How to Build Your Own Terrarium


Terrariums are magical...don't you agree?! Every time I come across a tiny little world inside of a glass container, my heart skips a beat. And then it screams... "I WANT ONE! I WANT ONE!" So I finally decided to do something about this obsession...and make my own! And not only did I make a terrarium, but I combined it with my growing love of succulents. Let me tell you how I did it. Yessssss....let the awesome begin! 

The first thing you need is a container. I found this adorable little glass house at Marshall's awhile back...but you can use any type of glass container that has a big enough opening for you to get your hand or a small shovel into. Fish bowls, clear blown glass, mason jars, you name it. If you have plants that need humidity (ferns, moss, etc) choose a container with a lid. For succulents, you don't need one with a lid. But I like the lid. And succulents. And I'm stubborn. 

So I'm just going to keep the lid popped like this for part of the time. We'll see how that goes. If I hear them screaming for dry air late on a moonlit night, I'll just pop it all the way open.  

Once you choose your perfect container, it's time to fill it with goodness!

The first layer of the terrarium is a drainage layer...because your terrarium won't have holes in the bottom. We just went outside and gathered some rocks from our yard. On top of that, add a thin layer of charcoal (you can find this at a pet store or your local hardware/gardening store). The charcoal is important and will help keep your roots from rotting by filtering out excess moisture and will keep musty smells at bay.

The next layer is the soil. I just used regular 'ol cactus potting mix. No, this one isn't organic...*GASP! Sara! You used to be so much more eco-friendly!". Yes. But on that particular soil shopping day, not having to make one more stop with 3 children to buy different soil was more important than saving the earth.  

Whatever soil you choose, just make sure you match your soil with your plant type. Succulents should have fast draining soil. Ferns and other high-humidity plants can get along just fine in regular soil. Did you know you can make your own cactus soil blend by mixing 50% sand and 50% regular soil? Yep. You can!

And now...the best part! Planting your little babies! Carefully take your plants from their container, gently loosen the root ball, and nestle them into their new home. Give them a little space and be sure to choose plants that aren't going to grow to be 5 feet tall! As your plants grow, you can trim back dead leaves, and remove any plants that get too big. Try your best to use plants that require the same conditions. 

We collected moss from our rock outcropping...and it will most definitely need to be spritzed and watered daily. Way more than the succulents around it. Again...we're experimenting. Not claiming to be an expert...just sharing the love! So we'll see how it goes. I just couldn't resist bringing the moss inside. I love it so! I think our next terrarium will be moss only. A hanging globe with moss and rocks? Yes!

From left to right, our succulent line up...
Mini Pine Tree (crassula tetragona), Anacampseros Rufescens, Golden Sedum (sedum adolphii), Purple Split-Rock (pleiospilos melii 'royal flush'), and Sedum Pork & Bean (sedum rubrotinctum). All covered in that delicious moss.

I purchased all of these at Home Depot in Boulder. They have a spectacular array of succulents there and the prices are several dollars cheaper per plant than the competitors. I just happened to snag them the day they put them out...and each time I've gone back, I can tell that they are flying out the doors. I also love to buy plants from the local nurseries at the farmer's market. Boulder Farmer's Market starts this Saturday y'all (*said with breathless excitement).

Let's talk a bit about watering. Resist the urge! The number one reason terrariums fail is due to root rot and the moisture level being too high. If you're using a closed terrarium, there is the possibility that you may not need to water at all because it becomes it own little ecosystem. With open terrariums, you can water them...but cautiously. With succulents, wait until they have completely dried out to water again. Start slow and pay attention to what your plants are telling you!

Check out The Fern and Mossery's tips on curing an overwatered terrarium.
Here is a list of common terrarium mistakes and 15 great terrarium plants.

After I had finished with all the photos...Mrs. Fancy Pants, the snail pictured above, wandered by for a visit. You can have tons of fun filling your terrarium with tiny whimsical items. Fairies, animals, rocks and crystals...any tiny specials. I love tiny special things!

