gifts from the garden

A Handmade Gift? Yeah, You Can Grow That!

This post is part of a collaboration among garden bloggers to promote information on their favorite subject.

you can grow that

For more posts like these, follow this link.

Whether or not you’re the crafty type you can still easily share gifts from your garden.
Here are a few ideas and some links to help:

    homemade garden gifts

    keep it simple

  • Fill a store bought or hand painted pot with some seeds you’ve saved.
  • Got catnip? Make a kitty toy easily by placing dry catnip in a sock, washcloth, or any durable fabric. Then tie closed with a ribbon or string. Make it even more fun by putting jingle bells on the ribbon.
  • Build a Fairy Garden
  • Food gifts are always a big hit. Check out our recipe page to make jam, soup, or sauces. If you don’t process food, you can still make Hot Sauce or a raspberry or other flavored vinegar.
  • homemade hot sauce

    for the heat lovers in your life

  • If you have some fresh lavender, you can make Lavender Bottles. Here’s a link on YouTube to learn how.
  • More gift ideas here.
  • Okay GJ, I can plan on this for next year, but my garden is done for now.
    Any other ideas?

    homemade gardening organizer

    a gardening gift anyone can make

    How about helping someone else to ‘grow that’ with a simple organizer. Include a notebook, dividers, a calender, some seeds, and maybe a few of your own gardening tips.
    It’s sure to be a hit. :-)
    Do you make gifts using what you grow?

Categories: gifts from the garden, you can grow that



Rain Man

We got a great deal on a rain barrel (just 10% over the store’s cost) and Mandolin recently got it set up.
He waited with great anticipation for it to rain, I swear men are just large kids.

Finally, a roll of thunder and he was out on the porch in a flash to watch his new toy in action.

Here’s what happened:

using a rain barrel

slight miscalculation

using a rain barrel

this may take a while

using a rain barrel

fast and heavy

using a rain barrel

even the gnomes ran for cover

Now things weren’t working out quite the way he planned.
He went back into the house and came out with some metal chain-link.
Apparently he had seen Metal Rain Chainsand decided to test the idea.

metal chains direct water flow

Mandolin to the rescue

using a rain barrel

getting closer

using a rain barrel

here comes the sun

free range backyard chickens

happy ladies

using a rain barrel

just a little more

using a rain barrel


Now my birthday is coming up, and I’m betting that is how he ended up surfing the internet and finding out about the chains- as nice as they are, I think something homemade would mean more.
Maybe he could start with my Great Uncle’s old watering can, like this.
Yeah, now we’re talking!

We did get a video of the chain-link in action, it is posted here.

Categories: gardening people, places & things, gifts from the garden


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Older Than Dirt

Are you on our Mailing List?
WHAT? You’re Not?

homemade soap

recipes from back in the day

Towards the end of each month, I email a short note to those readers on our mailing list, just to let them know what some of the upcoming posts will be.

The list consists primarily of people who have left a comment here (that shows up in my email box) and others who follow me on FaceBook and signed up one day when I posted it.
These readers also have the opportunity to make suggestions for posts, which I LOVE!

I never share the email addresses with anyone, and I always offer the op-out option- so far, nobody has. :-)
If you’re not on, and would like to be, just either leave a comment, or email me with LIST in the subject.

Anyway, I had promised that I would do another post on making soaps and other things at home, inspired by that dang Pinterest thing- yes, I’m there too, and have a Make Your Own board. And well, like many of you Pinheads- I haven’t actually made any of them yet.

So although this may very well seem like a last-ditch attempt to get this post up before February is gone, well it is- but it’s more.
I won’t go into too much detail yet, but in a effort to help make my blogging life support itself, I am going to be selling more things online, and locally in our shops.
Things like these soaps:

homemade soap

Older Than Dirt and Happy Gardeners Soaps

For now, I’m going to share the recipes I use with you, and at the end of this post is a link to more specific directions on how I make them.
I would say that I’m ‘killing two birds with one stone’ but SaveTheWorld hates that expression- so perhaps, it’s a little more like skipping stones across the water.
That’s an image I’ve always cherished.

