Does a river spend a lifetime daydreaming of someday becoming a deep ocean? It does not. Its everyday actions move it swiftly forward toward something bigger than itself, and it holds its nose and jumps right in. It starts small. But it’s persistent. And it’s purposeful.
It’s time to be the river. In an age of unprecedented global challenges, NOW is the time to take new things you know and put them to work. Right now. An avalanche of environmental change looms before us and very few people are paying attention. How can one single individual like you make a difference when the Earth’s problems loom so large? Here’s how. You take any information you’ve gathered along the way so far and then share whatever you have with the world.
Who are you? And what can you do? If you are a small-scale French farmer whose Roquefort cheese sales are being threatened by the rise of large agricultural conglomerates, you might be tempted to retaliate by attempting to dismantle a fast food chain with your 3-cylinder International tractor. If you have a remarkable knack for applied physics, finances and computer programming, you may plan to shake up the moribund US auto industry and dramatically curb CO2 emissions. If you are a clumsy lab tech who has just unearthed a small pebble providing you with Captain Marvel-ish godlike skills, you may be inclined to use your enhanced metabolic powers to generate a force field around the Earth’s natural resources. But if you are you, and you are reading this blog, you may be wondering just how to spread your own ideas.
Scatter some seeds. Improve the world with your actions. Just a tiny input from you is enough to get started, and things will gather momentum. Ideas and behaviors spread rapidly through a crowd like contagious laughter. Doing one or two small things can spark a radical movement. Start a positive epidemic of your own.
For a few years now, I’ve been scattering seeds—real native perennial wildflower seeds—all the way from New England to Texas. These seeds are nestled within compacted soil, clay, and recycled paper. Tiny steady hands and wobbly weatherworn hands—the hands of dear friends and strangers—roll them up, dry them, and throw them “grenade-style” into abandoned lots and barren backyards.
Some people are born magicians, hatching artful diversions while we watch—the bullet catch, the cabinet escape, the elastic lady, seamless 5-ball cascade juggling—dazed with mouths agape. Amazed. Oooo!
Over time, these little magical meatballs break down and (Abracadabra!) transform neglected land into green space. Eventually, plants sprout up in place of dirt, weeds and invasive species.
Guerilla gardening with seedbombs—clandestine small-scale planting attacks—is more than just planting. It’s putting green where it’s not expected—it’s putting something common in an unusual place or something uncommon in a usual place—it’s surprising people and making them re-evaluate their position in the natural world. Guerilla gardening is my way of spreading seeds—starting a positive epidemic of my own.
Now get out there and scatter some seeds of your own.
I’ve been receiving sweet thoughtful notes and photos lately—sent by folks inspired by my BOOK. Thank you. Thank you for keeping me going. It’s been a busy few months and I LOVE hearing from you. Keep sending me photos of your finished book projects. The first 20 folks I hear from will receive a little something special in the mail in return. You can reach me right here: marcie at mossymossy dot com
I’ve been doing little bit of book touring lately—sort of like me and zillions of folks hanging out tinkering with stuff outside and getting our hands good and dirty. So many amazing things have happened over the course of these two months, I never got around to telling you about them, maybe because it’s all been so surreal. Most recently, I ventured HERE and HERE, and next week I’ll be HERE and HERE. I am not scary at all and would really love to get to know you. If you’re nearby, please swing by and say hello. Proof of my amiability RIGHT HERE from the perspective of some new friends.
So, you remember the GIVEAWAY for Ashley English’s newly-released “Handmade Gatherings” book? (To recap: everyone who registered for my NEWSLETTER by June 1st was automatically entered.) Well, now there is a WINNER! Ashley’s outstanding book will go home with (drumroll please!) Mossy reader POLLY! Congratulations Polly! Here’s to a summer chock-full-o’ reading, cooking, baking, and making!
