Tuesday, June 18, 2013

DIY: The Bike Coop

That's my girl- the blue mountain bike in the front.
So I am excited to fix up my beloved bike (which has been sorely neglected since I became pregnant with Rowan). I moved it with me from Oakland, CA to Columbus, OH- but it needs work and is sitting in my basement.

I rode my bike everywhere at one time. I didn't my license to drive until 2004- learning to drive as an adult. And can I say? While I appreciate the freedom that a car provides, I hate to drive. I also hate how our culture is built around cars. It is... less human. Walking and riding and public transit lead to fuller, happier lives, I believe. It's also healthier, of course.

But back to my bike. While I have a general idea how a bike works, I have no idea how to fix one. Luckily, there is a bike coop in Columbus. What's a bike coop? It is a place to get a used bike that has been fixed up. It is a place to learn how to fix up bikes (for free!). It is a place to volunteer to promote bikes to the community (they teach others how to fix bikes, give free and low cost bikes to folks, and more).

Using a tool to remove the tire.
Last night, I went to the bike coop's "open shop" for the first time (the Columbus coop has "open shop" twice a week- Wednesdays and Saturdays). I created a volunteer profile and clocked in. (When you volunteer, you "earn" $8 per hour that is applied to bike parts and stand rental to fix up your bike or towards the purchase of a bike.)

Then I introduced myself. I started by watching one of the volunteer mechanics, who was teaching someone how to fix their brakes. Then another volunteer asked if I wanted to try fixing one of their donations that just came in. Gulp. "Sure, I'll try. Will you show me how?"

So a mountain bike was selected that had a flat tube inside its tire. I was shown the tire removal tool and removed the flat tube. I was going to replace the tube with another one, but they didn't have that size. So instead, the volunteer asked me to remove the wheel and "true it". It was wobbly and scraping against the brake pads, impeding how it rode. So getting the wheel true was important.

I am a little embarrassed to say that I didn't realize what spokes were for (except as a place for spokey dokeys- those are on my old bike!). To true a wheel, you must see where it scrapes and wobbles and tighten or loosen the spokes (they alternate one direction and another, so the tension is evenly disbursed) til it doesn't scrape or wobble anymore. AND I DID IT!

It is a time intensive process, trueing a wheel. It took me, a newbie, about an hour of tinkering back and forth with my wobbly charge. I was pretty proud when I was able to put it back on the bike (and get the wheel back on in the right place for the brakes, chain, and the like) and put it back in the pile of bikes to work upon.

Trueing a wheel
I have ambitions of volunteering there and getting the ability and volunteer money accrues to fix up my bike "for free". Then I want to deck out the bike with a kid seat for Rowan and ride all summer long! Deck it out with baskets for hauling things, make it cute with seat covers and the like. I need a new lock, too.

As I said, I love this bike. It used to take me everywhere. It makes me sad that she has been neglected for so long. And I have been at the Y getting into better shape so I can enjoy bike riding again. Stay tuned to see me on the bike, touring around Columbus!

And in the process, I am learning a new skill (which I love) and helping folks in my community. A win-win, which is my favorite flavor! I am going to be a skilled bike mechanic! Hooray!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Everyday Witchcraft: Making Offerings

Often in the past, the basic forms of Witchery escaped me as I pursued a busy (mundane) life. Not so now that I am raising a Witchlet. He reminds me to slow down, maintain rituals, and teach him about the worlds in the process.

One such practice is making offerings. We have three altars downstairs onto which we make offerings: my patron, Lilith; Ganesh; and our beloved dead. We keep Lilith and Ganesh in the living room on the mantle, side-by-side (as weird as that juxtaposition sounds!) because in many ways, they balance one another out (and I am ever in need of balance!) in their extremes. We keep the beloved dead altar(s)* in the dining room, so they can feast with us.

Each gets offerings that they enjoy: Lilith gets suffering, spit, and booze (we also light incense for her). Ganesh gets flowers, sweets, and entheogens. And our dead get some of our food and milk and honey. Here is a typical Tuesday afternoon, with Rowan helping out mama to make the offerings.

Flowers from outside for Ganesh.

Spitting for Lilith
Ganesh got a lolly that Rowan was coveting. It was touching that he gave it to Ganesh instead.

Lilith got some port, spit, and incense.

