The Birthday Ring Tradition

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The birthday ring stems from a lovely German birthday tradition called geburtstagskranz, which is also popular in Waldorf schools and Waldorf homeschooling families. This is a fairly new tradition for my family, as we only learned about it and adopted it after beginning our Waldorf inspired homeschool journey. I think it’s a lovely birthday tradition, and maybe our children will grow up and carry on this tradition if they have families of their own someday. I like that this small ceremony adds reflection and intention to the birthday celebration. In this world of mindless consumerism, it’s good to mindfully add meaning when we can.

There are endless options on how to set up your child’s birthday ring, so there’s not really a right or wrong way to do it. The idea is to reflect on the child’s life each year, and celebrate them, which is usually done by decorating the birthday ring with ornamental representations of memories from each year, or even representations of the child’s interests and personality. You can also add candles to the birthday ring. Some people keep a special “life candle” that is gifted to the child as an infant, and that candle is lit in the center of the ring each year. You can add toys, figurines, treats, or even nothing to the center of the ring. Set up your child’s birthday ring in whatever way calls to you. If it brings joy and a celebration of the child’s life, you’re doing it right.

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OUR METHOD

The artist and I decided that it would be special to gift our daughter a new ornament for her birthday ring each year. As the years go by, each ornament will represent a year of her life and something special about that year to remember. Since she’s still very young, we will also have room to include a beeswax candle for each year for a while. A special addition that many children love is wearing a birthday crown. You can make one from felt or fabric, or even buy one from one of the many crafters on Etsy.

We gifted the annual ornament to our daughter on the morning of her birthday, where we had the birthday ring set up. Each candle was added to the birthday ring with reflection on each year they represent. We said, “On Wildflower’s first year, she learned to walk.” And then added the first candle to the ring. “On Wildflower’s second year, she learned to talk.” Then added the second candle to the ring. And so on. With each year, we name special milestones or memories.

Next, we sang a fun birthday song that is simple and easy so children can sing along, too. (Credit for this song goes to Earthschooling.com)

The earth goes round the sun
The earth goes round the sun
The earth goes round the sun and (child’s name) is one! (*light first candle*)

The earth goes round the sun
The earth goes round the sun
The earth goes round the sun and (child’s name) is two! (*light second candle*)

Do this for each year, and then let the child blow out her/his candles to applause!

If you’re looking for something simple to add more meaning and memories to your child’s special day, I hope you can find some inspiration in these ideas and create your own family tradition. Enjoy!

Why I Like Herbs More Than Essential Oils

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SUSTAINABILITY

It requires over 2 lbs. of peppermint leaves to produce just 1 oz. of peppermint essential oil, and that is on the modest end of it. Some sources say that it requires many more pounds than that. You can make a cup of peppermint tea with 2 teaspoons of peppermint leaves, or a whole jar of peppermint infused oil or a peppermint tincture with something in the neighborhood of 1 oz. of peppermint leaves. Why take more from the earth than we need?

AVAILABILITY

Susun Weed always says, “Herbal medicine is the people’s medicine.” I could not agree more. One of the best things we can all do for the earth, our health, and our budgets is to learn about the plants we have growing around us and use what we have available. You likely have free food and medicine growing in your own back yard, and if you don’t, you may be able to grow some of your own. Herbal preparations are easy to make with simple things most people already have in their kitchens. Essential oils require a whole lot of plant material and steam distillation equipment, which most people do not have access to.

SYNERGY

Essential oils do not contain whole plant synergy. They contain only the volatile oils that are light enough to be extracted via steam distillation. Some heavier molecules are left behind, so what you end up with is a bottle of isolated and highly concentrated plant constituents. We could argue that this makes essential oils more closely related to drugs than herbs. After all, 25% of pharmaceuticals are derived from plant materials, and contain highly concentrated and isolated compounds (plus synthetics). Herbs are different. With herbs, the whole plant synergy remains intact so the various constituents can work together the way they are meant to. Here’s one interesting example of scientific findings to support the use of whole plant synergy over isolated compounds.

SAFETY

Since essential oils are highly concentrated and more like drugs than herbs, they are not metabolized in our bodies with the same efficiency as herbs. Herbs are more closely related to food than drugs (and most of them actually are food). While there are safety considerations with herbs, generally speaking, our bodies recognize the plants as food and know what to do with them. Essential oils, on the other hand, are responsible for many adverse effects, including liver damage, because they are not recognized the same way the plant would be if it were intact as an herb. It takes more work for the body to filter essential oils, so I often prefer the gentleness of herbs. Here is just one example of someone nearly dying from ingestion of peppermint oil. Peppermint tea would never do that to us!

With all that being said, I do not wish to demonize essential oils. They certainly can be useful, and I own many of them and use them when called for. Herbs just happen to be my go to for most things for the reasons listed above. The adverse reactions people have had from essential oils are due to using them in an unsafe manner. It’s important to know how to use anything safely, even herbs. With essential oils becoming popular, largely due to multi-level marketing companies with independent sales people, many people are using them and doing so unsafely. My advice to anyone using essential oils is to do your own research from reputable sources, recognize marketing scams when you see them, and understand that people selling essential oils in an MLM company are not required to have any training whatsoever, so take their recommendations with a grain of salt. As always, listen to your body and do what feels right for you and your situation. And for the love of health, sustainability, and budget, learn a little about herbs!

Wild Violets

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One of my favorite cool weather blooming herbs is the wild violet, which is one of the earliest signs of spring’s arrival. It’s usually found in shady spots, such as under trees or alongside buildings and fences. Many people view this gorgeous flower as a pesky weed, and they work hard to eradicate it from their lawns. The way I see it, when a weed becomes useful, it’s an herb. That’s right, not only is this little flower great for pollinators and pretty to look at, but violet leaves and flowers are also edible and medicinal.

Abundant in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and magnesium, violets are a perfect spring food. You can put the leaves and/or the flowers in a raw salad, but the greens also work well as a cooked green in soups and other dishes. Many people enjoy making sweet treats like candied violets, violet jelly, and violet syrup from the flowers. Violets also make great natural decorations for cakes. Every time we harvest enough violets to make treats, our little Wildflower usually eats most of them by the time we get them in the house! I guess that’s a good problem to have.

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There are many different species of violets. The ones pictured here are common blue violets (Viola sororia). The heart shaped leaves in the picture are the violet leaves.

For those who care to learn a little about herbal energetics, violets are cooling and wet, which means they are often called upon for medicinal use when there is a hot and/or dry condition (e.g. Irritating skin rashes, dry and inflamed respiratory ailments). They can be made into poultices, teas, long infusions, infused oils, salves, and extracts, and are also a great herb to include in yoni steams. Don’t know what half of those things are? Don’t worry, we can cover some of that at a later time.

Violets are an ingredient in my favorite homemade herbal salve, which I will post more about after they’ve infused with other herbs in some oil for a few weeks. You won’t want to miss that recipe!

(If you want to make the herbal salve when I post the recipe, now is a good time to harvest some violets (leaves or flowers, or both. Whatever works for you.) and let them air dry in a place out of direct sunlight. Once they are dried, you can store them in a jar or any container you have available.)