Celebrate Earth Day with These 6 Eco-Friendly Crafts for Kids

Earth Day is celebrated each year in April, and the date is coming up quick. The movement began in 1970, and, every year since, people spanning the globe have come together to help take care of the planet. While habits like recycling and minimizing consumption are important to practice year-round, the annual holiday is the perfect time to do something extra or help kids understand the importance of protecting our planet. If you are looking for a great way to involve your family in the Earth Day festivities, check out these eco-friendly crafts for kids.

Leaf Prints

Making leaf prints on newspaper or wooden materials is a fun craft that is perfect for young children. It can also be performed on blank t shirts for a design that kids can wear and show off their eco-friendly enthusiasm to their friends. All you need is an assortment of leaves, acrylic paint, newspaper, saucers and a plastic soda bottle. Start by taking a walk around the yard or in the woods to collect a variety of different types of leaves. For older children, this is a good opportunity to try to identify different types of leaves and the trees they came from.

When you return home, pour a small amount of acrylic paint in each saucer. A small plate will work as well. Spread a sheet of newspaper on a large, flat surface. Carefully dip each leaf in pain, then place it painted side down on the newspaper. Repeat this until several leaves in varying colors are arranged on the newspaper.

Cover the entire project with another large sheet of newspaper. Carefully roll the soda bottle over the top. Remove the top layer of newspaper, and then help your child carefully remove the leaves. When you’re finished, you and your child will have a colorful set of leaf prints to display.

Potpourri Pine Cones


Help your little ones make your home smell amazing by making potpourri pinecones. This project is appropriate for kids who are preschool-age and older, and it’s easy to complete in an afternoon. You will need pinecones; ½ cup of water; ½ cup of glue; cinnamon, cloves, or other yummy-smelling spices; a paintbrush; and a mixing bowl, a spoon, and a plastic bowl for each spice.

Go for a walk in the woods and help your child select a variety of pinecones. Larger ones are better than tiny ones. When you return home, protect the work area using newspapers. Combine the glue and water in a mixing bowl and put each spice in its own plastic bowl. Use the paintbrush to coat an entire pinecone in the glue/water mixtures. While the glue is still wet, roll the pinecone in the spices, making sure to cover the entire surface. Repeat with all your pinecones.

When you’re finished, set them aside to dry for several hours or overnight. Once dried, the fragrant pinecones can be displayed in a decorative bowl or basket.

Recycled Wiggle Worm Toy

child crafting

Who says fun toys have to be expensive? Help your child make their own using recycled materials you already have lying around your house. You will need a foam plastic egg carton, cardboard tubes from toilet paper, twine or string, tape, paint, and paintbrushes.

Start by painting the cardboard tubes in different colors and allowing them to dry. Cut two sections from the foam egg carton. These will be used for the worm’s head and tail. Cut a 2.5-foot length of string. Help your child thread the string first through one of the pieces of the egg carton, and then through the cardboard tubes and the other piece of egg carton. Leave at least a foot of string at the head end for pulling. Tie knots at both ends and secure the string on the tail end using tape. Decorate the face. Your child will love pulling the worm along and watching it roll and wiggle about.

Painted Rocks

Rocks are the perfect canvas for expressing your creativity, and painting them is a project that kids of all ages can enjoy. Thanks to the popular activity of hiding decorated rocks for others to find, this project is also fun for adults.

To get started, you only need three things: rocks, paints, and brushes. Smooth rocks work better for this project than rougher ones, but rocks with unique shapes work well for creating certain designs. Use smooth, round stones to create a family of ladybugs, or use larger stones to create gratitude stones to present to family and friends. Your creativity is the only limit when it comes to this project.

Acorn Frame

An acorn frame is an easy, eco-friendly project that is perfect for gift-giving. You only need a few basic supplies: enough acorn tops to cover a frame, white craft glue, and a wooden picture frame.

Start by drying your acorn tops. Place them on a cookie sheet, and then bake them in a preheated 225-degree oven for 40 minutes. This removes excess moisture and ensures that the acorn tops will adhere properly. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool. Apply white glue to the frame generously and cover with acorn tops. Work in sections until the entire frame is covered. Once you’ve covered the frame, use glue to fill in any gaps between the acorns. Let dry overnight.

