30 April 2012

How to Create a Successful Craft Blog

Like many of you, etsy was the main reason I started blogging. What seemed to be a mandatory step to get the word about my shop out formed a life of its own and turned, thanks to you, into a living and breathing organism that keeps on inspiring me to grow.

Illustration by Anna Emilia

Before I continue, I feel compelled to forewarn you that this post is not going to be bulleted, numbered or colored for ease of skimming. I doubt you will get the quick fix for your a successful blog if you don't have the time or the patience to read between the lines. So, just to test your devotion, today there will be a few lines to read between. 

I have to admit though that the reason why the Kanelstrand blog grew so fast is closely connected to my etsy shop - a totally unsuccessful venture at the time (not so much now, I hope). Yes, you read that right and I am ashamed of that fact but it's the truth.

I was offering unique felted bracelets that took days to make (you can follow the process here) and which, if I had to price accordingly would have been impossible to sell to anyone except the Sultan of Brunei perhaps.

Thankfully, the lack of interest to my heartfelt and arms-hurting felted jewelry let me concentrate on the blog. After the initial emotional and creative surge of setting up an online shop followed by an incomprehensible (to me) lack of sales, I needed to put my inspiration to action. I joined the best team on etsy, team EcoEtsy, and became a staff writer for a great green site called Green Living Ideas. I kept on writing every weekday for my blog but I had made a decision to not turn it into a personal blog. Instead, I wanted to share knowledge. I wanted to give.

Illustration by Anabel Bouza

Talking about giving, the first time I was asked to organize a giveaway was by a wonderful crafter, who has ever since been an inspiration to me - Julia of Whispering Willow - right after a very successful interview on the pages of Kanelstrand, and after reading the extremely positive feedback to their amazing handmade hygiene products. 

From then on, almost no Wednesday has passed without a giveaway on Kanelstrand. Unlike many bloggers I don't charge to organize giveaways. I simply want to give back to as many hard working eco-conscious souls out there as I can.

And, talking about giving back,  in the autumn of 2011 I organized a massive campaign for Team EcoEtsy members, offering them 1 month of free advertising. Starting last month, I have one ad space booked for a different EcoEtsy member each month.

In other words, it's all about YOU giving. Your readers don't come to your blog to give, they come to take from you. And the more you have to offer, the better. Don't worry that you will be left without. There is enough of everything for everybody. What we are missing though, is love, and I suggest YOU start giving it!

Good luck!    

29 April 2012

Eco Mobiles for an Artistic Home

Mobiles are a perfect way to freshen up your living space be it in or outdoors. They add an unexpected dimension and help you see your everyday in a new light. 

A good mobile will turn slowly but if the wind catches is in the right angle it will dance and change its visual perspective with each little twist.
Adding eco-friendliness to beauty is a passion of mine and that is why I especially wanted to share these mobiles. All of them include reusing, upcycling or recycling for which I applaud their makers. 

Let me start with a whimsical Italian artist, who creates not only mobiles and lavish chandeliers but also unique jewelry by cutting and fusing glass bottles. Ilaria of Metamorphosi is an inspiration in herself and a name to remember.

upcycled glass mobile by metamorphosi
Little Cloud Eco-Friendly Mobile

The second mobile is styled after Finnish traditions by Melissa of AMradio, Its geometric pattern is a lovely minimalist addition to any space.
modern mobile star himmeli
Modern Mobile: Star Himmeli

Who wouldn't love to share home with a rabble of butterflies in all seasons! This butterfly mobile by ButterflyOrb is simply delightful to watch and I would love to have it in my living room, even though it is for the nursery.
nursery mobile
Nursery Mobile in Pink, White and Grey

Last but not least, look at this sea glass mobile that can also double as a wind chime. It is made by Rebecca of TheRubbishRevival with sea glass and driftwood found on the beaches of Santa Barbara, California. 
Seaglass and Driftwood Mobile

Do you have a thing for mobiles? What are your favorites?

28 April 2012

Weekend DIY: Mason Jar Lights

I saw them last summer for the first time. We were in a fairy-tale-like chocolate shop at the end of the world (or so it seemed) and these mason jar light fixtures were the best idea for making the shop even greater.
Mason jar light chandelier by Clarksallpurpose 

I snapped a quick photo and kept the memory alive until today when I found a DIY on how to make mason jar lights yourself!

Take a stroll to Senseless Sophistication for an in-depth tutorial on how to make your own for as little as $5 as opposed to $40 - $200!

I also found a cute DIY video by megruth, that will give you a few more crafty ideas for this vintage looking light pendant! Did you notice what's written on the jar on the photo?