“Oder Than Dirt” is and Oatmeal Soap to help dry skin (that recipe is on the link)

“Happy Gardeners Soap” is simply a goat’s milk-based soap (milk is good for softening the skin) with cornmeal added (to get the ‘soil’ off your hands). Use about 1/3 cup Cornmeal for every 6 ounces of soap base. Some recipes call for honey as well, I don’t use it. I also put in a few drops each of Chamomile and Lavender Essential Oils- that would make any gardener happy!

I also recently have been playing with a Coffee Soap- adding used and unused coffee grounds, especially some Mocha grounds, to the soap. Coffee absorbs orders from the skin- like garlic and fish- so I’m thinking of calling this the Happy Fisherman’s or Happy Cooks Soap. You can add a coffee-mocha scent to the soap as well, mmmm!

Experiment with soap making- I have made a fun Celery Soap that uses milk soap base with juiced celery (use Fruit Fresh to keep the celery from turning), supposedly this is a beauty bar for the skin. Likewise a Cucumber Soap and added a Cucumber-Melon Scent to it.

Most likely the best is the Limeon Soap I’ve made- using fresh grated lemon rind and Lime Scent- Wow! will that wake you up in the morning! Plus- citrus helps tighten the skin for a younger look. Hey, I’m not going to turn that down.

So- this is most likely one of the oddest posts I’ve written- more ‘off the cuff’ than others, but I did what I promised (I would not have been able to sleep otherwise).

One great thing about the monthly email note- it keeps my ‘feet to the flame’.

Now, doesn’t this post just top the number-of-metaphors-used-in-one-post list?
(It just might!)
What’s your favorite metaphor?

Basic Melt & Pour Soap Making

Categories: gardening people, places & things, gifts from the garden, Keeping up with the Joneses


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February Friday Fairy Gardens pt. 2

Today’s post is from a more experienced Fairy Garden maker- Patti Kuhlman. Patti primarily offers wholesale fairy garden items, but graciously agreed to write for us.

fairy garden chimena

fairy garden fire pit

What is a Fairy Garden?
It is a small whimsical place where fairies reside.
It is said that a fairy garden will bring laughter, joy and magic to your home.

fairy chair

even fairies need to rest

How to build a Fairy Garden

There are four primary steps to building a fairy garden:
(1) Select a container
(2) fill the container with soil
(3) Select plants for the garden
(4) decorate the garden with tiny “Fairy” accessories.

fairy house

USA made fairy house

Fairy gardens are made in a wide variety of low profile containers approximately 3” to 7” tall.
The overall size, shape and color of the container will depend upon individual preference.
You should select a container that will nicely highlight your décor and selected location.

The next step is to fill the container with soil. I generally fill the container nearly to the top, leaving a 1” space at the top, with a potting soil containing nutrients.
Because that soil generally not a dark black color, I then place black top soil over the nutrient soil to give the garden a nice black finished look.
If you want to add a touch of sparkle to the garden, you can lightly sprinkle the top soil with a very fine grade of glitter in any color of your preference. I generally use just a touch of silver glitter.

After the soil is in the garden, the next step is to add the plants you have selected.
The type of plants you select will be dependent on whether your garden will be an indoor or outdoor garden and the geographic area where you live. All plants, regardless of whether they are used in an indoor or outdoor container garden, should be small in scale.
A good source for purchasing such plants is Micky’s Minis at / 1-800-753-6464.

a  fairy garden

a fairy garden

Personally I tend to use miniature succulents in the garden I create because they do not require a lot of attention, but if you have a “green thumb”, there are many miniature plants you can choose from.
However, an important consideration in selecting your plants is to purchase varieties that require the same amount of sun and water.
Plants that have tiny leaves and plants that have a tree-like shape fit particularly well in fairy gardens.

And remember-Fairies love to hide, so place several plants in your garden, particularly in the corners!