So there ya have it! I finally have my very own terrarium...and I can't stop staring at it! All of my other succulents are jealous because the new guys in town are getting way more attention.

So why stop at ONE terrarium?! My sweet girls just had to get in on the action too. Terrariums are a wonderful activity for kids! 

They chose these sweet recycled glass globes and got busy adding their layers.

I love witnessing them in creation mode...they were giddy to collect everything and get these all set up. 

And there you have it! Now you can make your very own tiny terrarium world!

If  you just love terrariums but don't want to make one on your own, you can buy them here, here, here, and here. I am especially fond of this company and their pretty pink rocks. 

A few delightful terrarium books (*affiliate links):
Terrarium Craft: Create 50 Magical, Miniature Worlds
Tiny World Terrariums: A Step-By-Step Guide
Terrariums Reimagined: Mini Worlds Made in Creative Containers

If you enjoyed this me spread the love and pin it on Pinterest!
My terrarium Pinterest board is here. And my succulent board is here.

 If you already have a terrarium...
share your tips and ideas below!

P.S. Check out my other "How To" posts:
How to Be an Unschooling Family
How to Roast Coffee at Home
Five Ways to Engage Your Community
Fighting for Joy: Five Ways to Find Peace



Mountain Magic: Learning in Nature


We are still so in awe of our surroundings here in the mountains. There is a magnetic pull to the rocks and trees...and to the highest heights. If I even utter the word "outside"...the girls have their coats and boots on faster than you can say "fairy house"!  


We were inspired by our dear friends at EcoWomb (the family who is traveling in our Live Lightly Tour bus) who have been participating in Mandala Monday on Instagram (#mandalamonday). I was first drawn to nature mandalas by following @faithevanssills and her beautiful creations. I suggested that we try our own hand at it and the girls got busy collecting little bits of goodness. 


While the origins of mandalas stem from Hinduism, we can find and apply truth and beauty in our spiritual walk with Jesus as well. We talked about the circular beauty of creation and the order of nature. Mandalas (nature or otherwise) are commonly used in meditation. I love the idea of using our mandalas as a path for prayer.


The moss we find on the rocks and trees here is so green and lush! I cannot help but to stop and touch it every time I pass by! I've even taken some inside and added them to my succulents.

mossy succulent.jpg

While the big girls are busy racing up the highest rocks, Emma has her own agenda. Wandering and weaving through the trees, laying on her back looking up at the sky, and playing with the doggies. 


While we were exploring, we heard the rumble rumble of Daddy's diesel truck. "He's HOME!" ...they screamed. We walked the property together...planning Airstream parking and gardens. I've been collecting a few mountain gardening tidbits on this Pinterest board, but would love any wisdom YOU can share. I'm thinking raised beds and lots of greens and hardy stuff. I have recently been informed that there is a seed shop in Nederland that ships in awesome alpine/cold weather seeds. I'm sure I can find them online as well...but it's a great excuse to eat at Kathmandu! We have lots of late morning and afternoon sun on the south side of our property (right where Matt is sitting in the photo above) and on the 900 sq ft deck. There are even built-in planters on the deck already! Can you tell I'm getting spring fever?


It seems like we find new nooks and crannies to explore every time we go out...and I'm so excited to start trimming and cleaning and clearing. There are several tent spots tucked away in the rocks, as well as 3 look out spots, which we have affectionately named "Moss Rock", "Inspiration Point", and "The Nest". 

As we walk and climb, we discover that we want to know everything!

What kind of tree is this?! What bird is that? Why is there moss there? How does lichen form? Why is it more windy in the mountains? What kind of animal pooped here? How are pine cones formed? What is the life cycle of a pine tree? How does granite form and how does it change over time?  

The mountains are rich with possibility!


This was the view from Moss Rock yesterday...we can see Denver, Matt's shop in Boulder, our old farm, and even Mt. Evans. Pretty much everything. Lucy said she could even see Paris! We are learning new things daily...just by walking out the door. 

