Category Archives: Kid’s Camps

Natural Dyes and Paints Camp!

We started off by heading over to one of the kid’s houses to harvest walnut leaves. We pruned a sidewalk purple leafed plum tree on the way home. Then, we headed to the park to collect oak galls. I pre-mordanted all of the shirts and socks in an alum solution simmered for 30 minutes and then left in overnight. We experimented with a pair of shorts pre-mordanted in oak galls since they are so high in tannin. I’ve even seen fibers dyed in straight oak gall dye before. But, this time we were using it as a homemade mordant.

These two goof balls (also known as Ian and Kisho) did matching shiboried shirts in the walnut leaf dye.


We boiled up a purple cabbage, added some left over “paint’ we had made from blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (juice really). Marta did a design with rubber bands around marbles in a circle. We ended up calling it the “magic shirt” because it liked to change color. Some of the rubber bands she used had been used in a turmeric dye before and created a sunburst around the marbles. When she wore it and filled some water balloons at the park it turned blue where it got wet. Later, we picked 135 oranges from a neighborhood tree. When we juiced them some of the juice got on the shirt and turned it orange. She was quite pleased with herself!


Lucy decided to dye an entire outfit in different dyes. So, we have a shirt dyed in purple plum leaves in a rusty bucket. She wrapped rubber bands around marbles in a circle around her crow. We have shorts mordanted in oak galls and then dyed in the walnut leaves. They came out a beautiful golden color.


One of her socks was dyed in walnut leaves. The other was dyed in a yellow onion skin dye bath we had already used to dye our fancy eggs in the day before. She shiboried her socks using popsicle sticks and rubber bands.


Last but certainly not least we have Charlie in his amazing yellow onion skin dyed shirt. Talk about a happy guy. He wore it to camp for two days straight!

More fun to come. This week is HERBS FOR KIDS CAMP and we’ve been busy!

Easter Eggs with Plant Dyes


Here is our latest round of Easter eggs dyed with plants. We made two dye baths of onion skins. One pot was with yellow onion skins and the other was with red onion skins. This time we used flowers AND leaves for our prints and were quite happy with this results! The flowers themselves gave off a color of their own.

One of the kids used the small white flower of his beloved Wild Onion (Allium triquetrum) which is white. The print it made was a gorgeous deep yellow. On the other side of his egg he used part of an Oxalis leaf to make a heart print. It also left some yellow color. Japanese Maple leaf leaves leave a color of their own as well as Wormwood (Artemesia absinthium).

For the actual process go to my April 2010 entry and you will find it there.


It’s fun to unwrap the eggs to see what chemical reaction the plant has made with the dye bath. Some leaves give color like this Buckeye leaf print while others just leave a resist print.


Our favorite looks like a flower print in blue. The flower itself was white with a purple center. The leaf print is Wormwood.

Carob Nut Balls

Over the holidays the kids made handcrafted gift baskets. We included Carob Nut Balls in wax paper bags tied with twine. Our homemade calendula soap, a plant-dyed dish towel, our homemade lotion and a decorated gourd were all combined in a paper grocery bag made into a gift basket. They were quite happy with their work!

Our recipe is based on the one I found at FRAN’S HOUSE OF AYURVEDA. Thank you Fran!

“3/4 cup almond butter
1/2 cup carob powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup raw honey, brown rice syrup or agave nectar (up to 1/2 cup if you like them sweeter)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup puffed cereal*
1/2 cup chopped nuts*

COATING OPTIONS
unsweetened coconut
carob ganache
cocoa or carob powder combined with a dash of cinnamon

Thoroughly combine the almond butter, carob powder, cinnamon, honey and vanilla. The dough will be quite stiff. Knead in the nuts and cereal. With wet hands, form into walnut-sized balls. Make sure the surface is glisteningly damp. Choose which coating you’d like to use and roll balls in either coconut, carob ganache, or cocoa/carob powder. Personally, I tried them all, just to see how pretty each variation can be. I found the coconut coating to be the nicest, and easy to coat by shaking the balls in a ziploc bag with the coconut.

Refrigerate until firm, or freeze in an air-tight container to store for a week or more.

*If you have the option, choose a tiny puffed grain like quinoa or millet. Otherwise, crisp rice will work great, or a flake cereal crushed into smaller bits. If using sweetened cereal, use smaller amount of honey.
*Use any seeds or chopped nuts you like, or according to your dosha. I used lightly toasted pecan pieces.”

For those of you unsure about Carob here is some information that might be helpful:

-Carob has it’s own natural sugars similar to what you find in honey and fruits.
-Unlike chocolate, you don’t have to add a lot of sweetener to make it taste good.
-It’s an alkaline food
-Contains 3 times as much calcium as chocolate.
-High in fiber and protein
-Full of antioxidants and polyphenols
-Low in fat (contains about 1% fat compared to 24% fat in cocoa)
-High in vitamins and minerals (contains iron, vitamin B, phosphorus, and magnesium)
-Hypoallergenic
-Doesn’t contain any harmful stimulants such as caffeine, theobromine, or theophylline
-Not addictive
-Safe enough for dogs to eat unlike chocolate which can seriously injure or kill them

I remember living in San Diego and walking around my neighborhood picking up carob pods off the sidewalk. It was planted as a landscape tree. I’d break a pod open and want to eat it on the spot. They smelled delicious!