27 April 2012

Simple Living Tip: Spend Less TIme Online

This post is written by contributing author Anabel Bouza.

So much of our lives take place online! Mine definitely does and personally, I enjoy it. After all, a well connected desktop is nothing short of a magical portal open to the world.  This is pretty tantalizing; the addictive clicking, flash reading, and networking - and the fact that everybody else is doing it - keep us charmed, making it hard to justify staying away. 

Illustration by Anabel Bouza

I recently went without Internet for a few weeks. Sure, I was looking forward to some good old web silence (usually it means a lot gets done!), yet this break turned out to be more productive and nourishing than I had anticipated. It was liberating. I came out with a sense of renewed self-awareness, and a clearer mind.

However, this didn't come without having to identify some very real withdrawal symptoms first. 

You know the feeling: the old scattered brain keeps suggesting that you look up random bits of capricious, pointless information; it sends you down random rabbit holes until you no longer remember what you were looking for to begin with. The result? All focus, shattered. The day's creative energy, eroded. 

I was a little surprised to discover that my routine of checking multiple inboxes & message boards, darting from one regular site to the next, and unnecessarily repeating the procedure shortly after, had actually become a well-learned physical pattern, almost like a dance. 

Illustration by Anabel Bouza

Without the online clatter (of which we're aware, even when not participating) my inner dialogue was able to better travel across the Alps of my brain. Once I made peace with not being able to traipse in-and-out of the web at my heart's compulsion, I was effectively forced to see my own threads of thought to their end.  

From now on, as an experiment, I've decided to cut down all online access to only three days a week. It will hurt a little, at first, but I'm very curious to see what this shift will yield.

Much has been said about the possibility that spending excessive time online may, in fact, be altering our brains' chemistry —rewiring us. We're the first generation to sustain social lives online as well as in the real world. In a way, we're pioneers of a much unexplored frontier, with its own rules, dangers. 

Think about it... it's pretty exhilarating!

The long-term effects of this reckless "pioneering" of ours are not fully understood, so the answer to questions like "How much is too much?" will differ from one person to the next. 

The noble task of exploring these limits belongs to us, individually.

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
Weird Amiga, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of her husband & a turtle; they're new to the city of Chicago, and they love it. Connect to Anabel via facebook and twitter.

26 April 2012

Seasons in Scandinavia: April in Norway

I am not please with April this year. It had a promising warm start but it looks like it is going to end like a bleak November. What we've seen so far of April is rain, clouds, fog and damp brown soil. At least the birds sing loud, as if it was sunny. Can you imagine a month without sun? I wonder how the peach in the glasshouse nearby managed to cover itself in pink blooms.

That is why today I am going through Aprils past. And don't be surprised by the bright colors and shining photos - that is my nostalgia calling. Can you please call in the sun finally?

sea fog in april


southern norway fishing villages

spring flowers

the boat and the blooming apple

peach in bloom - norway


cherry in bloom

northern sea

daffodil in spring

How is April treating you?

25 April 2012

Artterro Giveaway

I know how spring awakens your creativity but what would you say if you had a little incentive to go even further? Artterro will make it easier for you to welcome art into your life!

Artterro art kits are for kids, families, seasoned artists and novices alike. They do all the sourcing and shopping and help busy people bring a creative, meaningful activity home to their families. But what is more, they are committed to using as few resources as possible, respecting and enjoying the company of the people they work with, and taking into account the social and environmental impact they have on the planet.

What I love about Artterro is that they strive to offer worthwhile, affordable products that encourage friends and family to connect with each other and the very human need to create beauty in our lives.

Just how sustainable Artterro is?
  • They use high-quality natural materials, like 100% wool felt, 100% post-consumer waste decorative handmade paper, glass and wooden beads, cotton thread, hand batiked cotton fabric, and copper wire.
  • Their 100% post-consumer waste recycled boxes are manufactured in Wisconsin at Green Bay Packaging, where they have a decades long commitment to sustainable printing.  
  • The boxes they use are especially designed to be repurposed! Every kit comes with a bonus project since the box can be turned into a frame for finished artwork. And, the re-sealable plastic bag is perfect for storing extra materials after doing a project. 
  • Their kits are assembled at and shipped from Goodwill Industries in Milwaukee, WI because they feel how important it is to provide jobs to people in need.
  • They have donated kits to Project Kids in Cambodia, an art program serving orphanages in Cambodia.
Today I am very proud to team up with the folks at Artterro and offer you a chance to win one of the following awesome prizes:

creativity kit artterro

Creativity Kit
Set the creative spirit free with a beautiful assortment of handmade paper, 100% wool felt shapes, glass and wooden beads and more - perfect for making bookmarks, ornaments, gift tags, small sculptures and collages. The kit includes a bonus project - the box turns into a frame for your finished artwork!
art journal kit artterro

Artterro teamed up with Strathmore Artist Papers to create the Art Journal Kit, a unique product for budding artists to easily explore their creativity through art  journaling. Artists of all ages can learn fun doodling, drawing and collage techniques with inspiring materials.  Available in 5 fun colors!

