DIY Wind Chime from Elder

Did you know that you can make wind chimes out of elder? Like bamboo, once the pith is removed, the branches are hollow. I first observed this a while back when I harvested elder flowers to make elderflower water. I picked up an elder branch and saw the elder had a soft “wood” in the center. The soft wood is actually called the pith (see curiosities for more), the pith has a styrofoam-like texture that can be removed with a thin metal rod.

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You need:
Hand pruners or hand saw
Cut elderberry of varying sizes
Thin metal rod (a metal clothes hanger works really well) or sharp skewer
Drill
Beading Wire 0.30 mm
Beads
Large branch for holding the chimes
Decorative chain 10 x 10 ft.
Glue
2 plyers
Eye hooks 1-3/8 in

Step 1: Cut an elder branch into different sized pieces (most of mine were around 6-12 inches long). I cut the elder into nineteen separate pieces in total, I wanted it to be big.

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Step 2:  Take a metal rod and push it into the pith of the elder, keep pushing it through until the elder piece is hallowed out. Alternatively, you can take a drill and drill through the elder. Most drill pieces are going to be shorter than the elder tube so you will need to flip the stick over and drill through the other end to get it all the way through.

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Step 3: Using a drill, create a small hole that goes through horizontally through the top of stick.

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Step 4: Cut the beading wire into long strands, thread the strand through the hole in the wind chime tube. Using the beads of your choice thread beads onto each side of the wire. Tie a knot above the beads, it should look like the picture above.

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Step 5: After all the wind chime tubes are threaded and strung, it’s time to start on the base. Go outside and find a fallen branch. Give the ends of the branch a clean cut using a hand saw or alternative.

Step 6: Take the drill and make a hole in the ends of the branch. Then take the eye hooks and screw them into the branch.

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Step 7: I made the hanger for my wind chime using one container of decorative chain (10 x 10 ft.) you will need to create a separate linking of chain for each eye hook and then attach them at the top. I started by attaching the entire chain to one eye hook, I then pulled the chain apart by placing two plyers on each side of the opening and pulling the chain link open. I attached the chain to the eye hook and closed up the opening in the chain using two plyers. After that I gauged the length I wanted my wind chime (I made my first link of chain roughly 16 links long) and removed the chain from the rest of the chain at my decided point (16th chain link). I then repeated this process until I had three chain links attached to the eye hooks, two of my chains were 16 links long and one was 17 links long because I used the 17th hook to attach all three chains together. I used the 17th chain link to hang the wind chime as well as attach the separate chains. *See picture above for reference.

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Step 8: Tie the wind chimes at varying lengths to the base. I found it easiest to attach the chimes while hanging the base at a low spot. The wind chimes should be close enough so when the wind moves them they hit each other.

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Step 9: Now it’s time to add the finishing details! Tie bells to some of the long strands of string hanging off the wind chimes. Cut the extra string you did not tie bells to. Secure the wind chimes by adding a dot of glue to the top of the string where the wind chimes are tied to the base. I also added a very small sepia glass bead to the glue spot to make it prettier. After that, hang your wind chime and you are done!

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The hollow elder branches make a really nice subdued sound that I find very relaxing.

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Image Source

Curiosities


What is inside a elderberry branch?
Bark- protects the elder from exterior harm
Pholem tissue- part of the elder’s plumbing system, it transports photosynthesized food downwards from the leaves or upwards to growing buds or berries.
Cambium cell layer- produces new bark and new wood in response to hormones that pass down through the phloem tissue. These hormones are called auxins they stimulate growth in cells. Auxins are produced by leaf buds at the ends of elder branches as soon as they begin to grow in spring.
Wood- composed of dead cells that conduct water and dissolved salts upward from the roots.
Pith– soft removable core of the elder; stores food and nutrients.

Curiously,
Fauna

 

 

 

 

Elderflower Water, Syrup, and Face wash- Know Your Plants

I don’t know about where you live, but here in Ohio you see Elder blooming along rural roads and farm fields in late spring/early summer. They really are a beautiful sight and their lovely floral smell is carried on the warm breezes.

editttElderflower shrub.

The use of Elder goes way back, Greek physician Hippocrates recommended elder for a wide variety of complaints. Elder has alterative, antiseptic, diuretic, laxative, and anti-inflammatory (see curiosities below for definitions) properties. Elder is commonly used for colds, the flu, sinus infections, boosting your immune system, and other respiratory disturbances.