More info on Fairy Gardens every Friday in February- Thanks Patti! ~GJ
Fairy Gardens part 1

Categories: Addiction, fairy and miniature gardens, garden projects, gardening people, places & things, gifts from the garden


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Growing Things- Bowls

gourd bowls

there are so many ways to finish a bowl

Other than the obvious difference between a vase and a bowl, there are two others when crafting one from a gourd:
1. You are probably going to want the inside to be much cleaner, and
2. You can go wild decorating the bowl

Prepare your gourd as you did the vase, but make the cut much lower to get a larger opening.

Now if this is just for your own use, and you are going to put a plant in the bowl, the inside does not have to be immaculate.
Otherwise you will need to really get the inner walls clean of any debris left when the flesh dried out.

You can do this by hand with sand paper, but it is much faster if you have some power involved.
This picture shows a small electric sander, and two sanding balls that fit inside an electric drill.

gourd sanders

the right tools for the job

However you go about it, be sure to do it outside and wear a mask to prevent inhaling the dust.
Of course, when working with power tools, always wear protective eye covering too.

What you do next really depends on how you plan to use the bowl.
I always waterproof mine no matter what- I wouldn’t want someone to put a plant into the bowl and have the design run down the side when they watered it.
As added protection, I varnish the inside as well.

If you plan on using the bowl as a serving dish, there is a food grade varnish available called “Salad Bowl Finish” just follow the manufacturer’s directions to apply.

food safe gourd bowl

clean & with salad bowl finish

Decorate the bowl however you like, and seal your work as well.

gourd food bowl

Thanksgiving 'roll bowl'

So you can do this as easy as just cutting the bowl, maybe putting in a few drainage holes, and planting a plant- or you could go as intense as these pieces.

These are the gourd books I used, again ranging from simple to artsy.

gourd crafting books

the basic techniques

gourd art books

going wild

The main thing is to be careful and just enjoy yourself.

Growing gourds
Drying gourds

Categories: gardening people, places & things, gifts from the garden, other



Growing Things- Vases

We talked before about Growing Gourds, Drying them and Crafting Birdhouses-
today let’s talk about making vases.

gourds how to

homemade gourd vase

These are also made from the ‘Birdhouse’ or ‘Bottle’ Gourds, you will need one that stands without wobbling.
The first thing to do after the outside of the gourd has been cleaned is to cut the top off.

crafting gourd vases

vases shapes and sizes

How I do this is:
1. use a pencil to draw where you want to cut
2. holding the gourd well, cut- using a regular hand-held saw
1. make a hole with a sharp knife or drill a hole big enough to get a blade into
2. cut CAREFULLY using a small crafter’s jigsaw- don’t use this method unless you have experience using a hand-held electric saw

Keep in mind that the longer the growing season the gourd has had, the thicker the walls will be.
Thicker is great for birdhouses, but makes cutting gourds more difficult.
You can also buy precleaned and precut gourds- follow the link at the bottom of the post.

Now that your gourd is cut, remove as much of the insides as you can by shaking them out, using a long handled tool such a a meat fork to scrape some out.
If your opening is big enough to get your hand in, just reach in and grab the stuff; or use the highly coveted gourd tool- a spoon- to scrape the sides.
It is not imperative that you get everything when making a vase.

gourds how to

waterproofing a gourd

What is absolute is that you make sure your gourd has no leaks and that you waterproof it.
Place your gourd in a sink and fill with water.
Any leaks will show up in a short amount of time.

If there are no leaks- great!
Continue on by keeping the gourd filled with water for 3 days.
Changing the water every day helps get more of the dusty insides out, but isn’t necessary.

how to make a gourd vase

ooop! found one

If you find a leak or multiple leaks, which happens occasionally, it is easy to repair.
Empty the gourd and let it sit a day or so to dry.

paraffin seals gourd leaks

paraffin seals gourd leaks

Then melt some paraffin in a double boiler and carefully pour it into the gourd, making sure the leak is covered.
Let set to dry completely, then water-test your gourd again to be sure you got it, and let set filled with water to complete waterproofing it.

