I love this time of year. Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are noticeably getting longer. Everything is beginning to spring. Lambs in the fields. Snowdrops in the hedgerow. More light. Still muddy, but slowly, everything becomes easier. Today marks the mid point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Winter turns to spring
It’s no accident that so many different societies choose to celebrate this time of year. Let’s face it. Who doesn’t like an excuse to celebrate? Especially after dark days and wintery weather. Brr.
Imbolc was yesterday. Candlemas and Groundhog Day are today. There is also the Chinese New Year that started on 28th January. Each one celebrates light and the new growing season, in their own way. So many traditions and myths. I’ve had a word with our local badger sett and they would prefer if I didn’t haul them out to check for their shadow.
We love to celebrate. We’ve made candles, cakes and lanterns in past years. How could we resist a craft project to celebrate the season? This year, we are making hand cranked storytelling craft. This is how we did it.
We used a small box, such as one that held tea or matches, or even a toilet tube, and cut out a window in the front.
Next we cut a strip of paper, which is as tall as the window in the box. Drawing a series of pictures, adding words and anything else that helped to tell our story.
Made four holes. Two in the top and two in the bottom, to put the rods through, which the paper strip rolls around. We used old felt tips, that had run dry, and pushed them through the holes as shown above.
With the pens in place, and using sticky tape, we attached one end of the picture strip to one of the pens. Rolled the paper around the pen, before sticking the other end of the strip to the second pen. Bit fiddly, but we got there in the end.
Carefully twisting the second pen to pull and wrap the paper strip around it. Transferring the paper from one pen to the other. And back again.
So many stories to tell and share. Encouraging children to tell stories. Voicing the tales as well as sharing the pictures.
I made a quick version to show the children, before we started. Not polished, but they got the idea.
Whether you light a candle or make a cake, I hope you find some way to celebrate the change of the season. Where ever you live.
Happy Candlemas/ Imbolc
Linking up to Fiona’s #Trash2Treasure linky. Have you been upcycling this month?
(Otter Pool Galloway Forest)
Beside my washing machine are two little piles that gradually grow as the months go by, until I sweep them up and rehome the contents. The first pile consists of small stones, some rounded, some with hints of fossils and others glisten with minerals.
(RSPB Wood of Cree)
The second pile is of little sticks, pine cones and other seeds. There is a third pile but that is swept away once the washing machine is loaded and running. No need to keep the tissues, pieces of crumpled paper and similar.
The contents of all three piles, as you have probably guessed by now, come from the pockets of clothes worn on our many walks and adventures. The children take after me. They cannot resist bringing back interesting nature finds.
But what to do with them all? I have jam jars full of stones and sea glass of all descriptions, so some are redistributed around the garden. I have baskets of acorns, walnuts and other seeds on our shelves, which are great for crafting.
It is fun to search and collect the pieces, but our house would soon feel crowded if we didn’t use them for something.
This weekend we have been reducing our collection of pine cones, and scrap brown paper, to make beautifully scented firestarters.
Years ago, before children, we went to New England around leaf peeping season. It was a fabulous holiday and I’d love to go back. One of the souvenirs I brought back was a cupcake shape firestarter, with a pine cone in the middle. The fragrance was absolutely amazing compared to the white version we use at home. I have looked high and low for something similar, but no luck so far.
In the meantime, we make our own.
an old muffin tin
an old coffee scoop
thick, brown paper bags
old birthday candles and other wax ends
bits of string
old potpourri refresher oils
pine cones, twigs and dried herb leaves from the pile
dried ends of lemons and limes (left over from squeezing) and clementine peel
Step one: cut the paper into squares to fit the muffin tray holes and line the tray with the paper.
Step two: wrap string around pine cone, pushing the string into the cone and leaving a wick at the top, ready for lighting.
Step three: divide the cone, twigs, leaves and peel between each of the paper holders.
Step four: melt candle bits in jam jar. I pop this in the Aga, but I have used the microwave before.
Step five: once it is melted, I laddle the wax over the cones carefully, using the old coffee scoop to coat them. No need to fill the hole. There will be a small puddle of wax at the bottom.
Step six: leave to set
Once set, I like to pop them in a basket, ready for use. They scent the room and add a bit of rustic charm, while they wait for their moment in the flame.
There will be more walks. There will be more finds. Already the washing machine nature piles grow again (I’m sure there is a name for them), just from dog walking over this weekend.
The children enjoyed making these. We talked about the three things you need for fire – fuel, spark/warmth and oxygen. What happens when one is missing.Why the wax didn’t burst into flames as it melted. We also talked about a very neat experiment that we want to do, which I hope to share soon.
I have a feeling they have started searching for just the right nature finds to go in our homemade firestarters. Hmm. Not exactly what I intended, but at least they have fun looking when they are out and about.
We’ve started making Christmas cards. Youngest wanted to draw a dachshund wearing a Christmas hat. First few attempts frustrated him, so he asked if I’d print one out for him. No. Try tracing and transferring it.
This was new to him. I explained that when I was his age, we didn’t have printers or scanners. This was one way we could copy an image. A look of amazement from him. A moment of feeling old for me.
Time to pull out the tracing paper.
I chose an image from one of my favourite children’s books. I showed him how to use white tack to temporarily fix a piece of tracing paper over the image. Using a soft pencil, we traced around the image. Adding all the lines that we wanted to transfer.
Then, turning the tracing paper over, so the pencil marks are face down, we positioned the image on a card. I showed him how to go over the lines again with the pencil, until all the lines were darker. I explained that only the lines, he had traced from the book, would be transferred.
And then the magic part. Carefully removing the tracing paper and the white tack, he could see the image was transferred to the card.
Just for fun, we coloured the image in, using watercolour pencils and glitter. We changed the shorts into trousers, seeing as it’s too cold. Brr.
Of course, now we have the image, he can use the image again and again*. By flipping it over, he can trace the boy so he’s looking the other way.
Now he knows how to do this, I’m pretty sure I’m off the hook when it comes to scanning an image. He’s already copied another image. Not a daschund, but I’m sure that will be next.