Essential Oils in the Living Room

Living Room FireplaceMost living rooms get pampered with an assortment of perfumed products from furniture polish to air fresheners, dusting powders for the carpets and upholstery cleaners. These products aren’t aroma coordinated and, more importantly, they all contain harmful chemicals. They are not the best option because all of their functions can be taken over by natural products which have been enhanced with essential oils.

In years gone by people put aromatic grasses under their rugs and mats so the aroma would be released to freshen the room as they walked on them. Today most of us have wall-to-wall carpeting and we need something else. A carpet freshener powder, which can be used in exactly the same way as the commercial products, can be made by using essential oils in conjunction with kaolin, baking soda, or borax powder.

For each tablespoon of one of these base powders, you will need 1 drop of your chosen essential oil –use one of the less expensive ones. Simply add the essential oil to the powder in a blender and mix well. How much you make depends entirely upon your  requirements. Once made, store in a sealed jar or sealable plastic bag. Leave it overnight in a drawer or closet before using for the first time; then sprinkle it on your carpet, leave for a few minutes, and vacuum up.

To stop the odor that builds up from the dust and dirt in the vacuum cleaner, you can put a teaspoon of carpet cleaning powder in the bag, which will fragrance the air as it is sucked through the machine. A more effective method, however, is to add 6-8 drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and popping it in the bag. Replace it with a new fragrance, if you wish, each time you change the bag, or empty it out depending on your machine.

Living Room WindowAn even simpler method is to place the drops of essential oil directly on the bag by the air outlet, but this isn’t a good option for non-replaceable bags since you might want to change the fragrance later. Try the essential oils of Lemon, Orange, Lavender, or Pine to eradicate that dustiness which makes vacuuming the sort of job you need to bathe after!

It is difficult to get windows absolutely sparkling –there always seems to be at least a few streaks left behind. To get rid of these, prepare a sheet of newspaper to act as a rag, put a drop of Lime, Grapefruit or Lemon oil on it and polish the window again. The essential oil soaks into the newspaper and combines with the print to give a sparkling finish which also releases a fresh and subtle fragrance when light shines through the glass.

The fruit of the lemon has long been used to polish copper, and essential oil of lemon works equally well. Simply put 1 drop on a soft cloth and buff the copper for a clean, gleaming polish.

Living Room FurnitureThe living room is the place to prove to yourself that you can do without all those commercial sprays. Use a plant mister spray with water and essential oils to freshen up the furniture, curtains and carpets. As this is where your family and friends spend most of their time, you will want to choose a nice relaxing essential oil formula.

Use the spray, diffuser, light bulb, radiator, or humidifier method or add the oils to potpourri (don’t buy synthetic potpourri revivers.) Make your own blend of oils or use this tried and tested formula.

The Relaxing Living Room Blend
8 drops Geranium
3 drops Clary Sage
5 drops Lemon
3 drops Bergamot
Mix in these proportions

And if you want something to rouse your family out of their Sunday afternoon lethargy, try this:

The Stimulating Living Room Blend
8 drops Grapefruit
4 drops Lavender
4 drops Lime
2 drops Basil
Mix in these proportions

This article was adapted from:
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

All Images from Google.com

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Earth Allies: Microorganisms

Living SoilLiving soil contains billions of living microorganisms that affect soil and plant health. These include bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes.

A teaspoon of fertile soil can contain up to one billion bacteria. Bacteria help the soil decompose  organic matter, retain nutrients in the soil, compete with disease causing organisms, and break down soil pollutants. Some bacteria help transfer nitrogen into the soil from legumes, improving soil quality.

In our age of sterility and control, bacteria have gotten a bad name, but in truth all healthy ecosystems, including our own bodies, contain much beneficial bacteria. Provide beneficial bacteria with plenty of organic matter and you will have happy worms, dirt, and plants –which means a healthy and bountiful garden.

