Monday, April 30, 2012

Have Nature Table, will travel

Techman and I have decided to support a new Waldorf-inspired charter school that is coming together with hopes of opening in 2013. We are looking for some of the educational philosophies that caused Rudolf Steiner to create the Waldorf schools in Germany in the first place—treating children with respect, including the whole child in the educational process (not just the brain), teaching children at their developmental levels and not according to norms or averages, incorporating the arts into daily lessons, and respecting and embracing nature and its systems. 

Steiner envisioned this not just for wealthy families, but for the masses, with socio-economically diverse classrooms, and this is part of El Rio's founding philosophy.

The school holds frequent public meetings, and often has tables at farmers' markets and local festivals. Waldorf philosophy incorporates the head, heart and hands, so it occurred to me that we also need to offer a visual representation of the richness of this style of education: Creative, hands-on and hand-crafted materials that tell stories and inspire one's imagination.

I'm working on a display that can travel to these events. It's a river scene, with portable materials, that also allows room for literature to be distributed on the table. Since the school is called El Rio, a river scene is in order, with the Los Angeles River as inspiration.

Miss Molly has been a tremendous help in visualizing the imaginary world that can support the information of the modern world. She helped to lay out the river, which I cut with waves lapping along the banks. I hope to knit/sew/needle felt some cattails to go in the river grass.

Miss Molly contributed some wet-on-wet watercolor fish—some day we also may create some as an activity for a collaborative project promoting the school. She helped with placement of glass river bubbles and polished stones.

It's hard to see the effect of this little world; it's a bit like a large nature table. There will be a green tablecloth to represent grassy banks underneath the tulle. The owl belongs to Miss Molly, so I'll have to create some water birds, and eventually other river creatures: frogs, turtles, snakes, birds, fauna.

There is room for literature to "float" and interact with the scene (added bonus: river stones will keep things from flying away). The table still is a work in progress, wait for its debut on June 3.

With the sparkle of the gems, the shine of the stones, and the interest of this little world, I think a lot of families will be drawn to learn more about a school that supports this type of learning every day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Creating our fairy garden *

A work in progress!

As you saw earlier, we first chose a location. We decided that the gnarly tree with the rock and the woodland plant would be perfect. I only cracked my head three times on that branch while setting the (smelly!) wine barrel in.

The barrel was rough around the edges. 

I also realized this gorgeous, wine-tight cask would also be...water tight. It needed some drainage. Luckily I realized this before the sanding, because none of Techman's batteries for the power drill were charged. So I put them on the charger, went to town on the barrel edges with the orbital sander, and snacked on pretzels and dried cranberries with Starboy.

Sanding results were smooth and soft.

After the sanding process, the batteries finally had enough charge for nine  3/8" holes (the largest bit I could locate in Techman's tool set).

We added some broken pots and river rocks for drainage. We probably could have used bigger rocks. Then we added two full bags of organic soil. I recommend holding out several handfuls of soil to use for a garden path.

Starboy and I mapped out our plan for the arbor, the cave, the well, the pond and the bridge.

We made choices about where to place the plants.

 Starboy was very gentle with the plants as he planted them.

We used all of the one flat of moss I had bought. I'm glad I didn't get two! One was exactly enough. I had planned to place the path between the moss, but the moss was so tall, and a little hard to cut, and there was so much of it, I decided to lay the path on top of it. Hopefully the stones will settle in over time. You also can cut away the moss with a knife, then build the path up with a few handfuls of soil you held aside, and place the stones directly on the earth. This may look a little more realistic.

 Starboy says that the fairies live in the cave. He was surprised to see that deer come to visit too.

 I'm delighted with the way the well fits in. I may never get around to making that roof!

The arbor and bridge will be coming in the mail this week. Can't wait!

 Starboy says the deer loves to go swimming in the pond and the well.

You can read more about building fairy gardens at The Magic Onions here and here. And you can enter the 2012 contest here!

Stay tuned for a few updates as we tweak our garden!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Fall in love with the world

Imagine Childhood is challenging us to celebrate Earth Day by celebrating our Earth.

"This year, instead of making crafts out of recycled materials or sharing our favorite environmental books, we're giving you a simple challenge: fall in love with the world all over again... and then share it with everyone you know."

As you can see, getting hella depth of field with a point-and-shoot camera was the real challenging part.

We're tagging folks via Facebook and snail mail, we'll let you know how it turns out!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Building a fairy well

Starboy said he wanted a well for his garden. Donni's idea, seen on The Magic Onions, of using a container as a base seemed like a good setup to me.

