DIY Paper Pots for Seed Starting

There is snow falling outside again – wonderful!! – but inside I’ve got a brooder of little chicks and packets of seeds and dozens of sprouted herbs and veggies and perennials, all an optimistic acknowledgement that springtime is indeed here!

If you’re a gardener, you’ve probably browsed seed catalogs and displays at feed stores, stocked up on seeds, planned your garden, and probably even eagerly started seeds indoors a few weeks too early. Oh, well, there are worse things. Gardening is a wonderfully thrifty sort of pursuit, but some of those seed starting supplies can add up pretty quickly. Newspaper pots are a quick and free alternative to peat pots for seed starting, and here are a few tips for making sure they turn out well and hold up!

These sturdy, biodegradable little pots are formed from strips of newspaper, each approximately 1/3 of a newspaper cut lengthwise (fold the paper in thirds lengthwise and cut along those folds) and are rolled around a cylindrical item, such as a spice container or a pop can, depending on how big you want your paper pots. I played around with a couple of different sizes for these pots, what I liked the best was a pop can (well, V8 to be precise, since I don’t drink pop) for size.

Starting at one end of your newspaper strip, roll it around the can, not too tight, so you can then slide it off one end of the can until about 2 or 3 inches are left on the can. The part still on the can will be the sides of the pot, and the rest will form the bottom, by folding it over the bottom of the can. Play around with a folding method until you find one that works for you, but smaller, overlapping folds work better than bigger folds. I find it works best to start right over the end left from rolling the pot, to capture that edge and better hold the pot together, and as I get closer to the end, I tuck the new folds underneath the already folded part. Take some time to get your folding method down, since solid folding equals a solid paper pot. That’s also why I find a pop can works best. A spice jar works okay, but with a pop can, the rim and the indent in the bottom of the can allow you to get a really good series of folds in the paper, making a solid base for the paper pot. Once everything is folded and tucked in, gently slide the pot off the can and it is ready to be used!

These little pots are quick to make and can be a fun time filler. Obviously, once you’ve planted in them and watered them, they do get soggy, so handle them gingerly if you have to move the pots, but when you’re ready to plant your seedlings out in your garden, just plant the whole thing and the paper will disintegrate on its own! I’m growing my starts in disposable baking sheets with plastic covers, which provide a great humid environment until the seeds have sprouted, and then when they are well enough established the cover comes off. So far, I’ve had about a 100% germination rate with what I’ve planted.

Springtime is a wonderful reminder of God’s provision, His sovereignty, and His Creation design in which mankind was created to partner with God in the care and keeping of His earth. It is God who brings or withholds the weather we need, and it is He who ultimately provides, and because of His orderly Creation, in which like produces like, and kind multiplies according to kind, I can plant seeds and grow an expected harvest. Pursuits such as planting and growing and animal husbandry allow us to participate in this world as stewards, as God designed us to be, faithfully using our means and abilities to nurture and foster growth and life in this world, to care for God’s creatures, and to provide for ourselves and our families. So enjoy these springtime pursuits, friends, and thank God for His care and provision!

Great-Grandma Sarah’s 24-Hour Dills

Due to late planting, we don’t really have much in the way of garden produce just yet – We’ve gotten a few zucchinis, a couple of cherry tomatoes, and a tiny handful of strawberries. And lots and lots of dill. The dill volunteered this year, so we left it as a pest deterrent. Unfortunately, though, we don’t have any usable cucumbers. So the girls and I drove in to Rapid to the farmer’s market this morning and picked up a few bags of pickling cucumbers and fresh garlic, and picked the dill fresh from our garden!

