If you have an herb garden, chances are by this point in the growing season, you have an abundance of herbs. So once you've gathered, dried or frozen enough to meet your winter culinary needs, why not try your hand at making a super-simple fragrant herbal smudge stick or fire starter to enhance your outdoor gathering?
Herb fire starters, like the one shown above from Terrain, are a beautiful and fragrant addition to any outdoor bonfire. The dried petals and stems used in the bundle will quickly ignite your kindling, making for a faster lit fire. And the addition of certain herbs such as lavender, sage and mint to name a few, can also help ward off mosquitos and bugs. Terrain shows how you can add sprigs of dried flowers like hydrangea or lavender to your bundle to also add a hint of color. Head to The Bulletin | How To: Herb Fire Starters for more information.
For anyone that has attempted to make herb fire starters or smudge sticks, then you know that once dried and bundled, they can become a bit messy when handling, for the dried leaves are quite fragile and brittle. That's why I like Hello Naturals idea for a contained herb fire starter that uses a coffee filter. Brilliant! Unlike Terrain's fire starter, using a coffee filter for an enclosed package-style fire starter, allows you to add in spices such as dried fruit peels, cinnamon and cloves. To see the full set of instructions, check out the post Homemade Spice + Herb Firestarter.
Moving onto smudge sticks, for those not in the know, smudge sticks have been used by Native Americans for clearing out negative energy for thousands of years. Traditionally, herbs and resins were placed in a special bowl and burned, where smudge sticks allow for a much simpler way of cleansing that's just as effective. Practices usually used white sage and sweetgrass herbs bundled and tied together, then dried and burned. Sage is said to drive away negative energies while sweetgrass attracts positive energy to the space from which the negative energy was banished. While you can very easily buy pre-made smudging bundles (I've noticed them gaining popularity in boutiques and speciality garden stores), it's quite easy to make your own smudges from the herbs you grow in your garden.
You Grow Girl has an excellent tutorial on making your own herb smudge sticks. She walks you through the various herbs that you can use for smudges, pointers on growing white sage, tips for choosing and harvesting your herbs, what types of strings you should select for bundling, how to bind your stick and how to handle and use your smudges. See Gifts from the Garden | Homegrown Smudge Sticks.
For a bonus idea, all of these DIY's make a beautiful and functional hostess gift or present topper. Just be sure to attach a simple set of instructions with its intended use. Make a few up now and you'll have a head start on the gift-giving season!