ornamental Grasses in Fall at Stonecrest Manor

There are 6 hydrangeas slotted for this bed, along with a host of sedum and catmint 
or Russian sage to soften the edges of the rock wall.  This is my inspiration photo:

Sedum and Sage on a Rock Wall

Sedum have already started going in and many more will be made over the winter in nursery pots from cuttings.

The Creatures

The lambs and the chickens are growing older and getting their coats on for winter. Almost every day now, the lambs are staked out to eat as much green as they can. Before long, dry hay and grain will be it for them :/

Grazing Lambs at Stonecrest Manor

We put together a little shanty for them in the pen (more to come on that!) 
and will hopefully be rewarded with wool and eggs this coming spring!

Free Range Chickens at Stonecrest Manor

I wish you all a happy fall end and a gentle closing to your gardens.

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02 November 2016

Sundries and Bits 2

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Fall is forging ahead straight into the long days of deep winter and for me that means more music, books and movies!  I love the snow, but mostly from indoors.  Cuddling with blankets and good entertainment on hand is the BEST way to spend winter in my book.  Here are a few recommendations for you that might be just the thing to get you through a long, icy season.

Some books were sampled via review copies.  All opinions are my own.
Some links are affiliate links and I make a small percentage if you choose to purchase.

Lark Rise to Candleford

I know I am late to the party, but it was SUCH an enjoyable ride!  If you have NOT seen Lark Rise to Candelford, and you are a fan of Poldark, Downton Abbey, anything on PBS -- you MUST watch it  all in one go.  Just look at the photos and you will be sold :)

It is making you wish for snow now, isn't it??

Also -- for this of you that watched the series, but haven't read the BOOK -- HERE YOU GO.
For the curious, the best character imo BY FAR is Minnie, and she is in Poldark too!

Speaking of Poldark, there is also a BOOK Series, and a fantastic TV series.  You can watch both Lark Rise and Poldark via Amazon Prime (it was free when I watched both this summer…I presume it still is, but they might not be carrying Poldark Season 2 until later since it is currently airing.)

Ross broods a lot -- it is great.
Since I am caught up with Poldark and I finished Lark Rise (sadness), 
I am going to search out the "old" Poldark made back in the 70's and compare it to the current version.


Enough with TV, you need some good MUSIC to survive winter, yes?? Well, Roadies is going to do do it for you.  If you haven't watched Roadies on Showtime, you might check it out because the show is good. However, the MUSIC is GREAT.  You can sample the music on iTunes, buy individual tracks or whole albums (<<HERE.  There is something for everyone, but anything acoustic is really fantastic.


If a solar flare occurs, your digital TV and music will be worthless, but we will always have BOOKS.  Hooray for the enduring literary medium! First shoutout goes to a PLACE, not a book and it is the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in downtown Harrisburg, PA. I always forget about this place, but I went because I was early for my Good Day PA segment last month and it was MAGIC.

GOOD coffee (not Starbucks good -- GOOD good) in a REAL cup and the BOOKS. Friends, if you are in or near Harrisburg, Midtown deserves at least one visit if not regular patronage. They are a little piece of wonderful in a sometimes crappy world. More info HERE.

Now onto the books…

While shopping the labyrinth of Midtown, I stumbled upon Montrose - Life in a Garden.  For those of you always looking for a garden story, this book is for you.  It most definitely is for me, but it is for those fellow garden readers who are crazy for hellebores and crave the stories behind gardens.

My stack for this winter also includes a little foodie reading, a little chicken tending and a good chunk of house love.  I also tend to read ridiculous, slightly trashy Christmas novels in the winter, but you don't need any recommendations on those.  They are usually in the 50 cent bin at your local library bookstall :)  Onto the good stuff:

In Winter's Kitchen by Beth Dooley

This book is like Little House on the Prairie meets Fast Food Nation.  It is food-centric, but walks the reader through true life stories in the Northern Heartland.  I was immediately drawn to the book for the beautiful cover, but the words have resonated long after. If you are into food, sustainability or farm to fork living, this is a must read for you.

She Sheds with Affirm Press - This little book is a fun read, solely focused on little girly getaways in the backyard shed. My little shed in our previous house is featured in this book along with tons of others -- my favorite is the 'Caribbean Shed' and the simple 'Writer's Hut'.

Gardening With Chickens by Lisa Steele

My friend and colleague Lisa Steele is releasing yet another fantastic book on chickens! If you haven't heard of Lisa yet, it must be because you are not into backyard chicken raising.  She is the queen and princess of all things chicken and this book is another must have for the library of any gardener/chicken tender. (pun intended) Lisa combines the worlds of chicken husbandry and gardening into the sweet harmony God always intended. Think rosemary to freshen up the smell of nesting boxes, oregano to boost chick health and spring chickens tilling up your garden for free!

A House in the Country by Peter Pennoyer & Katie Ridder

Maybe it was the snow.

I haven't seen a good snow in what seems like forever (a year and a half?), and the idyllic photos of Pennoyer and Ridder's house in the country made me crave those long days of stillness and bright white. Throughout the book are images and descriptions of their home that could make the most content reader jealous. Take this:

Page after page, the story unwinds of the house that consumed the authors as they lived out their dream board by board, nail after nail. Once you are fully in love with what they have done with the home, you get to visit the gardens.  Full of amaranth and iris, this garden charmed and delighted through the page. I can only imagine how wonderful it is in person.  I always love a good love story with a house and this one is especially beautiful. You don't want to miss it.


A short PSA that NOW is the time to plant trees in most parts of the country. The weather is cool, the rains are abundant, but the ground has not frozen yet. Get dormant trees in the ground shortly to give them a good start next spring.  For very inexpensive saplings, my favorite source is the Arbor Day Foundation. With a $10 membership, you get 10 free trees and then most fruit trees are around $15 with your membership.

Also, keep looking out for bulb sales. They can go into the ground all the way until the ground is frozen solid,
so grab up all the daffodils you can when they are cheap!  Your spring self will thank you!

One last bit:

If you missed the latest P.Allen Smith emag, go check it out right now!  (It is free!)  
My article on amaranths is in there as well as beautiful and practical tips for your home and garden this fall.

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