Thanks to the hundreds of others who’ve signed up for my Mossy Monthly newsletter! There will be more free fun stuff just about every month, so if you missed the June 1st deadline, don’t worry! It’s never too late. There are more amazing opportunities on the trail ahead. Just sign up RIGHT HERE. And, for those Mossy Platinum Members who have been eagerly thumbing through my book earmarking eye-popping earth-inspired projects, HURRY UP! Get started tinkering with stuff tout de suite, because NEXT WEEK I’ll announce a special deal just for YOU. Yes, YOU.
Since a home is normally filled with prized possessions—cute smallish snuggly things—it makes sense to keep it nice and tidy and safe. Homes of birds are no exception. Bird nests are marvels of architecture—built with specific materials and meticulously maintained. Even a relatively simple nest is often elegantly constructed. A yellow warbler’s may have coarse twigs at the base, finer plant fibers and grasses intertwined with weeds and plant stems inside the open cup, and plant down and wool within the inner lining. A more intricate nest, such as that of the Baltimore oriole, may require actual plant fiber weaving or knot-tying to secure materials. Yes. Knot-tying.
Nest-building materials are species-specific—mud, silk, feathers, milkweed and cattail fluff, deer hair, lichen, spider silk, moss, twigs, leaves, petioles, roots, stones, flowers, seeds, ferns—each is carefully selected for unique nest-building tasks. For example, the great crested flycatcher often adds a piece of shed snakeskin to the nest to help deter predators or other intruders. Many species like hummingbirds use spider webs in their nests to make them pliable enough to expand as the nestlings grow within. Most birds are opportunistic builders, though, and will gladly integrate other items of similar size and texture into their nests.
Being a bird requires lots of work. Audubon’s unprecedented analysis of 40 years of bird population data reveals alarming declines for many of our most beloved birds. Since 1970, the population of some bird species has nose-dived as much as 80 percent. And so it’s vital to help out a backyard buddy or two as much as possible.
May is the perfect time to supply a safe spot for a nest—and a birdhouse gourd provides an ideal spot. If you are lucky enough to have grown birdhouse gourds in your garden last year, you have a garage full of dried gourds. If not, you can easily purchase an inexpensive one online right HERE. Below are instructions for how to make a simple birdhouse gourd. More projects just like this one can be found in my newly-released book. Get your hands on a copy right HERE.
THE BIRDHOUSE GOURD
Step 1. Gather all materials outside and lay down several layers of newspaper as a work surface. Put on a dust mask. Use warm water and a wire brush or steel wool to remove any surface mold. Be gentle but firm. Clean off any residue with a moist paper towel. Air-dry overnight.
Step 2. Fold each sandpaper sheet into quarters. Use progressively finer grit sandpaper to get a smooth finish—coarse, then medium, then fine grit. Don’t attempt to remove every spot, just sand until the gourd surface is smooth.
Step 3. The size of the entrance will determine the inhabitant, so first determine the common birds in your backyard, and then consider potential tenants. Do some research on what size entrance hole your potential new neighbor would require. Wearing protective goggles, carefully carve a hole into the main cavity (slightly above the center of the gourd) with a drill and expansion bit. Position the entrance hole high enough to allow space for a roomy nest. And remember this: birds do not care if holes are perfectly round. They don’t.
Step 4. Remove the dried interior fiber and most of the seeds from the gourd, but be sure to leave a few seeds inside to attract potential boarders. Save extras in a labeled envelope for spring planting.
Step 5. Smooth out the rough edges of the entrance hole with coarse, medium, and then fine grit sandpaper.
Step 6. To reduce the risk of late-season mold, drill three ¼ inch drainage holes in the bottom of the gourd. Also, drill two ¼ inch holes on opposite sides near the gourd’s top for hanging.
Step 7. Buff the gourd with an old wool sweater scrap.
Step 9. Let the gourd dry for several hours and buff it lightly with a dry rag.
Step 10. If desired, apply polyurethane to preserve the gourd. Use a paintbrush to apply an even coat. Let dry overnight.
