Pine cones, hickory nuts, acorns. Bits of bark, corn husks, catkins. Milkweed pods, rose hips, winterberry holly. Autumn highlights all these things, present for just a few short months between the balmy end of summer and the chilly beginning of winter. They are food for animals, protection for insects and bedding for the hibernators. They are next year's bird nests, winter snacks for chipmunks, and treasures for little children. To me, right now, they are all wreath decorations and ornament ingredients.
Thinking the other day, I noticed that as the days start getting shorter, I feel the need to seek out creative outlets. First it manifests itself in the making of a Halloween costume. I spend way too much time designing and creating it, only to wear it for a half hour at work and for the three trick-or-treaters I get. But it isn't about the costume, it is about the process.
Next in line are the holiday cards that I design. I make an original card design every year and then send it out to friends and family. This is a tradition for me, and it keeps me sane as the winter wraps itself around the house and life.
It is fun to sit with friends, family or even strangers and make a wreath. The Audubon will host wreath workshops during its Homemade Holidays event Dec. 3, as well as paper-making workshops.
Coupled with that now is ornament making and wreath making. Before the snow flies, I must gather the materials. All those listed above plus more - pine needles, twigs, pods of all sorts, dried flower heads, seeds, tamarack needles, leaves, and the list goes on. Assembled in bins in the house, I turn the materials, with the aid of Elmer's glue and a hot-glue gun, into ornaments. Usually they are nature-themed because, well, that's what I would hang on my tree.
This time of year I also find my wreath frame from last year, clean it off, and put it someplace easy to find. In about a month, I will go searching for greens and make my own wreath for my door, typically using only things from my yard. It makes me smile every day when I look at the door on my way in and see what beauty I have created with my own two hands, some time, and local plants and materials from my one-acre lot.
Audubon offers you this opportunity too, with our Homemade Holidays on Dec. 3. The event begins at 10 a.m., and consists of five wreath workshops and three paper-making workshops throughout the day. No matter your schedule, you can probably fit it in.
Wreath-making workshops are about a half-hour long, and we provide everything you need to make a stunning holiday wreath. Greens, a frame, wire, ribbon and decorations are available, and I am always amazed by the wreaths people create. A simple process, wreath making is something that you can do every year once you've got the basics down. It is fun to sit with friends, family, or even strangers and make a wreath. Taking the time to make something during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is a treat!
We are adding paper making to the workshops this year. This is the most simple, down-and-dirty, do-it-in-your-kitchen paper making process. Using scrap paper from home - newspaper, construction paper from kids' crafts, copy paper, tissue paper - a blender, some window screen, towels and sponges, you can make textured homemade paper that is perfect for gift tags, cards, stationary and other crafts.
You may be thinking "What does this do to connect people to nature or promote environmental stewardship?" For every item you make yourself from local materials, you eliminate the cost of shipping it, the fuel used to produce it, and the resources used to harvest it. By using old things and turning them into new things you are recycling and reusing with little to no energy use. Plus, it teaches you a skill and often saves you money.
We encourage you to sign up early for the workshops, since last year they almost all filled up! The wreath workshops are at 10, 11, 12, 1 and 2 o'clock and the paper making workshops are at 10:30, 11:30 and 12:45. Each workshop is limited to a certain number of participants, so call early to get the one you want! The cost for wreaths is $20 for members and $30 for non-members and includes the workshop and all materials. Paper-making workshops are $10 for members and $20 for non-members, and you'll take home between three and 10 pieces of paper depending on size, thickness and time.
We're also looking for donations of white pine, boxwood, firs, holly and cedar. Please call Sarah or Katie for details.
Audubon is located at 1600 Riverside Road, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and the Center is open from 10-4:30 Mondays and Saturdays, 1-4:30 on Sundays. We are closed Tuesday-Friday. Visit jamestownaudubon.org or call 569-2345 for more information.
Sarah Hatfield is a naturalist at Audubon and looks forward to seeing all the gorgeous wreaths people make!