How to Make Organic Bunny Treats

I recently discovered a new blog, Winding Road Farm, written by a woman who, along with her fiancée, is working to build a 10-acre farm in Georgia. She posted an article on the care and feeding of bunnies, along with a recipe for bunny food. This reminded me of some homemade bunny treats I purchased at the BUST Holiday Craftacular back in December. Amy Sedaris was there autographing her latest crafty book, and selling people’s homemade crafts. When I mentioned that I had a rabbit (Sedaris is a big rabbit fan), she pointed out a little bag of of “Elliot’s Cilantro Treats,” which she highly recommended.

Even though my rabbit adores these snacks, I still have quite a few left (because they are treats, you can only give one or two to your rabbit per day). But I wanted to try making my own version, just for the fun of it. While doing an internet search on homemade rabbit treats, I came across a recipe posted on Live Journal by Katie, who apparently is the very same person who made the snacks I bought (Katie, it turns out, is also the author of the Amy Sedaris Rocks website).

In the intro to her recipe, Katie explains “It’s a bit time-consuming and makes a big mess, but it’s worth it because it’s so much healthier than treats sold in stores…” I’ve developed a short-cut version that is pretty quick and not very messy. I may try them again in the future with cilantro or parsley.

Here’s what I used:

* 1 cup organic rolled oats, finely ground
* 1/2 cup organic dried alfalfa powder (I bought this from Mountain Rose Herbs)
* 4 ounce jar of baby food organic carrots
* 4 ounce jar of baby food organic banana (I used a banana-apple blend)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Grind the oats in a coffee or spice grinder to make a powder. Place the powdered oats in a bowl, then stir in the alfalfa, carrots and bananas until well-blended. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to allow the dry ingredients to absorb the liquid from the wet ingredients.

The dough should be firm enough to shape into a ball. It looks like something a dung beetle would live in.

Roll the mixture into a ball, then place it between 2 sheets of wax paper. With a rolling pin or large bottle, roll it out to about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick.

Cut out small circles (I used a 1/2″ diameter circle cutter) and place on the lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes (don’t let them get too brown), then turn off the heat and let them sit in the warm oven for at least an hour to allow them to thoroughly dry. (Katie points out that this is a very important step that prevents the treats from growing mold).

NOTE: Since these are treats, please limit them to 1 or 2 per day for your rabbit.

my rabbit is a bit camera shy

but it didn't take her long to get over her self-consciousness and dig into her treat

How to Make Your Own All-Natural Pesticide

This year, we planted a vegetable garden and have been in constant amazement at the miracle of life happening in our back yard. I was so enthralled with my first full-grown snow pea, that I had to take a picture of it to share with you. However, in addition to the life that is our plants, there is other not-as-welcome life: the inevitable garden pests. Critters with teeth have been nibbling and insects have added decorative holes to our greens.

creatures are camouflaged, yet evident, on the leaves of my broccoli

Wanting to keep to our commitment of maintaining a natural garden, we refuse to buy pesticides, and have planted thing like marigolds and hot peppers, which are supposed to deter interlopers. However, it became apparent that we had to take a bit more aggressive action, so I pulled out the neem oil, which I keep in stock for the production of some of my bath and body products. Neem oil is extracted from the tropical neem tree. I had read a while ago that it is a very effective insecticide, miticide and fungicide, and is listed as okay for use in organic production.

According to Plant-care.com, neem oil has the following features:

• Broad spectrum insecticide/fungicide/miticide

• Controls insects and mites including whitefly, aphid and scale

• Controls fungal diseases including black spot, rust, mildew and scab

• For indoor/outdoor use on ornamental plants, flowers, vegetables, trees, shrubs and fruit and nut crops.

Mountain Rose Herbs says that neem biodegrades rapidly in sunlight and within a few weeks in the soil. Neem oil has very low toxicity to humans and pets, but it is not recommended for internal use.

I had also read that rosemary and lavender are effective pesticides, plus they smell better than neem, so I decided to include the in my natural pesticide.

Here is my recipe: Mix 1 gallon of water with 2 tablespoons of neem, and ½ teaspoon each rosemary and lavender essential oils (I used organic version of all the oils). You can also add a couple of tablespoons of phosphate-free liquid dishwashing soap. Mix thoroughly and pour into a spray bottle. Spray over every part of your plants, mixing frequently to keep the oils and water from separating.

By the way, these Sprayco spray bottles, which I buy at my local family-owned hardware store, are made in the US from recycled materials and provide jobs for handicapped individuals.

Lavender Sugar Cookie Recipe

I have had a life-long love affair with herbs. And back before I first started making my herbal bath and body products, I made the journey to Caprilands Herb Farm in Coventry, CT to see the abundant herb gardens, arranged by theme (I recall most vividly the Shakespeare Garden and the Saint’s Garden). I planned my visit to coincide with one of their herbal luncheons, which featured several dishes, all seasoned with herbs. The standout for me was their lavender cookies. It was such a unique idea, and such a lovely flavor.