Once dry, you can paint the acorn tops or apply glue and glitter for a more colorful, decorative finish. You could also add a twine ribbon to give it a bit more style.

Magazine Bead Bracelets

kids crafting

If you have a bunch of magazines lying around, you have the perfect material for making beautiful beads. Magazine bead bracelets are easy to make, and it is a project that is enjoyable for both younger kids and teens. Gather up these supplies to get started: magazines, white glue, scissors, straw, and pipe cleaners or yarn.

Cut strips out of colorful magazine pages. The size doesn’t need to be exact, but the width should average between .5 to 1.5 inches. Roll a strip of magazine paper firmly around the straw. After you wrap it around one full time, put a line of glue down the strip’s inside length. Carefully roll the strip around the straw. If a bit of glue squeezes out, that’s okay! When you’ve wrapped the entire strip, rub excess glue around it to secure the end. Slide the bead off the straw. Wipe glue residue off the straw and repeat until you have enough beads for your bracelet. Allow beads to dry completely on a nonporous surface, and then string them on a pipe cleaner or a piece of yarn to make a bracelet.

Protect but don’t Smother: How to Childproof your Home Properly

Trust me, these tips aren’t similar to the ‘expert’ childproofing home tips you can easily look up on Google.

Those tips rely so much on locks and gadgets and honestly, you can’t count on them all the time. You can’t control the accidents that occur. It can happen anytime, anywhere and it harms the people we love.

Truth is, childproofing a home requires fostering our children’s behavior more than using protective gadgets. You should create parameters which are easily remembered by toddlers. I am not against the use of locks and gadgets, but it should only be used when you’re not looking after your rugrats. Here are different ways you can have a childproof home with fewer locks:

Use a leather sofa

We hate it when kids make the couch dirty because they forgot to wash their hands after eating or after playing outside. With a leather sofa, the sticky, dirty fingers won’t ruin the leather upholstery. The stains are also easier to clean. If they make a mess on the couch, talk to your kids until they understand what you’re saying.

Go for round tables



We hate to see our kids bump their heads on a sharp edge of the table. For a safe yet stylish look, use round tables. It can be made of any material—wood, plastic, or glass—as long as it fits you interior design. Now don’t worry about having fingerprints on the glass table. It’s easy to clean with cleaners and paper towels.

Invest in high-quality furniture

You don’t need to wait for the kids to grow up before buying good quality furniture. Unlike cheap furniture pieces, high quality pieces of furniture are manufactured and tested to be wear and tear.

Once, our Adelaide architects attended to the project with a single mother. The client wants a home where her kids can roam safely. We chose the the the best local furniture pieces in town for their new home. In addition, we checked if the furniture we used in their home is free from hazardous chemicals. Her kids enjoyed their brand new space.

Give them a dedicated playroom or play area

Provide them with areas where creative play is allowed. Most of the time, this area is located in the kid’s bedroom. When you give them a place where they can play, they’ll learn to keep their stuff in one place. Of course, you will need to talk to them about keeping all their toys within that area.

Don’t keep anything deadly in the low kitchen drawers

Kids always follow you in the kitchen. They will open the drawers, cabinets and take out the things that they can. Instead of locking these drawers, we suggest that you take out all the heavy, dangerous equipment and put them on the areas that they couldn’t reach. Store baby friendly items here—wooden, plastic spoons, containers, light cooking pots, etc. Let the toddlers to open the cabinets. As they grow up, train them to behave and avoid opening the kitchen cabinets until you instructed them.

Install baby gates

Baby gates, like the ones in the photo keep your young ones from the danger of falling from the stairs. As you can see, a kid can only climb on the first step of the stairs. That is enough for a kid to learn how to climb up and down from an elevated area. For an additional safety feature, add a soft, non-slip rug as a soft landing pad.

You can also install baby gates on the door of your kid’s bedroom so they can’t get out of their room when everyone’s asleep at night.

Childproofing a home is also about instilling discipline. As parents, we have to teach them to have self-restraint and self-control. It will be good for them as they grow old. They won’t be a nightmare when visiting other people’s homes and once they start their early school years.

Charlene Ara Gonzales is a design writer from Superdraft Pty. Ltd.. The Superdraft team consists of talented architects, building designers, draftsmen, and engineers. She feels proud to write for these artists in the construction industry. Follow Superdraft.

