It’s Spring, finally. It was actually over 20°C yesterday and the sunshine was glorious – a reminder that simple living really is as simple as enjoying a warm and sunny day! There are Loons on the lake and ‘our’ Pileated Woodpecker has been visiting. Both of these birds will disappear from this area when all the weekend visitors arrive, with their increased activity and noise. But for now it’s lovely to see and hear them.
I became an official senior citizen last November. (I really think we should come up with a better name, as most of us don’t feel very “senior” when we’re in our 60s and 70s. I kind of like “Revered Elder” – just kidding, sort of).
The first step is to mix the water and lye. I use pure rain water because it’s soft, which contributes to the soap’s sudsing ability. Many people are afraid of lye, but you can’t make soap without using lye. (See my post about “saponification” and how it relates to lye.)
Do you use lye-based products to clear clogged drains? Would you put it on your skin? Of course not! You probably remember references from days gone by that lye soap is scary stuff. This is the reason soap-makers use the term “saponification” for our natural, hand-made soaps. Most people think of lye as only a strong caustic chemical that can burn your skin, or worse. Actually, through the process of saponification and curing, the lye becomes inert and you’re left with a beautiful bar of soap. You can’t make soap without using lye!
First I planted a very small and simple trellis along a part of the front verandah. Then I planted a woven willow ‘tree’, which I think is just the neatest thing! I have plans for creating lots of other living willow structures to make the gardens places of fun and adventure.
What we human beings have sat ourselves on throughout history would make an interesting dissertation. From hunkering down on our haunches to ornate palanquins and thrones to humble hand-hewn cottage seats, we’ve strived through the ages to be comfortable when not out doing the daily hunting and gathering. Who would have thought that there would be such demand today for the craft of weaving chair seats?
We learn a lot from the early Canadian settlers who were very creative in adapting to life in North America. Log cabin building, while seen as cozy and picturesque now, was a necessity then. And it wasn’t very cozy in the beginning — often no windows and a hole in the roof for the stovepipe — tad chilly and dark that first winter! Women who later had sheep for wool were very lucky. Spinning, knitting, weaving and sewing all started with those sheep. And when the woollen clothing was too worn to patch any more, it could be turned into winter quilts and later, mats to warm the floor.
See the gorgeous colours of these basket willows. There are 10 different varieties, each a different colour.
I was asked today to write a 200-word definition of eco-artisan. This is what I came up with. Do you agree or can you add something? If you delve a couple of hundred years into human history to see how people lived, you’ll find that almost everybody was an eco-artisan. It was natural to grow and make the things that you used every day.
I get excited about old-time crafts very easily, especially if they require no cash outlay and my own two hands are the tools. I’ve been known to bite off more than I can chew, but sometimes the excitement leads to marvellous new adventures in sufficiency! A sally garden is a willow (salix) garden. Next to growing food, I think growing basket willows is about the smartest thing you can do with a bit of soil. Chair caning led me to basketry, and weaving baskets led to wanting to grow my own basket willows.