So, this week Artterro is giving away two prizes! Waste no time, follow the Rafflecopter widget and hold your breath until May 2nd to learn if you are one of the winners! The giveaway is open for U.S participants.

24 April 2012

Beauty Review: Mountain Girl Soap

This post is written by contributing author Paige Ronchetti. 
I've always liked beauty products. I've used them everyday for over a decade, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that I really started to wonder about what I put on myself. It all began after an allergic reaction to a household cleaner (which was unpleasant, in case you were wondering), and I decided that I would probably be a lot healthier if I got away from some chemicals.

So I switched us over to natural cleaning methods, bought different shampoo, and began the daunting task of finding better makeup.

One of the best beauty companies I've stumbled upon in my quest is Mountain Girl Soap. Not only do their products - which include soaps (obviously), lip balms, face masks, and skin creams - contain natural ingredients like olive oil, but when I read the label I know what every single thing is.

Other labels have mystery ingredients like disteardimonium hectorite and ammonium glycyrrhizate (say that three times fast). I have no idea what those things are! Well, I know what ammonium is, and I don't really want it on my face. It's so refreshing to see a collection of beauty products with such simple ingredients that I literally have nothing to wonder about.

Check it:

Shea butter, olive oil, castor seed oil, candelilla wax, and essential oils. I'm sold.

I know some people are skeptical about natural products really working, but don't doubt these! I tried the lip balm and skin salve, and love them both. The balm stays on my lips for a long time, while the salve moisturizes my cuticles without making my fingers greasy. And while I have not personally tried it, my sister raves about the facial soap.

Basically, if you're looking for a truly all-natural beauty company (not just one using marketing buzzwords), give Mountain Girl Soap a shot.

Do you use any natural beauty products? What items do you recommend?

Paige Ronchetti lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband. They have no kids and no pets, which gives them a lot of time for eating spicy food and looking for bargains. Paige's blog is Little Nostalgia is a collection of projects and pretty things. There you can find DIY tutorials, home decor inspiration, and affordable fashion ideas. When she is not blogging, Paige is working on her vintage-inspired jewelry lines, Little White Chapel and Oh Nostalgia. Connect to Paige via twitter or pinterest.

23 April 2012

Etsy Front Page on Earth Day

Earth Day came and passed, just like the rain storm that woke me up on Sunday.  After taking quiet actions that have already become a routine, my family had a healthy dinner of baked salmon with mashed potatoes and fresh green salad. Perfect for Earth Day.

It was a day of walking, unplugging, non-buying, avoiding plastic and reusing paper (as usual); a typically chilly, early-spring day in Norway.

island in the stream photograph
Island in the stream by Kanelstrand

I knew there weren't going to be any surprises on Sunday but how little I knew. 

Right after dinner, I got an email from my dear friend ELK with the best news I could get - my photo was featured on the front page of Etsy. Excited? No, I was ecstatic! 

This was my first time on the front page since I had opened my shop, and so soon after I re-branded! For those of you who don't know, a few weeks ago I finally gave up on my one of a kind felted bracelets to start selling fine art photography prints. 

etsy front page earth day
Etsy front page on Earth Day

A big thank you to Liz from GreenGrass for the beautiful treasury! I am really proud to be among such beauty!

What a better moment to be on the front page than Earth Day! I am choosing to take this coincident as the sign that I am on the right track with my photography! 

But I want your help too. Please, take a look in my freshly re-built shop and tell me which print is your favorite and why. You know how much I trust your opinions, don't you!

20 April 2012

How to Celebrate Earth Day

This is a guest post by Debra Duneier.

If you have not celebrated Earth Day in the past, this April 22nd would be a great time to start. You may feel a little awkward at first because you just may not know what to do. Do you invite people over for a party? Does one put candles on a cake? What kind of toast would be appropriate? Can you send a card? Is buying flowers or chocolates the right touch?

cherry blossom tree
Photo: kanelstrand

The first Earth Day was in 1970 and since then it has grown to a worldwide environmental event. On this day, we celebrate our planet and its gifts of biodiversity.  It is the time of year to reinstate our commitment to protect plants, animals, soil, seas and fresh drinking water. It is also the birthday of the US Environmental Protection Agency which was created to protect our air, water and land from pollution. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day to bring environmental concerns to the attention of the national agenda. If you ever question what one person can accomplish remember that one by one, 20 million protesters around the country came out in support of Earth Day and a cleaner and safer environment…they were heard.