Twenty-four-hour dills are a generational favorite –  Guaranteed to be ready in 24 hours, although Great-Aunt Margene says they can be ready in 12 hours. Make them in the morning and serve them at dinner! This is my great-grandmother Sarah Adrian’s dill pickle recipe.IMG_9609Grandma Sarah’s 24-Hour Dills

About 20 small-medium sized cucumbers

1/2 c. vinegar

1/2 c. pickling salt

6 1/2 c. water

dill, garlic gloves, and hot pepper, crushed red pepper, onions, or any other ingredients to tasteIMG_9615Combine the vinegar, salt, and water – According to Great-Aunt Margene, the solution doesn’t need to be boiled. However, I remember boiling it in the past, so I deviated from the recipe and boiled the brine. Wash cucumbers. Slice in spears, but leave attached at ends. Slicing them allows them to be properly steeped in the brine after 12-24 hours.IMG_9617Pack cucumbers in pint or quart-sized jars, with garlic and dill (and whatever other ingredients you are using) layered with them.  Pour the brine over the cucumbers, and seal jars. Let sit for 24 hours, or to taste.IMG_9626I made one jar with the standard recipe, just garlic and dill, but the other two jars I dressed up a bit – One with crushed red pepper, the other with crushed red pepper and a few slices of hot banana pepper. It will be fun to see how those turn out. I made a little extra brine for a tiny jar for Grandma.


Laura Elizabeth




Whimsical Windows

IMG_8609.1There’s a lot of fabric in an old bed sheet. And, depending on the sheet, good fabric, quality fabric. Perfect for curtains. Yesterday afternoon and evening, I sewed and hung curtains for the two living room windows in the homesteader cabin, from sheets we found while cleaning up the place. Until yesterday, we’d been using blankets (and these sheets actually), draped over the curtain rods to keep the warmth in and the dark out. But simple white curtains are so much homier and more beautiful, and are a lot better at diffusing the light.

IMG_8612.1I’ve always loved the look of glass sparkling in sunlight – Old jars and bottles and prisms, anything to add a little simplistic sparkle and shine. So, naturally, old insulators catch my attention. A little touch of rustic whimsy.

Laura Elizabeth

Homemaking in the Miner’s Cabin

IMG_8266.1It has been awhile since I last wrote about the Miner’s Cabin, and a lot has happened since we first started cleaning it out a year ago. Time for an update! Early this year, Dad got the electricity working again, and also got the stove cleaned out and in safe, operational order. Light and warmth are kind of important when it comes to being productive in the winter.

So, over the last couple of months, slowly and steadily, I got the bedroom closer to livable, and Sarah helped me get one of our bed frames set up. Mom and I brought a load of bookcases, a dresser, and my desk from our storage unit in Hermosa, which is helping with the organizing of books and boxes. IMG_8273.1Growing up, some of my favorite books were Gone-Away Lake and Return to Gone-Away, two treasures of children’s literature written by Elizabeth Enright. The stories got into my imagination, and I pored over them, again and again. The story was pure joy to read, and I think as I was reading I was the little girl who visits her cousin, Julian, and the two of them on their explorations end up discovering a mysterious, abandoned set of lake houses on the shore of a swamp. As they explore the old lake houses, and Portia’s family ends up buying an old boarded-up mansion in the woods nearby, they rummage through boxes filled with ancient “treasures,” things that spark their imaginations, things from a bygone era. I’ve felt some of that same excitement as we’ve worked on the Miner’s Cabin, cleaning up and putting back to use things that had been all but forgotten. IMG_8279.1It is exciting to put the life back into a dusty old cabin, to feel it start to breathe again, with windows open and sunlight streaming in, or with a blazing fire crackling in the stove. It is deeply satisfying to see the hominess emerge, as order and beauty return to the Miner’s Cabin. It is rewarding to see the forgotten things adorn the dusted shelves, Sarah’s and my artwork and photography mingled with ancient family photos, along with the drawing that Dad had done as a Christmas gift for Grandpa and Grandma years and years ago.

IMG_8280.1Old blue Mason jars we found in the cabin loft, sparkling olive oil bottles which I’ve collected, my great-grandmother’s old pincushion, precious shelf nick-knacks I brought from Illinois, old fox furs that have been in the Miner’s Cabin for a couple of decades, family crests, a framed family tree, a chamber pot, shelves and shelves of my books, and a whole encyclopedia that Grandma and Grandpa put in the log cabin – A pleasant mingling of old and new and just plain interesting.