Woodland FungiFungi, microorganisms that are slightly larger than bacteria, serve a similar function. They help decompose carbon compounds, making the carbon available to plants and soil microbes, and help retain nutrients in the soil. They bind soil particles into aggregates, making the soil more porous to air and water. They provide food for other microorganisms, compete with plant pathogens, and decompose some types of pollution.

Open a rotting log and you can see fungi at work, their long white strands eating away at the decomposing matter. Fungi in the soil, however, are too small to see with the naked eye.

One type of fungus is called mycorrhizae, meaning fungus root. These fungi form a symbiotic relationship with plants roots, improving the roots’ absorption of water, air and nutrients. In turn, the fungi receive sugars from the roots. Good soil containing lots of organic matter, water, air, and microorganisms leads to healthy mycorrhizal growth.

Vegetable RowsProtozoa, another microbial soil ally, primarily eat bacteria, releasing the fertilizing waste product ammonium in the soil and simultaneously stimulating bacteria populations. They also provide a food source for nematodes, an unsegmented worm.

Nematodes are primarily beneficial, though some feed on roots and can kill a plant. Beneficial nematodes feed on protozoa, bacteria and fungi as well as other nematodes, including the harmful varieties. Like protozoa, they also release ammonium into the soil as a byproduct of their feeding. They distribute bacteria and fungi through the soil as they travel through their earthy domain.

Remember that the health of your garden does not solely lie in the hands of our earth allies. You must work just as hard as they do to reap the benefits of a healthy and prospering patch of land.

This Article was Adapted from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan

All Images from Google.com

Essential Oils in the Bedroom

Elegant BedroomThe bedroom is a place to sleep, or to play. It all depends on you and your mood. When aroma and romantics come together we have “aromantics,” which is such a big subject that whole books have been devoted to it.

If romance is on your mind, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Rose, Palma Rosa, and Clary Sage are all appropriate oils to use around the bedroom.

To keep it smelling romantic at all times make up a special mix to use separately from the general house blend. Spray it in the air and on the carpets.

The recipe that follows is a recommended synergistic blend, but you can combine whichever oils you like to create a romantic atmosphere.

The Romantic Bedroom Synergistic Blend

8 drops Palma Rosa
1 drop Ylang-Ylang
2 drops Clary Sage
2 drops Nutmeg
4 drops Lime

Mix in these proportions.

For general bedroom use, ideal scents are Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, or Lemon. A diffuser will help you to sleep if you place one drop of Chamomile, Clary Sage, or Lavender on it.

Pretty Wardrobe 1Bed linens can be washed and stored with essential oils, see the Using Essential Oils in the Laundry Post if you are interested.

Wardrobes can benefit from fragrance as well. Place cotton balls in the corners with a favorite scent on it, or one that keeps moths away such as Lavender, Lemongrass, Camphor, Rosemary, and Citronella.

Remember you don’t want to infuse the clothes with essential oils as this will interfere with your perfumes, so choose something that will be light and simply freshen the air.

This article was adapted from:
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

All images are from Google.com

Gardening with the Moon

It is not only the sun that determines the best time to plant a garden, but also our closest celestial neighbor, the moon. For thousands of years wise men and women have gardened in tune with the moon. Consider the difference in light under a full moon versus when the moon is dark, and how the moon creates Earth’s tides, and you will have an idea of the value of gardening with Luna.

The Moon over a FieldPlants and the human body consist largely of water; though the pull is subtle, we are as affected by the moon’s gravity as the oceans.

Gardening with the moon depends on two rhythms: light and gravity, determined by her journey around Earth.

To plant with the phases of the moon, note if your seeds are short, long, or extra-long germinating. Plant information on the back of seed packs includes how long it will take the seeds to germinate. Short-germinating seeds, like beans and lettuce, will germinate in one to seven days. Long germination means eight to twenty-one days and includes celery and garlic. Some plants take up to twenty-eight days to germinate, known as extra-long germinating seeds.

