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    You know that I love drinking tea, but did you know I make my own "tea" from my own herbs? Throughout the summer, I dry lots of herbs and use them for cooking and tea making in the winter. What I make is not technically tea because there are no tea leaves in it, but we'll just call it herbal tea to make things easy.

    Keby's homemade tea 

    I just made a batch of Keby’s Mint Special-Tea and wanted to show you how I do it and how easy it is for anyone to do. You don't even need to have your own dried herbs since you can buy them in most markets these days. I'll show you how to make mint tea because it's easy, and the only herb you'll need is mint!

    dried herbs in jars 

    I have a kitchen tool called a mortar and pestle. The mortal is like a thick bowl (made out of stone) and the pestle is a heavy crusher you use to mash things up in the mortar. This is a tool that has been used by healers, cooks, and everyday people for thousands of years! Think about it, people didn’t always have blenders, or food processors like we do now, so people used the mortar and pestle to break up nuts, grind spices, crush herbs and generally moosh up all sorts of things. Even though it is a very old tool, I still find it very useful when making tea. 

    mortar and mint

    You could crush up dried leaves into tiny bits, but I don’t like doing that. I like to crush the leaves just a little so that some more of the minty flavor is released. I only crush up what I know I am going to use in a short amount of time because once the leaf is crushed it doesn’t keep its flavor as long.


    I then take the mint from the mortar and put some into open tea bags. I have to buy these special. They are just like the bags that you get in a box of tea, but the top is open so you can put your own tea inside. Then, you iron them closed and you have a regular looking tea bag! 

    ironing tea bag

    If you would like a string in your tea bag remember to put the end of it into the bag before ironing. Also only use string that has been processed with non-toxic materials because it will be in your tea.

     

    F.W. helps out by making fun tea bag tags. Check these out!

    Handmade tags for tea

    If you make tags for your tea just staple them to the end of the string on each tea bag. A tag can have you own design on it so people know they are drinking your special tea.

     

     

    It’s always important to label your tea properly, so I write what herbs I used on one side of the label, and how it affects you on the other side. For instance, mint tea helps you with digestion, it can relax you at the end of a long day, and it can wake you up in the morning. Pretty amazing for a few leaves soaked in water!

     

    keby's finished tea bags

    NOTE: If you would like to try mint tea, and don't have the special tea bags, just put some dried mint in a cup of hot water and scoop out the leaves when it is strong enough for you. If you are interested in making other kinds of herbal tea, get an herb book from your local library and look up other herbs you are interested in. Always do this before you use any herbs in tea, because even some common ones are not good for you to drink. Once you know of some safe herbs that you like, you can start making your own herbal tea recipes!

     

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    Pumpkin Patch with Keby and F.W.

     

    Pumpkins!

    You probably only think of pumpkins at Halloween when you’re carving them into jack-o-lanterns, but they’re actually pretty amazing plants worthy of year-round admiration. Here are some pumpkin facts you might not have known about.

     


    A single vine can grow as long as 30 feet. At its peak, the vine can grow as much as 6 inches a day!

     


    The pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbit family which includes squash and cucumbers, and the fruit is the largest in the vegetable kingdom.

     


    Pumpkin plants usually keep low to the ground, but they do have the ability to climb over shrubs, up fences and even onto roofs! They do this by sprouting little tendrils that are touch sensitive and can curl around any waiting object in the path of the vine.

     


    The flowers of the pumpkin plant are edible. I like them fried in a batter and topped with a little powdered sugar.

     


    If a pumpkins skin is broken while it is young, it will cover the wound with a “scab.” Sometimes people will use a blunt object to draw something on a pumpkin so it will permanently bear the mark. It’s something like a pumpkin tattoo!

     


    Right now is an exciting time for pumpkins because the world record for weight is being broken every year. Currently the record is held by a pumpkin that weighed 1,689 pounds, but it looks like it might be beat this year by “The Beast From the East,” a pumpkin that currently weighs about 1,878 pounds and is still growing! These giant pumpkins can put on 30lbs a day and some people say if you watch them closely you can actually see them grow.

     

     

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  • Keby's picture

    conversation with a treebird from a tree

     

     

     

     

     

     


    O
    ne of my favorite things about camping is meeting new trees. All of the trees on our farm are my dear friends. We know everything about each other. But, in a new forest I see a whole bunch of new friends I can talk with.

     

    Wait…why are you looking at me like that? Haven't you ever talked to a tree?


    It might sound like a strange thing to do. After all, to have a conversation you need two people involved and do trees actually talk? You might be surprised to learn that, yes, they do, although not in the way you might think.