Pitch in and make a big difference by making small changes in your daily life. Here are some EcoChi Green Tips to get you started:
  1. Reduce your “product carbon footprint” by purchasing locally grown produce whenever possible.
  2. Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the supermarket, rather than having your groceries packed in plastic bags (plastics take 500 years to decompose). 
  3. Keep landfills at reasonable levels by recycling your garbage as much as possible. Paper, plastics, metals and even electronic equipment can be conveniently recycled in most towns.
  4. Set your thermostat 2 degrees higher in the summer and 2 degrees lower in the winter to cut back on energy use.
  5. Do not run the water while you brush your teeth. Turn the faucet on only when needed. Help save our most precious resource, fresh drinking water.
If you decide to throw a party on April 22nd:
  • Send electronic invites
  • Use beeswax candles on the cake instead of candles made with petro fuels
  • Recycle your wine bottles
  • Send an E-card or one made of recycled paper
  • Decorate with fresh flowers and serve chocolate which always tastes great!
Still unsure what to do on April 22nd? Get over any awkwardness that accompanies a new experience and instead create traditions for the future. After all, cleaning up our planet means we may be able to leave our Earth a better place for future generations and that’s worth celebrating!

Debra Duneier is an accredited LEED® Green Associate, Certified Eco-Designer, Feng Shui Master Practitioner, Creator of EcoChi® and Author of EcoChi: Designing the Human Experience.

19 April 2012

Conscious Living: Motivation

This post is written by contributing author Shelly Kerry.

Has anyone else been hit with a lack of motivation? Perhaps life has been a little hard or you live near me in the Northwest and have been dealing with the rainy weather. If you have I just want to say you are not alone and I have some tips and tricks for you to get over the hump and to be better prepared in the future. Direction, awareness, self-care and well-developed systems can help you manage low motivation.

In my post last month I invited you to explore your ideal day. In some ways is your perfect day similar to how your current lifestyle but with more time for family and friends? Or does it differ greatly with drastic changes like quitting your day job and diving into your own creative project? Did thinking about the ideal day begin to motivate you to make changes in your life? 

Perhaps this reflection was scary too – discovering that some very big changes need to happen before you can really achieve your goals. Both reactions are common but I encourage you to find at least a couple of things from this project to help guide you in future decisions. If you did document it by writing, drawing or collecting images please keep them close to you. There are many ways that this refection can help you live more consciously. 

motivation heart
Photo: SweetOnVeg

Your ideal life
When life throws you those curve balls or you are hit with an absolute lack of motivation your ideal day project can help guide you and help bring direction. What about that vision you feel an aching desire to make happen? What do you really want your life to look like? Hopefully, your ideal day inspires you instead of creating panic but regardless making a list of things that you can do over the next month or year to get you closer to your goal and breaking it down into simple steps is helpful (We will be talking more about this next month.) Remember your ideal day is really a small reflection of something much greater - your ideal life. 

Recognizing what is happening when you feel a little stuck is very important. Listening to your inner thoughts instead of being hard on your self will help you have a clearer vision of your needs. What do I feel like when I am not motivated? Do my thoughts wander or do I find myself searching the web when not working? What does distraction look like to me? Think about the places and people that make you feel most inspired and make sure you spend time in/with them. Self-awareness is the first key to setting up systems that can make lack of motivation manageable.

Giving yourself a break for a little bit of self-care can be life changing. Back to the ideal day - does it include daily walks or time at the gym? Perhaps if you are staring at that blank canvas for hours it’s time to get out of the studio for 30 minutes or so. Taking yourself away from a project for a little while and coming back to it with a refreshed vision can be very helpful. Plus you are taking care of yourself and giving you the respect you deserve. How can that be bad?

Create a system
Also having productivity and organizational systems in place that can prevent distractions and make difficult times more manageable are vital. Set only certain times of the day to look at your email and work on social media. Turn off notifications on your phone and email except during certain hours. Use website blocking applications to like Self-Control or Leech Block to prohibit browsing sites for a certain amount of time. And try your best to plan your week in advance and keep things physically organized in the studio or office. Don’t waste energy on the simple tasks. Reserve it for creativity and other fun things. Remember that sometimes old systems stop working for you. I experience this often at the gym. When I am really struggling to get myself there it is usually out of boredom with my routine. It helps me to plan my workouts way in advance so that I am doing a new one every month and not stuck on the same machines, working the same muscles. Change is better for my body and better for my mind.