You want to put seeds in the Earth, or germinate them indoors so that they will germinate near the new moon, when the moon’s earthward pull is strongest. This pull helps the plant establish strong root growth.

The Moon over DandelionsAccording to the biodynamic method of farming, short- and extra-long germinating seeds should be planted from two days before to seven days after the new moon. Long-germinating seeds and seedlings should be planted or transplanted at the full moon and up to seven days after the full. These planting times take advantage of gravitational and magnetic pull of the moon as well as levels of moonlight and give the seeds the optimum situation for their germination.

Other gardening activities can be attuned to the moon as well. At the new moon, prune to encourage growth. During the full moon, harvest herbs used for magic or healing, and pick fruits and vegetables for enhanced flavor. The waning moon is a time of settling and letting go; use this crone time as the moon’s energy settles back into the Earth to harvest root vegetables, weed, and prune to inhibit growth. During the dark of the moon, when lunar energy is deep in the Earth, take time to renew and be still.

This article was adapted from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan

All Images from Google.com

Essential Oils in the Bathroom

Beautiful Bathroom As with the kitchen, the main concern in the bathroom is to clear bacteria and viruses from the air and on surfaces. Use one of the oils listed below in the final rinse water when you wash all the surfaces in the bathroom, including the bath, sink and toilet- not only to kill germs but to give the whole room a lovely fragrance.

Electric diffusers should not be used in the bathroom to avoid shock hazards and damage to the diffuser; but you can buy metallic rings which are fixed to downward hanging light bulbs, and these can be kept stocked with the essential oils so there is a permanent source of anti-bacterial aroma.

Any of the oils listed below can also be used in a room spray. This method helps remove odors from the air, and sanitize surfaces.

Beautiful Bathroom Another method which is a nice touch -especially if no other methods can be used- involves toilet paper. Simply put a couple of drops of the concentrated blends below on the cardboard ring inside the toilet paper roll before placing on the holder. The cardboard soaks up the essential oil and gently releases the cleansing aroma molecules, keeping the whole area clean and fragrant.

There is almost nothing better than enjoying a relaxing bath as a candle softly illuminates the room. Since electrical diffusers are generally a bad idea in the bathroom, candle-based is definitely the way to go.

A list of oils best used in the bathroom as “bacteria busters”:

Cinnamon
Pine
Clove
Niaouli
Lemon
Thyme
Eucalyptus
Grapefruit
Lavender
Lime

The Synergistic Blends for the Bathroom are as follows:

Bathroom Synergistic Blend 1
5 drops Bergamot
10 drops Lavender
5 drops Cinnamon
10 drops Lemon
10 drops Citronella

Bathroom Synergistic Blend 2
5 drops Oregano
10 drops Sage
10 drops Thyme
20 drops Lemon

This post was adapted from:
The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

All Images were found on Google.com

Where to Plant and When

Increase your success in the garden and enhance your own attunement to the natural flow of the seasons by gardening in synchrony with the powers that be; the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon. These bodies determine when and where and how to plant your garden. Plants follow the rhythm of the earth and sun, their life cycle attuned to precisely to the length of the day and the temperature of the soil and air. Like tides, plants also naturally respond to the pull of the moon, as they contain so much water.

Again, keen observation leads to greater gardening success. Throughout the year, spend time outside each day and every evening to notice when and where the sun rises an sets, the shifting of the shadows, the freezing patterns. In spring watch the trees and bushes observing their time of sprouting and bloom. Take the temperature of your soil frequently in the spring or whenever you plan to plant; each plant has a preferred soil temperature for ideal germination.

Learn your last and first average dates of frost, found in the newspaper, online, or by contacting your local plant nursery or extension office. With this information, you will know when to start seeds indoors, when to move transplants into the garden or start seeds outdoors, and where your plants can use extra help like a cold frame (a box with a glass or fiberglass lid that provides protection from frost, snow, and wind during the cooler months).