When Working from Home Really Pays Off

working from home

Working from home has all sorts of advantages to it over the alternatives. Naturally it’s better than being unemployed because you still get paid. It also has numerous benefits over having to go to an office. For one you don’t have to adhere to a dress code. For another you don’t have to commute on a frequent basis. Finally, you get a great pay-off when your schedule needs to be flexible and you can still accomplish your workload when an office serf would be struggling with their schedule. Also, working from “home” doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be at home when you do your work.

No Dress Code

Dress codes aren’t very fun. Often you have to spend most of your day in something uncomfortable. You may even have to wear something that doesn’t look that great or feel that appropriate for your personality. When a t-shirt and jeans kind of person gets a “grown-up” job they usually have to suck it up and wear ties and uncomfortable shoes. However, when you work from home you can dress however you like. One of the biggest advantages to working from home is that you can dress like its laundry day any day you want.

No Commute

One of the great ironies of the modern world concerns people’s automobiles. Almost everybody loves to drive, but almost nobody enjoys going to the office. When you work at home you don’t even have to commute to use the fax machine thanks to the new release of the app for the iPhone. This app lets you send and receive faxes from anywhere. Couple that with how you can e-mail, call and text and you start to wonder what all the expensive equipment most offices have is actually useful for. When you can spend a fraction of the money for more compact equipment it starts to look silly.

Couple that with not having to care much about gas prices and you really have a winner. When you don’t have to commute you no longer care very much about traffic, weather and a lot of other silly concerns all those office workers need to worry about. Being at home frees you in a way that’s hard to describe.

Flexible Scheduling

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to both work in an office and have time for emergencies and personal errands in your day? You find problems like that aren’t a big deal when you work from home. You can work at 3 a.m. if a project is especially challenging or exciting and sleep in if you feel like it. You don’t even have to call in sick.

When you work from home you have more responsibility. However, this is more than made up for when you realize how much additional freedom you take on from not having to commute anywhere. There’s no dress code and you can do practically everything at home that people used to need an office for. Overall, the benefits of working at home really shine. It’s especially good when your schedule lets you do things you couldn’t in an office.

Five Mancave Must-Haves


The area of the home that is dedicated to relaxation, TV, easy chairs, and bromance is what is affectionately known as the mancave. This space is the man’s hideaway—the area where the man can get away from it all for a few hours and enjoy the solitude of sports, movies, or even a little reality TV.

Five Mancave Must-Haves

However, when it comes to having the perfect mancave, there are a few essentials that must make an appearance somewhere in the room. Here are the top five items no mancave is complete without:

  1. Big Screen

While this might seem like a no-brainer, next to the couch or the easy chair, this is priority number one. The TV should be fully outfitted as well with all the works, including both surround sound and satellite TV. A great place to find all the channels you could ever want or need is at http://directtelevision.us/. From sports packages to premium movie packages, your mancave can have it all.

  1. Seating

While you may have the seating under control for yourself, what about the seating for your buddies? In order for a mancave to be complete, there must be enough comfortable seating in perfect view of the TV for all of your friends. Look for a wrap around couch or an L-shaped couch that offers plenty of space and comfort.

  1. Wet Bar

When you’re entertaining down there, whether it’s for the big game or for a night of award-winning movies, it is essential there is a fully stocked bar. The bar alleviates having to travel to the kitchen to grab your drinks and snacks, meaning you or your friends won’t miss any of the excitement on TV. Add in a mini fridge or wine cooler to ensure the drinks are cold every time.

  1. Recreation

The mancave is not just for TV purposes, although that is a main feature. If the space allows for it, add in a poker table, pool table, or foosball table to keep the entertainment flowing all night long. If the space is too small for any of these things, be creative. For instance, find a poker table that doubles as a coffee table. Or create a flat-top to place over the foosball table so that it can double as both recreation and a practical eating space.

  1. Decor

While decor might be the last thing on your mind for your mancave, it is a critical component to your space. This is the area where you can display your sports memorabilia, trophies from high school and college, movie posters, and neon signs from your bachelor days that were probably relegated to storage after you got married. Frame your signed jerseys, baseball cards, and sports magazines to make the space the ultimate mancave.

Keep in mind these five must-haves when it comes to building the quintessential mancave. As the ultimate bachelor pad, the space should be fully stocked with everything you need for a perfect guy’s night of food, sports, and poker.