In her course at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center Michelle Vesser makes “Ojas Balls”. “Ojas- the essence of the body, which literally means ‘to invigorate'”. The same basic recipe as above but she included powdered immunity-building herbs such as Ashwangandha, Codonopsis, Astragalus, and Siberian Ginseng. You can also add demulcent/moisturizing herbs such as Marshmallow Root, flax seeds and Licorice Root. Or, warming/activating herbs such as Cardamom and the Cinnamon already in the recipe. Yum!

Michelle teaches a two day course called REMEMBERING OUR WAY at OAEC. www.oaec.org Check it out.

Make Your Own Almond Milk

By request here’s my recipe:

I use 1 1/2 cups of organic ‘raw’ almonds. Put them in a four-cup glass measuring cup filled with filtered water. Then place them in the refrigerator overnight. I have left them in for up to three days and they are still fine. It’s nice to have them well sprouted.

Pour the soaked almonds and water into the blender and hit ‘liquefy’. I let them blend for about a minute.

Pour the milk and pulp into a straining cloth laid over a strainer set on top of the big measuring cup. You can use a flour sack towel or a nut milk bag. I use a non-absorbent honey-straining cloth. It’s not shown in the picture but I use the strainer just in case almond pulp escapes the straining cloth somehow. I don’t want to have to re-strain it. Bundle it all up in a sack and squeeze out the milk.

Pour it into a quart sized airtight container and top it off with water. Save the pulp to use in oatmeal, desserts, bread or (ever-popular with the kids) Carob Nut Balls. I’ll post that recipe next.

The fresh almond milk keeps for a week or so. It’s so naturally sweet it does not need to be sweetened. I am now addicted to Almond Milk Lattes. I can’t even describe how good they are. I got the idea from the Cafe Gratitude cookbook called I AM GRATEFUL. In it they say, “Almonds are the only nuts that are known to alkalize the blood, while all others acidify blood. Almonds are also highest of all nuts in arginine, an amino acid that boosts the immune system and inhibits tumor growth”. I thought, “If coffee is acidic why not use almond milk to counteract the acid?”. It works for me!

The kids discovered the soaked almonds in the refrigerator and asked to try them. Needless to say I was unable to make almond milk with that batch since they ATE THEM ALL! They taste like young coconuts and are a great sweetish fresh snack. I didn’t figure this out. They did. As I took the pictures for this post they all had a glass of fresh almond milk and then couldn’t keep their hands out of the pulp when I was finished!

More Fun with Plant Dyes

We’ve been having more fun with plant dyes! All of the materials were pre-mordanted with Alum and Creme of Tartar so the color won’t wash out. The most fun part of it all was seeing the different colors the same dye created on cotton and wool.

A neighbor lost her beloved Black Walnut tree to a demented arborist so we decided to put the leaves to work before they headed back into the earth. The results were beautiful!

On wool yarn tied with rubber bands:


On a cotton dish towel tied with marbles and rubber bands:


We walked over to another neighbors yard and volunteered to prune her purple-leafed plum tree. With those leaves in an old metal bucket heated on our rocket stove we got our biggest surprise. At first the dye was a gorgeous magenta and we thought we’d get a similar color.


Well, after simmering for a while we took a look at the dye bath to find it almost black. Cotton t-shirts became a lovely slate grey. Wool yarn we tied off with rubber bands to get a resist affect.

Here is the resulting color combination:


Tumeric (a little goes a long way), does a bang up job on everything. I did a dish towel wrapped with rubber bands and popsicle sticks (Shibori technique). Wow!


Here is a picture of the towel with some Calendula soap we made with color from the Tumeric dye too:

More to come. I’m teaching 5 weeks of classes for kids this Summer. NATURE CRAFTS, HERBS FOR KIDS, NATURAL DYES, COOKING FROM THE GARDEN, URBAN HOMESTEADING. I’ll post the highlights as we go along.

Fun With Plant Dyes

While sitting around the old homestead we decided to have some fun with plants. Easter had just passed and we got inspired to dye eggs. I took the kids out for a walk to gather ferns and other delicate leaves with which to make prints on the eggs. In three different pots we boiled yellow onion skins (reddish brown), beets (pink), and calendula flowers with powdered tumeric root (yellow). Lily added a dash of apple cider vinegar to each pot to help set the dye. We placed the leaf or leaves on our eggs and wrapped them tightly in gauze strips fastened with rubber bands. We hard boiled them in the dye for 10-15 minutes. It was fun to unwrap them and see what happened!

The onion skins were by far the most impressive with a gorgeous deep mottled reddish-brown. The calendula and tumeric gave a pale yellow. The beet dye reacted beautifully with the maple leaf but did not give much color to the egg.

The strips of gauze also got dyed so Lily helped the kids braid necklaces and bracelets out of them. The yellow was amazingly vibrant. The reddish-brown came out peach colored and the pink did not dye the fabric at all.

Then…. we HAD to make playdoh! Lily had the idea to use the beet water as the water in the playdoh recipe. So we did and WOW did it work! We made a second batch and I had the kids knead in tumeric for yellow after it was ready to work. Here is what one of them made.