Once your gourd is leak free, waterproofed and dry- you are ready to have fun crafting it.

One word of advice passed on to me by me Great Uncle, the Florist-
“A vase should never be prettier than its contents.”

I’ll add more pictures here as I get more vases crafted.
If you make a vase- send me a picture and I’ll post it here!

How to make Bowls.

Welburn Gourd Farm is a great source for thick walled gourds.

Categories: gifts from the garden, How to Grow, odds and ends



Growing Things

Our gardens provide us with beauty, with food, and with good health-
they can also provide us with ‘items’.

lebanon farm market gourd art

at the Lebanon Farm Market

The list of what plant life can be turned into items is long.
For example, most of us have come into contact with a wooden bowl- did you know they can actually be made out of wood, not just wood-looking plastic?

Probably the most common example of growing items is found with gourds.

vase gourd

ready to hold those pretty flowers

Our American Indians knew the value of this vegetable-
Canteen Gourds were used for carrying water
Dipper Gourds for spoons and other utensils
Birdhouse gourd bottoms were often used as bowls, and as molds for clay bowls

birdhouse gourds

at the Green Dragon Farm Market

Over the course of this upcoming season I hope to be able to introduce you to a few more plants-to-items like this.
For now, I’m going to show you a few gourds turned into birdhouses.

birdhouse gourds

paisley woodburn pattern

I already talked about how to grow birdhouse gourds,
but I also wanted to get a little more specific on how easy it is to refinish one-
or better yet, how much fun.

Gourds are a plant life and very similar to wood when it comes to crafting them.
You can use stains, oil pencils, paints…
decoupage, wood-burn, weave like baskets…

birdhouse gourds

woodburn plus colored oil pencils

…pretty much any way you can finish a wood piece you can finish a gourd.
To me, that’s what makes them so much fun.
You can also take them beyond crafting- and into Art Form.

lebanon farm market gourd art

at Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art

lebanon farm market gourd art

Indian woman holding baby

No matter what you choose to do in life-
always remember to have fun.

birdhouse gourds

I sure hope the birds can read.

More on Crafting Gourds
Growing Gourds
Drying Gourds

Categories: garden projects, gifts from the garden, How to Grow, odds and ends


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Snowmen Eggheads

This is a fun decoration that’s easy to make.

snowmen egg heads

what a pair

Per Egghead you will need:
One large white blown-out egg (how-to link at the end of the post)

From any craft store:
(Or your craft basket)

One wooden egg stand
One black felt hat
Ribbon scraps
Fine point permanent marker, black
Pale pink acrylic paint
White acrylic paint
Glitter glue
Small blunt end paintbrush
Decorative beads or buttons (opt.)

egg stands

white, gold or even silver are pretty

I painted my egg stand white, but you can leave it natural or even paint it gold.

snowmen hats

snowmen are partial to their hats

Decorate the hat with ribbon and a bobble if you like.
These are just examples of what you can do.

I also dabbed some of the glitter glue on the hats for fun.

snowman face

happy snowman

Using the marker, draw a simple face on the egg front.

Put a little pink paint on the brush, then wipe most of it off on paper. ‘Dry brush’ a little pink on the egghead’s cheek.

When the egg is dry, you can paint some glitter on the egg.

snowman face

impish snowman

Cut a strip of ribbon and fold so the frayed ends do not show. Tie it around the egg stand and knot like you would a scarf.

Put a drop of glue on the egg stand and place the egg on top. Let dry.

Top off with the hat… tilting the hat a little makes the egghead even cuter.

snowman hat

how very suave

How To blow out eggs

Categories: gifts from the garden



Giving From the Heart

herbs for tea and soap

lavender, lemon grass, mint, chamomile

A handmade or homemade gift is one of the most precious of all- when someone takes the time to give of themselves, you know they truly care.

With that in mind, I started a Facebook group called Giving From the Heart.
It’s wonderful!
So many people are sharing links, directions and pics of what they make to give as gifts.

