Monday, October 10, 2011

Keeping it close to home: our new homegrown, organic wood finish

We're so lucky.  We're doing what we love (handcrafting eco-friendly wooden toys) in a place we love (the peaceful Minnesota prairie), surrounded by people we love (family, friends, and a tight-knit community).  Does it get any better than that?!  I don't think so....

So what's the reason for my state of sheer bliss on this fine autumn morning?  We've just made another giant leap towards being a truly earth friendly, locally sourced business with the tiniest of eco-footprints.

We're super-duper proud to announce that:

** we now finish our toys with our very own blend of
organic camelina oil and beeswax  
both fresh off our family's organic farm **

So the obvious first question that comes to mind is What in the world is camelina?  Why thanks for asking!  Camelina is an oilseed native to areas of Europe and Asia.  It's a close relative of flax and is known by other names such as wild flax, gold of pleasure, and Siberian oilseed.  (Check out Wikipedia to learn a bit more.)

camelina flowers in full bloom (Batalden Farm, June 2011)
Our family recently began growing a small plot of camelina.  The oil from the seeds is wonderfully nutritous and flavorful.  Like flaxseed oil, camelina oil is loaded with heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids.  The kicker, though, is that camelina has lots more Vitamin E antioxidants than flax.  This means it doesn't go rancid quickly like flax does.  The Omega 3's, antioxidants, and other nutrients in camelina oil reach you in a much fresher and more beneficial state than those in flaxseed oil.  And that means good things for your health.

When we pressed our first batch of camelina seeds last spring, we were also just starting up Smiling Tree Toys.  And when that gorgeous, golden oil came trickling out of the press, we knew it was the perfect finish for our toys.  Serendipitous, indeed.

freshly harvested camelina seeds - so tiny!

And it gets even better.  We add our very own organic beeswax to the camelina oil to make Smiling Tree's wood finish. 
Yep, our family's land is also home to a very happy and healthy family of honey bees.  We were thrilled to find a local beekeeper who uses our organic farmland as a seasonal home for his bees in exchange for delicious raw honey and beeswax.
You've probably heard how dangerously low the world's honey bee populations have declined in recent years.  It's quite alarming.  Have you seen the new documentary film Queen of the Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us?  I've heard great things, but haven't seen it yet.  (That'll be evening entertainment for this winter.)  You can also get your kiddos interested in the disappearance of honey bees with this article from National Geographic for Kids.
our beehives in their primo location - completely organic and pesticide free

Why do we finish our toys with this eco-homegrown goodness?  The camelina oil does a few things: it brings out the beautiful color and grain patterns in the wood, makes the different kinds of hardwoods that we use (maple, walnut, and cherry) contrast wonderfully with one another, and offers protection from dirt, little fingerprints, and other stains.  The beeswax gives a light waterproof protection to the oiled wood.  When they need a little rejuvenating, you can wash our toys with warm, soapy water.  That won't hurt them.  But don't let them sit in water for very long; keep them out of the bath tub and out of the rain and they'll be much happier! After washing, just sand them with a fine grit sandpaper before re-oiling them with any food-grade oil in your kitchen. 

Here's a jar of our camelina-beeswax blend.  The oil by itself is liquid, but adding the beeswax gives it a creamy consistency.  Just perfect for coating wood.

Smiling Tree's very own organic, homegrown wood finish

 And finally, for the full effect, here's our Smiling Moon Balancer before we oil it:


 and after we add our organic camelina-beeswax blend:

 finished Smiling Moon Balancer

Quite an incredible transformation, isn't it?  And all thanks to just a few things from Mother Nature, all in their purest and most natural forms.  When you're fortunate enough to be doing something that you love...and when that something is organic, sustainable, and gentle on the just feels good.  Plain and simple. 


  1. Wow, what a difference! VERY cool.

  2. Neato! I've never seen such a full operation from start to finish (ha ha), Love your stuff!