Step 11. Feed cord or twine through the top holes—an old coat hanger helps push flexible cord through. Tie the ends of the cord together.
Step 12. In early April, hang your gourd home for backyard friends.
If you are lucky to see some birdhouse activity this spring or summer, watch from afar until several days after nest building concludes. To avoid nest abandonment, make a very brief nest inspection. Wait for the adults to leave, quietly approach the birdhouse, and take a peek inside. Make a quick observation of how many eggs or young are visible. Inspect the nest weekly to observe any changes, but do not go near the nest if the young are older. They may prematurely leap out of the nest and not return. In late fall, remove the existing nesting material and place the birdhouse in a safe place to dry for the winter. The gourd may require sprucing up after a few seasons—sanding, dying and polishing—but it should last for several years.
Cavity-nesting birds come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from piliated woodpeckers and hooded mergansers to pygmy nuthatches, so it makes sense that different entrance hole diameters accommodate different bird species. Just a fraction of an inch smaller or larger invites unwanted guests inside like house sparrows or European starlings—both are aggressive exotic species that often outcompete native species.
As well, different habitats attract different bird species. For instance, since bluebirds prefer open field-like habitats, a “bluebird” house placed in a heavily wooded area is more likely to be used by a chickadee, titmouse. or flying squirrel. And any birdhouse mounted on a building will most likely be occupied by a house sparrow.
Do some research, observe the bird you’d like to attract and try to recreate the environment. Place your birdhouse in the correct habitat for the species you’d like to benefit. Like a prime piece of real estate, the success of your birdhouse depends upon the planning and thought you put into it.
A simple gift like a birdhouse gourd provides a silent strength to both the recipient and the gift-giver. You will soon find yourself looking for other ways to give. Do this: liberate your manicured living space—reduce the size of your lawn, leave some wild, untamed areas for shelter, plant native species, offer fresh water and nesting materials. “Give” to a small critter or two. Close the ecological gap between supply and demand. Your everyday careful, deliberate actions, no matter how small, will make a difference.
Give creatively. Do more with less. Whatever your circumstances, time, or skills, you can have a positive influence on the world around you. The trick is to know what you can do and be willing to do it. Everyone has something to offer.
And, speaking of offers…. I have something to offer YOU. Don’t miss out on your chance to win a FREE copy of Ashley English’s newly-released “Handmade Gatherings”–check out my superamazing offer right HERE.
And so, to become even BETTER friends with you (Yes! It’s possible!), I’ve started writing a Mossy Monthly newsletter. Why should you subscribe? Here’s why: Because you’ll get detailed step-by-step instructions for hands-on earthy projects that you won’t see here on my blog. You’ll get announcements that you won’t ever want to miss, special offers and other generally neat stuff.
And… if you sign up for my NEWSLETTER before June 1st, you’ll be automatically entered to win a FREE COPY of Ashley English’s newly released beautiful book, HANDMADE GATHERINGS. This book is chock full of practical, creative and fun ideas for seasonal collaborative get-togethers. It is a wonderfully written book filled with fantastic photos and recipes for rhubarb buttermilk bread and quick pickled ramps and chocolate cherry hand pies and homemade root beer, and also tips for entertaining goodness like throwing cakewalks and making mulling spice sachets and homemade candles. And it can be YOURS.
I honestly don’t know how Ashley has time for everything she does, since, in addition to being a mom and writing her heart-stirring blog Small Measure, Ashley has also written THIS delicious book as well as an entire book series including THIS ONE (which I hope to someday have a need for)—all highlighting a mind-blowing mishmash of topics related to small-scale homesteading and environmentally sensible endeavors. Check out her blog where she chronicles her homesteading adventures including bee- and chicken-keeping, canning and preserving, and parenting small people in remote western North Carolina. From basic pie dough to cardamom apple butter, late-summer pickles, goat cheese basil frittata, homemade sunburn soothers and wildflower risotto—Ashley provides all the practical, hold-your-hand basics of the important smallish things in life.