As I thought about what kind of cookie to bake today, I recalled those wonderful cookies, and decided to try to recreate them. I made them look a bit more festive for the holidays, adding a tint to the icing and sprinkling them with colored sugar. Following is my recipe, which turned out very well, if I do say so myself!

1 stick of organic butter (1/2 cup)
3/4 cup fair trade sugar
1 organic (local, if possible) egg
1 tablespoon organic milk
1 1/4 cups organic, unbleached flour
2 teaspoons organic dried lavender flowers*
1/4 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
a pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar, beating until light. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk, the beat until thoroughly combined.

Mix the flour, lavender flowers, salt, and baking powder together, then add this mix to the butter mixture. Blend well. Drop by teaspoonfuls on cookie sheets covered in parchment, about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges.

You can decorate them with a simple icing.

Pour a 1/2 cup of boiling water over 2 tablespoons of dried lavender flowers. Allow to steep for 10-15 minutes. Strain, then add 4 tablespoons of the liquid to 2 cups of powdered sugar, blending until smooth. Add coloring to tint, if desired, and decorate with colored sugar sprinkles. For the icing, I used India Tree natural vegetable colorants, which, unlike most brands of coloring, do not contain petroleum-based ingredents. And for the sugar sprinkles, I used  Joby & Marty’s Amazing Colored Sugar, which is also colored only with vegetable dye. Both of these are available at Whole Foods.

*You must use culinary grade lavender, so as to avoid any unwanted chemicals. My favorite source is Mountain Rose Herbs, which offers a vast variety of organic and pesticide-free dried herbs.

A Couple of Baby Bath Product Recipes

bathAs promised, here are a couple of baby bath product recipes that you can make in your own home!

Oatmeal Isn’t Just for Breakfast Bath:

Put 1 cup of oatmeal in a blender or food processor, and pulverize until it is a fine powder. Place in a muslin bag, or a square of cheesecloth tied with a string or rubber band. Place in baby’s bath water. This is makes a nice everyday skin-soothing bath.

Homemade Baby Wipes:

2 drops tea tree essential oil*
2 drops lavender essential oil*
2 cups distilled water
1 vitamin E capsule

Mix the essential oils in the water in a spray bottle. Cut open the vitamin E capsule and squeeze the contents into the oil/water mixture. Mix well. To use, simply spritz onto a soft cloth (like these biodegradable unmoistened wipes), and use as you would a commercial wipe. Please note: because there are no preservatives in this mixture, keep refrigerated and use within one week. The tea tree oil and lavender are natural anti-bacterials, but it will not keep forever.

* Use organic essential oils, whenever possible. You can find pure essential oils at Whole Foods, or online at stores like Mountain Rose Herbs. Make sure to never use fragrance oils, only pure essential oils in any products that you make for your baby. Fragrance oils can contain up to 200 different ingredients. Common side-affects can include headaches, dizziness, rash, violent coughing, vomiting, skin irritation.

A Bunch of Rubbish…

zerowasteThe following is a guest post by blogger Julia Guarino

Although I attempt to be green in as many aspects of my life as possible, I have to admit that, despite my efforts to reuse and recycle all that I can, I am completely guilty of producing my share of trash. So many things are disposable, and those sandwich bags are just so convenient…

Convenience, however, does not assuage my guilt, so I was thoroughly impressed when I came across the story of a New Zealand couple, Matthew and Waveney, who spent the year producing no more than one small grocery store bag – just a kilogram each – full of trash. Their website contains their story (in blog form), as well as a “Rubbish-Free Guide” that provides strategies for reducing trash in every room of your home, as well as in many different scenarios such as take-out and parties. They even detail the items in the final trash bag for their readers in their last blog post

The couple managed this impressive feat firstly by choosing not to purchase anything disposable or in disposable packaging, and requesting that family and friends not send or give them anything in disposable packaging. For packaging that couldn’t be avoided, they chose to reuse and recycle as much as possible. Thrift stores also acted as a great resource, as they chose to “rehome” items as an alternative to disposing of them, as well as purchase items second hand in order to avoid packaging. At home, they began to garden, compost, and make items themselves (such as granola bars) that usually come in packaging.

The thing about this incredible story that most struck me, however, is that although the process certainly takes thought and effort, in reality their strategies were neither foreign nor difficult. I believe that the most important step is, as Matthew and Waveney put it, “exercising our consumer power,” and being conscious about the trash we produce through the purchases we make!

Mary’s note: Herban Lifestyle’s favorite supplier, Mountain Rose Herbs, practices Zero Waste as part of their business practice. On their website, they list several of the things they do to achieve this — many are things that individuals can do in their homes to reduce their rubbish. And, to learn more about the implications of our rubbish production, I highly recommend you take a look at the wonderfully presented Story of Stuff!