Image Source: www.shutterstock.com

Avoid Back Breaking Labour By Hiring The Right Residential Movers

Nearly everyone moves at least one time in their life. Whether you’re vacating your parents’ house for the first time or moving to a new city for school or for a job, you will likely need a moving company to help you. Reliable residential movers can ease the stresses of moving and keep you organized. A good moving company can help you avoid the nightmarish problems that can occur if you try to move yourself or hire a second-rate company. Many organizations have a “you-pack, we-drive” system, which can be fraught with problems. To find good residential movers, search through online reviews to get an idea of what past customers have thought of their services.It is generally a good idea to find companies that have been in business for 10 or more years. You should not hire a moving broker, instead seek out a company that doesn’t subcontract out their work.


One big reason not to conduct a move on your own is because you likely don’t have the physical tools, such as dollies, ramps or a large truck to execute it properly. Hiring movers can also get rid of the migraines involved in trying to figure out how to get a large or oddly-shaped piece of furniture from point A to point B. You’ll avoid breaking your back carrying out your heavy bedframe with your well-meaning but fragile dad. It is also smarter to hire movers because you most likely won’t need the materials you buy again, or at least not anytime soon. There’s no reason to make an extra dent in your wallet and then have to worry about storing something else that you don’t need.

Although it may sound obvious, hiring movers is imperative because time is of the essence. If you’re moving your company to another location, time is money; if you’re moving for personal reasons, you could spend that extra time working. Professional movers completely understand this and can do a quick and expedient job that is also thorough. There are even moving firms that exclusively deal with companies or businesses.If you have fragile items, it is particularly important to hire a professional. They will most likely complete the job more quickly and efficiently than you can, which gives you more time to set up your new home and get things organized. They are also more experienced in item placement, ensuring that everything is organized and ready to unpack in the safest way.

It is very easy to underestimate how hard it is to move. It takes a lot of physical effort, which can lead to minor or serious injury. Moving firms are usually insured, which means that if your items get broken or beaten up, you will be covered. Remember to ask questions of the mover before hiring them, including whether they’re licensed, their pricing, what kinds of trucks and equipment they use and their cancellation or rescheduling policy. It’s always better to be safe than sorry! If you’re planning a move in the GTA, find the best moving companies in Toronto by checking out their reviews on Yelp or on sites OnlineMovingReviews. Rent A Son offers a price match guarantee, with experience doing commercial, residential and long distance moving. For a free estimate, contact them at rentason.ca.

Moving Can Be Tough – Make It Easier With Portable Storage

They say that second to a funeral, moving is the most stressful thing a person can endure. A lack of planning and a lack of storage can make transferring your personal items to a new home seem very overwhelming. Is there any way to make it easier? Portable storage units help to ease the burden of moving. They’re an effective and more secure way to transport and store your personal belongings, whether they’re family heirloom china or boxes of confidential office documents.

moving canada
Typically a person who has already chosen a new residence to move into or a new location for their office has to plan their move properly to make sure they have ample space to put everything. However another big concern is security.  Even with the best insurance, they might not feel so great knowing that their precious and priceless heirlooms are sitting in a storage facility that’s five miles away. These storage centres are open to the public and constantly have a high volume of people walking through that you don’t know. Instead of trusting that everything in your facility is untouched, portable storage containers stay secure in your own garage, driveway or yard.

They go everywhere that you go which is a key advantage for a family when you’re moving because you can unpack at your own leisure. If you’re not ready to move everything into the house, you can still have access to your belongings right on your own front yard. Cosmetically, the units look unobtrusive and will not be destroyed by the winter or rain. They’re designed to be protected against the elements and can’t be tampered by thieves. If your property is valuable to you (whether for personal or financial reasons), you’ll want to get the most reliable storage option out there. The containers are made of reinforced steel and have tamper-safe lockboxes. They also come in several sizes, so whether you have just a few key items from your office or several valuable paintings, a representative can help you find the size you need.