And so, what are you waiting for? Click HERE to subscribe to my Mossy Monthly newsletter.
And tell me IN THE COMMENTS BELOW that you’ve done so. Why? Well, because I love hearing from you.
You will not be disappointed. I promise.
One winner will be chosen at random and must live in the U.S.
And, don’t worry! If you’ve a real planner and happened to sign up for MY NEWSLETTER yesterday, or the day before, or last week or anytime before that, you’re automatically entered in the GIVEAWAY. Yay YOU! I’ve done it for you!
Here’s the link again just in case you missed it: AMAZING NEWSLETTER
And, in the meantime, meet me HERE in Brooklyn this weekend for seedbomb-making and a tour of the Java Street Community Garden. Fun fun!
It’s been a wild few weeks filled with school plays and concerts, family hikes, runny noses, and book-y events—making seedbombs with lots of smallish people HERE, and deconstructing sweaters and transforming them into funky felted flowers HERE and HERE. The highlight of these past few weeks, though, was a weekend getaway to Austin, TX, where, along with my trusty
old familiar friend Arrington and new supercool friend Lee, I was part of the AUSTIN MAKER FAIRE—a one-day family-friendly event to MAKE, build, hack, learn, sew, write, see, swap, connect, play, invent, think and be inspired. My Austin friend Bernadette was the mastermind behind the crafty part of it all—and we made hundreds of seedbombs out of recycled egg crates and native Texas wildflower seeds generously donated by THIS NICE PLACE.
To my surprise, my book has been mentioned HERE, HERE and on my all-time favorite blog Dinner A Love Story, and I’m sorry I haven’t gotten around to telling you about this because so many neat things have happened lately and its all been so surreal to me that it hasn’t seemed at all appropriate for smallish blog post snippets.
Mark your calendars Brooklynites! I’ll be in Greenpoint this weekend at WORD—on Sunday, May18th. Meet me between the stacks at 11 a.m. We’ll get our hands dirty making seedbombs, talk about book-y things, and then stroll down to Java Street Community Garden for a guided tour.
Join me! Together, we’ll plan clandestine small-scale planting attacks on neglected neighborhood space. We’ll scatter seedbomb seeds and talk about improving the world through positive creative action. Bring you ideas! There’s room for you–whether you’re a sneaky gardener, drive-by knitter, nameless needleworker, or clandestine quilter. Symbolic gestures can be powerful and effective methods for change. Let’s talk about it all at WORD on Sunday while we get our hands good and dirty.
Meet me there.
This past January, deep in the mountains of central Maine, a dear friend of mine suddenly passed away. I am not telling you this to make you sad, I am telling you this because I need you to understand her amazingness. She was like a slice of blue ribbon sour cherry pie—magical and tangy and bold and not fussy at all—and there was never enough of her to go around. She left behind friends, parents, siblings, a sweet husband, a small baby girl, and a school full of eager preschool children.
I met Sam in the fall of 1996. There were roughly a dozen of us working and living together as teachers. I was lucky enough to be chosen as her roommate. Our small wood cabin had twin beds inside separated by a night table, and a guitar in one corner. It was surrounded by woods and ponds and spirited packs of school kids during the day, and stars and owls at night. Sam was possibly the youngest of our bunch, but she quickly established herself as a capable leader and all around rabble-rouser. She oversaw all sorts of social events—extensive scavenger hunts, costumed skits, fireside sing-a-longs—among all of us there were massive week-long games of deception in which personal items were publicly kidnapped and then peculiarly discovered high upon inaccessible rooftops or deep within damp commercial dishwashers. We had fun. We stayed up late. We sang. We laughed. Sam was a natural teacher. She memorized all the lines of The Lorax, collected microscopic critters from pond muck, led wild night hikes in search of Barred owls, and soulfully sang Teach Your Children Well at the week’s end to tearful kids.
