Thursday, October 29, 2009

An interview!

Greetings! We are BirchLeaf Designs - a small family of folks near the Yellow Dog River in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We live off the grid...making handcrafted, natural playthings that inspire imaginations using wood, silk and felted wool. We live, work, homeschool, create, love and play nestled amongst the Hemlocks.

We like to reclaim wood and other pieces parts to make quality playthings for children. We are known to use recycled/upcycled materials like cereal boxes for the flower presses or wood cut offs from other projects; materials found in nature (like birchbark or acorn tops); and during a dying session, we use nontoxic dyes and keep water use to a minimum...with no "running" water, every drop counts!

We currently sell natural, whimsical wood and fabric playthings (like teething rings, bug boxes, flower presses, swords, playsilks and playclips to name a few). Our most popular items include our playsilks, swords, and bugboxes.

We are always looking for ways to improve our products! Comments and suggestions are welcomed! We also do custom there a product that you would like to see us make? We are open to ideas and challenges!

We work to live the grid, solar power, solar water pump, wood heat, bees (!) and in return for our work, we get to enjoy those simple gifts...maple syrup, honey, nature...sweet love, sweet life!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Climate Change ACTION Day - October 24, 2009! Do your part so we don't have to depart.

We just attended a conference called the Great Lakes Bioneers Conference. Wow! is what we have to say about it! It was so amazing to get together with a bunch of loving, caring folks. A meeting of the minds, a place to gather to ready ourselves to get down to business and do something about our current state of affairs. We are all fired up!

One major issue is that of Climate Change. This issue is so important because if we continue doing what we do without changing how we do things...we will all become extinct! Yes, folks, EXTINCT, like the dinosaurs. We need to reduce our CO2 emissions in our atmosphere to below 350ppm (parts per million)

So what are we waiting for? Let's do something about it! Here is one day that you will for sure want to mark on your calendar:

October 24 is the Global Day of Climate Change! We need to change how we do things NOW or we will not be here to fix the damage. For more information and ways to get involved please, please visit

*FREE SONGS* by great musicians to help you "Get Down with 350!"

Monday, August 31, 2009

CPSC *loves* Mattel...this makes me ill.

The foxes are guarding the hen house! Please read the latest going ons with the CPSC and Mattel...

Rick Woldenberg, Chairman of Learning Resources Inc put it so nicely on his blog:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Incredible Community that Cares

I have tears streaming from my eyes...tears of sadness for a mother who passed after childbirth and tears of joy for a babe who has many "mothers" now in the community, breastfeeding and loving him.

Here is an article about the Goodrich Family and the community of nursing mothers:

Here is a link to a project created by Ina May Gaskin...a project to honor all mothers who have died from childbirth. It's called the "Safe Motherhood Quilt Project"

Here also, is a link to a blog post for Susan's quilt square:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

BeeKeeping 101

Bees and Honey and all things Sweet...May 3rd, we got our bees! We had ordered a "nuc" colony, which contains 5 frames of bees, brood, stores of honey and pollen and most importantly a queen...

Beekeeping lesson is safer than you think to travel in an enclosed vehicle with a box of approximately 10,500 bees! We chose to take the "back" way home from where we had to pick up the bees. This is a wonderful drive up a dirt logging highway, through some of the most awesome country, in this part of the world. We had to stop and pickup Kiah at the house of a friend, who is a wood fire potter. This all made for about 2 hours of drive time mostly on bumpy, narrow logging roads. Indeed our favorite kind of Sunday drive. Only 3 or 4 bees escaped from their closed box, and they stayed pretty close to the buzz and smell of the nuc box. The bees in the nuc were itchin' to get out of that box sounded like rain in there! We brought them home, took them up to the bee yard and opened the door on the box so thet could get out. They flew rather frantic like for several minutes them re-entered the nuc and settled for the evening.

Bees are Awesome! Pictured here is some of the equipment used to house a colony of bees...Deep super, wax frames, sugar water, pail for feeding , an inner cover and top cover.

Monday afternoon, when it warmed up, we put them in their new hive body, being careful to keep them in the same order, to keep them from being disoriented. We added five new frames, for a total of 10, so they should have a bit more room. In this photo, one frame is in the new box or "super", and the second frame is being removed from the nuc. This frame contained the queen (always a happy thing to find your queen).

This is a smoker. Milo and Mojo experimented and found that the stuff that comes with the smoker smells kinda bad. Then they proceeded to try different birch bark with pine needles, pinecones, sawdust, and found the best stuff to use was wood shavings from the workshop...cherry wood shavings.

