Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Love Potion #10 Tea

diy valentine tea

Ok. Not really. It’s not a potion. No magic here. Just a yummy cup of tea that happens to be full of herbs known for their aphrodisiac qualities. It’s a sweet and simple handmade gift your tea lover will love on Valentine’s Day. If you’re an herb connoisseur you probably have everything you need on hand already. Otherwise, a quick run to the health food or grocery store will provide what you need, including:

  • Round Coffee Filters
  • Bakers Twine
  • Stapler and Staples
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Rose Petals
  • Lavender
  • Oat Straw
  • Whole Cloves
  • Lindon
  • Ginseng

First, create the tea mixture in a small bowl by stirring together all of the dried herbs. The mixture makes 3-4 tea bags. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 tsp Stinging Nettle
  • 3 tsp Rose Petals
  • 1 tsp Oat Straw
  • 1 tsp Whole Cloves
  • 1.5 tsp Lavender
  • Pinch Ginseng
  • Pinch Lindon

diy valentine day tea


Click here for the complete tutorial and more photos!


DIY Advent Tea Set

Last summer I shared with you that I love tea. I grew up drinking at least a cup a day, guided by my mother who throws down a pot or so in the same time frame. One of the things I treasure most about get togethers with my mom, brother and sister-in-law is enjoying a pot (or two) of tea together, especially since I’m usually the only one in our little nuclear family who gets excited about brewing a cup.

Since my relatives enjoy tea so much I decided last year to make them handmade herbal tea bags. I found some recipes online and used this tutorial as a guide to creating my own tea bags. It was a super cute idea (and I was super excited about it!) but alas, I completely underestimated how much time it would take. The bags weren’t nearly as pretty as I wanted them to be. And I cut my time so close to Christmas that I didn’t really have time to taste-test and adjust my recipes. Ultimately some of the bags turned out well but most of them were forgettable (if not bad).

Such a bummer…

So I promised myself that I’d try again this year – and that I’d start much, much sooner. So the week of Thanksgiving I paid a visit to our local health food store and picked up a couple dozen bags of various herbs and spices. Ever since I’ve been experimenting with and adjusting herbal tea recipes. My goal was to develop at least a dozen unique flavors. I didn’t quite make it there, but I’m really pleased with the six recipes that are ready.

Something Beautiful

diy handmade advent tea setI know that sometimes we make homemade gifts because they’re inexpensive, quick or simple to make. (And there’s nothing wrong with that.) Although they hold potential for the exact opposite, I feel like sometimes today’s homemade gifts are a little impersonal. I really wanted these teas to be the antithesis to all of these things, both to make them a sweet gift and simply for the joy of creating something beautiful.

That’s how I stumbled into the idea of making an advent tea set. I wanted to make something pretty to look at, meaningful and enjoyable to use. I guess I won’t know for sure if I hit the mark until my not-to-be-mentioned-till-they-receive-this relative provides a review. Meanwhile, I’m excited to share the results with you.

I’ve included all of the information and printouts you need to make an advent tea set for the tea lover on your Christmas list. Here’s how it works: Every day has a handmade tea bag. The tea bags are stored in a pre-made container. I wanted to use a Christmas tin but none of the stores I visited had quite what I was looking for. Instead I settled for this super cute box from the holiday section of Wal-Mart. (If you hurry you might be able to buy the same one!)

bakers twine for diy handmade tea bagsEach day’s tea bag has a tag with the date on it. Each bag is also preceeded by a divider card. The divider has the date on the face and a Christmas-oriented scripture on the backside. The idea is that every December morning before work (or perhaps every evening as you unwind) the recipient can read and reflect on an inspirational card while enjoying a cup of tea. There are 25 cards (and 25 tea bags) to last you all the way until Christmas Day. The divider cards are printed on heavy-duty photo paper and should be sturdy enough to last for several years. That means next year I’ll be able to supply a stash of 25 handmade teas to be ready for the following Advent season.