Do make time for distractions during your day and allow for moments of creative block. It is inevitable. It is going to happen and you are going to come through it just like you did last time. Try not to get caught up in the stickiness. Instead take the time to reflect on what is not working, situate yourself back in the right direction and welcome new ideas and discoveries.
Your homework for the next month: 
  1. Create a list of the “must happen” from your ideal day.
  2.  Start a journal to track how you feel when you lack motivation and how you feel when you are surged with creative energy. Think about the places and people that make you feel most creative - how can you find time to add this into weekly schedule?
  3. Add one self-care treat to your week whether it is a nice short hike, an hour in the park reading a great book or a soak in the bath.
  4. Set up one new organizational system to make life a little easier. Check out the Creating Space Pinterest board for some inspiration 

Shelly Kerry is co-owner of Lightbox SF. She is an artist, designer, and motivator. Since 2006 she has been working to build her own jewelry design business, em’s studio, and she wants to share all she’s learned. Shelly knows that building your own art or craft business can often feel lonely and overwhelming. She also understands how much of a struggle it is to balance a “day job” with a budding creative business. Read more about her here. Connect to Shelly via twitter or facebook.

18 April 2012

Decadent Nature Giveaway

Mother's day is getting closer and the excitement is rising! What would you think if I told you that today I have joined forces with Jenn of Decadent Nature to offer you a chance to win an exciting gift pack for Mother's Day worth $45!

In her etsy shop Jenn is offering natural, homemade skin and beauty products -  lotions, salves, creams, toners, serums, and more!

If you've been following me for awhile, by now you know that I am all for organic, local, fair trade and low-impact products, so you can rest assured that  Decadent Nature is just that!  

This year, you can offer a spa day for the mother in your life! Jenn has combined some natural handmade skin and beauty products in this gift basket.

What's in it?
  • Honey Eye Cream with a soft, slick feel, without the greasy texture you can get with some thick creams. Moisturizes the sensitive skin around the eyes to reduce lines.
  • Chocolate Citrus Sugar Scrub using Jojoba Oil to moisturize the skin, cocoa powder for its anti-oxidant properties, and scrubs away dead cells with raw, organic sugar.
  • Orange and Aloe Butter Hand Cream has not even been posted to the Decadent Nature shop yet, but Jenn couldn't wait to add it to the gift set! Using butters of fragrant orange, and healing aloe, this silky cream is so good for your hard-working mothers' hands!
  • Lemon Balm-Infused Lip Balm infused with castor oil for flavor and shine. Organic, local honey is added to sweeten it up.
  • Refreshing Herbal Toner, which you can use after cleansing the skin to refresh it, astringent herbs help to shrink pores, and aloe vera that soothes your skin.

So, waste no time, just follow the Rafflecopter widget and hold your breath until April 25th to learn if you are the winner! The giveaway is open for U.S participants.

Good luck!

17 April 2012

Saving Time With Social Media Tools

This post is written by contributing author Genevieve Brazelton. 
I’m a strong believer in social media as tool to market your business. However I’ll be the first to admit it can often be time consuming to post to various social networks especially if you’re trying to keep up with both personal and professional contacts. That’s why I highly suggest using a few tools to keep you in the conversation while saving you time.

Start with a dashboard. Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are dashboards, meaning you have access to multiple accounts on multiple platforms all at once. Dashboards are all about management. You can customize your dashboard to include the areas you want to keep tabs on the most, regular searches, mentions, your tweets retweeted, and so on. If you’re connecting with folks on more than just Twitter and Facebook, many dashboards give you access to other major platforms.

Hootsuite screenshot

Which One Should I Use?

I mentioned both Hootsuite and Tweetdeck because they’re the leaders, have a free option that works for most people and have pretty much everything you’d need. Tweetdeck is a desktop program that runs on Adobe Air unless you Chrome as a browser, then you can use it straight from Chrome. The free version of Hootsuite only allows you to follow 5 different accounts, so if you have more than that you might consider Tweetdeck or look into Hootsuite’s paid version which also has analytic features if you’re into that sort of stuff.

They have very different feels to them so most likely one will quickly feel more comfortable to you than the other. If neither of these fits your needs Seesmic also comes highly rated, but I’ve only recently checked it out.

What Will It Do For Me?