We didn't use the smoker...but we had it ready just in case. To distract the bees, we sprayed the bees with sugar water and they spent a whole lot of time licking the yummy, sweet water off their bodies. They didn't mind us being there a bit. Apparently, the smoke causes the bees to panic and so they immediately go grab their stores of honey. Spraying with sugar water is a much gentler way to distract...we shall see what Autumn brings, the bees tend to get a little more aggressive and protective toward their honey stores in the Fall.

Kiahzzzz entry (age 8):

"Bees are so fun. I love to watch them. I know they will not hurt me as long as I'm calm."

Milozzzz entry (age 5):

"My best thing about the bees are watching them getting pollen. I love the bees' fort. Bees knees. The End."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth Day Sales - Natural Kids Team

Those NattyKids have done it again! Many members of Etsy's Natural Kids Team are having Earth Day sales in their shoppes...There are lots of discounts and/or free shipping offers. To see a list of participating members and what they are offering for Earth Day, please visit the Natural Kids Blog

Friday, April 17, 2009

Natural Kids Giveaway Round #2

Etsy's Natural Kids Team is having a super huge giveaway! There will be many chances to win - for details, please visit Woolies blog . Woolies is a Natural Kids Team Member and is so sweet to be hosting the giveaway! And as I have mentioned before, I am honored to be a part of the NaturalKids Team! They are truly an amazing group of folks and it shows right through in the quality of the children's things they make.The giveaway has already started, so high tail it over there, you have until April 29th to enter the 2nd round! The entry for BirchLeaf Designs is happening right now! The 2nd round will last for two weeks, then there will be a new round of NaturalKids shoppes!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Natural Kids Giveaway! It just keeps giving...and giving...and giving!

Hop right over to my friend Woolies blog and say peep! Woolies is hosting a spectacular giveaway with Etsy's NaturalKids Team. I am honored to be a part of the NaturalKids Team! They are truly an amazing group of folks and it shows right through in the quality of the children's things they make.

The giveaway has already started, so high tail it over there, you have until April 14th to enter the 1st round!

The entry for BirchLeaf Designs is coming up on April 15, 2009 - this is the 2nd round - the givewaway will last for two weeks, then there will be a new round of NaturalKids shoppes! Here is a sneak peek of what we will be giving away...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Let the Flow Begin!

Maple Sap flow, that is...

Our family tapped 50 maple trees this year and are now awaiting the warm days and coldie nights of March.

We will check our buckets daily and dump the delicious sap into storage containers. When we get enough sap stored, we will pour it into the sap be boiled down into yummy, yummy maple syrup. We are hoping to make enough syrup to last us the year and to give away as gifts. Kiah (age 8) and Milo (age 5) are taking notes on which trees run the best!

If you have a maple tree in your yard, or near you that you can tap, I highly recommend it ! Even if you do not plan on making syrup, the sap alone is wonderful to make tea or coffee or to just drink. If you do tap, be sure to do your research and also offer up a blessing or thank you to the tree in return for it's delicious sap.

Our sugar bush loop is great for skiing or just could get "lost" in there for hours!

My neighbor Jen and I like to do what we call "Tai Skiing" - this is were one of us leads the other, no talking...just listening to the sounds of nature and trying our best to quiet our minds. We may ski fast or slow, do a little ballet skiing, or whatever tickles our fancy! Then, when we come to a place that calls the leader to stop, the leader takes a few moments to lead a particular stretch, or deep breathing, or a series of movements, or just stops and listens. After our little session, the other person leads the next section of the trail.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hush little baby, don't you cry, mama's gonna hold you by and by

Attachment Parenting! Yay for Attachment Parenting! I was browsing through 1000Markets and stumbled upon some little lovies for your new babe.

Whether you are loungin' around the house or out in the community, baby wearing is so cool! Wear your baby with this great ring sling from Lil Peepers Keepers I wore my babies until they were 4 and until my shoulders couldn't bear it any longer! But, boy, do I have some sweet mama muscles now!

Out on the Town? Be sure to dress your little one in an adorable outfit from One Girl Circus and don't forget a hat to keep her noodle warm from The Yarn Chick

Teething monster in the house? Be sure to check out these little wooden teething rings from our shoppe can even add a little essential oil of Clove or Lavendar to liven up the experience! Tie one on to your sling ring!

Feeding time? Here is a bundle of "Eat Your Veggies" bibs from Kunkle Baby and don't forget the wee little wooden spoon from our shoppe!