A few more details… the tea tags are attached to bakers twine because it comes in pretty colors but won’t leach color into hot tea. I bought some Christmas-y twine in the dollar section of Target and found even more colorful varieties in the party section (near the plates and cups). The bags themselves are made from regular (cheap!) coffee filters. My sewing machine broke down just as I was beginning to sew these so I had to improvise. I ended up figuring out a no-sew folding technique that looks just as cute and actually saved me a ton of time. I’m excited that anyone – even crafty folks with no sewing machine – can make these.

Advent Tea Set Tutorial

Supplies & Equipment Needed

  • 25 coffee filters
  • bakers twine
  • 9 sheets of photo paper
  • 3 sheets of cardstock
  • scissors
  • assorted herbs and spices (click here for recipes which list amounts for a single serving)
  • measuring spoons
  • stapler
  • mono-adhesive
  • craft glue
  • tea container (mine came from the holiday section at Wal-Mart)
  • Tea Dividers printout (click here to download)
  • Tea Tags printout (click here to download)

Make the Tea Bags

1. Cut a piece of bakers twine into a 6? length.

2. Fold a coffee filter in half.

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Fold the filter in half again. Reopen to previous half-fold position.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Fold each side into the center line created by step 2.

diy handmade advent tea set

4. Fold each side in again to meet the center line.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

5. Staple the bottom of the bag to help it retain it’s form.

diy handmade advent tea set

6. Mix a single-serving of the tea recipe in a small container.

7. Use your fingers to pry the opening of the bag open as wide as possible without completely unfolding it.

diy handmade advent tea set

8. Transfer the mixed herbs into the bag. Using a 1/2 teaspoon may help.

diy handmade advent tea set

9. Carefully tap or shake the bag down so that the tea is compacted to the bottom. This will make it easier to close the top. You can later disperse the tea more evenly throughout the bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

10. Laying the bag flat on a hard surface, fold down the top-right corner of the bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

11. Place the bakers twine onto the bag and fold the top-left corner down over it. This will create a point at the top of the bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

12. Fold the point down toward the bottom of the bag being careful to keep the twine secure under the flaps. Fold the twine up straight across the point (now pointing down) and up past the top of the bag. Secure both the top of the bag and the twine by stapling across it.

diy handmade advent tea set

13. Create tea tags by cutting out two of each number. Place one tag face down and add a few small dots of glue to the center and the corners. Place the top end of the twine on the center glue dot then cover the entire thing with the second tag (face up).

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set


diy handmade advent tea set

Make the Divider Cards

1. Print the Tea Dividers, preferably on photo paper or card stock.

2. Cut each divider along the dashed line (top, bottom and sides) and fold along the dotted line. Once folded, the number should be on one side and the scripture should be on the back.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Line the three open sides of the divider with mono adhesive and press it together.

diy handmade advent tea set

4. Repeat for all divider cards. For Christmas Day (Day 25) there are three options to choose from.

diy handmade advent tea set

Assemble the Advent Tea Set

1. Place the #25 tea bag in the bottom of the container.

diy handmade advent tea set

2. Place the #25 divider card over the #25 tea bag.

diy handmade advent tea set

3. Place the #24 tea bag on top of the #25 divider, followed by the #24 divider.

diy handmade advent tea set

diy handmade advent tea set

4. Repeat this process until all tea bags and dividers have been added.

diy handmade advent tea set

5. If you haven’t already, print the Advent Tea Recipes card. Cut it to fit into the container. Slide the card inside the container flush with the back side (behind the tea bags and dividers).

Print the Advent Tea Recipes card. Cut it to fit into the container. Place the card inside the container flush with the back side.

6. Close. Give. Smile.

I really enjoyed making this, and I can’t wait to give it!

diy handmade advent tea set diy handmade advent tea set diy handmade advent tea set diy handmade advent tea set

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Frost! (And Other Updates)

There’s a reason why the last frost date in Michigan (the reasonable date on which you can plant outside in the spring without worrying about frost harming your plants) has been moved to May 18. Last night (May 12/13) we had a visit from good ole Jack Frost! Pretty strange considering the old Last Frost Date was May 10 and we’ve been having beautifully warm weather before this sudden cold snap. Then again, this is Michigan, and it wouldn’t be spring if you didn’t have to trade your flip flops for the winter coat all in the same week at least one time…

I’m not sure if you would call it impatience or optimism, but it was sooo warm last week that I couldn’t resist the urge to plant out at least one warm-weather crop. My original plan was to transplant just three golden zucchini plants… I planted six. Here’s what I did to keep these little guys cozy over the very cold weekend (and right through last night’s frost).