     


    The secret to listening to a tree talk is silence. Trees speak very quietly, and you have to be quiet to hear them. With a pad of paper and a pen, sit by a tree with which you would like to have a conversation. Now just sit. Don’t do anything, just watch the tree. Listen to the leaves blow in the breeze, watch the animals jump around its branches, notice how far its roots go, look at the bark and see if it’s damaged, or thick and strong. Look at the top of the tree, at the highest branches. Notice how the sun falls on it and look at the pattern of leaves. Look at everything on and around the tree that you can see while sitting silently in one place.

     


    Then, when you think you are ready, reach for your pen and paper and write down a question you would like to ask the tree. Maybe something like “How do you like birds living in your branches?” or “What does it feel like to have leaves?” Any question is good. Now, observe the tree for the answer. When you see animals hopping from branch to branch, does the branch shake slightly like it’s being tickled? Or do you hear the branches snapping, and leaves falling off, like it is too weak and uncomfortable to enjoy the animals on it. Notice the leaves. Do they gently sway and dance around in the breeze, or do they shudder and fall? Once you feel like the tree has given you its answer, write it down. Then ask it another question. The trees are full of knowledge, and even the oldest trees in the forest don’t mind sharing everything they know.

     

     

    When you’re done with your interview, thank the tree and give it a big hug. Conversations with trees get easier the more you have them, and when your camping it's a good time to practice.

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    I guess I've been volunteered to tell the first campfire story of the trip. I know some people like to hear scary tales around the campfire, but I prefer telling inspiring ones.

     

    Julia Butterfly Hill
    You probably think it sounds fun to go camping for a few days with nothing but a tent and some snacks to get you through. But what if you went camping for over two years, and instead of you're tent being on the ground it was way up in the air on the highest branches of a very tall tree? Well, one girl did just that, but it wasn’t just for fun. She was trying to save the forest, and this is her true story.


    The girl’s name is Julia Butterfly Hill, and the tree she lived in is named Luna, which means “the moon.” Julia climbed into the tree to protect it from being cut down. She expected to be up there for only two weeks, but she stayed for 738 days (over two years), and never once in that time did she touch the ground.

     

    Luna is an old-growth redwood tree that is hundreds of years old and two hundred feet tall. Trees as old as Luna are rare in America due to heavy logging. Julia went up into Luna on a “tree-sit” to prevent the tree and the forest around it from meeting the same fate. The loggers can’t cut down a tree, or those near it, while someone is sitting in it. So, that’s just what Julia did! Because living in a tree is so difficult and tiring, tree sitters normally change places with each other after awhile so they can rest and relax. After a few weeks in Luna, Julia formed such a strong bond with the tree that she promised not to set foot on the ground until she did everything possible to save that forest.

     

    Julia Butterfly Hill

    Now, living in a tree sure sounds like fun, but it is a very hard place to survive. Julia had a small wooden platform on which she lived, cooked, and slept. It was covered with a plastic tarp that kept the rain off her, but it wasn’t any good at protecting her from the cold and wind of the Oregon winters. She also had to go to the bathroom in a plastic bag and save it until someone could carry it down and throw it away for her. She was totally dependent on friends on the ground for food, water, and clothing.

     

    Aside from the physical strain, the loggers themselves harassed her. They wanted her out and tried everything they could to remove her. They sent a tree climber up there to try to physically carry her out of the tree. And when that didn’t work, they tried to starve her out by preventing her friends from giving her food and water. They even tried to scare her out by flying a helicopter very close to the tree, and they constantly shouted and jeered from the ground.

     

    Julia Butterfly Hill
    Throughout all this, the tree gave Julia strength. In her book, The Legacy of Luna, she describes the beauty of waking up each day in the tree, calling it a “fairy tale.” She would climb all over the ancient branches, and would even go all the way up to the highest branch where she would sing, dance, and just sway in the breeze.


    After all this time, she was becoming quite famous. She had a cell phone with her and got constant calls from reporters, radio shows, and magazines. Celebrities even climbed up into Luna to visit her. Julia was finally being recognized by the world, and help for Luna seemed within reach.

     

    Negotiations with the logging company were long and hard. For many months she was busy working out an agreement with them, but it all paid off. Protection for the area was finally passed, and Luna was safe. Julia was sad to be leaving Luna, her best friend for those two years, but happy that through her total dedication to the forest she had accomplished what she set out to do!

     

    Forest

    Illustrations by Joda Thayer /  Colors by Ryan Wilson

     

     

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    DAY 5


    The whole gang and I went to our local nursery and picked out plants for the new garden. We bought a lot of herbs, some flowers, a strawberry plant and even aplants in garden peanut plant! (F.W. wanted that one. I’m not sure if it will be warm enough to grow peanuts, but we’ll see.) We had those plus the plants saved from the old garden to plant. With everyone pitching in we planted them in no time!