Rowan gave the dead some of his peanut butter and jelly graham cracker, along with the milk and honey.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Rowan helps mama wildcraft.
Spring is not only welcome respite from an overly-long Ohio winter (not really used to that anymore- brrrr!), but it also means lots of great things to harvest in my neighborhood! 

I live in a city that is green, lush, and full of all kinds of great wild medicinal plants. I am excited to go to a place I know where there is some jewelweed soon. (Jewelweed is great for poison ivy treatment. I will make a plaster/salve for the condition.) 

We have cleavers and mallow (both of which I will use for skin care as well, making astringents,toners, and lotions) coming up, too. Wildcrafting reminds me of the abundance we walk past every day- growing in empty lots and in the cracks in the sidewalk- if only we know what to look for! 

Wildcrafting is an exercise in not only herbalism, but Fate. As with any Witchy activity, a little knowledge beforehand allows us to open to infinite possibilities. Because I have studied how to identify plants and what they do that may be of value to me, I can wildcraft. It is the same with astral projection, working with the dead, or conjure work. This is why training with a master is so important in the Craft. The skills are passed and introductions are made on your behalf- to spirits of the green as well as the mighty dead and such. These introductions are so profound and help you later in life. I am teaching Rowan about plants as we go- he will learn a lot of the Craft from me.

This afternoon's bounty.
I remember in herb school going out to a mountain and doing some plant spirit work. We found a grove and laid down and simply listened to see if any messages came. I had my head under a manzanita plant in bloom. I was sent a picture of a desert- barren of much vegetation- until manzanita and madrone came in, settling into hard places and eventually settling the area and breaking down the hard soil and rock enough for other plants to come. I got the message, "I am first.", plain as day. After doing some research, I found out that this is exactly how California became so lush. 

While we wait just a bit more for those other goodies I spied on our neighborhood walk, Rowan and I toured our neighborhood and picked wild violets out of people's grass. Rowan really loves helping mommy make medicine. So he went along to help me pick the violets.  On our street, violets (and dandelions- also valuable!) are weeds that grow on so many lawns and they all go to waste- people just mow them down. Luckily, the folks in our neighborhood are not chemical enthusiasts. Most are aging hippies and crunchy folk who shop at the food coop like me and don't care about perfectly manicured grass. I have yet to see anyone use pesticides or chemical fertilizers- and the yards are a mix of crabgrass, ramps (delicious!), dandelions, violets, plantain (also going to be harvested! Muhuwahahaa!) and cleavers most of the time. I find it charming and far healthier to the well manicured suburban lawns of my childhood (the ones where the "chemlawn man" would come every few weeks).

After stemming the flowers,
I added them to rice vinegar.
This will be used in facial products.
At one home as we picked, the homeowner came out and asked what we were up to. Uh oh. I explained we were only picking the violets- and Rowan chimed in "for medicine!" Our neighbor was smiling and she said, "Oh- how neat. Take as many as you want!" I have half a mind to bring her some of the vinegar as a present for indulging us. It makes a delicious vinaigrette, too.

I got them home and washed the flowers thoroughly, then took the flowers from the stems and added them to the vinegar I had ready in a repurposed bottle.

Why did I pick the violets? Besides being beautiful (they impart such a lovely color to medicines and toiletries), they are quite good for skin eruptions and sores (pimples, boils, acne and other things). So I will be making a violet vinegar that will be a good ingredient for making a facial toner and a pimple treatment. Stay tuned for those in the store!

I have an herbalist friend who wildcrafts violets for lotions and lip balms as well. You can also use them internally- or candy them with egg white and superfine sugar as cake decorations. When I was in fifth grade, we went to a settler re-enactment where a "farmwife" was doing just that and it was so magical to me (my mom was more of a fish sticks kind of mom) that I still talk about it to this day.

Look at the color
after only one day!
While I stemmed the violets, I worked on a decoction of witch hazel, which I later used for a mouth and gum health rinse and will use the rest for astringent. Today I work on more bug spray and labels for the new products. I will have several new things at the next 400 Market!

Boline is growing all the time, with new products (both remedies and toiletries) being added monthly. In addition to wildcrafted items, I have experienced gardeners growing things for me. Around harvest time this year, I will be quite the busy bee, trying to dry and process all my ingredients. Check out to see what is new!