 I used a short jelly jar as the base, and dried the well upside-down so the rocks would not slide off. The small, flat rocks worked the best.

 It took half to three-quarters of a tube of silicone glue to do the well. Techman and I decided that the glue gun glue might shatter from the smooth surface of the glass. Note that this glue is not supposed to be submerged in water, so using it on the inside might not be a great idea.

 The next morning, I filled in the holes with some smaller gravel stones.

 I really like the texture.

I made a small lip so the well wouldn't look completely like rocks glued to a jar.

It's going to look great in action!

Here are two more ideas for building a well, one at The Juise, using a glue gun and rocks, and another using a tile grouting technique.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Fairy Home

We decided on a location for the fairy garden!

Fairyland furniture shopping

A charming English garden entrance for gnomes and fairies from Miniature Garden Shoppe.

Well, all of this fairy garden research has had me pining for teeny tiny accoutrements. While there are a lot of choices out there (eBay is a good place to look), I decided to try the Miniature Garden Shoppe, because they had comparable prices to everywhere else, and they had a good variety of arbors and accessories. Natural Havens also had a lot of great choices, and flat-rate shipping, but I found a few more treasures at MGS, and I only wanted to pay shipping one time.

Just check out this cuteness!

I love this arbor with the gates that open and close. I can just see a fairy vine trained up both sides. Beautiful!

The cuteness of this bird feeder! It's killing me! This is the tiniest of gardens—can't you just see it on a sunny windowsill?

If your fairies are into the mid-century modern vibe, their garden might include chairs like this, and tiny glasses of scotch.

Starboy definitely is going to need a bridge for his fairy garden.

I wish I'd ordered a bucket so he can water his fairies' plants!

I love how wheelbarrows are a classic symbol of gardening. Does anyone even use them any more?
Starboy definitely needs some gardening tools. Wish I'd ordered some!

We could finish the English garden with this prim but weathered bench for having a chat...

And, just when you think you've bought everything, Christmas will roll around and you'll have to redecorate! You wouldn't want those fairies to feel snubbed!

Many of these items are at a variety of online shops; I just happened to find the Miniature Garden Shoppe through a Google search and decided to give them a try. I don't receive any benefit for telling you about them. If you have a favorite spot for finding little treasures for your fairy garden, could you mention them in the comments?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fairyland planning *

Starboy and I went to Lowe's to scout out Fairy Garden gear. I chose Lowe's to check out this 18" "wine barrel" for $10. Which, of course, they didn't have.

But now that I look at it closely in the photo, it probably was plastic and I wouldn't have wanted it....but it's about as inexpensive as you can get to buy a new, decently-sized garden container for your fairyland.

By the way, my experience at Lowe's in Burbank wasn't all that positive. I spoke with at least three different sales people and not one of them seemed familiar with their stock, interested in finding out more information for me, or helpful in pretty much any way. In single days I would have just bailed and gone back to Home Depot, but we already were Beyond Nap with Starboy so I decided to figure it out on my own.
I also wanted to see these saucers for $13. They were as expected. Very roomy, sturdy, pretty. This possibly would be a good way to go for a garden, especially with a lot of kids putting one together at once, though I would advise caution because it would need a lot of watering and attention to stay alive since there would be hardly any soil. And there's no drainage, so the whole thing could mildew.

Overall, the best deal seemed to be these planters, even though they are plastic. Nine bucks and 18" across. They don't use a lot of soil. If you weren't sure you wanted to commit to a permanent garden, or you wanted to sponsor gardens for the whole birthday party, this might be the way to go.

It also comes in terra cotta color. Still plastic. You might have to drill some drainage holes.

This looked like a good option; it's lightweight (plastic) but doesn't look too bad. But I didn't really want to spend $30 for a plastic planter.

So instead I spent $30 on an old wine cask. Which I know is going to make a good garden, because that's what Donni's family used several years ago at The Magic Onions.

And the fillin's:
• One flat of moss $3 (I would have gotten two, but they only had one.).
• Tiny succulents, $2 each
• Terra cotta pot for a fairy cave, about $2
• Flowery plants that I hope will cascade down the side of the barrel, about $4 each
• Some chives that I might include...though I feel like either all of the plants should be edible, or none of them, so children can't get confused.
• Fancy river rocks for paths and making a well and a pond. Five bucks per bag! Geez! If you live near a lake, spend a day collecting!
• And soil! I nearly forgot to mention I picked up two bags of organic soil to fill the bucket. *

The next step is to sand the edges of the wine barrel, which are rough and splintery. But first, I have to figure out how to get it out of the back of my car. And all of that is on hold until they finish the street resurfacing today, since we can't even get into the driveway.