IMG_8286.1A home should reflect something of the people living inside of it – How enjoyable, then, to be setting up house both with things that Sarah and I brought with us from Illinois, as well as with those things that are tied somehow to our heritage.  Not only that, but the wood heat and lack of plumbing tickle my sense of adventure, to get a closer glimpse of the lives my great-great grandparents lived, as homesteaders in eastern South Dakota in the late 1800s. It will be a far cry from roughing it, but living in a 100-year-old cabin definitely has romance to it.

We enjoy repurposing and reusing, and on my agenda for this week is making brand-new curtains from some old white sheets I found while we were organizing and cleaning. Sarah and I have so many ideas for making this little place our home. Moving day can’t come soon enough! We can’t wait!

Laura Elizabeth

Winter bouquets

IMG_5995.1lowrezEven after the flowers fade, in what is left there is so much variety of texture, so many shades of brown and tan and silver and gold, such strange symmetry and asymmetry, such a spectrum of design. Winter bouquets are the perfect way to showcase the subtle beauty of the season. Sarah and I headed this morning towards the mines where we were hiking yesterday, armed with scissors and sacks and our cameras, to go a-gathering.

IMG_6020.1lowrezIt didn’t take long for us to fill our sacks, and it took less time than that for us to be already running late to help with Christmas dinner. Nevertheless, we gathered plenty – Heads of bee balm, little blue stem, coneflower tops, dead spikes of hairy verbena, and other grasses. We stopped once or twice on the way back to cut some yellow rabbitbrush, which seems to grow more on the open hill sides and hill tops, than in ravines.

IMG_6013.1lowrezMason jars are perfect as vases, and heaven knows we have plenty of Mason jars all over the place! I thought about using some of the old blue jars, but I think the clear glass ones are less obtrusive, for this sort of bouquet. I filled the bottom of the larger jar with pieces of lichen and moss-covered bark. Adding a jute bow, they became festive centerpieces. Jute is like burlap – Rustic, serviceable, and delicately beautiful in its drabness.

IMG_6030.1lowrezIt is something of an exercise in simplicity.

And I like simplicity.

Laura Elizabeth

Think Small

When a family of six moves from a four-bedroom, 2100-square-foot home to a two-bedroom, 800-square-foot home, some serious downsizing must occur. For months leading up to moving, our packing was as much figuring out what not to take as it was figuring out how to pack what to take. It turns out it really is possible to live a) out of boxes, b) with most of your books packed away, and c) with significantly fewer things. I have come to not really like things. Yes, I have my selection of special things, but so often, things are just a cheap way to spend hard earned money.


With two (small) bedrooms and six people, there was already a math problem. We’re planning on utilizing the Miner’s Cabin across the driveway, as soon as it is cleaned out, and currently one of the six is still in Illinois. One of the bedrooms is being used as an office, which leaves…well, one bedroom, and a very spacious loft.


So Sarah, Anna, and I have turned the loft into a surprisingly workable bedroom and living room. It still needs a little work, but with the beds tucked away under the eaves (we learned quickly to instinctively duck when walking around the loft), the whole middle of the room is open and airy.


An old double bed that was apparently built into the loft (it isn’t coming out without the help of a chainsaw) was turned into a day bed, and we’ve already used it for some cozy girls’ movie nights. Our clothes are still in boxes in the one remaining corner, and concealed behind an accordion screen.DSCN0015.1 We had plenty of book-sized packing boxes which Anna and I turned sideways and stacked to use as makeshift bookcases, since it isn’t standard to make ones to fit under the eaves. Some people might not like the idea of sleeping with the mattress on the floor, but all of us have found it surprisingly pleasant. Our corners are cozy and quite personalized. And there is really nothing more pleasant than falling asleep to the sound of rain pattering on the tin roof, just a foot or two away.

It reminds me of Laura Ingalls. That’s fine with me.

Laura Elizabeth