As I mentioned before, one of the biggest bonuses is it saves you from logging in and out of multiple accounts throughout the day. Seeing your mentions, retweets, scheduled posts, and searches all on one screen also has it’s advantages. However, my favorite function is the ability to schedule your posts ahead of time. This is a great bonus if you are promoting something and want to scatter posts throughout the week without thinking about it or to schedule sharing of your blog posts when most of your followers are online. But remember you still need to check in on occasion to interact by replying and retweeting.

Buffer screenshot

Spread Out The Sharing

Another tool I highly recommend is Buffer. If you’re anything like me you do much of your web browsing and blog reading in one big chunk and find lots to share all at once. However bombarding your stream with all these articles can make people ignore you really quick.

Buffer allows you to stack up links to share and spread them throughout the day. Buffer works directly from your browser as a plug-in. When you set up your account you’re able to set the time of day for up to 10 posts. That way you can spread out your sharing. I happen to know most of my Twitter followers are active between the hours 8 am and 2 pm so I don’t schedule any tweets for the morning. However my Facebook followers are active throughout the day so I space those out into the evening.

There are a multitude of tools out there to help you keep track analyze your social media interactions and it’s easy to think you need to use them all. Most are meant for big companies who have teams of people managing their social media communications and that also need to keep track various statistics for the powers that be. Most likely your needs are much simpler and all those bells and whistles are just going to get in the way.

However if you find yourself often saying, “If only there was a way I could...” there’s probably a tool out there to help you. Do a Google search and test out your options. Hopefully you’ll find exactly what you need. 

Do any of you have tools you can't live without? 

Genevieve Brazelton endlessly researches the newest ideas in creative and social media marketing so you don’t have to. Genevieve’s strength is her keen outside perspective and sometimes infuriating logic that puts structure to dreams and lays out paths to goals. She is also the business side of Lightbox SF. Read more about her here.
Connect to Genevieve via twitter or facebook.

16 April 2012

Open Source Permaculture

I know many of you have gardens or would love to have, even on their balconies. Imagine having all the resources you need to enhance the sustainability of your home or land. Anyone, yes anyone, could learn how to grow an incredibly productive backyard permaculture garden! When I wrote about making your own soil using the methods of permaculture last August little did I know that there was someone working on a FREE Open Source resource on Permaculture

Visit to Glovers St Permaculture Garden
Visit to Glovers St Permaculture Garden photo: Milkwooders

Permaculture is a revolutionary design system for creating sustainable human environments. It is about designing households and communities that are productive, sustaining and largely self reliant and have minimal impact on the environment. It aims to borrow from nature and apply to everyday life to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants.

It is a promising path to creating sustainable communities, founded on a system of ethics emphasizing the importance of shared values among people. The ethics embrace care for the Earth, care for the people, and sharing the excess. The gardening techniques draw from several other disciplines including natural and organic farming, agro-forestry, sustainable development, and applied ecology.

Open Source
I am a strong believer in the Open Source philosophy and that is why you can see the Creative Commons sign on my left sidebar. Open Source that promotes free redistribution and access to a product's design and implementation details. The open-source model includes the concept of concurrent yet different agendas and differing approaches in production, in contrast with more centralized models of development. 

A main principle and practice of open-source development is peer production by bartering and collaboration, with the end-product, source-material, and documentation available at no cost to the public. This method can be applied to all fields of endeavor.

ryde tafe permaculture garden
Ryde Tafe permaculture garden photo: Milkwooders

How they work together
Open Source Permaculture is a free online resource for anyone who wants to create a more sustainable world. The project that aims to fund the creation of an Urban Permaculture Guide eBook and the Open Source Permaculture Q&A Website + Wiki.

Open Source Permaculture intends to become the most comprehensive multimedia resource of free, quality materials for Permaculture education. It would empower people all over the world to easily learn sustainability skills on their own, opening the world to a whole new way of learning online.

Open Source Permaculture can heal broken communities with no money, and transform our cities into thriving ecological landscapes.

What you get
The aim of this project is the creation of an Open Source Urban Permaculture Guide – FREE eBook (circa 400 pages) and an Open Source Permaculture Q&A Website + Wiki.

The ebook will be the first freely available, comprehensive guide teaching the use of permaculture in urban spaces! You will find easy to understand DIY tips that can be applied in your flat, tiny backyard, rooftop or community garden, including topics like:
  • Indoor and Balcony Gardening – Permaculture Style
  • Vertical Gardens
  • Tree Crops and Edible Forests
  • Guerilla Gardening
  • Community Supported Agriculture
  • Mushroom log cultivation
  • Spiral Herb Gardens & Medicinal Herbs
  • Composting and Vermi-composting
  • Rainwater collection
  • Micro-livestock
  • Wind and Solar Energy
  • Transportation, etc.