My favorites to make include herbal teas and soaps.
Since I grow herbs and dry them, I have them readily available.
If you don’t grow your own you can find them in any health food store.

Chamomile, Lemon Grass and Mint make a wonderful blend- you can also add some dry raspberry leaves to that.
There are some links at the end of the post with more ideas.

handmade gifts from the heart

herb tea blend with handmade coaster and tea strainer

Remember if you are going to give homemade herb teas, be sure the recipient has a tea strainer or ball.
You can use a fancy lid on your glass jar (the best way to store the tea) or decorate it yourself.
Also in the picture is a hand-finished tile coaster I made.

Do you make gifts to give?

Giving From the Heart on Facebook
More tea recipes and links
How to Make Soaps
Tea Strainers and Balls -it’s nice they note the ones that are made in China and the one’s that aren’t :-)
Templates for Labels
HGTV’s Grow Your Own Tea
Gifts in a Jar

Categories: gifts from the garden, Recipes



Making Soap (the easy way)

soap making supplies

soap making supplies

Making soap at home is easy to do.
I purchased a ‘melt and pour’ soap base and took it from there.

Grease your molds lightly with petroleum jelly (Vaseline).
Cut base into thin slices and melt slowly in a double boiler.
If you are making a lot, use 24 ounces per batch so it’s easy to work with.

making soap at home

nice and thin

Remove from heat and add your choice of fillers, scents and colors.
I suggest just one filler per bar, with a complimentary scent.
For example, for one large batch I would use about 1 cup of oatmeal and scent according to package directions; usually about 5 drops per bar.

You can also add Vitamin E oil to the bars as a skin care supplement.

making soap at home

melt the slices slowly

Go light on the colors; they can come off on the skin as the bar is used.
Let cool in the mold, or you can hasten the time by placing the mold in the freezer.

making soap at home

soap cooling in the mold

Remove from mold and leave the bars to dry for 3 weeks.
Store bought soap is not allowed to dry, you may notice it feels wet when you open the package. This helps it make more lather, so it gets used up faster.
(They’re not stupid- they even show tons of lather in their ads so you think that is what you need, too).

making soap at home

lavender scented soap with light coloring

how to make soap

oatmeal soap and orange cinnamon soap

Wrap the soap for gift giving, using your imagination. The soaps pictured below have been wrapped in a strip of bright shelf covering–the rubbery non-skid type, and secured with craft pipe cleaners.
Pretty ribbon with the wire borders works very well, too.

1. Oatmeal Soap: Use ready to cook oatmeal either as is, or I prefer to ground it up more in the blender, add Apple scent. Good for dry skin.
2. Orange-Cinnamon: Use freshly grated orange peel; add a little Fruit Fresh and a dash of cinnamon. Citrus tightens pores for younger looking skin, try other kinds like Lemon.
3. Eucalyptus-Pine: Make an infusion to add to the soap base. I use this when I feel a cold coming on, in a hot bath before bed.
4. Lavender-Chamomile: Use scents only or a little ground dried lavender. Mentally soothing to help you sleep.
5. Anise Seed: Purported to help attract fish when fishermen/women use it.

I give soaps every year as gifts (oatmeal is the most popular) and you’ll see below they also make wonderful party favors.

how to make soap

anise seed fish-shaped soap with a creel-stamped muslin bag

with flower shaped bath salts

with flower shaped bath salts

they make a pretty centerpiece

they make pretty centerpieces and favors

a festive occasion

add dollar store lanterns and tablecloths

I purchased a 25 pound clear vegetable soap base; with shipping it cost $60, and I made 100-4 oz. bars of soap. If you can find it locally and skip the shipping, even better!

homemade soap molds
where I got my soap base
Australian soap base supplier
prescented soap base supplier
Soap making stuff from

Categories: gifts from the garden, Keeping up with the Joneses



Everything here is original (unless otherwise noted) and has legal copyright 2009-2015 by Gardening Jones (tm), and cannot be re-posted or reproduced without permission. Any re-posting of information, photographs, and/or recipes is considered theft and subject to prosecution.

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