For the business professional, portable storage containers are also an ideal solution. Consider the movie maker who has to find a way to secure his valuable and expensive camera and light equipment or a designer who needs to keep their samples. Using portable storage, you can easily transfer your desired items to the location when you need them. (Perfect when you get that last minute request to film a movie production!) For our hypothetical movie maker, say they’re filming a police car chase on Saturday, but need to move their stock to another town to complete the climatic fishing scene on a lake. With portable storage, inventory can move with them to every place and it won’t get lost in the shuffle. Movable box units are a stress-free way of keeping everything you need, while making sure your property doesn’t overrun your home. If you’re in the greater Toronto area, check out Cubeit.ca/mississauga for deals on storage rental units that are flexible with your schedule. You deserve a stress-free move and a reliable company to help you execute it.

Make Moving Across Canada Simple With Expert Long Distance Movers

Moving can be one of the worst and most stressful tasks that anyone has to endure, especially when it comes to long distance moves. Not only do you and your family have to find a place to move to, but you also have to pack countless boxes and cram them all in a moving vehicle to ensure that everything in your home can be moved in one trip. When you factor in the emotional and financial toil moving can take, sometimes it just doesn’t seem worth it. However, all of this can be avoided by having a professional moving company handle your next long distance move. Most people don’t even consider it because they think it is too expensive. However, a professional company offers much more than just lifting boxes, and it costs way less than you might anticipate.


Moving companies in Canada often move people from Toronto to Ottawa and even Montreal. These three big cities see a great deal of movement, especially from the business professional world. Recent data shows that do-it-yourself moves are becoming a thing of the past. More and more people don’t want to deal with the hassles and stress that comes with big moves when they are already going through a lot of emotional upheaval. In fact, by the year 2018, it is estimated that moving companies will more than double their workloads. There will always be those who don’t want to pay the extra fees, but what they don’t realize is how much a moving company can save them.

Since 10 to 25 per cent of the population moves each year, why not have someone help and forget the headache? When moving companies in Canada take charge, they are bonded and insured. These professional teams move for a living, so it becomes second nature to them to handle your most delicate belongings or share the weight of a heavy and oddly-shaped couch. The epic disasters and accidents that can happen when you move with friends or family are few and far between with experienced professionals. They don’t feel the same stress that the family does and have more experience and tools at their disposal. They don’t have to deal with loans and mortgages and all the other things that come with a move.

What bonded and insured means is that if anything is broken or damaged during the move, it will be taken care of. That means even that fancy crystal and china that was passed down from your great grandmother will be safe in the hands of a mover. Your family can pack up their things and just have them professionallytransported out and into the new home, or they can let the professionals handle the entire moving process. Since they pack constantly, they know how much to put in a box and when the container has reached its capacity. Too many times the average person overloads their boxes, which can cause them to break and the items inside to get badly damaged. The next time your family is moving across Canada, have a professional handle the move from start to finish. The Toronto-based company Rent-a-Son prides themselves on performing highly successful long distance moves across provinces, coasts and even into the United States. If you’re in the position to hire professional moving companies in Canada, their storage options and professional packing options means that your stuff will be taken care of. Not only is it one less thing for you to worry about, it will also give you peace of mind knowing everything is in safe hands.

ALERT! Pie Crust Update!

Pie Crust Update!

Ah, pie! Who doesn’t love pie? Custard pie, pumpkin pie, berry pie, meringue pie, ‘mater pie… and any good – or merely beloved – pie chef has his or her favorite crust ‘secrets’ that draw the oohs and ash from their intended pie-audience.

Now, there are different sorts of pie crusts for different sorts of pies. There’s the kind of solidly “bready” pie crusts one wants to use for pot pies and quiches and such. There are “sweet” pie crusts of graham cracker crumbs and butter, with a little brown sugar mixed in, that are scrumptious with pumpkin and other smooth spice-heavy pies. There are much more substantial bready (with additions like oatmeal), sweetened crust-like stuff you dollop on top of those hard-won blackberries and raspberries in mid-summer for cobblers.

Then there are the super-flaky, very light and subtle crusts that can be used for any type of pie, but are best for specialty items like tomato pie and some berry/fruit pies. I admit my luck with butter crusts has not been very good. They often turn out hard and chewy rather than light and flaky. Don’t know if that’s because I work it too much, or something else. But I don’t even bother trying anymore, just go with the crust recipes that work reliably rather than on a hit-or-miss basis.