Notice which parts of your garden might be a separate microclimate, a spot that is different than the prevailing climate. Microclimates might include reflected heat from a stone wall, the shade of a tree, or a cool and wet gully. Soil temperatures and water levels will differ in these areas. Look for warmer spots and reflected light for plants like tomatoes and peppers, and seek dappled light or moister soil for plants that crave cool, like spinach and peas. You can even create your own microclimate by incorporating small ponds to reflect light, building mounds to create areas of shade and sun, or removing and planting shrubs and trees. For a detailed discussion of microclimates, refer to Toby Hemenway’s Gaia’s Garden.

Observing shade, sun, water, and microclimates throughout the year throughput the year will help your garden year-round by allowing you to match plant’s needs to available resources. A greenhouse or a cold frame can further extend your planting and harvesting beyond frost. A simple winter greenhouse can be constructed out of a sturdy frame and plastic sheeting. Place your cold frame or greenhouse in an area that gets lots of winter sunlight and be sure to monitor for overheating or drying out. Plant seeds in your frame in the fall for winter greens and at the end of winter for an early spring harvest.

Due to lack of summer pests and weeds, a cold frame takes very little tending and provides for a splendid winter salad. Just a few of the vegetables suited to a cold frame include root veggies, salad greens, asparagus, parsley, and onions. You can also use your cold frame to get a jump on the warm season by using it as a nursery for plants like tomatoes.

An even easier way to grow cool season crops is with a row cover, a clear plastic or cloth draped over short supports along a row or part of a row. Inverted U-shaped medium-gauge wire, tall enough to clear the crops, makes a simple and inexpensive support. Secure ends of the plastic cover with rocks or by burying an inch or two. During the heat of the day, vent by pulling the edge of your cover back. Row covers and cold frames can be purchased at many garden stores, and even online at www.seedsofchange.com. For more information on winter gardening and a full list of cool-season vegetables, see Eliot Coleman’s Four-Season Harvest.

An even deeper relationship with the land can be explored through your inner knowing. A sacred gardener takes time to listen directly to his or her plants, sensing their individual light, warmth, and gravitational needs. All gardens have their own personality as well as their own microclimates, so listening to the garden itself is key in determining when to plant, harvest, and perform other tasks. Get to know your land’s rhythms and quirks by listening with your whole self.

To feel the rhythm of your land, place your hands on the largest tree in the yard, one on either side of the trunk. Feel into the tree and notice what you feel in your hands. You may also see energy or hear it as a rhythm or tone. You may feel two pulses, the spiral going around the tree sunwise and the spiral going between the earth and the tree.

When you get a sense of these rhythms and any other information, move to another plant. Ask the plants and the garden when to plant, prune, and fertilize. After you have checked in with a scattering of plants, you will have a good idea of when and where it will be best to plant, and the special needs of each plant or area.

This article was adapted from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan

All Images were found on Google.com

Working the Soil

In addition to adding compost and other amendments, a gardener needs to fluff up and aerate the soil to make it more porous for water and air. The conventional way to do this is to till the top few layers of soil, but this practice actually strips the rich topsoil and damages microbial populations.

Instead, double digging or simple aeration of the soil by poking it with a pitchfork maintains the soil’s fertility. Adding mulch on top of the carefully worked soil helps keep moisture in and extreme heat away from plants’ roots.

The first year I begin a plot, I usually choose to double-dig the soil if it has been packed down and ignored for years. This method retains natural, living soil levels while aerating and loosening soil much deeper than conventional tilling. It also raises the soil level, giving you a raised bed with greater surface area than a flat plot.

Raised beds help keep the soil warm –useful in areas prone to mold. They also improve drainage and soil consistency. You end up with happier plants, more planting space, and fewer weeds. In arid climates, you may want to build a wall around your raised bed to conserve water by reducing evaporation and to help keep the soil cool. Depending on how you want your garden to look and the space you have to work with, beds can be any shape, including a traditional rectangle, a spiral, or a keyhole shape, round with a path down the middle for access.