On the website and wiki, you will have access to an expansive database of  resources and permaculture experts, to help resolve any gardening and landscaping problems. It doesn't matter if you're just growing a tiny container garden or if you're running a full-fledge urban farm business. Whatever your project is, Open Source Permaculture aims to provide a real, working solution.

What you give
To have all this, the creator of Open Source Permaculture Sophia Novack needs your help! Your generous donation will support free, global access to an online database of comprehensive Permaculture resources, so that anyone with the passion to do so can create sustainability in their own homes and gardens. Together we can help each other, that is what Open Source is about. Please, consider making a small donation. Even just $1 would be so appreciated!

Further reading: 

What do you think of this project? How can you put it to practical use?

13 April 2012

Simple Backyard Chicken Keeping

This post is written by contributing author Deborah Jean.

If you ever dreamed of having a farm or your own, keeping a small flock of backyard chickens will make you feel like the farmgirl/guy you are! 

When we first began keeping our small flock of backyard chickens 6 years ago, we got some funny looks (and questions) from our neighbors and friends:
Chickens? Really? 
Why would you want chickens? 
Why not just buy your eggs at the store like everyone else? 
Well, I'll tell you why. 

Keeping backyard chickens is one way to experience a small sample of living a more sustainable lifestyle and is often the gateway into deeper homesteading practices for people who are striving to create a healthier, simpler life. 

Why keep chickens?
It's true, at first we didn't know just how simple keeping chickens would be. With so many helpful books, links and a few chicken keeping friends to glean information from we were on our way!

Chickens provide fresh eggs daily 8- 9 months out of the year. Unlike chickens at large poultry farms who never get a break from laying eggs, your backyard chickens can take the winter months off unless you provide artificial light to keep them laying. When spring arrives they'll begin producing eggs again throughout the summer, fall and early winter months. We still get a few eggs in December and January! 

Chickens are natural composters. Rather than tossing our kitchen scraps on the compost pile we give them to the chickens. They in turn fertilize the soil in their run, which we shovel out every couple of months and add it to the compost pile. 

Chickens love to scratch and peck at the earth for bugs and worms. If you are already a gardener they make the perfect companion! Chicken compost added to top soil adds natural nutrients to your flower and vegetable gardens. If you like your garden to look nice year round don't let them near it until it is finished producing for the year, then you can let them have at it doing their magic on the soil for next year! 

Where to keep them?
Once you have ordered (or hatched) your first flock you'll need to start thinking about housing for your "girls". There are several options for the backyard chicken enthusiast! Coops come in all shapes and sizes. 
  • You can buy plans online and build your own;
  • have one built;
  • buy one locally from an agricultural/tractor supply store;
  • or build something UNIQUE from RE-claimed materials. 
We chose the latter and built our own chicken coop after being inspired by coops we saw online. We created a passive-solar salt box design large enough for 10 laying hens and painted it a traditional Barn Red! 

Bonding with your chickens
Of all farm animals, chickens are the simplest to keep and the most practical but there's also romantic side! You can bond with your chickens just like any other pet. There's the smell of fresh pine shavings in a newly cleaned chicken coop on a warm spring day. Or, watching the girls stretch out in the sun and take a dust bath. I especially enjoy listening to my girls cackle and cluck as they lay eggs throughout the day. Best of all, they're always up for a little "GIRL TALK".

For endless backyard chicken keeping information and inspiration, visit Backyard Chickens and join their community of cluckers! And, visit my blog on April 17th for the second annual virtual Hen House Hop

Come by, enjoy, and share a post if you have chickens! 

I'd love to know how many of you keep or are considering keeping backyard chickens!

Deborah Jean writes from a little yellow house near the shores of Cape Cod Bay in America’s Hometown. It wasn’t her dream house in the beginning but the dandelions that grace her front lawn each year have taught Deb many important life lessons. She blogs about them from her homemaking blog aptly named Deborah Jean’s DANDELION HOUSE where she shares creative seeds for your homemaking hands, heart and soul. Deb's world is centered around her husband, two teens, their beloved Corgi Max and "her girls" - The Cottage Hens!   Stroll  her gardens (weeds and all) and enjoy fresh, wholesome, organic cooking from her kitchen.  She’s no stranger to making do, recycling and upcycling. She loves giving pieces of the past a new look and purpose!  Connect to Deb via pinterest and facebook.