To that end I have a very good crust recipe from Debrah Madison’s 1997 tome, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that I use for ‘mater pie and light quiches. It doesn’t sound like it would be the flakiest crust ever, but it invariably turns out that way. It’s difficult to work with, being made with vegetable oil (for lightness I use safflower) instead of butter or margarine. This gives the dough an oily texture that doesn’t lend itself to easy working. But if you roll it out between sheets of waxed paper, it gets nice and thin and is easily peeled out into a pie tin or onto a pie filling. Not something you’d want to use for stuffed anythings, as those do far better with real bread crusts like for pizza.

Pie Crust Made with Oil

• 1.5 cups flour
• 1/4 cup wheat bran
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 cup safflower oil
• 2 tbsp. milk, soy milk or water

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix oil and milk/water together in a separate bowl, add to the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough sticks together. Shape into a flat disk and roll between sheets of waxed paper to 1/4 inch thickness. Pull off one sheet of waxed paper, and invert over pie tin. carefully pull back the waxed paper to leave the crust in place. Work into the tin carefully, press-patching rips as you go. Trim. This is one 9″ deep pie’s worth of crust, double recipe for a two-crust pie.

Doesn’t take long, and this crust is surprisingly praise-worthy. Given, of course, my notorious failures in All Things Baked notwithstanding. This recipe is one that fails much less often than others I’ve tried, and the family likes it better than any purchased frozen pie crusts other than graham.

But there’s a recent Big Update that I’m anxious to try – Food Hacks reports that using vodka instead of water (or, in the above case milk) makes those extra crispy/flaky pie crusts even better! Which dedicated foodies will nod along with just as I did, while of course figuring the Thanksgiving pie quotient and wondering if Tuaca would work as well, but with more oomph…

According to Food Hackers

Swapping ice cold vodka for water in pie crust recipes ensures a flakier crust. The liquid makes the dough more pliable to work with, and then evaporates while baking, giving you a lighter result than water.

That makes sense. Tuaca has vanilla and citrus and other spices in it, so when its alcohol content evaporates during baking, it should leave a flaky crust with a lot of flavor. Perfect for pumpkin or sweet potato pies!

I’m with the Food Hacker – cooking or baking with alcoholic content is definitely a good recipe for awesome. The family and guests won’t get high off the goodies, but the cook sure might! Given the amount of hard work that goes into a major feast for mass numbers of people, that can only be a good thing…

At any rate, come this holiday season as I’m busy producing as many pies of all varieties as anybody could ever want to eat, I’ll report back on how well the use of vodka and/or some other alcoholic specialty turns out – in order of best to worst. If I can get past my hangover in time, that is… ;o)

Almost Summer

Garden-Greens Vichyssoise
Garden-Greens Vichyssoise

June is upon us, which usually means the spring crops are about done and the summer crops haven’t started producing in abundance yet. So… you’ve taken your morning garden stroll. The corn is a foot high, the tomatoes growing fast but still not blooming, the beans, squash and cukes are up and starting to climb. The potatoes have all shown up and at least now you can remember where the heck you planted them.

You’ve got a big handful of mature kale – the rest will have to be harvested soon before the bugs get it, dried and crumbled to flakes for winter soups. In the basket there are about a dozen pea pods, 4 asparagus spears and some almost bolted red leaf lettuces. What to do, what to do…

Aha! How about a cold end-of-spring soup?

Garden-Greens Vichyssoise

• 2 cups fresh greens – kale, spinach, collards, lettuce
• 3 peeled and cubed potatoes
• 1 cup chopped asparagus and/or shelled peas
• 1/2 cup chopped onion
• 1/4 cup chopped celery tops w/leaves
• 1/ 2 cup chopped mint
• bay leaves
• 2 tbsp. lemon juice
• 2 tbsp. butter
• 6 cups water or broth
• 1 cup whole milk or cream
• Salt and pepper

Melt butter in a heavy soup pot. Add vegetables, mint and bay leaves, cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, until soft. Add water/broth and simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Add milk and then puree until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate and serve cold, garnish with mint sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil.

On the side I plan to serve up a basket of fried day lily buds, since they are now abundant and and the squash is nowhere near blooming yet…

fried lilies

Fried Day Lily Blossoms

• 1 cup flour
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 egg, beaten
• 1/2 cup beer
• 1/2 cup ice water
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped

10-12 Fresh picked barely-open day lily blossom buds.