What has been your most impactful nature experience lately? 


Screen Time, Self-Regulation, and Overcoming Fear


We don't limit screen time in our house. In fact, if you used that term with my girls, you would probably get a blank stare. 

Our girls have the freedom to choose when and for how long they want to use their computer/iPads/television. And in experiencing this freedom, they learn to self-regulate. They listen to their bodies and follow their passions. 

"But don't your kids sit in front of a screen all day
if you aren't telling them not to?"! They DO choose other activities like playing outside, doing a puzzle, or creating art instead. On their own. Without me nagging and hovering and hounding and setting timers. It removes a lot of  the drama that I witness in other families over "screens". 

It doesn't have to be a struggle. 

Our girls use technology in the same way that Matt and I use it. AS A TOOL. A tool for research. A tool for entertainment. A tool to build community. A tool to ENJOY. 


Enjoy?! Yes. We use them as a tool of JOY! We love watching television. We love our computers. We love iPads and iPhones...little mobile vessels of joy! 

Pam Sorooshian, an unschooling pioneer, has this to say about using technology as a shaming and punishment tool:

"Instead of focusing on limiting it and explaining how it is bad, see it as a jumping-off point for all kinds of experiences and conversations! Unschooling is about supporting learning, not by limiting the child's access to what he/she loves, but by expanding a child's access to the world."

A thousand times yes! I wanted to copy and paste her entire write-up about this topic. Because I love her and she explains it perfectly. But you just need to jump on over and read the rest of it.

The beginning of the paragraph is especially brilliant regarding discontinuing the use of the term "screen time". Be sure to click on some of the other awesome references on Sandra's blog. Her site is a treasure trove of information on every imaginable unschooling topic. And her book, an unschooling "bible"! 

But don't children need boundaries?
Doesn't TV rot your brain?!

I get the sense from many homeschooling parents that there is pressure to make sure their children are "learning all the time". In every activity. In every way. There is a lot of fear happening. 

Fear that their children might not learn enough. Fear that "screen time" makes kids hyperactive (more on that on Jen's awesome post on this same topic). Fear that children cannot make good decisions on their own. Fear fear fear. Life gets really wonky when it's lived in fear. 

"Be careful about living a life ruled by unreasonable fear or you'll be overprotective and controlling of your kids."  -Pam Sorooshian

Ask yourself the hard questions. Explore exactly WHY and HOW you came upon your opinions about "screen time". I know that for me, my initial ideas came from a cacophony of random sources in my early years of parenting. I have since reconsidered all of it.  We allow our children to make choices that are life-bringing for them. 

Instead of fear, we choose FREEDOM.

They are freely exploring and learning the language of the future. I would much rather have my child learn how to type and communicate effectively online than learn how to write in cursive on paper. Technology is here to stay. It is not something we need to fear. 

Last night, as I typed out this post on my iPhone, my little Lucy (almost 5) is laid next to me, busily creating her world in Minecraft, a favorite around here.  She came in to go to bed but realized she wasn't as tired as she thought. So instead we worked side-by-side without conflict over screen time (or bedtime for that matter). When she was tired, she put her iPad down and went to sleep.

We discuss respectful boundaries with how it makes other's feel when they bring their iPad to dinner. We talk about common courtesy and how to use technology wisely. We talk about how our bodies feel if we've been using the computer all day. Instead of setting arbitrary rules, we talk. We ask their opinion. We TRUST them.

I know that nearly everyone with children has dealt with this decision at one time or another. It's one that provokes big feelings and strong emotions. Please know that it's a PROCESS and that what works perfectly for our family, may not work exactly the same way in yours. It will take on a new look with different children and different personalities. This is not an attack on your process. Let's share and discuss this topic in a kind manner, without judgement. 

How has technology enhanced your life?
How do your children currently use technology?

Are you wondering what unschooling looks like in our day-to-day life? Check it out here.