To double-dig, you will need a spade; a wheelbarrow or tarp; compost; manure or peat moss; and a pitchfork. Announce to the land a day in advance that you will be disturbing the soil so that microorganisms and worms can prepare. The living creatures of the soil can hear you and will respond to the energy and intention of what you say. Ask the land if double digging is the best course of action; you may be told that you only need to aerate this area by poking the tines of a pitchfork into the soil, which allows in air and water without disturbing soil layers. If the soil agrees that double-digging is the best course of action, then proceed the following day or whenever the land instructs you to do so.

First, determine where you wish to place your garden space, based on available light and water. A ten-foot-wide bed can be harvested easily from either side, so don’t make your bed any wider than that. At one end of the bed, dig a trench one spade deep, one foot wide and as long as your bed. Put the dirt from this trench into your wheelbarrow or onto the tarp.

With the pitchfork, poke down another foot –or as deeply as possible- into the soil to aerate. Do not turn or otherwise disturb the soil. Dig another trench next to the first and lift the soil into the first trench. You can add compost now into each newly filled trench, or you can add it all as a surface treatment sifted into the newly aerated soil at the end.

Keep digging and turning trenched and poking into the undersoil until you reach the end of your bed, and fill the last trench with the soil from the first. If you have not added compost as you go, now spread compost, manure, peatmoss, and other amendments onto the surface of the soil. Using your pitchfork, sift the amendments into the softened soil. Shape your bed and very loosely pat everything down. Move slowly and deliberately, listening to the essence of the soil as you work.

When you finish, invite the earthworms and other allies back into the soil. Let it sit for a few days or weeks before planting –this is a great activity to do early in the spring when you cannot put in seeds but are anxious to get into the garden, or in the fall if you have begun a new bed space.

The following year, simply aerate your bed with a solid, sharp pitchfork. Poke it into the soil of your garden beds as deep as it will go and gently lean back to loosen the soil without disturbing plant roots or soil layers. Pull the fork out and push it in again a few inches away. Repeat throughout your bed, wherever you wish to plant.

Aerate at the end of the growing season, and again in the spring before you plant. This will help prevent compacting without disturbing the natural balance of the living soil. Worms prefer undisturbed soil (because bacteria prefer undisturbed soil with lots of air and organic matter), so aerating without tilling or digging will make your garden a more attractive home to these powerful allies.

Another method for improving soil fertility and consistency each year is to layer seed-free mulch on the soil and around your plants. Mulch includes any organic matter covering the soil to retain moisture and maintain a steady temperature. Heavy mulching with many layers mimics nature’s way of forming soil and provides soil allies with lots of nutrients. Put mulch around seedlings, add mulch throughout the growing season as needed, and heavily mulch the bed in the fall.

You may decide that double-digging is too much work, and instead create a bed by aerating the soil as described above, then constructing a bed entirely out of piled mulch, layering compost and different kinds of mulch until the bed is at least a foot thick. Between each layer of mulch, include a layer of compost. You can plant right in this mix, adding mulch around the base of plants as the layers settle and decompose; this technique is often referred to as “lasagna gardening” because of the layering process.

Cabbage in RowsThe time it takes to double-dig, aerate, or mulch your garden bed provides a marvelous opportunity for a moving meditation. As you dig, lift, turn, and amend the soil, you get to know its essence more deeply. Open your senses as you work, and sink into present awareness. Stay present to your breath, the smells and sounds around you, the consistency of the dirt, and anything else you notice. You may find that your body remembers an ancient dance with the land cultivated by our ancestors thousands of years ago.

You may begin to hear the song of the land more clearly. A garden prepared with consciousness of our relationship with the earth produces plants with greater life-force energy.

This article was taken from Sacred Land by Clea Danaan

All images were found on Google.com