IMG_2079Elderflower in full bloom. The leaves, sticks, and roots of elder may be poisonous in large quantities; berries are only ingestible when cooked. Be 100% sure you have Elder, it can be confused with poisonous hemlock.

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Elder Flower Water
1 cup fresh elder flower (or 1/2 cup dried)
3 cups boiled water
mason jar
strainer or alternative method

Step one: Remove elder flowers from their stem by rolling them back and forth gently with your fingers. I used a bowl to catch the elderflowers.

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You might meet some little friends while removing the flowers, so make sure you thoroughly pick through the flowers before moving on to the next step. This is a Goldenrod Crab spider, see curiosities below to learn more. Can you find her in the photo below?

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Step two: Place 1 cup elderflowers in a jar. Boil 3 cups water, add to the flowers and let the mixture sit overnight.

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Step three: Strain out the elderflowers and you have elder flower water! The color is not exactly appealing but it does smell pretty 😉

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Elder Flower Face Wash
1 cup elderflower water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Making elderflower face wash is super easy just add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to 1 cup elder flower water. Elder flowers are great for the complexion and can help combat acne. Dab on the face with cotton, no need to rinse but apple cider vinegar can be drying so you might want to follow up with a light moisturizer.

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Elderflower syrup can help bring down a fever since elderflower has diaphoretic properties that can induce sweating.

Elder Flower Syrup
1/2 cup simmered elderflower water
1 cup honey
mason jar

Simmer the 1/2 cup elderflower water for about 5 minutes . After it has simmered add roughly 1 cup honey to the mixture. Cap the mason jar tight and shake. Keep in the refrigerator, the honey should preserve it for a few months. I like to use this syrup by adding a few spoonful’s to hot water when my throat is hurting, adding a few tablespoons of lemon. It’s a real refreshing drink in cold  carbonated water on a really hot day. You can also drizzle the syrup over vanilla ice cream.

Curiosities

Vocabulary-
alterative: enhances nutrition and repairs tissue
anti-inflammatory: reduces inflammation
antiseptic: prevents microbe growth
diaphoretic: induces sweating
diuretic: stimulates urination

Arachnid-
The goldenrod crab spider has a chameleon-like ability to change color to white or yellow depending on the flower they inhabit. The one pictured above matched the elder flowers perfectly, I only spotted her due to movement.

What is the difference between a tree, a bush, and a shrub?

The stems and leaves of a bush almost always touch the ground, a shrub is a little bit taller and its leaves are more elevated, meaning they do not touch the ground. According to the National Park Service, “…trees are over 20 feet tall and have trunks more than 2 inches in diameter at 4.5 feet about the ground. Shrubs are smaller than trees and often have many small, woody, bark covered stems rising from the base.”

Curiously,
Fauna

*Caution, I am not a doctor and don’t pretend to be one. I am 100% sure of the identification of the plants I harvest and research like mad before posting a recipe. Some books say Elderberry leaves, seeds, bark, stems and root are toxic. Only the berries, which must be cooked first, and the blossoms are edible. Use  your best judgement when using plants from the wild. 

Jewelweed Vinegar Remedy

While hiking down a damp woodland trail of dappled light, you come across a patch of plants that are tall, smooth, and a lovely shade of green. It doesn’t look like the poison ivy or stinging nettle growing near by. The plant is jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, a medicinal plant that contains the chemical lawsone, or hennatannic acid, in its leaves and stems that can treat poison ivy, bug bites, grass rash, and sedge cuts.  

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Jewelweed plant, depending on the time of year you can see yellow-orange flowers blooming on the plant. The flowers look a bit like mini snap dragons.

Jewelweed is called such because water droplets bead up on the smooth leaves like little glistening jewels, and when a leaf is placed in water, the underside turns a glorious silver metallic color.

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Making jewelweed vinegar is something we do every spring in my family to treat summer skin aliments.  Making the medicinal tonic is easy!

You Need:
*jewelweed
*apple cider vinegar
*large jar

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Step 1: Harvest fresh jewelweed. Take the jewelweed and tear up the leaves and stems

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Step 2: In a glass mason jar, fill a little over 1/2 the jar with torn jewelweed leaves and stems.

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Step 3: Add apple cider vinegar to the jar, fill until the leaves are covered.

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Step 4: Seal the jar with the lid and let it sit, after 24 hours it can be used in an emergency, but letting it infuse for at least 2-3 weeks is best. It is important to shake the jewelweed infusion daily to prevent mold from forming at the top. After 2-3 weeks, strain out the plant material from the mixture, label, date, and keep in a dark space.