Row Cover

On Friday afternoon I covered the raised bed with a plastic row cover. The row cover is attached with utility clips to hoops made from PVC pipe. The zucchini share a bed with radishes which actually prefer the cold weather. Fortunately these are the Rat’s Tail radishes which I’m growing not for the root but for the edible seed pods. The row cover will warm them up substantially in sunny conditions, causing them to bolt (grow faster and produce a flower). Bolting is bad for regular radishes because it alters the taste and texture of the root, but in the case of these radishes, a little extra heat will just move the I-want-seed-pods process along a smidge faster.

row cover

This row cover was put in place to protect golden zucchini plants from May frost.


In theory, a row cover should be enough to keep my precious golden zucchini plants from being frost-bitten. But since I got a little overzealous and planted out six instead of three, I decided to bring in some insurance. Enter the cloche (pronounced “klohsh”). A cloche is a tool that originated in France to keep plants from being harmed by frost and to force their early growth. The cloche is typically bell shaped and made from glass. Here’s a picture of a classic cloche.

classic French garden cloche

{Image Credit}
Click on the image for a DIY cloche idea.

I’m not fancy enough to have beautiful French cloches like the one above so I used my own micro-farm-style cloches: mason jars.

diy cloche

The zucchini plants get double frost protection – glass cloches made from mason jars and a plastic row cover.

diy cloche

The upside down jars keep the plants warm and safe from frost.

The zucchini plants were covered from late on Friday afternoon all the way through this morning (Monday). When I first placed them over the plants, it was chilly and windy but the sun was shining, and they looked like like the picture above. When I retrieved the cloches this morning, the plants looked like this:

diy cloches

The “after” shot is pretty much the same as the “before”!

diy cloche

Despite a smidge of mud on one leaf, this plant
(just like the others) looks great!

So based on my experience, the combination of row cover and cloche worked beautifully! My zucchini plants are ready for spring!

Other Plants in the Garden

Everything else that is planted out in the garden is frost tolerant – lettuce, spinach, arugula, chard, peas, carrots (teeny tiny seedlings), beets (just now coming up), onions, strawberries and a few other things I can’t think to name right now. There is one sad exception: The potato plants.

Since potatoes are planted out so early, my novice-farmer brain assumed that they are frost tolerant. But as I was coming in from the garden this morning I noticed that many of the leaves looked very frost bitten and dark. What a giant bummer because they have been coming up SO nicely (about 4 to 6 inches each)! One of the garden tasks I was planning for this afternoon was hilling potatoes. After doing some quick research it appears that I just need to trim the dead/damaged leaves and the plants should continue to grow just fine. Next year I’ll throw a row cover over these too!

potato plants

Here are the potato plants before last night’s frost. They don’t look as cheerful this morning…

The only thing planted in the Fenceline garden right now is turnips… or perhaps I should say “was” turnips. These are frost-tolerant and were coming along nicely… until one or two certain four-legged creatures who are otherwise quite lovable dug half of them up. Not. Happy. Time to get that electric fence fixed

The other heat-loving plants have been hiding out in the greenhouse snuggled together on the shelves near the heater which came back into action for the weekend. After today the heater should be going into hibernation until fall.

Also the blueberry bushes are starting to blossom! This is exciting but also a bit sad because I was planning to transplant them to their permanent home before they blossomed. (They are currently in large pots inside the garden fence.) I suppose that task will now have to wait until fall, which is ok, because I’m still not sure where I want to put them.

If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.

If you look closely you can see closed buds on the branches. There are a few open blossoms this morning.

Did you have any frost issues in your garden? Is anyone out there going to be adventurous and transplant heat-loving plants before the actual last frost date? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

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