12 April 2012

Focus on Experiences, Not Things

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams. 
Every day we are bombarded with advertising messages to make us buy more under the premise that newer, bigger, and faster is necessary. But perhaps there’s never a more prominent time that consumer culture rears its ugly head as when we have major life events. From getting married, to buying a new home getting stuff seems to come with the territory. Sometimes this is a good thing - you do need different things for different phases of your life, but it’s easy to go overboard. 

I just announced my pregnancy over at my blog, and I’ve come to realize I don’t think there’s any other time that you are more subjected to this consumer overload than when you have your first child. Under the premise of safety and what’s best for baby we are sold on a variety of items to keep our children safe, keep them healthy, and make them smarter. We are made to feel like terrible parents if we don’t have the latest and greatest things. We’re essentially guilt-tripped into buying. My goodness, how did the human race survive without these things? 

Photo via Babyinthehat
But I had an inkling that many of the “must haves” for baby, really weren’t must haves at all. So I consulted my small army of new mommy friends about what gear they really liked and guess what? It wasn’t anything crazily expensive, or complex, but rather a few simple items that kept their babies happy, and conserved mom’s sanity. 

As I prepare for a new member of our family, I try to think of some of the things I’d like to do with my child that I did growing up. From going to the beach or the fish hatchery, to spending time in the backyard, nearly none of my favorite past times involved specific gifts. Sure, the activity of hunting for Easter eggs and baskets, or the sheer sight of presents under the Christmas tree are memories that I will treasure forever, but the specifics are foggy. I don’t remember very much what gifts I got (except for a few toy highlights); what I recall more clearly are the activity of discovery and being with family. 

This helped crystallize for me something I had apparently known for a long time - when it comes to true value it has less to do with material things, and more to do with memories made. 

jump for joy
Photo: Abraham Wallin

You can take this literally and apply it to your spending habits. What is the happiness quotient for any given spend? For example, would you prefer to do one big, expensive dinner out, or several less expensive dinners with friends? Would you be happier if you were earning less but doing what you love, or earning more at a job you hate? 

For many, experiences pay off more than objects. This may explain why industries like travel, restaurants and salons are doing just fine coming out of this recession while retail continues to slump. Younger generations are leading the way by spending more on noncredit cooking classes instead of say, a fancy car. 

What do you think? Are you happier focusing on experiences, not things? 

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.

11 April 2012

The Studio Mag April Issue is Out

Yay! The second issue of The Studio magazine is out! 52 pages of eco-friendly, handmade goodness you will come to love!

Make sure to check it out and find awesome Mother's Day gift suggestions by Team EcoEtsy members and even more earth-minded crafters!

The first issue of The Studio managed to accumulate more than 20,000 views in less than a month. A brilliant and promising start for the green community all thanks to you!
A new and exciting feature is that I have added clickable links to all fabulous shops that I am featuring when you browse in full size.

You can view the magazine by clicking here or at the top of the right sidebar, or just browse through it in this post.


Open publication - Free publishing - More craft

Are you an eco-minded artist looking for a way to promote your creations? The Studio is a powerful, modern and extremely attractive marketing medium to establish your brand in the virtual world. Contact me for details on how you can get featured!

Whispering Willow Giveaway

You all know that I am a passionate supporter of handmade soap, shampoo and all hygiene products. What makes me even more attracted to such products is the mindset of their creators - always earth-minded, positive and caring people.

Such is the couple behind Whispering Willow. I have worked with Julia and Wayne for almost a year now and I love every contact with their sincere approach to eco-friendly hygiene products and sustainable living. What is more, I love their business approach, which I am sure is why they have such a big following.

For those of you who don't know, Whispering Willow used to go under the name of Belle Terre. The new name though comes with the extended bonus of new and even more exciting products in their etsy shop.

For their products, Julia and Wayne use only organic oils, but the proof that they are walking the entire way to saving the planet is their use of minimal and recycled packaging and committing 5% of their sales to charity. To learn more about their attitude to the Earth, their customers and the way they make soap, read their interview.

Today, Julia and Wayne are giving one of you the chance to win a generous pack, containing:
  • handcrafted soap,
  • natural lip balm,
  • whipped shea butter,
  • natural laundry detergent,
  • liquid soap, 
  • and Whispering Willow's brand new product - body wash. 

The winner will be able to choose between lavender, lemongrass, tea tree, or peppermint

The total value of the giveaway is $50!

whispering willow soaps

Are you excited? I sure am and I wish I could take part too because I would love, love, love to smell that lemon soap!

The giveaway is open for the U.S until April 18th 2012. Try your luck with the Rafflecopter widget and keep your fingers crossed to win. It is worth it, I promise!