You can apply the “magic elixir” using a cotton ball or by placing the liquid in an ice cube tray and freeze. When needed, take the ice cube and rub onto the infected area. Should you be out in the field and be exposed to poison ivy you can apply it directly from the plant by splitting open the stem of the jewelweed and applying directly to the infected area. Treat area immediately, it can actually keep the nasty rash away if jewelweed is applied right away.

Curiosities- What is an infusion?

Key terms:
Solvent- substance that dissolves a solute
Solute- substance that dissolves into a solute
Suspension- particles of solid material held within a fluid (solvent) that are too large to dissolve in the fluid (solvent).

When you add the jewelweed to the vinegar, you create an infusion. An infusion is the extraction of chemical compounds or flavors from material (the jewelweed) in a solvent (the vinegar). In an infusion, the material (jewelweed) remains suspended in the solvent (vinegar) over time.

Curiously,
Fauna

Bird Cookies

We have TONS of birds and squirrels that eat at our bird feeders year round. Every winter solstice we have a tradition of making bird cookies. Just like decorating Christmas cookies, we decorate bird cookies which are apple and orange slices, slathered with sugar free peanut butter, dried fruits, and seeds. Usually there is a lot extra toppings and seeds from making bird cookies, I like to use leftovers from the bird cookies to make suet feeders. Suet is an excellent source of fat to give birds needed energy during the cold winter months. We hang the bird cookies and suet feeders outside for the winter birds and squirrels, the treats disappear very quickly.

Bird Cookies
*apples
*cranberries
*sunflower seeds
*almonds
*bird seed mix
*dried orange slices and pieces
*peanut butter
*string
*bamboo skewers (you need something to punch a small hole through the apple slices, a pencil could work as well)

Suet Feeders
*metal heart mold or alternative
*string
*vegetable shortening or animal lard
*bird seed mix
*cranberries, almonds, dried orange slices, etc

Bird Cookies

Step 1: To make bird cookies, cut apples into circular slices; chop almonds, cranberries, and oranges into small pieces.

Step 2: Punch small holes into the apples and thread with string.

Step 3: Cover one side of an apple slice in peanut butter. Add toppings of your choice, make special designs such as faces, or just cover in seeds.

Suet Feeders

Step 1: To make suet feeders, lay half a strand of string into the mold, leaving a lop sticking out of the top. Fill the mold with seed and other ingredients of your choice.

Step 2: Melt vegetable shortening into a liquid form using the double broiler method on the stove top (I use a large pyrex measuring cup sitting in a hot bath of water).

Step 3: Place bird mix into the molds then pour vegetable shortening into the mold, fill to the top. Place suet in the freezer and let them sit for 2-3 hours.

Hang the bird cookies and suet feeders outside on trees. Watch and see what birds come to the feeder.

Curiosities- Feeding Birds
*The seeds that attract the greatest number of bird species are black-oil sunflower seeds. Black-oil sunflower seeds are popular with most birds because they have a high meat to shell ratio and are easy to crack open as they have thin shells.
*Peanut butter and suet attract insect eating birds like woodpeckers and nuthatches.
*Thistle seed attracts birds in the finch family such as pine siskins.
*Peanuts and mealworms can be fed to birds, the blue jays in my yard love peanuts.
Why should you feed birds in winter?
Feeding birds in the winter increases their winter survival rate. Feeder fed birds are in better physical condition at the end of winter than those without assess to a bird feeder. Feeding birds can help them survive through tough times in their lives such as after a harsh winter, when they are young adults, or birds living in habitats lacking abundant food sources (source).

Curiously,

Fauna

Pressed Leaf Star Garland

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Quick, Quick, run outside and gather some of those large sycamore leaves off the ground! They make the loveliest pressed stars for stringing!

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You Need:
*large sycamore leaves in various colors
*star cookie cutter
*scissors
*pen (I found that a Sharpie fine tip works the best)
*thread and needle for stringing
*book for pressing

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Steps:

  1. Place the star cutter on a smooth space on the leaf.
  2. Trace the star with a pen.
  3. Cut the star from the leaf carefully.
  4. Press the stars in a heavy book for at least 60 hours to prevent stars from curling.  *Important!*
  5. Thread the stars together with string to make a star garland.
  6. The stars would be very pretty dipped in beeswax as well.

 

Curiosities-

Why do leaves change color? My previous post (link here) explains what happens.

 

Curiously,|
Fauna