Sam loved all that the Earth offered, in every season—spring birdsong, summer rain, fall colors, crisp winter air—its stillness and silence. She approached the world as scientist, teacher, and friend. She celebrated wildness, and she was eager to share her wild love. Sam traveled through the world thoughtfully and intentionally. She moved with all of herself. She put her heart into everything she did. She served as a compass for many.
This past January, a few days after Sam was gone, we started a public page as a tribute to her—Spread Some SamShine—a deep-rooted circle of support to put some Light back into the world. The page swiftly grew from a few close friends to several thousand people doing random acts of kindness for others worldwide—an enthusiastic smile, a compliment, a shared snack, a potted plant—as a celebration of Sam’s life. In the midst of it all, some friends bought handfuls of my books and placed them in good hands—libraries, schools and families—in Sam’s name. With each simple random act of kindness like this, Sam’s extraordinary story was shared. And now it is spring. And here we are. Still helping each other move through these days with love.
Death is a mystery. It is horribly heartbreaking, filled with sleepless nights and unanswerable questions. But death it is also refreshingly truthful. It makes you think about your place in the world.
And that is where I am right now.
And so, what if each one of us celebrates Sam’s life, or someone else’s life, in a powerful way like this? What if we create a precious Shine in which we can see a reflection of ourselves, and also a person we’ve lost? What if each of us travels through the world thoughtfully and intentionally—in appreciation, connection and joy—and spreads some SamShine along the way?
I hope you will take a moment on this fine spring day to love deeply and to quietly spread some SamShine. Leave a note below to let me know. It can be as simple as a hug or a kind word or a lunchbox note. Really anything will do.
Photos courtesy of my kind friend Jasena.
It’s a stunning Earth Day here in New York! Today my book is visiting Here, There and Everywhere where Claudia Heitler is giving away not one but TWO signed copies of “This Book Was a Tree!” Politics, economics, health, science—HTE is the place to go for global news for kids—spanning diverse fields and subjects, HTE addresses current issues in bite-sized pieces for smallish people. Check out Claudia’s site HERE where you’ll find her take on making seed bombs (and enter the GIVEAWAY!).
Tonight I’ll celebrate Earth Day HERE. I would love to see you, but if you are far far away, please celebrate in your own special way. And remember this: Each day, what you do matters. A big ruckus can be generated from a simple purposeful act—a little thing, like scattering small seeds—made by someone just like you. An idea or behavior can move through the world like tow tapping at a scat-singing convention, starting with just a few pit-a-pats of an idea, and spreading rapidly out of control. Each of us is capable of thoughtful direct actions, and we usually greatly underestimate our abilities. We all have something to say. We all have feet to move. We all can give something of ourselves. We all have seeds to scatter. That’s how great rolling prairies of ideas are grown.
Today, because it’s a dreary April day in New York and we don’t have enough warm cozy thoughts already circling our heads, we’re going to talk about the fact that my book is visiting Lisa Jordan right this very minute. Today is the opposite of dreary in every way because: felted stones. Because: hand-dyed thread. Because: intricate stitching covering wool cocoons. Because Lisa Jordan gathers materials like acorns and stones and sticks along open shorelines and deep walks in her Minnesota woods, wraps them in a earthy palate of local hand-dyed wool, felts them, and then embroiders them into rich, tranquil nature-inspired scenes. Her blog Lil Fish Studios chronicles her work that is deeply influenced by the tiny overlooked details of nature—odd lumpy bits of moss, the colors of mushrooms, the texture of bark and leaves and stone. All the while stitching on stones, she raises four kids and hatches guinea hens and ducks and chickens in central Minnesota. Check out her blog where you’ll find detailed tutorials for felting stones, building small birch bark canoes, making acorn mushrooms, and sewing pocketed placemats. You can find Lisa’s wool acorns, embellished felted stones, mini landscaped brooches, tiny necklaces, and wearable hand carved vases in her online SHOP and also at Art-o-Mats scattered throughout the United States. And read her take on my book right HERE.
Warm, cozy felted stone photo courtesy of Lisa Jordan at Lil Fish Studio.