Thoroughly mix the batter, with sage and garlic. Dip flowers into batter and fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain well and serve.

This beer batter is also excellent for squash or pumpkin flowers, onion and pepper rings, mushrooms – any type of fresh vegetable coming in from the garden. You can omit the sage and garlic for a more delicate taste.

Looks like dinner to me!

Fire on the Mountain …Again

 smoky haze
The slight smoky haze that first alerted us to the fire.

I kind of knew that three whole springs without a forest fire along the Norfolk-Southern’s grade over the continental divide was pushing things. Hoped maybe their relatively new-found practice of carefully checking their brake connections BEFORE heading uphill into the ‘loops’ might become a habit. It’s been raining pretty steady, and yesterday it snowed. Not more than an inch, though, and that was melted by noon.

Fire_on_the_Mountain2It’s that period of early spring when the wind has been blowing and the greenery hasn’t made its appearance yet but the sap is running, when molten-hot metal from what passes for brake pads on train cars can find some handy tinder and quickly set the dry leaves ablaze. It can actually be good for the forest – the older, established trees can take a bit of bark-char, and the ashes help balance out the acidity of red clay soil. Trick is to not let them get out of hand. Back when they were clear-cutting these mountains and carrying out the logs by steam trains, the fires got so hot they sterilized the soil to more than a foot underground. As abundant as these mountains are, it took decades to recover.

Fire_on_the_Mountain3Grandson noticed the smoky haze in the late afternoon, shortly before the spotter plane arrived to circle overhead and let us know the fire was just over the tracks along the back side of the property. We hiked on around the ridge to see what was what, found Old Fort’s Finest [VFD] already on the tracks and in the woods, on the job. In years past they’ve staged from our place, since we have direct access to the forest, and I always like them parking that nifty tanker truck right next to the cabin for the duration. Heck, I’ll make coffee for them all night long if they make sure my house doesn’t burn! But this one didn’t start on our side of the tracks or jump them, so we were in no serious danger and they used the scout camp access road instead.

The first bladder-chopper showed up about 6 pm, the second about half an hour later. Our fat white ducks Gladys and Amelia definitely didn’t like these fat, yellow, low-flying and incredibly noisy things one little bit. They quickly stashed themselves underneath the back deck to be invisible to these very strange raptors, and complained incessantly every time we got buzzed on their way from the lake at Camp Greer to the fire line. It was on the private hunting land immediately north of us and encompassing some acres of state game land just to the west, but didn’t get as far as the National Forest boundary on the other side of the northwestern cove. It was moving steadily east along the cove ridge, toward the railroad wall.

fire-on-the-roadsideOf course I sent hub out to take pictures, being as he is a professional photographer and all. This one – which I particularly like – was taken with the camera resting on the rail as the wall heads into the ridge cut. Our property is on the left side of those tracks, so we do have some appreciation for the sheer height and width of the rock rail bed that forms the wall. It takes a darned hot fire and a really stiff wind to jump that firebreak!

As darkness began to fall the 50 or so firefighters on the line sent out for coffee and take-out dinners, catered by the railroad watchers in their nifty track-truck. The fire was halfway up to the top of the ridge by the time the spotter and helicopters had to shut down for the night, so they didn’t bring the fire train usually kept in the rail yard in town. Nice multi-hose pumper contraption on a flat car between two tankers – one with water, the other with chemical retardant. The scheduler was getting antsy by the time the truck made it back to the line with food and drinks, kept calling to find out when they could start moving trains again. It was kind of humorous, since the fire by then had crept back down the mountainside and caused the firefighters to have to scramble straight up the loose rocks of the wall to get out of its way. Below is a shot of that bit of temporary excitement, from the 5th ‘hole’ of our disc golf course, called “High Springs” because 1) it’s a high point on the property, and 2) someone many years before us left a metal bedspring up there that a tree now nearly 3 feet in circumference grew in the middle of.


It definitely looks exciting, but as usual it was mostly leaf and deadfall that burned. This morning there wasn’t even any smoke left, and by this time next month the forest floor will be even more thickly covered with greenery than it was before. Minus a few of the smaller saplings, which need to be thinned occasionally anyway, and maybe now that the leaves are ash we won’t get any further fires that close this year. We’re hoping, at any rate!