Whew! What a day! Now it must be Nap time!? Be sure to snuggle your baby in this sweet little Noonie from LaLa's Pequinos and lull her to sleep with a colorful, flying angel mobile from FlyingZoo Then, you can either A. take a nap with her or B. write down every little detail about her with this cute journal from This Is It and arrange all the sweet photos in this photo album keepsake from DaisyBlu

Saturday, January 31, 2009

This just in...

CPSC Grants One Year Stay of Testing and Certification Requirements for Certain Products.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloggers Unite! Take Action on the CPSIA!

Protect Children 12 and under from the CPSIA!

Reprinted with permission from Etsy shoppe owners ChiChiBoulie and WinklePots (with a few minor changes and additions) . . . Thank you!

As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it. The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on February 10, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too. How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students: Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under the age of 12.

To the Avid Reader: Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Here's an article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade: Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist: Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper: Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur: Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector: Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”

To the American Economy: Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy: Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses. If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law

Did you even know about this? If this upsets or alarms you, please react NOW!

Online Petitions, Folks to Contact, and Interesting Articles are listed on these sites:
Sign the Online Petition:

We voted for Change on this issue and made the 2nd round of voting! Please read more here:

The Handmade Toy Alliance has provided a sample letter and listed contact info for your Congress Person and Senators:

National Bankruptcy Day Site:

Straight from the Horse's mouth:

Pelosa's Toy Story:

Write to the man who sponsored this bill and send him an item of yours that will be illegal to sell after Feb 9th, 2009 in protest.
Here's his contact info:

Bobby L. Rush (D)
Washington Office
2416 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-4372
Fax: 202-226-0333

See Etsy forum thread regarding the above protest here:

Thanks for reading and please pass a link on to other interested parties!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bellies and Babies and Blessingways, Oh My!

How lovely they all are!

Here is a sweet give-away and an awesome Birthing website for that special Mama and Babe-to-be. Please take a few moments to look around Nicole's blog.

I experienced one of my first blessingways in a little cabin in the woods...just up the hill from where I live. The cabin was just abounding with love! The wisdom from the elders encircled the cabin with the new mama and baby tucked safely inside. We sang together, songs passed on from mama to mama weaving in new traditions with the old. We pampered the mama with full body massages and foot soaks. We honored the elements and the four directions. We shared words of birth and encouragement with the mama and babe to "help them on their way".

Much was learned that day. So much, that I knew right then that I wanted to have this experience myself and to help share it with others. That is also around the time when I met Ellen - the local midwife from Tree of Life Midwifery Care. Ellen's business is all about families and babies and she took me in under her wing.

I have been attending births with Ellen ever since my daughter, Kiah was in my belly back in 2000 (nine years!). Ellen, midwife for over 25 years, and I teamed up together to attend homebirths (including the birth of my two children) in the community and surrounding area. The births weren't many...but we liked it that way because of the way we lived. Both Ellen and I have cabins that are tucked away in the woods a few miles back...she in the Mulligan Plains and I near the Yellow Dog River. We live off the grid, off the beaten path.

Births were so few and far between, that it surely could not foot the bill for a family of four and we had no desire to be away from our little cabin in the we came to a point where we had to figure out a way to work and still be at home. With the wisdom our younger elder (young body, old soul), Queen Kiah, we found a way to make a living and to also be at home, (however, this could all change for us in the near future...see In 2006 my family and I created BirchLeaf Designs (see our website here) where we started making playthings for children and adults - we also have goods for new mamas and babes like newborn tiedyes, little belly button cord stump pouches, star and snuggle babies, wooden teething rings and wee little spoons. Along with Tree of Life Midwifery Care, we also make the much coveted Mama Bath and Mama Tea.

My children are older now which makes it easier to attend more births...Today, Ellen and I are on call for 6 womyn, 4 of them due within a day of each other! Yay for Homebirths!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Save Handmade Toys from the CPSIA!

In case you haven't heard, the word on the street is that there is a new law regarding items made for children 12 and under - this law goes into effect February 10, 2009. The law was written in response to children's items that had high levels of lead and phthalates - these items came mostly from China in 2006.

This law was poorly written. As the law stands now, many handmade, cottage industries could be shut down because they cannot afford the required testing. Please visit these sites for more information:

Here are two websites for you to go in and vote! Keeping the issue high on the list is important for change...Please spare a few minutes of your time to let your voice be heard!

Site #1 - vote with the "vote now" button at left of the title "Save Small Business From the CPSIA"

Site #2 - here, do a "search for questions" with "cpsia" as the criteria. You can then vote on all the questions and also submit a question of your own if you like.

YAY! This article just came in - saying that the CPSIA has exempted natural items such as wool, silk, cotton, gemstones, and pearls...however there is no mention of wood!

Thanks for supporting Handmade!