    One of the main things to take into consideration when you plant things is whether it is a plant that needs to be in full sun, partial sun, or shade. Most plants bought from garden centers and stores will have a little tag in sticking out of the soil that will tell you this information (along with how deep and how far apart to put your plants). This information helped us decide what the sections of the garden would be, because part of the garden is shady for a good portion of the day.

     

    Each wedge also has a "theme", with the main section being devoted to herbs and edible plants. The other sections are a mixture between flowers and pretty non-flowering plants. There is still one small section that we left empty. Maybe we'll add some edible plants in that section next week.

     

     

    After everything was planted we gathered all those rocks, plus hunted down a few more, and added a border around each section. This makes the garden look nice, but it also actually keeps it tidy by keeping the dirt and the woodchips separated.
    final garden

     

    Here's a look at the evolution of the weedy patch into a nice new garden!
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    It was a busy week, but I think you will all agree the final results were worth it! Is there anybody else out there starting a garden? What does your look like? Send us your pictures!

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    DAY 4

     


    wood chips
    Before I add the soil to the garden, I want to create paths that help shape my actual planting areas. I’m going to make “wedges” in this garden, and each wedge will have a different theme. I’m going to separate each wedge by putting wood chips down. These wood chips will separate my garden beds and act as paths. Also they help cover the newspaper so I can put soil down only where I'll be planting (great compost is like a treasure and I don't want to waste any).

    wood chips creating garden layout

    There are a few awkward spots, such as the small space behind one of the tree stumps so I’m just going to fill in those little areas with the wood chips as well. These wood chip areas are important because they give you access to your garden. You don't want to walk on your actual planting beds and compact the soil. That is bad for the plants and makes your garden look messy. With paths you don't have to.

     


    Once the wood chips are down in the non-planting areas, I fill in the beds with soil. Since your beds are sitting on newspaper, over untilled ground, make a nice deep layer of soil to give the roots a lot of room to grow and get healthy before they push down into the earth.

    putting soil in garden beds

    Look at how nice it's looking already, and there aren't even any plants in there yet!

     

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    DAY 3

     

    I went to my local newspaper office and asked if they have any old newspapers they would be willing to give me. Boy did they! No, I don’t want to read the same articles over and over again, I need them for the garden. And, no Ramses, I'm not planting newspaper trees. You see, to prevent the weeds from coming up again,Moo-Cow newspapering garden I’m covering the entire garden bed with the papers! I'm breaking each newspaper up into its sections (arts, sports, etc.) and laying those down with the edges overlapping. Moo-Cow helped me but I kept catching him reading the paper instead of laying them out.

     

    Newspaper is a pretty solid barrier that helps smother the plants underneath. This will hopefully keep most of the weeds from growing through the newspaper and allow the stronger plants on top to push through the newspaper as they grow deeper roots. Eventually the newspaper will decompose and you won’t ever be able to tell it was there. (By the way, this is a great technique to start a new garden on a patch of grass.)

     

    Luckily it wasn’t a windy day (or there would be newspapers all over the lawn) but I wet the papers as I went to keep them on the ground. Doesn’t the newspaper pattern look really pretty!

    newspapers covering a garden bed

    NOTE: Tomorrow's step has to be done on the same day as this step, or all of your newspapers will blow away.

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    Day 2 

     


    I
    n addition to pulling weeds and raking I also moved the ring of rocks that surrounded the original garden. They had been there so long many were buried and some even had these cool looking ant colonies under them!

     

    Get the Flash Player to see this player.

     

    I felt bad destroying their homes, but I had to move the rocks to get at some of the weeds. I did see Kiweenie poking around over there a little later, he must have smelled ants (can he actually smell bugs? I'll have to ask him that). I’m going to leave the rocks pushed to the side for now so I can change the size of the garden if I need to.

     

    With everything raked out this little garden isn’t so bad after all. I've even found about eight plants I'm going to rescue and put into the new garden. Because I'm not going to be replanting them right away I need to put them somewhere they'll survive their time out of the ground. The best trick for this is just taking a bag of soil and poking small drain holes in the side facing the ground. Then split the top side of the bag down the middle lengthwise and bury the roots of the plants you want to save right in the bag of soil. Be sure to keep them watered too!

     

    plants in soil bag

     

    There are still a lot of weeds left in the patch, and even if I spent time pulling everything out, they will grow back and it won’t be long until it is covered in weeds again. Luckily, I have a solution for this problem but I don't have time for it today. You'll just have to check back tomorrow!

     

     

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